Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Rainbow Sky

"You'll never find a rainbow if you're looking down." --Charlie Chaplin

I looked out my porch room window this evening and, lo and behold, this is what I saw. A gorgeous rainbow! Seems like a neat way to end one month and usher in the next. Not to speak of the fact that I could have missed it if I had failed to look up...

So Rainbow is my word of the week. Here's to looking up--and being open to possibilities--in all things writing and life in general in the days ahead. Cheers to rainbows!

What might your word of the week be?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

In A Nutshell
"A story is a tale with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It's a quest...Whether it's returning to Kansas (Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz) or killing the witch (Hansel and Gretel), this journey is the story, the plot, the means by which your characters' strengths and weaknesses are unveiled, his or her lessons learned." --Barbara Shapiro

That's it in a nutshell. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

I for one am looking for a super-duper novel-writing nutcracker. What kitchen gadget do you think would help you on your quest to "crack" the story code?


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

3 Reasons You Might Want to Build a Collage

"Try using visual form to free your novel ideas. Then watch as the images guide and inspire your words." --Leah Tribolo

My WIP was progressing pretty well until...well, until it dried up. My wheels were stuck, the words stopped. And then I realized what was wrong. I couldn't "see" a character in the scene.

I knew my main character. I had her picture in front of me. I had other images, too--setting ideas, mood triggers, details I wanted to draw from. But something was missing.

And then I knew. It was time to build a collage. It's something I did for my first MG historical fiction--and had great fun doing, actually--images that settled somewhere deep and felt real. Inspiration. Imagination. Visualization.

Yes, I knew what was wrong this second time around. It was time to build a collage...

What is a collage, and why is it a useful tool for the novel writer?

A collage is:

1. A Visual Encyclopedia. "Writers are artists. Our medium of expression is words. Like any art form, writing is about communication. Since humans do not exist in isolation, the ideas we have are not unique. Indeed, in this Information Age, we are bombarded with others' ideas. The originality of our art is in how we choose to express our creativity. This makes collage an ideal writing tool. Collage gives the author a visual encyclopedia to reference while writing." --Leah Tribolo, Create a Writing Collage

2. A Spark. "Using visuals can...spark ideas not directly related to specifics of what you are writing or seeing, but of that elusive third thing that you may sense is missing but aren't sure what it is or how to find it. Use visuals to get your imagination add depth, texture, and even new out-of-YOUR-box ideas for your writing. Add aspects to your writing and story that you don't yet know exists." --Kathy Steffen, How to Write Shop

3. Prewriting. "There is a time before I begin a book that I panic," says Jennifer Crusie at "...I don't know everything that's going to happen in the story, I don't understand the characters...( I feel) the book is going to be a disaster...but I've found a way to get started that doesn't terrify me but that does open up the story and make me want to write: I make a collage." Ms. Cruise (terrific article in full, by the way, if you want to read more details) goes on to say how "this is hardly" her discovery, and she lists other writers who use this technique.

I think subconsciously I'm always looking for collage images--through my camera, in faces that speak to me in newspaper and magazine articles, in an object that catches my interest and I'm not sure just why, or a google search based on a word that I can't shake loose. I build files up as I go; the collage does not come fully complete at the beginning. And then one day I spread all the bits and pieces out in front of me, and an overall picture unfolds.

The focus of a collage can vary. Tribolo speaks of character profiles, structure, clarification (particularly theme). She points out that you might notice recurring colors or imagery which suggest the mood you want to set. "Perhaps," she suggests, "you keep cutting out pictures that will make powerful metaphors within your setting."

"With practice," she concludes, "collage can become an essential tool in your writing arsenal, saving you time by providing information and inspiration in a condensed visual form."

So what do you say? Have you experimented with collages? If not, do you see yourself attempting one to see if it's helpful? Just think, as Ms. Crusie says, "the story you're meant to write (might be) just a glue stick away"!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

On a Writer's Walk

In the neighborhood, June 2013 (

"Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

I had a pretty good walk the other day when all along my route a world of words and writing accompanied me, and not just the mechanics of the notecard and pencil I carried in my pocket:

Fallen catawba blossoms poured out like popcorn around a tree trunk--simile.

A deer, white tail straight up, bounding across a yard--poetry.

A mug lying in the road in the midst of a wet puddle still smelling of fresh coffee--mystery.

Rustling in the mulberry tree and the surprise of a squirrel dropping to the ground right in my path--the unexpected.

A mother jogging with her pre-teen daughter--supporting characters/character change.

 Sweet scent of honeysuckle--detail and description.

Two small bunnies, one following the other, across the road to the bushes beyond. "Think we're going to make it before a car comes?" "Dunno' but we'd better get a move on"--dialogue. (Or maybe foreshadowing. See next...)

Awful, stinking roadkill of an opossum--complication (I had to turn my head and hold my nose) and conflict. (Sorry, TMI?)

Honk of passing white van, wave of neighbor--satisfying ending.

"Seeing is a gift that comes with practice."--Stephanie Mills. I find this to be true. I must practice seeing. My proclivity is to walk with my head down, preoccupied with my thoughts, tuned out. I must consciously look up, look around, tune in, see things with a wider vision. And then it becomes a game--what can I see? What new perspective, what unexpected wonder or connection might I make? What new idea or breakthough will surprise me? And then writing is fun again.

What about you--is your writing vision already "sharp" or do you have to practice, too? What have you seen in any of your activities this week that has re-energized your writing batteries?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Thirty Words for Writers

" 'O Tiger-lily,' said Alice, addressing herself to one that was waving gracefully about in the wind. 'I wish you could talk!' 'We can talk,' said the Tiger-lily, 'when there's anybody worth talking to.' Alice was so astonished that she could not speak for a minute: it seemed to take her breath away." --Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

My tiger lilies have done just that for me this year, taken my breath away. I have one particular orange clump in a small flower bed that has thirty blossoms on it. Thirty! Astonishing. Each day a new bud opened up until the whole thing seemed to be on fire.

In honor of my tiger lily and her thirty blossoms--in no way do I have a green thumb so this is just a marvel to me--and in honor of words that might, just might, help us writers bloom, here's my version of "Thirty Words for a Writer."

May they help plant seeds for worthwhile gardens of words to come...

Thirty Words for Writers

                                                                         1. write                              
                                                                         2. read                               
                                                                         3. play                               
                                                                         4. persevere                      
                                                                         5. ponder                           
                                                                         6. wonder                          
                                                                         7. experiment                    
                                                                         8. create                             
                                                                         9. catch                              
                                                                       10. toss    
                                                                       11. dig
                                                                       12. expand
                                                                       13. visualize
                                                                       14. imagine
                                                                       15. feel
                                                                       16. care
                                                                       17. compose
                                                                       18. type
                                                                       19. breathe
                                                                       20. rest
                                                                       21. refresh
                                                                       22. return
                                                                       23. reach
                                                                       24. question
                                                                       25. wrestle
                                                                       26. revise
                                                                       27. stay
                                                                       28. nail
                                                                       29. hope
                                                                       30. smile        

The words are not new--but always pertinent. (Don't you just love word association games?)

Would you add any words, delete any? How is your garden growing? Any tiger lilies talk to you lately?

"Tiger lilies--the panthers of the meadow." --Titus Munson Coan