Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Description: Looking Through a Different Lens

"You can take for granted that people know more or less what a street, a shop, a beach, a sky, an oak tree look like. Tell them what makes this one different." --Neil Gaiman

Just dropping in with a quote and a writing link with great advice that I came across this week: 5 Ways into a Story, by Quinn Dalton at Writer Magazine. Quinn writes about, among other things, finding the character, listening to voice, and following the image. Lots of good stuff to think about.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Progress: Inch-by-Inch

"All I know is that if I sit there long enough, something will happen." --Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Starting a new project often stirs up trepidation in a writer. Doubts arise, negatives nag, the blank page looks so...well, empty. Where's the joy, the anticipation--the discovery?

The answer lies in taking it an inch at a time. And literally using a one-inch picture frame as a reminder. This is another gem of an idea from Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird.

"What I do at this point," she writes, "as the panic mounts and the jungle drums begin beating and I realize that the well has run dry and that my future is behind me and I'm going to have to get a job only I'm completely unemployable, is to stop. First I try to breathe...and I finally notice the one-inch picture frame that I put on my desk to remind me of short assignments.

"It reminds me that all I have to do is write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being....after I've completely exhausted myself, I remember to pick up the one-inch piece of my story to tell, one small scene, one memory, one exchange...finish this one short assignment."

I'm taking this advice to heart and now have my own one-inch frame close by to remind me. Go away, nags and doubts. I have a plan. All I have to do is think small assignment and concentrate in the moment on it.

What's your plan to stick to your project until its completion? Any tricks up your sleeve, or inch-by-inch secrets?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mid-Week Inspiration

"A story isn't about a moment in time, a story is about the moment in time." --W.D. Wetherell

Managing to meet some word count goals this week--cheers for hitting a target for new words not just rearranging old ones! But I'm still searching for the moment in time in my new WIP. How about you? How are writerly things and new year's targets looking over your way this week?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Broccoli and Intuition

"Trust your hunches. They're usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level." 
                                                                                                                 --Joyce Brothers

A group of us friends get together periodically for a meal and movie, hosting in our homes in turn. We've done this for so long, toddlers have grown up and gotten married. Sometime ago we decided to do themed dinners--starting with international meals where everyone brought a dish linked to a chosen country. From that idea we moved to more unusual themes. For example, for this last get-together our hostess emailed: "It's the middle of winter, and we need a little sunshine. Let's do 'lemon and lime.'"

For my part I researched and came up with an elaborate recipe called "lemon spaghetti." It involved said spaghetti, steamed broccoli, carrots, and red bell peppers, and a lemon-yogurt dressing. And then I came down with a nasty head cold. My instincts told me I was not going to be able to go, let alone make this dish.

Hubby (who was not sick) stepped up. "Can I adapt the recipe, make something easy?" he asked. "That way I can take a dish when I go." We settled on steamed broccoli with sauteed garlic and a splash of lemon juice. Sufficient for the occasion and, it turns out, well received.

I only share this because the incident reminded me of a favorite passage from Anne Lamott's popular book on writing, Bird by Bird, in the chapter called (fittingly), "Broccoli." 

She writes: "There's an old Mel  Brooks routine...where the psychiatrist tells his patient, 'Listen to your broccoli, and your broccoli will tell you how to eat it.' And when I first tell my students this, they look at me as if things have clearly begun to deteriorate. But it is as important a concept in writing as it is in real life. It means, of course, that when you don't know what to do, when you don't know whether your character would do this or that, you get quiet and try to hear that still small voice inside. It will tell you what to do..."

In other words, rely on your "intuition."

Intuition (n.)--"the act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes; a perceptive insight."

Ms. Lamott goes on to say that intuition, however, won't kick in if we quit too soon. You sit down, she says, at say 9:15 a.m. and you only have your rational mind to guide you. Then, if you're having a bad day, you crash and burn within a half hour and give up. But "if you stick it out, the image or situation might come to you that would wedge the door open for a character, after which you would only have to get out of the way. Because then the character could come forward and speak and might say something important...and your plot might suddenly fall into place."

"You get your confidence and intuition back," she adds, "by trusting yourself. You get your intuition back when you make space for it...You might have to coax it (since intuition is "a little shy")...(but) try to calm down, get quiet, breathe, and listen...Train yourself to hear that small inner voice."

Tips then on tapping into our intuition:
Stay in chair.
Don't quit.
Stick it out.
Trust yourself.
Make space.
Get quiet.

And, in conclusion, "Listen to your broccoli. Maybe it will know what to do. Then, if you've worked in good faith for a couple of hours but cannot hear it today, have some lunch."

Ha. Did you know you could learn so much about writing by embracing a hunk of broccoli? How much do you depend on intuition in your writing? Have you consciously tried to train yourself to hear that small inner voice? Have you given your intuition a name?

Next assignment: Name your intuition, and tell us why that name "speaks" to you!

Monday, January 7, 2013


"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives, not looking for flaws, but for potential." --Ellen Goodman

My first visit to the local library in the new year, and what books did I come home with? These two titles jumped out at me and found their way into my take-home pile:

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel? Poetry for Dummies? I think these spoke to me because they announce there's potential in each writer, no matter what level we're at. Potential is my writing word for the upcoming year. And I'm open to inspiration wherever I can find it!

I'm also revisiting my "target" idea that I've adhered to the last two years, the concentric ring concept of a writer's bulls-eye that I posted about here. It's proved to be such a successful tool for getting more words down on paper than not (increasing from 71% of hitting a target the first year to 79% this past year!) that I'm returning to it in the new year.

My photo-a-day challenge came to a close December 31. In it's place I've set a higher word-count goal as the new year's challenge (so many writing ideas are begging for attention)--and to a more expanded exploration of poetry. The little bit of poetry that I dabbled in last year (especially haiku, talked about here) has inspired me to go a little deeper and see what potential a new writing form carries.

With all of this I've also determined to give myself permission. Permission to find patterns that work for me, a pace that's manageable, and priorities that are balanced.

Permission. Pace. Priorities. A tall order--but one with possibility, promise, potential.

How about you? What books are on the top of your reading pile for the new year? And how do you hope to unlock the potential that is within your grasp?

p.s. a helpful post on the subject of writing routines for the new year and finding a balance can be found over at Elizabeth Spann Craig's Mystery Writing Is Murder where Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress,  has written a guest post on "More Time to Write in 2013."