Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Nodes" and Potential Story Connections

February 2015
"I discovered that if I trusted my subconscious, or imagination, whatever you want to call it, and if I made the characters as real and honest as I could, then no matter how complex the pattern being woven, my subconscious would find ways to tie it together--often doing things far more complicated and sophisticated than I could with brute conscious effort. I would have ideas for 'nodes,' as I think of them--story or character details that have lots of potential connections to other such nodes--and even though I didn't quite understand, I would plunk them in. Two hundred pages later, everything would back-fit, and I'd say, 'Ah, that's why I wrote that.'" --Tad Williams

Do you trust your imagination to come through for you in your writing? Have you ever experienced an "ah-ha" moment when an unexpected but welcomed detail bubbled up from your subconscious and surprised you, making you ask where did that come from? Doesn't it make you want to push through to the end of that first draft in order to see how all those "nodes" connect?

There's hope in the midst of the pain of a first draft. Just look for the gift of the nodes and trust they will eventually connect to build a commanding story!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

On Snow and Writing: Sift, Shift, and Shape

February 2015
"It sifts from Leaden Sieves-
It powders all the Wood
It fills with Alabaster Wool
The Wrinkles of the road..."
---Emily Dickinson, It Sifts from Leaden Sieves (311)

Snow, it keeps on coming down. Not as accumulative here as in the New England states this winter (thankfully), but coming down nevertheless. Six to seven inches already today and it's still falling. It does look a bit as Emily Dickinson portrayed it: sifting from leaden sieves. Beautiful imagery.

Funny, but if you look closely at the above picture--and when I first saw it I wasn't sure what I was looking at--you will see what appears to be a light brown blotch in the middle of the cedar, a tree that randomly sprouted by the edge of our driveway and which I haven't had the heart to let hubby cut down. Too late, and too tall, it already impedes the path to the garage door. But, oh, well--turns out it is a haven for this, the creature nestled there during the recent snowfall.

Tucked in and hunkered down, this soft brown dove chose a unique vantage point to watch the snow sift, and shift. Why, I mused, was she sticking her beak out on such a cold, unwelcoming day? What was so spellbounding that she'd come out of her cocoon to look around? The snow drifted down like flour from a sifter. The landscape shifted shapes like a lumpy cake batter mix.

Sift. Shift. Shape. First drafts involve those same concepts, don't they? I posted about first drafts a few weeks ago (New Year, New Draft: 14 Tips to Grow It). The process of writing my draft continues. Words on paper, story slowly unfolding. I'm still doing all those things I wrote about then--like planting seeds, plowing through, watering. Now I'm sifting and shifting. What am I doing, writing a book, planting a garden, or baking a cake? What will be the end result?

I don't know yet, but as I continue to write through this story, I've resisted burrowing into my cedar cave and giving up. I feel a little bit like the dove--I'm sticking my head out and testing the possibilities. Along the way I continue to gather bits of inspiration on the writing process:

1. Sift. One definition of sift is "to scatter or sprinkle through or by means of a sieve." In other words, give it time; test the possibilities.  "It is common wisdom," Melanie Faith writes in Sifting Through: Writing a Way Into and Through Stalled Pieces, "that it takes time to make life experiences into literature. Rarely can a masterful piece of writing emerge wholly formed immediately after an event. Reflection, space, perspective--these are not immediately forthcoming but necessary for crafting a piece with meaning and resonance for the reader."

2. Shift. But don't stew. Don't get anxious. Jane Smiley, interviewed by Writer's Digest's Paula Deimling in The All-True Result of Loving to Write, said, "...The paradox is that you can't commit yourself until you get rid of your performance anxiety. And the only way you can commit yourself to something is to become so interested in it that all ego considerations disappear and you can feel yourself fully engaged. That's the state in which all your best writing is done."

3. Shape. What's your favorite tip on how to "shape" a novel? James Scott Bell, in 5 Tools for Building Conflict in Your Novel, shares one tool from Sue Grafton: "One of my theories about writing," Mr. Bell quotes her as saying, "is that the process involves an ongoing interchange between left brain and right. The novel journal provides a testing ground where the two can engage." In her journal, Grafton notes things about her life, jots down ideas that come to her, records where she is in her book, explores scenes and trouble spots. She keeps records of details that help her shape her books. A novel journal has proved to be very helpful for me in sorting through and shaping my thoughts, too.

So here we are, on another snowy day, sifting, shifting, and shaping. The snow's doing just that very thing outside. A similar process is going on inside.

How's the process going for you?

Stay warm, little dove!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Shout-Outs, Celebrations, and Terri's Give-Away

photo courtesy pixabay
"Thoughts fly and words go on foot. Therein lies all the drama of a writer." --Julian Green

I'm happy to announce the release dates of books by two authors I've met through blogging--cheering them on and thankful that they not only let their imaginations fly, but that they also marched on to produce wonderful stories that we can all hold in our hands.

Terri Tiffany writes inspirational women's fiction, and her first book, The Mulligan (Harbourlight Books), was just released yesterday, February 6, 2015. Description: "Twenty-year-old Bobbi Snow is more at home behind an easel than on the golf green. After all, being a pro golfer was her twin brother's goal and her father's obsession. But when Bobbi's careless accident causes a fire that leaves her brother crippled, she's determined to dust off her clubs and follow his dream. Playing the hero might be the only way to save her splintering family. Maybe then her father will forgive her. But can she ever forgive herself?"

To celebrate The Mulligan's release, Terri is sponsoring a very generous giveaway. Drop in over at her blog, Terri Tiffany, Inspirational Writer, Writing Stories That Leave a Fingerprint on the Heart, for details--including the announcement of two $50 Gift Cards! The deadline is February 15.

Elizabeth Varadan, over at Elizabeth Varadan's Fourth Wish, has announced the release date for her middle-grade mystery, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, which is June 15, 2015. Isn't that one of the prettiest covers you've ever seen? Although the book isn't available yet, you can sign-up with Amazon here to be notified of availability by email. The book's description: "In Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, a day after Imogene's obnoxious step-cousins pay a visit, her mother's pearls go missing. When Sherlock Holmes is called in, Imogene, harboring a secret desire to become a detective, sees her chance to learn from the great Mr. Holmes."

I'm looking forward to reading both of these books, and I think you'll enjoy them, too. Wishing both authors much success as they continue on their journeys as published authors!

I would guess both Terri and Elizabeth would agree with these thoughts from author Janet Evanovich (found here at Gotham Writers):
Q: "What is the most valuable advice you received as a writer?"
A: "One of my early editors told me to never hold anything back. Put all your good ideas into the book you're writing and hope to God you have more good ideas for your next book. Also, set aside a portion of time each day to write. Turn off your phone, don't put in another load of wash and don't cheat by answering e-mail. It doesn't have to be a long period of time, but it has to be used exclusively for writing."

Okay, I think I'm going to ignore that obnoxious beeper on my washing machine this upcoming week. What will you ignore in order to get your targeted words down in the days to come?