People tell me not to call myself “old,” as if denying it will change the truth of it. (My mom is still well at 97, so I have it in perspective.) Maybe they believe that it’s a sign of depression or giving up to think of oneself as old. But, to me, it’s just a fact of which I’m reminded frequently because my colleagues at Third Person Press, my “tribe” from Viable Paradise, my writing group, and most of the people in the writing forums I habituate are considerably younger tha
The other day while we were taking our evening walk, he told me about a “stupid mistake” (is there any other kind?) he’d made. Then he quoted the man who taught him carpentry, saying, “The sign of a good carpenter is the ability to cover up your mistakes and make them work.” This is a concept I’m familiar with. In art, we do this. You make a mistake in an oil painting, it’s no problem, just repaint it. That’s trickier in watercolor, but perfection is elusive at best, so you f
For the last week or so, I’ve been working on the novel I wrote in November during NaNoWriMo. Today I admitted to myself, that while effort has been expended [passive voice has been used], I’m flailing. I’ve been changing this, changing that, working obsessively on that all-important opening scene, but with very little strategy in mind. My novel’s in pretty good shape considering it was written in a month. I started at the beginning and moved through it in an orderly way. I u
I was surprisingly anxious about beginning, but found it neither too hard nor too easy. Maybe that’s what we call “just right?” Yesterday, I worked on the Pitch, but couldn’t make it as succinct and gripping as I’d like. I’m going to work it over every day until I feel it’s right. Maybe that can serve as a compass to tell me whether I’m still on the map. The map, the map…I need to make a map of my setting. Impressions as I wrote: Everything needs saying all at once. It’s hard
In case there is anyone out there who doesn’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s an idea, a concept, a month-long event, a website that has grown from 20 something people in the Bay Area of San Francisco in 1999 to hundreds of thousands of avid subscribers around the world. The idea is to write 50,000 words of a brand new novel (no starting ahead of time or working on a work-in-progress) in the month of November. That’s 1667 words a day and the rewa
Canadians do not say such sentences casually. We say it with the same emotion as someone would say, “I won the lottery!” It stays cold far too many months of the year for us to be anything but passionate about summer. Even better is that I’ve gotten to stay home for all of July and August. Two months without travelling AND in the summer? Too good to be true. Part of what I’ve looked forward to is having time to write. I have had plans to rework, edit, revise and finish a numb
I’m speeding along at a rapid, first-draft clip, feeling on top of my writing game, when I find myself rather suddenly up against a wall. Two walls, in fact—my nose pressed up into a corner. I turn around and find the room FULL of words. The way out is on the opposite wall and I’ve just written myself into a corner. I don’t know where to go with the story and if I did, I can’t get there from here. I’m stuck in the trap of my own plot. I have what seems like too many story ele
So how do you come up with complex, interesting characters? Get them to talk. Engage them in conversation. Ask them questions not only about the predicament they’re in and what they think about the other characters, but also their past, their pet peeves, their first love, their father, what they like to eat, whether they like to exercise or have health problems. Not all of this information will find it’s way into your story, but some will and all of it will inform what you wr
working draft When I became an editor for Third Person Press, I had no idea what a vast improvement being this role would make to my own writing. Poring over dozens of stories in the last few years has honed my ability to spot errors in my work as well as others. If I had one piece of advice to writers who submit work to us, it would be to revise more ruthlessly before submitting.
However, if you can’t spot the problems and errors in your own work, you can’t improve it. To
[singlepic id=7 w=320 h=240 float=left]Getting a writing project to the completed draft stage is delightful, but there’s a downside.
If we were visual artists or dancers or actors, we could show off all our hard work. There would be an audience or viewers or, at the very least, we could hang it on the wall or look at ourselves in the mirror and gaze at our work’s glory in the privacy of our homes. When we writers have a precious project that we’ve sweated over and brought t