Confessions of a Hybrid

A “pantser” is a person who writes by the seat of their pants. He writes with little to no advance planning of plot, characters, and so on. A “planner” does just the opposite. He/she plans out the plot, the scenes, the character arc—all of it—in advance. 

I suppose you could call me  a “hybrid.” I have a definite beginning and ending in mind for my books. I even have a rough idea of how I am going to get there. However, as my characters develop, I really do listen to them. If they can argue a good case for any given action, I can be swayed.

I am always willing to use the delete key any time they bring a better idea forward.

Case in point: In Runaways: The Long Journey Home, Charlie and Claire convinced me to allow them to remain at the “Summer House” longer than I had anticipated. They had valid reasons why this would be essential to the plot.

I caved. They stayed.

In Will’s Last Testament, I allowed Will to remain healthy longer than I originally had written because he defended his reasoning so well. The resulting timeline is much more satisfying.

I also listen to my critique partner and writing group. If they say they are confused by a scene or they don’t understand a character’s motivation, for instance, I reread my submission to myself and usually decide they are absolutely right. They are my “voices of reason” when I get so caught up in the story and so close to the characters that I cannot be impartial.

I’m a self-professed hybrid: a “plantser.” How about you?

Mom Loved to Read

My writing journey started with reading. I grew up in a home where my mother modeled the love of reading.

In elementary school, my teachers read to the class after lunch recess. (A perfect way to calm down a rowdy group after a lively game of volley ball). I looked forward to this time of day, as they read to us about children in other countries, cultures, and time periods. My understanding of the power of the written word to transport and inspire began in those classrooms decades ago.

It shouldn’t surprise you, then, to hear that I grew up to be a teacher and that one of the favorite parts of my day was reading to my own class after lunch. As I looked out at a sea of young faces , I could tell which ones were also caught up in the story and equally disappointed when we rejoined the present world and turned toward our math lesson.

When my own children were small, I didn’t have a lot of time for writing, so I wrote short stories, poems, or skits—just enough to satisfy my yearning to create. But, I definitely wanted more.

Once I retired, and decided to write in earnest, I found that writing fiction fulfills that inner longing to bring to life characters that others can enjoy. By the power of the written word, they live, breathe, and have a voice. 

And, yes, like most writers, I harbor that secret hope that some day they will live for all to see—on the big screen!

Please write and share how you started your writing journey.

Face Your Fear of Public Speaking

Self-promotion is the name of the game. Even though we writers may say it is about the message in our writing (which, of course, it is) no one will “get it” if they don’t hear about us.

Blogs, Podcasts, Facebook, Twitter—these are certainly tools to accomplish the same thing. But none of these, alone, will accomplish what “in person”, face-to-face contact will do. Whether it is speaking at a critique group, local writing club or writing conference, our spoken words are powerful ways to connect to others.

Self-confidence  in public speaking is built by years of experience in snatching up speaking opportunities wherever, and whenever, they come along. If we don’t, we may very well be giving up our opportunity to be heard via our writing, also.

We can get over our insecurities and fear of public speaking by building our confidence in doing exactly the very thing we are most afraid of. Push ourselves to our most uncomfortable limit.

The problem is, even while I write these words, I can feel my heart rate escalating. I feel the all-too-familiar hives creeping up toward my neck…. 

You can run, but you can’t hide. You can avoid for years, but if we are honest with ourselves, it can actually feel good to face our fears.

Let’s get out there and do something about it.

There are opportunities to speak at schools, public libraries, even bookstores. We cannot make a difference in the world if we are not able to articulate our message, both in written and spoken speech. 

It’s going to take practice.

We’ve come too far to quit. We have so much to say!

Grab your phone. Dial the number for a public speaking self-help group in your area (Toastmasters may be a good place to start).

Remember:  in order to be a recognized name in the field of writing, one also must be a public speaker!

Have Fun!

“Write, write, write. It seems like that’s all you do, anymore. You should let yourself have a little fun, now and then!” A friend of mine commented. 

Yes, it IS hard work—and yes, it CAN feel like solitary confinement at times, but it really IS what I want to be doing. Because it IS fun!

I could be cleaning house, exercising, paying bills, doing laundry, shopping, reading, people watching, decorating…

But I like writing! It’s the act of digging deeper into myself, asking more and more of myself while creating characters that are exciting, whimsical, hilarious, endearing, and even scary at times. It is the telling of their stories—their hopes, disappointments, dreams, accomplishments— that is so compelling. 

The voices of my characters call to me. I see their faces. Feel their impatience.

So, I set aside my laundry, put something on the counter to defrost for dinner, and hope there will be enough time at the end of the day for a walk around the block. 

I warm my cup of coffee in the microwave and head for my home office, satisfied that I’ve made the right choice for my day. 

Remaining 2020 Online Conferences/Workshops

 

Covid-19 is changing the way that we have done things. One of the biggest changes is in group gatherings.

Yesterday, I attended my first online writer’s conference. Usually held in person in Arizona, the Desert Sleuth’s Conference was full of information. It was also free. I couldn’t pass up that deal.

They did a good job of everything, from their selection of presenters, topics, advertising, and making their audience feel included and valued.

For the foreseeable future, virtual meetings may be the way to go. So, I compiled this list of remaining conferences you might like to “attend”online this year. (I am sure if you research a bit on your own, you will be able to add to this list).

AGENT ONE-ON-ONE BOOTCAMP: September 22-25. How to Craft Query Letters & Other Submission Materials That Get Noticed Boot Camp.

AUTHOR ADVANTAGE LIVE:   9/24-26

Writing Day Workshops: 

Boston Mass. on 10/3

Philadelphia, PA  on 11/14-15

Washington, D.C. on 12/5

 

SELF PUBLISHING ADVICE CONFERENCE 10/17

JANE FRIEDMAN CLASSES:

Oct. 7: Blogging Strategies That Work in 2020 

Oct. 25: The Foundations of Getting Published 

She has many more affordable online courses available for

  individual study.

WRITERS’ DIGEST ON DEMAND WEBINARS (Sign up and choose your date). These are offered on many topics, including How to Write Short Stories, Writing the Historical Novel, How to Attract an Agent, and many more.

GOTHAM WRITERS’ WORKSHOP: Based in New York, see their online catalog for a listing of workshops and classes.

A Fun Interview

 

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Recently, my author friend, Jen Cary, interviewed me for her monthly newsletter. Some of the questions she asked got some buzz, so I thought perhaps you would find them interesting, too. I am including a few of them here:

Question 1:  Tell us something about yourself we don’t know.

My husband and I have  renovated 26 homes in 28 years. We also built our own log cabin. We are not flippers. We actually live in each home. At about the one year mark, with the work completed, we get the itch to find another house that “needs us.”

Question 2:  When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I think I was born wanting to write. I sidelined my love of writing to become an elementary school teacher. After retiring, I revisited my dream of writing a book. Runaways: The Long Journey Home, was published in 2015. So far, I have written seven others (three are Interactive Picture Books for Alzheimer’s patients).

Question 3:  If you could be anything—except a writer—what would it be?

I would love the chance to do a variety of jobs I find interesting. I think it would be fun to be a restaurant owner and walk around mingling with guests. I’d also like to be a cashier, a receptionist, a watercolor artist, a photographer, work at a carwash (yes, really), or work at the White House or other famous site as a tour guide.

Question 4:  What is the funniest thing to happen to you as an author?

Last year, when shopping at Goodwill with my sister, I ran across a copy of Runaways. I guess you’ve made it big if you find one of your books on their shelves. My sis bought the copy. (She’d loaned hers to a friend and it hadn’t been returned). We had our picture taken with the book in the store. I’m sure other shoppers wondered what these two crazy ladies were doing…

Question 5:  What do you do for relaxation?

I enjoy movies, shopping, and eating out. But my real passion is reading. I read a couple of books each week. I taught myself to read before I was old enough to attend school.

Question 6:  Cheetos, fried or baked?

Ah, a trick question. Fried, of course! (Tip: try them crumbled as a crunchy topping on scalloped potatoes or baked macaroni and cheese.)

 

 

Tug of War

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My fifth novel, Tug of War, just hit Amazon yesterday. It’s the third book in a series of four.

But, before it got to that point, I visualized it in my hands. I saw the cover, I turned its pages—even before I wrote the first word—and then I got to work.

Months of writing. Working with a critique group and beta readers. Editing. Rewriting. Cover design. Formatting.

Yes, a lot of work. And when the writing was difficult and things took a lot longer than expected, I always thought back to that moment when my book was nothing more than a concept. An idea. A dream.

I remembered what it felt like to hold the fruits of my labor in my hands…

The smoothness of its cover, the smell of new print, the weight of its pages, my name in bold type—all of these reminded me that it would be worth it.

And, it is.

Can You Define Anthropomorphism?

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Here are three more literary devices you should know about:

1)  Anthropomorphism- something nonhuman, such as an animal or object behaves like a human. Cartoon characters are good examples of this. They are made to talk, sing, dance, engage in battles, and so on. Authors of children’s books are especially adept at using this literary device.

2)  Colloquialism- This term refers to the use of informal language or slang in order to lend a sense of realism to dialogue. “Gonna” for example, is not considered real word. This device removes the formality from conversation, making it more relaxed and believable.

3)  Euphemism- This refers to words or expressions that are used instead of a more blunt word. For example, a doctor might that say a patient “didn’t make it” instead of “he died” when talking to family/friends.

Critiques, Endorsements, and Reviews

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A beginning writer asked me what the difference is between critiques, reviews, and endorsements. 

Let’s review what each means in relation to the craft of writing:

Critiques: These are critical evaluations of a person’s literary work. If you are writing, you are likely to be in a critique group where you share your work in progress with other writers. You point out errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation. You also talk about sentence structure, characters, conversation, and many other aspects of the writing craft. The idea behind sharing critiques is to help your fellow writer. Think of these as peers helping each other.

Reviews:  a critical consideration of something. We are familiar with writing reviews of restaurants, businesses, and products. Movies, plays, and events are often reviewed. In regard to books, one writes a short analysis, stating positive and negative aspects of a person’s work. Sometimes the reviewer is also asked to rate the book in terms of “stars” or “happy faces.”

Endorsements: an act of giving one’s public approval or support to someone or something. Endorsements are often written on one of the first pages of a book or on the cover. These are often read by consumers prior to purchase to help them decided whether to buy a particular book—or not.

Journey Thru the Genres

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This week, our focus is on four additional genres: Drama, Crime, Horror, and Science Fiction.

 

Drama:  Mostly written for the movies and theatre, this genre makes use of prose, verse, and/or scenes. (Think of Westside Story and Julius Caesar).

Crime: The focus is on how the criminal gets caught. Action and dialogue are used to express conflict and emotion. (Notably Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky).

Horror: the goal of this genre is to create feelings of fear and dread. Any technique that creates those feelings is fair game. (Fahrenheit 451 and Dracula).

Science Fiction: As a stand alone, or included to some degree in other genres, science fiction examines the past, current, and future impact of science on our culture and society. (Current: Black Autumn and Catalyst).

Next week, we will continue our Journey thru Genres.