Monday, November 30, 2009

Pseudo WriMo

I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo mainly because of the Honesdale Workshop, but I wanted to get into the NaNo spirit, so I devised an Excel file to keep track of my writing-related activities. It has columns to note what I did (revising, planning, critiquing) and which manuscript and chapters I worked on. It also has a column for distractions and excuses.

This turned out to be a great idea. When I’m writing a first draft, I can look back at the number of words or pages I’ve written and feel like I accomplished something, but it can be hard to quantify progress when revising. The Excel file lets me see in a glance that I did quite a bit of work this month.

Yep, I plan to keep an Excel file in December too.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Panning for Gold

The only disappointing part of my Highlights Workshop was my inability to write anything decent during the writing exercises. Sam said spontaneous writing is either great or terrible. There’s no gray area.

I think that’s right. Ad lib writing is like panning for gold. Either you find a nugget or you end up with a plate full of mud.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have much to be thankful for. I won’t type the entire list here, but as you’ve probably guessed my family and our health top the list. My critique group is right up there too.

Yesterday I received an email from a wise woman I met at the Highlights Workshop who wrote that she was thankful for her teachers and mentors (I am too), and also for her challenges and obstacles because they make her a stronger person and a better writer. I wanted to share her thoughts with you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Overheard #84

"Arrogance is bliss."

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Photo by me.

Sailing ship?
My husband says this resembles a bugeye ketch.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Heart of the Story

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the pivotal idea inside my manuscripts. This isn’t the theme, the elevator pitch or the query letter summary. The heart of the manuscript is fulcrum on which the plot balances.

Many years ago, I had the great fortune to have a manuscript critiqued by the brilliant Audrey Couloumbis. The story was about two boys who got separated and lost in a thick fog.* The protagonist realizes that if his friend had been with him, the experience would have been fun. Audrey pointed out that this was the heart of my story. If the boys were together, they’d be having an adventure, not a scary experience.

Yesterday, as I was revising CBL, I came across the line, “The final confrontation would be between his reality and mine.” This is the heart of my novel. Yes, I need to have action and excitement, but the mind games are even more important. The plot balances on the relative sanities of the characters.

What is the heart of your story?

* The fogs in California are so thick, we could play hide and seek in them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Joy of Cooking

I would be remiss if I failed to write about the heavenly food at the Highlights Founders’ Workshop in Honesdale.

Before each meal, Marcia, the chef, would describe each dish with pride, love and absolute joy. She explained the ingredients and seasonings with delight. Marcia clearly loves creating wonderful food and is justifiably proud of her labors.

I was reminded of that first heady rush when an idea for a new novel sparks in my brain. As I plan characters, scheme plot lines, and fall in love with my idea, joy reigns supreme. Sometimes the love of the work gets lost while slogging through revisions, weathering harsh professional critiques or withstanding rejections. But in the end, there is only one reason to write fiction, and that is the joy of creation.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Overheard #83

"We just take turns being human."

Monday, November 16, 2009


This was my personal cabin at the Young Adult Novel Writing Workshop in Honesdale, PA. If you look closely, you can see my name on the sign in the window. It was so cozy. Check out the inside view and the private porch – complete with an electrical outlet for laptop charging.

I didn’t spend much time there though. Most of our time was spent in the farmhouse learning, critiquing and thinking. Rich Wallace is an amazing writer and teacher. I finally understand novel structure. Nancy Hinkel, Publishing Director of Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, was friendly, kind and nurturing. Our critiques were fabulous. I may even be able to fix what’s wrong with CBL.

I made some new friends and leaned about my novel. Someday, I hope I'll be able to go back.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Photo by me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Writing Workshop

Tomorrow morning I leave for the Highlights Founders Workshop on Writing YA Novels. I hope to:

  • learn much
  • accomplish a ton
  • take numerous pictures for this blog
  • generate ideas for future posts.
I won’t post for a few days, but please stop by on Sunday. I have one of my nature pictures scheduled to appear.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Overheard #82

"What’s with you and squeegees?"

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday Musings

On Learning:
The master of my sons’ Tae Kwon Do studio said, “You learn more from the tournaments you lose than the ones you win.” If that applies to writing conferences, I must know a lot.

On Critiquing:
I don’t critique as much as I used to, and the manuscripts my critique group produces are of superior quality. But I find that when I think hard about someone else’s manuscript I often learn something about my own.

On Experimenting:
One of the cool things about having a digital camera, is that photography is free – after the initial expenditure for the camera. Since I don’t have to think about the price of film or developing, I take a lot of pictures. I’m free to play with camera settings, light, distance, etc. The same can be said of writing. In my last revision, I tried some new perspectives. I need to experiment more often.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Time To Save The World Again

Buy A Book, Save The World starts tomorrow (11-07-09) on National Bookstore Day.

Last year, there was a blog where people could list the books they'd bought and see what other people were buying. If something like that happens again, I'll let you know.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Grist for the Mill

In truth, my writing mill needs a more powerful river to run its water wheel, not more stuff to grind up, but I don’t know a quaint expression for that.

I’ve started a new project and produced a few pages of notes so far. There is much I need to learn about my characters and their adventures. I don’t know yet what has happened to make them the way they are or how they will change during their time with me*.

I’m also helping distribute concert uniforms to the high school band. The guys wear tuxedos, and unfortunately the size labels in the pants have worn away with time. Imagine a cramped hallway filled with young men, stripped to their boxers, trying on tuxedo pants. Grist for the mill.

* I’m trying to work in water under the bridge and you can’t step in the same river twice, but perhaps I’ve ground up this metaphor.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Overheard # 81

"Embrace your inner nerd."

Monday, November 2, 2009

November Challenges

I applaud all who are participating. My critique group has a NaNo spin off in which we will all try to do some writing every day. I made an Excel file to record my efforts. (I love Excel files.)

Saying Goodbye – or at least See You Later
After the SCBWI-MI fall conference, I decided to put aside TAoCBS. Maybe someday, I’ll figure out how to fix it.

I must finish my current revision of CBL in the next few days. It needs some breathing room before I take it to the Highlights Founders Workshop on Writing YA Novels later this month.

New Project
A novel idea has been percolating for some time. I’ll begin planning it while CBL is breathing.

Gray Skies
Now that it’s November, we’re unlikely to see sunshine in Michigan until the end of March. Overcast skies didn’t bother me until I became the delighted owner of a digital camera. My Sunday series will become an extended experiment in muted lighting.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Photo by me.