Thursday, September 30, 2010

Planning Versus Plunging

Novel writers seem to fall into two categories: those who plan/outline/diagram their story before they start writing, and those who take a deep breath and plunge into their novel.

I’m a planner.

There. I said it.

My friends who are plungers explain they never make outlines because if they knew how the novel was going to turn out, they’d be too bored to finish it. That always makes me feel like a pedantic plodder – or at least someone who is easily entertained.

However …

When you wake up at 4:00 AM with the sure realization that the story in its present form DOES NOT WORK, it’s easier to modify a bunch of chapter notes than already-written, interlinked scenes.

Are you a planner or a plunger?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

And I Repeat ...

Lately, as part of my head-cold-recovery-program, I’ve been watching movies on TV. Most were truly disappointing because they had too much repetition.

A plot cannot succeed as slightly varied reiterations of the same interaction. Sure the protagonist can try to solve one problem throughout the entire story, but the plot gains interest if he or she tries different solutions and improves even more if the problem changes with the protagonist.

Other movie plots failed because an exciting and well-conceived segment was used twice. Space ships can collide only once per movie, and then we need another plot device. The man and woman who are destined to be together can miss their rendezvous one (1) time. After the evil villain stalks the heroine through a dim and scary setting, he has to think of a different approach.

As I plot my new project, I’m reminding myself that change is good.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Liquid Amber

Again, kudos to TimInMich. The photo I posted last Monday is sap oozing from a cherry tree.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Overheard #112

"And that is the tenuous connection between point A and point B."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Great Research Site

There’s a lot of stuff I don’t know – and much of it pertains to my work-in-progress. Fortunately, I stumbled across the How Stuff Works website. What a wealth of information! The articles cover a broad range of topics and are easy to understand. Check it out; it’s worth a click.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mysterious Planning

My new project is threatening to become a whodunit. I started with my usual chapter outline, but soon realized that unless I planned in a different way, I’d end up with a hopeless muddle. I needed to start with the crime.

So far my note headings include:
  • The Crime
  • The Suspects for Motive #1
  • The Suspects for Motive #2
  • The Suspects for Motive #3
  • Red Herrings
  • How the Kids Discover Clues
This last section is turning out to be a bugaboo. Transportation is often a problem for teens, and my protagonist is no different. Plus, high school kids are frequently saddled with well-meaning adults, a situation that is not conducive to covert investigations. My first step is to get them a better car, and the second is to ditch the chaperones.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mystery Photo

What is it?

The answer will be posted on Saturday (9-25-2010).

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I bought these “pumpkins on a stick” at the farmers’ market. They’re intended to be decorative, not edible, and when the picture was taken, they were starting to wrinkle with age. The photograph is taken with a shallow depth of field, and the gray background is our deck, seen through a window. Reflections of other “pumpkins” are visible in the glass.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Overheard #111

"You need 100 nanoseconds, and even that might not be sufficient."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Sure Sign of Fall

When close to 40,000 undergraduates descend on our community, they can’t help bringing a few germs along with their mini-fridges and flat-screen TVs. It’s my turn for the Students Are Back Head Cold, and consequently my new project isn’t exactly zipping along. I do have two book recommendations, though.


While sifting through clues and red herrings, I learned much about writing and how to construct a riveting plot.

Fair Game

I read this book as research for my next project, but since this is not a political blog, I won’t say much. However, if you believe in the Bill of Rights, you may find this book disheartening. (The Fair Game movie is coming out this year.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010


I went searching for butterflies and found bees. The honeybee pictures weren’t great, but I like this bumblebee. The web at the bottom is for TimInMich.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Overheard #110

"I think frog is the new pig."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Bit More on Speaking Your Truth

The attack on my friend Fang Shimin was covered in Time Magazine.

Shimin (web name Fang Zhouzi) is the author of seventeen books, many of which expose scientific corruption in China. His writing has put his life in danger.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hard at Work

How great is it to research a new novel? I can spend my time armchair traveling, web surfing or reading and call it work.

Taking a cyber vacation to the setting of my work-in-progress isn’t really wasting time on the Internet. Web cams remind me that the skies over Mackinac Island are often overcast, and even in summer, visitors wear sweatshirts. Travel blogs point out that the bus ride from Avalon to Two Harbors is slow, dusty and bumpy, and if my characters had any cash, they’d travel a different way.

I get to search the web for new knowledge, like how to play darts (you don’t try for a bull’s eye every time) or how to crack a safe (if possible, steal the whole safe and move it to a secure location).

I love a good nonfiction book, especially about a subject I’m unfamiliar with. I expected intrigue and clandestine adventures from Femme Fatale, a biography of Mata Hari, but I ended up feeling sorry for her. From reading More Money Than God, a book about the stock market, I learned about selling short and leverage buyouts, and that it takes a lot of guts to operate a hedge fund.

Off to work I go.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What’s the Story on the New Camera?

I’m making progress.

I know something about the automatic functions on my camera.

I’m trying to learn some basic photography concepts beyond, “Isn’t that pretty? Hang on while I point the camera at it.”

I can resize photos to a web-appropriate dpi. Don’t you hate it when you try to zip over to someone’s blog, and it won’t open or takes a few epochs to click into view? That can happen when picture files are too large.

I’ve learned I need a USB media card reader to load my photos on my computer. My new camera and my aging computer don’t play nicely together.

I’ve viewed the tip of the iceberg of photographic manipulation and realize that someday I’m going to have to learn a whole bunch more stuff.

I tried to go on a photo-shoot today at Sessions Lake and discovered you can’t see the water from the trail. I could hear swans paddling on the lake. I hope you can visualize graceful white birds on sparkling blue water, green leaves, puffy clouds because I couldn’t get close enough to the lake to take a picture without leaving the trail and trampling through the local flora.

In parting, here’s a butterfly – not a perfect photo, but it’s something.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Maize and Green

Yep. This is corn silk.
Lori and TimInMich guessed Monday's photo correctly.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Overheard #109

"Nagging is the constant search for justice in an unjust world."