Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Writing Retreats and Inertia

At last weekend’s writing retreat, I made huge progress on my novel. Since I returned, my revisions have ground to a halt. This brings me to the concept of inertia. 

Inertia: a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted on by an external force.  

At a writing retreat, revisions are in motion. Everyone was pushing their projects forward, all day long and into the evening. At every retreat, I relearn that immersing myself in a project leads to clearer thinking about it. This year, I discovered that solving problems in early chapters hinted at ways to fix the metaphorical train wreck near the end. 

On Sunday afternoon, when I left the retreat, I’d only started to clean up that daunting train wreck. Household chores and daily activities are significant external forces that shift my revisions into resting mode. Frustration over the train wreck was another inhibitory external force. 

If I want to finish this draft, I must become the external force that kicks revisions into gear again.   

Friday, July 26, 2013

Overheard #259

"Their capitalist interests are bumping up against my capitalist interests."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Writing Retreat

The World’s Greatest Critique Group heads out tomorrow for our annual retreat. I’ve just received thoughtful comments on my manuscript, and I’m looking forward to digging into my revisions. A big part of the plot needs to be rerouted and several characters need rebuilding. While I’ve done very little writing in the past couple weeks, I’ve been pondering these changes and hope I’ll be ready to revise. 

I’ve also been thinking about attitude. Athletes and writers tend to have the same creed: Work hard and success will be yours. As an athlete and a writer, I became the Energizer Bunny. Recently I’ve been considering the benefits of accepting with grace the things that are out of my reach. I may never finish this project. I may never submit it. The important thing is focusing on the joy of creating it.

Friday, July 12, 2013


We went to Chicago to watch Sam compete in the USA Taekwondo National Championships. He represented the Michigan team in World Class Sparring. He didn't advance, but simply getting to Nationals is quite an accomplishment.

  Sam (in blue) about to score a point. 
Sue, the famous T. rex in the Field Museum
With my sons in the windy city

Overheard #258

"In my business, they prefer the stick to the carrot."

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Riddle of the Labyrinth

The Riddle of the Labyrinth: the quest to crack an ancient code

Harper Collins, 2013

In 1900, archeologist Arthur Evans discovered a series of tablets on the island of Crete. The tablets dated from 1450 BCE, almost 700 years before the Greek alphabet was developed. The tablets were written in an unknown script and in an unknown language, referred to as Linear B. The Riddle of the Labyrinth tells the story of how Linear B was decoded, and the contributions of the three major players, Arthur Evans, Alice Kober and Michael Ventris. The process took 53 years. The work was done before computers were available to private citizens and when paper was in such sort supply that Kober had to cut her own index cards from church flyers and greeting cards. 

From reading this book, I learned that languages may be logographic where each character depicts an idea (Chinese), or syllabic where each symbol refers to a syllable (Japanese kana script) or phonetic where each character stands for a sound. “By some estimates, only 15 percent of the roughly six thousand languages spoken around the globe have written forms.” 

I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in codes, the development of language or history.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Overheard #257

"I’m a scientist. I’m not afraid of graph paper."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

First Lines and Last Lines

Yesterday at a writing day, I tried Anna J. Boll’s suggestion for analyzing the first lines of each chapter. The goal of the exercise is to keep the reader turning pages. 

I cut and pasted the first line of every chapter into a new document. Not only did I have a mini representation of my novel contained in a single page, I also got to compare patterns. I highlighted forms of the verb “to be” in yellow and references to time in purple. I underlined looser sentences. Then I started revising. In the end I rewrote most of the sentences. To be fair, I rewrote most of the opening paragraphs.  

Then I did the same thing with the last lines in each chapter, keeping an eye on how frequently I ended with a cliffhanger, irony or other enticements to keep reading. I found Anna’s technique to be an extremely effective revising tool. 

Also, thank you Gina and Juliet for posting another of my pictures on City Muse Country Muse.