Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Balancing Humor

One of the things I did during my mini-vacation was read Joan Hess' Damsels in Distress, the latest in her Claire Malloy series. What impressed me the most was her ability to balance the humor inherent with human nature with murder, that most evil of crimes.

People are funny, killing is not. As a writer of mysteries, I work on this concept all the time. How to give a good experience where the reader will fall into my created world and not be bumped out by too much humor in the wrong place? Or too little in the right place?

Readers and fellow writers, any ideas?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rejuvenate & Renew


Above is a great hotel. Excellent for a mini-vacation. Which I've just returned from having, and having a great time. Now I'm rejuvenated and renewed. Meaning:

1. My thoughts, ideas and enthusiasm for my new w.i.p. is increased.
2. I'm more effective in my "day jobs" and complete those tasks more quickly.
3. My energy is up and much clearer.

All this from taking a couple of days off.

So, as another creative person, what do you do to rejuvenate and renew?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pantser or Plotter: What kind of Writer are you?

The second lesson of 70 Days: I'm still a plotter, despite my desire to sit down and churn out a novel by the seat of my pants. Even when I possess a head full of the characters, the plot, all the elements, I get lost without a plan. I suppose this shouldn't be completely surprising as I have to Mapquest everywhere I go, or else never get there.

Which are you? Do you need to outline? If so, are you like me and need a fairly complete outline? Or, are you one of the flying writers?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Keeping it in mind

The Seventy Days of Writing Sweat Challenge has already paid off for me, big time. My first huge lesson: Stay in the work! That's what makes it a w.i.p.! That is: a work in progress.

My w.i.p. that I'm working on for the 70 Days is a book that has ached to get onto the page. A book that I have many, many notes for. Notes on characters, snatches of dialog, plot points, a couple of scenes, etc.

So what's the difficulty? Getting into the "mode" of the w.i.p. on a daily basis--it's waited for long enough that the first rush/impetus/motivation to write it down is gone. I'm beginning to retrieve it, but it takes effort. And since I set the novel aside several times--that's my habit.

Stay in the work!

What do you do with a project that you've set aside and now have returned to? What works for you? What doesn't work?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Creative people and technology

Oh, technology, such a delight. When it works. And usually it does.

I love, adore, rejoice in living in the 21st Century.

Why? This last week my dishwasher broke. Now, I know how to wash dishes by hand. Easy. Simple. Quick? NO. Dishwashing by hand takes time and energy. Quite a bit more than using a dishwasher.

Time and energy that I could use creating, writing, playing. Now, my Buddhist teachings would gently suggest I dish wash in the moment and learn the lesson there. Sometimes I have done that. It helps. I'm too caught in illusion to do it every time, for all those dishes.

So here's to the modern life!

What's your favorite bit of modernity?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Life, the moment, and friends

A couple of nights ago, at a delightful, wondrous event for a local literary society, I received some sad news. A friend of mine has dementia and is in a nursing home.

How did I have to learn this secondhand? Because this friend, an excellent, talented artist, was so engaged with life that I rarely saw her. She traveled all over the world, sometimes alone, sometimes for conferences and workshops. She created a successful business from scratch in the early seventies and continued to work that business, successfully. Brilliant, creative, intelligent. A bit of a health nut. And only seventy, too young by today's standards for such an illness.

So, being in the process of my own self-employment, I didn't realize 18 months had passed without contact. Not long, in terms of our friendship of 25 years. But long enough.

What have I remembered? We only have this moment. Reach out to loved ones, friends and family. And hug.

Monday, October 15, 2007

70 Days of Sweat Writing Challenge

I've signed up for the 70 Days of Sweat Writing Challenge. I considered signing up for NaNoWriMo, but for my purposes the 70 days is better.

Why? For several reasons:

1. I just finished my w.i.p. (which isn't in progress any more) and it is easy to get caught in the WAIT mode. Wait for a response, wait to see what people say, wait until I feel ready for another project, wait get the idea.

2. This new project has been rattling around in my head, screaming to get out for years. Others have muscled in before it. It's time.

3. 70 Days is longer than NaNoWriMo. This time around, I need the extra days. (Maybe NaNoWriMo next year?)

4. 70 Days has "wriggle room," 23 days off. Since it's the holidays, I need the days off.

5. It's wonderful, and works for me, to have a goal to push against.

Have you ever taken on a writing challenge like either one of these? Either a formal one, or an informal one? Did it work for you?

What do you think of these challenges? Good idea? Bad idea?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Self-Employment Paid Vacation Time for Writers and Other Creative People

Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it?

It's not. Us creative types are self-employed. And like most self-employed people, we work. All the time. No breaks.

This is a mistake. A big one.

An understandable one--but unlike other small businesses, restaurants, stores, where the owners can exhaust themselves establishing and maintaining the business without destroying the business in the process, creative people need time off.

Why? To refresh, renew, re-energize our creativity. Without it, we run the risk of running on empty. Creativity is something that needs down time.

So it is paid vacation time when we take time off. Paid in terms of being more creative.

What do you do to take a break?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Are You an Eclectic, Eccentric, Esoteric Reader?

If not, why not?

As writers we are all avid readers. If not a reader who reads, then not a writer (I'm paraphrasing Stephen King).

BUT are you an triple-e reader? Do you read a huge variety of different material? Or are you in a reading rut? Do you only read your favorite genres, styles, authors?

Okay, we all get in ruts. I confess to my own: mysteries, thrillers with fantasy for spice. I read my favorite authors of which there are many: Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, J. A. Konrath, Terry Pratchett, Nancy Pickard, Charlaine Harris, Joan Hess, Lee Child, John Sandford, Rhys Bowen and Carl Hiaasen, to name a very few. My list seems eclectic, doesn't it?

And yet, and yet, they all are of a certain "flavor." I don't delve into women's fiction, literary fiction, hard science fiction and men's adventure fiction. Much less the writings of other nationalities, save now Japan (explanation below).

I now believe that's a mistake. I've been reading manga and I'm surprised by how a truly different form of writing has impacted my writing. It's expansive, sometimes mind-boggling, to read "outside the box of the our usual covers."

As with my exercise classes, something new and different creates all sorts of new connections in the brain.

So: what are your favs? What ruts are you in? What would you like to read to break out?

Monday, October 8, 2007

A Writer is NOT an Island.

Or even an archipelago. Okay, bad joke. And the title is a bit of a cliche.

But cliches happen because they are so often true.

We write for ourselves, for our passion first, but then:
We write to be read.
We need Readers.

Without family to encourage and support me, I never would have gotten as far as I have in my writing career. I would have written, it's as necessary as breathing to me, but without my family's love those rejections might have been insurmountable.

Without friends and fellow writers to read, and re-read, my work I never would have improved as much as I have. Writing is all subjective, and a variety of opinions is an absolute necessity.

Without editors and agents (that I met at conferences), I never would have had the critiques of professionals. The input was invaluable.

Unless the writing is a diary or personal journal (and even then, isn't there the ghost of a reader?) we need our readers.

What are some of the ways you receive support, encouragement and education as a writer?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cold Weather Healthy Recipe for Creative folks

What is another recipe doing on a blog about creativity and writing? Simple.
Cooking is creative.
This recipe is easy and fun to make.
This recipe saves time and money.
This recipe is healthy and versatile.


Fruit Compote:

1 can cherry pie filling
1 can pineapple chunks
2 apples

Chop up apples into bite-size pieces. Mix all ingredients in a baking pan. Heat in oven at 350 degrees.
Bake for 45 minutes.

Tasty alone.
Yummy with ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, or whipped cream.
Delicious on pancakes or waffles.
Delightful on short bread or plain cake.

Too numerous to list, here are a few. Be creative and think of your own!

When baked, add walnuts, almonds or any nuts of your choice.
Add raisins.
Add cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Or cardamon. Vanilla works too.
Use different fruits: blueberries, pears, apricots, etc. (Not bananas.)

Do you have any great easy recipes? Do you find you become more creative when you create food? Love to cook? Hate it?

If you try this recipe let me know how you like it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Meditate to Create: Flames


A comment from my good friend Kathy of Well Placed Words reminded me of this easy, powerful meditation. This is another meditation that works in 3 minutes (or more).

Sit relaxed. Focus on the flame. This means look at the flame, don't stare. Relax your eyes. Pay attention to the flame. Breathe. Let the flame fill your mind. Breathe.

Simple, beautiful, simply beautiful.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A writer's best friend: a computer

Why? Simple. Search and find.

Search and find what? After the first draft, after the second draft, after the third draft, when you w.i.p. is almost ready to go out, then:

Search and find all those annoying words that creep into writing:

-ing words
-ly words

As you write, keep a list of your favorite words that you use over and over and over.

Some of my favorites are: whirled, possessed and glanced. What are yours?