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Unconventional Character Study

When I decided to try my hand at writing a novel, I thought it would be a piece of cake. Writing was easy. I would be rich and famous before I turned forty, retire from the daily grind, and spend the rest of my life touring the country – the world! – sharing my deep and intense knowledge of all things writing. I labored over that first attempt for years. I read every craft book available about character building, plotting a novel, and writing scintillating dialog. I wrote and wrote and wrote, but there was a disconnect between what the craft books said and what ended up on my paper. My biggest weakness was a realistic grip at “characterization.” Craft books back then focused on building a character from the outside in, how the character looked, instead of looking at what motivated the character and then how it projected itself outward onto how the character dressed and acted. So, I resorted to skulking, stalking, and slinking. I packed up my kids. At the time one was in elementary scho…
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Scuttling my One Ship

Like Hernán Cortés, the infamous conquistador, I have decided to scuttle my ships and march forward to meet my destiny at all cost. Knowing I would retreat at the first sign of unpleasantness, I ditched all my other options and chose one course – forward. There is no looking back.

Cortés took on the whole Aztec Empire against all odds, and succeeded in defeating two great leaders, Moctezuma and later Cuauhtémoc, thus claiming Tenochtitlán and the whole interior of Mexico in the name of God and king.
Or so he said at his trial. 
In reality, Cortés could care less for either (he was an immoral and greedy man), and his tactics and character left much to be desired, but his determination is admirable.
I love the whole bit about scuttling all the ships so his men had no other option but to go with him into battle (and possibly live), or to stay behind and let the hostile territory or its inhabitants kill them off one by one. 
Now that is what I call guts.
Last January I decided it was time to ma…

Word Count

A lot of my friends are writers, so I get to watch them work. Each one has a different process of how they come up with characters, plot, and conflict. They especially work at different paces.
I have one friend who jumps into the writing immediately and isn’t satisfied unless she can accrue thousands of words on paper each day. I also have one friend who has to have a looming deadline (like days away) before she can sit down to write, and then spends complete days nonstop to meet that deadline. I have friends who write and write and write and then when “finished,” go back to edit and trim their manuscripts. Others edit as they go, polishing each chapter to perfection before moving on to the next. Some plot everything before typing a single word; some type and let the words create the flow of the plot as it forms on the paper. This is known as the plotter versus pantser (fly by the seat of their pants) conundrum. I’ve had to learn the hard way as to what works for me. Until a few years …

Story is in our DNA

Every night, my father would tuck us into bed with a story, a prayer, and a blessing. Not necessarily in that order. We’d clamber into bed, giggling at the thought that we might get a story out of him, and we were usually right. He’d cover us and start to tuck us in, but we would beg for a story and he would relent. Most days he would repeat one his mother told him as a child; those were our favorites, but other days, he took requests and allowed us to give him the parameters – scary or funny, male or female protagonist, real or fiction. On days we chose scary, he would turn off the lights to increase the fright quotient. We knew he would pounce on us with the terrible ending, but we looked forward to it, squealing and giggling afterwards. Mom would yell at us to settle down and go to sleep, and she would scold Dad for riling us up and giving us nightmares. We didn’t care. We loved Dad’s stories. Humans have always been wired for story. One only has to look at cave drawings or th…

My Growth as a Writer

A good friend suggested I join her writing group nine years ago. She thought it would be a good fit. Now, I had belonged to writing groups before and I was doubtful that was true, but she insisted and I went. She was right. It has been a good fit, but you have to know I am an introvert. People laugh when I say that, but there is a big difference between being shy and being an introvert. I am not shy; I can be rather bold, but introvert is often mistaken with shyness. After a day out with people, I have to retreat into my shell and recover. It’s like my soul has been depleted and I need time to let it refill itself. Thank goodness this group only meets once a week. Plenty of time to gear up for the following Monday night meeting. I have taught “writing” all my life, both to children and adults, but this writing group has taught me so much more than I ever thought it could. It has taught me facets of myself that I had not explored. I learned that I am a terrible writer unless I have an o…

Are You a Writer?

I don’t think my answer is what the person asking the question has in mind. They’re expecting Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, J.K. Rowling. I’m an author. I ponder and create sentences, characters, stories. I authored them; before me, they didn’t exist, so, yes, I am a writer. The person then wants to know, “Are you famous? What have your written? Where can I get your books? How about a selfie?” Whoa, there. Yes, I’m published, but you won’t find me on Amazon, or Goodreads, or Forbes. I have sold a few things. Some very kind people read anything and everything I write, but you may want to hold off on the selfie. Ask me instead, why I write. I cannot pass up a clean sheet of paper and not want to scribble something on it. Anything. A list, a word, a memo. I find myself molding a sentence in my brain and remolding it until it captures my thoughts in words, sings of sincerity, and I have to scramble for pen and paper before it is gone. I have created characters and breathed life into them. …

Writer’s Block-aid

After six months of writer’s block, I am back. To be honest, it was more like writer’s coma. I’d been blogging faithfully for nearly eight years, posting every Monday morning with only a handful of skips, and realized one day my focus had shifted to things other than writing. Back in April 2011, things like brand and tribe and algorithms were foreign to me, but the more I blogged, the more these concepts evolved and became clear to me as a writer. I needed a change; my blog needed a change, but when the will shuts down, the brain follows, so I went into a writing coma. I am here to tell you all that advice about soldiering through writer’s block is a bunch of hooey. What works for one person doesn’t work for another, but even in my comatose state, I kept all the advice and good intentions in the back of my foggy brain, knowing that in the end, if I were to recover, it would be solely up to me. Google informed me in early 2019 that some of the widgets I used on my blog were being elimin…