It’s funny, what comforts a person.
For instance, Big Bopper loves napping on the couch to the sounds of cartoons.
Bottled Lightning loves silence.
BoyWonder likes to sit around the dining room table with his family and talk, after a big meal.
Freckles McYoungest loves a stormy afternoon, curled up with a book.
I like wind…
An unremitting sea breeze on the beach.
An afternoon gust that cools the porch and blasts away the mosquitoes on a summer evening.
I wonder if it’s because the first house I lived in, situated in a coastal town, had no air conditioning. But every room had windows designed to catch a cross-breeze.
Or, could be I’m just weird.
As writers, though, it’s interesting to think about what would comfort the characters we invent. For instance, there are times that I get a whiff of stale oil and hot engine parts, and maybe a little pee, which reminds me of the Paris Metro. Would that be a comforting smell to someone raised there? Maybe a character loves raking leaves because it reminds him of New England and maple syrup and red flannel shirts—and home?
I dunno. I ponder these things, when I write characters.
Hope I’m not weird.
I once heard a talk by a lovely Kansas SCBWI member—whose name I wish I could remember—about Walter Dean Myer’s process. It involved lengthy and detailed outlines.
At that moment, I wondered if I’d ever be a good writer.
Trouble is, I didn’t want to give up the freedom of pantsing. The interesting discoveries you make when you just let ‘er rip.
I’m starting a new story and this time, I’m making the effort to get the bones in place, first. With the caveat that I’m still free to run wild and crazy when belching out my first draft.
I hope the extra time spent pre-loading the manuscript makes me write faster. And still gives me room for those Aha! moments.
Because that’s what makes it fun.
It’s that time of year again, full of thrills and chills and things that go bump in the night.
When many usually sane people decide to attend commercial haunted houses and ghost tours.
Now, I haven’t attended a haunted house and I never will, based on this:
But I have gone on a bunch of ghost tours, and I’ve got a few tips for writers and others about…
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF A WALKING GHOST TOUR
- Stay in the front–sounds obvious. But if you trail the group you will miss things. Even if the Ghost Walk Conductor uses a bullhorn, you’re gonna miss stuff. Random people walking down the street will ask you what’s going on. Other ghost tour customers will buttonhole you with their own personal ghost stories. Which are almost never any good. And the tour leader will often talk to the people in the front, off-mike.
- Laugh, gasp and generally encourage the guide–even if it makes you feel like a bit player in a melodrama. An engaged audience is a lot more fun for everybody–including the speaker. If he enjoys delivering his spiel, he’ll ham it up. Throw in extra tidbits of information that he might skip if he’s in a hurry to ditch a surly group.
- Ask questions–figure out whether your speaker is more interested in the ghosty or historical part of his job. If he’s working for a ghost tour company, he’s enthusiastic about at least one. And usually knows a lot more about his subject than he’s telling you. If you’ve got a question, ask it. But dear God, please don’t tell the group about the time your great-grandmother heard the Banshee cry. Nobody cares. Sorry.
- Interrupt–honest to Murgatroyd, I have become intolerant of fools in my middle age. As far as I’m concerned, a chatty audience member gets one it’s-all-about-me comment per situation. If a fellow ghost tourist feels the need to continually take the speaker’s presentation off track, interrupt with a question that will help the him get back to business. (“Did George Washington sleep here?”) Or simply repeat the last thing the tour guide said. (“You said he had a wooden leg named ‘Smith’. Go on.”) 99.999999% of the time, he will be grateful.
- Tip–come on, cheapskate. You flattered and cajoled your host into giving you the ghost tour of a lifetime, now tip him. And while you’re at it, ask him to recommend historical and paranormal sources you can check out. After all, this is book research, right? RIGHT?
Geez Louise, I despise New Year’s resolutions. I never keep them, and don’t even remember what I resolved past January 3rd. Usually, along about October I find the notebook I was supposed to write in every morning, stuffed under the car seat or kicked under the washing machine.
Then I despair.
Not this year, bucko!
I don’t want to generate failure anymore. No more promises to work on habits and goals that I don’t really want, no matter how many Good Writers recommend them. Instead, whatever interests me, I’m just gonna do it.
And when it doesn’t float my boat anymore, I will stop.
Maybe I’ll end up making the same changes in my life that a New Year’s Resolver does, but I won’t feel like I’m being punished, and I sure won’t feel guilty if my self-improvement ideas don’t work out.
Oh, I am the easily amused type.
I will play with the snow on WordPress All. Day Long. Move my cursor back and forth to watch the flake flow change as if buffeted by breezes unseen.
That’s enough alliteration for one day.
I love the annual WordPress Snowfall so much I changed by background to a dark spacey thing to make it show better. Sure, it takes forever to load, but it’s just until January. HUMOR ME.
I am still in the revising doldrums, very soon done. And that’s my testimony about revising today:
DON’T HURRY THE ENDING.
I’ve been three chapters away from finishing this revision for about, oh, six chapters now. How does this happen? Am I futzing around, going in circles because I don’t know how to end the dang book?
Am I fooling around because I have a fear of finishing?
Here’s what has happened: layers.
I’ve discovered several more layers to my main character, which twisted the plot a bit. Which is ramping up the tension as I near the end, and of course, will make the climax sing like an opera.
I admit I’m a little impatient to be finished with this draft so I can be on to something else while it simmers a bit, then start fresh on the third draft. (I do love my own work. *cough*) But I’ve read an awful lot of books with hurried endings. It’s an easy trap to fall into, assuming the reader is as ready to be done with the story as you are.
You may have been working on your novel for a year by the time you get to the end, but your reader has been working on reading it a considerably shorter time.
You’ve got to maintain the same enthusiasm for the story you want the reader to have.
Sometimes they are planned, a satisfying denouement to a well-lived story.
But other times a new beginning is thrust upon us out of nowhere.
If you’re blindsided, the first reaction is…
…that deer-in-the-headlights feeling–caught. Frozen. Blank.
This is when you must make The Decision:
Choose to turn your face toward the past, long for lost friends, lost loves and lost opportunities.
Fix your gaze on the future. Create a new adventure with joy and enthusiasm.
I choose Joy.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/chris_gin/3063246217/”>Chris Gin</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
Where have I been? Geez. You ask all the hard questions.
The Kansas SCBWI conference is in TWO WEEKS, and I will be PRESENTING A WORKSHOP THEREUPON. Why no, I’m not nervous at all.
I’ve presented a bitty-workshop before, as part of a miscellaneous-Saturday offering, on choosing what age to write for. And I’ve done a Friday Night Demonstration at the conference about the benefits of revision. Sue Ford, my past RA, kind of nudged me into those baby steps. But this is my first workshop, And I’m excited–to the point of hysteria. Oh, I could never lie to you.
My topic: USE YOUR iPHONE TO WRITE YOUR NOVEL. Pretty intriguing, huh?
You may remember this post about my solution for note-taking at the LA SCBWI conference, when I got that super-spiffy and much-appreciated scholarship, thanks to Colleen Cook, my current RA. Well, I’ve learned many things since then through trial and error, enough for a workshop. Or two or three.
I’ve got my talking points organized, and I learned Keynote so I could put together an astounding whiz-bang slide show. Still have to finish the bonus website–constructed from my iPhone of course–and open only to peeps who attend the presentation.
Yeah, I know how to do these things. I’M A MARVEL.
I’ve just learned how to stretch, and take a chance.
Writers take a chance every time they sit down to the keyboard–will the words come? Can I shape them into something publishable? Will the critics like it? Will the readers?
For me, that sense of daring has somehow spilled into real life.