Archive for November 2008

Passing the Baby

November 29, 2008

Last Thursday the US celebrated Thanksgiving.

For my siblings this was our first Thanksgiving, actually our first major holiday, since our mother’s death. It was also the first Thanksgiving one of us didn’t host the gathering. We’ve passed the torch. My nephew and his wife hosted ALL the family. We range in age now from 71 to 5 months. We are a large, gregarious group. We treasure the times we are together–a legacy Mom built for us.

I wondered as I prepared the dishes I would be taking how we all would feel and express the loss.

Mom was the rock in our family.

The “kids” did a great job. Their little ones made the day even more special. As I sat on the sofa holding the youngest one, she fell asleep in my arms. I missed Mom very much at that moment and I realized as I looked around at all the hustle and bustle going on with the females, and the football watching going with the guys, that another torch had been passed.

To me.

I was holding the baby and out of the kitchen. I remembered when I first started hosting Thanksgiving and my sons were babies. My grandmother was out of the kitchen and holding the baby. Then it was my mother’s turn.

Now it’s mine. To hold the babies.holding-baby

To be the oldest female in the family.

I hope I will be as wise and generous as the women who have held babies before me.

I think Mom would have been very pleased with us. We all gathered in the kitchen before we ate, a family tradition, and my nephew gave the blessing and a reminder that while we have suffered deep losses this year, we’ve much to be thankful for.

We are still together.

Remembering our good times.

The Edit Diet

November 23, 2008

I’ve been working on an editing project.  Actually, a cutting project.  I’d written and revised, polished and perfected the manuscript several years ago.  But it was an historical.  Wrong time period.  Wrong setting.  Finally realizing I’d have to wait for the trend to circle back to historicals, I set it aside for another cycle.


But I loved that story, my characters, the setting.  So being “between creative projects” now, I pulled it out and reread it.  Historicals might be trending back once more.  But different.  Shorter.  Tighter.  Not so Reubenesque.


I decided to cut it.


I’ve heard many authors talk about a manuscript they had to cut.  What they learned in the process.  Or didn’t learn.  How easy or difficult they found the cutting process.


Despite the angst, all agreed the process made the book better.


Like a diet for a book.  Making it a fashionable, coveted size 2, rather than a voluptuous plus size. 


I set my optimum page count.  Cut words, paragraphs, a scene.  Or two.  But the page count didn’t change much.  Like stubborn pounds for a dieter.


I learned and cheated like dieters sometimes do.  Instead of looking at the page I was on, I kept checking the final word count and page number.  That way I saw progress.  The cutting/dieting got easier; the reward more apparent.  Each day the book dropped a size.  Excuse me, several pages.


Diets have plateaus.  I found the page cutting did also.  Some scenes couldn’t be trimmed.  Certain words were perfect.  Or I’d make cuts and see that the few words needed elsewhere kept the final page/word count the same.  Plateaus.  Part of the process.


I’m very near my page goal now.  I’m thinking this streamlined version will soon be ready to strut the submission catwalk.  Its plus-sized self might have been adored in another era.  But this slimmer version meets the standards for this century.


If only I could cut my body size as quickly.  🙂



Just Walk Away

November 15, 2008

Sometimes it’s smart to walk away.

You see this advice in many different places: said by experts, practiced by leaders,
Let's Walk Away
Let’s Walk Away

done by us common folk. I’ve used this advice in many situations in my private and  professional life.

But this is about the writing life.

Sometimes it’s smartest to walk away–from writing.

I’ve done it.  Whatever I put on the page was garbage. Sometimes, garbage can’t be fixed, but must be thrown away. Or the smell is so awful and the pile so large, walking away is the only option to cope. To be prepared to write again another day. The garbage might be family problems, personal issues, health, work or social complications. Whatever the garbage is, it can hamper  creativity.

Walking away is NOT giving up.

Writing is so much more than putting words on a page. It’s observing others, reading for craft, and analyzing what other writers are doing and how they do it.  Writing is thinking–and letting your mind drift open to allow bits and pieces of new ideas to slip inside your gray cells.  Socializing, listening to music, playing in the dirt while gardening, cleaning a closet (oh no…), organizing your writing space to allow for a more mellow work environment.  All feed your creativity, just like chocolate.  

Well, you say, that doesn’t put words on a page.

No, it doesn’t. BUT, walking away rejuvenates the creative spirit.  Sometimes creativity needs jump-starting.  You energize your muse and get something else done too. Best of all, when you write again, the ideas and words flow faster and more fluidly.

Not bad consequences.

Tell me. What do you think about this concept?

Yet another editing tool

November 9, 2008

I attended a writing workshop last weekend. Margie Lawson  presented her EDITS system for strengthening writing and revising.

What a powerhouse she is.

Her message, reiterated throughout the whole 8 hours? You guessed it: empowerment.

Empowering your words.

Empowering your sentences.

The editing scene

The editing scene

Empowering your writing.

Using emotion powers up your writing. Her tools s were ones most of us have heard about before and may even use. But her message was to push these tools to a higher level. Recognize times in revising to launch torpedoes. Target and place them for massive effect. Drop the emotional bomb.



In technicolor.


Another key to this concept: Don’t carpet bomb. Use sparingly but where the emotional punch for the character and the reader will advance the plot, the suspense, the romance, the conflict. You get the picture.

Too many consequences, good, bad, stupid, or grotesque for the characters.  Not good.  If you’re a reader and emotionally punched too often, you become desensitized.  Why?  Readers won’t relate anymore.  Worse for the writer.  Readers won’t buy or continue to read you.

I’m editing now. As I go through my process, snatches of ideas from the workshop float in my head. I make changes. Hopefully, readers will agree.  I’m amping up the emotion where I need to. I make my characters rejoice, squirm, sweat.  Not all the time.  Just when needed.

Empowered editing equals powerful read

Stairs and Stairways

November 2, 2008


Let’s talk about stairs and stairways. They go up or down. You can enter or leave a place by way of stairs. Songs have been written that mentioned stairways, one of my favorites is Led Zeppelin’s, Stairway to Heaven.

Stairs and stairways–they have been metaphors, used in many ways by others. Some see them as obstacles. Others, opportunities. Still others, as escapes or pathways to rewards.

I see stairs and stairways as a writer. For example, during my recent trip to Maine, I stayed in a charming old hotel which had a gorgeous stairway. However, lighting, especially during certain times, was dim. Each time I walked down those stairs I thought–what if a person was shoved from the top step and bumped downward all those steps? Could a neck be broken and the person die? Why might a villain do this? How could I make this happen if I were to use it in a mystery? I’m still mulling the idea and who knows, maybe a future book will use this idea to kill off or maim a victim.

Writers get ideas from many different sources, some charming, others neutral, a few deadly.

Writers see the world through their own unique lens, the one that allows them to create. Their creations have a power to pull a reader up or down a stairway or tackle a set of literary stairs.

Stairs and stairways. To heaven or hell. To success or despair. To love or hate.

Stairs and stairways…a pathway, not matter what lens you use.