Friday, January 9, 2015

Writing Fiction is Tricky...

I had a young girl ask me the other day, what the "hardest thing about writing fiction is." I looked her square in the eye and said "for you to believe it."

Fiction writers make great liars. I mean, we make stuff up, and convince people it can happen. It's called Suspension of Disbelief.

Let's say you go to a movie. It's about a boy who believes he can fly. He struggles. You watch him struggle. You meet his friends. The boy is likeable, and you find yourself starting to care. You want him to fly. So, about three-fourths through the movie, when he DOES fly, you aren't going to stand up with your hands on your hips in protest, screaming "this movie sucks! No one can REALLY fly!" Nope. You will be fine with the defiance of Natural Laws. You will Suspend Your Disbelief, because you are enjoying the story, and watching it unfold.

This is the Golden Egg of Fiction writing. The target. The point. The Whole Reason We Do It. I want you to submerge yourself in my fictional world. I want you to fall in love with my characters. (And hate some of them, too.) I want you to become emotionally invested, so that when something magical or unrealistic happens, you simply accept it as part of the story, and move on. Take the Harry Potter series, for example. We fell in love with Harry and his world. So when Harry actually got on a broomstick and flew around, we believed it. We believed it could happen, because we were lost in the story. And we loved every minute of it.

The tricky part is, toeing the line between what is real, and what isn't. This is why Historical fiction can be a challenge. We didn't live 500 years ago, but if I do my research right, I can make it seem like the reader is really in...say, Tudor-era England, living and breathing. It's very real, to the reader. But if I don't do my research right, well, it can be disastrous. (i.e. having Henry VIII pick a cell phone out of his pocket and texting Anne Boleyn for a booty call would be...jarring.)

 Readers are smart. They know when something is "off." They jump up and down and scream when we go against our own canon in a series. We have to temper the fantasy with realism. (Or is it realism, with fantasy?) We have to craft a world with one foot in reality, for it to work.

And then, if we're lucky, they believe.

Tricky, very tricky.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why I Obsessively Save While Writing...

A friend of mine, who is also a writer, recently lost an entire novella on accident. In a stroke of luck, her husband, who happens to be an IT guy, saved the day for her. Definitely a lucky lady.

I had a similar experience in my 20's. I was writing a novel, and for a month solid had suffered from the most stubborn case of Writer's Block, ever. I mean, for almost two months I. Got. Nothing.

Then, miraculously, the floodgates opened. I started writing one evening, and the words flowed like milk and honey out of my cobwebbed brain. Everything came out in a rush, and it was some of the best writing I'd ever done. And I was mentally patting myself on the back every paragraph or so. It was AWESOME.

After two hours of pounding away on the keyboard, the air around me felt magical. I had written some serious awesomeness. Feeling a bit drained, I ran to the kitchen for a small snack. (We writers do that, no matter what we say. Eating while writing provides the same release as eating popcorn in front of a movie. :-)

Anyway, as I trudged back to my computer with my glass of milk and handful of cookies, I realized the computer was off. Why? To this day I will never know. Power spike? Outage flicker?

I dropped my cookies and milk, screaming NOOOOOOOOO! and powered up my computer, frantically chewing my nails as I did so, staring at the screen, beads of sweat forming on my brow. Why was I so freaked out?


Autosave wasn't something I had the foresight to program my computer to do at the time (It was the early 90's, computers were simply not as fabulous as today), and for some reason, I had been so distracted by my amazing bout of writing, I had not thought to save before I rose from my desk.

It booted back up. Windows loaded. I clicked on Word.

IT WAS GONE. ALL OF IT. All I had was the same story I had hours before, with no additions. The amazing 3K I had typed was lost. GONZO.

I screamed, I cried, I knashed my teeth. I hurriedly sat down and tried to duplicate what I had written the last couple hours, but it just wasn't the same. I never got those chapters back.

Since then, I am an obsessive fan of the "Save" button. I save after I pause in my typing. I save anytime I make the tiniest edit. When I conclude a writing session, I save it all, and just for good measure, I save again. Two days a week I back up my entire document files onto a 32-gig flash drive, and keep it in my handbag in case the house burns down while I'm out. And every few weeks I update the 32-gig flashdrive I have attached to my car keys in case my handbag burns down at the same time my house burns down.

I have learned my lesson. Let my experience be one to you. Enable your Autosave option. Hit the Save button. BACK UP YOUR FILES REGULARLY.

Life will be so much happier if you do.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Let the (Writing) Games Begin!!

I am writing a new novel. I have outlined it, start-to-finish, and I have a clear road map to write, but I'm in full research mode.

It's been tedious work, but the reward has been huge. I now have a composition notebook (with tabs) where I can look up all the references I need if I'm writing somewhere offline and need to look something up. It's all "organized" into one space. Now I just need to WRITE the durn thing! Research usually precludes the writing, because I can't write until I have all the facts. I guess that's just the way I'm wired. 

Can I say I LOVE Google for research? I will by typing along, caught up in the atmosphere, but then I will hit a snag where I'm not sure the direction I'm taking is historically accurate. I pop onto Google, do a quick fact-check, and back to the story I go! LOVE IT.

I have a lot of writing goals this year. Write this novel, edit it and submit it, then I need to edit two other novels and submit them to agents. I have a few mainstream novels I have written that I'd like to see on bookshelves as well, but obviously that depends on whether a butterfly flaps its wings in Cairo or a dog barks in Namibia more than four times...right? (It seems there is no formula these days, agents are so unpredictable!) We will see what happens as 2013 plays out! I definitely have hope.

Back to researching! Well, after the 958476 things I have to do today. Maybe tonight... 

Monday, October 29, 2012

To NaNo or Not To NaNo...

...that is the question. I honestly don't know. NaNo is National Novel Writing Month. Writers sign up online and make a commitment to write an entire novel (or a good chunk of one) during the entire month of November. Thirty days; 50,000 words.

I am not new to NaNo. I did it before, in 2008. I'm not going to lie, with four young children and 8079574 things on my plate, eeking out 2000+ words a day nearly killed me. But I did it. I did it and I was proud of it. (Granted, the novel was crap and it took two months of editing to get it in any sort of decent shape, but I FINISHED NaNo!)

Am contemplating doing it this year. At this point I have only a couple of days to decide. I could write a sequel to UNEARTHED. (I have had many people request a sequel, so it's tempting!) I also have an idea for a different YA novel.

Decisions, decisions. And so little time to make up my mind!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Yes, today I am pondering on the ironies of life. In particular, about writing. Not irony in writing, but ABOUT it. As in, the most recent irony I've experienced: It seems that whenever I'm swamped, and have zero time to even devote to anything other than all the stuff I have to do, I really really REALLY itch to write. I dream about stories. I wake up in the middle of the night and jot stuff down on the pad I keep on my nightstand. I stare morosely at my computer and think "Nope, I have to make 6 dozen cookies for this event" or "No--I have to wash and fold eight loads of laundry, walk the dog, do the dishes, run 98860386 errands, etc. etc. etc..

BUT, (and this is a big but) I have found that when I actually have TIME to sit down and write, I have no desire to do it.

What is UP with that?

Am I a defective writer?  Why would I squander valuable writing time on other things?

Does anyone else experience this?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Lightning Bolts or Trickling Streams?

Courtesy of

I am wondering how other writers get their inspiration. Mine has often come to me in two forms: Lightning bolts--when I am either A) in the shower or B) doing something mundane like driving a carload of screaming kids to Taekwondo practice, and the entire story comes to me all at once, and I have to runrunrun to write it all out before the muse disappears with a laugh. Then there are Trickling streams, where I might just get the idea of the story, and as I ponder the possibilities it comes out S-L-O-W-L-Y as I write it.

I actually prefer the former, because I am a planner when it comes to writing. I am, by nature, NOT a "pantser" or "write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" type person. Making it up as I go along has worked for me in the past, but I don't normally go that route. I like lightning bolts. :-D

I am only writing this because I got a SERIOUS lightning bolt last night. So much so, afterwards I was laying in bed with Hubby at 12:30 a.m., talking about the plot, the title, bouncing ideas off of him (bless him) etc.. I guess he puts up with a lot from me, and my bursts of creative energy. Even in the early hours of the morning, which is what makes him awesome. But in my defense, he'd gone to bed only 15 minutes before, having just finished watching an hours-long Olympics coverage marathon. So I don't feel that bad!

Let's see if this "lightning bolt" produces anything! One can hope! (Am I being cryptic?)