Category: Writing

The Physical Act of Writing

Writing can be exorbitantly taxing on the body. From magnetic keyboards to stretching, there are ways to alleviate the aches and pains that accompany regular hours spent at a desk. Read on to find out how.

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Creating Characters: No Right Way

Creating living, breathing characters that readers can love or hate and identify with is a huge part of every author’s mission. How they accomplish that, though, varies from author to author. Some develop detailed character sheets that describe parents, siblings, eye color, height, weight, favorite food and color, hobbies, most traumatic incident, relationships, and just about anything you can think of about a person. Others interview their characters or write journal entries for them. Those who are pantsers allow the character to emerge on the page as the story unfolds.  What About Using Real People? A recent article in The New York Times detailed the life and death of the son and stepson of three famous authors who all apparently used him as a character or based characters on him and his life. Whoa. In the very first fiction I wrote, I filled in detailed character worksheets to describe the main characters but not for the several characters I based on real people. For those characters I consciously changed their looks, their backgrounds and any traits that could identify them and drew on my impression of who they were: how they saw themselves in the world, how they treated others, […]

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Making Stuff Up: Inspiration

Writer Struck By Inspiration

On occasion, someone tells me how wonderful it is that I’m a writer and they couldn’t ever come up with a story.
“Of course you can,” I say, “you make stuff up all the time. You just don’t realize it!”

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On Persistence

Last week at the Golden Crown Literary Society’s annual conference my book, The Disappearance of Lindy James, won a Goldie for the Best General Fiction. Being a finalist, then winning for Disappearance was a surprise. This is my first award and it’s displayed on the bookcase in my line of vision whenever I raise my eyes from my computer. And, as I thought about what to write for my blog post, I stared at it and the word persistence popped into my mind.  Persistence? It’s Not a Mystery  We’ve all heard stories about writers and other artists who achieved despite the many obstacles they had to overcome. And, we’re probably all familiar with the following quotes or similar ones about the importance of persistence:   “Nothing in the world will take the place of persistence. Talent will not. The world is full of unsuccessful people with talent.” Calvin Coolidge “The secret to genius is not genetics but daily practice married with relentless perseverance.” Robin Sharma “With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance all things are attainable.” Thomas Fowell Buxton “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein When I started writing I understood these quotes and others like them to mean learn […]

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On Writing Intensives

Catherine Maiorisi In 2010 I was invited by a casual writing friend to take her place in an invitation only, one week intensive writing workshop with James N. Frey in Portland, Oregon. I was scared but I went. It turned out ten of the twelve writers had been working with Frey for years and they organized and held this workshop every year at the house of one of the participants. It really was intense. Each person read a chapter every other day. After the eleven other participants critiqued the reading, Frey offered his comments. Sometimes his comments were brutal, though he was pretty gentle with me. In between the morning and afternoon critique sessions, he taught a master class. Spending that much time in a room with other writers and a master teacher was exciting, energizing and exhausting. I’ve never done anything like that since but I think it’s something I would probably get even more out of at this point in my career. Have you ever participated in a writing intensive? Connie: A friend of mine went on an intensive writing retreat in Tuscany several years ago, led by Elizabeth George. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Catherine: That would be […]

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Did Lady MacBeth Have Children–and What Does It Have to Do with July Fourth?

One of my professors in graduate school asked the question–Did Lady MacBeth have children?–to illustrate the fact that fictional characters don’t actually exist beyond the words on the page. “If it isn’t in the text,” he told us, “it has no meaning.” He then backed up his point by making us read a silly journal article that argued that Lady MacBeth’s problem in life, the reason she prompted her husband to murder King Duncan, was because she was the ultimate bad mother. Which brings up a question about past experiences and memories. Do our fictional characters have them? Are they important? Since today is the Fourth of July, a national holiday, I thought I’d share a brief memory from my own childhood. I was born in a small city in southern Wisconsin at a time when neighbors knew each other. Every Fourth, just before dusk, we and our neighbors for blocks around in all directions would head for one house. The white clapboard bungalow (I’m going from memory here) sat on a generous corner lot sloping sharply upward from the sidewalk. That slope and the fact that the house faced southeast, towards downtown, made it an ideal place to stretch […]

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A Genre by Any Other Name

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m constantly having to look up genre conventions. Traditional mystery? High concept? Thriller? Suspense? Domestic Suspense? Cozy? We’re told we need to stick to the rules of our genre, and read widely in it so we know what to do. But there are so many sub genres! I’m ALWAYS getting lost.

A Handy, and Hopefully Less Mysterious, List

(this is not inclusive, and I’m sure I missed some. But I tried)

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