Tag: #AmWriting

#AmWriting

Suggestion 2: Plan Your Re-write Attack

This is hard. Even writing about it is hard. I’m not going to lie. When you have eighty thousand words, give or take, and editorial pages critiquing what works and what doesn’t, making a plan can seem overwhelming. Don’t let it be.  For me, there are four basic steps to the rewriting process.  Step 1: Check the calendarCount the number of days you have until your deadline. Be honest about how many days in the week you can work. Is Sunday impossible for you? Take it out of the rotation. Is there a family wedding? Be honest about how much time you can sneak away from family obligations. There is no right answer, there is only a truthful one.  Step 2: Attack the big stuffBy “big stuff” I mean the major plot issues. In Blessed be the Wicked, my editor had wanted a minor story line to become more central. She was completely right. I ended up writing a handful of completely new chapters developing the relationship between Abish and her brother. I had always adored her brother and I knew Abish and her brother John were close, but none of that made it into the first version of the book. My editor was right to push […]

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The next generation of writers

 Earlier today I met with a young writer. Some time ago, I was contacted by her elementary school to serve as a mentor and we meet every few months at her school. She’s in fifth grade, a time when most kids are probably trying to get out of homework assignments, much less coming up with their own. I hope I’ve helped her, I know she has helped me.  The biggest take away is look both ways. Find adult mentors for young writers, and if you are a writer and have a chance to mentor a developing writer, do it!  “O” and I don’t have lessons in grammar, and there are no assignments. Instead we talk about writing. “O” brings her stories and poems and we discuss. I mark them up with no regard to her age, there’s no grade so she can sort out the ‘tasks’ she wants to address. Then, once matters of punctuations and clarity are out of the way we discuss the creative process.  At one of our very first meetings, I mentioned that her story lines are a bit dark. “O” replied, if bad things don’t happen then the story isn’t interesting. Clearly she understands the basic concept of storyline and […]

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National Novel Writing Month

Well, I’m writing…. ALL month. However, I’m not officially participating in National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). I’m not participating, since I’m in the midst of heavy editing/re-writing for a work in progress and word count doesn’t matter. Now if NaNoWriMo had a plotting and editing calculator I might have signed up. Plot point fixed (check), tone evened out (check, check). Wouldn’t that be fun! I do keep a weather eye on NaNoWriMo progress. Over the weekend I was reminded that Paolo Coelho wrote The Alchemist in two weeks. There’s proof that doing a made dash to write a novel in a month isn’t all that crazy. Now, he did have the idea, actually the entire story firmly in his mind, before seeing pen to paper. An important caveat to speedy creation.  I hope that anyone who has been ‘thinking’ about writing ANYTHING creative (novel, poetry, play, movie or television script) considers NaNoWriMo to get started. Collective energy and the notion that Yes, you can! is a great motivator. You don’t have to write the great American novel, a finished rough draft will do. After all, then you can join me and use the next month to revise and rewrite.  For more information on NaNoWriMo […]

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Resilience

 Like any writer, I need an occasional reminder that I can do this thing we call on Twitter “#amwriting.” It sounds so simple. You pick up a pen or pencil and apply it to paper, or you tap on a keyboard. Bingo, you’re a writer.            Not so easy, as most writers know. Somewhere in the brain, between the creation of what you plan to write and when you actually put it into words, an assortment of messages can appear. Once in a while, the message may be, “Damn, this is sweet. Get it down on paper.” More often, the message is apt to be, “No one wants to read your crap. Go watch TV.” Or “You don’t have anything to say worth reading.” Often it can be, “Remember your last rejection? That agent/editor knew what she was saying. Give it up.”            It takes resilience to be a writer, to overcome the criticisms, rejections, and self-recrimination that outnumber the tiny slivers of success by far. I’m always looking for inspiration and advice about how to buoy the human spirit after a plummeting defeat. Yesterday, I found an unexpected one.            I spend more than half the year living in Outer Cape Cod in […]

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The Art Part

I’m not a philosopher, so I’m not going to attempt some deep and thoughtful analysis about the written word. What I do know is that finding your routine–whether it’s daily word count or a certain time of day spent writing–helps. I have a word-count that I meet before I do anything else but go to the gym and brush my teeth five days a week. One day on the week-end I write a little something, but it doesn’t have to be the story I’m working on, it just has to be something.  I’m a firm believer that what works for some may not work for others.We’re all so different it would be bizarre and unnerving if there were only one right way to do anything. I’m also a big fan of trying things out, seeing what does or doesn’t feel right, and making adjustments. As my Mom (and avid mystery reader) always told me when I had a big decision to make “If it starts not working, you can always do something else.” I try to not pre-judge an idea until I give it a chance. Last summer I went to a panel at ThrillerFest with the DIY MFA Guru Gabriela Pereira. She said she kept […]

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The Magic of Wordsmithing

 The practice of wordsmithing is defined as making changes to a text to improve clarity and style, as opposed to content. A wordsmith is a person who works with words; especially a skillful writer. I’ve been thinking of word choice more than usual lately because my daughter is applying to college; and for those of you who do not know the joy of the common application, among other things, it requires each student to fill in a 650-word essay. Every word counts. Literally.  Writers know that every word should always count, and yet I know I’ve been guilty of ignoring that wisdom on more than one occasion. Now that I spend a lot of my life thinking about words: how to order them, how many are necessary, which ones to choose and which ones not to, I have found myself entranced with those writers who do it well. For me, a wordsmith is like a magician: they leave me dazzled, but unable to quite figure how the trick was done.  I want to be one of them; one of those magicians. At least once in a while. So, I’ve been watching for the sleight of hand, the well-timed distraction, the puff of smoke. Although I’m still far from having figured it all out, I […]

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From Special Ops to Thrillers

Like so many writers, S.B. Woodson (Stacy) had a prior life that serves as great material for her writing. Unlike most other writers I know, though, that prior life included jumping out of helicopters. Now she juggles writing with raising two young kids, which means she’s up well before the sun (and well before me).  You’ve had a very interesting background. Can you tell us a little bit about your former careers? Stacy: The military has shaped who I am, and the careers I’ve pursued. I served ten years in the Army, mostly in the Special Operations community. Following the military, I worked in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff where I provided recommendations on policy and doctrine for the Psychological Operations community. Later, I earned my MBA and transitioned to various leadership positions in a government contract firm. After my daughter was born, I returned to the Joint Staff J39 as a federal employee. My primary focus was preparing briefs and materials for Congress. Now I write full time and memories of my military service play a role in most of my stories. Congratulations on your Daphne! You write in different genres. How do you think writing romance has influenced you as a suspense writer? Stacy: Some […]

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Why do you write suspense?

As someone new to writing, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I’m drawn to write mysteries.  So, I thought I’d ask the experts: why do you write what you write?  Cate: I write suspense because I love the feeling of surprise when I learn something unexpected about a person, that in retrospect makes sense. I am also fascinated by the justifications people have for doing badthings. I like creating flawed characters that you feel for. Some of my favorite suspense writers are Gillian Flynn, Dennis Lehane, Ruth Ware, Stephen King, Fiona Barton, Herman Koch and Patricia Highsmith. Susan: I think I like mysteries so much because the writer has to interact with the reader. You’re always thinking: Will the reader guess this clue? Will she be surprised? Is it satisfying? There’s something about that interaction I find very appealing. I’ve heard some authors say that they write for themselves and don’t care if anyone reads it, but I’ve never felt that way. I also love the whole idea of good versus bad, even if there are lots of shades of gray. Tracee: I fell into suspense through old fashioned mysteries. I confess that I am still not ready for hard core scary (I recently saw a preview for the movie It […]

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The Creative Process

A couple weeks ago, I was on a panel of authors at my alma mater discussing The Creative Process. At first, I wasn’t sure the panelists would have anything in common. One was a screenwriter, another an expert in Russian literature, another had a bestseller about Steve Jobs and yet another wrote American literature. And then there was me: the thriller writer. But, it turned out that our creative process all involved research and a degree of musing about the world–although we did it in different ways. I am pretty sure I was the only panelist that regularly uses excel spreadsheets to plot out the action in my story, the character arcs, and play-by-plays of integral scenes before I start writing.  So, I asked my fellow MissDemeanors. What is an integral part of your creative process. Here’s what they said: “I love brainstorming. In fact, part of why I’ve enjoyed nanowrimo so much the last few years is because it feels like a month of br ainstorming. I write down notes about characters, themes, words they might like, scenes that might be good. I don’t edit myself. Then, when I’ve filled an entire notebook, which usually takes about a month, I have enough material […]

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Editing, or the pretense that it will ever be perfect.

 Every writer has different editing moments. There are the early edits, adding plot points or taking out backstory to keep things moving. Later in the process we continue to check the plot points but start to fine tune the dialogue, the action, the beginning and end of chapters, the punctuation. Then, finally, and for a moment it feels like a reward, the editing of the complete manuscript to turn in to the publisher. This is where what felt like victory turns to ‘I need a drink’. At least for me. Because it feels final (actually, it is final) I begin to re-question everything. Usually my Beta readers haul me back from the edge and I get back to the real work at hand. The final edits. Overwhelming in some ways. Check everything. That’s all. I think every writer has a list of what to do as part of the hedge against insanity. Plus, checking things off a list is universally satisfying. My list is along these lines:  character arc (names consistent and are their emotions developing in a consistent path) chapter breaks/length fine tune the dialogue check description (accuracy, consistency, and things like time of day/length of day) eliminate my personal writing […]

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