Tag: #writerslife

#writerslife

How does reading fiction change you?

Reading changes me. From the moment I start a new book until the moment I finish the last word, I feel like I’ve been on a trip. What I take away after the book is finished depends partly on what I brought with me before I started and partly what I learned along the way. Let me say that another way, when I delve deeply into a world I already know, I’m more likely to focus on nuances, when I’m looking into a world I’ve never seen before, I suspect I’m like a kid in a toy store who stares at the brightest and shiniest thing. And then there’s the entire spectrum in between being an expert and a novice. Still, when I close the book, I see people, places, and even my own self with new eyes. People. When I read a phrase the describes something I’ve seen a million times and does so in a fresh way, I’m a bit awe struck. It’s like a little bit of poetry snuck into prose. The best writers do it all the time. We know exactly what they’re talking about, and yet they show us the extraordinary in the everyday. The […]

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Reading, Writing, and Empathy

If reading fiction makes you more compassionate, what does writing fiction do? Tomorrow, we’ll have Richie Narvaez here to talk about his debut novel Hipster Death Rattle. Richie’s kindness when I attended my very first Mystery Writers of America meeting is what inspired my choice of a topic for this week. He was the president of the New York chapter of MWA at the time and was so gracious. If a guy who writes about killing people can be so thoughtful, surely, maybe there is something not only about reading that allows us to better understand–and respond–to how other people are feeling, but maybe writing it does, too. I couldn’t be a bigger fan, so please join us tomorrow for a wonderful discussion with Richie, a prolific short story writer and winner of a number of awards for his first book, Roachkiller and Other Stories. His latest, Hipster Death Rattle, will be published on March 11, 2019. By the way, not only is the title and cover of his novel crazy cool, but the book is fabulous. For those of you who don’t have the time to delve into the distinction between genre and literary fiction, or, quite frankly, just don’t want […]

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Play

Two weeks ago, I had my first reading of Blessed be the Wicked at The King’s English in Salt Lake City. I haven’t lived in Utah since I graduated from high school a very long time ago. Still, Utah’s a place always close to my heart. My pioneer ancestors helped settle Deseret in the mid-nineteenth century. I grew up listening to my mom tell stories of her grandpa’s ranch out in Grantsville. The farm hands were up at the crack of dawn, and when they came in from the first labor of the day, around dawn, my great grandma would feed them steak, eggs, and potatoes for breakfast. Meanwhile, my mom would sneak spoon fulls of cream from the top of milk jugs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen happier grins than what I saw in the frayed black-and-white photo of my great grandpa in striped overalls with my mom by his side on his tractor. Grantsville, Utah, in the late 1940s was a place where people knew to cherish time. As a rancher, my great grandpa had plenty of work that had to be done. He did it and he did it well. If you’re a farmer and a rancher, there’s nothing to be gained by cutting corners. […]

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Transitions

Write what you know.  I’m not going to venture an opinion on this bit of writing advice, but I am going to use it as a jumping off point. Right now, what I know is that I’m on plane in Nashville waiting for take off. My husband and my son are here, too. My daughter is not. She’s staying behind to start her freshman year at Vanderbilt. She’s completely ready for this transition. Me? Not so much. After I hugged her this morning—and may or may not have shed a tear or three—we walked around the Parthenon in Centennial Park. There was time to think as we wandered among the exhibits and the enormous statue of Athena and her shield (that’s the photo to the right). I found myself alternating between feeling misty and knowing this is as it should be. By nature, I’m a person who wants to jump from one thing to the next. I’m not so sure that’s a healthy way to approach life. Transitions have their own beauty. Beauty isn’t pain-free. It can mean tears. It does right now. My daughter’s off to her new life. My new life will be one without waking her up in the morning or staying up past […]

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When the writing gets tough, the tough get writing.

 It’s hot. It’s sticky. If you’re feeling anything like me, you’re feeling a little lazy. Okay, maybe a lot lazy, but writers write. So how to keep it up as we enter the season of vacations, naps, and picnics? I’ve been thinking a lot about how to write through the tough periods. You know those times when your blank screen mocks you and your fingers aren’t able to find the right keys. (If you’ve never experienced this, count yourself blessed.) I know deep in my heart that it doesn’t matter whether the words come easily or not, I must write regardless. I also know that’s it’s more fun when you sit down to your computer and everything just flows. It’s nice when you start typing and the next thing you know, your characters have taken you down a road you never expected and the next time you look up, you’ve written three chapters. That’s a wonderful feeling. Savor it. None of us needs help when we have writing days like that. It’s harder when each paragraph–each word–comes slowly. When you find that your fingers keep hitting the delete key. Or worse: your fingers don’t want to move anywhere. Since I’m in the middle of one of those stretches, I’m going to share […]

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Inspiration Sideways

Most writers have more ideas than they know what to do with. (Yes, I did end that sentence with a preposition.) Finding inspiration is not a problem . . . except when it is. For me, this usually happens around the 30,000-word mark. I’m happily typing along, letting my characters do what they want to do when the words start to slow down until I click on the keyboard one last time. I describe the feeling as standing on a wobbly rock in the middle of a river. There’s no clear way to the other side and the rocks behind me are under water.  I am, for the most part, a big believer in AIC (credit to Nora Roberts). Writing output is directly correlated to time spent sitting at the computer. When I start in the morning, I set a timer and do nothing but write until it goes off. Just doing it works great when it comes to getting writing done. From time to time, however, we face something in our story that doesn’t quite work, and we’re not sure how to make it right. That’s when it might be time to step away. A few weeks ago, I found myself in a hole at the very end of the second Abish Taylor mystery. I spent […]

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Note to self

When I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors what advice they’d give their younger writing selves, the answers came quickly. I don’t know that I have anything to add, but I’ll share my thoughts any way. If you want to write, write. Don’t let fear of rejection or failure get in the way. The more you write, the better a writer you’ll be. Whatever happens, pay attention. You can always write about it. Cate: Quit your day job sooner. Better to starve (when you’re single) and do what you’re passionate about. Tracee: I agree with Cate. Get a good education, then try to live your dream…. maybe get some life experience. No better time to volunteer with a NGO and see the world. I used to see the UNHCR cases with their handlers on the train outside Geneva and wonder where they are going….. looking back I should have gone along. Susan: That’s a great question, Alison, and I think about stuff like that all the time, except that I’ve come to realize that most of the really stupid things I’ve done have led me to a better understanding of why I, and others, do stupid things, which is a useful thing to think about, especially when writing mysteries. So […]

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Rules and breaking them

A grammar and punctuation maven, I am not. I want to be, though. The more I read and the more I write, the more I appreciate those writers who not only dazzle with storyline and character, but who also construct sentences with careful thought. It isn’t that these writers always follow the rules, but when they break them, it’s with style. So, I’m happily embarking on the never-ending journey of learning the rules . . . and how to break them. What the rules are is up for debate. Reasonable people can disagree (cue: Oxford comma). I think it’s a writer’s obligation to make an effort to know both the rules and the debates about them. I may never have the depth of knowledge that, say, my editor or agent has, but I’m going to at least try. The Elements of Style is always a good place to start. I have the 2005 edition Maira Kalmon illustrated. It makes me smile every time I open it. Lynne Truss’ Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Kingsley Amis’ The King’s English and Stephen King’s On Writing are some of my favorite reads when I want to give in to my inner writer geek.  I’m also a fan of some of the on-line grammar gurus. Grammar Girl, Grammarly, and Oxford Dictionaries are just the thing when I’m in […]

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Insecurity is part of the process

 “Reminder to writers who think their book sucks: This is normal — push through it. Insecurity is part of the process. Only bad writers think they’re good,” Harlan Coben tweeted last week. If you’re anything like me, your first response to this quote was relief. Hey, you’re not the only one who looks at your 80,278 words and thinks only about two sentences were any good. Your second response to the tweet was probably despair. Your inner critic will remind you “Harlan Coben can say that because he’s Harlan Coben. You’re not Harlan Coben.” True. I’m not.  “Maybe it’s not perfect,” I tell my inner critic, “but I did as well as I could.” That’s when powerful insecurity takes hold. The moment I admit that the best I can do may not be good enough. Not a pretty way to feel. Feeling insecure is distinctly uncomfortable. That’s why most people avoid it. That might be okay for most people, but not for writers. Being uncomfortable is a requirement for anyone doing new things. If you avoid feeling insecure, you avoid exploring places beyond your comfort zone; you don’t go where no one has gone before. That makes it hard to write. It makes it really hard to write well. The truth is no one can tell you your insecurity is baseless. Someone (besides you) is […]

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Writing: From A to Y

It’s early on Saturday. I’m snuggled in bed with a book:Y is for Yesterday, to be exact. I’m still in my pajamas with the covers pulled up over my knees. My first foray out of bed this morning was to the three-foot stack of TBR (“to be read”) books in the corner of my room.  With some difficulty, I managed to pull Sue Grafton’s last book from somewhere in the middle without causing the entire wobbly tower to collapse. I don’t know how I managed to have not read Y is for Yesterday yet, but I’ll admit my failure and begin to remedy the situation. The only reason I put the book down is because it’s my turn to post for Miss Demeanors this week. I hoped I’d have a brilliant idea for a theme by now, but I don’t.  I looked through my calendar, desperate for something to spark an idea.  Nothing. Then I realized that the next time it’s my turn to post, Blessed be the Wicked will be out. I will be “a published author.”  I looked back at the book I didn’t want to put down and decided that was the theme: getting from A to Y in writing. I can’t offer perspective on what it looks like when you’ve written enough books […]

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