Tag: writing process

writing process

Death at Greenway: Lori Rader-Day

I was honored to receive an advance copy of Death at Greenway annotated by the author Lori Rader-Day, which I won in a charity auction. I made myself read it slowly, savoring the experience of having the insight of the author as I read her fabulous story about Agatha Christie’s holiday home. Lori generously answered a few of my questions to share with Miss Demeanor’s readers.

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Stories, stories, everywhere

Recently I spent twelve days in the hospital. One thing I discovered is that there is actually a limit to the number of Law & Orders you can watch. But, when I turned off the TV, I discovered myself awash in some of the most profound and moving stories I’d ever heard.

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The Misses Procrastinate. Or Not.

Procrastination and writing seem to go together (though not for all of us. Read on.), and as a result many writers have very clean closets, fridges, and bathrooms, and their friends/family are often nicely outfitted with hand-knit thingies. Staring at a screen or a notebook can be so intimidating, the critic’s voice so snarky, that I, for one, will invent any project to free me from the angst. And I like writing!

So, I asked the Misses if this was a thing for them.

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Psychological Barriers

I teach a class for Gotham Writers called Novel First Draft, which is about helping writers power through a first draft. Over ten weeks, people will write anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 words, and it’s exhilarating. Nothing more inspiring then seeing writers in the flow. But invariably, around week five, (or sometimes week two), certain psychological barriers crop up that can slow things down. Here are a few of them. Carping Critic: You’re no good. Your writing’s no good. Have you ever read Charles Dickens? Do you think he’d write a sentence like that? There are so many writers out there so much better than you. Why do you think anyone would want to read what you have to say? Arghh. How are you supposed to deal with that? By reminding yourself that you have your own unique thing to say. And it doesn’t need to be perfect. This is just a first draft. You can do it! The Betrayer: My family will hate me when they read this. My friends will hate me. How can I write something if it’s going to hurt the people I love. How to respond? This is a tough one because it can happen, […]

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The Plot

Here is the plot for the novel, The Plot. A down-on-his-luck writing teacher feels like his life has passed him by. Then, a brash student comes to him and tells him  he has an idea for a novel that is SO GOOD, it cannot fail. Whoever writes this novel will have a guaranteed best-seller. The writing teacher is dubious. Naturally. But then the student tells him his idea and, lo and behold, it is actually a fabulous idea. Years pass. The writing teacher continues on his downward trajectory. One day he’s thinking about his student and wonders why he hasn’t seen mention of his book. He does some research and discovers the student is dead. So. He thinks about it a bit, and then he steals the plot. Writes the book, and has fantastic success. He’s on Oprah. He’s wealthy. Life is good, and then he gets an e mail. I know what you’ve done. It’s a very entertaining book, and if you’re a writing teacher, as I am, there is boundless material to chew over, but I found myself wondering–Do you think that’s true? Are there some plots that are so idiot-proof that if you just write them down […]

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Fearless Writing

I’ve been reading Octavia Butler’s novel, Kindred, which is about “a modern black woman, who is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband, when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South.” From the opening page, this book is just as searing as you’d think it would be, and as I’ve been reading it, I’ve been thinking that if I had an idea for a book like this, it would terrify me and I’m not sure I could go there. So my question is two-fold. Have you ever been scared by something you wrote? Or, alternatively, what books have you read that you thought took courage to write? Keenan: I think I suffer from adrenal fatigue. Or denial. I don’t get scared anymore. I get bored. However, to address the brave book, I’d say it’s “The Liar’s Daughter” by Claire Allan.  Here’s my Goodreads review: Meet Heidi, the long-suffering dutiful step-daughter, Ciara, the long-suffering spiteful biological daughter, and Joe McKee, the man who molded both their lives and knows he does not deserve forgiveness for his sins. Joe is dying of cancer. Heidi is caring for him, despite her feelings towards him […]

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Get Away From it All

The Missdemeanors discuss finding places and times to focus on writing. If you had the chance to escape from your every day, where would you go? Join the discussion.

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Truth, Lies & Alice Hoffman

I came across this quote from the great novelist Alice Hoffman and it nestled in my head. You know how you get these bits of information you can’t stop thinking about? It reminded me of something my oldest son Will once said to me. I was telling an anecdote about something and I was embroidering it. As one does. Because you have to if you want to make the story interesting, and he said to me, “Mom, you’re such a liar.” I was, in fact, lying, but with a purpose. The story needed a bit of shaping. I was not going to sit there and tell a boring story without any sort of a punch line. There was truth in the story, but it needed a boost. This is the same reason I wear make-up. By contrast, when I’m writing a novel, I’m trying to figure out the truth. That sounds sort of ponderous. What I mean is that when I’m writing fiction I’m trying to understand what characters are doing and there’s no point in lying to myself, even if the characters are lying. What do you think? Please join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter?

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Weird Facts (and how they help you write)

Weird facts about owls

One of the pleasures of being a writer is that it is my actual job to seek out weird facts. Sometimes I feel a bit like a jaybird, skimming through books and articles. Or eavesdropping. Or gossiping. Feathering my nest with all sorts of intriguing information. Will I actually use them? I just don’t know. When I least expect it, these facts pop out of my head. Or melt into my brain. For example, a weird fact about owls is that a group of them together is known as “a parliament.” According to chipperbirds.com, this is because owls are considered to be wise and intelligent. Like a parliament. Then there is the issue of the chocolate chip cookies. I was chatting with my son, who is living in London at the moment, and he informed me that when the French bake chocolate chip cookies, they don’t use brown sugar. (He sent me a recipe, so I can attest that this is true.) This weird fact stunned me as I have spent a good percentage of my life hacking away at brown sugar in a desperate attempt to make chocolate chip cookies. And more weird facts Then I was reading Midnight […]

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