Answering Nova Day

(What is this? My very own meme, which could take the form of other Friday memes out there — random five or ‘fessing up — or non-Friday memes, or anything! Point being to have a little fun and get a little interactive. Feel free to snitch my logo at left and do your Friday thing!)


I’m calling today’s Free-For-All Friday installment “Answering Nova Day” because this strikes me as a fun thing to do.

Nova left a comment on my Monday Thoughts post. This comment consisted of a couple of questions that continue a couple of thoughts and are worthy of free-for-all-ing on this soggy Friday.

On the topic of outlining, Nova asked, You know I’m going to write an outline for the next novel, but if it’s anything like what I did the last time I don’t look at it after it’s written and I change the story quite a lot…What’s your non-outlining plan?

Funny you should ask, Nova, because I’ve been thinking about that lately. And I confess:

I love index cards. I’m the index card queen. I’m also the brainstorming and character analysis queen. So, after catching a whiff of something  — could be an image like two people walking down a lane (last novel) — I chase the whiff down with said brainstorming and character analyses until I’ve got a semblance of an idea.

(My question always is: How do people come up with their ideas? I have to torture them to get them to reveal themselves! What about you?)

The character analyses are the big thing for me. And if you believe that character is plot and plot, character, then you’re probably not surprised that plot points arise out of the analyses.

This is where index cards come in. I jot every scene idea onto its own card. Also, every scrap of dialogue that floats into my head, every what-if possibility, everything. I end up with way more cards than I use. I shuffle through them as I write the first draft, adding to their number, setting aside those that become moot or simply too silly to use, and so on.

I usually stop writing the first draft (last time it was at around page 120) to take stock of what I have. By then, I have a way better idea of the story. If I remember rightly, last time I did this, I spent many weeks analyzing and revising to sinc up the material with what I now knew to be true for the story. (That said, the first draft is still a mess.)

I do wish I had a better process. I would love to be a person for whom the one-sentence what-if? idea and subsequent outlining came easily…

And next, regarding deadlines, Nova asked, What’s your next self-imposed deadline?

Once again, funny you should ask, Nova, because yesterday I decided that my next self-imposed deadline is, ta-da:

Finish revising the older novel I’ve been working on and send it to my agent in January. I’m even going to call her to let her know this — that’s really putting the flame under my tookis, isn’t it?

Free-For-All Friday

(What is this? My very own meme, which could take the form of other Friday memes out there — random five or ‘fessing up — or non-Friday memes, or anything! Point being to have a little fun and get a little interactive. Feel free to snitch my logo at left and do your Friday thing!)


Today for my meme I get to respond to another meme. This one is a commenter’s meme. I ask you, who thinks these up? People have good imaginations out there. I was tagged by Charlotte over at Charlotte’s Web.

(Addendum: Forgot to post this and now it’s outdated! I’m too lazy to update for Pete over at Couch Trip who left a nice comment today. Also, Caroline left a comment but doesn’t have a blog (yet?) –“hi” to you!)

The rules:

1. List the last 10 people to comment on your blog.

2. If you’re on the list, you’re tagged.

My last 10 commenters:

1. Terry at Mr. Wandering Writer

2. Sandi Kahn Shelton

3. mari at cha no ma-ri

4. Charlotte at Charlotte’s Web  (What’s the rule on this? She tagged me!)

5. oh at Oh! Books…Paper…Real Life…

6. Becca at Bookstack

7. DeAnna at Writely So

8. tracer at Twilight Spy

9. Lane at Lane Scheideman’s Photography

10. The Girl In The Cafe

Here are the questions:

1. What’s your favourite post from number 5’s blog?

oh’s a great photographer. I always like her Six-Word Saturdays with an image and a caption. This one was especially nice.

2. Has number 2 taken any pictures that moved you?

I remember one photograph that had me drooling. This was Sandi’s idyllic summer writing spot. Also, check out the cover of her latest novel, Kissing Games of the World. Talk about moving.

3. Does number 8 reply to comments on her blog?

I can’t say that tracer replies. However, I know this blogger in the flesh (not just virtually) and I know it’s not personal!

4. Which part of blogland is number 4 from?

Charlotte is from the part of blogland that speaks to any of us. She’s a writer, sure, but I don’t consider her blog just about writing. Also, because she’s a South African living in Germany, she adds a nice international flavor to my blog experience.

5. If you could give one piece of advice to number 5, what would it be?

Personally, I would love it if Lane added some text around his photos. (Everyone: another wonderful photographer.) Some of the technical or inspirational context. What was going on with him during the shoot…You know, just commentary.

6. Have you ever tried something from number 1’s blog?

Terry drops in every once in awhile, which is great. I can’t say that I’ve tried anything from his blog, but then, he doesn’t have that kind of blog. He shares his short fiction, which is far more brave than I have been so far.

7. Has number 3 blogged something that inspired you?

mari bakes the most delicious-looking cookies, and her photos look too good. Her series of VOTE cookies before the election put a smile on my face and kept me hopeful.

8. How often do you comment on number 6’s blog?

Not often enough! But only because I haven’t read most of the books that Becca has so have nothing to add to her reviews. (Get lots of reading ideas from her!)

9. Do you wait for number 10 to post excitedly?

Personally, I like it when The Girl In The Cafe posts madly or sadly. Just kidding — that’s an oddly worded question. Currenly, TGITC is working on a film so I look forward to her updates. I also like her commentary on film in general.

10. How did number 7’s blog change your life?

DeAnna Cameron’s blog? I gotta tell you, when I land a book-publishing contract, I’ll be reading every one of her posts again because her novelist interviews include TONS of tips about publicity and marketing. They’re very insightful.

Free-For-All Friday

(What is this? My very own meme, which could take the form of other Friday memes out there — random five or ‘fessing up — or non-Friday memes, or anything! Point being to have a little fun and get a little interactive. Feel free to snitch my logo at left and do your Friday thing!)


cannonbeach8Today’s a question-for-you day because I’m feeling thoughtful:

What arouses your serene melancholia?

I describe this as a longing, or yearning, that’s unspecific, that feels like it’s one of the mysteries at humanity’s core. It’s a sweet sadness for no reason. It’s serene because it doesn’t require an answer.

Does this make sense? (It might be that I’m a melancholic personality, I don’t know.)

cannonbeach9In any case, the reason I pose the question is because walking into winds on misty beaches arouses my serene melancholia. (Took these photos the first day — before the mist and wind arrived.)

It’s something about the way my eardrums throb with the cold.

It’s something about the way my ears turn into echoing seashells.

It’s something about the way the wind almost drowns out the sound of waves.




cannonbeach10Now, one more dose of serene melancholia before I return to Portland, where the last 30 pages of manuscript quick-reading await me. Didn’t quite reach my goal for this retreat, but that’s okay.



And one last thought. Saw the following written in sand. “Isaiah 53:5.” It got the storyteller in me wondering why. Nearby, the same person (Robert?) had written “Robert + Kate.”


What do you suppose these lovers on their romantic stroll (because it was a glorious twilight) were talking about? Isaiah 53:5 says,

     But he was pierced for our trangressions,
        he was crushed for our iniquities;
        the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
        and by his wounds we are healed.

I don’t know the Bible, and I’m not religious. This quotation doesn’t inspire serene melancholia, only uneasiness. However, that said, in pondering Isaiah 53:5, perhaps Robert and Kate felt their own kind of serenity.

Free-For-All Friday (A Day Late)

(What is this? My very own meme, which could take the form of other Friday memes out there — random five or ‘fessing up — or non-Friday memes, or anything! Point being to have a little fun and get a little interactive. Feel free to snitch my logo at left and do your Friday thing!)


Trick or treat. On this Halloween weekend I’m thinking about tricks (having eaten too many treats). Specifically, the tricks we play on ourselves to get our writing done.

Sometimes my tricks come in the guise of treats, like the Oregon-coast trip I promised myself after I finish the current revision. Most of the time, however, my tricks are all-out mind games.

Like, for example, the cutting game. Give this one a try during revisions:

1. Upon sighting a paragraph that’s rotten to the core, decide: CHOP THAT PUPPY!

2. Decision made, now wonder if the paragraph is not rotten so much as misplaced, poor thing. Tell yourself that the prose isn’t half-bad, after all…

3. The moment you waffle tell yourself that you WILL delete it because you are a professional and you can handle it.

4. Cut rather than delete the paragraph and paste, yes, PASTE, the offending passage below THE END. Now, feel secure in knowing that a) you’re indeed a professional and b) the words are still officially within the document, ready to be salvaged at any time. The best of both worlds!

5. When finished with the revision, revisit these “cuts” and wow yourself with your writing prowess as you dismiss them as rotten to the core.

Or, this one, which I like to call the I’m-really-watching-television game.

This trick is for those of you who find yourselves too tired to work at night, yet work you must. This mind game is good for blog-writing and emailing too.

1. Change into your scroungiest lounge wear and turn on the television.

2. Place laptop on your lap, and remind yourself that what you’re really doing is relaxing with televised brain candy. Guilty-pleasure programs work the best. Like “Supernatural” because Jensen Eckles is too pretty. Or that new Tyra Banks show, “Stylista,” because it’s wrong in so many enjoyable ways.

3. Mute the television during a commercial and casually open a document or what-have-you. Start working. Remember, you’re really watching t.v. so you can un-mute as soon as the commercial ends.

4. Don’t fret if you forget that you’re really watching television. You may even go so far as to turn off the telly, but this is okay. You can always catch the brain candy in reruns.

What tricks do you play on yourself to get the work done?

Free-For-All Friday

(What is this? My very own meme, which could take the form of other Friday memes out there — random five or ‘fessing up — or non-Friday memes, or anything! Point being to have a little fun and get a little interactive. Feel free to snitch my logo at left and do your Friday thing!)


Today I’m ‘fessing up for my Friday. It’s about time I held myself accountable for flailing around with this revision. I’m taking far too long. This is ridiculous.

So, I hereby set my new goal in writing — hopefully publicizing it on this blog will keep me honest — along with the prize I’ll win for reaching this goal. Because prizes are good, and prizes help enforce arbitrary deadlines, right? Right (again hopefully).

Which brings up a question: Do you give yourself writing prizes? If so, what? I need ideas!

The goal: I have 12, count them, 12, chapters left to revise. So, I hereby promise to revise one chapter a day, including weekends, until I am done.

This doesn’t sound like an onerous goal, but one chapter each day can be tough. Some of the chapters are in horrible shape.

The prize: Thirteen or 14 days from now I’m going to the coast to a fancier lodge than usual for me — one that allows dogs, by the way. This lodge is offering a three-nights-for-the-price-of-two deal, which helps.

How’s that for a prize?

Admittedly, I’ll still be working. I’ll bring the printed copy of the manuscript with me and read through it for fine-tunes. Fun!

How much of a writing-geek am I that I’ll have loads, I mean, TONS, of fun reading through a manuscript at a fancy lodge on the beach with my dog as companion? Gotta love it. I’ll use any excuse for a writing retreat.

Have a great weekend. I’ll be working, but enthusiastically. In fact, the enthusiasm starts now with chapter 36 (woo-hoo).

Sidenote question: We writers need a patron saint of revisions. Who’s a good candidate for this position?

Free-For-All Friday

(What is this? My very own meme, which could take the form of other Friday memes out there — random five or ‘fessing up — or non-Friday memes, or anything! Point being to have a little fun and get a little interactive.)


Two items I ran across that made me uneasy: This goes to the state of the publishing biz and our lot as novelists within it.

The Independent carried a piece about how novelists are under pressure to “dumb down” so as to appeal to a wider readership. It could be that publishers are rebranding certain authors more commercially — I call this the cult of personality in action — rather than let their work stand on its own.

Granted, these novelists stand to gain in the moulah-department if the publishers succeed in the marketing “remarketing.” But, I ask you, would you really want to see Cormac McCarthy rebranded as a thriller or action writer?

Simiilarly, The Guardian ran a piece about authors as “branding machines.” I’m going to quote a portion, because, for me, it says it all:

“…the obsession with “branding” authors is threatening to hamper new talent. Writing a book a year is the absolute minimum for an aspiring genre novelist, and this treadmill approach allows no let-up. Will new crime writers get the freedom of say, Dennis LeHane, Thomas Harris and James Ellroy to write the books they want, when they want? Or will they be squeezed out by rivals willing to fire off three or four books a year to establish themselves?”

Seems to me this scenario is pertinent to most novelists, not only crime writers. What are your thoughts?

An item that made me think: Sometimes another blogger’s pearl of wisdom takes me by surprise. One wee sentence on Quantum Storytelling’s blog was a welcome slap in the face: “Procrastination is caused by indecision.”

We could discuss whether procrastination is always caused by indecision, but, in point of fact, when I read that statement I realized that my procrastination of past weeks had indeed been caused by indecisiveness! Yowza. I outlined my tangled thoughts in a post last week. This week I decided to tackle point number one from that post (finish a revision). Low and behold, this week my work routines settled back into their good groove.

And, an item that made me smile: A writers-retreat-friend is doing well for himself these days. His name is Eldon Thompson, and he writes epic fantasy. I enjoyed perusing his website this week — and I’m happy for him. The bit that made me smile came out of an interview. He said this:

“…Most importantly, perhaps, it has taught me to simplify things—to toss out ideas that are too complex and to really focus on the emotional response of characters to whatever obstacles are thrown at them.”

I smiled because I tend toward too much complexity in my first drafts. Glad to know that I’m not the only one that’s learned a few lessons around this!