Friday, July 31, 2009


Today's Mood: Upbeat. Today's Music: Tori Amos at the moment. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
Successful writing means having a great story and telling it beautifully. Word choice lies at the center of beautiful story-telling. Put another way, it's hard to tell a creative story in boring words. - James V. Smith, Jr. The Writer's Little Helper.

Let's talk about imagery. Poets may think they have the corner on the market, but all good writing employs good imagery. I was reading Through the Tollbooth, and today's post was all about similes and metaphors. Kelly Bingham does a great job talking about the differences between the two. Check it out here.

Imagery is all part of showing not telling. It is about word choice, and about creating powerful images rather than describing. Simile and metaphors are part of that--and using them effectively is worth practicing. I love it when I'm reading a book and the author comes up with comparison that surprises and delights me--the kind that makes me go, "yeah! That's it. I can totally picture that."

In the book The Writers Little Helper, there is a creative writer's bracketing tool that helps writers reach for the unexpected, the creative words and imagery. The author talks about revision being the place to search for ways to be more concrete, more specific, more inventive in your word choice. I want to really work at this in my writing. I'm thinking a journal would be a good place to jot down images that strike me. I need to myself to reach, not just grab for the first word that comes to mind. And that is the absolutely great thing about writing. I don't have to be inventive in the first draft; I just have to be able to work at it to the point where I come up with the creative, inventive stuff. Be persistent. I can do that.

Do you find yourself using simile and metaphor in your work? How do you go about creating unique, satisfying images in your writing?

Monday, July 27, 2009


Today's Mood: Optimistic. Today's Music: U2. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
A possibly apocryphal story has it that Voltaire did at least some of his writing in bed, using his naked mistress's back as a desk. -Robert Hendrickson
I wanted to talk about how one goes about writing, in part because I haven't been doing much writing. For me, summer has a great lack of structure which doesn't help. It takes discipline to sit down and write. Sometimes, when I'm very lucky or blessed by God or whatever you want to call it, the story pulls so strong that I cannot resist it. It is a siren's song, a drug's addictive call, a wave that sweeps me before it. But that happens rarely. Much more often, writing is a slog through mucky ground hampered by tall, wet grass. At least, that is how my mind often sees it --and who wants to leave the comfort of their bed for that? Thus I sleep in, or read a book, or peruse Facebook, or read blogs. And the summer slips by.

In Stephen King's book, On Writing, he talks about his writing process. "If you're a beginner [ ] let me urge that you take your story through at least two drafts; the one you do with the study door closed and the one you do with it open. With the door shut, downloading what's in my head directly to the page, I write as fast as I can and still remain comfortable."

This process appeals to me in a lot of ways. Other than a general idea, I'm not sure of my story right now. Still meeting the characters and getting to know them, still learning the "rules" of this world where there are extra-sensory powers, still finding out where everyone has been and what they are capable of. Sometimes the comments in group stop me up too much. Make me think too much at this stage about little things that are liable to change through the course of writing. But yet, if I wait to bring it to writing group until I am completely finished with a rough draft, it could well be years.

I suppose ideally I'd be bringing stuff that needed revision to the group, and working on my novel behind closed doors. However, I don't have enough writing time to do both, so I need to find a writing process that works for me. The loves to sleep working mother of two young kids style.

The quote above suggests that I could write in bed. A couple of problems with that: first, I doubt my husband would allow me to use his back as a desk, and second, my brain is lazy. I'd rather sleep and dream than write while I'm in bed. (not to mention... oh never mind. I won't mention it.)

It occurred to me while I was at Glen Lake (with lovely hours and hours in which to write) that I must seek out the pockets of silence in my life and write in those. Maybe it all really is just mind games, but I need to start thinking of half-hours as being plenty in which to write. After all, if I travel through the bog every day--even for a short while--I'll beat down a path through the mucky tall grass.

Next I'll think about where those pockets of silence can be found.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Today's Mood: Benign. Today's Music: Nothing yet--though I'm in the mood for some jazz. Today's Writing: nothing yet--though I hope to work on IFFY for awhile. Today's Quote:
Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself. -Truman Capote

This summer I have been taking a watercolor painting class. I've dabbled with paints for a year or two, and sometimes things work. But on some paintings, I'll know something is wrong, isn't working, but I won't know why--and thus cannot fix it. My husband suggested I take a class. "Learn the techniques, and then you'll be more equipped to fix the paintings--or maybe won't even need to anymore."

One of the big things I have learned so far: with watercolors, it's all about layers. Layers and layers of paint. At first, you work fast--don't over think things. A light background wash gives you the general parameter of where things are. Lots of water. Then you start adding more color. More detail. Maybe the work goes slower, but things start to come into focus. (hopefully) The main focal point is the most detailed, usually the most vivid colors. You definitely don't want your background to overwhelm the important foreground (like my absolutely hideous chartreuse green on the last landscape I did.) Oh, and every now and again, take time to stand back and look at it from a distance. It helps you see things you didn't when you were all up close and personal.

The process is not so different than that of writing. On my last camping trip I finished reading Stephen King's book On Writing. His creative process is get it down fast with the doors closed, and then layers of revision (doors open--getting feedback). And at some point, a bit of distance. And there are different techniques, tools to put in your toolbox. How you use those tools is the craft of writing. How so you mix colors, how do you write dialog, how do you add shadows, how do you add depth to your characters.

I was worried that taking a class would make painting bland, mechanical instead of the gut-level play that I was doing. The interesting thing is that even when every person in class is working on the same still-life, each painting looks different. Everyone brings a unique approach to the painting. So yeah, we might all be applying the same tools and techniques--even the same process, and yet there is individuality in the way we use those tools and techniques.

I'm a prepared sort of gal (think control freak), so it fits that I like to have a lot of tools at my disposal. I like to know how to use them effectively as well. But I don't always like someone telling me what to use when and how. That part I like to figure out myself because that is the part that makes it my own. The teacher of the watercolor class told us at the start, "you will make mistakes, even the best artists do. What matters is if you know how to 'fix' them, how to plow through and make it work."

So how have you learned the craft of writing? Or at least what are some of your best lessons in craft since I don't suppose the learning is ever really done. Which tool do you consider one of your most well-used?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sure is quiet here.......

So here's another epic example of creative writing, this time an obituary. We suspect she might have written it herself.