Thursday, July 26, 2012

Turning life into fiction

"My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living."

This is sooo true for me. How about you? You see something while shopping in the mall or hear something while waiting in line at the grocery store and you file it away  to use in your writing. Often we know that it's a moment to save. It happens and there's this little voice that says, "I'm going to make my character say that or do that."

For example, a co-worker's mom recently shared a story of how she found an empty container of icing hidden under his bed when he was younger. The container had drawn ants. BINGO! That's a great thing for the protagonist to do in my newest middle grade.

I have a notebook that I use to record snippets of conversations I hear or jot down observations (The front teeth of the man who works at the store are uneven. One is higher then the other.) I also use it to collect unusual or funny names. Mock, the teacher in my newest middle grade, was the last name of someone I "met" on Twitter.

How about you? What's an idea or observation from real life that ended up in your fiction?    

Monday, July 23, 2012

Dealing with tough writing days

I love to write, but some days it's tough. Maybe I'm too tired after working a long day (I have a full-time job) or I have a ton of commitments that beckon me. I've never been the type of writer who sets daily goals. Some days I might write 500 words and the next day 1,000.

I learned to listen to my body. If I'm tired, I'm tired. If I push myself to write when I'm too tired to think my my writing stinks.

What about you? Do have daily word limits? Do you write every day? Do you feel guilty if you don't?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My latest column

Here's my Smart magazine column. ENJOY! 
My second home is the grocery store. Seriously, I’m there practically every day. It seems that I can’t keep enough cereal, milk and yogurt in the house.
Oh, and bananas!
Just ask Hubs, who doubles over when he sees the grocery bills. But, hey, with two sons packing lunches every day, I’m giving that store scanner something to beep about.
I remember when a box of cereal used to last a week. Now, maybe a day.

Read the rest

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Will +1 make it into dictionary?

Funny how Google+ hasn't exactly set the world on fire but one aspect of it has going viral -- the use of +1. 

I'm hearing and seeing "+1" more and more. If you're not in the know, +1 is a synonym for:

In other words, when you say +1 or write +1 it's like applauding. Kind of like clicking the Facebook "like" button. +1 is the new high-five!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How do you make readers bond with your character?

I really like when I’m reading a book and bond with the character early-on. I think the earlier the better. As a writer, I’m cognizant of how important this is to the reader’s experience. If they don’t bond, the reader won’t keep reading. I need to make the reader care about the character enough to turn the pages.

Part of that is establishing what’s at stake for the character, but it’s also about making sure that I’m including details that help with the bonding. In other words, do I share enough about the character that the reader knows him and cares about him?

 These details might include:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Will, Middle Name Trouble newest MG

I love when characters make me laugh. This new middle grade – Will, Middle Name Trouble – has me in stitches. And, believe me I needed to be in stitches. My last book contained some brutal stuff and while there is redemption, it was heartbreaking getting there.

And then Will came into my life. Will’s dad walked out when Will was 6. He’s now 10 and the man of the house. He watches his 4-year-old twin sisters while his mom cleans office buildings at night. He cleans and cooks and does the laundry. And despite doing what no 10-year-old should be charged with doing Will survives. He’s clever and funny, and I can’t help but love his silly self.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Real conversations: Yadas yadas and blah blahs

As writers, we pay attention to conversations around us. We listen to word choice, rhythm of voice, tone, etc. We notice physical actions that accompany the dialogue. Did he shake his fist or point his
finger or pat her on the back? Did she give him the finger or jump up and down? Or hug him?

I love collecting snippets of conversation. They might inspire characters or I might hear a certain voice (ie. sing-songy or chirpy) that I want to emulate in my writing. 

Here are a couple of conversations I heard recently.


Place: In line at the convenience store.

Clerk 1 to clerk 2: And he said he was going out this weekend, blah blah blah. And then I said, yada yada yada.

Note: I have no idea what they were talking about but apparently they understood the blah blahs and yada yadas just fine. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Combining action with dialogue

Sometimes I struggle combining action with dialogue. I love writing dialogue and can get so carried away that I forget about breaking it up with action. It's usually something I catch on my first rewrite. For me, getting the conversation out of my head and onto paper first and then revising works best.

Here's an example from my latest novel. First, how I wrote it. 

“I’m starving,” she said. “Especially for Moo Goo Gai Pan.”
 “Well then, I’ve got you covered. I got some wine, too. And some beer, just in case.”
“Sounds good,” Gina said
“So is it wine or beer?" 
“How about both," Gina laughed. Do you want to chopsticks or utensils?”
            “Utensils. I can’t use those things worth a damn.”

Now read the revision:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The power of sights and sounds and smells

Last night, I saw my first fireflies of the summer and heard crickets chirp for the first time in a long time. I was immediately transported back to my youth when I ran myself silly chasing the flickering lights and was lulled to sleep by crickets singing outside my bedroom window.  

Isn’t it crazy how some sights and sounds and smells have that kind of power? The smell of mothballs reminds me of my grandmother. A lavender bush reminds me of Mom, who loved the fragrant flower. The playful music coming from the ice-cream truck as it winds through the neighborhood reminds me of summer nights I spent, money in hand, waiting on the front porch for its arrival.

What sounds or sights or smells evoke memories for you? It’s truly amazing how strong our reactions can be.