Tag Archives: writing

Deconstructing

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IMG_1918Recently, I’ve been tearing down hundreds of soccer pictures  from my son’s room. I’ve left them up for years because I’m sentimental. He is the inspiration for my not-yet-published novel about a soccer-obsessed kid, and these walls are a visual reminder of how obsessed he was (and still is).

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Yes, those are players on the ceiling…

But now my son is coaching university boys. And in a few weeks he’ll be a father of his own (he hopes) soccer player. So it’s time for the room to transform.

It feels like I’m ripping down his childhood.

Sometimes it feels like this when I’m revising a story. My carefully cut and pasted words get torn down so the fresh future can be realized.

Not easy to do.

But easier when there’s a baby on the way.

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Chilling your darlings

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I recently went to a weekend-long SCBWI conference (Wild Wild Midwest) that smacked my should’ve-had-a-V8 forehead. You can hear writing advice over and over sometimes before it really sinks in. This time it has sunk. It made me realize what was wrong with the beginning of my sisters novel (finally), and now that I’ve fixed that, I’m working on cleaning up the rest.

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The main smacker was Lisa Cron of Wired for Story fame. You can get a glimpse of her charisma in this TED talk. She has a new book coming out in August, but I couldn’t wait for that. I got her old one so I could get straight to work.

One of the things I’ve relearned is that if there’s something in the story that isn’t necessary, it needs to be cut ruthlessly.

I found an entire scene that I’ve kept in up until now just because I liked the mood of it. But it is not moving the story ahead at all, so it must be cut. And since it’s hard to accept that it will never see the light of day, I’m putting it up here (even though you have no idea who these characters are or what’s happening in the story). That’s how hard it is to throw out writing.

And now for your viewing pleasure (or not), here’s the cut scene from Home Is Where:

Rain has left the air fresh.

I’m so tired from my sleepless night, that I drift off to the swaying of the car.

When I wake up, something smells different. We’re not in town anymore. The house we’re approaching is tall and thin and it sticks up out of the landscape like Luna Lovegood’s house, only not so crookedly.

There are two old ladies inside who belong to us somehow. Sisters to each other. Maybe cousins to Grandma. Or maybe aunts. I search my memory for the odd names and finally remember–Lulujean and Maydell.

We don’t stay long. We enter the house in a museum-going way. Mom is acting like she found a lost locket, drinking in the faces of the live portraits before her. Stroking the old ladies’ hands like they’re bunny-soft.

One sister pats my shoulder. The other lifts Zoë’s hair with wonder, like it’s strands of golden necklaces.

Zoë stands still for once in her life.

            Remember? the sister says to the one near me right before we leave. Remember when we had hair like this?

 

Writing while traveling…or not

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So I thought I could mix traveling with writing, but mostly I could not. I had some insights into a possible new novel. And I had a fresh look at a picture book on Venice. And I took an art lesson in Venice which stretched my creativity. But as for the act of putting words to paper, not so much. While I did have a lot of time to myself for the first few days, I was mostly struggling through jet lag and loneliness. I learned something about myself–I don’t like traveling without a companion. (Fortunately my sister joined me on the third day.)

The plus side–filling the well. Even when travel is difficult, a person would be hard put to avoid experiencing new things. And when you go where there are so many beautiful and amazing views and differences, the creative well is filled quickly and completely. This downpour should last for a long while.

Over northern Italy

Over northern Italy

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Burano, Athens, Oia (Santorini), Dubrovnik, then ending where I began in Venice.

Shrunken manuscript

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My oldest son is getting married in a week and I have lots to do to get ready for guests. But I couldn’t help myself–I had to take some time out to reshrink my manuscript so I can make sure everything is where it ought to be.

Let's get 'er done

Let’s get ‘er done

If you want instructions for shrinking your manuscript to get an all-in-a-glance overview, go to Darcy Pattison’s blog here: http://www.darcypattison.com/revision/shrunken-manuscript/

This novel-in-progress, Three Prayers, lays out at three rows of seven. It was 87 pages of manuscript before it was shrunk.

In the original shrinking, I could see where chapters needed to be added or divided. In this shrinking after revision (close to the time when I’ll be submitting it to my agent, Stephen Fraser), I noticed one chapter was abnormally long and I split it. This exercise of Darcy’s has been extremely helpful to me, a visual learner.

I can only cover 5 pages with my fabulous furry body

I can only cover 5 pages with my fabulous furry body

Cat assistants

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Cats like to help. Or at least , they like to think they’re helping.

I'll just keep this warm for you...

I’ll just keep this warm for you…

I am writing right now with a cat in a box on my lap. This is where he thinks he belongs when I’m at the computer. If I ignore him when he comes swishing around me, he stands on his hind legs and pokes my shoulder with his paw. Repeatedly. This can be annoying. So he’s on my lap. In a box. Because he’s a little bit weird.

Any box will do, but this one's my favorite.

Any box will do, but this one’s my favorite.

When I’m writing a book and come to the place where I need to see it all at once, I lay it down on the floor all around me. You can imagine how fun this is for the cats. I haven’t figured out yet why they feel the need to step on paper on the floor. Does the crinkling sound musical? Do they like the way they can leave paw prints on the page? Why is lying on paper preferable to lying on the carpet? I don’t know.

Pencils and papers and pens--oh my!

Pencils and papers and pens–oh my!

Pens are also a big draw. Writers’ tools are cats’ playthings. Which is not often helpful. Unless it is helpful to be distracted.

Don't worry--I got this!

Don’t worry–I got this!

Sometimes it is helpful. I don’t want to be so focused on the words that I forget the softer side of life. The fur that can purr.

How did all those cats fit in there?

How did all those cats fit in there?

Sonnet beginnings

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I began writing sonnets because of a high school creative writing class assignment. We could choose between the English sonnet or the Italian sonnet. I didn’t like the way the English sonnet ended in a rhyming couplet. It sounded too rhymey. So I took on the task of creating an Italian sonnet.

It seemed very difficult. A certain number of syllables (10, which is pentameter) with a certain kind of inflection (iambic, which I have to admit I usually don’t pay attention to). A rhyme scheme of  ABBAABBACDECDE. But there’s something very satisfying about being able to use all those rules and come up with a poem.

If you haven’t already, I urge you to try it. But here’s a tip. Start thinking of the end when you start the first CDE section, because before you know it, you will have run out of the number of syllables you’re allowed to use. Happy writing!