Posted in behind the scenes, Yuma Baby

Cheating?

One thing that happens when you’re sick for awhile is you get a chance to read. A lot.

Recently, reading a mystery novel, mostly absorbed in the story (the writer was a bit self-conscious, so I wasn’t totally able to lose myself, my suspension of disbelief only partially lifted), I was dropped completely out of it when a character, driving a rental car, wondered what time it was. Hmmm. When was the last time you rented a car that didn’t have a clock on the dashboard?

Was the author cheating a bit? Ignoring the fact that most cars these days have clocks so the character wouldn’t know how much time was passing? So we wouldn’t know?

I felt manipulated. Then I realized… I’ve cheated readers too! Sometimes it’s just too easy to conveniently shift reality a bit to make something in the plot work a little better.

I use mostly real places in my novels. In my most recent Rollin RV Mystery, the main character goes into the ladies’ room at a rest stop about seven miles inside the California border along Interstate 8. There really is a rest stop there. I’ve stopped at it.

It’s got the same wide, sandy parking area I described in the book, but the real bathrooms are more like single vault toilets than the common room with individual stalls I invented for the book.

I thought a long time about changing that scene to reflect the actual rest area, but no matter how I tried to re-envision it, the scene had to happen the way it does in the book, and the only way that was possible was to change how the bathroom was laid out.

Cheating.

[Did you catch the “cheater”image in this post? The stuffed animal pic might look like the one on the cover of “Yuma Baby,” but it’s a different toy. See how easy it is to twist things even a little?]

Posted in behind the scenes

RVing Novelists

When I started writing the Rollin RV Mysteries, I knew about only one other mystery series featuring a sleuth who RVed*: Sue Henry, with her Maxie and Stretch mysteries (sixty-plus year old heroine Maxie McNabb and her dachshund). After four of those, she turned her focus back to her other series. I’ve read them all and though I think End of the Road is my favorite, they’re all good.

Since then I’ve discovered a few more authors venturing down the same path, and will soon be providing an interview with one of them.

So if you’ve enjoyed the Rollin RV Mysteries and want to read more mysteries featuring RVers, watch this space!

* My apologies to language purists. RV, of course, being the abbreviation for “recreational vehicle,” makes no linguistic sense as a verb, and even less when used in the past tense. But after a decade of trying to figure out another way to describe those of us who live or vacation using RVs, I gave in to the common distortions of “RV” used commonly within the “RVing” community. If you can offer an alternative, please leave it in the comments or send me an e-mail — I’d love to have one!

Posted in publishing, writing advice, writing motivation, writing prompts, writing resources

The Value of Writing Groups

WritingGroup

Last December I posted about two different types of writing groups. That brief overview was related to a couple of columns I wrote for a private writing group’s newsletter. Even then, I didn’t feel as though I’d said all I wanted to on the subject.

Result?

An expanded how-to guide, with suggestions for getting a group started, identifying your group, and setting some rules, for starters. I included some prompts and other tips, all based on years of experience as a member of both creative groups and critique groups.

Now you can get that 8-page guide FREE. Just click here.

WritingGroupGuide

Oh… and in the critique group section I include an idea for making those groups even better — something I’ve never seen in practice before.

What do you think makes a great writing group? What have your experience been? Do you agree with the ideas in the guide? Let us know what you think!

Posted in writing advice

Writing and Geometry

Oh, but they DO have a lot in common!

I was reading Ava Jae’s great post, “You Don’t Have to Get It Right the First Time” and decided it was time to post about the writing process after a long spell without mentioning it.

In her post, Ava lists the things you shouldn’t be thinking about while you’re drafting. The one thing you *should* be focusing on while drafting, she says, is “Getting the story written.” Period.

And she’s right. (Again. Ava Jae is always right…. if you read the ellenbooks roundup posts, she shows up quite a bit in the links, and there’s a reason for that. So go read her post, too.)

You should be running like a train when you’re drafting, and trains do nothing but stay on one track. If a train scootches even a little bit off that track — whammo — disaster.

So where does the geometry part come in?

Think of the writing process as an inverted triangle — the big heavy side balanced on the tip. When you draft, you’re doing the BIG STUFF. Getting the story into words. Putting the characters out there. Mixing things up. Charging with that train down the track.

When you get through to the end of the story, when you’ve mentally tapped “The End” on the final page, celebrate, then admit that you’re only a fraction of the way to finishing your novel.

You’ve got several more stages in the process to move through — revision, edit, proofreading, polishing. I won’t repeat here what’s been covered earlier (see Re-Draft? Revise?) but you should be seeing the pattern:

InvertedTriangle

Notice how you’re moving from the big chunks down to smaller and smaller bits of the manuscript? Why move your commas around if you’re not sure your story is where it needs to be? You could end up chopping all that proofreading work you’ve done.

New novelists often ask how to be more efficient in their writing. “I spent hours and hours on a scene that I ended up cutting!”

If you HATE wasting time… consider practicing the inverted triangle method. It reduces the chance you’ll waste effort.

Of course, nothing is iron-clad, and the tinkerers among us won’t mind getting those commas in the right spots — even if we drop the entire page — but at least we know the risk we’re taking. Mess with the commas in an early stage of revision, and you just might be “wasting” your time (we’re never wasting our time… but that’s another post).

Where are you in the process? Charging like a freight train down one skinny track? Or are you further down the triangle?

Posted in writing motivation

Write Right Where You Are

Because my husband and I are always moving, trading one “hometown” for another around the continent, we frequently pick up local newspapers to see what’s happening while we’re in the neighborhood. On a recent visit to the Grand Canyon we bought the Grand Canyon News, and it delivered a juicy bit of information about an upcoming arts and crafts fair.

WriteRight1

Being an avid reader (I should do another post on reading signs in laundromats around the country), I start with the headlines then comb every page — all the way through the classifieds.

This time it paid off (again): Continue reading “Write Right Where You Are”

Posted in writing life

Life as a Traveling Writer

Travel writers are a dime a dozen. Well, okay, maybe not *that* common. But when someone says they’re a travel writer, they usually don’t have to explain what it means, especially now with so many cable TV channels and hundreds of magazines devoted to travel. Travel writer implies they travel to various locations to write about it for magazines, books, and guidebooks. They get photos, interview interesting people, and make note of important details. The destination is the thing.

I’m not one of those writers. Nope, I’m a traveling writer. It’s a very different thing. Let me explain. Continue reading “Life as a Traveling Writer”