Saturday, December 31, 2011

Razor's Edge : New Year, New Opportunities

I postponed the final Razor's Edge for 2011 until Saturday, December 31. The last day of the year - one day.

I'm not going to say to make resolutions. You can if you want. And there are some excellent resources all over the internet and probably with friends and family if you want prompts or a starting place.

Instead, set an intention for the coming year. An intention to go deeper in your relationships. An intention to write with more energy. An intention to be true to your vision and your voice. An intention to feel good. An intention to put yourself first.

And, if you prefer, place one of your characters in a situation where her life will be altered by the events of the evening. Something will happen to give her a new outlook and her future will be changed.

I offer the following music I found on YouTube to listen to as you begin writing: "InTENtion" by My Sleeping Karma.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Live Storytelling - "I Didn't Think This Through"

Interpreted Live Storytelling Performance

WHAT:   Live Storytelling - The theme is "I Didn't Think This Through"
               by Back Fence PDX
WHEN:   Monday, January 23, 2012 at 7:00 pm
WHERE: Portland Center Stage

TICKETS: Deaf Community members - you must reserve your tickets by January 9th. All tickets being held for the interpreted section will be released to the general public after January 9th. *note* The general tickets for this event become available at 10am on January 3rd at 10:00 am; except for the interpreted section, the tickets will sell out within 24 hours.

CONTACT: To reserve your interpreted section seat, you must email by 1/9/12 and say that you need seats in the interpreted section.

INTERPRETERS: Dot Hearn and Steve Nail

DETAILS:  This is a one night only, free performance of storytelling.

The show isn't improv nor specifically comedy. It's a storytelling show a la The Moth and/or This American Life. 6 people will be telling true personal narratives based around the theme, "I Didn't Think This Through." Each story will be between 10 and 15 minutes long. Though the stories are not memorized, we do create an outline with them that they work from. Tellers come from all walks of life, some have performed a lot on stage and others are more regular joes... for this show we have a pet photographer, construction worker, and food cart owner. Stories do largely angle toward being funny, but there are typically some poignant moments mixed with all other types of emotion (gross, scary, weird etc!)—the humor arises out of the narrative. Let's face it, the truth is funny!

This show will have adult content.

Here are links to three of the six storytellers for this special event:
Mary VanNote
Carli Davidson
Laurie Notaro

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Don't Drink & Drive: Transportation Options

One of the major drinking holidays is on the horizon. While I long ago gave up the tradition of starting the new year with a hangover - enjoy it if you do! And - please don't drink and drive.

There are many transportation options when it comes to party time. And New Year's Eve has some added assistance for those who need it.

One, of course, is the tried and true "designated driver." This is a good option.

But sometimes you may find yourself a little more tipsy than you planned and there's no one to drive you home. Or you feel "a slight buzz" and that you'll "be fine." Please - be safe, not just fine. Even a slight buzz alters your reaction time.

Don't wind up the tragic protagonist in my next novel who dies in a fiery car crash because she was just a little tipsy but wasn't able to maneuver that curb.

Be safe. Okay? I'm not saying to not have a good time -- but plan ahead for getting home safely if you're going out. Or plan a sleepover! That can be fun, too.

One program to get you - and your car - home is from AAA. This service is available in most areas:
AAA Tipsy Tow drivers are ready and waiting to assist drivers who are the worse for wear between 6pm New Year's Eve 2011 and 6am New Year's Day 2012.  If you or someone you know over-indulges this New Year's Eve, don't try to navigate the roads on your own -- here's the info on your free ride home this holiday season.

The AAA Tipsy Tow program is running throughout ... a good chunk of the United States, in an effort to keep drunk drivers off the road and accidents down on New Year's Eve.  The AAA Tipsy Tow number is 1-800-222-4357.

Just call in and tell the operators you need a Tipsy Tow.  AAA will drive you and tow your vehicle up to ten miles for free.  You don't have to be an AA member, and you won't have to show any identification.  The AAA tow truck driver will take you, your car, and up to one additional passenger back home -- but they won't take you bar-hopping, or to any other establishment. 

In the Portland (Oregon) metro area, TriMet has some free ride options:
...all bus and MAX rides will be free beginning at 8 p.m. on Dec. 31.

They'll run on regular Saturday schedules, but MAX service will be extended, TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch said.

MAX Blue, Green and Yellow trains will run later into the night, approximately every 35 minutes until about 3 a.m. The last Blue Line trip to Gresham will leave Pioneer Square at 3:06 a.m., and the last trip to Hillsboro will leave Pioneer Square 10 minutes later.

The last Green Line trip to Clackamas will leave the Pioneer Courthouse/Southwest 6th Avenue at 3:10 a.m. The last Yellow Line trip to the Expo Center will leave the same station at 3:02 a.m., and the last trip to downtown will leave the Expo Center station at 2:24 a.m.

A trip to the Rose Quarter Transit Center will leave the Expo Center at 3:42 a.m.

On the Red Line, trains will run on regular Saturday schedules until the end of service and shuttle buses will carry riders between the Gateway Transit Center and Portland International Airport until about 3 a.m. The last trip of the night to PDX will leave Pioneer Square at 10:43 p.m. The last trip to the Beaverton Transit Center will leave the airport at 11:49 p.m.

For a complete list of TriMet's schedules, visit their website.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Few Thoughts For Today

I know this is a big holiday for many people. For me, this is one holiday near the middle of the season with a concentration on holidays. Not that I celebrate them all - I don't. But I understand the importance of the time for reflection, for looking ahead, for setting aside time for family and friend, faith and community; for being present.

And so - wishing everyone the best of this season of noticing, no matter which flavor of holiday you celebrate.


"A man's life is nothing but an extended trek through the detours of art to recapture those one or two moments when his heart first opened." by Albert Camus

~ not to be picky, but I was going to make it gender neutral, but that's not what he said .. but we know this applies to women, too ~


In the Jan/Feb 2012 Poets & Writers, Arnie Cooper quotes from Milan Kundera' book, "Slowness" : "Speed is the form of ecstasy the technological revolution has bestowed on man.". ~ again, with the "man" thing ~

Cooper adds that "...our addiction to speed ... disconnects us from our true selves."

The title of his article is "In This Moment - Slowing Down to Open Up the Writer's Mind."

I like his analogy of calligraphy, by hand or by computer. Slowing down. Being present. Making time and space for creativity to happen.


In P&W (same issue as above) there is an exercise in the bottom left corner on pg 58. This is from their online poetry and prose prompts, which can be found at

This one is ... The Time Is Now ... instructions for writing a collaborative poem with a friend. (I think this is similar to what a friend, Rooze, has done a couple of times on Facebook.)


Take some time today to Be in your life. Let life in and experience creativity.


Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Last Saturday the online writing Intensive with Ariel started. Since then I have written nine stories ranging between 900 to 1800 words. I have posted at least one story each day - two last Sunday; and I have an extra story which I didn't end up using of about 1500 words tucked away on my computer. That unused story isn't finished because other stories surfaced which better fit the assignments and the unfinished story was going to be too long for either one.

I just looked at my posts, thinking I'd missed a couple of days and saw that I haven't posted anything since Monday. Now it's Friday. And tomorrow the Intensive will be halfway done.

The middle of this week was Solstice. A time to look ahead to the coming year, to envision hopes and desires as the sun turns and we will begin climbing back to the light. Although this week has been especially mild and unusually sunny for December in Portland. I'm not complaining - just taking note that it has been dryer and more sunny than normal; although I do see on the current forecast that we are into a rainy period starting on Sunday.

So - the Solstice. Rejoice, rebirth, renewal - and visioning.

For me, this was a commitment to live my life from the inside outward. If you haven't been with me on this recent journey that may not make sense. But it's about living my life - not the one imposed on me or to meet the expectations from outside. It's about being present in my life and in my heart and soul and living from there and being in the world, from my experience.

It will include more regular writing, submitting more of my writing, using Ariel's editing and feedback on the memoir to revise it and then getting more feedback and advice and editing until it's ready to sail out into the world. It will include opening up my writing even more - taking risks, not censoring (although I've already made great strides in that), being bold and brave in my writing.

My vision includes more time to be inspired - which may mean staying in my pjs all day or going for a leisurely stroll or going to dinner & a play I'm not interpreting or reading. Or sleeping.

This vision definitely includes some time to be. To simply be or to be simple. Do nothing or whatever happens in the moment.

And to "Trust the Process."

Friend Rooze took a great picture not too long ago: a medium blue background with those words in white. She posted it on Facebook for her BFA Goddard cohort and there was some specific significance for them. I wasn't a part of that cohort but I know and need those words. Those are words for my creativity, my writing - my life right now. Trust the Process. I don't know where that picture was taken and it doesn't matter. But I do know that I downloaded that picture and it's my current laptop wallpaper - tiled: the picture fits on my  screen basically four times. Repetition can be a good thing.

Half way through the Intensive, half a week from the Solstice (I know it's Christmas Eve, too). And there was another "half" I was going to mention but I've forgotten. And I'll take that as a cue to go to bed.


Monday, December 19, 2011

"Meatballs On My Mind"

No, I don't have meatballs on my mind.

But that was the latest story I submitted to the Intensive online workshop.

I've been keeping up in there. And I did get a story written for the regular Wayward Writers online class and turned in ... well, not quite on time - 19 minutes late.

And I have written more. Yesterdays' Intensive story was actually almost double the word limit so I had to cut it back. Way back. I did. And I have another story to tell, to work on, to revise - because I had to cut out a lot of story I liked to make it work. It did. And I still have the pieces.

The same with the first story. I had three-quarters of a story written and it wasn't even near the prompt I was aiming for. Then I dropped that one all together, thinking I was going to use it for the regular assignment, but ended up writing a completely different story for that.

All told, I've written about 6,500 words in three days.

Not bad!

And fun.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Didn't Drown

That seems like an odd title for a post. But it's true.

Two events yesterday where there was the possibility of drowning.

One - as silly as this may seem - was that I went swimming for the first time since the medical incident at the beginning of October. Since the incident involved breathing issues, this was not a totally random or unrelated thought. When you add in the fact that I passed out due to overexertion in my at-that-time unknown medically compromised state, which cut off oxygen/blood supply and which is what finally got me to the hospital - the fear of drowning in the pool due to breathing issues was not out of the blue. A little paranoid, probably - I'm breathing much better - but I realized my fear and just made sure there was someone else in the pool. And to not push beyond what I could do.

Two - was a metaphorical drowning. As in being unable to write the Intensive writing assignment and work on today's regular Wayward assignment. And give Intensive feedback. But I did! And I even wrote extra and had to edit it down. And I wrote the beginning of something else for today's Intensive story - which went in a totally unexpected direction.

It was a good day. I think I've found a creative stride and I'm exploring where the difference came from. Two days ago I was totally blocked and no words would come.

Now look at me. Swimming in water and words and keeping afloat. And happy.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Down Time Approacheth ... in theory, anyway

No, it's true. The coming two weeks are much slower in terms of work. A break long in the coming and so needed.

I was talking about this concept of "break" with an interpreting friend recently. We decided after some discussion that sign language interpreters have a different vocabularly when it comes to ideas like "down time" or having a "break" or even, in my friend's case, "semi-retirement."

I think the definition for writers is similar.

Which is to say that having a break means you have a day or two where you don't have to get up with an alarm and rush to get ready to be somewhere or turn a piece in at a specific time. I was going to say "early" in terms of getting up or being at work or turning in a project. But that is subjective. For me, 9 AM is early; for two of my good friends, 9 AM is lunch break time or sleeping in. So the exact time doesn't matter. I think the time doesn't matter - it's being able to sleep until your body says "satisfied!" and you wake up and feel rested and restored.

It also may mean that a "day off" is 'only' interpreting a play. Or having a story due at midnight and you're half done so you can, say, for example, check Facebook and write a blog post.


It may also mean, as an interpreter and a writer that a break in either area is filled by the other. So it's a break-no-break. Or maybe a break-from-the-dominant-norm. That's it. I think.

So. For me. Right now. Here is my "break" definition:
* I'm not teaching for 3 weeks.
..... I posted students' grades last night; no more grading for 3 weeks
..... I've contacted potential internship sites this week. Will resume placement work January 2nd.
* I'm only working 3 days each of the next 2 weeks, with 4 days off.
* Writing? No break! Hurray. I signed up for Ariel's Winter Writing Intensive: 12 new stories in 14 days, and giving feedback.

So, like I mentioned ... a "break" in interpreting work is being taken over by writing. As it should be. And those four days a week off, I can be writing at home in my pajamas until 8 PM if I want, or bundle up in layers to walk in the cold December sun to the local coffee shop with my laptop (or notebook and pen if I really want to rebel). Or I can sleep. Wake up. Go for a swim or a walk. And write at my leisure - as long as I get the assignment and feedback done within the day.

This is a good break. My mind and my body are happy with this decision. Writing because I want to. Writing more because I can.

In that week before the next term starts, I will have to add back in my teaching duties. And the Intensive will be over but there will be a Wayward Writers assignment. And when the Wayward assignment is done, I will be starting a writing journey with Inga Muscio and her process of "decerebralization" for writing. Awesome.

Some people have smiled when I've talked about my winter "break." Some nod knowingly.

What I know in this moment is that I feel happy. And I have a rough draft of today's Intensive writing done - except it's not the assignment! It's the background story to the story I was planning to write and it's already 15 words over the limit.

Oh! I know - I will use this background story toward this week's Wayward Writers assignment and pull pieces of it as memory blips when I get to the actual Intensive story. Yes. That's it. It really does fit for both assignments - the backstory I've written, with additional information, is about the regular assignment prompt; and I guess I needed to get this out to find my way to the Intensive story I wanted to write.

I love the creative process. And I love it so much more when I have the mental and emotional space to explore and let it develop.

Breathing. Right now I'm grateful for time and space and breath.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Keeping On Keeping On

This is a short post.

But I want to keep in touch and don't want to let all momentum be lost in the mire of finals and requests for "information now" when my "now" is already filled.

To not give up because I received thumbs down on a contest and then, today, another thumbs down on a writing residency. The residency didn't really come as a surprise because, after I submitted my application and materials, I realized that I hadn't said the things they wanted to hear - meaning, truly, I wasn't a good match for their vision statement. They had about 1,000 applicants and had to select only 40 out of the group.

I just finished interpreting the matinee of the same play I interpreted last Thursday night. There were a lot of patrons in the interpreted section, which made it even more fun. I worked with two good interpreters; it was fun and we did a good job.

My "now" in the moment is trying to get the rest of the finals graded so I can submit the grades. And have a break from teaching and all that goes with it until January 9th. Well, except for continuing to work on placements for the interns for next term.

And I have a story due on Sunday and the two-week intensive writing online workshop starts on Saturday (twelve pieces to write in fourteen days!). Excited and at the moment nervous.

A bit of truth is that right now I'm frustrated. Frustrated with the "need it now" and the "taking much longer than planned" and the medical situation needing attention. And where is my writing in this? It's After the grading is done; After the play is interpreted (which is now done and a couple weeks until we start the next one); After I call the nurse, the medical billing department, the doctor if needed; After I respond to the "now" requests. After.

Truth: I'm tired of my writing coming After.

I want to write Now.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

First Book Rejection

I've gotten comfortable with rejections - if that's possible. Rejections of short stories, essays, non-fiction. I've had some submissions accepted and that's great; my most recent was a couple months ago I had a 50-word ultra flash fiction story called "The Watcher" published in BlinkInk.  And I know the life of the writer is more rejections than acceptances.

I really am getting used to it.

But today I received my first book rejection on the memoir. It wasn't a rejection in terms of a publisher or editor - but the contest I submitted 119 pages of the book to in June sent a very friendly "thanks for submitting but we didn't choose you" type of email. I had a feeling last week that I wouldn't be selected.

And I will admit I was a little disappointed. It would have been an amazing opportunity. But it didn't happen and. Okay.

It's the same book I will be meeting about with Ariel for her editing and feedback next week. Followed by making the edits. And then passing it along to Bonnie Hearn Hill if she has time in her busy writing life.

But, for the moment, I need to just take a moment to say it was sad. And I know it will get easier as the rejections pile up for books. I also know the contest had many submissions. But, the first of this kind. Now, on to looking for more potential publishers.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cafe Press: Writing Shirt Sale codes, links

I received an email that Cafe Press is having a Writing Shirt sale. There are all kinds of writing shirts - from famous writers' quotes to humorous ("careful, everything you say or do may end up in my novel") to sentimental, to, well, whatever.

Included in that writing shirt sale are The Writing Vein's very own "Novel Finisher" shirts. Below are are few of the shirts available. There are other items to celebrate the completion of a novel, be it your NaNoNovel or publication or a first draft, for yourself or for someone else. But only the shirts are on sale.
And there is a special deal in the email for today only : can use that code to get an even lower price on the Novel Finisher shirts. There is also a general code on the Cafe Press website to get 20% off everything on the site. Just in time for the holidays, of course. (Are we surprised? No - but it's still nice if you're in the market for some creative gifts for yourself or someone else.)

The items below, and more (coffee mugs, mouse pad, messenger bag, etc), can be found in the

Writing Vein Novel Finisher store on Cafe Press

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Taking the Challenge

I mentioned that I was able to grab a spot in Ariel Gore's online two-week writing intensive. Daily assignments to write and post. And give feedback to some of the other writers - and get feedback. I discovered that I have an additional week between terms, so why not spend two of them writing? Bring writing to the forefront on a daily level.

After all, I spent November writing almost daily.

This will be different - there will be prompts. And a responsibility to others to get my writing done and get my feedback done. It will keep me on my writing toes.

Then in January I'm embarking on an adventure with Inga Muscio, a guest teacher in Ariel's Literary Kitchen online classroom. Inga's class, A Study in Decerebralization, promises to be an adventure in shaking up my writing and my process. I'm excited. Another challenge to step out of my wonderful and supportive comfort zone into something new.

I've accepted my personal challenge to step up my writing and go to new levels. And I think both of these new creative adventures will do that.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Razor's Edge for 12/9/11

Today's prompt? Pictures. Random pictures from the past three years of The Writing Vein.

Look over the pictures below. Pick one from the PLACE set, one from the CHARACTER set, and one ACTION. Then set your timer for 10 minutes and write.

If you'd like a word prompt to get you started, try this one:

The moment I reached out from my soul I knew  ....







Thursday, December 8, 2011

On the Mend and On the Move

It was a good day.

I slept until my body was ready to get up. Yes, I'd set an alarm - but that was a Must Get Up in case I needed to sleep 12 hours. Which I didn't. So a leisurely sleep and waking experience.

Then I went for a walk to out local strip. To buy a latte and a sandwich to share with my partner. The round trip was a mile. Doesn't seem like much unless you've been following my blog and know that a couple months ago I could barely walk across a cafe to the bathroom. It was sunny and cool (cold, I guess - although it's relative; here 36 is cold but I know some places are nera zero), so I bundled up with my NaNoWriMo hoodie, gloves and a scarf. I made the walk without getting overly winded and without back pain requiring a pause. It was really nice.

Today I'm grateful I can walk a mile without hard breathing and without back breaking pain and without knee exacerbation. (My knee has been giving me some problems; I'm keeping an eye on it to make sure it's not medication caused.)

I'm also grateful that tonight the play went really well. I interpreted A Christmas Story with the same interpreter from last year and an intern interpreter. It went really well and I had a good time prepping with them. We played off each other well and we did a good job tonight. And it was fun. I'm grateful to Steve for continuing to be a part of the interpreting access team - I enjoy working with him and he's good; and I'm grateful to KT for joining the team and am happy to have her on board. She's good and she's a very welcome addition.

Then, after the show, I stopped across the street at Deschutes Brewery and there was an email from Ariel. In response to my request to do the two week intensive workshop with her. Yes! There was a cancelation, so I'm "in.".

A good day. A sunny day. Life is good.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spaciness may be an Incorrect Label

I was talking with my therapist and I was feeling kind of "spacey." My label for what I was experiencing. She asked if perhaps it was because my world is expanding - opening up - I'm seeing more possibilities.

No, she didn't pull those things out of the air. These are some of the topics we've been discussing in therapy - things I've been experiencing. An outgrowth of the daily gratitude practice I'm doing (it's still new - don't push me, folks, I don't have it down yet; but I'm getting there). And a benefit of my medical wake up call in October. And more sleep. I can't discount the benefits of enough sleep.

My therapist was right. As I checked in with myself I realized that there are some gaps in the fences I've built - mostly to protect myself or to, in my opinion, keep my life from getting out of control. Boundaries. Except the boundaries were serving the purpose of reining me in and not necessarily to keep out the people or things which could be harmful or bring about negative consequences.

Skillful means. That's another way to say it. I have very skillful means and have survived and done well. Not perfect by any means and that's ok - the goal isn't perfection. But one issue is that some of my skillful means are a little outdated. So I'm working on that.

I'm expanding my world of possibilities. More room to breathe. Yes, you can already see the connection if you've been following any of my posts since early October. Breathing space. Yes.

Included in that breathing space is me, sleep, writing, interpreting, theater, teaching/mentoring, and general creativity. And the one thing I still don't have enough of and am finding out what suits me best - just plain ol' down time. Time to rejuvenate. To percolate. To let the world swirl around me and see what presents itself. Hanging out time can be creative or at least inspirational. I want more of that; need more of that.

So - looking outward, looking ahead. Opening up. And breathing.

Writing my way into spacious creativity and expansive possibilities. And continuing my practice of daily gratitude.

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Make Your Living As A Writer"

Yesterday a friend called me sent me a text message to see what I was up to. He was going for coffee and thought he'd see if I was available. I was - about 45 minutes later after I woke up and took a shower. So I replied, he waited while I put on my shoes and headed over. We spent some time talking. Drinking coffee drinks. Talking.

We're in the same profession - which is not writing. Although we are both writers. He writes stories, yes - but his passion is writing scripts: radio, film, theater.

So we were talking about writing. And talking about the future - the future of our writing. And he talked about if this were the past we might be living in Paris, living with other writers and our lives would be writing and sleeping and eating and writing. And talking about writing. He's a bit of a romantic that way - and, yes, we might. We know others like us. (My partner pointed out, when she and I were talking about it later, that we'd still need wives to take care of the day to day life things while we did our writerly things. True. She's an historical realist that way, yes.)

Not for the first time - but he and I had the discussion about options of making our living as writers. I brought it up because, if you have Gmail or another email program which does this you already know, online email programs bring advertisements with them. There are little bots they send out to scan your email subjects or content and then you get ads (text only or with full visuals, depending).

A quick aside: one thing which strikes me as funny is that when I'm in my Gmail junk folder, there are Spam recipes advertised at the top of the screen. It makes me laugh. And some of them? Wow - pretty outrageous!

Back to writing. So my Gmail ads frequently are about becoming and interpreter or translator, and about writing. Very often there are teasers about "You can earn your living as a writer" or "Write from Home" or somesuch.

I think about articles and nonfiction pieces. I think about getting an MFA. I think about other writerly things and yet. I don't think I'm ready to give up interpreting. And I don't like researching how some place wants me to word what it is I do so they will accept it. I want my writing to stand on its own merits. I could debate this here all by myself: the pros and cons, the whys. My friend and I spent a lot of time talking about this. I think about hours of research to find the publications which want what I might want to write about and then the hours writing the queries and proposals. And then the research to write the articles. And then the writing.


Yes, for now, I think I'll keep my day(night) job. Which I still like. Which I know how to do and I do it well.

And I'll keep writing what I want to write because I want to write it. Not because I have to write it to pay the mortgage.

And I believe that diversity is a good thing.

Maybe, for me, "make my living as a writer" would be better said as "make my living and be a writer."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Stolen From Jessica Morrell (wth permission)

Steal This List
Writing Advice that Saves You Five Years (from the Glimmertrain bulletin)By Janis Hubschman
A writer friend recently heard Colum McCann say he likes to give his students the kind of advice that will save them five years. As a fiction writer, I'm always struggling to figure out the rules, the most economical way to go about writing and revision. I have, in fact become a collector of "ten things you should remember" lists. I recommend Elmore Leonard's famous "Ten Rules of Writing," Laura Miller's "A Reader's Advice to Writers," and the Guardian's "Ten Rules for Writing Fiction." But here are the ten craft techniques, gathered from my notebooks, that have been most helpful to me. Many of them, I notice, address characterization, the element of craft that I most enjoy exploring. They've saved me a few hours of frustration, if not years.
  1. When the story stalls, ask: what is the character thinking now? Is she thinking anything? If not, why not? Characters need to learn something about themselves, about their values and assumptions.
  2. Characters reveal themselves under stress. Raise the stakes. Drive the character into a tight spot. What are the psychological crutches the character relies on under pressure?
  3. Readers like to learn about something when they read. The details of an unusual job or hobby, the day-to-day activities of a particular place at a particular time in history, for example, draw the reader in.
  4. Trust the reader. Remember Hemingway's iceberg theory: "you could omit anything if you knew you omitted it and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood."
  5. Take apart successful published stories (or the stories of writers you admire) to see how they work.
  6. Give the character something to do in the scene. It brings the character and the scene to life. A character soaking in the bathtub, thinking about her rotten marriage is boring. A character performing brain surgery, thinking about her rotten marriage is a different proposition.
  7. To gain insight into a character, consider her history: Think about what happened before the story, what tortuous path led the character to this particular moment?
  8. Allow the character to misinterpret another character's words or actions. In life, we often misread a situation, jump to conclusions. Interesting things can happen when characters make presumptions or project their own hang-ups onto others.
  9. Let the characters connect with others. Alienated characters, the whiney and self-absorbed protagonists that blame everyone else for their predicament have lots of precedent in literature, but can hold readers at a remove.
  10. Build tension by slowing down a scene. Let the scene unfold moment by moment. Linger on the details. Build silences into the dialogue
Although saving time is the point of the list, an argument can be made for the value of all those hours we spend working through problems in our fiction. Remember Malcolm Gladwell's ten years or 10,000-Hours Rule for realizing success. While there's no guarantee that ten years will produce achievement, sustained effort and sometimes tedious application is necessary. For example, I revised the story that won Glimmer Train's Open Fiction contest numerous times over a four-year period. However, the story and the protagonist really started to reveal themselves to me in the final drafts when I focused on techniques #1, #3, and #6. So, in the interest of saving a few years, you might consider stealing this list.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Razor's Edge for 12/2/11

I succeeded in writing over 50,000 words - again - this November. It felt good to do this. I like many parts of the novel and the main characters and think there are two possible re-visions to turn this into either a long short story and/or a novel. I didn't write a "novel" in 30 days; but the good part of a novel, yes.

Then on November 30th, the day after I uploaded my winning 50k+ words to NaNoWriMo, I was talking to someone about my revelation and intent in regards to my scheduling. Work, teaching, writing, sleep, and - shock, yes - even some down time, which will help all of these areas. And keep me well and rejuvenated. I arrived home from work and one of my weekly writing meet-ups to discover the hospital bill from the incident two months ago. Despite all of the money I've already paid on previous bills over the last two months, it is huge; unexpected. I thought what I'd already paid would have made it less.

At this moment I'm struggling to hold onto my hope of maintaining reduced non-writing work hours and to maintaining a steady schedule of writing hours. Along with sleep and exercise and down time. This will pass but in this moment, I'm struggling.

So my thought about today's Razor's Edge prompt [yes, I know I missed some in November - but they're back] is to write from your own life. If nothing comes to you from the memoir perspective, then make it fiction, or base it on someone you know.

Today's prompt:

(with a nod of thanks to Ariel Gore for being a great writing facilitator role model...)

Make a list of 5 things you wanted to achieve in your life.

Pick the strongest desire and make a list of 5 roadblocks its achievement. (Or, if you're not sure, list a couple for each one and see which stands out.)

Now - write. Write how it felt, what it smelled like, the colors and the sounds. Write how you got through it and how you persevered or changed your path, or where you are in the process.

Start with: "The one thing I really wanted was .... "

Write for 10 minutes.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo: The End

Congratulations to all of my writing friends - physical and cyber - who made the NaNoJourney for 2011. And especially to all of my fellow Wayward Writer's from Ariel's Lit Star Training - I say it's no accident so many of us are "in the purple."

For me, NaNoWriMo serves the purpose of moving my writing forward by both allowing me to just write the junk out of the way - bits of story and hesitation which can become writer's block if left untouched - as well as allowing me to find gems and nuggets for future stories and novels. This year's NaNoNovel has all of this. There is definitely a story in it I want to tell. And, yes, it needs revision and re-visioning.

For today, on this sunny and cold frosted morning, I'm smiling. And want to say congratulations to all of us regardless of your purple or blue bar status.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry