Listening to Voices

WoodsLooking over my shoulder the other day, my son asked me if the scene I was revising was the scene I’d revised most in the entire novel, because, according to him, every time he looks over my shoulder, that’s the scene I’m on.  Frankly, at this point, I have no idea which scene I’ve revised the most.  All I know is the scene needed more work.

Here’s how one of my scenes evolves through revision.  At first, the characters say somewhat random things that I write down,… Continue reading

No Hearts, Gulps, or Sighs

heartToday I wrote the first draft of an awful scene.  It’s scary and sad and troubling to me, and I hadn’t seen it coming, either.  It evolved naturally in a new chain of events I was trying in Project Next, and then, bam, I had to be responsible to my characters and expand a full-blown, agonizing scene.

It’s hard to write about emotion and have it work on the page.  It’s tempting to throw in tears, beating hearts, gulps, and sighs, but although those feel important and… Continue reading

Splitting Wood, Writing, and Persistence

logsWhen I was last in Minnesota, my brother invited me to help with hauling wood logs to cut and split for the fireplace.  I was game.  Four of us set out together on the job, and at one point, while my older brother manned the chain saw and my younger brother levered out nails with my husband, it fell to me to take a turn splitting logs.

I was not a natural with an axe.  Secretly, I was concerned about chopping my foot off, but I was… Continue reading

Q: Do Your Characters Ever Surprise You?


Shadows in the Attic

A:  Yes.  Regularly.  It isn’t simply that they make choices I didn’t see coming or say surprising things.  There’s this play between what I consciously expect them to do when faced with a problem and what spontaneously happens once they’re in a scene.  Sometimes they do what I expect, but their reasoning for it is more complicated than I thought.  Sometimes they say what I expect, but it turns out to be a lie.

What I especially like is the… Continue reading

Bright Things in Books

SilverDishThis may be just me, but I need occasional bright things in books.  Once, when I read a string of YA dystopias back to back, the physically dark settings had me feeling like I lived in a cave, and I needed a break.  By contrast, I was rereading Levine’s Ella Enchanted this spring, and I actively noticed the happy scenes of friendship, which were just as nourishing as physical brightness.  Of course, it made the contrast all the worse when Ella lost those friendships and had… Continue reading

Stepping Back

Sometimes, when my plot has become snarled in a traffic jam, I think of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men with its straight-forward, train-wreck focus, where we start steadily down a track and accelerate fast toward a visible and unavoidable disaster.  Lennie kills a mouse, then kills a puppy, then crushes a man’s hand, then kills a woman, and each time we try to forgive him and search for someone else to blame because we believe he is an innocent at heart.

FerrisWheelI look at this plot, this driving plot… Continue reading