Sunday, April 29, 2012

Time Flies

A problem I am dealing with of late, is one I believe strikes home with us all, readers and writers alike--time, or in my case, the lack thereof.  My days are flying by with no spare moments in which to write, not that I have the energy or emotional wherewithal to be creative, anyway. To me, there is nothing more frustrating than sitting down at my computer and realizing--usually after five pages of pure crap--my brain is too fried to put together a coherent thought, much less turn a clever phrase.  Equally maddening is reading a chapter, even in a highly anticipated new release, only to reach the end and have no comprehension of what you've just read. Makes me want to tear my hair out.

So, how do we stand up against this problem? How do we persevere? I've been asking myself just that question, and will admit, the answers I've come up with have been a bit surprising in their old school craftiness and the lack of technology they require.

1. Early Bird Gets the Worm:  Sounds simple, right? I'm not going to lie, the first week of waking an hour early (that's 4:00 am, folks) got pretty ugly. But by that second week, I was rocking that keyboard and the coffee pot, hitting a groove by about 5:00.  I can't do this every day--mainly because I have to get in a solid six of snooze time and can't always get in the bed at 10:00--but the days I do are very productive.

2.  Singing in the Shower:  My version of shower singing requires no tune, though I've been known to belt one out when no one else is home. The lather-rinse-repeat repetition is so second nature, I'm able to simultaneously problem solve. For example, I discover one of my characters is coming across as one-dimensional. I use my shower time to list every tiny detail I know about this character, their actions, their motivations, their background. Usually, I find a hole in my characterization large enough in which to park an RV. Then I can begin to plug it. This also works with scenes and plotting issues.

3.   Elementary, My Dear Watson: By now everyone should know about my not-so-closet fascination with school/office supplies.  At the beginning of each school year, I purchase enough pens, pencils, tape and pads to keep my son's  parochial school well-stocked through May.  Or, as my amused friends will point out, I'm armed to the teeth for the coming paper apocalypse.  At any rate, I have quite the stash. When lugging around my laptop became tiring and impractical (Who the heck can write anything on an iPad either?), I started tucking one of those marbled-cover composition books and a mechanical pencil into my purse. There are so many places and times when you can quietly slip out a notebook that a laptop would be impractical.  It's always there. Always ready. I wrote the first draft of my most recent project on half a dozen legal pads while my husband slept in his hospital bed across the room. Why a pencil? I bought a Costco-sized pack back in August and am still working my way through them, of course. Plus they have erasers, which are my friends.

 In writing, I find momentum is often the only thing that keeps me going. If I lose it, I'm sunk. I'm sure I don't hold a monopoly on ways to punish the time bitch, but these three methods seem to be spanking her pretty hard. I hope you  find them helpful as well.

Have I missed something? As always, I'd love to hear from you.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Fiction Focus: Engaging slice of history

The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay - St. Martin’s, 2012.

The issue of eminent domain links present culture to 1800s middle class Paris. Rose’s voice was captured well through the letters she writes as she waits in the basement of her house for it to be destroyed. She reflects on her life, providing an overview of her background--which makes her a sympathetic character--along with a strong sense of the setting. She also reviews some letters from others, which gives a feel for the significant people in her life, as well as gives dimension to Rose’s character from the different perspectives. The poignant element was very manageable. The ability to accomplish all this in 288 pages is enviable, to say the least.

One writing note: this good example of a strong narrator was helpful to me.

This is a great selection for historical fiction and character-driven fans alike!