Wednesday, September 26, 2007


What patterns do your characters play out? Not just in relationships but in day to day lives? What do they deal with over and over again? And how can you use those patterns to show character growth?

I’ve been thinking about this for a number of reasons and one of them is fire ants. Yes, that’s right, I said fire ants. I live in Texas now and we have fire ants. Last year I successfully dealt with them mound by mound. This year, well, let’s just say I think what I did last year bred resistant strains and that’s what I’m dealing with this year.

I’ve tried what I used last year. They seem to like it and the mounds got bigger. I've tried Borax. They seem to find it tasty.

I went online to see what other people are trying. Got the name of something (Othlene? Amodoro?) several people said works well. We’ll see. I've already ruled out dousing mounds with gasoline and setting them on fire and not just because: a) it sounds like overkill and b) I don't know just where all those tunnels go (including possibly under my house?).

But since I’m reluctant to keep adding toxic chemicals to my lawn, next I’m going to try something else someone at the site suggested: boiling water. The first attempt didn’t go so well so I’m now trying hot SALT water. (Not in the middle of my lawn but where there are bricks and the fire ants are coming up between the bricks and I don’t want any grass growing there anyway...) And if that doesn't work, well, there is that suggestion of scooping a batch of fire ants from one hill and dumping them on a different hill and watching them battle it out...

The interesting thing is that this particular site also said that fire ants help keep down the population of ticks and termites! Well, heck, now I’ve got a real dilemma. I don’t want to be stepping on fire ant mounts in my yard. On the other hand, if I have to choose between fire ants in my yard and termites in my house....well....maybe I don’t want to be quite so aggressive after all.

So how does this relate to writing? Patterns. How do your characters react to situations that arise over and over again? Do they keep doing the same thing? Do they try to figure out different solutions? Does something cause them to change and grow so they naturally handle it differently?

The answers to these kinds of questions help clarify who your characters are and what their (believable) motivations might be. Rather than telling the readers, we as writers can show who our characters are by how they handle challenges in their lives.

I mean, heck, reading the above, you probably get a pretty clear sense that I don’t give up easily. You also probably can tell that I’m willing to reconsider my plan of action when I get new information and that I’m not so single-minded that I don’t consider several aspects of a situation before making decisions. I could have TOLD you all that but...I’m guessing you’re far more likely to believe it and have that clear picture of me by reading what I wrote above.

In the same way, showing how your characters deal with patterns in their lives can help your characters come alive for the readers.

April (off to see how the salt water is doing with those fire ants near the patio door....)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wrap Up of Book In A Week

I know I’ve gotten behind posting here. We’ve been doing Book in a Week on a Beau Monde loop and I try to write along with everyone else. As part of the philosophy of BIAW, the writing comes first! Which means little things like blogging gets pushed back a bit, if necessary.

Now that we’ve ended that challenge, I’ve asked people to think about their experience because Book in a Week isn’t just about writing as many pages as possible. It’s also a way to learn about ourselves as writers.

Some of the questions I usually ask are:

****What made a difference?

****What helped the writing and what got in the way?

****When did the words flow? (Time of day, place, method of writing, and material you were working on)

****When was it hard? (same list)

****How did setting expectations make a difference? (First week I told myself 30 pages a day and wrote over 20 most days. Second week I didn't set such a goal and when I wrote at all it was usual 10 pages or less.)

When we know how and when and where and what we write best, we can work with our natural writing strengths and not fight ourselves to do so in a way that isn’t natural to who we are.

Even if you never do a Book in a Week challenge, it can be useful to ask yourself the above questions and then create a structure and process for yourself that takes into account the answers.

Happy writing, everyone!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

9/11 and Writing

Like many people, yesterday hit me hard. That day is still vivid in my mind.

I know it’s been 6 years but I’m going to post something here I wrote when I was going to give a writing workshop the weekend right after it happened and I wanted to talk about why writing matters even in—maybe especially in—difficult times.



In the light of Tuesday’s tragedy, I have heard people say they do not feel like writing. And I understand that feeling—we are all numb with shock. But we are writers. When we do not write we cut ourselves off from something that is an essential part of who we are.

I know the impulse to say: It’s only writing—it’s not important. That’s often the reason our writing gets pushed aside and given the least priority in our lives. But I would suggest that writing may be one of the most important things we can do right now—not instead of donating blood or giving support or helping in other ways, if we can—but in addition.

We are writers. We can give voice to the pain and horror and fear and grief and courage and strength we are feeling and seeing. As hard as it is, I would suggest we all try to write about this time. I do not think it will be over quickly. And it will be important, later, to have a record of what went on. When children and grandchildren ask: What was it like when the towers came down? It may be the words we write that will provide the answer.

We are writers. When we put pain and grief into words, we help others understand their own pain and grief. When we write about fears, we give shape to what others may only hazily understand and when fear has a concrete shape, we can begin to take steps to guard against what it is we fear.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Life and Writing

A while back, Barbara Samuel (one of my favorite authors) talked about how life and writing are intertwined. I knew then that she was right (it was a fabulous speech!) and every now and then something happens to reinforce the message for me.

That happened this week. I’ve been doing a Book in a Week to try to write a completely new version of Pink Refrigerator. The heroine isn’t me, though she is making a cross country trip alone as I did, but as I’m writing her story and she’s having epiphanies about her life, I’m having epiphanies about mine. There are things I wish I’d been smart enough to realize on my trip the way she is on hers.

If we’re writers, we can’t entirely separate writing and life. And maybe that’s a good thing. It’s out of that profound connection I believe that we are able to write the stories that touch hearts and have a chance to change minds. It’s when that connection is powerful for us, I suspect, that we write the deepest emotion and create the stories that come alive for our readers.

In any event, I found myself thinking this week that even if no one else ever wants to read the Pink Refrigerator, I will be profoundly glad that I took the time to write it!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Book In A Week

Odds are if you’re reading here you know about BIAW. You may have heard me speak, you may have read an article I wrote about it. If you don’t, it’s the philosophy that one of the best gifts we can give ourselves as writers is to take a week and make writing a priority that week.

BIAW is about forgetting the rules and just writing from the heart as much as we can as fast as we can. Not to show off, not because there’s something inherently better about doing so but because by doing this for a week we’re likely to let ourselves take chances we otherwise wouldn’t, to rediscover—or discover—how much fun writing can be, and because we often write the best work of our lives this way—when we aren’t constantly second guessing ourselves. Even better, we can discover how and what and when and where we write best and who supports us—or doesn’t.

I’ve been hosting a BIAW this week for the Regency subchapter of RWA. It’s fascinating to me how the story I’m writing is unfolding. (And it’s not too shabby to see page totals of 30, 36, and 17 pages a day. (I had a dental appointment today and errands to run, too, in the middle of my writing day.)

It’s a great way to try a new project or delve into difficult material—because you know you’re only going to be deep in it for one week. If it doesn’t work out, so what? You’ve only lost a week. How many times, as writers, do we waste far more than that putting off writing because we’re afraid we won’t get it right?

Anyway, I hope that if you’ve heard me speak and haven’t tried BIAW that at some point you will. See it as a chance to play with the writing, a chance to affirm for yourself and everyone around you that the writing matters and is a priority in your life. Oh, and if you’re interested, I do have some information on it on my website with a couple of my handouts. Though if you’ve heard me speak, odds are you have them already.

Happy writing!

Saturday, September 01, 2007


I love that having my daughter in Austin means that I’m changing my routines. I’m doing some things I haven’t done before. I’m creating a new relationship with my daughter since we’ve never lived in the same city before and not been in the same house. I’m looking at what other changes I might want to make.

In a way, though on a much smaller scale, of course, it reminds me of when I drove across country not knowing where I would end up. Change brings new possibilities and that’s exciting.

It’s probably not a coincidence then that I find myself pulling out the idea again of writing about a woman and a pink refrigerator. Only I’m going to approach it in a new way. It may not amount to anything but that’s the great thing about Book in a Week. I’ll take a week (maybe two) and write as much as I can as fast as I can and see where it goes. Maybe now I’m ready to write my story about a woman’s emotional as well as physical journey.

Here’s hoping that each of you has something new and wonderful come into your life this week!