Monday, August 30, 2010

Announcing the Guardian Cats Bookstore

This is a project I've been working on for some time. In the beginning I thought I'd just carry my favorite writing reference books. However, once I started browsing through Amazon's vast network, reading reviews and making selections, I got carried away and it kept growing.

Besides The Writer's Store, I wanted a Cat Lovers Store and that one grew like stray cats having kittens. I've included many incredibly beautiful cat books and calendars, and I've scouted out all the fiction books with and about cats I can find. Plus, there's a special e-Cats section for Kindle lovers.

The Middle Grade Fiction store is very fun and growing. Then there's a Journaling Corner, as well as a Book Lover's Nook. Be sure and check out the nifty Booklights which includes one with my personal recommendation.

I hope I haven't made my blog too commercial. I know I risk that by becoming an Amazon affiliate, but I don't expect to be able to quite my day job. I just hope to gain enough credits to buy more books! When you enter Amazon through my Guardian Cats portal, any purchase you make there applies. Pretty cool.

Take a look and pass this on if you like what you see! Share it with your friends. Thanks and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Writer's Journey

Is your story lacking pizzazz? Is it boring even for you? The best remedy for a ho-hum story is to get your heroine out of her comfort zone. Throw something at her that makes you both recoil and scream 'No! Anything but that!'

Make her squirm. Lie awake at night worrying what will happen to her. Don't make it easy for her to escape. In fact, make it impossible.  

At the beginning of her story, bring in the Herald who calls her into adventure. She will refuse. It's human nature to resist change. But something will draw her out. Some small thing will get her attention in a way she cannot resist and will take her to a place where she cannot return to her ordinary existence. Once she has crossed the point of no return, she's fully engaged in that special world which is her own unique story.

You must follow her, gently prod her and see where she goes. If she goes out on a limb, stay with her. Feel the limb break. Feel yourself falling.

Dive into the depths of her world, feel your lungs bursting for air. Feel yourself die. And then feel the exhileration of being released back into the world, popping up and gulping air back into your body.

The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition
A story worth telling takes the reader on a journey. But it's the writer's journey first and it's one that requires courage and stamina. Fortunately there are guides and charts and maps to assist us. Without a guide, the writer is in danger of wandering off into the forest of words, never finding their way out.

The Writer's Journey, by Christopher Vogler, is the classic roadmap for storytelling. This is the book that makes Joseph Campbell's Hero of a Thousand Faces user friendly. From his lifelong study of stories from all ages and cultures, Campbell discovered the structural elements that made them classics, and the infinite variation of archetypes who populate them and made their journeys unforgettable. Vogler's book makes Campbell's research accessible in a way that is so entertaining you might forget how much you're learning.

Monday, August 23, 2010

If I had only known....

"The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker."
Albert Einstein

James Aitchison key-wound pocket watch, Edinburgh (IMG_2042)

Friday, August 20, 2010

The interconnectedness of all things

It was at The Brick, while eating Southwestern fajita wraps, we were discussing The Forgetting Room which lead to a discussion of the interconnectedness of all things. We were down to the level of molecules. Not just any molecules, but really old particles. The ancient ones that never go away and hang out in old buildings, bookstores and libraries.

Sparks flew in my brain, synapses synapsed. A plot I'd scribbled down last year emerged out of the recesses of my brain and fused with my new being, the one who looked like she was just eating a fajita, but was a year older and thousands of words wiser.

It was time to dig out that notebook and pay a visit to the character I'd left in the drawer, a sleeping beauty. The prince had arrived. The kiss had been placed.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cowboys herding cats

I'm developing an exciting new story and I've been too busy
researching, reading and writing to post this week.
But I wanted to share this very funny cat video.

Keep on writing!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A writer's workspace is all in the mind

There's writing and then . . . there's 'writing it down'. So much of our work is more than the actual crafting of words. Plot ideas, character development, research -- it doesn't all need to take place in front of a computer. A writer's true workspace is all in the mind. I proved this to myself yesterday at the dentist office.

There I was, pinned to a dentist's chair. I knew if I didn't find something to focus on, my brain would flip through a thousand frivolous ideas worth about as much as used dental floss and I hate wasting a good hour like that.

So I thought about my new MC, a young woman in her early twenties. I needed to know what events in her childhood were significant, what she is passionate about, what are her inner conflicts? While the dental hygenist did her work, I was happily engaged character development and my MC revealed a lot of new details about her life.

The longer I write, the more amazed at how portable my workspace has become.

What about you? Do you need to write in a specific environment? Or can you write 'on the fly'?  Do you have any odd places or moments where you've worked on some aspect of your writing?

Friday, August 6, 2010

How to tame your lion

I'm reading Annie Dillard's book about writing and I wanted to share these passages without comment, because I cannot add a single word without diluting her words.

"The line of words is a miner's pick, a woodcarver's gouge, a surgeon's probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow . . . or this time next year.
"You make the path boldly and follow it fearfully. You go where the path leads. At the end of the path, you find a box canyon. You hammer out reports, dispatch bulletins.
"The writing has changed, in your hands, and in a twinkling, from an expression of your notions to an epistemological tool. The new place interests you because it is not clear. You attend. In your humility, you lay down the words carefully, watching all angles. Now the earlier writing looks soft and careless. Process is nothing; erase your tracks. The path is not the work. I hope your tracks have grown over; I hope birds ate the crumbs; I hope you will toss it all and not look back . . . .
"Putting a book together is interesting and exhilarating. It is sufficiently difficult and complex that it engages all your intelligence. It is life at its most free, if you are fortunate enough to be able to try it, because you select your materials, invent your task, and pace yourself . . . .
"A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fasten a halter, but which now you can't catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room. You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, 'Simba!'

Annie Dillard is the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a non-fiction narrative. Her observations on life resist classification. This is her husband's description of her writing: "Her distinctive, and distinctively American, prose style has been widely recognized and openly imitated. She is, like Thoreau, a close observer; she is, like Emerson, a rocket- maker; her works’ prose structures and aims, however, are all her own."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How Ray Bradbury and Albert Einstein taught me to avoid writer's block

To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
I love quotes.
One of my favorites evokes such a powerful image it never fails to inspire and invigorate me. It's from Zen in the Art of Writing, where Ray Bradbury describes his creative process.  "Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together." As if a volcanic explosion wasn't enough to shake things up for me I throw in this subtle kicker from Albert Einstein. "Life like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving."
I love these two mental images, Bradbury jumping out of bed straight into his writing chair, and Einstein, on a bike, eyes twinkling and white hair flying. What Bradbury says to me is just let it all come out in full force. Don't let your mind stop you before you even get started. Don't self-critique in the first draft! After the explosion of words in the a.m., Bradbury spends the afternoon picking out the gems, dusting them off (oh, to pick through such a brilliant slush pile!) and arranging them into interesting shapes. At the end of the day, he's crafted another tale. He wrote over a dozen novels, over 400 short stories, plays and screenplays, children's fiction and non-fiction. His philosophy worked. He's pushing 90 this year and he's still moving.

While I still have to slap myself to keep from editing as I write the first draft, this image has done wonders to give my words the freedom to explode. If I don't get my own way, if I don't question or judge the ridiculous, awkward or alien words that spew forth, eventually something interesting happens. The magic appears. Some gossamer silk thread of a notion floats above the rubbish and if I'm paying attention, I'll follow. "You must keep moving!" shout Bradbury and Einstein at me, in jovial moods.

I don't believe in writer's block. I believe that what happens when I'm stuck, is me standing in the way. Or letting myself get bogged down by life, self-doubt, overcrowding in the cerebral cortex. Wisdom from writing giants like Bradbury and the genius of Einstein help me keep my balance and keep the flow going.

Do you have quotes that help motivate you in your writing? How do you keep track of them? Click here to view my QuotesDaddy favorites.