Monday, September 27, 2010

Scene Wrestling

I spent two full days last week wrestling with a scene while writing the first draft of my present work in progress. Rolling around in a mosquito-infested swamp, trying to subdue an alligator with a bad attitude and even worse breath would probably have been easier.

Some experts would advise that it is best to step away from a ferocious, uncooperative scene when it gets all snarly and dominant and unmanageable. I’ve heard that some authors will revisit a difficult scene after both writer and manuscript have calmed. This makes perfect sense for someone other than me. Call me stubborn or obsessive or both, but I could not walk away from my snarly scene. It taunted me. If I turned my back on the bared teeth of this arrogant creature, it might, I imagined, rip my arms off of my body. So I fought on, cursing and pounding the keyboard of my poor beleaguered Mac.

Exhausted, I finally subdued the scene. This brought me great satisfaction. Of course I didn’t tame it, I only corralled it. The taming will come, I hope, in the revisions. For now, I am looking ahead to other scenes that I hope will be more puppy dog than two hundred pound alligator. But even if I come upon another sharp-toothed chunk of text, I am ready. Because now, I am more confident.

A question for the writers: Do you leave a really difficult scene and return to work on it later, after crafting other scenes? Or, do you wrestle?

A question for the readers: Do you ever sense, while reading, that an author has rolled in the mud to write a certain scene?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Amazing Animals

Most people who know me know that I love animals. My novel Dog Gone involves dogs. This is sort of obvious from the title, right? My second novel, Buck Fever, involves deer. Both novels include people and are really about them, but this is not the point of today’s blog post. Today, I am sharing four video clips about some amazing and hilarious animals. Because, well, why not? Here they are:

Meet Sampson the kissing pony. This guy is amazing and adorable. I love the way Sampson makes people smile and laugh.

Next, meet a dog that dances much better than I do (probably too much information there).

Speaking of dancing, meet Snowball. Can this cockatoo rock or what?

Last but not least, meet a bunch of crazy kitties. Anyone who loves and appreciates kittens and cats knows that they can be wacky. The following video proves how wacky. It also proves that there is a reason why cats need nine lives.

Where would we be without our animal friends?


Monday, September 13, 2010

Good Question

I love reading articles and books discussing the craft of writing. Recently, I’ve been focusing on the intricacies of plot. Maybe you’ve heard the advice “write what you know.” This makes sort of obvious sense to me. I mean, it’s kind of hard to write about the social habits of baboons in southern Africa if you know nothing about them, right? Unless, of course, you live to do lots and lots of research.

Anyway, I came upon a slightly different take on the wisdom of writing what you know. In Plot and Structure: Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish,James Scott Bell writes about the advantages of crafting stories based on who you are. Yes, who you are. Well, that got my attention. According to Mr. Bell, a writer would do well to dive into his or her inner self and dip into his or her heart and soul to find and mine gems that could, potentially, be fabulous story ideas. By doing this, the ideas are practically guaranteed to be fresh and instilled with a passion that is unique to that writer. Interesting, right?

So, what matters most to you? What topics do you most often comment on? What are your hopes, dreams, fears, and insecurities? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your talents and failings? What events from your past have shaped who you are now? What has embarrassed you beyond measure? Or made you proud enough to strut? What makes you cry? Do you have a secret? Do you have a philosophy that guides you? Do you have an unfulfilled wish or wishes? Any regrets? Is there some activity that you’d like to do, but may not be willing to talk about? Is there some person that you would like to meet?

These questions could go on and on, of course, but perhaps one or more of them could spark an idea for a story. An exciting, wonderful idea. Once you have that spark, ask yourself the best question of all (at least I think this is the best): Does this story idea hit some emotional place inside me? Does the story idea slam at least one of my nerves head on? “If not,” James Scott Bell asks in Plot and Structure, “why write it?”

Good question.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Week With Critter

It's been a fun-filled and busy week with my new pal, Critter. If you're wondering what a Critter is, check out my last blog post:

And now (insert drum roll, please), here’s a photo recap of my time with Critter:

I took Critter to a yoga class in Oldwick, N.J. Because, frankly, he seemed a bit stiff. Yes, he's made of foam and cardboard, but never mind that. Nonetheless, here is Critter on my yoga mat just before a downward dog. Or something:

Critter also joined me at my favorite Barnes and Noble bookstore in Bridgewater, N.J. We shopped for books, of course:

And Critter kept me company while I worked on my latest novel in the B&N cafĂ©. He didn’t even spill my iced tea (lucky for him).

Of course I showed Critter around my part of New Jersey. I didn't want him to think that N.J is only about the exits on the Turnpike and some reality show about the N.J. shore.

Below is a picture of Critter with an assortment of tomatoes, corn, and cucumbers at a local farm stand.

I considered taking Critter to one of the beautiful N.J. beaches, too, but Critter seemed a bit nervous about the aggressive seagulls (they are rather infamous). Plus, the rip tides from Hurricane Earl (who didn’t really visit, but stirred up the ocean anyway) were intimidating. Also, I worried what sunscreen might do to Critter’s beautiful art work self. Instead, we went for ice cream and a ride on the back of hubby’s Harley Davidson motorcycle. Crazy Critter.

The next stop for Critter is the fabulous state of Texas, where the motto is friendship.

Lucky, lucky Critter.