July 25, 2011

Happy Release to Anna Scott Graham!

I'm thrilled to offer congratulations to my friend Anna Scott Graham, who has released her first independently published novel. THE WAR ON EMILY DICKINSON is an emotional, non-linear story that follows a relationship and a family through thirty years as AIDS devastates a San Francisco community.

Anna has been a friend, supporter, and NaNoWriMo buddy for years. She is a constant source of inspiration and awe, because Anna churns out words and novels at a staggering rate. Check out the writing timeline in the sidebar of Anna's blog to see how many manuscripts she's written and how quickly she churns out first drafts.

Bravo to Anna for completing all the revision and work required to release THE WAR ON EMILY DICKINSON into the world. I know many more novels will follow!

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Jennifer R. Hubbard writes about the bookstore as destination: "Those of us who like bookstores don't just like the shiny covers and the sweet-smelling pages of a printed book. There's just something special about a bookstore as a place, especially if it's a store with comfy chairs."

July 19, 2011

Write & Rewrite: Plot

This post first appeared as the July "Write & Rewrite" column in WritersTalk, the newsletter of the South Bay Writers branch of the California Writers Club.


Plot is arguably the most important part of any story. Even complex characters in a richly detailed world won't hold a reader's attention if they don't do anything significant. A plot can be subtle and compact, as in a short story consisting of a single tense conversation, or it can burst with exciting incidents that build to a revelatory conclusion, as in a thriller novel.

To discuss plot, let's consider a highly simplified outline that could serve as the basis for either a short story or a novel:

1. Married couple Ella and Art have both lost their jobs and can't afford to pay their mortgage.
2. They put their house on the market and move in with their grown son, Mike, and his family.
3. Living in Mike's house leads to tension and arguments.
4. Art finds a new job, and the couple is hopeful that they can get their house back before it sells.
5. Ella also secures a job, and they're able to reclaim their house just in time.

The outline opens strong: The characters are in a tough situation that they will have to struggle to get out of. This can be a great way to begin a story, but only if things get worse from there. In this plot, life does become more difficult for Ella and Art. However, the additional problems follow as a direct consequence of the starting situation rather than arising from new obstacles, so while the first half of the outline has promise, it could be better.

July 14, 2011

Now, Where Was I?

In June, I reached the blogging milestone of one year since my first post. After much deliberation, I decided that the best way to celebrate the anniversary would be to completely ignore the blog for over a month.

No, of course that's not exactly what happened. In June, my regularly scheduled creative endeavors were interrupted by higher than usual levels of reality. These conditions persisted right up until some previously planned weeks of vacation. For the sake of my sanity, I let the blog lapse into an unannounced hiatus.

I'm back now. And I'm just as unsure how to go about this blogging thing as I've been all along. As I feared at the beginning, I'm a slow blogger, and the time I spend writing posts usually comes at the expense of time I would have spent on the novel. After a year, blogging hasn't become easier or turned into a more natural part of my routine the way I hoped it would.

Still, I'm glad I started this blog, and I intend to continue. I'm happy with the posts I've written this year. I think some of them have been useful or inspirational for other people (and I always like hearing when they are, hint hint). Some favorite posts:

Index Cards for Fun and Planning

Getting the Story Right

Why I Quit NaNoWriMo But You Shouldn't

Recommended Books on Writing

What We Write About When We Write About Love

Just 10 Minutes

→ All of the columns originally published in WritersTalk, which are longer and more in-depth than my standard blog posts

I'm pleased with my system of monthly reading plans and recaps that encourages me to read more books and post about what I read. I still find it tricky to compose more detailed book recommendations, but I'm gradually figuring out how to review and discuss books.

I have some vague ideas about possible new directions for my blog. For now, though, expect things to remain as haphazard as always around here. If you, my loyal readers, have any thoughts about what you'd like to see more of (or less of), please let me know. Thanks for reading.