Sunday, May 31, 2009

Crack The Whip!

I’m starting the Summer Revision Smackdown with Holly Cupala at and Jolie Stekly at

Starting tomorrow, a group of writers will set weekly goals for revision in order to get significant work done during the month of June. Now, technically, I don’t know if I am in the revision stage of my novel, yet, since I already have a screenplay version of the story, I feel as if I am beyond the drafting stage. Perhaps it is a late draft or early revision…
oh bother…

Just write!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rousseau and Me

In the morning I walked with Bella down to the Spring Point Pond. The sky thick with mist shrouded the valley below, and for most of the walk, we could hear only our footsteps and birdsong. When we arrived at the pond, we watched a duck stream out from the shore followed by seven of her young. First they followed in a V formation but closed together to appear as one large duck instead of many small ones. The camouflage was almost flawless. If hadn’t seen them before they reached their formation, I would have thought I was watching only two ducks. The mist rose of the water and the air smelled sweet from rain. And I forgot time for a moment. Later, I read The New York Times’ column, “Happy Like God,” by Simon Critchley. He included the following quote from Rousseau:

"If there is a state where the soul can find a resting-place secure enough to establish itself and concentrate its entire being there, with no need to remember the past or reach into the future, where time is nothing to it, where the present runs on indefinitely but this duration goes unnoticed, with no sign of the passing of time, and no other feeling of deprivation or enjoyment, pleasure or pain, desire or fear than the simple feeling of existence, a feeling that fills our soul entirely, as long as this state lasts, we can call ourselves happy, not with a poor, incomplete and relative happiness such as we find in the pleasures of life, but with a sufficient, complete and perfect happiness which leaves no emptiness to be filled in the soul."

For Rousseau, he spent countless hours on a Swiss lake. For me, I spent a few moments by an island pond. If only we could all take time to have moments like this.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

From Screenplay to Novel

Still riding the wave of inspiration from the SCBWI Western Washington Annual Conference last weekend. I’m reading and writing. I’m reading the young adult novel, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley. I find it easy to steal away on the hammock with this wonderful book.

I working on a rough draft from a screenplay I wrote last winter. The process of going from screenplay to prose is interesting and, at times, challenging. Screenplay writing is so direct and immediate. The best part about this process is the plot and scenes are already worked out. I know how the story moves forward. I’m working on fleshing out the details and getting to know the characters.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rough Drafts

When I sit down to write a rough draft various thoughts run through my head. My initial response is to get up from my desk and take care of some suddenly very important chore like scrubbing the toilets or organizing boxes of nails in the basement. The act of sitting through a rough draft is painful. It’s like watching a bad movie except worse because I know my words are the cause. Yet, the first draft, the ugly draft, the (Fill in expletive of choice here) is so important. A first draft is the magic for the rest of the work.

I remember I had a very hard time writing a book length manuscript. I would start with energy, but soon into the first ten or twenty pages, I would find myself wanting to jump back and revise the beginning. I would change the first paragraph over and over—obsessing over every word.

One year at the Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference, a presenter recommended that we resist the temptation to revise until a first draft was completed. A light went on! Or, more accurately, I had a “Well, duh!” moment. Hadn’t I been teaching my students to write the first drafts of their essays first before they began revising? Why hadn’t I followed the same rules?
Soon, I was writing longer works.

Looking back over the past eight years or so that I have been working on novels, I can say that writing my first drafts have been some of my best memories. Sitting at my little desk with the midsummer late night sunsets or winter dark outside the window, I made magic. Characters came to life. Stories grew. Of course, it wasn’t always perfect. Sometimes sentences would pass from my fingers and I would cringe at the trite language, the worn imagery. But I pushed through and created drafts. From there, I could move on. The process is like a journey and no journey has been the same.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

I know my sons are a source of writing inspiration for me. If I’m not working on my dream, how can I ask them to work on theirs?

I guess one could make a cheesy analogy between motherhood and writing. I’ll spare the readers here.

I want to finish up on some final words for inspiration and creation.
What happens when you don’t have ideas?
This seldom happens to me. In fact, I generally have too many ideas. Yet, there are times when I am look at the white MS Word document before me and wonder what comes next.

This past week I participated in the NaPiBoWriWee (the National Picture Book Writing Week) and wrote seven (very rough) picture book drafts in one week. Most of these stories will probably not make it past my computer screen; however, it was an interesting process to come up with a brand new story every day. Sometimes the act of writing itself works as discovery. No plans, just process. This was how I wrote many years ago. I realized how much I miss the energy. Planning is great and necessary, but it is also nice, sometimes, to see what spontaneity creates.

Next up…
The rough draft!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What Should They Say?

The other day I posted my inspiration pieces for my novel. Sometimes I see plots as well. Stories develop in my imagination. I look for a beginning, a middle, and an end. If the story doesn’t let go, then I know it will have to be written. Coming up with ideas is fun. Ideas make me ten again. They are play and possibility. As long as possibility exists, there is something to write.

The columnist David Brooks wrote about a new view of genius last week in The New York Times. He argues genius comes from hard work and practice. I agree on some level. I do believe practice produces better writing. And I believe this is true for every writer. Genius? Well, perhaps not for everyone.

This week the writer David Marshall Grant had this response to Brooks’ article. This point touches upon the essence of both the frustration and the joy of writing:

“It may be true that Tiger Woods’s greatness comes from a ‘deliberate, strenuous and boring practice routine.’ He is an athlete. A writer’s true greatness comes from something more elusive. Just because someone has figured out how to ‘get characters into a room — dozens and dozens of times,’ it doesn’t mean they have figured out what they should say.”

Monday, May 4, 2009

Playing with Plays

I love writing plays. My first non-teacher-enforced writing was a play I wrote at the age of eleven (or so). I forced my little brother and his friends to play the parts. Many years later I rediscovered the joy of writing for the stage. This past weekend marked the third time seeing one of my short plays performed on stage. I love the magic of transforming words on a page to a performance. I love standing in the back of the theater to watch the audience react.

Playwriting, especially writing a ten minute play, is a great exercise on many levels. The immediacy makes everything count. The writer cannot wade in slowly; instead, a writer must dive in. Characters, setting, and action create the story. Then, the characters have to change, transform. The events of the play, the insights, make the character find something new, something different—a deeper perspective or a new understanding.

The ultimate goal is to transform the audience as well.

Friday, May 1, 2009


The National Picture Book Writing Week starts today. I decided to participate. I think picture books are extremely difficult to write, so creating a picture book a day for seven days is a bit daunting.

I also know, however, one of the best ways to improve writing is to cross train. Like an athlete working to create an edge or get past a limitation, writers also need to push themselves in new ways.

More information on NaPiBoWriWe can be found here: