Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Wed, Mar 31 2010

Never give up on writing

Once in awhile I end up writing a blog entry at night, like tonight. There are writers who excel at putting down words in the night, but I'm not one of them. So I'm not going to talk about characters or plots or tricks of the trade. Tonight I would just ask you to never give up on writing and to always encourage other writers. Some people support us, some listen politely but wonder about us and some jeer at our work. Every writer goes through it, including well-known ones. The supportive ones will always believe in us. The polite ones will probably believe in us if we reach whatever their version of success is. The ones who jeer at our work will miss out entirely, unless they have a change of heart. But the best thing we can do is live and work so that our work speaks for itself. The proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes. And since we know what being jeered at feels like, let's resolve to encourage everyone we can, as often as we can.

posted at: 21:52 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Tue, Mar 30 2010

Festivals you can write home about

Writing is often a solitary exercise, so it's fun when I can share something that's about getting out and mingling with people and enjoying crafts, music, carnival rides, t-shirts, prizes, games, corn on the cob, cotton candy, nachos, corn dogs, deep-fried candy bars and gigantic pies. The April 2010 issue of Deb's Monthly Review has been uploaded and is full of festivals and other events in the US during the month of April. You can have a peek here.

posted at: 23:01 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry



Mon, Mar 29 2010

The book jacket as story starter

I'm under one of those self-imposed deadlines, so coming up with a witty writing post hasn't been uppermost in my mind. I was going to tell you a joke instead, but I always forget the punchlines. Maybe we could practice writing book jacket covers. In fact, writing some good jacket copy for an imaginary book might be a great way to come up with a brand new book. How about this?

Florence Ames Connors has done it again. Her sleuthing house painter, Matt Lombardi, is painting Ann Evans' house when her father, Mayor John Evans, is found murdered at the City Hall. Mayor Evans had plenty of enemies all over town and had recently been see arguing with a county deputy and the local school superintendent. But the trail of evidence seems to quickly lead out of town and Lombardi and Ann find themselves joining forces to catch the mayor's killer. They harvest clues at everything from a Thai restaurant to an alpaca ranch...


I could go on, but you get the idea. It's supposed to sound a little sensational. It's book jacket copy. But it could also be the start of a great novel.

posted at: 22:49 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Fri, Mar 26 2010

One thing at a time, or maybe not.

Every now and then a study comes out that claims that those of us who multitask don't actually get nearly as much done as our single-minded fellow humans. What I can't imagine is how a non multitasking person manages to get anything written. I would agree that there may be wisdom in working on one project at a time. But if that project is a novel, for instance, working on it involves a great deal of multitasking. One has to keep in mind which characters know one another, what the characters look like, details of the novel's setting and time period and much more. While this may not sound like multitasking in the strictest sense of the word, the attitude needs to be there, even if one keeps copious notes on the details of a story. The writer still has to think like a project manager in order to coordinate all the bits and pieces that make up the novel. If you think of yourself as a person who can only do one thing at a time you can benefit by allowing your creative mind to have an overall view of your novel while you allow other parts of your mind to keep the bits and pieces straight. It sounds improbable, but it can work in your favor and enhance the creative process.

posted at: 16:14 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Thu, Mar 25 2010

They're such characters.

Now and then I create characters without regard to placing them into a particular story. It's fun to just imagine their looks, their habits and their basic personalities. When you think about it, this is often the way we encounter real people in our everyday lives. We wait in line with them, see them on a panel of speakers or notice them as they browse in a bookstore. Encountering fictional characters this same way gives me a chance to think about what their lives are like without attaching any preconceived significance to them as part of a particular fictional plot I've developed. And who knows? They just might become interesting enough to become the next protagonist or other character in my next story plot.

posted at: 17:17 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Wed, Mar 24 2010

Wrinkles

Is your main character too perfect? Even Superman had his Kryptonite. If your protagonist can do everything, then where is the tale? The bravest, most good-looking character needs a wrinkle in that hero cape in order to keep the reader guessing. Even when storytellers speak of God or gods they are usually allowing some room for error or for things to go badly. Jesus walking the planet as a man had his Judas Escariot. We speak of the Lord as perfect, but even the Lord, because of choosing to allow free will, has had to deal with jealous Lucifer attempting to improve on His activities. And so no character we create is too omnipotent or magical to be free of difficulties in our stories. The very thing many tales hinge upon is the overcoming of a character flaw or the turning of a supposed weakness into a strength. When we decide what our main character wants we have to then decide what will be the main thing to stand in the way of that. It's fun. How often do you get to turn someone into a walking Murphy's Law and have it work in your favor?

posted at: 09:47 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Fri, Mar 19 2010

Sun over your story

Think back to the most depressing story you ever heard, whether fictional or real. Did you enjoy reading it or do you remember it simply because it was such a downer of a tale? Stories have to have conflict. Conflict often involves bad news and awful events and sad choices. One of the most famous stories in the universe is the story of the angels' fall from Heaven. It's sad and terrible and maybe even violent on some level, since it was described as war in Heaven. Our stories here need to have conflict in order for characters to grow, to learn, to makes changes. Some characters may progress. Some may slide into the space of their own private abyss. Are we going to leave the reader there? I suppose we could, but the darkest days are only a temporary cloud cover that blocks out the sunshine. Somewhere, somehow, a story should probably contain a glimmer of hope within its words. It could be a peek back at something that almost was or maybe a hint at something that might still be there if only one can get through that cloud cover to touch the warmth of the sunlight.

posted at: 18:21 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Thu, Mar 18 2010

Don't steal stories. Steal story inspiration.

When I have trouble writing from a standing start I've been known to pick up other people's short stories or novels and write them again, not in order to plagiarize, but in order to practice my own writing voice. Rewriting and editing someone's else's work can often be just what I need to get my own creative juices flowing again. I've even printed out excerpts of stories online and then cut them up and shifted paragraphs around in hopes of jump-starting my own ideas. When I'm finished using them as inspiration I can just shred them and begin to focus on my own new work. Bonus: No authors were harmed in the creation of the new story.

posted at: 15:05 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Wed, Mar 17 2010

Have you ever seen a novel go this way and that way...?

The kind of novel that will make me give up reading is one in which there are too many stories going off in all directions. Some are so bad that I find myself wondering whatever happened to the one I considered the main character because he or she hasn't been mentioned for three chapters while we've been taken off to see the circus with a clown because the main character's sister was married to a detective and went with him to find the lost elephant. Because of my own dislike for meandering too many stories away, I tend to avoid writing anything with too many subplots. This is easy with short stories, but longer tales actually need more than one story going to carry the action and give dimension to the whole thing. It's tricky to do this without making your characters go off in too many side adventures and without having too many principal characters for readers to follow. Awareness is probably the key, just so that subplots don't drag readers too far afield from the main characters' journey. If worse comes to worst, killing off a few minor characters might be the smartest thing a writer could do.

posted at: 21:56 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Tue, Mar 16 2010

Health and its stories

The whole health care discussion in the U.S. is providing tremendous material to fiction writers. If you write science fiction you can be thinking ahead to what care (and the cost of it) will be like down the line. If you delve into historical fiction you might be taking a look at health practices of the past and how they compare to present-day care and compensation. If your story is novel-length you will undoubtedly touch on health and/or health care at some point, no matter what time period or location you choose for your characters. Health is one of those things that affects each of us in powerful ways, which is probably why the whole battle to change the system has been so passionate and has pulled people through a whole herd of emotions. We've all seen someone we love suffer. We've all see the suffering of large groups of people when it comes to lack of nutrition, natural disaster, war, epidemics or even political oppression. Health affects everyone and almost everything. Including health issues in your novel in some way is probably going to be a must. The only question is when, how and how much?

posted at: 17:33 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Mon, Mar 15 2010

Is a whole novel impossible? Maybe, if it's handled as one big task.

Peter Graves passed away this last weekend. We remember him for many things, but his time on Mission:Impossible is probably the first thing that the majority of us recall. His character halped make those impossible series of tasks come together into an achievable goal. The stories were fiction, but the principal of planning was there in every story. Even when things went wrong there were enough other details in place so that the missions were accomplished, time after time.

The other thing about the show that impressed me, once I took time to think about it, was the idea that a seemingly impossible task can often only be accomplished as a series of very small tasks put together with ideal timing. When we sit down to write we're often overwhelmed with the thought of producing a story long enough to be a whole novel. But with planning, strategic timing and the breaking down of the project into a series of smaller tasks, novels happen.

posted at: 09:30 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Thu, Mar 11 2010

Deep-fried writing

A lot of comfort foods are rich. They're full of cream and butter and some are coated with batter and lowered into hot oil and deep-fried. They're not necessarily fancy foods. They're just rich and tasty. The best fiction writing is like that. We don't have to use the fanciest words, but they should be so satisfying and rich that we love soaking up the goodness from all those deep-fried words.

posted at: 23:51 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Wed, Mar 10 2010

Late nights, early mornings and slow brains

We had a rather late night last night. We drove to meet a great friend for tasty food and conversation and a movie. Then this morning we had to jump out of bed at the usual time. I can feel the physical effects of a severaly altered schedule today as I work. In spite of all those anti-hero writers you read about who lived life on the edge and then wrote tales of intrigue, getting even a bit off-schedule can make a mess of your writing habits and your ability to think. Consider this before you attend a party with the notion that you'll produce brilliant copy the next day. It sounds romantic and exciting. The reality is that it will slow down your ability to concentrate and to create. We writers shouldn't be hermits, but we need to pace ourselves and probably lead a bit more dull life than the average rock star.

posted at: 16:30 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Tue, Mar 09 2010

Can't slow down?

The recent news covered the story of the Prius in Southern California that accelerated to the point where the driver dialed 911 for help and was finally able to stop the car with the help of a CHP officer. The incident had me thinking about what happens in a fictional story if it takes off in a hurry and we can't seem to slow it down. I've worked on scenes in which I got so caught up in the writing that I went on and on until I ended up having a hard time knowing when to back off the speed and how to do that without losing the momentum of the story as a whole. We're often cautioned to write first and edit later. But is there such a thing as being too abandoned to the point of no return? Do we need that inner police officer to help us get our bearings again?

posted at: 14:38 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Mon, Mar 08 2010

It's Monday again (and again and again)

Mondays should be available for fresh words and the ability to write with energy and clarity. Instead, Mondays often seem to start out like that old saying, "a day late and a dollar short". I'm learning not to have high hopes for a high word count on Mondays. It's more of a day to make certain there are writing supplies and to get other tasks out of the way so that Tuesday I can begin with as little clutter in the mental queue as possible. I do make a few notes if I can, but I don't begin the great American novel on Monday, ever. Depending on your circumstances, you may have Mondays on Thursdays or on Sundays. Wherever your proverbial Monday comes in your week, I would suggest that you recognize it, face it and use it for the things that will get you ready to write with a vengeance the next few days.

posted at: 18:27 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Thu, Mar 04 2010

The writer equivalent of the dog eating my homework

I was a bit under the weather yesterday and missed posting. And today was a blur of tasks. That sounds like the beginning of a string of excuses not to write. That's bad. Isn't it? Do you allow yourself excuses not to write? Do they have to be really big things like deaths in the family or can they be little things like an uncomfortable sunburn? My reasons were between those two extremes. But I know how easy it can be to let one day turrn into another with no work at words. It's a slippery slope. We may not hit our regular stride of a word count on off days, but we owe it to ourselves to try not to let our reasons for not writing become too frequent or too trite.

posted at: 23:30 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Wed, Mar 03 2010

When is your best writing time?

Lately I often forget to do blog entries until the dark evening hours when my mind is not at its best. This was such a day. This is a also problem for me when it comes to writing fiction. I'm probably not going to get my best work done at night. I've learned this after several false starts. I tried shifting other writing tasks to evening hours, but the truth is that I'm just not alert enough at night on a consistent basis to count on quality work during that time. I do occasionally make a few notes or jot down some lines of poetry in the evening.

You may find yourself having little time to write during the part of the day when you feel you do your best work. If this is a serious problem for you I'd suggest doing everything you can to shift your schedule so that you have your best hours for your writing, particularly if you intend to make writing your main work in life. If you can't do that right now you can think about moving that direction and still try to make them most of what time you do get to write. And keep some sort of electronic device or pen and paper handy in case inspiration strikes at any time, day or night. Writing can be an adjective, a verb or a noun. For best results we should also think of it as a state of mind, a state of being.

posted at: 00:01 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Mon, Mar 01 2010

Are you better off than Al Gore?

I'm repeating a link I used on Twitter tonight. It goes to a picture of Al Gore's desk. I'm terrible about having too much paper and too many stacks and files and books and notes. He's worse.

Is it important to be organized and neat if you're a writer? I don't know. I was going to go look up some famous novelists and see what I could find out about their writing habits, but then thought better of it. If you can't be an individual at what you do and how you do it, what's the point? If you can only write when things are tidy and in their place, do so. And if you can't write unless you are surrounded by tomes of research and stacks of dog-eared notes, do so. But do write.

posted at: 21:14 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
and cattle rustlin'! Lightning may strike
such varmints when they least expect it!