Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Writing Life

Fri, Feb 08 2019

A real-life lesson in timing and foreshadowing

I had a mammogram about a week ago. I wouldn't usually share this personal information, but I wanted to talk about timing and foreshadowing. They had the results of my scan within a few hours, which startled me. In the past, it would take a matter of days to be able to read the results. I experienced a bit of alarm, having gotten a boring old printed letter in the past (in an envelope they'd had me address to myself in the imaging center). When the results appeared by that evening, I thought it might be a sign that I needed to pay immediate attention. It turned out that my results were just about as boring as in previous scans. It's just that the tests are so precise now that, in most cases, they can interpret them quickly.

Have you ever been watching a film or TV show and seen a shot of a paper being put into a coat pocket? We've all learned that there is some reason why we're being shown that movement. What happens if they keep showing us the pocket in several scenes and we never see any reason for that pocket being forced into our view? We feel cheated later. Conversely, what heppens if we see a paper and we see a coat pocket, but we never see them together? Don't we keep trying to figure out the reason? Or, if the film doesn't show the paper going into the pocket at all and a big plot twist later reveals the importance of that paper going into the pocket at a specific time, we end up confused. If the tale-teller waits to long to show the paper going into the pocket we feel as though the whole show is oddly paced, as though the story lacks a pacing that we can feel and lean into for a big finish.

Foresahowing is an effective tool when writing a story, but we shouldn't cheat the reader out of the fun of guessing why the clues matter. Nor should we jar the reader out of the world we've given them to move through and enjoy.

posted at: 12:19 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Wed, Jan 30 2019

Production: Before, during and after process

January has begun like, and unlike, all other calendar years. In the rush to put away holiday decorations we left a few items on display. The momentum has slowed to a near crawl, but progress is being made.

The writing projects are in a similar state. A week of jury duty complicated the ability to schedule time at the computer keyboard, so I doubled-down on the joys of writing by hand. Focus is different when you write with a pen. Time becomes less crisp in its march toward the future and your mind wanders more easily to flights of fancy. It's a different kind of progress, not to be measured so much by page numbers as by breakthrough moments that soften the edges of one word into another. Both are valuable in the great scheme of things. Society seems to value production more than process, yet process often changes people more than actual production does. One is not necessarily superior to the other, except to people expecting to "see your work" in order to pronounce you successful. It's worth pondering.

posted at: 11:03 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Mon, Jan 14 2019

Word counts as a daily goal?

When you write, do you write for youself or for your readers?

When you count words, do you count for youself or for your readers?

When you read, do you read according to how fast the writer wrote the words?

When I see writers focused on word counts in a day, I don't mind a great deal as long as we're speaking of the first draft of a very long novel. Otherwise, I have concern that the number of words per day is assumed to be the ultimate goal. Is that your goal as a writer? And really, should that be the goal for a long novel any more than it should be for a well-researched article, a short story or a poem?
Why? More words are not equal to more success. Do what makes sense for you as a writer, with the reader in you in mind.

posted at: 11:03 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Wed, Jan 09 2019



Thu, Jan 03 2019

Another year, another delay?

2019 is more than upon us. It's in our bloodstreams and our brain stem, filling us with hope and expectation for all we can accomplish in a brand new calendar year.

The Bible talks about our heart and our treasure being close to each other, though it's more about spirituality in that case. But it's also true of our pursuits here in this life. If our resolution is to lose ten pounds in 2019 and we're still sitting and munching fatty chips most of the day, we're probably not being very true to our goals.

If we say we want to start writing a book or finish writing that book we started and we have nothing at all to show for it by the end of January, chances are that we were either lying to the world or lying to ourselves. Perhaps, both.

The first chapter is never the hardest for me. It's the fifth chapter or the twelfth chapter. I just put a prompt where I'll see it in a couple of months. I plan to see then how my heart and my treasure (and my writing) line up at that point.

posted at: 13:05 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Mon, Oct 22 2018

Should that dog obedience show go smoothly or be hit by a tornado?

Weather and scenery can either match moods or contrast with moods. It poured rain the day we held a graveside service for my mother. In spite of the gray day and all the noise from the rain and the way people tried to avoid mud puddles and huddle together beneath the tent, I found myself realizing that, had she still been alive,my mother would have had plenty of fun with the way Mother Nature had dumped water all over the place. I couldn't share the private joke with her any more, but I still held in a giggle at who she was and how she had fun.

A downpour during an outdoor wedding photo sesssion is a great way to either enhance the love all around or to accentuate the ambivalent feelings of those who were not in favor of that particular alliance. A first date in an air-conditioned symphony hall might be sweet and pleasant, but character might be better revealed or highlighted if the serenity of the concert is shattered by a 6.3 earthquake that shakes loose the hanging fixtures and and sends the audience into panic.

posted at: 10:12 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Mon, Sep 24 2018

Looking toward that lazy river after the snaking rapids roll

The parts of the house not in disorder can only be reached by wading through the disorder. We've been freshening up the paint in the living room and are finding that it's rare to complete one task without delving into 6 more tasks. You have to shop for paint and supplies, trim, tape, cleaning products (because dust has settled on many things), plus other odds and ends. You have to have an area to put all the contents you take off shelves and bookcases. Since you have to move everything anyway, you end up sorting through old items and making decisions about what to keep. You have to reserve space for being able to just sit and relax and have a little dinner, even if it means pulling up the nearest box to use as a table. You might redo furniture arrangements and even buy a new piece of furniture that works better than the old one(s).

By far, the most daunting task is this last wall, the wall that contains the TV, audio equipment, satellite connection. My husband found a snaking river of cords and cables that made him reconsider the whole electrical network of the house. And so, after painting will come rebuilding and rewiring cables and equipment placement.

The truth is that I could not do this alone. I'd have to hire someone to come in and figure out the snaky river of cords and how to coax it all away from a swelling rapids into something more like the lazy river in the old song. Meanwhile, I continue to sort through items from the storage units and glass-doored cases to figure out what stays and what goes. I do sneak off to this computer now and then to write a few lines. If you write, you know that writing can be the sane tower in an otherwise cluttered castle.

posted at: 13:30 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Quote Of The Moment
I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.
--Oliver Wendell Holmes
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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!