Wednesday, September 29, 2010

See It From Their POV

See it from their point-of-view.

It’s easy, as a writer, to let our own POV direct our characters in a scene. Maybe some of this is inevitable. But I think good writing demands that we see from our character’s points-of-view as they’re living the story. What I mean is that sometimes I find myself being overbearing and forcing my characters to do or say things. It’s easy, when struggling, to fall into this and it almost always, at least for me, leads to inauthentic moments. Things will happen more organically and more right choices will be made if the writer can get inside his character and see the world/story from his/her POV.

Or so I think today.

Friday, September 24, 2010

grammar moment:sv agreement

Forgive me for using the G. word. Just the mention of it can clear a room but I’m here to tell you, brothers and sisters on the long and twisty road of the writing life, it’s just another part of writing. It’s helpful to know it well enough so you don’t have to think about it. So here’s a little grammar moment.

I am not myself a grammarian and I do not worship at the altar of the Grammar God. Fortunately, I have a friend who I will call the Grammar Guru (to protect the guilty) who does. He lives nearby. He is very tall. He has green hair. He knows grammar.

The first time I visited him to ask a question about grammar I was na├»ve and impressionable. Along the way the spirit of an undiscovered—during and after his lifetime-- writer genius ( self-proclaimed, of course) named Hal stopped me to ask why I would waste my time on grammar when I wanted to be a Writer—that’s with a capital W in case you missed it.

Good question, I thought.

Spirit Hal made me think about writers I’d known who were crappy at grammar but had something more important—voice and soul and power in their words. Hal also made me think of people who were excellent with grammar and crappy writers anyway. They were stiff and had no heart to their writing and not much to say. Grammar wasn’t going to help that.

And yet. And yet. Wasn’t grammar just one more part of writing? Wasn’t it worth knowing well enough you weren’t bothered by not knowing it? I thought so.

“Get thee behind me, Hal,” I said and continued on the road to the Grammar Guru’s house.

Hal did get behind me but he kept talking. He kept saying things like, “A real Writer needs grammar like a fish needs a boat.”

I had to admit that was pretty good, but I stayed my course.

I knocked on the Grammar Guru’s door. He opened it. He was taller than the doorway. I told you he was tall.

“Ah,” he said. “Greetings fellow traveler.”

He always greeted me this way. He always greeted everyone this way. Probably it had something to do with his being a guru.

“I can see you’ve come with a question. Tea first.”

He always gave me tea first. He drank a lot of tea. He also commented on the state of the world like it was the stock market.

“The world is up today,” he said. “Good news in the trenches.”

I had no idea what he was talking about.

“I have a question about subjects and verbs,” I said when we’d finished our tea. “What do people mean when they say subjects and verbs have to agree? I mean do they sometimes disagree? How do they disagree? Is it like, the verb says, ‘ hey subject, I don’t think you understand why I think dogs are better pets than cats.’ And subject says to verb, ‘I understand, but I know cats are better. More personality. Less care.’ What does disagree mean oh grammar guru?”

“I’m glad you asked me that,” he said. He always said that. He was glad about most things. I guess that was part of being a guru.

Here was his answer:

Subjects and verbs have to agree in sentences. This usually isn’t a problem in future and past tense. There are a few exceptions (like was/were, the past tense of is/are) but mostly there won’t be a verb choice between a singular subject and a plural subject in the past. For example:
Jack walked up the hill.
Jack and Jill walked up the hill.
Walked is the same whether the subject is singular (Jack) or plural (Jack and Jill).
The problem with agreement comes with singular and plural subjects in the present tense and in the third person. For example,
Jack walks up the hill
Jack and Jill walk up the hill.
A regular verb will have an “s” on it when the subject is singular. No “s” when the subject is plural.
(To be continued)

Monday, September 20, 2010


Characters need to be put at risk and they need to risk things to keep the reader involved. I’ve said before that you have to be cruel to your characters, make bad things happen to them, which will delight your reader or at least fascinate them (who can’t help looking at a train wreck?). But I would add that these bad things often come out of the characters’ acts. The characters’ mistakes are part of what keep us involved in her story.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pushing on and BookTrailer

There comes a point in almost everything I work on when I want to give up. I want to quit. I think to myself, this will never work. I think to myself, what is wrong with you? I think to myself, start over you fool. Quit wasting time.

Actually, this isn’t something I just think about writing. I’ve thought it at other times, too. We all do. But with writing—it happens with nearly every novel I try to write. I’ll be writing a first draft in all of its unwieldy and maddeningly imprecise glory and I’ll feel I’m on the wrong road. I came to a split in the road somewhere earlier in the draft and I took the less traveled road and look what happened? I’m hopelessly lost.

Most of the time I struggle through. Most of the time I push on and it’s the right decision. Writing a novel is a messy business. Sometimes you just have to get messy.
Or so I think today.
In Alien News: Here’s my book trailer--

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Seeing Your Fiction

I think this has to do with the author’s vision. Whatever your skills with the various aspects of writing a novel, whatever your talents, you have a unique way of looking at the world. Everyone does. If you can imbue your work with the unique vision, find the voice for it, then you’ve done something. Something for you. Something for the person reading.

I know when I start reading certain books I feel an immediate rapport with the voice of the novel, an immediate interest, because it feels authentic. I get really excited if it also feels different. Your way of seeing the world is what makes your writing yours.

So all the talk about craft and all the various aspects of writing fiction and yadda yadda yadda—all important and all not worth much if the writer doesn’t have something to say, a unique—in the sense that every person is unique—way of seeing, and can’t put that something into words.

Or so I think today.

Also, in ALIEN INVASION news: I'm giving away my last two unspoken for ARCs on Goodreads for anyone who is interested.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

blocked writers

Writers do get blocked. It happens all the time. Some people call that writer’s block. But unless you have some physical problem or some serious mental problem, the way around it, I believe, is to keep writing. Anyone able to put their fingers on a keyboard or pick up a pen can write. The blocked writer can write. They just can’t write well. I think this is what happens to writers who get stuck. They’re disappointed in the writing so they think/feel they can’t go on. They stop writing. This leads to longer and longer stretches of not writing. Not writing begets not writing.

Sometimes you have to write badly in order to find your way back to writing well. During those times you’re like someone walking through a desert. It will be hot, dry, and you’ll be thirsty and all alone. You have to just keep moving. A lot of other writers have gone through that same desert before if that helps any. Eventually, step by step, you’ll make it to the other side.

Writers write. They don’t always write well. That’s an important point, I think. People who get writer’s block can still write; they just think they can’t write anything well. If you should find yourself in that place you just have to force yourself to write on—even if it’s bad.

Or so I think today.