Archive for August, 2011

Defending from Irene

August 26, 2011

I”m another person who’s constantly checking the status of Hurricane Irene from a distance.  Since I teach remotely for the Institute of Children’s Literature, I have a lot of students in harms’ way.  I’m praying that they and their stories are all safe and dry.



Characters Who Are Too Dumb to Live

August 22, 2011

As I might have mentioned before, one of the tricky things about writing in the suspense/mystery/thriller genre is ensuring that your characters aren’t too dumb to live.  There has to be a reason for them to keep their deadly secrets or roam through dangerous places.  In fact, there was one series of books by a mystery writer that I finally had to give up on because I couldn’t believe that the main character would keep endangering herself with no good reason whereas she had a serious and deeply personal reason to do this in the first two novels.

Today, I had a mini-breakthrough for my character. Since she was supposed to know quite a bit about art, at least for a high school student, she needed to consider an alternative. I didn’t have the first idea of how to slip it in until I was living in the moment with her. Bang.  There it was at what Jack Sparrow would call “the opportune moment.”

I have found that a lot of logical problems will sort themselves out when you get to them as long as you’re conscious of them and let the backbrain work.

End of Summer Quick Reads

August 19, 2011

It was fun to find SUSPECT on a list of suggested books for a last-hurrah-of-the-summer kind of book put together by a librarian in Harris County, Texas.

Serving as the Michigan Mentor

August 11, 2011

When my friend, fellow author and Michigan Ad-Com member Pat Trattles approached me about serving as the novel mentor, I couldn’t say no.  Really.  As Robert Heinlein pointed out to Spider Robinson decades ago, you can never really pay a professional writer back for the help that they’ve given you.  You can only pay forward.    Winning the Ellen Dolan Missouri Mentorship with Gary Blackwood back in 1999 changed my writing life forever.

As part of the application project, I had to write an explanation of why I wanted the mentorship.  I shared how more than one editor had let me know that I wrote well.   I didn’t know what else I could do! Gary gave me an education in the importance of conflict, structure and subplots. While I didn’t sell the novel that Gary and I worked on together, it opened the door for me at Peachtree.  Moreover, I sold the next two projects that I wrote after the mentorship. Later manuscripts helped win me representation with Erin Murphy.

Naturally, I sent Gary copies of my books, but I couldn’t pay him back.  Instead, I’ve found ways to pay forward. For example, I served as the Missouri Mentor several years ago. Even though I’m being paid to serve as an instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature, I do tend to slip in extra looks for my students on promising pieces.  But time is precious. I can’t help the world when I need that time for my family, my projects, my students, and my church.  But I can help one talented, hard-wrking and thoughtful writer take a step closer to winning a contract by offering my perspective on every level from the big flick down to Nitz-picking.

Over 12,000 Words

August 5, 2011

Despite my “Escape from the Seiser Alm” post, I’ve found myself going back there more than once. But that’s part of my standard operating procedure since I can’t just leave things at the level of what Annie LaMott calls “a sh***y first draft” and move on. One important reason for this is my Dreamweavers’ critique group. When my turn in the rotation comes up, I can’t send them a piece of meat even though I have allowed myself to send them things with a few “Transition Needed” links. The writers in that group are the ones who let me know early whether things are working or not.

Please feel free to share a comment on how your manuscript evolves from a first draft to polished prose. I think every writer attacks this a little differently. I’m always interested in methods.