The First Man I Danced With: A Tribute to My Father

Fathers are complicated, and none of them, at least the earthly ones, are perfect. They need a lot of grace, maybe more than the rest of us. What an overwhelming job they have, to carve out in young souls an image, or example, however blurred and sketchy, of what God our heavenly Father might be like. My dad was a … Continue reading

Plotters, Pantsers and Plantsers

At most of the writers’ conferences I’ve attended, this topic came up: Should we plan and outline our novel before we start writing, or should we write “by the seat of our pants” and let the story happen organically? Some people refer to these two different approaches as “plotting” versus “pantsing.” There are arguments for and against both methods. I … Continue reading

Malaprops and Mixed Metaphors

Today I plan to ramble on about malaprops and mixed metaphors, partly because I’m in a silly mood. Malaprops are words or phrases that sound similar to something coherent, but don’t have the meaning intended. They are mistakes to avoid in writing (unless it makes for funny dialog), but they can also be funnier than a long-tailed cat in a … Continue reading

Scene 2: More Stuff about Writing Scenes

Scenes and Plot Plot is only as strong as its weakest scenes. Readers may be willing to forgive other writing sins if they can read engaging scenes with tension and emotional roller coasters. So we need to make our scenes count, every one. Every scene needs to be “HIP”: it needs a hook, some level of intensity, and a prompt … Continue reading

Making a Scene

This week in my writers’ group we’ll each be sharing a scene. Scenes are the building blocks of stories. We might even continue this topic next month, since it’s so important to fiction writing. Since I was charged with researching reference material, I thought I’d share some of what I found. What’s a Scene? A scene is action that occurs … Continue reading

Getting the Setting

Riding my horse this past weekend through our wooded trails, I was struck by how immersed I was in my surroundings. Not just with my tactile, visual, auditory and aromatic senses, but the feeling of being in the woods in spring. In April the tall weeds haven’t taken over yet, and wild flowers are everywhere, carpeting the clearings and lanes: … Continue reading

Welsh Oak

Cracking open a fortune cookie last week at a Vietnamese restaurant, I read a fascinating line: “Good timber does not grow with ease The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.” For some reason this struck a resonant chord. Curious as to where this little saying came from, I whipped out my cell phone and looked it up. The line … Continue reading

The Dreaded Data Dump

Supporting the overarching principle of not accidentally pulling readers out of our story, today’s blog is about data dumps. This was another lesson from summer workshop, but also a principle I learned while writing my memoir. Sometimes in fiction and memoir it’s hard to figure out how to give readers background story or provide context as to what’s going on … Continue reading

Point of View

The second big topic we covered during writers’ workshop was point of view, a favorite agenda of David Coe’s. Everyone who has ever taken a writing course is probably aware of the basics of point of view: Your narrator can either speak in first person, third person limited, third person omniscient, or the always-irritating second person. These days first person … Continue reading

Strengthening Dialog

I know, I know, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. But I’ve been writing! I finished my novel in March, then went through several heavy edits. This past month I attended the Antioch Writers’ Workshop again, and I took my fifth chapter to review. We learned many great things at the workshop, but today I’ll cover only one … Continue reading