Tag Archives: lois d. Brown

Don’t Destroy Good Writing

Sometimes writers don’t trust themselves. We write a paragraph, reread it, backspace (a lot), and write it again. And then we repeat the process. Several times.

For me personally, I’m not so sure if the sixth time I write the same paragraph is really all that much better than the first attempt. What I do know, however, is that writing this way takes forever and turns something that is naturally hard to do into something that is excruciatingly difficult.

Lately, I haven’t been making progress because I keep writing the same stuff again and again. I’ve decided to take a lesson from history and break this bad habit. Let me explain:

Over Thanksgiving break my family went on a little adventure. Our favorite stomping ground is Southern Utah (near the Kanab area). First we hit Cutler’s Point, which is a fabulous cave (albeit shallow) inside the side of a mountain plateau. (See pictures below.)

We drove back from the hike using an old highway that used to be the
main road into Kanab.  On some of the red cliff walls right next to the old highway are Native American Fremont petroglyphs dating from 700 to about 1300 A.D.

writingOn top of some of these wonderful writings from a culture lost hundreds of years ago, business men from the mid 1900s wrote big advertisements in black paint—everything from law services to painting for hire. It was a “natural” bill board of sorts. People noticed the cool petroglyphs, so writing a business advertisement right over the top of them would ensure better visibility for their ads.

Seriously?

What were they thinking?

I’m starting to ask myself the same question when I “write
over” my own writing again and again, hoping to improve it. Am I actually making things worse?

My new game plan is to write whatever comes out and move forward. In the end, I know I’ll be going back and rewriting/cleaning up my manuscript. I don’t need to keep writing over myself during the creative process. After all,  I may be destroying things that should be left alone.

Here are a few more pictures from our outdoor adventure:

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Keeping it Real

There’s more to writing “tween” books than making characters come to life, crafting unique plots, and weaving suspense and humor throughout.

You also have to keep up with the times—what’s cool nowadays? What do nine to thirteen year olds think about? Are you using phrases or similes that relate to them?

This concept became obvious to me a few weeks ago when my husband and I decided to take my kids on a hike in Southern Utah.

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We were in an area with lots of natural red-rock formations. Some of them were high up on mountain tops, like the “elephant rock.” Other face-like formations were on the sides of dangerous cliffs. There was one outcropping of rocks on the top of a plateau, however, that was within our reach. By the locals it’s called the “milk bottles.”

“Huh? Milk bottles?” my kids asked. “What are those?”

It’s true. My children have never seen a milk bottle before. To them, milk comes in one gallon plastic jugs at the local grocery store.

We pointed to where the milk bottles were. They couldn’t see them. We then explained the precise location. Still nothing. Then we did one simple thing that changed their entire perspective.

“Think of them as water bottles,” I said.

“Oh,” my children said, “we can see them now!”

So, in the morning hours of that late summer day, I hiked, with my husband and children, to the “water bottles.”

Fifty years ago kids would have been stumped if you’d called them water bottles. Who drank their water out of bottles? But in 2014, that’s what our kids know.

One word can make all the difference.

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Morphing: In books and real life

animorphsMorphing characters (not to be confused with morphling which I learned is a powerful painkiller) seems so easy to do. A character begins as one person and turns into someone or something else. There is a popular MG series based on this concept called Animorphs.

In real life, however, morphing is not so simple. I have two children that are morphing into something new at this graduation time.

Sixth grade graduation
Sixth grade graduation

My sixth grader will be entering junior high next year. It always amazes me how much change happens in a tween’s life as they move from elementary school to junior high. Some of the changes are great. Others not so much.

Second of all, my oldest is graduating from high school and moving onto college. It’s a big change that is laden with many bittersweet emotions–excitement, regret, hope, worry, etc. She’s going to be moving out on her own, which is going to be so awesome for her, but she is so much fun and responsible that I am really going to miss her.

Senior Grad announcement.
Senior Grad announcement

 

In writing, when we morph a character into something else, the idea is that the transition needs to be seamless. Sometimes the morphing takes a while, like a person slowly becomes someone else over time. An example of this is in the classic book, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Other times, the character morphs abruptly like going from a teenage boy into a werewolf. I’m sure you all know a book or two where this happens. If not, ask yourself where you’ve been for the last ten years. 🙂

Regardless, to make a seamless transition there needs to be preparation, build up, and a clear explanation of how it happens. If not, it doesn’t sit well with your reader.

My husband and I were listening to an audio book once when, at the very end of the story, the author had written herself into a corner. So what did she do? The main character all of a sudden realized she had ESP and talked to the mind of another character to get out of the climatic problem.

It BOMBED!

Just as I have tried to prepare my real children, build them up, and explain (as best I could) what the new stage of their lives will bring, we can do the same with our characters, only we have a lot more control (which, let’s be honest, is really nice sometimes.)

Plot Like a Snowshoe Expert

snowshoe blogThe problem with snowshoeing is that you can’t expect your feet to do their normal thing. The whole “one foot ahead of the other “ concept is not applicable when you have 3-foot long tennis rackets strapped to your boots (at least that is what it feels like).

Instead, you have to keep track of where both feet are at all times. This concept came to me a few weeks ago when my husband and I stole away for a snowshoe adventure.

It was my hubby’s b-day, and for his present we trekked through the snow (in the dark with spelunking lights on our foreheads) to stay the night at our “mountain resort.” (Did you catch the sarcasm?) It’s actually a quaint little cabin that runs off of propane and a most-of-the-time broken solar panel.

So how does this relate to writing? One word: plotting.

Imagine your left foot as “cause” and your right foot as “effect.” As you move forward, the interplay between cause and effect is crucial. Each chapter, each situation, should involve action. We all know that. But when writing, do we remember to ask ourselves, “what is the cause of this action (the catalyst), and what was the effect (or consequence) of it?”

snowshoe blog 2It’s not necessarily the action that propels the plot forward, it’s the cause and effect of that action. Simply put, the effect of the last intense situation causes the next bit of adventure. In your novel, don’t let things happen “just because.” Tweens can sniff out a weak plot just as much as adults can.

If you forget to keep track of your cause and effect (a.k.a. left and right foot), you could easily end up face down in a snow bank. Trust me, I know. 🙂