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Archive for April, 2010

How do you imagine the settings in your book? This is one of my weak spots, especially since one of my settings is in a place I’ve only visited in my imagination. Much as I would prefer to travel and do ‘on location’ research, I’m not at liberty to pack up and fly to London at the moment.

I thought a few images would help round out my descriptions and make them more realistic, so I went to Google maps to search ‘London, secondhand bookshops’. I clicked on ‘street view’ and explored further. Now I’ve played around with Google maps before, but no where quite as interesting as the back streets of London.

I roamed around for, well…way too long…and got lost trying to find my way back to one particular bookshop. I turned corners, zoomed in and out, all without the hassles of getting a ticket because I was on the wrong side of the street.

I swear I felt like I was actually there and could practically enter the shops. I ended up with plenty of visuals that helped me add just the right descriptive touches I was looking for. 

Pretty cool, I thought and I wanted to share with you. Have any of  you ever used Google street view to help bring your story’s setting to life?

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Writing has made me a more critical reader. My latest library book lost me as a reader because of technical issues. Besides some rather drab characters and a meandering plot, the POV shifted so often I was starting to feel the main action of the story was my ability to leap about between character’s heads. I won’t tell you what the book  is because I don’t want to bash another writer. I can tell you that the main reason I picked it up was author recognition.

Besides being irritating, it raised all kinds of questions.  How is a well known published writer allowed to commit these major editorial sins? Where is her editor? Does this bother anybody besides me?

Point of view is challenging. It was a difficult concept for me to grasp and flipping between character’s heads is easier than channel surfing. It’s so easy to do without being aware of it, but my handy dandy desktop Self-Editing for Fiction Writers helps guide me through these muddy waters.

I also find it useful to read books, like the annoying one mentioned, which ignore this important element because it makes me aware of how much I don’t want to inflict these mental gymnastics on my readers.

As a writer, it took me a while to understand which point of view I was even writing in, but once I did, it raised my POV consciousness. For me, writing a fantasy seen through the eyes of a cat, means I must ‘become the cat’.

As a reader, I don’t have the patience to stay with a book that forces me to guess who’s thinking what. I returned the book to the library. Now I need something good to read!

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When do you let the cat out of the bag?

In the beginning I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a book.  I thought it sounded rather pompous, and of course, I didn’t know if I had the guts to sustain it, but I kept hacking away, in the dead of night for going on 3 years. Whatever else happens, I am pretty happy about not giving up and not starting six different other projects to keep me from finishing one, which is more the norm for me.

I didn’t tell  anyone hardly anyone what I was up to until the 5th revision and my book had a finished sort of feel to it. Before admitting my nocturnal activities, writing was a clandestine affair. I might be wrong, but I doubt if quilters and knitters have this same kind of guilty pleasure. Gradually I started answering the question, “what have you been up to?” honestly, because at some point, without even knowing when, I started to feel like a writer.

I knew it was a serious affair when I wanted to write instead of watch TV and I talked to my characters in the shower.

But can I call myself a writer if I haven’t published? My rational self says ‘of course!” but doubts set in as I wonder, what if I have only one story? What if I can’t publish this one.  What if I tell people I’m writing a book, nothing comes of it and I fall flat on my face.

So be it. It doesn’t matter any more.  

The hurdle is one of confidance. I’m thinking that Confidance waxes and wanes like the moon. Some days, I feel great about the book I’m working on. I’m excited, even after umpteen rewrites. I think it’s a good story, yada yaha.  But when I spend two hours eeking out the details of three paragraphs, I think..geez, what am I doing? How can it take so long to get it right? Maybe I’m not a ‘real’ writer, whatever that means.

I wonder if Kate DeCamillo or (insert your favorite author) spends hours agonizing over the right POV, voice, exposition, and/or dialogue. If I was a real writer, wouldn’t this get easier? Should I just quit and take up knitting?

Problem is, much as I appreciate a good sweater, I have no passion for knitting.

Am I writer? or is this just a cheap form of therapy?

But writing draws me like a magnet and I can’t stop now. I’m working it for all its worth because it keeps me sane. As I write that, I know it’s true, even though it sounds crazy. Writing is a form of contemplation that allows me to process life. It helps me slow down and examine the raw data that surrounds me in visible and invisible forms.

I’ve come to think of writing as taste testing the stew of oddments, profane, divine, related and seemingly unrelated, that come hurtling towards me at quark speed.  When I write, I sort it out, spice it up, stir it and add ingredients from other pots.

But enough of  food metaphors. On my own terms, in my own time, writing simply lets me breathe.

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What about you? Are you tongue-tied about calling yourself a writer?

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