S is for Scene

“Certain images create private little excitements in the mind.” E.L. Doctorow

When I think of a scene, I think of an image, a setting, a portion of a chapter that deals with an action that moves the story forward. Each scene has to have a purpose. Does it introduce a character, explain why something happened, hint at a mystery, or make the reader feel something? There are many reasons for writing a scene. As the writer, you have to determine what needs to happen at that particular moment in the story.

Scene is a basic building block of a story. It allows us to check the pace and speed it up or slow it down. It needs to have a beginning, middle, and an end. The best endings leave you wanting to read more.

Have you created a scene recently? If not it’s about time.

Will miss Marylee and Anita’s book signing at Barnes and Noble. Hope it is fantastic.  I will be in Minneapolis at the Debra Dixon workshop.

Have a great week writing.


Tuesday Tip

If you’ve been writing for a while and looking for a way to catch an agent or an editor’s attention – here is some advice a couple of my writer friends got from an agent at a writer’s conference, in a bar.

I can’t remember if this was the exact word used to describe what she suggested but I think this is close enough. The agent told them to find a gimmick. Find something that was unique about their story and play with it. That is exactly what they did. Even though there are plenty of pet books out there, their stories are unique. It is a mystery series and they collaborate. One of the on going threads between their novels is that they involve pampered pets. They researched locations and discovered that Laguna Beach has more pets than children and it is a very upscale setting.

They work with local pet shelters for book signings and those signings have been well attended.

If you want to know more about this series read their books. The first one is ‘Desperate Housedogs’, the second is ‘Get FLuffy’, the third is soon to come out and is ‘Kitty, Kitty, Bang, Bang.

All together they have sold six books so far. I would say they are doing something right. And that agent who gave them the advice wasn’t the agent who gave them a contract. I have a feeling that if they continue at this rate, she may wish she had.

These savvy authors found their gimmick and it worked for them. Do you have something that sets you apart that you could use in marketing?  If so, what are you doing to help sell your stories?


Tuesday Tip

What comes first the characters or the plot? I’m not sure it matters. If you are inspired by a character, go with developing that character. What are the goal, motivation, and conflict? After you determine that start asking story questions and the plot will develop.

If you have a story idea that comes to you first, play with the idea for a while until you start seeing a plot. Start asking questions about who might be involved in that kind of story? Start adding characters to the story and developing them.

Either way that you enter into a story, I think the key to developing it is to ask questions and keep asking questions until you figure out enough to write the story. Unless you are a writer who has to have a complete outline. Answer enough questions to get into the story and go with it.

How do you start out? Do you start with characters or plot?


Monday Motivation

“Follow your inner moonlight: don’t hide the madness.” – Allen Ginsberg

Write about something that is bothering you. Use it for a character in your novel or to explain a passage in a memoir or just as a journal entry. Don’t be afraid to dig deep and use what touches you because if you do, it will touch your reader.

R is for Recharge

“Not writing is probably the most exhausting profession I’ve ever encountered. It’s very psychically wearing not to write – I mean if you’re supposed to be writing.” – Fran Lebowitz

Sometimes you reach a point where your batteries are dead. No matter how long you sit in front of that blank screen the words elude you.

When that happens it’s not the time to quit but it may be time for a break to recharge. Some people call it filling the well.

Go read something, watch a movie, tour an art gallery, take some photos, listen to music, and go out for something to eat. Use your senses and re-charge your batteries. Then plant your butt and write.


Tuesday Tip

Setting and mood. Weather is a part of your setting and you can use it to enhance the mood of your scene.

Bright sunshine usually makes the reader think of happy times and dark cloudy days or storms could reflect a brooding character or story line. Don’t describe just how it looks, use all the senses. Is the air thick with humidity, is the rain cold on your skin, or how does it smell after a rain. Taste the rain drop, describe the scent of leaves as they are raked or dust on a dry country road that catches in your throat.

How do you use weather for settings?


Monday Motivation

The harvest moon is in the sky. You and your friends have had a couple beers and go to a corn maze but not everyone makes it out?  Write something.


Q is for Queries

Okay, so far this is the letter that had me stumped. The only writing related topic I could think of was queries. Something I knew little about until I read an article in the current edition of ‘Writer’s Digest‘. – Write the Perfect Query Letter. Your query is your chance to present yourself to an agent. Like your manuscript it needs to shine. It is one of your first marketing tools. The one that can get you an agent.

This piece shows where a literary agent shares a real query letter that worked. She breaks it down and shows not only the good but also the not so good.

It is page length with each paragraph introducing the character, describing goals, motivation, and conflicts in a way that would make the agent want to read the book.

As I said, I have never written a query yet but after reading this article it doesn’t seem so scary. When the time comes, I will do what I always do with a subject I’m unfamiliar with, I will read everything I can find to enlighten me. This article is a great start.

If you are like me and this is new territory, check out October’s Writer’s Digest. I’m sure you will find something to help guide you down the path of publication.


What’s Happening Wednesday

I had a long weekend kind of. I had to work Sunday but had Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday off. Spent some time writing and reading. Started using Scrivener but I am not totally sold on it. I was for a while but then I tried to move a scene and lost it and that scared me. My words come so slowly, I hate to lose any of them if I don’t have to.

I am pushing forward. Writing every day and trying to get 1000 words in each time I sit down for a session. I like the direction my story is going and know that all I have to do is pump out this first draft. I have always been able to write short pieces and trying to wrap my mind around a novel has freaked me out. I admit it. But now that I tell myself, all I have to write is this short 1000 words today. That is all I have to worry about, the words are flowing finally.

My Sister’s in Crime- Iowa Chapter is having a 25 year anniversary party for Sisters in Crime this Saturday at the Urbandale Library from 2:00-4:00. If you love mysteries, you will enjoy this. We have baskets of books to give away, a few Sisters in Crime authors, treats. It should be a good time. It is open to anyone who wants to attend.

Have been reading ‘The Beautiful Mystery’ by Louise Penny. I am half way through and have been enjoying it but it hit me, today that none of the characters in Three Pines is in this book so far. I miss them. They are what always pull me back to want to read more. This is the third book in this series that has been set in a different location. I follow Ms. Penny’s blog and know she is working on her next novel. I only hope she will be taking us back to Three Pines with the next book.

Back to work tomorrow.


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