2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 840 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 14 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Sometimes thinking up new ideas is like pulling teeth, very painful.

When that happens, I go back to the basics and start brainstorming.

I used to think that brainstorming was something you did before you started writing but the more I write, the more I understand that it is all brainstorming. The story doesn’t come to me full blown. I get a scene in my head and then I think about who might be the person in that scene. I then start developing that character and start making decisions on character goals. What does that character want? What would make that person want that goal and what is keeping that person from achieving it?

After I get a good feel for the character, I start looking at my plot points.

To put all the pieces together, I have to continue brainstorming. I brainstorm scenes to connect the plot points until I have enough for a story. Sometimes I brainstorm with friends but most of the time it is by myself.

Here are some ways to gather ideas:

1. Actual brainstorming: This is where you take a large piece of paper and interconnect circles on paper – start out with the character’s name in the center of the paper. Make other circles around with whatever subject you want to connect to the character like, family, love interest, career, fears. There are no real rules. Do what works for you. Use colored pencils or pens, draw pictures, have fun.

2. Write from prompts. I sometimes do this once I am already writing. I take a prompt and see how I could use it for my story. Again, ‘A Writer’s Book of Days’ is a great resource.

3. Use a book journal. Write down all of your thoughts about your novel. What do you want to have happen? What could happen next. Write down as many ideas as you can and choose the one that might surprise the reader most. Play the what if game.

4. Watch a movie or read a book. Maybe a character will trigger an idea you can use. As an example: Remember that movie -‘The Man Without a Face’ with Mel Gibson? I loved that movie but it didn’t go in the direction I wanted it to. I have always wanted to take that character and make a love story. Kind of a modern Beauty and the Beast.

5. Go for a walk, clean the house, or take a shower. Sometimes doing something mindless invites the creative part of your brain to throw out ideas. Just be ready to catch them.

6. Listen to music. Especially the radio in the car. I came up with the title to one article for my column from listening to the radio. It was back in the ’80’s and I wrote a ‘slice of life’ column in the local newspaper. The song was ‘Going Through the Big D and I don’t mean Dallas.’ My article was  – ‘Going Through the Big D and I Don’t Mean Dallas or Divorce’. I then went into a humorous anecdote about the other Big D – Driver’s license and what happened with my daughter and her test. That piece got the editor’s attention and me a column.

7. Just write. Words will beget more words until everything clicks and your story unfolds on the page. Set a timer.

Once you’ve got enough ideas to fill in the skeleton of your novel, start writing.

Where do you get your ideas? Do you ever get stuck and don’t know what to write next? What do you do?

Next week, I will share some information about writer’s conferences.

Hope your ideas flow like vanilla bean ice cream covered in bubbly hot fudge. 


Book Review Thursday

I recently read the sixth book in Alan Bradley’s series – ‘The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches’. There are just a few books that I will buy the hard cover version, this series is one. If you have not read them, you should. It is a mystery series and the protagonist is a young girl, Flavia DeLuce. She lives in an estate in England in the 1950’s that is in need of repair. Her mother has disappeared and her father is raising her and two older sisters. Other than collecting stamps, I am not sure how her father makes a living. I believe he married well but since his wife’s disappearance while mountain climbing, their financial situation is questionable.

The estate is close to a small town that is filled with quirky characters. Flavia has a tendency to get involved in murder investigations. She is also a genius at chemistry and has a personal interest in poisons. She rides around the countryside on her mother’s old bicycle that she has named Gladys.

Like most cozy mysteries, they usually start out with a murder and Flavia is the type of child who couldn’t stay out of it if she had to. Because of her age, no one takes her seriously except maybe the local police investigator. She has a knack at making him look bad.

While attempting to solve the murders, she has to put up with her two sisters Feely and Daffy who treat her like a little pest and make her life miserable. She often gets help from Dugger, a servant who served in the war with Flavia’s father and saved his life.

This story revolves around Flavia’s mother’s disappearance and puts closure to that thread of the series story.

If you’re looking for a story that will entertain, I would suggest you check out this series and if you can you might read them in order.The titles always amaze me and I like the way they eventually tie into the story.

They are as follows:

 The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag

A Red Herring Without Mustard

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows

Speaking from Among the Bones

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches.

After you’ve read one, let me know what you thought.
Also, did you know this Saturday is ‘Walk Your Dog Day”?

My friends Sparkle Abbey who write the pampered pet mysteries will have the first book in their series ‘Desperate Housedogs’ on sale at Amazon and Barnes and Noble for just .99 cents to celebrate. Start from the beginning  by reading the first in the series and after that special their publisher is going to have special pricing for the rest of their back list. Their newest ‘Fifty Shades of Greyhound’ will be out in April and they have a between the books short story that will be part of an anthology launching Feb 24th.  Stop by the Belle Bridge Books Blog to enter a contest. Never know, you might win something.

I read all the time but I know there are some authors I have yet to read. What have you been reading? Feel free to give me some ideas for my to be read pile.

Happy reading.


Coloring Outside the Lines

“I believe the act of writing is itself the muse.” Bret Anthony Johnston

Thanks to Cheryl Sease who presented another informative workshop at our IRN meeting today, I have some ideas to share with you.

The old stand-by is brain storming. This is an exercise you can do by yourself or with a group. One suggestion I have heard is to write down 20 ideas and then write down 20 more. By then you will have gone past the cliche’s and come up with something fresh. If you are doing it in a group you could just start with a prompt and have everyone brainstorm and share their ideas.

The next method was free writing. If you have never tried this, you should. Just turn off your editor and start writing whatever comes into your head. Some people suggest setting a timer and don’t stop until the time is up. No editing.Some writers say that you should do this with pen and paper rather than on your PC. Personally I would do whatever works for you.

One of my favorite books is ‘The Writer’s Book of Days’. It is packed full of writing information and a daily prompt. I have used the prompt for my current work in progress. I just direct my brainstorming toward how I can use that prompt for a scene in my story. If you have never thought of this, do give it a try. There are also websites where you can sign up for a daily prompt. Some will email it to you. That can be dangerous though. To meet my daily writing goals, it really is best if I avoid the internet. It can really suck me in. Before I know it, I need to head to bed and did not achieve my goal.  I have to watch my internet use and the time I spend watching T.V. I try to use that as a reward for meeting my goals and that may be another post for in the future.

How do you begin your projects? What do you do to get your ideas? Please feel free to comment and share and if you don’t mind I would love to highlight your ideas in a future post.

Next week I will have some more methods for kick starting your project.

If you live in the Des Moines Area and are interested in local writer’s groups. I belong to Iowa Romance Novelists, a local chapter of RWA. We meet monthly to critique and have a program about the business of writing. Feel free to contact me for more information. If you lean more toward mysteries, I also belong to SINC-IA, a local chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Until then, keep writing.



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