Sitting down with your characters…


As I embark on a new story, a timely resource from K.E. Weiland

I will say, though, that the interview technique doesn’t work for all writers. Some prefer to let key traits unfold along with the story.

I straddle the fence on this, as I like a quick get-acquainted visit and then I move on to  other prewriting ventures.

Whatever your leaning, however, spending time with this and other posts on her site always pays off.


Curation Saturday–Tweets About Writing

A few favorites from Jon Winokur’s recent Tweets…


Find your best time of the day for writing and write. Don’t let anything else interfere. Afterwards it won’t matter to you that the kitchen is a mess.
ESTHER FREUD #amwriting #writing #writinglife


Write what you want. People rarely recognize themselves on the page. And if they do, they’re often flattered that a writer has paid attention.


“Most people have no concept of writing, or what’s involved with the process…”
David Sedaris

Oh, that kind of writing night…


This is one of those nights when I need to set a timer to get me going on my 500 words.

This is one of those nights when I find emptying the trash and relining the container an easy go-to instead of writing.—one of those ‘must-do’ items before I sit down.

This is one of those nights when I keep looking at the timer.

This is one of those nights when I keep editing as I go [there, I did it again…I had typed ‘mistakes’ and wanted ‘typos’ instead and then I went back and substituted ‘editing as I go’. It’s madness! Make it stop!]

This is one of those nights when I have to have some music playing in my head while I write. [Of course, the very act of opening iTunes and selecting some instrumental stuff—Dave Brubeck, in this case—is another avoidance tactic, though I hope it pays off down the line with keeping me focused.

This is one of those nights when I’m thinking ahead to the weekend when I have garage-cleaning and general decluttering on my list. Notice I didn’t mention writing. What’s wrong with that picture?

This is one of those nights when I am hyper-tempted to click on the ESPN window to check the latest Olympic results. How many smarter people have told writers like me to just plain turn off the Internet? I hate those people. I mean really, why should I tolerate anybody who has me pegged right down to the exact website I have temptingly available?

This is one of those nights when I’m glad I have ‘copy/paste’ down pat so I can keep repeating ‘This is one of those nights when’ and chalk up cheap words. But I have to say…it adds a certain rhythm to this masterpiece. ‘Rhythm’…’monotony’…tomato-tomahto.

This is one of those nights when I have more than a few topics I’m thinking of tackling, thus resulting in my taking a stab at none of them.

This is one of those nights when I’m back to the timer. One minute left in the 11 minute stint. 362 words in 10+ minutes, I’ll take it. Of course, if you’re still reading, you’re reaching through your screen to strangle me, which would be okay if you’d let me write about it for my next 500 words.

This is one of those nights when I’m glad I’ve reached 400 words and am slogging my way to 500. Aren’t we all just feeling exceedingly gratified?

This is one of those nights when I recalled that Valentines Day offered so much possible material and, once again, I dropped the ball.

This is one of those nights when I know I need to put in at least a scene, or part of a scene, in my kids book first draft.

So I guess I should be thinking about that and looking up where I left off.

This is one of those nights when it’s about time to move on with my other projects, satisfied that I’ve put in 500+ words in one sitting and pleased that I had forgotten about the 180 words I did when I got home from work. Okay, then, back to the kids book.

And this is one of those nights when I can pat myself on the back for not checking ESPN during this stint.

But first…a five-minute editing session.

I should be writing. Instead…orange marmalade cake.

Orange marmalade cake
My wife added orange marmalade on top after the photo was taken.
Here also is one of the three bambinos.

Orange Marmalade Cake Recipe

On Super Bowl Sunday, as I watched, paused, watched, rewound, paused…well, you get the idea…the game, I took on this new recipe.

Thanks to Virginia for the inspiration to bake this O.M.C. She had blogged about this once-a-year cake a few years back.

It’s so big–needs five whole eggs and four egg yolks–that I have to abbreviate the name. [Shape Shifters Fitness Trainer–avert your eyes.]

A few broken rules:

  1. I would double the syrup and poke even more toothpick holes into the baked cake.
  2. I didn’t go three layers high. Reason? I didn’t have three round cake pans.
    Instead, I went with a two-layer rectangular cake with leftover batter for three mini-cakes. I actually preferred this approach so I could experiment with other accompaniments for the bambinos. [My favorite: key lime marmalade mixed with sour cream as a ‘dip’.]

Anyway, I enjoyed the result. [Thanks again, Virginia!] And so did my work colleagues the next day. [Plenty for them and for us at home.]

Drawback: I didn’t enjoy the way the first part of the recipe was written.

Excerpt: Cake: Sift flour, baking powder, & salt twice in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat butter on MEDIUM (~4 minutes). Add sugar steadily with mixer running; beat until light & fluffy. Add eggs & yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition; scrape down sides at least once. After eggs are added, continue to beat on MEDIUM for 2 minutes; add oil & beat for 1 minute on LOW. In a third bowl, combine orange zest, vanilla, & buttermilk. Using a rubber spatula, fold in half of dry ingredients. [This is where confusion set in. Based on these instructions, wouldn’t you fold half of the dry ingredients into the bowl of the zest, vanilla, and buttermilk?]

If I rewrote this, I would have gone with:

Set up three bowls for the varied ingredients.

  1. The largest bowl for the butter, sugar, eggs, and oil. You will be adding the rest of the ingredients here.
  2. A bowl large enough for 3+ cups of sifted dry ingredients.
  3. A bowl large enough for the orange zest, a cup of buttermilk, and the vanilla.

I valiantly rose above the confusing instructions because, well, we’re talkin’ dessert here.

Give it a try.

Gooooood stuff!

Displacement activities–semi-productive, but so fun

This has been a morning of displacement activities.
Here is a screen shot of my favorite so far…Rebel that I am, I ran a sheet of magnet-paper [intended for an inkjet printer] through my laser printer. Nailed it!

dog magnets screen shot

So I’m going to be cutting out these bad-boys and planting them on the fridge and await my wife’s reaction.
The next post…a change in direction.
The next post after that…a recipe’s instructions…rewritten.

Writers’ self-doubt–everywhere you turn

Time for me to be a shill.

One of the writing professionals I follow is Joanna Penn, who has paid her dues, worked her way from beginner to established author, and built a website filled with helpful resources.

Here is a link to her YouTube video, How to Deal with Self-Doubt As A Writer.

Here is a link to an excerpt from her book, The Successful Author Mindset.

A few of the quotes:

“Bad writers tend to have self-confidence, while the good ones tend to have self-doubt.”
–Charles Bukowski

I’m tired, disappointed, wondering what the hell I’m doing with my time.” –from Joanna Penn’s journal

Have a great weekend!

Writing Tip of the Day: Know your adversaries.

Some are blatantly trying to undermine your efforts. Case in point: People who give you gifts like…

screw work coffee mug

Others are more subtle.

When I mentioned Jon Acuff’s point about the dangers of ‘hiding places’ [daily detours from your deep-seated desire to reach a goal], one reader responded with: “But aren’t hiding places a bit fun?” Simply devious, I say, with her grasp of the truth and suggesting that those side trips aren’t so bad.