Tag Archives: writing fiction

Write On, Wednesday: Bestselling, Edgar-nominated Lisa Scottoline on her new fiction, MOST WANTED, Kamikaze-style writing, rejection letters, her beloved pets, writing with her daughter, & so much more

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By Leslie Lindsay

This gal has got a lot of shelf space. I know because I was just in my local bookstore and saw for myself just how prolific she’s been. Writing since 1994, and she hasn’t stopped since. What’s more, she’s incredibly energetic and quite the um…storyteller. I know because I saw her speak in St. Louis when her book, DON’T GO (2013) came out. And then there’s her fierce love for pets, all things Italian, and her cozy farmhouse.Most Wanted- high res cover img

Any idea who I’m talking about?

If you guessed New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award winning author Lisa Scottoline then you’d be spot-on.

In her newest book, Scottoline delivers a gripping brew of domestic suspense exploring hot-button issues of infertility and criminal law in her brand-new domestic thriller MOST WANTED (just released yesterday, April 12th!).

Christine Nilsson, a reading teacher and her husband, Marcus desperately want to become parents. After years of trying to conceive, the couple discover Marcus is infertile. Working with a highly skilled and respected fertility specialist, Christine conceives with the help of a donor. Months pass and Christine is glowing; she’s pregnant.

But a chance glimpse of a news report on television results in a shocking revelation. It appears as if her donor has been arrested for the death—murders!—of three women. Could the biological father of her baby be a serial killer? And what implications does that have for her marriage and the child she is carrying? What might you do?

Today, I am incredibly honored to welcome Ms. Scottoline to the blog couch to talk with us about her searing new novel.

Leslie Lindsay: Lisa, thanks so much for popping by. Years ago, I wrote this line, “Christine wanted a baby so badly, she got two within seven months.” I have no idea where I’m going with that, but it’s haunted me all these years. What wedged itself under your skin that inspired MOST WANTED?

Lisa Scottoline: Leslie, It is an honor to be speaking with you today and I appreciate your time.  That is a terrific first sentence, and it makes me want to read more!  I hope you write that book one day soon!

The inspiration for MOST WANTED came from one of the most emotionally true moments of my entire life, the birth of my amazing daughter, Francesca.  I was thinking about how much my daughter Francesca means to me, and as a single mom with only one child, her, we are really close.  We’re even co-authors!  And even as she’s gotten older, she’s still the best part of my life and the thought came to me – what if I couldn’t have had a child?  What if I hadn’t been able to conceive?  And then I thought, what if I had used a sperm donor to have a child – and then what if my donor turned out to be a suspected serial killer?  It was as wild a “what-if” as I could imagine, but also one that would involve a lot of moral, ethical, and emotional complexity, so I got busy writing and MOST WANTED was born.

L.L.: You do a lovely job of researching the law where things like this are concerned and I’m just in awe with the breadth of knowledge. Can you talk a bit about your research for MOST WANTED?

Lisa Scottoline:  You are too kind!  Thanks you so much for mentioning it, because I take the research very seriously.  It is important to me that the details are correct because I want everything to read authentic and real.  My research always starts with books, and I ordered and read a bunch of books about fertility.  Once I feel like I have a grasp on the topic, I turn to the experts in the field to fill in the blanks, for the proper lingo, and hands-on personal accounts.  For MOST WANTED, I spoke to a top reproductive endocrinologist, visited a fertility clinic, and, as always, worked with law enforcement and lawyers.  I always thank my experts in my acknowledgements because they are so vital to the book and to the community.

L.L.: I saw you speak at St. Louis County Libraries in 2013 when DON’T GO (2013) was hitting the shelves. Hugely animated, your big personality lit up the room. The one bit of wisdom you shared that keeps me going as a writer was this, “Boom—there’s a story!” It seems stories are everywhere and it’s up to us—the writers—to harness that energy and potential. Can you tell us what your story development process is like?

Lisa Scottoline: I have written twenty-some novels, and I have done this the same way every time, which is that I have absolutely no outline.  I start only with an idea and then I sit down and start writing, and along the way, try to figure out what the character would do next.  This is the kamikaze school of writing, but it’s the only thing that suits my personality, because I simply cannot imagine sitting down and writing the whole outline of a novel first.  For me, that would mean that actually writing the novel was filling in the blanks.  But everyone has a way of writing that works best, and for me, it’s kamikaze.  While this method creates some anxiety because I don’t always know what I’m writing next, it allows the story to develop naturally, with twists and turns even I don’t see coming.  I’m experiencing the book in the same way the reader will when it is read.

L.L.: Do you have any special writing rituals or routines? For example, I say to my 7 month basset hound, “C’mon, let’s go work,” and she follows me to my desk. Of course, she naps while I do my thing. I can only imagine something similar happens around your office. Please, we’d love to know!

Lisa Scottoline: Basset hounds are adorable!  I have a noisy group of King Charles Cavaliers and a bossy Corgi, who are never far from
Misc Feb-March 2013 012me, usually snoring, while I’m writing.
  I have a pretty set routine when it comes to writing.  I start in the morning after breakfast and I write all day until I meet my word count which is 2500 words a day.  Whether that takes me a few hours or late into the night, I work until I reach my goal.  Then the next day, before I start again, I reread what I had written the day before and then I begin writing for the day.  Two years ago, I got a treadmill desk, and I love it.  The dogs prefer when I write sitting down!

L.L.: I understand you write a humor column called “Chick Wit” in the Philadelphia Inquirer with your daughter, Francesca (fabulous name, by the way). Can you share a bit about that union and process?

Lisa Scottoline: You are right, Francesca and I write the column together, but we also collect the stories, along with additional new essays, in our New York Times bestselling non-fiction series of humor books.  Our most recent book is DOES THIS BEACH MAKE ME LOOK FAT? and coming July 12, 2016 is I’VE GOT SAND IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES.  Francesca is the title genius!  Francesca lives in New York City, so we write our pieces independently, and don’t see each other’s until they are in the book.  Francesca doesn’t need me as an editor, but rather, as a mom, and that is just the way I like it, too!  It is so much fun to read what each other has written, and sometimes the correlations are fascinating.  For instance, Francesca had written about her obsession with reading the wedding announcements in the paper, at the same time I wrote about my obsession with reading the obituaries!  One of the greatest things about the books is that woman of all ages and all walks of life can relate to them.

L.L.: What advice would you give to writers (okay, me) who are feeling discouraged with breaking in?

Lisa Scottoline: For those trying to write, my advice is, as Nike says, Just Do It!  Allow yourself a really lousy first draft, and just get the story down on paper.  You can then edit to your heart’s content, but putting the words on paper is the first, and hardest part.

As for getting published, know from the start that it is a difficult, but not impossible, process, which takes a bit of a thick skin and a lot of perseverance to get through.  But don’t give up, and always keep on writing.  I wrote a screenplay that was never published before I turned to novels.  I got a lot of rejection from agents while shopping my first novel, and my favorite is from a big New York agent who wrote in the rejection letter, “We don’t have time for a new client, and even if we did, we wouldn’t take you.”  I kept going and the rest is history, but I still remember who wrote that letter.

L.L.: I’m constantly inspired by good reading…it makes me want to be a better writer. What are you reading now? Does it influence your work?

Lisa Scottoline:  Since I am writing three books a year, much of my time is spent reading research books, but that said, I’m always reading something!  I love all kinds of books, both fiction and non-fiction, and every book I read, whether good or not, influences my work in some way.LisaScottoline

L.L.: What is inspiring you nowadays?

Lisa Scottoline: I am always inspired by strong women, similar to the strong women in my life, such as Francesca, my mother, Mary, and my best friend, Franca.  In fact, Franca’s incredible work as an advocate for children with learning disabilities was part of the inspiration behind my next Rosato & Associates novel, DAMAGED, due out on August 16, 2016.

L.L.: Is there anything I’ve forgotten to ask, but should have?

Lisa Scottoline: Your interview was terrific!  The only thing else I would like to say is how grateful I am to all those who read me.  I feel very lucky spending my life doing something I love, and that is all possible because of you, Leslie, and all of my other amazing readers!  So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart!

L.L.: Lisa, it was a pleasure! Thank you for chatting with us today and all the best with MOST WANTED!

Lisa Scottoline: Leslie, thank you so much for your wonderful and insightful questions!  I wish you the very best with your writing!

For more information, please see: 

Lisa Scottoline’s website

Twitter: @LisaScottoline

Facebook

Lisa Scottoline Most Wanted jacket photo. Credit April NarbyAuthor Bio: Lisa Scottoline is a 20 time New York Times best-selling and an Edgar award-winning author with over 20 novels (in 20 years) under her belt, including her latest novel MOST WANTED (St. Martin’s Press, April 12, 2016). Her stories have been translated into 25 different languages and her wildly popular, weekly non-fiction column, “Chick Wit,” co-written with her daughter, Francesca Serritella, appears in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lisa’s books have solidly landed on all the major bestseller lists including The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. Her book LOOK AGAIN was named “One of the Best Novels of the Year” by The Washington Post and as part of World Book Night 2013. It has also been optioned for a film adaptation. Lisa has over 30 million copies of her books in print and is published in over 35 countries.

Lisa, a Philadelphia native, graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, earned a B.A. in English in just three years and received a Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School cum laude. Lisa worked as a trial attorney until the birth of her daughter, Francesca Serritella. She left the firm to raise Francesca and began a part-time career writing legal fiction. Francesca is now an honors graduate of Harvard, author and columnist. Lisa, as a single parent, considers her greatest achievement raising Francesca and now they co-write the “Chick Wit” column for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Through her writing, Lisa’s contributions have been recognized by organizations throughout the country. Lisa is the recipient of the Fun Fearless Fiction Award by Cosmopolitan Magazine, was named a PW Innovator by Publisher’s Weekly and was honored with AudioFile’s Earphones Award.

Lisa has served as President of Mystery Writers of America and has taught a course she developed, “Justice and Fiction” at The University of Pennsylvania Law School, her alma mater for which she one an award for Best Adjunct Professor as voted on by the students.

Lisa believes in writing what you know and puts so much of herself into her books. As evidenced in the bond of sisterhood among her characters, family is profoundly important to Scottoline, she has stated, “I come from a very loving, close-knit Italian family.” Lisa says she need not look past her own family, “The Flying Scottolines” for inspiration. In her nonfiction books and columns, Lisa reflects in an honest and humorous way what it is like to be a middle-aged woman maneuvering through life and her relationships with her family (Daughter Francesca, Brother Frank, and her hilarious, opinionated, octogenarian, Italian, Mother Mary), men, and food.

Lisa is an incredibly generous person, (she opens her home to a fully inclusive book club party every year), an engaging and entertaining speaker, a die-hard Eagles fan and a good cook. Her iPod has everything from U2 to Sinatra to 50 Cent, she is proud to be a Philadelphian and American and nothing makes her happier than spending time with her daughter. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her array of disobedient pets, loves the coziness of her farmhouse and wouldn’t have her life any other way.

[Special thanks to J. Karle at SMP/Macmillan. Cover and author image courtesy of author. Anderson’s Bookshop/Naperville retrieved from website 4.11.16. Drawing of writer at desk with dog from the archives of K. Lindsay]

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Write On, Wednesday: A Day Late and a Dollar Short…but I have a Sandwich!

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By Leslie Lindsay Ireland 2014 171

It’s Thursday, I know. Yesterday came and went in a blur and well, I didn’t get to my blog. Plus, the very busy and very kind Thomas Christopher Greene, author of 4–most recently THE HEADMASTER’S WIFE–was also living life in the blur and was unable to appear on the blog as promised. But never fear-for he plans to make an appearance next Wednesday, October 1st! Oh gosh–the cover of his book even *looks* like October! You’re in for a treat. Also, be on the look-out for interviews from Darcie Chan and her Mill River series.

In the meantime, I am happy to announce that I’ve completed, revised, and polished my most recent manuscript and will soon be in the process of submitting to literary agents. Yahoo! Fingers crossed someone loves the book and concept as much as I do. For more information on what I’ve been working on tirelessly for the last year, check out “Zombie Road” right here on the blog.

Okay. And for today, my 9 year old loves to give me ideas for my stories. What she doesn’t know is she inpires me all the time without doing much other than just being herself. She knows I am in serious brainstorming mode for the next one and so whipped up this uh…sandwich: the art of story writing. I love the first part: get a “peace” of paper and start brainstorming ideas….add some lettuce (“ledece”) which says, “When you are ready, you can start thinking of your characters, setting, problem, arch emeny.” Okay…and then you plop a piece of meat down (beginning, middle, and end.) and then “write ‘the end,’ add some pictures, and come up with a great title.”

I had to smile–and give the kid a giant hug–I mean, seriously–‘arch enemy?’ and the whole idea that a book needs to have a problem….well, I am embarrassed to admit I totally didn’t know that when I was 9. She beamed and said, “I think I might want to be a writer like you when I grow up.” And how’s that for some inspiration?

Kate's book sandwich 001 Kate's book sandwich 002 Kate's book sandwich 003 Kate's book sandwich 004

Fiction Friday: Calling You

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By Leslie Lindsay

Fiction Friday:

Well, I survived the apocolypse so I guess I owe you a “Fiction Friday” post.  This is from  my novel-in-progress. 

Our protagonist, married mom of two Annie calls her ex-boyfriend’s mother.  [Remember, this is a work of fiction. It is not intended to represent anyone living or dead.  All names and instances are used ficticiously.  It is an orginial work, please do not beg, borrow, or steal.]  Thanks…and enjoy! 

         “The long electronic beep jolted me into action, “Hello…um…hi…Jillian.  Mrs. Kesselhoff.  This is Annie Munroe.  Kelley!  Annie Kelley.  I dated your son, Steve several years ago.”  My voice trailed off, a nervous giggle erupting.  “More than several years ago, actually….”  I sighed, chewed on the inside of my cheek.  What was I doing?  I was just about to hang up when I heard her voice.

          “Annie.  Yes, I remember you,” Her voice moist, soft and gentle despite the rattle in her throat. 

          I gripped the phone tighter, my palms growing sweaty. I pictured a mound of papers on her cluttered kitchen desk: Dillards catalogs, newspaper circulars, a mug of soup in her hands.  She’d touch her temple, delicate, delicate fingers brushing her hair back as she lowered herself to her chair. 

          My throat closed in on itself.  I reached for my glass of water, my knee bobbing.  I cleared my voice, “Oh, you do?”  It was a stupid thing to say, but I couldn’t think of anything else. It was, after all what I had asked; implied.

              “Oh, Annie…how are you?”  Her voice warm, slightly concerned like I was calling with bad news.  Your son’s been in accident. 

              I swallowed a cobweb of phlegm making it difficult to say anything.  “I…um…well, I don’t really know why I am calling,” my voice sputtering like a stalled engine.  I reached for a notepad in my kitchen junk drawer.  Doodling always provided a sense of comfort when nothing else could. 

            “Is there something I can help you with, Annie?”

             Yes, you can get in contact with Steve for me.

            My fingers trembled as I held a black Pilot pen in my hand, pressing the tip to monogrammed stationary, a giant curlicue M centered at the top of the paper – a gift from Joe on our first anniversary, symbolizing strength from the interlaced connection of the paper’s individual threads.

              I leaned forward, pressing my chest on the counter slightly, glancing up at the wall clock again.  Joe and the girls would be home from that giant bounce house any minute. 

             I shook my head slightly, “No, no I don’t need any help.  It’s just I recently moved to the Chicago area, and I learned that Steve also lives here.  I just got to reminiscing…you know, thinking about what a small world it is…” my voice trailed off. 

            I pictured Jillian Kesselhoff tilting her head, looking at the phone base sitting on the desk in her golden brown kitchen, circa 1970 wondering herself where the years went.  A smile on the other end of the line, “You live in Chicago, too?”  

          I nodded, clenching the phone tighter.  “Yeah, I do.  Look, I’m sorry.  I really shouldn’t be calling like this.  It’s been years. I’m married now.  I have two little girls,” I presented these facts as though I was offering to warm-up her coffee, “Two little girls?  Cream or sugar?” 

          “No, no.  Annie.  It’s good to hear from you.”  Her voice laced with curiosity, clogged with sleep. 

           I smiled.  “Yeah…you, too Jillian.” 

          “How do you like Chicago?”  Her honeyed voice thick with Georgia.

          “It’s okay…different up here, though.  Colder.  Longer winters.  I miss the green hills.” 

            A soft chuckle radiated on the other end of the phone, “I bet you do.” 

            I smiled.  “How’re you?  I think about you often.” I shrugged, even though she couldn’t see me in my Chicago kitchen. 

……..

         I closed my eyes.  3540.  3929.  More old phone number segments floated through the vortex of my mind.  Psychedelic numerals, shapes.  ILY.  Memories.  My body lost in a weightless vertigo. 

          When I opened them and looked at my pad of paper—the anniversary gift I received from Joe so many years ago—I saw the M scratched out.

           It was replaced by a cursive K. 

           Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Kelley invite you to the wedding of their daughter Annie Marie to Steven Francis Kesselhoff, son of Mrs. Jillian Kesselhoff and the late Paul Kesselhoff.

           Happy Anniversary, baby. 

Write on Wednesday: Agents, Agents–Here’s my Story!

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By Leslie Lindsay 

I have been busy writing today ..so busy I almost forgot to pound out a blog post!  Yesterday, I was waaay too busy volunteering in my kindergartner’s library and managing all of the day-to-day things that a 2nd grader and her little sister have going to write something for “The Teacher is Talking.”  Oops–guess I get a failing grade for that.  Alas, I am back. 

And since I am working at shaping my novel for an agent’s eyes, I thought I’d let you in a little on that process.  First of all: it’s hard.  Second of all: it’s not easy.  Redundant?  Yep. 

After I did all of my “mom duties” for the day, I told my hubby over the phone, “Yep, gonna head to Caribou to work on my novel.”  He replied, “Well, it seems like an ideal day to do that…it’s dreary and you’ll be able to hole-up in a cozy coffee shop.” He makes it sound like a vacation.  And in some sense, he’s right:  I do like to write.  And I do like coffee shops.  So, what’s to worry about? 

Turns out, a lot. 

First, there’s the synopsis, a 2-3 page complete summary of the novel, including the ending. 

Next, the back-jacket blurb.  Similar to the summary, not not nearly as long.  Look at the backjackets of your favorite books.  How are they laid out?  What do you like about them?  What makes you want to pick up that book and read it?  Make notes.  Then try your hand at crafting your own for your novel.  Not so easy.

Then, you need to sell this idea to an agent.  In a one-page letter, “the query.”  Quick, snappy, fun.  Show off all of your good writing skills and breathe life into that novel.  This is the first peek someone in the publishing industry will have of your novel.  Make it good.  No pressure.  Read these winning query letters from recently published books and be inspired.  http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/successful-query-letters

And then there’s that darn manuscript.  You know, that jumble of words and letters and chapters that make up your novel.  Well, you need to polish up that sucker and make it real purdy so when that big time New York agent is wow-ed by your query, you got it in the bag.  Because they will ask to see at least the first three chapters if interested–and sometimes the whole darn thing. 

Which begs the next question:  “what are the guidelines for formatting a manuscript?”  According to Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript (WD Books),  

  • 1″ margin on all sides
  • Add title page
  • Begin by numbering the first page of text of the book, usually introduction, prologue, or chapter 1.  But don’t number the title page. 
  • Each page should have a header that includes your name, the title of the novel IN ALL CAPS, and page number
  • Start each chapter on its own page, one-third of the way down the page
  • The chapter number and title (if you use them here) should be in ALL CAPS, separated by two hyphens or a dash.  Example:  CHAPTER 1–THE BODY
  • Begin the body of the chapter 4-6 lines below the chapter title. 
  • Indent 5 spaces for each new paragraph
  • Double-space all text
  • Use standard font (Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier), 12-point type.

Note that guidelines vary from agent to agent, market to market (genre).  Be sure to visit your intended agent’s website to make sure you have all of the guidelines in place.  Then, get on it.  But when you use the above suggestions, you are in the right ballpark.  It will ensure your manuscript (ms or mss) is clean, neat, and won’t be rejected because youwere sloppy.  And by all means, try not to be cutesy.  Funky fonts or goofy graphics rarely wow agents.

So, what are you waiting for?!  Write on, Wednesday!

Write on, Wednesday: Naming Your Characters

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By Leslie Lindsay

A topic we love to discuss around my house is that of names.  It started even before we had children.  What names mean, what their connotations are, family names, you (ha) name it–we talked about it.  So, one would think that when it came time for me to write novels, the names would just pour out of me as if I were a walking-talking Beyond Jennifer and Jason.  Alas, it does not.  Product Details(image source, Amazon.com 9.19.12)

How difficult can it be to name your character?  Pick a name you like of the right gender and move on, right?  Not so fast.  When selecting the name of a charcter you have spent time, effort, and and hours crafting one must really be diligent on how they come about the name of a much-loved (or hated) character. 

I have a character I working with right now.  I call him Steve.  Where did this name come from?  Have I ever known any real-life Steves?  Well, kind of.  There was a boy who lived in my neighborhood growing up with this name.  But other than him, there wasn’t really any real-life inspiration.  Other than the fact that a girl in Nursing School got engaged to her boyfriend of several years.  His name?  Why, Steve of course! I remember telling her something like, “Steve.  That’s a good boyfriend name.”  I Don’t know…Yes, Steve is the boyfriend in my book. 

I am also working with Annie.  I wanted the character of Annie to be a mom–but also down-to-earth and smart.  She’s a former professional, so I thought ‘Anne’ worked well as a professional name.

Her counter-part is Bethany.  I don’t like Bethany.  And, quite frankly I don’t care for the name, either.  Beth for short, this character is plain and mousey. 

And then there is Joe.  Smart, sure.  Funny?  Not especially.  Serious, hardworking, devoted.  Yeah.  He’s your average-Joe. 

And then there are times that names will just come to you–as they have for me.  For example, I have this deep-seated need to write about someone named Melanie Dunbar.  In my mind’s eye, Melanie Dunbar is a free-lance, self-taught photographer with long blonde hair.  She has recently given up her job at the Chicago Tribune as an investigative reporteer in pursuit of a new career. 

Another character who keeps “coming” to me is Rebecca Hollinger.  I don’t yet know her story.  But, I hear her name whispered to me from time to time.  Write about me.  Write about me. 

A couple of my girlfriends suggested I look these names up on Google.  I promise myself I will.  I say, “Oh, the next time I feel stuck on my writing, I will do a little search-a-roo.” 

I did one today.

And guess what?  Melanie Dunbar is a free-lance photographer. 

How do you get your character’s names?  I’d love to hear!

Writer’s Workbook:

Write on, Wednesday: The Art of War for Writers

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By Leslie Lindsay

The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises by James Scott Bell (Dec 9, 2009) (retrieved from Amazon.com on 8.8.12)

We writers are an odd group.  I don’t mean that in a bad way.  I know because we work really hard at nothing all day.  No, no…that came out wrong, too.  It seems so easy to be a writer, but alas it is not.  You see, to be  a good writer, one must really have the drive.  One must really have patience, creativity, observation skills out the waazoo…and have thick skin.  Really thick rhino skin. 

About 10 days ago, I was really struggling with my writing.  I was cruising through my manuscript on my laptop nodding here and there and thinking, “Hummm…not bad.”  And then I got to a place where I thought the whole darn thing just sucked.  I wanted to stuff it all and move on with my life.  After all, I was packing on pounds from writing at my favorite coffee shop (I swear just smelling coffee and carbs adds inches),  and figured no one will really care about my story, I might as well just call it a day and get back to the gym.  (“Body by Caribou”). 

Then one of my writerly friends suggested THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS (James Scott Bell, 2009).  I loved this book!   I can’t tell you enough good things about it (you can read my review on GoodReads).  But here is one thing that really resonated with me: 

The long-term career writer needs these skills: (pg. 11-12)

  • Desire.  Hunger inside of you…sacrifice time and money and endure frustrations. 
  • Discipline.  You gotta produce.  Quota a day, 6 days a week.  Give yourself a word count and stick to it.
  • Committment to Craft.  You can’t just “dash off a book.”  You need to learn your craft to do it well. 
  • Patience.  It’s takes time.  But you can cut down the time if you have the three steps above (desire, discipline, and committment)
  • Honesty.  You gotta confront your weaknesses as a writer
  • Willingness to learn.  No chip on the shoulder here.  Learn all you can.  You can never stop learning.
  • Rhino Skin.  Learn from every rejection and don’t let rejection hold you back.
  • Long-term View.  Don’t think, “Do I have a book inside of me?”  Think:  “Do I have a writer inside of me?”  And answer YES!!
  • Talent.  This is the least important.  Everyone has some talent.  It’s what you do with it that counts.

How’d you do on that list?  Any weaknesses?  Be honest.  Can you turn them around?  The book actually suggests you journal about this list.  And then look back on it a year from now to see where you are in the process of becoming/being a writer, not “just” getting a book out. 

So, I have some revisions to work on…better write on, Wednesday!

Write on, Wednesday! Writin’ by the Lake

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By Leslie Lindsay

(image retrieved from the Madison Visitors Center website 6.21.12)

 

I am having an absolute ball here in Madison, WI at the “Write-by-the-Lake” retreat hosted by the University of Wisconsin.  Here’s how life doesn’t get much better:  writing instruction, good group of peers who also like to write, good shopping, a nice location, yummy things to eat, and some time alone. 

Here are the downsides: I miss my dog. And my family.  That’s why I just spent the afternoon doing a little shopping for them…arrowheads and university tee shirts and books…now if I could only find something for the hound).   

Another downside to all of this learning and time alone:  I perseverate.  A lot.  As our instructor, Kathy Steffen says, “I am throwing you all of this information like a fireman with a hose.”  It’s a lot.  I think I have acquired something like 22 hand-outs/worksheets since the first day of class.  Have I looked at them again?  Well…not exactly.  (But shhhh….don’t tell Kathy Steffen). 

In fact, there is a little something to this.  You see, I got to class from 9-noon every day.  I absorb all I can in the form of a little sponge, soaking up tips and techniques that will help me.  I may or may not consciously remember them.  And that is okay, at least according to our instructor.  It’s like learning all you can about something and then just letting it become a part of you.  I know, it sounds kind of hoodoo-voodoo, but I think she’s on to something.  For some reason, the instruction I receive in the morning hours, powers me up for the afternoon. 

But, it’s not so cut-and-dry.  You see, like wine or cheese, us writers need time to breathe, air-out if you will.  Let the ideas percolate.  And so, I went shopping.  Later, I will exercise.  And then, I may feel like putting all of those tips and tools and techniques to work.  It’s not procrastination, mind you.  It’s simmering.  And it’s writing in chunks, another suggestion by our fearless leader. 

“But I must have hours to write.  I need 5 solid hours of writing time,” you wail.  Oh, no you don’t!  And I am learning that.  Yes, I used to be  (just last week) a 5-hour writer.  I may be again if I am really in “the zone,” but I like this chunking thing. 

When I go to bed at night here in my hotel/dorm room, my head is full–just overflowing–with ideas, tips, thoughts about my next plotting move, characterization…I am so wound up, I can’t even get to sleep, though I am exhausted.

Now, when was the last time writing kept you tossing and turning like a kid on Christmas Eve?

Exactly. 

Write on, Wednesday!

For more information on the retreat I am attending or Madison, WI see these sites:

Write on, Wednesday: Glimpse of Next Project

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By Leslie Lindsay

He propped his left arm up on the car door, resting it on the open window, his right hand draped languidly over the avocado green steering wheel.  Slouched down in the driver’s seat, the torn vinyl upholstery gaping in places, filling the openings with yellowed foam, he sucked in a deep breath, blew it out of his tighten lips as though he were smoking.  Grandma wouldn’t allow that in the car, not with us kids inside, anyway. 

He cocked the bill of his baseball hat over his face slightly.  His bright blue, nearly translucent eyes squinted and looked up at the gray sky as the old car rumbled along the country road, “The fog’ll burn off,” he told us with utmost certainty. 

I nodded, my chin quivered.  I hoped he was right.  Not only did I want a sunny day, I needed one.

It was the middle of a nasty divorce for my parents.  They spat words at each other as if the other person was the devil incarnate.  My brother—a year old—and a total jerk either ignored me or pushed me around the only way he really knew how to show his affection.  I needed a bright, sunny day to forget all of the crap in my life, even if it was just for awhile. 

Today, we were headed to Wonderland Falls.  It was a small amusement park just outside of town.  Nothing too special—but it was a diversion.  Dad had given Uncle Joel cash for our admission, pulling out two slightly wrinkled twenties from his wallet, enough to get us into the park, plus a little extra for lunch and maybe a small souvenir. 

Uncle Joel rolled the money into a tight little pack, placed it in his money clip, and it into his worn Levi’s.  “Thanks, man.  You know I’d pay for ‘em if I could.” 

Dad nodded, his eyes soften. “Yeah.  Money’s tight for everyone.”

The Buick climbed hills and eased into valleys wheezing down the country roads; I swear Uncle Joel lifted his feet off of the gas pedal as we dipped down  giving Grandma a little scare.  He’d chuckle and look over at her, “Relax, ma.  Just savin’ a little gas.”  And then he’d look back at us kids in the rearview mirror, testing our expressions. 

It was summer, and if the old car had ever had air conditioning, I never knew. But I did notice a sliding lever on the dashboard that read, “Cool.” It never cooled down.  Instead, the windows were at half-mast the whole time, blowing my hair into tumbleweeds, whipping against my face.  I looked out the window when I could stand the wind in hopes that looking would somehow make the sun appear.  It was working in some regard.  The sun was pushing through, casting a beam of light in the cow pastures.  

I’d glance at my brother sitting opposite from me and try to make wordless conversation with a tilt of my head or a shrug of my shoulder.  He only gave me nasty looks or flicked a booger in my direction. 

By the time the clunker rolled into the Wonderland Falls, the sun had broken through the clouds; it was no longer foggy or dreary.  The crisp blue sky illuminating the sign at the park’s entrance, “Welcome to Wonderland Falls…where the sun never stops shining.” 

We were the first to arrive that day, the parking lot just beginning to fill. I had hoped that Uncle Joel would park the car at the far end of the asphalt lot.  He didn’t.  Easing into the front row, he let the car coast in to the empty spot as he killed the engine, “Rock star parking,” he mumbled.  “Just for you,” the corners of his mouth rolling up. 

The four of us tumbled out of the car, pressing the locks down as we slammed the heavy doors.  Locking it for what, I wasn’t sure.  It’s not like the thing was worth much.

Immediately, Uncle Joel lit up a cigarette.  Grandma shot him a look of disapproval. 

“What?!  It’s not so bad.  We’re outside, for Pete’s sake.  The kids’ mother smokes, you know.  They’ve seen it before…jeez.” 

Eric’s Converse sneakers went shuffle-shuffle-flop as we made our way to the admission booth, the star dangling off.  I rolled my eyes. 

Okay…I am asking for your advice on this piece.  Would you keep reading?  What do you like?  Why?   What would you like to see happen next?  I’m up for anything…post your comments below: 

 

Write on, Wednesday: Fiction Primer

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By Leslie Lindsay

I never really thought I would have much interest in writing fiction.  I had always seen myself as the self-help, parenting, fact-based sort of writer with a slight bent towards memoir/life lessons.  But then I subscribed to Writer’s Digest and began wandering over to the columns geared toward fiction writing.  Character development, story escalation, discovery…well, it all seemed rooted in psychology.  Since I am a former child/adolescent psych R.N., my metamorphsis to “writer” seemed quite natural.

After slaving away for weeks, months even on the revisions of my 16 chapter non-fiction book in Childhood Apraxia, I am ready to take a break from all of that, uh…monotony.  Back to fiction!  But I am a little rusty and I need a bit of a refresher, and perhaps you do, too.

According to a semi-recent edition of Writer’s Digest (sorry, clipped this piece out, no date to go by), here are the 5 key points for shaping your story:

1–Orientation.  Meet the protagonist.  What’s his life like?  What does he have?  Is he about to lose it?  Or, what does he need to pursue?

2–Crisis.  Something bad or unexpected turns the protagonist’s world around…what is it?  What is he trying to avoid or obtain?

3–Escalation.  The protagonist tries to solve the problem or answer the life-changing/defining question.  What does he do?  Show us.

4–Discovery.  The protagonist reaches a moment of realization.  What does he learn?

5–Change.  The protagonist’s life has transformed..  Hint at the lesson, change or new direction here…

Done!  That was easy, right?!  Uh…not so much.  I know that seems pretty formulaic, but you have options; it’s called creativity and imagination.  Apply liberally and you will be cranking out novels in no time.  As for me…well, I better get on with it!