8 Essential Tools For Book Writing (Just in Time for Nanowrimo)

The thing about writing is that you can accomplish it without much in the way of tools.  Really, all you need to finish a book is something to write on and something to write with. Of course, a computer is also helpful, but strictly speaking, it is not a requirement.  Theoretically, you could write your entire book in pencil on legal pads and find someone to type it up for you.

But that would be theoretically.  In the real world, it is good to have some niceties.  And this lack of a need for tools is one reason I got excited the other morning when I realized I had some things to recommend to have on hand when writing a book.  Though, in truth, I guess they would more accurately be called supplies than tools.  But work with me, just for the sake of it, would you?

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Here they are:

1. A good spiral notebook or binder.  This will be used for brainstorming, free-writing, working out your ideas for characters, writing down descriptions, and so on. 

2. A seperate notebook for notes.  This can be a small notepad or a small binder or whatever strikes your fancy.  To my mind, it is necessary because brilliant ideas and directions for changes in your book get lost in the mad rush of writing that goes on in #1.

3. A vision board.  For the visually-minded, a book-writing vision board which collects images and words to inspire you is a wonderful boon. 

4. A story board.  Not to be confused with #3, a story board actually tells the story of your book, scene by scene, on individual index cards or post-it notes tacked up on a board. Its a great aid in seeing where you are going and keeping track.

5.  Post-It Notes.  I can't live without them.  My desk is littered with them, stuck on shelves, to-do lists, in notebooks, on journal pages, everywhere.

6. A binder.  Use this for putting printed book pages in.  Nothing is more inspiring than seeing the pages stack up!

7. A carry-along notebook.  You might want to make #2 do double-duty, but you might also want to choose something compact.  Just make sure you have something with you to make notes on when inspiration strikes–I often use my phone.

8. A box of pens.  Because you'll go through them.

And then, of course, there's that metal thing called a computer…

What are your must-have tools or supplies for writing a book?

 

Image by christgr, via Everystockphoto.

Scheduling Writing

Everystockphoto_211230_m As I work on my novel rewrite, I keep trying to find the writing schedule that works best for me.  To my mind, there are two main ways to fit working on a big writing project into your life:

1. Make time every day.  Get up early, stay up late, write during your lunch hour, ignore the kids, whatever.

2.  Clear stuff away.  Spend a few days getting every single thing on your to-do list finished so you have time–a day off, the weekend–to work on your project.

My preferred method is number one, and it is the schedule I most often recommend to people.  I like it because it keeps you attached to the project, keeps the words in your mind and the momentum going.  In many ways, it is time efficient, because you don't have to go back and re-read where you were when last you managed to make time to write.  It is also good because, let's face it, most of us have so much going on it is impossible to clear everything away for even a day.

And it is this type of schedule that I've been endeavoring to keep this summer.

It is this type of schedule that I find myself failing to keep this summer.

What happens is this all-or-nothing thing.  I get going on my novel, get engrossed, and work on it to the exclusion of all else.  Like today.  I had to pull myself away from the rewrite to get this post done.

But then what happens is that I've got fires to put out.   Lots of them.  Things I've been ignoring, urgent to-dos, phone calls and emails and life in the real world.

So I end up veering between the poles of writing fiction and the rest of my career, even though I try my best to keep up a steady-as-she-goes pace with the rewrite.

Part of this may have to do with the fact that this is the most social summer of my life, with weddings, out-of-town visitors, and family galore, all of which I love.  But most of it has to do with the fact that I love, love, love writing fiction.  And when I get going on it, I don't want to stop.   The reason I sometime stop myself from starting a writing project in the first place is because I know that once I get into it I won't want to stop.

But I'm still pretty sure that the first option is the saner one for a writing project.

How about you?  How do you schedule writing?

The Value of (Groan) Structure

Structure_building_sunset_237219_l So, it was a weekend spent mostly away from the computer.  Two days spent celebrating my birthday with family and friends.

And suddenly it is Monday morning again.  Besides numerous manuscripts to read for people and a bunch of unfinished assignments, there's the novel rewrite to get back to once again.  And despite the fact that I'm feeling just the tiniest bit unfocused this morning, I am on it.  No really, I am.  On it.

Or at least I will be once I finish meandering about the internet writing this post.  But here's the deal–when I do get back to the rewrite it is going to be simple to ease right back into it.

Why?

I'll tell you why: structure.

Because I have a structure for rewriting in place.  Because when I finished up on Friday, I reviewed what I had already done (five chapters!) and looked ahead to where I would start after the weekend.  This was easy to do because of the structure I've created for myself.

Here's the deal: as writers and creative types, we resist structure.  I know I do.  I want to be wafty and spontaneous and free.  And yet this resistance has led me astray on several occasions.  Jumping into writing a novel without having the vaguest idea where I was going, for instance (I'm not talking about my current novel here, but an earlier one I wrote).  Or starting a knitting project without figuring out a pattern.  And don't even get me started on how many times I've headed off for an appointment without finding the address ahead of time.
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Even though we resist structure, it is inherent in writing.  For instance, just by choosing a genre, you're imposing a certain amount of structure on yourself.  Say you decide to write fiction over non-fiction, you've already narrowed things down.  And then you can choose even further, if you want to write romance, mysteries, thrillers or literary fiction.  Each of these has a certain structure that you'll need to follow in order to get published, or even have a novel that makes sense.

It is easy to embrace the romantic notion that all you have to do is start writing, and voila, after a few hundred pages you'll have a novel.  Go ahead and try that and see what you come up with.  I've done it myself and gotten only pages of writing on yellow legal pads to show for it.

So, don't resist structure, it is your friend.  That being said, it can be a wobbly friend, or a rigid friend, or a fair-weather friend.  You can create a loose outline of events in your novel that is more like a list (what I did for this current novel), or you can create a very rigid, OCD-type outline, complete with roman numerals and all that.  But come up with something. 

And after you've created a structure for the actual novel, come up with a structure for how you will approach it.  Will you start at the beginning of one draft and go all the way to the end of it?  (My preferred method; actually I think it is the only way to write a decent novel for a variety of reasons I don't have room to go into here.)  Or will you be one of those writers who has to polish every word and every sentence before moving onto the next?  (The mere thought of working this way makes me cringe.)  Again, it is your choice.  But choose something.  Because once you have a plan, a structure, in place, it is so much easier to proceed.

And then when you come back from a weekend away and say to yourself, now where was I on that rewrite? you'll know the answer.  And you can get right back to work.

What are your favorite structures for planning and for doing the actual work?  Do tell.

Deconstruction of a Rewrite

EJmanuscriptnotebook Years ago, I asked one of my MFA mentors how to go about rewriting the novel I was then working on.  As I recall, she told me to sit down with the manuscript and re-read it.  Um, not the most helpful of advice.  Yes, it is imperative to reread a manuscript when you are going to rewrite it, but what are you reading for?  What should you be looking for?  How do you figure out what to do?  It is incredibly daunting to hold a 350 page manuscript in your hands and try to decide what to do first.

As most of you know, I've set to rewriting my novel this summer.  This after I was convinced that the 8 rewrites I had already completed would be enough.  But then an agent read it, said she was interested, and gave me comments on what she would look for if I cared to rewrite it.

Key word: comments.  Because hers gave me a way with which to begin the rewrite.  They fell into two areas:

1.  The main character, while funny, kick-ass and brash, is also bitchy and difficult to take at times.  (She's a woman who does what she wants, when she wants, and of course, if she were a male character, her behavior would not be an issue.  But that is a topic for another time.)  The agent felt that she would have better luck presenting the novel to editors if Emma Jean were more reliable.

2.  Some of the secondary characters are not fully developed.  Because Emma Jean is such a powerful character,  the others exist as sort of satellites to her.  While I understand Emma Jean intimately, I never pushed to truly get to know some of the res of them.  

So that is my charge, to make Emma Jean relatable and develop the most important of the secondary characters.  Before I began, I also kicked these comments around with my writing group (who have read the book every time I rewrote it) and other writers who've read part or all of it.  And here's how I have proceeded so far.

First of all, I took a trip to Office Depot. (Brief aside: when I was working on my MFA, after each residency I would take part of the money from my student loans and go buy supplies at Office Depot, so it is a bit of a ritual for me.) I bought a ream of three-hole punched paper on which to print the novel, and a pretty pink binder to put it in.  Then I languished in the journal aisle and eventually, after much pondering,
bought two small spiral-bound notebooks, one red, one black and white.  One became the journal I
wrote about the characters in, and the other became a place to take random notes that occurred to me as I worked on the characters and reread the manuscript.

Next, before I did anything else, even read the manuscript, I returned to the characters, specifically the three the agent mentioned as needing development.  I started by putting each of them through the Ordinary Day exercise, which I found incredibly revealing.  In some cases, that was enough.  In others, I did a bit more work, whether through time lines of their life or writing specific bits of backstory.  All of this proved so helpful that I did it for everyone of the characters, though some only got a few pages of effort.  I wrote it out in longhand, in one of the new journals.  For me, writing longhand seems the more direct route to my deepest self.

A note here: for reasons unknown to me at the time, I felt it important to work with the characters before I reread the manuscript.  It just felt like the right choice, and also I was a bit daunted to face reading the 350-page tome.  It proved to be a good move, as I was able to come up with fresh insights that would not have occurred if I already had evidence of what I thought they were like in front of me.

By the time I finished with the character work, my little red journal was starting to get lots of good notes and ideas in it, all written as they occurred to me, without making an effort to categorize them at this point.  Now it was time to read the novel.  But first, I pulled out as many colored flags and post-it notes that I could find (should have bought more at Office Depot) and made a key.  I used pink for Emma Jean's lover, orange for her husband, purple for the throughline about her bitchiness.  The point was to be able to track the characters and themes I really needed to focus on in this rewrite.  
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Finally, basket of flags and post-its at hand, I began reading the novel.  I made notes on the manuscript pages and in the little red journal, and flagged character arcs and throughlines madly, as you can see in the photos. (Interestingly, most of the flagging happened in the first two-thirds of the novel, which is where most of the rewriting will happen.)  I also made a list of chapters and what exactly happens in them, because I know from past experience how easy it is to forget.  (Does she meet Ava in Chapter One or Chapter Two?  Oh that's right, I made Chapter Two into two chapters, so now it's actually Chapter Three where they meet.)

So now I'm ready to actually rewrite, right?  Not quite.  Because my notes are a mish-mash of thoughts and ideas, scrawled as I read and wrote bios. 

In the final step before the actual rewriting, I spent a pleasant morning at my neighborhood coffeeshop with my friend and web designer (my website will be up soon!),making sense of my notes.  With legal pad, little read journal and list of what happens in each chapter, I began.  Going through the legal pad, I wrote #1 on the first page, #2 on the second, and so on, for 23 pages, which constitute the 22 chapters and one epilogue in my novel.  And then I went through my notes, and when something had to change in chapter one, I noted that on the #1 page, and so on through the book.

So now I'm ready to do the actual writing.  Which, I must say, will be far and away the easiest part.  I've done the heavy lifting already.  The pondering, figuring out, and conceptualizing are what is tough.  Now all I have to do is flip through the pages and add stuff in.  Easy, right?  Well, if you believe that I have a bridge for sale that I'd love to talk to you about.

Ah, nobody said writing a novel was easy.  And that is what makes it so much fun.  What about you?  What are your methods for rewriting?  Do you do as much pre-writing as I do?  Have a great tips to ease the process?

The Recalcitrant Character

Recalcitrant:

re-cal-ci-trant

-adjective

1. resisting authority or control; not obedient or compliant; refractory

2. hard to deal with, manage, or operate

This describes exactly one of the characters in my novel.  Actually he's very passive aggressive in the novel, but as I've been trying to get to know him better, he's been recalcitrant, unyielding in giving up his secrets.  Which has made it difficult for me to move forward on my novel rewrite.

I'm going through and deepening my understanding of my secondary characters as a precursor to actually starting the rewrite.  Yesterday and today I've been working on the husband of my protagonist.  But he's balky and remote and really didn't want me digging around in his psyche.

Finally, through perseverance, I managed to get him to talk, and I learned a lot about him, interesting things that will flesh out his character in the novel.  This got me to thinking, how, as with all fiction, what you need with characters is a way in.  You need to find the key that will unlock who they are for you.  And sometimes you may have to try a variety of techniques to accomplish this.

Here are a few:

1.  The Ordinary Day.  I wrote a blog post about this recently, and I still think it is the most useful character exercise you'll find anywhere.  But what works for me, may not work for you.  Honestly, what works for me this time through might not work so well for me next time through–that's the nature of fiction writing.  So I reserve the right to fall out of love with this exercise.

2.  The Interview.  All your journalistic types will like this one.  Pretend you are going to write a feature article about your character and interview her.  Or, imagine that you are interviewing him for background on a certain aspect of his life, say, his work, and ask questions.  Often if you can get a character talking about a specific thing you can keep him talking. 

3.  The Character Dossier.  Write down all the specifics–height, weight, appearance, style of dress, mannerisms, etc.  The basic exterior stuff which can often lead to interior stuff.  For instance, perhaps you see your character as very tall and then you realize she stoops all the time.  From there its a short leap to understand that she's embarrassed about her height and that knowledge can lead to all kinds of revelations.

4.  Dressing the Character.  I got this from Robert Ray, author of The Weekend Novelist, which has fabulous prepping exercises for writing a novel.  (His website has some pretty good stuff on it, too.) Have your character go to her closet and write what happens as she dresses for the day.  This can be folded into the ordinary day exercise.

5.  In the Dream.  Another one from Robert Ray.  What does your character dream?  Ray recommends that you use the phrase in the dream as a starting point, and continue it throughout: in the dream, the sky was purple and the moon blue, and she was walking through a forest.  In the dream, cats barked and she understood everything they said to her.  In the dream...I've found this an especially useful, if sometimes odd, way into those totally refractory characters.  (Note the use of the word refractory, which means, hard or impossible to manage.  I just learned that this morning, while looking up the definition of recalcitrant.)

6.  Action.  The novelist Darnell Arnoult tells her students to give themselves short assignments and often these involve characters in action.  So, for example, write about your character under something, breaking something, cleaning something, above something, shopping for food, buying gas, whatever.  You get the idea.  The beauty of this is that you can often write it when you only have a little bit of time.

Okay, those are my suggestions.  What about you?  How do you deal with recalcitrant characters?

Giving Up, Or Why I Should Once In Awhile

Friday I hit the wall.  
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As is my usual wont, I woke early (6ish), grabbed my coffee, and went to work on my writing.  Lately I've been thinking deep thoughts about my novel rewrite and writing them down, which leads to more deep thoughts and more writing.  I'm writing about characters, trying to get to know them better, and pondering plot points.  All of this is intense work.

On Friday morning, I wrote a couple paragraphs and stopped, because I knew I was done.  Just…done.  My pen wouldn't move.  I couldn't form any more thoughts connected to the novel.  Nothing.  Nada. Zilch.

My brain, however, seemed to have plenty of room for thoughts about, oh, the missing child in my city, Kyron Horman.  Or the oil spill in the Gulf.  Or the World Cup.  (No, I'm not really a soccer fan.  I'm trying to be.  I have this idea that it would be really fun to buy season tickets for the new pro soccer franchise that is coming to Portland.  But first I have to learn to enjoy the game.  And that seems to be slow going.) 

In other words, my brain wanted to focus on anything other than writing.

My brain, poor thing, needed a break.

What I should have done was recognize this right away and take some time off from thinking and writing about my novel.  Lord knows I've got tons of other things to work on.  Or, if I didn't feel like writing, I could read.  Or take a walk.  Or go look at art at a gallery. 

But did I do any of those things?

Of course not.

Instead, I soldiered on.  I was determined, absolutely determined, to get more done on the novel rewrite.  So what if my brain didn't want to work on it anymore?  "Pathetic, lazy brain," I told it, "buck up and let's get going here."

And you can imagine how well that worked.

Yeah, right.  About as well as….well, I can't think of a metaphor so provide your own.  And so, instead of intentionally deciding to take some time off and give my brain a rest, I kept at it.  And ended up reading endless updates of the Kyron Horman case and pondering all sorts of interesting websites I'd never seen before.

This kept up all day Friday and Saturday.  Finally, by Sunday, my brain had had enough rest, the dam broke, and off we went again.  However, I suspect if I had just taken the time off on Friday morning, I'd have probably been back at it by the afternoon.

Lesson learned: it is not always a good thing to soldier on.  Though the prevailing point of view in this society would have us believe otherwise, which is one reason I think it is so hard.  In the future, I'm going to do my best to pay attention when my brain rebels and give the poor hard-working thing some time off.

What about you?  How do you know when you've hit the wall?  What do you do when you splat against it?

The Ordinary Day

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How we spend our days, is, of course, how we spend our lives.   Annie Dillard

So, I'm working on the rewrite of my novel.  And one of the things I am attempting to do is deepen the secondary characters.  To do this, of course, I must first deepen my understanding of them.

Easy, right?

Well, no.  Because if I had a deeper understanding of the characters, I would have put it in the novel in the first place.  Duh.  So it is back to the drawing board, or journal, as the case may be. And I've returned to an old exercise I learned years ago, I think in a screen writing class I took as a lark. 

The Ordinary Day.

You're might be familiar with this one.  What you do is take your character through and ordinary day, from the moment he or she wakes in the morning until he or she goes to bed at night.  Every blessed moment of it.  Write it all down, every bit of it.

I am finding this to be the most useful window into a character's psyche imaginable.  Because, when you relax and really let yourself go with it, your character will begin talking to you.  And she will tell you all kinds of interesting tidbits, and explain many things from her past that you probably didn't know.

This is because Annie Dillard is right–how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.  How your character spends his day is how he spends his life and by really understanding that, you can understand him.  Plus, as your character goes through her day, her mind is busily engaged.  And the mental dross of an average day is gold, absolute gold.

For instance.  You start your character out by having her wake up in her bed.  What does her bedroom look like? Perhaps it is done up in whites and neutral colors like the photo above.  The first thing your character, call her Susie, sees upon waking up is this peaceful room.  Which she hates.  It's her husband, Ralph, who wanted this kind of design, because it feed his spiritual soul.  Spiritual, smeeritual.  Susie thinks that is all a bunch of crap.  She's not interested in spirituality, she's interested in success, and right now success would mean getting herself out of bed and out of this boring, drab bedroom and into her running clothes so she can get her three miles in before breakfast.  And hopefully she can run off some of her anger at Ralph, who seems to be getting as boring and drab as the bedroom he chose.

And so on.  Just the simple act of locating your character in her bedroom as she begins her day has already netted you a wealth of information about her: she is impatient, lively, likes things colorful and bold, far more interested in success than spirituality, energetic, and probably a classic type-A personality.  Plus her marriage is in danger and she's got quite the judgmental streak.  Not bad for a few minutes in the life of your character!

As you take your character on through the day you'll learn more and more about him.  Not only that, with luck, with any luck at all, your character will begin talking to you.  In his voice.  In his one and only truly unique voice.  And soon you will know him every bit as well as you know your best friend, or your child, or your spouse.

By the way, the Ordinary Day is a cool exercise to do for yourself when you want to change your life.  What you do is write out your dream Ordinary Day.  If you could do anything, without regard to the usual limitations of time, money, fear, etc., what would you do?  Where would you live?  Who would you be with?  Write it out, starting from the second you wake up.  This can become a powerful road map to where you want to go.  And the really great thing is that by writing it as a day in the life, it seems doable. 

How do you get to know your characters?  Have you ever successfully used the Ordinary Day exercise for a character or for yourself?

Organizing for Success

Please excuse the grandiose title.  I couldn't organize my way out of a paper bag.  My brain just doesn't think that way, does yours?  Because it is my experience that most of us creative types tend to be more towards the wafty, creative, big picture side than the down-to-earth groundedness I associate with being organized.
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However.

Last Thursday my desk was covered in papers.  The floor of my office was littered with piles of journals and legal pads, each of which had some ongoing project in it.  I was halfway in the middle of a lot of personal projects and I had a number of things going for clients and students as well.

And then I got an email.

From an agent. 

The one reading my novel.

She likes it.  Sort of.  She thinks I'm a fabulous writer and that the novel is very well done, though she has reservations about the relatablity (her word) of Emma Jean, the main character, and she thinks some of the minor characters are not well drawn. 

But she would be delighted to read it again if I revise.

And so revising I am. 

But first I had to clear a space in my brain for the revision.  And to do that, I had to get my office cleaned up.  And so, on Saturday afternoon, despite the fact that it was the first gorgeous day we've had here in Portland in ages, I worked for several hours on organizing for success.  I straightened and filed and consolidated.  And I printed out the most recent version of Emma Jean and put it into a binder.

And yesterday morning I started working on it again.

It is weird to be going back to a novel I thought I was done with.  And yet, it feels right, too.  The way the agent described her vision for Emma Jean made me hope I can rewrite her to that idea, because if I can, I truly will have written a kick-ass novel.

So, until further notice, Captain will be writing my blog posts.  He's taken up residence in the new office chair I just got on clearance at Fred Meyer for $60, and will be writing posts of great fascination to cat lovers.  No, actually, I'm kidding, in case you hadn't guessed.  I'm not taking a blogging vacation, but I am going to lighten up on my posting schedule a bit.  Instead of posting every week day, I'll be posting Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the next few weeks.  I anticipate being back to the full schedule soon.

What about you?  Where are you with your various projects?  And how do you organize for them?

A Place You Go

800px-Laguna_Beach Yesterday I wrote a blog post called Have a Place to Go in Your Writing.  It was about how important it is to know where you are going when you begin a writing session.  You can go back and read it here, but you don't really have to in order to understand this post.

This whole thing about place grew out of a journal entry from a few weeks ago.  I started out by writing on the topic of yesterday's post–having a place to go in my work and what a difference that made.  And then the journal entry morphed into how important the concept of place itself is in my writing.  The fact that place is front and center in my work is not news to me.  I wrote my critical thesis for my MFA on the role of landscape as character in the works of Willa Cather and Flannery O'Connor.  (And for the record, I'm a huge, raving Cather fan.  O'Connor***, not so much.)

There's a scene in my recently completed novel where the heroine, Emma Jean, who is a bestselling novelist, dramatically announces to her husband, "I cannot live someplace that does not inspire me."  While this is true for me, what is even more true is that I can't write about a place that doesn't inspire me.  And, bear in mind, I use the term "inspire" loosely.  I love writing about LA, though I have no desire to live there.  But something about the place inspires me as a location.  Conversely, though Nashville is one of my absolute favorite places on the planet, I've not yet been able to write about it.  I've set fiction in Portland (where I live), in Santa Fe, and in Sun Valley, Idaho.  I love the Oregon Coast, but have never been able to use it as a setting.  Weird, huh?

 And furthermore, getting the location set is as important to me as coming up with a character to write about.  To me, a character is so intricately linked to place that if I change the place she lives, that can jinx the whole book.  And, if I don't have a place firmly in mind when I think up a character, there's a good chance the story won't go anywhere.

Perhaps this odd thing about place that I have is about wanting to explore the parameters of a location.  It may not be that I have to love the place to write about it, but just that I want to know more about it.  LA, for instance, despite the many times I've been there, is a vast mystery to me.  I still marvel at the sunshine, the palm trees, the freeways, the cars.  I am still amazed that people actually live there.  Manhattan is the same.  A couple years ago, attending a conference there, I rode in the back of a taxi from the airport, staring at people walking down the busy sidewalks, flabbergasted that so many people lived in this place where you can't see the sky.  Try as I might, I could not figure out what it would be like to live there.

And maybe that is what it is all about–trying to figure out what its like to live someplace else.  Because, really, isn't fiction all about trying to figure out the someplace else and the someone else?

Thoughts?  What role does place play in your work?  Is it important or something you don't really think about?  How do you choose a setting for your writing?

**The photo is of Laguna Beach, where my dear friend Julie Brickman lives.  I've had the picture on my computer for awhile, but I think it originally came from Wikipedia.

***Now that I've dissed Flannery O'Connor, let me point out that today is her birthday.  She was born on March 25, 1925.  I just learned this while finding the link for her.

Burning Questions, What Are Yours?

Years ago, in a critique group I was a part of, we used to talk about Burning Questions.Neon-burbank-tolucalake-817102-l

It began when I was working on a novel and got stuck halfway through.   I didn't know where I was going and couldn't see my way to the end, so I sat down and wrote a series of questions that I thought readers would be asking by that point in the novel.  Hence, Burning Questions.

The novel never did get finished.  It was no doubt doomed from the start because I plunged into it without a clear idea of where I wanted to go, or what, precisely, I wanted to say.  There's a big debate among novel writers as to whether one should outline or not outline.  People on each side of this debate hold their opinions as strongly as Birthers and Bush Bashers.  Wait, we no longer have Bush Bashers, do we.  Okay, call them liberals then.  You know what I mean.

I am a firm believer in doing whatever works.  If writing outlines works for you, then do it and don't worry about what those other folks say.  But if you like to be all loosey-goosey and let the writing and characters take you wherever they want, go for it. 

For me, what works in writing novels (and short fiction, come to think of it) is some kind of loose outline.  And when I say loose, I mean loose.  It is really more like a vague list that gives me at least some idea of what's ahead.  Along the way, things change, characters come alive, new ones walk on, which is all part of the fun.  And I revise my list when it is apparent that things aren't going to go the way I think they are.  But then I write a new list.  This keeps me on track. 

Then there are blog posts, which have always been more free-flowing for me.  Usually, I'm pretty good at keeping myself on track, but sometimes I start off in one place and end up in another, quite unexpectedly.  This post is an example–I started off wanting to ask what your burning questions are, and then got sidetracked by talking about where the term came from….and that led into a discussion of outlining vs. not.

Ah well, it is Monday and I slept late.

But here's the original Burning Question part.  I am wondering what yours are.  Truly and all.  Do you have questions, concerns, or ideas about writing?  About the writing life?  About a writing career?  Or maybe you have some questions about creativity?  Motivation? Inspiration?  Getting your butt to the computer regularly?

Whatever your questions are, I want to know them.  I'll do my best to answer them in posts, or even an email if that seems more appropriate.

So bring 'em on, lay them on me…anything, anything at all.    Comment away!

Photo by xurble, found on Everystockphoto, my fave, and used under Creative Commons 2.5 license.