Sunday, December 22, 2013

What should you be doing?


How many times have you said to yourself, “I should be doing … “

A)     Something productive
B)     Something lucrative
C)     Something else

If you’re like me, you’ve said it many times. But what if there is no such thing as “should?” What happens when you realize it’s meaningless? Well, either you do what you need to or you don’t, but getting hung up on “should” is a waste of time.

So ride out the end of the year without guilt or shame or embarrassment about what you “should” be doing. Enjoy the moment, and if you write something wonderful, that’s great. And if you don’t open a document between now and Jan 6, remember that guilt is a wasted emotion, so save it for your characters.

Write soon, (but don’t beat yourself up about it if you don’t)

Mary

P.S. Have a wonderful holiday season!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tattoo You


Are you into ink? As a writer, is there any image that you would place permanently on your skin, like the head of Ernest Hemingway, or a lucky pen? How about your first acceptance letter or the logo of your favorite writing magazine?

Perhaps recreating the label from a bottle of wine would be a more fitting tribute. According to the June 2013 issue of Mental Floss, Dorothy Parker had a small star inked near her elbow as a “memento of a drunken night in the 1930s.” I only hope she wrote about it!

Write soon,

Mary

Monday, November 18, 2013

Self talk



Virginia Woolf did it, I do it, and so do many other writers. Read this article from the Scientific American blog to find out what all the talk is about!


Write soon,
Mary

Monday, November 11, 2013

Know the rules before you break them



Like any set of rules, the rules of writing can be flexible. A few that you may be familiar with are “write what you know,” “never end a sentence with a preposition,” and “always use an outline.” These rules work great for some, but aren’t as effective for others. Sometimes I follow them, and sometimes I don’t.  

In an argument about rules, I have some friends who believe that rules should not be broken. One of their rules is “don’t steal from your own writing.” That means I should not take a piece of writing that didn’t work in one place, recycle it and use it somewhere else. My friends believe that this writing can be stale, and forcing it into another piece won’t work.

What they call stale, I call recycling. I’m all about making it easy on the writer. When I’m in the zone, I write. If the writing doesn’t work for my current piece, I may use it somewhere else. I believe my subconscious brain knows more about true writing/connections than my conscious brain, because it’s about emotion or thought or language that cuts through barriers and gets right to the heart of the matter. Some words or ideas may not have anything to do with the topic, and making a connection later on is so much fun that I will never stop doing it. It’s like making a discovery twice!   

Another rule breaker is Francis Scott Key, who may or may not have been aware of this rule when he wrote the Star Spangled Banner* on Sept. 14, 1814, borrowing parts from a poem he had written nine years earlier. Many people have many opinions about the Star Spangled Banner, but I’ve never heard “stale” as one of them.  

So, find a piece of writing that doesn’t work in its current spot, and put it somewhere else. Maybe it’s a scene, a character trait, or the most beautiful sentence you’ve ever written. Finding the right place for your work is like discovering a piece of a puzzle that your conscious brain had lost, but your subconscious brain knew was great enough to wait for the right place to put it.  

Write soon,

Mary
*The Star Spangled Banner was set to the tune of an English drinking song “To Anacreon in Heaven.”


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fun with names



For the past few days I’ve been tweaking (not twerking) my lecture on language for my classes next week, specifically the topic of names. Everyone can relate to exploring a name, or names in general, by thinking about them as words.

While browsing the library last week, I found a book titled “The Name Game, a Look Behind the Labels,” by Donna M. Jackson, illustrated by Ted Stearn, Viking, 2009.  As you might have guessed, the book is geared toward young readers, but makes the exploration into names fun for everyone.

I learned that words with the suffix “nym” or “onym,” originate from the Greek word onoma, which means name. It can refer to a specific type of name, or describe the relationship between words or names.

Some examples include:

Mononym: a one-word name, such as Rihanna.

Autonym: a person’s real name, as opposed to his or her pseudonym. Samuel Langhorne Clemens is the autonym. Mark Twain is the pseudonym.

Aptronym: a name suited to its owner’s occupation or interests, such as oceanographer Dr. Fish, or ophthalmologist Dr. See.

Eponym: Something named for a person, like Pike’s Peak, after Zebulon Pike, Jr.

Synonym: Words with the same or similar meanings: “Happy” is a synonym of “Cheerful.”

So the next time you are naming characters, places or other objects in your fiction, take time to think about the name you use. Names matter.

Write soon,

Mary


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Author Open House at the Library



My favorite library event is coming soon! 

Local authors are invited to participate in the St. Charles City-County Library District’s Fifth Annual Local Author Open House. This year’s Open House will be held Thursday, Nov 21 from 5:30-7:30 at the Middendorf-Kredell Branch Library in O’Fallon, MO.

Each holiday season, the Library District offers an opportunity for local authors to connect with library customers. Last year, more than 135 attendees and 47 authors participated in the event. Authors will be provided with a small "booth" or table. The library will offer refreshments and a festive atmosphere that allows visitors to chat, purchase books and have then signed. They ask that authors sell their own books, with the intention of fostering connections between the authors and their readers. The open house is also a great way to network with other authors.

To participate, email the following information to jcompton@stchlibrary.org before Friday, Nov 1: Name, book title(s), phone number and email address. Late registration will not guarantee that your name and book title will appear on the promotional material, but may still be able to reserve you a booth. Authors can attach an image of their book cover for publicity purposes.

Write soon (and hope to see you there!)

Mary

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Rest in peace, Elmore Leonard



I know that the late Elmore Leonard’s 10 tricks for good writing: * article from the New York Times has been read by many writers, but I think it's great advice that's worth sharing here. 
  1.  Never open a book with weather.
  2.  Avoid prologues.
  3.  Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
  4.  Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
  5.  Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. 
  6.  Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
  7.  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8.  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9.  Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
  10.  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. 

 * Excerpted from the New York Times article, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle.” Here’s a link to the original article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/16/arts/writers-writing-easy-adverbs-exclamation-points-especially-hooptedoodle.html?src=pm

Write soon,
Mary

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Top 20 books left in hotel rooms



E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades” books show up three times in the list of Top Twenty Books Left in Travelodge Hotel Rooms. They are, however, in good company. Check out No. 20!

The top 20

·        1. Fifty Shades Freed by EL James
·        2. Bared To You by Sylvia Day
·        3. The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst
·        4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
·        6. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James
·        7. Reflected in You by Sylvia Day
·        8. My Time by Bradley Wiggins
·        9. Entwined with You by Sylvia Day
·        10. Fifty Shades Darker by EL James
·        11. Cheryl: My Story by Cheryl Cole
·        12. The Marriage Trap by Jennifer Probst
·        13. Camp David by David Walliams
·        14. Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
·        15. Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson
·        16. The Marriage Mistake by Jennifer Probst
·        17. The Racketeer by John Grisham
·        18. The Carrier by Sophie Hannah
·        19. Oh Dear Silvia by Dawn French


Write soon,
Mary