Tag Archives: LZMarie

The Artistic Writer

One picture says a 1000 words. A luxury writers do not have. However writers have been known to get an idea to two from gazing at works of art. So in a silly effort to merge the two here are eleven famous paintings that describe the writing life.

First day last day



writing a query

writers conf


First drafts be like

rewriting a sentence.


slaying adverbs

Wrestling with 3rd draft



author platform

agent rejections

 On a more serious note, I flip though my art books or browse the web for:
  • a character’s facial features
  • a character’s body type
  • body postures, especially as it conveys mood
  • clothing styles, patterns, fabrics, especially historical garments
  • food from a particular historical period
  • architecture, houses, and furnishings from a particular historical period
  • historical detail or information ( if painting is accurate or painted in the same century)
  • colors that evoke a particular mood
  • landscape and the colors used to evoke mood

Related links: Rock your Writing; Readin’ & Writin’

The Real Comma Rules

Comma rulesGrammarians have been known to do battle over the vagaries of comma placement. Syntax skirmishes, semi-colon controversy, and other punctuation persnicketiness can get downright nasty! Good thing this post is about other kinds of commas!

Writing, rewriting, editing, and creating all require comma skills.

1. First and foremost, writers must learn how to accommadate their physical needs. Be it a room with a view, a quiet nook, a desk, favorite coffee shop, or a designated chair, writing is best accomplished with a routine.

2. Often you must act like a commando when it comes to revising and editing. Blast all typos, vague language, and trite sayings.

3. Learn to summon your inner commadian during trying times. Hissy fits, meltdowns, and tantrums don’t solve problems. Finding the funny doesn’t either—but at least you can write a humorous blog about it!

4. Avoid a commakazi approach when pitching, querying, responding to an agent rejection, or replying to a troller. Thoughtful, professional, polite discourse and emails are a must. As for trollers, non-engagement is the only  way to go.

5. Take time to engage in some commaraderie with folks on twitter and Facebook. Don’t neglect your friends either. Meet them for coffee and dinner…and try not to talk about your latest writing project.

6. Keep your dream to be comma millionaire novelist.playwright/screenwriter/poet/blogger to yourself.

7. Creating believable characters require the writer to be a commaeleon, portraying their emotions, intelligence, fears, joys, and ambitions with effective dialog and action.

8. Find someone to commaiserate with. We all need a venting buddy. Just make certain to end the bitchfest with uplifting thoughts for the future. If your ‘someone’ tells you to quit or give up find another.

9. Indulge in the art of comma sutra. Discover fresh ways to tell the story, find pleasure in finding the perfect word, and seek enjoyment in crafting the nuanced phrase.

10. Remember that the best word wizards practice  alcommay. Transmuting strings of  words into a riveting story demands patience and practice.

Now these are comma rules I think we can all agree on!

FYI: For a thorough look at actual comma rules, go to OWL at Purdue.

Related links: Rock Your Writing, Readin’ & Writin’

Where Art Thou?

settingSetting is more than just location!

Usually when folks think of setting in the literary sense they think physical location. But setting is much more than that. Authors construct setting like they do characters and plot.

Setting is a powerful element for establishing themes and often  reflect the author’s own background, biases, and perspectives.

Setting can influence, shape, and emphasize a character’s actions and ideas. Setting can drive plot, create mood, or assume the role of antagonist..

Setting can reflect the following milieus:
  • political
  • time ( minutes, hours, days, years )
  • historical
  • financial
  • socio-economic
  • cultural
  • religious
  • dystopian/utopian
  • magical
  • mythical
  • surreal
  • constructed/ alternate /parallel/imaginary
  • dream ( think Inception )
  • virtual ( think Tron )
  • psychological
  • attitudinal
  • industrial
  • seasonal
Setting can also refer to:

How are you using setting?

 Related links: Rock Your Writing

Writing Fortress

castleThe historical fiction I’m currently writing required extensive research on castles. And it struck me—somewhere between the first and second drafts—that the act of writing a novel shares many similarities with  the parts of a castle.

The MOAT is a writer’s protection from outside forces like talkative significant others, crying children, and errands. The wider and deeper your mental and physical moat the more likely you’ll be able to carve out extended writing time.

Only lower the DRAWBRIDGE for allies, those with encouraging words who would never stab you in the back. Allow honest beta readers to cross as well.

Your CASTLE WALLS must be thick thick thick! Enough to withstand a siege of naysayers battering your dream with a canon of criticism and thick enough to withstand rejections and setbacks.

Make your writing location your own private SOLAR. Only allow a few entrance into your writing sanctuary. Station a guard at the door—even if it’s only a Do Not Disturb sign hanging from the back of your chair.

Go to the GARDEROBE often—the privy or bathroom. Excrete all those nasty adverbs, trite words, hackneyed expressions, banal characters, ho hum pacing, and insipid plots. Yuck! They stink up a manuscript!

Visit the WARDROBE frequently. Store ideas, research, and deleted word gems for future use.

The KITCHEN is good for burning first drafts, cooking up a query letter, or staring into the fire while contemplating the publishing world.

Don’t forget to stop by the BUTTERY for whatever is “ale-ing” you or the BOTTLERY for the celebratory  Finished-Another-Chapter goblet of wine.

Keep your deepest, darkest fears in the DUNGEON. Chain them to the wall. Don’t let them see the light of day. Torturing yourself is pointless and a waste of precious writing time.

Your ARMORY is best stocked with knowledge about the weapons of plotting, a chain mail of literary craft, and sword-sharp syntax and grammar.

Use the CHAPEL  to pray or beg the writing gods and muses for strength, endurance, and grace. Some gods require sacrifices—like reduced TV watching or Facebook time.

Make sure to say hello to all your friends, tweeps, and followers hanging out in the social media GREAT HALL.

Keep your KEEP—the highest and most secure place of a castle—strong. Keep the faith. Keep  sending queries. Keep blogging. Keep editing. Keep learning. Keep writing.

Related posts: Readin’ & Writin’

Word Spangled Banner

Word spangled banner

O say can you read
by the computer’s LCD
what so proudly we wrote
during our last creative gleaming,
whose broad themes and trite tropes
shows the protag’s deep need,
o’ver the keyboard we typed,
with much symbolic meaning.
And the misspellings red glare,
the adverbs everywhere,
gave proof to the plot
that our rising action was still there.
O say should that word-spangled chapter be saved
o’er our novel we crave
and the hope of the writing brave.


Related links: Readin’ & Writin’; Rock Your Writing

The Shape of Crazy

crazyWriting, by its very nature, requires a bit—OK, a whole universe of Crazy! And, yes, Crazy is capitalized because it’s an entity—without form or substance—yet decidedly a force. In fact, all creative tasks are imbued with Crazy.

Crazy takes many forms, many shapes.

What shape is your CRAZY?



Akin to 2 sides of Star Wars’ The Force, crossing the line is an indication you’ve entered the Crazy Side. You probably know exactly where the line is too, don’t you?



circular reasoning

Are you really Crazy? Or is Crazy your normal? If it’s your normal how can it be Crazy?
Crazy Circular logic is sooooo fun!




The ancients claimed it was a mystical shape, the apex being Crazy Heaven. Although you are usually firmly planted at its earthly base, you know creative paradise is only achieved with pointed Crazy.




It’s a swirling mass pulling you in. Like William Blake’s poem “The Second Coming” when “mere anarchy is loosed upon“ your work you behave like a “rough beast” as “things fall apart” around you. It’s all good though. Right?




It is your guide in the darkness and your cosmic twinkling light of imagination. As long as your creative star doesn’t burn out you’re in artistic heaven.




Both your salvation and crucifixion,
it’s a thorny agony resulting in your greatest creative triumph.




You control your Crazy, allowing a finite time to pour genius into your work.




Patterns imbued with shapes, the mandala is a tool for entering a Zen-like meditative state. Your Crazy is a planned and purposeful pathway, one in which you are in complete control. Namaste.




An age-old sacred geometry imbued with mystical powers, this Crazy mixes religion, mindfulness, intent, and wisdom to release your divine Crazy within.


Double Helix


The shape of life, your Crazy begets more Crazy and is an intrinsic part of your DNA, the strands linking your complex thought processes.


So, what shape is your Crazy?


Related posts: Readin’ & Writing; Life & Laughter

Greek Geekery

greek godsYou did it! You opened Pandora’s Box! You told EVERYONE you were writing a book! Now, how will you lord over your manuscript while Mounting the Olympian task?

Which of the 13 Greek Gods most resemble your writing world ?

 King of the Gods
You plan on weathering the storms of writing problems by throwing down lightning bolts of words and thundering at anyone who DARE stands in your way.
You take the manuscript bull by the horns and soar like an eagle until the scepter of publishing is firmly in grasp.


God of the Underworld
Your genre is the dead, almost dead, undead, or mostly dead. In fact, you regret not writing sooner! Blogging, writing, and tweeting is the 3-headed Cerberus you control.
Once at your keyboard your Cape of Invisibility shields you from earthly distractions.


Messenger of the God
Social media is your ticket to fame, the caduceus of algorithms & statistics your game.
You travel to conferences, trade beta reads, communicate with readers and writers. The winged sandals of social media help flex your athletic writing muscle.


God of War
Writing is your battlefield. With word spear and genre sword, you attack the chaos of your imaginative mind until victorious.
Moody and unpredictable, you attack characters and plot with creative violence.


Goddess of the Harvest
Understanding a book’s life cycle, you value any  grain of knowledge providing nourishment to your manuscript. You are confident in your ability to harvest theme, plot, and characters with cultivated growth.


God of Music & Poetry
Your prose is lyrical, your plotting poetic. Surrounded by the Muses, you are often plagued with the idea of perfection, which often destroys your confidence and love affair with writing. With the laurel wreath of writing knowledge crowning your head you continue stroking the lyre of words in you heart.


Queen of the Gods
A bit of a peacock, you respect the marriage of genre and plot; the publishing empire; appreciate the advice of writing kings; and value the suffering while birthing a book.
You are prone to jealousy and revenge if you suspect a social media infidelity.


God of Fire
You hammer out plot, using the genre tongs and conflict anvil in forging a creative masterpiece. Writing is your craft, the fire of imagination either creating or charring your volcanic word count.


God of Sea
You are flooded with inspiration, yet despite reigning over a sea of ideas, plotting earthquakes often cause a writing drought.
Strong-willed and proud, you stop horsin’ around to fish out the cause until you ride the tide of creativity once again.


Goddess of the Hunt
Although a writing virgin, you eagerly enter the novel wilderness, hunting down the requirements of your genre.
Equipped with spears of blog links, your bow shoots true, striking the bear/bare truths of plotting and the deer/dear gift of prose.


Goddess of Wisdom
You know writing requires intelligence and skill. With knowledge shielding you from publishing myths and querying realities spearing your dreams, you apply battle-like strategy. Whether you make war or peace with your manuscript depends on your emotional armor.



God of Wine
Words are your party! Chapters your orgyOften drunk on your own word count, you are prone to plotting madness and character chaos.
Be it wine, coffee, or chocolate, you need a buzz to create, and love being surrounded by a posse of writers at conferences.


Goddess of Love
Your desire for writing is matched only by your love of the beautifully crafted sentence, the sensual turn of phrase, and the nude truth in words. Wearing the magic girdle of imagination, you laugh at plotting problems and smile at naysayers, for you are, after all, the very embodiment of writing pleasure, be it first draft, rewrites, or edits.


Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’; Rock Your Writing; Symbols & more Symbols

Writing Forecast

writing forecst2Everyone understands a weather forecast!  Most of us have an app on our phone and refer to it daily.

Ever feel like a writing forecast might come in handy to explain your writing plans or frame of mind?

Imagine the convenience for those living with you! Your writing agenda is posted for the day, available to all your friends and family! Now that’s an app!

( I often tweet my writing forecast for the day. )

Here’s a few familiar terms that will come in handy and convey your present State of Writing.

Barometric pressure: The stress a writer feels from self or others to complete a task,  be it revisions, edits, blogging, social media engagement, book signings, or producing another best seller.

Blustery: Writing accompanied by swearing and ranting. Dangerous. Stay away from writer.

Breezy: Words are flowing. Interruptions OK.

Calm: Author achieves Zen-like state while writing. Will emerge fresh and renewed.

Cloudy: Writer unsure how a scene will play out on the page—or once written, they don’t know if it “works.” May need to talk it out with any available person until light of understanding breaks through.

Cyclone: Writer attempting to do many things fast. Very dangerous. Approach writer with extreme caution.

Dense fog: Writer stymied with plotting problem and/or character issue.

Drizzle: Meager word count and/or little revising accomplished.

Drought: Ideas? What ideas? I got nothin’!

Fog: Writer confused with some aspect of Facebook, Twitter, and/or website “issues.” Often techno and/or coding trouble related.

Front: Pretending to feel something or be something contrary to their authentic self. For example, feigning hope instead of dread when waiting to hear back from a beta reader/reviewer/agent. Affecting an extrovert’s banter at a writers conference when you’re a hide-in-a-cave introvert.

Frost: Writer pissed off over some comment or tweet causing unwarranted contemplation.. Approaching writer with compassion will allow them to warm up again.

Gusts: Intense but brief bursts of writing. Usually accomplished between household chores.

Hard Freeze: Writer’s response to a troller, nasty/weird comment or message, or unfavorable review. Non-engagement stops icy comebacks cold.

Haze: Writer unable to see work in progress clearly due to doubt dew and anxiety particles.

Heatwave: Writer is on fire with with words and ideas.

Jet stream: Writer on a roll! Winds of words will bring new writing conditions.

La Niña: Associated with high stress and raining words.

Lightning: A bolt of energy, ideas, or inspiration usually followed by word rains.

Mist: Writing while crying. Sorrow-filled scenes are the most common reason for misty conditions.

Overcast: General feeling of malaise brought on by many disheartening factors. Many writers will write through this, others wait for fairer conditions.

Partly sunny/cloudy: The day will involve both writing and non-writing tasks.

Pollutant: Some comment, information, task, or person that spoils your breath of fresh writing air.

Rain and any variant of ( downpour, sprinkles, shower ): Any  task, thing, or idea that falls upon you. It can rain words ( good ) or problems ( typical ) or chores ( ugh ).

Saturation: Writer will no longer write one more sentence, edit one more page, revise one more thing!!! Period!! They’ve had enough for today!!

Squall: Sudden crying jag over something really stupid. Approach writer with hugs and chocolate.

Storm warning: Angst and issues begin forming, and clouds of doubt gather overhead. May or may not pass depending on winds of successful writing that day.

Sunny: Writer feels FABULOUS about self and current work in progress.

Temperature: Writers often experience mercurial highs and lows. Approach writer during moderate temperatures.

Tornado: Writer goes over and over and over a passage multiple times. Lifting lines up only to set them somewhere else. Total devastation of chapter is often the result. Best for friends/family to seek cover until tornado passes.

writing forecast1

What’s YOUR writing forecast today!

Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’

Writing Reign Deer

reindeer 4pgWell dearie,                                                                                Does inspiration rain down on you?                                          OR                                                                                      Perhaps a stern Muse reigns over you until inspiration transforms into words?                                                                  OR                                                                                    Maybe you take the reins of inspiration and forge into the inspiration storm on your own?


Which writing reign deer drives you?

Fast first drafts. Swift second drafts. 2,000 words a day? No problem. They hoof it through edits and never sit on their writing rump. Just watch them fly toward publication!


Good at jingling with reasons why they haven’t written anything. They have writer’s block-kids-day job issues—did I mention writer’s block ?? Dancers love to tell people they are writers, BUT they actually do very little writing. ( I know, it’s a technicality.)


reindeer1jpgLoves posting their 1st drafts, 2nd drafts, 3rd drafts, etc for everyone to see ( they are very brave). They crave feedback—especially if it feeds their ego. Prancers have the unique ability to work on a manuscript while simultaneously posting updates about their work in progress.


Identified by their libidinous desire to finish their WIP, they use every naughty trick they can to canoodle with their MS. Their naked need to finish the damn paragraph/scene/chapter/book makes them swift evaders of those hunting them down—like children, coworkers, friends, or family.  Do not  tail them when they’re in the mood, they’ll just flee into a bush to keep writing.


Blazing brightly, they are a sight to behold—for an instant. Then they vanish into their wiring den only emerging occasionally to flash a funny post or Tweet.  This here-and-gone style behooves them, allowing their heads to remain in the writing sky. Don’t buck with them when they’re writing or they’ll just hightail it out of there!


Writers to their very core. They need it—want it— they are driven to caress the words into submission! Writing is their passion and their love. Ain’t NOTHIN’ standing between their body and the laptop. Cupids are a bit obsessive, and once they’ve shot the plotting arrow into the white underbelly of their manuscript the words must-must-must be released.


Known for their serious personality, they fall prey to an avalanche of adventurous ideas but  are unable to emerge from the rocky Novel Pass, helpless to complete a scene or chapter. Regrettably, this forces them to turn on themselves, cannibalizing risky plots and/or characters until there is nothing left.


Alcohol or caffeine is the writing drug of choice. Alcohol IN the caffeine drink is even better!reindeer 3)  They can’t work without the buzz. Coffee to wake up words all day followed by wine to subdue the antlers of anxiety and pelt of pessimism.


Has the shiny glow of author success. Fame & fortune & earning some doe came only after: 1) the trials of once feeling like a misfit; 2) befriending the abominable [ insert publishing snafu here ], and 3) growing an impressive rack. They excel at guiding others through the writing fog and author storms.


Related links: Readin’ & Writin’, Rock Your Writing


Garden of Symbolism

field of flowersNature is a symbolic powerhouse that can add depth and complexity to a novel. ( See the Symbolism post for how and why you might want to include one or two.)


Plants and trees and all-things-nature may be used in a variety of literary ways! As:
  • a metaphor
  • a symbol
  • foreshadowing
  • an allusion
  • a plot device
  • characterization
  • the literary device favorite—irony

A Few Leafy Considerations

  • Flowering suggests a blossoming or awakening of a character’s personality, intellect, morals, understanding, love etc
  • Metaphoric or symbolic indicator of something—like an idea, problem, conflict, ideology, morality, opinion, attitude—that is dead or dying
  • May foreshadow a character’s or conflict’s demise
  • Characterize an aspect that is dead/destroyed within a character’s soul or heart
New Growth
  • Denotes new beginnings, fresh starts, renewal, hope unless
  • The growth is deleterious or harmful
  • May convey the root of a problems coming to the surface
  • Reveal the unearthing of a problem or situation
  • Characterize the importance of character’s culture
Yellowed or drying leaves
  • Indicates or foreshadows that a character or situation is dying
  • Suggests the approaching end of one’s life or goals or hope
  • A tricky or hurtful problem or situation
  • Characterize a person’s temperament
  • Foreshadow problems


  • Consider type—thorny, thick, invasive, wild, sculpted, overgrown—may indicate the type of problem/conflict OR
  • Reveal a character’s personality OR
  • Foreshadow any of the above
  • Hedges enclosing a space may reveal the boundaries of a character or situation
  • Does the character leap over them? Crash into them? Trip over them? Plant them? Tend them? Cut them down? Trample them?
  • May be a biblical allusion to the Garden of Eden
  • Consider what’s growing in the garden. Plants? Rock garden? Cactus? Full of statues? Fruit trees? Vegetables? Flowers? Herbs?
  • Symmetry suggests  beauty and a well-rounded intellect
  • Is it well -tended, wild, gone to seed, in ruin, meticulous?
  • Is it a secret garden?
  •  Gnarled limbs may reveal a complex problem
  • Hint at the strength or weakness of a character ( Does the trunk bend with the wind? Is it stunted? Does it overshadow other trees? )
  • Suggest the strength of a character’s heritage/culture
  • Is the tree symbolic? See Tree Symbolism.
  • Indicate soaring ambitions
  • Does the character climb or swings from its branches?
  • Do they denote character like the “Four Skinny Trees” chapter found in House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros?
  • Pastoral or idyllic atmosphere ( unless its full of zombies or raptors )
  • Wild beauty
  • Think Bronte!
  • Desolate and dreary but can be tragically romantic
  • Something to be crossed
  • A great place to ponder one’s life
  • Add fog for some Gothic-style brooding
  • Are invasive, taking over and often obscuring or smothering other plants. Does a character or culture or conflict encroach upon your character?
  • Are they poppies  ala The Wizard Of Oz?
  • Do they have thorns?
  • What’s the symbolism behind the species?
  • Are they wilted?
  • Are they common? Read the short story Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck for a symbolism-packed flower
  •  Or exotic like the very symbolic and tattoo-favorite lotus flower?
  • Is it the red rose of love or is it the “Sick Rose” of William Blake’s evocative poem?
  • Does it grow with others? Or is it  a single triumphant daisy growing from a crack in the pavement?
  • Are the blooms wilted? Or have the buds been nipped off?
  •  Unwanted and ugly unless…
  • They are beautiful weeds, in which case they suggest the beauty in something unwanted and ugly
  • Are they a metaphor for a character’s persistent problems?
  • Are they a symbol for the character’s troubles in life?
  • Does the character try to get rid of them or let them take over?
Wide paths
  • The physical, spiritual, intellectual, psychological, moral choice is easy
  • It is a common or frequent choice
Narrow paths
  • The physical, spiritual, intellectual, psychological, moral choice is difficult
  • It is an uncommon or infrequent choice ( The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost )
Streams and ponds
  • Pastoral and charming…usually
  • Can symbolize the conflicts in a novel
  • They can be large or small, cold, frozen, fraught with danger, or harbor giant brontosaurus-type creatures
  • In the 1999 movie Lake Placid, the idyllic lake is anything but placid! Can you say irony?
  • How fast is the water moving?
  • Is it the complex symbol found in Huck Finn where the Mississippi divides the racist east from the wide open west AND where direction denotes bias AND is the only place where Jim and Huck are free from prejudiced eyes?
  • Is it “The Bitter River” of the poem by Langston Hughes?
  • Is it the river from Fahrenheit 451 where Montag jumps into to save his life and that symbolizes his intellectual rebirth?
A FEW ADDITIONS ( not nature but often found with nature)


  • Like all doors, arches, and entry ways, gates signify movement from one realm—physical, spiritual, intellectual, psychological, moral— to another.
  • Is the gate connected to a white picket fence ( a perfect American family )?
  • Is the gate wide ( easy ) or narrow ( difficult ) ?
  • Is the gate fancy or plain? Ancient or new?
  • Connectors of two different physical, spiritual, intellectual, psychological, moral, cultural worlds
  • Broken bridges therefore reveal the schism or rift between the two
  • Often haunted
  • Check out Ambrose Bierce’s short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” for  sophisticated bridge symbolism
  • Is it a primitive rope bridge? The Golden Gate? Quaint covered wooden? Modern steel?
  • Often places of danger
  • What’s under the bridge? Troll? Water? Dry creek bed? Deep ravine?
  • How far down is the drop from the bridge? ( the farther the fall the more dangerous )

See how much FUN you can have with the natural world?

Related links: Symbols & more symbols; Rock Your Writing

ABC’s of Writing

blocksAim high. Ambition + Ability = Accomplishment

Block out time for writing. Make it a habit.

Characterization. Names, dialog, physical descriptions, and actions all contribute to revealing character. For an in-depth look click CHARACTERIZATION.

Despair not! No matter the path you choose ( self-publishing or traditional ) there’s lots of roadblocks, detours, potholes, and flat tires along the way.

Edit-edit-edit! Then edit again! See Manuscript Clean-up and Most Commonly Confused Words.

Foreshadowing is achieved many different ways. Weather changes, location, illness, names, description of a seemingly innocuous person/event/object, a character’s word choice, change in syntax, and a character’s subtle reactions are just a few.

Grammar rules must be understood before breaking them.

Handle criticisms, suggestions, and rejections with grace.

Ignore the haters, naysayers, cynics, and anyone not on Team You.

Just get rid of just, that, really, very, who ( Sally, who sits under the tree vs Sally, sitting under the tree), am/was/were, being, seem, suddenly, then, finally, even, was, & it. Here’s a few abstract nouns to replace that pesky IT .

Kvetching. Keep your complaining under control—at least on social media. Rant all you like in private.

Learn the craft of writing. There’s lots of seminars, classes, and books on the subject.

Make the most of your writing time. Here’s how I make time to write while working a day job.

Never give up!

Organize your files, folders, research, drafts, queries, ideas, etc. See Idea Vault.

Plot. Have one. Plots need:
  • Protagonists with a weakness & a need that triggers a crisis.
  • Opponents/Antagonists ( more powerful in some way ) preventing a protagonist from the desired goal. Antagonists thwart the protagonist in a profound moral/intellectual way.
  • Plan/Quest/strategy to beat opponent. This is the rising action and contains a reversal/failure, surprise, and/or critical choice.
  • Battle/Climax is the final conflict with opponent.
  • Self-revelation/epiphany is the fundamental change. The protag, seeing his true self, moves to either a higher or lower level or morality.
  • Resolution/New Equilibrium is the new normal for the protag.

Quit bitchin’ about writers’ block. See Rx for Writers Block.

Read works in your genre and in other genres.

Syntax can develop ideas, simplify, obscure, imply relationships, connect abstract ideas, manipulate tone or mood, suggest irony, reveal character, create suspense/surprise, break flow, provide rhythm, add variety, and organize ideas. It’s powerful. Learn from the masters.

Thesaurus misuse. Synonyms may be close, but not close enough. Words have a denotation ( the dictionary definition ) and a connotation ( the emotion the word evokes ). Select with care!

Utilize the web for research. PDF’s of old texts, virtual tours, Google satellite, YouTube clips, Harvard lectures–the web is a powerful research and/or fact-checking tool. Pay attention to the URL: .org’s, .edu’s, and .gov’s contain more scholarly information.

Verb it up! Active verbs energize a manuscript.

Word order. Every sentence should not have the same part-of-speech pattern. The last read-my-first-page link I clicked began either with a gerund (verb +ing) or noun ( I ). I stopped reading after the second paragraph.

X-rated language can turn readers on, turn readers off, become repetitive, convey mood, reveal character, or be merely a writer’s word crutch. Use judiciously.

Yakking on Facebook & Twitter is great—but don’t let it be an excuse for not working on your manuscript.

Zealous dedication is required for success. In Malcolm Gladwell’s The Outliers, he says mastering a skill takes 10,000 hours.

Talkin’ Turkey

turkeyOr How to Carve Out Time for Writing When You Have a Day Job!

Oh, and it’s not JUST writing your novel! Building a social media platform and blogging gobbles up time as well!

So in the honor of Thanksgiving, this blog is dedicated to the many thankful ways this mom-teacher-author makes time for writing.

Writing a novel is a big enough task to swallow, but blogging and tweeting and social media-ing ( yep, I made the word a verb ) means biting off more than you can chew and often having to spit out those chores that are burning yummy writing time.

Here’s my recipe.

 Prep time before work
  • Send out a tweet or 2 while eating bowl of oatmeal
  • post latest blog on Facebook groups ( Monday is a BIG day–make sure to use the #MondayBlogs hashtag)
  • look at last words I wrote of work-in-progress so next scene can marinate while commuting
  • tweet while standing in line at Starbucks
  • note any ideas/keywords/phrases after car is parked
Preheating the creative oven during work
  • tweet or check tweets while walking to bathroom or during passing period
  • any flashes of brilliance are stored in one of my idea vaults ( See Idea Vaults )
Stuffing in the social media data during lunch
  • check Facebook and Twitter
  • read blogs or articles
  • check email
  • save links or forward links to read at home
Basting those priorities while driving home and while running errands ( bank, grocery store, dry cleaners)
  • deciding the best use of my time for the next few hours

Carving those juicy hours. I have only about 3 hours before the brain shuts down and the eyes glaze over, therefore I maximize whatever the brain is capable of.

  • Sizzling hot brain: Excels at plotting, outlining, and writing first drafts. Dinner isn’t happening! Neither is laundry nor any other household task. The phone goes unanswered. I respond with hand signals. ( See Hand Signals for Writers.) This is PRIME time.
  • Room temperature brain: Handles re-writes, editing, and blogging. Making dinner, throwing in a load of laundry, talking to kiddos and hubby,  paying a bill–these don’t require creative intensity. Interruptions are OK, and the family gets dinner.
  • Refrigerator Brain: Capable of tweeting, liking, and commenting on various social media platforms. Cold brain is also good for pinning photos on Pinterest, reading blogs/articles, researching, annotating, reading, and trashing spam. This is my “down time.”

Those three hours during the weekday are deliciously precious. I don’t watch TV; however, I will watch something on Netflix while on the treadmill.

The Smorgasbord Weekend
  •  This is the time I get the most accomplished and when the most progress is made on a manuscript. I work from morning until my vision gets blurry because without the 1 &1/2 hr commute, the 200+ student questions, and 5 am wake time the ol’ sizzling brain stays hot.

Why it’s gravy: I love writing and enjoy the entire process so it’s not work—it’s a joy.

Writer’s Hierarchy of Needs

Psychologist Abraham Maslow is best known for his theory about human motivation, aka the hierarchy of needs. He believed that basic needs must be fulfilled before an individual can progress to higher levels. For example, an individual cannot realize their self-potential ( the highest level ) if the basic necessities of food and shelter are not met.

Sounds reasonable, right?

Anyone who’s ever taken a Psychology 101 class is familiar with the conceptualized pyramid denoting the levels.

Well, it struck me that writers have a hierarchy of needs of their own that must be satisfied  before they can hope to achieve creative greatness.

Writers hierarchy of needs


Physical needs: Writers don’t need much–our minds are full enough. However, coffee to awaken the Muse, snacks for feeding the Muse, a computer ( or notebook and pen in a crunch ) and the happy hormones found in chocolate are writing staples.


Safety: Internet connections help us research and connect with friends. With a flash drive or Cloud we rest easy knowing our masterpiece is safe from virtual viruses. Any writer losing their work or revisions to a computer crash remembers the agony of their genius vanishing like dust in the wind. ( cue “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas )

Love & Belonging: We might be solitary folk, happy retreating into our creative cave, yet we need the fellowship of FaceBook , Instagram, Google +, LinkedIn, and Twitter. We seek validation not only from other writers but from reviewers, readers, and  friends. There is safety in numbers, in belonging to groups where the written word reigns supreme and reading is revered!

Esteem: We are fragile sorts, our egos crushed daily by plot flaws, meager word count, and scenes refusing to flow. So thus we turn away from the story, casting our attentions to the Likes, Tweets, ReTweets, and hits on our social media. Sadly, they validate us, at least for the moment. And when our confidence is lifted by enough Likes and RT’s we venture back into our novel.

Self-Actualization: Having attained our needs we are now eager to plunge into the story. We conjure the Muses and force them to do our bidding. Words flow from our brain, pass the heart, and course through our fingertips. Reality vanishes and we are happy, our Zen restored.

 So should you experience the horrors of writer’s block, fear not!
It’s not you!
Your Pyramid of Writer’s Needs is not being met! 


Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’ & Rx for Writer’s Block

Dog Days of Writing

bradley at computerHas your writing gone to the dogs? Are you in need of some insPAWration?

There are days whendoggone it—writers feel like they’re workin’ like a dog with nothing to show for it.




  • Is your manuscript on a genre leash?
  • Are you chewing on the bones of a plot devoid of meat?
  • Does the manuscript need to be groomed and the adverbs trimmed?
  • Does the diction needs a good brushing with tone?
  • Does the manuscript need a dose of Frontline weak verb repellent?
  • Are you trying to breath life into an old dog manuscript instead of romping away with a new one?
  • Dog-tired with editing?
  • Growling at a plot snafu?

bradley readingBEST IN SHOW

  • Feeling like you have a dog’s chance of getting an agent?
  • Not getting any ” hot diggity dog” replies after sending all those queries?
  • Feel like you’re barking at the moon when you send those queries?
  • Are you showing a dogged determination to have your query and ms be the pick of the slush litter?
  • Are you barking up the wrong agent tree?
  • Are you sniffing around for the best way to build your author platform?


  • Do you have a bone of contention with someone in your critique group?
  • Are you still licking your wounds over a beta reader’s comments?
  • Did you join a writing group expecting belly rubs and “atta boys” only to play fetch with another pup’s manuscript?
  • Feeling a breed apart from all the authors and wanna-be’s?


  • Suspicious of writers making up shaggy dog stories about their successes?
  • Feeling meaner than a junk yard dog after being bitten by a troller?
  • Are you inadvertently biting the hand that feeds you with posts and tweets that insult your readers ( or potential readers) ?
  • Is your tail between your legs after a social media gaffe?
  • Are you guilty of begging for Facebook likes and Twitter retweets?

Howl if you must, but it’s time to put on the dog, play “Who Let the Dogs Out” and let loose the dogs of writing!

A bark of thanks goes to my daughter for sending photos of her very cooperative poodle!

Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’ and Rock Your Writing

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Candy, Clarity, & Creativity

Standing in front of candy-filled shelves is a good place to contemplate, because therein lies every writer’s story.




Once upon a time, you heard the
snickers of your friends upon announcing you were writing a novel.
They didn’t realize that writing provides your creative
 and that when you gaze up into the
milky way you dream of plot and character.
But hey, you’re just one of many writing


striving to live the dream.

Each writer’s path is different. Some stop and start, while others experience the 
of plot flaws and banal characters. Attending writer’s club meetings or conferences helps because you take advice from savvy


and learn from the mistakes of 


Back home, in the glow of the LCD screen, you practice the craft of writing, making sure to give your story that creative

nestles crunch

Months later, you hand your manuscript over to a beta  reader only to have a creative meltdown, your


as you are told that plot holes and pacing flaws riddle your manuscript.

More months pass while you rewrite and rewrite and rewrite some more. Only after wiping the sweet sweat of editing from your brow do you believe your manuscript is

good and plenty
with conflict and characters. Now it’s time to take the publishing plunge.
With anxiety you use your trembling
to send that first query.
And you wait…


the time of querying and the
whoppers of rejections you  manage to carry on undaunted. Maybe you even begin writing your second novel.

But in the end, long weekends spent in writing caves, dark nights obsessing over plot, months of research, and countless hours of slavish devotion  are done for one reason. It is the hope that your words will provide delight to a reader.  Because, after all, isn’t that a real writer’s 

payday Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’