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Friday, August 26, 2011

My Gratitude Journal: Real Life

PLEASE NOTE: I am running my first-ever contest. To learn more, click on the little blue "Contest" tag at right. Welcome!

Today I'm grateful for experiences, the real things that happen to me and to the very real people around me, the threads that weave a life and also create fodder for fiction.

I'm grateful for weddings (you go, Sean and Ashley!), for births (come on, Baby Vaughn, we're rooting for you), for friends who share their news both good and bad (I'm rooting for you, too, Estee, and for the doctors who are treating you now).

I appreciate people who make mistakes and learn from them, folks who aren't too timid to tell the truth about what pleases and disturbs them, and other writers who share from the depths of their own experiences.

I am thankful for the words of other writers. Today I'm particularly thinking of Sherwood Schwartz, the Hollywood writer who created "Gilligan's Island" and "The Brady Bunch," among a number of successful programs, and who left his own epitaph: "Heaven is where I have been since I was born."

I'm thankful for friends who love me and even those who don't. Those occasional enmities have taught me lessons that show up frequently in my fiction.

Today I'm grateful for Life in all its complexities.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Writing Around Things

PLEASE NOTE: I am running my first-ever contest. To learn more, click on the little blue "Contest" tag at right. Welcome!

How do people say things when they really do not want to talk about them? Hmmm... Tricky, and yet we all do it. I've encountered one of those elephant-in-the-living-room topics in a recent work.

From A SECRET FAMILY RECIPE, here is Stephanie Burnett, a 20-something college student, talking with a former roommate about a recent death in her family:

“That’s what I thought, but Allie said…” She cut the thought off quickly, looking away, looking chagrined.

I swallowed. “How is Allie?”

“She’s good. She said to tell you she’s sorry about the loss in your family.”

I gave Jess a long, long look. “Did she really say that, Jess, or are you just being diplomatic again?”

Jess gave me an earnest smile. “She really did, Steph. She said she wanted you to know that she’s sorry about your grandma and she hopes you’re … doing okay.”

“I am,” I answered, and then I realized I had been rubbing my fingers over the raised scars on my left arm, between my wrist and elbow. I sighed and dropped my arms to my sides. “I’m sad, but I’m okay.”

So what is it they're talking about? Are you picking up on the clues?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Web Hints on Developing Voice

PLEASE NOTE: I am running my first-ever contest. To learn more, click on the little blue "Contest" tag at right. Welcome!

We've already agreed (yes, I'm assuming you agreed with me) that one develops voice by writing, but having some hints on how your voice can develop may give you a more conscious control as you do all that great writing.

This week's hint from the web comes from writer Jayne Pupek in the Suite 101 entry on voice. Since she has already combined some of the agreed-upon elements and come up with fine examples, I will refer you to her.

You'll find her discussion of Hemingway and other "greats" enlightening, but it doesn't take a Nobel laureate to produce a strong voice.

One of the most distinctive voices of recent popular fiction is that of author Nora Roberts, who also writes as J.D. Robb. From her development of strong, memorable characters to unique turns of phrase, she is at the top of the game. I could choose to be envious of her remarkable gifts, but I don't look good in pea green.

The late Dick Francis was another fine talent with a distinctive writing voice. His mysteries, often set against the horse racing world he knew so intimately, shine. As a kid, I loved reading the works of Pearl Buck, and I've recently realized that my writing voice is often similar to hers.

Keep writing, keep reading. As you go, note what makes a writer's voice stand out to you. Then note what you are doing in your own writing. Maybe you'll find the voices of the greats influencing your own.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sigh, a Wedding

PLEASE NOTE: I am running my first-ever contest. To learn more, click on the little blue "Contest" tag at right. Welcome!

My writing career began with a Silhouette Romance (#702, BENEATH SIERRA SKIES, in February 1990) and then another and another. Before I really knew I was a novelist, I was a romance novelist.

And then, after eight romances, I wanted to write something different. I still believed in romance (heck, after 41 years of marriage to the same great guy, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool believer!) and I still saw the power in stories of couples overcoming differences to work in tandem. (Think of it as a metaphor: If a he and a she can overcome their most basic differences to cooperate, why can't groups, corporations, nations, worlds! But I digress.)

My latest book, A SECRET FAMILY RECIPE, has a few romantic elements. There is a long-married couple who are still mushy about each other. There's a young couple cooperating in their first joint venture, due in about six months. But it's a family story, not a romance, and I loved working on it.

The current work-in-progress is a mystery with some fun paranormal elements and I'm having a great time creating it.

Still as I write, I'm preparing for a family wedding, the joining of a much loved nephew and his adorable perfect match. (Congratulations, Sean and Ashley!) And there's nothing like a wedding to put me in the mood to write romance again.

In fact, I'm thinking that Sarah Kimball's little sister, Baby Ruth from RIGHT CLICK, should be just about ready to find somebody. Hmmm.....

Stay tuned for more on RIGHT FACE, now in progress.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Developing Your Own Writing Voice

PLEASE NOTE: I am running my first-ever contest. To learn more, click on the little blue "Contest" tag at right. Congratulatons to Kimberly, last week's winner. Three more weeks to go!

When I recently looked up "writer's voice," I found this great (and true!) line: Ask 5 writers what constitutes voice and you'll get 15 answers. I'd say yes, at least 15.

If you continue to look, you'll find all kinds of contradictory definitions. Most readers agree that (as the Supreme Court once famously said about pornography) we know it when we see it; that is, we can recognize the writing voices of our favorite authors, but ask us to define those voices and we're stuck.

Wikipedia calls it "a combination of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, etc." Other web sites discuss appropriate tone for the purpose and audience of the writing or even more esoteric elements.

Under the circumstances a reasonable question might be, "If no one can agree on a clear definition of what constitutes voice, how am I to develop mine?" The answer is WRITE -- early and often, about anything, everything, and a little bit more. Then keep writing.

One day you'll look up and realize Hey, I'm a writer, and I have a voice.

And that is how it's done.

Share your voice? How would you define it?