Theme: The Ring…and the Pants

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

Sometimes a novel’s theme emerges most clearly in an actual physical item that appears and reappears.

Making Time: OPD, (Other People’s Drama)

Sunday, December 11th, 2016


We all have it: The friend or business associate who turns out to be a whole lot of work. The family member who jumps from crisis to crisis.

Making Time: Bad Drama and How We Show Up.

Sunday, December 4th, 2016


Today we’re talking about drama. Not the kind on the page, the other kind. How we show up…to ourselves.

Suspense: Inside Edition

Monday, November 21st, 2016


Now it’s time to talk about suspense created inside a character when he’s at war with
himself…or at war with the world around him.

Suspense: The bomb under the table.

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

Today Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock delivers the goods on suspense.

Suspense: Try this! Startling, huge or totally terrifying!

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Television can be formulaic, but its form can teach us something we can use in creating suspense in our novels.

It’s slugged: Wait for it…Suspense!

Monday, October 31st, 2016


Every novel needs a healthy wallop of suspense to keep things moving. Today we talk about how to get that suspense ball rolling.

Getting unstuck

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

Having trouble crafting a rough draft of that final scene? A tip to jumpstart.

Banishing the critic.

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

Today we’re talking about banishing the critic. I imagine mine in a trench coat with a cigar, dribbling ashes all over my pages. Yours might be even scarier.
But let’s face it: Nobody can beat you up as thoroughly and eloquently as you can yourself.
So what’s a writer to do ?
Let’s start with what not to do.

  • Don’t medicate yourself…it might take away the edge, but you know what? It will also take away…the edge… that special thing that makes your work sing.
    No drugs, no alcohol. I know I sound like somebody’s mother, and oh, yeah, I am! You have to tolerate the anxiety of the blank page.
    But how? You’ll come up with your own techniques through time, but here are some that have worked for me:
  • Music. Songs. Played low through a set of headphones. Other people’s words seem to divert my critic enough so that I can get my words on the page.
  • Give yourself permission to write that truly spectacular bad draft.
  • Set a timer for fifteen minutes. And only write for fifteen. And then stop. Mid-sentence, mid-word, even mid-thought.
  • Remind yourself of what Samuel Beckett said: Fail. Fail again. Fail better!
  • Allow yourself to go down paths. Celebrate the ones that go nowhere, or go places you never intended. Allow yourself to fail, fail again, and fail better.
    Here’s to a great week of exploration!

Cliffhangers: A wrench in the works

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Hi! Great to see you! How’s your scene coming? Was it fun, writing it? Today, we talk about throwing a wrench in the works. If you live in the UK, it’s called ‘throwing a spanner.’ Throwing a wrench literally meant jamming a wrench into the gears and pistons of an engine, stopping it cold.
So we’re talking about a scene going one direction, all the cogs working perfectly, and then suddenly, something slams into that scene that stops it cold. Our character has to reassess, regroup. She has no choice. Remember a couple of weeks’ back, the exercise ‘where in the world are we?’
Each one of those little scenes ended with a surprise…a wrench…something unexpected jamming the works and turning the scene in a new direction. That turn…that surprise….is the easiest way to keep readers reading. Here are some things to think about as you craft your scenes:

  • End the scene in a cliff-hanger.
  • It can be big. Raymond Chandler said that when he needed to spice up a story, he’d simply have somebody burst into the room flinging around a gun. That’s huge.
  • It can be small. A single sentence letting us know that something we thought was taken care of…isn’t. Somebody new enters…somebody here…leaves. Or maybe our guy figures out a piece of the puzzle.
  • Space out the information you reveal. Give us a piece, but make us wait for the rest of it. Have fun, keep them reading! And write!