Saturday, July 24, 2010

how I got into writing

People sometimes ask how I got into writing and how long I've been doing it. Here's a short answer. I've been writing since I was eight years old. At school I loved any writing assignments we had, and entered whatever writing competitions I could, also speaking competitions. In university I majored in English and psychology— both relevant fields for a writer. Then I became a teacher and sort of lost the writing thing. Mostly I just wrote lesson plans. But after a couple of years teaching, I realized I'd rather be in publishing. So I moved to Toronto, which is more or less the center of publishing in Canada. While working for a magazine as a "go-for," I applied for jobs with book-publishing companies and eventually got one. What a great job. I was officially an editor but most of what I did was write. I loved it so much, I could hardly believe they would pay me to do it. After eight years with that company, writing and editing, I went freelance. I've been doing freelance editing and writing ever since. Some of my writing has been "to order." Like a company might want a series of children's books on various cities, and would contract me to write them. But some of my writing has been "on spec," i.e., I write what I want and try to get it published. I've had a measure of success along that line, e.g. a middle-grade novel, a picture book, stories and articles for adults. What I haven't tried till recent years is writing novels for adults. It's a challenge and a I love challenges.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

one-sentence funnies

Here's a bit of light summer reading. Enjoy. Maybe some of these will inspire you in your writing.

1. A day without sunshine is like night.

2. OK, so what's the speed of dark?

3. On the other hand, you have different fingers.

4. 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.

5. 99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

6. Remember, half the people you know are below average.

7. Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.

8. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap.

9. Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.

10. If you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments.

11. When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

12. Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.

13. Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.

14. What happens if you get scared half to death, twice?

15. Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?

Friday, July 2, 2010

fiction flaws A: cloud without gravy

In seeking to improve your fiction writing, it's helpful to watch for common fiction flaws and learn how to fix them. Here's the first in a series of blogs on this topic.

Fiction flaw 1. Mixed metaphors, e.g. HER LOVE WAS A CLOUD WITHOUT GRAVY, A SONG WITHOUT SUSPENDERS. HE WISHED HE COULD BOWL HER OFF THE COMPUTER SCREEN OF HIS LIFE. This example contains three metaphors [implied comparisons]. Her love is compared to a cloud. Her love is also compared to a song. His life is compared to a computer screen. Trouble is, the author expanded the metaphors by introducing ideas that don't fit. Clouds don't provide gravy. A song doesn't have suspenders. A person doesn't bowl things off a computer screen. All three are mixed metaphors. How could the example be rewritten using metaphors expanded in a more logical way? Ideas?

Fiction flaw 2. Missing information, e.g. SHE WANDERED ALONG THE ALLEY SEARCHING FOR HER RED CHEVROLET. SHE LOOKED IN DRIVEWAYS AND BEHIND HEDGES, AND PEERED INTO GARAGES. AS SHE BRUSHED A COBWEB OFF THE CHEVY'S DUSTY WINDSHIELD, SOMEONE CALLED HER NAME. There's a disconnect between the second and third sentences of this example. The reader needs to know that she found the car before seeing her brush off the cobweb. How could the missing information be inserted? Ideas?

Fiction flaw 3. Lack of conflict, e.g. CAT SAT ON A MAT. DOG SAID, "I WANT TO SIT BESIDE YOU." "OK," CAT SAID AND MOVED OVER. This example has some elements of a story. It has action, characters, and dialogue. However, it's just an incident, not a story, because there's no conflict. How could the author use conflict to turn it into a story? Ideas?