A Writer’s Resolutions

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  1. Write, write, write every day.

To answer your question, yes, signing your name on a credit card slip for delivery totally counts as writing.

  1. Avoid social media when working.

No, you do not want to check your European castle board on Pinterest to help with ‘the writing process.’ You know you’ll only spend hours organizing your boards and dreaming about buying a castle you can’t afford  instead of using the board for historical accuracy like you originally intended.

  1. Look for inspiration in the world around you.

That means you can totally buy the French Firefighter Calendar and write it off as a business expense. Talk about inspiration for some sexy heroes! Hubba, hubba!

  1. Put the time into researching.

Calm down, Homeland Security. Just because you Googled it, doesn’t mean you really want to kill someone with exotic poisons, nor do you intend to forge a buttload of money using only your Smartphone and the color copier at Staples.

  1. Find a writing buddy or two and collaborate.

And if you get side-tracked by a bottle (or three) of red wine, some chocolate and the latest gossip about your favorite TV shows, just remember, it’s all part of the process.

 

Happy New Year to all my writing (and non-writing) friends! May your wit be sharp and your computers virus free!

Head Hopping

As a new writer, I have received a lot of advice about head hopping, the practice of switching POV within a scene to better understand character emotions, ideas, motives, etc. I certainly have my on POV when it comes to head hopping, both as a reader and an author, but what do you think? Does it confuse you as a reader to have authors switch POV within a scene? Do you even care? Take my poll and let me know what you think, and then I’ll tell you my opinion on this contentious topic.

Economizing words, or “How I learned to say more by saying less”

This year as I was working on my novel, I entered several writing contests. Most of them were fairly prescriptive demanding so many words about a specific prompt. Regardless of the constraints, it was easy writing, and I was able to successfully complete several entries before summer had ended. There was one contest that I struggled with, however. The Museo de la Palabra, or Museum of Words, sponsored by the Cesar Egido Serrano Foundation was a definite challenge. Their goal, “to unite people by using words,” through fiction writing.  Sounds innocuous enough, right? The catch, though, is that all stories had to be 100 words or less.

Let’s be real for a minute. Brevity is not my strong suit. I like to write and have the tendency to be fairly verbose. There is something so intoxicating about seeing one’s thoughts written out for all to see that it can be difficult to get to the point. Yet here I was presented with a unique challenge–to create a complete story in 100 words. It was a struggle to find that one experience that could tell a story that was meaningful  in so few words.

In the end, I picked two experiences, snippets really, of what my students experience in their daily lives as they navigate life and culture in America. Since the contest is still being judged, I cannot share those with you; however, I can share my first attempt at writing micro-fiction. This story entitled, “The Translator,” is based on a real experience I shared with one of my students when I first started teaching. Since the contest specified fiction, I didn’t feel it would be fair to submit this work, even though it was pretty funny and is one of my favorite stories to tell. It did help me to narrow my focus on one particular experience and to practice economizing my words.

Enjoy!

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“A favor, please, maestra,” he begs, so when the doctor has quieted, he watches and waits.  My mind spins grasping at words, a synonym or a phrase that comes close.  I reject them all.  Desperately, I lower my clasped hands in front of my stomach and wave them back and forth like a snake.  A low “psst” emerges from my lips.  “¿Difícil?” I ask.  He reddens and shakes his head no.  When we leave, I tell him, “Let’s never speak of this again.” Later, I find that elusive word, “orinar,” forever destroying my dreams of translating. Defeated by urination.

If my characters were actors…

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It’s been almost a month since I’ve sat down to write anything of particular note. With the holiday season and inevitable stress that accompanies “the most wonderful time of the year,” there just hasn’t been time. That, and I have come down with the worst head cold I’ve had in a long time. Not only does my head feel like it has been stuffed with cotton, but I’m pretty sure that my brains have oozed out of my ears somewhere along the way. Most wonderful time of year indeed! Try most infectious time of the year, though I highly doubt Andy Williams would have sold many records had he sung that.

Rantings about holiday lyrics aside, I have been sick, and it was sometime this week in one of my fever riddled dreams that I suddenly became aware of a problem. I had left my characters in my second book in a rather uncomfortable situation. Though I hadn’t thought of them in weeks, I became instantly worried about them, knowing that both of my main characters are impatient and dislike being idle for large stretches of time. I so wanted to write and conclude the scene that I had left them in, but was too exhausted to even move from bed, let alone write my characters into neutral ground. I wrestled with this dilemma until a NyQuil and Sudafed induced hallucination came to me and whispered, Think of them as actors.

Grasping onto that thought like a sick woman to the last box of Kleenex in the house, I floated into a hazy slumber, comforted by the thought that my characters were merely actors awaiting a new script in their dressing room while I, the writer, took a much needed rest. I imagine their conversation went something like this…

Evie huffs loudly in her impatience and pulls on her wrapper. Twirling her long hair, which has been dry for ages at this point, into an expert bun, she approaches the door that Alfred had stumbled through so very long ago.

“Alfred,” she whispers pressing her cheek against the door. “Are you still there?”

Silence greets her whispered inquiry. Flinging the door open, she finds Alfred standing outside the door with a look of complete shock on his face, his arm slightly extended as if he were about to place his hand on the knob to reenter the room.

“What have you been doing?”

He remains motionless and silent.

Evie stomps her small foot. “Come on, Alfred!” she yells in exasperation. “It’s been ages since anything has happened, and I’m bored!”

“Unlike you, I’m staying in character,” he grits out through clenched teeth.

“What?” she asks incredulously. “You mean to tell me that you’ve been like that since She stopped writing?”

He nods his head slightly, but otherwise remains as he was.

“You have got to be exhausted, Alfred!” Closing the distance between them, Evie places a small hand on his extended arm, which, she notes, has begun to shake, and lowers it to his side.

“Damn it, Evie!” Alfred huffs, though he makes no move to resume his earlier position. Instead, he takes his other hand and massages his stiff arm. “I was ready to go for the next scene!”

She’s not going to be back for awhile, Alfred,” Evie pats his shoulder sympathetically. “I received a text message from Her apologizing for the delay because apparently, She’s been pretty sick.”

He whips his head around and pins her with a fierce glare. “How do you have a phone on set? This is a period piece, Evie. That means no phones or devices of any kind.”

“Look, Freddie,” she explains. “I know you’re this big shot method actor and have toured across the country doing Shakespearean theater, but I’m not. This is my first job, and I’ve been so bored this last month waiting for Her. You can be as authentic and disapproving as you want. I’m keeping my phone.”

Alfred sinks wearily onto the floor, his back supported by the wall of the room Evie had just left. “Did She say when we’d have new lines?”

“I think a couple of weeks at the most.”

“I could have been skiing in the Alps this holiday,” Alfred mutters under his breath.

Evie snorts highly doubting that Alfred could be coordinated enough to make it anywhere but down on his bottom, but quickly hides her amused smile at Alfred’s narrow-eyed gaze. Quickly changing the subject, Evie asks, “What do you think of the script?”

He shrugs. “Predictable at this point.”

Evie bristles at his dismissive tone. “I like it. Besides, you shouldn’t be so hard on Her. It’s only Her second novel.”

“I suppose, but you realize that we’re probably going to end up together by the end, don’t you?”

She rests her hand on his knee and squeezes lightly. Stifling a giggle at his startled jump, she asks innocently peering up at him from underneath her eyelashes, “Would that be so bad?”

Alfred coughs and flushes bright red. Drawing little circles on his leg above his knee, she can’t help asking impishly, “What did you think of that last scene?”

If possible, Alfred flushes even redder. Pulling his tie away from his throat, he manages to strangle out, “I did not realize that there was going to be nudity.”

His eyes skitter around, anywhere but to Evie’s face. “Why Alfred,” she laughs, “if I didn’t know any better, I’d say I made you uncomfortable! Here I thought method actors were prepared for anything.”

Gulping loudly, he pushes himself to his feet and strides stiffly away. “I’ll be in my dressing room. Fetch me whenever She gets back to work.”

Evie’s delighted laughter follows him down the hallway and is the only response he receives.