Music. It’s made up of individual notes that may be lovely by themselves, but when you put the notes together, and combine them with rhythm and silence, it creates something entirely new. Music is all about making things match up. Notes join together and people join together to make harmony happen. There’s all kinds of research showing that making music in community produces enormous benefits in terms of health and social connections, and I’ve talked about this before, but you don’t need the science to know this. Music brings us together.

Posted in response to the WordPress photo challenge: A Good Match


A Poem

Crappy, crummy cold
Energy evaporated
Thinking thwarted
Creativity crashed
Writing wrecked
Sleep seducing
Weekend wasted

Bye, blog

Time Travel – Skipping Through Time in a Story

Weekend Words today were inspired by a recent post in the Pub(lishing) Crawl blog by Jodi Meadows: The Weight of Time (In Your Book). Jodi pointed out a mistake lots of writers, beginning and experienced, make in first drafts. The issue is how to get from this scene to that scene without dragging the reader through the entire time span in between. Go ahead and read what Jodi says, because she’s got it right.

In a story, words are time. The reader spends roughly the same amount of time reading per word throughout the whole book (yes, it varies a bit, but not significantly). So when deciding how to cover a period of time, what we need to be focusing on is how much time we want the reader to spend with that experience, not how long the actual experience takes. This is part of what is meant by pacing. We want to slow the reader down when a lot of important things are happening, so we need to spend more words there. When nothing important is happening? Fewer word. Even no words at all.

Here are two examples from great stories by skilled authors.

The Deep Blue Good-by (1964) is the first of the splendid Travis McGee stories by the incomparable John D. MacDonald. Nobody can create characters and settings as vividly in as few words as MacDonald. He also handles time and pacing very well. About two-thirds of the way through this book (p. 149 in my copy), narrator McGee finishes up with a conversation with one character and leaves her to visit another character, Cathy. Cathy is in the hospital, following a severe beating from an ex-lover, and McGee needs information from her to find him and bring him to McGee’s form of justice. Here’s how MacDonald handles the transition, with the closing dialogue of the previous scene (with the character talking about the pants she’s wearing) and the start of the new one:

“I bought them today. I don’t feel very secure about them.”

Cathy was in a six-bed ward. I pulled a chair close, kissed her on the forehead and sat beside her.

See how much time MacDonald spent on the transition? None at all. We hear the last line and then, blink! We’re in the hospital. No need to walk through the whole process of getting there.

Pattern Recognition (2003) is an all-time favorite science fiction novel by William Gibson. Cayce Pollard is someone with an unusual sort of mental power who finds herself embroiled in an increasingly confusing and dangerous world as she tries to avoid kidnappers and soviet-era spies. The disconnected, other-worldly feel of the story is reinforced by Cayce’s frequent sleeping and waking up in new places, and having to remind herself of where she is and how she got there. (This book contains a wonderful description of jet-lag.) The up-to-the -minute atmosphere is also strengthened by frequent references to current technology. Here’s one transition, as she goes from flying in the first-class cabin to another country and connecting with Bigend, the person she’s going to meet. This is the last line of one scene and the first line of the next:

Decision out of the way, she closes Taki’s jpeg, puts the iBook away, and returns to bed-mode.

When they exit immigration, Bigend is waiting, the only smiling face in a scrum of glum chauffeurs holding hand-lettered sheets of cardboard.

Once again, there is a discontinuity in time. We don’t see her arrive, deplane, find her luggage, and go through the immigration line. There’s nothing there the reader needs to see, so no words are wasted there.

My lesson. I really need to learn to do this. When I looked at my work in progress with this in mind, I found no examples where I went from one scene to the other without at least skimming over the time in between. Things like, “After dealing with all the aftermath of the disaster, I was heading down the road…” This is going in my revision checklist. Where can I cut through that whole transition cleanly, like a film cut, jumping straight from one scene to another with nothing in between? I have to make each of those transitions prove to me that they’re worth it, or out they go.

What do you do when you need to go from one scene to another? Do these transitions give you trouble, as they do for me?


Shadow Cast


This is for all you tabletop gamers out there!

This is an all-star party, pulling together characters from a couple of campaigns:

  • Saffire the elven cleric (in the blue robe)
  • Pawly the human ranged fighter (with the bow)
  • Harley the human ranger (wielding two blades), with his dog companion
  • Garni the dwarven melee fighter (in the middle of the pack)
  • Seloneum the half-elf wizard (with the staff)
  • Cade the halfling rogue (out front)

They are facing … something. It’s casting a huge shadow. Is it a huge creature? Probably has reach. Maybe DR. Spell resistance, high save bonuses, poison — the works.

Sounds like fun, no? Let’s start rolling!

In response to the WordPress photo challenge: Shadow

P.S. – If you’re looking for Wednesday Words, you won’t find them. Since WordPress moved its photo challenge to Wednesdays, there’s too much on my plate for Wednesday Words in the middle of the week. I’ll be switching to Weekend Words instead – so watch for that on Saturday or Sunday each week.

Alone, Not Lonely


I’m an introverted person. That doesn’t mean I don’t like people or enjoy being around them. Social interaction drains my psychic batteries, though, and I need some time alone to recharge. One way I get that time is sitting in the gazebo at the marina while my husband is out on the lake. You can just make out his sailboat in the distance, above the chair. I love the gazebo, with comfy chairs, screening to keep out the bugs but let in the breeze, and a view of the bay. Mostly I love that I have it all to myself. I read, write, catch up on work, or just sip iced tea and watch the sky and the water. I wish everyone else the joy of such a place to go to, where the soul can unfold.

Posted in response to the WordPress photo challenge: Solitude

10 Minutes a Day – Update

On January 11 I pledged to write at least 10 minutes a day on my work in progress, and to post how it’s going with my Wednesday Words each week. I changed my mind about how to post it, since this little update feels jarring stuck at the end of an essay on some writing topic. So I figured out a different way to do it. In the sidebar on the right side of the screen (or down at the bottom on the mobile version), you’ll see an update with the number of days that have passed, the number of days I hit the 10+ minute goal, and the percentage of successful days. I don’t expect anyone else to actually pay attention to that, but updating it regularly should keep me on track. I hope!

Cultivating Creativity

On today’s Wednesday Words, I’m mostly giving you other people’s words, not my own. I want to share some recent blog posts related to creativity. Enjoy!

First, Roz Morris, in her Nail Your Novel blog, posted her inspiring Writer’s Manifesto for 2017: Take Your Imagination Seriously. We’re writers! Imagination is our main tool and purpose, but we tend to be sheepish about it. This is all just pretend, after all. But no, Morris says – we have to step up and welcome our imagination, fight for it, be proud of it. Amen! So now I’m all fired up to get serious about imagination. But how?

Here’s how: 8 Ways to Improve Creativity, posted by Beth Nelan on the Writer’s Edit blog. She gives a series of specific techniques that can make any of us more creative. They range from the simple action of looking up (and around) to take in more of the world than we usually do, to more involved actions like taking courses or traveling the world. Yes, these are excellent ideas that can give any of us a creativity boost.

Coincidentally, I just discovered a blog aimed at my day job, but with ideas that any of us can use: The Creative Professor. Risa Stein posts frequent messages about creativity in the classroom. I can use them in how I teach, but they are also valuable in my writing as well. Here’s the most recent post as of right now: Crappy Pictures are Awesome. She talks about how fearful we all are that others are judging us, and our failures will be on display for all to see. Better to keep our thoughts to ourselves, stick just to what’s safe and expected, right? This kills creativity. Don’t worry if your pictures, or your ideas, seem crappy. I’m reminded of a frequent exhortation from a choral director I know: “Be right or be wrong, but be bold!”

How do you nurture your creativity? What helps you take it seriously? How can you make sure to do more of that in the weeks and months to come? Pick a creativity-bolstering activity and make a pledge to do more of that.