All Those Characters

Here’s a quote with novelists in mind:

Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him. (Mel Brooks)

So maybe those of us who write fiction aren’t the only ones with voices and characters in our heads or under our skin. We’re just the ones who listen to them closely enough to let them be heard. 🙂

Persistence Pays

Our writing quote for the week is pretty self-explanatory:

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success — but only if you persist. (Isaac Asimov, US science fiction novelist and scholar, 1920-1992)

Granted, some of the things we write deserve to stay buried in the back of your deepest drawer or hidden away on your highest closet shelf. But if everything we write gets stuffed in a corner and never again sees the light of day, we’ll never know if we’re improving and we’ll never be part of that small percentage of writers who actually get published. Keep plugging away on those drafts and keep working hard to find someone who will print them and share your words with the world!

The art of editing

Editing is an art, whether you’re writing a document for work, a letter to a friend, or the Great American Novel. Editing is also hard work — and is something everyone needs to learn as a writer. It’s easy to write an article or scene and think it’s finished because of all the blood and sweat drenching your shirt and keyboard. But guess what? You’re not done yet! The real perfection, the true beauty, comes later when you’ve let those initial words settle in a bit, when you’ve mulled things over in your mind a while longer, when you’ve finally thought of a word that’s even more descriptive and perfect than the one you fought for in the first place. Editing will also usually help us whittle things down to the most effective, important words — and that’s no easy task. But it’s so worth it in the end!  With that in mind, here’s a writing quote for the week … about editing:

I have made this [letter] longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter. (Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and physicist; 1623-1662) 

See? Even mathematicians and physicists know the importance of cutting words (and how much time it takes to get it right). May you have a great week of writing and successful editing to make your words even better!

Headlight writing

Whew, life and work have been packed these last couple of weeks so I haven’t posted like I’d hoped. Here’s a writing quote to start the week, though:

“It’s like driving a car. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” — E.L. Doctorow


One of the things that intimidates me most about writing a novel is the sheer size of it — 100,000 words is nothing to sneeze at! I’ve been thinking of it in terms of the proverbial “eating an elephant one bite at  time,” but like the headlight analogy better.

When your headlights are the only thing showing your way, you see really well right in front of you, then see fairly well, then the light fades into darkness. You might know where you’ll end up eventually, but can’t see what lies beyond that immediate pool of light. I’m learning that it’s often the same way with my writing.

I’m what I consider a semi-plotter — I map out the general story and have an idea of how I want things to come together, but don’t go through the steps of chapter summaries or scene one-liners.  I see where I am, which is the brightest pool in my headlights. I have a good idea of how I want my current scene to fit with the next, which is that area that’s still lit but not quite as bright. I know how I want it to all end, which is the final destination. But all sorts of unexpected things pop up along the way that I didn’t anticipate — that’s what lies in the darkness just past the headlights. 

As long as I focus on the immediate pool of light — my current scene or chapter — but keep the final destination in mind, I can keep plowing through the story without getting too far off track (or at least  hope so!). Then when I look back I’ll see all the distance I traveled and realize that it wasn’t so daunting after all. I just need to take it one mile marker (or chapter) at a time.