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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Freud had it wrong.

His question should have been "What do CATS want?"

Really, has anyone every figured out the inner workings of a cat's mind? Anyone who has a cat knows that cats are intelligent. Look at how they get us to do their bidding!

It's their methods, though, that often prompt us to ask what the cat really wants. If a cat has gotten his or her way once by doing a series of activities before the cat's person finally figures out that the cat, say, wants to go out, then ever after the cat will go through the same series. Nevermind that it might start with a meow by the food dish, followed by ignoring the food, walking in a circle, meowing a again, and then, maybe, heading for the door to the outside. If it worked once, the cat figures that's how it's done!

And how many of us have give food to our apparantly starving cats, only to have them turn up their noses at it? It took me years before I finally figured out that I should not stand there waiting to see if the cat was going to eat. I now walk away into another room, and soon the cat starts chowing down. She must want her privacy when she eats. At least, that's how I read the situation. Who really knows?

Most of the time when my cat curls up on my lap it is because she wants to snuggle, be petted and sleep (or that's the way it appears). But sometimes I think it's just to keep tabs on me and be prepared, when I get up, to indicate another want or need, be it food or to go outside (the primary cat issues, at least in my home).

So, let others worry about what women want. Those of us with cats will better spend our time trying to figure out what cats want!

Monday, October 14, 2013

In the Beginning

An author has to grab the reader's attention.

A writer has only a few pages to hook a reader. It doesn't matter if the rest of book is fascinating, page-turning reading if a reader can't get past the first two or three pages. If those beginning pages are weak, the readers will probably abandon the book. (Editors too, if your book is in the submission phase.) With TV, internet, cell phones, etc., there is too much competition for a young reader's time.

The writer has to reveal something to the reader. It could be a problem, a conflict or an attitude. It could be the emotional state of the main character.

Another approach is to present a question. Why does Nicole hate her father? What did Jason see his best friend do? What was that student doing hiding in the custodian's closet?

No matter what approach a writer takes, the result needs to be a beginning that hooks the reader.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Please prove you are not a robot."

You know you're a person, but several times a week you have to prove it.

You get those "requests" where you have to prove you are a human in order to post a message. You run into them almost every day. It's bad enough to have to prove that funny, intelligent, good-looking, flesh-and-blood you has to show that you are not a machine. But when the proof requires you to try to read blurry numbers that seem to be attached to houses that have a shady past or letters that are so wavy and squeezed together that they might as well be a pre-schooler's scribbles, it can be almost impossible. How many times have you "failed" and had to try again? And again? And again? How many times have you decided that what you wanted to say was not worth the effort of proving you are you?

Yes, spamming can be a problem. But surely there must be a better way of eliminating it than having to try to interpret indecipherable numbers and letters!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Handwritten Letters

Although I email a lot (along with other electronic communication) and phone occasionally, I do still write letters to some of my friends and family. My handwriting is terrible, but I do the best I can. Why? Because I think handwritten letters are special.

I've saved many letters over the years, and when I look at them again they bring the letter-writer right back into my mind, even those who have passed on. When I see my mother's handwriting, I can hear her voice. When I read a friend's letter, I can picture as she was back at the time when she wrote it.

When I was growing up, it was a thrill to get a letter in the mail addressed to me. I still feel that way. I love actual cards, be they birthday, Christmas or whatever, much better than ecards. I can put a real, paper card on the mantle and enjoy it every time I look in that direction. While emails can be saved (and I do save certain ones), it is not the same. They are hidden away. And most people delete their emails as soon as they have read them.

Handwritten letters and cards often contain family and friendship history. Years later letters can be discovered by future generations that will tell them something about the past. But no one is going to look through ancient emails, even if by some chance years from now they could still be read by future computers and electronic devices.

I have letters from my mother dating back to when I first moved away from home. I have letters from my husband written to me before we were married. I even have a letter from an author of a series of favorite books that I read when I was growing up.

My grandmother saved her correspondence, and there is a "letter" from me written when I was very young, before I could actually write. It looks like a row of ocean waves. But I was trying!

Of course, there are stashes of Valentine's and Mother's Day cards that I gave my mother when I was growing up and that my daughter gave to me.

Emails and such are fun, but handwritten cards and letters are pure gold.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Familiar Question--How do you write a whole book?

Answer: Persistence!

Questions and comments I get about writing often revolve around actually finishing a book. A lot of people start writing books, but then never finish them.

I can understand. It's always fun when I have new idea and the adrenaline is flowing. Getting those first few words out is exciting! But. Then what?

Well, then a writer has to make sure the plot has viable beginning, middle and end. Characters must be created and fully developed. Setting has to be described and incorporated into the story. And on and on.

So, how does a writer get to the point of writing "The End?" By going "on and on." By writing one word, one sentence, one paragraph and then moving on to the next.

Don't worry about that first word, sentence or paragraph being perfect. Not right away. Of course, writers need to revise and polish their work. But expecting perfection from the start--or waiting for the "muse" to dictate the perfect story--isn't going to work.

Finishing a book is not easy, but it's not impossible. One word, then another, then the next. Sentence after sentence. Paragraph after paragraph. Chapter after chapter. Pretty soon you'll have written a whole book.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Flashbacks

Flashbacks can give us information and provide insights into situations and characters.

Stories are usually not told entirely in chronological order. Most have at least one flashback, if not more. The flashback can take a story back and provide information that also moves a story forward.

For example, if we find out that a teen had been abused in some way by a parent, teacher or other adult, it can explain his current emotions, actions and motives.

Flashbacks do have to be handled carefully, however. A reader can get so caught up in the past that he/she does not want to return to the present. Or, a reader can get impatient with a flashback and wonder when it will end so that the story can move on. They must written so that they are seamless and enhance the story rather than slow it down.

Reread any flashbacks in your stories and see if you get too involved or too impatient. If you do, so will your readers.