CAFE: A gathering place. A place of refreshment.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008


I’ve not posted anything about writing in a while. You might even say it’s been eerily quiet here at the café when it comes to talking about craft or creative endeavors. Two reasons for that:

1) I’ve been busy writing (hallelujah!)

2) I’ve been so busy writing, I’ve let all those great “blog” ideas slither on by without taking the time to flesh them out.

Today, though, I’ve got a writing salmagundi for you. Say what????

I can tell you what it’s not. Definitely not a spotted, slimy amphibian that lurks in dark, dank places. And not a newly discovered fungus that’s rocking the ecological world.

According to Webster’s, a salmagundi is 1) a salad plate of chopped meats, anchovies, eggs, and vegetables arranged in rows for contrast and served with salad dressing OR 2) a heterogeneous mixture. So that’s what today’s post is—a delectable assortment.

First off, you have a new word that may or may not be useful in your writing endeavors.

So without further adieu—
WIN, our local ACFW affiliate hosted a mini-conference this past Saturday. Deb Raney, an award winning writer of women’s fiction, came to Tulsa for the day. Her teaching is chockfull of wisdom, and she covered a wide range of writing topics. This was my second time to hear Deb, and each time I’ve come away with different insights and been recharged in my own writing.

Here are a couple of things that seemed to “stick” with me this time.

Marking time in our novels.
1) Deb suggested heading each chapter with a date. You may or may not keep the headings, but it provides an easy way to see where you are on your work in progress.
2) Create a timeline (especially useful if your novel spans a long period of time). You can make a visual timeline by taping sheets of paper together into a long, easy to read sequence, marking birthdates of the primary characters, significant events, the story’s actual beginning point, and days or dates when the story’s events take place. I’ve not tried the super-sized version Deb showed us, but think it would be a useful tool.
3) Use unobtrusive time markers (rising sun, noon whistle) to clue the reader about time of day.
4) Sensory details work well in showing the season (icicles hanging from the eaves, the crunch of autumn leaves, a car door handle that sizzles when touched).

Some useful websites to help you with accurate placement of time and dates:

Plotting Help
Another of Deb’s topics that resonated with me was plotting using Michael Hauge’s 6 Stage Plot Structure. Since this is an area that plagues my writing, I’m anxious to investigate this more. You can see a general overview of the method
here. Or a more detailed explanation with examples here.

Deb shared a wealth of information on POV (point of view), characterization, subplots, editing tips, and where to get ideas and inspiration. Great stuff for a new writer, some excellent reminders and new twists for seasoned writers.

Setting Goals
We were also reminded to set writing goals. Hmmm. I remember doing that at the beginning of the year. Looking back, I’ve stayed on track fairly well in spite of numerous interruptions and a very busy family year. I’ve entered contests, polished my proposal (with the help of my amazingly savvy agent), and cranked out the pages. However, I really wanted to have the first draft of my current novel finished by June 1. It didn’t happen.

First, I was stuck for a week or two at 20,000 words. Pushed past that, then stalled at 42,000. After some head-banging and planting myself in the chair, I’m on my way again. Still, I want to have the manuscript finished by July 26 (the absolute last day I will give myself before we head to California for our son’s wedding). I did a little calculation—number of words needed to complete the book, divided by the total number of days until my self-imposed deadline. I was surprised that by writing 714 words per day I will make my goal. Now, I know I won’t write every day, but many days I write 2000 – 2500 words, so I believe by putting it into a smaller perspective, the task doesn’t look so daunting.

How about you? Are you keeping up with your goals?
Do you have any links you’d like to share that have helped you in your writing journey?
I’d love to hear from you. And please, if you have the opportunity to hear Deb speak, take it. You’ll be glad you did.


Myra Johnson said...

Great recap of Deb's workshop, Carla!

However, I don't recall seeing this dish (won't even dare try to spell it!) in our diet book!!!

Erica Vetsch said...

What fun! I do wish I could've been at Deb's classes.

I recently entered into a 'pact' with my crit partners for 1000 words per day for the month of July. That should see me to the end of the first draft of my novel. :)

One More Writer said...

I wanted so badly to come to Tulsa for that workshop but I just couldn't make it work--so thanks for the recap! Summer is a hard writing time for me. Isn't it time for school to start yet???