Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Paperback Art

I just had so share this site http://ow.ly/hKIZ with anyone who likes old paperback art! I am ever amazed at the clever ideas people come up with...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bernoulli’s Principle

I have been following Miss Snark’s First Victim blog, and currently she has up for feedback the first 250 words of 38 unpublished works. I love reading these, and have left feedback on a couple I especially liked. What particularly strikes me with these exercises/contests is just how important those first few paragraphs are. My sister, an avid reader and recreational writer, associates it with Bernoulli’s principle.

Bernoulli’s principle: The combined forces which generate lift in aircraft. In a literary application, we essentially rely on those first words to generate enough forward motion in our story to get it off the ground. We need to give the reader confidence that we will deliver them safely to a destination without a crash and burn.

She is a staunch reader of the first paragraph in books that catch her interest. If it is convoluted, cliché, not utterly easy to follow, or sounds pretentious then it has taken a nosedive and she puts it back on the shelf. “I’m willing to commit time to the journey, and if that first paragraph gives me confidence that I’m in good hands, I’ll read on,” she told me.

Based on that principle, I have rewritten my opening paragraph countless times.

As a side issue on this topic of opening paragraphs and offering critique on them: when I read the feedback provided by others, I am amazed at the authority with which it given. The writing qualifications of the reviewers, on so many of these blogs, spread across the entire spectrum of writers. From unpublished novelists (like me) on over to those with numerous credentials and published works. Yet very often, the feedback is consistently good; in view of it, I can return to the excerpt I just read and see exactly what needs tweaking. I’ve learned how to improve my own writing by means of it. I think it must be no small task, developing that critical eye. I'm still honing mine. When I read someone’s work, I am far more inclined to see what I like in it. Perhaps that’s just my nature.

Very soon, I will be swapping manuscripts with a fellow novelist who is at approximately the same stage I’m at. I’m a little nervous—okay, a lot nervous! I know I will find plenty to like about her work, but will I be up for the challenge of offering helpful critique? We’ve agreed to have a list—an agenda of sorts—as to what we specifically want; I hope that saves me. I wonder how many of those other bloggers out there are in the same boat.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


While visiting out-of-state relatives in an internet void, I survived two-and-a-half weeks without connecting to my ‘other life’. Upon returning, we found our internet service provider needed to switch out our modem, extending my agony for another three days. Fine—I had grown accustomed to feeling suspended in anticipation, and used the time to spruce up my WIP. Not only had I revised the first chapter, but I added another 1000 words interspersed throughout the existing 84,000. Not just filler words, but the kind of stuff you write when you haven’t looked at it in weeks, when your perspective is fresh and your characters beg for a little something extra—that bit of emotional edge that crosses over to literary.

Then it happened. The crash.

Normally, I back up everything on an external hard drive, (or in the case of my WIP, at least on a flash drive or my PDA) but, of course, before I could, my computer seized up…the big blue screen overtook me with a wave of nausea. Initially, it was all about denial. Then my husband confirmed it, and so did the Computer Hierarchy. The hard drive crashed, with all my stuff, inaccessibly locked away.

Not too long ago I would have freaked at the thought of loosing MS Money files and pictures, but my first and foremost concern is for those 1000 words. It’s crazy and sobering. How has my life become so wrapped up in a box? So embroiled that a crash feels like a life threatening illness. Yikes, kid, get a grip! And the guilt! Would fellow bloggers think I was ignoring them?

The upside is, I have a good friend who is a computer whiz and seems to feel as if he has some vested interest in my mental/emotional stability, and told me he could fix it—probably…

In the meantime, I’ve learned that I CAN do something other that type and read other peoples’ blogs. I sewed a slip cover, made lovely complementary pillows, and altered a pretty linen dress with a bateau neck and mother of pearl buttons down the back (it’s been waiting for 4 years). The most shocking thing I did, (and I say shocking because it’s quite out of what has become my character), was to invite a ten year-old to my house for the afternoon. (Admittedly, she is more like a mini adult than a kid). We cut lavender in my garden, strung up the stems for drying, and then made an antique lace sachet for when the buds are dried. Not only that, I got out my watercolors and we painted a vase of them!
I was so inspired that I took a long look at one of my watercolor works-in-progress and actually gave some thought to what layer I would next wash over it.

During all that, my husband (now realizing that the computer has kept me pharmaceutically free for the past few years) researched and purchased a laptop, which I am writing on, right now. I anticipate that it will save me when we return to visit family in October, but for the rest of this week, it’ll do the trick.

Now—to go and make the call I have been putting off. I hate to nag a working man, but I have to know…has he resuscitated my baby?