Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Write What You Know by Bonnie Le Hamilton



Writers the world over have probably been told a time or two to write what they know. I heard it a lot in high school, and at some point, I began to wonder how any author could come up with more than one story, if authors can only write what he or she has experienced personally. To my mind, even all those years ago, I didn’t think I’d be able to write a decent story, if I had to stick with only things I’d personally experienced.

I mean I did try. My two novels dating back that far have a heroine who was two years behind in school. That was something I did know. And in one of them, I originally had a scene where the hero and heroine meet while watching a pair of swans taking off in flight from a place called The Oxbow, it’s on the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park.

The setting exists, and that pair of swans did once take off in flight, but there had only been one person standing on the bridge above watching — one young lady. Me.

And, just so you know, that’s one sight I will never forget.

But even as I wrote both of these stories, I felt like I wasn’t really writing what I know. Yeah sure, I’d seen those swans myself, and yeah sure, I had been two years behind in school, but neither of those characters were twins. I’m a twin, I know what being a twin is like. And yet, while I have had characters that are twins, I’ve yet to write a story where the heroine is a twin.

And I’m still not sure why.

Then I discovered Dick Francis.

Now anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of his. I have been for years, but well after reading a couple of his books, I started thinking he must have led a fantastical life, considering all the careers he knew so much about. I was beginning to wonder how I could ever write anything when I had such limited experience. Then I learned a few things about him personally.

Number one, he had been a jockey, which explains why horse racing plays such a major role in many of his stories, but he’d also been in a pilot in World War II, explaining his stories where the hero is a pilot. But he never lost a hand; he never suffered the injury his character Sid Haley suffered nor have I ever discovered any information on him saying he was a fraternal twin like his character Kit Fielding.

And what of the artist living on a Scottish mountainside? Or the wine merchant, or the glassblower, and oh so many other characters. He didn’t do all those things! It was physically impossible for one man to have that many careers in one lifetime.

So how did Dick Francis do it?

Research! From what I’ve read of him, he’d interview people in those fields, picked their brains for details, or even follow them around for a few days. And his writing shows that knowledge, making each novel interesting and fresh.

So the take away is, write what you know, but don’t limit yourself to personal experience. Go out there and find the information you need to make your story realistic!


Happy writing everyone. J

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Descriptions by Bonnie Le Hamilton

Not too long ago I saw a post on Facebook asking how to describe a character without a “standing in the front of the mirror” type scene, which any decent writer knows is a big time no-no. But it isn’t always all that easy, especially if you have only one POV. How would the POV character describe himself to the reader without standing in front of a mirror to do an assessment?

That isn’t easy to even to answer.

I have one story I’ve written were the reader learns the hero has red hair because he complains about how his whole family (whole community actually) has red hair and how boring it is. In the same story, the reader learns about the main character’s size because some other characters point out the size difference between him and another fellow his age, and he reflects on why he is understandably larger. The only other description given of him is the way he dresses, and that was in form of describing the dress code of his people to an outsider. (They’re aliens.)

At no point do I have this character standing in front of a mirror.

In another story of mine (an unfinished one), I show the reader the POV character’s appearance by having other characters react to it. Of course, the whole thing is in his POV, so he does inwardly react to their reaction, thereby the reader learns why people do have such a reaction, but my main character isn’t standing in front of a mirror describing himself either.

Generally, I find it easier to have at least two POV characters, so each of them can “assess” the other in their eyes when they first meet. Simple and easy, but then sometimes you need more, because there are always things a character isn’t going to take note of. Or maybe doesn’t need to.

I have a scene in yet another story of mine where the hero describes what he assesses to be a young boy climbing out of the passenger seat of his tow truck, which his employee had just returned to his garage. In that short paragraph, the reader learns about the description of this new character in the hero’s life, including said characters size, though not her gender.

Which brings me to another post I read this week about pronouns (and frankly I find this incomprehensible) but apparently it is now politically correct to use the plural pronoun “they” to describe an individual who prefers to remain androgynous. I even noticed an author using this incongruous pronoun to keep the sex of a character unknown to the reader.

And it makes me wonder if schools are even teaching grammar anymore at all. He, She, and It are all singular, They is plural. Personally, I would never want to be referred to as in it, but “they”?

And instead of keeping the reader in dark about a character’s gender don’t refer to that person as “they”! Keep the POV character in the dark too, or at least confused as to gender, which I’ve said I’ve done, but frankly, if I ever read something where an individual is referred by the pronoun “they” I’d probably stop reading the book. I might even consider it a wall banger. Such writing would certainly draw me out of the story, which we all know is a bed thing.

Yeah, I know I’m old fashioned, but I can’t be alone in this. Can I?


Happy writing everyone. J

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ode To November by BonnieLe Hamilton

November is the busiest month of the year for me, as I stated in my last post, November is National Novel Writer’s month http://nanowrimo.org, it would also be the month of my anniversary, if Tom were still alive, and it is the month of Konnie’s anniversary (and no, not the same the day or even the same year). And, of course, there’s also Thanksgiving, and Christmas shopping. As I said, it is a busy month for me. Plus let’s not forget the National Election and just incidental things like trips to the pharmacy and grocery stores and just plain household chores.

It’s a wonder I’m able finish the Nano every year.

Okay, maybe not a wonder, because, I only have one person I chauffeur around on a regular basis (my sister-in-law, who doesn’t drive) and Konnie still has a Mom Taxi. And where I need to take my sister-in-law to appointments at most three times a week (and some weeks not at all), Konnie has to chauffeur kids around several times a day.

Frankly, it’s a wonder she managed to finish the rough on her colossal sci-fi with how much time she spends running kids around and just plain running errands. It also explains why she spent so much time while she was visiting me working on editing that sci-fi; she actually was able to work for hours straight without interruption. Too bad my place is so quiet; she resorted to putting videos in just for the noise!

Yeah, our lives are totally different. I really doubt the lives of any two writers are the same. We all have different living situations, and our families have different needs.

But anyway, for all those writers out there participating in Nano, I’d like to tell you my personal motto, “Slow and Steady wins the race.” 

And for all those who are not participating because a deadline or family obligations won’t let you, keep on writing. Each word you put on the page is one word closer to, “The End.” Or I could remind you of the old quote attributed to Nora Roberts about how you can’t fix a blank page, and tell you, if you have one word on it, it isn’t blank anymore. J


Happy writing everyone!


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Making it Worse by Bonnie Le Hamilton

Have you ever had one of those days when everything thing seems to go wrong? Well I’m having one of those months, and I think it might be two months.

All my problems actually started on June 24th. I know the exact date because on June 24th I had to drive all the way into I.F. to the airport to pick up Konnie, who was flying in to spend a couple of week with me over our birthday.

Or maybe everything started the day before when I got that call from the doctor’s office, saying the lab test came back and he needed to see me as soon as possible. Dang, yeah that didn’t help any.

But the next day with a bit of a limp, it wasn’t easy getting to the airport at all, but I managed, thanks to having a walker. Getting to my doctor’s office later that day wasn’t any easier because my limp had gotten a little worse, and my left ear was bothering me, that cough I’d developed wasn’t any fun either.

Anyway, long story short, along with having to change some of my regular medications, my doctor informed me my sciatica was acting up, I had a mild cold, and an ear infection. Oh swell. At least Konnie was around to help me while I spent a few days trying to stay off my leg as much as possible, but well, when things on that front got better, I suffered a small accident.

It was nothing major. I have one of those store-bought reusable plastic water bottles, 24 ounces. And I put it, full on my padded footstool while I turned to sit on the couch. I’d barely managed that when my bottle tumbled off the footstool and landed hard on my shin. I even remember telling Konnie I was going to have an almighty bruise on my shin in a day or two.

The only other problem I noted during those last few days Konnie was visiting was that while I had finished the antibiotics, my ear still was “clogged” to the point I couldn’t hear out of it. I made another appointment with my doctor.

Between making that appointment, and it actually happening, I took Konnie back to the airport, even though I was again limping. For some reason my bad ankle was acting up again. Or at least that’s what I thought, until I saw my doctor.

I must point out at this time, that I should have noticed there was only a barely discernable discoloration on my shin, and not the almighty bruise I expected. It hadn’t dawned on me that could be a problem, but it turns out, my shin didn’t bruise all that much because the blood was pooling in my foot and he instructed me to spend the next two weeks with my ankle elevated above my heart!
Do you have any idea how hard that is?

Well let me tell you, it isn’t comfortable to do while sitting up. Promise. But the hazards of lying in bed for two weeks aren’t so fun either, especially when my favored pastime is sitting on my computer, writing. Where do you put a computer while your in bed?

The easy answer is on a bed tray designed for a computer. I don’t own a bed tray of any sort. I grabbed my reader and a pile of books, and despite getting some time to read, I went a little stir crazy. I think the biggest part was that despite living so far apart, Konnie and I usually connect every day, online. We talk in AIM all the time, which of course we couldn’t do while I couldn’t get on my computer.

And believe me I did try, but the only place I could put this thing was on my stomach, and putting this big heavy thing on my belly made me feel like I was about to lose it, if you know what I mean. I couldn’t do it for very long, and I frankly avoided it as much as I could.

Then my ankle started to feel better, I was starting to think I would be able to make my brother-in-law’s wedding even though it fell the day before I was supposed to be up and about again, but well, the day before the wedding my hip went out. Or rather, I should say, my sciatica reared it is ugly head again.

Only this time, after 2 weeks of not sleeping on my side (the best position for my back problems) I was now in a lot more pain than any other time my sciatica had acted up. I, in fact, ended up in the emergency room one night simply because my pain was so bad I couldn’t manage to get myself into my bedroom, let alone my bed.
And, just as I am starting to see improvement on that front, just as the new month has barely started, what happens? For the first time in months, I get cramps. Here I hadn’t done anything more than spotting, if at all, since before Christmas, and suddenly, well until this ends, messes will happen, and I hate this.

And I’m beginning to wonder if someone upstairs is trying to keep me home bound for a reason.

But at least it got me thinking about how in writing we’re supposed to think of the worst thing that could possibly happen, and make it worse. Every time someone has told me this, I have always thought how could you possibly make the worst thing to happen worse? Now I know.

Why did I have to learn this the hard way?


Happy writing everyone!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Flow of Things by Konnie Enos

I’m going to tell you the honest truth. Last night I had several ideas I could write about for my blog post. I really did. I don’t know if it was the hour (it was nearly 2 this morning) or they simply weren’t good ideas, but I couldn’t get any of them to flow.
I finally scrapped them.
Sleep. I need sleep. Then I’ll be able to think, write.
I went to bed. Then got up way too early to get my son up for school (he’s in summer school). I still had plenty of time to type up one of those ideas I had. I got him going then laid down to get some more rest.
Apparently my son, despite what he said, also got some more sleep. He missed his bus because he wasn’t looking for it.
That debacle at least got me awake. It also took me half an hour to figure out that he’d actually missed it. (I called the bus garage right away, I was on the line that long trying to find out where the bus was.)
So here I am, Wednesday morning less than half an hour before my post is supposed to go up and I’m tired from not enough sleep, plus I can’t think beyond the fact my son tried to get away with lying to me.
And to make matters worse my dear sister is complaining about how she feels every few seconds while I’m trying to organize my thoughts.
I suppose it could be worse.
I could have the rest of my family vying for my attention.
I’ve certainly been there. Trying to write and every single member of my family comes in and insists on talking to me interrupting my train of thought. But of course, I’m just on my computer, I’m not doing anything.
I could go on and on about family members who always interrupt me, who think I’m never busy and always have time since I’m ‘just on my computer’.
And now my post should already be up and I still can’t get the ideas to flow.
There are several things I should be doing.
Getting breakfast. Taking my medications.
Doing the chores I’ve been putting off, avoiding all week.
Doing the finances, because those always need done.
Getting a bath. Getting dressed. Though I doubt I’ll go anywhere today so I probably won’t do the last one.
And last of all, I could be editing my opus. I’ve actually been working on it for the last month.
In the end I just have to tackle one thing at a time and hope too many things don’t crop up to interfere with my plans. Because we all know life happens.
A child gets sick. A pet gets hurt. You run out of milk (ask Bonnie, that happens a lot around here). Someone needs a ride someplace. Or, like today, you have to write something and you can’t get a single idea to flow.
 Some days you just have to grin and bear it.

Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Calendars and Challenges



At the beginning of each month, besides working on paying all the bills, I update my personal calendar and make sure the family calendar is up to date. This is generally a daunting task because two of my daughters and my husband usually have multiple doctor’s appointments each and it’s a rare week that doesn’t have something scheduled.
This month I opened my calendar and decided that my girls hadn’t told me their appointments yet, and my husband’s needed to be added too. For the whole month there was only my doctor’s appointment. 
I asked.
One daughter gave me the mere two she had while the other sent the message she miraculously didn’t have any, while I added my husband’s—one.
I looked at the completed calendar in sheer astonishment at all the blank spaces.
I can’t remember the last time my calendar was that empty at the beginning of the month.
Then of course of I dove into my week, including adding a doctor’s appointment for a sick kid. Then I’ve had to fit in trips to the vet for several pets between runs to the store for necessary things like milk and bread, which I can’t seem to keep enough of in the house. Not really surprising since I have two teenaged boys.
In between all that I’ve had to figure out where all our money has to go this month and I still have to get those bills paid, plus I’m still hard at work trying to finish my opus, and I’ve finally managed to get to the day of the momentous final event, but like Bonnie, I’ve hit a snag in reaching ‘the end’. (Neither one of us has won this challenge yet.)
As I was scrolling back, just a few pages, to check something I’d typed, I found an anomaly, a line of code that I’ve run into before.
How it gets into my documents, I have no idea. I have found there is only one way to get it out, copy and paste everything into a new document without any formatting.
Easy enough to do. And if your only formatting is line spacing and indents for paragraphs, it’s a matter of selecting all and reformatting it, and you’re done. Of course if you have chapter heading, like I do, you’d then have to do a find for the word chapter and reposition where the heading is, i.e. center it.
For most documents that’s be about all you’d need.
But I have scene breaks that would need centered. So do a find for all of those. Also not so hard.
Okay. Next step.
I have subheading that need to be flush right and italicized. Fortunately they all start the same. So do another find and change all of those.
Now it’s back to the way I had it, right?
Not quite.
Because I also had some italicized text within the body of the story, and, you guessed it, it’s all different. Now I have to do a careful hunt in the old document, with the anomaly in it, for everything that’s italicized and make sure I italicize it in the new document.  
Considering I was working on chapter 144 when this happened, and my document is well over 1700 pages, it’s a massive undertaking.
And as you can see, I’m now late making my post this morning. Plus I’m running behind on getting ready for the busy day I have.
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Challenge



Last week, as Bonnie said, I challenged her to a race to the end, see which one of us could finish writing our current work in progress by the end of the month. Her main goal was to get it finished so she’d have a clean slate to start a new story for Nano next month.
My motivation is finally getting my mega opus finished. Today I started writing chapter 137 of these epic story, which is really several stories in one. There are so many characters in it and even the non-POV characters have a story line. But I’m oh so much closer. Since at least part of the last few scenes are already written (I do know how the opus ends) I know I’m almost there. I just need a few more scenes to wrap up some story lines and set up that final event.
As I look at what I have now, and the scenes I still need to write, I’m sure I won’t finish at 140 chapters, in fact, because that last event is so big, I’m pretty sure I’ll make at least 150.
Which means I could have 14 more chapters to write in just over a week.
I have ten days to write about 14 chapters.
Scratch that.
Due to plans I have this weekend, I doubt I’ll have any writing time on Saturday.
And then there’s the paperwork, bills and so forth I have to deal with. The grocery shopping. My husband’s car is down, at least until we can fix it, which won’t be until after the first, so guess who gets to do a lot of chauffeuring for the next ten days to two weeks?
But having a goal is a good thing.
Both of us are trying hard to complete our stories.

Most days we both spend time on our stories either adding to them or editing, tweaking, what we already had.
One word at a time we are both getting closer.
She doesn’t think she’ll make any more than I do, but we’re not giving up.
Although I don’t do Nano, I rarely have the time to do that much typing, I can see the value of such challenges. Setting goals with friends, people who will not only keep you on track, but race you to the finish line.
So for all those writers who are doing Nano, I support you. Keep fighting to ‘the end’, and when you reach it, go back and edit, edit, edit, until it’s the best you can offer.
I’d write more now, but I’ve got an alarm going off, I need breakfast, and my opus really wants me to finish that scene I left in the middle of so I could get this written. And I’m sorry this is late, but I really was trying to write that scene.
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.