Friday, May 23, 2008

A Girl's Best Friend is Her Hand-Held Voice Recorder

Nope, I'm not on the payroll with Olympus or Panasonic. But I still want to take a moment here to sing the praises of one of my favorite writer's contraptions.

Afterall - if one writer finds something helpful, why not share it. Perhaps the info. will help other writers too.

So, I wanted to take just 5 minutes to say HOORAY for my hand-held voice recorder. I'm one of those writers (-- as so many of us are,) who finds that most good plot and characterization ideas hit me when I'm driving home from my day job, or out walking, or off at an event somewhere. So, I used to be one of those poepl who kept a tiny notebook and pencil in my glove compartment. But you know what? It's hard to drive and write at the same time. Plus, it's probably quite hazardous. So one day I decided to take a chance on an electronic voice recorder, and it has revolutionized my life. My little voice recorder (-- certainly not the only one of it's kind on the market, and probably not even the best,) cost me less than $45.00, and it records and categorizes my random writing ideas with just the touch of a button. And as a person who is not technologically brilliant, I was thrilled that it was easy to learn how to use.

My little electronic buddy can store multiple files -- I currently have verbal notes to myself in up to 6 separate, searchable, audio files related to several writing projects that I currently have in the works -- and there's plenty of memory space left for more.

So when I've been struggling about how to word something, and the answer suddenly comes to me while driving down Glenwood Avenue... I just pull the tiny recorder out of my bag, save the thought, and transfer it into my manuscript three hours later when I get home. For a distractable and busy person like me this device keeps me from losing brilliant ideas in the hecticness of the day.

Of course, since it is smaller than a cell phone, the recorder could also come in handy for undercover spywork in Paris, learning what your kids say about you when you're not around, or recording silly things that your boss says in your next meeting, but, uh.... Well, I guess what you do with yours is really up to you.
Suffice to say my little recorder has been a great addition to my writing life, and I suspect that this type of contraption might also be helpful for you.
(Birthday coming up, anyone?)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Writing a Novel is like Growing Perennials

It's Spring again...time for me to use flower planting as an excuse to avoid working on the revisions of my current novel, P.O.C.L!

You see, now that I'm plodding through the second draft of my second novel manuscript I have learned (as every writer does,) that there are parts of the writing journey that are just not any fun. There are the middles, the revisions, and those times when we - the authors - just get bored with our stories, or truly begin to believe (for the 257th time) that our novel is more ready for the trash bin than for an editor to see...

I've been in one of those funks lately (as those of you who read this blog already know). And thus I have closed down my computer and have taken my writerly butt out to my herb and flower garden to try to relocate my creative juices in the clay. And so there I was, unpacking my leafy beauties on my 3rd trip home from Lowes, when I realized this:

Writing a novel is like growing Perennials.

To grow perennials you get the excitement first -- the big idea, the planning stage (as in`I've got this great idea, it's going to be beautiful with the reds over here, and the yellows cascading down the side just to add interest -- everyone will love it); Similarly in a novel (`I've got this great idea, it's going to be brilliant, with the main character's lover getting kidnapped by pirates and then the main character coming in with her ivory sword to save him... everyone will love it...')

So we plan (us gardeners and novelers,) deciding what goes where and how to make it all perfect. Just like with flowers, we writers plant those brilliant words and ideas on the paper with the figurative sun shining down from the cloudless sky... oh the ecstacy!

Ah, but perennials are a lot of work, my friends.
And sometimes they're just not pretty.

Perennials need to be weeded and pruned. If you don't chop half of the plant off and toss it into the compost at the end of the season it's going to look like a scraggly mess.

Likewise, Novelers must snip, yank, snip, yank...we compost that stuff we thought was so beautiful before. The trimming makes it stonger.

And my favorite part of the analogy? Perennials tend to look dead, feel dead, seem ready for the trash bin (like my novel sometimes) during that long, dark, cold of winter. But, after being left alone for awhile, and perhaps even given up on or forgotten, they re-emerge in Spring, bigger and more beautiful than before; stronger after all that trimming in the fall, the time in the dark (desk drawer perhaps?), and that little bit of fertilizer offered again by the gardener in the spring.

When the perennials look dead in winter it of course does not mean that the gardener has failed or should give up on gardening all together. I does not even mean that those particular flowers were a waste of the gardener's time.


Some beautiful things just take trimming, and a period of being set aside, before they are ready for the gardener to find their true beauty and to shape them into something glorious to show off to the world. What a great reminder!

Spring is coming.

It's good to know.