Sunday, January 4, 2009

Learning to be Flexible

blog pictures Although the Christmas holiday was fun, there were definitely some unexpected elements to it.  Travel dates we'd set were adjusted and new plans made. 

Flexibility doesn't come naturally to me, but it's something I'm working on as a mom (kids are notorious for changing plans.) It's important to be flexible when writing, too.  I'm not much of an outline person, but I definitely have an agenda in mind when I'm working.  I know the direction I'm heading with my characters and plot.

But then ideas pop up into my head and characters will do something completely unexpected. A character in my current work in progress is determined to be an animal rights activist. I've struggled with her choice for most of the manuscript. How could I fit her interest into the book? How did it work into the plot? Why the heck was she an activist anyway?  But by reworking the plot and considering different scenarios, this character became more well-developed and integral to the plot. 

The same process occurs when I've hit a wall with plotting. When you've written yourself into a box, it can help to make a list of all the different directions you can take your plot in. It's hard to abandon the plan you've made for your book, but with a little flexibility, we can all improve our manuscripts.

Good Stuff:

Moonrat has some great tips for Overwriters.  I particularly loved her list of words Overwriters love.

Earl Staggs at Make Mine Mystery shudders over "ing" words.

Cricket McRae at Inkspot gives tips on forming a great writing/critique group.

I always enjoy James J. Kilpatrick's column "The Writer's Art" as a weekly installment in my paper. His observations on writing are always helpful to me.  Particularly funny last year, was a column he wrote about "The Decline of Damn" : exploring why we rarely use the past tense of that useful profanity anymore.


I just finished reading Agatha Christie's Murder for Christmas, which I thought I was reading for the first time.  (It's also in print under the title Hercule Poirot's Christmas.)  I read the first couple of chapters without recognizing any of the characters, setting, or victim--and then realized I remembered the killer, method, and red herrings.  Argh! Weird how that worked out.  I did finish reading the book, however, since it was interesting to see how Christie had planted the clues and diversions.

Happy New Year!

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