Archive for August, 2009

One weekend, one novel

August 28, 2009

Many of you have probably already heard of and participated in Nanowrimo (the national novel writing month) which starts November 1st (go to to read all about it) but there’s also the International 3 Day Novel Writing contest which begins next Friday night at midnight and finishes at midnight Monday (September 5th – 7th.) That’s right, 72 hours to write a whole novel. I did this very thing about ten times.  (

In ye olde days it was called the Anvil Press then the Pulp Press and now simply the International. When I was young(er) I usually didn’t have enough money to pay the entry fee, photocopy my manuscript, and pay the postage to Canada, so I only officially entered twice (if memory serves) and did not win either time. But I still played the game eight other years and I highly recommend it.

typewriter clip art

Writing a whole novel (novella?) in one weekend is tiring and leaves you with a rather short (my longest was 113 pages) and very rough draft, BUT it’s also exciting and empowering. After I did it once, no matter what hurdles life placed before me, I would think, “Well, I wrote a whole book in three days—I can do this.” To this day that thought boosts my energy when I’m faced with a deadline. I’ll think, “Remember that day I wrote 45 pages in 14 hours?” (And, hey, you can always rewrite and expand that very rough draft into something fine later on.)

So whether or not you actually enter, I suggest playing the game at least once in your life. And here are my tips.

  1. Tell your people you are doing this crazy thing so they don’t bother you for those three days and find a place to be alone even if you have to kick your roomie out of the apartment for the weekend or borrow the house of a vacationing friend.
  2. Make sure you have everything you need before you start. (Paper, ink, computer, pens, thesaurus, research books, fuzzy slippers, snacks, coffee, your Mozart CDs, whatever it is that you have to have to write.) You don’t want to waste precious writing time looking for something or running to the store.
  3. When I played, you could only have an outline before you started this game. So make sure the outline you prep is detailed enough so that you don’t have to pause and workout a tricky bit of action but not so detailed that you’re already tired of the scenes before you start writing them. One page handwritten for each chapter was all I would allow myself.
  4. It helps if you are narrating your story in a voice that’s natural for you.  It needs to flow fast.
  5. Sleep. Writing from midnight to 2:00 am, sleeping until 6:00 am and writing again from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm and sleeping again (in my opinion) will result in better writing than not sleeping at all. But I do not recommend afternoon naps as they are hard to shake off.
  6. A little sugar and caffeine is okay, but try to eat semi-healthy. The sweets might make you feel weird or sleepy.
  7. Call someone Saturday night and let them know how many pages you have so far. Choose someone supportive. It gives you a surge of Sunday energy to hear someone gasp and praise the incredibleness of you on Saturday night. (You can do this Sunday night for a Monday surge too, if needed.)


And just think, even if the idea of doing a 3 Day novel didn’t come to you until this moment, you still have a whole week to come up with an outline.  Great good luck to you.


About fan fiction . . .

August 25, 2009

One of my online friends clued me into the fact that there is A Certain Slant of Light fan fiction being written out there. I am flattered. But I have decided (at least for now) not to read it. If you are a fanfictioneer, please forgive me. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m afraid I’ll be influenced, since I’m writing a sequel to SLANT and may someday write a sequel to FETCH.

Let the mighty pen fly!

Let the mighty pen fly!

Thank you thank you thank you for being so passionate and productive. And I hear that fanfictioning can be great practice for breaking out (breaking in?) with your own fiction, so . . . write away! And I will most likely read it in the future. Gramercy to all.

Sharing book recommendations . . .

August 22, 2009

If you’ve already read A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT . . .

 painting by C. E. Halle





. . .  and THE FETCH . . .

D. Rossetti painting 

. . .  and it seems like a long time before UNDER THE LIGHT comes out . . .

 Waterhouse painting

(Can you tell I love Pre-Raphaelite paintings?)




. . . and you are looking for ideas of other good books to read . . .

I suggest:

TITHE by Holly Black (fairly recent) and THE PRINCESS BRIDE by William Goldman (not recent at all—more of a modern classic.) There are other reading suggestions for lovers of supernatural romance on the website where there is currently a very nice review of SLANT.


Please feel free to leave a comment here giving your own book recommendations. I’d love that.

What I did with my summer vacation, part three

August 19, 2009

My family (siblings, nieces, nephews, their sweeties, spouses and kids) came to Oregon for a week.

We laughed and told stories and took turns holding baby Lizzy (the newest member of the family)

Lizzy North with her dad

Lizzy North with her dad

and played dominoes and did puzzles








and took a day trip to Cannon Beach.

Wendy, me, Cyn

Wendy, me, Cyn

There were people sleeping in EVERY room. We also made music together – piano playing, group singing—we even created a bell choir with Wendy’s single octave kids’ bell set. We managed to play “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music (Jon conducting) with reasonably few goof ups.  As always, “family camp” was great fun. 

Is it my imagination, or is Max doing an impression of Emma?

Is it my imagination, or is Max doing an impression of Emma?

I’m lucky that

I love my relatives!


They’re pips, every one.

What I did with my summer vacation, part two

August 15, 2009
I'm at bottom, second from left.

I'm at bottom, second from left.

I dressed up like a wench and sang madrigals with my choir, the Sherwood Renaissance Singers, at various northwest fairs. If you’ve never been to a Ren Faire, it’s an event usually held in a large, grassy park with shade trees and set up with (hopefully) period looking tents and pavilions. Renaissance style entertainers perform (jugglers, Morris dancers, magicians, actors, jousters, pirates, puppeteers, and singers) and vendors sell ye olde wares (swords, toys, jewelry, masks, garb) and food (legs of lamb, sugared nuts, ale, ginger beer, pickles – hmmm, I wonder when pickles were invented.) Faire patrons can watch blacksmiths and lace-makers or learn to dance the maypole. All the merchants and performers are in costume—it’s fun when the public dresses up, too.

My choir (19 mixed voices) sings a repertoire of almost 50 madrigals with lyrics like:
Rest sweet nymphs, let golden sleep
Charm your star-brighter eyes
While my lute the watch doth keep
With pleasing sympathies
He that once loves with a true desire never can depart,
For Cupid is the king of every heart.
Come, come, come, while I have a heart to desire thee.
Come, come, come, for either I will love or admire thee.

“After hours” we set up the lantern tree in our camping area, share dinner, tell stories, trade jokes, and usually end up singing. (It’s hard not to.) Tomorrow I will carpool three hours up to Buckley for the Washington Renaissance and Fantasy faire. I hope your weekend is just as much fun.

What I did with my summer vacation, part one

August 12, 2009


Sorry I missed posting a blog this last week. I promise to be more attentive from now on.

roman writer

I spent three days flitting about the halls of the Sheraton Hotel near the Portland Airport feeding off the high of 700 other writers. Every August the Willamette Writers (of which my sis, Cynthia, is the prez) throw a fabulous writing conference. I love sitting at breakfast (we have a huge banquet room with tables that seat about eight each) sipping coffee and deciding which workshops to try. There were about 100 to choose from, everything from Murder Scene Walk-Through to How to Write a Great Movie Opening — classes for poets, novelists, graphic novelists, playwrights, memoirists, nonfiction writers, and screenwriters. The buzz at this event is a thrilling combo of nerves, curiosity, and joy.  I learned about how to give a better reading, new ideas for internet publicity, avoiding gender clichés in character development, and figurative language. All very cool.  

I taught my own workshop on some of the pieces from my NOVEL SHORTCUTS book: finding the core of your story, pinpointing the crosshairs moment in the whole book and the mini-crosshairs in each chapter, listening to your ghosts (those seemingly irrelevant  thoughts that haunt you when you’re composing a scene), culling the poetry (an off-shoot of the Shortcut to the Scene exercise), tips for what to do when your writing stinks, and tricks for getting to the end of your draft faster. I loved choosing strange art to put up on the overhead projector, playing some of my favorite writing music for one of the in-class exercises (Chocolat and The Others), and making my students do weird things like imagine what clip would be shown if the movie of their novel was up for an Oscar for Best Picture.

I have great editors and a wonderful agent already, but conference-goers who are still looking can sign up to pitch their books or scripts one-on-one to the editors, agents, and producers who are flown in for the event. There were about 40 here this year. I just love seeing the pitchers anxiously awaiting their turns. (And I love that I don’t have to pitch my own stories anymore, except to my agent. Hee hee.)

On Saturday night there is always a banquet. Our speaker this time was NY Times Bestseller Chelsea Cain who cracked us up with tales of her quirky past and inspired us by telling the story of breaking out with a multimillion dollar three book deal. The Kay Snow writing awards were handed out and I must brag—my niece Siobhan won first place in screenwriting. (In the spring I will tell you more about this national writing contest. I know some of my blog-readers should absolutely enter.)

 One of the things I learned at the conference this year was that bloggers should post TWICE a week, so I’ll be posting “What I did with my summer vacation, part two” very soon.

Open-Mike Dream

August 5, 2009

I had a strange dream. I dreamed that I went to an open-mike event where people could come and read out loud from their journals or from poems and other pieces they’d written. But this event was in a magical venue. In this “club” while you were at this supernatural microphone, your true inner-self would be revealed. An old woman might appear as a young girl as she read her diary or a little boy might appear as a knight as he read his adventure story.


One teenage boy read a contemplative poem he’d written. The words themselves seemed harmless, but those of us seated on the side on the stage could see that the boy’s soul was darkening. He began to grown a boney spine and the stubs of horns and the beginnings of wings out of his upper back. The people sitting near me and I whispered to each other, trying to decide if what we were seeing meant the boy was turning into something bad, like a gargoyle or a demon, or something not so bad, like the kinds of magical beasts Hagrid might make pets out of at Hogwarts. And we wondered, does the boy know what his inner-self looks like? Does he know what he’s turning into? Or will it be a surprise to him? Can he change the outcome? If his soul was turning gargoyle-ish, could he turn the situation around somehow?

 knight and dragon

I woke up before my questions were answered, but it was such an interesting dream, I thought about it for days.


Sometimes I use my dreams in my novels. I now put the question to you, blog readers of mine. Do you remember your dreams? And if you do, do you ever write them into poems or stories?