Thinking like a writer

The more I write, the more I find myself thinking like a writer when I’m not at the keyboard. Some of my best ideas come when I’m in the shower,  especially when I’ve hit a wall or have a question for my character who gives me a blank stare as an answer.

It’s usually a conscious decision to multi-task like this. I’ll make a mental note of where I’m stuck and carry that with me, like I’m tucking it away in a special fold in my brain. I carry a pocket spiral with me at all times for that little gem that gives me even the slightest nudge of forward motion in my story. I’m delighted whenever this happens. It adds a spring to my step and a sparkle to my eye.

I don’t have the luxury of hours of time blocked off for writing since I’m still working, so this method helps me make the best use of my time. The more I consciously think this way, the more of a habit it becomes.

Even reading the newspaper offers tidbits for my plot and characters. A news story about a woman who abandoned her kids mentioned that she drove a purple Ford Escort. This jumped out at me like a flash. It was the perfect car for the chain-smoking, gambling grandma that my MC’s mother dumps him on.

If I’m not stuck, I still find myself thinking how I would describe something….like the last three leaves on the tree in my front yard. I imagine they are having an argument about who’s going to drop next.

Unexpected unpleasant encounters? Those too are fodder for my writing bag. Recently we found ourselves in a seedy part of L.A. at a rental car agency I found online.  The scruffy looking employee on duty and the repainted cars parked on a side street looked like the repo car business it truly was. While my husband was trying to extricate ourselves from the contract we had with them, I entertained myself with memorizing details. I’ve never seen so much black wrought iron with pointy spikes as I did in L.A.  But I might be able to use this in some future setting.

I’m thinking that this mental multi-tasking is a way of allowing the door to open to the right brain…by keeping my left brain content enough that it’s being all adult and responsible.

I have more thoughts about multi-tasking and women. But I’ll save that for another post.

If you are a writer, do you have this habit? Do you find it useful? Fun? Or does it get in the way of what you’re trying to do with your responsible left-brain task?

One of my favorite aspects of writing: research

Some days writing is exhilarating. Some days it’s exhausting.  But the research is always fascinating.

My recent Google search history would certainly befuddle the adorable little man in this picture.  I’d imagine he wouldn’t have to look up the Oxford comma, but doubt he’d be researching ‘what skills you need as a mental health therapist’, ‘writing a novel in 30 days-is it possible? should you try?’,  ‘are men with shaved heads more dominant’, ‘dashboard cats’, and last but not least: ‘track your Amazon package’.

As a writer, what oddball things do you end up researching?




Comfort zones

Comfort zones are not meant to be a permanent place of residence. They are small and dim-lit and lonely. Think outside the narrow box of the Small Mind.
There’s a place where we are connected to each other by something much bigger than ourselves.


Image credit: Alexander Andrews

Check out my writer’s tool reviews

Now posting reviews of awesome tools and gadgets for writers.

Oh yes, and adorable cat photos. Come check it out.

Urban Dictionary — resource for writers who lead a sheltered life

From my Writer’s Toolbox: Here’s a good resource to keep you from ‘stepping in it’ literally when it comes to slang and the new urban language. For instance, I want to use the word ‘wuss’ in a children’s book and I need to know if it has any off color overtones that would be inappropriate for my young readers. I’m not ‘up’ on my slang or ‘tween language. (Who is?) and many words these days are used differently than when I was…um…younger. With the  Urban Dictionary I’ll know what to use and what to avoid, especially since I am writing for the YA and children’s market.

I checked ‘wuss’. It means: A person who is physically weak and ineffectual. Often a male person with low courage factor, as in “Tobias, you’re such a WUSS!”  So it means what I thought it did and it seems safe to use for my middle-grade fantasy.

Be forewarned though. The Urban Dictionary is not for wusses. Anyone apparently can add a new word, or define a word and it contains a lot of sexually explicit verbage. What it will give you is very current, up to the minute social connotations for any word you enter in the seach bar. There’s close to 5 million definitions and the Word of the Day section is updated daily with words and phrases you’d be hard-pressed to find all in such a convenient location.

Here’s some examples of the ‘cleaner’ entries:

Fax potato: A person who faxes from one floor to another instead of getting up and running the information because they’re too lazy to get out of their chair.
Protohype: The process of leaking a prototype device to generate buzz about a product you don’t quite yet have ready for market to a friendly tech website who will promote the gizmo well before it’s ready to go.
Tree-book: A book printed on dead trees, i.e. paper, as opposed to an e-book, which only exists electronically. Compare with snail mail.
Pi Time: The time of the day where a digital clock reads 3:14.
Child supervision: When an older person, especially a parent, needs a tech-savvy kid to help him/her with computers or other electronic devices. 

Do you write for middle grade or young adults?  How do stay current with their language and their world?


So you want to be a writer…

Should I let Algernon die, or let him suffer at the whims of his evil brother?
Even cats have trouble with the blank page.

Here’s what I’ve learned about writing in the last three years. When everyone else is:

  1. watching TV, I am probably writing.
  2. sleeping, I am usually writing and editing.
  3. on FaceBook, I’m…ooops…gotta get back to writing.
  4. blogging, I am writing, wishing I had more time to blog.
  5. shopping, I am revising a chapter.
  6. texting and tweeting, I am talking to my MC.
  7. eating, I am eating but it’s at my computer so I can catch up on email, blogs and news.
  8. reading, well,  I might be reading.
  9. showering, I am showering, but usually in writing mode with no way to write down the brilliant idea that came to me.
  10. working out, I am exercising my brain wishing it would burn 300 calories an hour.
  11. cutting the grass, I am letting the grass grow to revise another chapter, or paragraph, or sentence.
  12. cooking, I am throwing something in the crockpot to go revise another chapter, or paragraph, or sentence.

You gotta love writing to be this crazy!

Google ‘street view’–the next best thing to being there

How do you imagine the settings in your book? This is one of my weak spots, especially since one of my settings is in a place I’ve only visited in my imagination. Much as I would prefer to travel and do ‘on location’ research, I’m not at liberty to pack up and fly to London at the moment.

I thought a few images would help round out my descriptions and make them more realistic, so I went to Google maps to search ‘London, secondhand bookshops’. I clicked on ‘street view’ and explored further. Now I’ve played around with Google maps before, but no where quite as interesting as the back streets of London.

I roamed around for, well…way too long…and got lost trying to find my way back to one particular bookshop. I turned corners, zoomed in and out, all without the hassles of getting a ticket because I was on the wrong side of the street.

I swear I felt like I was actually there and could practically enter the shops. I ended up with plenty of visuals that helped me add just the right descriptive touches I was looking for. 

Pretty cool, I thought and I wanted to share with you. Have any of  you ever used Google street view to help bring your story’s setting to life?