Tag Archives: writing

Bound to Love wins award!

My memoir, Bound to Love, won the indieBRAG medallion award, hence the new gold medallion on the cover. I was delighted to receive fives, their top rating, in every category.

They review, and grade independently published books. I’ve entered four other contests for books post-publication, which I hope to hear about in the next few months.

Bound to Love cover dropshdw BRAG for sig

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writing discipline

time-to-writeFor a long time, I fussed with finding a good time to write. Since I’m still working–although at home and for myself–when I write during the day, I feel guilty. The guilt is a waste of time, but it’s there. I can’t deny it.

As I age, falling asleep has become more difficult. My husband goes to bed at 10 p.m. I used to head for bed at the same time, and then would lie awake for hours. One night as I lay there, restless and not wanting to wake my partner, I realized I could be writing. I got up, found my slippers, and padded into my office. That started what has been a long period of refreshing discipline. We say goodnight at ten, and I go to write until midnight. I may miss a night every few weeks, but in general, that’s my pattern.

This has been a very fruitful time: the house is quiet and the phone doesn’t ring. These aren’t work hours, so no guilt. My adult son, who keeps an odd schedule, knows not to call me after ten unless he’s seriously ill or hurt. Since he writes too, he honors my writing time. In the last year, working within this schedule, I’ve finished the first draft of a novel and the final rewrite of my memoir. I’ve been amazed at what I’ve completed only carving out two hours a day.

I usually begin by reviewing what I wrote the night before, then I move into new terrain. Right now I’m rewriting the novel, so I’m not generating as much new material. But some evenings, like tonight, I write a blog post, a nice change from rewriting. When I do finally put my computer to sleep and toddle off to bed, I stay with my story. I may fall asleep puzzling over a thorny plot problem, and in the morning, the solution is apparent. Sometimes, I have an epiphany about how to deepen one of my characters.

An old friend I’ve known for forty-one years is staying overnight. Nonetheless, we said goodnight at ten, and I headed for my office. She’s a writer, too; she understands.

I didn’t find the time to write, I made it.

© Skye Blaine, 2015
image credit

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fistfuls of heart

My old friend Margaret Barkley wrote this poem about the writing process. I asked her if I could share it here. Please do not forward it on without her permission.

Fistfuls of Heart

If everyone has something to say,
how is a writer different?

The desire to write, to commit words to paper,
is like deciding to let your own arm reach
down your throat
and muck about with your insides,
grabbing fistfuls of heart, teeth, and
half-digested longing,
and pull it out for everyone to see.

And I wonder why I have
some resistance…

Just sit in the chair, they say.
Just write.

And I do, but I’m dodgy about it.
There is always something safer to do,
like laundry, for example,
that extracts no blood at all.

Maybe all prophets and storytellers
are reluctant – I don’t know about that –
but I know that there comes a time
when there is a clamor of words in order
from within, saying –
Hey, write me down!

and they harass me till I do.

© Margaret Barkley, April 16, 2015

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writing myself alive, take two

elegant Maggie 2I write fiction as well as memoir, and just completed the first draft of a novel titled Call Her Home. There are four point-of-view characters, and one of them is a dog.

The process of envisioning and birthing a fictional story is another way I write myself alive. Every aspect of the story is born out of who I am, formed from all the experiences I’ve undergone.

I write about disability because of raising my beautiful, differently-abled son. I chose an Irish wolfhound/Scottish deerhound mix for my character because I’ve lived in harmony with both of those splendid breeds.Their natures are so familiar to me. I write about human/dog communication because I’ve felt since I was a toddler that my dogs could communicate telepathically, but somehow I’ve lost the capacity. So I’m driven to imagine what that might be like.

My male protagonist, I realized a few weeks ago is, in psychologist C. G. Jung’s words, my animus. The main female character has qualities of both myself and my mother, but is qualitatively different from both of us. The eleven-year-old girl is the daughter I never had.

I write about car accidents because I’ve had two serious ones: in the first, about thirty years ago, my little Red Fiesta ended up on its passenger side. Last year, my Prius landed on its roof–due to a texter–the car reduced from an efficient mode of travel to a dead beetle. Miraculously, no one suffered severe injury in either accident. I chose Oregon for the story’s setting because I lived in Eugene for twenty years, and traveled a few times to teach in Bend.

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the healing power of writing

Anne Lamott quoteRecently, in my Friday afternoon memoir group, our leader, Steve Boga, read a piece detailing the research and the health benefits for people who write about difficult passages in their lives. Please check out the article written last year by Rachel Grate for the full story. In brief, writing reduces depression, lowers blood pressure, and people who write spend less time in hospitals.

I have discovered another amazing outcome of memoir writing: reflecting back, even on events that occurred long ago, can catalyze life-changing epiphanies. In my experience, these insights don’t arrive until we have the capacity–and perhaps the willingness, even if it is unconscious–to welcome them.

I think of it this way: I write myself alive.

© Skye Blaine, 2015

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writing memoir, take two

Writing the truth about one’s younger self is daunting. It has required rigorous self-examination, and the willingness to admit my weaknesses and flaws.

I kept a running list of scenes that I needed to tackle, so each day, when I sat down to write, I had a place to start. I’d pick a scene from that list that felt alive, or “hot,” and began typing.

The very process of considering an event, and parsing for just the right words to express my experience, often brought long-forgotten detail to the surface. I also spoke to people from that time and asked questions about what they remembered. I did not, however, contact my ex-husbands during the writing process. I felt the need to stay with my own experience–even though I knew it was one-sided. I didn’t have the gumption to exhume those painful failures with them again. It wasn’t the time.

When I first began writing about my life, mentors encouraged me to write without filtering–to “tell my whole truth.” I wrote for self-discovery about myself as a parent, partner, and human being. Now that the memoir is finished and approaching publication, I felt I must reach out to people included in the story to let them know I wrote about them. This included not only friends and two ex-husbands, but physicians as well.

I have no interest in blaming. What happened, happened–we all participated, and I know each of us handled ourselves as best as we could in that moment–even when that best looked like rage, betrayal, or weakness.

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scene and sequel

Fictional time usually unfolds in either scene or sequel. Sequels are also known as summaries.

Scenes are generally short, occur in real story time, and include action and dialogue. Scenes are necessary! They are how your reader experiences the story through your character’s eyes. Scenes are significant to the movement of the story—crises, turning points, showdowns and tension between characters happen during them.

Here is an example of a small scene from a novel in progress:

Rowan dug into the stew. She stopped as soon as the food entered her mouth. “What is this?”
“Venison,” Moss said.
“Venison, you mean like deer? What store carries deer?”
“I shot, dressed, and froze it.”
“You shot it? An innocent deer?” She set down her spoon. “How could you do that?”
“Rowan!” her mother said. “Where are your manners?”
“Where is his … his kindness?” She frowned hard in his direction. Moss tried to keep a straight face.
Carolina shook her head at her daughter, but didn’t say anything.
“Do you eat meat at home?” Moss asked.
Rowan twisted her spoon in the stew. “Yeah.”
“Well, how do you think it got on your plate? Did it walk there of its own accord?”

Sequels often describe in narrative form (no dialogue), the character’s reflection on the scene that just occurred, or may cover a longer period of time. Sequels may also give the reader character background, provide overall story information, and perhaps most important, transition the reader through time: a short leap (such as Two days later,) or decades.

Here’s a short sequel from a different point in the story:

In moments like these, Carolina admitted to herself that she was hungering for a partner again. She longed for the day-to-day rubbing elbows, conferring about small decisions, bumping into each other as they invented some new concoction in the kitchen. She hardly ever let herself think about it, but she missed Rafe. Badly. Missed him in that secret chamber of her heart, but she’d slammed the door shut from the blunt-force trauma of losing him. Rafe. Oh, Rafe. If only he could see Rowan now. Rowan missed him too—he’d died when she was seven. Of flu. How could a strong, young man just up and die of flu?

This sequel is through the awareness of one of the main characters, but there is neither dialogue nor significant action. It simply relays information so the reader knows Carolina’s history better.

© Skye Blaine, 2015

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point of view (POV)

Whether you are writing memoir or fiction, your reader is introduced to your story through one of your character’s eyes. This is called the point-of-view character–we see the world being created with words through this point of view. We know the thoughts and feelings of this character, but not the others who populate the story. For people who are just beginning to write, I encourage writing with only one point-of-view character. The next task is learning to control your writing so the story is told through one set of eyes alone. This is not as easy as it sounds.

Notice as you reread your scene:

  • Are you, as the reader, privy to the thoughts of more than one character?
  • Can you look through more than one characters’ eyes?
  • Do you know the inner feelings of more than one character?

If the answer is yes, you have not successfully contained the point of view. Return to your writing with a different eye. Reread the scene, and mark each place you find a POV shift from one character to another. This will make your rewrite easier.

There are many seasoned authors who write from multiple points-of-view successfully, but tackling a first manuscript with more than one POV is like trying to control a team of horses before you even learn to ride.

I learned the hard way. You don’t have to!

© Skye Blaine, 2015

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