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Limping along, literally. But at least I got in a quote

“Pain Brain”—that’s what I call it. Or sometimes I refer to it as “post-op brain fog.” Either way, as I’ve learned over the past 48 months and five—count ’em, FIVE—surgeries, your body isn’t the only thing that needs time to recover after an operation. And from what I’d read, I was bracing myself for several months of mental muddle and creative coma after I had a total knee replacement five weeks ago. [New York Times health writer Jane Brody said she couldn’t write a word for four months.]

However, the medical folks keep telling me that I’m making a ridiculously fast recovery physically—so much so that I’ve gone ahead and scheduled the second op in early December. Gulp! Plus I’ve edited two novels and a picture book in the past two weeks, and my clients say I actually made sense, so maybe my brain is recovering, too.

You can judge for yourself. My friend and fellow writer Christine Kohler, author of the YA historical novel No Surrender Soldier, quoted me today over at the UncommonYA blog in a piece about the value to writers of keeping an emotions journal. She’s the one with all the wisdom; I was just flattered that she asked me to chime in.

Try my new method to prime your writing pump

When I started this experiment in techniques to jump-start my writing back in December, I didn’t intend for it to be anything more than a way to send a jolt of electricity through my post-op brain and get my writing neurons firing again. But when I discovered that neither Julia Cameron’s morning pages nor Natalie Goldberg’s freewriting were targeted enough to achieve what I wanted, I brewed my own method that I call Priming the Pump. You can read about my entire experiment in three parts over on my blog, Spontaneous Combustion.

My pump has certainly been primed. Not only did I finally plot my way through the second half of my middle grade novel, but I also started churning out chapters. I also produced the blog post mentioned above, and I finally started drafting the fifth installment of my web series on POV. I hope to finally get the long-promised article on omniscient POV published here before the end February. I’ll let you know when it goes live.

And in the meantime, I’ve got the Readers Digest Condensed Version of my Priming the Pump method available here on a new page I’m calling Featured Writing Tips. If you try this method, I would love to hear your comments. Post them over on my blog, or email me here. I hope it’s as fruitful for you has it has already been for me!


Ditching the morning pages for something different

The purple cast is gone, thank goodness. Although it took much longer than I anticipated to be functional again on my poor right leg—and there is still a long way to go before I can get that calf muscle back to full strength. May you never hurt your Achilles tendon!

But I think the post-op brain fog I wrote about last time has finally dissipated, at least enough for me to put up a new post over at Spontaneous Combustion about my experiment with Julia Cameron’s morning pages. Two weeks turned into a month before I stopped. And although there were aspects of the practice that I liked, I ultimately concluded that it was a failure, at least for my purposes.

So now I’m changing the experiment, mulling over my own twist on freewriting that might work better to achieve my personal writing goal—which is to end each writing session with a piece of useable prose, a decent first draft, not just rambling “word salad.” Join me over at Spontaneous Combustion to share in the experiment.

Starting a two-week experiment with Cameron’s morning pages

BlurredFootI’m stuck in bed, mainly, wearing a purple cast and not allowed to put an ounce of weight on my leg for five weeks after surgery last month to repair a damaged Achilles tendon. And oddly, it’s not just my leg that isn’t moving: my brain seems dead as well. This isn’t unusual after surgery, I’ve found; the New York Times health writer Jane Brody wrote an article about how she couldn’t write a word for nearly four months after her knee replacement. My working theory? That all the blood in my body is going to my leg, leaving nothing to fuel my poor mushy brain.

Yesterday, however, I came across Julia Cameron’s famous morning pages: how have I been a writer so long without hearing about these before? In any case, I decided to start a two-week experiment with them:  to see how they may be different than Natalie Goldberg’s freewriting,  to see if it truly matters whether you write them out by hand, and mostly, to see if they help jump start my stalled brain. If you are interested, here is my blog post about them over at Spontaneous Combustion.

Why Lemony Snicket should be every writer’s hero

This has been a hectic and stressful summer, which means it’s been too long since I updated either this website or my blog, Spontaneous Combustion. I just returned from a blissful solo writer’s retreat and am trying not to lose that sense of dedication and writerly purpose now that I’m home and already drowning in the usual sea of chores, errands, orthopedic issues, and freelance projects. And I think I found it in this quote from Lemony Snicket’s Shouldn’t You Be in School, book 3 of the All the Wrong Questions quartet.

“You cannot wait for an untroubled world to have an untroubled moment. The terrible phone call, the rainstorm, the sinister knock on the door—they will all come. Soon enough arrive the treacherous villain and the unfair trial and the smoke and the flames of the suspicious fires to burn everything away. In the meantime, it is best to grab what wonderful moments you find lying around.”

Please jump over to my blog to read the full post—and I hope you aren’t waiting for those mythical “untroubled moments” to get writing yourself.

Diving deep into POV: fourth article in viewpoint series is finally live!

I always seem to be reporting some new crisis that has kept me from updating this website or my blog as often as I would like: excuses, excuses, right? So I won’t go on about how the month of July was lost in the antiseptic halls of UVA Hospital where my mother had lumbar fusion surgery.

She’s home now recovering, and I’m back at my desk, at least for the next couple of weeks. So here is the next article in my series on viewpoint, a subject which seems to fascinate me endlessly. This installment is on Deep POV, with a great example from the gifted children’s author Gary D. Schmidt. Please check it out, either at my blog or here on the website.

I’m not sure how many more articles I will write for this series; every time I think, “Just one more,” I get ideas for a couple more pieces. All I know now is that the next aspect of viewpoint I’d like to write about is omniscient narration. It’s got the reputation of being old-fashioned, so that’s what I’d like to explore.

Indie publishing: wasteland, or brave new world?

Indie author Lorraine Devon Wilke published a piece on the Huffington Blog books page recently defending the quality of self-published books. Sure, there is a lot of dreck out there, but I agree with her: there is a lot of talent and quality as well. But I’m interested in hearing what you think, gentle reader. So if you’ve got something to say, please switch over to my blog at Spontaneous Combustion and chime in.

Libromania! Or how I killed my Kindle

I’m trying to be better about updating my blog and website more regularly. [But I remain a Facebook grump and refuse to worry about my author page that much.] I just added a quick new post to my blog today about the obsessive reading I’ve been doing lately, and how it may have killed my Kindle.

© Photo by Nancy Butts

© Photo by Nancy Butts

I’m joking, but my Paperwhite did burn itself out yesterday—and I have been doing a lot of reading the past several weeks, discovering many wonderful “new” middle grade and YA authors in the process, such as Gary D. Schmidt and Kenneth Oppel. Fly over to my blog and sign the memorial book for my late lamented Kindle.

Again, just joking—and Amazon is kindly sending a free replacement, so let the libromania continue!

At long last: that article on multiple POV!

I can’t believe that I’ve let eight months go by without the long-promised third installment in my series on demystifying POV, but it’s here! I just posted my article, “Fight Club: Multiple POV Fights Back” both here on the website and on my blog as well.

I appreciate your patience; over the past several months everything from knee surgery to the holidays to a never-ending onslaught of editing work combined to keep me from continuing this series on viewpoint. It’s a subject that fascinates me, and seems to confuse my writing students and clients, which is why I was inspired to undertake it.

I’m excited about this article because I finally found a way to let multiple POV stand up for itself. As you all know, I’m a staunch single POV kind of girl, so it was hard for me to let go of that prejudice and find a rationale for ever using multiple viewpoint. I did, however—in the form of four middle grade novels which use multiple POV to good effect. Although I don’t think I’ll ever like multiple POV as much as I do single viewpoint, these four books—Wonder, Because of Mr. Terupt, Every Soul a Star, and A Tangle of Knots—went a long way to soften my stubborn stance.

I promise the fourth article in the Demystifying POV series won’t take so long to appear. I’m already researching the next installment, which will explore Deep POV.

Rebel with a cause?

It has been a long time since I updated this website. I still haven’t finished that series on POV on my Free wisdom page [I have begun to think it’s because I am so biased against multiple POV that I can’t make myself write a defense of it!].

But it goes beyond that. It’s almost as if I’ve been actively rebelling against the pressure on writers to “build their brand,” or whatever the expression is; to promote themselves relentlessly using social media. I’m just not into that. I’m not against it either, but it feels like a tremendous drain on creative energy and resources, not to mention time, that is already in perilously short supply for me, and for most writers.

Maybe that’s what I need to write about over on Free wisdom: an article about finding a balance between the need to focus on craft and the pressure to promote.

But not today. What I have written is a post over on my blog about silence, and what it means to me as a writer. I wish I could say I’d come to some grand epiphany about it that would help all writers everywhere, but no. Maybe it will speak to you anyway.