Nancy: Dance As Though No One Is Watching

EightLadiesinWaterWe were out to dinner with friends this weekend at a lovely restaurant. As part of the restaurant décor, there were plaques on the wall with inspirational sayings: ‘dance as though no one is watching’, ‘sing as though no one is listening’, ‘live as ifthere is no tomorrow’. Cheesy, yes, but I got to thinking (there was a line for the ladies’ room; what else was I going to do?) that they needed a fourth plaque that says ‘write as though no one is reading’. This is what Jenny Crusie and other writers call writing the DLD (don’t look down) or truck (you can drive a truck through the holes in this sucker!) draft, both of which are better names for it than the DATNOIW draft. Continue reading

Michaeline: Description Part Six

Text: covered with a crimson hood, so that not much could be seen of her, save the fair, pale face, with its sad, appealing blue eyes, which looked out from beneath masses of shining golden ringlets that had strayed from her hood and lay upon her white forehead. (etc.) Complete quote at end of blog post.

Twentieth century description was a reaction to this kind of 19th century description. What does 21st century description look like? (text from Georgie Sheldon’s “Stella Rosevelt”, HathiTrust, see post for link; images via Wikimedia Commons)

And today is the last installment of this series about my inner wrestlings with the fallen angel, Description. Ah, Description, with her fair tresses flashing from blonde to auburn to black, from curls to waves to straight as the curtain of a windless night, her tender sword flashing forth to cut through to the heart, or cut one’s suspenders off so one is left wandering around with one’s pants around one’s ankles . . . . Continue reading

Michaeline: Description Part Five

Lush jungle with small animals half-hidden behind leaves

The jungle: warm, mysterious and full of hidden life — not to mention, lots and lots of layers. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

One of my most favorite word pictures in the whole wide world is Matilda Goodnight’s Bedroom of Love in Jennifer Crusie’s book, Faking It.

There’s a lot of faking, and falsehood, and playing with reality in Faking It, but in the end, everything comes down to love. Loving your partner, and loving your work and just loving your life. Near the end, our hero Tilda paints a jungle into her white bedrooom. Continue reading

Michaeline: Description: Part Four

A young woman sits at her vanity mirror, but the overall image forms a skull

Some people hoot and holler at the old “hero in a mirror” trope, but if it reveals more than a pretty face, I think it’s a valid tool. Via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, I talked about how description in Lois McMaster Bujold’s A Civil Campaign helped center the readers in their own bodies. I think using real, visceral reactions to food and clothing helped set up the readers to feel the descriptions of romance even more strongly.

I return again this week to Bujold’s 13th book in the Vorkosigan series to talk about how a description can orient both the new reader and the long-time fan to the new book.

This is often a problem in series: the old fan wants more and now, with just a few reminders. I think a lot of new readers also only want a few reminders of the setting and characters – they are eager to meet these new people and find out what they are going to do. But the new readers do need a handshake.

On about page three (sample chapters from Baen Publishing), we find this detailed description of Miles, who is Continue reading

Michaeline: Description: Part Two


Description can be a spark that sets off fireworks in the body. (Positive discharge, via Wikimedia Commons)

Description can be a spark that sets off fireworks in the body. (Positive discharge, via Wikimedia Commons)

One thing you should know about me: I enjoy being a devil’s advocate. I am proud that I have an open mind and that I try to look on all sides of an issue. I like sitting on the fence. And this causes me a lot of problems as a writer, because instead of “picking a lane”, I tend to wander around and check out too many things. But at least it produces a blog post for today.

So, anyway, last week I told you how I found Jane Austen to have rather sparse description, and she’s super-famous, so it must be all right, right? This week, I’m going to turn around and look at the descriptions that appear in one of my other favorite books, A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold. (link is to sample chapters from the publisher, Baen Books)

A Civil Campaign is the 13th book in the Vorkosigan series, and our hero, Miles Vorkosigan, is courting a woman for the very first time. In past books, Continue reading

Michaeline: Description, Part One

line-drawing of a horse in the Japanese style

A horse is a horse, of course. But how much detail do we really need to be able to see a horse? (Via Wikimedia Commons)

I am wrestling with description this week, and will probably be doing so for much of next month (and perhaps for the rest of my writing life).

Description boils down to the very simple fact that you have to get images out of your head, and transfer them into your readers’ heads. Some writers are quite particular about drawing word pictures, and they want the reader to see almost exactly what they see (a bit quixotic, if you ask me).

Others, on the other hand, concentrate on getting the images out of their own heads, purging them, if you will, by writing them. They may not care if the writer’s image and the reader’s image match exactly. They should care, however, about whether or not  Continue reading

Elizabeth: Horsing Around

Centella in Action © 2015 Photo by Scott

Centella in Action © 2015 Photo by Scott

No, not that kind of horsing around.

I mean actual horses. Something I’ll be the first to admit I know nothing about. The only horse interaction I recall was a birthday party I went to as a teenager. We plodded along the trail on horses that I’m pretty sure were plotting to dump us on the ground and head for the hills (I may have read Animal Farm around that time). My horse was blind in one eye and more interested in stopping to graze than in following the trail. Hard to say which of us found the experience more tedious. Continue reading

Elizabeth: I’m Sensing I Need Some Help Here

visualizeJustine’s post on the five senses yesterday was very timely, as that is a topic that has been on my mind recently. Like several of the other ladies, I entered a few contests this year and, as part of my revision process, I’ve spent the last week or so sifting through the feedback I received from them.

As one would expect, based on the wide range of readers there are out there, the judges’ reactions to the story vary greatly – some love it (like the judge who requested a full), some find it merely tolerable, and the rest fall somewhere in the middle. I can’t do a lot with conflicting feedback Continue reading

Justine: An Exercise Using the Five Senses

Me (left) and Jilly, the most amazing travel partner and tour guide!

Me (left) and Jilly, the most amazing travel partner and tour guide!

As many of you know, I recently wrapped up a fabulous 10-day trip to England (with the wonderful Jilly as my official host and tour guide). The things I saw and did are experiences that I will eventually include in my books, with the goal being more realistic, “show-not-tell” scenes…scenes written well enough, you can imagine yourself there, even as you sit in your bed curled up with the book.

To get to that point, though, a bit of preschool-type exercises in the five senses can be very helpful to ensure your readers get “the full picture.” Using two of the pictures I’ve taken as examples, I’ll come up with some basic descriptions of different “scenes,” hitting on the major images, feelings, etc. that I want to evoke as I describe that scene for a reader.

First is Continue reading

Michaeline: “Welcome to Night Vale”

White, cold marble cloak hanging over an invisible figure. You can go inside, as if the cloak draped you. Much spookiness.

Welcome to Night Vale. Do not approach the dog park. (image via Wikimedia Commons. Anna Chromy, Cloak of Conscience)

I just discovered the deliciously creepy podcast, “Welcome to Night Vale” this month. There are a million reasons for writers to listen to it and learn – texture, conveying meaning in just a few words, patterned story-telling and best of all, the podcast gave me the most thrilling surge of romantic squee that I’ve had all year.

“Welcome to Night Vale” is structured as a community radio show with the most kindly despotic announcer in a world that is just . . . odd. Secret Government kind of odd. Regular features include the news, the community calendar, traffic and the weather – all turned on their heads as tropes. For me, the heart of the series is the romance between Continue reading