Peg Herring's Blog – August 2008 Archive (21)

The Concept of Time

I think it was Einstein who began this whole "time is bendable" thing, but maturity confirms it. What used to be a year feels more like seven months these days, and what used to be a 16-hour day feels like nine-and-a-half hours.

Every night before bed, I tell myself that in the morning I'll write for X number of hours. I plan carefully, carving a block of time out of all the other stuff that's going on. When my nine-and-a-half hours arrives, though, the block becomes a brick and… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 29, 2008 at 11:06pm — No Comments

And About Those Kilts...

William Wallace never wore one, of course, so the whole mooning thing has to be discarded. But it was a great idea, and a great scene. Having just returned from a Highland Games event, I can attest to the appeal of a group of great, strapping men throwing things about in flowing tartan.

But that leads to the subject of historical accuracy. Are we as writers educating readers or just telling a good story? If it's the latter, do we care if we fudge a bit on the… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 28, 2008 at 10:03pm — 2 Comments

Ya Gotta Have a Gimmick (R)

More and more we hear as authors that there has to be a reason for people to notice your work. Good writing? That's nice. Great characters? Sweet. But what's the hook? Why should people pick up your book and not one of the other 89,999 that will be published each year?

It's not fair that books have to be shilled as well as skilled, but who said life was fair? What's an author to do if she refuses to dress up in period costume, follow people around bookstores dinning them into buying… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 27, 2008 at 10:23pm — 3 Comments

A Character's Motivation Is Not "Because I Said So"

It's my book, and the people in it have to do as I say, right? Well, not necessarily. Sometimes they simply refuse to act the way you want them to. And of course, it's your own fault.

You create characters, but every one of them is a conglomerate of "real people" traits. Therefore, they take on a sort of reality and have to act within the personality that you ascribed to them. They have to have pre-existing reasons to act the way they do, and as the author, you have to provide the… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 26, 2008 at 11:18pm — No Comments

After the Ball is Over...

The Michigan Renaissance Festival is over, at least for me. It goes on for several more weekends, but I've done my stint, and it was fun. It's my second foray into the past in 2008, and here's what I've learned so far.

Don't go expecting to sell dozens of books. People are in costume and they have no pockets. They have credit cards and very little cash. They don't want to haul a book around the grounds. And they're having too good a time to think about how much they'll want to read… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 25, 2008 at 10:57pm — No Comments

If You Could See My Office!

Let's just say I'm glad you can't. If a neat office is the sign of an organized person, boy, am I in trouble. I keep thinking that once _____ is over, I'll get a handle on things, but there's always something else after that. My writing life is insane, and don't even ask about the world outside this room.

I was discussing busy-ness with someone yesterday who agreed with me that some pressure is good and too much is petrifying. When too many things pile into my brain, I become like… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 22, 2008 at 10:43pm — No Comments

Answers to Yesterday's Non-stupid Questions

Who Put the Bomp?

The Fool on the Hill/The Man I Love/The Girl from Ipanema

What Ever Happened to Randolph Scott?

Already Gone/Deep in the Heart of Texas/Gone Fishin'

Where Is Love?

Under the Boardwalk/Up on the Roof/Somewhere Beyond the Sea

When Will I See You Again?

You'll Never Know/In the Year 2525/Tonight

Why Haven't I Heard from You?

We're Having a Heatwave/It's Too Darned Hot/Baby, It's Cold Outside

Who Wrote the Book of Love?

The… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 21, 2008 at 10:20pm — 1 Comment

There Are No Stupid Questions

Okay, then--

Who Put the Bomp?
What Ever Happened to Randolph Scott?
Where Is Love?
When Will I See You Again?
Why Haven't I Heard from You?
Who Wrote the Book of Love?
What Are You Doing the Rest of Your LIfe?
Where Is the Love (You Said You'd Give to Me)?
When Will I Be Loved?
Why Do I Love You?

Added by Peg Herring on August 20, 2008 at 11:03pm — 1 Comment

Inventing Words

Poe did it. Shakespeare did, too, and we let them. Now it's rappers, techies and teenagers who are on the cutting edge. They invent terms or use them in new ways and the rest of us pick it up, trying to be cool even though we're way past junior high. I've learned to say "He texted me" but he'd better not, because I'd have no idea what to do if he did.

We need some new words that no one is working on, though. As a writer, I find phrases that are outdated, but there isn't a good… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 19, 2008 at 10:16pm — No Comments

What Makes a Page-turner?

Start with honesty: I don't know. Something in the character/plot/style mix, but setting, pacing, and vocabulary help, too. To misquote, I don't know what (the) art is, but I know it when I read it.

I started two books this morning (Don't ask; it's how I do things) and both sucked me in immediately. One isn't even a book yet; it's an unpublished MS that the author let go of with great reluctance over lunch the other day. She doesn't think it's ready; I can't believe I only got a… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 18, 2008 at 10:21pm — No Comments

Whatever's Wrong, It's Not Your Fault

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves." Shakespeare made that rather surprising statement in Julius Caesar, since the prevalent belief in his day was that the stars controlled a person's destiny. Whether he believed that or not is beside the point: I'd like to propose that we adopt the Elizabethan philosophy.

What I eat does not matter. The stars decree that I will be fat or skinny or flat-chested or hippy. Cool. I can eat fast food five times a week… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 15, 2008 at 10:34pm — No Comments

Living Language Means Changing Language

"Nothing gold can stay," said the poet (It's Frost, so you don't have to look it up). We like to think, especially as we get to middle age, that certain things are "right" and must remain so.

I've talked about wording, grammar and syntax this week, and the tendency we all have to regard what we were taught as the right way to speak. Truth is, language changes all the time if it's being used. Rules change, words come and go, and usage/syntax/structure shifts. The reason your… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 14, 2008 at 10:50pm — No Comments

You Gotta (Have to) Know the Difference

You can read all sorts of things about proper use of the English language, and there are arguments galore on line about what is correct. The Net and the ever-present media have ignored propriety in grammar so often that it's hard to know what is right: grammarians cling to proper usage, but modernists claim that frequency trumps rules. So maybe we will see "alright" and "alot" listed as correct in dictionaries, and maybe we'll "lay" down after a hard day's work .(Imagine me cringing… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 13, 2008 at 10:23pm — No Comments

Writers, Learn from Non-writers

When I taught Shakespeare back in the day, invariably students would ask, "Why does it take him so long to say everything?" I'd launch into my canned explanation of the fact that Elizabethans liked the sound of the spoken word, since they weren't immersed in it as we are today, and the fact that the lack of elaborate sets meant the actors had to create the mood and an image of the physical scene, et cetera, et cetera. Often when I finished, the same student would say something like, "Whatever.… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 12, 2008 at 11:00pm — No Comments

It's Hard to Say Good-bye

It's getting close, that time when I have to officially proclaim that I've done everything I can to make a manuscript into a book. I have to turn it over to editors and typesetters and publishers, who will lay it before the world and ask that someone plunk down hard-earned (or even inherited) money for it. But what if there's a mistake?

Saying you're finished with a book is a little like saying you're done raising a child. You are judged by what the public sees, and you can't go back… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 11, 2008 at 9:55pm — No Comments

Patterns in Syntax=Good Dialogue

A six-year-old visitor got me thinking about syntax and speech patterns. So much of personality is conveyed in how we put our sentences together, and if a writer can capture unique syntax for her characters, they sparkle and stand out, distinct from each other.

With children we might see, as I did, an adult pattern copied unconsciously by the child who lives almost exclusively with polite adults. As my little visitor went outside to play, he glanced at the table where I'd set out… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 8, 2008 at 11:00pm — No Comments

Quiet or Riot?

When I taught high school, my students often claimed that they worked best when there was noise. Studies of today's teens confirm that they can indeed text, listen to music, and surf the Net all at once, but I have to admit, as the song of my generation says, "It ain't me, babe."

I like quiet. I like to be able to focus on the task at hand. And it's getting worse as time goes by. As a teacher, I was quite the multi-tasker, and I could keep in my head a dozen things I had to… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 7, 2008 at 9:48pm — No Comments

Favorite Words (R)

Almost everyone has "catch phrases" of conversation, repeated words or groups of words that we unconsciously use as fillers. As a speech teacher, I can't tell you how many "Ums" and "You knows" I've drawn to the attention of novice speakers. Your friends know what your catch phrases are, and they've probably told you, or they will if you ask.

In writing we tend toward certain words, too. Sometimes they're qualifiers ("it seemed as if"), sometimes modifiers ("very"), sometimes just a… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 6, 2008 at 10:47pm — No Comments

All That Well-intentioned Advice

People are always starting sentences with, "You should ...." I'm amazed and sometimes amused at the advice I get. The other day someone told me that I should "ask around and see if any bookstores will let me do a booksigning."

I never would have thought of that on my own!

I get all kinds of advice about using the Internet to become famous. Some of it is in the form of emails that promise I'll get thousands of hits a day. Some is from people who have a friend of a friend who… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 5, 2008 at 10:49pm — No Comments

Making (and Keeping) a Writing Schedule

I know people with full-time jobs, small children, and busy social lives who still find time to write. Frankly, I don't know how they do it, although at one time so did I. Now I'm retired, so theoretically I have time to write. You know what they say, "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is."

In my head (the theory part) I will write or edit or polish so many pages a day. I try to write between 8:00 and 11:00 am, then take a walk,… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on August 4, 2008 at 11:00pm — No Comments

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