Thursday, July 26, 2012

Curve Ball

Every once in a while, life pitches a curve ball. Two weeks ago, one of these came my way--an unexpected health issue that has taken up all of my time, interrupted my writing and reading life as well as my blogging. *Insert growls and grumbles here.* I apologize for dropping out of the blogging universe with no notice. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be helped. And, double unfortunately, I need to take more time off. I am hoping that I won’t be away for long, and that, instead, my blogging will simply be sporadic until this curve ball passes on by. Time will tell. I miss blogging, writing, and reading, of course, but sometimes stuff happens in our lives, right? Anyway, please know that I will visit your blogs whenever possible and be back soon.

One more thing! I hope you’ll be sure to stop by on August 22nd. I have a very special guest blogger coming by. You won’t want to miss her.

Wishing you lots of wonderful reading and writing and amazing books while I am away--and always!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Do You Hang Off Cliffs?

At BEA a few weeks ago, R.L. Stein (the ever-so-famous author of the crazy popular Goosebumps books) attributed some of the success of his novels to his use of cliffhangers—those suspenseful situations at the end of a scene or chapter.

Photo by ajenyon
I am a huge fan of cliffhangers at the end of chapters, unless, of course, it’s 2 am, I’ve just reached the end of a chapter where the characters I care about are in some sort of grave danger or about to make a momentous decision, which will be revealed in the next chapter, yet I’ve got to haul my exhausted carcass out of bed at 6 am. In that case, I’m frustrated because I must know what happens next in the novel, yet I anticipate being bleary eyed the next day. I dwell on how much caffeine I will need to come to life after too little snooze time. If you’re an avid reader, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about here. Cliffhangers build suspense, tension, and create an emotional response in readers that often makes them sacrifice sleep in order to find out what happens next in a story.

If you’re a writer, you probably itch to torment your readers in this way. I'm guessing you’d love to make them sacrifice good sense and well being for the sake of turning the pages of your story. But how? Some authors accomplish this by revealing a key piece of information that the reader needs to know at the end of a chapter, or a tease that this piece of information will appear in the next chapter. An author might also reveal some twist or important plot development as a cliffhanger. Or, a writer might push the main character into an ugly and sticky situation to be resolved pages later. I just finished a chapter in which the heroine was facing some serious danger when she passed out—at the end of the chapter. Since I care about this character, I had to know whether she’d be descended upon by the evil or if she’d be saved.

Also, cliffhangers work especially well when each one is bigger than the last. This kind of makes sense given that the novel is building toward a climax, right?

What do you think about cliffhangers? Do you like to hang off cliffs or are you afraid of heights? If you are pro-cliffhanger, do you have a favorite? One that kept you reading against your better judgment?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Interesting (I think) 4th of July Writing Tidbits

Happy almost July 4th everyone! In honor of Independence Day, I thought I’d share some facts that I find interesting about the writing of The Declaration of Independence. Here’s hoping that they might interest all of you writers and readers, too.

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson was one of five men appointed to write The Declaration of Independence? John Adams of Massachusetts and Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Robert R. Livingston of New York joined Mr. Jefferson. Doesn’t that sound like a powerful writer’s group?

Thomas Jefferson, however, was asked to write the first draft. I’m guessing he was more of an outliner than a pantser.

This writing project took him less than three weeks. This bit of information, frankly, makes me a little sheepish about my slow writing pace. Upon completing the final draft (after many), Mr. Jefferson showed it to Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, who input their own revisions. The Congress, of course, made more alterations and deletions. The process of revision continued through all of July 3 and into the late morning of July 4. And I’ve read that Mr. Jefferson was not thrilled with the final product. Still, when the Declaration of Independence was finished, church bells rang out in Philadelphia. Don’t we all celebrate once those final revisions are made, for better or for worse?

Fifty years later, Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, as did John Adams. It’s true: Two of the men who crafted The Declaration of Independence died on the same day, and on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the document. Kind of wild, don’t you think?

And now I leave you to your fireworks (for those of you celebrating the birth of the USA) with a few quotes on the value of reading and writing:

“I cannot live without books.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." ~ Benjamin Franklin

“Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.” ~ John Adams

“I read my eyes out and can't read half enough...the more one reads the more one sees we have to read.” ~ John Adams

Can you add any fun, Independence Day writer facts?

Happy fourth of July whether you celebrate Independence Day or not!