Thursday’s Children June 13, 2013

Inspired by Packing Up…

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

As most of you know, I’m moving next week. I can still barely believe we’re leaving Maine and New England, where I’ve lived almost my whole life. It isn’t that I haven’t moved before. There was suburban Massachusetts, Cape Cod, Boston, Portsmouth, New Hampshire and then Kennebunkport, Maine. But this is different, it’s a move to an unfamiliar place with real professional movers whose fee is based not only on distance, but also on how much the truck weighs.

Killing my darlings.

The process of sorting and packing isn’t unlike editing and revising. Things come to light that I’d completely forgotten. Holding certain items in my hands, I can’t believe I ever liked them. Other times, it’s like seeing a beloved friend and having a silent conversation about a certain period of my life.

Which items are worth their weight? Which aren’t? Which deserve a place in my “new” story? 

Some pieces can be re-purposed, fit into a different space where they will shine. But not always. The losers end up in our yard sale. It’s always entertaining to see which objects catch the attention of strangers and find their way into a new story. Still others blow their second chance and go to the Goodwill store where there’s a larger audience. As for the true rejects, well, it’s a tragic ending.

Have you moved a lot during your life? Have you made big moves or small ones?

And because I can’t think of a better occasion to enjoy some Mr. Bean humor…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zavsd6etz_Q

I will try to get a post ready for next week, but I may not succeed. Either way I will put the Linky codes up next Wednesday. Hopefully we’ll have an internet connection soon after we move in on June 22.

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Thursday’s Children June 6, 2013

Inspired by Judging and Pilgrims…

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

From late summer through fall of last year I slogged along the road to The Holy Land (aka a traditional publishing deal), with a troop of fellow pilgrims, several of whom are Thursday’s Children. *waves*. We were a merryish band of hopefuls, joking to hide our insecurities, sharing bits of our writerly life stories, trying to offer helpful suggestions to each other, clutching our offerings in our sweaty hands as we approached each shrine. And by shrine, I mean contest, you know how I love metaphors…

From John Lydgate manuscript

From John Lydgate manuscript

At any given stop along the way, some might receive the blessing of a contest victory, or an agent offer or, or the cautious benediction of an agent request. Others might garner the praise of contest organizers and judges. Many might get only “constructive” feedback. I know for me it was hard not to view this kind of result as “your writing sucks, but here’s a few ideas that MIGHT help.”

This past week I was one of the decision-makers, part of a panel deciding victory, or defeat. Agent Query Kombat matched thirty-two pairs of contestants head to head. The experience was humbling for me. It also gave me a new appreciation for our brilliant writing community and also of the work that agents do on a daily basis as they mine the slushpile looking for gold. Thank you to Michelle Hauck for inviting me to judge. If you’re not following her, you should, she’s got a great blog and is a wonderful person.

Here are some things I’d heard before, but until last week didn’t feel in my bones to be the absolute truth.

1. Writing a query and writing a story require different skill-sets. Sometimes writers have one, sometimes both. It really IS genuinely disappointing to read a killer query followed by an underwhelming writing sample.

2. Typos have a nasty aftertaste.

3. Vagueness in a query is not alluring, it’s frustrating. “Mysterious” requires explanation, as does “losing everything”.

4. Overly contrived character names, including regular names with weird alternative spellings, irritate me. (But this is just a personal peeve). Also, if you’ve named a character Ash or Asher, you’re part of a naming trend.

5. Pretend. Every. Word. Costs. You. Money. And. You’re. Poor. This is especially true in your actual writing. When you’re pinning everything on a sample, don’t repeat ideas or words (other than pronouns, conjunctions etc.)

6. Make your opening engaging, but not overwhelming. Pull me in through action or emotion, but don’t make the action so fast-paced I can’t follow, or the emotion so over the top that I can’t relate to an MC I’ve just met.

7. Humor is a great way to engage your reader. It’s disarming when someone makes you laugh or smile. Humor can take the form of a hilarious situation, or an MC’s voice that is either Wanda Sykes/Dawn French/Will Ferrell funny or a quieter voice laced with dry observational wit. Fear also sucks the reader in, but scaring the reader is harder to pull off when the MC isn’t someone the reader cares about yet.

8. There IS lots of subjectivity involved, whether it’s genre, or voice, or plot. Let’s say you’ve written a historical fiction about a sheriff’s wife who left cultured Boston for a lawless Western frontier town, and you’re being judged by someone whose passion is hard sci-fi… Your entry REALLY has to knock his or her socks off. But being judged by someone who’s passionate about your chosen genre also means you must come up with something “new” or a new spin on something “old”, otherwise the judge won’t be impressed.

9. All these things ARE risky beginnings – backstory, info-dumps, too many characters all at once (especially if there’s similarity among names or difficult names), passive voice.

10. Feedback can ultimately be more valuable than a contest win and it doesn’t actually mean your writing sucks. I’d venture to say that statistically few people get an agent through contests. Weaknesses in your query and your writing sample (which often hint at overall issues in your ms) CAN be fixed so that you DO get an agent or a small publisher offer.

Don’t be afraid to enter writing contests, they’re great opportunities to learn a few things, and meet other writers and people in the pub industry.

Don’t let “winning” go to your head

and don’t let “losing” get to your heart.

Have you ever judged a writing contest? Did you enjoy it? If you haven’t judged, would you welcome the opportunity?
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Thursday’s Children May 30, 2013

Inspired by Bedrooms…

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

Alright, alright, get your minds out of the gutter, I’m talking about what bedrooms look like, not what takes place in them. To date, all my books have been YA. Teens usually don’t have much say when it comes to how a house is decorated, with the exception of their own bedrooms. A bedroom is a private domain, sometimes a refuge from what happens in the rest of the world. This room is also the one that is most likely to reveal the interests and fundamental traits of its teen inhabitant.

Writers can exploit this sneaky way of “showing” the reader facets of a character’s personality.

From UNQUIET SOULS

Here’s what my MC has to say about her own room…

I found I had a strong opinion about what color to paint my room. I’m not sure who was more surprised—me, or Mom. Instead of going along with the bright pastels she preferred, I insisted on a color which she named Dismal Drab. It was neither blue, nor green, not gray, but a soft misty tone that hovered somewhere in the middle. Like me, it was vague, nondescript, elusive.

9781588167392_int_190-207.qxp

She is obsessed with a boy named Sam. Here’s what she has to say about his room…

He slid what looked like an old barn door along its track, revealing a spacious, airy room inside. A row of windows at the back looked out at the sea. Mounted on the walls were several skateboards, a surfboard, antlers, a longbow, stone arrowheads in a glass-fronted case, and shelves holding the skeletal remains of numerous small animals. Suspended from a branch in one corner was a huge paper wasps’ nest. Long planks ran under the windows, forming a desk covered with scattered papers, drawing pencils, shells, and feathers. Comic books, skater magazines, CD cases, and hunks of driftwood littered the floor. So. This is where Beauty lives. It was perfectly imperfect.

photo from ebay

photo from ebay

photo from pbase(dot)com

photo from pbase(dot)com

In my book FOOLISH, the MC’s mom is a hoarder. Sparrow’s room is her safe haven and it’s neat as a pin. An OCD pin.  She has laid down the law. Phil (her name for her mom’s hoard) is not allowed entrance.

Do you use decor to help readers learn about your characters? Which rooms do you like describing?

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Thursday’s Children May 23, 2013

Inspired by Contests!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

Late last summer, after beginning to query my third book, I decided to figure out Social Media Platforms. Seemed like a good distraction from the horror of an empty inbox. My Twitter feed was soon clogged with tweets about writing contests. My first foray into the contest world was WriteOnCon. Though I had no idea what the hell I was doing, in addition to getting some feedback on my query and first few hundred words, I met some wonderful people. One of them was Kristina Perez.

We exchanged manuscripts. Out of our CP relationship, a true friendship was born. We supported each other through the ups and downs of other contests, querying, revising, etc. Thursday’s Children is our first “baby” and we’re very proud of how it’s grown into a fabulous community for writers to share ideas and cheer each other on. Both Kristina and I are inspired by writers who give back (Heather Webb, Brenda Drake, Deana Barnhart, to name just a few) and we promised each other that if we EVER, FINALLY got agents, we’d do a contest too.

Well, that day has come! Here’s our second “child”! Hop along to Kristina’s TC post for more details and a link to the contest website! We hope you’ll enter if you’re eligible and we’re counting on your help to spread the word!

virgin_widget

Have you ever participated in a writing contest? What was the best thing about it? What was the worst? 

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Thursday’s Children May 16, 2013

Inspired by fog…

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

Last week, Jessika Fleck’s TC post about snow sparked my idea for this post, in addition to time at the beach, during which I snapped these photos.

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

When I was in high school I wanted an airbrush, just so I could paint realistic mist and fog. Last week, on my way home, the sunny skies five miles inland gradually gave way to a thick fog blanket at the coast. It took only a few wisps drifting across the road to make my pulse race.

Fog is…atmospheric…transforming…disorienting…the sky brought down to our level. Otherworldly.

Sometimes, at the beach, people materialize out of the fog, right in front of me, like magic.

Fog makes an appearance in almost every book I’ve written.

Here are some excerpts about fog (which will also demonstrate that I don’t always write from a dark and twisty POV).

Unquiet Souls

The muffled sounds of waves lapping the shore enveloped us as we walked along the path. Clammy, salty-tasting mist turned the evergreens into feathery shadows. Our feet made almost no sound on the pine needles.

A slight puff of air on my right hand, like someone’s breath, raised goose bumps on the backs of both arms. I glanced behind us, but saw nothing.  Somewhere in the woods beside me a twig snapped. 

And later in that scene…

We kicked off our shoes and sat on a big boulder, above the seaweed line marking high tide…Droplets of moisture, like tiny crystal beads, collected on his hair. If only this moment could last indefinitely, the two of us in a cloud world, isolated from everything and everyone else.

If TENDRIL were actually a real book, mist might drift out from between the pages. It takes place in a fog-bound Maine town.

TENDRIL opening…

Sporadic blasts of the foghorn heralded our arrival at the lighthouse. The headlights illuminated the mist shrouding the island but couldn’t penetrate it. Once we were out of the car, fog clung to my skin like a veil. The air was thick with the smell of sea creatures, both living and dead.

Later in the book (“Pegasus” refers to her rickety bike)…

The fog was so dense I could taste its saltiness. Between the island and the mainland I flew among clouds, riding through the sky on my elderly Pegasus. The bleating of the foghorn and the disembodied cries of Canada geese seemed to come from the mist itself. I could see no more than a few feet in front of me… Had I not traveled the same route so many times I might easily have gotten lost.

Still later, in the voice of the male protagonist-

“Wait. Will you go out with me on Wednesday?”

“Yes…if I can…then I will.”

The way she said it gave me goose bumps. The bad kind. “What does that mean?”

“Well, you know, if I’m…free. There’s a chance I might not be. Goodbye, Dylan.” Before I could think of what to say, she disappeared into the fog, almost like she was part of it.

So, as you’ve read, I love the way fog can set a mood…ominous, romantic, mysterious. I think I need an “I ❤ Fog” bumper sticker. Or as we say here in Maine, bumpah stickah. Here’s a photo I took last fall. Those are my editorial assistants, getting a closer look at the boat.

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

Photo by R. Wynn-Nolet

Does fog appear in your writing? Do you like fog?

Here are the codes for this week. If you have trouble with the Linky, try deleting the ” marks and retyping them.
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Versatile Blogger Award

Another award!

VersatileBloggerjpg

Thank you so much to Alana Terry and Kate Frost , both of whom presented me with this lovely spring-y looking badge.

According to the rules I must –

  1. Thank and link to the person who gave me the award.
  2. Tell seven facts about myself.
  3. Pass it on to seven other bloggers.
  4. Link to specific posts on their blogs to they’ll be notified by pingback.*

Honestly, I’ve gotten a few awards now, and there’s just about nothing interesting left, so here’s a list that can only be described as “random”.

1. I broke into a Welsh castle when the guard was off to lunch.

Photo by Elisabeth Whipple

Photo by Elisabeth Whipple

2. This past Thursday the appliance-repair guy recited one of his poems to me. It involved a girl with green eyes and a bikini and was actually quite adorable.

3. Some people use socks to make puppets, I used one as toilet paper. It was in Russia, there was no T.P., and I”d forgotten my packet of tissues.

4. I dislike pie crust.

5. Generally speaking, I’d rather be cold than hot.

6. I have a cure for hiccups that doesn’t involve water or holding your breath.

7. My favorite Spongebob character is Plankton.

plankton

Alright, so now I will nominate 7 people, to play only if they really want to. Otherwise, just consider it a shout-out to your awesomeness.

1. Kate Michael, because she’s a wicked fabulous friend, CP, and tweep.

2. Cassandra Griffin, who gave me an award not so long ago – right back at you, my lovely 🙂

3. Kelly Evans, because she missed Thursday’s Children last week, so now she has an “extra credit” assignment. Mwhahaha.

4. Liz Penney, ditto.

5. Louise Gornall, because anyone who has pink AND blue hair deserves some kind of award and this is all I’ve got.

6. Jessy Montgomery, as a graduation present. And because she doesn’t have enough going on. Ha.

7. EM Castellan, because if I don’t give her the award, Jessy M. will.

*Actually I’ll be notifying them by Twitter. Rules are made to be broken, right?

Thursday’s Children May 9, 2013

First a shout-out to Vicki Weavil for her pub contract! Yay, Vicki! And congrats to those Thursday’s Children who made it into The Writer’s Voice contest – Good Luck! For those who tried, but didn’t, or who didn’t enter at all…stay tuned for news about a very special contest designed for “virgin” manuscripts in the YA/NA genre.

Inspired by Psychology Tests (Part 2)…

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

Last week, we had fun with the Luscher Color Test, right? This week I’m excited to bring you the Thematic Apperception Test. I should start by saying this is an “old school” psych tool and rarely used nowadays. Most of the images you’ll find online have a mid-20th century feel. I find this test intriguing because essentially it’s Flash Fiction. The pictures are often morally ambiguous and some suggest strong emotional content. The client is shown an image and narrates a story to go with it. In theory, the client’s narrative will reveal unresolved issues, fears, pathology, etc.

Here are a couple of TAT images.

Thematic Apperception Test Image

Thematic Apperception Test Image

Hmm, is he/she cradling or strangling?

Thematic Apperception Test Image

Thematic Apperception Test Image

He looks none too pleased…

The psychiatrist in my WIP shows the photo below to my MC. Orla is selectively mute and therefore she writes the story. I should mention a couple of things. One, she’s a twisted piece of work. Two, she and Dr. Spurwick have an unhealthy relationship.

TAT image

TAT image

From my Untitled WIP…

He gives me my own pad, and a pen. I’m not allowed to erase. It’s one of the rules.

“Fifteen minutes,” he says.

I click the end of the pen. A glossy clot of red ink dangles from the tip. Perfect.

Billy’s intestines writhe like snakes in a barrel. She’ll be angry. Beyond angry. He should have run away while he had the chance. But his fear of being without her is greater than his fear of being with her.

“What have you done?” she demands, droplets of her saliva peppering his cheeks.

Her eyes shoot little arrows of rage at him. The force of her hatred cracks him open like a surgical rib-spreader. She wishes he’d never been born. Wishes she’d torn him from her womb and thrown him in the sea. Or down the toilet. Her rejection claws out his heart and drops it on the cabin floor.

Blood seeps into the raw wood boards, staining them dark red.

I stop writing to draw the bleeding heart. How had he known I’d need a red pen?

“Nothing,” he says. That isn’t true, of course, but his instinct is to lie. To protect himself at all costs, for as long as possible.

“Clearly you have. What’s in the oven? It smells horrible. And where’s Emmy? Did you put her in the shed again? I should have known you couldn’t be trusted to look after her.” He shakes his head. Maybe if he doesn’t speak of it, they can pretend nothing happened. Then maybe he could think all the bad away—make it disappear. Or maybe he could make himself disappear. He closes his eyes. He forces himself to watch. There’s the small shriek of the oven door opening. And then a much louder one from his mother. “Oh, my God!” He closes his eyes now. The wild sobbing makes the heart on the floor, his heart, throb, spurting out his remaining blood. He opens his eyes a crack. She holds the charred baby girl to her chest, rocking back and forth. “Get OUT!” she screams, her face grotesquely contorted, shiny with tears.

Billy sits on the front stoop. Waiting.

I hand Dr. Spurwick the paper.

Do you like doing Flash Fiction? What story would your MC tell to go with this photo?

Here are this week’s codes. If you have trouble getting the Linky to work on your post, try deleting the ” marks and retyping them.

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Thursday’s Children May 2, 2013

Inspired by Psychology Tests…

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

I have a thing for personality tests and psychology generally, which explains how I ended up with a relatively useless degree in psych and art.  (Clearly, my choices were not based on any kind of “get rich quick” plan). When writers create characters they’re playing psychologists – assembling traits, ascribing motivation, exploring deep-seated fears, relationship dynamics, etc. My current WIP has a psychiatrist in it, so I’ve been reliving Personality 101 and doing some research into the bag of tricks psychiatrists use to determine what’s going on inside their patients’ heads. Especially those patients who are the “withholding” type.

Brace yourself, this could turn into a series because some of the tests I’ve rediscovered have actually inspired my writing. Next week I might share a scene from my WIP that involves a different diagnostic tool.

But for now, on to the Luscher Color Test. Once upon a time, I saw an avant-garde European film. The two protags were a psychiatrist and his patient. At one point this particular test came into play. It’s basically a matter of selecting colors based on preference, from the one which appeals to you most, to the one you like the least. Your preferences reveal things about your state of mind, motivations, personality, etc.

I find personality profiles can be useful when it comes to configuring characters.

luscher

Learn more about the meanings of color and take the whole test by clicking here. You can also learn more about what your first choice color means here.

When my then boyfriend, now husband, and I did this test, I picked violet. Sometimes he still teases me by saying, “You’re being REALLY violet, right now.” My MCs tend to have violet tendencies too.

Here’s what that means-

Violet attempts to fully unify the impulsive conquest of red and the gentle surrender of blue. This is a mystical, magical color, that represents intuitive and sensitive understanding of the unreal. It is the preferred color of almost 75 percent of pre-adolescent children. Oddly, it is also preferred by pregnant women and people with hyper-thyroidism and homosexuals of both genders. In short, it can be considered to be a desire for mystic intimacy or understanding.

Did you take the test? Did you feel the results were accurate? Do you feel like an amateur shrink when you develop your characters?

Here are the codes for this week, if you have trouble, try deleting the ” marks within the code and retyping them.

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My Very Inspiring Blog Award 4/27/13

Thank you so much to the fascinating and talented Cassandra Griffin for presenting me with this lovely award! I’m very fond of the fanciful Victorian script design. It will be hard to come up with 7 things about me that are as interesting as her 7 things (RN turned trucker, for example), but here goes…

OneInspiringBlogJPG

1. My first apartment was in a Boston brownstone which once housed a funeral parlor. The scariest thing about it was the shag carpet. In the kitchen.

2. On our honeymoon, my husband and I broke a bed and set off the smoke alarm in a hotel in Halifax. No, we weren’t doing what you’re thinking.

3. I had devil-phobia when I was a child (this deserves its own post so that’s all I’ll say for now).

4. When I was three years old I learned to shift gears in a TR3, but then forgot how.

5. I’m a very cheap drunk.

6. My favorite ride at Disney World is Expedition Everest (for all the fun stuff leading up to the ride, as well as the ride itself).

7. I’m the official bat-catcher in our family. We’ve had three “incidents” so far.

Award Rules:

  1. Display the logo in your blog to show you’ve been nominated.
  2. Link back to your nominator.
  3. Share 7 things about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.
  5. Notify your nominees.

If I nominate you and you don’t want to play, no worries. If you do decide to play, please let me know so I can learn 7 interesting things about you!

In no particular order, here are my nominees:

1. Jennifer Glenn Bartow who makes the best creepy Barbie doll videos ever

2. Kara Glenn-Bartow (Ha! Now you can’t nominate each other. I’m evil like that.)

3. Joan Reginaldo word-magician.

4. Stephen Alix my “source” for tattoo expertise and huggy Twitter chats.

5. Michaela Stoughton fellow Salem witchcraft trial enthusiast and animal-hoarder, um, I mean animal-lover.

6. Veronica Park damn funny woman, even when not tipsy.

7. Jessie Devine best role-player in the Twitterverse and she can cut her own hair and it looks fab.

8. Paula Harvey writer-director-office slave, whose work stories sound very much like my old work stories…only funnier.

9. T. J. Loveless because of bacon and lap-dances. If you missed all that on Twitter, I should probably be glad.

10. Laura Oliva hot tamale.

11. Vicki Weavil new and enthusiastic Thursday’s Child, love that!

12. Shanah Wooldrage because she has a hedgehog, and also whenever I see her name I must say it at least six times. With a British accent.

13. Brooks Benjamin also because of bacon Did you know we’re coauthoring a book? It’s going to be a sizzler.

14. Vaughn Roycroft who’s one of the nicest, most supportive guys in Writerland, and because of 80s music.

15. Karen Lee Hallam jazz singer, writer, mom, workaholic, yup she needs a few more awards, but no more hats.

Thursday’s Children April 25, 2013

Before anything else, I must say CONGRATULATIONS once again to my friend and Thursday’s Children participant Stacey Lee on the sale of her book to Putnam! She’s one of the funniest, kindest, and most generous people around (she gave me my little turtle Remy). I can’t wait to buy her book (tentatively titled Golden Boys).

And now for the most horrifically graceless segue ever,

Inspired by Muck…

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, “You know you’re a New Englander if your four seasons are almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction.”

Of course, he’s not a New Englander and thus he forgot the fifth season. Mud.

In this part of the world, Old Man Winter kicks Mother Nature’s butt from November to April. When Spring finally comes to northern New England, she definitely looks “ridden hard and put away wet.” The glorious carpet of autumn leaves has turned ugly brown. Limbs have been ripped off, revealing raw wood-flesh and some poor, doomed trees lean at drunken angles, knocked over but unable to rest because their comrades caught them on the way down. No pretty green leaves hide the damage. Lawns show unsightly wounds inflicted by snow plows. Nobody in his right mind tries to sell his New England home in early to mid-Spring.

Photo by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet

Photo by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet

Flowers foolhardy enough to bloom are begging for a foot of late season snow to be dumped on their heads.

But, for all the destruction, and decay, there is life.

Photo by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet

Photo by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet

In the muck of vernal pools…

Photo by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet

Photo by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet

Do you see him? The little frog in the middle of the photo? There’s another frog facing him,those tiny glowing dots are his eyes.

These brackish puddles lack the aesthetic appeal of babbling brooks and crystalline streams. They’re lined with dead leaves and have a faintly ominous look – like you might lean over to look into one, and get sucked down into an alternate world, probably ruled by smelly trolls. In reality, vernal pools are thriving micro eco-systems.

Earlier in the week, a writer-friend and I had a teasing exchange over Facebook about our WIPs’ swampy middles. At the moment, I’m teetering on the edge of my WIP’s murky midsection. Its surface is dark, opaque, and undoubtedly concealing all kinds of writerly perils (aka smelly trolls). I can’t see the precise story lines, plot twists, and character arcs which will ultimately get me to the other side of my book (yes, I’m pantsing this one). They’re temporarily obscured by the fertile mud of too many ideas.

Do your stories have swampy middles? Do they scare you a little bit?

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