Focus: For Writers

A Writer’s Eye Needs Different Perspectives

The Eyes Have It

Caught of snap of this coyote as I drove out of our subdivision today. IMG_20141209_115700_119 IMG_20141206_163107_817And met up with this javelina outside a local hospital.

These recent sightings reminded me of a webinar I took from Jeff Herring on article writing and marketing a few years ago.

Jeff suggested we look at the world with “article eyes,” alert to everything that might turn into article topics.
Shortly after, I saw something sad that got me thinking about the different kinds of eyes and how they might see the same event.

As I drove down a busy street, a car hit and killed a squirrel. Nothing to be done for the poor little critter but mourn its loss. On the way home I thought about different eyes.

Article eyes:

Driving Safety Tips: Five Reasons You Should Never Swerve to Avoid an Animal in the Street, Unless it is Larger than Your Car

Automobile Care Tips: How to Clean Fur, Blood and Guts from Your Wheels

Cooking Tips: Seven Recipes for Fresh Squirrel

Cooking Tips: Roadkill: the Ultimate in Recycling

Novelist Eyes:

Romance — She stomped the brakes but didn’t dare swerve. When she heard the faint, horrid thump beneath her tires, her eyes clouded with tears and she pulled to the side of the road. The driver behind her also slowed and stopped. As she stood outside her vehicle, sobbing, looking into the road at the lump that had once been a living creature, a deep, soft voice, said “You did the right thing, you know. Nothing else you could do.”

Mystery — Somehow, some way, someone threw several stuffed squirrels from the bed of the battered old pick-up. No one was visible, yet the little beasts flew out and hit the road in front of Cheri. The way they bounced made it clear they were toys. But why so many? And why wasn’t the tosser visible? She missed most of the stuffed animals and sped up, following the truck. The license plate was smeared with mud. Who was back there? What were they trying to tell her?

Thank you, Jeff. Great idea. We as writers need to stay alert to what’s going on and then put our own personal spins on the events we see. If it doesn’t fit the w.i.p., then make a note and put it in your idea file. I keep little 3 x 5 cards with me most of the time to capture those fleeting ideas.

What would your writer eyes make of my two desert critters?


What to Say When Readers’ To-Read Lists Need Some Help

If someone said “Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men,” how would you respond?

My first response would be to deck the sexist annoyance! However, if I’m able to restrain myself, I might try a gentler approach.

My bookshelf smallerEven before responding, however, I’d consider whether or not it is worth the effort to convince someone to try something new. I have a friend who always orders turkey sandwiches when we go out for lunch. She does not welcome my suggestion that she try sushi, say.  Or my brother-in-law, who prefers his steak cooked beyond chewy.

Some people are not open to change.

However, a person who brings up that question either wants to provoke me or is actually open to suggestion. With the sincere person, I’d ask who those favorite authors are and what they like about the authors’ books.

Then I’d silently curse my memory for not coming up with a great list on the spot and offer to email some suggestions. I’d race home, look at my bookshelf (and my Kindle) and come up with a list. I’d send it with the reminder that these are only my impressions of the moment and that a great place to find new authors is the local public library.  I remind readers of this post that my list is way too short and includes only a few of my current reads.

I would also send them to the Sisters in Crime website’s Author Search. When I moved to the Bay Area, I sought out local authors with books set in my new community. That’s how I found Marcia Muller, whose first novel, Edwin of the Iron Shoes, became a favorite. Now that I’ve moved to Tucson, via a long and wonderful time in Boise, Idaho, I’ll be searching for local authors.

Action:  Peg Brantley, Gayle Lynds, Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky

Police procedurals: Frankie Bailey, Deborah Crombie, Elizabeth George, Martha Grimes, Elizabeth Gunn, L.J. Sellers

Private investigators: Linda Barnes, Sue Grafton, Laura Lippman, Val McDermid

Humor: Conda Douglas, Kathy McIntosh, Kris Neri

Great characters: My list would become overwhelming!

I probably wouldn’t add the names of the many cozy writers I read and love. When someone thinks only men write the best crime novels, ya gotta bring ’em around slowly.

Yes, I would add my name to the list of recommended reading, unless I knew it simply would not be to this person’s taste. Because we as authors need to be proud of what we write and able to actually suggest that a reader buy our books.

You probably have oodles of authors to suggest and I so welcome your thoughts.

This blog post was inspired and created for the Sisters In Crime bloghop. You can find out more here,

You may have hopped here on the advice of my dear friend and fellow writer Conda Douglas, whose name is on my list of humorous authors. Her Starke series is a hoot. If you haven’t yet read it, her post contains great advice for new authors. Make that for all authors.

The Perplexing Prologue

“There are three rules to writing fiction. Unfortunately, no one can agree on what they are.” 

– Somerset Maugham

We may never agree, but writers can and do argue endlessly about those rules. Prologues seem to be a frequent subject of discussion, and a major concern to beginning writers. What’s the big deal? Do prologues enrich good writing or are they useless appendages, to be cut off whenever they sprout? Continue reading

In 50 words or less

A few years ago, I won a contest for my advice to writers, in 50 words or less. I’m still proud of it!

Best advice I can offer other writers?

Make writing a whole body experience. Keep your chin up, your feet on the ground, your mind limber and open to new lessons and ideas, your heart set on the goal of becoming a published writer, and your butt in the chair.

Three Pass Self-Editing

Just as painting can take more than one coat, even using the best of materials, our writing generally needs going over a few times before it’s ready for viewing. In this article, I will review three necessary phases of editing our fiction. In the first pass, we check for the essential elements in each scene. The second pass is a good time to check grammar and tighten our words. Next comes the polishing phase.

What I’m talking about is editing your novel after the hard part (for many of us) is done; getting that first (as Anne Lamott says) shitty draft on paper. Continue reading