My Dream Retreat

Has anyone asked you, “If you could go anywhere, where will you go?”

Well, my answer to this question is simple. Somewhere quiet (preferably near a wood) where I can write undisturbed and drink endless mounts of coffee. Of course I would want my husband and my little Curtis to come with me, but when I write, I write alone, so they will have to find something to do.

Sometime down the road, I will make such an oasis for myself–maybe somewhere up north. I would like to have a small cabin surrounded by nature where I can: practice my yoga, write, read, and relax. I wonder where I can find such a place? When I find my dream retreat, I think I will make sure it is near a lake–maybe near mountains, and the cabin must be secluded from passersby.

Yup! I see it in my mind, and it is perfect! I don’t think I can find what I imagine anywhere near here, where I live. Cities, cities, cities! You can barely see the moonlight, and that’s what I want–a place so far from the city lights that the dark earth is lit by the stars and moon.


Guidelines for Writing?

I used to be one of those people who tried to follow every grammar and composition rule in the book, which was great for high school English and really great as an English major in college. But one day I woke up from that rigid idea of writing.

For years, I was frustrated to listen to one English teacher after another; talking about rules and marking papers with their big, red pens until I had a professor that confirmed what I had been contemplating for years.

“Writing is not about rules,” she said. “Writing is about making choices.”

This wise, brilliant professor was Dr. Judith Hebb, who–I will add–became one of my favorite teachers in college. After the greatest awakening I ever had, I realized it was so simple: creative writing was simply creative.

Before you go all haywire in the belief that creative writing is totally unstructured, let me point out that there are a few rules you should always keep in mind–no matter what sort of writing you do.

Rule #1   Always know your audience!

If it helps, ask yourself questions: Who am I writing for? (I would say me, or in this case, you.) Who is my audience–my readers? (This answer will not always be the same.) What genre am I writing? What sort of people read that genre?

When you write your manuscript, generally speaking, you write for yourself. You write what you want to write and what you want to say to the world. But keep in mind of who your audience is. Audiences–for different genres–are not the same, and publishers know this. They know what their readers want, and it is your job to know what that ‘want’ is.

Agencies also have their own submission guidelines and lists of what sort of genres they represent. When you query an agent or publisher, you must keep them (your readers) in mind before sending your manuscript and/or query. Research agents and publishers. You don’t want to send your Science Fiction novel to a publisher that only accepts Romance, do you? Or send out a query with an ambiguous synopsis filled with misspelled words. That’s just bad press!

Rule #2  Edit and Revise.

Now, I am not saying you should make every sentence a complete sentence or remove contractions from your work, but editing is vital to any type of writing and should be a permanent aspect of your technique.  Sometimes taking time away from your work can open your eyes to mistakes you did not see before. I recommend–at least–taking a second and third look at your manuscript before submitting. Of course, I know writers who edit at least five times before they even query a publisher. Personally, I edit and revise as I write and edit and revise when I have finished the manuscript. I can’t tell you how many time I revise because it seems like I am always editing or revising something.

Aside from minor editing, a writer can improve their writing by eliminating adverbs and ‘be’ verbs. By doing this, you can cut down on dead wood (unnecessary info), which help create clearer sentences. Dead wood can choke your writing and turn off readers. Another way of cutting deadwood is cutting parts of your novel that drag and prolong the pace of your manuscript.

Ask yourself what is vital to the story. Does what you are reading aid the plot or take away from it? Is it necessary to the story? Can you do without it?

Description is great, but you do not want too much of it cluttering your scenes and turning off readers. Most people want to get to the point, but again, others enjoy a thorough descriptive setting. So back to rule one we go. Know your audience. Keep in mind that you can not please everyone. If you think you can, be my guest to try, but you will drive yourself crazy in the process.

Rule #3 Have someone critique or review your work.

It is always good to have a second or third party read your manuscript because they can give you great advice for revision and proofing. They can even give you tips on how to spice up a character or scene. Don’t underestimate the value of someone else’s eyes, whether it be a friend or a writers group. If you are lucky to have many eyes available at your disposal, take advantage–and who knows–they may be an avid reader of the same genre you write. Advice from someone like that can really help you, especially if you take the advantage and ask him/her what they enjoy reading. What makes them interested in one novel, but not another? What sort of hero/heroine do they look for in a novel?

Well, this is all I have to say today. I really enjoyed passing on advice that has helped me so much. I am not a perfect writer–no matter how much I have learned–and have days where everything I write is crap. But I always remind myself that no one is perfect, and writing is a complex craft that always needs perfecting.

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How do YOU write?

I have been asked this a few times by some of my writer friends. Of course I plague them with the same question, for we are all interested in how we each approach our work.

For me, I just start writing. An idea may pop into my head to get me started, but I do not sit down and create an entire layout of a novel or short story. Once I get going though, the story seems to unfold on its own as ideas and suggestions relay themselves to me.

There are times–I admit–that I do get a vague idea of how I want the story to go, but, nine out of ten times, those ideas don’t work. The characters run the show, and if they don’t like it, it doesn’t happen.

Writing, to me, is like writing down a fantasy or fairy tale that changes day-by-day just like real life. It is complete joy to create a world full of characters and scenes that make me laugh, cry, fret, and become happy again.

There is nothing better than a happy ending, which is why I feel free to torture my hero/heroine with any kind of conflict because I know they will forgive me when their happy ending comes.

So this is how I write–usually have blind until I get what the characters want to do and where the story decides how it will go. I guess that makes me a panser, but I like to think of myself as a mix between panser and planner.  (Shrugs)

Oh well. I think the more important thing to remember is that sometimes the journey is not as important as the destination, though the process of editing and revising is vital to any novel.


Every part of her ached to climb back into the carriage, but it was too late. The door was closed and the coach was already in motion. She stared down the drive; watching the horses quicken when they met open road. He was gone.

Annibell’s ruddy lips quivered as she fought the tears that threatened to fall. What had she done? He offered her what she had been yearning for so long, and she said no? She tugged a loose blond strand behind her ear before turning toward her house.

Her father was sure to be waiting for her; wondering where she had gone and with whom. Of course he already knew, for how could he not? There was no other man that distracted her more than Alex. And Alex was the one man she was not allowed to love, let alone ride in his carriage and allow him to kiss her as much as he pleased.

The Valentine

It came, it came through snailing mail.

How often I told him to send through e-mail.

But so fickle are men–and he is one–

I could not waste time arguing what cannot be redone.

At least, it came–so delighted I was–

I neglected to notice the white-out smudge,

Which later I discovered, through faithful friend–

His ex-wife’s name written by him!

How can a man be as thoughtless as this,

To regift an old valentine to his newly wedded miss?

Callous Swine! Wretched Thing!

And to think I engraved his wedding ring!

This is why he lies alone,

Wondering why I have gone.

But when the morning comes–he’ll know.

My new discovered boyfriend will tell him so.

Too Late to be Found

Waking up, I see your face,

I hear your words whisper in haste.

Am I too late as the sun goeth down?

I cannot find you, yet when I turn around,

You’re standing there with an upturn smile,

Your arms are wide, I run two miles.

Yet, just before I meet you there,

You always suddenly disappear.

And I am left in grave despair,

Because I realized you never were there.

My eyes open before yours close,

It’s been fifteen years since you dozed.

As always, when the sun doeth rise,

I find a body print next to mine.

The Heat

Today, it seems to be hot. Hotter than yesterday, hotter than the day before that, and the day before that! I went grocery shopping and from walking through the parking lot, and from walking from the car to the house, I got sunburned! I felt it burning on the tops of my cheeks. Time for me to relax, and hopefully do some writing this evening. Working on novel number two!