Beat Sheet or Scene List

July 27, 2011

No matter what you call it, beat sheet or scene list, it’s  a wonderful tool to structure a manuscript. I’ve read three books on writing in the last two weeks. All three suggest the writer create a list of scenes or ‘beats’ for everything that drives the story forward. I finished a 68 scene list for my woman’s fiction, Layla Bunch. It’s very visual and colorful and it fits on one page (the print is a size 8 font, and it’s just large enough to read without a magnifying glass). The colors come in because I made each plot line in the book a different color.There’s room for time/date, the mood of the scene, and a separate color column designating acts 1,2, or 3.

You might think it’s confining and cramps creative flow, but it does the opposite. I can see the scenes in my mind, and if I need to switch them around, it’s an easy cut and paste of a single line. The book is so clear in my mind, I know that the draft I am writing will be much the better for this bit of planning. It won’t prevent me from going off on a left field creative jaunt, but I’ll be able to assess the damage/value of that deviation pretty handily.

Don’t be afraid to mess around a bit with your creative paradigm. Every writer must find that creative sweet spot somewhere between total creative anarchy and anal obsessive planning.

If you write, how do you manage the process?


Categories: Tuesday - Writing.

Rah! Rah! Rah!

July 21, 2011

Categories: Wednesday - Memoir.

A Writer’s Room

July 21, 2011

The room I write in is a spare bedroom converted to a ‘writer’s room’. If I’m an example of any other writers, it is a constant battle to keep this space orderly. It’s true much is stored on computer files, but there are printouts of chapters or entire manuscripts, journals filled with observations, yellow pads of notes, index cards of scenes, books on craft, magazines on craft, rejection slips, etc. I spend most of my waking hours in this room. It is the place I go to upon awakening, the place I leave from to go to bed. If it were not orderly, I would be frustrated, because the creative process is disorderly enough.

Anyone who has ever written a novel knows that it is a multi-headed hydra that must be wrestled to the ground over and over again. It slips from your grasp and if you don’t live in an orderly world and can call on the aids you have developed to maintain that order, it will be hard to pin the hydra and announce some sort of victory.


Categories: Tuesday - Writing.

The 90 Day Novel

July 19, 2011

Most novels are between 80,000 and 100,000 words. The book I’m reading this week is called The 90 Day Novel by Alan Watt.  If you follow the formula laid out in the book, you will have completed a first draft of a novel of that length in 90 days.The first 30 days are spent getting to know the protagonist and antagonist on whom your novel will be based. Out of this exploration, a story will be suggested. Story or plot is driven by the characters you conjure up.

There are a series of short writing exercises in the book for you to follow that allows you to flesh out the characters you have imagined. You may have an idea for a plot at the outset, but The 90 Day Novel tries to discourage attempts at pinning anything down prematurely.

This may sound like voodoo. Why not just sit down and start writing? Most new writers do that. I did on my urban fantasy series, and I’m suffering editing pains and weak story lines that end up in left field from that approach. I’ve been using the exercises to build a more robust protagonist in my current manuscript, and darned if it isn’t helping with the story itself. The mental exercises  led me to new avenues that I hadn’t thought of previously.

The book is downloadable on your Kindle, or you can actually attend one of Alan’s workshops. He is located right here in LA.


Categories: Monday - Books.

What Do You Regret?

July 18, 2011

I read a study about what people regret when they are faced with their own mortality. At the end of the string of their days they were asked what they wish they had done differently.

The most common regret?

That they had not taken more risks.  

What are we afraid of? Why don’t we reach for the brass ring, try something magnificent. So what if we fail? At the end of our days we may regret we failed,  but at least we won’t  regret we didn’t try, and wonder what the outcome might have been.


Categories: Sunday - Carte Blanche.

Would you Like to be a Public Speaker for Susan G. Komen?

July 18, 2011

I heard once that most  people feared public speaking more than they feared death. Is it about vulnerability? The fear of looking foolish? If we can speak to one person, why can’t we speak to six or six hundred?. Is it that there are strangers in the audience? Would we be less afraid if everyone in the audience was a friend or a family member and thus would be more forgiving?

This I do know, if you face your fears often enough, they shrink in size and become manageable. So, if you’re fearful of an audience hanging on your every word, I have an offer you shouldn’t refuse. Become a voice for Susan G. Komen. Learn to speak to groups of people about the importance of early detection of cancers, and explain why supporting Komen will lead to a cure.  And in the process, battle your own fear of public speaking.

On August 13, 2011, the LA County Affiliate of Susan G. Komen will hold a training session on how to stand up and be heard on the important issues concerning breast health. Be a vocal advocate for a disease that devastates women and their families in frightening numbers.

Comment on this post and I will respond with the details of where the training session will be held.


Categories: Saturday - Susan G. Komen.

Should We Be Concerned About the Debt Ceiling Debate?

July 16, 2011

During the hay day of credit card largess, it was a common ploy for the credit card companies to extend your credit limit. Did that mean you were obligated to charge more? Of course not. Did most people take advantage of the additional credit? Yes they did. Will the government take advantage of the opportunity to borrow more if the debt ceiling is raised. Probably. Remember, the government is made up of people just like  us.

Reaching our debt ceiling is not the same as defaulting on our debt. When you reach the maximum on your credit card, what do you do? You stop spending. You have no choice. But what about this threat that our credit rating will be lowered and consequently it will cost more to borrow money, not just for the government, but for all of us. No loans for small business to expand and hire more employees. Sorry, but hasn’t that been true since the economic crisis began? Has anyone mentioned that our government’s biggest creditor, China, has already lowered our credit rating as of  last year?

Personally, I say a pox on both of their houses, Republicans and Democrats alike. Are they just trying to divert our attention from the fact that the economy still sucks? That people are still out of work in large numbers, and that the  housing market is flat.

You may say that I don’t get it, that I’m simplifying the issues. Hey, what can I say, I’m a little bit simple.


Categories: Friday - Economics.

Take a Friend to the Gym

July 15, 2011

I am fortunate that my two daughters are devoted to a healthy lifestyle. We all belong to Spectrum in Thousand Oaks, a behemoth of a gym. With encouragement from my daughters, I joined  the gym at the  beginning of this year, and effectively turned my health around through a program called the Greatest Challenge. Now, to remain in good health, besides eating a healthy diet,  I meet my daughters on weekend mornings for a horrific workout. I go on my own to the gym two or three more times during the week.

When you write, or spend hours in front of a computer screen for other reasons, you don’t move, your body is hunched over, your shoulders and neck cramped, your circulation stymied. You know it, you can feel what it is doing to you. I  know how hard it is to step away from the computer, but if you don’t, the quality of your life will erode over time. Life and movement are intricately inter twined.

So when Spectrum sent out an e-mail with the scientific studies quoted below, I thought I would share the info with you.

A new study has found that healthy friends could be the best way to keep fit. A study of 3,610 Australian women, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, found that physical activity and healthy eating behavior were both strongly affected by social contacts. In other words, if your friends are doing it, you are more likely to be doing it.

Researchers from Deakin University surveyed women between the ages of 18 and 46 for the study. They said the importance of social environmental influences on health-promoting behaviors such as exercise and healthy eating has been increasingly recognized. Their new study is one of the first to illustrate the link between social support and a health-focused lifestyle.

Those women who moved in healthier circles were in turn more likely to eat well and get more exercise. The researchers suggest that healthy behavior may be contagious.


Categories: Thursday - Lifestyle Changes.

Do You Make Lists?

July 8, 2011

I’m an inveterate list maker. I don’t remember  how old I was when I became a list maker, but I was pretty young. For years I would make lists that required a 48 hour day to complete. If something didn’t get finished, it would roll over  to the next day. I started to do the easier things on the list first, because I could get more things done and the list would grow shorter, not easier to complete, just shorter. Then I realized that the things that didn’t get finished tended to be my priority items, because they took a greater effort or time commitment.

Here’s the method I finally arrived at that satisfies my need to be slightly anal, and also address the priorities I have developed over my life time. I no longer put things on my list I know I am going to do anyway. If I have a doctor’s appointment, I don’t put it on my list. It goes on my calendar so I won’t forget, but it doesn’t go on my list.

The main priorities in my life are my family/friends, my health, my writing, my home, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. In the morning I consider those priorities and ask myself what  I can do today  to serve/promote those priorities. The rule is to address each one of those priorities every day in some way. It’s a rare day that I don’t complete the tasks on my list. If I have spare time, I just circle around and write a little more, clean out a drawer, call one of my children, kiss my husband, take a walk, work more on a Komen project.

Try it, you may find your life less stressful and more productive.


Categories: Thursday - Lifestyle Changes.

Sing for Us Sharon

July 8, 2011

I am a reluctant singer. I don’t even sing in the shower. When I was a kid, I had to sing whenever company visited.  I hated it so much, I would feel sick to my stomach until the performance was over. I developed a vibrato when I was nine or ten and my parents took it as a sign that I could sing. So, whenever my aunts or uncles would visit, or even if we went to one of their houses, I would be asked to sing. I always knew someone would ask sooner or later, and until the request came, I couldn’t eat anything, just waiting.

“Sharon, sing for us.”

 I would look at my parents, and they would be smiling, nodding their heads to encourage me. I don’t know if they ever knew how I hated to sing. They gave me singing lessons and I learned to sing O Sole Mio in Italian, and some other songs I don’t remember. Finally the singing teacher suggested I take piano lessons instead. My parents must have been disappointed, but I wasn’t.


Categories: Wednesday - Memoir.

Can you Write More Than One Book at a Time?

July 6, 2011

It’s probably not a great idea, but I found that when one book seems to be dragging its feet, it is helpful to have another WIP on which to focus  attention. Then, when I go back, I seem to have caught my breath and can move ahead with renewed energy. All the while I’ve been away from book #1, my subconscious mind is still trying to break the impasse. Never fails to work.

One must show a little restraint however. It’s tempting to pick up a new idea, or a new character and run with it. Everything seems shiny and new. There are no loose plot threads, the characters haven’t taken over the insane asylum yet,  and no pesky critique partners have had an opportunity to tell you  ‘the sky is falling’.

So, I’m working on the first book in a series of three, an urban fantasy entitled The Energy Collector, and a woman’s fiction work called Layla Bunch. They are as different as night and day. Maybe the only reason working on two pieces at once works  for me is that they are two different genres, and different markets. Also, the urban fantasy  has been edited and re-edited, with a first draft completed for the second book  in the series ,  and  35,000 word of a the first draft completed for the third book in the series. Layla Bunch is still in first draft status with only 10,000 words. So they are differentiated by where the two books stand in the creative process. I just re-read this paragraph. I’m really working on four novels at once, aren’t I? Now that’s crazy. Do you think I am a little ADHD?

Each writer must come up with their own work patter/process. No cookie cutter options when it comes to creativity. No wrong or right, either. So, strike out on your own and develop a methodology that works for you so you can write the best novel possible. Geez Sharon, four books?


Categories: Tuesday - Writing.

C. S. Lewis

July 5, 2011

I told you that you might be surprised at what I’m currently reading.

 C.S. Lewis is best known for the Chronicles of Narnia, but did you know there is a prequel that explains how Narnia came to be, and how the evil witch ended up there? It’s a sweet little story. I decided to read it because a reviewer of my urban fantasy series thought my writing was reminiscent of Lewis. I don’t see it, but regardless, I enjoyed the book. Lewis has a phenomenal way with characters and setting. A bit tongue in cheek. Reminds me a bit of Charles Dickens.

There is a religiosity about C. S. Lewis’s work. He was a well known christian, and the following quote sums up his platform.

‘ The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him’


Categories: Monday - Books.


July 3, 2011

There’s a best selling book on the market. I haven’t read it, but I heard about the theory.

The title of the book is Outlier.  I’ll use Wikipedia’ definition,An outlying observation, or outlier, is one that appears to deviate markedly from other members of the sample in which it occurs. 

Outliers are individuals who have focused long enough on an activity to become expert at it. The authors of this book talk about the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

So, for example, assuming it takes 4 hours to play 18 holes of golf, you would have to play 2,500 individual rounds to become expert, or about 48 years if you played once a week. (Of course by that time, even if you were an ‘expert’, your age would start to add strokes to your game, and you probably wouldn’t be on the pro-circuit.) Anyone who is a golfer is going to jump all over my example.

The point of all this is, I am not an outlier in any aspect of my life, and in some areas, I am the antithesis of outlier. (I wonder if that’s an inlier?) At my age, to become expert at something, I better spend about 12 hours a day which could put me in the outlier range in a little over 2 years. I’m trying to become an outlier in the craft of writing novels, so I think I’m about half way to learning how to be an outlying novelist.  

Where would you focus your attention to become an outlier? Do you have an activity or an area where you would like to excel? 


Categories: Sunday - Carte Blanche.

Can We Find a Cure for Breast Cancer?

July 2, 2011

Does that mean the development of a vaccine that will prevent an individual from ever having breast cancer?   Would there have to be lots of different vaccines because there are multiple types of breast cancer? Would there be a pill or a machine that would nullify cancer cells, or disarm them somehow? What will a cure look like? And when will it happen?                

When a normal cell divides, the cell’s DNA is copied more or less perfectly. But each division of a cancer cell brings about new changes in the DNA. So a drug might be able to kill some but not all of the cancer because each cell is a little different. 

Another problem is inherent in the ability of a cancer stem cell to hide. Chemotherapy might effectively kill an entire tumor, but cancer stem cells might evade the drugs and cause a relapse of the cancer years later. In a sense we cure breast cancer today. The problem is when somebody is diagnosed with breast cancer, we can’t tell that woman that she is cured, until she dies at 95 of something else. So, we know we cure breast cancer, but we never know if any one particular person is cured at any one time.

So where does this leave us?  We are without a cure that we can point to, and women are dying everyday. Does that mean we give up? We can’t. We made a promise to end breast cancer forever. 


Categories: Saturday - Susan G. Komen.

My College Professor Told Me I Should Become an Economist

July 1, 2011

That college course began a love affair with economics. I never followed my professor’s advice, but I never stopped being passionate about the subject. Maybe because I realized early on, that economics drives just about every decision we make, every action we take.  We have finite resources, and how we choose to allocate them is what economics is all about.

If I buy one dress instead of another based on the price of each dress, it is an economic choice.  My behavior is informed by my choice which is based on the finite resource of my bank account or credit card limit.

Don’t worry that every Friday’s blog is going to be wearisome. I hope to explore theories about economics I have developed over the years, and hopefully bring the subject to a discussion level where we can talk about practical things.

We are in a particularly bad place right now economically because of the choices we have made on an individual level as well as on a governmental level.

So let’s explore and see where we can take this discussion. I welcome input on this one, because I am in no way an expert, just an interested student of the subject.


Categories: Friday - Economics.