Archive for April, 2010

Writer’s Block

Last night at my writer’s group, Helen confessed that she was stuck at page 185 in the sequel to her first book. This woman has already published a book and she has made it way past the first hundred pages of her second book and she’s stuck. This gave me such comfort as I struggle to reach a solid fifty pages in my memoir. Oh, I have more than fifty pages, but I only count those that are fit to release to the outside world.

Eryka, also in the group is writing a memoir about growing up in Hungary during the Holocaust. She admitted that she was tired of writing such grim material and she wanted the reader to see a happier side to her. She put the book away thinking she may never return to it. A month later, she was hit with an idea out of the blue. She would juxtapose some happy childhood moments with the grim details of escaping the Nazi’s.

Here are some suggestions the group made to Helen:

1. Write the last chapter

2. Put the manuscript aside and start something else

3. Flesh out your characters more thoroughly, write their backstory

4. Go out and buy a bikini and sunblock and get ready to hit the beach. Summer is just around the corner. (That’s my idea)

Read Full Post »

I’m reading ‘Stop-Time’ by Frank Conroy. In chapter 6 he is going to a carnival with his friend Tobey. After handing the boys a few extra coins for dinner, Tobey’s Mom says goodbye.

“All right boys. Have a good time and stay out of trouble. We’ll see you later.” She moved off on her husband’s arm, smiling one hand unnecessarily holding down her hat (as if he were sweeping her away in a waltz or a polka, as if only now, at the last moment, could she control her appearance before giving up to the madcap whirl of the evening), her buttocks rolling like ships at sea.”

Now how do I describe the round, female Navy officer in my book?

Read Full Post »

I’m the kind of person who likes to make the best of everything, downplay the bad stuff. So, when writing this memoir about my family’s experiences in Australia I tend to accentuate the positive. This is all well and good as a philosophy on life, but it makes for a boring book. Readers want to know the juicy stuff — your sex life, marital spats, stories about nasty in-laws — you get the idea. The trick is, you can’t make anything up so as a writer I’ve had to learn how to make the most of what I’ve got from our boring lives.

Here are a few techniques I learned reading Ballenger’s draft version of Crafting Truth: Short Studies in Creative Nonfiction (pp. 12-13):

– Withhold information – be careful with this one because the reader knows you know what happens, but if you’re able to spoon-feed information to create dramatic tension go for it. Writer John McPhee also cautions about the ‘blind lead’ where the writer withholds something in the beginning and promising something dramatic later ‘blaring a great fanfare of trumpets and then a mouse comes out of its hole’.

– Manipulating time – think about changing the order of your story, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in chronological order.

– Juxtaposition – place certain information in proximity to each other to raise questions about their relationship.

– Questions – Arrange material in such a way as to raise questions in the reader’s mind. Or, pose a question.

Read Full Post »