Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Eating My Words, But Loving It

A lot of you probably know I'm not a huge proponent of craft books. It's not really a matter of thinking the authors don't know what they're talking about or that it would be a waste of someone's time to read them. Rather it's about not wanting too many voices/rules floating around in my head at any given time. I firmly believed (still do, really) the best way to learn "craft" is to write. And read. And then write some more.

Anyway -- I've been having serious issues getting back into a solid writing routine. I think the main thing is that I've been focusing SO much on the idea of the finished book that I've started to become frustrated at the first bump in the road. When the words come out at a slow, painful tricle (or not at all), I've been giving up all too easily. To be frank, writing hit rock bottom on my priority list. And some of my "priorities" were pretty dang lame.

I've been trying anything and everything to get my mojo back. Nothing worked! I KNEW I could write a book -- could start, muddle through the middle, and finish one. I've done it twice. But for some reason I just couldn't get over the big hurdle of finsihing anything major in FI. My files are chock full of half finished scenes -- a bit of this one...a few lines of dialogue for this other one... But for whatever reason, I couldn't find the glue to hold it all together.

I finally gave in and thought I'd give someone else's methods a try. First on the list was Elizabeth George's book, WRITE AWAY. Why? I heard someone mention it on the forum and it was the only one I had on my mind at the time. LOL. I'm very discriminating. (g) Anyway, our writing styles couldn't be any more different. LOL. But yanno what? Within the span of about sixty pages, a lightbulb had gone on in my head--in a major way. I just KNEW how to tackle a scene that had been giving me MAJOR problems for several months. I could hear it...see it...almost like a mini-movie in my mind. Going from a completely blank screen to a full-blown scene within about 2 minutes is a VERY weird experience. But dude, it rocked.

Have I learned anything earth shattering in the course of reading this book? Eh, I wouldn't say that. BUT, it's taught me to look at things from a couple of new angles and given me a few back doors to figuring out where to begin a scene. You're going to laugh when I tell you the trick that caused this big epiphany. What's funny is that I have to look up the term she used. LOL. (be right back)

Okay, here it is. She calls them THAD's (aka Talking Head Avoidance Devices). ROFL on that term, btw. I'm sooo a member of the THAD police. Nothing bothers me more. (I digress). Anyway, per it's name, a THAD is what the characters are doing while they're talking. That can be anything. They can be making dinner, conducting an autopsy, playing a game, etc. etc. For whatever reason, thinking about THAD's helped me find the foothold I needed for this scene. At last!!!

Obviously I know how to use THAD's, though I didn't know that term until a couple of days ago. Again, I wouldn't say this book has taught me anything earth shattering. What it IS doing is helping to put me into a writer's frame of mind. Almost like it's reminding me of all the skills that have rusted over in the past few months. And even if I don't take on the techniques they endorse (no one, and I mean NO ONE is going to convince me that an outline is the best way to go -- but then, maybe SOMEONE will (g)), it's helping to light the fires.

So yeah, my plan is to keep reading about how people write. Even if it's only a few pages here and there -- maybe when I'm having a rough time and need a little inspiration. (Seriously, who can say Stephen King's spike full of rejection letters didn't make them stand up a little taller? (g)) I'm only about a third of the way through George's book, but next on the block is Evanovich and Grafton.

If you have any recommendations, please pass them along. :)


Tara Parker said...


I'm not entirely sure what this means. Care to go into more detail?

Maybe this is a good R & C topic?

Claire Gregory said...

Ha ha, is all I can say :) You've already read Bird by Bird, by Ann LaMott, haven't you? I'm sure I remember you getting it out of the library. Anyway, that one helped me. I like Noah Lukeman's The Plot Thickens, too, just for how much it made me think about my characters. It's really not much more than a million questions about the characters.

Jennifer Hendren said...

Hey Tara,

I'll do a follow-up post with some examples. :) Erm, hopefully sometime today.


Jennifer Hendren said...


Nope, never did read the entire book. Just some random bits and that chapter you suggested. (g) I'll see if my library has it. And thanks for the other suggestion!


seanachi said...

Oh I'm a big fan of Lawrence Block's Telling Lies For Fun And Profit.

MM said...

sometimes the hardest part of writing is sitting down to write

Jennifer Hendren said...


Ha...ain't that the truth! (g) The wind could change directions and I could turn it into a reason not to write. I'm never taking a lengthy break again...too hard to get back into writer mode. :)


Jennifer Hendren said...


Ohh, thanks for the suggestion!