Category Archives: How to Fail at Writing

Caught by the Internet Quiz …

I am supposed to be writing, or doing laundry, or cleaning …

Instead here I am, caught by an Internet quiz.

How many of us have been derailed from truly important tasks — like loading the dishwasher or sweeping the floor — by an enticing headline? Such as …

Which Jane Austen Suitor Should You Date?

As a married woman, I should keep scrolling.

But that question … 

… Mr. Knightley? Oh, yay! As written by our Barbara Cornthwaite, the man is an absolute delight.

And wouldn’t you know it? Now I’m tempted to pull out Charity Envieth Not and start reading.

Go ahead, go get your man, m’dear. Take the quiz



My Fatal Mistake – The Mortal Instruments

I have made a terrible mistake. I started reading The Mortal Instruments series, and I can’t put it down.

The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

The Mortal Instruments
by Cassandra Clare

This fantasy world of Downworlders (werewolves, vampires, demons, warlocks, and fairies), Shadowhunters (human demon killers), and mundanes (regular humans) has captured my imagination. I am almost as fascinated with this series as I was with The Twilight Saga. Warning: this series is not as conservative as The Twilight Saga. It’s more liberal in philosophy and theology.Mortal Instruments movie The series has been endorsed by Stephanie Meyer, and to my satisfaction, Clare is a better writer than is Meyer. Meyer excels in storytelling, but her writing style is too modern for the English teacher in me. Clare doesn’t write narrative in fragments; she saves that for dialog.

Sadly, I already had too many distractions interfering with my concentration in writing, and this isn’t helping me right now. I just have to finish reading, and I’ll be fine. At one book a day, I should be through on Wednesday. I’m practically inhaling them.

I really liked the first movie, The Mortal Instruments City of Bones, and I’m glad to hear that the second movie in the series has resumed production and should be out next year.

Ah, Rereading!

“Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are” is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread.

~~ François Mauriac

A sight no author wants to see ...

Wah! The sight no author wants to see…

So Susan Kaye and I were chatting yesterday about paralyzing fears for the writer. Namely, perfectionism. In particular (for us), the fear of creating a one-read book.

You know the kind. The story is all plot, and once you know the ending, poof! The appeal is gone and the book is tossed into the garage sale box. Like one-watch movies.

I am a hopeless rereader (and rewatcher) of stories that live and breathe. What Christopher Morely said!

When you sell a man a book you don’t sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue — you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night — there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book.

~~ Christopher Morley

So what pulls at you to reread a novel?

Last weekend I curled up with a cozy mystery, Nemesis by Agatha Christie. What titles have you reread?

(Image courtesy of Brewbooks – Creative Commons)

Tee-hee Tuesday

10 points if you can name his little bird friend.

Last night I saw a poster on PINTEREST: “It was a dark and stormy night.” Then this morning I saw that Robin Helm had put it up on her Facebook page as well.

There is a rumor that my father’s adopted family is descended from Edward Bulwer-Lytton the creator of the phrase. For some time now it’s been used as a good example of bad writing. (Remember, my father was adopted.)

Anyway, click over to the BULWER-LYTTON WRITING CONTEST site to read some very funny, and very bad opening lines. Here’s one of this year’s Dishonorable Mentions from the romance category: “Tucked in a dim corner of The Ample Bounty Bar & Grille, Alice welcomed the fervent touch of the mysterious stranger’s experienced hands because she had not been this close with a man in an achingly long time and, quivering breathlessly, began to think that this could be the beginning of something real, something forever, and not just a one-time encounter with a good Samaritan who was skilled at the Heimlich Maneuver.” The author, Mark Wisnewski, Flanders, NJ, must be proud!

Available at AustenEmporium

In hunting up the above website, I found mention of a game called, It was a Dark and Stormy Night. The blurb says, “It Was a Dark & Stormy Night – A Game of First Lines for People Who Love to Read.” I think that says it all.

Even if it’s only on paper, am I really related to Bulwer-Lytton? I hope not. In addition to writing an iconic first line that is simultaneously cheesy and kind of interesting, he wrote cheap, Victorian erotica. I aspire to more. My journey to greatness launched 12 years ago with glomming onto a classic author’s characters and making them my own. This bit of literary larceny is now cruising along with a stint of prolonged writer’s block. I think next will come some sort of mental breakdown followed by a triumphal recovery. Everyone loves an underdog overcoming the odds.

Ah, the literary whorl.

Have a good Tuesday.

Take care–Susan Kaye

How to Fail at Writing: Underwhelm the Reader

Writing is hard. Crafting a plot that delivers a punch is harder. You’ve heard me whine about how tough it is to think, let alone write. Is a tight plot really that important? Can’t I get by with producing something less than stellar?

Well, anything I produce will be less than stellar, that goes without saying! Still, after watching the movie Limitless, I am even more determined to chase after excellence. I will say again: A tightly-crafted plot is worth the work. Why bother to produce a book that will be read once and tossed aside?

Of course, with three sons doing the choosing we had to watch a sci-fi action movie. And I wanted to like Limitless, really I did. It’s about Eddie, an aspiring writer with a book contract, who suffers from writer’s block. (Talk about instant identification!) But his life changes dramatically when an old friend introduces him to NZT, a revolutionary new pharmaceutical that allows him to tap 100 percent of his brain’s potential. Wow! I cheered with him as he cranked out a novel in record time.

But the hyper-intelligent Eddie soon wants more. At this point the script becomes uneven and falters. Oh, there are thrills, chills, and chases aplenty—the film is visually captivating. But Eddie’s need for NZT overshadows everything. Somewhere along the way I quit rooting for him. Maybe it was because he was a fraud? And who wants to root for a drug abuser, anyway? I kept waiting for a point to the storyline, a message, a moral—anything! But the movie just kind of ended.

What? I’d invested almost two hours of my time, and that was it?

We’ve all read books like this, haven’t we? The author loses her way, the plot devices become increasingly improbable, the sweep-away magic is gone. And then comes the fatal moment when we realize that we no longer care. The story limps to a disappointing finish, and the book is tossed into the Goodwill bin. Sometimes with this grumbling comment: “Waste of good money.” Yikes.

It’s Presidents’ Day, and instead of teaching I’m buckled in to write. (Check the THB page under my name tonight if you’re interested). McGillvary is taking his wife to a shipboard ball, and for Elizabeth it’s an eye-opener.

I promise not to underwhelm you! (And Gayle has been pressuring me for ROMANCE.)