Why Read My Blog?

Join me on my journey as a professional Author. There are times I want to kill every one of my characters, and times where I can't sleep from the excitement of writing about them. Meet Willow, my Muse, and follow us through our trials, tribulation, and celebrations. Last of all, snicker, laugh, or just enjoy the adventure of my writing life under the microscope of my own mind.

It was a Dark and Stormy Night…

Posted on April 24, 2012

Well, I didn’t make it up — I have actually seen several books that start with this line or something very similar. Thank goodness my novel does not. Willow just gave me a look like it would be the last thing I ever did. I mean it worked well for Snoopy, even though he stole it from Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton who used it as his opening sentence in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.

Oh didn’t I mention. Willow says I am forgetful at times. And my wife whole-heartedly agrees. Lesson Nine has been fantastic. I started writing my novel. As you can see from my Word Count, at the top of the page, I have been making good progress. This evening I actually finished the First Draft of Chapter 2. I use to spend so much time starting and stopping as I tried to figure out a Character’s name, or the description of object, or what a particular location should look like. I just write. If I come to a character or a place and if Willow doesn’t give me a name right off the bat, I just put [NAME]. It is so freeing and refreshing. It makes writing so much more enjoyable than it use to be.

I also recently uploaded new software, called Scrivener, designed for professional writers that makes everything so much more organized and really helps with the writing.

It is so funny, I had this idea in my mind for how the novel would start, the opening scene. But when I went to write it, I started off with what I had originally planned as Chapter 3.  And it works a lot better than my original plan.

Yes, yes, I know it was you who told me to do that. Willow requires a lot of atta-boys (or atta-girls as the case may be). Actually, I got the idea from a couple of other writers in Holly’s forums. But it was Willow who took that advice and actually turned it into reality.

I am trying to write at least five days a week. So far so good, but we will see how that holds up over time. There are times that I can’t wait to sit down and start writing — almost painful if I don’t. Like a gnawing in my stomach. Other times I feel blank (thankfully the times of gnawing greatly outweigh the blank times).

I should be getting Lesson Ten this week though I have no idea what it entails. I am only on Lesson Nine, with seventeen more Lessons to go, so I can’t wait to see where this is all going to lead. I know there is a lot more to learn, like what to do when you are halfway through your story, after months of writing, and just want to kill off your characters because you have spent every day with them and they have eaten up a big part of your life. She teaches you how to love your characters once again. This is only one of many things coming up that I am looking forward too.

So continue to follow me, continue to encourage me, continue to help me through this process. I sincerely appreciate it and can not thank you enough for your support. After all, without you, it might have been It was a Dark and Stormy Night…

Hopefully NOT a Picasso!

Posted on April 18, 2012

Lesson Eight was essentially about putting together an outline for your story – not 1. 1.a. 1.a.1. – that worked great for my Master’s Dissertation – not so good for a fictional novel (or any novel for that matter). Instead it’s all about coming up with scenes. In my mine a book is made up of chapters and chapters are made up of one or more scenes. Each scene is a little story in itself, that connected with other little stories makes a chapter and thus a full-fledged novel.

But that is just my take on it. Not exactly how Holly put it. Think of it as my translation of the Lesson.

So then how do you create a scene?

“I never create a scene!” a very memorable, I did not say pleasant, voice claims its space from somewhere over my shoulder.

It’s scary the way she can  show up like that all of sudden there. “I did not say you created a scene”, though it happens more often than naught. “I was talking about creating little stories within THE story – something that makes the Reader continue to read, to want to see what happens next. Something that will keep them interested and move THE story along to a happy, or unhappy, conclusion”.

I love the way she tilts her head, even the smirk is kind of cute, if I didn’t know that this same mouth can offer such biting sarcasm. “And how does one create such engaging prose?” ahh there it is.

“Well,” this was a tough one because I still am not exactly sure myself, maybe in chapter 23, “I think you need something that will grab their imagination, yet still be something they can relate too – even if just a little.” I hadn’t really thought about this a lot before now. “It has to be something that moves the story along so for instance not just a nice description of say a jungle, but what is going on in the jungle, what might be near the jungle’s edge waiting for you to turn your head to look the other way, and why is it so interested in you when it did not bother the couple walking ahead of you.” We spend a lot of time in our Lessons doing what-ifsat least I do.

Her smile twist and widens, “So what you are really saying is you need a Muse to make up these little stories. Someone that can be creative.” No matter what anyone ever, ever tells you, smugness is NOT attractive.

“And someone with a little bit more practicality to tie them all together,” There you go. Just what I needed. Old gravel voice. Now the whole gang was here.

“Otherwise you end up with a bunch of pretty little stories that don’t mean diddily!” he continued as righteous as ever.

“But without the Muse you haven’t got anything,” I could see Round 136 beginning as Willoe turned on him (both physically – well as much as a Muse can be physical – and metaphysically speaking).

“And without the Editor you can’t do anything with them pretty little stories.” He made a good point.

Not to miss a chance for conflict, “Each story is like a little dot and when you put a bunch of little dots together they can make a picture. Maybe even a masterpiece.” Ms. Smugness continued, “I learned that from Peter’s screen printing business.” As if that was the final word.

“Sure, and what keeps each dot next to the correct other dots. Otherwise your picture will definitely look like a masterpiece. A Picasso.” I can never figure out how he can grin while chomping down on the perennial pencil flexing out the side of his mouth. “Everything is going to be disjointed, going off in weird directions.” He took the pencil and drew a line connecting four dots together.

“Well I am drawing a line right now.” I was in no mood to get caught in the middle of another discussion. “Both the dots and the connections are important to THE Story, as are the both of you. Now leave me alone so I can finish this.” I didn’t think either was going to give in, but then Lou Grant chewed on his pencil a little, gave a short humpf like he is prone to do, and was gone. I almost feel sorry enough to let him have his cigars back, but then I know better. Willow is quick to follow now that she thinks he gave in first.

So not to belabor this any more, we actually got through Lesson Eight – well as much as I was going to get through. There is a lot more work to be done in that area that I will come back to later throughout my project. I have already started Lesson Nine and this is where we actually start writing our project/novel. Any day now I will be starting Chapter 1.

Look for a new blog post in a few days where I explain how you will be able to follow my progress as I churn out the First Draft of my story. Be my cheerleader or my whip!

What’s in a Name?

Posted on April 6, 2012

Peter has taken a break from writing his post, so I thought I would fill in. Oh sorry, let me introduce myself. My name is Willow. I am Peter’s Muse. I’m the one that makes him creative. Well he has a little to do with it, but without me he wouldn’t get very far. I give him that special little spark that gets him rolling and coming up with ideas, descriptions, dialogue. Unfortunately he over extended himself and promised to do two post this week. Unfortunately (well depending upon how you look at it), he is tired and didn’t want to do this second one, so I volunteered to do the post this time. After all, Lesson Seven was mostly about creativity and that is my forte.

It is the Pre-Planning part of the course. This is where Peter and I get to play and come up with some information on a few of the main characters (what we call MCs), a little more preparatory information to get us ready to do the detailed planning for the novel. Like is there anything special about the environment or time period; is there a religion, if so what is it like; or is there a particular type of political setting that would impact what the characters do or say. Not information overload, but enough to get the story started.

I naturally have been very supportive doing whatever Peter has wanted, but even so he has been on this Lesson for a couple of weeks now. I know there is a lot of information to create, but seriously!

“Look” Peter sticks his head into the office, evidently my thoughts have some how leaked into the other room. “I have had a lot on my mind. And since when have you done whatever I wanted? If all you can do is berate me…”

“No, no. Sorry Peter. I didn’t mean anything derogatory.  It is just that we have been on this for such a lonnnnnnnnnng time.” Anything to get him out of the office. I don’t want him butting back in at this point. Even if I have to grovel a little. Jeez, I really hate doing this, but whatever.

He gives me a stern look and nods, then heads back out to the family room to finish his wine.

A little peace and quite again. What a baby. If he would leave more of the writing to me we would be halfway through the course by now. I can feel the smile returning as that little interruption is gone and I can focus on finishing my post. I mean Peter’s post.

So, as I was saying. We have spent the last couple of weeks putting together enough information to go into Lesson Eight which is the Planning stage. Get that, Lesson Seven was Pre-Planning. Holly’s pretty smart. We do pre-planning and then follow it up with planning. Who would have thunk. Isn’t that kool.

“Did you say PLANNING?” A voice like it has been washed over rocks and then dried as hard as leather out in the hot sun. And as it fades, so does my smile.

Oh crap. I was hoping he wouldn’t show up. “Lou” I barely acknowledge him. But figure if I don’t say anything he won’t ever go away. “Yes I am talking about Lesson Eight. But right now I am doing a post about Lesson Seven, so if you…”

He rumbles into the room like an old dinosaur like he didn’t even hear me. “Yeah, I’m looking forward to that. Finally we get down to organizing all this stuff.”

I don’t bother to hide my eyes as they roll so far back into my head I can see behind me. “Well that is next week, so if you don’t mind, I have very important work to do.”

“Okay, see you next week Sweets”, he says through the pencil he is chewing on and rumbles back out of the office.

He can’t have a cigar so he is always chewing on something. Oh, I am such a poor hostess. I forgot to introduce you to Lou. Though privately I think manners are a little over rated. You say thank you, they say thank you, then you need to say thank you to them for their thank you. Talk about the circle of death.

You probably know Lou as IE (Peter’s Internal Editor). He and I don’t exactly see things the same way. He doesn’t have a creative bone in his body. Anyways, Peter got tired of calling him IE and asked me to help come up with a name. Personally I don’t think he contributes enough to get a name, but Peter thinks he is important. The things you have to do sometimes to keep the boss happy.

After a lot of thought I finally came up with the perfect name. Peter says every time IE talks to him he pictures Ed Asner, so, going with the Ed Asner theme and the fact that he is an editor, I named him Lou Grant. Anyone Peter’s age, or who has watched reruns of the Mary Tyler Moore show, will know who Lou Grant is. He isn’t too hot on the idea, but I LOVE it :-)

So we move on to Lesson Eight and start the planning process. I am not positive, but I think after that we actually get to start writing. We will see — I CAN’T WAIT!

Under the Covers of My Story

Posted on April 1, 2012

I am not going to talk about the Lesson I am working on right now, but instead I was asked by some Readers to give a little insight into the Book I will start during this course. So I am going to change it up a little this week and put up two Posts. If you aren’t interested in getting a little insight into my upcoming project, then just skip this Post and catch the next Post, in a couple of days, when I talk about Lesson 7. I won’t be offended (well not much :) )

We (Willow, IE, an I)  have a wide range of interest in what we read. But for this book the genre  is what they call Medieval-Themed High-Fantasy. Comes from getting excited about people riding around in chainmail, wielding swords and arrows flying through the air, along with the intrigue of the castle nobility (Medieval-Themed). And naturally Elves (which captivate me) with wizards and a variety of magical and mystical creatures (High-Fantasy).

Next my project isn’t really just one Book. I envision the story being a three to four book series. I just can’t figure out how to do the story in less than that unless it is one really big frigging book.

“You can’t use that word” Willow puts her hand on the keyboard; which she knows will really irritate me.

“What word?” I ask. What now?

I look up and she is standing there with her hands on her hip. Every guy knows the Hands on Hip stance. Translation: Seriously, you should know better. I think little girls attend a secret school on the weekends to learn how to stand like that. Finally she says ” The F word”.

“The F word. It’s not the F word. It’s just an expression.” I swear I don’t see the problem.  It’s just a way to emphasize that it would be really big. You know, to grab the reader’s attention”.

She gives me that look. You know the Look that the little girls learn while they are at the secret school learning the Hands on Hip stance. Translation: Do I have to tell you…AGAIN!. “Everyone knows what it really means.” She states flatly.

I know there is a school, probably a bunch of them, where they teach girls this. I mean, I have seen a little sweet five year old all of sudden giving me a Look that would freeze the blood, complete with balled fist on her hips.

“Okay, you win, I won’t use it again. But I have to leave it in now since I already wrote all this dialogue” I say with a little smirk. “It would be such a waste.” I give her my best innocent face. You know the puffy lip one. “Plus I had some really good stuff in there about the school you guys go to when you are little. Don’t want me to give away your secret huh?”

A little humph escapes her lips and I figure we can finally move on.

Willow tells me this Post is getting a little long, all the dialogue she says, and without even a hint at a Look or Stance, so I compromise. If I give you The Sentence from Lesson Four, Under the Willow http://petercruikshank.com.customers.tigertech.net/2012/03/115/, that I finally came up with, it express enough of the story to give you a good idea of where we are going.

Hopefully the following Sentence will convey the insight that a couple of Readers requested — at least for Book One. Believe it or not it took me nearly six weeks to come up with this single sentence — but after completing it I felt so elated I really can’t explain it. And there was a lot that actually went into creating, besides the dozens of revisions.


“The crown prince’s maligned bastard teenage daughter must hide her identity and lead her people against a rival king and fanatical shamans after inadvertently switching identities with her twin brother.”

While the above might provide  a little information and keep a few of you temporary satisfied, I know it probably leaves many of you with a lot more questions. How can you inadvertently switch identities with someone or why is she maligned? Well, as I start to actually put pen to paper and get my book off the ground (lots of cliché here) , in a couple of months, my future Blog Posts will clarify all this. Because while I have a fuzzy idea of the storyline and working on an outline (upcoming in Lesson 8 or 9) , I really don’t know how the details of the story are actually going to work out. Part of the fun of writing is to discover things about my characters, along with the conflicts and how they are resolved, just like my readers will.

Oh and as you may have noticed. My blog template has been updated. Willow’s friend, Alex Vasquez (a great web designer), graciously has been working on my template. We will be making some other changes in the near future to enhance your viewing pleasure :-)