Category Archives: Writing

Words and other Things by Christine Duncan

I am still weighing this word of the year thing. Changes are coming. My publisher is about to reissue my first two books in the Kaye Berreano mystery series and I am stoked. Finding a word to encompass the whole year as a journey is…harder than it has ever been for me.
I’m thinking journey sounds good but maybe doesn’t really do it all. Believe is good. But tends to make me think of The Polar Express. I’m still working on this.
To change the subject, I am looking to find participants for an on-line critique group. I write mystery and would love to find others who are working on something and want feedback. Message me please if you are interested.


The Character Essay

When Ang Lee was directing Emma Thompson’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, he had all the actors write a letter from their character. I’ve heard a few directors get their actors to write essays about their characters, and it struck me this might be a good thing for writers to do.

I tried it a for a few characters, just writing an essay about their motivations and beliefs and past. I found it really useful. You don’t always get time to explore a character fully in a book, especially if the plot moves fast, so the essay can give you that time to really get to know them.

It doesn’t have to be an essay. Perhaps a letter, or a short story. Something that is personal to them, that is just about them, can be very illuminating.

And even if you don’t use the material, the fact that you know this character really well now will come through when you write it. We always know when our authors have imagined a rich backstory for characters, even if they never tell it. The characters always seem more alive.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad

Word for the Year by Christine Duncan

Pick a word, just one word, and use it to define your year. Crazy, isn’t it?
Yet I’ve done this for a while now and unlike the resolution thing, I have found some strength in this. I flounder a bit every January picking the word. It has to be something that will help when the going is tough. And yet, it should define the joy and adventure that the new year will bring.
I can’t pick just anything.
The word should always point me to my strengths. It should remind me of my blessings; it should help me cope with the down times.
Cope now there is a word, isn’t it? But it doesn’t exactly remind me of the good stuff.
Picture seems like a good word. Picture myself somewhere else. Picture the things I love. Hmm, but no, not quite.
Smile. That one seems fake. Sometimes I don’t want to smile.
Obviously, this one needs work. You would think since words are the writer’s tool, it would be easy.

Poetry for New Year

I rarely make New Year’s Resolutions, because the minute I tell myself I must do something, I immediately rebel and insist I want. However, I made a New Year’s suggestion to myself to read more poetry.

I do enjoy poetry when I read it, and I did study it at university, but I don’t often sit down to read it.

I always feel you have to be especially clever to read poetry, perhaps, that it was for people who were smarter than me. And some poetry – especially modern poetry – assumes a reader familiar with all kinds of tropes and forms and ideas that I have never learned about.

But good poetry, I’ve found, like Edward Thomas’ Adlestrop isn’t like that. It’s feeling put into words. It flows from the heart.

That’s not to say it’s not born of a great deal of skill and practice and work. It is. But good poetry, I think, doesn’t exclude anyone. Rather, it is inclusive, sharing an emotion or a moment with everyone. Hidden meanings can be uncovered by any reader, not just those with a certain type of education. The rhythm and pattern tempt and haunt you.

So, more poetry for me. But poetry that touches me, not puzzles me.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad

Happy New Year Everyone! By Christine Duncan

Cut Off From The World

How do you separate yourself feel the world when you need to write?

What I mean is, the world is exceptionally busy at the moment. How do you get away from the news and the noise and everyone else to concentrate on your story?

Lots of professionals writers have writing sheds. Joanne Harris on Twitter this week suggested locking yourself in a shed or room, that is only used for writing , away from all distractions.

But what if, like me, you have a tiny flat and not even a tiny room to be used solely for writing?

Well, Jo March in Little Women has a writing hat – when she is writing, she puts it on as a reminder to everyone else, including herself, that she is working and not to be disturbed.

I’ve tried these, but I am easily distracted. I switch off the TV, put the phone in another room and yet still find myself reaching out for them.

What I’ve done is set aside time – this hour is for writing. I can watch TV or play with my phone in one hour, but not before. My writing space is this period of time, and all I have to do is concentrate for an hour.

Of course, if it goes well, it often lasts longer, but that marking that hour off from the world gets me started.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

I hope you get lots of notebooks – those lovely posh smooth ones that just beg to have brilliant ideas written in them.

I hope you get pens – gorgeous pens that don’t cramp your fingers and who write smoothly across the page.

I hope you get a printer that actually works. One that doesn’t need coaxing, or begging, or won’t work unless it has exactly the right amount of paper in it, or who’s ink goes from ‘nearly full’ to ‘nope, that’s empty, I give up’ in ten seconds flat at midnight when you have a deadline by five.

I hope your laptop doesn’t quibble about downloading the latest version of your writing software before letting you write.

I hope you get peace and time and space to write.

I hope you get ideas, tons of ideas, wonderful ideas.

And I hope you feel, as a writer and a person, wanted and needed and appreciated, because you are, and we all need that. Cherish and cosset yourself today. We’re fragile souls.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad