Monday, March 14, 2011

Make It Happen On Paper

It's all in his head.     Photo by Carol Newman
 We might -- or might not -- be able to guess what this seagull is thinking. My guess is he is thinking he will swoop down and grab my apple as he did the day before when I turned away to take a picture of the swimmers at La Jolla Cove. Or, he might be thinking about what fun it was to make the young woman at the next table scream when he flashed by and grabbed her packet of oatmeal.

But, it still would be a guess. Guessing is fine for observing seagull behavior on a lazy oceanside morning but not so good for a writer. Last week I was like this seagull. I read a story to our advanced life story writing group. I had worked on it off and on for several weeks. Polished, added, subtracted. It began as a fun little Christmas incident, but as I wrote, the story took a darker turn. I wasn't happy about that, but there it was.

I gathered my nerve and read it to the group. Stella asked a question about the ending. I explained as well as I could, but even then, I knew that if I had to explain, something was missing from the writing. The first problem was that I had been like this bird. The story ending was still in my head; I had not put it on the paper. I expected the reader to guess what I was thinking.

I had two problems. First, I thought the story would be more dramatic if I didn't totally spell out everything. However, a story can't be dramatic if the reader is scratching her head and saying, "Huh?" My second, and more important problem, was that I wasn't sure myself what I was thinking. My feelings weren't easy to examine. I wanted the writing and the story to be over. What exactly was I avoiding? I ruminated for a couple of days. Then I re-wrote a couple of sentences, added a couple more sentences, and I think it is better; but I there may be a bit more work to be done.

Be a better writer than the bird in the photo. Read your story word by word. Record it and listen to it. Ask someone to read it aloud to you. Check to see if the conclusion lives up to the buildup. Are the scenes and the feelings on the page?

Maybe the bird in the photo is thinking about his next story. If so, I hope he spends some time getting it on paper instead of just swooping in for a quick swipe.


In what way are you like a bird? Or maybe, in what way are you unlike a bird? Pick your own bird. Rooster? Eagle? Canary? Hate birds? Make yourself write about it anyway. You will want the writing and the story to be over. Do the hard work. That's where the good writing is.


Mini Microwave Triple Chocolate Cake   Remember the cake in a mug recipe we had one time? This recipe, from, is another single serving cake. HungryGirl says, "Yes, this is as good as it sounds." 


2 tbsp. Pillsbury Moist Supreme Reduced Sugar Cake Mix, Devil's Food
2 tbsp. Cool Whip Free, thawed
1 tbsp. fat-free vanilla yogurt
1 tbsp. Hershey's Lite chocolate syrup, divided


Stir together the whipped topping and half of the syrup, and then place mixture in the freezer to firm up while you prep the rest of your dessert. Next, in a very small microwave-safe dish (like a ramekin), combine cake mix and yogurt. (Don't worry if it seems like a small amount. Your cake will puff up -- we promise!) Stir until smooth and blended. Microwave for 1 minute, and then allow to cool for 5 minutes. Once cake has cooled, remove chocolate topping from freezer, and spoon it over your cake. Finally, drizzle the remaining chocolate syrup on top.

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