Monthly Archives: January 2008

Life is Maintenance

So I’ve been long advised by my dentist that the time will come to do some major work, and suddenly, the time is here. I have good oral hygiene, I just have the type of teeth that seem to need lots of work. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough confidence in this general practitioner to mess with my front teeth, so I consulted a cosmetic dentist.

This was a really good thing according to me, and not such a great thing according to the budget.

Yesterday I had my teeth whitened. I cannot believe the difference. If you want to give yourself a treat, or a fairly expensive gift to a loved one, send them to a cosmetic dentist (at this point I can highly recommend Dr. Vodvarka) for a “Brite Smile” one-hour teeth whitening. Wow! I had no idea how stained my teeth had gotten over the years, not until I saw that “before” photo next to the way my pearly whites look now. I wish I had done that a decade ago. The only aftereffect so far has been a little achiness last night that required an Aleve before bed, and I have a little blister on my lip this morning. No big deal.

In two weeks I go in for veneers.  If I come out of that office with my mouth looking the way his does, and the beautiful teeth of his staff (especially the exquisite Denise), this will be money well worth spending.

Stay tuned.

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Ahhh. Vacation

What is it about me that resists a vacation?

I love my life, for one thing. I like my routines, my rituals, my work, my husband, my dog. I like cooking dinner and having lunch with my girlfriends. I like going to school, and seeing my kids and my grandkids.

My life is a vacation.

So when Al and I were invited to the Big Island to watch the Mastercard Invitational Golf Tournament, I was excited, because we would stay with dear friends, in Hawaii, and I’d never been to a golf tournament before. As usual, just before leaving, we had furnace troubles. Tensions.

We touched down into 83 fragrant degrees (coming from a high of 40 and a low of 23), and I immediately relaxed. Two days later I was a different person. Granted we stayed in the opulent lap of luxury, with a “meeting” in the spa every night at 5, but it was a break in my reality. I stood twenty feet from Lee Trevino as he sunk a twelve foot birdie putt. How cool is that? Four days later I could barely remember my old life. I still checked email and voicemail, but found a sublime freedom when nobody was looking for us.

I’ve been through some trials since my last vacation, and my daily routine, I now see, had become more of a rut than a routine. I needed this vacation. It was like a ray of Hawaiian sunshine warming my back. Literally.

We’ve got another trip, completely different, scheduled for September, and I hope I will not resist it. I need to remember how I felt after four days, and how good it felt to come home and resume the routine.

It took me a good four days, though, to really feel the effects, and after seven days I felt brand new. A weekend away is a nice break, but it is no vacation. It’s still part of life. I think we actually need to vacate in a real way to gain the benefits.

Even though my life is like a vacation, I still need a periodic break. We all do. I hope I’ll remember this come September and look forward to it with the amount of enthusiasm it deserves.


Filed under Stress, Travel, Vacation

Naming the Year

I spoke with someone yesterday who said that she names her years.  She doesn’t name them Harry or Joe, but with intention and forethought as to how she wants the coming year to proceed.

This ritual began for her one New Year’s Eve as she reflected on a particularly trying time, and she said, “I guess that was the year of struggle.” And then she said, “My next year will be different. It will be a year of…”  And so by naming it, she made it so.

I like this idea a lot. It is like having a concrete goal, a yardstick by which to measure one’s days. Things happen to interfere, of course, but instead of being blown about by the details of the year, we can rally ourselves and bring ourselves back on purpose. 

I have named 2008. I want to see significant progress in one area of my life by the end of the year, and so I have determined that this will be the year that I incorporate that aspect into my daily living.

So now I want to know: If you were to name your personal 2008, what would it be?

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Last Draft, Final Polish

As promised, here is my checklist for the final draft of my novel. My first drafts are generally a mess, but my priority in writing a first draft isn’t prettiness, it’s story. There is too much rewriting to be done to waste time polishing up the first three chapters of a first draft. Once I know I have the story down, then I go ahead and make it right. 

 So this is the checklist I go through with my final draft:

1.      Take out all side trips. If it doesn’t further the plot, it doesn’t belong, no matter how well written.

2.      Flesh out the areas where you’ve been telling and not showing.

3.      Take out every use of these words: very, causing, here, this, now, today, just.

4.      Investigate every use of the word “it.” There is usually a better word.

5.      Investigate every sentence that begins “There is…” or “There are…”

6.      Investigate every adverb. Pump up the verb instead.

7.      Replay very carefully every conversation to make certain the person speaking is attributed correctly.

8.      Take out all qualifiers: almost, kind of, nearly, sort of. Pump up the action, the drama.

9.      Look for anything that might distract the reader, and fix it.

10.  Make sure the reader is grounded in space and time at every jump.

11.  Investigate every use of the verb “to be,” (is, was, are, be, being, am, were) and gerunds. “He was running to the store.” vs. “He ran to the store.”

12.  Investigate every use of passive voice, looking for the telltale “by” construction. “The ball was hit by the boy.” vs. “The boy hit the ball.”

13.  Make sure every sentence furthers the story.

14.  Make sure every chapter has a structure and is weighted at the end.

15.  Make sure your opening grabs the reader and flows smoothly into the rest of the story.

16.  Make sure your ending echoes the beginning.

17.  For fiction, make sure your protagonist has an internal revelation separate from his external problem solving.

18.  Make sure ancillary characters don’t take over the show.

19.  Take out cliches.

20.  Be interesting with every sentence.

21.  Vary the rhythm of your sentences—not all short, not all long.

22.  Put a sensory image in every paragraph.

23.  Make sure that the only thing that slows down the plot is a subplot complication, and not description.

24.  Can you heighten the tension? Tighten the suspense? Do it.

25.  Have you answered all the questions your story posed to the reader? Double-check.

26.  Omit unnecessary words.

27.  In the final read-through, it should read like the wind.


Filed under Writing

Writing “The End”

I am inches away from writing “The End” on the first draft of my new book.

This is a very strange place. While the rest of the book can pretty much be fixed in the rewrite, this ending has to be just right, which means it will be written and rewritten at least a dozen times before I consider this first draft to be finished. And when I go through it all with a second draft, this ending will be rewritten some more.

I think there are less than ten pages left to go, and I’d like to get this done before this time next week.  With every book, though, I discover that the end is closer than I think (I guess that’s true in the greater scheme of things, too).  Usually, it surprises me. I’m all geared up to write the next twenty pages, and then I realize, “Oh! I’m already there!” and the book is finished.

This particular book has been stewing for more years than I care to admit. It has been interrupted by many projects, and in fact, a few other books that took priority. I have two others like that in my desk drawer. Those may or may not ever see the light of day. But this one… well, I’m ten pages from the end.

And then I’ll let it sit for two weeks, or more likely a month, as I have a busy January scheduled, and then I’ll write a second draft. That won’t take long. Rewriting the second draft is the reward for sweating it out through the first draft. By the end of the second draft, I’ll know I have a solid story, and good characters. Then I’ll let sit for a couple of weeks, read it through, and spruce it up.  I have a checklist for the final draft. A blog for another day.

I’ve done this so many times that I know my process, and I know what works for me.

It’s hard not to get ahead of myself. I’m excited about the ending of this book, but I can’t get too excited. There is much work to be done between now and the time I write “The End”.

It will come soon, but I can’t let it come too soon.

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