Monday, November 16, 2009

Vacation is a Time to... Learn?

We're on a family trip.* And while I haven't figured out an analogy between snow-skiing and writing a novel, I think it's only a matter of time... *wink*
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I have figured out I do my best reading-as-research as a passenger in the car, though. For whatever reason, I can better absorb craft, technique, snappy dialogue, character development, etc.
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On our way to Colorado I read Sail, the newest suspense by James Patterson with Howard Roughin. (This was another recommendation by Melanie Avila.) While I won't get into the story itself (visit the link to see Amazon's summary), it was strung together so well, every aspect was an example of what to do.
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It was fast-paced, and what really struck a resonant chord with me was that for every step forward, there were one or two back. When the author could have made things easy, he (they) made it more difficult. While this book is suspense, and I don't write anything near that, it was a lesson in how to draw the reader into the characters' happenings, keep them engaged, and build tension.
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The storyline wasn't bad, either. *wink* (There's something in my eye. Really.)
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I also do my best brainstorming when I take my turn behind the wheel. The stretch of miles bode well to plot assessment. It's as if I can see my novel's idea on the interstate in front of me, where I define what's working and what isn't.
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I'm at a crucial mid-way point with my WIP right now, and I was happy to discover a key idea that (I hope) will turn my efforts into better payoff. I took notes, rooted the idea into the creative part of my brain, and can't wait to see the idea turn to fruition.
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Slated for our drive home is Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg, one of my favorite women's fiction authors...
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What are you reading now? Are you learning from it?
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And, when does your best brainstorming happen?
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*My return comments and visits to your blogs will be minimal.

24 comments:

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

I'm reading "Deadlock" by Iris Johansen and "Small Acts of Grace" by Alice Gray. Both great books.

Happy trails to you on your trip!

Amy Sue Nathan said...

I think anytime we're in a different place or a new frame of mind, we're open to seeing things in a different way. It's like new parts of your brain are open to ideas. Plus, you're seeing things/people/places out of your usual life, and that spurs thoughts and ideas. Even just being around different people can do the same thing.

Happy vacation learning!

Rebecca Nazar said...

I'm reading Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca and loving it. Her style is so lush.

Happy vacation. :-)

Capri K said...

I am reading a Scholastic book that Abby loaned me about a YEAR ago. It's called "Torn Thread" by Anne Isaacs, and is about a young girl and her sister living in a concentration camp, being forced to work in a thread factory.

It is haunting and hopeful, all at the same time.

Capri K said...

P.S. Have a fun vacation!

Jessica said...

I love learning while reading. :-) Good for you for absorbing that, and enjoying the book in the process. I hope you have a great trip.
My best daydreaming time is when I drive or when I'm doing mindless chores, like dishes. LOL

Kathy said...

Didn't Elizabeth Berg write Open House? I read that one and loved it.

Not reading anything now since I'm Nanoing.

Lori said...

I love that Elizabeth Berg book cover. It's beautiful. And how can you read in the car? You don't get sick? I have to keep my eyes on the road at all times if I don't want to get nauseated by the motion. I can read on trains though, and that is one of the reasons why I love trains are my favorite mode of transportation (besides walking).

Jody Hedlund said...

Hi Janna! Oh what fun! A road trip to Colorado!! Hope you have a wonderful and relaxing time! I get a lot of writing work done too on trips! Kids watch DVD's and I have quiet, uninterrupted work time! At least mostly!

Melanie Avila said...

Ooh, I'm glad you liked it! Isn't it crazy how well he (they) handle pacing?

I'm reading To the Nines by Janet Evanovich. I needed something light and fluffy to combat my daily life, but I think I'm going to read something a little deeper next.

Have a safe trip home!

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I love Elizabeth Berg. I think she nails the women's fiction thing! I'm reading Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger. It is fast paced and she does a good job of keeping her MC interesting...providing twists and turns.
~ Wendy

T. Anne said...

God bless your reading in the car talent. I'd get so sick, I'd pike all over my books. Enjoy the snow!

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Have a great trip, Janna! I LOVE Colorado... haven't been there in years... so have a great time for the both of us!

My best brainstorming time is in the evening, definitely. When I'm outside, with God, at dusk. LOVE IT! Second best is when I'm driving.

Right now I'm re-reading Ted Dekker's "the Circle" series. I'm loving it!

Susan R. Mills said...

The two steps forward, one step back is a great way to build tension. Have a great time!

Patti said...

My best brainstorming comes in the bath or anytime away from a computer, tv or phone.

Melissa Marsh said...

I just picked up some books from the library today - The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson, Stardust by Joseph Kanon, and an Agatha Christie book. Can't wait to dive into them!

I do some great brainstorming on my long drives home, too. :-)

Jill Kemerer said...

I hope you're having a fun vacation!

I can't read in the car. I get sick. But I like to sit and be quiet. It's kind of rare for me!

My best ideas happen all the time, but I keep a journal in my mini-van because I get a lot of them driving!

Kara said...

Have a fun trip! I love to brainstorm while in the car. I'm rereading a fav from Julie Garwood, I just love her style. And I'm also reading Little Blessings From a Big God:) Nothing too deep!

Barry said...

I can really enjoy a good James Patterson. He certainly knows how to pace a story and how to create characters who draw us in and make us care about them.

I'm reading the final Rebus novel by Ian Rankin.

Nadine said...

I'm currently in between novels, just like I'm in between jobs, lol. It's a theme at the moment.

Just recently finished all the Sue Grafton novels to date. I think next up will be Diplomatic Baggage, recommended by a good friend.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

"what really struck a resonant chord with me was that for every step forward, there were one or two back. When the author could have made things easy, he (they) made it more difficult."

That is how it goes in fiction. Often we want our character to have an easy go of it, but it is the ups, downs, and big downs that keep them from getting what they want that makes the story go. Hard to do, sometimes, as we want them to succeed.

Enjoy the Elizabeth Berg.

JKB said...

HOORAY for finding the next great plot twist for your book! And I like driving and thinking, but you know ironing really does it for me.

Let me know what you think of your next book!

Jessica said...

Hi Janna, I gave you an award. :-)

Deb Shucka said...

I'm jealous you can read in the car. Elizabeth Berg is one of my favorites, also. I'll be curious to see how you like this one (I haven't read it yet).

I started Selden Edwards' The Little Book earlier this week and abandoned it last night. It's gotten all kinds of acclaim, took the author over thirty years to write, and is well-written. Yet it didn't engage me at all. I'm sad about that.