This ‘n’ That

By Madeline (M.M.) Gornell

Rest Stop on the Writing JourneySeldom do I put together a new year resolution list, or a last year in retrospect list. Something about lists, I guess… Yet, this post might fall into the latter category—sort of. This n’ that are the “ones” which got away. The snatches of thought which weren’t quite big enough for a full post. Or “ones” I thought at the time were of dubious value. Every seven weeks I strive to come up with a post that might make a difference to someone regarding their writing; and during the process and quest for nuggets, over this year of ideas—“many” have flitted through my mind, only to be sent to the “not-quite” slush pile.

Before I start my list which isn’t really a list, here’s a little back story on how I got to this post. My Christmas holidays were spent, reading, watching DVDs (Miss Marple with Joan Hickson, Campion with Peter Davison, Inspector Alleyn with Patrick Malahide, Midsomer Murders with John Nettles, and Maigret with Michael Gambon), and napping. I didn’t get to Christmas cards, didn’t have any guests, barely went anyplace, and did NO housework. Did bake bread. And when I wasn’t doing all that hard work (smile) I was thinking about writing—how to make it better. Somehow, from bingeing with/on my favorite mysteries, reading my favorite authors,[i] eating far too much warm bread, mulling over possible plots, and thinking about my “next writing steps”—came this post! So, here are a few this n’ that tidbits:

  • Besides the musicality in writing (a previous post), imagery as in a
    There was the idea of challenging everyone to describe these cactus. I couldn't do it, so I passed.
    There was the idea of challenging everyone to describe these cacti. I couldn’t do it, so I passed.

    mental-pictures, which take me to new and often beautiful places, was an idea I started a post about. And a corollary thought to location imagery, is the imagery of ideas and emotions. In my mind, right beside scenes from movies, are the imagery Louise Penny brings forth in How the Light Gets In, Carlos Ruiz Zafon in The Shadow of the Wind, Robert Haig in Fire Horses, Paul Alan Fahey in Lovers and Liars, and P.D. James in all her novels–but especially in The Black Tower.

  • Then there’s the small topicsonly paragraph explanations at the most, like alliteration[ii]) such as “nattering nabobs”[iii] which has always tickled my ear. It’s not the meaning, it’s the sound. Another paragraph is on writing customs and conventions; such as Prefaces, Prologues, Lists of Character, and town/village maps. The thought here is, I had an idea of writing about how many of these writing customs were around as I grew up readingand now they’re gone, which saddens me.
  • And then there was the post I was going to tackle about writing styles, right after I’d read P.D. James’s posthumous latest, then read James Patterson’s latest, both of which I enjoyed.[iv] Totally different though, with P.D. being more to my taste. Next I started Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s latest (and haven’t finished yet), where he combines story telling ability, plot movement, atmosphere, and approaches the beautiful imagery of P.D. James. The thought was about the successful bringing together of different styles.

And what is the writing advice or inspiration to myself and anyone looking for writing tidbits from my this ‘n’ that hodge-podge? I think it is to take a moment once in awhile, then take stock of what you love in and about writing. Continue questioning and striving. And here, I’m stealing directly from P.D. James, “Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.” I’m taking that thought and running with it. My version is, I’m going to try to make 2017 a Julia Child type of yearlive with (writing) abandon when possible, and for me, also with plenty of butter!


[i] “Read Widely and with discrimination.” P.D. James

[ii] As mentioned by G. B. Pool in an earlier post.

[iii] William Lewis Safir “nattering nabobs of negativism”

[iv] Trying to find my next  book-club selection/recommendation! Haven’t found just the right one yet…

24 thoughts on “This ‘n’ That”

  1. I am doing sort of the same thing you are doing, Mad, reading. I have a CD-ROM with 10,000 – yes, 10,000 books on it. All kinds. I am starting with the mysteries. These are the old classics that many people have abandoned. Too bad. The writing of some of these puts to shame a lot of the modern stuff because it isn’t cluttered with filler. I hate a book that stops mid-story for things that don’t add anything to the story. And reading these works lets me know you are right: write what you want, not what you think others might want. Have a great year reading and writing.

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    1. 10,000! And I thought I was bad. I’m starting today, a three book tome of Ngaio Marsh mysteries. Heaven! I think we’re on the same wave-length when it comes to the old classics. And I wasn’t exaggerating, it saddens me that so much is being abandoned.

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  2. We must be mentally linked, for I’ve been thinking about writing advice and inspiration as well. I suppose the beginning of a new year puts many of us in a frame of mind to sweep out the cobwebs and start fresh. “Take what you need to write….” hit home for me. I’ll add, be around those who encourage and inspire you to write, or write even better. Luckily, I have WInR for that, and I’m eternally grateful.

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    1. Yes, you’re right, we are mentally linked, and the “New Year” point in time seems to be a good marker to step back and assess. And ditto with a whole bunch of exclamation points your appreciation comment– “Luckily, I have WInR for that, and I’m eternally grateful.”

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    1. Hopefully, John, I can live up to my plan. Much too often get bogged down in requirements/must do/straight line kind of things. I sure appreciate your stopping by. And boy, do I love butter! (smile)

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  3. Lots of “food” for thought, Mad. Reading is crucial for a writer, I firmly believe, and often a stellar passage in a book inspires me to try harder to get my own writing right. I loved “Shadow of the Wind” and agree with everything you said about it.

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  4. I know you love P. D. James. I just got a collection of four of her short(ish) stories that I’m eager to jump into. If you pattern your writing after hers, then I know i will enjoy them.
    I’m still thinking of your challenge for each of us to write a short story this year. I wonder if we will….
    Guess that can be a bit to think on this year too, Madeline!
    Nattering nabobs – wow. I don’t know what they are, but I too love the sound. Another “alliteration” of sorts that won’t let me go was a sign on a small cafe/bar in Malawi, Africa. It was called the “Red Zebra.” (remember that they, unlike us, use a short e sound in the word zebra… so the two words sound alike. I just KNOW I have a story in my head somewhere that happens at a place called The Red Zebra!

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    1. Hi, Madeline, I think you’ve got lots of great ideas for future posts here. I especially liked, “Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.” And thank you so very much for the shout out for “Lovers and Liars,” dear friend. All the best in the New Year! Paul

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      1. Thanks for stopping by, Paul. Yes, I still remember scenes from your book. Hopefully channeling Julia Child will lead me(us) on through the new year!

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    2. Jackie, pronounced Red Zebra the way you suggest (I think) and you’re right, love the sound. And “The Red Zebra” is perfect for a story or novel title. I’ll be waiting to read–and now, of course, those two words are stuck in my head…

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  5. I too, spend my time watching Miss Marple, Inspector Alleyn, Midsomer Murders, and Maigret. I also love the Inspector Lewis mysteries, among so many others. I guess all mystery writers have that in common. I have an entire bookcase filled with mystery DVDs. Along with them, I have a couple of bookcases filled with mystery books. I love to read older mysteries as well. I think it’s difficult to write what’s “in” because “in” goes “out” very quickly. So it’s best to write what you like.

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    1. Evelyn, we are clearly of like minds! I also like Lewis, and I watched the Endeavor series on TV. I haven’t parted with any of my mystery DVDs yet (give away), keep thinking I should, but the “separation trauma” might be too much! (smile) Thank you very much for stopping by.

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  6. Lovely post, Mad! Unfortunately, I don’t have as much reading time as I used to. I miss that time, but I’m trying to turn things around. “Write what you need to write…” is what every author should think about. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. I don’t spend as much reading time as I used to either, Marja. Don’t know if that’s tired eyes, or, or? I think that’s why I did so much DVD watching. My book club, fortunately, keeps me reading–and there’s nothing like the sound of written words in your head. Hope you get “things turned around” to your liking. I guess sometimes we just have to go through re-alignment. Sigh. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. Isn’t it interesting what a new year brings out in us? I have always wanted to write a first person standalone suspense novel and I finally am! I loved writing my Malone mystery series – the fifth book will be out next month – but I’m ready to try something new in the new year.

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    1. First person! How exciting. Whenever I try something new, I’m a little scared, but I’m taking inspiration from you, and this is the year to do new things–not sure why I think that, but sure feel like it is. Thanks for stopping by, love chatting with you! (smile)

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Marilyn–I know what a busy lady you are! You may not want to hear this, but I’m going to be using you as an inspirational guiding light this year! Maybe we can get over to Central Coast SinC this year? Not driving a lot like I used to. I’ll email you.

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  8. Enjoyed your post, even though I’m quite late on commenting about it. Sorry about that–but I’m taking a break now and doing as you suggested: taking stock of what I love in and about writing. There are lots of things! Thanks for stimulating me to think about them.

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    1. Glad to hear from you, Linda, anytime! I’m taking a break still from social media, especially FB. Though do get on at least once a day for a few minutes to check what a few friends are doing and promote our blog, but that’s it. Taking stock sometimes comes up with some answers I don’t want to hear. Hope your break brings you the ideas and inspiration you are looking for!

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