Saturday Sundries 2

It was a dark and stormy night.

image credit: Microsoft clip art

image credit: Microsoft clip art

The poster child for how not to begin a novel. The butt of jokes, including in the classic comic strip, Peanuts, with Snoopy, the would-be novelist. The example given in countless “how to” writing articles for why not to open a story with a description of the weather.

And yet, it’s the opening line to an award-winning story.

Do you know which one? (Answer at bottom of post)

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.

This isn’t how April is supposed to come in.

The first part of that old saying was true in Maryland this year, but I can’t say the same for the last bit. The lion sure seems to want to stick around. I’m glad to say the trees and flowers are fighting back, and signs of Spring are here.

Out with the old and in with the new

You hear this around New Year’s Day or in Spring, the idea being that you sweep away old clutter, garbage, and baggage that weigh you down and begin anew with a clean and fresh environment and frame of mind. That’s where I am with my writing. Having finished up the most recent Meghan Bode short mystery, it’s time I refocus on the novel WIP that stands a chance of finding an audience—Death Out of Time. I’m also looking for the next new idea, whether for a novel or another Meghan novella.

I got nothin’

That pretty well sums up today’s post. Maybe it’s still the winter blues or spring fever is kicking in. Maybe it’s the letdown after finishing Meghan’s latest story. Whatever the cause, I need to find some blog and writing inspiration. Hopefully an afternoon in DC will provide some.

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The award-winning book is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. It won a Newberry Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. Writers can break the rules. But we have to understand them first in order to be successful.

How about you? If you’re in the northern hemisphere, are you bounding with energy as the days grow longer? Or are you still waking up from that long winter’s nap? If you’re “down under,” are you zapped from a hot summer and ready for a cooler spell?

51 thoughts on “Saturday Sundries 2

  1. Great post, JM and happy weekend to you! 🙂

    I’m loving that the sun is finally shining and it feels like spring is starting to do just that! Got a new puppy last Sunday and so that’s really been eating up my energy – but in a great way! I shall be posting about him soon! 🙂

    Hope you have a brilliant weekend ahead. 🙂

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    • Aww, new puppy? That’s a great way to start spring and married life! 🙂 I can’t wait to read about him—be sure to include plenty of photos!

      Spring is finally here, too, I think. A high in the upper 50s today, and then we move up into the 60s and 70s during the week. Ahhh. 🙂 I am so ready!

      You have a great weekend, too!

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  2. My series of kids books starts: “A long time ago, far away in the middle of a vast ocean there was an island.” Not sure if that breaks a rule as I’m not familiar with what the rules are. 🙂

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    • I can’t remember who said it, but there’s also the quote that’s something like, “There are three rules for writing novels. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” That one strikes me as so true. 🙂

      I think your opening line works great—whether it follows any rules or breaks them!

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  3. Starting to see little peeps of sun, but it’s still cold, and I’m getting fed up with it. Two days ago somebody local was saying that it was their two year wedding anniversary and that on their wedding day, some of the guests actually got sunburned – that just seems to hard to believe when I’m still in my thermals and wearing scarfs and gloves! I’m appreciating the longer days though if nothing else.

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    • I can empathize with you about those cold temperatures. We’re finally breaking away from them this week. I looked back at a post from mid-March last year, and I included photos of trees and daffodils in full bloom. Those photos were taken on 10 March, and we really only reached the same stage this last week this year. Hopefully you’ll be seeing the same very soon!

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  4. JM, so true! Winter has been hanging on by it’s huge lion claws. Not happy about that. But signs of Spring are everywhere, starting with this morning’s bright sunny blue cloudless sky and the green sprouts poking out from the mulch. I saw a few buds on the hyacinths this morning. 🙂 Though every now and then I catch a glimpse of dirty pile up of snow in a parking lot or a shadowy patch of lawn.

    I hope your day in DC brings lots of inspiration. Maybe you’ll run into Megan while you’re there. I can’t wait to hear more about Death Out of Time and to have a chance to read it!!!!

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    • Those dirty snow piles can be so depressing sometimes. New-fallen snow can be beautiful, but not those gray, beaten-down reminders of how dirty urban and suburban life really is. But it’s supposed to be beautiful this week, moving into the 60s and 70s with lots of sunshine. I hope it reaches up to you, too!

      Hmm, it’s April now, so Meghan might be busy with unpacking in the new house. She and the family should’ve just moved in, I think. Maybe that’s why she hasn’t piped up with a new adventure…. 😉 But it would also be good to run into Madeleine and Jack this afternoon! 🙂

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    • Thanks, WB. 🙂 We’re off later this morning see the temporary Albrecht Durer exhibition at the National Gallery and then to take some amateur photos of architectural details around the city. Hopefully some of my characters will tag along and provide some of those inspiring flashes. 🙂

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  5. Spring is finally here in NH, although the wind is really strong and chilly. The bright blue skies and warm sun and green grass make up for it!

    I hope you’re struck with inspiration soon. The only magic remedy I know to combat a blank page is to write and write anything. 😉

    Good luck!

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    • We had those winds the last few days, but today they finally calmed down. So I hope they will for you soon. It’s a lot easier to enjoy the sun and greenery when a gale isn’t blowing. 🙂

      I think my creative side is simmering in the background, resting from the last Meghan story and gearing up for something new. But it’ll have to share time with the revisions to Death Out of Time. It’s time I get that one finished….

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  6. I’m right there with you, JM. About the being not inspired so much and I’m hoping this will pass soon. Here’s to spring and inspiration. It is supposed to be in the 60s next week. I’ll believe it when I feel it. Have a great weekend.

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    • My fingers are crossed that this week will be as nice as predicted. It has to happen sometime, right? I really didn’t think about writing while we were in DC today, and that was probably a good thing. I’ve probably been forcing myself too hard to come up with the next story idea. So today was about seeing an Albrecht Durer exhibit, photographing architectural details, and walking around my favorite city on a beautifully sunny day. That might stir up some creativity down the line.

      You have a great weekend, too, and I hope spring will soon inspire us both!

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  7. I’m sure you have ‘something.’ The challenge seems to be finding it as a writer. Every time I read a good book, I think, “Why can’t I think up a plot this great?” or “How did they do it?” When I start dashing out ideas though, I do find gems. Now to just get moving on them instead of twiddling my thumbs. But twiddling is so darn easy and fun.

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    • You twiddling your thumbs? I find that hard to believe—you published two novels recently! Those didn’t write themselves while you lazed about eating chocolates. 🙂 I might take a couple more days off from writing, but come midweek, I’ll do some free writing exercises if an idea for another story hasn’t come to me yet.

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  8. Glad Spring has sprung in your neck of the woods. You’ve got all those gorgeous blooming cherry trees in D.C., right? Enjoy!
    As for the opening line–I’d completely forgotten that L’Engle started “A Wrinkle in Time” that way. I agree with the other comments–write in a way to keep readers engaged–that’s what matters.

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    • The cherries haven’t peaked yet! They’re running later than average this year. Sometime later this week is what I’ve heard. We didn’t go down to the Tidal Basin today, but we did see a number of magnolias and tulip trees blooming at the eastern end of the Mall. And it was sunny and near 60, so it was a beautiful day, even without the cherry blossoms.

      I hadn’t read A Wrinkle in Time since I was maybe 10, and I downloaded it to my Kindle last week to read again. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that opening line. Could you imagine submitting that to an agent today?! But the rest of that stormy setting is so well done, as is the rest of the book. Someday, maybe I can bring my novels to that higher level of engagement.

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  9. We actually had some warmth today. The sun came out and the icy cold breeze held off long enough to feel mild. What’s that all about? I’m sure snow will fall overnight to restore the new world order 🙂

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    • The snow and cold have really outstayed their welcome in most of the northern hemisphere this year. I’m really hoping we’ve turned the corner now, but another cold snap wouldn’t surprise me. My bet is that forecasts will be wrong more often as the climate continues to go through changes. Or so I’m saying in the one novel. 😉

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  10. I’m looking forward to the cooler change here in Australia, JM!

    I love the way we’re told what to write and what not to write because ‘they’ know best. A Wrinkle in Time is a book that was way ahead of it’s time and one of my favourites! 😀

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    • I thought of you and my other Aussie blog buddies today when we walked past the Australian Embassy. 🙂 I snapped some photos that might just show up in next Saturday’s post.

      I downloaded A Wrinkle in Time this last week to read again for the first time in, well, a number of years. 😉 I hadn’t remembered the “dark and stormy” opening line. What a surprise it was to read it! But it’s a great story and so well written. There’s a lot of good lessons still to be learned from it. 🙂

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  11. I’m still sputtering about in fits and starts, JM. Yesterday it felt like Spring was making a grand entrance…today, sunny and COLD! I see some beautifully blossomed treebeds in some neighborhoods and in others, like mine, not so much, making me suspect that the blooms were well on their way to blossoming when they were planted. There can’t be THAT much sunshine and temperature variance on this small island! Oh well…xoxoM

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    • We’ve got a big warm up that should start tomorrow, so hopefully you’ll see it, too. They claim we’ll be in the 60s and 70s this next week. A lot of magnolias and tulip trees were blooming in DC today, and that was a great lift for the spirits. I guess these cold days will make us appreciate the nice ones when we get them, right? Winter must end. I just hope we get some spring before summer hits!

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  12. This reminds me of a line from my favorite TV show. I’m a huge Everybody Loves Raymond fan. He reads the first line in a novel that starts “Imagine a rain so beautiful that it might never have existed.” He says he was going to read the rest when he came out of his coma. Ha! I’m babbling today, and I love that show. I hope you can find some inspiration soon.

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    • Oh, I forgot to mention that sometimes a lyric from a song can inspire an idea, or a line from a movie, or an old book. Maybe turn up some of your favorite music. start dancing and something will spring forth. Good luck.

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      • I am trying to just relax and do things I enjoy right now, or “need to do anyway so why not do them when I’m not writing.” I know the ideas will pop up when they’re ready. And I’m dipping back into the revision to one of the WIPs. I really think part of it is needing a breather after writing those two Meghan stories every week since earlier last year. 😉 When my mind’s in the right place, my Muse will drop in with new characters and stories.

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  13. It was gorgeous here today! We got out and played a little ball with the pooch, and then pooch and I climber up into the treehouse and hung out together. It’s great fun having an athletic dog who can keep up with you. 🙂

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    • Yes, we hit the 60s today, and it was wonderful, too! Of course, tomorrow will be in the 70s and it’s back to the office. 😉 Getting outside and playing is a great way to recharge, isn’t it? After the gray days of winter, I don’t even mind the scratchy eyes and sinus pressure that are building with the pollen. 😛

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  14. We’ve had our first real spring sunshine in the north of England in the last week or so, though we also had hail today just as I was taking the dog for a walk and I’m now sitting with the fire on. But the flowers are finally in full blossom – purple and orange crocuses and the daffodils fully open at last. Going back to your first point though, I love a dark and stormy night because of the atmosphere it brings, so I find it such a shame we ‘can’t’ use it – let’s reclaim the dark and stormy nights!!

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    • Honestly, I’ve never understand why it’s such a “terrible” opening. I mean, I can understand if what follows is a tedious description of the weather. But if what follows pulls me into the story and paints a vivid picture, then why not?

      Of course, I also find it interesting that the weather this winter and early spring has been the subject of many posts by many bloggers across the northern hemisphere. In a way, we’ve all violated that rule! Since we love to talk about weather so much, why shouldn’t we write about it? 😉

      There is that air of mystery about a stormy night, but lighting and loud thunder usually send me cowering into an interior room. 😉 I really enjoy foggy nights and the moods they conjure.

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  15. Great point, here, JM: “Writers can break the rules. But we have to understand them first…” Love that!

    Hopefully, you’re seeing some nicer weather, by now. We’ve got ridiculously highs forecast for the week, but I’m holding out for a real Spring!

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    • We’ve jumped from one day of 60s up to the 80s! That’s a bit too extreme for my likely, but it’s not uncommon. We’re supposed to cool down again at the end of the week. The poor plants probably don’t know what to make of this year. 😉

      I should play it safe any not break too many rules just yet. 😉

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  16. A Wrinkle in Time is one of my favorites but I didn’t know that was the opening line. Since that line is so well known as what not to do, it would be funny to start a story off with it these days as sort of a joke to grab the reader’s attention. I always liked “It was” sentences anyway, even though we’re not supposed to use them. As for the weather, still completely frozen here but then I’m a wimp.

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    • Given that we’re finally warming up, I have to believe you won’t be too far behind. But a few days of 80s now is a bit much for me. Couldn’t we have some 60s and 70s for a while????

      I’d completely forgotten about the opening line until I re-read the book last week. It would be funny to try it, although I wonder if agents today would have the time for the sense of humor required!

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  17. I read that book and completely forgot that was how it started. Enjoyed at the time don’t know if I will now.
    Well here in the sunny state of Western Australia we’ve had a resurgence of summer! Averaging 34 degrees Celesius. We’re into the second month of Autumn/Fall and no sign of rain but the days are getting shorter 🙂

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    • Even after all these years, I still enjoyed the book. Even with that opening sentence. 😉 Another blogger I follow, Char of “Joy in the Moments,” posted a while back about revisiting favorite childhood books. That pushed me to re-read this one, and I’m glad I did.

      We’ve jumped from winter to summer, at least for a few days. Well-above normal temperatures have pushed a lot of trees and flowers into blooming. So I’m afraid instead of a nice progression from early to late spring bloomers, they’ll all be smashed together. Hopefully our seasons sort themselves out soon!

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  18. LOL. I’m up in CT. I like the light but I hate the sun on my skin. It’s nice to have brightness at my desk after 5 though. 🙂 Not really loving spring right now. It seems to be setting off my allergies and causing breathing problems which sap my energy. 😦 Hope you found some inspiration out there. I sometimes get topic empty for posts. I have a list of emergency blog topics (3) that I keep on hand for those moments. 🙂

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    • I’ve burned through most of my emergency topics. 😉 And I haven’t prepared for the rest of them yet. We hit the mid-80s today, which was too much, too soon for my system. All of the flowering trees are about to bloom together, instead of being spread out as in more normal years. So I suspect the pollen loads will be unbearable before too long. My eyes are already feeling scratchy. It’s time for sunscreen and uv protective clothes. I may have Mediterranean features, but my skin is from northern Europe. 🙂

      I hope your allergies won’t be too bad this spring—you’ve got a book to publish. 😀

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      • Oh no! I’ve had those moments. That’s when a reblog comes in handy. 😉 Oh goodness, this spring comes on with a vengeance. I miss having real seasons. It just seems like spring and fall are abbreviated hiccups between winter and summer. I’m the same way. Have you tried Loreal’s Sublime Sunscreen for the face? It’s amazing. Dries fast and protects well. I’ve got a mix of German and Russian and Northern Italian so I fry in the sun. I’m so pale, I sort of reflect the sunlight and glow a bit in photos. 😉

        Luckily, I can lock the doors and run my humidifier. And the inhaler is on hand should things get rough. 😉

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  19. At the risk of telling you something you don’t already know (or worse something said in a previous comment–I didn’t read them), the famous phrase “It was a dark and stormy night” comes from a guy named Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a 19th Century British (I’m pretty sure he was British) writer.

    There’s even an annual contest (and again, see my disclaimer in the previous paragraph about prior knowledge) held in B-L’s honor for the worst opening line for a novel. It attracts a ton of really good submissions.

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    • I did know it was from an old writer and that a competition was based on it, but I didn’t know the details. And no one else brought them up in the comments, so your originality is intact.

      Personally, I don’t have a problem with a few short, “telling” sentences like this in a book. Sometimes I think the advice to modern writers throws out the baby with the bath water. Oops, a cliche. I’m not supposed to use those, either. Someday I’ll learn all the writing rules so I can break them successfully.

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