Wednesday, February 27, 2008


There are so many things I like to do with my little bit of free time. Movies and books are just two of my favorite past times. I enjoy movies of every genre from foriegn (especially French, cause every now and then I can pick up a word or two)to comedy to drama to sappy chick flicks. Books are my passion whether reading or writing. Reading engages my brain, enjoyable time, but not relaxing. My little brain is working over time on the hamester wheel. Writing is work, even though I wouldn't spend my time any other way.
When I want to relax, I get in my car, pick a road I've never been down before and get myself as lost as possible. Behind the wheel I can let go and enjoy my freedom. I don't have to think about anything beyond the next curve, but I often find that's when my mind opens up and I find those elusive answers to pesky problems. I take a country road to and from work everyday that is twenty minutes out of my way. That is my me time. Sometimes, the windows are down and the radio is up, other times, I keep the radio off and just listen to the sound of my car on the road. Now living in Arkansas, I have found myself in some scary places, think Arkansas Chainsaw Massacre. But even those times have brought interesting stories and great memories. I always find a strange aderanline flowing after I have found my way out of a place that I have never been before.

Monday, February 25, 2008


While some people think writing is my hobby it is work. I have so many interests sometimes it's hard to balance my time. Reading is a big one, one of my favorite things. I also love movies, music, dancing, taking drives into the mountains (although I no longer live near the mountains), playing practical jokes and scaring people, thunderstorms, playing cards, Mythology, and drawing/painting. Then we have day I would like to take a class and learn even more about it.

But there is one subject I have more books on than others (besides writing)...the paranormal. I have always been interested in ghosts. I read and watch just about everything I can get my hands on about them. My house has actually been investigated, but that is a much longer post....

So there you have it, too many interests and not enough time.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The badness of habits . . .

I have trajillions of bad writing habits, but here I will discuss two of the most mundane. They are not habits of craft or production. But they are really unfortunate.

1) I write best when I am also drinking a diet Coke. I try so hard to eat organic, nutritious things. I don't consume any other artificial sweetners. I'm a vegetarian, for heaven's sake! Yet, when I don't know how to link one scene to the next, or I can't nail a patch of dialogue, cracking open a can of that fizzy artificial goodness can cure all ills. I've given up trying to use mineral water, etc. - it has to be a diet Coke.

2) I do not write by typing words on my ergonomic keyboard while sitting on my back-friendly Swedish office furniture (not that I own any such furniture, anyway.) No, I sit hunched over my laptop, on my couch, with my feet up on the coffee table. I'm pretty sure my spine will someday curve into a perma-C from this abuse. Again, if I could manage to be creative while maintaining good posture, I'd do it. But I can't. So . . . meh. Moderation in all things, right?

Plot Maze

Like Jean, I am a victim of my own overheated brain. Too many ideas, too many subplots and tangents.

As far as writing habits, writing is my bad habit! I write every chance I get. It's possibly an illness. I think my tendency toward the manic can often be detrimental, as I don't allow my ideas to simmer and gel. Actually, I have a confession: posting on forums has been the main impediment to writing. I've slowed down and have gotten much more done.

On reading the same genre, I find, it's best for me if I don't read something with a similar plot or character, but I'm okay with YA. It's mainly what I enjoy reading and often I find it helps me to work out the kinks in my writing.

I'm actually a lot happier camper when I am writing than when I am querying. That makes me nuts, a crazed chihuaha on a hamster tread.

A plethora of bad habits

I have a plethora of bad habits...procrastination is probably the biggest. Self doubt, did I mention procrastination, I also get excited and side-tracked by other ideas before I finish an old now! I am the worst at procrastinating when I am finishing up on a book (now), I think a big part is I don't want to say goodbye to my characters. That and there is always that fear that what do next will suck. There you have it. What if the next one isn't as good? What if my agent hates the finished project?
So what am I doing to correct it? I still write at least a little every day, eat chocolate, take hot baths with bubbles so tall I can't see my body and try to quiet my always babbling mind.

My Very Worst Writing Sin

Sigh - I've got so many sins...but I think my worst one is a tendency to get lost in my own story! I'm so interested in what's going on with my characters that I wander off on leafy byways, linger by unimportant mudholes and come up with unecessary complication after unecessary complication. I find myself adding minor characters when I'm more than halfway through, thus irritating my antagonist and protagonist who just want to get to the end of story.
I study books that have both a simple plot line and lots of emotional appeal. I applaud them. But when I try to produce something straightforward, little by little those complications creep in.
Curiousity can be both a good and a bad trait. In real life and in my writing life, I'm afraid I've been either cursed or gifted by snoopy christening fairy who hopped through the window when nobody was looking and handed me a double dip.

Why do I keep doing that?

My absolute worst habit is procrastination. I'm tired or I'm too busy or I really just want to sit on my backside and watch tv. I try to keep a schedule of my writing time. But I'm obviously not the worlds greatest schedule keeper. How do you break a habit? I'm sure there are loads of self-help books on the subject. I wouldn't read them though, I'd procrastinate on those too. Lately, however, my MC has been thumping on my head. She's feels neglected, so to keep her happy I write and I revise. So far as long as she's thumping I'm not procrastinating so badly. So I keep my fingers crossed that she keeps it up.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What NOT to do when writing ...

This week, we're talking about BAD WRITING HABITS. And mine seem to come directly from my own writer insecurities and "issues." Yikes. So here's a list of things I think you SHOULDN'T do while working on your next best seller!


Doubt yourself -- you'll have plenty of time to do that AFTER you finish your first draft.
Over edit, killing your voice, losing the spontaneity and magic of the trade.
Read the same genre you're writing in EG. I'm a YA writer. When I read, while working on a new manuscript, I don't read YA. I read adult, biography, historical .. and mostly in Spanish. It's really easy to pick up another author's voice and style.
On the same note, if you read the same genre while working on your own MS, if you're anything like me, you'll probably freeze and think, "This is bloody genius." And being genius, you'll look back at your 20000 words and think it's drivel. The books we read are EDITED, REVISED, EDITED, REVISED and have been through a lot before getting to the "bloody genius" stage.

We write because we have stories clattering around in our brains. Don't let anybody tell you your story isn't:
Original (none are .. really .. it's all about HOW you tell it)
Worth telling
Something you are capable of telling

Basically, don't listen to the "great voice of negativity". People will always be there telling you you CAN'T. But you can. You will. Just keep at it.

Good luck! Keep writing.
Heidi Ayarbe

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What's the Big Idea?

(NB: This picture doesn’t have anything to do with this post, except that the wind chill is well below zero here today, and I’m sick of winter.)

I wish I was one of those writers with a recipe-box full of ideas (coughtrishcough) – but I’m just not. I usually have one or two ideas beyond my work-in-progress, which is enough to keep me from assuming that when I’m finished with the current work I won’t ever write again.

A lot of my ideas come from what I would call “tangential research.” When I’m learning about whatever my current subject is, there will be a little mention of something else that I find intriguing. Once in awhile, those little mentions stick with me, like a splinter that I can’t quite pull out. And that will sometimes start a series of what-ifs. The “what-if” stage is important – that’s when I know I’m really hooked, and that a story will probably come out of it. It doesn’t always happen – sometimes the what-if’s fizzle, or I just can’t get excited enough to pursue it, but that’s the general pattern of how my story ideas are born.

It would sound so much more wonderfully mystical to say that I dream things that I write about, or that the characters start whispering to me in my head. I would love to get ideas that way, but if I’m being honest? It’s just plain ol’ curiosity taken too far that gets me another story. As long as they keep coming, though, I’m not complaining!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Grasping at ... ideas.

A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not. (Roald Dahl)

So where DO writers get their ideas? Great question, and one that is really hard for me to answer. I'm bombarded with ideas every day, but it's not getting the idea that's the problem, it's getting the idea that grabs me. Because once I commit to an idea, it's going to be at least a year or so (actually .. OR SO) of developing it. Imagine knowing that one drink at a bar with a stranger would be at least a two-year relationship? You'd think pretty hard about who you were going to drink with. Ideas are the same.
With FREEZE FRAME, I got the idea from a poetry group. A woman came and said her grandson had asked, "Hey, Grandma, which way is tomorrow?"
I loved that phrase! I loved how he thought of time as a place he could travel. And I began to think about what a teen would ask. "Which way is yesterday?" In fact, FREEZE FRAME was originally titled FINDING YESTERDAY (then THE MEMORY KEEPER, SHATTERED, SUPPOSE, 10:46 .. and a slew of other titles until my editor really nailed the right one .. in my opinion!)
My latest book idea began with a character. That character doesn't exist anymore. In fact, the original concept of the book was peeled away until I met my MC and created her dilemma. My idea and I came to an impasse, though, and I felt really stressed because I wasn't sure which way to take the novel. So I set it aside, and the other night I realized what I needed to bring the novel to a darker place -- a simple change in the first few chapters. I've only been with this idea since October. We've already had our first big tiff. But I'm ready to go back to it, work out the kinks and move forward.
Grasping at straws?
Kind of ..
Just grasping at ideas .. until the right one sticks.

Heidi Ayarbe

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Oak Grove of My Mind

Well, I've been frantically re-imagining my second novel with more Druids and a less convoluted plot in hopes that the agent who loved/hated it might give it a second chance. I worked like my fingers were on fire through the month of January, while on winter recess from my professor job. Now, it's back to work and I understand a bit how Trish feels. Of course, my life is much easier than hers! I don' have a nine-five job, but time is much scarcer and once you lose that momentum, it's so much harder to pick up the threads and keep weaving.

I'm grateful I made so much progress in January. I'm far from done, but considering that at the beginning of the month, I no idea whatsoever to do to help my poor ms, I feel very inspired and positive I am on the right track.

I will confess something about myself. I am a compulsive writer. If I didn't HAVE to have a life, ie: feed the kids, go to work, socialize (reluctantly and under threat) I'd just sit at this computer and write all day, preferably on a nice sunny porch with the leaves rustling. I think, the privilege of having that life some day, is what motivates me more than anything. Not fame, not money, not even the idea that people will read what I do, but the thought that it's okay to write 24/7.

Yes, my fellow Brains already know I am this kind of a nut. It's probably because I'm a late-bloomer when it comes to writing and now I write the way I used to do art. Obsessively and compulsively. Hey, it beats, drugs, gambling, smoking or alcohol, right? (I typed, write, btw, and had to correct myself)