Hosted by: Cynthia Swanson & Andrew Swanson

Research and Character Building

The Super Secret Project is progressing very nicely.  As the post title indicates, I’ve been doing research and fleshing out my main point-of-view character.

The beginning part of the novel building process has never been my favorite part. In the past, I was always much more of what they’re calling a “pantser” these days–someone who just starts writing, hoping for inspiration along the way. I have completed novels that way, but it doesn’t work for me any more.  Maybe it’s the structure and organization that I am responsible for in the day job rubbing off.  I don’t know.

What I do know is that the novel I am writing will be a better product if I expend the time and effort necessary “worldbuilding” the infrastructure of the novel: doing my research so I can ground the pages to come in reality and make the tension come alive; creating flawed and interesting characters; and developing the framework of the story.

If this works, the story will then practically write itself. Or at least feel that way, because I won’t reach points where I don’t know what will happen next. Or write myself into a corner. Which is when writer’s block hits.  And I hate that.

So here I am, chomping at the bit to write and yet forcing myself to weave the threads of the storyworld together first. I’ll keep you apprised as I go along, and share with you what I learn.

Until next time, happy writing.

Super Secret Project Update


I’m neck deep in brainstorm/research mode on the new book. Things are going extremely well. The story premise is holding up. I’m starting to get a mental image of the main character and the roadblocks that will get in their way, both internally and externally.

And I have to say…

Research…I do not love thee.

When I get a new idea, my first inclination is to sit down and start writing.  If my latest rejection is any judge, I’m a decent writer with a good grasp of language and the ability to spin a story. But can I emotionally engage you in the story through the lead character?

Not without a different kind of planning.

Also, unlike when I was younger, my time for writing is limited. In order to write a book in a reasonable amount of time while maintaining a challenging day job requires more thoughtful preparedness up front. More structure, so I spend less time flailing around, and so when I sit down for my few precious hours of writing, I can actually write vs. staring at the computer thinking about writing, getting sucked into web surfing, or wasting hours playing solitaire or my Facebook games.

So, with the aid of my wonderful husband, I’m stepping out of my comfortable old habits, and actively trying something different. It’s not easy. Believe me, I still want nothing more than to open a document and start writing the book. But it will be light years better because of the time I spend now. And if I do it right, when I get done I will have created a story that not only scares the bejeezus out of you, but had a lead character you want to see win the day.  And if I make you cry? Bonus points.

A tall order, but a doable one.  I’ll share with you what I can as I feel my way through this.

Until next time, happy writing!

REPOST: What does “Start from Scratch” Mean?

One of the most searched-for posts in recent months on my blog is this one. I thought it apropos to post it again, as this is what I’m doing with the Super Secret Project.

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A colleague at the day job asked me yesterday why we use the term “start from scratch”. I didn’t know, so I threw out some offhand suggestions.  But it lingered with me, so today I did a web search.  Below is from

Start From Scratch logo


Begin (again) from the beginning, embark on something without any preparation or advantage.


‘Start from scratch’ is an expression which has altered slightly in meaning since it was first coined. It is now usually used to mean ‘start again from the beginning’ – where an initial attempt has failed and a new attempt is made with nothing of value carried forward from the first attempt (as opposed to ‘made from scratch’ which means ‘made from basic ingredients’).

In the late 1800s, when ‘start from scratch’ began to be used it simply meant ‘start with no advantage’. ‘Scratch’ has been used since the 18th century as a sporting term for a boundary or starting point which was scratched on the ground. The first such scratch was the crease which is a boundary line for batsmen in cricket.

If you want to learn more about how “start from scratch” became a part of today’s vernacular, then visit one of the following websites:

Guess Who Hit Creative Pay Dirt Today?

Idea BulbOne of my most creative times during the day is in the morning, halfway between sleep and wakefulness and up through showering, when the challenges of the day haven’t had time to seep into your consciousness.  I love those times.  I take pains to nurture them, setting the alarm earlier than necessary just so I have the time to think and plan, as these precious minutes in the morning are the prime times for me to brainstorm creative solution to problems that have been bugging me.

Today was even better than that.

As I lie in bed this a.m., allowing my mind to wander, a story idea burst upon me in full bloom. Within an hour, I had ideas for potential characters, conflicts, setbacks, etc. And all day long I’ve been adding to it as new ideas pop into my head.  I haven’t felt this jazzed in a long time.

Will this be my next writing project, instead of the one I have been planning?

You know what? It just might.

Am I going to tell you what the idea is?

Nope.  Not until the thing is written.

For now, we’ll call it the Super Secret Project.  And while I won’t give you any of the details, I will keep you updated about my progress, and any learnings I have along the way.

So stay tuned, dear friends.

Until next time, happy writing!

Still Here…


This was NOT me the last ten days.

The good news is that I think I’ve gotten past the worst cold I’ve had in years. It knocked me flat, bruised my ribs, and has made the living room recliner by bosom sleep buddy. Why is this the good news, you ask? Because I only get hit this hard every two-to-three years.

Which means I’m done.

You hear me, germs? I’m over it. Begone with you. Do not darken my doorstep again in 2012. Or 2013, thank you very much.

The other good news? I have some amazing new ideas for stories.  2012 is going to be a great writing year!

Happy writing!