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October 16, 2011


From Barbara O'Neal

Please help me welcome Barbara Freethy, a writer I've known since we were both kittens.  A prolific and versatile writer, Barbara has had one AMAZING summer, which has included putting EIGHT books on the New York Times bestseller lists.  Currently, she has three books in the Amazon top 100, all romantic suspense, including Silent Run, Silent Fall, and Don't Say A Word

Yeah, I know.  I might have serious envy, too, if she were not one of the hardest working, NICEST women in the business.  She deserved this a long time ago, and it's about time.  Go on, read one of her books--you won't be sorry.   Welcome, Barbara!

by Barbara Freethy

So I'm a Project Runway fanatic. I never miss an episode. I love the challenge of having to create something from nothing in a limited amount of time with very little money. The designers have Project+Runway+Season+6+Episode+9+Tim+Gunn+Workroom+21 copy
usually thirty minutes to sketch, thirty minutes to shop for material and then it's on. About halfway through the challenge Tim Gunn, their mentor, comes in to critique and offer helpful suggestions. Sometimes the suggestion is to rip it apart and start over or edit out the self-indulgent moments. His analysis is usually spot-on, and those who don't listen pay the price. But the part I like best is everyone's favorite line, MAKE IT WORK!

As a writer, I can totally relate to just about every part of this process, the blank page, the creative burst at the beginning of the challenge, the quick drive to find plot points and twists, the high dive into the unknown and then the middle … There comes a point in every project where the doubts descend. Where the plot suddenly looks boring and stupid, the pacing is slow, the characters are idiots, and one might ask why did I ever think this was a good idea?  But just like the designers on Project Runway, writers have to find a way out – they have to MAKE IT WORK.

MailIf a writer is under contract, there's usually no time to step back for a few months and just think. Sometimes you've already sold the idea, so there's no switching it out for a newer, prettier plot. Just like the designers often get stuck with bad material. I love when they come back to the workroom after fabric shopping with some awful orange wool and muse to themselves in wonder, "Wow, it looked a lot different in the store". Yeah, again, I can relate. Sometimes my stories sound better in my head than they read on paper.

But all any creator can do is persevere. Try and make the ugly pretty, the impossible become possible. It would be great if Tim Gunn could descend at just the right moment with his quizzical eye and make us rethink what we're doing, but in his absence, we need to do it ourselves. Every writer needs to find a way to step back every now and then and review the work with a critical eye. But it can't happen too early in the game. Sometimes you need to get far enough in to see where the problems are.

As a writer, I'm not big on outlining, which is probably why I need the MAKE IT WORK moment. I would love to be able to see every twist and turn of a 100,000 word plot before I begin. But for me my best moments come out of the writing. Listening to my characters, hearing them speak, sometimes being surprised by what comes out of their mouths, setting the scene, living in that world day in and day out – that's what brings out the best in me and my story. But writing this way can mean some missteps, so then I rewrite. Every now and then, I get stuck for a while. Sometimes I make the mystery impossible to figure out. My villain is so clever, I need to more clever if I'm going to figure out how to catch him. Sometimes, I put my characters in a really tough spot and again it takes a while to determine how they can possibly get out.

In my book SILENT RUN, the heroine is run off the road, and she wakes up in the hospital with no memory of wh Silentrunnyt120o she is or what she's done. A man appears at her bedside. He's furious with her. He claims she's his wife and she ran away from him seven months ago. He demands to know where their baby is. She doesn't remember him or a child or a marriage. Is he lying?  Or is she the horrible person he portrays her to be? I love this story, but it was tough to write. The character has no introspection about her life, because she doesn't know anything. She has to figure out who she is from the clues around her. She has to sift through what people tell her about herself and what she instinctively knows. At many points during this challenging novel, I would have loved to see Tim Gunn's kind face, although he probably would have said one of this other favorite lines, "What were you thinking?"

But as Project Runway reminds me, I'm the writer. I create the work I can make anything happen, and I can turn bad into good, sometimes into great, if I just keep going.  SILENT RUN turned out to be one of my best books.

Do you have any favorite shows? Any characters that relate to your life or inspire you? 



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Well, I did like MI-5, but I think that's over. And I enjoy watching "Chuck," or I did for the first three seasons. But I don't think I relate to the British Security Services or Best Buy-ish workers who moonlight with the US intelligence services. More like I relate to the faceless thousands who are potential victims on the shows week after week.

And Top Gear, which is just plan silly.

Ah, Barbara, you may have just created a new PROJECT RUNWAY fan. I don't think I've ever seen an entire episode, but if it will help me write my current book, I'm in.

Beautiful description of the writing process. Thanks. Just what I needed to hear today.

Barbara, I do watch Project Runway but not consistently. I have watched it and thought to myself "is this the same group of designers as the last time I watched". In Canada we it runs after it has finished in the states so if someone comments on it here in the blog or on FB I am totally out of the loop.

Tim Gunn would die if he saw my closet.

I like watching Fringe to see just what they can think of next. Also because it is now shot in Vancouver, I can watch and think to myself, I know where that is!

I also like watching Covert Affairs. Not only does the main character kick ass, she is doing her best to be a good sister, a good agent, a good aunt and have a life. And she can walk the walk in high heels as well.

I've been a lurker for some years now, but today's blog made me de-lurk,because that's the reason I found this wonderful blog and your delightful books (which, by the way, are a bit hard to find, since I'm a Finn.) :D

I've ever had only one favorite show and that was a soap opera from the 80's called Santa Barbara. The only reason why I fell for the show was one of their amazing leading ladies who also happens to be a writer of TLC. I related to the lovely character she played and she made me really want to touch people the way she did. It made me want to make as much difference in someone's life as her character did. I related to her also, because deep down she was quite insecure and I recognized a lot of same fears that we both had. That is the only thing I've ever seen on TV that has really hit home so strongly and I do watch TV A LOT.

It must've had quite an effect on me, because I'm here 25 years later still remembering it.
So,thank you Harley for making difference in my life!

Good grief! Hanna, thank you. I realize you were responding to some indefinable combination of writing, acting, directing, but I am touched to have been part of it and so pleased that you came out of lurkerdom to tell me.

Hi everyone - I'm so happy to be a guest on the blog! And Hanna - I remember Santa Barbara - probably because I went to college there!

Harley - I hope I've converted you - you'll love it!

I'm taking notes on some of your other favorite shows.

Another new show I really like is Against The Wall -- It's about a woman in a family of cops who has to take a job in Internal Affairs and her 3 cop brothers and cop dad don't like that she's on that side of the badge now. But what I like most about it is the family interaction.

The only time I keep up with Project Runway, since we don't have cable, is on the Tom & Lorenzo blog. They started out as Project Rungay, and now they comment on fashion, TV shows, and style, along with the PR commentary. Another show I've never seen is Mad Men, but the insightful and concise commentary by T-Lo had kept me in the loop the whole time it's been on.

For most of the last year I have barely watched TV, on purpose, mostly to avoid seeing political garbage. It makes me too angry to see politicians telling lies about each other. However, I did happen upon PBS's re-airing of the BBC show Doc Martin, which is my favorite show now.

Dr. Martin Ellingham was once a preeminent surgeon in London, until he developed hemaphobia, fear of blood. In short, he passes out cold. It's actually pretty funny, although in real life I suspect it would be horrifying. He had to leave his thriving business and flee to the little seaside village where his aunt lives and sells her farm produce. Doc Martin, as the village folk--some of whom are even odder than he is--is a crusty, possibly slightly autistic, stuffed shirt kind of guy. Also humorless. However, somehow he manages to have a love match with the lovely young headmistress of the local school. They nearly marry, but at the last minute can't go through with it. The next season opens with the headmistress coming back to the village after five months away, and she's six months pregnant.

Yet another new author to read. TLC, you're killing me!

Joining you, Karen, in loving Doc Martin! (and not going to spoil anything by letting you know what happens next). I hope they have some new episodes soon.
I love those quirky British shows!
I admit to loving many of the shows with crime-solving couples, too.

Didn't care for God of Carnage at the Rep today, but met my sister and two of the great-nephews at the $1 show to see HP7.2 for the second time -- very satisfying!

Way behind here--why do things always pile up on the weekend?--but my favorite show lately is Revenge. LOVE it. And what I'm learning about writing is that it never hurts to worry. A lot.

Thanks for coming by, Barbara!

Great post. I love Project Runway, I never miss it, and I LOVE Tim Gunn. Wouldn't it indeed be great if he would pop up every now and then to cast a critical eye on my writing and give his input. I think that's why I like the show so much, I can relate to it. It's not writing, but it's still creating, and there's a similar process.


I love the constructive reality shows--Project Runway, Top Chef, etc.--because you can match your idea of quality against that of the judges.

I think every editor should be forced to watch Tim Gunn in action, to learn how to give kind AND effective criticism.

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