Posts Tagged ‘The Writing Life’
One of the reasons I love to write is that I have a hard time understanding myself. I know it sounds odd. After all, who would understand you better than you do? But to some people like me contemplating your navel just is not in the books. We have too much to do and learn and see of the outside world to spend time trying to reach our inner child. However that can sometimes mean that we have a difficult time sharing ourselves with others. After all, if you do not know what is going on inside how can you share yourself with another person?
Although some people recommend therapy or talking it out, I go by a different approach. I use writing to discover myself. At first this was quite accidental. I wrote fiction for fun in my off hours and slowly started to see a pattern in my stories. I could see how characters would react and through that I learned about different aspects of myself.
For example I wrote several stories in which the main character was thrown into difficult situations and used their mental abilities to figure out a solution. Similarly when I run into an issue in my life I try to come up with a strategy to deal with it independently rather than giving into emotion or trying to cooperate with others. My characters did a lot of planning and scheming and very little off the cuff reaction. It was an interesting insight to say the least.
This also translated into my romantic relationships. In my stories I could have characters enter into these complex relationships where neither of them really talked too much but they still managed to have strong and loving partnerships. After quite a bit of trial and error in my own life I realized I was looking for the wrong things in my relationships. When I changed my thinking and went for partners patterned after the ones I wrote I was much more successful in my search.
Beyond just fiction however I have found that keeping a journal every day, like 750words.com, has helped me to be able to process my emotions and get more in touch with my feelings. This has allowed me to become a more well rounded person and given me the ability to coherently share my likes and dislikes with others rather than distancing myself from them.
Before I started writing for self discovery I found it very hard to deal with my inner thoughts and feelings. However once I can see it out on paper, no matter how garbled or translated, I can begin to work on the issues that bother me and focus my energies on the positives. Although this might not be the best idea for everyone, it definitely works for me.
Jason Miner plays a vital role for www.blogcarnival.com. He is an expert in writing topics of different categories. He is helping the carnival team to grow & working on making this an even better place for bloggers.
Seriously, though, writing, and especially fiction, is a lot like life…with both up’s and down’s. But this article is more about the “down’s,” so let’s look at that.
As an author, we’ve worked hard on creating our masterpiece. At least, I know I have, especially when I learned being talented was not enough. I read books on creating a Blockbuster novel, attend several fine writers’ conferences, where there were more good classes, about the entire spectrum of being an author, than I could possibly attend. I’d written four novels and was focused on getting my first, Trapped, as good as I could make it, and eventually published. I learned a lot about what makes good writing, and am amazed at how many people who strive to be authors just don’t do the work to develop their craft.
Anyhow, the only thing remotely “bad” about any of the above, was the time and effort it took to really polish my skills…and that really wasn’t so bad, after all. Some of the “bad” are things all authors experience…and have come to expect:
What’s really bad about rejection isn’t so much that this agent or that editor didn’t think your work was for them. It’s that you’ve slaved over the perfect query letter, after consuming a plethora of articles from those same agents/editors on how to do it right…how to create that compelling hook. And then you read their web site and write a personalized letter, showing them you know who they are and what they like. And then the rejection comes in your dutifully supplied SASE: “Dear Author (NOT personalized), Thanks for thinking of me. Unfortunately, this is not for us (Despite being right in the strike zone of what they say they love). Perhaps you will have better success with someone else.”
The frustration is that you went through a lot of effort to show them you MAY BE right for them, and they send the generic form letter. You know in your heart they probably never even looked at your submission. Agents admit they look for the tiniest things in the query to summarily reject you. Surely they are swamped with queries, but their cavalier dismissal of you treasure is very disheartening. How many great authors were nearly buried with rejections. Gresham, Louis L’amore (350 times – America’s premier western author, whom wrote classics, like “How the West was Won”, “Hondo,” & “Conager.”), and J.K. Rowlings are a few.
Another “bad” thing can be contests. Contests have great potential for the new author. I’ve entered several, and in fact my novel, Trapped, is published by TAG Publishers because I won their “Next Great American Novel” Contest. Trapped was also a finalist in the Florida Writers annual RPLA fiction contest, with over 300 entrants. And the “rub” here come from inconsistent judging. To qualify as a finalist in the RPLA, the novel has to receive a total of 80 or more points, out of a possible 100, based on two preliminary judges evaluation of 10 different criteria, 1 – 5 points for each. Trapped received a total of 48 from one judge and 46 from the other, both very complimentary of character development, scenes, and the 1st person POV throughout of my main character, Jackee. The latter was at the suggestion of Dee Burks, editor at TAG Publishers. Every chapter was from the POV of Jackee, and whatever happened away from her had to be learned by what she saw and what she heard.
Unfortunately, the finalist judge didn’t like all the things the two prelim judges loved, and he/she especially wanted scenes with the other characters’ POVs. So, of course, Trapped, did not win the RPLA in 2012. It’s interesting, however, that readers unanimously say they can’t put it down, and I attribute that partly to the 1st person POV. I’ve had two of my other novels also as finalists in the RPLA, with almost identical results. High marks in prelims, but the finalist judge going another way. That, as I like to say, is why they make “chocolate, vanilla and 39 other flavours.”
So, I guess the recap for “The bad side of being an author,” can be condensed into possibly one word: FRUSTRATION. Frustration with the entire judgement system that tends to keep new, very talented authors off the market.
Of course, now we have e-books, and anyone with a bit of computer skill can publish their tome. And unfortunately, self-published e-books (and print, as well, from all the POD companies, many of whom make their money mostly from the authors…not book sales) have come to be thought of as inferior… largely due to all those authors I mentioned earlier who aren’t willing to put in the work to become really good writers. There is, admittedly, a lot of junk out there. Hopefully, readers are able to sift out the nuggets and discard the chaff. That’s just one more potential frustration.
In spite of the above, I keep plugging. And it’s great to finally get the laudatory validation I’ve received for my work.
So maybe it’s all worth it, after all.
The darkness is still, silent. Jackee Maren’s heart pounds reverberating through her body as fear sears her veins. Someone’s coming. No way out. This time they will kill me. Her breath is short, her chest burns. Must run. Faster. Faster! Her eyes fly open, her heart still racing with blinding fear. Jackee breathes deeply with relief and stares at the ceiling desperately trying to calm herself. The same dream. Something, someone is watching . . . and waiting.
A tragic car accident leaves beautiful, vibrant Jackee Maren completely paralyzed, able to move only her eyes. Jackee’s husband, Phil, is devastated and her two young boys left with nothing but a shell for a mother, but still, Jackee senses the foreboding of an evil presence and knows time is short. Slowly, Jackee learns to communicate with her physical therapist, Kevin, by blinking her eyes. As evidence comes to light that her car accident was no accident, Jackee knows she must expose the person who wants her dead before they get a second chance. While Jackee works to put all the clues together, she discovers she has the ability to sense the thoughts of others, but she hides this talent from everyone but her sons, not knowing who she can trust. By actively exercising her new psychic ability, Jackee finally learns who masterminded the accident but feels helpless to stop them from trying to kill her again. Slowly a plan forms to not only ensure her boys are safe forever, but to exact revenge on her would-be murderer. Jackee vows not to rest until this killer understands what it is to be TRAPPED!
BOOK TRAILER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWHMGC-QHK8
I was born and raised in Chicago and its suburbs, living there until the age of 39. I’m now a retired corporate President, life-long fishing enthusiast, and a dedicated author. As is my nature, I’ve worked hard to improve my writing craft, and have produced 3 award-winnning novels, as finalist and/or winners of several large writing contests. I’ve also become a world-class fly-fisherman and am an expert in fly-fishing for pike & musky, and wrote a book on that, as well.
I now live in sunny Florida, and split my time between writing, fishing & fine cabinet making, but my greatest love is creating riviting fiction. TRAPPED is my first novel.
Posted in Crime/Detective, Paranormal, Romance, Romantic Suspense, suspense, The Writing Craft, The Writing Life, Uncategorized, Virtual Book Tour Guests, woman's fiction, tagged creativity, filling the creative well, inspiration, Paranormal, the importance of reading, The Writing Craft, The Writing Life, Trish McCallan on February 28, 2012 | 17 Comments »
I’ve always loved to read.
If I’m waiting somewhere and I’ve forgotten a book, I’ve been known to read the back of a match stick booklet, or every single item on the menu. In high school, college and early in my working life, I’d often read a book a day. I was voracious, devouring authors across almost every genre—romance, suspense, mystery, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction—I’d read it all. There was always a book in my hand and two or three in my backpack. When I started to drive they were tucked in the glove box, tossed in the back of the car, or sitting on the passenger seat beside me.
Back then, I couldn’t imagine a time when reading would get lost the shuffle of a busy life. I couldn’t imagine a life without reading.
This obsession with reading is what compelled me to write, to dwell in my own imagination, and bring my own worlds and characters to life. But as I sank deeper and deeper into writing, I stopped reading.
It happened so slowly I didn’t even notice.
I was working full time, with an hour commute each way. Plus, I was writing on the side. Writing brings with it a host of other time consuming activities, like critiquing, and beta reading. So I guess you could say I was reading, sometimes I even enjoyed what I read. But reading a critique partner’s work, chapter by chapter, isn’t the same as getting lost in a book. It doesn’t fill your creative well. Or at least it didn’t fill mine.
Since there are only so many hours in a day, and those hours were spent working, commuting, sleeping, writing and critiquing—reading evaporated. I literally didn’t have time to read.
I didn’t notice the affect at first. I was riding high on the drug of writing my first book and involved in several critique groups both online and local. When I realized it had been months since I’d read a book for pure enjoyment, I shrugged the realization aside. Serious writing, required serious sacrifices, I told myself. I couldn’t afford to cut back on the time I spent writing and critiquing, not if I wanted to get published. The reading, however, wasn’t necessary. I could do without the reading.
I was so naïve.
The months turned into a year. And then two and then three. I went from reading a book a day, to reading maybe a book a year. As that third year without reading bled into a fourth, my creativity dulled. Everything I read from critique partners sounded vacant, and dull. Everything I wrote felt stagnant and boring. All those exciting premises churning through my mind, tarnished. Like wisps of smoke on the wind, they blew away. All the sudden I was left with no interest and no energy for writing. There were no images, no stories, and no characters in my mind. No words demanding their time on the page. My mind felt empty. My creativity gone.
I struggled for months with this strange apathy, forcing myself to write even though the enthusiasm was gone, forcing myself to critique even though everything thing about every story irritated me. Because my critique partners’ work couldn’t pierce this mental fatigue, I didn’t think other fiction could either. Instead I turned to television and dulled my mind even further.
The only reason I started reading again was because I lost electricity one day. With no television, I had no way to occupy myself, so I picked up a book for the first time in years. The book was Vanished by T. J. McGregor and it revitalized me. I got lost in that book—lost in an imaginary world, with imaginary people. And when that ride was over, I reached for another book and took another imaginary ride. And then another. What followed was a reading glut like I hadn’t enjoyed in years. Not since I started writing.
And wonder of wonders my creativity surged. Suddenly new ideas and new characters started spinning through my mind. The words that streamed from my fingers onto the computer screen were vibrant and thrilling. My critique partners’ chapters were brilliant.
My creative well was full again.
Since then I’ve made time for reading—allowing myself a major reading glut every couple of months. And with each reading glut my creativity has soared. It was the Black Dagger Brotherhood that inspired Forged in Fire, my paranormal romantic suspense. Without that reading glut, without that inspiration, I would never have written Forged, which means I wouldn’t have been able to quit my day job in order to write full time.
So it’s fitting that my first resolution this year is to read more. At least a book a week. I have a brand new Nook Tablet and I’m filling it with books: Christy Reece’s Last Chance series, the fourth book in Maya Bank’s KGI series, and the first two books in Elisabeth Naughton’s Eternal Guardians. Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Linda Howard, Lara Adrian, Caris Roane, they are all either downloaded into my Nook or about to be downloaded.
What do you have on your Kindle or Nook or sitting on your bedside table?
About the book:
Beth Brown doesn’t believe in premonitions until she dreams a sexy stranger is gunned down during the brutal hijacking of a commercial airliner. When events in her dream start coming true, she heads to the flight’s departure gate. To her shock, she recognizes the man she’d watched die the night before.
Lieutenant Commander Zane Winters comes from a bloodline of elite warriors with psychic abilities. When Zane and two of his platoon buddies arrive at Sea-Tac Airport, he has a vision of his teammates’ corpses. Then she arrives—a leggy blonde who sets off a different kind of alarm.
As Beth teams up with Zane, they discover the hijacking is the first step in a secret cartel’s deadly global agenda and that key personnel within the FBI are compromised. To survive the forces mobilizing against them, Beth will need to open herself to a psychic connection with the sexy SEAL who claims to be her soul mate.
“Forged In Fire is a smoking hot adventure with an irresistible alpha hero. Danger, action, suspense, and a steamy romance make a story that’s impossible to put down!”
–Patti O’Shea, National Bestselling Author of Through a Crimson Veil
About the author:
Trish McCallan has been writing for as long as she can remember. In grade school she wrote children’s stories, illustrating them with crayons and binding the sheets together with pencil-punched holes and red yarn. She used to sell these masterpieces at her lemonade stand for a nickel a book. Surprisingly, people actually bought them. Like, all of them. Every night she would have to write a new batch for her basket.
As she got older her interest changed to boys and horses. The focus of her literary masterpieces followed this shift. Her first full length novel was written in seventh grade and featured a girl, a horse and a boy. At the end of the book the teenage heroine rode off into the sunset . . . with the horse.
These days she sticks to romantic suspense with hot alpha heroes and roller-coaster plots. Since she is a fan of all things bizarre, paranormal elements always seem to find a way into her fiction. Her current release, Forged in Fire, was the result of a Black Dagger Brotherhood reading binge, a cold, a bottle of NyQuil and a vivid dream.
Posted in Articles, The Writing Life, Virtual Book Tour Guests, tagged campaign, dirt, elections, Horror, mark laflamme, politics, stephen king, suspense, the pink room, The Writing Life, thriller, vegetation, writing on December 16, 2008 | 11 Comments »
So, I’m sitting at a gloomy bar and gazing dreamily into the mirror behind the array of bottles. I’m not thinking about anything deep, really. Just wondering if my nose is getting bigger and if I should do something about that.
A burly man sits down next to me and taps his fingers on the bar to summon the bartender. Then he turns to me.
“You must be a writer,” he says.
I nod happily, giant nose bobbing up and down.
“That’s right,” I tell him. “What gave me away? The deep thought? A clip of conversation that hinted at an ability for literary gymnastics? An air of seething imagination?”
“No,” said the man. “I just noticed that you drink a lot.”
Misconceptions about writers are everywhere. There are still those who remain convinced that we are all modern incarnations of Faulkner, stumbling from our drunken beds just long enough to eat food directly from pans and to pound out five thousand words of prose before climbing back into our bottles.
I can live with this particular myth. Let them romanticize the craft by imagining us all as brooding intellectuals chained to our addictions as we cope with the crushing weight of genius.
But other misconceptions absolutely slay me.
If you get one book out there – just one, mind you – there will be those who assume you are fantastically rich. They will wonder aloud why you’re driving around in a 1992 Stanza when you must have a vault of cash somewhere from all of those book sales. They will ask you directly why your shoes have holes in them when Saks is just a short jet ride away.
Is it any wonder we drink?
There are those who will offer up advice on getting your book into the hands of a behemoth publishing house, or getting crazy buzz for an existing book, in one easy sentence: “You ought to send your book to Stephen King.”
Yes, Stephen King, who writes three novels a week and tours like a rock star, will probably save your ass. He’ll drop everything, flip through your rough draft with all its crazy margin notes and coffee stains, and see that it gets off to Random House.
With a personal recommendation, of course.
When the masses get wind of your writing efforts, they will immediately presume that after writing a novel or two, you are now tapped out of ideas. They will approach you in corner stores and windy parking lots to save you from literary asphyxiation.
“You know what you should write about?” they will say. “Boy, have I got some ideas for you.”
They say Faulkner was a sober man until this started happening.
Most authors I know have more ideas afloat then they have time to write them. Presently between novels, my most pressing problem now isn’t conjuring up some grand idea but deciding which of a half dozen to tackle next.
Do I want to write about the iPod playlist delivering subtle messages to the music listener? Should I go with the cannibalism plot dreamed up one weird night while dining with the in-laws? Do I want to write that story about what happens within the brain in the final seconds of life?
Lots to choose from, yet a minimum of two people today will try to convince me that their ideas require immediate attention from me personally.
Who among you will share his bottle with me?
There is a certain mystery about anyone who makes a living out of the written word. Non-writers look upon the author the way they look upon a campfire, wondering over the seeming magic of it. They want to know where all those ideas come from. They want to know what it is like to have a million words circling in the sky of your mind all at once, like a murder of crows that never flies away.
The mystery and the stereotypes don’t hurt much. They’ve been around since the first caveman, having not yet discovered liquor, scrawled his thoughts upon a stone. When people marvel over you as a writer, they will be more tempted to check out your work, forking over money you can use to buy new shoes.
Embrace the mystery, I say. Greet all of those misinformed comments and answer those endless questions with flourish. Stare into the mirror above the bar like the pensive literary beast that you are and make them wonder about what goes on within that writer’s mind.
And while you’re at it, take a look at my nose. Seriously, is it getting bigger?
Mark LaFlamme is an award-winning crime reporter and columnist at the Sun Journal in Lewiston, Maine. His weekly column, Street Talk, where he often compares editors to bats, spiders, extraterrestrial slugs, and “other beings too diabolical to describe,” has been named Best in Maine and Best in New England. In 2006, LaFlamme was named Journalist of the Year by the Maine Press Association.
Read an interview with Mark LaFlamme here.
Check out LaFlamme’s books on Amazon:
Posted in Articles, The Writing Craft, The Writing Life, Uncategorized, tagged every reasonable doubt, in firm pursuit, inspiration, murder on the low down, pamela samuels young, The Writing Life, writing craft on December 13, 2008 | 2 Comments »
You’ve been working on your novel for months, maybe even years, and lately you feel more discouraged than ever. Perhaps it’s the disappointment of not having finished the book yet. Maybe you don’t know where to go next with your story. Or it’s possible that you’re just physically and emotional drained from all the time and effort you’ve poured into this dream. I’ve been there!
Each time I fall into the writing dumps, I wonder if I’ll ever dig myself out. Fortunately, I always do. You’ve put too much time into this venture. Now is not the time to give up.
Here are my top five tips for re-energizing yourself when you feel like giving up.
Read Inspirational Stories About Writing and Writers
Take a writing break and read about other successful writers who weathered the storm. Here are two excellent books to get you started:
Knit Together: Discovery God’s Pattern for Your Life by Debbie Macomber.
This book was such an inspiration to me. Macomber, a best selling writer with more than 100 million books in print, openly shares her story of writing rejection. Once you read about her writing journey, you’ll close the book anxious to get back to your own novel.
Rotten Reviews & Rejections, edited by Bill Henderson and Andre Bernard. This book shares the rejection letters and stinging reviews received by many successful and prolific writers, from Stephen King to Upton Sinclair to James Joyce and more. You’ll scratch your head at the discouraging rejection letters these wonderful writers received. They didn’t give up, and you shouldn’t either.
Don’t Strive for Perfect Prose
Many new writers think that everything that flows from their computer must be golden. Hence, if they write a few pages which doesn’t sound worthy of a Pulitzer, they’re disappointed. Forget about writing a perfect first draft. The most important part of writing is rewriting. Just concentrate on finishing a first draft. Then revise until you’re pleased with the final product.
Set a Writing Goal
Make a commitment to write a set number of pages per week. Can you commit to writing 10 or 15 pages per week? Or maybe committing to write three hours a day or three days a week works better for you. Whatever goal you set, make sure it’s realistic. Start out small and once you get into the flow of things, increase the goal. And if you fall short one week, don’t beat yourself up. There’s always next week.
Start a Writer’s Group
Put the word out that you’re looking to start a writer’s group. Tell friends, family members and colleagues that you’re looking for three or four serious writers who would like to build a supportive writing environment for themselves and other writers. You’ll probably have a lot of interest in the beginning, but only the serious writers will be around for the long haul. Establish a regular meeting time (at least once a month) and require at least two members to produce work for the group to critique each month.
Think About Your Story
Most people assume that if you’re not putting words on paper, then you’re not “writing.” I don’t feel that way. The next time you’re taking a long walk, standing in a grocery store line, or stuck in traffic, use the time to mull over your story. Think about your characters or your plot. Imagine your protagonist having a conversation. Think about how you might describe a room. Challenge yourself to invent a predicament that creates conflict for your character. If you come up with some great ideas, don’t forget to write them down.
Hang in there!
Pamela Samuels Young is a practicing attorney and author of the legal thrillers, Murder on the Down Low, Every Reasonable Doubt and In Firm Pursuit. You can find Pamela’s articles on writing at BizyMoms.com, where she is a featured fiction writing expert.
One of the things writers are asked most often is: where do you get your ideas from? I’ve heard all kinds of responses. I’m envious of the writers who know… but I suspect they are few and far between. The truth, for me, is that they fall out of the sky. They are an amalgamation of the life I’ve lived, the people I’ve known, the books I’ve read, the movies I’ve watched, the songs I’ve loved… and often all at oblique angles.
Example: I watch a lot of true crime shows. I watched one recently that was telling the story of this poor woman who’d been kidnapped by a man and his wife and imprisoned for six or seven years. I won’t go into all the horrible details, but suffice to say that it sparked something. What I ended up writing had little, if nothing, to do with the original story – but it started the ball rolling. Another time, I was writing about a relationship between two characters, and I remembered when a woman in my life had asked me to sing her to sleep because she loved the sound of my voice. My voice is nothing special, in my opinion, but her love of it was so honest and genuine, I couldn’t refuse. This found it’s way into the book, even though the character I ascribed it to was nothing like the real life woman I’d sung to.
I suppose people (self included) look for formulas for things. An ‘if you do A and B, then C will occur’. Writing is no different. In the end, I guess there aren’t any easy answers, or, if you really want to get down to it – there are too many. ‘Write what you know’ is true sometimes. ‘Less is more’ is true sometimes. But ‘rules are made to be broken’ can be true in the right moment as well. It’s all about a feeling in the gut, for me. ‘This goes there.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because it does.’
A last, too-cutesy little mention. If you want to get all butterfly effect and zen-ish. I once sat down and wrote out an idea for a story. It was a good idea, and, I thought, an original one. A few days later, I was watching one of those true crime shows, and there my idea was – in real life. Something that had happened years ago. I’d never heard the real life story, but the parallels were downright spooky. I’d come up with an idea for a story. A real life killer had executed this idea years before. Did we both get our inspiration from the same place?
Maybe, sometimes, ideas come from a dark little man in a dark little room who sings and claps his hands and laughs while we dance to his tune.
–A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Cody McFadyen is the author of the international bestsellers Shadow Man and The Face of Death. A third book, The Darker Side, is coming out this October.
Read an interview with Cody at The Dark Phantom.
Posted in Book Reviews, Non-Fiction, The Writing Craft, The Writing Life, tagged books, editing, John D. Bessler, The Writing Craft, The Writing Life, writing, Writing for Life on December 16, 2007 | 3 Comments »
Hundreds of books on writing are available on the market these days. I try to get my hands on any new writing book that comes out, even though most of them end up being repetitive in one way or the other. I was pleasantly surprised by Bessler's book because, while it touches on the same topics which other similar books touch upon, this one does it in more depth and detail. Definitely it's a 'heavier' book and a longer read than titles such as Writing Down the Bones. Furthermore, because of Bessler's more formal writing style, it is a harder book to read and one that would be better appreciated by nonfiction writers, especially by legal writers.
Writing for Life isn't a grammar book, though it stresses its importance and recommends titles on the subject. Using lots of interesting quotes from some of the great writers and offering helpful tips, the author meticulously discusses a long list of topics such as the importance of daily practice, perseverance, discipline, style, editing, polishing and revising, storytelling, and freewriting. He also writes about procrastination and writer's block–what it is and how to cure it. As I said, these are the same topics that pop out in any writing book, but the difference here is that Bessler goes much deeper and examines the issues in more detail. He's an attorney and it shows in the writing. I particularly enjoyed his insight into the elusive concept of 'style'.
Writing for Life is a smart, insightful and sophisticated book. It is also well researched and would serve as a fine addition to any writer's reference bookshelf.