Writers – It’s what we are

Today I’ve got Elysa Hendricks on the blog talking about why we write. I loved this piece and I completely agree with Lisa.

Here’s Lisa!

Writing is hard work. Whether an author writes fiction or non-fiction she spends weeks, months, sometimes years working alone to create her prose. She opens her literary veins and bleeds her hopes and fears, dreams and insecurities onto the page, a process much like giving birth, in the hope that her words can convey her ideas to some unknown reader.

Then once she writes those two glorious words – The End – she discovers that the process has merely begun. Now she has to revise, edit and polish her opus. And after that the hard part begins. She carefully packs up her imperfect infant and ships her off to a harsh stranger, the ultimate judge – The Editor.

If she’s fortunate The Editor will like her carefully crafted words and want to publish them with only minor revisions and edits– say, 299 pages out of the total 300. Most of the time though the answer comes back – Thanks, but no thanks – with little or no explanation as to why her baby didn’t make the grade.

Writing is hard, lonely work. Rejection is more common than acceptance. And with few exceptions the monetary rewards are small. So why do we continue to write?

Why do we breathe? Why do we eat?

We write because it’s not what we do, it’s what we are. We’re writers. Storytellers.

Mankind’s need to communicate goes back to the caveman. Even without the benefit of the written word, or pen and paper, cavemen were compelled to put down their history and stories on the walls of their caves. The human need to share our thoughts, dreams and stories was so strong we created the written word.

Each of you feels the same compulsion that long ago caveman felt. Inside your head the voices of your characters clamor for their stories to be told. You’re reading this because you want to learn how to better tell those stories. To learn more about the craft of writing – the rules.

Sommerset Maughm said, “There are three rules to writing, unfortunately no one knows what they are.”

This is both true and untrue. Writing is a both a craft and an art. And as with any craft there are skills you can learn – spelling, grammar, POV, Show Don’t Tell, Goal, Motivation, Conflict, Scene & Sequel, etc. These are the so-called “rules” of writing. They can be learned and practiced and used to enhance your writing. And once you know them there will be times when you’ll chose to break them.

But writing is also an art. You can learn the craft of writing, but it’s the art that gives writing its life.

Maybe it would be clearer to call the parts – mechanics and talent – rather than craft and art. Like Lance Armstrong I can ride a bike. I can even go fast – for a short bit. Maybe with training I could improve my mechanics of riding to ride faster and longer, but would I ever have the talent for racing that Lance displays? I’ll never know for sure, but I doubt it, because I don’t have the desire to be a bike racer. That doesn’t mean I can’t continue to enjoy bike riding and continue to improve my skill.

Over the years I’ve attended writing workshops, read books on writing, and most of all I’ve written to improve my writing mechanical abilities, but do I have talent? I like to think so, but I’m not sure. In the end it doesn’t really matter. The need to write, to tell my stories is overwhelming. I’m a writing addict. Talent or no talent I’d rather stop breathing than writing. So like the song says, “I’ll just stay addicted and hope I can endure.”

Talent is a gift, but like a tender young plant it must be protected, cultivated, supported and fed. Rejection forces us to grow tough outer skins to protect the bud of talent in our souls. To cultivate that bud we take writing workshops to improve our skills, and by improving our skills we support our talent. Every word, every sentence, and every story we write nourishes and makes our talent stronger.

So read, learn, grow, and write.

About Elysa:

Elysa Hendricks is 5’6″ tall. She has curly hair and brown eyes. She’s an author, a wife, a mother, and a daughter. Everything else is subject to change without notice. She loves hearing from readers and other writers. You can find her on her web site: http://www.elysahendricks.com or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Elysa-Hendricks-Author/137316289643103

Blurb for The Baby Race:

Race Reed doesn’t want a wife, but to save his ranch he needs a baby. To gain custody of her stepsister, Claire Jensen needs a husband, but she wants love. Wants and needs are bound to clash when they run The Baby Race.

Race Reed reserves his love and attention for the abused horses he cares for on his ranch. Because his mother changed husbands as often as she changed clothes, doesn’t believe in wedded bliss. Now to save his ranch he needs the money his paternal grandmother is offering as a marriage incentive. The bizarre contest she’s set up between him and his two cousins to produce her first great-grandchild is another matter. His only option – cheat in The Baby Race.

Claire Jensen wants two things out of life, home and family. During her younger years she never questioned her father’s nomadic lifestyle as he hunted for treasure, but as she grew older she longed to put down roots. When her father remarried and gave Claire a stepmother and baby stepsister, she’d thought her prayers were answered. Instead, she took over the parental role to her stepsister as her father and stepmother continued to search the world for treasure. In every way that matters, the six-year-old is Claire’s daughter. When Claire’s father and stepmother are killed on their latest quest for treasure, without a steady job, husband or home, Claire is about to lose custody of her young stepsister. Her only option – run the The Baby Race.

To everyone who visits today Elysa is offering a FREE ebook copy of my contemporary romance COUNTERFEIT LOVE. To download your FREE copy of COUNTERFEIT LOVE go to: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/83527
Use Coupon Code: MM24E (Expires 12-31-12)

Cindy here!

Thanks so much for joining me today, Elysa. I’m going over to Smashwords now to get my copy of your book!

Happy writing!

Cindy

H is for…High Concept

So much has been written and debated about high concept. Do you need it? Does it matter if your story isn’t high concept? Will it still sell? Who cares if it’s high concept? And the most important questions – what the heck is high concept? And how can I get it?

So, first, do you need it? Depends. If you’re submitting to agents and editors then I would say probably. They’re always saying they want the same but different. Translation – high concept. They want something with inherent marketability. Does it matter if your story isn’t high concept? Will it still sell? Yes, it can still sell. Just because editors and agents are looking for the same but different doesn’t mean they always get high concept stories.  Stories have sold and continue to sell that aren’t high concept. Who cares if it’s high concept? You should. It’s easier to sell if it is.

What the heck is high concept? People tend to think if they can boil their concept down to that twenty-five word logline they have high concept.  That’s not what makes it high concept.  I can do that with a lot of my stories but only a handful are actually high concept.

So then what is it? From my workshop on loglines:

The concept must be unique

The concept must appeal to a wide audience

The concept should have a likeable protagonist (though this isn’t always the case)

The there should be high stakes

The concept can be told in a single sentence and you see the whole movie (or book)

High concept pitches can make it easier to communicate up through the chain of command.  If your idea is too complicated, by the time it reaches the top, it may sound like a totally different idea.  Anyone ever play telephone as a child?  It also forces you to determine what the story is really about.  What the core of the story is.

How do you get high concept if your story isn’t already there? First step is to not be married to your concept. All too often writers will get an idea and start running with it. Developing plot points, characters, dialogue. At that point they are reluctant to change the idea, even a little bit, to make it better. Me, I don’t get married to any of my concepts. I have a book that I’ve completely rewritten once and now I’m thinking of rewriting it again to add another element that will make the story better. Probably half the pages will need to go to accommodate the new story element. That’s a rare instance. I usually don’t even start writing anything for the story until I narrow down the concept line. Once I’m happy with that I move on to the story.

The example I use in my high concept lesson for the loglines class is:

Original:  To prevent an assassination a delusional hooker must get married but her cover is blown and her fiancé becomes a target.

Rework one:  To prevent the assassination of the president a delusional hooker must get married but his cover is blown and his fiancé turns out to be the enemy.

The first rework isn’t great but it’s higher concept than the original.

So, anyone want to share concepts so we can brainstorm ways to elevate them to something higher concept?

Happy writing!

Cindy

G is for…Genre

In the writing world, what genre is your book is the equivalent of the singles scene what’s your sign. At every writing meeting I’ve been to one of the first questions that gets asked is – What do you write? That translates to what genre is your book. The answer to that question is easy when you only write in one genre. A recognizable, defined genre.

I write in more than one genre and some of my books combine two or more genres. Why do we even care about genres? I think we shouldn’t worry about them when writing the book. Some say you shouldn’t care about them at all even when submitting. It’s the agent’s job to figure out what genre your book falls into and which editors take what genres. But I do think it’s important for the writer to know what genre the book is. On the agent’s submission page they list the genres they accept. If you don’t know what genre your book is how will you know if it’s one of the genres the agent accepts?

Say you don’t want to submit to an agent or an editor. Say you’ve been there, done that and it got you nowhere so you’re going to self publish. Great! But you still need to know where your book fits on the virtual bookshelf. Readers search by genre. At least this reader does. If your book has more than one genre, which genre is more prevalent? With the exception of my erotica (under a different name) all of my stories contain some sort of crime or suspense aspect. I would then have to figure out if I should put my book in the suspense/thriller category or the paranormal or urban fantasy.

So think about your book and see which of these genres it might fit into. These are probably not all the genres out there.

Romance

Science Fiction

Fantasy

Horror

ChickLit

Suspense

Thrillers

Western

Historical

Urban Fantasy

Young Adult

What’s even more confusing are the sub-genres. I won’t get into all of them here but in the romance genre alone there are no less than ten sub-genres. So keep the genre at the back of your mind as you write. One day you will need to know the genre one day.

I might actually get some writing done now before bed.

Happy writing!

Cindy

F is for…Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is not just short fiction. It’s stories that are 1,000 words or less. How on earth can you tell a whole story, beginning, middle and end, with characterization in under 1,000 words? I found it hard enough switching from 85,000 word novels to 2,500 word short stories.  There was no way I could write a flash fiction piece. All the flash fiction pieces I write, though under 1,000 words, could be turned into more. The endings aren’t really endings. You be the judge. Here’s one I wrote based on a sentence I found somewhere.

“Not many people would have required stitches after washing the dishes, but then again I’ve always thought of myself as special.” Fiona Scott held up her middle finger to show off her war wound.

“No! What did your mom say?” Karen’s wide eyes stared at the stitches. The grimace on her face made Fiona smile.

“She practically fainted,” Fiona said.

“She’s a nurse.”

Fiona shrugged. “She said it was different when it’s your own kid.”

“Does it hurt?”

Fiona wiggled her fingers and plunged her hands into the dishwater again. “Nah. Hurt like hell yesterday though.”

“And she’s making you do the dishes again?

“It beats having to take my brother shopping.”

Fiona sighed, enjoying the relative quiet of the house. With her little brother there she never had any quiet time. She cherished the moment.

“Why doesn’t she get a dishwasher?”

“I’m cheaper, apparently.” Karen jumped off the kitchen chair and grabbed a tea towel. “You know you don’t have to help me.”

Karen grinned. “I know but the sooner you finish the sooner we can get out of here.”

Fiona swooshed her hand around in the water to see if she’d missed anything. There was always a fork or a spoon languishing at the bottom. A sharp pain in her finger made her jerk her hand. But she couldn’t get it out of the water.

“Ouch!”

“What is it?”

“I think I cut myself again and now my finger is stuck.”

Karen reached her hand into the water. “It doesn’t feel like it’s stuck on anything.”

A tug on her finger sent fresh pain up her arm. “Something’s wrong.”

Before she could say anything else the tug on her finger changed to something yanking on her arm. As she was pulled closer to the sink all she could think was it’s not big enough for me to fit. But a splash echoed in her ears, water surrounded her, her lungs hurt and everything went black.

#

“Fiona, wake up.”

Karen’s voice pulled Fiona out of what had to be the weirdest dream she’d ever had. She opened her eyes and groaned. When had the sky turned purple? Where was the kitchen?

“Where are we?”

Fiona looked around, a chill running up her spine. “I don’t know.”

Happy writing!

Cindy

E is for…Editing

Every writer knows (or should know) that once you finish writing the book, it`s not done. You need to edit. A lot of writers I know hate to edit. But I love it. For me, that’s where I find most of the gems I my stories. The really great turn of phrase. The excellent description. The better solution to a plot problem.

 

What should you look for when you edit? Depends on how you edit. I like to leave the book for at least a few weeks before I even look at it again. I do a general pass, reading through the story to find plot problems. Then the meat of the edits begin. I dig out my Margie Lawson class notes and start applying her classes to my work. I highlight all the main components (plot, character, dialogue, action, introspection) with different colours to see if I’ve over used one. Under used one. Once I fix those I go back and really edit for the rhetorical devices, the dialogue cues, the cliched phrases. I’ll read the whole thing out loud, not just the dialogue bits. You can always tell when something sounds clunky if you read it out loud. And I should say, that’s the process I’m GOING to do when I finally finish this NaNoWriMo 2010 book. By the end of it the novel should sparkle.

 

Wish I could say I’m going to write now. But it’s late so it’s bed for me.

 

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

D is for…Dialogue

There are so many parts to a novel that make it memorable. The use of words. The description. The characters. And the dialogue.

 

Dialogue is so important to both novels and movies but it’s one of the hardest things to get right. It has a big job. Not only must dialogue give the reader or viewer information they wouldn’t get in any other way, it also has to reveal character, foreshadow events, provide conflict. Help with resolution. Contrary to what some might believe it should not be responsible for telling your story. The action of your movie or book should do that. Dialogue should enhance what’s already there.

 

So what can you do to improve your dialogue?

 

There are a lot of books out there on writing dialogue. There are even some workshops. And I’m sure you’ve all heard the advice about listening to how people talk. All of those are good ways to improve your dialogue but please don’t write dialogue the way people actually talk. People tend to add a lot of unnecessary pauses, ums, no, yes etc., when they talk. We also don’t constantly repeat the name of the person we’re talking to. Example:

 

“What do you mean by that, Cindy?”

 

“Well, um, Fred, I mean you shouldn’t do, you know, what I’m doing now.”

 

“Cindy, I still don’t get it.”

 

“Fred, seriously? You don’t get it?”

 

“No, Cindy I really don’t.”

 

The best advice I ever heard about improving my dialogue was to keep the character in the dialogue. So know your character and make each piece of dialogue that character says reflect one of their characteristics. Another awesome piece of advice that I don’t use just for dialogue was to read it aloud. I read my dialogue aloud to make sure it sounds right, doesn’t feel forced or stiff.

 

Remembering killer lines of dialogue from movies is easy. But can you think of a great piece of dialogue from a book? What’s the line and name the book.

 

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

C is for…Conferences and Conventions

Writing is a very solitary endeavour. It’s important to get out of the writing cave and talk, in person, with other writers. If you belong to a writing group that’s great. Small groups of writers chatting is always great. But what I love is the conference or convention. You can talk with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people just like you. And if you go to genre specific conferences they’re really like you. Okay, not just like you as in clone, but you get the idea.

 

What’s great about conferences and conventions is the common bond. The learning experiences with the workshops offered. The networking opportunities (you never know who you’re going to be eating lunch with). The pitching opportunities. And don’t forget the free books. If we didn’t like books we wouldn’t have decided to be writers.

 

Conference and convention season is approaching. So, some random pieces of advice for those planning on attending a conference:

 

1. Check out the workshop schedule in advance and have a plan.

 

2. Get business cards printed and be prepared to hand them out.

 

3. Have an elevator pitch ready – you never know who’s going to ask that question all writers get asked – So what’s your story about?

 

4. Get there early (a few days if possible) and learn the layout of the hotel, find the rooms for your workshops.

 

5. Pack business casual attire that is comfortable for workshops, meetings, pitches.

 

6. At the banquet lunches or dinners sit with strangers if possible. That way you meet more people.

 

7. Have fun.

 

Some upcoming conferences:

 

Bloody Words – Canadian Mystery Conference – June 1 – June 3

 

New York Pitch Conference – June 21 – June 24

 

ThrillerFest – July 11 – July 14

 

Romance Writers of America Annual Conference – July 25 – July 28

 

70th World Science Fiction Convention – August 30 – September 2

 

A place with more listings – The Shaw Guide to Writers Conferences and Workshops

 

There are far too many to mention here but if you know of other conventions/conferences let me know.

 

Who’s going to a conference this year? I’ll be at ChiCon 7 in August.

 

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

B is for…Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a great way to come up with a lot of ideas fast. As a writer I find I frequently need brainstorming help for plot points, situations. For some reason I can’t come up with the ideas for myself but I’m great at brainstorming for other people. When it’s your own story it’s a little too close to you and you find it harder to think outside the box.

 

I completely forgot Script Frenzy started yesterday so I’m deep in brainstorming mode for my script. While I have a general idea for the story I need to work out the beats of the script so I can start writing pages. Brainstorming in person is the best way to brainstorm for me. But I might have to visit an online chat room with other writers to help with the story. One of my favourite tools for brainstorming is The Writer’s Brainstorming Kit by Pam McCutcheon and Michael Waite. I love it. It’s very helpful for coming up with ideas. Situations.

 

If I can’t figure most of this stuff out by the weekend I will be in the WritingGIAM chat room to get help from my fellow GIAMers. They’re awesome at brainstorming. I also have a local writing meeting tomorrow.

 

How do you brainstorm?

 

Useful links for brainstorming:

 

What is brainstorming?

 

25 Useful Brainstorming Techniques

 

Brainstorming Techniques from MindTools

 

Haven’t had a chance to blog hop yet but I’ll do some of that tomorrow after my meeting.

 

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

A is for…Adoption Society

Today is the first day of the A – Z Blog Challenge. I hope to provide lots of useful writing information during the challenge and beyond. I guess you guys will be the judge of that. 🙂

 

The adoption society in the post title is not about children or pets. It refers to the forum topics in the NaNoWriMo website and the ScriptFrenzy website. Ever wanted to write something but didn’t know what to write? Ever known you’d never write a story idea you had but you didn’t want it to go to waste? That’s what the adoption society is for. Ideas/story concepts available for anyone who wants them. If you’ve never checked them out you really should. You don’t need to be a member to view the posts but I highly recommend joining if you’re a writer.

 

What I love about the adoption society is how much choice there is. You can adopt almost anything from a story idea, a useless talent, a magical power, a fear, an opening line. There are probably hundreds of things you can adopt. I have no problem coming up with ideas but I’ve procrastinated a lot going through the adopt a plot threads. Some of those ideas are awesome! I can’t believe the people who came up with them didn’t want to write them. I found a few I’m going to eventually write.

 

Stay tuned for B tomorrow!

 
Cindy

Guelph Write Now gets a blog!

Ever since I started the group I’d thought about adding a blog. At the time I decided against it, opting for a static website only. Because I’m concentrating on targeting readers on my personal blog I elected to give Guelph Write Now a blog so I could still talk writing. Until I get in a groove the posts might be sporadic. But they’ll all focus on writing.  I’m also hoping group members will choose to blog here too so blog readers can get different perspectives on various writing topics.

 

We will be participating in the A – Z Blog Challenge with some members helping with those posts.

 

Come back soon for lots of writing information!

 

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

 

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