Header Image - Getting the words out by any means possible.

The Trick of Writing

by Jonathan 3 Comments

 

ideas head tree

It is no mean feat getting those amazing ideas from your brain onto paper.

 

Millions of people doing their thing on any part of this earth at any given time have great story ideas swimming in their head (to wit). There is a subset of people who try to get those ideas from their heads onto paper in the form of writing, visual arts or music. Within that subset there are people who are able to not only get the ideas down, but also are able to get them down well. Then there are those who are brilliant and get their ideas down in such a way that they make us laugh, weep and fret.

The secret to succeeding as a writer, if you believe what you see on various writing blogs and in writing books, is to methodically pound out the words, revise, rewrite and persevere. That’s true, but it doesn’t get at the underlying challenge: getting your readers to see that thing you saw in your head that prompted you to write in the first place.

I’m not saying the writing schedule, the revisions, the writing and the perseverance won’t aid you tremendously in your efforts — it will. What I am saying is that it is difficult to know if you are succeeding because you, the writer, are so close to the material. You know your characters, their back stories, their motivations and their aspirations. You know the look and feel of the setting of your story. You know the hidden twists and the subtext of the conversations. All of these things make it even more difficult to know if your writing is doing what you want it to.

So how do you find out? Get others to read your work – people you can trust to be honest with you about your writing. The more people who will do this for you, the better. Some writers turn to writing groups, others go for the workshop scene. Some writers have a circle of writing friends who, while not a writing group, are willing to lend the support necessary. Different readers will provide insights to different things. Readers of the type of work you are writing can tell you if it is cliche, mundane, confusing or a rollicking thrillride of a read. Readers who are writers or editors can provide you with technical feedback as well as feedback about the overall story.

Finding these people is easier than you think – There is a robust writing community on Twitter (#amwriting hash tag is a good one to get started), in the blogosphere (Bibliophile Stalker’s links, Writer Unboxed, any number of writer blogs like Mark Charan Newton’s) and probably not that far from where you live (do a Google search for writing group [your state] to get started). Get involved in the conversation and you will develop relationships with writers from all over — Writers like to share because they toil alone and like to encourage and commiserate. Review your friendships for those people who may have some editing or writing chops, look to online writing resources such as the Online Writing Workshop for sci-fi and fantasy writers, or go to conventions with a goal to participate and network (without being pushy, of course).

And how do I know this? I’m in the process of doing this myself. I have the good fortune of having people in my life who are readers of fantasy and are excited by my work. I also have the good fortune to know some folks who have writing and editing backgrounds. However, I don’t want to wear out my welcome, so the more resources, the better.

Of course, you do still need to sit your butt down and pound out those words.

permanent_l

Writing is work.

 

 

 

More than One Way to Skin a Cat

by Jonathan 2 Comments

The imagery of this post’s title is awful, but I like the meaning. I’ve hared off and slung a whole bunch of words down on my laptop and am close to wrapping up the first draft of my first novel. Part of me thinks I should have studied more about the craft: plot, characterization, setting, and so on. However, I may never have written if I had gone about it that way. I just got a couple of new books as a 9th anniversary gift from my loving and supportive wife (Thanks!). BTW, is the 9th anniversary the Book Anniversary? It is at our house. I picked up Emily’s Ghost by West Virginia’s own Denise Giardina and The Lady with the Little Dog by Chekhov.

Character & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Character & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Both books I received are Writer’s Digest publications. The first is Character & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card. I posted a little while ago about the search for inspiration to keep going (or inspirado as the D calls it). I highlighted Card’s book, Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy there. Well, Mr. Card, your clever marketing pitch among those pages worked. I put Character & Viewpoint on my wishlist. So far I am enjoying it. Of course, I could read about the craft all day long and never do any writing. I think it will be useful over the long haul. I like Card’s easy style. He writes in a way that makes the techniques accessible, but not oversimplified.

The other book I received is Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. Again, this book is written in a easy style. Bell opens the book by exposing what he calls the Big Lie, which, alone, is worth the price of admission. Granted, I just gave you a link to said opening for free, but whatever.

And I discovered the most incredible thing. The Big Lie was a lie. A person could learn how to write, because I was learning.

James Scott Bell from Plot & Structure.

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

I’m about 60 pages into the book and I find it to be useful. I don’t know how many of the exercises I’ll do, but some will dovetail nicely with the novel I’m already working on.

So here I am, my first draft almost complete and I’m reading books that might have made my writing life a little better had I read them before embarking on my journey of a thousand miles. I will be devouring these books now in hopes that I can put some of the info to good use during the revision phase as well as trying out some of the techniques for some short stories I have in mind. We shall see.

If anyone has any experience with these books, please feel free to share. Or, if you have other writing books you find useful, throw ’em out there!

100k

by Jonathan 4 Comments
Words not Dollars

Words not Dollars

I hit 100,000 words on the first draft of my first novel today and feel like I’ll have things wrapped up within the next 10,000 or so. My original goal was 100k by the end of August, with the idea that I’d also have a complete story. That gives me 11 days to get to the end. I should be able to do it because I have the luxury of having 4-5 writing hours at least 5 days a week. I’m a lucky devil, I know. At the same time, I’m pretty excited that I’ve been able to make it this far, stay close to my goal and have a complete, if extremely unrefined manuscript. I read an interview with Lauren K. Hamilton where she says:

Seventy percent of a first draft is garbage and 30 percent is gold, but you have to write 100 percent to get that 30.

That’s probably conservative in my case. I figure if I get a quarter of good stuff, I’m in good shape. I have no idea how long revisions will take, but it should be a fun experience. Does anyone have any words of wisdom where revision is concerned? I’ve come across a few articles and read a few books on the matter, but I’d like to hear as many approaches as possible. I know there are probably plenty of ways to get to the same end, so I’m all ears.

Here are some articles I came across in my on line search that I enjoyed:

http://www.essortment.com/all/writebetternov_rtsk.htm

http://www.gonzalobarr.com/blog/?p=732

http://www.efuse.com/Design/wa-seven-steps.html

I found this one particularly entertaining:

http://buddha-rat.squarespace.com/shitty-first-drafts/

Hope you get something out of these.