I just returned from a writer’s conference, and something our presenter said has been running circles in my brain.
I made it — yeah!!
When I started this blog Oct. 23, I challenged myself to publish one new post every day for a month. Since today’s Nov. 23, it’s been a month, and I’ve managed to rant or praise or instruct or yak about something every single day.
Not bad for somebody resistant to this social-networking thing!
Some of my posts have been short; others, not so short. Some, I still find interesting to read. But even the others are so much better than my preteen diaries that they were worthy of my time and effort!
After attending a Writer’s Digest Editor’s Intensive in October, I decided to test the social media waters with blogging rather than begin with Facebook or Twitter. I might try those two one day, but certainly not now. You see, I’m already juggling a full schedule and don’t need anything else to distract me from my novel (and unfortunately, we writers are masters at procrastination!)
I soon found that blogging can be a two-sided sword. On the one hand, some posts came so easily that they served as “warmup writing,” making my novel writing clearer, tighter, and more readable. Other posts took so much out of me that I really didn’t have time for creative writing — at least, not as much time as I needed or wanted.
So I think it boils down to this — I’ll keep on blogging, just not every single day. That way, I’ll force myself to adhere to a schedule with my novel and I won’t waste time penning boring blogs.
Seems like a reasonable compromise to me.
While I was at the Writer’s Intensive conference in Cincinatti last month, I took some time to browse their selection of mostly “how-to” books and decided their 10 percent discount was too good to pass up.
I purchased The Fire in Fiction, a 265-page paperback by writer/literary agent Donald Maass of New York City.
Because I’ve been swamped in re-writing my novel, setting up this blog, running my Web Design business, AND tending to my family, I haven’t been able to immerse myself in reading; however, this reference book is one that should be on every writer’s bookshelf (or, better, beside the computer!)
Maass grabs you from the get-go by reminding you that it takes 10 hours to read the average novel, and readers usually spend 10 days with a single book. That means we writers must create a bond between reader and protagonist. Maass says too many submissions to his agency involve protagonists who are flawed, hopeless, cardboard stereotypes who, instead of engaging the reader, turn him off.
Nobody wants to spend 10 minutes with someone who’s always whining about his past or someone who’s perfect and has a perfect life!
To counteract this problem, Maass suggests writers get inside their characters’ heads and hearts as soon as they can. He says even a tiny positive characteristic will convince readers your protagonist is worthy of their time, and that likeable heroes generally have self-awareness and even poke fun at their own flaws.
Maass decries the antagonists he meets in too many manuscripts — they’re just too evil, he says. Instead, writers should look at the people who oppose them in real life; even the “helpers” with the highest of intentions are rarely deterred. To truly be frightening, he says, antagonists must be human and understandable, active and determined.
I can hardly wait to read more!
It’s been almost a month now since I attended an Editors’ Intensive, sponsored by Writer’s Digest at their Cincinnati headquarters. To say it was a wonderful experience doesn’t cover the half of it!
Writing can be a lonely occupation. Those uninformed folks who announce they love to write and they’re “working on a book” just don’t have a clue. While there are as many “types” of writers as there are books, magazines, poems, Web sites, etc., and while there are many personalities of writers, this isn’t a business for the faint-of-heart. You really have to believe in your craft and your talent; you have to steel yourself against the criticisms and rejections that surely come your way; you have to spend a lot of time working when others are tugging at you to play. And most of us have to do it all while pursuing gainful employment elsewhere AND raising a family!
How’s that for sacrifice?
Still, for me at least, writing is as necessary as breathing. I’ve been putting down my thoughts since I was able to hold a pencil — first, in silly rhymes, then in a multitude of essay contests, diaries, newspaper stories, short stories, and now, novels. The first time I was able to type “The End” after penning a novel-length work was a feeling I’ll never forget! It reminded me of something I read in one of Mary Higgins Clark’s mysteries — “The work is finished; now let the writer play”, or something to that effect.
Of course, we writers can’t “play” long. Some story is always noodling around, and when it starts screaming to get out, you know it’s back to the computer and back to work.
One of the interesting things about our writing conference was the camaraderie that comes when you’re in a group of like-minded people. Just to know there are others like you — people who live in two worlds, people for whom storytelling is an art and there’s no such thing as a yes/no conversation — well, it’s a relief! It’s going to be even more interesting to watch the progress of our group, to see who continues when the going gets tough, to be able to go into Barnes & Noble one day, pick up a new book, and say, “Wow, I know this author!”
Most of us conference-attendees now have added blogging to our daily routines (at the encouragement of the Writer’s Digest staff, of course!). At first, I was a little reluctant — I mean, who really wants the public to read your private thoughts? But as I’ve gotten more into the spirit of the thing, I’ve found that blogging truly helps me organize my ideas and kind of serves as a “warm-up” for my fiction writing. It eases me out of the “blank page quandary” that many writers face, forcing me to shun the excuse of “writer’s block.”
In fact, a dear friend gave me a wooden pen & pencil holder with the words “Writer’s Block” prominently displayed on the side; that’s what she, and now I, think about “block.”
Basically, it just comes down to what all of us –deep down — know. Put your butt in the chair and don’t get up until you’ve written something. Do that often enough, and you’ll become a better writer. Do that consistently, and you might get published. Do that, and who knows? You might get to meet Oprah!!