Friday, July 30, 2010

Keep Their Attention

Woe to the author determined to teach!
The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out. ~~ Voltaire

I could tell you everything about this picture, but the picture speaks for itself.

My hand is raised. I am guilty of putting too much into my writing -- too many adjectives and adverbs, too much explanation, too many answers.

I'm finally understanding this quote and am just beginning to apply it. Leave out just enough to make your readers want to read on, and leave out just enough to make them question and learn (on their own) from your writing.

It's hard to do. We want to tell it all, but we don't need to. Sometimes I think we underestimate our readers. They will see beyond the gaps we intentionally write into our stories and will find them more interesting due to the challenges we present.

Let them think!!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Developing the In-Between Characters

Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use. -Wendell Johnson
This quotation reminds me that too often when we develop our characters we don't give them a mix of good and bad. We make the good characters very, very good and the villains horrid.

It makes it so much more interesting to read if you don't always portray your hero as good and never have him do anything bad. Likewise, I don't enjoy reading about a villain who is always bad and never good.

The mixture makes them believable. Life is not black and white. Mix in the gray and your characters will have more to talk about, worry about and will entertain us more realistically.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

In Other Words...

Be sure that you go to the author to get his meaning, not to find yours. -- John Rushkin
Most of the time, I agree with this quote. To honor the hard work of the author, we must look for his meaning and gain what we can from it. But, I think it's also productive to find your own meaning in all forms of art -- writing, art, music... After all, we internalize what we read, hear and see and adapt our lives accordingly.

Occasionally, I'd like to add a section to the back of books... let's call it In Other Words... where the author spells out his meaning just in case I'm a bit too obtuse to get it in his artistic words. Many times readers get so much more from a writing if they have a little insight into the background of the author or the origin of the story or article.

Think about adding In Other Words to your next book.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Follow Your Own Path...

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than write for the public and have no self -- Cyril Connolly

I think that says it for today. Get busy and write.... follow your own path...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Writers Write

If you wish to be a writer, write -- Epictetus

Sometimes I forget that to be a writer, I must write. I think about writing all the time. I conjure up things to write about. I make lists of ideas to insert into writings-in-progress. I plan how I'll promote the writing, but the writing time is not always my first priority.

I like this simple quote. It reminds me that writing needs to be at the top of the list always. Productivity will follow.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Don't Verb Nouns

Don't verb nouns.
Never ever use repetitive redundancies
Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague. -- William Safire

William Safire had some wise advice for writers, but none is as entertaining as the conglomeration above.

Writing is important to all of us. I imagine you're reading this and other blogs because it helps to hear what other writers are doing with their space on the Internet. We are drawn to share our thoughts and experiences with each other because we are a community of writers...

You belong to that community of obsessed writers if you ...

1. crawl out of bed and go to the computer, to check the posts of others first thing in the morning;

2. stop to buy a pen if you leave the house without one;

3. always carry a notebook with you and doodle or write it it for comfort;

4. have three or more books spread open on the coffee table, on the bedside table, on your pillow and in the kitchen... just in case you find a minute or two to write;

5. aren't upset if you wake up early and can't get back to sleep... (you don't count it as lost sleep - you count it as found writing time);

6. you have stacks of papers and sticky notes containing those "perfect" ideas for your next novel.

Feel free to add to the list!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Write an Interesting Novel

The business of the novelist is not to relate great events, but to make small ones interesting -- Arthur Schopenhauer
Your story idea could be as small as the events contained within an hour in time or could be about an insignificant event. You don't have to write about some great event in history to make your novel interesting. Instead, you need to write in an interesting manner about whatever event, large or small, you choose.

Here are three simple ways to make your story more interesting:

Create compelling characters with many layers.

Give your characters individual voices, so readers will identify their dialogue with them before even seeing a tag line.

Show the story through dialogue and action rather than telling it through all narration.

Pull in all the senses of the reader (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) to pull the reader into the story.

Edit meticulously. If something isn't interesting to you, rewrite it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

No Rest for the Novelist

It's important that a novel be approached with some urgency. Spend too long on it, or have great gaps between writing sessions, and the unity of the work tends to be lost -- Anthony Burgess
For me, gaps between writing sessions make it much harder to attain unity in my writing. Is it the same for you? I'm not saying that I have to write without stop. I'm saying that if I put my book down for more than a couple of days, I find I have to backtrack to see where I left off in my mind.

Everything just seems to work better, to maintain its continuity, if I stick to a writing schedule. I think my brain just expects to write daily and responds by working between sessions to save up ideas for the next time. Therefore, I agree with Burgess and his theory that spending too long or having too many gaps between writing sessions threatens the unity of the work.

How does this work for you?

Monday, July 5, 2010

In writing, you can make a silk purse our of a sow's ear, but first you have to create the sow's ear. Your first draft is the sow's ear -- Charles Parnell

Yea!!! At last, permission to create a sow's ear. I do become frustrated trying to write perfectly all the time. I want to create my own voice. That doesn't mean that I don't polish my writing, but I do want it to sound like me and not everyone else.

So, in light of the silk purse coming later, I think I'll feel more free with my first draft next time and just slap it down and polish it up later. Ahhhhhh freedom.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Enjoy [the novelist's freedom] as it deserves; take possession of it, explore it to its utmost extent, publish it, rejoice in it. -- Henry James

It's the 4th of July weekend. What better time to give notice to the fact that we are able to express ourselves as we wish. It hasn't always been so and I am grateful for the fact that I can tell you what I think through this blog, in person, or in a public forum.

As a novelist, do as Henry James says... take possession of that freedom, explore it, publish it and rejoice in it.

Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Rewards of Writing

Forest Palm by Lou Belcher
I should write for the mere yearning and fondness I have for the beautiful, even if my night's labors should be burnt every morning and no eye shine upon them. -- John Keats
I'm a people pleaser. It's a nice trait some of the time, but it is basically a flaw. I am working toward writing to please no one. Instead... to write for the mere beauty of the writing experience. The words do flow when I don't think of the audience.

As writers, artists too, we all suffer from the insecurity of wondering what the public reaction will be to our creation. Wouldn't it be liberating to write for the pure joy of it and as Keats says, ..."for the mere yearning and fondness I have for the beautiful..."