Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Importance of Scene

By David Sharp

If you think back to your favorite book, what do you see in your mind's eye? Is it the cover? Is it an outline of the plot points? The expert usage of punctuation, perhaps?

My guess is it's a snapshot of a memorable scene within the story. Bilbo Baggins riddling with Gollum, Inigo Montoya confronting the six-fingered man, Harry Potter seeking the snitch in his first Quidditch match, you get the idea. But it's very easy for writers to overlook the importance of scene in lieu of the more obvious elements of characterization, plot and setting.

Allow me to postulate: developing your ability to write in scenes is the most efficient way to elevate your writing. The scene is your reader's window into your story. What good are your immaculately developed characters if your reader can only see them through a brick wall of exposition? No matter what your story is, without proper scenes it has no opportunity to come to life.

So, what makes a good scene?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Just Singin' Along

by Deborah Nielsen

I’m on the road again and even though I’m not making music with Willie Nelson and friends, I listen to music when I’m on the road. Some people listen to audiobooks, but I’d rather have the radio, a few CDs, and my playlist.

There’s something about singing along to the latest new song or an old favorite. In my car, I can warble to my heart’s content, and no one is going to wince and tell me to stop that caterwauling!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Stay in the Game!

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By Kerrie Flanagan

Life has a way of throwing us curve balls, making us question whether or not we should stay in this writing game. But if you stay at the plate, sooner or later one is thrown right down the middle, giving you the chance to hit it out of the park.

For 17 years I have been in the game. I’ve experienced strike-outs, foul balls and bruises, along with some singles, doubles and triples. There have been many moments of landing on the base with my arms held in triumph knowing I did something right to get there. Whether it was getting an article published in a magazine, presenting at a local writer’s conference or self-publishing my books, I celebrated all these achievements.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Make No Mistake Writing IS a J O B

J.C. Lynne
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by J.C. Lynne

I did the one thing most writing blogs warn against, I quit my day job mid-2012 to write full-time. Think of any of your most intense phobias, spiders, snakes, clowns. Think of finding a huge one in the shower with you. A little nauseating?

That's precisely how I felt when considering the prospect of quitting a full-time job. 

Apparently it's a thing. Sorry if it's yours.

The factors involved made the decision easier. Our son had become critically ill and needed full-time care. At the time, we could manage on a single income. Teaching had become a gauntlet of helicopter parents, clownish bureaucracy, and budget cuts that meant I'd never recover my full salary. Gearing up to publish my first novel helped ease my anxiety. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Great Writers Come from Great Readers

By David Sharp

I recently read an article that cited a particular professional's method for screening writers who want to talk to her about their books. Apparently, writers frequently corner her at parties hoping she can help them break into the biz. Hard to imagine, I know. She diverts the conversation by asking them what they're reading. Writers who have no answer or who give a non-answer like, "I'm too focused on my writing to read anything," are politely dismissed.

A chapter a day keeps the doldrums away.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone receiving that sort of rejection. I think it would sting more than all of the "I'm so sorry your fantastic book is just not for me," letters and all the "Why don't you give up writing and take up knitting or something?" letters combined! Effectively, she has labelled you something worse than a lousy writer. She has labelled you a phony. Another voice in the world that insists on being heard, but who can't find the time to listen to anyone else. In a word... Ouch!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

How to Draw from an Empty Bucket

By Laura Mahal

We all have days when we feel like what we write isn’t fit to graffiti a bathroom stall or an abandoned railcar. We enter the dreaded doldrums. Perhaps we have paper-mach├ęd ourselves with poor reviews or innumerable rejections, without the occasional: “Wow. Your writing is exceptional…” to lift us back up.

Beyond the world of writing, sometimes life is raw-boned hard. Nothing comes together easily. Plans fall awry. There are too many funerals, and not enough weddings. We face health challenges or unsought career changes. Life spins too quickly and we can’t catch our breath.

How on earth is a writer to break through when we have well and truly broken down? When retiring the old pen and paper seems a viable option? Or stomping on the laptop is much more than tempting? Creativity requires energy. Energy which can quickly be sapped by the competing demands on our time, emotional bank, and self-esteem.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sometimes You Just Have to See Things Differently

by Deborah Nielsen

Every so often, my love interests of writing and photography intersect. I never thought that I’d be writing haikus while taking a photography as fine art workshop but that’s what we did.

Our workshop instructor was Colleen Miniuk-Sperry, an award-winning landscape and outdoor photographer who is also a member of the Outdoor Writers of America. Even though the exercise was geared more toward photography, it may help writers see things a little differently, especially if you’re trying to describe a setting.

Our assignment was to find a place at the pond and sit quietly for a few minutes while taking a visual inventory of what we saw. As a writer, you can also take note of the sounds you hear around you, the scents you smell, and the textures of objects. List some of the things you see, hear, smell and touch. Is there a breeze shimmering the leaves of the trees, caressing your body, blowing your hair against your face? Is it a cold wind, a cool breeze, or hot as a blow torch that saps your energy? How do these sights, sounds and textures make your character feel?

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