A cousin-friend recently sent me the first page of a novel she’s writing and asked me if I thought it was any good. She writes some beautiful prose, but I thought she was a little too worried about the “goodness” of her novel at this stage in the writing process. So, I gave her the following advice:
I’ll tell you what I recommend (and a lot of famous published authors seem to agree): Just sit down and mind-dump your story without thinking about whether it’s any good. Stephen King wrote a really great memoir on writing, where he talks about how you should never spend more than a season (3 months) writing a rough draft. Your rough draft will probably seem like garbage, but that’s how it is for everyone (even Stephen King). Once you have your story dumped out on the page, then you can go back and start revising it to make it “good.” (more…)
I’ve been zipping through the story line of my novel for the past couple of months in an effort to get the entire story on the page without worrying about revisions. I’ve hit 46,472 words, and I’ve been feeling pretty good about the whole thing. That is, until a few days ago when I got the idea that my story line had somehow veered away from where I wanted it to go.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m open to changing direction when it’s appropriate. However, it seems like this time I have turned down a dead-end. The story train has derailed, and I’m left wondering how to pick up the pieces of the train wreck and put it back on the right track. (more…)
Names and titles used to be the bane of my existence.
I can’t begin to tell you how much time I have wasted agonizing over names for characters and titles for stories. I have recently realized that those names and titles will eventually reveal themselves to you once you learn to listen for them.
I’ve had a name for my current novel-in-progress for some time, but I haven’t been entirely happy with it. It’s okay, but it doesn’t really sum up the novel in the way I want it to. But, I hate thinking about titles, so I just went with it and kept writing. After all, there’s no sense agonizing over a title at the expense of writing the story. (more…)
Do you remember a while back when I was talking about my new project and how it had just come to me out of the blue? At the time, I thought my new novel project was this fresh idea I had that just took off like I’d been mulling it over my entire life even though I just thought of it a couple of months ago. That was until this morning when I stumbled across an old journal.
I was digging around for a notebook I could use for freewrites and scene ideas so I could keep those separate from the chronological chapters I’ve been writing one after another in my current journal. I remembered seeing a pretty notebook in the bottom of a desk drawer the other day while digging around for something else I never found and figured that one would do the job.
So, I went back and dug this notebook out of the bottom of that drawer and flipped it open to see if it had enough empty pages in it for me to squeeze in some free writes. Imagine my surprise when I realized this notebook was full of old freewrites that turned out to be directly related to my current story! (more…)
I wrote the BEST scene last night after coming home from class. Isn’t it funny how a vigorous workshop can totally recharge your creative batteries?
I’d been feeling a bit stagnant lately, writing mechanically, cranking out *blah* chapters that I knew I’d have to come back later and ‘fix.’ This in-class discussion of the chapters I’d submitted for workshop was exactly what I needed to wake up and reengage with my story. (more…)
Writing a book is like putting together a blank puzzle, one on which you must paint each little bit of the picture as you are putting the pieces together. How is that not art?
What is writing to you? (more…)
Last night, I sat down to write chapter 10 of my novel, and I just couldn’t get into it. I knew what the chapter was supposed to be about, but I simply could not get excited about it. Then I remembered author Rachel Aaron’s advice on getting excited about what you’re writing.
“If I had scenes that were boring enough that I didn’t want to write them, then there was no way in hell anyone would want to read them.” ~Rachel Aaron
So, I sat down with my notebook and began to scribble my thoughts about why I thought the scene I was about to attack was too tedious to write. (more…)
Do you consider yourself a “real” writer? Why or why not? What makes a writer?
Is it April already? I meant to write a ton of compelling blog posts about all of the sessions I attended at the March 2012 APW Convention in Chicago, but I didn’t get past describing the first session. Although I’m a bit behind, I think a lot of the lessons I learned at the convention are essential. So today, I’ll take a peek backward and tell you about the second session I attended, titled, “Out There and In Here: Creative Writing in the Real World.”
Welcome to Part 4 of my blog series on the 2012 AWP Conference session titled, Now That’s a Novel Idea: Marketability (Gasp!) and Creative Writing Programs. I’m assuming you’ve at least read my introductory post, so I’ll just jump right in today and talk about the panelists’ views on query letters and agent-hunting.
First of all, what is a query letter, and why do you need one? Well, these days most publishers do not want to see your entire novel manuscript if they don’t already have a working relationship with you. In most cases, they want nothing more than a query letter, and possibly a short synopsis. The publisher will then use that information to decide if they think it’s worth their time to request a copy of the full manuscript. So, it’s important to write a query letter that really sells your manuscript.
Our session panelists provided the following tips for writing an effective query letter: (more…)
Welcome to Part 3 of my blog series on the 2012 AWP Conference session titled, Now That’s a Novel Idea: Marketability (Gasp!) and Creative Writing Programs. I’m assuming you’ve at least read my introductory post, so I’ll just jump right in today and talk about the panelists’ views on submitting and submitting and submitting and…
One of the main lessons stressed by all of the presenters on this panel is that you should submit and submit often. One of the presenters says there is no better time to submit your work than today because, “It’s best to begin the process of being rejected” sooner rather later.
Don’t avoid submitting your work because you don’t think it’s good enough to be published yet. Instead, submit everything and accept the fact that you will be rejected. Most of us would rather be rejected by a lover than by a publisher, but we have to remember that rejection is just a part of the writer’s life. (more…)
Yesterday, I began my discussion on the 2012 AWP Conference session titled, “Now That’s a Novel Idea: Marketability (Gasp!) and Creative Writing Programs.” Today I’d like to share some of the panelists’ advice on approaching the early stages of writing a novel.
Before I start, I should tell you that I arrived at this session late after getting lost trying to find my way to registration upon arriving at the conference. So, I missed out on the introductions and am unable to attribute some of the quotes I wrote down during the session. (Thankfully, I’m no journalist; otherwise I would probably be in big trouble!) I’ll do my best to give credit where credit is due, but if I get something wrong, please tell me so I can fix it.
One of the speakers at this session recommends that you write a synopsis of your novel early in the process to make sure you have a clear picture of what your novel is about. The synopsis will also help you sell your story to potential buyers (agents, editors, publishers, etc.) Remember, they won’t be interested in your novel if you can’t sufficiently tell them what the novel is about. (more…)
Yesterday, my Written Communication students workshopped their very first essays of the semester. I don’t like to ever ask my students to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself, so I wrote an essay along with them.
Early in the semester, I asked them to write ideas for free writing topics on little slips of paper that I placed in an envelope. We do a 10 – 15 minute free write in every class session. Sometimes I have a topic planned, and sometimes I’ll pull a couple of their ideas from the envelope and let them choose one. Usually, unless I have something I need to do to prepare for the next portion of the class, I’ll sit and free write with them. I think this is a useful activity for any w (more…)
Today marks the first day of the last week of the fall semester. I just finished grading a huge stack of essay booklets from my written communications course and will be grading research papers next weekend. I also just submitted my final poem of the semester for the course I’m taking on writing poetry for children and young adults. And now, it’s time to write my final reflection paper of the semester. The topic for this paper is the writing process.
So, what have I learned about my writing process? For one thing, I can now boil it all down to a few simple steps: (more…)
Last night began the Fall 2011 Writers Series sponsored by the English department at Mount Mary College. I had the pleasure of joining many of my classmates for this event in Mount Mary’s beautiful Stiemke Hall. Milwaukee Magazine editor, Bruce Murphy, spoke at length about his own freelancing experiences in the Milwaukee area. Murphy, who was instrumental in breaking the Milwaukee County pension scandal a few years ago, shared some interesting insider stories, along with tips for working as a freelance writer in the area.
In his discussion (and in his online bio,) Murphy refers to himself as a “fiscally conservative liberal contrarian.” I took this to mean that he likes to play the devil’s advocate, a favorite role of my own, so I enjoyed the talk. And, who can complain about the free food (more…)