Monthly Archives: April 2014

Changing a Habit

So, I’m trying something new in my next book–tying together stories in two time periods. My publisher has asked us to write our books into her template. I did that with Book Three, A Bowl of Rice and found it very relaxing to create the story, knowing that my margins, etc etc were all ok. But with this book where the storylines jump from chapter to chapter, typing into the template is not working out. I am finding it hard to switch between the two–I want to continue along with one story, beyond the chapter limit as I am writing, So, I’ve thought about it, am praying now that I have selected the right solution and have decided to shift.

I am going to type the entire first draft into one document–for each story. Cut into chapters and lay the links between the two, physical y looking at all of the chapters. Then I will retype the second draft into the template. More work? Yes, but I think the right work pattern for me for this type of story. I could have persisted in using my old method…but that would have resulted in format problems and worst of all, an inability to see each story and the relationships between the two as clearly as I need to in order to create something my readers will enjoy and easily follow. So, in this case, I will change my habit–now, on to my goal of a minimum of two thousand words a day on this book until the draft is finished and the research can all be plugged into it! Spoiler alert–the storylines are civil war and gulf war in their settings

Shout it out–in your own voice!

I subscribe to several newsletters that offer market information and inspiration. One of them is Authors Publish.
I recently saw a post there on finding your own voice and received permission from the author to repost.
A.K. Leigh is in Australia! The internet makes the exchange of ideas across continents, so easy! She graciously consented to the repost which appears below.

Let me add that it is always important to use your own voice, to be true to who you are in your writing and performing.
While of course we learn from others, we can only share what is authentically and truly from our own hearts and experience, That is what will resonate with audiences. I cannot be someone else, so what would I want the success or style of someone else. My voice, even if it is not widely heard, is truly my own. Whatever is good and encouraging in it, by pen and performance, I try to share with audiences.
If you are having trouble finding your voice, take these tips from fellow writer, A. K. find your own voice, and never forget the importance of being a true and original voice even if the sound you make is a cry in the wilderness!

—Joan

The Importance of Voice

Written by A.K. Leigh.

I remember the first critique I ever received for my professional writing. In fact, I still have the email it was attached to so I can quote it here: “The issue with your writing is lack of confident voice”.

Ouch, right? I had no idea what voice was let alone how to have a ‘confident’ one. It sent me on a one woman quest to find out what voice was and, in the process, I discovered my own.

So, what is voice?

Ask twenty authors and you’ll receive twenty answers. For me, voice is that unique ‘x-factor’ that makes your work stand out from others. It’s the aspect of writing that enables you to differentiate a James Patterson novel from a J.K. Rowling novel. To be more specific, it is the point of view you tell a story from as well as the way that you say it.

Why is voice important in writing?

First of all, it sets your writing apart from other authors. Can you imagine if every book was written the way Jane Austen wrote? Or Stephen King? It would become quite tedious and boring. Unique voice also makes your writing enjoyable to read (or it should).

How does an aspiring writer develop voice?

The six techniques I used in my search for voice are:

1. Relax. Don’t force it. Allow the words to flow uncensored from your subconscious. Remember voice comes naturally with plenty of… (See number 2).

2. Practice, practice, practice. I cannot stress this enough. The more you write, the quicker your voice will develop.

3. Write every day: even holidays, even your birthday. This ties in with point two.

4. Write a variety of things. If you are a blogger, give an article a try; if you are a column writer, try a short story; if you are a novelist, try an article.

5. Give writing prompts a try. There are a handful of free programs online that generate writing prompts for you. I have used some of these. Type ‘free writing prompt software’ into your search engine to find one you like.

6. Read different genres and authors. Yes, that is not a misprint. Reading will help you develop your voice. By seeing how others express their voice, you will gain a better sense of what works for you and what doesn’t. Read a wide variety, not just the genre you write in. I am a romance writer, yet I read everything: thrillers, crime, classics, fantasy, paranormal, autobiographies and gothic.

If voice is something you are struggling with, give one or more of the above tools a try and you’ll see the difference it makes.

Bio: A.K. Leigh is an Australian romance author, freelance writer and blogger. She is a feature writer for Spirit and Spell magazine and her debut novel will be released later this year. She is a proud member of Romance Writers of Australia. She can be contacted via her website http://www.fallinlovewithleigh.com or her Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/AuthorAKLeigh.

Good Friday

Today is a day to think. What would you give your life to do? What is your goal? Salvation for all of us was the goal of Christ.
My goals are so much smaller. Yet, my ultimate goal, the one I lose sight of When working, I admit, is to glorify God with my work.
The steps to that, my sub goals so to speak, are to do that by encouraging, entertaining, and edifying others with my work.
Reviewing work today , thinking about what I do in that light. Raising my thoughts above the busywork of word counts, deadlines and plot lines. Where to market? Is my poem in the tight form?
After all today, Christ died so I might live. How I live, that is what I must work out now.
Blessings to all of you, and happy Easter…the day He proved the truth of promised salvation by rising from the dead .

Mother May I?

Remember that old game? You had to ask permission before you could take a step or repeat a phrase that “mother” directed you to do. If you forgot to say, “Mother May I?” and simply did what you were asked, you were tossed out of the game.

Query letters are a cross between that game and an audition/job interview.

A query letter proposes an article to an editor, outlines how you would do it, and then requests permission to write it and send it in. If you are known, this may mean a contract. If it is your first approach to the publication it means sending the finished piece in “on spec”, that is, on speculation, the editor is under no obligation to buy, to use, or otherwise credit you for the work you did.

 

The “mother may I?” part of the query is following the specific guidelines of the publication. The job interview part means knowing the publication and proposing something that its readers will enjoy.

A friend sent me this link that she values as a guide to writing a successful query letter. I did not have time today to check with the writer to see if I cold repost so I am simply sharing the link. I’ve also shared it on Facebook, for those of you who are my friend or who have liked my author page.  I’ve written many successful queries but there is always something new to learn.

Here is the link: Read and Learn!

Hmmm, you will have to scroll down since there is some imbedded stuff I could not see when I copied the link.

 
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http://janefriedman.com/2014/04/11/query-letters/

 

Live, It’s Live!

Over My Dead Body has just put “live” my interview with mystery author Sue Ann Jaffarian–a woman with a wonderful sense of humor and dead-on writing skills (pun intended). Enjoy the interview and then go out and read Sue Ann’s books! They are well-written, well-plotted and funny!
http://www.overmydeadbody.com/jaffint.htm

Sharing about Writing–thought provoking work

Sharing about Writing–thought provoking work.

Sharing about Writing–thought provoking work

First, let me share that I love the Writer Unboxed and encourage you to sign up. As soon as I saw this essay by Vaughn Roycroft I knew I had to ask him for permission to share on my blog, so that performers would see it as well. He graciously said yes,

Details are important

working daily, bit by bit–these are two of my take-aways from his essay and the more often I read it, the more I find to think about in relation to both writing and performing.

How am I shaping my bungalow—the inner space of my story or performance?

Consider following writer unboxed and do read this post by Roycroft.

 

 

 

The Arts and Crafts of Writing Fiction

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 04:00 AM PDT

Flickr Creative Commons: Kyle Jerichow

It’s A Bungalow? Are you familiar with the Arts and Crafts Movement? For many “Arts and Crafts” refers to a reproduction Morris chair in their den. For others it might evoke Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style or an antique Stickley dining set. Each of these is born of the A&C movement, but none of them alone does much to define it.

I was as unfamiliar as anyone until we bought our first house. We didn’t know anything about the style, but we liked that it was affordable, well-built and cozy. Turns out it was a craftsman bungalow. Being a history buff, I fell in love with the house and the style. I’ve since come to realize that my A&C ardency has affected my entire writing journey. Perhaps you too are an Arts and Crafts writer and didn’t even know it.

The Meaning Behind the Movement: When I first heard the phrase: “Arts & Crafts,” I thought of hand-knit oven-mitts at a yard sale. Then I came to know it as an architectural style. As it turns out, the A&C movement, born in 19th Century England, did not set out to promote a particular style but rather advocated reform and a critique of industrialization.

Early A&C proponents rejected the ornateness of the Victorian era. A&C pioneer John Ruskin (1819-1900) advocated honest and exposed craftsmanship in architecture. Ruskin’s writings influenced designers like William Morris (1834-1896), who strove to unite all the arts within the construction and decoration of the home, emphasizing nature and simplicity to make it a refuge of beauty and enlightenment. Morris’s influence reached America via popular turn of the century periodicals such as House Beautiful and Gustav Stickley’s The Craftsman.

The Artistic Craftsman:

“Art is not a thing; it is a way.” ~Elbert Hubbard

Craft is about function, measuring success by usefulness. Art’s value is measured outside of utility, and encompasses beauty and emotional impact. If a craft, produced for its utility, can be made to be beautiful or to evoke an emotion without harming its usefulness, hasn’t it achieved artistic value? If so, it follows that there is inherent value in combining arts and crafts.

Proponents of the A&C movement espoused beauty in nature and simplicity of form; craftsmanship through skills gained by practice and dedication. As a woodworker, I feel the most beautiful and functional items I’ve produced are the simplest and most natural. Through woodworking I’ve seen that skills are gained though doing the work. There are no shortcuts.

It’s wise to study and to plan your projects, but a craftsman’s skill is gained through practice. And artistic results are produced by skilled craftsmen. (Is this starting to resemble writing yet? Just checking.)

The Arts & Crafts Writer:

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” ~ Steven Pressfield

The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne. ~Geoffrey Chaucer

As I look back on my nine-plus years of writing fiction, I can clearly recall many instances in which I wanted to consider a project “done.” But, without exception, I’ve been able to take that same work to another level. I’m not saying this tells me that no project is ever done. What it does demonstrate is that we, as writers, should never consider ourselves done evolving and growing.

A true craftsman knows he will only ever attain the artistic through stretching his skills and then practicing again. The next project’s growth is built upon the foundation of the last project’s practiced skill-set.

A true craftsman knows he will only ever attain the artistic through stretching his skills and then practicing again. The next project’s growth is built upon the foundation of the last project’s practiced skill-set.

Arts & Crafts Fiction:

“If there were a manifesto for 21st century fiction writers, I hope it would go like this: Down with high-flown literature! Cast off genre servitude! The revolution is founded in authorial liberty. It regards story and art as equals.” ~ Donald Maass

You might not expect a guy who has focused on genre work (I write epic historical fantasy) to be talking about simplicity or striving to be artistic. Genre is about storytelling and obligatory tropes, right? There may be an element of truth there but, for example, I’ve found that the micro-element of complex world-building does not preclude the beauty of macro-simplicity. As I practice and strive, I often find myself stripping away the superfluous, and honing on character goals and motivations to deepen conflicts. And I find the result makes for simpler, more effective storytelling. I also believe the simplest and most natural way to emotional impact is through effective story. Thus, my aspiration for the artistic through dedication to craftsmanship.

The Arts and Crafts writer should strive for ever-improving utility of function (storytelling), which in turn sets them on a course toward beauty through simplicity of form, and impact through that which is natural and human (art).

The Arts & Crafts Writing Career:

“Get happiness out of your work or you may never know what happiness is.” ~Elbert Hubbard

I get frustrated sometimes. And impatient. Some days I just want to be “done.” I am a writer, striving to be an artist. But sometimes I just want to be: Vaughn Roycroft, Writer—with a capital W. With books on the shelf, not still in a file labeled: work-in-progress. It’s days like these that I need to remind myself of my Arts & Crafts philosophy. And that philosophy tells me that I am the work-in-progress, not the file.

When I’m feeling down about a project or the state of my so-called career, the best things I can do are to take a long walk in nature, get back to the my roots as a human being, and then get back to work. If ideas won’t flow onto the page, I go to work in the wood-shop. I’ve found that nothing stimulates the flow of ideas like working with my hands. Even raking the yard is better than moping about the progress of my writing.

I remind myself that even after my first book is published, I must then remember that a craftsman continues to grow and evolve. After my fourth book is published, I will need to stretch my skills and practice again in order to find my way to a worthy fifth.

The Arts & Crafts Lifestyle:

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” ~William Morris

The Arts & Crafts writer does not seek fame or a lavish lifestyle. We find our art though dedication and through diverse life experience. We find satisfaction in the work itself. We know that only through practice can we achieve the utility we seek in order to stride ever closer to the artistic. We surround ourselves with beauty, and for us beauty is found in simplicity and nature.

In the best sense of the word, we are eternal students. Even when we are teachers, we are still students. WU is a perfect example of the fact that we all have so much to learn from one another—and always will. We writers are students of nature—human and otherwise. We are students of life.

So, what about you? Ever lived in a bungalow? Did you know it when you moved in? Are you an Arts & Crafts writer? Or are you already famous and living a lavish lifestyle? (If so, maybe don’t tell me—envy is not conducive to the Arts & Crafts lifestyle.)

 

About Vaughn Roycroft

In the sixth grade, Vaughn’s teacher gave him a copy of The Hobbit, sparking a lifelong passion for reading and history. After college, life intervened, and Vaughn spent twenty years building a successful business. During those years, he and his wife built a getaway cottage near their favorite shoreline, in a fashion that would make the elves of Rivendell proud. After many milestone achievements, and with the mantra ‘life’s too short,’ they left their hectic lives in the business world, moved to their little cottage, and Vaughn finally returned to writing. Now he spends his days polishing his epic fantasy trilogy.

https://www.facebook.com/vaughn.roycroft