Sunday, October 7, 2012

Absence Hopefully Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

My apologies to all those who read my blog. I'm recovering from an accident I experienced a month ago. I will return with renewed vigor as soon as I am able.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Engaging a Professional Editor

Recently, I received a rejection from a literary agent, my first of what I'm sure will become a long list. As soon as I read what she had to say, a switch inside me turned off, as though my snubbed anticipation had doused the fire consuming me for the last three years as I wrote the book. I wondered what I should do next. Should I improve the manuscript or just send it out again?

I had already paid an editor for suggestions, and I asked a few readers to give me their valuable opinions about the book. Did I want to pay more to make the manuscript marketable or was the agent’s opinion just that: one opinion?

I searched the Internet for answers and found an editor who guarantees he’ll suggest a major rewrite. He claims he knows what agents and editors want since he’s been in the business for 25 years. He has an impressive list of clients, and he sounds interested in my plot. A rewrite doesn’t scare me; I want to make this the best story I can. But what if he returns my manuscript with the sad news it’s terrible?

My fellow writers remind me nothing is beyond hope, still, will trusting his opinion help me come closer to my goal? I hope so, considering it will take two of my paychecks to compensate him for his expertise. I hope I can correct the problems of plot, characterization, pacing, and tone he suggests. Most of all, I hope he isn’t one of the vultures waiting with mouth agape to devour my gullibility.
What can a writer do to ensure they have hired the right editor?
  • Beware of incompetent editors. They brag about how good they are, yet have no reviews to back them up. 
  • Avoid editors with only an academic background and limited  industry experience.
  • Use the Predators & Editors website (www.pred-ed.com) to determine if the editor is on the hit list of crooks.
  • Determine the editors philosophy, client list, resume, project list, etc. In other words, find out everything you can about the particular editor you want to hire before signing a contract.
  • Request a sample edit from the editors you like.
  • Shun those editors that tell you how wonderful your work is. A good editor will give you ways to improve your writing.
I'm all for hiring a professional editor. I want to make my work the best it can be before I send it out again. If I understand his corrections and follow his advise, my manuscript should have a better chance as I attempt the publishing game further on down the road.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Be Inspired Bloghop Meme

Thank you to Bonnee for inviting me to the Be Inspired Bloghop Meme. I'll answer these questions about my latest manuscript and pass it on.

1.       What is the name of your book?
Vestiges


2.        Where did the idea for your book come from?
I attended the lectures of three men who profess the  Hopewell and Adena of B.C. North America had biological ties to the Semitic people. They present some convincing evidence these cultures traveled over the Atlantic Ocean from the old world to arrive on the east coast of the United States and became prominent Native American tribes. This thrashes the well-established theories that all Native Americans came over the Bering Straits to North America. They also offer specific artifacts and DNA research to back up their theories and suggest these Native Americans possessed ample knowledge of Jesus Christ. Most of the scientific community, like the Smithsonian for one,  deem the ideas and artifacts counterfeit, most likely because it goes against years of misguided ideologies.


3.       In what genre would you classify your book?
Mystery/ Suspense


4.    If you had to pick actors to play your characters in a movie rendition, who would you choose? Karina Lombard or Korinna Moon Bloodgood as Onida. Paul Walker or Matt Damon as Lance. Gene Hackman as Senator Thomas J. Blackhour. Alan Rickman as Pastor Will.

5.    Give us a one-sentence synopsis of your book.
An anthropology professor races to uncover a 2000-year-old Michigan Relic mystery said to threaten the face of Christianity before someone destroys all the evidence.

6.    Is your book already published?
Not yet, though I’m determined.

7. How long did it take you to write your book?
I took almost three years to finish the first draft. I work fulltime and also take care of my aged father, so all I have are  a couple of hours a day to chip away at my dream.


8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to? Or, readers of which books would enjoy yours?
I don’t like to compare my work to others. I won’t presume to say my book is like the Da Vinci Code or National Treasure. Mine has more of a character-driven plot and doesn’t hop from disaster to disaster. I use archeology, folklore, religious concepts to explore the theme in a suspenseful story.


9. Which authors inspired you to write this book?
The same three men whose lectures I attended have inspired me. As for the style of writing, I have so many favorite authors: Kate Morton, Jennifer Lee Carroll, Patti Callahan Henry. They use words that stir my creativity. The English language comes alive when they write. I want to engage the senses in my words much like they do.

10. Tell us anything that might pique our interest in your book.
I find the subject of interest to anyone who wants to understand faith. Do we need physical evidence in our hands to believe in abstract concepts?  In God? In vestiges of the past swept under the proverbial rug by manipulative men and concealing agendas? Native Americans have ample stories in agreement  with the themes of my book, and more substantial archeological evidence is coming to our attention every day. Do you need proof?

Now I have to tag five people to participate in the Be Inspired Bloghop Meme:
Tina Scott
Jamie Burch
Dana
Suzanne Furness
Lo Johnston




Sunday, August 5, 2012

Great Expectations

You’ve only got an hour. The kids are dreaming of computer games and the song they added to their I-pod today. Hubby, in bed, is mumbling something inaudible from the next room. You’re poised at your computer, staring at a blank screen, coaxing the words to spill and move your fingers across the keyboard.

Only, nothing is happening. There’s a blockage somewhere between synapses and keystroke. No matter how much you strain to expel the magic, it sticks like some non-fibrous turd inside you. Before you push out a paragraph, you realize time is the only thing that has passed.

So much for great expectations.

I hate those moments of unproductivity. The opportunity is in place, but the creative juices are fixing a flat on the road to success. Not a tow truck is in sight. You are alone, wondering if you possess the skills to use a jack or if you possess the smarts to carry a spare.

May I suggest you do. You just have to remember where you stashed the devices to rescue you from the muddle.

I like the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. If it helps you, keep a list of solutions handy when you come to a standstill in your work, a proven set of ideas to coax you through the difficulty and remind you this state is only temporary. I employ the following strategies to aid me through writer’s block:
  1. Take a break – I know this is a frightening thought when you are on a deadline, but sometimes a walk around the block or a little sleep stimulates the thought processes and gets you over the hump.
  2. Munch – Eat some of your favorite foods. Nothing takes the place of chocolate when you need brain power and ideas. And your trip to the kitchen forces you to catch a break whether you want it or not.
  3. Move – Now I ask you, is sitting for hours without contracting a muscle conducive to optimal health and vigor of mind? Stretch and jog around your living room, at least, or if the weather permits, take the dog for a run in the park. Breath in, breath out—fill your lungs with oxygen. Your thinking cells will love you for the attention.
  4. Use other authors – Immerse yourself in a favorite book or go buy another one. Digesting someone else’s words might stimulate your own. Talk to another trusted writer friend who can urge you to try again or provide useful information.
  5. Take a knife to uncertainty - Doubt is such a thief. It robs you of your last ounce of courage. Believe in yourself. Believe in your ability to improve. Recite a mantra, something like, “I am a great writer” or “My words change hearts.” Say the phrase enough times until you believe the chant enough to tackle your work.
  6. Shift to another project – If you aren’t on a schedule, try writing something else. Play with words until they sing. Exercises in literacy are catalysts to greatness.
  7. Give yourself leeway – Who says you have to write what you outlined yesterday? Change things up a bit and allow what comes naturally to seep into your pros.
  8. Research – Hunt for information to fill the holes in your story you’ve been meaning to satiate, but only for a little while, just to distract your panic. Get back to writing as soon as possible.
  9. Write – If all else fails, keep writing. Even creating the worst paragraph allows you to rewrite. You can’t edit what isn’t visible. You might find anything is better than nothing on the paper. It jump starts you to improvement.
Have you used these suggestions yet? Don’t you feel better? If not, what are you waiting for? Now, go, expect something great. You can get there from here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Borrowed Truths

Who was it that said “Write what you know?”

“Write what I know…hmm…” A second later your face glasses over and your shoulders fall.

“I don’t know much. In fact, I don’t know anything. I’m not a flipping encyclopedia, am I? I can’t remember the last time I murdered someone, slopped pigs, filled a Senate post, adopted a child, won the lottery, or sailed on a clipper ship. How am I supposed to write convincing first-hand descriptions about administering poison or swabbing a deck?”

If it makes you feel any better, you can’t. It’s impossible. You will never get to the heart of the particular event or encounter like someone who sat on the front row.

“Well, then my writing career is over,” you say. “I’ll put down my pen and take up scuba diving.”

If that’s what you want, go for it. But don’t let a little thing like inexperience keep you from writing gripping imageries. You may not be Jack the Ripper, but I bet you’ve fallen victim to hatred or a moment of insanity at least once in your life. Draw on the dark side of your character, the times you’ve undergone such angst in similar settings and write as close to the situation as you can. Depend on colleagues, research, or the testimonials of convicted felons to fill in the gaps. Most readers haven’t a clue of what it’s like to shoot someone. Any research you glean is bound to satisfy to a near degree. As long as you pull from your store of authentic emotion, those who do reminisce about the good ol’ days might still relate to the borrowed truth of your made-up world.

After you write your scene, you may cringe at the angst, or at the million other sentiments your descriptions invoke. You’ll realize you’re close then, close though not exactly a serial killer. Nor should you believe writing about his antics will turn you in to one.

You laugh. You’ve worried about Stephen King for years. 

I’m sure he’s a perfectly normal guy.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Offering the Widow’s Mite

I’ve been thinking about inadequacy lately, and  how we often perceive ourselves less than we are. Like a disease, this malady—if allowed to develop unchecked—can stop us in our progression toward our goals. I’ve worked feverishly at my writing for over twenty-five years now and possess little proof of my efforts. As a result, occasionally, I fall victim to the life-sapping belief I’ve failed to reach my honored place in the industry.

The other  night I visited with a spiritual leader of the church I attend. I unloaded all my failures and weaknesses, confessing my lack in writing, in mothering, in marriage, in service…well, I included almost every aspect of my life in the equation. I drew a sympathetic smile from him, not for any lack I possess, but more for my misguided observation of who I am.
He talked of the parable of the widow’s mite and asked me what it meant. I thought about his question for a moment. My answer: However small the talent we hold, if we give everything we have, it is enough. He reminded me, “Worth more than all the rest.” 
That concept might be difficult for us to accept in this world of comparisons, in the sharp contrasts of one individual over another, but the concept rings true. The Savior didn’t look at the widow’s offering in any monetary value, only at her willingness to give all for her beliefs. Those who identified themselves as giving much, had actually held back more than they contributed, had elevated themselves to an honor they didn’t deserve.
What does this have to do with writing? Everything. Sometimes writers get sucked into the whirlwind of numeric successes—how many words, how much can we get, on what scale does our work compare to someone else’s. Not only does the emphasis take away from the joy of journey, but we demote our best efforts and forget our all is the most valued requirement. Who’s to say our steadfastness and the product of our efforts isn't praiseworthy? Does a measure exist that accurately describes our determination and ability to improve?
We should take note of how our words effect our own hearts, how the labor builds confidence and shows commitment as we learn. The rewards will come, maybe not as we hope or as soon as we desire, but if we even lift one soul with our words, we have accomplished something important. If, in the process, we change our own erroneous ideals, the rewards are even more priceless. And if in perseverance, we discover our love of the craft and the energy invested has helped more than just ourselves, we discover value far greater than the rest.
The thought gives pause. It gives new vitality to our writing. We and our struggles are worth far more than we realize. The sooner we accept this, the more productive and successful we will become.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Nasty Business of Writing

Am I the only writer who hates the business of writing?

The other day, I visited a blog where the author apologized for her infrequent posts. Instead, she was editing her manuscript.

What? How dare she write? Take her out back and flog her!

Publishing houses and their slow, highly-competitive, money-crunching mentality require writers to invest greater portions of their time selling their name and products. They don’t give out free marketing help anymore, especially to a lesser-known author. And if writers publish their own books, they are guaranteed even less time to write. Add an outside job, family, and keeping up with all the social platforms, and authors might as well shove available prime writing time nose first out a ten-story window.

How are writers to remedy this? The pat answer: They do the best they can and without apology.

Writers must plan to succeed. Even if they sell a book, the process will take years before they can survive on the craft alone. Thus, authors need a strategy, a means to achieve their writing goals. Below are just a few suggestions to make the road less bumpy:

  • Establish a set writing time. Listening to the muse only when the mood strikes or during different times each day is less productive than working on a specific schedule.  
  • Get organized. Apply the same talent used in organizing a book to the business of writing. Keep supplies and research where you can find them. Everything should have a place and a method in its application. 
  • Set goals. A to-do list helps. Plan the night before what writing takes precedence the next day. Check at the end of each session to reevaluate progress and adjust goals accordingly. 
  • Create a budget, stay within the parameters. Be realistic. 
  • Keep good records. Learn how to keep track of expenses and to do taxes. I know, I know, this makes me grumpy too. 
  • Keep contacts handy. Searching through cupboards for someone’s phone number wastes valuable writing time. 
  • Invest in a website, business cards, high-speed internet, a good computer, and printer. These are the necessities of the writing business, and they help writers present a professional face to the world. 
  • Get trained. Take a class, read how-to books, attend conferences, and join a support group (the operative phrase here is a support group. Avoid spreading yourself too thin). 
  • Most importantly, WRITE. Every day. Don’t allow business and organization to take over. Maybe the first item on your to-do list should reflect the purpose of the bits of housekeeping I’ve listed in this post.

Didn't we set out to write all along?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Booker Award

My goodness! Jeff Hargett from Strands of Pattern awarded me The Booker Award! I am excited to share my favorite books with you.
Here are the rules for this award:

This award is for book bloggers only. To receive this award the blog must be at least 50% about books (reading or writing is okay).

Along with receiving this award, you must also share your top five favorite books you have ever read. (More than five is okay).

You must give this award to 5-10 other lucky book blogs you adore.

My 7 favorite books (I could go on)
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Years of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks
Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell
Tending Roses by Lisa Wingate
Rainwater by Sandra Brown
Katherine by Anya Seton
Coming Up for Air by Patti Callahan Henry

I'd like to pass this Award Forward:
Donna Hatch at DONNA HATCH ~ Romance Author, two time Golden Quill finalist and winner
Betsy Love at Betsy Love - LDS Author
Marsha Ward at Writer in the Pines
Taffy at The Book Addict
Leslie Pugh at Leslie Pugh - One Word at a Time
Brittany Gulbrandsen at Britney Gulbrandsen

 Thanks, Jeff. I appreciate the thought.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Daisies Under Our Wheels

I marvel at the women in my writer’s group who can listen to someone’s manuscript and, right away, tell you everything that’s wrong with it. I can’t do that. I have to read a piece and reflect on it before I can see the errors. Sometimes I play the mute in my meetings because the mistakes that others find don’t seem as apparent to me just by listening to the story once. I guess I am a visual person. Either that, or my fellow authors are just better writers than I am.

When I listen or read another’s work, I concentrate on the entertainment value rather than critique, unless something jumps out at me and pushes me out of the story. This morning someone in an online group posed the question: Does our status as writers make us more critical or more forgiving in our critiques? Hmm…that’s a question I've mulled over for some time. In my experience, most writers are quick to criticize, always trying to improve their manuscripts, yet determined to fix someone else’s work along the way.

Isn’t that what we writers tend to do? Once we’re rolling over the weeds in our own manuscripts, it’s hard to stop the momentum, and we sometimes catch a flower or two under our wheels. By nature, I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I want to build them up as a writer before poking and prodding at their grammar. And yes, this is a tough business. We’re told if we don’t have the mettle to handle critique, we need to find another creative avenue to satisfy our muse. But how many great writers, athletes, artists… fill in the blank…could have shined had they received encouragement rather than harsh criticism from their peers? Isn’t our critique just one opinion?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to help someone improve their writing. I just hope we see and relay the potential in others as we mark their pages with our sharp, red pencils. With our corrective and picayunish drive for perfection, we ought to especially use care with budding writers. Go ahead and crack the whip on your own work, but leave some dignity and hope for those aspiring to rise from the dregs. Writing is a tough pursuit, but I guarantee we will never utter the last word on any piece we critique, so why not approach our critiques with humility. Let’s see the daisies in other authors’ work, instead of just the rocks. Who knows, we might discover we've encouraged the next bestselling author in the process.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I love lyrical fiction. You know, the kind of writing that makes you feel as though you are lying in the cool grass with the book’s character, enjoying the gentle wisp of breeze rustling your hair, the faint whiff of summer roses permeating the air. I can almost hear the music of the trees as they swish against each other, the distant bay of dog, disturbed by a jogger passing by. Every sense tingles; every vivid word I read nudges me to wake and experience the scene as though I were there.

I found such a descriptive writer recently. Patti Callahan Henry is the author of eight novels about southern living and self-discovery. Critics compare her to Patricia Gaffney and Mary Alice Monroe, and now that I’ve read Patti’s books, I want to explore what the others have to say. I’ve placed her novels on my shelf alongside Kate Morton’s works. I’m excited to have found another literary favorite. I want to write my own manuscripts that touch others as deeply as their books have touched me. They inspire me and make me want to sit down at the computer, lasso words and corral them onto the page in ways that will best communicate the thoughts inside me. And though I may never reach such heights as these fine writers, I am grateful for their talent and what their genius does to me.

How about you? Who are your favorite authors, and what impassions you about their writing? Please share so others may sample their work.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Accuracy In Fiction

How accurate does an author need to be when writing fiction? I found a variety of opinions on the topic. Most agree that a work of fiction is exactly that—not meant to be factual. One definition of the word explains that fiction “is a pretense that does not represent actuality but has been invented.” With that description, need I say more?

However, many writers argue an author of fiction needs to be at least correct in setting or in technology or about the era in which they write. I do as much research as I can before I weave a story, but even the most carefully-researched novel can contain factual errors. If you weren’t in the thick of the battle, or haven’t participated in the latest high-tech gadgetry, or have never set foot on a submarine, you are at a disadvantage compared to those who have or did. No amount of research can take the place of first-hand experiences.

One problem arises when intelligent, educated, well-read individuals take what they read in a novel as fact. And if they catch you in a fabrication, they may put your book down and never read anything you write again. The controversy that surrounded Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, proves that many “educated” individuals were offended by the concepts he presented in that work. Brown’s statement in the beginning of his book that claimed some of what he wrote was fact might have added to the chaos, but the book was fiction.

Another issue develops because information that someone may have considered accurate years ago may now prove obsolete. Evidence continues to break on the horizon, and our fast-paced, sci-fi, mechanistic society waits for no one. Getting our hands on the most accurate research is difficult, at best.

So how can a fiction writer satisfy the fact lover’s appetite and still retain license to create the story they want to spin? I say it’s a war we are almost certain to fail. But should we fret about it? A more accurate detail will always lurk around the corner or surface the day after your novel hits the bookstore shelves. Just check the essentials the best you can, stay true to your own accuracy-meter, and type like mad. But the most important element is to use your imagination. After all, you’re writing fiction, and I dare anyone to dispute that fact.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

I'd Rather Be an Introvert

A few posts ago, I suggested writers might be more introverted than actors. I recently read a blog that discussed introverts, and the author listed several myths surrounding them that I believe sum up the majority of creative people in the world. Here is his list:

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become extroverts

Does that sound like any of the prejudices against you creative individuals out there?

The author explained introverts were people who liked to talk, but they needed a reason to engage in conversation with others, a reason to interact. They are not aloof or rude; they just find small talk unnecessary. And get an introvert in a discussion on that which they are passionate about, and you may find yourself captive for hours.

Unfortunately, extroverts find it hard to understand that the inner world of the introvert is much more exciting and stimulating than the thrill-seeking, mile-a-minute opportunities they levitate toward. But what is wrong with that? Over-stimulation often provides too many distractions for an artist. These activities get in the way of the genius that comes in the still, small moments—those moments that provide a great deal of fun and relaxation.

The more I delved into that blog article, the more I recognized myself in the author’s description. Only, I always thought there was something wrong with me. I always wondered why I couldn’t be more like an extrovert. After all, they seem to get results faster and are more accepted than those with quite, thoughtful natures. No matter how I tried, I just couldn’t fix myself to act differently either.

So be it. I look at what I’ve accomplished in creativity, and I am grateful. I wouldn’t trade who I am for all the acceptance on the planet. And although, I’d like exciting experiences filed away in my brain so I know what I’m talking about when my characters climb a mountain or shoot a gun, I’d much rather be behind the computer and living my thrills on the page.

How about you?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Believe In Yourself

Rejections are strange beasts. They rip the very core of an author to shreds, but they tend to implant power and courage in the wounded soul. Now that I’ve sent off my Little Darling to an agent in New York, I’m hopeful, yet I embrace myself for what might be waiting in the shadows. Whatever the outcome, I will hold up my head and limp toward my goal with more courage than before. Such is the plight of all authors.

In fact, I was surprised to discover such blockbuster books received so many rejections. Take the examples below for instance:

  • Kathryn Stockett's The Help was turned down 60 times before it became a best seller and a movie.
  • Stephanie Meyer sent out 15 Twilight manuscripts, received nine rejections, five no responses, and one interested party. 
  • J. K. Rowling received 12 rejections for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
  • Madeline L Engle's A Wrinkle in Time was turned down 29 times.

I could hardly believe the degrading comments that editors and agents wrote back about these future greats:

  • A rejection letter to Pierre Roulle about his Bridge Over River Kwai said, A very bad read."
  • H.G. Wells received these depressing words about The War of the Worlds. "An endless nightmare. I do not believe it would "take" ...I think the verdict would be 'Oh don't read that horrid book'."
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold drew this comment: "(this book has) no future..."
  • Someone in the publishing world said about Herman Melville's Moby Dick, "We regret to say that out united opinion is entirely against the book as we do not think it would be at all suitable for the Juvenile Market in (England). It is very long, rather old-fashioned..."
  • Even Stephen King received this comment about Carrie. "We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell." 

These rejections are words we all dread to hear in our pursuit of publication. And if these proven authors had let the beasts latch on and devour them, they would never have received recognition for their efforts.

So I ask you to join me. Plant solid footing, don your suit of impenetrable armor, and meet the beast head on—if it attacks. But remember, the most sure defense against those rejections that may come is to believe in yourself. You may have to improve, regroup, and re-enter the arena, but each step toward the unknown makes you stronger.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Finding Time to Write

For the first twenty years after I decided I wanted to be an author, I could never find time to write. At least, that’s what I told myself over and over again. Life got in the way. My husband, the children, the pets, church responsibilities, blah, blah, blah.

The sad fact is, I wasted those precious years of writing time because I didn’t realize I had to carve out moments to fit my busy schedule. I could have written early in the morning, or late at night. I could have written during my kids naptime or while I waited for the laundry to dry. It certainly didn’t mean the task was easier, just doable. I could have hacked out a book or two or three over the years and be in a better place than I am now—farther along in my quest to become a published author.

While I’m talking about wasting time, it does me no good to complain about those lost years. My message to you is to find the time in every free moment you have right now, whatever may have occurred before. I’m no less busy today than I was twenty years ago. If I had to guess, I’d say I am even more busy. But I’m also a lot smarter. Over the last two and half years, I’ve completed my second novel one hour a day, at 4:30 in the morning, during lunch breaks, or during the television programs I choose not to turn on. I have just about prepared my manuscript for submittal. The process has taken a lot longer than I had hoped, but chewing off one piece at a time has allowed me to finally accomplish my goal.

So start today. Stop complaining. Just write…whenever you can. Eventually, you’ll find the rewards waiting at the end of that sludge of life you are plowing through at the moment. And when you look back, you’ll see you are a lot farther along than if you hadn’t put your fingers to the keyboard at all
.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Writers as Actors

An interesting fact came to light at the ANWA conference I attended in February. A well-established author pointed out that most writers have a drama background. The author had everybody in the class raise their hand if they had taken drama at one point in their lives. About ¾ of the class acknowleged that they had.

I thought about the concept for a moment and thought back to high school. Yep, I took drama for two years and directed the Senior play, Arsenic and Old Lace. I felt at home in that environment, enjoyed the limelight, but I never imagined my fellows of the pen experienced a similar thrill. Not only did I act, but I took choir too, which required a certain number of performances each year. When you think about it, to act or to write is so similar in the particulars of the craft, that it really isn’t surprising that many writers have done both.

So that pushed me to research the concept a little further and here is what I found out.

We Portray What We Know - Both writers and actors pull emotions from past experiences and present them in the characters they portray or write about. They both think through how a character might show how they’re feeling.

We Show Instead of Tell - Writers and actors show a character through actions. Some actors even go as far as living the physical environment for days just to throw their mindset into their character’s world. As a writer, I have acted out scenes at my desk to inspire the words in my mind. It is all about drawing the audience into the reality of someone's life who really doesn’t exist. But by the time a writer or actor comes to the end of a project, part of their personality has altered, or at least they know the character they have portrayed like a best friend.

We Present On Stage - The scenes of a novel or a movie are played out on either a literal stage or in the format of chapters or an entire book. It’s how we throw the light on that stage, how close to reality we present the hero and heroine, that creates a mood or brings the character to life.

We Escape from Reality – Let’s face it, to write or act allows a crafter to escape the bills, the dull existence of day-to-day life and sucks someone else into that world too. When I sit down to watch a movie or read a book, the more convincing the actor or author is, the more immersed I become and sink into a dream state of existence. It relieves stress and tension and allows me to imagine myself as if I were there. I love the escape and it makes me want more.

So, it’s no surprise to me that most writers have participated in the world of acting. It’s quite natural. About the only thing different about the two is a writer might be more of an introvert than an actor, although with a little coaxing, I’m sure a writer could find the extra drive.

What do you think?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pitches and Perfection

You might have noticed I’ve waxed quiet for the last few months. It’s not that I’m shy or lazy or have lost interest. Rather, I’ve driven myself to distraction as I’ve typed to the end of my novel and prepared to submit it to a New York agent.

Last month was the twentieth ANWA writers conference at the Hilton in in Mesa, Arizona. Time Out for Writers was the best conference yet with a list of incredible authors, editors, and agents who attended. Though I prepared to present a class on Writing a Family History That Reads Like Fiction, my main objective before the big event was to prepare a pitch for Jane Dystel of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

Do I dare admit this was my first pitch ever? Several meltdowns and moments of leaning on a few of my colleagues as they led me glassy-eyed to Jane’s table proved the point. One nice young man who had waited with me for his appointment told me to take a deep breath and to just tell her what my book is about. I sucked up courage and plowed through my spiel…continued without breath until I realized Jane had said yes—twice. Wincing, I realized I hadn’t even allowed her to ask a few questions. Nor did I ask how I was to submit my manuscript. I just talked, non-stop.

I knew she saw through the nervous energy of my inexperience. I asked her what she expected from a first time novelist. She smiled and answered, “Of course, it depends on the writing.”

And so I’ve done nothing but write, edit, send it out to readers since our meeting—to make the book as flawless as possible before I send it to New York. I’ve asked myself over and over again, “What if it’s not perfect?”

Something whispers back. “It won’t be. Just give it your best. That’s all anyone can expect. But don’t wait too long, or you’ll miss your opportunity.”

“Yeah, yeah, I tell myself. How long is too long, and how NEAR to perfection should I make it?”

Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to that.