Monday, December 6, 2010

PLAN FOR A CONFERENCE

Jan Morrill, me, Ruth Weeks, Patty Stith (thanks for the pic Jan!)

I'm in Oklahoma City, OK waiting for the Oklahoma Writers' Federation, Inc. (OWFI) board meeting to start. We are planning the 2011 conference which is always held the first weekend of May. A lot of work goes into a conference. In fact, the day our conference is over we begin working on the next year's. I will be serving as conference president in 2012 and I'm already working on it!

Everyone should go to at least one writing conference, even those who consider themselves advanced and think they've heard it all.

None of us have heard it all.

Besides, the networking opportunities are invaluable. Pitching to agents and editors in this setting gives the writer a great advantage over those who query via snail mail or email. Meeting industry professionals face-to-face offers an opportunity for rapport. They can get a feel for you and what you have written. They can also ask questions and give feedback!

Think about it, would you rather have your manuscript stuck in an electronic slush pile or discuss it with the editor or agent in person.

Conferences can be costly, so do your research, choose one, and start saving money. If you are thinking, but Linda, there is no room in the budget to save money, take a look at what you may spend on a daily basis. Can you "trade" it for "saving" money? The cost of lattes, gum, soft drinks, eating out for lunch, movies really add up. Have a garage sale. Sell stuff on e-bay. Put all that money in a bank account precisely for conference expenses. Be sure to save up enough to buy books! It is also good to find a roommate to go with you and share with the cost.

Go to www.writersconf.org for a great list of conferences according to genre.  BUT, while you are looking at that list, DON'T forget the greatest conference of all, the 2011 OWFI Writers Conference May 5-7th at the Embassy Suites Hotel in OKC, OK!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ruthie’s Rookie Writing Tips











This month, I've asked my friend, Ruth Weeks, to guest blog. She is part of our critique group family and she gave this presentation at a writer's conference last March. I thought it was excellent advice for those who are just beginning the writer's journey and wanted to share it with you.  

Ruth is a gifted writer (far beyond the title she gives herself as "advanced beginner") who has won many awards. She is also a delightful communicator. Currently she is working on her second novel. Please visit her site:

http://www.truthsbyruth.blogspot.com

When I began to write, I struggled with everything.  Thank God I had friends and an excellent critique group to help.  Now that I have stepped up to an advanced beginner, I would like to share some of the tips that benefited me during the first hundred miles on my journey to becoming a successful writer.  
When I was ten years old, I told Mama that one day I would write a book.  Then life happened and that dream got put on the backburner. 

 In 2007, the Powers That Be decided it was time to start cooking.  Inspiration struck and within three months I had written the next New York Times Best Seller. True, New York doesn’t know that yet. But, if you’re going to dream, dream big. 

This leads to the first tip:  When Inspiration and Creativity strike, just write.
I like to think of creativity and inspiration as mischievous gremlins that wander around in my subconscious just waiting for the perfect opportunity to hit me over the head with a great idea.  Gremlins don’t conform to rules, regulations, deadlines, or bedtime.  Time is a four-letter word to them.  They are also sensitive creatures. When they come out to play, give them free rein.  Let the story flow.  Don’t worry about grammar or spelling.  Just write.  Never try to control the inspiration and creativity gremlins because they will pout and refuse to talk.  Remember: Write First, Edit Second.

So, there I was with a fantastic manuscript. My little voice said, “Great!  Now what?”  I’m going to get it published,” I told my voice.  The voice replied, “Really?  How ya going to do that?”  Good question.  I thought for a moment then said, “I’ll Google it!”  Sounded like a brilliant idea however, the more I read the more confused and overwhelmed I became.  It finally dawn on me I needed help. 

Which conveniently leads into the second tip and the most important:  Get your poop in a group. 
Make sure you find a good critique group. What comprises a good critique group? 
·      The group should have a sprinkling of seasoned, experienced, published writers that know the ins and outs of the writing game. These blessed individuals are valuable assets because you can trust their advice.  They’ve been there.  Experience is priceless.
·      The group should also have people gifted in the art of editing.  These people not only help with grammar, punctuation, and spelling, but they have the unique ability to arrange sentences and paragraphs around in order to make the story flow smoother.  Contrary to popular belief, a good editor is your best friend.  They do your writing good.
·      To do yourself proud, always read your work out loud.  A good critique group insists that you read your work out loud to the class.  By doing so, mistakes the eye missed, the ear will catch.

A good critique group does not:  meet each week just to get out of the house and away from the kids, stomp you or your work into the ground, mess with the writer’s voice, or tip-toe around critiquing.  Suck it up and take their suggestions in the vein in which it is given; to improve your work and to make you a better writer.   

At my first writing conference I sat on the edge of my chair eager for information.  The speaker threw out words and terms such as, point-of-view, sense of place, and internalization. 

Gee.  Writers have a secret language all their own, I realized if I was going to join their ranks, I needed to learn it and learn if fast.  In a nut shell, here are the big three:
I.  If you wish to write something new, you must first learn point-of-view.
Point-of-view (POV) is THE most important thing a writer must learn.  Period.  It’s a rule that can’t be broken or bent too far of shape.  POV is a double-edged sword in that it is the easiest yet the hardest thing a beginning writer struggles with. 

I majored in Dramatics at the University of Arkansas.  Drama and writing are kissing cousins.  To become a good actor, you literally take of your shoes and step into the shoes of your character.  The same is true in writing.  You write only from the view point of your character.  What he sees, thinks, and feels.  This is all point-of-view is.  Simple. Right?     

Before you begin a chapter, decide which character it belongs to. (It doesn’t have to be the leading actor all the time.  Give the supporting actors a chance.) However, whichever character you choose, stick with him/her through out the whole chapter.
·      To help clear up the POV fog, use dialogue:
An excellent way to tell what a non-point-of-view character is thinking is just have him say what’s on his mind.
·      If you are not certain, write in first person:
If you still have a problem staying in your character’s head, write the story in first person, I.  The ego is a powerful.  It won’t let you jump out of your own head.  After the scene is finished, go back and put it third person, he said/she said.

2.  To prevent your reader from getting lost, provide a sense of place at all cost.
One of the major rules in writing is not to lose your reader.  You want their nose stuck in book and not to be jerked out of the story because they are confused and wondering what is going on?  Where is the action taking place?  What time of day is it?  What is the weather like, etc, etc,.  To keep the reader grounded, every so often through out the scene, throw in a sense of place.
·      To set the scene in motion, use the five senses plus emotion.
Our five senses are powerful and can conjure pictures to our mind in an instant.  Use them for description.  Throw in a dash of emotion and the reader is hooked.

It isn’t necessary when setting the scene (drama talk for sense of place), to write paragraph after paragraph of description.  One or two sentences do the trick and are all that is necessary.

3.  To keep your writing from stinking, tell what your character is thinking.
Internalization is the personal, private thoughts of your character.  It makes him/her human and creates a bond between him and the reader.  Internalization gives your character depth and rounds him out.  I like to think of internalization as the difference between a regular movie and one in 3D.  The 3D movie adds another dimension.

To sum things up, I want you to remember four things:  Write everyday.  Dream Big.  Believe in yourself.  Never give up!

Good luck and successful writing to all.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

RUN AWAY WRITER




Yesterday, I had the whole day to write. THE WHOLE DAY!

But . . .

I made the mistake of going into my closet—think cave—and the urge to finally clean it overwhelmed me. So, the ENTIRE day I sorted clothes into piles to go to different causes, you see, I’ve lost 35 pounds and most everything I own is too large. Another thing about my closet is that it is the holding place for everything else in my house that I don’t know what to do with. So yesterday, I had to make those decisions as well. The sad thing is that it isn’t finished even after spending the entire day.

The sad thing is even if I hadn’t gone into my closet and gotten dominated by its demands, the walk-in pantry and my walk-in office closet are screaming for attention. I was doomed anyway. It’s like my brain turns into spaghetti.


Sometimes, I just need to run away to a neutral place in order for my focus to be undivided. I’m not always so weak, but oftentimes when I’m insecure in my writerly world I will succumb to everything else but writing.

This can be a real problem for writers because unless we are “under contract” or making a lot of money, our family and friends think of our work as a “hobby” and have no problem demanding their piece of our time. And apparently some of us agree because we leave our writing to give it to them. It never occurs to us to say “no.”

If you find this is true, perhaps you need to run away. I like to go to coffee shops (but run into the danger of seeing someone I know) or go to the library. Next week I’m going to a writer’s conference in Eureka Springs, AR. I’m leaving super early in order to have quiet writing time before everyone else arrives.
If you have the “spaghetti-brain” syndrome, try running away for a while. Eventually, you will be able to return home. For a little while anyway!



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

WRITING FRIENDS ~ WE NEED THEM!!!!



We writers are supposed to avoid cliché's but nothing says it better than this one: TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE.


All writers need friends with the same mental illness. Someone who understands the way we think and process. And it is even better when one writer friend is  further down the road to success. Someone who has survived the writerly condition and can take us by the hand and lead us through the dark times. Velda Brotherton (above) is that to me. She is multi-published in most genre's  and I'm so thankful God gave me this precious friend. 




When I get stuck I go to my trusted writing friends and we brainstorm. Last week Jan Morrill (above) and I drove to Oklahoma City for an OWFI board meeting. I told her about some problems with my novel rewrites. She started the "what if" game (where she'd suggest a "twist" in a scene). It is like a dam of ideas broke and flooded my mind. Jan brought a freshness that my stagnant brain couldn't stir. 


There is value in getting a few, and I mean a few, writing friends together for an evening of brainstorming. Simply taking turns with projects and helping each other tear down the one dimensional, predictable, parts of our stories creates a new excitement about our projects. 


Friends J.R.R.Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Hugo Dyson found value meeting in the Eagle and Child pub every Thursday. I think they are an excellent example of the results when creative minds spark in a group. 


Are you stuck, stagnate, discouraged? Call three writerly friends and invite them over. Fix a few snacks and get to work! You'll be glad you did!  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

WHEN THE COMPUTER STARES BACK AT YOU

Writing is easy:  All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.  ~Gene Fowler

Having a hard time writing? Are your fingers frozen on the keys because your mind is paralyzed? Usually the problem is the evil editor who's propped on your shoulder like a vulture ready to kill every idea and every word.

If this is your problem try Free Writing. This is simply writing whatever is on your mind whether or not it has anything to do with what you're writing. Just empty your mind and write whatever comes to it. Don't worry about your prose being incriminating. Remember, you can always hit the delete button!

Don't look at the screen while you type. This shuts down the evil editor completely! Turn the screen away and start typing your mind for about three minutes. Don't worry about mistakes just type. If after three minutes you want to continue, keep at it.

This is very cathartic and you will find in all your ramblings that you have some really great ideas. Do this over and over until that old buzzard gets bored and flies away in search of someone else's shoulder.

Give it a try and let me know how it worked for you! 


Sunday, March 28, 2010

WRITING HISTORY

A friend of mine, Mary Larmoyeux, wrote in her blog, The Grand Connection, about hearing a holocaust survivor speak about her experiences in a concentration camp. This presentation challenged Mary to write about events that she personally experienced, events that her grandchildren would only read about. 

She  quoted John W. Gardner who said, "History never looks like history when you are living through it," then asked how we, her readers, are capturing the stories of historical events that we've lived through. To read the full article, go to this link:
http://grandconnection.blogspot.com/2010/03/remembering-so-they-will-never-forget.html

Mary's question challenged me and I made a list of historical events of which I've had a personal connection, such as:

  • Kennedy assassination
  • Neil Armstrong walks on the moon
  • Vietnam
  • Fall of Berlin Wall
  • Space shuttle Challenger disaster
  • The beginning of the Internet
  • Oklahoma City bombing
  • 911
  • The fall of Sadaam Hussein
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • The election of our first bi-racial president




I'm writing my memories of these events and how they have affected my life. In my creative nonfiction workshops, I always stress, "You tell your stories. Don't let the 'talking heads' do it!"
Sometime soon, make a list of the historical events you've experienced—even though they don't seem like history—and write about them from a personal point of view. 
Your grandchildren, and future generations will thank you! 


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

GETTING A LATE START?

I began writing in high school in a creative writing elective coarse. A spark ignited in me, but life quickly extinguished it when I married in the first year of college. After a divorce, remarriage, five children who grew into five teenagers (yikes!), our house burning down, and the near death of our youngest son and his health issues after that, who had time to write?

Then a dear friend, Lois Spoon, introduced me to the Northwest Arkansas Writers critique group. My writer spark reignited into a flame. I wrote and wrote until I finally found my voice. There was only one problem that I grappled with to the point that it held me back—regret.

I regretted all the time lost when I could have been writing. It seemed that every writer I met and every successful author I listened to at conferences exited the womb with a silver pen in their hand. They all wrote as little children. Who was I, an old woman of forty something, to think she could start writing and have any success or impact at all?

Now at the age of fifty four, I'll tell you who. I'm a woman with stories to tell, experiences to share, and hope to give. My second book, Connect! A Simple Guide to Public Speaking for Writers, will be available soon and I just sold my eleventh story to Chicken Soup for the Soul. I'm also enjoying another unexpected benefit, speaking to writers' groups and conferences.

If you are struggling with regret for starting late—don't! Just think of the past years as research, and get on with the business of writing!

You have stories begging to be told!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

FINDING A TOPIC

One of the first responses I get when I suggest to authors that they should try public speaking is, "But, what would I talk about?"

To find topics you must think outside the book or article that you are promoting. I listened to a presentation given by William P Young, author of the mega-bestseller, The Shack. He told about the process of writing his book and the incredible events that caused it to soar to be a best seller. Below is the description on the back of the book:

Mackenzie Allen Phillips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant, "The Shack" wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" 

The story of The Shack lends itself to a lot of topics to many different groups. Let's explore a few possible topics:

  • Protecting our children against abduction. This talk can be given to parent groups like the PTA, clubs, churches. In it the story of Mackenzie and his grief can be woven into all throughout.
  • Dealing with Depression and Guilt. Mr. Young did a beautiful job sharing his journey through his great sadness and how he overcame it.
  • The stereotypes of God. Mr. Young shares who God is to him. 
I am currently working on a novel about a young girl going to the gold fields to find her father. Some topics I can speak on are:
  • Women in the Gold Rush 
  • Medicines used by the pioneers
  • What's on the menu for campfire dinners
  • The strange and rushed relationships 
All the above could be given to any writer, women's group, historical societies, or school. And all the while I will refer back to my book. This same thing can be done with articles. 

Take a look at your work and make a list of all the different topics you find and groups who would be interested in your subject. I think you will be surprised at all you have to talk about!