January 2011 Archive

Do You Doubt?

I have the best support system any girl could ask for.  I have an amazing boyfriend who gives me all the quiet time I need to write and is there to bounce ideas off of.  I have a Mom and Dad who are always willing to edit and read draft after draft of work.  I have a sister who is excited to be a part of my work.  And I have two dogs who sleep beside me while I write and keep me company.  These are my main supporters in my path to being a writer, along with friends, cousins, aunts, and grandparents.  All of these people are great at critiquing my work and not letting me think I am better than what I am, but at the same time they let me know I am not chasing after a dream I have no talent for.

If I know I am talented, have the dedication to work hard, and the willingness to learn, then why do I still doubt myself?

Occasionally, I doubt my ideas aren’t creative or that what I find interesting no one else will.  A lot of the time, I doubt my knowledge of grammar and punctuation.  Sometimes, I doubt that no matter how hard I work and how much I love what I do that no one, outside my circle of supporters, will respond to my work.  Most of the time, I doubt my writing, that when placed next to others it will fall far short.

There are two ways I can respond to doubt: one, I can stop writing and keep my stories in my head, and two, I can acknowledge my doubt and continue to work hard.

While reading other paragraph entries on Nathan Bransford’s blog, I was intimidated by many submissions and I definitely questioned how mine looked up against theirs.  I think this is great though because the only way I will improve is by reading and learning from others.

What’s especially cool about posting on Nathan’s blog is that TWO people liked mine.  Not ZERO, but TWO!!!  How cool is that?!  I know it’s not ten, or twenty, or a hundred who said something, but I was thrilled that both Patti and Sophia responded to my post.  Thank you both.

I believe all artists doubt, perhaps all people in all areas of work doubt their abilities.  The only way I want to respond to my own doubt is to push them aside and continue to work.  Doubting myself will only make me write…err, work harder.

The First Paragraph

I have always had a hard time writing the beginning of stories, mostly because of a conflict I have: I have always been torn between how I want a story to begin and how I think it should begin.

I feel and believe that a first paragraph should be clean and simple.  It should make the audience ask a question and also give the promise that all questions will be answered if the rest of the piece is read.  The question shouldn’t be, ‘what on earth are they trying to write about?’  The writing should be clear, not wordy, so that the reader absolutely understands what is being written.  Know, that I mean the reader understands not the answers to questions raised, but the writing in and of itself.

On the other hand, I have thought a first paragraph should be eloquent and make great use of vocabulary – in a sense, wordy.  It should be interesting – maybe an exciting event or action scene.  It does not have to stand alone.

Nathan Bransford, a writer and past agent, is holding a challenge on his blog.  The challenge is to write a first paragraph, that paragraph is posted in the comments section of the blog entry and very cool prizes are awarded to the winner. Definitely check it out, his blog in general is pretty awesome (www.nathanbransford.com).

This is the paragraph I wrote this morning while straightening my hair:

The soup was poisoned. Henry knew it. He watched as she carefully lifted the spoon to her lips, tasted it with her tongue, and then let the concoction slide down her throat. With childish glee, he wondered how long it would take her to die.

I like this paragraph because it is simple and clean.  It raises great questions (who is Henry and who is the woman? Did Henry poison the woman? Why does someone want her to die?) These are easy questions for the reader to develop and also there is the potential for very interesting answers.  It maybe not be an action sequence, but it still grabs the readers attention.

Anyways, I’m not sure what most people think a first paragraph should be like, but I think I’ll stick to my idea of clean and simple writing.

I also challenge you all to write a paragraph AND post it here – if you feel so inclined!

Ira Glass

Ira Glass on storytelling, watch it, all four parts.

Rupert’s Voice

At some point in the past week I have become unhappy with how “Rupert” is developing, both as a book and as a character.  I am roughly half way through my first draft, and the past couple thousand words have felt forced and lacking…something.  I finally realized yesterday what that something was – Rupert’s lost his voice.

Or more correctly, I’ve lost his voice.

I read “Island of the Blue Dolphins” this week and was completely blown away by the voice Scott O’dell creates for his main character, Karana.  I completely believed I was reading the thoughts and experiences of this girl, that every word he wrote was not a word but a moment.  After reading this book, it hit me that while writing, I completely bulldozed over telling his story and was more concerned with having a finished product.

Karana, from “Island of the Blue Dolphins” showed me that it’s time for me to spend some quality time with Rupert outside of the story I think I want to tell.

Every piece of writing has a different voice, this is what makes every book interesting and unique.  I could write a story on- let’s say dogs – and so could you.  Even if we both wrote on exactly the same dog the stories would turn out completely different.  This is because of the voice we would write through.

Voice is influenced by personality, experience, color, and tone.  The voice of writing changes for every piece of writing someone creates.  Perhaps this is why I have begun to test different styles of writing, so I am able to develop my own voice further.

Here is a good example of what I don’t know about Rupert and definitely should for me to write his voice:

Rupert’s parents are away on a very long trip and he lives with his aunt.  I told this fact to Cale and he, of course, asked why he wasn’t with them.  All I could do was shrug and say, I don’t know.  I know where his parents are and what they are doing, but I have no idea why they did not bring him with.  This is probably very important and is definitely something that would affect a real child!

Even if I know my own personal voice, that certainly doesn’t mean I know Rupert’s.  Rupert is the filter through which I tell the story.  It is definitely time for me to sit back, learn who he is, and get out of the way so he can tell his story through my fingers.

Creativity

I don’t often wonder where ideas come from. Creativity strikes, a world is born, and I do my best to keep up and write it down. I have been asked recently where my ideas come from and I have read some posts on creativity, so I’ve decided to write one of my own.

Where exactly though does creativity come from? Is it something inside us or is it motivated by outside forces?

When I was in middle school we had classes in separate parts of the building. I remember walking in between classes day dreaming to myself. I’d have to shake my head and remind myself of where I actually was. For me, I believe my writing and creativity is some sort of mutation of reality. There are bits of truth in everything I write, or at least things I hope to be true.

I’ve learned over the past couple years that creativity is not confined to one aspect of life, such as music, painting, or writing. It also resides in sports- someplace I never would have thought to find it. The greatest sports players are creative geniuses, able to think around a situation in an instant. Creativity comes in different forms and is used in many different ways. Perhaps all of us, even those of us who think we aren’t creative, actually are.

Over all, I believe creativity is something sparked by the outside world, a part of us grabs onto that spark and something great comes to life.