Friday, January 30, 2009
"Write for the Father’s enjoyment. I’ve found that when I write to please man—that editor or critique partner—I set myself up to only feel good about my writing if someone is applauding it. I would stall unless I had some compliments to “fuel” my writing. It put me in a very insecure place and I found that I was always looking outward for my confidence.
Learn to draw from the well of God and feel his pleasure in you and your writing. It removes the pressure to perform. Rather than writing under the stress and fear that your best effort won’t be good enough, you’ll find joy in writing, editing, and being critiqued. Okay, joy in being critiqued might be stretching things a tad."
~Sherri Sand, author of Leave It to Chance
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
As writers, we desire to create characters that live in our readers’ minds long after the story ends. This book will show how to create “a true hero or heroine who taps into universal emotions and feelings.”
The authors state, “At the very core of a character, every hero can be traced back to one of eight major archetypes, as can every heroine. The core archetype tells the writer the most basic instincts of heroes or heroines—how they think and feel, what drives them and how they reach their goals.”
The Hero Archetypes are: Chief, Bad Boy, Best Friend, Charmer, Lost Soul, Professor, Swashbuckler, and Warrior.
The Heroine Archetypes are: Boss, Seductress, Spunky Kid, Free Spirit, Waif, Librarian, Crusader, and Nurturer.
Don’t be afraid that basing a hero on an archetype will result in a cookie-cutter character. The authors note, “Archetypal characters are not carbon copies of each other. Mary Richards and Rhoda Morgenstern of The Mary Tyler Moore Show were both members of the same archetype, (Spunky Kid) but very different women.”
Each archetype is defined; qualities, virtues, and flaws are listed; and realistic occupations are given. A possible background is suggested as well as behavior patterns or styles. The authors show how each core archetype might evolve and how to layer archetypes to create complex characters. The authors also show how each male/female pair of archetypes is likely to interact with one another. Finally, an appendix lists examples of each archetype in popular films. For example, While You Were Sleeping: Best Friend—Jack, Spunky Kid—Lucy.
My husband was more of a beta guy. So far, I’ve steered away from alpha characters like Chiefs, Bad Boys, Swashbucklers, and Warriors. I hope to write stories about them someday. But for now, I thought that most of my heroes are the same character with different hair colors and occupations. I was relieved to discover Best Friend, Charmer, Lost Soul, and Professor. Sure, all beta guys, but still different characters.
My teenage daughters and I have had a blast typing each of our family members. We are: Nurturer, Spunky Kid, Free Spirit, Chief, Best Friend, Swashbuckler, and Professor. No wonder our family has such rousing board games and takes forever to make a major decision. We’re a complex set of characters.
Monday, January 26, 2009
"If something inside you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Don't worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you're a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act–truth is always subversive."—Anne Lamott
Why Do I Write?
By Scoti Springfield Domeij
I'm in the process of developing my website, which means digging my value statements and tagline out of my heart.
Not an easy task.
It makes me vulnerable as a person, a writer and most important spiritually. Right now, I'm leaning towards this tagline: Cruciformity—Reality Unblurred
What Does Cruciformity Mean to Me?
It is how my spiritual story propelled me towards an awe-filled, dynamic relationship with God. My shame and pain constantly intersects with the divine story of the cross. Like Jesus' crucifixion, I felt crucified by religionists. Betrayal and abandonment inflicted intense pain—suffering that seemingly destroyed my hopes, dreams and reputation—yet, ultimately infused life into the passion God placed into my heart. Those shocking events revealed God's character, providing the example of how he desires life to be lived marked by faith, love, power, and hope.
The searing agony I've experienced stripped away idealism that too often blurred reality. For a while, I slogged through the valley of disillusionment and loss of faith in Christ. How do you reframe events and people who did not care if they hurt you? In fact, that was their point—to inflict pain.
Reality unblurred comprehends the meaning of a verse that's often tritely spit upon someone emotionally unable to grasp its meaning, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. God can use all things for his glory," Romans 8:28 (NASB). I don't claim that I understand everything this verse conveys, but I know God uses my pain to understand and comfort other fellow strugglers who've lost all hope. The scar tissue of my heart also alerts me when I need to pray for others careworn by betrayal and robbed of security and personal identity.
My writing often takes me places I'd prefer not to go. So why do I write? Because I can't not pursue the passion God put in my heart. I know what he's given, when I had nothing to give. I know how he's provided, when I had zip, zilch. When I feel discouraged and wonder why I write, Anne Lamott's words remind me to be faithful to the tagline of my heart, "You are going to have to give and give and give and give, or there's no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward. There is no cosmic importance to your getting something published, but there is in learning to be a giver."
What painful realities impassion your writing? That's maybe the core from which your tagline will emerge.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Last week, I gave your guidelines for showing or telling. Let’s look at a few examples.
This entry won a contest:
The colored lights and festival atmosphere had charmed April when she’d first arrived. She loved strolling among the cafés, boutiques, street vendors, and hotels that lined the shallow, murky water. Anonymous in the crowd of tourists, Latinos, and cowboys, who flooded the riverbanks seeking entertainment. No one called her name. No one needed more than she had to give.
The sultry afternoon heat drove her into one of the air-conditioned restaurants. But in the evenings, she sipped margaritas and sat beneath one of the bright umbrellas at tiny, wrought-iron tables next to the river, listening to Mariachis—musicians wearing traditional black, short jackets and tight pants. The musicians filled the air with the rich sounds of their vihuelas, or round-backed guitars, along with their sweet violins and brilliant trumpets.
Yet, now that she worked on the River Walk night after night, the place had lost its allure. Tonight, the carnival atmosphere wearied her.
The writing was praised for “precise nouns” and for “well-placed, vivid verbs that take your form feeling festive, to knowing there is something deeply wrong.”
It’s a fairly well written scene. Is it showing or telling?
It’s very descriptive. There are specific nouns and verbs, but there’s really no action. There's no scene that’s taking place in real time. I’m painting the setting and telling you about April.
Let’s look at another example:
Sarah Wilson peeked into the hall closet. Empty--except for a handful of coat hangers. Would the new owners want them? Probably not. She snatched them off the rod.
This house held so many memories. Roger had carried her over the threshold. On a budget, they’d saved and had carefully decorated each room, buying each piece of furniture one at a time on lay-away. Over the years, three babies--Justin, Richard, and Maddie--had been brought home from the hospital. They’d been nurtured here until they’d made lives in other places.
She opened the door wider and studied the incremental marks on the wall beside the doorframe. The new owners would undoubtedly paint over these measurements marking her children's milestones. She sighed. If only she could take the drywall with her. The digital photo she'd downloaded on her laptop would have to suffice.
Sarah fingered the key in her pocket. Tomorrow, she'd have to hand it over to the new owners. She'd no longer have the right to call this old house "home." A new family would live here. Laugh here. Love here. She closed the door firmly and forced her herself to turn away.
She took a deep breath and put a hand on her chest, then thought of the plans she'd made for her move to Florida. She imagined the palm trees and sunny days. This would be the first Christmas of her new life.
Is it showing or telling? Here, I’m showing Sarah doing things. Sarah peeked, opened, sighed, imagined. You see her in action. You also see interior monologue, which is not telling. But I tried to trick you in the second paragraph because that was telling.
Do you see the difference? Good.
I’m taking more Tylenol and going back to bed.
Monday, January 19, 2009
"Hadst thou no poison mixed, no sharp-ground knife, No sudden mean of death, though ne'er so mean, But 'banished' to kill me—'banished'? O friar, the damned use that word in hell; Howling attends it! How hast thou the heart, Being a divine, a ghostly confessor, A sin-absolver, and my friend professed, To mangle me with that word 'banished'?—William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (Romeo at III, iii)
It's That Time of Year Again!
Sharpen your editing knife and consider cutting these words from your writing. Lake Superior State University "maverick" word-watchers, fresh from the holiday "staycation" but without an economic "bailout" even after a "desperate search," issued their 34th annual List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. This year's list may be more "green" than previous lists. It includes words and phrases that people from "Wall Street to Main Street" say they love "not so much" and wish to have erased from their "carbon footprint."
Axe Environmental Buzzwords from your Writing
Green: 'going green,' 'building green,' 'greening,' 'green technology,' 'green solutions'
Carbon footprint, carbon offsetting
Vote Out Presidential Election and Media Verbiage
Not so much.
Winner of five nominations
It's that time of year again!
Friday, January 16, 2009
Bailout refers to the rescue by the government of companies on the brink of failure, including large players in the banking industry
“When you vote for bailout, I guess you’re really voting for ‘hope’ and ‘change,’ too, ” Grant Barrett, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society said. “Though you’d think a room full of pointy-headed intellectuals could come up with something more exciting.”
This was the society's 19th annual words of the year vote. The words or phrases do not have to be brand-new, but they have to be newly prominent or
notable in the past year. Other nominees for Word of the Year included Barack Obama and the phrase "lipstick on a pig."
In other categories:
The Most Creative Word in 2008 was recombobulation area -- An area at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee in which
passengers that have just passed through security screening can get their clothes and belongings back
The Most Unnecessary Word of 2008 was moofing -- From “mobile out of office,” meaning working on the go with a laptop and cell
In a new category of election-related words, maverick was the top pick.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
HOLLYWOOD | JANUARY 2009. Act One is bringing Hollywood to Colorado Springs, and the best minds Hollywood has to offer along with it.
With Act One's latest "Training for Hollywood Seminar" in Colorado Springs this January, we got the best trainer we could possibly find. World renowned screenplay consultant Dr. Linda Seger will be delivering the keynote address, "Spiritual Steps on the Road to Success."
Seger created and defined the job of script consultant in 1981 and has consulted on over 2,000 scripts since. She has worked on scripts for more than 40 produced films and 35 television projects, including works from TriStar Pictures and Ray Bradbury. Additionally, Seger has given scriptwriting seminars in more than 30 countries on six continents, and is the author of nine books. Her latest, And the Best Screenplay Award Goes To... Learning from the Winners will be published this February by Michael Wiese Productions.
Also slated to speak is Barbara Nicolosi, VP of Creative Development at Origin Entertainment and the founding Director of the Act One Program. Nicolosi is a sought after speaker and commentator on culture, and an accomplished writer, producer and director. She is currently writing the screenplay adaptation of Sheldon Vanauken's A Severe Mercy.
In addition to our slate of speakers, participants will study the Hollywood storytelling process, from story development to pitching, and the craft of producing spiritually engaging entertainment that is commercially appealing. Writing track participants will learn practical lessons on writing outlines and treatments, creating compelling characters and stories, as well as the basics of screenwriting format. Those choosing the business track will cover lessons on the marketplace, commercial creativity and how to option materials.
In addition to the "Training for Hollywood Seminar," Act One will be hosting a Hollywood Insider Panel and Discussion from 7-10pm on Friday, January 30. Open to the public, the event will feature a presentation on the activity of the church in Hollywood, Dr. Linda Seger's keynote address, and a Hollywood Insider Panel, a no-holds-barred Q&A about life and work in the world's most influential mission field.
Date: Friday, January 30, 1pm to 10pm and Saturday, January 31, 10am to 6pm
Location: Glen Eyrie Castle and Conference Center, 3820 N. 30th St., Colorado Springs, CO 80904
Cost: $285 - includes study materials, meals (Friday dinner, Saturday breakfast, lunch & dinner) and Hollywood Insider Event
$435 - includes study materials, meals (Friday dinner, Saturday breakfast, lunch & dinner, Sunday breakfast), 2 nights stay (Friday & Saturday) and Hollywood Insider Event *LIMITED ROOMS ARE AVAILABLE, SIGN UP TODAY*
Speakers: Dr. Linda Seger (Author, Making a Good Script Great and Making a Good Writer Great) Barbara Nicolosi (Screenwriter, Editor, Behind the Screen, Act One Founder, VP Development at Origin Entertainment) Dr. Thom Parham (writer JAG, screenwriting professor, Azusa Pacific University) Monica Jimenez-Grillo, Executive Program Director, and Vicki Peterson, Writing Program Director, Act One, Inc.
To register and for more details, log on to Act One.
Act One, Inc., is a nonprofit organization that has trained Christians of all denominations for careers in mainstream film and television for the past ten years. Stressing artistry, excellence, professionalism, and Christian spirituality, Act One prepares students to pursue careers marked by personal integrity and professional excellence, in writers rooms, on sets, and in studio and network offices. The end goal is not to produce explicitly religious entertainment, but movie and TV projects that respect and serve the global audience, combining mastery of craft with great depth and meaning. Over ten years, Act One has amassed a vast alumni network of writers, producers, directors and entertainment executives who are dedicated to producing excellent work for a global audience.
Writer Nancy Kress says: "Tell me a story," is probably as old as the human race. But it would be more accurate to say, "Show me a story." That’s what readers want—and what you can deliver.
An author “shows” by writing in immediate scene so that the reader sees the events unfold as they happen to the point of view character. The scene includes characters, setting, and action. An author “tells” by relating the events secondhand so that the reader hears what happens rather than sees it.
Writer Dennis Jerz says, “Show smoke, and let the reader infer fire. An author who tries to show the fire (by presenting elaborate descriptions of the flames, the heat, the crackling sound, etc.) makes the fire itself the focal point, rather than the protagonist's discovery of the fire, the trauma faced by those trapped by the fire, etc.”
In Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Brown and King warn, “Be careful not to try to turn all your exposition into immediate scene. Switching between scenes and narrative summary creates a varying rhythm. Scene after scene can be exhausting to read. “
Nancy Kress says, “To show or tell isn’t a battle of good versus evil, but the skilled storyteller knows how to play each to maximum effect.”
Telling—Sherry felt embarrassed.
Showing—Heat rushed through Sherry’s cheeks. She turned away and stammered, “I’m sorry.”
--explanation of a character’s past.
--explanation of events that occurred before the story opened.
--explanation of information necessary to understand the plot.
E.L. Doctorow: “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader. Not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained on.”
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. The unfolding of Your words gives light. It gives understanding to the simple. For You light my lamp; the LORD my God illumines my darkness. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.— Psalm 119:105; Psalm 119:130; Psalm 18:28; Matthew 5:16, NASB
Renee Gray-Wilburn will be teaching a 4-part workshop on devotional writing for publication beginning January 29. Renee's devotionals have been featured in Quiet Hour, Devotions magazine, A Breath of Fresh Air, and A Cup of Comfort Devotionals for Mothers. Renee has over 100 published pieces in the inspirational and children's markets and works as an editor and proofreader for various Christian publishers and authors. In these workshops, you will...
- Inspire others in their walk with God by learning how to write heartfelt devotionals and get them published.
- Learn what a devotional really is, and more importantly, what it is not.
- Discover the keys to immediately capturing your reader's attention then drawing them into the application of your Bible text.
- Find out how to select devotional markets that fit your writing style and properly submit your work to editors
Dates: January 29, February 7, 12, and 19.
Time: 7:00-8:30 pm
Cost: $40 plus $5 supply fee
Location: Great Company Art Center
4747 N. Carefree (Corner of N Carefree and Oro Blanco in Carefree Shopping Center)
For details, call: 719-573-2850
Register online: www.greatcompany.org
Friday, January 9, 2009
My New Year's tradition continues in 2009.
In my first blog post in 2008, I shared how I don't do New Year's resolutions.
After too many years of making and breaking an annual list of wills and won'ts, I found something I like a lot better.
I focus on a word for the year.
I still remember my 2006 word: gratitude. My word for 2007 was simplify. Last year's word was content.
One word. Simple. Easy to remember and stay focused on for 365 days. Maybe it isn't that surprising that a writer like me--a wordsmith--likes focusing on a word for the year.
So, now it's 2009, and yes, I have a word. It's forgiveness. Truth be told, I think this is going to be a tough word to live out--but if I embrace the concept, I think 2009 will be a life-changing year.
If anybody else cares to crumple up their list of resolutions and pick a word for 2009 instead, consider this blog post an invitation to join me. I always found I lost my list by February anyway--but it's hard to forget a single word.
Clarity of Night is hosting another short fiction contest to start the year off!
Here's a brief description of the rules. Go to the website for complete information and to see what prizes you could win!
Using a photo provided on the blog for inspiration, compose a short fiction (or poetry) piece of no more than 250 words in any genre or style. Send your entry to me by email at jevanswriter at yahoo dot com before 11:00 p.m., Wednesday, January 14th (Eastern Time, United States). I'd prefer attachments formatted in Microsoft Word or Word Perfect (please see the format request below), but if you have something more exotic, you can paste the text into the body of an email. Each entry will be posted and indexed.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Now, I'm at my desk with a deadline looming. If I had a mirror here, I might see that same frantic look on my face as my 10-year-old son wore trying to remember long division this morning. I hate trying to get back into the rhythm of writing. I want to make a solemn promise not to stop writing again--no matter what! That's why I'm a big fan of baby steps. When you can, write for hours. But when life gets in the way, take time for at least a step forward. A page. 100 words. Editing a scene.
My biggest challenge is time management. With seven children, I don’t have much time to call my own. When I finally have free time, my brain is exhausted. I’m currently trying to re-think my life. How can I make this work? I’m looking for places to insert those baby steps.
My lack of progress makes me want to resolve to do better. But my friend and writing buddy, Lisa J., is wiser. She didn't make any writing resolutions. Instead, this year, Lisa created solutions. Writing solutions are short-term goals that are measurable and achievable. Are you going to finish your book this year? Break up that goal into chapters, pages, or hours that you’re going to write each day or week. Become accountable to someone. When and where are you going to submit your manuscript? Make a deadline, then follow through.
Another friend, Cheryl, advised me to "Give up giving up." How many times have you resolved to do something only to quit halfway through? Cheryl tells me to simply stop giving up. Just keep doing what I'm supposed to without quitting. So this year, that's my motto and one of my new solutions. I've given up giving up.
Why don't you give up giving up too?
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Today we have a Q & A with Wendy Burt-Thomas regarding her new book The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters. Wendy is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter.
Q: Can you tell us about your book?
A: The book was a great fit for me because I'd been teaching "Breaking Into Freelance Writing" for about eight years. In the workshop, I covered a lot of what is in this book: writing query letters to get articles in magazines, to land an agent, or to get a book deal with a publisher. Since I'm a full-time freelance magazine writer and editor with two previous books, this was incredibly fun to write because it didn't require tons of research. I was lucky enough to receive lots of great sample query letters from writers and authors that I use as "good" examples in the book. I wrote all the "bad" examples myself because I didn't dare ask for contributions that I knew I'd be ripping apart!
In addition to the ins and outs of what makes a good query, the book covers things like why (or why not) to get an agent, where to find one and how to choose one; writing a synopsis or proposal; selling different rights to your work; other forms of correspondence; and what editors and agents look for in new writers.
It was really important to me that the book not be a dry, boring reference book, but rather an entertaining read (while still being chock full of information). I was thrilled that Writer's Digest let me keep all the humor.
Q: Why are query letters so important?
A: Breaking into the publishing world is hard enough right now. Unless you have a serious "in" of some kind, you really need a great query letter to impress an agent or acquisitions editor. Essentially, your query letter is your first impression. If they like your idea (and voice and writing style and background), they'll either request a proposal, sample chapters, or the entire manuscript. If they don't like your query letter, you've got to pitch it to another agency/publisher. Unlike a manuscript, which can be edited or reworked if an editor thinks it has promise, you only get one shot with your query. Make it count!
I see a lot of authors who spend months (or years) finishing their book, only to rush through the process of crafting a good, solid query letter. What a waste! If agents/editors turn you down based on a bad query letter, you've blown your chance of getting them to read your manuscript. It could be the next bestseller, but they'll never see it. My advice is to put as much effort into your query as you did your book. If it's not fabulous, don't send it until it is.
Q: You're also a magazine editor. What is your biggest gripe regarding queries?
A: Queries that show that the writer obviously hasn't read our publication. I'll admit that I did this when I was a new writer I submitted blindly to any publication whose name sounded even remotely related to my topic. One of the examples I use was when I submitted a parenting article to a magazine for senior citizens. Oops! A well-written query pitching an article that's not a match for the magazine isn't going to get you any further than a poorly written query.
Q: There's an entire chapter in the book about agents. Do you think all new writers should get agents?
A: Probably 99% of new writers should get an agent. There are lots of reasons, but my top three are: 1) Many of the larger publishing houses won't even look at unagented submissions now; 2) Agents can negotiate better rights and more money on your behalf; 3) Agents know the industry trends, changes and staff better than you ever could.
Q: You've been a mentor, coach or editor for many writers. What do you think is the most common reason that good writers don't get published?
A: Poor marketing skills. I see so many writers that are either too afraid, too uniformed, or frankly, too lazy, to market their work. They think their job is done when the write "the end" but writing is only half of the process. I've always told people who took my class that there are tons of great writers in the world who will never get published. I'd rather be a good writer who eats lobster than a great writer who eats hot dogs. I make a living as a writer because I spend as much time marketing as I do writing.
Q: What are some of the biggest misconceptions that writers have about getting a book deal?
A: That they'll be rich overnight, that they don't need to promote their book once it's published, that publishing houses will send them on world book tours, that people will recognize them at the airport. Still, you can make great money as an author if you're prepared to put in the effort. If it wasn't possible, there wouldn't be so many full-time writers.
Q: What must-read books do you recommend to new writers?
A: Christina Katz (author of "Writer Mama") has a new book out called "Get Known Before the Book Deal" - which is fabulous. Also, Stephen King's "On Writing" and David Morrel's "Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing." Anything by Anne Lamott or my Dad, Steve Burt.
Q: What's the biggest lesson you've learned as a full-time writer?
A: Seize every opportunity—especially when you first start writing. I remember telling someone about a really high-paying writing gig I got and he said, "Wow. You have the best luck!" I thought, "Luck has nothing to do with it! I've worked hard to get where I am." Later that week I read this great quote: "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." It's absolutely true. And writing queries is only about luck in this sense. If you're prepared with a good query and/or manuscript, when the opportunity comes along you'll be successful.
Q: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
A: Writing the "bad" query letters. I've read and written so many horrible ones over the years that it was a little too easy to craft them. But misery loves company and we ALL love to read really bad query letters, right?
Q: What do you want readers to learn from your book?
A: I want them to understand that while writing a good query letter is important, it doesn't have to be overwhelming. You can break it down into parts, learn from any first-round rejections, and read other good queries to help understand what works. I also want them to remember that writing is fun. Sometimes new writers get so caught up in the procedures that they lose their original voice in a query. Don't bury your style under formalities and to-the-letter formatting.
- ► 2010 (128)
- Signs Along the Writing Road: What's Y...
- Creating Heroes & Heroines
- Taglines, Pain and Your Heart
- Show or Tell?
- Don't Bailout 2009’s Banished Words
- What's the Word--of the Year?
- ACT ONE BRINGS HOLLYWOOD TO COLORADO SPRINGS
- Show, Don't Tell
- Devotional Writing for Publication Writing Worksho...
- The Word for 2009 & Information on Clarity of Nigh...
- "Give Up Giving Up."
- The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters
- ▼ January (12)
- ► 2008 (209)