Thursday, May 20, 2010
So here you are, fellow writer, sitting at your word processor (or staring at a yellow pad of paper if you’re old fashioned), ready to launch your next project. Is it a full length book or a short story? Fiction or non-fiction? No matter. Your fingers are still. Your mind is churning. You’re trying to answer the age-old question many (or most?) writers must sometime ask themselves. What am I supposed to be writing about?
We’ve probably all struggled with “The Block” at one time or another. How does one deal with it? I can only tell you what I do to find a starting point. Maybe it will help. The next steps, rounding out an idea, laying out the plot, developing characters will come easier if you have an interesting place to begin.
I read a lot and pay attention to what’s happening in the world around me. I cut current events articles out of the paper. When waiting in the dentist’s office, when no one is looking, a magazine page gets quietly torn out and folded into my pocket. (Yeah, I know, I’m the one) I jot down ideas that hit me while watching wildlife in our yard, or when a friend tells me his troubles with a tyrannical boss, or when a childhood memory sneaks up on me when I’m not expecting it.
Back in my garret, these snippets find their way into my idea notebook…a large, green, three-ring binder stuffed with several lifetimes of story ideas waiting to be brought to life. The binder contains items I collected when I was in high school, more years ago than I care to count. It holds tidbits from current events and countless pages of everything in between.
So when the setting is right, and I’m ready to launch into something new, trying to decide where to start, out comes the binder. I generally write fiction, stories perhaps a little on the weird side. A yellowing news story about a cat who predicts the death of patients in a nursing home leads to a tale of a Bassett Hound who eases long-suffering patients into the great beyond. A note jotted down after magpies once killed our kitten becomes a story of a man forced to take irrational action to rid himself of overly aggressive birds. Ideas buried in my binder have surfaced to seed many of my other writing adventures; weird cloning scenarios, Chimpanzee DNA, overcrowded prisons, talkative terrorists, the significance of dog-years.
So you can see, the green binder provides me with plenty of story ideas to keep me out of trouble. There are many more waiting to be rediscovered inside. And I add something new to it often. Life is good.
Now if only someone would publish one of my little gems!
Richard grew up in Southern California and received his BS and MS degrees in Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. In an exciting three-decade technical career, he was involved in NASA’s space program and in nuclear energy and novel energy production research for the Energy Department. He traveled extensively throughout North America, Europe and Asia, presenting the results of his work and collaborating with other research institutions. Richard began writing as a teenager, covering high school sports for the local newspaper. He continued writing throughout his career, producing a number of technical papers, articles and reports. He recently decided to end his engineering career and write full time. Since then, he has produced two novels and has started his third. He has also written several short stories, two of which were accepted by the Idaho Magazine. Richard lives with his family on the Snake River in Southeastern Idaho.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
So you want to be a writer. You want to see your fabulous story published by a famous New York publishing house. And, of course, you want to get a substantial advance, say somewhere around the $100,000 dollar mark.
There are thousands of writers just like you who are dreaming the same dream as yours, who refuse to think of anything else but getting to the literary top. They believe their story is timeless, a treasure, a total work of art that all editors will clamor to get their paws on.
While on rare occasions, the above scenario might come true for a select few, the odds are against you. The publishing market is tight. Editors are more apt to stick with those authors already making them money than to pick up a new, unproven writer. There is still a chance your work will, indeed, be recognized one day. Perhaps even published. Yes, the chance is small, a tiny droplet in a sea of countless others, but there is always hope.
Knowing your writer vulnerabilities is the first step to becoming a successful author. Being prepared to throw out the hurtful, mean-spirited criticism and keeping the well-meant, right-on, helpful-to-your-career critique is a must for any author. You must learn to recognize the difference so you can deal professionally with either when they arise.
You must have the stamina, the courage, to change your work if what others are suggesting is correct. You must be able to handle rejection after rejection, without taking it personal. You must be willing to resubmit, resubmit, resubmit, realizing what one editor disliked, another might love. You must use editorial rejection letters as stepping stones to becoming that well-loved and admired author you dream of becoming.
You must never give up!
The one thing worse than a quitter is the person afraid to begin.
To be an author takes dedication.
To be a published author takes guts, perseverance, and an ironclad will of self-determination.
To realize your dream, you must take your hope and make it a reality. Other than storytelling talent, all you need for such success is a great set of survival skills.
Happy and successful writing to all of you!
The author of The Author and the Cover Model, Charm is a true romantic at heart. She loves to entertain readers by creating imperfect characters and placing them in an imperfect world to see how much trouble they can get themselves into. She juggles the duties of motherhood and the staunch responsibility of being a great "cookie-baking" grandma. Born and raised in Idaho, she lives in Idaho Falls and is hard at work on another novel.