Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Confident Writer

By Mayowa Atte

Late at night, when sleep refuses my entreaties, I ask myself; what must I do to write the Truth? What must I do to write it well, to have it clench my reader’s heart in its fist and pump horror, laugher, lust, love, sorrow and joy within? The answer never comes. In the morning, I write.

Then there are other nights, when I am sure that I am a hack and a copycat. I am sure readers will pee themselves in laughter at my feeble prose. In the morning, I write.

Confidence, it is a writer’s secret weapon.

But how do we build confidence? By writing the right story and by putting in the work.

The right story always nags a writer, whispers to the writer at night, pinches the writer during meetings and dates until the writer writes it down. When a writer is writing this story, the writer can be confident in his/her creativity. This story is yours and yours alone, no one else can write it like you can. The words will come.

The other way to gain confidence is to put in the work. When a writer has studied the craft, has labored before the empty page and sacrificed free time for the story, the writer can be confident in his/her finished work. When a writer puts everything into a story, it is more than just words on a page. It is life.

So when doubt creeps into our hearts, confidence beats it back. When the empty page tries to stay empty, confidence fills it with words. When our writing is dull, confidence helps us break the rules and achieve the omnipotent power of voice. When a critique hurts, confidence soothes us. When another rejection crashes into our inbox, confidence makes us send out two query letters in its place.

We are confident because we are writing the right stories, because we put everything into them and hold nothing back.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Writer's Paradise

By Tiem Wilson

The school year is coming to an end. The kids are going to Grandma’s for the ENTIRE summer vacation. What shall I do with myself? WRITE, WRITE, WRITE!!!

There will be no kids to yank out of bed and hustle to the bathroom. Instead, I can sit at the table to sip coffee from my SC Writers’ Workshop mug. The travel mug can stay in the cupboard. No dog in need of a morning walk. I can sit with the laptop out on the patio. No inhaling breakfast while packing lunches. I can digest the motives for the antagonist’s behavior. No racing traffic to beat the tardy bell. I can cruise through the history of why my character resents her mother. No homework to check. I can study the landscape of the hilltop my character sits upon when trying to unwind.

I am so excited to get started, I can hardly wait. I will begin the very first week the kids are gone. Well, first I need to use this opportunity to clean the bedrooms, professionally clean the carpets and maybe touch up the walls with fresh paint. I’ll get that out of the way first. Then I can focus solely on my writing.

Now that I’m thinking of it, I might as well put down the new tiles in the kitchen. With no distractions, it should only take a couple of days. New plan: clean the kids’ rooms, paint, lay new tiles… all done in one week. That’s still nine weeks left dedicated all to writing.

Come to think of it, I did promise myself to finish that scrapbook. No problem. I can finish the scrapbook in a week and still have eight weeks left. This is going to be the best summer ever. I will get so much done… housework, scrapbooking, and most important, writing.

I now have my routine planned out completely. One week will be spring cleaning and redecorating. Another week is dedicated to serious scrapbook time. One week will be late hours at work to finish up some of those projects early and free up some writing time for later. Another week is for family vacation. Don’t worry… I’m taking the laptop. (smiles) That’s still six good weeks of writing. Not bad, right?

I have it all laid out now. The daily routine will be to start with a cup of Joe, using the time to get the creative juices flowing and thoughts percolating. I’ll get in about 45 minutes of computer time before heading to work.

In the evenings, I’ll start with an awesome calorie-burning workout. Next, I’ll add in a little bike riding or a run. Then I'll have a nice relaxing bath and put in a call to the kids. After eating a healthy, balanced meal, washing the few dishes, ironing the work clothes for the next day, I’ll sit down at the computer with a glass of wine. The perfect writing regime!!

Summer is almost here. The kids are going away for the summer. What shall I do with myself? Procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate…

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Need a Good Story? Listen to a Country Song - A Lesson in Conflict

By Kimberly Johnson

Country music songwriters are some of the finest writers. They immediately assemble the basic building blocks to a good story; elements that perhaps novelists sometimes fail to fully develop: setting, plot, conflict, character, point of view and theme. What key ingredient makes a Nashville hit? Conflict. That quarrel, that squabble, that moaning and groaning between characters; it’s the reason why the listener stays tuned and taps his foot.

The lyricist chooses from internal or external conflict to build his composition, employing one of the following conflicts to create tension and a great song: man vs. man, man vs. circumstances, man vs. society and man vs. himself.

Willie Nelson’s "Crazy" is a prime example of a good story, a lesson in conflict. Nelson pens the internal struggle of a woman who is distraught because her man doesn’t love her. He’s left her for another woman. Nelson’s lines examine the grief that the leading character harbors. The late Patsy Cline brings the story to life as she woefully croons...
I’m crazy for feeling so lonely, I’m crazy, crazy for feeling for feeling so blue. I knew, you ‘d love me as long as you wanted, and then someday, you’d leave me for somebody new…Worry, why do I let myself worry, wonderin’ what in the world what I did I do, oh crazy, for thinking my love could hold you, I’m crazy for trying, and crazy for crying…

Another good story with a lesson in conflict is Dolly Parton’s 1970s chart topper "Jolene." In this narrative, a woman (Dolly), tells the other woman (Jolene) to leave her man (Dolly’s husband) alone. Jolene, a red head beauty, is a home wrecker. Dolly begs Jolene to stop using her womanly ways to seduce her man. Dolly, the songwriter, cunningly reveals to the audience the reasons, and conflicting elements, why her man is in love with the other woman.
Jolene. Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene. I’m beggin’ of you not to take my man. Please don’t take him just because you can…your beauty of is beyond compare with flaming locks of auburn hair…I cannot compete with you, Jolene. He talks about you in his sleep and there’s nothing I can do to keep from crying when he calls your name. Jolene I can easy understand, how you can easy take my man, but you don’t know what he means to me. Jolene. Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene . Please don’t take him just because you can…

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Why Write, Indeed?

By Ginny Padgett

This blog spot is a great resource for aspiring writers, full of good counsel and information. Today I’d like to share a different kind of advice that has been balm to my frayed creative nerves. The source is Dan Albergotti, one of the submission judges for the 2007 Petigru Review. I hope this will bring you the sigh of relief I heaved when I read this.

Albergotti observes, “To present your own writing for the world’s judgment is…an act of courage…The only true gauge of you work lies in your own mind and heart. And if you give too much credence to publication and awards as indicators of your artistic achievement, you risk squelching that one true measure – that critic inside yourself who really knows the score.”

He goes on to cite an essay, “Why Write?” (The Cincinnati Review, 2.1, Spring, 2005), written by his teacher and mentor, Alan Shapiro. “Recognition through publication and awards is ‘like cotton candy: It looks ample enough until you put in your mouth, then it evaporates. All taste and no nourishment.’(106)”

Alborgetti cautions the aspiring writer about the danger of being too critical of her work. Again, this part really spoke to me regarding my sense of failing at my chosen art. “Do not succumb to that sense of failure. It is a natural feeling, but it is not true. If you ignore it – if you continue to write regardless of publication or public approbation or immediate personal satisfaction – you will not be failing. That ‘deepening sense of failure’ is what success feels like.”

Bless you, Dan Albergotti! These words helped put my fingers back on the keyboard and, in some strange way, gave me the courage to submit my work for publication again.

I want to leave you with this amazing fact. In her lifetime, Emily Dickinson saw only TEN of her 1600+ poems published. Write on, my friends.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Latest Addition

Meet A New Writer


Michelle Gwynn Jones has found a way to combine three of her favorite things: her enjoyment of researching just about anything, her ability to write and her fondness for the law. As a writer of legal mysteries it is Michelle’s hope to entwine compelling who-done-its with unique legal arguments.

Michelle would be hard pressed to name her favorite authors. Her taste ranges from Scott Turow to Nora Roberts, from Stephen King to Sophie Kinsella. If she were forced to go into seclusion and told that she could only take three authors, and no other books, she would pick Jane Austin, William Shakespear and JK Rowling without a doubt. However, if given the choice, Michelle would gladly trade the books for an unlimited supply of Pepsi.

As for how she spends her “me” time she has several hobbies. There is her love of crafting, just about any kind. Sometimes Michelle actually creates things that she is proud of and other times she…well let’s just say no one will ever see them. Cooking is also a passion. One of her favorite things to do is to try and recreate, or improve on, something that she had in a restaurant. Even though it is widely debated whether or not taking a bubble bath is a bona fide hobby, there can be no doubt that Michelle has mastered the art.

Michelle was born and raised on Long Island, New York. She completed her undergraduate degree in New Hampshire where she enjoyed all the snow it had to offer. At Ohio Northern University she obtained her law degree and learned how to tell the different kinds of corn just by glancing over the field. At present she resides in South Carolina and is the mother of a seventeen-year-old boy who aspires to be an attorney and screenwriter.

Michelle's first posting follows.

Some of my Best Friends Are Characters

By Michelle Gwynn Jones

When I began my novel, Daniel's Law, I concentrated on the mystery that would unfold and the legal issues that the book would cover. I didn't spend much time on the characters themselves because when I read a novel I never retain the useless information. It is not relevant, in most stories, whether the characters are short or tall, cook in a well-equipped kitchen or always do take-out, live on this planet or another. In real life I would never use race to describe a person, why should I do it in my writing? However, after I sent the first draft to a few trusted friends to read I was shocked to find out that many people, for some reason, think that the this information is important. Obviously what is useless to me is not useless to other readers, reluctantly I had to admit a serious weakness in my writing.

I set out to learn the art of character development. As with any need for knowledge I began with research, research and more research. Unfortunately there are so many books written on the subject, each offering their own bits of wisdom and/or practical exercises, I found myself on information overload. I weeded through all the suggestions and chose those I thought would best work for me.

While rewriting my novel, and planning its sequels, I have now devoted a lot of time developing the characters and their surroundings. I maintain a character sheet that lists their basic description, education and work history. For recurring characters I have taken the sheets further to include their living environment, personal history from birth and how their lives will unfold in the upcoming novels, always aware that their futures are subject to change.

In regards to the detective, I have fully designed his apartment. The floor plan has two bedrooms, two baths, and a laundry room hidden behind the kitchen. I have gone to furniture stores and picked out and photographed most the furniture, copied pictures of rugs, lamps and artwork which I found online. The decorations are contemporary. The color scheme is black and white with red as an accent color, why, because he is colorblind. However, the only thing the reader of Daniel’s Law really learns about his apartment is that he has at least two couches and a dining room table.

I have found that I really like most of my characters. I want to spend a day on New Grace Lake sailing with my protagonist Rachel Shorte. I wish I could have a dinner out with my detective Winston Spaulding and listen to him tell tales of his childhood. If only I could enjoy an afternoon sipping wine on the deck with Willa Bower I could learn much from her words of wisdom. These people have become some of my closest friends.

To the detriment of my writing time I have devoted many hours into the creation of my characters’ home surroundings, food and beverage preferences and even their choice of transportation. So my question to my fellow writers…and the universe in general, is this…how much time is too much time for character development?