THE BIG WHY


THE BIG WHY

Natalie Bright

 

First off, stop asking yourself why. The best piece of advice I’ve ever received, first heard from David Morrell at the Oklahoma Writers Federation conference in Oklahoma City.

Believe me, you’ll never find the reason or make sense as to why the stories in your head are in your head. I’ve wasted too much time pondering that question. The ideas come from so many parts of you: your childhood memories, those kids that made fun of you, the people you know who made an impact good or bad, the places you’ve lived, your life today. It’s all there in your stories.

When I added fiction writing to my job related and freelance work about 15 years ago, I had envisioned becoming a romance writer. My goals were to sign with an agent and attend the Romance Writers of America conference every year. I’m a huge fan of romances, and most of my author friends write romance. It stands to reason that I’d be cranking those stories out on a regular basis.

Wrong.

The stories in my head were not romance.

The characters that interrupted my dreams were young people, most often from the past. More specifically in the old West. I remember being fascinated with history, the Oregon Trail, and the old West from an early age, but I never imagined I’d be crafting novels set in that time period.

WWA is the West

I attended the Western Writers of America convention in Lubbock, Texas several years ago. This is a diverse group, with songwriters, poets, historians, museum archivists, writers of nonfiction and fiction, editors, agents, musicians, and newbies and veteran authors.

As a first-time attendee and new member, I didn’t expect to make many connections. I listened to a panel of New York City authors share facts about The Alamo that I’d never heard before. Songwriters and talented musicians shared their gift of music every night in the Roundup Room. A panel on writing about the Comanche Nation included great-grandsons of the great chief Quanah Parker! I met the lady who would become my editor, and now she is my co-author.

Here’s what I learned during this amazing week: these people don’t worry about the WHY.

They endlessly research the subjects they love. They write about the people and the places that burn a hole in their gut.  A writer writes. So now I’m writing a book about chuckwagons and a new Christian fiction series set on a Texas ranch. Neither are romance novels, but I stopped questioning the why years ago.

FIND YOUR PEEPS

Whatever you feel driven to write, I encourage you to seek out like-minded people. Join a writer’s group, read your work aloud and listen to the input. Attend a conference, preferably relating to your genre. Introduce yourself and ask someone, “what do you write?” More than likely they will return the question.

Feed your knowledge about this business. Attend workshops or take online classes about characterization, writing a killer query letter, publishing your book on IngramSpark – these are all goals you can achieve.

Stop questioning the why.

Nataliebright.com

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What is the RIGHT Genre for YOU?


What is the RIGHT Genre for YOU?

Natalie Bright

 

The discussion at a writer’s workshop many years ago led by Jane Graves, an award-winning author of contemporary romance, changed the way I think about writing.

Her advice was to, “Hone in on the one thing that speaks to you. Freshness and originality comes from what you can imagine.”

I attended several romance writer’s conferences because that’s what I thought I’d be writing. In the beginning of my writing journey, the whole creative process was a chore; I hated my characters, the dreary plot line, and the editing process seemed like torture. What made me think that I’d ever be able to write a romance novel?

Janes’ words got me to thinking. What I’ve been obsessed with since a very early age, besides writing a book, is Texas history, stories set in the American West, and the great tribes of the Plains, most especially Comanche.

Believe me, I’ve tried to follow the advice of my husband who said if I’d write a spicey,  marketable romance it would make me a fortune, and to consider the ideas of well-meaning editors who suggested I should add a vampire or werewolf to revive that boring western tale. I never could follow through. The stories that didn’t seem like a chore are for middle grades set in the Texas frontier: the Trouble in Texas Series. True stories for emerging readers about rescue horses. And now I’m working on a nonfiction book about cattle drives and chuck wagons. I’m loving the research. Okay, so maybe a little romance in the form of a contemporary women’s fiction book set on a Texas Ranch, still in the early stages, but hopefully a published series one day.

The RIGHT genre is the character that wakes you up in the middle of the night, the endless edits that light a fire in your gut, and the finished piece that feeds your soul. That’s what you should be writing.

Keep writing, my friends!

 

Advice for Writers from Michael Blake!


Advice for Writers from Michael Blake!

By Natalie Bright

In May 2015, Michael Blake, best known as the author of Dances with Wolves, died. I didn’t hear about it until much later, and now, over a year after his death, I finally found my notes from a talk he gave in Amarillo in 2009. While in the area, he talked to the Panhandle Professional Writers, did a presentation at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, and also attended an event at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

Dances with Wolves sold over 3.5 million copies, and was translated into 15 languages. The 1990 film, which Kevin Costner directed and starred in, won seven Oscars including Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Mr. Blake also won the WGA Award and Golden Globes for his script.

Mr. Blake shared with Amarillo writers a heartfelt and grippingly honest reflection of his successes and rejections as he toiled within the L.A. movie crowd. After becoming engrossed in Indian history, his long-time friend Kevin Costner, encouraged him to write a novel rather than a screenplay. Mr. Blake told us that he struggled with the ending. The L.A. atmosphere did not lend itself to the inspiration he craved. He decided to move to Arizona where he lived in his car, worked as a dishwasher and completed his book.

Based on my notes from his talk to the PPW group in Amarillo, I thought you might like to know his advice for writers. Following, are some of Mr. Blake’s best quotes that resonated with me personally.

§ “Writers are driven to create something from our heart and soul. This is in direct conflict with the agent, producers, and editor’s side of the business,” and for this reason he encouraged us to not be afraid of rejection.

§ “No matter what, keep writing at a level that people will want to read, and keep reading.”

§ “American Indians knew things about the world that we had forgotten. Modern life has moved us away from life on earth. We need balance between earth and our existence.” This belief inspired him to write a story.

§ “Inspire with your writing.”

§ “It’s all about finishing. Power through and get it done.”

§ “Writing must convey feeling. Be different and devastating in terms of feeling.”

§ “Make every conceivable effort to put good words on paper.”

§ “Stay at it!” says Michael Blake. “If you remember only one thing from my talk, this is the thing I want you to take away—never give up.”

“Be devastating in terms of feeling”—I love that! If you haven’t had a chance to read the book, Dances with Wolves, I highly recommend this great story set in the American West. As a writer, I feel extremely blessed to have been present for such an inspiring talk from a true visionary and gifted man.

R.I.P. Michael Blake. Thank you for sharing your passion with the world.

THE BIG WHY


THE BIG WHY

By Natalie Bright

When I added fiction writing to my job related and freelance work about 12 years ago, I had envisioned becoming a romance writer. My goals were to sign with an agent and attend the Romance Writers of America conference every year.  As a member of two critique groups, one which is all romance writers, it stands to reason that I’d be a natural at creating these kind of stories. Easy peasy.

Wrong.

The stories in my head are not of the romantic nature.

The characters that interrupt my dreams are young people, most often from the past. More specifically in the old West. Not only have I spent many, many sleepless nights wondering about these characters and their adventures, I’ve also asked myself, WHY am I doing this? I remember being fascinated with history, the Oregon Trail, and the old West at an early age, but I never imagined I’d be crafting historical novels. I’ve since walked many a mile on the dirt road behind my house, staring into the setting sun, trying to channel a 15-year old Comanche brave. Why this character haunts my head is a mystery.

This summer, my entire mindset has changed regarding my writing journey.

WWA is the West

I attended the Western Writers of America convention in Lubbock, Texas. This is a diverse group, with songwriters, poets, historians, museum archivists, writers of nonfiction and fiction, editors, agents, musicians, and newbies and veteran authors.

As a first-time attendee and new member I didn’t expect to know anyone there, and then a very nice lady from Utah introduced herself and said, “I’ll be your mentor.” (Thank you Rachelle “Rocky” Gibbons, SPUR Award finalist of Big Buckaroo & Moose the Cow Dog.)

Educational Panels and Much More

While there, I listened to a panel of New York City authors share facts about The Alamo that I’d never heard before. Songwriters and talented musicians shared their original music every night in the Roundup Room. A panel on writing about the Comanche Nation included great-grandsons of the great chief Quanah Parker!

At a table over a plate of Texas Bar-B-Que, I listened to the daughter of Don Coldsmith tell how her father gave up a successful medical career as a family practice physician to write stories set in the west. His first book came from the discovery of a valuable bit in an antique bin in Oklahoma, which he bought for a dollar. He penned 40 novels which involved a whole series covering centuries of history. She told us about his writing process and about how he never missed a WWA convention.

The Why Doesn’t Matter

Here’s what I learned during this amazing week: these people don’t worry about the WHY.

WWA members endlessly research the subjects they love. WWA members write about the people and the places that burns a hole in their gutt. My guess is WWA members would pen those stories, songs and poems whether anyone read them or not. A writer writes. From this day forward, I’ll strive to write the very best story I can and leave the why for somebody else to worry about.

WESTERN WRITERS OF AMERICA NEEDS YOU!

If you’re a fan of history, cowboys, horses, and anything relating to the American West, close to 600 WWA members share your enthusiasm. You will LOVE this group. Check them out at www.westernwriters.org.

Perhaps I’ll meet you June 2016 at the WWA Convention in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Whatever haunts your dreams, stop questioning the why and write on!

Nataliebright.com

THE BIG WHY


THE BIG WHY

By Natalie Bright

When I added fiction writing to my job related and freelance work about 12 years ago, I had envisioned becoming a romance writer. My goals were to sign with an agent and attend the Romance Writers of America conference every year.  As a member of two critique groups, one which is all romance writers, it stands to reason that I’d be a natural at creating these kind of stories. Easy peasy.

Wrong.

The stories in my head are not of the romantic nature.

The characters that interrupt my dreams are young people, most often from the past. More specifically in the old West. Not only have I spent many, many sleepless nights wondering about these characters and their adventures, I’ve also asked myself, WHY am I doing this? I remember being fascinated with history, the Oregon Trail, and the old West at an early age, but I never imagined I’d be crafting historical novels. I’ve since walked many a mile on the dirt road behind my house, staring into the setting sun, trying to channel a 15-year old Comanche brave. Why this character haunts my head is a mystery.

This summer, my entire mindset has changed regarding my writing journey.

WWA is the West

I attended the Western Writers of America convention in Lubbock, Texas. This is a diverse group, with songwriters, poets, historians, museum archivists, writers of nonfiction and fiction, editors, agents, musicians, and newbies and veteran authors.

As a first-time attendee and new member I didn’t expect to know anyone there, and then a very nice lady from Utah introduced herself and said, “I’ll be your mentor.” (Thank you Rachelle “Rocky” Gibbons, SPUR Award finalist of Big Buckaroo & Moose the Cow Dog.)

Educational Panels and Much More

While there, I listened to a panel of New York City authors share facts about The Alamo that I’d never heard before. Songwriters and talented musicians shared their original music every night in the Roundup Room. A panel on writing about the Comanche Nation included great-grandsons of the great chief Quanah Parker!

At a table over a plate of Texas Bar-B-Que, I listened to the daughter of Don Coldsmith tell how her father gave up a successful medical career as a family practice physician to write stories set in the west. His first book came from the discovery of a valuable bit in an antique bin in Oklahoma, which he bought for a dollar. He penned 40 novels which involved a whole series covering centuries of history. She told us about his writing process and about how he never missed a WWA convention.

The Why Doesn’t Matter

Here’s what I learned during this amazing week: these people don’t worry about the WHY.

WWA members endlessly research the subjects they love. WWA members write about the people and the places that burns a hole in their gutt. My guess is WWA members would pen those stories, songs and poems whether anyone read them or not. A writer writes. From this day forward, I’ll strive to write the very best story I can and leave the why for somebody else to worry about.

WESTERN WRITERS OF AMERICA NEEDS YOU!

If you’re a fan of history, cowboys, horses, and anything relating to the American West, close to 600 WWA members share your enthusiasm. You will LOVE this group. Check them out at www.westernwriters.org.

Perhaps I’ll meet you June 2016 at the WWA Convention in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Whatever haunts your dreams, stop questioning the why and write on!

Nataliebright.com