WRITING LIFE


WRITING LIFE
Natalie Bright

The writing life is a solitary endeavor, and routinely interrupted by
everybody! Life happens.

Seriously, at times writers have to put aside the world within their heads
and face reality. Somebody’s always hungry (at least at my house), something
needs cleaning, bills past due, and laundry piles grow as I write this. I’ve
been hit with reality for several weeks now and I can’t seem to dig out from
under it. Sometimes I really miss my fictional world.

Many experts suggest that you have to live a real life in order to find
material for your stories. New York Times Bestselling author, Jodi Thomas,
says that writers live two lives with one foot in reality and the other in
the fictional realm. Overheard conversations, experiences, and research can
add richness to your writing. That may be true. During the break my creative
mind may be taking a pause, but my self-editor and self-doubt is partying
hard.

Thank goodness part of the real world includes a writer’s meeting this past
weekend.  Kim Hunt Harris talked about adding humor to your writing and K.
J. Waters enlightened us on the business side of becoming an Indie Author.
Once again I am reminded how sitting in a room full of creative people can
motivate you to keep going and inspire you to fill pages with words.

Texas High Plains Writers meets every other odd month on the third Saturday
at the Chase Tower in downtown Amarillo.

Our next event is co-sponsored with Canadian Arts Alliance, to be held in
beautiful Canadian, Texas April 13-15. Follow us on Facebook to keep updated
on all the details: Texas High Plains Writers based in Amarillo, Texas.

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Writing Memoirs: Biography Fiction


Writing Memoirs: Biography Fiction

 Natalie Bright

Award winning author Jan Sikes spoke to the Texas High Plains Writers group in November about her biographical fiction series detailing life with her extremely talented husband, country singer Rick Sikes. The events are true; but to be able to share these immensely personal details, she tells the stories in third person and replaced real names with fictional names. To be able to tell the story, she fictionalized dialogue into scenes that she didn’t witness first-hand.  She noted that the series is semiautobiographical told in a fiction format, 90% true and 10% fiction.

This method poses a unique way to write your family stories, and because Jan wanted total control of the material she self-published.

Self-Publishing Key Points

Jan stressed the importance of having a “good quality piece of writing before you release it.” That means hiring a professional editor. True, there are more opportunities for writers than ever before, but self-publishing has a bad rep because of the less than quality material that has flooded the eBook market place. Constructive feedback is very important.

Have a publishing imprint and purchase an ISBN number. The $5 package from CreateSpace is limited as to where your book can go. It will only be available on Amazon.

Promotion

Jan reminded us that whether you’ve gone with traditional or self-published, writes must promote themselves. Traditional publishers have very limited marketing funds, and understandable those dollars are targeted for a small group of top selling authors. Mid-list authors, whether traditional or indie publishes, have to do their own promotion. For her particular series, Jan has seen the most success through one-on-one interaction with readers. She participates in community events and book festivals throughout the year.

For indie authors, there are numerous organizations that support and assist with promotion. Jan recommended the Texas Association of Authors, Independent Authors Network, and the Historical Novel Association.

Thinking About Theme for your Story

The success of this series and her unique writing style is in part because of a no secrets left unturned approach. Remember that old saying, “write like your momma’s passed on and will never read your story”? This is real life at its darkest. The main characters take a downward spiral into drugs, motorcycle gangs, Texas honky-tonks, and federal prison. Despite the events in life and insurmountable odds, what emerges from the chaos is a love story with music being the salvation. Rick built the first sound studio inside the walls of Leavenworth and was able to smuggle his songs out to his family and fans.

While each book can stand alone as a fascinating read, I started with the second book in the series, The Convict and The Rose, which won a first place award for biography fiction from the Texas Association of Authors. Music CD’s are also available.

  nataliebright.com 

WRITING LIFE


WRITING LIFE

By Natalie Bright

The writing life is a solitary endeavor, and routinely interrupted by everybody!

Seriously, at times writers have to put aside the world within their heads and face reality. Somebody’s always hungry (at least at my house), something needs cleaning, bills waiting to be paid, and laundry is piling up. I’ve been hit with reality for several weeks now and I can’t seem to dig out from under it. I really miss my fictional world.

Many experts suggest that you have to live a real life in order to find material for your stories. Overheard conversations, experiences, and research can add richness to your writing. That may be true. During this break my creative mind may be taking a pause, but my self-editor and self-doubt is partying hard. I’m a loser. I’ve been working on a 500 word piece for a month now and it’s just not coming together. At this point, I’m totally convinced that I will never write anything again that anyone will want to read. I can’t see that I’m making any progress towards building a writing career. I’m done.

Thank goodness part of the real world this past weekend included a writer’s meeting. Author and song-writer, Jan Sikes, talked to the Texas High Plains Writers group in Amarillo about her series of books based on her life with a musician. Using the facts of her own experiences, she changed the names of the people involved to create what she explains is 90% true and 10% fiction. She even gave herself a fictional name so that she can step back from the very personal connection and bring this fascinating love-story to life. Her talk was excellent. I’ll share some of her writing advice with you next week.

Thank goodness I am reminded how sitting in a room full of creative people can give you inspiration to keep going.

Texas High Plains Writers meets every other month on the third Saturday at the Amarillo Senior Citizens Center in downtown Amarillo.

CREATIVE NONFICTION


CREATIVE NONFICTION

By Natalie Bright

Real life stories seem to be everywhere, from reality television to magazines covering genuine people overcoming life’s obstacles. When you recount your life or if you have ever talked to someone about their life experiences, things are remembered in segments or scenes. Creative nonfiction takes those scenes, fills in the background, and introduces the characters in a narrative form.

“Creative nonfiction is the fastest growing genre,” says Lee Gutkind, award winning author and professor at the University of Pittsburgh and speaker at Frontiers in Writing in Amarillo.* He sites proof as evidenced by the decrease of fiction in popular magazines.  “More and more publications have cut back straight fiction into stories based on real life experiences.” he says. “Five years ago the adventure nonfictions were popular. Today we are in the middle of an information explosion and readers want more serious topics such as science, technology, and economics.”

When crafting creative nonfiction, story must come first. The substance of the information is important, but the story has to come before the factual information. It is the people and the story that will hook the reader.  Gutkind stresses that the writer must find the true scene. It’s got to be real and true with accurate information.

Once the real life story is uncovered, the first three paragraphs formulate your hook. “Your beginning must be fast, soon, now, best and strongest,” he says. “Sixty percent of the readers are lost at this point.  Your goal is to engage the reader at the very beginning and keep them turning pages.”

Gutkind recommends crafting your creative nonfiction story around a frame and focus. The frame is the container or overall narrative structure of your story. Your narrative should be presented in an interesting and orderly manner, the simplest being the chronological beginning to end scenario.

The next essential part of your article or book is the focus, or overall theme. What is the primary point that ties the elements of your story together? Another way to determine the focus is to ask yourself why you are writing this particular story. As the author, what do you want to say about this topic? The focus will also help you to determine which facts are essential to the story and to identify details that may need to be excluded.

One cannot forget an important building block of the creative nonfiction story which is the story itself, or the facts. Gutkind explains, “The story determines the research the writer must do.”

As you work on the ending, always keep your overall story structure in mind or frame. “Guide your reader’s to what it is you want them to believe but use evidence,” explains Gutkind. He says don’t worry about endings, as the perfect ending may only come after completion of the entire book.  “Lead the reader through your story. Don’t tell people what they want to know until you’re ready to dispense with them.”

Natalie Bright

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 For more information, The Art of Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind

*Frontiers in Writing is a summer writing program sponsored by Panhandle Professional Writers. Mark your calendar and join us in Amarillo, June 29-30, 2012!