WRITE ON!


WRITE ON!

Natalie Bright

 

We had a great discussion at critique group about the myriad of publishing options for today’s writers. One of the reasons I love our critique group, is we each have so many different projects in the works and we write in various genres. Somebody is always coming up with a new story idea. It’s like an inspirational feeding frenzy of words.

This week, one of our members brought the first draft of a children’s book about a rodeo horse based on one of his published magazine articles. What a great idea! Someone pointed out that kids books have a longevity because there are always new generations of readers waiting to discover your book. You just have to keep telling parents about it. I got to thinking that it’s not just children’s literature. With electronic books, our work will stay out there floating around in eBook land long after we’re gone. Will my kids keep tweeting about my backlist? Will Amazon be around in 10 years? 25 years?

Regardless of the opportunities to choose agented traditional publishing or to be an Indie Author, the decision to become a writer and publish your work is for the long haul. You will be talking about your stories and lugging books around for the rest of your life. This is a marathon, just like any passionate career choice. The bad news, there is a new title published on Amazon every five minutes. It’s getting more and more tedious to get the word out and connect with the readers who care. The good news, authors are finding ways to connect directly with their fans and readers like never before. Crafting an engaging story is hard work. Identifying your target market—the people who will love your book—is an even bigger challenge.

“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For passion will lead you right into your purpose.”

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WORDS WITH POTENTAIL


WORDS WITH POTENTAIL

Natalie Bright

At last week’s critique meeting, we listened to a story that had been written many years ago. Even though this writer has improved greatly, it was solid—very entertaining and horrifying—we loved it! The potential is even greater based on the feedback. Written as a short story, it’s going to be part of an anthology. I think this author is on the right track by compiling several of her strongest short stories together in one publication. ( I can hardly wait to buy that book, Nandy Ekle!)
Whatever your work in progress might be, whatever fire is burning in your gut at this very minute, whatever idea deserves your attention, those words can become something entirely different in the future. Keep your mind open to the opportunities. For heaven’s sake, don’t delete it! Even bad writing has potential. You can’t edit a blank page. (Wish I had all of those stories and poems I wrote in college. I tossed that journal years ago.)
After I found my way back to writing, a story I wrote about a cowboy called Cecil was accepted in an anthology published by TCU Press almost 13 years later. There is no way I could have known that I would meet a ranch hand with the same name! Meeting the real-life, horse-riding cowboy named Cecil just added more depth and color to my short story. It needed work and it needed a critique from WordsmithSix peeps, for sure. The story became better because of my experiences a decade later. With the help of my critique group, that short story became good enough for publication.
You may be at a point in your writing when it seems rejection is a clear message to give up your dreams of becoming a published author. The very first words by David Morrell, creator of Rambo, keeps echoing through my brain after I heard his talk at an Oklahoma conference,

“Don’t question the why.”

I share this because I have spent, actually wasted, too many years questioning the why. And now I’m asking myself, why for different reasons. Why didn’t I finish that book? I’m staring at a stack of sticky notes and marked up articles for blog ideas, so why didn’t I write them? There’s no way that I could have known back in 1999 that I’d need material in 2017 for two blogs and three orgnizational newsletters. I would have never imagined that I’d have a talented critique group who could boost my confidence and my words. The struggle to write never ceases. Now I’m faced with a part-time day job that will probably go back to full-time soon, and I’ll be frustratingly juggling writing time. What crazy life is this? Opps, there I go again—questioning the why.

The story is in us. The story picked us. We can’t possibly know why. I have to keep reminding myself to stop stressing and find joy in the process.

“Every story I’ve written was written because I had to write it. Writing stories is like breathing for me, it is my life.”
RAY BRADBURY

Find Natalie’s blogs and articles here:
Blogging every Monday about writing life at wordsmithsix.com
Blogging every Friday about the Texas Panhandle at “Prairie Purview”. Read her blogs at nataliebright.com or on the Amazon Author page.
Sign up for here for the newsletter: nataliebright.com
Natalie is editor of “The Window”, the official newsletter of one of the oldest writing organizations in the country, Texas High Plains Writers, org. 1920 in Amarillo, Texas. Here’s the link. panhandleprowriters.org.

Writing Brains & Scrivener


Writing Brains & Scrivener

Natalie Bright

Scrivener software totally gets my writing brain. The more I work in this software, the more I’m amazed at all it can do.

For example, this morning the opening scene for the second book of my Texas Frontier Series popped in my head. BAM! There it was. I am almost 10,000 words into the first draft and the opening chapter I’ve already written is absolutely wrong. Does this ever happen to you? I kept replaying the new scene in my head, over and over until I could get to the keyboard.

Here’s where Scrivener makes your life easy: Within the file that you designate as chapter, you can add a new text file. The chapters will autromatically renumber when you compile the final document. No renumbering pages or worrying about chapter numbers. No cutting and pasting to shift the work. I have a seperate text file for each scene and these scenes can be moved easily around within the manuscript document. That first scene may not be the opeing by the time I reach 30,000 words. No problem. The ‘scene’ file can be shifted to any order within the project file.

For more explaination, here’s the link to watch a great video from the creator of Scrivener:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdwnHo23Ub8

I also recommend the online class, LearnScrivenerFast.com

Stay tuned for more tidbits about this powerful writing tool. Are you using Scrivener? What has been your experience with Scrivener?

Congratulations, Joe and Hello, James!


Congratulations, Joe and Hello, James!

Natalie Bright

It’s an extra special celebration to kick off the New Year because we are adding a new member, James Barrington. James will introduce himself and tell you more about his work in a later blog. This week I wanted to share some wonderful news about one of our members, Joe Nichols.

Joe and I are neighbors. We live about eight miles from town past the pavement down a bumpy, caliche road. A mutual friend noticed we had similar addresses, and I was thrilled to find out he was interested in writing. He joined our group many years ago to write a book; an idea that he’d been thinking about most of his adult life. He came to that first meeting knowing nothing about plotting or sentence structure, but I remember how determined he was to learn. The story he wanted to write wouldn’t leave him alone. As a former rodeo bronc rider, his story-telling is raw and authentic. He has also been developing ideas for freelance articles. We are so excited that Western Horseman magazine has published BRUTUS’ NEW JOB. It’s about a bucking bronc who decided he didin’t want to buck anymore and gets a second chance at life in the rodeo arena and on the ranch. You can read Joe’s article in the February 2017 edition of Western Horsemen Magazine. Congratulations, Joe!

WordsmithSix writers critique group has been meeting together since 2009. We’ve said goodbye to a few members and gained a few. We have cranked out words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters which have been discussed, cussed, submitted, published and rejected. Writing is some of the hardest work you’ll ever decide to tackle in your life. Seeing your words in print is one of the most rewarding things ever. When one of my critique mates has good news to share, I’m just as excited as if it were my own work. Every little success just propels the rest of us to work harder.

Thanks for following WordsmithSix as we navigate the world of writing and publishing. Have you set your goals for 2017?

Writing onward…

Tips from a Pro


Tips from a Pro

By Natalie Bright

Award winning author of 147 books, Dusty Richards, visited our critique group along with a few of our writerly guests to share insight on story craft and the crazy world of today’s publishing business.

Getting Started

Dusty writes short stories and novels set in the west which usually include a few cowboys on horses, but as he pointed out, story craft can apply across all genres. “For beginning writers, don’t think you have to write Gone With the Wind,” he says. “Write about one character and tell his story.”

Structuring a Story

Basic story structure can be divided into four parts:

Part 1: character lost (first 60-80 pages)

Part 2: character is alone

Part 3: emerging hero (somebody comes forward to help him & he has purpose)

Part 4: the main character becomes a Hero or Martyr

Keeping this basic structure in mind, you can apply this to most mainstream novels and movies. Think of story as a collection of scenes and sequels. Every action deserves a response.

Newbie Writer Mistakes & POV

Dusty told us that the number one mistake he sees over and over is Point of View. If you’re writing in the main characters point of view, an action statement should never be “they walked inside”, for example. It should always be he or she. “He took her arm and led her inside.” Stay in your characters POV and be true to that character. Don’t use words that seem awkward or stilted for that character.

Writing Exercise

Here’s your homework: for those writers having trouble with internalization, Dusty suggested finding a few used paperbacks and highlighting the internal dialogue. Not quotation spoken dialogue or action or imagery, only the character’s internal thoughts.

For more information about books by this SPUR Award winning author, visit www.dustyrichards.com.

Why Would Anyone Read My Writing?


Why Would Anyone Read My Writing?

By Rory C. Keel

 

Why would anyone read my writing? This is a question beginning writers often ask themselves. It’s a normal question to ask. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve asked it of myself.

How do I deal with it? I learned not to make it personal. Many experienced writers ask the same question when they find themselves struggling to put something on the page.

The simple answer is that people want to read your writing because it’s entertaining, interesting, funny or emotional. These are the same reasons people read anything written by any author. The characteristics that make other authors worth reading are the things that will make your writing worth reading.

Don’t take it so personal

Most readers don’t determine what books they read by the personality of the author who wrote it. Many times the attributes of authors aren’t known until they reach some measure of fame. A person reads what they are interested in based on the content and writing, and then the reader may choose to learn about the personal traits of the author he or she likes. This shows that the writing is important.

Improve your writing

If your work isn’t interesting, entertaining, funny or emotional people probably won’t read it. Nothing personal about you as a human being, just improve your writing. To do this study the craft of writing, seek help from a critique group or a writing association.

As your writing improves, so will the number of readers.

Roryckeel.com

Why Would Anyone Read My Writing?


Why Would Anyone Read My Writing?

By Rory C. Keel

 

Why would anyone read my writing? This is a question beginning writers often ask themselves. It’s a normal question to ask. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve asked it of myself.

How do I deal with it? I learned not to make it personal. Many experienced writers ask the same question when they find themselves struggling to put something on the page.

The simple answer is that people want to read your writing because it’s entertaining, interesting, funny or emotional. These are the same reasons people read anything written by any author. The characteristics that make other authors worth reading are the things that will make your writing worth reading.

Don’t take it so personal

Most readers don’t determine what books they read by the personality of the author who wrote it. Many times the attributes of authors aren’t known until they reach some measure of fame. A person reads what they are interested in based on the content and writing, and then the reader may choose to learn about the personal traits of the author he or she likes. This shows that the writing is important.

Improve your writing

If your work isn’t interesting, entertaining, funny or emotional people probably won’t read it. Nothing personal about you as a human being, just improve your writing. To do this study the craft of writing, seek help from a critique group or a writing association.

As your writing improves, so will the number of readers.

Roryckeel.com

I Want To Be


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

I Want To Be

By Nandy Ekle

When I grow up, I want to be a teacher. I want to be a nurse. I want to be a ballerina. I want to be an astronaut. I want to be a policeman. I want to be a mommy. I want to be a singer, an actor, president, race car driver . . .

I want to be a writer. I have heard this one a lot lately. You want to be a writer. You gluttonously gobble up other writers’ stories. You add millions of words to your vocabulary. You learn spelling, grammar and punctuation. You take literature and psychology classes. You take every writing class that teaches any kind of reading and writing you can get into. And all the while, your mantra is, “I want to be a writer.”

So you begin to think in terms of plots and you meet characters. You take photos of settings and think of interesting situations and horrible things to put your characters through. You put your words on paper and build stories that you’re convinced would make Oscar-winning movies. You join critique groups and writing groups and nurture your platform and fan base.

The only thing you need to do now is stop trying to be a writer.

A very talented and successful writer once said, “Writers write.” Stop wanting to be a writer and just write.

Here’s a perfect first step. Get a chair from your dining room and place it in your front yard. Climb up and stand on the chair. Raise your face to the sky and shout, “ I AM A WRITER.”

Now, go back in your house, open your computer and write your story.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Consider It


Outtakes 37

Consider It

I have spent many hours training others to do a job. The process can be very rewarding. It’s so much fun to see someone “get it”. There’s the bright eyes, the grin, the high five. That’s the joy of being a trainer. Unfortunately, there have been some disasters. No matter what I tried, or how many time we went over the information, the trainee just couldn’t or wouldn’t catch on. Often they blamed me or their fellow employees for their failures. I really hated the angry scenes, the bitter accusations. In the early days, I blamed myself for a trainee not making the grade. Over the years, I’ve realized it’s not always the teacher’s fault. If the student does not pay attention, does not take notes, doesn’t care, then there is little the trainer can do to change the situation.

Writers need training. There are few naturals out there. Most of us struggle with the craft, hoping there comes a time when the work is easier. I’m not sure that happens. Several years ago, I met author, Nicholas Sparks, at a book signing in Amarillo. He made a statement that floored me. When asked if each new book was easier to write, he told the young writer, “No, in fact it gets harder.” He went on to explain that the expectations were higher with each novel and keeping up the standard became more challenging. He even admitted he was struggling with his new novel. It made me feel hopeful; less alone. I was working on my second novel and often felt as if I hit a wall. This best-selling novelist made me think I could succeed.

The road to success is paved by the writer’s attitude. I’ve been in critique groups with writers who would not listen to honest suggestions. The author would read his chapter; look around the table. You could feel the resentment before the first word was spoken. Reviewer number one starts by complementing elements of the setting or a character. Then he gets down to the problems. The interaction between the antagonist and his son is off. In fact, there’s little chemistry between the two. The scene lacks emotion. Instead of listening and asking for suggestions, the writer hotly defends his work. We’ll understand it all in chapter ten. Sadly, I won’t be around for chapter ten. If I’m not hooked in the first twenty or thirty pages, you will find the unread book in my box to donate to the library.

Even experienced, successful authors have readers. These trusted souls take on the task of reviewing the work, catching mistakes and inconsistencies. The smart author listens and corrects the scenes. Let’s be honest, no one likes criticism. But if you don’t want help, why join a group or work with readers? If you don’t plan to take the advice, don’t waste your time or someone else’s evening.

I’m thankful I have a good critique group. We respect each other and want every member of the group to be successful. We would never intentionally lead another member of the group astray. In turn, we listen, accept the critique, choose what makes good sense and use it to build a better story. A good writer will always be a student. After all, the more we learn and understand, the more exciting the work we will produce.

Cait Collins

Giving and Receiving Critiques: Consider the Ground Rules


Part 3:

Giving and Receiving Critiques: Consider the Ground Rules

By Natalie Bright

In receiving a critique of your writing, it’s only fair that you’d be expected to give back.

Once you’ve identified several reliable critique partners, set some rules or guidelines to ensure that everyone is in total agreement as to how the critique should proceed. This only makes certain that the process is fair to everyone involved, and that it’s not a waste of your time. I’ve read numerous manuscripts for people, and it’s always nice to hear “send me one of your stories sometime.”

You can learn much about story craft by reading other people’s work, in addition to having them read yours in return.

The Rules Rule

Based on my experience, following are a few basic rules to consider for critique groups:

*Confidentiality

*Page limit: minimum or maximum number of pages to submit for critique

*Time limits for equal time of discussion

*New or edits: limit submissions to new material only, or can members bring edit? This eliminates the problem of someone bringing the same chapter over and over.

*Determine order of reading, if you meet in person.

*Find something positive, then move into the negative. Identify strengths and weaknesses.

* Group size; do you want to limit the number of members?

Wordsmith Six

My first critique group, that I found through the creative writing course, sadly didn’t stay together for various reasons. Some of us had work and family obligations that made it impossible to attend meetings, and several others moved out of the area. A few of us from the original group met a few more writers through a local writers organization, and we formed a new group about three years ago. Six months ago we started a blog about our publishing journey.

Even though we write in a variety of genres, the commonality is that we are all actively writing and submitting for publication. We stay on task. I come away from every meeting with invaluable critiques.

Here are the rules of Wordsmith Six critique group: we meet every other week, and our meetings usually lasts three to four hours. Due to time constraints, we’ve set a maximum of ten pages each. If we don’t have our own work to read, members bring a general interest article on writing craft or share notes from a recent conference, for example.  The key is everyone participates.

We generally restrict readings to new material, however if a piece has had a tough critique, then we’ll look at it a second time after edits. We draw numbers to determine who reads first, and we each read our own work out loud to the group.

Productivity is the Key

This is a biggey rule: we work first, and visit last. Everyone arrives on time, we begin on time, and we get right to business. After the work is done, a few might hang around to discuss character motivation, books we’re reading, or just gabbing about families.  The main point is that our writing is the main focus, and the main goal is to keep everyone moving forward.

Members who only bring chips and dip do not make for a productive atmosphere. Everyone understands life is crazy, and some weeks are unbearable as writers. We all know this. Do your critique mates a favor, and become a dependable giver as well as receiver. As you become familiar with each others work, you’ll move beyond basic grammar checks. A magical thing happens when you begin discussing character motivation and plot structure. As you realize the development of your story through others eyes, you’ll be able to edit and polish your work until it shines.

Next week in Part 4, I’ll discuss responsible behavior.

Natalie Bright