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.

THE HASHTAG


THE HASHTAG

Since opening an Instagram account, I’ve become fascinated by the power of the hashtags.

Hashtags are words preceded by the pound symbol (without spaces). These key words or phrases categorize posts. For example I use #TexasPanhandle on every one of my Instragram pictures. Through the use these key words and phrases, you can follow anything of interest including places, people, hobbies, food, fashion, special interest groups, companies, TV shows, movies, etc.

The birthplace of the hashtag symbol first happened on Twitter. Discussions became trackable and content can be organized using hashtags. Twitter hashtags allows for “trends”, or specific topics in conversation that you’d like to follow or become engaged by posting comments.

So how can writers benefit from using hashtags?

Create hashtags for your book titles, character names, author events, or use key topics that relate to your books when you post something.

Social media sites such as Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine utilize hashtags to maximize shareability. Popular hashtags will help you pick up followers who are interested in the same things, and will help you discover new accounts. So what’s popular or trending now, you might ask. Go to hashtags.org to find out.

Follow me on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram! Links are located on the home page of my website at www.nataliebright.com

#havefun #write

SENSORY WORD: RED


SENSORY WORD: RED

By Natalie Bright

 

We think of our eyes as video cameras and our brains as blank tapes to be filled with sensory inputs.

Michael Shermer

I love this quote! Think of your readers as blank tapes. It’s your job as a writer to convey that image in as vivid a picture as possible. You create a world on a page with words that comes alive in the readers’ brain.

Let’s consider the color red. Think about digging even deeper. Instead of red, how about:

Pink, salmon, coral, raspberry, strawberry, tomato, currant, cherry, crimson, vermillion, flame, ruby garnet, wine

Each one of those shades of red creates a totally different mental image.

Thanks for following Wordsmith Six!

Nataliebright.com

 

 

 

Hometown Promotions


Hometown Promotions

By Natalie Bright

There’s a line in a country song that goes, “everyone dies famous in a small town”.

How many of your neighbors, coworkers, or in-laws even know that you’re a writer?

Local Fame and Fortune

We have a renowned New York Times Bestselling author here, who’ve I’ve known since she first became published. She now has a huge fan base, both locally and internationally, and she’s worked hard for it.

In the 25 years that we’ve been friends, I’ve known her to do many, many local talks for free, even though she commands major fees around the country. She rarely turns down an invitation to speak at local library fundraisers, book club meetings, or organization lunches. She’s become extremely popular with the Red Hat groups. Her programs include a tidbit of the characters and settings of her stories yet to be published. She’s not only selling her current list, she’s introducing herself and creating a fan base for works in progress. Her Fan Club has grown by leaps and bounds. Usually 100-200+ people show up at her local book signings for new releases.

Sometimes neighbors can be your biggest supporters. When I started out as a nobody writer several years ago, I’ve tried to emulate that train of thought.

Put Yourself Out There. Should You Charge?

Kid Lit authors are highly encouraged to decline school visits unless the school pays a fee because it sets a precedent in the area. I come from that small town mentality where everyone pitches in when asked and volunteerism is the way of doing things.

Right after college, I volunteered at our local historical museum where I spoke to thousands of kids during spring field trips. Today, some of those same teachers ask me to visit their classrooms. I can drop my kids off at their schools around 7:30, make it to the gig to talk about writing, and be back to my day job desk by 10:00. The kids get an inexpensive pencil with my website or a bookmark with my picture and bio. A 2nd grader told me last week, “I don’t want you to leave.” Another one whispered, “I’m writing a story, too.” For me, it’s about connecting with kids.

The publishing business moves at a snail’s pace. I’m making every effort to keep my name out there as a writer, and all it takes is my time and a .39 cent pencil. I’ve never considered charging the schools in our district, where my friends teach and my children have been enrolled since kindergarten.

Sometimes New Opportunity Means Practice

A friend’s daughter asked me to talk in the Dallas area for a reading event. The inner-city school had very limited funds so I agreed to talk for free. I’ve never done a power point for 700 elementary kids, but it seemed like a great opportunity since I’d be in the area anyway for a conference. This teacher is a tech-whiz so she helped with audio-visual set-up in the gym. I did my program for the first 300+, she offered suggestions to improve the clarity of content, and it went even better for the next group. I have the confidence to do it again. Sometimes new opportunity affords you a practice run, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Explore Your Town

Here’s that small-town mindset again: your time is free and it costs you nothing to give it away. Everyone you know can open doors to new opportunity. I usually say yes to everything because it always leads to something else. I’m not talking about selling out as a professional, hard selling, or pounding a group over the head about buying your book. I’m talking about networking and connecting with people who live in your neighborhood.

Show up, give them more than they expected, thank them for their time, eat the free meal, and leave your postcard bio. Odds are someone will ask if you have any books with you. Odds are good you’ll get an invitation to come back, or you’ll be asked to speak to another group because of the contacts you made. Odds are even better that someone will look at your website, perhaps follow you on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t forget to send a hand-written thank you note to the person who invited you. They may not buy a book today, but they know your name.

Selling Books

Marketing and promotion is a marathon, and who has the most depth and understanding about your stories? You can relay that passion about your novels better than anybody else. As authors, WE UNDERSTAND it’s business and all about building a platform and selling books, but not everybody has to know that.

Nataliebright.com

 

 

Inspiration


 Inspiration

By Natalie Bright

for writers can come through a variety of venues, and I’ve learned to take what I can get. Don’t question. Write it down.

Inspiration can also come from hanging out with other writers; one of my favorite ways to ignite the muse. When you’re passionate about something, who doesn’t love to “talk shop”? The creative energy in a room full of writers is difficult to ignore. If you take the time to lunch, meet for coffee, attend a conference, you’ll be re-energized.

Alone Times

Of course, at some point we have to get back to work, and that means time alone. Lots of time alone. How do you get back into the writing groove?

It’s the most difficult part about writing, I think. To leave the hustle and bustle of the present day and disappear into the fictional world of your sub-conscious.

Journaling

  1. You do have a journal for your current work in progress don’t you? Fill the pages with research notes about locations, building details, town layouts, room floor plans, vegetation, yard descriptions. You may not used all of that information in your book, but it will make the setting even more alive in your mind.
  2. First person accounts in the point of view of your characters. Even minor characters can give you insight into your main characters. Free write the same scene from each character’s perspective.
  3. Character descriptions and character profiles. Describe your characters to the tiniest detail.

Having a hard time getting back into your story? Read through your WIP journal and before long your fingers will be flying over the keyboard. I’ve extended my WIP journals into Pinterest boards for visual inspiration.

What other kinds of information do you put in your WIP journals?

 

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.

SYNOPSIS


SYNOPSIS

Natalie Bright

A summary of the novel’s events and a cataloging of character development in narrative form.

Writing Assignment:

Write a two page Synopsis for your current work in progress. Keep it tight, concise and try to let your own “voice” and writing style shine through.

Elements of a Synopsis

The opening hook: what makes your story stand out from the rest?

Who is the main character?

Trigger Event.

What your main character learns.

Conflict/Resolution/Ending/Resuts.

 

Parts of a Writer’s Brain


Parts of a Writer’s Brain

Reflection and Making Sense of Today’s Publishing Environment

by Natalie Bright

 

A Publisher’s Weekly article announced deluxe hardcover editions for 20 of Marguerite Henry’s novels for middle grade readers beginning this fall. The repackaging will include the original artwork by Wesley Dennis which were missing from some of the paperback editions. I have a treasured first-edition copy of SAN DOMINGO, published 1972. Part of me is jumping for joy that generations of readers will be able to discover these wonderful historicals. I’ll definitely be adding them to my home library, and what a perfect gift for a few horse-loving young people I know.

Business-Minded Part

The practical, business side of my brain completely understands the need to make low risk decisions. Selling books is a profitable business. Marketing professionals generate statistical analysis to determine what consumers will buy, knowing what the marketplace will embrace. As a business owner, I understand first-hand the pressures of having families depend on your ability to be profitable and to make payroll. This side of me also sympathizes with frustrated agents who are out there beating the bushes to tout stories in an industry that sometimes embraces work generated four decades ago. Taking chances on an unknown is risky.

Literary Fan Part

The artsy, fictional part of me will never understand the business side of this game. During the past month, I’ve attended two writer’s conferences where I’ve heard numerous unique and wonderful story ideas. Granted, they involve writers at various stages in their careers, but the point is these folks are working hard at learning their craft and creating original material. The ideas and creativity of today’s writers inspires me. I really want to read their work someday, any yet they’re continually dismissed and denied.

The Writing Part

The creative part feels dark and powerless. I realize how little control we have over our chosen profession. On some days my heart is crushed and my willingness to keep submitting is very much annoyed.

There are other days, rising from the dark side, that are filled with hope. The joy of words transforms me, I disappear into my WIP and I don’t want to come back to the reality of life. The story drives me to keep going. One feisty character in particular will not leave me alone. My super agent likes her too and is working hard to find her a home. I’m BUSTING to tell middle grade schools, book fairs, and cowboy symposiums about Silver Belle’s wild west. Right now. Today.

Patience: a willingness to suppress annoyance

when confronted with delay.

 

The Big Picture Part

In this crazy time of publishing I force myself to take a breath, step back and consider the big picture. In my mind, the big picture continues to be our ability to write a great story. As readers, we can find great stories as well via any medium you choose. Whether it’s indie published or traditional, if you discovered a gem by one of today’s authors, tweet or post a review so that other readers can discover their work too. It only takes a few seconds.

As an author, if you are absolutely committed to the craft and the story that only you can create, put aside your emotional artsy self, find your business cap and consider all of the options available for publishing your work. Best of luck on your journey.

In the meantime, I’ll be anxiously anticipating the re-release of Marguerite Henry’s wonderful books and I’ll keep writing the stories that are occupying the space inside of my head. Writers write.

 Perseverance: steady persistence in a course of action,

especially in spite of discouragement.

It’s Never The End


It’s Never The End

By Natalie Bright

I typed THE END several weeks ago on a middle grade novel set in pre-civil war Texas. The spark happened years ago from my Uncle Milas telling me about my grandfather Cline’s adventures in Fort Towson, Oklahoma when he was a pre-teen. His best friend was Indian Joe, a full blood Cherokee. My grandfather describes that time as the best years of his life hunting, fishing, and exploring the wilds of the Kiamichi River area. He remembers the day he told his best friend they were moving to Texas. Indian Joe beat him to a bloody pulp. My grandfather asked him, “Why’d you do that for?”. Indian Joe replied, “You’ll never forget me now.” How can you not love those two characters?

As I thought about my grandfather and Indian Joe, the idea for a lower middle grade high-adventure along the lines of Jack and Annie series came to mind. The characters were a white kid and a Comanche kid, brought up to be enemies, but becoming friends. Oh the adventures they could find. I started writing, but what I just typed THE END on the first of this month is nothing like the story I had imagined a year ago. The characters took me along a totally different path.

The book was helped along by my brilliant Wordsmith Six critique partners and is now in the capable hands a small group of Beta readers before going to my brilliant agent. From there, with his insight and expertise, I hope it finds a home someday.

Do you have tunnel vision in the outline you’ve created for your work in progress? Don’t ignore all of the possibilities for your story. It may take you in a direction you’ve never even thought about before. So, in other words, it’s never really the end. This process continues on and on and on.

Happy Writing!

N. Bright

nataliebright.com

 

Sparks, Words, and Longfellow


Sparks, Words, and Longfellow

by Natalie Bright

 

Longfellow’s Sorrow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem sparked from the depths of his soul on December 25, 1864.

Just three years earlier, his wife Fanny had wanted to preserve her daughter’s hair clippings in wax.  In a tragic turn of events, hot candle wax dripped onto Fanny’s dress, igniting it in flames. She ran into her husband’s study, where Henry tried to extinguish the blaze with a rug. He experienced severe burns to his face, arms, and hands. Fanny Longfellow passed away the next morning and Henry was much too ill to attend her funeral.

A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” reads Longfellows’ journal entry for December 25, 1862. His beloved Fanny had left him with small children and a sorrow that he could not recover from.

Tragedy struck the family again in 1863 when his oldest son Charles, who was only 19 at the time, suffered a severe wound as a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac. Charles had left without his father’s blessing, joining the Union cause in March of that same year.

The Christmas season of 1864 must have been a dreadful time for Longfellow, as he carried on to care for their remaining small children; Ernest, Alice, Edith and Allegra. The Civil War was raging, skirmishes had continued throughout the country as they were still months away from Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, and Abraham Lincoln had just been re-elected.

From the depths of his soul he wrote “Christmas Bells”, what some believe to be a pacifist poem roused by his grief upon hearing about his son. It was first published in 1865 in a juvenile magazine.

In 1872, five stanzas were rearranged by John Baptiste Calkin and put to the tune “Waltham”. Two stanzas referencing the war were omitted, and the poem became the beloved carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

  1. I heard the bells on Christmas day
    Their old familiar carols play;
    And wild and sweet their tones repeat,
    “There’s peace on earth, good will to men.”
  2. And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rolled along th’ unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.
  3. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    “God is not dead, nor does He sleep,
    For Christ is here; His Spirit near
    Brings peace on earth, good will to men.”
  4. When men repent and turn from sin
    The Prince of Peace then enters in,
    And grace imparts within their hearts
    His peace on earth, good will to men.
  5. O souls amid earth’s busy strife,
    The Word of God is light and life;
    Oh, hear His voice, make Him your choice,
    Hail peace on earth, good will to men.
  6. Then happy, singing on your way,
    Your world will change from night to day;
    Your heart will feel the message real,
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Sparks and Words

A ‘spark’ for writers is the moment an idea is ignited in our mind. The actual words may morph into a short story, a poem, even a full length novel. A writer never knows what those spark might become.

Writers find sparks in overheard conversations or by reading others written words. Pictures or art can conjure up a story idea. More often than not sparks come from a writers life experiences. Good or bad, joyous or devastating; emotions evolve into wonderful prose.

At this point, writers take it to the next level. We’re not afraid of those emotions that story sparks can evoke. We’re not afraid to dig deep into the joy, the embarrassment, or the unspeakable pain.

Ignore your fears in this New Year and follow your sparks where ever they may lead you. Thanks for joining us at Wordsmith Six.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!