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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WRITING THE WEST


WRITING THE WEST

Natalie Bright

This month on WordsmithSix Blog we will be posting about the different genres we write in and why. This is a diverse group, and I think there will be something here for everybody.

This is my favorite topic so far this year. I had always envisioned myself as a romance writer because I am a huge fan of the genre. I also hold a great fascination for the American West and remember being enthralled with any book relating to the Oregon Trail at a very young age. When I turned my attention to writing as a professional, I reluctantly discovered that the stories in my head were not romance but set in the dusty frontier.

WESTERN WRITERS OF AMERICA

My author platform is solidly set in my mind. I’m not going to ignore the stories in my head any longer. Thank goodness I discovered the Western Writers of America organization through an author Dusty Richards. I took his writing course at the WTAMU Academy and he could not say enough good things about this group and the support they have given him during his career. The first convention I attended was held in Lubbock, not far from my home.

The most recent meeting this year was held in Tuscon, Arizona and I came away from that meeting with ideas for magazine articles relating to my research, a possible publisher for a new women’s fiction series set on a Texas Ranch, and many, many new friends. The weekend was packed full of inspiration and networking. Below, I have compiled a list of dos and don’ts about sending queries from an agent/editor discussion panel. I hope you find this useful.

QUERY DOS AND DON’TS

  1. DO NOT communicate about your work, the query, or your manuscript through Facebook.  This is not appropriate or professional.
  2. Send a very focused query letter with sample chapters. This will tell me if you’re a storyteller.
  3. When working with an editor on a possible contract, do not be afraid to ask every question under the sun.
  4. The Authors Guild offers its members a review of a publishing contract for free.
  5. Leave a one-page, short synopsis after your pitch meeting. Boil it down to three short paragraphs.
  6. Leave a business card after your pitch session.
  7. Be prepared to describe your project in one sentence.
  8. Understand what else has been published on the same topic and how your work fits in.
  9. Follow directions.
  10. Follow the proposed guidelines.
  11. Put your title in the subject line of your email, not “book”, “book idea” or “proposal”. My inbox is full of such emails and I don’t know who is who.
  12. Can you tell me why you’re the person to write this and what else is out there? Why is your project different?
  13. Do not send entire manuscript unless you are invited to do so.
  14. If you can’t write a legible, clear, concise query letter, how can we trust you to write an entire book?
  15. Always tell me if your book is finished or not and include the total word count in a query.

If  you are interested in the Western Writers of America organization, follow this link for how you can become a member: https://westernwriters.org/ and for a recap and pictures from this years conference, check out my blog Prairie Purview on the home page of my website https://nataliebright.com

Best Quotes from WWA


 

Best Quotes from WWA

Natalie Bright

The Western Writers of America meeting was held in Billings this year, and I had the chance to attend, as you might have noted from previous blog posts. Here are the best quotes from that four-day meeting.

 

“Write about your passion. Consider it lucky to follow that passion your whole life. Research is the key to everything.” Rob Word, TV writer, producer, host of the YouTube celebrity talk shows A WORD ON ENTERTAINMENT and A WORD ON WESTERNS

“You have to get out from behind your desk.” Toby Thompson, author & creative writing instructor at Penn State University.

“Thank you for coming to Crow country. The land you are standing on is mixed with Crow blood.”Alden BigMan Jr.

“Western writers have a strong sense that place is special.” Linda Jacobs, geologist & award-wining author.

“Just because you know beef, you don’t know buffalo.” M. Michael Gear, archeologist & award-winning author.

“Bison are not worked physically. It’s more like a chess game.” Kathleen O’Neal Gear, archeologist, historian, and author.

“So many different ways to connect with readers. Be findable.” Kirsta Rolfzen Soukup, owner Blue Cottage Agency.

“Be prepared to get on social media and promote the hell out of yourself.” Cherry Weiner, Cherry Weiner Literary Agency.

“Take a moment to consider the breadth of subject matter our organization represents. We have a great group of finalists and winners.” Kirk Ellis, WWA President & television producer.

“I had to remind myself this is not a documentary. It’s art.” Marcus Red Thunder, technical adviser on Longmire.

When your book becomes a television show…”It’s like ranching. You get the very best people you can to work with and leave them alone.” Craig Johnson, WWA board member & best-selling author of the Walt Longmire mystery series.

“I tell kids, get into the books. They are a hell of a lot better than that TV show.” Marcus Red Thunder referring to the Walt Longmire mystery series by Craig Johnson.

“Write good books; the one thing writers have control over. Never underestimate those characters.”Craig Johnson

 

Spending time with other writers reminds me of why I can’t ignore the stories and characters in my head, and why I don’t want to stop no matter what life throws in my path. Listening to someone else tell you about their work and hanging around others who are passionate about stories is very inspiring.

If you are a fan of history, the western genre, or stories set in the American West, you might be interested in these organizations for writers.

Women Writing the West is a group of writers and professionals who promote the contributions made by women to the history, culture, and growth of the American West. For more information, visit http://www.womenwritingthewest.org The 2018 meeting will be held October 25-28 in Walla Walla, Washington, or join us in 2019 in San Antonio, Texas.

Western Writers of America boasts historians, nonfiction authors, young adult, romance writers, songwriters, poets, and screenwriters for film and television within its 650 members. We all have one thing in common—our work in every medium is set in the ever-changing American West. For more information go here  http://westernwriters.org Join us in Tucson, Arizona in June 19-22, 2019.

Natalie Bright is an author, blogger and speaker. The two newest books in her RESCUE ANIMAL SERIES features a Tennessee Walker named Flash and a registered Hackney named Taz. Click on the books tab above for more information, and check the events calendar. For a funny, Wild West adventure, the TROUBLE IN TEXAS series is perfect for middle grades and family read-a-longs. Coming soon for young adults, WOLF’S WAR is a dark adventure set in the Texas frontier about a muleskinner and Comanche brave who reluctantly join forces to fight a ruthless gang of outlaws. Also in the works from NKB Books LLC, tales from an Arkansas Vet and a book for novice cow punchers about the unwritten rules of the cowboy code.

 

MASTER STORYTELLER, DUSTY RICHARDS


MASTER STORYTELLER, DUSTY RICHARDS

Natalie Bright

The Western Genre lost a legend, mentor, and award-winning author. DUSTY RICHARDS passed this week from injuries following a car wreck in December, just one week after his wife, Pat, died.

DUSTY RICHARDS wore a wide variety of hats including renowned rodeo announcer, auctioneer, teacher, author, tremendous storyteller, cattle farmer, and cowboy. His Byrnes Family Ranch Series (Pinnacle Publishing) is one of my favorites and highly entertaining.

dustyrichards.com

First introduced to Dusty as a newbie author by a mutual friend, I was a bit starstruck. Dusty and Pat were always at events and conferences for writers. Dusty would pick one of the most centrally located tables in the atrium or bar and spread out his books. With a personality as big as the endless western sky and a wide grin under that familiar cowboy hat, you couldn’t help but stop for a chat. In between the stories behind his stories and a good cowboy yarn or two, he’d ask about your work and tell you to keep at it. You’d end up buying a book, or usually the entire series, and he always autographed them with something clever.

To Natalie. Here’s the bathroom book.

At one event I had the pleasure of sitting next to his wife, Pat, at a luncheon. Quiet and unassuming, her wicked sense of humor surprised me. She pulled from her a purse a few treasures she had purchased for grand kids and we giggled and whispered away several hours. “I don’t write a word,” she said. “I just read.”

To Natalie. May the pages fly like a good horse.

Dusty handed me a 2nd place award for my Middle Grade western novel at the Oklahoma Writers Federation banquet many years ago, and I asked Pat to join us for a picture. That recognition and his encouragement motivated me to keep going, and today that manuscript is Book 1 in my Trouble in Texas Series.

After that award, Dusty relentlessly encouraged me to join Western Writers of America, an organization that he tirelessly promoted. Serving as President and on the Board for many years, Dusty believed in the power of the western novel and in the power of WWA to promote the creatives behind the genre. Finally with enough publishing credits I was approved for membership, and attended the WWA Conference in Lubbock, Texas, several years ago. On the final night, Dusty found me in the crowded banquet hall and handed me one of his books, which has become one of my treasured possessions.

“To a real Ranch wife at her 1st WWA conference. Lubbock TX June 2015 Dusty Richards”

Dusty inspired so many writers. I want to have a deeper understanding of the West like he did, and to have the ability like he does, to fill my stories with a richness and authenticity that assures readers it’s real. I am sad that his mentoring days are done; there are so many questions I have yet to ask him. Legendary Texas author Elmer Kelton said, “Dusty Richards writes … with the flavor of the real West.”

His first novel, NOBLE’S WAY, was published in 1992, and since penning 150 novels and winning numerous awards including two of the prestigious SPUR Awards from the Western Writers of America. Dusty and Pat lived on Beaver Lake in the Ozarks of northwestern Arkansas.

For more about Dusty Richards and his work, go to dustyrichards.com

Happy Trails, Dusty and Pat. See you around the next bend.

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

BEST of WWA CONFERENCE


BEST of WWA CONFERENCE

By Natalie Bright

Western Writers of America held their annual convention in Lubbock. As a first-time attendee and new member, I was surprised to meet such a diverse group. Songwriters, poets, historians, museum archivists, writers of nonfiction and fiction, editors, agents, musicians, and newbies and veteran authors, all sharing a love for the people, history, and wide open spaces of the West.

Below is a list of quotes that resonated with me and will definitely have an impact on my writing:

  1. Don’t judge the 18th century people by 21st century standards. You’ll go crazy. Think about them as they were in their time period. ROD TIMANUS, author of numerous books about the Alamo.
  2. Deadlines are important. It’s not a figment of an editor’s imagination. JOHNNY D. BOGGS, author and editor, WWA’s RoundUp Magazine.
  3. The search within yourself is very important in your writing process. Search within your own soul. WIN BLEVINS, Owen Wister Award Winner.
  4. For years, these women assembled on this panel, have bounced around in a pickup in pockets of the country where at one time nothing seemed to grow but clouds.  They possess a special understanding of the important contributions women have made to ranching in the West. The notion that ranches were settled only by men is just not true. CHRIS ENSS, New York Time Bestselling Author, and moderator, Frontier Ranch Women panel.
  5. If you know enough to write an outline, you can write the story. Just write the story. KIRK ELLIS, Emmy and Spur award winning screenwriter.
  6. A set schedule works best for my writer’s brain. Same thing day-after-day-after day. ANNE HILLERMAN, winner of the Spur and Arizona Book Awards.
  7. Find the motivation of your character. Put yourself in your characters head. Their motivation may change from scene to scene. JOHNNY D. BOGGS
  8. When you collect local stories, care should be taken in what you can use and publish. Everyone has their version. GAIL JENNER, award winning author and cattle rancher.
  9. You’ve got the rest of your life to make the pages you wrote yesterday better. Stay on task and get the damn story done. WIN BLEVINS
  10. People are photogenic and “see” your characters. Don’t waste words on a lot of description. Leave it to the readers. DUSTY RICHARDS, Spur award winning author.

I am truly inspired and remain in awe of this gathering of so many truly gifted people. Next year’s meeting will be in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I can hardly wait!

Website www.westernwrigers.org

Follow them on twitter @Western_Writers

Happy writing and thanks for following WordsmithSix!

Nataliebright.com