THE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION


“If you want to be a successful professional writer, you need to learn business.”

Kristine Katherine Rusch

THE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION, And How It Harms Writers, WMG Publishing, 2013.

 

Rusch makes a strong argument for writers to take control of their own careers in her book THE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION.

She points out that the business side of what we do is not a part of an MFA degree. We are often told that most writers can’t make a living. Writing is a labor of the heart, and we’re reminded that very few authors reach the level of earning potential that we all dream of. We pour our hearts and souls into our stories, and then we willingly hand over our creations and financial control to complete strangers without a second thought.

There’s no doubt that writing is hard work and long hours, and it is a business after all. All industries experience cycles of downturn. Smart business owners know how to survive through the lean times and make smart investments during the surplus years.

A writer needs to understand the publishing world and that sometimes sales slack off. If you understand your chosen profession, it might be a tweak of your writing or a new cover design is the answer. Or not. Maybe you’ve signed a bad contract.

The main point that I learned from Rusch’s book is that writers must have a grasp of the options and take control. For a new perspective on the business side of publishing, you might give this book a try. I found it to be an interesting read and an eye-opener.

WRITERS CAN WRITE AND SELL

Personally, I’ve always been a glass half-full kind of person. In today’s publishing world where everything is undoubtly changing, why can’t we have it all?

If you’ve ever read much about the halo marketing theory, it stands to reason that every piece of writing we tag our name to helps promote ALL of our projects. Bios in freelance articles and blog posts can include your other book titles for sale. Books published can lead to speaking invitations and booths at library fairs. Everything we tag can help drive readers to our website where they can find out more.

Set aside your dreamy, creative selves for a second and put on your business caps. If you want to control the content, put your book up for pre-sale, create a little buzz and save money to self-publish. You can make it happen.

If your book doesn’t have a universal appeal, but it’s near and dear to your heart, find a small press. Develop a killer marketing plan for your region and sell the heck out of your book. Do it now.

Should you ever write a book extraordinary enough to snag an agent resulting in a huge print run from a major house, wouldn’t that be great too?

I agree with the simple business theory that can apply to writers too: produce a quality product worth paying for.

Nataliebright.com

 

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ANIMALS AS CHARACTERS


ANIMALS AS CHARACTERS

Nataliebright.com

If your story is plodding along and you’re struggling in that saggy middle quagmire, think about adding interesting elements through animals.

Animals add a richness to our lives and provide some great material for stories. With some creative thinking, they can add unlimited conflict for your characters to deal with. The death of a beloved pet. The bequeath of granny’s pet anaconda. The personality of a cranky, old cat.

As I sat in the vet’s office one morning, an elderly couple came in with an obnoxious solid black mutt. He barked at my dogs, with a face that was full of disgust. The elderly gentleman took him outside. The lady explained that their dear neighbor had died and had left this dog to them in her will. Sometimes great stories just land in your lap from out of nowhere.

We have a ranch with dogs, barn cats, Registered Angus cows, wild turkey, antelope, deer—you name it. There are issues that happen every week just involving the livestock and wildlife. If you’ve ever owned a pet, you know that they exhibit quirky personalities and habits that keep life interesting.

Last Saturday, I toured Dove Creek Ranch and Equine Rescue. They do amazing work. I was reminded that animals have fascinating life journeys and stories much like people. Some of these horses have experienced mental issues, grief, abuse and pain. Horses go through traumatic events and have to experience a healing process much like humans. Sometimes it’s not a happy ending. Other times horses and humans can heal together, and there is new found joy and a fresh beginning. Talk about a place full of story ideas!

Dig deeper and rethink the dynamics of your story. Would an animal add a unique dimension to your character arc or story line?

Always onward WS6 writers!

A NAME


A NAME

By Natalie Bright

Stuck. On a name.

Actually, I don’t know his name which is why I can’t write the story.

Drat!

All of the components are there: setting, beginning, middle, and in my opinion, a brilliant ending. The story plays out in my head in vivid color, but what is his name? I have no idea.

As writers, we understand the importance of a great name. Fictional character names can inspire countless generations (Superman, DC Comics) and generate millions in promotional material (Charles Schulz’s Snoopy). We love those serendipity moments when a character’s name arrives like a gift out of thin air. Author David Morrell spoke at a writer’s conference about being extremely frustrated and stuck on a name for his character. His wife encouraged him to take a break and handed him a locally grown apple. The name of the apple variety was “Rambo”.

My character is quiet, yet very strong, and determined for all of his twelve years of experience. He’s not shy, but he’s not the life of the party either. He works hard and he loves horses. I can see him clearly. What in the heck is his name?!!

CHARACTER NAME RESOURCES

  1. School Yearbooks. I start with my son’s Jr. High yearbook. This is a modern story and there’s no better way to know what kids are being named than to glance at names in today’s world.
  2. Google It. Next I go to the life-changing resource that is Google (how did we survive before?). I’ve searched baby name sites for several days and jot down a page of possibles.
  3. Consult your Names Notebook. Whenever I meet someone with an unusual name, I make a note on my phone or whatever scrap of paper I can find, and then add it to my Names Notebook. Sometimes in conversation someone will tell me that their family has unique names, and they’ll jot them down for me. Also in my notebook are names of family members gleaned from Ancestry.com. Thanks to my Uncle’s genealogy work, it’s become a great source for ideas.
  4. Pinterest has some interesting links for names lists, like most popular, most unusual, most underused, ancient names, etc. You can find some of these on my Board “I Write” under @natbright on pinterest.com
  5. Still writing with character named ‘boy’. The search continues…

Where do you turn for inspiration and ideas to name your characters?

 

 

TEN YEARS FROM NOW


TEN YEARS FROM NOW

Natalie Bright

“In ten years, do you see yourself as a middle grade author?” An editor posed this question to me at my very first pitch session. I was terrified, so of course I squeaked out a ‘yes’.

Many, many years later I’m older and wiser, toughened by rejection, and ever hopeful, which is why I can honestly say ‘No.’ I see myself as a productive, published author who is not afraid to write the ideas that are in my head.

This past weekend I heard a speaker who is a retired rodeo, bull rider. Chimp Robertson has written a family memoir, two volumes of rodeo tales, short stories, freelanced for magazines, and is currently working on a western fiction series. Also, he happened to know someone who knew the country singer Chris LeDoux. Long story short, LeDoux recorded two of his songs. Chimp Robertson is a former rodeo cowboy who writes.

His program at the Texas High Plains Writers meeting inspired me to think about a memoir I wrote about a devastating loss. I published it on Smashwords as an eBook, but have had numerous requests for a hardcover edition. It’s time to explore all of the possibilities that this book might become. (Stay tuned.)

I understand now that, if you let them, words can take you on a journey to places you’ve never thought possible. I know that a jumble of sentences can become a short story. I’m rethinking an unmarketable middle grade idea that might work better as a picture book. Your family memoir could lend material for a fictional series. As writers, do we have to be labeled?

Author. Songwriter. Poet. Creative. Playwright. Published. Freelancer. Wordsmith.
Happy. Successful. Writer.

In 2016, I hope you write and realize all of the labels you can ever imagine.

Natalie

What’s Your Genre?


What’s Your Genre?

Natalie Bright

As you think about your writing goals for the New Year, have you thought much about genre?

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you develop blogs, tweets, and promotion around your stories.

What kind of people will be your readers?

Where can you find these people?

Do your readers have other interests in common?

What blog topics can you focus on that directly relates to your published works?

Here’s to a productive New Year!

Story Craft: Book Themes


Story Craft: Book Themes

By Natalie Bright

Throughout the art of story craft, you may have noticed common story threads or themes that are used over and over. This is most often observed in movies. Multi-published writers that I’ve talked to usually have an overall theme that might not be that obvious to the reader, but it helps keep the plot line consistent to the end.

A NYT bestselling author told me that she used a common theme for her main characters, as well as applying it to sub-plots and minor characters. For example, the pain of loss was a theme of a recent book. Every major and minor character had to deal with loosing something or someone.

A theme for books can be used in both fiction and nonfiction. It keeps the author on track and prevents them from deviating from the basic story structure.

For example, the hero’s journey is a popular theme that is used in a lot in books and movies. The hero is reluctantly called to adventure, faces insurmountable obstacles, and ends up saving the day. There are several excellent books on how to craft a story using this popular theme.

Listed below are some other examples of overall themes for books:

*Cinderella: down trodden girl is rescued from her dull existence and finds true love with her prince.

*Perseverance: characters never give up, even when faced with impossible obstacles.

*Honesty: always tell the truth, no matter what the cost.

*Kindness: generous, considerate, friendly characters, even when treated differently.

*Acceptance: differences and beliefs are overcome and characters find respect for each other. Or, maybe it’s an acceptance of love lost, crushed dreams, or life’s path.

*Romeo and Juliet: star-crossed lovers against the world.

*Loyalty: trusting each other, friends to the end or trusting yourself and your heart’s desire.

*Cooperation: a problem is solved or a goal is achieved through everyone working together.

 

Happy writing and thanks for following WordsmithSix!

THE SYMBOL OF ROYALTY: PURPLE


THE SYMBOL OF ROYALTY: PURPLE

 By Natalie Bright

The color of robes for kings and wizards, making you think of wealth, spirituality, and the world of fantasy. If purple is your favorite color, you are probably a free spirit, compassionate, supportive of others. Your feelings run deep and people come to you for help.

The dye for purple was rare and very costly to produce, therefore only rulers could afford it. Queen Elizabeth I forbad anyone except close members of the royal family to wear purple. In modern times, it can designate things of high quality or superiority like cosmetics or Cadbury’s chocolates.

Write deeper using purple:

Lavender lilac orchid mauve plum fuchsia magenta

I like to write with a lot of emotion and a lot of power. Sometimes I overdo it; sometimes my prose is a little bit too purple, and I know that.

G. Bissinger

 

THINKING WHITE


THINKING WHITE

By Natalie Bright

Wholesome and pure white. In its most basic sense, white includes and equal balance of every color of the spectrum, expressive of both positive and negative aspects of all colors.

It’s reflective. Think about competent and sterile, and a doctor’s lab coat.

White can be sad and lonely, cold and isolated, empty.

White:

Snow, milky, marble, cream, ivory, porcelain, oyster, pearl, silver, platinum, bone, bleached

White is the color of the page that is waiting for you. Write on!

 

The Writing Process


The Writing Process

By Natalie bright

 

If you enjoy reading about other author’s writing process like I do, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that there is no right or wrong way. I think the main goal that will set you apart from other writers is to actually get to THE END.

Here are examples of two totally different methods that have worked for me.

Option 1: Chasing Rabbit Trails

When you look at the pasture behind my house, you can see several well-worn trails used by cotton tales and jack-rabbits. They criss-cross, head in every direction going on as far as you can see or ending at a fence or under a tree. Here’s a true confession; I find it extremely difficult to stay with one project.

With two teen boys (a senior and 8th grader) and day job demands, I’ve decided to follow the advice of Natalie Goldberg in WRITING DOWN THE BONES: go with the thing that’s burning a hole in your heart. Come to that story with fire in your gut. From novels to nonfiction magazine articles to short stories, I just write. I’ve learned to never question the idea muse and to write whenever I get the chance.

Take for example a picture book manuscript I just finished. The idea hit me as I was climbing into my husband’s pick-up truck on our way to lunch. We were talking about the kids fighting. He was explaining to me that it’s nothing unusual for brothers. As an only child, I can’t relate to how mean siblings can be to each other. I got a visual image of a picture book, as clear as if I held it in my hand. I made notes right then and there, and worked on it over the next two months. Then sent it off to my agent, who had a few suggestions. Took several more weeks to work on edits, and now it’s out in the world. Fingers crossed that it finds a home.

This process may seem crazy to some, but I am able to get things done.

Option 2: Emersion into Fictional World

The middle grade manuscript I recently finished involved a total emersion into the world of Comanche, a Plains Indian tribe that once walked the ground that is now our cattle ranch. The book began as a story about a mule skinner’s son set in the old west, but when I typed THE END it felt incomplete. Something was missing. One Saturday morning, after two hours of digging in the dirt, I found a perfectly shaped arrowhead point which reminded me that the last person who had touched that piece of flint had been a Native American. The burning in my gut turned into a Comanche brave. I had to bring Wolf’s point of view to that story.

A secondary character became a main character, and I started over with research. If words refused to come, research turned into long walks staring at a Texas sunset trying to figure out what in the heck a Comanche teenager might be thinking in 1854. This was the most difficult and most fun book I’ve ever written. Hopefully it will find a home as well.

Don’t Question the WHY!

Take the advice of David Morrell, father of Rambo and an amazing speaker; don’t question the why. He really motivated me to keep writing; no matter the rejection, no matter the crazy ideas that pop into my head, no matter that my story may never be seen by the world.

Let’s be fearless, dear writers! Follow that fire in your gut and discover where it leads. You might be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Please share your writing process. How do you stay on task until THE END?

 

Wedge of Writing


After all, the world is not a stage—not to me: nor a theatre: nor a show-house of any sort. And art, especially novels, are not little theatres where the reader sits aloft and watches… and sighs, commiserates, condones, and smiles. That’s what you want a book to be: because it leaves you so safe and superior, with your two-dollar ticket to the show. And that’s what my books are NOT and never will be. Whoever reads me will be in the thick of the scrimmage, and if he doesn’t like it—if he wants a safe seat in the audience—let him read someone else.

–D. H. Lawrence