The Fictorians

Archive for the ‘The Writing Life’ Category

Can You Hear the Voices?

12 July 2014 | 1 Comment » | frank

Do you hear the voices tooGrowing up, I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I was such an avid reader, it just made sense. My mind naturally turned to stories and I invented whole worlds. I could see the fantastic places, hear the voices of the characters.

Hearing voice is not considered healthy in most professions.

I tried to drive the imaginary friends away, tried to tell them I didn’t want to hear their stories, and for a few years I was successful. But they kept coming back.

Eventually I admitted I had to write and I dove into the process, not caring how long or hard or difficult it might be. That proved I was in the right frame of mind to become a writer. I absolutely love the process of exploring my own little worlds and actively seeking out those voices that I alone could hear. And even though some people look at me funny when I tell them I write fiction novels, this is the one career where you’re supposed to hear voices, where it’s all right to carry on conversations with yourself for days at a time.

I have so many people to talk to, I could sit silent for days just listening.

But even better than exploring worlds of imagination, I love it when I can bring those worlds to life for other people. I love talking with someone who has read one of my stories, looking them in the eye and seeing their excitement as they discuss a scene or a character that they felt a particularly powerful connection with. They heard the voices and they saw the scenes.

The story came alive for them.

Power of Books

By Mladen Penev

Those are the moments that encourage me to keep writing, keep striving to improve my craft to bring these stories to life. It’s incredible to think that a few marks on a page can trigger visions of unseen worlds and make real the personalities and relationships of people who never existed anywhere except inside my head. A lot of people love a good story, but not everyone is a storyteller.

I am.

A little crazy I may be, but I’m loving the journey and I’m bringing a lot of other people along for the ride.

 

The Miracle of Mentors

11 July 2014 | No Comments » | Colette

clouds-aircraftI hadn’t even finished my first novel. I’d written one exceptionally strange, not particularly good, short story, but was on my way to my first World Fantasy Convention. I had no idea what I was doing. The flight was full, but as fortune would have it, I happened to sit next to two writers. As Gini Koch showed her cover art for her first published novel, “Touched by an Alien,” to her friend sitting next to me, Glen Glenn, I worked up the courage to intrude on their conversation. It took me a minute–I’m shy by nature–but I finally leaned over and asked, “Are you both writers?” That simple question launched one of the best friendships and best mentoring relationship I could have ever imagined.

I talked with Gini and Glen through the rest of the flight and she told me to find her at the convention. That gave me the motivation I needed to attend the upstairs parties the next night, where I found Gini and she started introducing me to everyone. I met agents, fellow authors, and so many nice people I could hardly keep them all straight. Gini and I kept in touch, getting together for lunch, and she continued to give me loads of great writing advice. Through her mentoring, my writing ability jumped by leaps and bounds. For a while, Glen and I exchanged our writing material on a regular basis, which also improved my writing. The best bonus: I made some great friends.

Now jump ahead about three years. I’d attended multiple workshops, Superstars Seminar, conventions, and received a nice pile of rejection letters amid a few short story publications. I scraped up the money for another writing adventure, attending David Farland’s rewriting workshop, but I had other matters on my mind besides my manuscript. The seminar was great, and everyone loved my work, but I was starting to feel discouraged.

I’m a mother with five children, and all of the writing “investments” were starting to take their toll on the family finances. David didn’t know it, but I was questioning the value of my work. It was time spent that could have gone toward improving my home or working a more profitable job, and it was money that could go toward retirement or fun family activities. What was I doing going to seminars, conventions, etc so I could write fantasy stories?

At every seminar Dave gives, he takes some time and has breakfast, lunch, or dinner, one-on-one, with each of the participants. So we sat together, I remember a delicious aroma of broccoli-cheese soup so I think it was a Paradise Bakery, and talked about writing, publishing, and self-publishing. Probably because it was on my mind, the conversation turned to the social value of what we do as writers.

I’m paraphrasing, but Dave said something akin to, “The stories we write might be made-up fiction, but they come from who we are inside, and they can help people in ways we can’t imagine.”

I’d heard it before, but the way he said it that day, the way it pierced my soul, dispelling my doubts and fears and replacing them with absolute calm, changed my entire outlook. I still get discouraged, and the publishing world has done flips and turns that leave me mind-boggled, but I love to write, and I’ll continue to write, because it does make the world a better place and it makes me a better person. We need stories to work through our own values, emotions, and social perspectives.

They aren’t the only mentors who have boosted me up at just the right time, but these are turning points that have stuck with me. Have you had any turning points in your writing adventure? If so, please leave a comment and share your experience.

The Sublimely Perfect Swing

9 July 2014 | No Comments » | Gregory D. Little

Golf doesn’t look that hard, right? I mean, you zoom around in a little battery powered cart across somebody else’s gorgeously manicured lawn. You swing a club at a stationary ball in a direction which will advance it toward a hole in the ground. Unlike other sports, no one is trying to get in your way, steal the ball from you or make it move in such a way that you miss it when you swing. So how hard could it really be?

You may well believe those things until you actually try golfing. Those fun golf carts are expensive to rent, and if you elect to walk, those bags can get mighty heavy on a summer day. Tell yourself that ball is just sitting there all you like. It doesn’t make it any easier to hit straight.

Golf looks easy only to those who haven’t tried it. Golf is hard.

My dad has a saying about amateur golfers. He says for every hundred slices, hooks and divots there will come that one sublimely perfect swing that keeps the vast majority of golfers going through the rough (pun intended) patches. Sure, the beauty, peace and quiet of the course may get you out there, but unless you have no sense of self-improvement, every so often you have to have some success to keep yourself going.

The same thing is true with writing.

Writing looks easy until you sit down and actually do it. Rebecca Moesta points out during every Superstars that people love to say how they plan to sit down and write a novel one day, the implication being that’s just something you sit down and bang out, no problem. I’m willing to bet most of our readers here know better.

Now, obviously with both golf and writing, there is enjoyment to be had in the experience itself. Most writers I know (myself included) would keep writing even their stories never made them a dime or won them any accolades. But if you do want to take your writing past the hobby phase, you end up plunging headlong into the grueling world of submitting your work. Whether it be it short stories to magazines or novels to agents and editors, it can sometimes (often) feel like beating your head against a brick wall.

You really need that one sublimely perfect swing every now and then to keep you going through the rough patches. The bad news is that you have to force yourself to keep putting your work out there even when it’s getting zero traction. The good news is as long as you keep doing so, your perfect swing can happen at literally any moment.

This time last year I’d allowed my short story submissions to trickle down to almost nothing. I’d had a run of misfortune with a couple of near-misses that had left me feeling disheartened with short story publication and I was focusing on a novel instead. Then on a whim, right before Christmas I submitted a story I’d left languishing for years. It was a particular favorite of mine, but too long to publish most places and one that had never garnered any positive feedback at a professional level. I didn’t think anything would come of it, but on Christmas Eve I got an email from the editor praising the story’s writing and characters and asking to hold it for further review.

The story would go on to be published several months later, but it was that initial show of interest that was my sublimely perfect swing. It was such a small thing, basically a note from a stranger effectively saying “I enjoyed this story enough to care about what happens to it.” It jazzed me up and gave me the drive to submit again. Now I keep my stable of stories on a constant submission rotation. As soon as one is rejected, I find another market and send away. In the process I’ve gotten better about identifying which markets might be good fits for which stories, which only helps matters. And you know what? The positive feedback on my submissions has increased as a result. It’s only a matter of time before I hit the next perfect swing, and who knows, this one might be a hole-in-one.

 

I May Not Be Annie Oakley

8 July 2014 | No Comments » | fictorians

A guest post by Brenda Sawatzky.

It’s called the gift of gab. Something I just don’t have. I suppose, to some degree, it can be learned. Hence the success of Toastmasters around the world.

When I was a child I marvelled at the class clown, quick witted one-liners sliding unconstrained from his tongue at just the right moment. The sharp-shooting Annie Oakley of the spoken word, never at a loss, firing off rounds as the targets were set. I sat among the perpetually mute, humbled by the rapid-fire workings of this adroit-thinking machine who stood fearless even in the face of the teacher.

Mute was actually my first language. I spent the first ten years of my life working out the specifics of how few words were required to get by. To avoid the unnecessary cordialities of the aunties and uncles who came to call, I’d hide in a closet. Perhaps they’d forget that my mom and dad had had a little girl after three boys. When it came time for Kindergarten, I hid behind the cloak of my gregarious cousin. She was capable of formulating enough words in one afternoon to cover the entire class of six-year-olds, plus a few strays.

I often imagine what my teacher interviews must have sounded like to my parents. “Brenda? Is she the little blond with the mismatched socks? Yes, I think she’s been here. Doesn’t say much, does she? Have you thought about having her, you know, tested? For mental dexterity? No, no. I’m not suggesting she’s… sir, please take a seat… sir, there’s no need for violence. Sir?”

My dad got me. I knew that. He was a man of few words, too. What he lacked in words, though, he made up for in bravado. Like the antediluvian antics of a young boy, throwing the baseball at the other kid’s head is decidedly more effective than asking him to play fair.

As an adult, I’m still surrounded by the Foghorn Leghorns, the mouthpieces of the world. I have a daughter-in-law who can respond to an interview with words collected, collated, and masterfully delivered without once referencing a script. She could, and perhaps should, be a presidential spokesperson.

I have a friend who steals the show at every fireside or dinner party, keeping us collectively laughing for hours on end. The words “Donn, please stop, I’m about to rupture a spleen” are fodder for his lunacy and only serve to heighten his comedic aptitude. Another friend is a storyteller, waxing poetic every detail, fashioning something riveting out of the mundane. He’s the Emmett Brown of the narrative. “The way I see it, Marty, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”

In most settings where verbal prowess is revered, I’m still the one who forgets the punchline at the pinnacle of a great joke or stalls for time when looking for just the right word, only to lose my place in the conversational pecking order.

The propensity for knee-jerk repartee may not be my thing, but written prose can be equally sharp and reactive. This is the bag of tricks I can pull from, and this is where I find my home. The chatterbox has no backspace button, no quick-reference thesaurus, and can’t copy and paste the punchline in a more structurally pleasing way.

I still covet the gift of gab. But the sheer joy I can derive from putting the finishing touches on a finely crafted story—written, rewritten, edited, and delivered from the smelting pot—is worth more to me than the momentary chuckle produced around the fireside. It’s more valuable than the moment in the spotlight that quickly fades after the colloquialism ends and the dinner party wraps up. It can be read and reread, stored with a collection on a bookshelf, and pulled out for generations to enjoy. This is the joy of writing, and this I can own.

Guest Brenda PicWriter Bio:
Brenda Sawatzky is a relatively new, unpublished writer hailing from the wide-open prairie spaces of southeast Manitoba. She and her husband of thirty-one years are self-employed and parents to five kids (two ushered in by marriage). She is presently working toward fiction and non-fiction writing for magazines and manages a personal blog.

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