Home of Ane Ryan Walker, Teller of Tall Tales, Writer of Short Stories

Tag: Doubt (Page 1 of 2)

Courage

  “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

― Anais Nin

Seriously, do you know what constitutes courage? Some people think of it as the absence of fear. Some people say it is the ability to face the very thing you fear. But I often wonder if the ability to face fears can sometimes be a foolish pursuit.

When it is not in your best interest to buck the system, fear can become embedded in the operational psyche.

I don’t believe this. I am of the school of thinking where facing your fears reduces them, allowing you to overcome obstacles in your path enabling you to eventually move on.

Assuming this take on the things you fear is the expansion Anais Nin is referring to, then the inability to face our fears must cause our personal universe to contract. Not good.

Sometimes fears are not meant to be dealt with in so cavalier a fashion.

Who will decide which fears are worth facing, and which should be circumvented?

Like most writers, if you are introverted, you avoid walking into a room of people you do not know, it’s too scary. Even when you seek a group of like-minded people, you can still find a situation like this paralyzing.  Seeking out other aspiring writers, or accomplished writers in pursuit of a mentor is a challenging task. If shyness (fear) prevents you from joining such groups or even seeking them out, how your attempts to join such a group are received are critical to how you deal with these situations in the future.

Most of us, as members of RWA, are often assured a welcome in each chapter of the overall parent group. But that is not necessarily the case. Even chapters which claim to promote aspiring writers by mentoring, and use that as their basis for excellence, often forget that common courtesy is everything.

Recently I attended a chapter meeting for an RWA chapter where I am not a member. I have been a member of RWA since 1993, and I do know the “rules.” You should greet new people and make them feel welcome. This is a hallmark of a chapter that aspires to excellence. It certainly should be a given for a chapter that RWA claims are “excellent.”

But no matter, I attended with notice by emailing and letting them know I planned to attend. I confirmed the date, place and time. When I arrived on site, I made myself known by introducing myself to the first two people I met. They gave me their names and shook hands. Then turned away to speak with friends and others they knew in the arriving group. In the meeting, a woman I’ve known for many years, who belonged to another chapter and who I had hosted numerous times in my home was present. She did not speak or acknowledge me until I was on my way out of the meeting.

Now, I could be wrong, but this behavior does not constitute either the principle of RWA’s inclusion or excellence. Sound like they pissed me off? They did. I have belonged to numerous chapters. I have gone out of my way to welcome those not known to the group or still new enough to not be recognized by other members. Making it my business to make time to answer questions, help the newcomers find a seat and get comfortable. At the very least, introducing them to at least two additional people.

This type of isolation and poor reception by a “peer” group could be enough to keep some writers from joining, or even encouraging them to leave RWA. Me, I’m not that dainty. But I will never forget the shabby treatment by this group and I will not recommend them to any writer, aspiring or otherwise. I will not attend any meeting or presentation for or by them in the future. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Something we should never forget.

 

Self Doubt

Doubt is a virus that attacks our self-esteem, productivity, and confidence. Faith that you and your life are perfectly unfolding is the strongest vaccine.
― Sean Stephenson

Sometimes I question whether or not I should continue to pursue a writing career. I have so many stories to tell, but I get distracted so easily. I wonder if I’m serious about writing, and that is not a good feeling.

Maybe, I thought, I just need a little time off. You know how it goes. Thinking I’ll take a little time, ease into the next phase of where my life journey is taking me and determine how serious I really am about this writing thing.

First I think, NANO is coming up and this is the perfect opportunity to establish a new habit, i.e., writing every day. Oh, wait! I had that habit and for some unknown reason, I stopped writing every day. Even now, I wonder why.

Was it because things didn’t go exactly as planned?  Because I failed to get my butt in the chair and just do it?

Some people believe you shouldn’t try to write every day. There I said it, and if you believe it fine, and if you don’t, that’s okay too.

Right now I’m not sure. I know that I made a commitment to turn in critique pages today. I follow through on the promises I make. I always try, an I’ consistent.

Also, through this last hiatus, I realized the value of time off from writing. Some times writers, like stories, need a rest.

Sure it was surgery and drug-induced vacation that got me into the “not writing” mode. Enough to make me wonder if going back to writing was worth the energy. I did doubt it on many days.

This morning I woke up with a whole new attitude. I do want to write, I do have stories to tell, and I find storytelling a pleasure. But, at a different pace.

We are now nine days into NANO, and I’m not there. SO what I’m doing is looking at reviving abandoned stories. Yeah, that’s the reason I decided writing is worth it. So many stories, so little time.

Happy writing, and keep the commitments you make. You’ll be happier for it.

About Writer’s Block

  “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”

― Shirley Chisholm

Writers write. Ask any writer. If they could stop writing, they probably would stop writing. For the rest of us, we write to still the voices in our heads. We write to get our stories out into the world.We write, publish, and repeat the process. Endlessly.

If you ask me about that thing known as “writers block”, I’ll tell you it doesn’t exist. I can pretty much prove it. No other profession allows its practitioners to claim that no work can be accomplished today, tomorrow, this week, next week, or anytime in the near future, because they are suffering from a “block”.

Plumbers block? No. Dentist Block? No. Nurses Block? No. Accounting Block? No.

Trust me, if you are a writer and you’re not writing it’s because you choose not to write.

But wait, you say. I really do have writers block. What can I do? The answer is simple. It’s a choice you make, either a form of procrastination to avoid criticism, rejection, or some other form of negativity. So, you ask, how can I fix that? Start writing. Yes, that’s right. Make a plan and stick with it. Just start writing.

Writing when you have fear is difficult. Fears need to be faced in order for you to overcome them. So of course, the answer is simple. Start  writing.

Having difficulty with your story? Keep writing. Many writers know, you can not fix a blank page, so fill the page, then worry about fixing it later. Nobody–or let me say rarely–does anyone love a first draft. Usually it takes a lot of work, self editing, story restructuring, critiquing, and professional editing to get a story into decent shape.

Did I mention the upside of continuing to write in the face of adversity (i.e, laziness, fear, procrastination, martyrdom, or anything else that prevents you from writing)is you will find your true voice and your writing will improve if you just keep writing.

Secondary Characters

How important are secondary characters?

Very Important. Think for just a minute how you might see The Harry Potter series without Neville Longbottom. Or perhaps Pride and Prejudiced with Jane Bennett.

Not so interesting, huh?

Important to remember the names for secondary characters. They should not be similar to the hero or the heroines name. The first names of these character should never start with the same letters. Names that sound similar or start with the same letter can be confusing to your reader. You don’t want the reader to confuse Crissy the servant with Sissy the villain. That would not be good. Remember, sound alike–Katy, Kathy, Cody–can confuse as well.

Where some writers will provide a full interview to get to know their primary characters, it isn’t always necessary for secondary characters. Does that mean they are less important? Less well-developed? No.

While they may not require the same depth of development, secondary charterers require the same amount of attention to the in development. Supporting characters who are well-developed are those who provide the proper support for your hero and heroine. Their development provides depth for the story and layers of interest to your novel.

Secondary characters provide a unique perspective through which the main characters can be viewed. What they see, hear,  and think about your hero or heroine and the behavior gives additional insight to the main character.

Characters, like people, are often judged by the company they keep. If you wish to define a characters moral core, the companions they choose are a good gauge of moral compass.

Sometimes the secondary character allows us as readers to compare and contrast the desirable qualities between heroes and secondary characters.

Secondary characters can contribute to a story by the use of valuable dialogue. They will know–and so will your editor–which questions should be asked and which subjects the hero wishes to avoid, but shouldn’t. They hep to increase the conflict by introducing the taboo subject, and sometimes outrageous behavior.

Secondary characters are not held to the same high standards which we impose on our heroes. They do not benefit when they advance to primary status in follow-up stories. And be assured, romance readers love to see the secondary characters follow-up with their own story.

 

 

Hooking your reader

I knew you wouldn’t listen to my advice, you just wanted to start writing, and you know you want to keep those readers reading. So you have to take a look at the hook. You certainly can’t open a story without a hook. You need one, at least one, to capture the initial interest of your readers.

Good news. Hooking a reader with a great opening is a skill you can learn. There are a host of tomes dedicated to the art of the opening hook. I’m even going to list them for you at the end of the blog. Along with several other sites where you might be able to pick up some much-needed craft tips. How do I know they’re good places to go? Because I’ve used them myself.

But for now, let’s address the nature of the hook.

The ability to consistently and productively hook your reader is a difficult lesson for some of us, and comes naturally to others. What doesn’t come naturally, again–can be learned. When and if you are the type of writer who looks to your favorite novels to study the craft, remember tone of the novel and writers voice influence opening choices. Not only must you choose a hook for your opening line, but the opening paragraph,opening scene, and opening page.

But the first sentence is usually the one that seals the deal.

“The magician’s underwear has just been found in a cardboard suitcase floating in a stagnant pond on the outskirts of Miami.”

Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

“You better not never tell nobody but God.”

—Alice Walker, The Color Purple

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

—Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

“They shoot the white girl first.”

—Toni Morrison, Paradise

“The time has come.”

—Dr. Seuss, Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!

“Don’t look for dignity in public bathrooms.”

—Victor LaValle, Big Machine

“On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide—it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills—the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope.”

—Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

“The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida.”

—Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”

“In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together.”

—Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

“I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.”

—Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness

Each and every one of these opening lines serves the purpose of grabbing the reader’s attention. Above and beyond getting the reader’s attention, we need to work hard to keep that attention focused on the story we want to tell.

Intelligent readers identify right away when the hook is set that there is more to the story. This is what keeps them reading. To open a story with summary is to dump the backstory in the most unappealing fashion possible. Also, it’s telling–the cardinal sin of good fiction writing. But that’s a subject for another time.

The top ten things you need for a killer opening are:

  1. set up for the story question
  2. story worthy problem
  3. the inciting incident
  4. initial surface problem
  5. Killer opening sentence
  6. a TINY amount of backstory
  7. introduction to character
  8. a glimpse at the setting
  9. excellent word choices
  10. foreshadowing

http://www.darcypattison.com/ read her book, Six Winning Steps Towards A Compelling Opening Line, Scene and Chapter.

http://lesedgerton.net/ Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go

http://sherrysoule.blogspot.com/p/author-bio.html How to Craft a Gripping First Chapter: Learn How to Create a Riveting and Compelling Opening Scene (Fiction Writing Tools Book 1)

http://jamigold.com/ No actual single book at present, but a gold mine (no pun intended) of information for writers, from guest blogs to beat sheets.

Some food for thought, and a few sites to try out, or try on for size.

Where do I start?

I’ll be the first one to say, in spite of the excitement which accompanies starting a new project or a new book, there is also an element of fear.

Fear is the one thing which diverts our attention from a project which we anticipated, and causes us to doubt if the endeavor will be successful. In fact, fear is the number one thing that can hold us back in many areas of our lives, including our stories.

When the time comes to begin a new project, no matter how vested I find myself in “the story idea”, I have a process I use to ensure there is in fact enough story to fill out the form to completion. The process is simple.

First, make sure the idea of story is engaging. What that means is, do you have a good place to start?

Knowing where to start is tricky. Some will say you must first set the stage for your story. Others will assure you that the story begins when the characters ordinary world changes. Only the author can decide how much stage setting is required. I like to combine the small glance at the hero or heroine’s ordinary world at the moment change tempts her to action.

So the real trick is then, how can I best show the hero/heroine’s ordinary world at the moment of change?

This is the point at which talent challenges endurance, when you write at least four to five rough draft story starts.

But before you ever set out on this path, it’s important to know what you’re writing for. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? Really, this is the most crucial step. Is writing a hobby you use to pass extra time? Or is writing a business endeavor that might support you in the long run? Now is the time to decide. You must make this decision before you start.

Approach to a task will tell whether or not success is at the end of the road. If you write for your own pleasure, have at it. You need no further advice or direction from me or anyone else. Just sit down and start writing. Don’t let anything or anyone deter you. Writing is, for many of us, pure joy. It allows us to search through and examine the minutiae of our very souls.  This type of writing can bring insight, inspiration and sanity to an otherwise overwhelming areas of our lives.

If however, you write with the intention to be successful, then you must define for yourself what success means.

For some writers success is simply seeing their work in print or ebook. For others the feeling of success comes from recognition by others, such as “making the list” whether it is the NYT or USA Today. Other writers seek simpler affirmations of success such as monetary gain. No problem there. We all like to be compensated for the work that we do, and estimated by an hourly wage, writing income is low unless you enjoy best seller status where advance money is high.

If you determine success by income from writing, let’s say self-publishing and ebook sales, then you should first determine an amount of income that meets your specific needs. Next you should formulate a plan that will ensure the income you desire. This will require further work on your part to determine what the most saleable type of book you can write, and how you should promote it for maximum return on the time investment you make. The investment is made by every writer on the front end.  Only with advanced success will you be able to hire out or delegate the time and effort necessary to promote your book to success.

Apologies & Introducing a New Book

For the past several weeks I’ve been offline. Yeah, computer problems. Everyone has them and most of us suffer in silence, or just moan and whine a little but press on when the problems are resolved.

I won’t do that. I have decided this is an opportunity to strike off in a new direction and share a new start with all of you.

First things first. I will take you through how a novel is structured, how the idea seeds are planted and how the book is brought to full growth. A lot goes into planning and executing a novel and I will tell you exactly how to get started.

Week by week I will share how to structure the story, how to build a solid foundation and how to deal with the twists and turns that present themselves along the way. You will choose how your story will start and end, and also decide how much to write.

I hope that these step by step suggestions and guidelines will answer some of the many questions I receive about where ideas come from and how to recognize the fertility in the good ones.

So please don’t abandon me, because I certainly didn’t abandon you, and I will be sharing information you might find useful.

Thanks for reading.

Trust

We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone – but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.”

― Walter Anderson

This post speaks to the issue of sharing your work with others. I know, I know. You write for the satisfaction of having created something from the sheer fabric of imagination. You want to see what materializes from the vapor of pure imagination, and if the story burning in your heart and mind can be told, understood, and shared.

Unless you take the leap of faith and share your story with others you will never know. Remember, it is a leap of faith. As creators of fiction we are timid in sharing our story for fear of our “baby” being deemed ugly. And keep in mind, not every one will love your story. Some may even dislike it. But the stories we write are not for others, but rather for ourselves and those who can identify with the story we need to tell.

Sometimes the most difficult people to trust with a story is our family and friends, who may feel compelled to tell us  our  stories are wonderful.   The people we love, and who love us, often feel compelled not to criticize, even in a constructive way. They don’t want to hurt our feelings when we truly desire to hear their thoughts in hope of finding our way onto the path of success. So who do we turn to?

Sometimes we need to approach and engage strangers to help us judge the merits of our work. We need to be selective in the approach, seeking out readers who will and can give constructive feedback.  This method will more likely ensure assistance in a forward motion rather than annihilate our hopes and dreams.

Beyond that we need to listen. Often, authors who are overly sensitive complain of being unfairly criticized. “They just didn’t get me.” “No one understands what I’m trying to say.”  Do we stop to consider that we, as writers, aren’t making our intentions clear? That editing, and possibly re-writes are in order?

Not every writer is fortunate enough to have a mentor. Not every writer can approach a critic–and every potential reader is a critic–and find the help her/she requires. We have to trust sometimes that the criticism we hear, especially commonly repeated criticisms, are true. When these criticisms are repeated, we need to assume they may be true. Trust your judgement.

 

Happiness

Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.

― Unknown

 

This week, I know exactly what happiness means.

My DH decided it was time for me to have a new desktop computer. I liked my old one, but it threatened to have a stroke and fall off the desk. It’s been threatening me in this fashion for many months now, and I just wasn’t willing to give up the ghost.

Earlier this week I found I couldn’t open any word program files at all.  So, I guess it has been a problem for much longer than I am willing to admit. I decided then and there a new desktop was in order. Also, if I hadn’t gone looking for those old word files, I probably didn’t really need to hang onto them. So finally, I got a new desktop computer.

Next time, I won’t wait so long to treat myself like I deserve something good.

The new desktop is sleek,  lightweight, shiny and pretty. It is also fast. Yea!

It did, however, throw me completely off my game. Wow.

Pay attention every minute because the technology moves so fast it is scary. I mean really scary. I like to think I keep up for the most part with new things, but I could be wrong. I have owned a PC since they first came out and so many people told me it was 1) a waste of money 2) a waste of effort and 3) pretentious.

I don’t dispute any of those things. All of them certainly may be true or were true at any given point in time.  But today I learned something new about the advancing technology.

You just can’t get in front of it.

Accept it. Move on. After four strenuous hours online and on the phone with the tech team, I found that you just can’t go back.  You’re going to have to renew, resolve and download all over again. Just do it.

And that folks, is the only reason this blog came late to the party. I promise you I will have inspiration words , or at the very least something else to b*tch about next week.

In the meantime, just keep writing.

 

 

Learning the Craft

   “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

― St. Francis of Assisi

In order to write that novel you always talk about, or dream of writing, you must start. I know you may not have the skills required to write the next great American novel. I get that, you know that, we all agree it’s not happening. But where do you start?

You just start.

Don’t stop by the Idea Store and purchase anything. Don’t ask your mother, father, girlfriend, boyfriend, or your best friend what they think. We all know they have opinions. Everyone has an opinion.Your opinion is what counts in the immediate moment.

A seasoned writer usually has developed a method for determining if they have enough idea to sustain a story, and what size of story (word count) the story idea can support. They have a good grasp of what it takes to make a story work, and this is why seasoned writers don’t always discuss their ideas until they’ve determined if the story has legs. Can it stand on its own?

For the beginning writer, there is no valuable advice –especially for a first novel–other than to start writing. That’s correct, just take a page from Nike, just do it.

You could of course, ignore this advice, and attend writing classes, make an outline, fill out character sheets or do character interviews, design a storyboard, ask for advice from other beginning writers and do any number of other things that only delay your writing. That’s correct delay your writing.

The number one reason unpublished authors experience a failure to launch, is basically simple; it’s a failure to write. We each have a certain amount of words we need to write before we can identify our own voice. Some experts say you won’t recognize your voice until you’ve written a million words. Now, I don’t know if it’s true, but I do know you need to start writing.

My first book was a fantasy novel, beautifully written with engaging descriptive backgrounds that made critique partners “see” the landscape of the novel. Yea for me! I’m good a world building. They told me the characters engaged the readers and all were anxious to see what would happen next. Yea for me, great character development. One critique partner described my passages as “liquid poetry”, and I was flattered, and amazed and felt so good about my writing. Except 400 pages into the story, the characters great adventure, no actual plot was found.

That’s right No Plot, BIG Problem.

I didn’t know what my weakness was until I started writing. Based on this experience, I never start a novel, novella, or short story without knowing the full plot. Every pinch point, every turning point, every reversal and big black moment is down on the sheet before the writing begins.

You have to determine what your own shortcomings are, and define your style, before you can learn the craft skills necessary to become successful. Once you have accomplished this, then the life long learning begins and you may have your feet firmly planted on the road to success.

 

 

 

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