Friday, December 1, 2017
Changing the Writer's World
The world is changing drastically. No big surprise there. So if your business, whatever it is, is not changing, there's a good chance you'll fail. We have new consumers, new producers, new challenges.
Let me bring this back to the writing world. The other night I was reading a classic, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. If you've never read it before, it's a lovely classic tale of four girls in their every day life, published in the late 1800s. It is long, flowery, and full of extras. It's not the longest compared to books of its time, but it's one of my favorites. Writers were paid by the page then, and novels tended to be verbose and redundant. Sometimes it took three to four pages just to describe a house. And don't get me started on fantasy and science fiction. There are rules I will never understand in those genres. Although these novels are longer in general, they were even more so in the past.
So why is this? Why are writing styles constantly changing?
Well this is not a complicated answer, but it's long...and wordy, like Alcott's novel. This age of technology that we live in, we are building an insta-community.
-Food and meals that are ready in minutes, nay even seconds
-Processes to make food are faster
-Communication has skyrocketed. Instead of writing letters, talking on the phone, and visiting in person, we have let screens divide us and allowed them to dictate how we interact.
-Transportation is faster, more efficient
Readers who are used to having instant gratification in almost every faucet of their lives.
I could go on, but you get the point. What does this have to do with writers and readers of books? A few months ago, I submitted my book to a reputable publisher and editor. According to their standards, I didn't make the mark, and looking back, they were probably right to reject my book. Does that mean my book wasn't good? No. My book has already exceeded my expectations for why I wrote it. Does that mean it's perfect? No.
But there are diverse readers for a reason. One thing I have reflected since then is how much my writing is changing to adapt to writing fads. Some authors write directly to market to sell. They follow trends. Right now, writing books that push a political agenda are very popular and being submitted every day.
It's smart if you're in it to make money right now. But is that sustainable? I can't help but wonder if those that follow writing trends might one day lose their writing style and get tired to adapting to the never ending changes.
Readers have changed too. Instead of enjoying a nice book on a rainy afternoon, they're glued to their screens. Most books have traveled over to screens, but with that move, more competition comes. Notifications, messages, and even phone calls if you choose to read on your phone. The quiet, sacred reading time readers once had are being overrun with life's distractions. Reading a book takes time.
So writers have adapted.
1. Structure of Writing
Instead of wordy descriptions, some writers have limited or cut out description all together, making it choppy and stylish in some ways. Readers like white space. Shorter paragraphs, more concise writing. No more beating around the bush. Get to the action. Instead of taking four-six chapters to get the reader into the world of a story, you launch an inciting incident to peak your reader's attention. And you must now-a-days because most readers will stop flipping after the first page or two if they are not hooked. Instant gratification.
Stephanie Meyer's example in New Moon, the second book in her Twilight Saga. Instead of showing the passage of time through wordy chapters of doing nothing, Meyer chose a new way. When the main character, Bella, was dumped by her vampire boyfriend, instead of explaining how she was coping, Meyer chose to show passage of time through one word to represent four different chapters.
And then a paragraph-long-of-a-chapter to show Bella waking up from her dramatic, boyfriendless fog. Readers were experiencing a change in structure for the first time...and it worked. I am not a huge fan of Myer, but I am a ginormous fan of this technique to show time passing.
2. Communication and Action
Dialogue and action instead of storytelling is controlling the reader's attention. Dialogue moves the plot forward, keeps the reader interested, and has a purpose. No more useless mentions of the weather or the newest visitors in town. Only in a regency novel would that be normal.
Saying certain expression become outdated before they even hit the printers. I once wrote "wazzup" in one of my interaction between two teenage characters. A beta read wrote back with a stunning answer. "No, just no!" And she was right. I said "wuzzup" when I was ten...in the 90s. Keeping up with the dialogue of the day can be tricky. Actions are pretty consistent. There are only certain ways to show looked...but the philosophy of show rather than tell has taken action to a whole new level. Using actions in a past tense to show the action happening right then, and more than anything, authors want their readers feel that they are right there, experiencing what the author is writing.
3. Connecting emotionally with your readers.
This has been my favorite and trickiest lesson to learn. Imagine what your readers connect to...hours scrolling down screens, moving from screen to screen in some cases, working jobs where they are overworked and underpaid, worrying about issues that our predecessors couldn't even imagine. Why do you think writers typically write a decade in the past or the future? No one is satisfied with now. Some writers want to connect to their past, to go back to the simple life and some want to zoom past the modern years, straight to an age of exploration and discovery. How can we cover the wants and needs of all of our readers when so many are dissatisfied with the here and now? No answers here, just wanderings.
Should writers adapt to writing trends when they seem fleeting, outdated within a couple of years? Mentions of technology are especially outdated within a few years. How do we keep up with that? How do we predict what our readers will want from year to year?
We can't, but we can try. We will lose ourselves if we try too hard to follow the trends of writing. Who's to say you won't start your own trend? My answer is to write. Write and edit and ask for advice and go back to the drawing board and write it again. And in the end, you have to make the hard decision of what you're okay with.
If I had been accepted by that desirable publishing company, things might have changed in sales, or they might not have. But at that time in my life, I was not ready or wanting to bend to the trends of the writing community. I was satisfied in my efforts, ecstatic even. However, months later after publish day, I would scrap the whole thing and start over. I have grown and evolved into a better writer. I have attended conferences, learned techniques, adopted some of the writing trends, and caught mistakes. An author's life evolves as they learn about writing. Does that mean my book shouldn't have been published? No. I could keep that editing that book for a lifetime. Letting go and accepting where you are is an important part of publishing too.
Adapt or don't. But don't be surprised if we don't keep up with our insta-readers, we will find our books un-cracked and impeccably clean.
Monday, October 30, 2017
Oh that's easy. Brainstorming! But because everyone does this differently, I'm going to talk about a few things you can ask yourself to see what kind of writer you are.
There are two kinds of writers in this world, and to be honest, I am both of these.
1. A pantser- A pantser is a type of writer that goes to a white sheet of paper, having planned nothing out, and lets the story come out the way the writer feels. It is a very freeing type of writing. There's no rigid schedule and no direction that you main character has to follow. It's kind of amazing to see how the character will lead you to what they need their story to be. It tends to be creative and out-of-the-box thinking.
Downside: A writer, especially a new one, can lose their way very quickly and get writer's block more often. Consistency is also a weakness for this writer. What they may have put in about the main character in the beginning of the book, look a character flaw, may not be even mentioned toward the last half of the book because it was forgotten. It does create a bit more (ok- a lot more) editing in the end.
Either way, pantsing is good to do every once in a while to keep creative juices flowing.
2. A plotter is a writer who plans out how the story is going to go. Every writer does this differently and they key is, try to do this in a way that works for you. I usually have a scenes mapped out with goals for each scene. Then when I have established all of my scenes, I go back and write what other things I want to happen in the scene to accomplish the goal.
Downside- It's hard to break out of the mold if the mold is already written down and you have chosen to go that path. Sometime you can create a mold and then realize and editor, publisher, or even beta reader has found some flaw in the mold and you have to redo and start over. It is much more discouraging if you have taken the time to plan that mold.
Let's talk about a few ways that you can plan as a plotter. A lot of people like to write out their scenes, what they want to happen in the book. Some writers even go to the extent of writing out their goals for a scene, what the action and reaction will be, how to leave your readers hanging at the end of each chapter, and how to resolve any conflict within a chapter. I myself am a bullets kind of planner.
Here is what a section of my Nanowrimo outline looks like (Nanowrimo is a challenge in November to write a 50,000 word book...and yes of course, I am doing it!)
a. Meet/cute with Cambria on the track on a mile run (cute banter and some attraction/meet cute)
b. Decision to run home, come back and sketch him
a. Introduce him on the Baseball field
b. Show personality/love of baseball/superstitions
c. Get annoyed at the person in the bleachers staring at him, taking notes
I am still a little bit of a pantser in the fact that I don't know a ton of what's going to happen within a scene so that when it's time to write, I have a rigid chapter. I like to have a little freedom for magic to happen :) So I plot a few points in an a, b, c manner of things I want to happen in the chapter. Recently, I have found that even by writing a paragraph about each scene helps open up that scene even more. Most are notes I want to remember or try out to see if it works. (Forgive me....notes are hastily written and usually make no sense to the reader. Good thing we write this stuff out in words, sentences, and paragraphs later :)
Cambria is out for her daily walk, looking for inspiration in someone’s eyes. She knows sketching is her healing balm but lately she only sees blank faces when she goes to draw. She is talking on her phone, trying to assure her mom she is okay after the big move and no she hasn’t talked to strangers yet and no she hasn’t kissed any boys. She slightly reveals here that she is a widow and moving on is not going to be so easy. The mom encourages her. It’s been a year. You were only married a few months and engaged for even less, go find someone new. She continues to argue with her when someone is running toward her. As he passes she say, You have a great face.” The guy spins around…and the mom is saying, What I have great taste? NO mom, I’ll call you back. Then she repeats that he has a great face. The guy smiles and goes back to his run, except a moment later, he runs off the track and down toward the baseball fields. So she decides to run home and find her binoculars and her sketch pad, spy on him, and sketch him as he plays.
Brian starts his baseball playing with a few superstitions to show his quirky, superstitious personality. He’s not a star but he’s a pretty good player. The team likes him a lot, especially his new friend Rob. He’s only been in Texas for a few months and right away he joined up with as many teams as he legally could and signed up to coach some little-league teams. He’s a billionaire by chance, so I want to show that right away. Only Rob knows his secret. He ran from his past after his girlfriend revealed she had been dating him so she could write an article in the newspaper about his billion dollar lawsuit win against one of the most renown cancer hospitals. The doctor operating on his only living family member left, his father, was drunk during the operation, botched his surgery, and the hospital was sued for negligence. Since the hospital had made exceptions for him in the past and they were later discovered, Brian decided to go on with the lawsuit. Because of that, Brian got a lot of bad press and people hated him. He started dating a girl around that time and she betrayed him. He moved away to get away from it all. This background will not be shared in this chapter. Only glimpses of it.
Anyway, he sees Cambria in the stands but doesn’t recognize her as the girl who he saw on the trail. She’s wearing a black baseball hat and has binoculars and immediately he is suspicious. He turns and glares at her every once in a while.
The big point is that everyone plans differently, and whether you are a plotter or pantser, you have to begin writing somewhere. The next step is to look at how to write one scene in your story and what a scene of writing is even made up of. But that is for next time. :)
In celebration of Halloween, my Mindgames Anthology eBook is only 0.99 on Amazon. Check it out :)
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Check out my newest project releasing tomorrow.
Sometimes the most important words are unspoken.
This collection contains fourteen short-story romances
featuring established and up-and-coming authors. There’s something for everyone
to enjoy from historical to young adult, movie stars to bodyguards, work place
romance to friendships deepening into more.
What happens when you find the courage to say what needs to
I am excited to be included with eleven talented authors in
this romance collection. We have an amazing group, full of talented authors.
This is our 2nd anthology of the year and I'm just excited with the progress
the members in this group have made.
Here is a little bit about the short story that is being
featured in this collection:
My story takes place in a college town with two best
friends, Danica and Austin. Together they experience the ups and downs of
dating, especially when they're both with the wrong person.
It is very similar to something that happened to me in
college. I liked this guy…like a lot. I
even told him when he kissed me for the first time that I finally got that song
“Weak” by SWV (Sisters with Voices). Check it out if you haven’t heard it.
You’ll enter my 90s love phase. This kind of music was my jam!
Anyway, I can’t believe I told that guy he made me weak in
the knees…but I did. And he kissed the girl from upstairs and I found out
because I found them making out at the drive-in. Good times. Hurt me…and I’ll write a story
about you. And you’ll be the villain in my next story.
Join me Thursday, October 26, 2017 for our online Book
Launch Party on Facebook. The fun starts at 5:00 Mountain Time (that’s 7:00
p.m. Eastern for those of us out here). My featured time is at 8:30. :) See you
Visit me on Facebook.
And on Amazon author
Thursday, October 12, 2017
One of my favorite reasons for teaching at Venture is that they have adopted the Lucy Caulkin's curriculum. Some say it is abstract, too hard to teach, too detailed, and requires too much time, but to me, none of those reasons prove that it is an ineffective way to teach writing. In fact, all it proves is that it takes the teacher a little more effort to understand and teach really amazing writing concepts.
Her curriculum is one of the reasons I started writing again. As I taught my students each lesson, I always took the time to write and apply the practice to my own writing. Makes sense, right? We should never ask our students to do something we're not willing to do ourselves. Playground Treasures, my debut novel., is actually a product of a Lucy Caulkin's lesson.
So just for funsies, I thought I would review the steps I took to write my novel. These will be in a series of posts, but this one will explain how to get a story idea in the first place.
The first step to writing a story is to get an idea.
Funny right? Like that's so easy, Jenny. But it is. Authors for the most part are very observant people, or they have trained themselves to be. E. B. White got the idea for Charlotte's Web because he was sitting in the barn and looking up at a spider wen. The little spider was weaving its web, and he said the story literally popped in his head. So, takeaway from that-
1. Observe the world around you.
2. Read other people’s writing, and better yet, read your own writing.
They say if you want to be a great writer, read a lot. And not just a lot of others' writer. Read your own musings as well. Look back into an old notebook and gather story ideas from what you have already wondered about in the past. Chances are there are some true, golden nuggets.
3. Think about what stories you wished were in the world.
Imagine- If you could read a book about any topic, what do you wish it would be? Is that story written yet? If it's not, what stopping you from writing it? What are stories you wished existed in this world? Let this question drive you to write about a character who deals with this issue. This was actually the reason that spurred my Playground Treasures book. I wished there was a book about a boy who ran away from a bad home and lived on the school's playground, the only place he felt safe. So, I wrote it. And even though I'd love for it to make it some day in some hall of fame of writing, realistically that's not why I wrote the book.
4. And for those who are not inspired by those three ideas, here's the last idea. Think about an issue that is important to you and create a character to do something about it. This is probably why a politics-driven agenda is on a lot of writers' plates. They want to do something about the political climate...so they write about a character that does.
So faithful readers, if you want to write a story and you're having a hard time finding an idea, I hope these four ideas get you going! Have fun writing. It's healing. It's people-growing. It's amazing.
And if you're looking for some clean romance short stories, my group's anthology comes out August 26th. You can pre-order the Kindle version or PM for your own autographed copy. https://www.amazon.com/Unspoken-Words-Romance-Compilation-Members-ebook/dp/B07628GV66/?tag=amazon09d4d-20
Watch out, step 2 coming soon!
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Jenny Rabe is a true southern treasure in the writing community. She runs the ever-popular LDS Beta Readers writing support group, which currently boasts just shy of 1,200 members. Jenny has helped launch numerous careers. LDS Beta Readers was my first publication credit, thanks to the anthologies her team generously helps to publish each year. We've all waited anxiously for her first novel.
It was worth the wait. Playground Treasures is an adorable and touching novel about two children who find healing through friendship. Jenny draws heavily on her knowledge of children to create believable young characters. The situations and drama are created through those pure, simple and yet grand emotions. The touching conclusion will melt your heart as it reminds you of the power of children.
Jenny has embarked on a series of motivational speeches to children that encourage finding resilience through writing. Could your school use its own special blend of playground treasures? Reach out to Jenny on Facebook to book her for events or speeches.
I was teaching a unit on writing to my students, and one of the tips was to write a book you wish existed. I wished this book existed...so I wrote it.
Friendship helps to heal the little holes in our hearts. Kids are having to go through tougher and tougher situations, and I wrote a book that shows how two friends use what's been dealt to them to lean on each other.
I am obsessed with playground equipment now. Because Kendall lived on the playground at his elementary school, I got to include some of the fun equipment he played on. Georgia had amazing playground equipment and it brought back awesome memories.
One of the big things I learned about writing is that it is a collective skill. You go to a conference, you collect a skill that contributes to your story. You ask for a beta reader who turns your story upside down, you learn to write something completely opposite of what you were planning. You improve your writing skills during a break in your book by working on other projects, and when you return to that book, you have fresh eyes. I am a different writer now than I was the first day I started Playground Treasures. And tomorrow, I will be a little different than I was today. Writing is an evolving skill if you use it correctly.
Write, read, and write some more. Be open to changing what you think is already amazing. Cause in reality, someone probably could write that scene better, and if you are trying to improve your writing, why not follow their advice?
I am currently in the process of proofing a romance anthology with my LDS Beta Readers group called Unspoken Words and will be publishing a YA romance suspense in the late fall called Diving for Love.
Look for Jenny's next releases, coming October and December.
Friday, September 29, 2017
Do you Hear a Voice Inside your Head When you Read?
I was at the school today, volunteering in Freddy's class. Even though it's hard to visit the school I taught at for nine years, I also love it. I feel like a celebrity.
"Mrs. Rabe, you're here!"
"I heard you're an author."
"I've missed you so much."
It's awesome and it gives me that awesome boost that only past students can give. I really miss teaching and it's only been a few months.
Anyway, today one student came up to me and said something like: "Hey, Mrs. Rabe, guess what? You know that voice you hear inside your head when you read? It's the voice that reads all the books. That voice was so familiar in my head and I couldn't figure out who it sounded like until I saw you. It sounded like you!"
My heart melted a little. One of my favorite things to do with my students was to read aloud books. Full novels usually. In one school year I got through 8-10 full novels. We set apart about 20-30 minutes a day for reading, sometimes more, like when we were sewing quilts, and sometimes less, like project crunchtime. It was amazing and if I taught my students nothing, it was that reading is so, so, so important.
The conversation about hearing a voice inside your head as you read has got me really thinking? Does everyone have a little voice inside their head as they read? I looked up an article about it, and there was a guy who had dsylexia and he was amazed to find that he people heard voices in their head as they read. I'll share the website at the bottom but here are some quotes I pulled from the article.
Most people use their inner voice subconsciously. But for those who find they do not have one, it can be a revelation.
Isn't that interesting? For those who struggle with reading, I wonder if they struggle with hearing an inner voice inside their head and if teaching them to listen for that or to build that could help them with reading interest and comprehension.
Professor Rod Nicolson, head of work psychology at the University of Sheffield, has been studying dyslexia for many years and was inspired to investigate internal speech after meeting this guy who couldn't hear the inner voice. He believes he has found a link between lack of inner speech and poor reading ability.
"Children start off having to say every word out loud,' he says. 'At some stage, as their reading improves, so does their ability to sight-read [to read in their heads] and that is the stage at which reading really takes off. By the age of eight or nine, most children can read in their heads. The development of the inner voice seems to be automatic for most people, but our data suggests a link with fluent reading, in that the process of learning to sight-read actually helps inner-speech develop.
Everyone assumes everyone else is the same. However, we have found not everyone has an inner voice and in those who don't, literacy levels are often poor.
They had this cool little test I added, so try it out!
TEST YOUR INNER SPEECH
In summary, I am a writer and an author, and one of my primary concerns is that children and adults improve in their reading skills. Do you have an inner voice in your head? If not, can trying to find it help your reading comprehension? Try it out!
Props to this crazy good article for it's valuable information!
Love From Left Field
Insta-Readers Changing the Writer's World The world is changing drastically. No big surprise there. So if your business, w...
One of my favorite reasons for teaching at Venture is that they have adopted the Lucy Caulkin's curriculum. Some say it is abstract, ...
Once you have an idea, what do you do? Oh that's easy. Brainstorming! But because everyone does this differently, I'm going to ...