Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Writers Are Readers

     There's something you didn't know. Well, I have been told that not all writers are rabid - I mean avid - readers, but I've never met a writer that wasn't a book lover. Some people in the industry advise writing what you like to read. Others say not to do that because you may unintentionally copy the work of writers you like.
     Since most writers are bibliophiles who will and do read anything and everything, like me, they probably like to read different types of books. I like mysteries and claim to write them (however else others might classify my writing). But I also like paranormal, biographies, humor, fantasy, historical fiction, travel, memoir...
     I believe what a writer reads and which authors they like says something about them, if not about their writing, so I want to share who some of my favorite authors are.
     The best, most amazing, wonderful mystery novel writer ever is Dick Francis. Stephen King is also an incredible novelist, but much of what he writes is stuff I can't read, so I can't enjoy his work properly.
     My other writing idol is Charlaine Harris. (See "What We Can Learn From Our Idols).
     Authors I love whose new books I await impatiently for months and then read in a matter of hours: Janet Evanovich, Tim Dorsey, Mary Janice Davidson, Jim Butcher, Rick Riordan.
     Writers I like and have read many, but not all of their books: Robert B. Parker, Dean Koontz, Elizabeth Peters, Harlan Coban.
     Classics I read over and over are those of Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Mary Roberts Rhinehart. (All mystery writers, notice.)
     Being a children's librarian there are also YA authors I read and love, including Sharon Creech and Robert Newton Peck, as well as certain kids books I like, such as the Henry and Mudge, Encyclopedia Brown and Nate the Great books.
     I'm sure there are others in all these categories that I'm not thinking of right now. There are a few authors whose work I've read avidly and then lost interest in, but I won't mention them here.
     All of this says something about me as a writer. I plan to explore and share soon what it is about these authors that I most enjoy and admire.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

About This Blogging Thing...

     I have a writer friend I admire very much, who blogs twice a week on a schedule, almost without fail. I like knowing when I can check her blog and be assured of something fun and enlightening to read. I have another writer friend who I admire very much who blogs on no set schedule, just whenever she feels like it, has time or has something to say. I love checking her blog and it's a nice surprise when she's written something new.
     I think blogging is good. If nothing else it is a chance to practice writing, conveying ideas and putting thoughts into words. Even better if you have something worthwhile to say, in my case passing along information that might be helpful or encouraging to writers.
     Being someone with very little self-discipline, I have a difficulty making good use of what little writing time I can eke out of my crazy life.  I have been trying to make and keep a schedule, but I'm not doing so well. I thought  it might help to plan to blog twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I managed to do that one time. Then last week's Thursday blog didn't get done until Sunday and Tuesday's was Wednesday and Thursday's was Friday...
     So I'm not sure this is helping me. It's good to make myself write when I don't feel like it, but I  suspect that I am using blogging as my writing excercise instead of working on the novel revisions I have to do.  I could adopt my other friend's practice of blogging regularly, but not according to a strict plan.
     I have another writer friend who is doing a blogging project and blogging every day for 30 days, but I also know she's writing several at once to post on different days. I could try that, but does it defeat the purpose of writing excercise or does it work like an assigment where does it not matter when you write something as long you get it finished by the deadline?
     Maybe I should stop debating this and go work on my damn novel...

Friday, July 15, 2011

When Is A Writer Not A Writer?

     A few blogs ago I expounded on the fact that to be a writer you simply have to write - anything. Some people are writers professionally and while I assume they have a gift for it, I feel like a writer should also have the desire to write. Strong desire.
     My last blog I mentioned meeting a writer who was a success without trying to be and I offered the opinion that it wasn't a good thing to have happen. This is why:
     The first writer's workshop I ever attended was a talk given by an author of a children's book. A book so popular that when I took a course on writing children's literature it was part of the curriculum. Many years later, when I was in grad school taking a class on children's lit while studying Library Science, this book was again featured as a great example. Somewhere between those classes, closer to the former than the latter, I went to hear this author speak.
     I won't mention the title out of professional courtesy. I don't remember her name. I recently looked her up and found she went on to write dozens of books (that are now all out of print). I don't recall details of the talk she gave, but essentially she told us she got an idea for a kids' book and she wrote it. This was her first and only book at the time. 
      There is one thing she said that I remember so well I can quote it.  During the Q and A she was asked the always-asked question: "How can aspiring writers get published?" Her response was that she
showed her book to a friend who was (or had) an agent or editor and they loved it and it was published. Then she said, "I don't know what the rest of you do. Isn't there some book you can use? Writer's Market or something?"
     I was disgusted. This person, in my opinion, was a successful author who wasn't a writer. She didn't live or even love to write. I don't mind that she was so lucky - I wish that for everyone. I hate that she was so complacent about her good fortune. Other writers who have this experience know the value. They know how lucky they are and tell others how grateful they are for it.
     So why do I think of this woman as a non-writer? I've wondered for years and come to a conclusion. It's not that she isn't talented and maybe she even liked to write. But I feel writer's all share something. Whatever our experience, type of writing, age, creed, or level of success, we all relate to each other.  We understand the difficulties and triumphs, frustration and elation - the struggle - that writers share.
     She didn't. She didn't get it.  For all her ease in writing and getting published and continuing success with future books, I think she missed out.
     There's some quote about how success is sweeter when you have to work for it because you appreciate it more and another quote about how it's not the destination, it's the journey. While sometimes writing feels like a journey on a treadmill, much of the joy is in the doing and being part of a community of others just like you, however different we may be.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Life Happens

     My writer's group, Living Writer's Collective, organized a writer's workshop last month. We invited local author Lisa Patton to come speak and she was wonderful. I think the best thing about  writers at any level meeting published authors is that they realize there is nothing special about them.
     Lisa said her topic for this talk was hope and she mainly wanted to encourage writers. To this end she told everyone that she was "just like them." This is what writers need to hear. They need to know that the only thing most published writers have in common is perseverence. Keep writing, keep working toward your goals.
     Another thing she emphasized was that she, just like most authors and most of the audience, wrote a book while raising a family and working full time; in spite of family illness, death and grief and what she referred to as "life happening", and that anyone can do it.
      So write in spite of it all. Through lack of inspiration, through exhaustion, rejection and despair, a few minutes at a time if that is all that you have. Few writers I've heard of ever got published without trying. I'll tell my story about one of those writers soon, and share my opinion about why success in writing without effort is not a good thing.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How To Be A Writer

     At our writer's meeting last week, (Living Writers Collective - an amazing group of people) we had several new members and visitors.  Our custom is to go around and quickly give our names and say something about our writing. Our group is great. We have every kind of writer, (children's stories to nonficiton, poetry to inspriational, every genre you can think of) at every level; some have been published widely, some a few times, some never, some write regular f'eatures.
     Among the two most honest statements were (I'm paraphrasing), "I don't write, I just like to come to the meetings and be around creative people and writers." This was from a long term, attends-every-meeting member whose critique suggestions are often the most helpful and well-communicated.
     Another, from a woman who regularly accompanied her teenage grandson, was, "I'm not a writer, but I love to listen to the work being read and critique writing."
      A few members and visitors just offered their names with no comment about thier writing or ambitions, and one listed her many accomplishments, which  I thought may have intimidated the newbies. I said that I write  fiction, mostly mysteries and some paranormal. My friend and critique-buddy said, "I write horror, I've had a story and an article published."
     What distressed me was that among both visitors and regular members were the number of people who referred to themselves as "wannabe" or "aspiring" writers, or said they "would like to/were trying to/attempt to" be writers. Many of these were very talented people who had written finished books and published stories. I wanted to scream.
     What I wanted to scream was (this is a quote from somewhere, but I believe in it), "To be a writer, all you have to do is write."
     It doesn't matter if it's one-line poetry, poorly-told anecdotes, personal journal entries, greeting cards, bawdy limericks - if you write anything, particulary because you love writing, you are a writer. There's no other criteria. You don't have to publish, submit or even share your work with another person.
     If you have the desire to write, and you do so in any form, you are a writer.
    So write.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Success Via Failure

     Writers, even successful ones, have their work rejected.  While we are told to stay positive, rejection is a kind of failure.  According to many adages, failure is neccessary for success.
     One of my favorite quotes (from my point of view as a writer) is this one from Winston Churchill:
     "Success consits of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."
     Is that not the best quote for writers? I love it.
     Here are some others:

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other." - Abe Lincoln.

"Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success." - Dale Carnegie

"Failure is success, if we learn from it." - Malcom Forbes

"It is better to be a failure at something you love, than a success at something you hate." - George Burns

If you seek out quotes and wisdom about success, you will find that most of them mention failure as being part of the process, and not in a negative way.  It is important for writers to always view rejection and struggles as part of the process to improve their craft and achieve publishing goals.