Thursday, April 26, 2012

Interesting Phenomenon

I have three websites (see bottom of post). One is my author website, updated and maintained by a professional web designer. Two I created myself, one for my book series and one for my series of short stories. I can't easily check the viewing stats of my author site, but I check the others daily.
     I promote my book site all the time, in as many ways as I can think of. I do very little for my story site, but there are links to it on my other two sites and the address is also on all my blog posts. I have no idea if the traffic to either of my websites is from my marketing it, others talking about it or from people randomly coming across it while surfing. (As far as I can tell, checking the available feature to see where your views are coming from is useless.)
     Since I don't actively make people aware of my story site, I am amazed that the views for it are nearly always twice what the views are on my book site. I have a ridiculous theory about it. My book series is called Daylight's End. Not a terribly cheery or uplifting title - it indicates the end of daylight and coming darkness - but it does have the word daylight in it.
     My short story series is called Trust In Darkness, which to me is very...well, dark. Kind of gothic and creepy. The idea of trusting in darkness makes me think of moving toward the side of evil, turning away from the light. (That's not the basis for the stories - the premise is that not all things we perceive as dangerous really are. Sometimes the opposite.)
     So I have this idea that if people are coming across the name Trust In Darkness, they are more curious to check out the site than if they come across the less morbid sounding Daylight's End. Maybe I'm taking a negative view or maybe it's true that human nature is drawn to things that look or sound potentially gruesome. If my idea is valid, it may be something to keep in mind when choosing titles or ways of marketing your writing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bloggers' Block

I have prided myself the last several months on keeping up with my blogging schedule of posting twice a week, even when I'm not doing so well working on other writing projects regularly. My reasoning is that this is good practice for keeping a regular deadline and for exercising my writing muscles.
     Even when I'm not feeling particularly clever or creative, I rarely have trouble coming up with things to blog about. Since I try to make my blog posts always relevant in some way, I don't want to just rant or share random useless information.
     This week, however, I'm not feeling motivated and have nothing in mind that I want to share or explore through my blog post. My dilemma makes me wonder if it is better to force myself to come up with something to post, even if it's not interesting or well-expressed, or just give myself a day off.
     Conventional writing wisdom says we should make ourselves write even when we don't feel like it or don't know where we want to go with our particular WIP. That's fine if you do so with the understanding that you might get in a zone and produce something brilliant OR might write crap that simply has to be thrown out.
     Can't really do that if you make yourself write and post something on your blog. If all you are capable of producing at the time is worthless blather, it's not worth posting. You are only wasting your time and worse, your reader's time.
    So this issue has given me something to think and write about and it might be a useful topic for others to think about. But what if it didn't and wasn't? Is it worth the effort to try and if I create something worthwhile, publish the post, or be unsuccessful in writing a post worth sharing and just not publish it?
     I'm inclined to think the former is the best course. If this were an article or story for a publication that had to be completed (and well-written) by a certain deadline, I would certainly try every way to accomplish the task. Like a lot of things in the writing life, it's difficult, but worth doing.
www.trustindarkness.weebly .com

Thursday, April 19, 2012


     LWC - we should change our name to "World's Greatest Writer's Group" - has been having much discussion lately about the state of the publishing industry, the new opportunities afforded authors through electronic and self publishing and pros and cons of self vs. traditional publishing.
     I heard somewhere that the decision to self-publish or not has much to do with why people wanted to have their work published. Do they want to be famous, make money or simply have the personal accomplishment of having been published? It seems silly to ask if writers want their work to be read, but considering what kind of audience they are hoping to reach is important. Does genre have any impact on whether to self-publish or not?
     I don't have answers to these questions, but one of my two main reasons for writing is that I enjoy reading stories and hope others will read my stories and enjoy them as well. My other main reason for writing is a quote from somewhere: "Writers write because they can't not write." That is so, so true.
     While I think all writers feel that to some degree, many are happy not to ever be published or have their work read by anyone. That fascinates me. I don't want to be famous or rich (though I wouldn't mind being either) but I do want people read my work and enjoy it.
     I was reading a book the other day (one of the latest in Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar series) and one of the characters is a musician. He is part of a duo and he is considered the "second banana" to the more charismatic other half. The character says he never cared about that. Even if the other guy always got credit for all the lyrics or the music or the singing, it didn't matter to him. All that mattered was that he was creating music and people listened to it.
    I have to wonder: would I feel that way? Would you?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Unintentional Humor

     I love to read funny stuff, whether it is in the humor genre or just funny stuff added to work of another genre. I think most people feel this way. Everyone enjoys -or should enjoy- being entertained and amused. One of the things mentioned in the Storyteller's Creed that I posted about recently is  "laughter is the only cure for grief". I believe that and it is generally accepted that laughter is healthy. It makes people feel good.
     I read somewhere that the number one thing both genders find attractive in a person of the opposite sex is the ability to make them laugh. I find this easy to believe. My friend and fellow writer, Ramon Presson, once wrote that adding humor to any writing makes the serious/unfunny parts more poignant. (I am impressed that I was able to spell that correctly on the first try, although I did look it up to make sure it was correct.) I also find Ramon's statement to be true.
     It follows that I wish that my writing were funny, but that is one of those things that seems less successful the harder you try. Being funny has to be natural to a person or at least happen naturally in writing or speaking. Yet another thing that I envy in other writers.
     It has occurred to me that people are often funny without meaning to be.  I make my husband laugh frequently and he makes me laugh just as often, but I would not describe either of us as funny. And humor is a very subjective thing. What some of us find funny, others do not.
     People often laugh at my writing and I always wonder what they find amusing, because I almost never feel my stories or books include anything particularly funny even though I would like them to. It is possible that I don't see my work as funny because I'm used to the weirdness in my head; others are not, and so it makes them laugh.
     Or maybe I am more able than I think to write humorously and I should just be happy about it.
Note: This post was inspired by a book I am reading by Bill Bryson. He is a travel writer who is also (in my opinion anyway) a humor writer. This is the first book I've read of his and while my reading interests have always been varied and eclectic, I've rarely been drawn to travel writing. However, he's probably going to be another addition to my stable of favorite writers and I will want to read all his books.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Storyteller's Creed

The Storyteller's Creed

I believe that Imagination is stronger than than Knowledge
That Myth is more potent than History
That Dreams are more powerful than Facts
That Hope always triumphs over Experience
That Laughter is the only cure for Grief
And I believe that Love is stronger than Death

     I love this and most writers are probably familiar with it. I have it framed and hanging next to my desk. I always feel it should have another line saying, "Good always wins over Evil". I know that is not true in life or even in fiction, but when I think about storytelling, the good over evil thing feels important to me.
     I wonder what other writers think. What do you think about the Creed? What ideas or lines would you add? Are there any you would change or omit?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Writing Strengths and Weaknesses

     For any kind of get-together with friends or family where food is to be contributed, I almost always make deviled eggs. I do this because it's one of the very few things I can make and possibly the only thing I can make well. Everyone says my deviled eggs are great and I wouldn't necessarily believe it, except that I see them devoured in large quantities by large numbers of people.
     So this year for Easter I again made deviled eggs. You probably saw the pictures sent around facebook of the deviled eggs that were made with the filling shaped smoothly and decorated with bits of olives and carrots to look like little chicks popping out of shells. They were cute and like lots of friends who commented on fb, I decided I would make my Easter deviled eggs to look like that.
     What I forgot: I am not Martha Stewart. Or even remotely talented in the kitchen. Best described as cullinarily challenged. Something that looked so simple was not simple for me. Neither is making macaroni and cheese, which any six year old can cook. My eggs didn't look like chicks, cute or otherwise. They looked like deviled eggs made by someone who read the directions upside down from a cookbook in a foreign language.
     So after a few failed experiments, I made my deviled eggs like I normally do and was briefly disappointed that they weren't unusual and cutesy. But they were still great and everyone loved them.
     Often when I read other writers' work I wish I could use language or description well. Some writers make it look so easy. But when I try it, it isn't easy at all. (And I do recognize that things others struggle with are easy for me.)
      Even without the talent for language and description that I admire in others, I know that my writing is basically good. Like my deviled eggs - while it doesn't hurt to try different things and it's imperative to always work at improving your skills - if what you can do is good, appreciate it for what it is and don't worry about what it isn't.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Few Of William Berhardt's "Don'ts"

     Some of the wisdom I shared from William Berhardt in my last post came from part of his presentation he called "10 Wrongs That Don't Make A Writer". These don'ts are some commonly quoted beliefs about writing. A few of them I'm not going to comment on because to me they seem like things only amateurs or non-writers would think.
     Among the notable ideas he refuted were:  "There is a difference between Literary and Genre fiction", "Men can't write woman characters and women can't write men characters", "Fiction is not autobiographical", and "Writing is an art and can't be learned".
     I agree with the simple way Bernhardt addressed the first one. He said, "Literary fiction is a Genre." This is true and while some people will argue that there is a difference between literary and commercial fiction, I think literary can also be seen as a kind of commercial fiction.
     Bernhardt gave several examples of great writers in every genre who created characters that were the opposite gender of themselves very successfully. I think it simply depends on how well the writer can relate to their characters of either gender. I write my Fragments of Daylight stories from the perspectives of various characters in my series; some of them male, some female, some animal.
     On the subject of what part of fiction is autobiographical, Bernhardt said all writing, including all genres of fiction and non-fiction, are in some way autobiographical, because all aspects are "filtered through the mind" of the writer. This includes the bad stuff and the evil villains. How things are presented tells the reader a lot about the writer.
     According to Bernhardt and I'm sure many other people, writing is an art, but it is also a craft and craft can be learned. I personally believe that some art can be learned. Don't artists take classes and lessons on how to create certain works? They learn about different mediums, perspective, and  how to use light and shade. This could be described as the "craft" part of art, but I feel it's much the same thing.
     If you get a chance to view a video of William Bernhardt's seminar, I highly recommend it. We can never stop learning how to improve our writing.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wisdom from William Bernhardt

     The world's greatest writers group meets twice a month on the first and third Thursdays. The first is our Critique night, when we offer suggestions and encouragement to members who share their work. The third Thursday is Creative night, when we are given a writing prompt that generally ties into a brief lesson on some writing aspect that members want to practice or experiment with. 
   On the occasional fifth Thursday we have what we call Education night, where someone volunteers to share something they are particularly knowledgeable about or research a topic of interest to the group and share what they find. Last week's education night we watched a video of a seminar by William Bernhardt.
     He is very entertaining in how he presents his material and it was a good experience. We were only able to watch the Introduction and a section on plot and character, but hope to see more of the video at a future meeting.
     A couple of things he mentioned in his intro were ten things (myths) that writers often believe about writing. I found a couple of them interesting because they are topics I have blogged about; one being the seven- plot theory. Bernhardt said there are fewer than that. His argument was that plot is always about a person's conflict either with an outside force, their own personal issues or when something they have to do or choose goes against what they believe.
     This follows the three basic conflicts of man-against-man (adversary), man-against-self and man-against-nature. I never thought of the man-against-nature as being man against his own nature or human nature in general. I always thought of it as man against nature meaning the elements. It could mean either, but this was a new perspective for me and I thought it was worth sharing.
     Bernhardt also touched on the topic of Character vs. Plot and how some people think one is more  important than the other.  He said what I determined in my several posts on the subject: you must have strong characters and a strong plot. Just one or the other doesn't work. Weak characters will ruin a good plot and a poor plot will not do justice to great characters. I feel this is always worth repeating.
     Bernhardt shared insights on people's beliefs about genre writing vs. literary and how all writing is in some way biographical and a few other things I would like to share in my next post.