10 April 2015

Guest post: Rebecca Faith on voice

Last quarter I ran a guest post series on this site about what it means to be a successful writer. This quarter I'm pleased to bring you a series about the characteristics of good writing. I intend to bring you a variety of perspectives on this topic over the next couple of months and am excited that my editing colleague Rebecca Faith has agreed to kick off the series with her thoughts on voice - what it is, what it does, and why it's crucial to her enjoyment of a book. Enjoy!

In March I spent three days at the 2015 PubSense Summit—a conference focused on innovation, trends and technology in the publishing industry. In nearly every panel I attended, including the one I sat on, someone in the audience asked a version of the question on every author’s mind: How can I sell loads of books and be successful? And in nearly every panel I attended, including the one I sat on, someone provided a version of the same answer: Produce incredible content, and success is all but inevitable.

Divorced from genre, demographic target or mode of publication (indie, traditional or hybrid), content reigns supreme as the #1 factor determining your success. And in my seven-year experience as a freelance book editor, I’ve found that what transforms “moderately good” writing to really excellent prose boils down to one thing: voice.

08 April 2015

Ray Bradbury & writing prompts 44-63 (or 73)

This week I stumbled upon this article containing 12 pieces of writing advice from Ray Bradbury. I like all the advice there, but this one in particular caught my attention:

"List ten things you love, and ten things you hate. Then write about the former, and 'kill' the lat[t]er — also by writing about them. Do the same with your fears."

It's a writing prompt! Or twenty. Or thirty, if you also list ten fears.

When I started thinking about listing things I love/hate, the obvious things occurred to me: chocolate, wine and writing/talking about writing would go under love, while things like spiders, kale and being woken up from a good dream would go under hate.

05 April 2015

Goals for the writing life (ROW80 Round 2)

It's the start of another round of A Round of Words in 80 Days, "the writing challenge that knows you have a life." The next three months will bring about at least two major events: 1) another move, and 2) the publication of my pseudonym's next novel.

Creative Projects
Work on my creative projects this next round will involve a little bit of everything: drafting, receiving feedback, revision, editing, submitting, and publishing. Below I've broken down my project plans by month.

  • Line & copy editing of pseudonym's WIP1
  • Set up WIP1 blog tour for June
  • Draft WIP1 book description
  • 1st drafts of dream prose poems while WIP1 is with editors
This week's tasks: Line edit WIP1; make initial book blog tour inquiries.

  • Self-publish WIP1
  • Put together WIP1 media packet
  • 1st drafts of 4 short stories
  • (If time: work on dream poems)
  • Promote WIP1
  • Revise 4 short stories
  • Revise & submit 2 dream poems per week

03 April 2015

Writers' tools: Character interviews

A character interview is pretty much what you might imagine: a creative exercise in which you ask your character questions and "listen" for and record their answers. It's an exercise in letting go of what you *think* you know about your characters and story and letting your subconscious mind (which, at least in my case, is WAY more creative and awesome than my conscious mind) do the talking.

There are SO MANY REASONS you'd want to do character interviews, dear fiction writers. By which I mean there are at least seven.

1. Create conflict. You can use character interviews while you're brainstorming/plotting to help you get to know them and the conflicts they have - both within themselves and with each other. This can lead to clearer thinking around: (a) what your characters want and how they need to develop over the course of your story in order to get it, (b) how they might react in certain situations because of their triggers, and (c) what kinds of challenges will create productive conflict in the book that helps them grow as well as moves the plot along.

01 April 2015

Starting where you are

The other day I was watching the season 1 finale of of Project Runway: All Stars (a fashion design reality show and one of my many guilty pleasures), in which Mondo has the fashion designer equivalent of writer's block at the absolute worst possible moment: he has only four days to design and make a collection for the runway show that will end the competition and decide the winner.

But there he sits (or rather paces) in his studio, hating all the fabrics he's bought and repeating to the cameras, "I'm just not feeling it." He spends the entire first day that way, at some point finally giving into his apathy and fatigue and deciding he's not going to agonize over it anymore. He's not feeling it, and he's going to give himself a day off, despite the fact that he's under a serious time crunch already.

The next day he comes back into the workroom with the realization that the pressure from the competition has made him feel a little crazy. That's where he is at that moment - feeling a little bit insane - and that's what he decides to use as inspiration for his collection. Bam. He knocks out a cohesive and interesting collection over the next three days that [SPOILER ALERT] wins him the grand prize. And you know why? Because he didn't try to fight himself. He met himself where he was and used it.

As a writer, I find myself constantly struggling to *not* fight myself because I have so many ideas and so little available time and energy comparatively.