Archives

All posts for the month March, 2014

Hone Your Craft

Published March 30, 2014 by ellarite

So there I was, bopping down the path that leads to my writing career.  I’d created my writing area and carved out a fraction of time dedicated to creating stories. Out of nowhere, my Type-A personality marched from behind a tree and blocked my path.

Dressed like an efficiency executive in a grey pin-striped pant suit, with white shirt, red ankle boots and tie.  She held pages of my story in her manicured fingers, quirked her strawberry-colored lips and said, “You can do better.”  Then BAM…

…a crossroad appeared on the path

Did I mention that my Type-A Muse is a hussy?  Sure, she gets stuff done, but sometimes I yearn to smack her.  But she had a point.  I needed to do better, but which path to choose?

A wooden pole erected in the middle of my crossroads, held three directional planks that corresponded to a path:

1.  Self-help,  2. MFA Program,  3. Writers’ Workshop.

PATH #1:  Self-help:

Obtain information from the library, bookstores and websites.  Find what successful writers did and apply to my work. As I examined the road, my muse went into action.

  • She marched down the path with her shoulders back and head held high.  She’d enter the various libraries, bookstores or cyber sites that appeared on either side of the path. At 10 paces, she lost her boots.  She reached twenty paces on her knees with a big head, slumped shoulders and a track suit.  At 30 paces, my living room couch appeared in the middle of the path.  My muse threw her half-naked body across the overstuffed cushions, summoned a pint of chunky monkey ice cream and a television remote control and just sat, ate and stared.  I cleared my throat to remind her that I was watching.  She gave me the finger.

PATH #2: College:   

Return to college for a MFA degree.  An advanced degree could hone my skills with the added benefit of increasing my opportunities in the labor market if my writing career didn’t pan out.   My muse appeared at my side and I directed her down this secondary path.

  • She hit this path at a dead sprint.  At 40 paces, a chalkboard appeared next to the path and she began to write.  Students gathered at her feet taking notes.  Suddenly, a diner appeared opposite her chalkboard and she jumped over her students, transformed into a middle-aged waitress and began taking dinner orders.  She bounced back and forth from diner to school until I said, “Hey, what about my writing.”  She laughed and pointed to the chalkboard. In big red block letters, someone had written “YOU OWE $70,000.00 IN STUDENT LOANS”. Okay, I was NOT going down that road.

PATH #3:   Writing Workshop:

Writing classes geared to help aspiring writers. I could attend courses proctored by local writers within the community.  Not as strict as an MFA program, it’s also not as expensive.  I raised my eyebrows and motioned my muse down this path.

  • She started slow, like crossing the threshold to a haunted house.  Within 10 paces, her hair fell loose from its’ bun, a t-shirt and blue jeans replaced the suit and a backpack hung from one shoulder.  People waving sheets of paper appeared along the roadside.  My muse swapped the pages in the backpack with these strangers and together they walked down the path. At 20 paces, my writing nook appeared and my stopped long enough to place information in the file cabinets, or type more pages. Once done, she’d stand, throw the pack over her shoulder and continue.  I soon learned the routine: learn skill, write better, share story.  Okay, message received.

I chose to hone my craft via writing workshops, specifically, the Muse Writers’ Center.  I chose courses based on my writing deficiencies.  So far, I’ve not regretted the decision. I’ve shared classes with other aspiring writers like Jenn Falls and Sylvia Liu.  I’ve learned how to build fictional worlds from Leona WisokerLydia Netzer taught me how to plot, create dilemmas and provided motivational support through her NaNoWriMo course.

Heck, I’ve started this blog based on information received from Jess Horton’s class “Blogging from the Ground Up”.

The best benefit of workshop attendance is, (old English accent):  I GOT BETTER.

I’ve learned terms like ‘filter words’ (words that separate the reader from the story like “I saw” or “he knew”) and ‘psychic distance’ (denotes how far a reader is from the character or action). I revise my stories as I learn.

It’s been almost 2 years and I’m still bouncing along the path with my muse at my side.  I make her hold the backpack.

How are you honing your craft?

Until next time,

Ella

Advertisements

Write Now!!!

Published March 21, 2014 by ellarite

You have your plan, your mission and your vision.  So what’s next?!

Writing Your Story!!!

It’s time to document your fantastic story.  Grab your laptop and get to typing.  If you’re old school, grab your pen and pad and get to writing.

I recommend starting small.   You’re not going to pen a 500 page manuscript in one sitting.  If you can do that, please call me.  I could use some pointers.  However, if you’re anything like me, your story starts with an idea.

What’s your idea?  Do you daydream about giant mice attacking Louisiana?  Maybe you dream of catching stars in a giant butterfly net.   Write it down.  Transcribe those images from your mind into a story.  It doesn’t matter if your idea makes sense.  You can change your story later.  There’s even a term for that:  revision.

Write Now: Revise Later

That’s right.  Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or punctuation.  Don’t bog yourself down with “the perfect setting” or the name of a character.  Open your imagination and write.

I’ll share my first attempt at writing.  A year ago, I wrote this wonderful passage:

“During the month of July, temperatures in Alabama were notoriously brutal, but not nearly as bad as the smothering humidity that threatened to drown him with every breath.”

Now, I look at that sentence and see unnecessary adverbs, misplaced modifiers and overall wordiness.  Whew!  This is ugly.  On the bright side, I have something to work with.  During the writing process, I wanted to convey the miserable weather.   I’ll say it better during the edit and revision process.

Every Sentence Counts

Only you can write your story, so you may as well begin.  Start now.  Don’t wait.  The first step in any marathon gets you closer to the finish line.  Some people recommend writing 1,000 words a day while other folks recommend setting a timer and write until you hear a ding.  What worked for me was a simple sentence.  That’s right, I said it.  (Okay, I wrote it.)

I found that adding sentences gets me closer to the end of my book.  Today I may write 20 sentences, tomorrow I may write a hundred.  It doesn’t matter as long as I move forward.

The goal is to complete your story.  You can be the tortoise or the hare, the job is to finish the race.

Good Luck and Happy Writing,

Ella

State Your Vision

Published March 14, 2014 by ellarite

The Vision

One of the mind tricks I use to stay focused on writing is to imagine success.  I see my future self at a local bookstore signing copies of my book for devoted fans.   I also envision myself typing vigorously as a giant calendar hovers over my head, rapidly counting down the days to a deadline (circled in giant red marker).

                  My imagination changes with my mood.

 Flawless writing revealed a future of book signings, literary awards and a sports car.   Writer’s block brought images of sitting in dark alleys surrounded by crumpled wads of my manuscript pages.

 I needed to cement the successful image in my mind.

 Enter the “Vision Statement”.  A vision statement is a ‘one-sentence’ declaration of future goals.  Vision statements are specific and concrete.

To create a vision statement, answer the following questions as specifically as you can.  I’ve added my answers.

  1. What is the basic job you hope to have?       Author
  2. How do you envision yourself in this job?   Respected, prolific, financially successful
  3. What is the focus of this job?                                   Horror, mystery, science fiction, fantasy
  4. Start your vision statement with these words:        “I strive to become a”.

Now reword using the sentences in this order: 4,2,1,3.  For example, my vision statement is:

(4) I strive to become a

(2) respected, prolific, financially successful

(1) author  (of)

(3) horror, mystery, science fiction, fantasy.

The next step is to write your personal statement.  My statement reads:

“I strive to become a respected, prolific, financially successful author of horror, mystery, science fiction and fantasy.”

How did the vision statement help me?

I take the ‘bad prose days’ as easily as I accept the great writing days.    In fact, I find myself exploring the reason for my bad days:  Am I hungry?  Is my child sick?  Is my checking account overdrawn?  Once I figure out the issue, I make steps to rectify it quickly so that I can get back to writing well.

I’ve printed and framed my mission and vision statements.

They hang in my writing nook over my computer.

The Vision Statement motivates my forward momentum and strengthens my focus.  I see the finish line, who cares that I knocked down some hurdles?

Until next time,

Ella

I Chose, Created and Honor the Mission!!!

Published March 7, 2014 by ellarite

Today I focus on my mission.

What is my mission?

To entertain folks by writing the stories that brew within my imagination.

“But isn’t that the mission of EVERY WRITER?” You ask.

“It most certainly is,” I answer.  (Amazing, I don’t even know you.  But I digress…)

I realized that successful businesses utilize mission statements to explain the purpose of that business.

A mission statement, defined by Entrepreneur.com, focuses on key goals.

Mission statements

 explain what to do and how to do it in a neat paragraph.

  Quite frankly, if it’s good enough for McDonalds, then it’s good enough for me.  So I set out to create a personal mission statement.   The website, Entreprenuer.com, has a list of questions if you’d like to create your own mission statement.  The link is:  http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/65230#.

I used simplicity to create my mission statement.

I listed my key goals,

an output based upon the goals,

steps needed to complete the goals and

the uniqueness of my goals.

  1. What is my goal/concept:                                  Create, write and publish
  2. What is my key measure ( aka: output):         at least one believable story
  3. Steps needed for key measure:               common vernacular, relatable settings, unique characters
  4. What makes measure unique:                describes how mundane lives are interrupted

Next, I placed my answers in paragraph form and voila, my personal mission statement:

‘To create, write and publish at least one believable story by using common vernacular, relatable settings and unique characters, to describe how mundane lives are interrupted by unexpected, dangerous and/or chaotic circumstances.’

My mission statement directs every decision I make in regards to writing.

Seriously, minor questions such as ‘should I create a “writing room” or write at the kitchen table?’ were filtered through my mission statement.  My answer was based on the ability to increase productivity to my mission. Therefore, I created a writing nook in the living room.  It’s MY space which has all my writing gear:  computer, printer, binders, bins, paper, pencil, etc.  It works for me.

Do you have a defined mission?  What strategies do you use to ensure success?   I’d really love to know.

Until next time,

Ella.

PS:

The last post explained my plan to become a successful writer.   I don’t kid myself.  Writing is a job.  It’s a fun job, but still a job.  All writers are independent contractors who run a small business.

Therefore, I based my 3-year plan (aka: my roadmap to success, aka: my business plan) loosely on information I received from the US Small Business Administration website:

(http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting-managing-business/starting-business/how-write-business-plan.  Retreived 01Mar2014)