Always learning something new, too. It sometimes seems that I’ve got to teach something in order to learn it. Sometimes a story seems so clear when I’m working on it, and only afterwards do I see where I’ve lost focus or just plain gone off the rails. That’s one of the reasons I often volunteer to judge writing contests. Being objective and focused on someone else’s work, looking for the things they’ve done right as well as the things they’ve gone splat with, makes me sharper about my own writing and storytelling.
I also enjoy brainstorming with other storytellers. It’s sort of like a dressing room for ideas. Something looks good, looks like it might work, so you try it on, study it critically from all angles, get some other opinions about the fit. Oh, sure, it’s not as exciting as, say, sky-diving; not as dangerous, either. But for my writing buddies and I, it’s great fun and usually helpful.
The online workshop I’ll be teaching, on Theme & Motif,Â in October for the Passionate Ink chapter of Romance Writers of America promises to combine teaching, learning and brainstorming with the participants. Should be a lot of fun, and useful, too. I suspect every published writer has had the experience of having a reader comment on a theme in a story that the author never noticed until that moment. I figure if the writer knows ahead of time what the story is about, it will cut down on the number of times the writer goes off chasing what my friends and I call “squirrels.” (Yep, dog owners.) For more information about the workshop, check out www.passionateink.org/workshops . The more, the merrier!
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, productive 2012.
I’m still getting used to the technology of blogging, website maintenance, tweeting and using social media in general. So that’s my new year resolution: to get more proficient at posting interesting things and to do so more often.
Meantime, the squirrel who’s been running around the tree outside my window with a plastic water bottle has finally gone to bed. Very distracting.
Storytelling is a lot like gardening, at least the way I do both. (Consider this a cautionary tale of â€śDo as I say, not as I doâ€ť!
I start with an idea, a theme, a vision. Characters in a difficult situation. And issue or statement to make. An empty space in the yard. Then I cast around in my mind and in my notes and references for ways to fill out and fill in the basics. I always intend to create an outline for each story, a diagram for each flower bed because I know it will save time, energy, frustration and heartache to plan ahead.
Usually, I start strong. Iâ€™ll have my characters broadly sketched and the conflicts they have to deal with set up. Iâ€™ll have my plant lists and a scale drawing of the flower bed or border. Then impatience kicks in and instead of completing my outline or diagram, I â€“ figuratively or literally â€“ dig in. After all, how am I supposed to really get to know my characters and feel their conflicts if I donâ€™t start writing? How am I supposed to see how the various plants on my list will go together if I donâ€™t start planting them?
If youâ€™re a storyteller (written or oral) or a gardener, you no doubt have anticipated what happens next. In fact, if you have a modicum of the sense I seem to abandon shortly after starting a project, you can guess what happens next. Not always, of course, but often enough so youâ€™d think Iâ€™d learn.
Itâ€™s messier and tougher on the back to un-plant a disorganized flower bed than it is to fix a manuscript thatâ€™s gone off the rails, but the principles are pretty much the same: figure out whatâ€™s wrong and change what isnâ€™t working so that itâ€™s more in line with what it was supposed to be in the first place. As the carpenters say: â€śMeasure twice, cut once.â€ťÂ
More on this dual subject in the future. Or at least, thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m planning to do.
I have a confession: This is my maiden blog.
Itâ€™s not that I didnâ€™t have any opinions to share before this. (As anyone who knows me will confirm, Iâ€™m seldom without an opinion about something.) Itâ€™s not that I havenâ€™t had opportunities before this. Iâ€™ve been saving myself for this moment.