The Art in Writing

35884670731_e91bf3b26d

 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

And words, skillfully put together, paint word pictures. 

Just how detailed should a writer’s word picture be?

Should settings and other descriptions be in-depth and intricate? Should they follow the example of realism, like the famous artists Jean-Francois Millet and Honore-Victorin Daumier and, thus create a word painting that “looks” real—like it would in real life?

Or should descriptions lend themselves to the more abstract, placing more of an emphasis on visual sensation, as did Picasso and Van Gogh?

My personal opinion, is that this is a matter of writing style— and as yours evolves, you will find that you prefer one over the other. 

But, remember:

Readers, also, will have a preference as to which authors they like to read. Some love to read flowing prose that uses up word count with lots of descriptive elements. Others may prefer minimal descriptive words, freeing them to fill in the gaps with their own imaginations.

Myself? Well, I find that I prefer to write—and read—somewhere in the middle. Give me enough description so that I understand the “big picture,” but not so much detail that it slows me down. I want to focus more on the action—the story—and let my mind fill in the descriptive blanks. I’m an abstract/realist.

Some genres may use more description than others. For instance, Fantasy and Sci-fi need more detailed descriptions because the writer is creating a world totally unlike our own earth. A large part of what makes those genres so interesting IS the description of the settings and characters in those alternate worlds.

Romance novels also use a lot of description because the reader has to find the characters desirable, so they will want to keep reading to find out if the “guy gets the girl” in the end. Thus, the reader must believe they are worthy of pursuing and being pursued.

So, should you paint your picture using a thousand words?  Probably not.

It is fun—also a challenge—to see how well you can describe something using a minimal amount of carefully-chosen words.

When you do this, you spark the imaginations of your readers so that they can actively participate in interpreting the word pictures you paint.

 

Advertisements

Searching Through the Archives

 

19576192895_2a1a8fbf00

 

I recently read a book on writing that was published twelve years ago.

Why did I spend my time reading a book that old? I mean, haven’t things changed so much over the years that the information in the book is obsolete?

While a lot of it IS DEFINITELY NOT HOW WRITERS WRITE “TODAY,” there are some real gems that can be garnered if one takes the time to search for them.

I have noticed that a number of new followers have started to spend time in my website’s (www.brendapoulos.org) archives. There, they are finding posts readily available on a variety of writing-related topics.  

I am not an expert. I simply share what I am learning along the way. Many other authors do the same.

So, let me encourage you to visit my website, as well as the websites of several different authors on a regular basis. There, you can read from a treasure trove of past articles/posts.

If you get my regular emails, it can be as easy as clicking on the link to my website after you read my current blog post. Then, scroll through the archives until you come to a few others that interest you. 

Please sign up to receive my blog posts (delivered to your inbox each Sunday afternoon), if you haven’t already done so. That way, you can also contribute information, ask questions, or suggest topics for future posts.

Punting…

38510557971_2d853a6d53

 

Here I sit with not one good idea for my blog post.

What is the expression when you don’t know what to do? Punt?

I don’t like football, but I am desperate. So, here goes:

Today, I want to talk about encouraging other writers.

My overall purpose in writing this blog is to encourage you.

There is a saying that goes somewhat like this: People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

So…you won’t hear my encouraging words—they won’t be as meaningful to you—unless I form some kind of connection with you.

One way I try to connect is by using a story about myself to which you can relate. On my other blog, today, I wrote about being caught in a storm. It’s likely that others have had similar experiences, or at least known someone who has had. From there, I can take the reader on an encouraging “journey.”

I often use humor. Mine is very dry, but even dry humor helps to develop a bond with readers, much like public speakers do when they share a joke or amusing story at the beginning of a speech.

Consistently blogging, or sharing information via emails or on a website is yet another way to stay connected. Once content is delivered, I look forward to encouraging others to use it.

Inviting my readers to ask questions is another way to encourage, especially if you feel free to ask about my life, struggles, experiences of being a writer, and so on.

But, sometimes, I just have to flat out tell things as they are—and that can be encouraging, too, because I think you are primarily looking for good content, sprinkled with a little encouragement here and there. 

Do you have additional ways in which you encourage other writers? 

Please feel free to write in and share your ideas. 

Authors, no matter at what stage in the writing process they currently are, need the encouragement of a committed community of writers.

Get Back in the Saddle

6342532860_c45277b707

 

Several years ago, I started two websites. Every Sunday afternoon I write a blog post on each one. Up until now, I have been proud to say that I never missed blogging even once…

Until now.

We moved from one city to another over the course of a little over a week—quite a feat in Arizona’s 115 degree heat.

It really took a toll on our bodies—and literally all of our time.

So, last week, for the first time, I did not write on either of my two websites.

I know what I am going to say is self-imposed, but I felt like a total failure. I’d been super-busy before and still managed to write, but I just couldn’t get it done this time. 

There are enough failures in life without going around and beating oneself up over things that aren’t even on the grid. (I mean, did anyone even notice I hadn’t written???? Probably not).

I think we often stamp big “FAILURE” on our foreheads for any number of reasons for which we should give ourselves a pass…letting ourselves be human once in awhile.

I have been known to belittle myself for not:

writing my required number of words per day.

suggesting we eat out, yet again, when I feel should be making my husband a nice, home-cooked meal.

spending an entire day writing and then scrapping the idea at 6 p.m., and relegating nearly a ream of paper to the trash.

choosing the “easy way” over the longer process, even though I know I won’t be happy with the finished product.

So, my point is that no matter what little things may come up in your week ahead, grant yourselves a little grace. Tell yourself that you are worthwhile…have value…have people who care about you…and that in the big picture of life, your tiny “failure” isn’t worth beating yourself up over.

As a cowboy friend of mine might say, “Dust yourself off and get back in the saddle again.”

Yee-ha!

And, the Winner Is…

 

14753462889_a662d736e3

 

I usually choose the subject for my blogs based on what I am most interested in at the moment or what I want to learn.

Today, I asked myself “Who is the best-selling fiction author of all time?” Here’s what I found out:

Topping the list with 4 billion books sold is Agatha Christe.

Behind her, is Wm. Shakespeare, who sold 2 billion books.

It probably wouldn’t surprise you that Danielle Steele, Sidney Sheldon, JK Rowling, and Dr. Seuss are also in the top ten.

Stephen King has sold 300 million books, Louis L’Amour sold 230 million, and James Patterson sold 150 million.

John Grisham has sold 100 million and is in the top 30, along with Nora Roberts, who sold more than 200 million and CS Lewis, with 100 million in total sales.

(Note: These are original sales. The resale market does not report number of sales for specific authors).

Most of the top sellers are in the Suspense/Detective/Thriller, or Romance categories. 

Most famous authors have written more than 40 books and are American or British.

The person who has written the most fiction books? Spanish writer Corin Tellado is credited with writing over 4,000 Romance novels!!!

Fascinating…daunting…inspiring.

 

What Makes a Book Worth Reading???

 

30421936831_9a0f04bd45

 

I love to read.

I read a lot of books.

I post a lot of reviews.

When deciding what I liked about a book, I don’t look at things like writing style, typographical errors, or if certain elements showed up at exactly the right number of pages into the book. I’m not reading to be critical of someone else’s work.

I have my reader’s hat on and I am reading for enjoyment or for information. If what I am reading delivers, I am a happy camper.

So, in the case of reading fiction, what is it that makes a book enjoyable for the masses?

Here are a few observations. (Please feel free to write in and add any to the list that I may have forgotten).

I like a book when

  1. I have empathy for the main character, especially if they are the “under-dog” or are hurt or in a difficult situation which they are trying to change.
  2. I value one of the traits he/she has—love, courage, loyalty, etc.
  3. There’s not too much backstory.
  4. There is a nice balance of suspense and humor.
  5. If, by their actions and emotions, the characters seem “real.”
  6. There is enough description so that I can visualize the setting and the characters.
  7. The story doesn’t drag on and on way past when I feel it should have ended.
  8. There is a sentence or two at the end of each scene/chapter that makes me want to read “just one more”—and, often, late into the night. (I just have to find out…)
  9. The story isn’t totally predictable. If it twists and turns, making it a challenge for me to figure it out too readily.
  10. The hero succeeds/“wins.” That doesn’t mean that it must end the way I predicted. In fact, not at all. But, if the hero learns something or is in a better position at the end of the book than when the story began, I am satisfied.

 

Where To Read Good Examples of Flash Fiction

 

19956383441_b13d9de0d6

 

Daily Science Fiction:  Science fiction emailed to you every day!

Every Day Fiction:  This site has been along for a long time. It will send a new story to your inbox every day.

Flash Fiction Chronicles:  This is part of Every Day Fiction. It lists great resources and also has a yearly contest with a cash prize.

Flash Fiction Online: Not free, but it’s worth visiting this one.

50 Word Stories: A good way to break into Flash Fiction. 

Nanoism: A Twitter fiction site.

The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts: For literary types.

Vestal Review: Boasts at being the world’s longest-running flash fiction magazine.

 

I hope you have enjoyed this series of blog posts on Flash Fiction!  

By the way, did you know there is a National Flash Fiction Day??? (Now in its seventh year, it was celebrated on June 16th.)