Your Thoughts Matter

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What is the most helpful information you have ever received related to writing?

 

It is a hard question, I thought, as I looked at the email I received.

Several people have recommended books on writing that they viewed as helpful to them in their own journey as authors.

Some colleagues listed the essentials for an author, as being: a quiet home office, a Thesaurus, MS WORD, a good editor, and so on.

Some said I should join a critique group and a professional organization.

Others told me that I must write every day. No excuses.

Still others reminded me to SHOW—not tell.

And, on and on.

But, that doesn’t answer the question as to what has been most helpful to me.

I could say that it has been a combination of things—because, in fact, it has been.

But, I suppose what has been most helpful is the same advice I would give to anyone facing any career change: “Don’t ever compromise your values in in order to get ahead.”

There are some genres that are “popular” in our culture today. I know writing in them would be more lucrative. But, I also know that I don’t want to fill my head with the kind of thoughts necessary to write in those genres. 

If I were a nutritionist, I might say, “You are what you eat.”

I believe that whatever we dwell on…whatever thoughts we entertain…we will become. That goes for the books we read, the movies/television we watch, and the music we listen to.

If you think on good things, you will never be embarrassed by—or have to apologize for— the words you have written.

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Are You A One-Trick Pony?

So, here you are

in front of your computer,

pens all neatly in a row,  a stack of scratch paper nearby,       stock-photo-businesswoman-using-pc-computer-on-her-office-table-215226196

ready to write.

Want to do something different?

Fun?

Challenging?

Write the first paragraph of a story in different genres.

The characters are: Twelve-year-old Shauna Price and Twenty-year-old Stockton Miller.  Setting: Windsor Mall. Sunday afternoon.

I’ll begin:

Suspense:  The point of Stockton’s knife had already torn a hole in Shauna’s bulky sweater. Her eyes searched for the nearest exit. Would she somehow be able to slip away, and lose herself amongst the other shoppers in the crowded mall? She took one calming breath, then another. After saying a silent prayer, the twelve-year-old twisted her wrist from his grasp and ran in the direction of the escalator.

Now, it’s your turn:  Using the same characters and setting, write the opening paragraph of the story as Fantasy, Sci Fi, Romantic Comedy, and so on.

I found this to be a fun exercise. After all, I am a fairly new writer. I am not yet settled on any one genre. My first book, Runaways: The Long Journey Home, is Fiction Suspense. However, the novel I am writing currently, The Choice, is completely different.

It is true that writing in only one genre, may help a writer grow a following of readers. And, it is also true that a writer may be able to hone their skills more quickly if they stick to one genre.

However, if you are a new writer and haven’t yet settled on a particular genre, now is the time to try your hand at different genres, techniques, and writing styles…before you are “type-cast” (I borrow this term from Hollywood) as one kind of author or another.

And, if you find you like writing in, say, two genres, there is always the possibility of writing in one genre under your real name, and using a pen name to write in the other genre. Lots of authors do this very successfully. Their followers are frequently unaware that their favorite Historical Romances are written by a well-known author of best-selling Thrillers!

Balancing Act

If you’re anything like me, you have a stack of books somewhere in your house that keeps getting taller. It seems like every book you read is replaced by one or two more!

The fact is, writers like to read. Need to read.

I’m not just talking about pleasure reading, which is a “given”. Every writer I have ever met has told me that it was the love of reading that sparked within them the desire to write.

No, I’m talking about reading about writing. The craft. Punctuation and grammar to be sure, but also reading about genres, point-of-view, voice, character development, plot and hundreds of more things we need to consider—need to master—in pursuit of excellence.

Once I started writing, I quickly realized the necessity of erecting two stacks of books. One I dubbed “Pleasure”; the other, simply “About Writing”. I have a rule concerning these books: Read from both stacks, simultaneously, so that I fulfill my need for learning AND for enjoyment.

So, what’s next on my stacks? James Scott Bell’s How to Write Dazzling Dialogue and Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro are on top of the “About Writing” stack. And for pleasure, next up is Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan.

So, whether you keep an actual physical stack of books, like I do, or simply a list of “Must Reads”, my suggestion is that you try to balance your reading. After all, didn’t you hear this expression as a child? “All work, and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.”

 

Please visit http://www.spiritual snippets.com and http://www.5scribesandtheirstories.com to see what is going on there.