Emotional Roller-coaster

As you and the story you’re writing go through time together, do you find yourself on the same type of emotional roller-coaster as with a personal relationship? Do you feel elated by positive events and dejected by negative ones? I’ve been through the process enough to detect a repeatable pattern. Maybe it will be the same for you.

Let’s follow through as I experience the highs and lows of writing a story and getting it published. This is my relationship with a single story, so the line will overlap with other stories in various stages.

Emotional RollercoasterGetting a story idea is enjoyable, having it mature in my mind while I imagine the possibilities, the characters, the plotline, the settings, and some of the dramatic scenes. It’s a good feeling to go through that, because that imaginary, unwritten story is as good as it’s ever going to be. Once the reality starts and I put words down, the story never reaches the exalted heights of perfection that it achieved when just a dream.

Still, putting words down has a gratification all its own. I feel I’m making progress, producing product, assembling widgets on my keyboard / word / sentence / paragraph assembly line.

Until I get stuck with writer’s block. Here I mean the minor writer’s block I’ve described before, where I can’t get out of a plot hole, or I need a character to act contrary to his or her motivations, etc. Although temporary, this is a real downer. I don’t always experience this, (as shown by the reddish line) but there’s usually some drop-off in enthusiasm as the glow of the original idea fades a bit.

Reaching THE END of the first draft is a definite up-tic in satisfaction for me. The mad rush of getting words down is over. It’s good to know I can start the reviewing-editing-improving phase.

For simplicity, my graph only shows two drafts, but there may be more, with minor wave crests for completing each one. I get to the highest emotional state so far when I consider the story done and submit it for publication. “Here, Dear Editor, this is my newborn! Don’t you love it as much as I do?”

That emotional high fades, as they all do, while waiting for a response. Usually I’ve begun another story by then, so I get an overlap with a similar-looking graph displaced in time.

My graph depicts two paths here, one showing a rejection. Despite my earlier advice to look at rejections positively, I still find that hard to do. Rejections stink. Maybe not as much now as my first one, but still…

An acceptance of a story is a very high emotional state, especially the first time. It’s time to celebrate, indulge, and surrender to the grandeur and magnificence of me.

No one can maintain a very high or very low state forever, so I do descend from the grand summit as I get through the rewrites and signing of the contract, though these are not unpleasant.

The launch of a story is another sublime pinnacle of emotional ecstasy, and that’s no hyperbole. “For all human history, readers have awaited a story like this, and today, I, yes I, grant your wish and launch this masterpiece, this seminal work of ultimate prose, so you may purchase and read it. You’re quite welcome.”

After the story is launched, you’ll get occasional uplifting moments, such as favorable reviews, or book signings, etc. These are never quite as exciting as acceptance or launching, but they’re gratifying anyway.

I’ve not gotten through all these stages with a novel yet, but I suppose a novel’s graph is longer in time, and has many more ups and downs than that of a short story.

Also, your mileage may vary such that your graph looks quite different from mine. Leave me a comment and let me know about the emotional stages of your writing experience.

Remember, when on a roller-coaster (emotional or state fair-type), it sometimes helps to raise your hands in the air and scream. Whee! Here goes—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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October 26, 2014Permalink

Your Writing Voice

Writers VoiceWe call it laryngitis when you lose your voice, but what if you never found it in the first place? To be clear, I’m not writing about a medical condition of the larynx, but rather about your writing voice.

Definition

What is a writing voice? I liken it to your vocal voice in that it is distinctively yours, an individual indicator like your fingerprints, your retina patterns, and your signature. It’s a marker that can be used to identify you.

In other words, a few paragraphs could be taken at random from your published stories, and a reader might be able to recognize that you’re the author.

Is your writing that identifiable? Is it unique? If not, how can you get to that point?

Two Elements

Before we arrive at a way to answer those questions, I’ll cover what I believe to be the two elements of a writer’s voice.

The first is the subject, the topic about which you commonly write. This can take the form of a genre or themeSomeday when you have compiled a full body of work and your name comes up, if people say, “That’s the author who writes about ______,” it’s that ‘______’ that forms part of your voice.

The other element has to do with style. It’s not just the subjects you write about, it’s how you do it. The Wikipedia article on Writer’s Voice suggests that this element; a combination of character development, dialogue, diction, punctuation, and syntax; is all there is to a writing voice. I’m not willing to discount the subject/topic element, though.

Discovery

How do you find your voice? This marvelous blog post by author Todd Henry provides a great way to help you find your voice by answering ten questions. These questions help you reach your inner passions and hopes. In this way you’ll touch the deep emotions and motivations inside.

Why does that method work, for discovering your voice? Certainly the answers will help you determine the subject half of your voice. The answers will suggest topics you should write about or genres to write in. Only by tapping in to your central core of strong enthusiasms will you be able to sustain the discipline to complete what you start to write. If you work at it, those deep hopes and passions will become evident in your writing.

What about the style element? How are you supposed to discover that? I’m not sure answering Todd Henry’s ten questions will answer that. I believe your writing style is a matter of imitation early on, then leading to experimentation, and finally perfecting.

No Guarantee

Let me set some expectations about this process of finding your writing voice. In the end, you’ll have a unique voice, one recognizable as you. That doesn’t mean anyone else wants to hear it. This isn’t a recipe for fame or financial success in writing.

I’ll write a blog post sometime laying out the sure-fire, step-by-step formula for how to become famous and rich by writing.

Sure. Keep checking back for that one.

What’s the point, you’re asking, of this voice discovery process? Why go through it? I’d answer that all the authors who are famous, or rich, or whose writing is considered classic, all of them have a distinctive writing voice.

I think finding your voice is necessary, but not sufficient, for success. You might discover your writing voice only to learn it’s not marketable. If high sales numbers are what you’re after, experiment more. Try slight alterations of voice until you hit the combination of subject and style that sells.

Best of luck to you in finding your writing voice. Still searching for mine, I’m—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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October 19, 2014Permalink

Writing for the Very Young

As someone who’s read books to his children and (more recently) his grandchildren, I’ll offer my thoughts about books for the very young. Here I’m considering books for children who haven’t begun to speak yet.

baby-looking-at-the-bookI believe the writer and reader of such books share a profound duty, one they shouldn’t take lightly. They work together to create an experience, from a first and indelible impression to a repeated pattern that becomes an ingrained habit. Their shared purpose has several facets:

  1. To entertain. This is not as important for this reading audience as it will be when they get older. Perhaps I could have phrased it as “To avoid boredom.”
  1. To teach vocal communication. The child needs to understand the one-way vocal transmission of thoughts and ideas. Sure, you don’t need a book for that, but the book provides something to look at while the speaking/listening communication takes place.
  1. To transmit the joy of human story-telling. It’s a primal human trait; we tell stories.   We convey life lessons through the use of characters, which make the lessons clearer. We pass down the stories through generations, and that strengthens an understanding of ancestors and the past.
  1. To imbue a love of books and reading. At some point the child will realize the book always opens the same way; the pages are always moved one at a time in the same order; the book doesn’t change from one reading to the next; and there must be some connection between the funny little marks and the sounds the reader is making. The child should come to see reading a book as a quiet, comforting experience.

The reader has a huge part to play in accomplishing these purposes. I think it’s important to introduce books in brief doses. Don’t even read the whole book at first. Gradually lengthen the time spent reading. In every case, you should finish before the child is ready for you to finish. In other words, don’t associate reading with boredom. Needless to say, vary your voice pitch as you read, and read with dramatic emphasis.

Enough about reading. For the writer, you have only pictures, words, and book layout to work with.

  1. Pictures. At first, the child will know your book only through the pictures. Make them bold, colorful, and immediately obvious.
  1. Words. The child won’t understand the written words, but will experience them by listening to them. Use short, simple words.   Make use of rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, and onomatopoeia. Use words that sound good together.
  1. Book Layout. Consider cloth or plastic pages for early books, or a thick grade of paper. Don’t put too many words on a page; make the reader keep turning pages frequently.

Another thought on book layout—as the shift to e-books continues for adults, e-books will soon appear for adults to read to small children. From what I can tell, the ones available now still have real pages to turn, and the book narrates its own story without needing an adult. I think there would be value in a sturdy e-reader able to display pictures and text, but requiring an adult to read it.

Whether you write books for little tots or read books to them, please take the task seriously. If you do it right, you’ll spark a love of reading. If you do it wrong, the child will forever consider reading boring. Thank goodness Mom and Dad did it right for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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October 12, 2014Permalink

9 Things the World Loses With E-Books

Most weeks I blog about writing, but this time the topic is more about reading, specifically the technology of reading.

As you can tell from my fiction, I write quite a bit about people coping with new technology. I’m fascinated by the process of one technology supplanting another. The process forms a repeating pattern, whether you’re discussing the transition from sailing ships to steamships, from horse to car, or from dirigibles to airplanes.

ebooks vs books 002When society is in the midst of such a technology transition, as we are now moving from traditional paper books toward electronic books, or ebooks, debate often rages about which technology is ‘better.’ Some people embrace the new, others cling to the old.

Those who cleave to more traditional technology often use arguments based on ‘romantic’ ideas, things like aesthetics and the lifestyle that will be lost. In other words, the world has formed itself around the old technology, and layered infrastructure and culture around it. When traditionalists envision a new technology supplanting the old, they associate the old tech with its accompanying milieu, and bemoan the loss of all of it.

I’ll not wade into the argument about whether print books are better than ebooks.   For one thing, most of my published books are available only in ebook form. For another, the marketplace will decide the real answer no matter what I say.

Besides, no new technology ever completely stamps out an old one. People still use sailboats, ride horses, and fly in balloons, as part of nostalgic connections with the past.

Let me play the crotchety old traditionalist today, and tell you young whippersnappers all the things you lose with ebooks.

  1. What’ll you do when the power fails and your battery runs out? Can’t recharge your e-reader then, can ya? I’ll still be reading my print book by the light of a flashlight or candle.
  1. Can’t really lend or sell your ebook to a friend. Oh, you could loan ‘em your reader, but then you can’t read until your friend gives it back.
  1. You can’t impress anyone with your ebook. You can’t hold it prominently while waiting for a bus or walking in a school hallway, letting everyone know what you’re reading (or what you want them to think you’re reading).
  1. You can’t dazzle anyone with your whole library. Think o’ them commercials for lawyers, or politicians on the talking head shows. They always have a bookshelf behind them, lined with important-looking books. Think of all those books stored in an e-reader, and that e-reader sitting alone on the bookshelf. Not quite the same impact, is it?
  1. Try putting your e-reader on your coffee-table. ‘Nuff said.
  1. Got little kids? Oh, they’ll be real enthused about reading when you snuggle up with your e-reader. My grandkids much prefer the real books with pictures and pages that turn. They love those pop-up books, too.
  1. Looks like some bit or byte got out of place and your ebook froze up. Too bad. I’m still readin’ right along with my print book, with no circuit cards or software glitches in sight.
  1. Every book is different, and deserves to be different, and separate from other books. Your ebook reader jams ‘em all together so they all seem the same. Print books have different sizes, shapes, colors, fonts, paper thicknesses, and smells. All that stuff combines with the content to form the overall experience of the book.
  1. Are you a collector? Not only is it tough to impress folks with your ebook collection, but it’s not like the collection’s value will go up with time, like first edition print books do.

There have been some really good blog posts written on this subject by others, notably here, here, and here.  To repeat, I believe the marketplace will sort out whether ebooks truly replace print books, but no matter what, print books will never truly vanish. A lover of ebooks and traditional books alike, I’m—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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