Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fall's Coming and The Sandy Update

Hi All,
Happy September 1! Fall, my favorite season, is just around the corner. The kids are all back in school and I can get back to a more regular writing schedule. I'm looking forward to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in just ten days; not so much to learn more about the craft (though I'm always grateful to learn something new that helps elevate my writing) or to pitch my books, but to hang out with my writer pals. Conferences so often reenergize and inspire me, and I could use a little of that right about now as I begin my sixth book.

As for The Sandy . . . I'm excited to announce that Megan McKeever from Pocket has graciously agreed to judge the romance category and Senior Editor of Ballantine, Mark Tavani, will judge the suspense/thriller category. So polish up those pages--oh, and spend some time reading. Lots of time reading. Read from the current bestsellers in your genre and learn from them. What is it that they do so well, that you could do better within your own work?

I just finished Jeffery Deavers's book, The Sleeping Doll, and not only is it very fast paced, but it has terrific plot twists, and it has something I can learn from. The heroine is a specialist in interrogation and kinesics, a widow, and a mother. Deaver masterfully and constantly reminded us of these things on just about every page, through dialogue and her internal thoughts.

Sometimes I think we less experienced authors get distracted by the beauty of stringing words together, by the plot twists, by the craft and forget to actually climb into our POV character's head and look constantly and continuously look at the world/situations through ALL the facets of the POV person's personality.

Sure, I do these things with my characters, but I do them more intermittently than this best
seller--and more intermittently than Sandra Brown does in her most recent book, Smoke Screen. It would enrich and deepen my characters to maintain a more consistent focus on who they are and how they would always be considering the world--not just the obvious places when I remembered to accent it.

I think this is just a more advanced writing skill that distinguishes the best sellers from those good writers. The good news, is that I can do it. I can improve my writing by enhancing this aspect of craft and I will. But I never would have known that I could do better in my own books if I hadn't taken the time to read current bestsellers.

So even though it feels a bit self-indulgent to me to spend time reading when I could be writing, it is important. It's fun, but it needn't be a guilty pleasure. It's an important part of my growth as a writer and nowhere is it written that we have to suffer for our craft. Sure, we are writers, but I've always maintained that it should be fun. I'm not published yet. I only have self-imposed deadlines. I don't need the money to live on--and let's be honest here; it's not about the money for the vast majority of us--there are VERY few writers who can actually support themselves from income earned writing. So it had better be fun and gratifying.

Life's too short to spend time torturing yourself. So read books. Enter contests. Go to writing conferences. Learn and improve in your craft any way you can--any LEGAL way you can--no plagiarizing people. But most of all . . . enjoy the journey.

Happy fall!


Donnell said...

T. What excellent advice! And I love that you emphasize legal LOL. Great post! Have fun at the conference and report back, and your judges are stellar!

Audra Harders said...

I'm with you there, T! Have to love to write and pray for patience : )

Thanks for the reviews of the books. I so envy you being able to sit back and read a book in a short time. Glad you shared your opinion.

Have fun at the RMFW conference!

Theresa said...

Hi Donnell & Audra,
I know I'll have fun at the conference and Audra, it's important to MAKE the time to read. Reading authors we admire and who write better than we is a teaching opportunity--okay, so I also admit that I'm hoping to get better by osmosis, as if reading some of their great stories will magically make my writing better, but as silly as that seems, I DO believe a little bit of that can happen.

I'm a hopeless mimic when it comes to accents. I don't try to speak like the lady with a wonderful Texas accent . . . it just happens and usually I don't even notice it. That's one of the joys of having teenagers--they'll tell you (read reprimand here) when you do something they deem inappropriate or embarrassing.

When I read a terrific author who tends to use a lot of similes . . . I find myself finding spots in my own book that could be enhanced with terrific similes. So it's not as if I copy that author's word/phrases, but a bit of their style seems to stick with me and be regurgitated as a Rizzo accent--if that makes any sense.

In any event, I think it tends to be a good thing. So reading writers we admire is a GOOD thing that we SHOULD make time to do and just 'cause we enjoy reading them and are taking the time from writing to read, doesn't mean we're being slackers. No guilt needed. We just got lucky and this is a fun part of the learning process and journey.

Enjoy all aspects of the journey--the reading, the contests and the conferences, my friends!

Donnell said...

T. again, great point that you can see something in an author's work that you think would be effective in yours. In the same token, however, would you agree that you see something in another's work that you would *never* put in your own, e.g. a complete turn off. My point, reading is a learning experience of likes and...dislikes ;) That subjectivity business again.

Theresa said...

Less often do I find things that I would never include in my own writing . . . mainly 'cause I'm VERY picky about what I read and I'm one of those who puts a book down after 50 pgs if I'm not REALLY enjoying it or thinking I can learn from it.

Goes back to my learning by osmosis. I don't want to accidentally pick up any bad habits. Remember the hopeless mimic? That's me--for good, and bad, unfortunately.

I reach for the stars and aim at becoming the best I can be and hanging out with negative people and reading what I consider, less quality work . . . ain't gonna get me where I want to be. SO I don't do it.

Hence IF I DO hang with you . . . Grin . . . you must be a fantabulous, positive, exemplary human being I feel will enhance my life and make me a better human being.

Kudos to all my friends! I only pick the best!

Donnell said...

Theresa, I'm so honored to be included among them. What's that old saying, "Tell me who you go with, I'll tell you who you are?" You're the best, woman!