Friday, March 16, 2007

Spring Training 3: Do your homework!

"The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies." Ray Bradbury

I like to tell the story about winning a book. Not a winning book, but winning a book. During the 2001 Horror Writers Convention in Seattle, WA, Cemetery Dance Publications was kind enough to give away a few books through the Horror Writers Association's hospitality suite. One of the books was Richard Laymon's THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW. The book was honored that year with a Bram Stoker Award, a feat Laymon couldn't celebrate because of his sudden death just weeks before. The last day of the convention, following the drawing for the books, a group of young writers cornered me about just who had won. Since I had a couple of unclaimed books (including the Laymon), I gave them away.

"Wow! Is the author still here and can I get him to sign?" asked the young man with the Laymon book in his hot little hands.

"Well, no," I said. I was taken aback that any member of the convention wouldn't know about Dick's tragic heart attack. Besides being a popular author, he had also been a dynamic president of the HWA. "Mr. Laymon is dead."

The young man grinned as took off after the others. "Okay then. I didn't know. I don't read horror. I just write it."

I don't think I'll ever recover from those words: "I don't read horror. I just write it."

Quite plainly I can't comprehend how anyone could attempt to write in any genre without having first read what stories have already been written. Of course, it's impossible to read everything, but this man didn't say he'd never read Laymon. He said he didn't read what he supposedly was involved in writing.

So what are you writing and, more importantly, what are you reading? Reading helps a writer see how others are tackling a particular theme, character, style, voice, etc.

Here's the weekend assignment:

1. Read something and then write a brief (no more than 500 words) review of the book/poem/short story/article/play.

2. Do something: Take a walk; see a movie; watch the NCAA tournament; hold your spouse's hand. In other words, taste life. It's easier to write about what you know when you reach out to know more.

See you Monday!


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spring Training Continues...

"It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write." Sinclair Lewis

Most of the successful writers I know write because they can't not.

There are stories inside of them, tugging at their fingers like anxious children yearning to splash into the inviting deep waters at the end of some warm, sandy beach. The children have no fear of posssible dangerous coral or fish lurking beneath the frothy foam. They just know to go.

No matter how much research has been done, how many mental plans, how long and intricate of an outline, no writer really knows where those characters tossed into the sea will swim. That's part of the thrill of being a writer.

And part of the drudge.

Writing, while certainly an entertaining adventure, is still hard work. A first draft is merely that: A beginning.

But it's those first steps that must be taken. As Nike (C) proclaims: "Just do it!"

1. Continue writing at least 15 minutes a day.

2. Continue reading at least 15 minutes a day.

3. Continue observing the world as a writer for at least 15 minutes a day.

4. Consider writing a story, poem, or song using one of the idea starters below:
* A storm is brewing outside...
* You have just been abruptly awakened in the middle of the night...
* While cleaning a closet, you find an old letter...

5. Writers love helping one another. Currently Orson Scott Card is offering tips on "Formatting Outlines and Manuscripts":



Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Spring Training For Writers!

Today's quote is from Sylvia Plath: "...everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."

Is there a more bitter or successful enemy than the self? I doubt it.

The only way to be successful at anything is to do it. Budding baseball players don't simply read about the game and sit in the bleachers and watch the major league players. Oh, they do study their area of interest, but they also practice, practice, practice. Too few of us are naturally gifted in where our passions lie. That's why there's Spring Training. Writers need to practice, practice, practice, too.

Here are your "Spring Training" assignments:

1. Write for at least 15 minutes TODAY! No excuses. Put a notebook in your bathroom if you need to. Carry a small folder piece of paper and pencil in your pocket or purse.

2. Take a few minutes and see what the late author Richard Laymon had to say about writing in this piece at the Horror Writers Association's website:

3. Observe your surroundings for at least 15 minutes. Look at the world as a writer. Consider what you are observing from multiple viewpoints.

4. Read for AT LEAST 15 minutes and consider just how the author is constructing his/her work. Of course, you should read for enjoyment, but pay attention to style. You're a writer! Ask yourself what can you learn from this writer and this particular piece.

5. Come back here for more tips!

Thanks for visiting and keep writing.