Saturday, January 31, 2009

Meet Linda Strawn, the author of Singing Winds

"I've had a love of writing for as long as I can remember, but for many years I considered it a hobby. I'd write poems, journals, and short stories. I even filled up an 8 X 11 notebook with my version of a novel. When I began to transfer my novel to a computer, I caught the fever of writing, but it took several years before I realized my "hobby" was a gift from God and such giftings are meant to be shared in order to bless others and glorify Him. From its humble beginnings in an 8 X 11 notebook, "Singing Winds" is now a published novel officially released July of 2007."

Critique Groups

When countless hours are poured into creating a story, not to mention the immeasurable amount of thought, emotion, and even prayer that is invested, it’s nearly impossible to put a price on it.
After a story takes shape, and a writer has an emotional attachment, a manuscript is often referred to as their "baby". It takes a lot of courage to let their baby leave the nest when it is sent off to a publisher. Even though it seems a writer’s whole life hangs in the balance waiting for word that their book has been accepted, its value shouldn’t end with how much an editor or publisher thinks it’s worth.
Every writer should consider their manuscript as priceless, therefore great care should be taken to insure that it’s the very best it can be. A book is a reflection of the author who parented it, so don’t simply write a story, proof it yourself, and send it on its way. Give it the proper care and attention it deserves. A good parent wouldn’t dream of sending their child out on his or her own without the necessary guidance and instruction, so why would an author send a manuscript to a publisher without first polishing it up?
Authors typically hire editors to proof their work, but this is expensive. Most authors just starting out don’t have the resources to hire an editor, but in order to have a fighting chance in an extremely competitive market, it takes money. So, what’s an aspiring writer to do?
Join a critique group.
I found a group through an online writing organization I’m a member of. There are six of us in my critique group. Once a week we each submit a chapter to the group so each member can read and critique it. I have the benefit of having five other pairs of eyes looking at my spelling, grammar, flow, and structure. Instead of paying for this invaluable service, I reciprocate by critiquing their chapters. It’s a win-win situation.
Critique groups are a great alternative to editors when you’re short on funds. After you establish yourself in the writing community, and are making more money, then by all means hire an editor. Some critique groups may lack the expertise a respected editor has, but for new authors, I can’t say enough about a humble group of writers who just may be in the same boat you are. They want to succeed like you, and after you get to know your critique partners, you’ll find you’ve made some new friends and your very own cheering squad as well.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Updike Dies

"Writing and rewriting is a constant search for what one is saying."

........ John Updike

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Write Now

Learning to write well takes practice. I teach creative writing at our local community college. I open every session with a short (and I hope fun) writing assignment. I plan the classes carefully, provide handouts, and work to stay current on publishing news. I regularly talk with other writers, agents, and editors. Each month I read ARCs (advance reader copies) to know the market. I share stories that I hope will resonate with the students. Everything that I offer is designed for one purpose. To get the writer writing.
_"A first draft is a wonderful thing." I tell them. I don’t care about spelling, punctuation, grammar. Just start. Get going. Start writing. Right now. Today. And keep going. And by the way, "bring something to read next week."
_And that is the second secret. Writers learn to write by writing. That’s it. Stop talking. And write. Everyone who chooses to write is a writer! So write … right now.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Novel Idea

Why are you writing? What is your purpose? To entertain? Inform? To make money? (by the way Christians have more hang-ups about making money –from writing- than any other group I teach). Back to your motivation. Let’s say you have this clever idea for a mystery novel. _Actually, you’ve written the opening scene a couple of dozen times already. But you need help. Okay, here it is. Unless you want to hire a ghost writer, you’re going to need to sit down and write that what you know about the story. All the way through. Keep typing, forget about word count, spelling, and grammar. Don’t stop to edit. Just simply write as much of the story as you can.
_Now sit back. Breathe. Okay, you now have something to work on. You have created the "bones" of a story. Of course it is bad. It has plenty of holes. So what. Only two things can happen now. You can abandon the project. Or you can improve the story. Assuming you want to write, the next step is to make a plan. Start by asking what if. What if my main character did this … or what if this happened next … or suppose somebody dies … or gets married … or runs away. Think about the ending – it is important to know where you are going - and how you will get there. Make an outline. An outline will keep the project focused and save you time. A well-thought through outline is like a mini-guarantee for success.
_Yet many beginning writers feel that an creating an outline is, well, anti-creative. They would rather simply let the story unfold. Nice work if you can get it. Waiting around for the story to unfold can be unproductive, time consuming, and unreliable. A little work now, can save a whole lot of work later. Consider the cliché fail to plan, plan to fail. A thoughtful plan can help insure success. A few sessions with a developmental editor can help create a solid writing plan. If you are serious about writing that novel think about your purpose. To entertain? To inform? Make money? Stopping to answer these questions just might be your answer to success.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Editing Is Essential

Writing for publication is a three step process ...
  • (writing) crafting the story

  • (editing) creating a coherent manuscript

  • (marketing) contacting the right person
There are hundreds of books available on writing ... how to get started ... tips on creating interesting characters ... techniques on writing dialogue ... advice on pacing, choosing viewpoint, setting the scene and plotting. There is less advice on the importance of editing. Many beginning writers seem less sure of themselves when it comes to revising their manuscript. Yet editing is essential if the story is to move beyond the first draft stage.
_My advice. Write a complete first draft. Without stopping. Without going back to correct the opening sentence. Just write, don't worry about sentence structure, grammar, or punctuation, or stopping to do research. And don't reread. It is said that Hemingway would stop in the middle of a sentence. The next day he would simply finish the sentence and keep writing. When the first draft is done. Reread the manuscript and make some notes. Then, and this is the hard part, put it away. Let it cool off. Give the story and yourself some time apart. A month, six weeks.
_Now plan some uninterrupted time to read you story. Does the story make sense? Have you said what you wanted to say? Consider you opening, does it grab you? Make you want to keep reading? Have you introduce the main character well? Do the chapters propel you forward? Does the story flow? Is there mounting tension throughout the story? Conflict?
_Editing is all about putting yourself into the role of reader. Sometimes this is difficult and asking for help is necessary. Choose wisely. Showing your work to soon, or to the wrong person can be devastating to the beginning writer. Close friends and family members are not always the best critics either. Consider joining a critique group. Ask to visit before submitting your own work for feedback. Asking for help can be helpful. When you get their feedback, listen carefully. Take notes. But do not make any major changes until you ask several people. Remember this is your story and you are the author. This is your book, and you are the final judge.
_Having a well-polished book makes marketing a whole lot easier.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Keep It To Yourself

Don’t talk... write. If you talk about your story idea, or your main character, or what you want to write about you just might be dulling your need to get the story down. Don’t substitute telling your story to an interested person for sitting down and writing. Don’t get your needs met by having a listening audience. Stories become books only when the writer sits down and puts words to paper.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bird by Bird
by Anne Lamott
...."To be a good writer, you may not only have to write a great deal but you have to care. You do not have to have a complicated moral philosophy. But a writer always tries, I think, to be part of the solution, to understand a little about life and pass it on."

Writings Best Kept Secrets

Every profession has its secrets. Ever watch the recently retired Boston Legal? Is it possible for a law firm to collect such a group of emotional misfits and still be successful? Maybe. As consumers do we really want to know that our lawyer has Mad Cow Disease, Aspbergers, or sometimes dresses as Oprah? Not hardly. Instead we want to believe that our lawyer is well put together and ready to fight for us. And the same with our doctors. Do they really know what these particular set of symptoms mean? Maybe not. But will you know it from their demeanor. Nope. They’ve been trained to project self-confidence. I mean, can you imagine them looking back at you with huge eyes, shrugging their shoulders, and saying, "Gosh, I haven’t a clue. Beats me." It wouldn’t be a pretty sight.
_Writers are no different. We too have our secrets. Everyone of us is afraid of that blank page. We’re worried that we have nothing to say. We don’t know how to start that next project. We’re sure every other writer out there is better than we are. Most days we’re sure our best work is behind us. We are scared. We’re supposed to be writers but….
_"You don’t want to write, you want to have written." I heard these words a couple of years into my writing career. I’ve never forgotten them, in fact, I’ve aimed them at other writers. So if you’re worried about getting your words down, relax, and welcome to the club. And by the way you are a writer.

My Story

In June1992 my husband died and my life changed forever. We were both 44, had met in high school, and married in 1967. We had two sons and had just moved to the house of our dreams. Standing outside of Johns Hopkins Hospital I realized that my life would be forever different. We would not be celebrating our 25th anniversary in December. We would not share future grand-parenting duties or grow old together. I was sad, scared and weary in a way that defies description.
_When the death duties were finished I turned to my writing, spending endless hours creating and marketing manuscripts. My first articles had been published years before. Whenever I could find time I’d write and submit a manuscript or two or send a query to an editor asking for an assignment.
_ I had sold more than a hundred articles and short stories during those early years, most were written on assignment. More importantly however, I had had the good fortune to work with great editors. Men who helped me to develop as a writer, who gave me assignments, and contracts, and a chance to rewrite if I missed the mark. They were available to me by telephone whenever I had a question or needed guidance. It was paid on-the-job training and I appreciated every moment of it. I knew that someday I wanted to write full time.
_Now I had the time, but writing is a lonely endeavor and I became restless. Then one day I was given an incredible opportunity to teach creative writing at our local community college in their adult education program. I was hired by a terrific director who allowed me to develop and teach a variety of programs.
_Suddenly my focus shifted. I studied writing techniques and created countless handouts and approaches all directed toward helping the writer complete their first or next writing project. I created classes for magazine writing, inspirational writing, writing for children, writing short stories, novels, memoirs and writing for fun and profit. I developed a newsletter and the students were my writers. I learned to edit their manuscripts and offer advice.
_I created programs for area home schooled children whose parents needed help helping their children. I started numerous writing groups. I opened a freelance editing business. I didn’t know it then, but I was becoming a writing coach.
_In early 2000 I began coaching students one-on-one through a program I developed at the college. Over the years and hundreds of students later I believe I understand writers and what they need to be successful. And each need is different.
_In September 2008 I started a blog to help area writers stay in touch. One of the articles I wrote for "Dialogue" is about my fondness for writers. I’ve helped other writers get their thoughts and words down and I just might be able to help you. To get started send an email to and describe your project. I’ll respond immediately and invite you to tell me about yourself and your writing. And I’ll offer you a free critique.