Friday, April 25, 2008

Novel Writing: Be Inspired

I'm still scoring this week and have little time, but I'm going to fit in a short novel writing post. This week I'm writing about inspiration. Novels don't get written without inspiration. We need to find the creative spark that fires us up to give ourselves to a project.

This weekend I am going to the Western Washington SCBWI conference. I will meet Mo Willems and it feels like my life will better because of it. I think that he is certain genius. I feel just blessed to have the chance to hear him. For me, meeting up with people who create is certain to give me a big jolt.

Joining others on their creative journey is a great way to bring inspiration to your own work. Listen music, read challenging books, go to art museums, concerts, plays, whatever opens you up. You might dance wildly in your basement, go for a hike to a waterfall, or plant some tulips.

Take some time this week and add some fuel to your fire. But here's something more to think about: I've also found that realizing the stuff of life brings the fuel for the creativity fire. The ups, the downs and the inbetween -- it all helps and gets the work humming.

On another note, I must shout out for my sister. Lee Ann Kuruganti is a wonderful artist. She has won the Hugo Base Design Contest! Huzzah, Lee Ann!

Do not look back in anger, or forward in fear, but around in awareness.

James Thurber

Friday, April 18, 2008

Rambling Week for the Taxman Cometh

Well, I'm rambling this week. We have come to another week of Molly having to score essays instead of doing other lovely things, like writing books, submitting books, reading books, etc, because she must have cash for the taxman cometh.

This has led to a break in novel writing posts that do take me a while to put together, and I have a current time famine. I find that the business of life can just shut down the work. I have to be patient. My Rembrandt book is coming out and that is exciting. I have to devote my precious time to some book promotion. Really, I'd rather be writing.

I also am doing a graphic novel workshop with my son's class. This is quite the blast. I love getting kids on teams and having them work together to create a collaborative work. In other news, next weekend I will be heading to a SCBWI conference so I have a post with conference tidbits coming.

Rambling on -- I'm always trying to think about what books need to be written. I continue to feel there is a great dearth of books for boys. I've written one authentically boy book. I feel that I must write more. I think boys enjoy Godzilla-like creatures that stomp cities and lol stories about mutant clones. There are just not enough great books out there like that. I also feel that there are not enough rousing history stories for boys - not "Little House" folks, but adventure stories with airplanes, ships, submarines and motor cars. I'd like to see a big mystery series too. Hope this gets you thinking. I hope that you jump on board and get into the business of making great boy books.

Today it is snowing at my house. Yes, it is April 18, so what is all that about? I feel that I about to march over to Mother Nature's house and have one big argument!Where is spring!!!

The Eskimo has fifty-two names for snow because it is important to them; there ought to be as many for love.

Margaret Atwood

Hold fast to dreams, for when dreams go, life is a barren field, frozen with snow.
Langston Hughes

Friday, April 11, 2008

Novel Writing: Vision

I'm taking time over a few posts to discuss novel writing. This week I'm going to talk about confidence in your unique vision. Alexander Pope, an English poet, wrote a famous verse: Essay on Critique. He understood the artifice of criticism. I really think that authors will just hand over too much power to others. We all want approval and blessing. For that approval and blessing, we will throw away our vision for an offhand comment by a supposed expert.

I think to write a really good novel you have to be willing to be a fool. Like Pope shared in his poem, you have to rush into a place where angels dare not tread. You have to be sooo hopeful -- bursting with hope. There is an agony to creating books, and you will have to embrace that agony if you wish to write a book that will stir the hearts of readers. It’s really painful to write a novel. And after you managed to spin out the first draft, it’s painful to hear critique of that novel.

What are you to do? Always remember the first audience of your work is you.
Write the story you want to read, and when searching for critiques, find people who share your passion for your work. I really wouldn’t take advice from someone who didn’t care deeply about my work. I want passion on every level of my work, and people that are weighing in on my work need to be invested. So many writers want an editor of a major publishing house to look at their work. They fork over piles of cash at conferences to have a disinterested soul cast tired eyes on their words.Is this really all that helpful?

But we want to sell work! Well, if no one but your critique group shows any passion for your work, be happy you have a critique group and keep working. I firmly believe your gift will make a place for you. I think that it is useful to give yourself freedom to not listen to the popular opinions of the hour. We tend to chain ourselves with ideas of what the market wants or the blinding hope that a publisher will be interested in this work if we will rip out half the plot and recast all the main characters.

In the end you, you must write your heart out. Write the story that burns within you. Don’t let all outside voices stop you. If you fail, let it be when you are “daring greatly.”

Think about this quote and then fearless follow your vision:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, April 04, 2008

Novel Writing: Voice

I'm taking a few weeks to chat about novel writing. Today I'm going to focus on the words that we use to create our stories. Honestly, I believe the fire of voice is hidden in word choice. It's not just using big words. It's finding that unique set of words that actually express what you want to say. Many authors have flat stories because they use bland and boring word choice to create their worlds.

To create believable voice in a story, I have to bring together my tricky writing skills. I actually turn to the poets and literary devices. Poetry is the language of emotion and to become aware of how poets stir the emotions of their reader is important. Really, no one wants to read a book about weeping water pots or screaming banshees. No, we want fresh weeping and original bone-chilling screams.

Here's a list of various literary devices that you must employ to punch up Voice. You want to be aware of all of these terms. Take some time to familiarize yourself.

You will strengthen the voice of the novel if you add some well-crafted words. Beware, using these devices with skill is difficult. Don't think stuffing a bunch of literary devices into a novel is going to improve the voice. I think of this like music in a way. You can play sheet music or you can play it by ear, the thing that is important is that you show skill. Honestly, folks, that only comes with practice.

Today I'm focusing on the words, so I'm going to focus on literary devices that are actually about the sounds and choice of words. Think about this. Have you included onomatopoeia in the current work? Repeating sounds can really jazz up the mood of a novel. I've rarely read a book that does not use onomatopoeia. How about circumlocution or periphrasis? These two can be an enemy or a friend. Beating around the bush can bring great comedy to a work, but this can slide in a negative direction too, and just make the narrative flow seem wordy.

I hope something here has been helpful. You've got lots to think about now. Enjoy the journey of creating books.

DICTIONARY, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work.
Ambrose Bierce