Saturday, June 06, 2015

Publish: Pre-writing

Hi folks, I'm starting a series that will last for the summer. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENSPublish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. This first week I'm covering pre-writing. I think some of this will relate to any creative life.

Publishing is different than writing. The two are related but not the same. Writing is about splashing the words on the page. Writing can be personal, for yourself. Writing that will be published comes with an added zest. It's not about the writer; it's about the reader. Every word will be seen by others. Every word will have the potential to influence someone's life. Every word must grab the reader and shake them up. If not, the words won't be read.

The most important words of a story are the first five pages. If you can get someone hooked on the first five pages, they will read the rest of the book.  I mentioned if main characters were waking up in the first scene that there better be a sack of flesh-eating spiders about to descend upon them. I suggested the participants check out The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. This is a handy book to sharpen the hook.

As a part of pre-writing, we talked about the need for an interesting main character. If a character doesn't have redeeming qualities, no one will follow him or her to the end of the story.  Anti-heroes are popular right now.  Going against the grain is always popular.  Sadness is having a heyday too.  All this is fine but it is important to add likability to the main character. This is huge. Some quick tricks to garner likability -- save someone or something  in the first chapter, create contrast with exterior and interior self (i.e. hard criminal - exterior, wounded protector - interior.), finally, isolate your character by killing off everyone he or she loves.

Finally the last thing in pre-writing was the chance for each writer to discuss their story without interruption. We live in a world that is all about being heard.  The chance to speak without anyone immediately jumping and contradicting and offering an opinion is rare. Each participant was given seven minutes to share their vision without interruption.  How many times do we get the chance to be heard?  It is so rare. It's also a chance to listen.  Our society has lost listening to each other, and in this we have lost something of ourselves. It's so important to be quiet, to be still, and hear what is being said. Writers need to listen. To tell the truth, we all do.

I hope this journey into pre-writing was provocative to you.  I hope that you think about all this as you move forward with projects.  Next week, I'm going to cover characterization.

Now for the doodle. Cat Doodle

Quote for your pocket:

At dawn my lover comes to me
And tells me of her dreams
With no attempts to shovel the glimpse
Into the ditch of what each one means
At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what's true
And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden

Bob Dylan

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