If you believe there is such a thing as “writer’s block” then it will exist and it will find you. Of course there are times when the writing is not smooth, cute, or memorable. But I like to remind myself that my hand still works and therefore writing work of some kind can be done. It took me awhile to totally invest in this truth but once I did it changed everything about my writing. My writing muscles got a lot stronger.
~Nikky Finney from interview with Gotham Writers’ Workshop
Meredith Reznick’s smart and insightful blog The Writer’s [Inner] Journey has long been one of my favorite regular reads. This five-question interview with an acquisitions editor is one to note because the editor addresses the dreaded “author platform” and why it’s more than the number of Twitter followers or Facebooks “likes” that you have. Here’s a taste:
"Your connections have to feel like they want to support you/buy your book. They do that when they feel engaged with you."
Kim France (of Sassy and Lucky magazine fame, though I preferred her work at Sassy) has launched a new blog: Girls of a Certain Age. It’s just getting its footing (or is it wording?) but, so far, it looks worthy of adding to your reading list. Plus, there’s an interview with my favorite Sassy staffer of all time: Christina Kelly.
I pulled this list from The Guardian’s “Ten rules for writing fiction,” described as “Inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing” Because I’m deep in editing a memoir draft, I dropped the fiction reference. Winterson’s rules fit any type of writing, which is appropriate given her just-published memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Turn up for work. Discipline allows creative freedom. No discipline equals no freedom.
Never stop when you are stuck. You may not be able to solve the problem, but turn aside and write something else. Do not stop altogether.
Love what you do.
Be honest with yourself. If you are no good, accept it. If the work you are doing is no good, accept it.
Don’t hold on to poor work. If it was bad when it went in the drawer it will be just as bad when it comes out.
Take no notice of anyone you don’t respect.
Take no notice of anyone with a gender agenda. A lot of men still think that women lack imagination of the fiery kind.
When I moved from Seattle to Denver, the first thing I noticed was how much more energy I had. The source: SUN. I had no idea what a huge difference it made. I lived in the Pacific Northwest for thirteen years, so I had adapted to the gloomy winters. But there is one thing I miss: spring fever. Even with feet of snow, we’ll have bright blue skies in Denver. In Seattle, when we woke to that first sunny day sometime in March or April, there was an electric surge about the city, a giddiness in every person you encountered. See it in all its glory on PFM Reports.
You don’t get that in Colorado, where we take our vitamin D for granted. (Okay, but we also get our Rocky Mountain High).
It’s rare to hear the word “memoir” mentioned without “voice” following a few words behind. Author Mary Karr (The Liars’ Club, Cherry, and Lit) has said in interviews "In memoir, the only through-line is the character represented by voice. So you better make the reader damn curious about who’s talking."
So how do you create that voice? Vivian Gornick offers strong insight on this in The Situation and The Story: The Art of Personal Narrative. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.
However, if you’re looking for great advice right now, check out Alan Rinzler’s post on creating a compelling narrative voice. Rinzler is a consulting editor who spent decades as an publisher and acquiring editor. He distills several key pieces from Gornick’s book and offers his own suggestions based on memoirs he’s edited.
What’s your favorite resource for writing a memoir and/or developing a strong voice?
Whether or not you’re interested in the content of TOMBOY STYLE by Lizzie Garret Mettler, this book trailer is a great example of what can be done for authors. This trailer is personable, simple and interesting.
If you’re not reading literary agent Betsy Lerner’s blog, you’re missing out on a great daily read. She’ll tell you just like it is. I love her top 10 reasons to live with a writer, though I have to confess I’ve never played Bananograms. #writers
To give you a taste of this “25 things I want to say to ‘aspiring’ writers” post by Chuck Wendig, check out #1 below. Blunt, yes, but it needs to be said.
Here are the two states in which you may exist: person who writes, or person who does not. If you write: you are a writer. If you do not write: you are not. Aspiring is a meaningless null state that romanticizes Not Writing. It’s as ludicrous as saying, “I aspire to pick up that piece of paper that fell on the floor.” Either pick it up or don’t. I don’t want to hear about how your diaper’s full. Take it off or stop talking about it.
This essay by Dinah Lenney on memoirists and voice is one of the most original pieces I’ve ever read on the subject. Here’s a small taste:
"First person narrative, memoir in particular, is like jazz; largely about the player, about where he riffs and scats, and how and why, and whether or not we come away from the material — the narrative, that is — feeling different for having read."
“I refuse to conform to any narrative conventions that say, ‘Well, if you begin a film with voice-over you at least have to bookend it, have it at the end. You can’t just have it at the beginning and let it taper off.’ I’m thinking, I’m 50 and I’m going to use whatever cinematic device I want to.”—
When I purchased the tickets to see Idina Menzel perform with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, I expected an amazing experience. What I didn’t expect was to walk away from the concert with a list of writing lessons from my favorite Broadway Diva. During her concert, Idina told the story of how, several years ago, her manager told her about Red Rocks, which seats 9,500. At the time, he said, it would be a big stretch for her to perform in that venue size, but he believed that someday she could—and would—do it. From center stage, the singer peered up to the highest seats and teared up, sharing that she (and her manager) had exceeded their goal that night. Her story of exceeding what had seemed to be a lofty goal inspired me. If she can do it, why can’t I meet and exceed my own goals? Being me, I started searching for clues as to how she had become successful—besides having immense talent. Here’s what I learned: