Off into the Wild Blue Yonder

24 03 2011

Flying off to PA tomorrow for a conference with 2 CPs. Last year I was speaker. This year I plan to soak up some wisdom and tackle revisions on one of my many manuscripts.

I spend so much time helping other people get their mss in shape, now it’s time to concentrate on mine. Hope to come out of this soaring.

Finding the Magic Writing Book

16 06 2010

If you’re anything like me, you keep buying new writing books, hoping THIS one will provide the magic key and unlock the door to those powerful stories you know are brewing inside. It’s rather like buying new makeup in the hopes it’ll make you prettier. The latest cosmetics might make slight changes, but the face staring back in the mirror is still the same one.

So what besides plastic surgery (or manuscript surgery) will effect wholesale changes in the way you look (or write)? In writing I believe these changes come about gradually, slowly, and often imperceptibly. After each seminar, book, or critique, I gain new insights. Over time, these accumulate until they become part of my writer’s repertoire.

One day all of these bits of wisdom become so ingrained that they flow naturally. I’m starting to get to that place, but still have a long way to go. Recently, I was excited to read about some tricks for the writer’s toolbox in Word Magic for Writers by Cindy Rogers. Actually, they weren’t new, but it was cool to learn the official names for techniques I already use instinctively.

For example, asyndeton is a list with only commas, with no conjunction. Rogers makes the point that lists like this not only emphasize, but also indicate that the list is ongoing.

Aha! A light bulb went off.

I have a critique partner who likes to make lists like this, but I often insert “and” instinctively. Now I know why. She’s using the technique incorrectly. Her lists aren’t ongoing, nor do they need to be emphasized.  She’ll often do it for mundane, unimportant details, yet skip it when it might serve to emphasize a more important list.

Creating a list without using a comma says “Look at me. Pay attention.” Sometimes it feels like literary pretension. And doing it too frequently spoils the effect. It’s like a dash of salt–perfect in tiny amounts, overwhelming if overused.

Writing a Bestseller

23 04 2010

by Darvin Atkeson

All speeches need an inspirational takeaway. So I asked my Muse for something eternal, unique, and beautiful. In what way could my life or my words be inspiring?

One of the greatest inspirations is hearing how others overcame the odds to reach success. That’s why author talks are so successful (and why people clap even if you mess up–most attendees have always dreamed of being a famous author). But that success is ordinary, although it may not seem so.

Anyone can become an author if they study hard, learn the craft, put hours of sitting in a chair and spilling their guts, keeping submitting in the face of rejection, and never, ever give up. But that’s so NOT what people want to hear. They already know that. And many of them have given it a shot. They want a magic pill they can take that transforms their idea into a runaway bestseller.

And so what do I, an author who has written for 20 some years have to share that will inspire the audience eager for pearls of wisdom? Persistence and perseverance are the keys? Never giving up? OK, let’s be honest: maybe published authors are more stubborn or perhaps more thickheaded?

So that won’t make my speech inspiring. What will? I decided to talk about how I overcame obstacles in my path and went on to conquer them. Some seemed insurmountable at the time, but I have a secret that keeps me on track. I’ll share that secret and the source of my inspiration in Friday’s post.