Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Craft, She is Huge!

I sent out four new submissions recently, and I'm looking at sending out my very first non-fiction proposals.  I also went to the Lucky Labs meeting yesterday (it seems like forever since I've been!) and had a pint.

I felt like the meeting went well, but then I didn't get my story piled on.  It can get tough when there's a consensus, and the consensus is, 'this didn't work for me,' followed by an explanation of everything that went wrong.

Which brings me to abandonment.  The thing about writing is, like every other skill, it requires practice.  That includes practice of every aspect of writing.  I'm sure I'll miss some, but these are basic areas of writing that need lots of practice:

* Spelling and grammar
* Starting a project effectively
* Finishing a first draft
* Managing a first edit
* Receiving/understanding feedback
* Employing feedback
* Deep revision (where no element is held sacred)
* Polishing (also known as line editing)
* Tightening, or loosening (most people need to tighten)
* Establishing voice for a piece
* Establishing authorial style
* Character development
* Enrichment of setting
* Developing a satisfactory middle (muddle)
* Creating a satisfying ending
* Creating scenes with character and plot archs
* Transitioning
* Research/life experience development
* Learning about tropes, cliche's, and norms for a given genre
* Developing a narrative flow or rhythm
* Nurturing a critical eye for your own prose
* Nurturing an analytical eye when reading in your genre
* Nurturing and honoring the creation process

These are all difficult skills.  None of them are straightforward.  For example, spelling and grammar.  You'd think that would be straightforward, but it's not.  The rules are made to be broken, but they have to be broken in a way that makes reading more, not less, of a pleasure.  What about nurturing and honoring the creation process?   That's just care and feeding of the muse, right?  Not really.  Honoring includes respecting your own writing time--daily writing.  Nurturing means you have to learn how to create, and then practice creating.  Learn about outlines, try different brainstorming techniques, take lots of baths or showers (there's something about hot water and creativity--I'm not the only one who's noticed this!)

Lots of people come out of high school thinking they can write.  On the one hand, yes they can.  On another ... there's a whole lot more to learn out there, way more than even four years of dedicated college can teach you.  The good news is that you can sell your experiments when you reach a certain stage of writing, and that certain stage might be right out of high school.  The other good news is, writing never gets boring if you're a writer at heart.  There's always something more to learn.  There's always another hill to climb.

Which wraps back around to abandonment.  You might think that a story that was (almost) universally tromped ought to just be put out of its misery.  That depends.  Has the author learned everything s/he can from the work?  In this case I think the answer is clearly no.  I felt that this author hadn't learned how to fix problem manuscripts yet.  He hadn't learned how to take and consolidate the feedback, use that to re-examine the manuscript with his own critical eye (the feedback is, after all, a set of observations and suggestions, not a job order) and, if he couldn't figure out how to fix it on his own, start reading and researching like crazy in an effort to find out how other authors have solved those problems.  

Think about it.  If a story doesn't work and you abandon it every time, yes, you might eventually learn what does work when you line up all the stories you've written that receive positive feedback and write stories just like that every time.  But there's a danger of pigeonholing yourself.  Maybe all your successful stories are about a young female abuse victim who gets the upper hand over her former abuser and is instrumental in sending him to jail forever.  Some writers make a good wage repeating the same sort of story over and over again.  I'm not going to denigrate that.  But if you can't find that niche and make a career out of that, you'll be a one hit wonder.  If that's your goal, great.  But if you really want to learn the craft, you have to learn as many items on this list as you can, and some things that are not on this list.

I invite INKers and Friends of INK to think, and even blog about, some of these elements of writing.  Each one deserves a post all by its lonely.  Or, just file it away, and get to writing.  We're wasting daylight, people!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Toolbox: Storytelling

From Carissa (on her personal blog): Detail Devil (Storytelling)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Upcoming Events: April 2008

Writing Events for April around SW Washington:

Poetry Workshop
7:00 pm, Thursday, April 3rd, Vancouver Community Library

Open-Mic Poetry Night
7:00 pm, Wednesday, April 9th, Vancouver Community Library

INK Group Meeting
7:00 pm, Friday, April 18th, The Secret Cat Cave

River Writers Group
11:00 am, Saturday, April 19th, Washougal Community Library

Online Event
Script Frenzy!
Begins April 1st. Write a 100 pages script (screenplay, play, or teleplay) in 30 days. Sign up opened now.

If you know of any events in the SW Washington area or online in April for writers and poets, please email INK at

The Toolbox: Advice Links

From Kami: Stop Kami, Stop! (Advice Links)

The Toolbox: Synopsis

From Kami: The synopsis as a haiku (Synopsis)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Toolbox: Writing Process

From Kami: Almost Everything I Needed to Know about Writing I Learned by Daily Writing (Writing Process)

The Toolbox: Plotting

From Carole: Stories Within Stories (Plotting)

The Toolbox: Writing Process

From Carissa: Asserting Myself Around Town (Writing Process)

The Toolbox: Critiquing

From Kami: Maybe they won't notice because I don't (Critiquing)

The Toolbox: Characters

From Kami: Don't get a massage; be tense! (Characters)

The Toolbox: Writing Process

From Kami: Atmosphere (Writing Process)

The Toolbox: Plotting

From Kami: Sicky (Plotting, latter half of entry)

The Toolbox: Critiquing and Submitting

From Kami: I Hate My Reader Thiiiiiiis Much (Critiquing and Submitting)

The Toolbox: Critiquing

From Carissa: On Critiquing (Critiquing)

The Toolbox: Characters

From Kami: Narrative, Dialogue, Action and Description (Characters)

The Toolbox: Characters

From Kami: Emotional 180 (Characters)

The Toolbox: Writing Process

From Kami: When a Writer is a Girlfriend (Writing Process)

The Toolbox: Writing Process

From Kami: When a Writer is a Girlfriend Part Two (Writing Process)

The Toolbox: Revising

From Carissa: Bring It! (Revising)

The Toolbox: Submitting

From Kami: First Agent Rejection (Submitting)

The Toolbox: Copyright & Research

From Carissa: Copied, Right? (Copyright and Research)

The Toolbox: Copyright

From Carissa: Another Copyright Issue (Copyright)

The Toolbox: Submitting

From Kami: Hard Reality? (Submitting)

The Toolbox: Opening Hooks

From Kami: Openers (Opening Hooks)

The Toolbox: Advice Links

From Carissa: Advice (Advice Links)

The Toolbox: Encouragment

From Carissa: Do Not Let This Discourage You (Encouragement)

The Toolbox: Rewriting

From Kami: One Important Thing and Trivia (Rewriting)

The Toolbox: Finances

From Kami: It's a Taxing Time (Finances)

The Toolbox: Synopsis

From Kami: Start Now (Synopsis)

The Toolbox: Characters

From Kami: The Reveal (Characters)

The Toolbox: Characters

From Carissa: The Back of Characters (Characters)

The Toolbox: Storytelling

From Kami: Trusting the Story (Storytelling)

The Toolbox

INK will be establishing its own version of the writer's toolbox, using our blog posts to do so. I'll be adding links to those posts through the label post section of the sidebar here, so anyone interested in looking up helpful (well, we think it's helpful) information on such topics as characterization or plotting will be able to do so with just a few button clicks. New toolbox topics will be added as a new topic here and then added as a link. And to get us started, I'll retrofit the older topics here first. Starting today!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What is INK?

What is INK—?
INK stands for Immaculate Novelists Kult, in the grand tradition of many other ink-named groups that have gone before and run concurrently with us, with a nod in particular to J.R.R. Tolkien's and C.S. Lewis' Inklings. We have our own C.S.! Cole, that is. Immaculate comes from the Latin, meaning spotless. A Roman might have named his dog Macula. We could as easily be called the Incorrigible Novelists Kult, as whipping (corriging) us will not keep us from writing, but that might tempt someone to try.

Where do you meet?
In our secret cat cave.

No, really, where do you meet?
In our secret cat cave.

What do you do at meetings?
After the usual 'hi, how are ya's and a snack, we collect dues and launch into the critiques for the evening. We also talk about our personal goals for the next few weeks and what we might submit for the next meeting.

What's this I hear about INK guests?
We host guests at our meetings four times a year or so. We like to hear how other people work and think.

Can I just drop in during a guest meeting?
Currently only dues-paying—

I'll pay a dollar!
--stop interrupting! Only dues paying members can attend a guest meeting. If there's a lot of demand (aka whining) we'll see about arranging some sort of writer's meet and greet or lecture.

How do I join?
Email us at

That actually reads Immaculate Novelists Kult kult.:
We know. We're so kewl even our kult has a kult.

[Thanks, Kami, for most of these great Q&As!]

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New FAQ Page

This page is, like most writing, a work in progress. Over the next few weeks I will be adding a FAQ entry, bios for each of the founding Kult members, and whatever else we think we need to put up here.

If you have suggestions, please feel free to use the email address in the sidebar. Since this is only an information page, comments are disabled. But all emails will be answered.

Thank you!