The Secret of Great Writing

A special treat today.  We have a post from Caleb Pirtle III. He’s been calebin the publishing arena for 40 years. He’s worked at pretty much every level. He’s made a name for himself at each of those levels. He’s had sixty-five books published, three scripts made into TV shows, and countless shorter pieces. So when he speaks, it’s a good idea to listen.  So, here he is giving us the secret of great writing. Caleb —

I have lived in cities.

I have fought the traffic.

I have battled the crowds.

Didn’t like it.

Don’t want to go back.

Personally, I prefer Small Town America.

Little towns are distinctive.

The ones I like are off the beaten path.

They are self-sufficient or should be.

And an odd assortment of people walk their streets.

Dark.

Or sunny.

Out of sight.

Or in plain daylight.

It doesn’t matter.

Each of them has a story to tell.

They may not want it told until they die.

It may be the reason why they die.

Small towns think they have their secrets, but almost everyone knows what the secrets are. By mid-morning, everybody knows who did what to whom and why – and how much money or sex was involved.

Small towns are partly fact and partly fiction, and somewhere through the years, the lines began to blur.

That’s why so many great novels have been written in or about small towns.

They are full of love.

And love lost.

They are full of hate.

And sardonic smiles.

They are smitten by greed.

And jealousy.

Ambition.

And revenge.

We know them even if we have never met them.

They are our neighbors.

They are us.

No one ever captured the spirit and soul of Small Town America as well as Sherwood Anderson in his Winesburg, Ohio, a collection of short stories featuring an array of of people who, by fate or fortune, both good and bad, have chosen reside in the small Midwestern village. When cleverly woven together, their lives become the stuff of an unforgettable novel.

In his books and short stories, Anderson never emphasized plot or action.

Instead, according to one critic, he used “a simple, precise, unsentimental style to reveal the frustration, loneliness, and longing in the lives of his characters.”

His voice was unmistakable, and his writing greatly influenced and served as a guidepost for the works of William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Thomas Wolfe.

Anderson knew that all good novels were tied together with a little fact and a little fiction. Only imagination knew the difference.

Fact sounded like fiction.

Fiction becomes fact.

Imagination made them both real and believable.

The reader never knew which was which, nor did the reader care.

Anderson once wrote: “The life of reality is confused, disorderly, almost always without apparent purpose where in the artist’s imaginative life there is purpose. There is determination to give the tale, the song, the painting, form – to make it true and real to the theme, not to life …

“I myself remember – with what a shock – I heard people say that one of my own books, Winesburg, Ohio, was an exact picture of Ohio village life.” Nothing could have been farther from the truth.

As Anderson wrote: “The book was written in a crowded tenement district of Chicago. The hint for almost every character was taken from my fellow lodgers in a large rooming house, many of whom had never lived in a village.

“The confusion arises out of the fact that others beside practicing artists have imagination. But most people are afraid to trust their imaginations, and the artist is not.”

That, when it’s all said and done, may be the secret of great writing.caleb-night side of dark

Find a little fact.

Let your mind spill out a little fiction.

Work them together.

Figure out a hook.

Then trust your imagination.

And let’s see where it leads you.

JIM:  Please add your thoughts on the subject.

You can find more about Caleb at:  http://venturegalleries.com/about/caleb-pirtle-iii/

 

 

Writing is About More Than Just a Story

Today’s guest blogger is Karin Beery.  She is an active member of American BerryChristian Fiction Writers, the American Christian Writers Association and Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network.  She is represented by Steve Hutson of Word Wise Media.

Patience is a virtue, it’s just not mine.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that, I could retire tomorrow on my own private island. It was fun to say – people laughed at my cleverness, but it also gave me a way to jokingly explain my impatience. For years it worked. Then I started writing.

I started my career with a novel. When I realized how little I knew about publishing, I started to explore other forms of writing while I revised my manuscript. I knew it needed a little work, but I had high hopes and expectations – a tweak here, an edit there, then I’d be ready to sign a contract. But life happens.

You end up taking a fulltime job, so your part-time writing job fills up your spare time, and the novel gets pushed aside. You quit your job to stay home and care for your aunt, but then your health declines, and for two years you can barely function. When you can function, your novel doesn’t even make the top half of your to-do list. One thing after another lands on your calendar, filling your days and novel-writing hours.

It doesn’t take long for depression to join you. You see your friends’ names appear on books and watch them win awards while you struggle to finish a chapter. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like you’ll finish anything.

But you keep writing.

And what you don’t notice is that while you’ve been struggling, you’ve been learning. And growing. And strengthening. And when you’re manuscript is finally cleaned up, you suddenly have an agent who enjoys working with you. And that’s when you realize it – you’ve become a writer.

Writing isn’t for the faint-hearted. You can’t be sensitive or emotionally attached. You need to see your work for what it really is – a product that you created. It’s not you, and how people respond to it isn’t a reflection of you. There are rules, guidelines, and techniques that need to be understood, mastered, and sometimes broken, but understanding that doesn’t come with writing one manuscript; it comes from years of hard work, studying, practicing, and writing.

When I started writing, I thought all I needed to do was write a good story. Yes, you do need a good story, but you need to become a writer too. You need to become someone who can take the criticism, put in the effort, and dedicate yourself to the cause of not just writing a story, but creating the best manuscript possible. For some, that happens quickly. For others, it takes time. For the dedicated, however, it doesn’t matter – keep learning, keep going, and keep writing.

JIM:  Now’s the time to throw in your two-cents worth. Add your thoughts on the writing journey.  Just click on the “Replies” button cleverly hidden below.  Thanks.

You can also follow Karin on FaceBook at   http://bit.ly/1ZetNlm

Find her on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/karinbeery

Her website is www.karinbeery.com

Dreading the Inevitable or Expecting the Impossible

Today’s guest is Ginger Solomon, a mother of seven who  manages to solomonfind time to write romances, quite a few, in fact.  She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, writes regularly for two blogs, and is president of her local writing group.  Oh, she also likes to do needlework.  Here’s the good and the bad of a recent trip, and at the end, how it relates to her latest book, Second Choice.

Have you ever had to do something, and yet you dreaded it all the way to the moment it happened? Was it as bad as you expected?

What about the opposite? Have you expected a great adventure or event—a vacation, trip to visit family, etc.—and then been disappointed when it didn’t meet your expectations?

Recently my sixteen-year-old daughter and I went on a cruise together. She and I headed to the Caribbean via the Carnival Dream for seven glorious, fun-filled days. Or so I thought.

We’d both been looking forward to the trip for months. I needed the time away from responsibilities around the home, and she wanted to swim with the dolphins like her older sister did on her trip.

Day one (Sunday): Uneventful. We enjoyed walking the ship and checking out where things were. We got lost a few times. Later in the evening, she went to the older-teens meet and greet.

Day two: (A day at sea) She woke up sea-sick. The waves were tossing the boat just a bit. I bought her some pressure-point bracelets. They helped. Thirty minutes after she put them on, she was off to find some other people to hang out with. I read, ate lunch alone, read some more, took a nap, and read some more. Can you see where this is going?

One thing you should know is that I am almost 100% introverted (depending on the quiz I take). My daughter is almost completely opposite. She LOVES hanging with people. I bore her. She wearies me.

Day three: (A day at sea) Repeat day 2, except the sea-sickness.

Day four: Isla de Roatan. Remember that part up there about dreading something? This was the day I dreaded. She wanted to zip-line. You should know I’m not afraid of heights. It’s the fall that bothers me. J But I did it. For her. AND I HAD FUN! Was it scary? Yep. Was it as bad as I thought? Nope.

Day five: Belize. She slept late (1pm). We didn’t go ashore. See day 2.

Day six: Cozumel. Dolphin time. I knew I would like this one, so it was fun. Then we shopped. I got blisters. And forgot to get something a child at home asked for. L

Day seven: (a rocky day at sea) Repeat day 2, except now I’m the one not feeling so well.

Was the trip what I expected? No. Was I disappointed? A little, BUT (and it’s a big but) my daughter HAD A GREAT TIME, and that was good enough.

The trip didn’t meet my expectations, but the dreaded event was better than I expected. I’ve found in my… cough, cough… years that seldom do exciting events live up to our exaggerated expectations just as dreaded events are rarely as bad as we imagine them to be.

Solomon bk coverPrincess Anaya, the heroine in my latest release, Second Choice, dreads a talk she must have with her father, the king, about her upcoming wedding. Her groom disappeared, leaving a cryptic note behind. Three weeks before the wedding. Her anxiety level is high as she approaches her father’s office. When he hears her news, he is at first outraged, but then he takes a moment and considers the situation. In the end, her father shows her a bit of unexpected affection—something she desperately needed. It wasn’t as bad as she anticipated, and it had an unexpected result. She and her father grew closer.

What about you? Have you ever anticipated an event to only be disappointed? Or dreaded an event only to realize your imagination had made it worse than it actually turned out to be?

Her website is at:   www.gingersolomon.com

Find her on FaceBook at:  www.facebook.com/writerGingerSolomon

Her Twitter handle is  @gingerS219

BUY LINK:   http://amzn.to/26xXfYX

JIM:  We’d love for you to leave a comment about any experience you had that just didn’t work out (good or bad) the way you expected.

 

 

 

 

 

The Storm

The storm roared in at 1:02 in the morning. Rain, hail, wind, lightning. lighteningEnough to wake a person from a deep sleep. In the end, we received nearly an inch of rain, but no real damage. That is significant because we live in the middle of a forest and such storms often leave with trees on the ground, and quite possibly no electricity in our house.

But what is significant about this particular storm and its arrival at 1:02 in the morning is that Mark Scirto, meteorologist from KLTV, had predicted that the storm would reach our area about 1:00 a.m.. And, he had made that forecast 31 hours before the storm actually hit. Impressive. I ignored the two minute discrepancy.

As I thought about this the next day, I remembered a student I had many decades ago when I was teaching a computer science course at the University of Oklahoma. He was an Army officer sent back to school for additional training. Each student in my class had to undertake a major project. His interest in weather forecasting led to his project: produce maps of isobars. This would be a map with lines connecting points having the same atmospheric pressure.

That far back in computer history, instructing the computer to draw a map was difficult. There were no packages to facilitate such a task. The student had to write the code to position and guide the plotter.

The army officer worked hard and produced a commendable project. isobarsBut he could only get data that was many days old, much of it a week old. To gather data from more than one weather station was not straight forward.

Today, we have an app on our smart phone and can get such a map accurate within the last five minutes. Of course, we can get many other types of weather information, showing the conditions over the last hour or five minutes ago. And we are not limited to our local area. If we want to know about the weather where one of our children is living, be it Pennsylvania, or Kansas, or California, we can get it. Quickly. As fast as we can type.

Of course, we are very interested in the weather this time of the year when thunderstorms and tornados are born, raised, and wandering around. But as an author, it reminded me of the rapid change in the publishing industry. Amazon, Print on Demand, and digital book readers have changed the atmosphere for authors and readers.

Amazon was created on July 5, 1994. It’s difficult to know exactly when POD first became commercially available, but not very far back.

Living in the woods of east Texas, I find it important to keep track of the weather. Ignoring it could be disastrous. Disregarding the rapid changes in the publishing industry could be dangerous to an author.

James R. Callan

If you would like to receive my occasional e-mail, click here to sign up, and I’ll send you either a free book or a short story, your choice.

I promise not to sell or give your e-mail address away. And I won’t spam you either, just fun and free stuff.  7covers A

 

 

 

Insight into Sight

Gallery

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Today’s guest blogger is Mary L. Hamilton.  She claims she grew up at a youth camp in Wisconsin, so when she writes her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series, she knows what she is talking about.  Thus far, there are three … Continue reading

The Wild Side of Writing

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This gallery contains 5 photos.

Today’s guest is Deborah Dee Harper, a writer from Tennessee who graduated from Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild where Misstep was a finalist in the 2009 Operation First Novel competition.  She will be giving away a copy of Misstep … Continue reading

Because Writing is About More Than Just a Story

Today’s guest blogger is Karin Beery.  She is an active member of American BerryChristian Fiction Writers, the American Christian Writers Association and Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network.  She is represented by Steve Hutson of Word Wise Media.

Patience is a virtue, it’s just not mine.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that, I could retire tomorrow on my own private island. It was fun to say – people laughed at my cleverness, but it also gave me a way to jokingly explain my impatience. For years it worked. Then I started writing.

I started my career with a novel. When I realized how little I knew about publishing, I started to explore other forms of writing while I revised my manuscript. I knew it needed a little work, but I had high hopes and expectations – a tweak here, an edit there, then I’d be ready to sign a contract. But life happens.

You end up taking a fulltime job, so your part-time writing job fills up your spare time, and the novel gets pushed aside. You quit your job to stay home and care for your aunt, but then your health declines, and for two years you can barely function. When you can function, your novel doesn’t even make the top half of your to-do list. One thing after another lands on your calendar, filling your days and novel-writing hours.

It doesn’t take long for depression to join you. You see your friends’ names appear on books and watch them win awards while you struggle to finish a chapter. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like you’ll finish anything.

But you keep writing.

And what you don’t notice is that while you’ve been struggling, you’ve been learning. And growing. And strengthening. And when you’re manuscript is finally cleaned up, you suddenly have an agent who enjoys working with you. And that’s when you realize it – you’ve become a writer.

Writing isn’t for the faint-hearted. You can’t be sensitive or emotionally attached. You need to see your work for what it really is – a product that you created. It’s not you, and how people respond to it isn’t a reflection of you. There are rules, guidelines, and techniques that need to be understood, mastered, and sometimes broken, but understanding that doesn’t come with writing one manuscript; it comes from years of hard work, studying, practicing, and writing.

When I started writing, I thought all I needed to do was write a good story. Yes, you do need a good story, but you need to become a writer too. You need to become someone who can take the criticism, put in the effort, and dedicate yourself to the cause of not just writing a story, but creating the best manuscript possible. For some, that happens quickly. For others, it takes time. For the dedicated, however, it doesn’t matter – keep learning, keep going, and keep writing.

JIM:  Now’s the time to throw in your two-cents worth. Add your thoughts on the writing journey.  Just click on the “Replies” button cleverly hidden below.  Thanks.

You can also follow Karin on FaceBook at   http://bit.ly/1ZetNlm

Find her on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/karinbeery

Her website is www.karinbeery.com