Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In Between Time: Food for Thought and Consumption

Barring volcanic eruptions or other unforeseen circumstances, I leave tomorrow for Italy for three weeks. So, I was thinking, since I'll have limited email access, what can I leave you with for that time?
One of the best things I could leave is a roadmap to better writing. To that end, here are 21 tips from Robert Bausch, author of The Lives of Riley Chance, A Hole in the Earth and The Gypsy Man.
  1. Be passionate.
  2. If you can make it work, there aren't any rules.
  3. Write daily.
  4. Don't complain about not having time to write. Complain about something else.
  5. Never surrender.
  6. Last changes — look at the end [of your piece] to tighten all the words.
  7. Write with your experience, not from it.
  8. Even if you're writing nonfiction, tell a story; don't report the facts.
  9. Use different voices for different points of view.
  10. Inhabit all your characters, especially for point of view.
  11. Don't have character convey what it's your job as the author to communicate.
  12. The narrator tells, and characters show; know the difference and when to do which.
  13. Get ideas from other books; look for the inspiration, what inspires you. What touches you in a way that nothing else does?
  14. Have a deep emotional attachment to what you're writing.
  15. About endings — if you're surprised by what's happening, the reader will be, too.
  16. Around the middle, a book will take its own direction, and you have to go along for the ride. If it takes you in a different direction, and it doesn't work, then you go back to where it diverges and rework, but let it go.
  17. Cultivate the capacity to let go when a work wants to be something other than what you thought it would be.
  18. Find out what your own rules are, and follow those.
  19. An author is usually not the narrator, or any of the characters.
  20. You don’t have to like or approve of a character to identify with him or her. You only have to be engaged in what happens to the character.
  21. An author does not put things in a story or poem to stump the reader. What we find in stories and poems—the metaphors or symbols, or themes—come from a waking dream, the author’s unconscious mind at work.
For more information, visit Robert Bausch and my online writing workshop, The Art of Editing in Writing.

Friday, May 7, 2010

"Inner" and "Outer" Story: With Award-Winning Author Mary Carroll Moore

Award-winning writer Mary Carroll Moore, author of Qualities of Light, concludes this week's insights on transitioning from nonfiction to fiction.

AMA: Can you explain the concept of "outer story"?

MCM: If you imagine "outer story" as what happens, where it happens, who it happens to—the great newspaper reporter's questions—"inner story" explores why and what it means. In newspaper writing, we left that up to the reader, many times. We just reported the facts. Now, I was learning to weave meaning (the story behind the situation) into my writing. As soon as I began incorporating "inner story," a few of my short stories were published, even won awards. It took five more years of learning about "inner story" and listening carefully to three of my most interesting characters before I could evolve into long-form fiction. My novel, Qualities of Light, was published last year and has been nominated for a PEN/Faulkner award.

AMA: What about "inner story"?

MCM: The element of "inner story" is what I love most in my writing; it's what lingers long after all action subsides. My journey into a new genre taught me that meaning—in life and in writing—can't be outlined or plotted. Meaning seeps in when we're not looking or planning anything. All we can do is listen for it and be ready to pay attention.

For more information, visit Mary Carroll Moore and her blog, How to Plan, Write and Develop a Book.

For a great upcoming writer's conference, visit CAPA University. Keynote speakers are doctors Henry Lee and Jerry Labriola on "Writing True Crime."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Inner Story: From Nonfiction to Novels With Mary Carroll Moore

This week, award-winning writer Mary Carroll Moore, author of Qualities of Light, shares her insights on transitions and debunks the myths.

AMA: Since going from nonfiction to fiction wasn't as easy it seems, how did you address the learning process?

MCM: I took a deep breath and made myself a humble beginner again, signing up for Fiction 101 at a local writing school. I studied there for five years, reading voraciously between classes, talking with other fiction writers. I learned that very few of them used outlines. Maybe as a first step, to plot action. But they all talked about the story taking over, the characters beginning to speak to them. Never in the newspaper world did I encounter this.

AMA: Interesting point. What would you recommend for those of us like you who have a journalism background but want to become better fiction writers?

MCM: One fellow nonfiction writer, also making the transition, recommended Vivian Gornick's The Situation and the Story. Gornick analyzes meaning and how it emerges in essays and memoirs. As I read her examples, I finally had a name for the elusive element that makes literature last in our hearts and minds. For want of a better term, I began to call it "the inner story."

For more information, visit Mary Carroll Moore and How to Plan, Write and Develop a Book.

Also visit National Novel Writing Month, voted one of Writer's Digest's 101 best writing websites.

For a great upcoming writers' conference, visit CAPA University. Keynote speakers are doctors Henry Lee and Jerry Labriola on "Writing True Crime."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Learning the Inner Story, With Mary Carroll Moore: A Journey from Nonfiction to Novels

Mary Carroll Moore is an award-winning author, novelist, artist and teacher whose work has appeared over 200 publications. Her latest novel is Qualities of Light. Mary has a particular gift for helping writers find the emotional truth in their work to make it the best it can be. This week, she shares insights on transitions and the writing life.

AMA: What aspects of writing do you find most exciting, especially going from one genre to another?

MCM: An exciting aspect of the writing life, to me, is the option of skating into a new genre. I used to think my twelve years as a newspaper columnist, my twelve nonfiction books, would create a smooth transition to fiction. Was I ever wrong.

AMA: How did you transition from nonfiction to fiction?

MCM: I started writing short stories 10 years ago. Not so distant in form from a compact and focused newspaper column, the short story also has a beginning, middle, and end. But that's where the similarities stop. Not knowing this, I outlined a couple of story ideas, turned on the creative imagination, and waited for miracles. But my characters were flat as if they'd emerged from badly written sitcoms. They moved, they faced conflict, but essentially the story had no meaning. There was more to learning this new genre than I expected.

For more information, visit Mary Carroll Moore and her insightful blog, How to Plan, Write and Develop a Book.

For one the most well-known writing challenges, also visit National Novel Writing Month One, voted one of Writer's Digest's 101 best writing websites.

For information on the seventh-annual CAPA University writers' conference on May 8 in Hartford, CT, visit CAPA-U for more information. Keynote speakers are doctors Henry Lee and Jerry Labriola on "Writing True Crime."