Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Published Means Perfect, Right?: Dialogue Failure

Recently while reading one of Lillian Jackson Braun's great books, The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare, I stumbled upon an error that I believe can be a very instructive example. Read this short piece of dialogue between the two characters and see if you recognize the the odd error.

"Jody thinks it would help if I grew a beard." [Junior]
"Not a bad idea! Your girl comes up with some good ones." [Qwilleran]
"My grandmother says I'd look like one of the Seven Dwarfs."
"Your grandmother sounds like a sweet person, Junior."
"Grandma Gage is a character! My mother's mother, you know. You must have seen her around town. She drives a Mercedes and honks the horn at every intersection."

I am not talking about the the use of two exclamation points, though that is somewhat of a problem.

I am talking about the line where Qwilleran says, "Your grandmother sounds like a sweet person, Junior." That makes no sense in the context of what Junior said. It also does not logically lead to the next line where Junior says his grandmother is a character.
Qwilleran should've said that the grandmother sounds like an interesting, funny or astute person, but sweet does not fit here.

I know the error is small, but it distracts. It distracted me enough that I stopped reading and re-parsed the sentence.

Authors who've published 20 novels can afford errors like these, but those of us who are looking to get published cannot. Yes, that's how closely we have to edit our stuff.
It's crazy, but it's the writer's life.
What do you think about it?

~Newton Saber

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Writing Tools and Processes: Jumpstart Your Writing

In the next few blog entries I will provide an overview of numerous tools and processes you can immediately employ to make your writing better and/or more voluminous.

My Challenge
My challenge is to introduce them to you and spark your interest, without overwhelming you and creating extremely long entries.

More Details
If you find you want more detail, subsequent entries along with my other blogs will describe these processes further and provide concrete examples.

Encouraging Dialogue
I'm hoping that while reading about one or more of the processes you'll become stimulated to respond (either positively or negatively). Please take advantage of my blog to post intelligent responses which detail why you agree or disagree.

Here's the entire list of tools to give you a quick idea of what upcoming entries will cover.
This time I'll cover the first one (in bold red text).

Tool / Process List
movie-screen of the mind
2. stimulus / response writing (action / reaction)
3. what do I show?
4. shadow-copy
5. lose the journal - no more practice writing / warm ups
6. describe to the Nth. It'll draw you in -- specificity practice
7. character studies
8. topic saturation
9. Learn from bits
10. LBD
11. MAR

Step 1 of the Writing Process: Imagine
Do not write anything until you see it happening.
Become a journalist who witnesses the events as they occur. Yes, I'm talking about fiction.

I'm talking about seeing the scene play out upon the movie-screen of your mind. Once you see it, you write down what you see.

How To See
Try this exercise: Take a moment to imagine a fight between two men.

Do you see it? Wait until you do.

At First, It's Just a Phrase
At first, a fight between two men, is just a phrase, just an abstract concept. Readers do not like to read about abstract concepts. Readers want to follow characters. They want to see those characters take action and see what happens.

The Writer Must See More, So the Reader Can See More
However, if the writer doesn't see more, the words will not transform into images for the reader. Allow the words to transform into images in your mind. To do that you'll need to think in detail.

To Think In Detail, Ask Questions
To think in detail, you must ask yourself questions.
Ask and answer every question possible.

Some Possible Questions For Our Scene
What is the one man saying to the other? What do they look like? Is one overcoming the other. Is it a fair match?

Allow the scene to play out before you.

Start Here
Start with seeing the tall man punch the shorter man in the jaw. The tall man says, "I hope you liked that, Keith. Because there's more where that came from."

Beginning to See?
Can you see that? Now, what is the next logical thing to happen?

Decide, imagine, then, and only then, write it.

Stimulus / Response Coming
I hoped to also cover Stimulus / Response during this entry, since it is closely related and the next logical step when writing. However, since this entry is getting so long I'll go over that tomorrow.
See you then.

Keep on learning, keep on writing.
~Newton Saber

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mentoring Yourself : Is It Possible?

But, how does the Writer's Invisible Mentor (WIM) teach you to mentor yourself? Is it possible? Is it possible for this blog to guide you so you can learn not only to write well, but know that you are writing well and recognize when you're writing is not great? Can the WIM then guide you through fixing your writing? Is it possible?
Can you really learn to write from books / blogs?
The answer to all these questions is, yes.

Not only can you learn to write from books, but you must learn to write from books. You must learn to evaluate your own writing as if it is someone else's and then implement the changes that make your writing better. For only you really know what form your writing should take. You cannot depend upon others and you should not. Your writing is your voice, your expression, your art. If it is not that, then you may as well chuck it all now.

How Will This Blog Fulfill the Goal?

WIM Foundations
The Writer's Invisible Mentor is entirely founded upon two main principles:
1. Learn By Doing (LBD)
2. Mind At Rest (MAR)

Let's talk for a moment about Learn By Doing, because that will lead us into an understanding of how important mentorship is to writers.

Learn By Doing (LBD)
To learn to write, you must write.
There are two reasons that statement has become a cliché within writing circles:
1. It's true
2. It's important

However, no matter how true and important the statement may be, if you cannot judge between great writing and terrible writing, then filling the world with your journals will not necessarily make you a great writer.

Balanced Evaluation of Your Work
There has to be a balanced evaluation of your work. Without a balanced evaluation, your writing will not change. If your writing never changes, then you will not grow as a writer. If you do not grow as a writer you'll be relegated to scribbling in notebooks and writing blog entries that are never read. [Maybe I am a blog entry that is never read by anyone. ;-) ]

Must Understand Great Writing
To obtain a balanced evaluation of your writing, you must have two things:
1. healthy self esteem
2. writing tools, which allow you to recognize Great Writing

WIM Axioms
These two axioms come from another WIM belief that we'll touch upon much more in later blog entries. It states:
There are only two writing problems:
1. Emotional problems
2. Technical problems

Viewing Your(self) Work From a Distance
The kind of healthy self esteem I'm talking about here is the ability to view yourself and your work from a distance. You must be able to view it as if someone else wrote it. You must be able to separate the work from who you are. If you are unable to do that, unless you are a literary genius -- and maybe even if you are -- two things are going to happen:
1. You are going to become very bitter.
2. You're writing is going to stagnate

If you fight for every word you write, you are going to turn inward and become bitter. If you become bitter, you are not going to allow your work to change and if you do not change you will not grow and you'll never become a great writer.

Invested Time Often Equals Love
When you spend 15 or 20 hours writing a chapter of your novel or a scene from your short story, you are going to become attached to your work.
I know, because I've done it too.

Determine right now that just because you've spent a lot of time writing the chapter or story you will not allow yourself to become so attached to it that you will not change it, unless... Unless you truly determine that it is Great Writing.

But, what is Great Writing? Is it even possible to define great writing?

WIM Defines Great Writing
The WIM defines Great Writing with two simple statements:
1. Clear writing
2. Writing that works for the situation -- Please see Gary Provost's book, Make Your Words Work.

Clear Writing
Clear writing is easy to define. Clear writing is writing that your readers understand. They get your point. The words transform from words on the page, into images in their minds.

Writing That Works
How do we define writing that works? How can you tell if the writing works for the situation? Don't you need a Great Writing Master to tell you what works?

No...and yes. You do not need someone else to tell you when or if your writing is great.

Instead, you need to learn to use some common tools that will allow you to evaulate your own writing, so that you become the Great Writing Master of your own kingdom. You will know when your writing is great and when it is falling short. That's the power of the guidance that the Writer's Invisible Mentor provides. It's empowerment to each writer.

But, since this entry is far too long already, you'll have to join me next time when we'll explore in more detail what those tools are and how you'll learn to use them.

Yes, I know we have only touched upon LBD (Learn By Doing) and we still need to discuss MAR (Mind At Rest). Next time we should finish up with LBD and explain MAR.
See you then.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Reality of a Mentor

The Reality of a Mentor
Let's talk about mentoring for a moment. Take a look at the word, mentor. Such a simple little word. Just six letters long and two syllables. It's like a three-pound bag stuffed with six pounds of gold. The word carries more meaning than its strict definition can hold.

For us dreamers who have always watched the horizon hoping our mentor would appear, the word is more than just letters on paper. It's a visceral reaction. It's the lump in the throat, ready to scream. It's the heart banging on the walls of the chest. You think I'm good enough? You want to be my mentor?

Or, it's a punch in the stomach. Oh, you don't want to be my mentor?
The sad truth; most of us will never obtain a real mentor. Even though the concept is a great one, it can be difficult to pull off. Consider all of the requirements.

Finding a Mentor
First of all, simply finding a mentor isn't going to be easy. How many people do you know who are published authors of novels? Most people probably can't name one published author among their acquaintances.

Time Problem
But, let's just suppose you do know three people who have published novels.
Would any of them have the time to mentor someone? It's very possible that since they are writing their own books, they do not have any extra time to mentor.

Prove Your Talent
However, let us also assume that one of them is very generous and decides she would like to mentor you, if you prove to have some literary talent. How would you go about proving that you have the literary talent she is expecting?

Summary, Chapter, Outline
You could show her your novel summary, chapter outline and one sample chapter.
You do have a novel summary, chapter outline and a sample chapter don't you?
Well, again, let's suppose you do. You have to provide her with some kind of sample so she can get an idea where you are with your writing ability.

Does Genre Matter
However, what if she is a mystery writer and you are a mainstream writer? Could her advice even be worthwhile?

You decide to take a chance and submit your work to her. With all of her other responsibilities, it takes her two weeks to read your sample and analyze it.

She comes back to you with a copy that has so many red marks and notes on it that the original text is barely visible.

She sits down and drinks a cup of coffee as you read her comments.

Your Mentor's Comments
You read comments like:
Slow Beginning, cut shorter. Switched POV. Write scene with one viewpoint character. Poor characterization. Show, don't tell. Too much narrative. Dialogue doesn't move story forward. Secondary characters take up too much space. Description slows pace too much. Scene ends abruptly and distorts pace. No conflict at the end of the scene. Why should readers continue reading?

Your grip tightens on the manuscript and you can feel your pulse in your fingers. Your face is hot and your jaw is clenched.

You turn toward your mentor, she smiles and says, “You are not an entirely ignorant writer, but you've got a lot to work on.”

It takes all of your will power not to jump across the room and throw her coffee into her face.

Instead you smile politely and say, “Uh, well, I'll consider your remarks and all. I've actually got a bunch of laundry to catch up on and I've got to get supper started. We'll try to get together real soon.”

“Oh,” she says and stands and then stares at you.

“Here's your coat,” you say. “See you again, some time.”

As you slam the door behind her, your mind fills. “What kind of idiot mystery writer is she anyway? She knows nothing of the pacing and the proper writing that a mainstream writer has to do. Obviously she is published by some hack company. Who needs her. Good riddance.” You turn to your paper shredder and force the all of the pages in at once.

Is Finding a Mentor Just a Dream?
These are the many reasons why you may romanticize about having a mentor, but making it a reality may be near impossible.

This is why you must learn to mentor yourself. But, how do you do that? Is it possible to mentor yourself?

That's where The WIM comes in.
See you next time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Writing Books and Dieting Books, Similar

Writing Books and Dieting Books, Similar
Have you ever noticed the similarities between dieting books and books that teach writing? Every diet book declares it contains the ultimate solution. Same thing with writing books.

Dieting books ride a wave of fad that ends up crashing on the beach of reality. The authors of many dieting books have successfully lost hundreds of pounds and for a time the media pushes the person and their method to the forefront. Buzz fills the air. Then, the person and their magic diet plan fall off the radar, only to be replaced by someone else. Books that teach you how to write fiction are often similar.

Do some people actually succeed by following the advice contained in diet books? Sure they do. But does everyone succeed with the same plan? Of course not. Same thing with writing books. Why is that?

It's because both dieting and writing are very personal and each person has to find what works for his individual needs.

Does this mean the perennial list of diet books and writing books contain nothing of value? Certainly not. Most of these books do contain the seeds of important solutions.

However, the problem is that most authors of these books attempt to convince you that they are the final word on the subject.

Learning to Write Is Much Bigger Than One Book
That's how I, along with the Writer's Invisible Mentor (WIM), set myself apart from other authors. Instead of convincing you that I am the final authority on writing fiction, I show you how to become the final authority of your own writing. That's the only thing that will bring you true success.

Lifestyle Trumps Magic Solutions
It is only when a person finally learns to create his or her own lifestyle (whether it be dieting or writing) that he or she becomes totally successful. It's freedom. Freedom to live her own life, eating the foods that form a healthy lifestyle, creating the works of literature that details her unique point of view.
That's transformation. An internal change occurs and the person is no longer following a diet or writing the way some book tells her. Instead she attains a completeness that changes her into what she has always been.

It is the same thing with writing. When a writer finally learns the techniques that work for her, then the author is free to create works that become successful. The person finally becomes a writer. The transfomration occurs. After all, do you believe that John Grisham, James Patterson or Sue Grafton have to ask others for advice on how well they were writing? Do you believe that F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway or Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote what they thought others wanted them to write?
Of course not.

What It's All About
That's what the Writer's Invisible Mentor does for you. It teaches you to mentor yourself. But, why would it even be necessary to mentor yourself? Why not find a real mentor?

That's a great question, which we'll take up in my next blog entry.
See you next time.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How the Writer's Invisible Mentor Can Help You

Attempting a Convincing Argument
In order to convince you that The Writer's Invisible Mentor (WIM) works, there are a few things I need to do. So, first I'll give you an idea of how the next few blog entries will attempt to do that. To show that my method works I will need to do the following things:

1. Convince you that every writer needs a mentor.
2. Talk about the reality of obtaining a real mentor.
3. Describe why all writers must learn to mentor themselves.
4. Detail how The Writer's Invisible Mentor(WIM) will guide all writers into mentoring themselves.
5. Convince you that mentoring yourself is the next, greatest and final leap that must be made to become a professional author.
6. Explain how the WIM defines great writing.
7. Describe what mentoring yourself will look like
8. Provide the specifics of how the entire plan works.
9. Tell you who I am. Why should you listen to me, if you've never heard of me?
10. Tell you who this blog will work for. What are the author's expectations of the book's readers?

Nothing To Lose
I aim to show you I can keep my promises. That's what these introductory blog entries are all about. So how about it? What have you got to lose? These entries are only so long and they're free. If I can't convince you that the Writer's Invisible Mentor can change your writing life, then you stop reading the blog you've only lost the few minutes it took to read it each day.

Big Gains
However, if I do convince you, then you gain knowledge that helps your writing grow like it never has.

The Alternative : If I'm Wrong
What if I am wrong? What if it is not possible to learn to write from books? Well, that would mean that there is an entire portion of the publishing industry built upon teaching people to write which is completely bogus.

If it is not possible to learn to write by reading books about writing, then all the publishers of the world who print such books should be shut down and all the books they've printed dumped into the *Mariana Trench.

*Deepest part of all the Earth's oceans – Located in the Pacific Ocean.

Maybe you're still not convinced. Maybe you've read a few of the terrible books about writing that are out there and you're a bit jaded.

I understand those feelings and they bring us to two things which are required to learn to write from books.
1.You must read the right books.
2.You must learn to mentor yourself.

In this blog entry let's just talk a bit about what the right books are. In my next entry we'll talk about the core of mentoring and the importance of learning how to mentor yourself.

The Right Books?
What are the right books? This is one of the places where the Writer's Invisible Mentor has a lot to offer. I have read and surveyed a large number of how to write books and I will point you toward the best parts of those books, which support my writing theories. Again, it's like a greatest hits list for writers who want to learn to write better.

Teaching At the Wrong Level
One of the main problems with many writing books is that they teach at the wrong level. They teach external exercises in an attempt at transformation.

The right books are the ones that teach writing techniques which change you internally as a writer, not only externally.

Internal Versus External Changes
What does internal mean and why does it matter? Internal means you gain knowledge which transforms your writing mind so that you no longer wonder whether your writing is good or not. Please note that I am not implying that you'll never write poorly again. I am saying that you'll know when you do. More than simply knowing when you do, you'll know why your writing isn't working and how to fix it.

Analyze Your Own Writing
After learning the techniques contained within the Writer's Invisible Mentor, you will be able to analyze your writing with a specific purpose. However, please understand this blog is not only about learning to analyze your writing. It is far more than that. That's why this book will help you transform yourself into a professional writer.

That brings us back to number two, from the list above.

You Must Learn to Mentor Yourself
Even though we'll delve much further into what it means to mentor yourself and how it is done, an initial explanation can be readily seen by comparing writing books to dieting books.

However, since this entry is becoming extremely long, we'll move on to this lesson next time.
See you tomorrow...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What's This Blog About?

What's This Blog About? posted: 07/10/2010

Change Your Writing Life
When a reader picks up a book about writing (or reads a blog about writing), he wants one thing: To change his writing life.

That's what the Writer's Invisible Mentor (WIM) will help you do: Change your writing life. That may sound like a lofty goal and you may wonder if it is possible for a blog to help you do that.

Furthermore, isn't it terribly arrogant of me to make such a statement? It might be if I were to say it was all me. But this blog is more than just this blog. What do I mean by that?

How-to Greatest Hits
This book is more because it describes specific solutions and guides the reader through learning to write better fiction, but it also points the reader to the places where other authors have also written on these subjects.

Answering the Main Question
This brings us to one of the main questions that this book answers. It is the main question I set out to answer during my own quest.

Is It Possible To Learn To Write From Books?

This book answers the question: Is it possible to learn to write great fictional works by reading how-to-write books?

There are quite a few related questions such as the following:

  1. What are the details of a great fictional work? How do you measure it?

  2. Is it possible to learn to write from books and experience alone?

  3. Is it possible to learn to mentor yourself?

  4. Is it possible to learn how to allow books to mentor you?

Of course, I am suggesting all of these things are possible and The Writer's Invisible Mentor (WIM) will prove they are as it progresses.

There I go again with those strong statements.

Author's Promise
Now, I'll raise the ante again. If you'll stick with me and complete this chapter, I believe you'll be convinced that all of these things and more are possible. I'll also convince you that The Writer's Invisible Mentor (WIM) is the blog that will guide you into these possibilities. I promise the WIM will help you discover some truths about writing fiction, explained in new ways, that will open your eyes and enable you to make the leap from beginning, good, moderate or even great writer to professional writer.

Whew. I'm making a lot of promises. What you want to know is whether or not I can deliver.

Promises are like babies: easy to make, hard to deliver.

To find that out, you'll have to come back for the next few posts, because this is already way too long for a blog post. See you next time when I'll:

1. Describe the Invisible Mentor philosophy
2. Detail exactly how the method works.