Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One of the reasons I enjoy watching TV shows like Project Runway and The Fashion Show is that I too used to design my own clothes. I learned pattern drafting from a Japanese tailor when I lived in Okinawa years ago. Another reason is that the critique sessions by top designers remind me a lot about the writing process. The aspiring designers selected on the show create their own designs according to the criteria they are provided. They compete with one another and after every runway show, a designer is eliminated. By show’s end, there is only one designer left. The process of creating something out of a piece of material (much like a writer creating something on a blank canvas) is intriguing.

What I find most interesting are the critiques offered by top designers in the field. Their comments include all the elements that apply to the writing process. Phrases and words such as vision, point of view, passion, emotion, editing, movement, communication, and thinking outside the box. One top designer voiced the following to one of the competitors. “You’ve written lots of wonderful chapters, but my concern is that at the end of the story, you have lost the storyline.” Wow. It’s all about creativity, passion, and commitment. Like I said, much like the writing process.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I am reading a book about the art and craft of storytelling. I am halfway through it and already I am getting my money’s worth. Besides the regular advice about structure, etc., this book mentions “throughline.” As in what is the primary throughline of the story. It uses the analogy of the children’s book, The Little Engine That Could. As we read the story, the little engine has a goal. We’re right there as the little engine faces obstacles on the way. There are shifts along the way, but the little engine never loses focus of its goal. That is how we need to write our stories, always focusing on the goal, the end result. According to the author of this book, there will be detours along the way, “where the threadline threads intersect. Once you’ve fixed your focus on the throughlines, you can use them to power the plot throughout your story.” Who is the author and the book? The book is titled, The Art and Craft of Storytelling: A Comprehensive Guide to Classic Writing Techniques, by Nancy Lamb. Excellent book.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The other night I attended a writer friend’s book signing. Her book got a great review in our local paper. We are in the same writer’s club. That is what is so special about belonging to such a group. Months before a book comes out, the other writers in the club already know about it and are anticipating its publishing date and arrival at bookstores. We show up in force at a member’s booksigning.

While she was reading excerpts from her book, an idea sparked in my mind. I quickly wrote it down in a small journal I always carry. Later, I typed up what I had written and, hopefully, it will be the beginning of a story. You never know when the muse is going to strike. Sometimes when you least expect it, you get inspired. Be ready. Don’t disregard it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An image of a Spanish mission in Texas seen through a rock window.

A while back, I bought a book titled, For Writers Only (Ballentine Books). The author is Sophy Burham. I found it extremely interesting and enjoyable because it contained thoughts and experiences of famous writers about the writing process. This book does not offer writing tips. What it does offer are emotions that many writers experience while in the writing process. From nerves about getting started to finding joy in the art of writing. There are chapters on how these writers discipline themselves to write, how they know when to let go of the story, how they make time for their personal lives, the aloneness of writing, writer's block, rewriting, rejection and getting published. Also included is a chapter on how some writers dealt with depression, alcohol, jealousy, etc., and still produced great writing.

Most of us are not famous writers, but I think we can relate to many of the emotions these very famous writers experienced. Have a pleasant writing day. Be good to yourself.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Reader's journal

A Texas rooster at my friend's house.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine gifted me with a reader's journal. I love it because for each book you read, it's got a place for the title, author, publisher, genre, date read, and comments. I am amazed at how many books I've read already. Had I not been keeping record, I would have thought I never read that much.

What's also interesting is going back and reading the remarks/comments I made about each book I read at that time. Comments like words flowed beautifully, dialogue believable or witty, great metaphors, descriptive details, setting very visual, character well developed, story has spirit, and so on. Then I also have other comments like this book was boring, couldn't get through the first chapter, too much narrative, not enough dialogue, too many names to remember, and so on. You get the picture.

My point here is that by reading like a writer, you get a feel for other writers' style of writing. You don't want to copy their style, of course, but you do want to see what works and what doesn't for you. The more you write, the more you're developing your own unique style. And that's what it's all about.