Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Writing Like Nicholas Sparks

I wish I could write love stories the way Nicholas Sparks writes them. I've only read one of his books, the one about the teenage girl at the beach and her stained-glass artist father. I enjoyed it. But I see all his books lined up at the bookstore, and thumb through them, and read their synopses, and I truly wish I could write like that. I've been doing this same thing for years now. But, for some reason, it doesn't happen. Those kinds of ideas just don't arise for me.

I don't think I envy Mr Sparks. Envy is a sick thing, a deadly sin per the Catholic Church. But I do admire him and his achievements. He seems like the nicest man in the world. He profusely thinks everyone he's associated with. He seems to be a devoted family man. He achieved success at an early age. I presume he's doing what he loves. Isn't this what most of us want in life? Why is it so elusive for most of us. What's missing? Is it just a matter of I.Q. and hard work? Is it a matter of love? Is it a matter of talent?

So many questions, so few answers. Still, I wish I could write love stories the way Nicholas Sparks writes them.

Is there a writer you feel similarly about? I'd like to think I'm not the only one.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Writing and Drawing "In The Zone"

I'm nearing the end of my first course in drawing. Yesterday, I did something I hadn't done before except in a sketch book. I did a drawing en plein aire. I took my easel, flimsy as it is, and my large drawing pad and other supplies to a cemetery and drew a picture of the trees and tombstones and vases of flowers. Being the first time, it was enchanting indeed. In fact, after a while, I realized I was in a zone, a drawing zone. I was so wrapped up in drawing, time was not a factor. The goings on around me were not a factor. I was one with my craft.

That got me to thinking about writing. Do you ever get in a zone? Do you ever become so at-one with your writing that you zone out on everything else? The writing flows, writes itself, and you're just a medium for putting words on paper.

This is a quality of all creative work, I think--zoning out. The idea of being in a zone is not original with me. I've read a book on writing that talks about getting in a zone, the way basketball players get in a zone and they hit every shot. I did a Google search for writing in a zone and found a couple of websites incorporating the word: readwritezone and buffys write zone. I'm sure musicians and potters and painters and computer program designers and, well, almost anyone in any type of work can get into a zone.

And what occurs to me is that it is almost a spiritual experience. What do you think about all of this?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

I'm in one of those places I don't like being in, trying to decide what to do next. That is, what to work on next. I've decided to shelve my two WIPs for now. I've worked on them so much, I'm too close to them and, frankly, kind of tired of them. I want to move on to something new. But what?

I'm looking into some kind of genre writing. Serious fiction just doesn't sell. While I write for more reasons than to try to make money--I do enjoy writing for it's own sake--I also want to see my work published and read by a decent number of people. It's a lonely occupation. Having a book purchased and read by more than one or two people, I mean, maybe by thousands or hundreds of thousands of people is a kind of group hug. I'm sure it gives a writer a warm feeling knowing people enjoy his work and respect it enough to keep up with his publications. It's a warm feeling if even one person does, so it must be exponentially warming if more people do.

Of course, a writer has to earn it. There's no easy way that I know of. It only looks easy. It ain't. Not for me, at least.

So, what to do next? I'm reading books on writing in different genres. I'm trying to apply some stories I've already thought about to the genres they seem to belong to, and see if I can come up with something. It's a tough assignment. My previous plots don't fall easily into any specific genre. I may have to try to create something brand new (from my point of view). I've been reading about plotting from fairy tales, Bible stories, mythology, and other subjects trying to discover what interests me. I've hit on a couple of things, but not strongly enough to wrap me up, at this point.

Perhaps solving this dilemma is one of the reasons writing is such a challenge, and so rewarding. Hitting upon something that works is exciting.

Is this something you struggle with? If you already have your genre chosen, how does it feel, and how do you come up with new plots, characters, etc.?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mormon Writers

I recently did a post about Mormon writers. I have since come across this website:  Mormon Artist in case you're interested.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Plotting from previous plots

I've been reading a couple of books about plotting novels/stories. These books say basically that there are no original plots, only old plots reworked over and over again. The authors claim that many of the current best sellers are based on plots already in existence, taken from all sorts of sources--the Bible, mythology, previously written novels, Shakespeare's plays, and so forth. The novelists just dresses them up differently, maybe giving them a new spin. The authors seem to claim that even if we do not consciously use old plots, we do so unconsciously.

I have never consciously used previous plots to plot my novels. But I am leaning toward trying it. In fact, I am trying to construct a novel now based on Master Plot #3: Pursuit from 20 Master Plots and how to build them by Ronald B. Tobias. I'm trying to combine it (not yet successfully) with Master Plot #4: Rescue from the same book. I am trying to follow the Planner/Plotter model as opposed to the Pantser/Discovery model. (I've always been a pantser.) In other words, I'm attempting to plot out the entire novel before I start writing it. There is no time limit for getting it done. I'm just thinking and writing possible scenarios, hoping I'll hit on an exciting plot. Once I've worked it out, I'll begin writing.

This is difficult work for me. It doesn't seem natural. But I can see the value in it. I think I can also see how doing this might make it easier to write the query letter, the synopsis, and the pitch. Anyway, I'm giving it a try.

How about you? Have you consciously used existing plots as the basis of your stories? And, if you have, how has it turned out for you? I'll let you know how it turns out for me as time goes along.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

To Publish or Not To Publish? That is the question.

I've been writing a series of books for about ten or twelve years now (and the book that actually is the first in the series, and spawned the others, was written back in 1974, the first year of my marriage). Of course, I've been unsuccessful in getting an agent, and have begun self-publishing. The first one is already self-published (Only The Lonely). It has some formatting problems that I need to fix, and my plan is to try again to do that before long. I have two more books in the series that are basically finished. Here's what I'm dealing with, and I'm seeking some advice.

The books are pretty well written. But there is one problem with both of them. According to people who've read them, they're a bit boring in places. One of them, my wife said she would have stopped reading after the first couple of pages. Obviously, this concerns me. I don't want to publish books that are in the least bit boring. Yet, to fix the boring parts would be another round of revisions and having people read them again, and who knows what that might lead to. So, I'm contemplating just trying to fix them up a bit. Try to fix the boring parts without re-writing the entire books, adding new plot elements, etc., and taking another one or two years to try finishing them, or just publish them as they are, boring parts and all.

I have a third book in the series I'm revising now. When I publish it, that will give me three novels and a novella in the series. And there are potentially many more stories in the series.

I want to move on to newer things, whether within the series or completely new work.

Should I publish them as they are, boring parts and all, and move on? Or, should I go through another round of revisions? Another round of revisions is no guarantee they'll be better, and might lead to even more revisions.

While I'm in good health, I am turning 66 soon. I'm eager to write well and write as exciting stories as possible. How long do you labor over the same thing, with no guarantee it's going to get any better, or perhaps only marginally better? And not everything every writter has ever written was a masterpiece. Poets write thousands of poems to get to maybe a handful of great ones.

So, what to do? I'd like to hear your opinion.