Searching for a Blog Identity

The best blogs are those with a single focus, or so they say. At the beginning, I blogged about my efforts to get published. When my books were accepted for publishing and before they were released, I concentrated on having guest bloggers. After my books were published, I blogged about writing, promotion, and the progress of my current works (or rather the lack of progress). Then, about a year ago, my soul mate died, and this blog developed a dual personality — the almost dry articles about books and writing and the very wet and weepy articles about grief.

Now I need to decide where I want to go with this blog, to figure out what I want to say. Grief is still a part of my life and will be for some time to come, but I don’t want to be that woman — the one who hugs her sorrow and doesn’t seem to be able to move on. (To a great extent I have moved on. Only you and I know how much I still hurt.) Nor do I want to go back to focusing solely on writing and other literary matters. I’m not sure I have anything to say that hasn’t been said a thousand times before by people far more literate (and interesting) than I.

Even more than having a single focus, the best blogs are written by those who have a unique slant on a subject, who write what only they can write, who chronicle life’s journey in such a manner that the ordinary becomes extraordinary. But . . . it isn’t necessary to be a great blogger to get the benefits of keeping a web log.

In the past couple of years I’ve developed an interest in photography. I have a separate blog for photos — Wayword Wind — and I joined 365 Project, committing to taking a photo every day for a year. This project has helped to turn my focus outward. While walking, I tend to let my mind wander, and it generally wanders to what (or rather who) I have lost, so searching for that special image each day makes me more alert to my surroundings, to what is rather than what is not.

In the same way, blogging helps concentrate my thoughts, makes me more alert to my inner surroundings. Sometimes it seems as if I’m too full of myself, my posts a bit too pedantic, and yet it’s all part of my journey. Like this blog, I seem always to be in a state of flux, searching for some sort of identity . . .  or at least a focus.

If I ever find where I’m going, either with my life or with this blog, I’ll let you know.

Where Do You Insert Dialogue?

Someone asked me where they should insert dialogue into the novel they were writing. I went blank for a moment, unable to comprehend the question. Insert dialogue? To a great extent, dialogue is the story.  The most personal way people interact is by dialogue, and a story is or should be about people interacting,  about relationships. Even  action-oriented stories come down to a basic relationship: the hero vs the villain. 

A better question might be where to insert exposition, but even that is a specious question. Nothing in a novel should be inserted. Each element should flow one into the other, making a cohesive whole. I’ve heard people say that they’ve finished writing their novel, now all they have left is to go back and insert the symbolism. If you have to insert something for the sake of inserting it, it’s better to leave it out. Symbols, like other elements should flow out of the story. 

Novels need to balanced. Dialogue interspersed with exposition or action makes for a more interesting story than dialogue or exposition or action alone. A novel that is mostly dialogue seems lightweight; a novel with too much exposition feels heavy-handed; a novel that is all action gets boring after a while. 

One way to make sure the elements flow together is to know what you are trying to accomplish. What kind of story are you writing? What is your story goal? What is your premise? What is the core conflict? Once you know the core of your story, you can make sure every element connects to it. Sometimes you won’t know the core until you’ve finished the first draft. In which case, just write, let the words flow out of you and into the story. Then, when the draft is finished, read it to see what you have. Do any themes jump out at you? What is the gist of the story (the core conflict)? How can you use the various story elements help you bring out that conflict? Does every action have a reaction? Does every reaction have a cause? Which element will bring the conflict into sharper focus? If a particular conflict is a physical one, then action interspersed with terse comments is best. If a particular conflict is personal, then dialogue interspersed with bits of action is best. 

Where to insert dialogue, then, is not the real question. The real question is what do you want to say, and how do you want to say it?

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