The Best Thing About Writing Fiction

This morning, author Lazarus Barnhill posted an article on the Second Wind Blog about why he writes fiction. He wrote:

”When you write about a controversial issue, you don’t have to make it the center of your story to express it fully.  You just work it in.  For instance, when I wrote The Medicine People, I dealt a lot with the quiet underlying bigotry Native Americans and Western European descendants still harbor for one another but never express out loud.  And while it was essential to the story, it didn’t overwhelm the novel.  Stories have the power to make an issue live in the mind of the reader the way a speech never can.

“And the best thing about being a fiction writer is, you don’t have to brag to get your point across.  The best writer is one whose reader gets absolutely lost in the narrative.”

When I began writing, I had a lot to say about the way we are manipulated to suit the needs of big business and big government, and that theme underlies my first four novels. Though that theme was important to me, I tried to make the story even more important so as not to overwhelm the readers. I used up that theme, so I don’t know what I want to say in my future books, which is perhaps why I haven’t been able to write — I don’t know what I want to say, or rather, why I want to say it. I tried to write a story simply for the story’s sake, but that manuscript is stalled halfway through. I do have a theme for that — freedom vs. security vs. responsibility — but the book is not a thriller, has no mystery, is more of an apocalyptic allegory, which is something I would never read, so I don’t imagine anyone else would want to either. The point being, I write fiction because . . . Apparently I have no reason since I am not writing fiction at the moment. 

So, why do you write fiction? What is the best about being a fiction writer? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing? How do you make sure readers get lost in your fiction?

Let’s talk.

The group No Whine, Just Champagne will meet for a live discussion about writing and the writing life on Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 9:00pm ET. I hope you will stop by — it would be nice to see you. You can find the discussion by clicking here. If you can’t chat live, we can chat on this blog.

Live Chat About Writing

I have a chat group on Gather.com that meets  on Thursday at 9:00pm ET. This week (April 8, 2010) we will be meeting here: No Whine, Just Champagne Writing Discussion #105.

I missed the discussions the past couple of weeks. I always enjoy talking about writing even if I’m not actively involved in the pursuit of words, perfect or otherwise.

So, let’s talk. If you can’t attend the live discussion, feel free to discuss your writing here. As I said, I always enjoy talking about writing.

What have you been writing recently? If you haven’t been writing, what are you planning to write? How do the traumas or dramas of life affect your writing? Do make time to write regardless of the horrors life throws at you? Do you find comfort in writing, or does your make-believe world seem trivial in the face of real life traumas? How do you motivate yourself to write in such times, or do you just  . . . not write?  

Live Chat and Dead Darlings

This seems to be a slow weekend here on the Internet. I can never figure out where people disappear to or why. What could possibly be more fascinating than roaming cyberspace? :) I realize in some places the weather is too nice to stay inside, in other places it’s too nasty to do anything online. Many writers are involved in National Novel Writing Month. Many others are busy procrastinating. And me . . . well, here I am, still virtually book touring.

Today’s stops:

Beth’s Book Review Blog – Reading Fiction to Make Sense of Life’s Disorder

Writer’s Sanctuary –- Passion and Puzzles

Facebook — Live Chat: Fate, Writing, and the Power of Three

Dragon My Feet — Dead Darling From Daughter Am I 

The Dead Darling stop is actually yesterday’s but I liked the parallelism of live chat and dead darling. Speaking of the live chat — it will be tonight at 8:00pm ET on Facebook. You should be able to follow the chat without belonging to the Second Wind Publishing group, but if you wish to participate, you will need to join. I hope you do. I’d enjoy discussing writing and the writing life with you.

DAIClick here to buy Daughter Am I from Second Wind Publishing, LLC. 

Click here to buy Daughter Am I from Amazon.

Click here to download 30% of Daughter Am I free from Smashwords.

Click here to read the first chapter of Daughter Am I.

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Words of Healing, Words of Fun

Tonight is No Whine, Just Champagne, my live discussion on Gather.com, and the host of the discussion chose to discuss — among other writing concerns — jingles, verses, word play, greeting card sentiments. It should be fun — I tend to take writing too seriously, but my love of writing started with a love of playing with words. Long before I started writing novels, I wrote snippets of poetry. I’d spend hours looking for the perfect word, for the perfect rhythm, the perfect innuendo. Some of those snippets fit nicely into tonight’s discussion, because they would make great greeting card sentiments . . . for a cynic. I’ve started posting these snippets on my Quantum (Uni)Verse blog, but here are a few that fit with tonight’s theme:

Quantum (Uni)Verse #1

I thought it was only a story
But now I find it’s true –
You smile at me and I’m happy;
You ignore me and I’m blue. 

Quantum (Uni)Verse #5

ours was no great love
but even so
whenever our eyes chanced to meet
we shared a sudden joy 

Quantum (Uni)Verse #18

of course
I want more
much much more
but even if I never saw you again
I’d still be content
with all that I’ve had
with everything you’ve given me 

Quantum (Uni)Verse #19

i want to tell you I love you
      but my heart gets all tongue-tied
              and the words just can’t get through . . .

It’s summertime, so let’s play . . . with words.

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Sun-Warmed Apricots and A Court of Western Kingbirds

July is almost over. I could ask where the time has gone, but I know the answer to that one — it passed me by while I was paying attention to other things. No, writing is not one of those things, unless you call sending dozens of emails and posting several blog articles writing. Of course, those are writings, and they are creative, it’s just not the sort of writing that adds pages to a manuscript.

So what have I been paying attention to? Starting a new blog for Second Wind Publishing, as if one isn’t enough! Posting to my own blog. Editing my final manuscript. Editing a great thriller written by another Second Wind author. Cleaning house. Oops. That’s not strictly a writing-related activity, but it is something I’ve been putting off and putting off for . . . let’s just say I’ve been putting it off for way too long so that I can participate in writing-related activities.

I’ve also spent too much time emailing and IMing friends I’ve met online. Can’t seem to get it through my head that just because I’m online, it doesn’t mean I’m being productive. But writing isn’t always about being productive. Sometimes it’s just about living. Replenishing the creative wells. Treating the senses.

I had a bit of a sensory treat today. I was standing in a small clearing, watering my trees and bushes (planted hundreds of them, turned this acre of land into a miniature forest), when I heard Western Kingbirds — a whole court of them — in the leaves a few feet above my head. Though I looked, I never caught a glimpse of a single bird, but I feel privileged to have participated in the aviary world for a few minutes.

Actually, I had two sensory treats. Several apricot trees planted themselves among the other trees, and this year they produced a bit of fruit. So as I was watering, I plucked one of the apricots, warm from the sun, and ate it. Truly a taste to remember.

Both these experiences will wind up in a one of my books, but those upcoming scenes wouldn’t exist if I had been writing and not experiencing.

So, what are your writing concerns? What writing activities have you been involved with this week? Did you have any successes, breakthroughs, realizations? How have you replenished your creative wells? Did you treat your senses?

Let’s talk.

The group No Whine, Just Champagne will meet here: No Whine, Just Champagne Discussion #75  for a live discussion about **** on July 23, 2009 at 9:00pm ET. I hope you will stop by. At least you cannot use the excuse that we don’t talk about what you want to talk about! If you can’t make it, we can have a discussion here — just leave a comment.

**** Insert your choice of topic here.

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No Whine, Just Champagne Writing Discussion

Another week of summer has passed since my chat group No Whine, Just Champagne last met. Don’t know whether to be glad the heat is going to be leaving us, or whether to be sorry that winter is creeping up. There. Now don’t you feel just a trifle cooler imagining the coming snow? Lately, I’ve been thinking about how writing is a way of playing with our readers, making them worry about the outcome of the story, making them think one thing is going to happen and surprising them with another, making them feel what you want them to feel. Words are powerful tools, and writing is a wonderful way to use one’s time.

I’m in the midst of editing my final manuscript which means that this winter I will have no good excuse not to get back to writing. I’m sure my poor hero will be thrilled. I can’t remember if he’s still feeling angry under a blood-gushing red sun, or if he’s feeling playful under an orange one. Either way, it’s long past time for me to do some creative writing. And, for the first time in a very long time, I’m looking forward to getting back to my story world. I have learned a lot in these many months of editing, and I know one thing — I will not make the mistake of using too many wases. It’s agonizing – and time consuming — to get rid of them.

I’m also at a standstill with promotion. Don’t know where to go from here, so it’s just as well I have all these manuscripts to edit. 

So, that’s where I am in my writing life. Where are you in yours? Do you have any writing concerns you’d like to talk about? Anything new, such as a different direction you’d like to take or a technique you’ve learned? How have you been manipulating your reader? Have you learned the secret of promotion?

Let’s talk.

The group No Whine, Just Champagne will meet at the group Discussion #74  for a live discussion about **** on July 16, 2009 at 9:00pm ET. I hope you will stop by. At least this time you cannot use the excuse that we don’t talk about what you want to talk about.

**** Insert your choice of topic here. 

If you can’t make it to the live discussion, post your comments here. I’m listening.

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Where Do We Go From Here?

I’m sure it won’t come as any surprise to those of you who follow my blog and my comments, but I am at a crossroads in my life. I’ve spent most of the past eight years learning to write, writing my four novels, studying the publishing industry, sending out query letters, dealing with hundreds of rejections, finally finding a publisher, preparing the books for publication, and then waiting for their release. Two of my novels have already been published and the other two will be published later this year — Daughter Am I in August and Light Bringer in November. Daughter Am I is in the proof stage right now, and I am doing the final edits of Light Bringer. (Have I mentioned how much I hate doing that? It’s the one phase of writing that I truly abhor — de-wasing the manuscript, getting rid of the justs and onlys, the ups and downs, and all the other extraneous words that only serve to dilute the story.)

Eventually though, the books will be put to rest — in readers’ hands, I hope. And then what? The overall theme for these four books has been public lies and hidden truths, but Light Bringer pulls it all together and kills the need to write any more on the topic. I do have another book in the works, which is about half finished. I thought I was writing a book about freedom vs. security, but it turns out that I write what I live, and so the book is really about change. Lots of changes. Perhaps the reason I haven’t been able to work on that particular manuscript is that I need to first rethink my journey as a writer and decide where to go from here.

Which brings me to tonight’s discussion. One thing I am rethinking is this group. Members come and go, though a few people have participated in most of the discussions. Considering the few participants recently, I’ve been wondering if I should disband the group, but the fact is, I still enjoy it. So, even if I end up monologuing, I will continue. But . . . should I restructure to make it more user friendly? Set it up at another time? Perhaps 7:30 to 8:30 pm ET? Change the focus of the discussions? We’ve talked about many different aspects of writing, but perhaps there are topics that you would like to discuss that we haven’t touched on. Perhaps you would like to post bits of writing for critiquing? (Though I have to tell you that I can’t really participate in such discussions — I no longer feel that I have the right to give my opinion about other people’s writing since I don’t follow the rules myself.) Also, I have become a bit self-conscious about asking people to host. It seems to be a bit of an imposition, especially since there are so few regulars. So do I continue doing that? Or do I post the discussions myself until someone volunteers?

Besides talking about where this group should go from here, let’s also talk about where we each will go from here. I know I’m not the only one at a crossroads. Some of you are getting published, others are doing the final revisions on their books or beginning the querying process. Still others are setting up new websites with a look to the future. Maybe together we can figure out the next step.

On Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 9:00 pm ET, the group No Whine, Just Champagne will discuss where we go from here, both as a group and as individuals. I hope you can make it. I’m interested in what you have to say. Everyone  is welcome to participate, and I hope you will!

Click here to join the live discussion: Where Do We Go From Here? If you prefer, you can leave your comments here on the blog. I would like to know where you are going.  

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Not Whining About “No Whine, Just Champagne”

Well, maybe I am whining a bit. I run a live chat group on Gather.com called No Whine, Just Champagne. We meet every Thursday at 9:00 pm ET for a live chat about writing. I have a few die hard members, but most of the original group has moved on to other activities. Some are still writing, but they don’t seem to have any interest in talking about it. Not that I blame them. I mean, after a while, what is there to say? You write or don’t. You try to better your craft or not. Either way, in the end, you can only write what is in you, and I’m not sure talking about it helps. Still, I enjoy the group, and I feel bad that it’s wasting away.

So, I am inviting you all to join the group. Actually, you don’t have to join the group to participate, though you do have to join Gather. Our discussion tomorrow will focus on where we want to go and what we want to accomplish as a group, and also where we want to go and what we want to accomplish as individuals. I hope you will stop by tomorrow night. Or tonight, depending on your time zone.

There are many writing discussions on the internet, but for sheer energy, you can’t beat a live discussion. So, please join us here: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

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Who Are Your Writing Influences?

During my No Whine, Just Champagne writing chat on Gather.com last night, we discussed our styles and who influenced us the most. I’d never really thought about it before, but if anyone influenced me, it would probably be Taylor Caldwell for two vastly different reasons. One, I like books that tell of unknown events or show history in a different light or speak of real life conspiracies, and she did that very well. Two, she had an execrable style (in one book I swear she used the word inexorable on every other page. About drove me nuts.) which taught me to pay attention to what I want to say, don’t duplicate words or effects, and write shorter books.

As fellow Nowhiner, Sia McKye wrote, “I liked some of her story premises, but damn, I swear that woman could spend 15 pages describing the turning of a leaf, or a field. sheesh. You could condense her story by 40% and not lose the story, just the extra stuff.” Amen to that. So, I have tried to tell interesting stories with an historical/conspiratorial slant, and while I do put in a bit of historical background, I do not spend pages describing leaves. Nor have I ever used the word inexorable. Okay, once as a private joke, but that’s all.

Another Nowhiner, one of the best style mimics I ever came across, posted the following piece:

I would have to say that there is nothing in life sweeter than partaking of a nice piece of cheesecake at the Broadway Deli, saying hello to the dames as they walk by, talking with my friends from the track, and reading Damon Runyon, whose style is unique among mortals.

Or Hemingway. I read him in college. He was good.

Elmore Leonard walked into my living room with a large suitcase, a gun and an attitude. “Whats up” I asked him. He didn’t answer or smile, before he shot me through the heart. Now there is some style, I thought just before I died.

Ann Tyler, invited me to her large house in Baltimore, and allowed me to sit in her parlor, while she continued her often interrupted monologue with Silky, the cat who had belonged to her first husband’s daughter’s girl friend Ramona. The third time the phone rang, it was Ramona herself, and the monologue became a dialog, from which I learned a good deal about the complex relationships among those who had inhabited this world.

See what you’re missing? You are welcome to join us any time. The group No Whine, Just Champagne meets every Thursday at 9:00 pm ET for a live chat, though the discussion continues on unlive after the chat is finished.

So, I told you my writing influence; who are yours?

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