Seven BillionSecrets to Success
by Jennifer Paros
I drift, wait, and obey.
~ Harold Arlen, composer for The Wizard of Oz (on his creative process)
Lately, I’ve been feeling drifty. I have projects waiting for me. And I do think they’re waiting. These aren’t just passing fancies; these ideas stick around no matter how I neglect them, in full anticipation of all that they will become. I even have a novel—a couple finished drafts of it—I still want to complete. I have two other stories in progress. They’re like conversations I left mid-sentence. It’s as though I said, “Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom” and have yet to return.
This phenomenon reminds me of the time in third grade when I avoided gym class because our teacher, Mr. Cruise (kind but firm), wanted me in the game. My wobbly ego wasn’t sure she wanted to be in the game—not in sports or in life. At eight, the jury was still out. So I let my body, mind, and spirit drift away from the game and into the bathroom, repeatedly. Like drifting from writing, it wasn’t a very conscious choice. I don’t remember ever literally choosing to hide in the bathroom; I just found myself walking away from the gym, as though carried by spirits who understood my position perfectly. more...
Five Wasys to Combat Fear
by Ingrid Schaffenburg
Fear is something all writers encounter, and it’s no wonder. We willingly plunge into the depths of our souls on a daily basis, which can be a scary thing at times. The very thing that lures us to this profession, that makes us feel more alive than others, is also the very thing that can stop us in our tracks. So how do we handle fear when it crops up in our work? Here are a few strategies I’ve found helpful over the years.
1. Par for the Course
First, acknowledge that it’s normal. Every writer that has come before us has encountered fear at one time or another. It’s such a common occurrence that we even have our own term for it: writer’s block. Probably the greater our fear, the greater our talent. So don’t take fear as a bad sign. See it as being on the right track. Experiencing fear isn’t the issue. How we handle the fear is what matters. To quote Susan Jeffers, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
2. Mentality Work
One of the most helpful exercises I learned as an actress in LA was mentality work. In one of my classes, we had to spend at least thirty minutes a day reading from an inspiring work, something that would set our mind straight. This always came before our creation work with our characters. My teacher recognized that at least half our battle as artists was maintaining the right mindset, and I couldn’t agree more. I highly recommend starting with The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. more...
reviewed by Jon Land
Harry Bosch cocked his head.
Patrick Kenzie said, “You’re a cop. From out of town. I can barely get away with this shit, but you? They’ll take your badge, man.”
No that’s not a typo, but an excerpt from the contribution of Michael Connolly (Harry Bosch) and Dennis Lehane (Patrick Kenzie) to the splendid Faceoff, the most original and effective crime thriller anthology to come along in years, maybe ever. That’s not just because of the incredible roster of participants assembled, so much as the fact that these bestselling authors, and thus their series heroes, are paired together. Lee Child’s iconic Jack Reacher, for example, perhaps finally meeting his match in Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller. Or Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme joining forces with John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport. Normally, such a high concept would collapse under the conflicting baggage (and egos?) of its weight. Not so here, where the paired-up writers somehow find a middle ground in their respective styles that make their joint efforts seem utterly organic and seamless in nature. Editors David Baldacci and Steve Berry (who also penned one of the entries in tandem with James Rollins) prove effective literary magicians in this regard, as well as recruiters for their wand’s ability to assemble such a roster in the first place with what must’ve taken a whole bunch of waves. more...
Make Your Writing Come Alive with Specific Details
by Laura Yeager
I teach beginning writing to college freshman. It's the ole Freshman Composition routine.
There are several things I try to convey in a single semester, including how to organize an essay around a thesis statement; use the patterns of development to create paragraphs; organize paragraphs in the most productive, interesting way; employ transitions, parallelism, and key word repetition to build coherence; avoid wordiness, slang, needless repetition, and cliché; write with correct grammar and punctuation; research an idea; use a documentation system; edit one's own work; and edit others’ work.
But I think the most exciting thing I teach is how to be specific.
Case in point. John was writing a paper about the hip hop lifestyle. He was defining hip hop and describing the participants in this movement, but nowhere in the essay did he include any rap lyrics. How could this be? The specifics, the guts of the essay had been omitted.
So I suggested that he add some. (I'd add some here, but I think I'd be violating copyright laws.
We all know what rap is, right? Upbeat, half-spoken, half-sung, clever—sometimes harsh—rhymes about life and how to survive it?)
And instantly the paper came alive. more...
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