Monday, June 27, 2016

Pikes Peak Writers Newest Advice Column





Dear Annie:

I’ve just begun to write after waiting for the opportunity for years. Where do I begin? Is it better to simply sit down and write? Or should I take brush-up courses on technique or find a critique group to work with before I begin?

~ Eager to Write

Dear Eager to Write:
Things change in the industry over time. Familiarize yourself with the current expectations of publishing houses. Learn the requirements of the genre in which you hope to write; learn about the currently preferred viewpoints and tenses; and above all, brush up on your basic writing skills. Without a thorough understanding of rules for grammar and sentence structure, your attempt to hone creative skills will lack a necessary foundation. You’ll drive those improper word arrangements deeper and deeper into your subconscious mind. That, dear reader, is a recipe for stagnation rather than growth.

Dear Annie:
I’ve brushed up on my writing technique and I’ve found a critique group. I’ve completed my first short story and researched sources to which I might submit. Am I ready to push the send button?
                                                                              ~ Ready to Go

Dear Ready to Go:

Have you read through your manuscript when you were fresh, after a good night’s sleep? Try reading several times for content and another several for grammar and spelling problems. Though I do this multiple times, I still find a need for improvements on each go round. Our work is never done, fellow grasshopper. If you have edited and re-edited your story until you are positive that it is your best writing, yes. Take a deep breath and press send.

Dear Annie:
I’ve sent off my first story, and now I’m having trouble thinking of another plot. What to do?
                               ~Lacking Imagination in Colorado

Dear Lacking Imagination:

Don’t fret. If you tense up, you’ll have a more difficult time. Let your mind wander while thinking of a theme that is important to you —a subject or cause that touches you. Get out into the world and observe people and their lives. Interview those who have experienced something about which you hope to write.

I’m not suggesting that you interview a serial killer unless he or she has been safely locked away in a high security prison. As writers, we are comfortable before a computer creating worlds and structuring events in fictional lives. We need a balance between reality and imagination. It is from our own and vicarious life experiences that we draw our ideas and passions. Only by feeling a situation deeply can we recreate that emotion in our readers. So take a hike at Garden of the Gods. You may meet a homeless person whose story inspires you.


Dear Annie:

Sometimes I get so involved in building my platform that I don’t have adequate time to write. Do I really need to cultivate this huge following to be successful? Or is it better to commit my time to improving my written word?
~Dazed and Confused

Dear Dazed and Confused:
In my opinion, the amount of time called for depends on where one is on the road to success. Be reasonable about the time you invest toward this purpose. If one creates a platform but fails to deliver a worthy product, his followers will dwindle faster than they were accumulated. On the other hand, the ability you foster in yourself can never be lost. If you write well, readers will find you just as the famous baseball players found Kevin Costner’s field of dreams.

Dear Annie:
I’ve put heart and soul into a novel for three long years. When I sent out my manuscript, I received only rejections. Where does a writer find the courage to go on? The “devil” keeps whispering, “You’ll never get published.” It’s too easy to believe his discouraging message while knowing the actual odds.
~Disillusioned

Dear Disillusioned:
If you are driven to continue writing after a day or two of lamenting over your disappointment, you are a writer whether you are published or not. No one with your drive can avoid improving his skills. You have heard “the call,” my friend. Keep writing if only for self-fulfillment. Don’t ever give up.

Remember, your day may come; but if fate disappoints you, you'll have had a whole lot of fun.


About the Author:  Dear Annie is the pseudonym for Ann S. Hill. After hearing the call to write in her thirties, Ann set the ambition aside while life happened. Now that she has retired from her career as a dentist and her children are adults, she is seriously attacking that parked ambition. She spends significant time on her true passion and has recently completed her first novel, Wait for Me. She has written several short stories and is currently working on a concept for her second novel. In the meantime, she remains a voracious reader and film aficionado.