Bill McCune was the guest speaker at Phoenix Writers Club on February 15.*
Bill McCune came to Arizona in 1951 as a child. He has since served in the state legislature and produced over 80 television documentaries on Arizona issues and history. He was the political editor at Channel 8 for three years.
He calls himself a voracious reader. One of his writing heroes is Carl Sandburg.
McCune says writers have to make words touch and move the reader. They must have a great imagination and have a story worth telling. He believes the easiest thing to write is pure fiction: Just start writing.
Don’t think too much about the first draft. You can do the “spit and polish” later during rewriting.
Eventually you have to stop writing and give it a final “it’s done.”
* Phoenix Writers Club meets the third Saturday of every month at the Bluewater Grill on East Camelback Road in Phoenix, Arizona. The meeting is a luncheon and features a different speaker each month. Visit Phoenix Writers Club to learn more.
Ethan Russell Erway was the latest speaker for Friday Night Writes at Dog-Eared Pages Bookstore in northeast Phoenix.
Ethan writes children’s adventure books and science fiction novellas and you can find his work here. I really enjoyed listening to his no-nonsense, down-to-earth approach to writing. The thing that kept me thinking all weekend was the section on using formulas in writing. He said to study things you like.
He used the Indiana Jones movies as an example. They have a cool character introduction, a group of stock characters including the main villain, a secondary villain, a muscle man (or woman), and a female lead.
Lastly are the plot elements such as an opening sequence, introduction to the main artifact, an adventurous chase scene, ancient booby-traps and the basic arc of story telling. If you love Indian Jones and want to write something similar think about who could be your cool character.
My example: Marjorie Adams, a professor of ancient literature who goes on searches for documents from the earliest of times. Mortimer Handley is after the same documents because he has an obsession for collecting these documents and the money and means to keep them all to himself. His right-hand man, Dirk Means, has a deep dark secret that Handley uses to keep him under control. Patrick Gibson is an extremely handsome mystery man who ends up helping Marjorie in her quest because his father was killed by Handley many years before while searching for a document.
See how you can take the basic story and start making it your own way. I think I would also be sure Marjorie has a big dog of some kind that is her constant companion.
Another thing that Ethan gave us was a list of books showing how many words they have. I’ve often heard the question about how many words make a novel. We are visual and I think many will find this as interesting as I did. He gave this link for a similar list.
I learned a lot from this speaker as he worked us through getting an idea to suggestions for editing and self-publishing. I hope to hear him again sometime.
Near my house is a wonderful little used bookstore. I’ve known about it for a long time but never seemed to make it by there. My normal routes take me in the opposite directions. A few weeks ago I started attending the Friday Night Writes and was impressed. It happened to be a friend speaking that night which is what spurred me to attend.
Dog-Eared Pages is truly a book lovers haven and the owners are both great. Melanie is also a writer. You can learn more at http://www.dogearedpagesusedbooks.com/. Be sure to check out their events calender if you live in the Phoenix area.
What’s fun, too, is the variety of people they bring in for the Friday Night Writes. Last Friday was romance, historical, suspense author Kris Tualla and cover model James D. Magnnussen. (It WAS Valentine’s Day.)
Kris (http://www.kristualla.com/) spoke about Branding and Marketing Your Novel. She s poke of the importance of having something that identifies the author and the works. She writes historical romance set in Norway. She was looking for something different from all the romance novels set in Scotland. Nothing wrong with that but the idea is to stand out. Her brand is “Norway is the new Scotland” and so all her advertising includes the Norwegian flag. This includes banners, posters, address labels, mouse pads, tee-shirts, key chains, bookmarks and a long list of other items she makes available at signings and conferences.
Her latest cover model (she does work to have covers that fit the story with photos that fit the characters) was with her. James D. Magnnussen (who is on her latest book Finding Sovereignty) talked about his mother reading romance novels by the dozens as he was growing up and joking that one day he would be on one of the covers. By chance somebody saw his photo on Facebook and called and asked if he would be interested in doing a photo shoot. He had never thought of really going in that direction. He has now done three shoots and gets a kick out of going to talks and conferences. James doesn’t seem to have a web site but you can find him on Facebook.
On my list of things to do is to order new business cards. Kris has me thinking in different directions. I also asked her about ways to brand an author’s name. She suggested different fonts so I have some research to do also. A writer’s work is never done.
Annette Rogers, an editor at Poisoned Pen Press, was the speaker at Desert Foothills Library on Friday afternoon. She spoke on how to improve writing and make it more like story telling to grab the reader right up front.
I was happy to see two of my favorite writing books on her list: On Writing by Stephen King and Write Away by Elizabeth George.
Rogers shared experiences as an editor and gave tips on making your manuscript grab the editor (or agent or reader) from the beginning. She suggests writing five different manuscripts to finally have one worth submitting. In other words, write, write, write and then write some more. It takes time to learn to be a writer. You can also practice by writing and submitting articles.
Use surprise. To emphasize this she used an exercise from Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg which includes a list of cooking terms as verbs to go with list of nouns she gave us.
Here are some of mine:
The lilacs marinated the afternoon sun.
The horse whipped the dust into a frothy cyclone.
His mustache strained the words into something unintelligible.
Quick tips from the speaker:
You are writing for the reader. What will catch your reader’s attention and keep them turning the pages?
What are you looking for and how can you relate it to the reader?
Keep it moving. Verbs, verbs, verbs.
Characters must be believable. They have to progress or grow throughout the book.
Part of writing is putting yourself out there. Sharing your work and submitting every chance you get.
And finally, she talked about a writer who had worked on her blog for many years and then took some of those posts or stories and arranged them into a book. She had practiced with her blog for eleven years. She already had an audience and once her book came out it immediately became a New York Times best seller. The author is Jenny Lawson and her book is Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir. You can find it at: http://thebloggess.com/lets-pretend-this-never-happened-a-mostly-true-memoir/
So get out there and WRITE!
I really don’t like the technology aspects of blogging, writing, or anything. I get frustrated easy and I don’t have a very good memory. So talking myself in to a day with my blog has taken some doing. But here I am. I’m going to learn how to do WordPress and I’m going to take notes as I go. I’m saying this so if you see some really bizarre things you will know it is because I “goofed.”
Well that was painless except I can’t figure out how to center it. Oh wait, I did it! Progress!
One thing I’ve had trouble with is getting my text to single space. Suddenly it is doing it but I don’t know how or why. So I didn’t learn from that one. My friend, C. B., tells me she just keeps clicking on things until she figures out what how to do things. Makes sense, but I don’t have her confidence.
So why am I making my learning process public? As a reminder that everything is a learning process. Those who say WordPress is easy to use have already gone through this process and possibly understood more than I do going in. We tend to forget that at one time we didn’t know how to drive, or send an email, or write a poem.
We learn by doing, but it helps, sometimes, to remember that we aren’t on this learning road alone. Others have been here, are in the same place or will be. They are as frustrated as I have been and may give up (I almost did). So this post is a reminder to myself that I will learn this and the sun will set and rise and set again. Each day will bring a new learning experience if I keep myself open and that seems to be a big part of what life is all about.
What will you learn today?
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Tumbleweeds dancing across the sun baked earth
Arid winds, circling, picking up dust and brittle grass
A funnel reaching to the sky.
Crows flying slow, searching for water
A bit of shade,
Relief from the searing sun.
Below, a creek bed cracking and curling
A dried up frog, out of place
In the water-less land.
Rita Ackerman, 2002.
Yesterday I went out to the Desert Foothills library in Cave Creek. It is a beautiful place with a beautiful view.
The first Friday of every month they have a speaker on some aspect of writing.
This month was local author, publisher and speaker; Patricia L. Brooks. Patricia is also the founder/president of The Scottsdale Society of Women Writers and plays an active part in most writing events in the Phoenix area.
Patricia’s topic was “Publish Yourself As The Expert.” She focuses on non-fiction but there were many helpful hints for all writers. She believes every one should keep journals. And to do the writing with pen and paper. That sets it in your mind.
The main thing that struck me is the idea of keeping a separate journal for my book. I’m struggling with my rewrite of my first book O.K. Corral Postscript: The Death of Ike Clanton and I’m sure her suggestions will be of great help.
Patricia said to write about where the current project is, the goals, thoughts, and anything else related to the book. She stresses reflecting on why you are the expert that is writing this book, what event started this project and who your audience will be.
Just being with other writers is inspiring but I feel blessed to have so many local writers willing to give of their time to help the rest of us succeed. Patricia also said something that my mentor, Michael M. Hickey, said many times:
Find YOUR Passion.
You can learn more about the Scottsdale Society of Women Writers, Patricia and her upcoming talks at: http://brooksgoldmannpublishing.com.
You can also go to the library web site for information on the writing events.