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In the Beginning

Posted by Stephanie Rose on March 8, 2010 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

After spending an hour last night staring at a word document, I decided I'd address something every person struggles with at some time or another. I am no expert, but it's easy to play Monday morning quarterback. So I thought I'd work through my own struggles by talking about things that get writers through their own, hopefully helping other people along the way. Be it a novelist or a student with a term paper, it tends to hit us at the most unexpected times, and it hits hard.

 

I'm talking about writer's block.

 

And why is a raven like a writing desk? Even Lewis Carroll didn't know the answer, but the best explanation I ever heard to answer that question was in an annotated version of the story, where the researcher gave the many answers to that riddle given over the years. A raven is a symbol of doom and time running out, and for a writer sitting at their desk with deadlines and time against them, the feeling of doom is ever present.

 

Was this what Lewis Carroll had in mind when he wrote the answerless riddle? Seemingly not, as he explained himself after receiving numerous queries over the riddle that it truly did not have an answer, yet he provided one anyways as an afterthought that had nothing to do with the writing world. But as any writer knows, things you write subconsciously tend to weave themselves back around full circle. Perhaps his subconscious created this riddle without him knowing the true answer.

 

I've read many books on writing, and one of the greatest things I heard was in "A Writer's Idea Book" from a writer who said that everyday he sits at his desk for a scheduled period of time, without fail. If he can think of nothing to write, he still sits there with a timer. Is this a waste of time? He thinks no. He believes that thinking about writing, even if he has nothing to write about, prepares him for when he does. Creating a routine to write is essential, so when you are ready, the routine is already in place. Yet another reason a raven is like a writing desk.

 

So I say to hell with the writing desk. Sherry, another member of Scribblicious, likes to write the old fashioned way; a paper and pen. I use my handy netbook for maximum portability. But leave the writing desk. With the weather warming, I choose to spend my writing time outside on my patio, surrounded by nature. The element you choose to write in is key. Writing is a form of art, and to let your creative juices flow, your mind needs to be in the right place.

 

You wouldn't want to be near me with the story I'm currently working on. It's dark and disturbing, and my head enters a nasty place while working on it. Like a method actor who spends time getting in character before they walk onto the stage, I try to surround myself with chaos before I open my netbook. I dredge up things in my head that make me uncomfortable; things that really put me on edge. If I could surround myself physically with dead things and dirt, I'm sure I would.

 

My point is, the atmosphere you write in is just as important as your head. Finding a place to be creative in is one of the best weapons against writer's block. As I stared at my computer last night, I couldn't reach what I was trying to achieve in my head or in my environment, even though I know exactly where I'm going in the story.

 

Perhaps it was because I am at a bridge. This is the other thing that tends to hold writers up. Bridges are by far the most difficult sections to write, ask anyone. The sections in a book that have no other purpose than to take you from major scene to scene. You can know completely where you are going, what is about to happen to your characters to take them deeper down the rabbit hole, but getting there can prove incredibly difficult.

 

For me, I find it best to force it. Once I force a few paragraphs of the bridge, I'm usually back in the swing of it. Laying the first few boards across the river is the most dangerous, but once you have a foundation, the rest are easy. Then you can go back and secure the foundation. I find that my forced paragraphs don't fit the narrative and seem out of place, but it's easy to return to them and make them more cohesive.

 

Blocked from the beginning? I'm a fan of story starters. Sherry posts some on our website, but there are fabulous books out there that are full of inspiring story starters to get your creative juices flowing. I'm including titles at the bottom of this post.

 

While working in radio, I learned that every person on the planet has a fascinating story in them ready to be told. You just need to tell it. Your voice is unique, so sit down and let it rip.

 

Genre? At the PNWA conference last year an editor said it best: "Everything is popular until it's not." This statement means everything. Vampires have been huge but are on their way out. But you have a great vampire story! If it's unique, it will be published. If it's not unique, vampires will come back. Maybe you'll be the one that brings it back. The point is WRITE IT!

 

Finally I'd like to say that without a support group, I would be lost. Find encouragement in the people around you. Exile the nay-sayers. The people I have choosen to trust with my writing are the only way I've worked through a story from start to finish. You need a cheering section when writing. You need positive and helpful feedback. Find someone who can give you that. There are a few people in my life that I know I can call up in my darkest of places for support. People I can call if I'm searching my head for a word. My first book I spent afraid to talk about. I will never make that mistake again.

 

Time for me to force a bridge. The raven is singing in many forms.

 

Until next time,

Stephanie

 

 

Books on Writing:

"On Writing" by Stephen King

"How to Write what You Want to Sell" by Skip Press

"Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within" by Natalie Goldberg

"The Writer's Idea Book" by Jack Heffron

 

Story Starters:

"The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" by Chris Van Allsberg

"The Write Brain" by Bonnie Neubauer

"A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words" by Phillip Sexton

 

(if you know me and would like to borrow any of the above, let me know!) <3

Beta Reading

Posted by Stephanie Rose on March 2, 2010 at 4:56 PM Comments comments (0)

If you've read our front page, you're no doubt asking yourself, "What is a beta reader?" I'm here to answer your questions and hopefully get your pumped up about being one, as they are desperately needed.

 

First let me introduce myself. My name is Stephanie. You can find my bio here, along with first chapters for your perusal. I am actively seeking beta readers while I rework my drafts in preperation for submission to publishers.

 

About Beta Reading:

 

What is a beta reader?

A beta reader is a person who reads through an authors rough draft and provides feedback. You don't need a degree or any type of background. This is a way for an author to hear how an average reader views their book.

 

Why is having a beta reader important?

As a beta reader, you are the most important part of a writer's process. As writers, we are too close to our work to look at it objectively. While writing, we enter a zone that can easily take us off on tangents and sidebars. While caught up in our story telling, we may leave out details a reader wants, or add details that are unnecessary to the plot due to our extensive world building. To hear an outside perspective is invaluable in our journey to published works.

 

So what do I have to do?

It's simple. You read. You read as though you are reading a book you've bought from the store, and keep track of what you are thinking. Some beta readers read the book as a whole, then go back through and take notes on things they liked, things they didn't, what made them laugh, what made them cry. Some choose to keep notes as they're reading. These notes are then given to the writer.

 

I'm not very good at editing, do you still want me?

A beta reader is NOT an editor. We can get those, they're all over the place. If in your reading you stumble across something that is truly driving you crazy (a misspelling or a comma in the wrong place), go ahead and make a note of it. but chances are we've caught it already. We are more looking for the emotions you feel while reading our story. What you liked, when you were bored, what you want more of. That is the feedback we want.

 

What do I get out of this?

Not much, I'm afraid. You get to read an unpublished work and be involved in the writing process. Most likely, you will get an acknowledgement in the published work. I promise all of my beta readers a thank you in the book. But hopefully you're not doing it to be paid or for anything more than a thank you. You're doing it because you love to read and want a chance for your feedback to be applied to a finished product. If you've ever thought while reading a book, "I wish the author did this . . .", then beta reading is for you.

 

I'm all for it, where do I sign up?

If you're interested in being a beta reader, just tell us! We will gladly hand over our manuscripts for feedback.

 

I'm ready Stephanie, so what do you personally want from me?

My best beta readers have been those who provide me notes corresponding with page numbers on how they felt, when they laughed, where they were bored. I'm never offended, so please do not spare my feelings if you find a scene intensely dull. Then, let me ask questions. Give me your top three favorite moments, the top three moments that you feel could be dropped. Any and all information is welcome, the more the better. If you have a thought about every paragraph in the book, I welcome it, as I probably have a thought about every paragraph as well. Also, as said above, you will receive a thank you in the final product and my eternal love and thanks for your invaluable notes.

 

Let me finish by saying, only offer to beta read a genre you enjoy. This should be a fun thing for both you and the writer. If you hate reading horror, it's not going to be fun for you, and the feedback given won't help the writer.

 

I look forward to hearing from you beta readers. If you want to be a beta reader for someone, but don't necessarily like the genre's we write in, let me know. I know many writers around the area and can pass your name along.