Thursday, June 18, 2015

4 Important Writing Questions...

I don't know about you, but I LOVE Writer's Digest Magazine. I obtain so much helpful information about writing from this magazine and their Facebook page.

Earlier today, they posted on Facebook an article about the importance of answering 4 questions from an agent during the pitch session at a conference.

I read the article and decided to answer the questions here.

In the column written by author Lisa Katzenberger, she thoughtfully explains the importance of the questions and knowing how to answer them...

How would you answer the following questions?

1. Are you working on anything else?  For me, the answer to this question came easily because I am ALWAYS working on something else. I have about a dozen book ideas in my head as I type. Plus, I have new ideas pop into my head during the year. I get ideas from my job (I'm a writing teacher...), my students, books they are reading, movies I watch, etc. Just ask my student. They'll tell you how I often talk about the plot of my next book.

I find it is important to have that next story in line. That way, when I type "the end" on my current WIP, the mourning period is short. I am back in the saddle and ready to begin plotting out the next big idea. I also think agents like this answer because it shows them that I am a writer. This is my career and not a hobby. I want them to see that I am serious about my craft.

2. Who are your favorite authors? This question is tough for me to answer because I am not a voracious reader in that I tend to start many books and then put them down after a few chapters. But, I am working on that! So, for me, I'd answer Susan May Warren (I am reading her books), Susan Meissner (Just started one of her books), J.K.Rowling, of course. She is an inspriation to me. Karen Kingsbury (I love her latest true crime story!), and Jodi Picoult. I just started her book,  "Lone Wolf" and am enjoying it.

I would next explain to the agent that I am a bigger fan of non-fiction: Biographies and autobiographies along with historical narratives. These books help me with research into certain eras I am writing in or with voice to make my dialog or exposition sound more real.

I feel an agent could see by my answer that I do appreciate good story telling techniques in the genres I write. I tend to research writers who are on top of the market (John Green is another favorite...) and see what they are up to next.

3. What kind of writer are you?  This question is much easier for me to answer. I have to confess, I did have to rehearse the answer a few times, but that's okay.

I am a writer who writes about flawed protagonists with real struggles but who are determined to reach their goals no matter what. They don't always wish to "save the day" but sometimes that task is thrust upon them and they desire to follow through. They have caring hearts and big dreams, and they tend to be humble and cerebral. I write more plot driven stories, but I aspire to write character driven literature some day. My writing is strongest through dialog and description. I consider myself to be very good at sensory writing and plot twists. Just ask my readers!

But, most of all, I am a writer who wishes to impart a theme or "message about life" in my stories. My desire is for the reader to walk away from my book having learned something or connected to the story in some way. Faith, hope, stay-the-course, never give up, are just some themes I place in my stories.

4. Where did this story come from?  Good question!  I love asking authors this question when I get to meet them. And I really love it when readers ask me this question. I find most of my stories come from other stories I have read or have seen in a movie. Sometimes they come from real life events that I have experienced or someone else has experienced.

The idea for "The Children Under the Ice" came from a spelling test I was giving a class of 6th graders. The idea for "The Dragon Forest" came from a love of dragons and the King Arthur legend.

The idea for my current book came to me back in 2004. I would read the military blog posts (milblogs) via the internet at the height of the Iraq War and was amazed at how these men and women wrote about their combat experience minutes after it happened. It was then that I read about how civilian journalists would embed with the troops to report on the war. Unfortunately, many of these journalists would twist the account to fit their agenda of turning Americans against the war effort. I would read in the milblogs how angry our troops were to see their actions distorted by the journalists they had trusted. And then I read about a missionary who started a sewing center in Iraq to provide work for Iraqi women.

As a result, I put the two ideas together and have a book to write with these themes running through: Fight the good fight, stand up for the truth, persevere, and learn to trust and love again.

I feel I am ready to answer these questions for any agent and I look forward to it at the next writers' conference I will attend!

What about you? How would you answer these questions? Are you ready to answer them?


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Write About What You Love...

"A lot of people tell writers to write about what they know.
And that's good advice because it gives you a lot of things to draw on.
 But I always like to add that they should write about things that they love.
 And by that I mean things that fascinate them or excite them personally..."

-Suzanne Collins

Write About What You Love

As soon as the evil Maleficent transformed into that purple and black dragon in Disney's The Sleeping Beauty, I was forever in love with... dragons! I love their strength, beauty, and mystique. So, when it came time to write a book, the subject I selected was dragons, of course.

Why not? For me, it was a no brainer: Kids love dragons and I was writing a book (The Dragon Forest) for kids.

I also love ghost stories!  My love for ghost stories led me to write another book series about a group of kids solving a murder mystery with the help of...ghosts! The Children Under the Ice was a fun book to write because of my love for this genre.

But for many writers, coming up with an idea can be a struggle. Why? There are so many ideas to choose from! 

The above quote is from a list of writing tips found over at Tales of Success blog. Suzanne Collins lists 5 tips on writing and this particular tip stood out to me because I agree with it wholeheartedly.

What about you?

Do you write about what you know or what you love... or both?  I find it easiest to do both, frankly.

Suzanne Collins once stated in an interview that she knows about war because her father fought in war, studied war, and taught about war strategy at the War College and West Point. She also listed several books she had read as a child that were about children battling each other and dystopian themes:

Lord of the Flies
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

By reading the list above, one can easily see how influential these stories were to Collins who deeply loves each book and rereads them annually.

Do you love a certain theme or era or hobby? Write about it!

Write What You Know

Writers should love stories and storytelling. It is a passion of mine to tell stories, both fictional narratives and personal narratives. But to write a story is entirely something else.

I know much about art, drawing, painting, etc. I know about teaching because I am a teacher. I know about what it's like to be married to a military man. What I don't know is war or combat. My next book will be based in the Iraq war during 2007. So, in order to make my story seem real to the reader, I must study and learn more about this time in US history. But I love to write about wartime romances, and this is why I chose this period to write about. So far I have thoroughly enjoyed the research about this time in US history.

What about you? Do you find it easy to write about what you know?  Or do you prefer to learn about a subject and then write about it? Or do you just "wing" it?

I highly recommend the article about Suzanne Collins over at Tales of Succes blog. She provides some thoughtful insights about her writing process.

Now...get to writing!