Blogger’s Revenge

June 27, 2009

I have not been much of a blogger, and hope this creative experience does not teach me a nasty lesson.  I also feel inadequate when it comes to offering writing advice to others, which presumably is the topic at hand.  I have enough trouble containing my own stories and chapters to conventional writing covenants.

But I do like to write.  What you’ll read from me will be snippets from some of my prior and on-going stories,  some of my poems, and original non-fiction posts about my experiences here at the homestead.  Many of these experiences have been amusing, some were heartbreaking, and I will spare you the miserable or dull.

Will I write the perfect short story or novel?  I hope not.  Perfection is a strong desire in many but not in me.  I think in fact perfection and creativity march down two different paths.  I’d rather take a risk now and then with my writing, offending or disappointing some along the way I know, but ultimately driving my writing to a higher plane.  And enjoying greater satisfaction in the end.

Dear Jill

June 27, 2009

I think I added your profile comments through the administrator function.  Check them to make sure.  I altered the order of the paragraphs because I’m mean and like them better in this order.

Writing the Perfect Novel – Is it Possible? By Jill Hedgecock

June 25, 2009

My writing has improved because I participate in a book club.  No matter how poorly crafted the book under discussion, I find value as a writer when I attend the Avid Reader’s Book Club.  These die-hard readers have taught me volumes. 

Through my book club participation, I’ve learned that readers hunger for edge-of-your-seat, page-turning tension.  Moreover, they want a book that’s honest and a story that’s believable.  Readers are discerning.  They are smart.  And they are tough.

Our club rates books on a scale of one to five.   Out of 102 books, how many have received a unanimous top rating of five from all group members?  None.  Zero.  Zip.  On of our highest rated books, The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, only achieved 6 out of 11 “five” ratings.  And 55 out of  102 books didn’t receive any “five” ratings at all.  Think about that for a moment.  That’s over fifty percent of the books we’ve read. 

Our top-rated books show that subject matter isn’t the issue.  We’ve had topics ranging from the experiences of three girls in Africa (Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver), a woman swapping lives with her grandmother and vice versa (The Mirror by Marlys Millhauser), and the childhood experiences of a boy in Cuba during Castro’s overthrow (Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire). 

So where do writers fail their readers?  Unlikable characters for starters.  Readers want to rally behind someone they sympathize with.  But even a fantastic protagonist won’t pacify the readers’ thirst for action.  And giving these enthusiasts an ending that meanders into oblivion is sure to ruin even the best prose. 

Why are readers so hard to please?  Perhaps readers are too demanding.  They tend to draw on their own experiences to measure the accuracy of a book.  Readers want characters to react to situations in a way that is consistent with how they think the world works.  It is sobering to realize that life experiences are so varied that to achieve this reality for every single person is probably impossible. 

And yet these women keep devouring books like a bowl of chocolates.  Why?  Some like engaging in wide-ranging discussions about relevant issues to society.  Others want to read novels they’d never pick out themselves.  Some merely want to keep reading a priority in their lives.  For writers like me, it’s an opportunity to learn what inspires readers to read.

My book group has taught me to endeavor to find universal experiences that will endear my characters to all types of people.  Book group discussions have forced me to ask “How can I add tension to this scene?” and “Should I end this chapter as a cliff-hanger?” 

I keep waiting for an author to produce a book that achieves that unanimous “five” rating.  After a decade, that degree of excellence still remains elusive.  I am grateful for the high standards of readers because they have made me a better writer.  They are a tough crowd to please.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Protected: Computer Challenged

June 17, 2009

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Protected: Update on “Waters” story

June 11, 2009

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Why a blog?

June 10, 2009

A couple of months ago, author Stephanie Chandler addressed our local California Writers Club on the topic of social networking. Since then it seems that the writing community has been abuzz (atwitter?) with presentations on this subject. Everywhere I turn, folks are talking about how published and aspiring authors need to have an online presence. Facebook pages, websites, blogs, and Twitter are the new essentials we’re told.

For the published author, websites, blogs, and such are needed to publicize their books and create rapport with readers. It’s part and parcel of marketing in this digital age. Non-fiction writers are expected to demonstrate that they have a platform and an audience for their books, before their manuscripts are even considered. All this I understand.

What about the yet unpublished fiction writer? What benefit does an online presence have for him or her? I admit to some skepticism. I’ve spent time on online forums and journals. Yes, I’ve found valuable information and tips. Yes, I’ve made contacts and friends. But I also know what a time sink these can become. As an aspiring author, isn’t my time better spend with “butt in chair” typing out my next novel?

We’ve decided to take the plunge with a group blog. Several of us have polished manuscripts and are actively pursuing publication. We hope to be on the published side of the equation soon, when all of this will be necessary. A shared blog will (hopefully) allow us to provide frequent updates and fresh content by dividing the burden among several authors. It’s a chance to get our feet wet with the support of friends.

What do you think?