Monday, February 27, 2012

5 Blogging Basics & How I Got Back to Them

Most of us are doing our best to do our best at this social media thing. I’m in perpetual search mode for help and hints along the way. Recently a load of those dropped onto my path from http://www.31daystobuildabetterblog.com/. Day 1 took me straight back to beginner time with a clear concise agenda entirely unlike my original haphazard approach. Here’s how Clear and Concise went for me.

1.      Tag It True – Find a few words that cut straight to the jugular of what your blog is about – after you’ve identified precisely what that is of course. My New Tag Line for http://publishingsensefromaliceorr.blogspot.com is “a guide to giving your writing work and your writer self agent-editor appeal”. To the point – In a nutshell – On the nose.
2.      Your Passion is Your Mission – What’s the purpose of your blog? Put service to your readers at the top of your intentions. My New Mission Statement became “This site is all about passing on a wide range of practical tips and pragmatic advice for writers who want to be published or better published”. Exactly what I hope to do. Now I’ve said it.
3.      Nail the “Me” That Matters – What makes you the right person to write this blog? Why should readers pay attention and come back later for more? Selectivity reigns supreme. Tell only the tale that suits the task of your blog. My New About Me Page says “I started this blog to help writers navigate the often confusing world of writing and publishing. Most writers want to create the best work they have in them and get that work published. I have spent my professional life in publishing – as a book editor, a literary agent, a workshop presenter and a published author. My mission is to share what I have learned from those experiences with as many writers as I can reach.” No bragging tone. Not bashful either. Just the facts of who I am and why I’m here.
4.      Link ‘em Up – Make certain the above three are consistent. Together they constitute your message as a blogger and maybe beyond. Now you must link that message laterally across your social media platform. My next steps were to incorporate The Tag – The Mission – The New Improved Me into my Facebook profile then my Twitter page and finally my LinkedIn information. I made it my email signature also.
5.      Sprout Wings and Fly Far – Brainstorm all of the places you can take your new concise blogger identity. Start with adding a refined revised signature – name plus link to your blog plus tag line – to the guest blog posts you must begin writing if you’ve not done so already. Everywhere every time you sign your name make sure your blog link and tag line are tagging along. My first ever guest blog post will do just that when I write about cooking of all things – and writing too – at http://kitchencauldron.wordpress.com.

We’re off to a strong start yet again. Sometimes we have to backtrack to get ahead.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Head-to-Heart Posture


John Gardner said “Never let them awaken from the dream of the book.” I say “Create the dream by keeping your head at the heart of your story.”

This applies to any creative project you undertake – your novel or memoir or nonfiction – your painting or sculpture or media construct – your current challenge on the job or at home.

In order to go to the deep center of your work and mine what is there you must dwell in that center as long and as completely as is possible for you.

Discipline is a cold and starchy word but being disciplined is neither a cold nor starchy exercise. Discipline is about keeping ourselves inside the work – at its core and its soul.

Paydirt is down there at the beating heart of whatever you are doing. This is the source of your most moving material – the stuff that will snap your audience to attention and connection and cause them to exclaim.

“Wow. I get that. I want to go there again.”

To inspire this reaction you must go there yourself – to the heart place where connecting begins. Then you must stay there – on some level – until at least the wild creating phase of the work is done.

For me this means devoting morning time and energy and sticking with it. For you this means finding the form of devotion that is right for you and sticking with it.

We keep on doing whatever we can to keep our heads at the heart of the work and we do so consistently. That brings the work alive. That brings us alive. And this is the dream from which we will not wish to awaken.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Not-So-Dirty Secret About Writing Sex

In honor of Valentine’s Day let’s talk about sex. More to the point of this blog – let’s talk about writing sex.

I teach a workshop called “How to Write About Sex and Respect Yourself in the Morning”. At the Q&A there is one question I can always expect.

“Does there have to be a sex scene – or a love scene – in my story?”

My responding question – “Are you writing the true story of the adult lives of your characters?”

If you are – guess what? Adults have sex and sex is a huge part of their life experience – especially when it is a source of conflict for them.

That should set off alarm bells for any writer. Because – guess what again? Conflict – I prefer to call it struggle – makes a story intense and compelling. Sex works for the storytelling.

But this is not the not-so-dirty secret about writing sex. That secret evolves in response to another FAQ.

“How sexy does my story have to be?”

My responding question – “”How much do you want to turn your reader on?”

The turn-on factor has to do with the level of reader engagement you are after. Sex in writing is about accelerating that engagement straight to the most sensual receptors of your reader’s being.

Yet another FAQ – “How do you determine whether or not you have done that successfully?”

Here’s the not-so-dirty secret. They will be turned on by the reading only if you are turned on by the writing. That is not a secret because nobody knows it. This aspect of the turn-on factor is only a secret because nobody talks about it – not much anyway.

Also – be careful not to turn readers – and yourself – off again with your choice of language. I recently read a passage by a bestselling suspense writer where she describes a character’s vagina as “slick”. Cringe. Cringe. Turn off time. Pavement is slick.

So watch your words. And don’t forget to have a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Eating My Words - Nourishing Your Work

In my writing workshops I talk about oven cleaner writing. This is the kind of writing you’d rather clean the oven than do.

Most scenes we would rather avoid have to do with difficult emotions and painful experience for our characters and ourselves. We’d just as soon bypass this gut wrenching territory on our way to digging out the Easy Off.

“Suck it up” I would pronounce from my lofty post behind the dais.

Do it anyway. Dive straight into that dreaded scene and write the hell out of it – literally. Because there lies paydirt.

I was right about that. Tense – as in intense – scenes that disrupt the gut and engage the heart are the stuff of agent-editor appeal. And also the stuff of reader appeal after the work is published.

I felt good about laying that dictum on my audience – self satisfied even. Then I was pressed to practice what I preached.

My memoir Lifted to the Light contains a lot of emotional stuff. It’s about my dance along the tightrope between life and death after all.

I cried through reliving those scenes but none of them stopped me in my writing tracks. None of them sent me in search of the oven scrubber. Until two of them did.

The first of those scenes involved humiliating myself. It was bad enough that I had already acted the fool in public in real life. Now I had to do it again in writing. I knew this scene had to be included in order to make an honest portrayal. I balked at it anyway.

The second gut wrencher told the story of the day my beloved grandson plunged through plate glass on our property. One of the most frightening experiences of my life and I was loath to return there.

I wrote around and past both of these scenes. I even considered leaving them out. But I knew I must not do that. I had to follow my own advice and cash in the paydirt on the page.

So I adopted the yucky cough syrup approach. I spooned up the medicine and swallowed it fast. In other words I wrote each of those scenes so rapidly I thought my arm might fall off.

Then they were done and the story was considerably better – more intense and compelling – because they were in it.

I continue to talk about oven cleaner writing in my workshops and seminars. But now I truly understand – in my gut and in my heart – what I'm talking about.