Inspired Writing vs. Good Writing

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At what point do we give up our originial inspiration? When we rework and edit and critique and workshopto the point that the original no longer remains?

My first five, for example, pages have been reviewed, edited and workshopped by some excellent writers and authors. The beginning doesn’t resemble my original beginning at all – for good reason. I’ve gone from backstory (not good) to action (better). I feel like its been so reworked, I have no objectivity. I no longer connect with it. The spark is gone.

Why doesn’t that first flush of inspiration carry us through? Perhaps there is a relationship analogy…the spark, the chemistry of the beginning of a relationship has to be solidified with work, compromise, and understanding – if its going to last.

I have a prologue that I love which, of course, doesn’t get sent out with partial requests. I’d like to be able to work the prologue into the first chapter. However, that delays the battle-scene action for about a page and a half. From the critiquers, it seems to be a 50/50 split…some like the gradual beginning. It gives them a sense of place, of setting of the characters before swords clash and blood…well…bleeds. Others (famous published author included) encourage going straight to the battle, grab the reader right away.

I suppose the trick is to try and merge the two, to weave the words together in such a way that the gradual setting cushions the harshness of war. Like a relationship, inspiration and craft must be combined for a solid story to be told.

The blizzard will give me plenty of time to play with this first scene.

Mornings

When is the best time for writing? Or to create any art for that matter? For me, I write best in the morning. Well, maybe not “best” but the inspiration flows freely and I get a lot down on paper (paper and pen for the first draft works well for me, too.)

I’m able to write a good bit between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. Now, that is about to change. Upcoming job will require me to start at 7 a.m. and add on to that about a 45minute to an hour commute. So I’ll leave the house by 6:00, awaken at 5:00…it will take me that long just in ingest enough coffee to make me functional.

In preparation for these changes, I’ve been trying to write in the evenings. It’s turned out to be more editing and revising. That’s going ok. Editing seems to be an after-work sort of task. I’m wondering how the changes will affect writing something new?

What works best for you? If you have additional responsibilities (other jobs, kids, etc.)how do you schedule your creative time?

Platform

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No, I’m not talking about the shoes. I’ve been out of the querying mode for awhile. I’ve finally dusted off various manuscripts, took a great creative writing class through Arlington County (with Jean Russell), and feel like I’m ready to start the process again. And now, it seems the buzz word of the day is “platform.”

Platform – how are you doing to market your book? This used to be (back in the day, five years ago) a requirement generally for non-fiction writers. Now, it’s a good idea to include in a query some platform ideas. A blog? A website? Facebook? Twitter? Any other networks or contacts? Are you willing to host book readings or teach workshops?

Yes, yes, and yes. We wouldn’t want to turn into Bernard, would we?

Surrey Notes…

Trying to encapsulate the highlights, off the top of my head here:

SiWC Idol Workshop: Jack Whyte read the first pages of writer’s who were brave enough to put their work before the panel. (I was not – instead I had my own red pen and scribbled through most of my first chapter). Janet Reid, Rachel Vater, Cricket Freeman, Jenoyne Adams , Sorcha Fairbanks,Anica Mrose Rissi (editor) made up the judging panel.

Jack read very few entries past the first three sentences before the agents raised their hands, asking him to stop. Too much description, not enough action. Whether to have dialogue at the start received mixed reactions. A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was nixed after the first three sentences (too much description of the red paint on the gym floor). Two or three lucky writer’s did receive Ms. Reid’s business cards…I believe two were YA. The openings were spunky, with tight dialogue.

The Mystery of History: Gabaldon, Humphreys, Winspear, Perry and Whyte –
Good basics in not getting bogged down in research. Details and accuracy is important but the author is a storyteller. Storyteller first, historical details second. Several panelists commented on how they chose their particular time period for setting their stories…each had a passion for a particular era. Jack Whyte had a particularly compelling story about researching the name “Excalibur.” Humphreys — working out at the gym and making a correlation between his neck and Anne Boleyn’s. 🙂

How to Survive Writing Historical Fiction with Andrea MacPherson: Another good workshop with the same message – storytelling is first, historical details second. MacPherson discussed good resources (archivists!) and primary source documents to use. Make sure you understand and portray all the details of the time period (lighting, clothing, customs, political-religious issues of the day, etc.)

Writing Extremely Weird Non-fiction for Kids – Sarah Lovett: A fun workshop brainstorming extremely weird ideas for non-fiction…do your research to make sure the topic hasn’t been covered. Or if it has, what is a new angle or new twist you could do?

Fear In Fiction – Donald Maass: This is a workshop I needed. How to make your bad guy three dimensional. How to make him/her/it believable – even though in reality the villain is doing unbelievable things.

Think about his actions — in reality, he would be stopped (Maass used the “nuclear bomb in a suitcase example). The military would stop him, TSA would stop him, satellites that monitor nuclear materials would stop him…so HOW does your bad guy get around all of these obstacles?

Don’t make the bad guy “lurk” and just be bad (I’m guilty of this. Maithghean is a bad lurker). What are his motives? Can you get the reader to understand and even agree with his motives? For example, what is your villain’s daily routine, what kind of coffee does he drink, what does he put in his coffee, how does he treat the barista at Starbucks? What is his/her/it’s reason for doing what he does?

Surrey: What I Learned

Surrey was great! I wish I had gone years ago. Because then I would have known that I wasn’t ready to be sending stuff out – not yet. However, according to the agents there, about half the people who query them are also not ready.

That said, I had a great blue pencil session and attending wonderful, eye-opening, lightbulb-over-the-head moment workshops. Will probably post bits and pieces here, as I digest the information over the next several days.

In the meantime, I have a lot of work to do!

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