Archive for December 2016

Slow Writing: Why I Write At A Snail’s Pace

by Jennifer Karchmer

This is an excerpt from Jennifer’s upcoming book,“Take (Your) Time To Write: The Path to Peaceful Writing,” based on the concept of slow writing.

I’ve always been a slow writer. In the 1990s, at my first job as a reporter, I would take hours to finish just a 500-word column that should have taken me an hour or two after sifting through my notes. I would return from a school board meeting or a run-of-the-mill press conference and toil over the lead (first sentence of a news story) and every sentence. I would rewrite until everything was just right. Of course, accuracy is critical in journalism, so I checked, rechecked, and made my quotes perfect. Still, my editor pulled me aside one day, and while assuring me I was doing a good job, she said I needed to work more quickly. They were paying me by the hour ($5) and wouldn’t be able to afford me if I kept up the tortoise pace. Thankfully, I learned to speed it up. After putting in more than a decade in busy newsrooms, I can say I have never been fired for missing a deadline. (Admittedly, as I work on this post, I see out of the corner of my eye on the TV, three episodes of Seinfeld have passed in addition to at least half of “Dirty Dancing” so we’re moving in on three hours and I’m only halfway finished.)

Several years ago, I made the transition from a “Just the facts, ma’am” reporter to a personal essay freelance writer. Today, I make my own deadlines – a dream come true for a writer, but with the autonomy comes discipline. So I’ve turned to other writers for guidance. Frightfully, at a cocktail party, I overhear a writer say she jumps out of bed at the crack of dawn to get her butt in the chair before the family begins to stir. Similarly startling was the time I heard a fellow scribe say he neurotically crosses off “Wrote 1,500 words!” on his daily To Do list.

Getting up before the roosters? Hitting a daily self-imposed word count? Is this discipline or competition?

Realizing these conventions are not for me, I try to build my confidence, and my writing practice, around a slower, more relaxed pace that seems more in tune with my molasses gait. I admire you early risers, I really do. But it’s just not my style, so why force it? Writing is not only a career but an art, a passion–one that inches along to the tune of the muse whom I invoke when the sun and moon align. Well, it’s actually not that magical but I put a lot of stock in how I am feeling. I am a productive writer, but these laments make me feel stressed out and depleted. Am I really a writer if I don’t adhere to these routines? I had left the busy newsroom grind and didn’t want to replace it with tortuous rules that seemed to leave me with a wet blanket of guilt draped over my shoulders.

Along the way, I have adopted some precepts that seem to keep my writing in tune with my natural (slower) stride:

  1. Write when you feel like it. If I go a day or two without writing, I don’t beat myself up. I trust my body to know when I need a respite. Often, I will have a marathon writing session later in the week so I consider the earlier rest period a necessary recharge.
  2. Writing is writing. Period. Some days I lament that I haven’t written a lick on an essay I’m been mulling around. Then, when I reflect on the day, I see 27 in my Sent folder. Writing is writing, whether it is an email to client, a pitch to an agent, a handwritten sick note for your kid, or a FB post asking for travel advice. I consider all of these ways in which I am exercising my writing muscle (I actually love writing emails).
  3. Do a 7-day reset. Take off an entire week from your writing schedule and habits and allow yourself to do whatever feels right. Maybe you write one day and then not come back to a manuscript for two or three days. If it feels right to get up at the crack of dawn and put in some butt time, then go for it. Or perhaps writing feels really good at 3 pm with a cup of coffee as the afternoon light reflects off the trees. Give yourself a full week to see what develops for you and use that as a baseline for your writing habit. This is your “natural” schedule so use it to your advantage to be productive.

Not only do I hold the dubious distinction of being a slow writer, I am also a slow reader. I take months to finish a novel (although I did finish “Fifty Shades of Grey” in three days…shhh). So I try to mix up my pleasure reading between fiction and a nonfiction magazines so I am getting a regular dose of different genres including some longform or “slow” writing. Here are some resources and examples I recommend.

Jennifer Karchmer is a creative writer, book reviewer, and editor, based in Bellingham, WA and Brooklyn, NY. When she’s not writing first-personal essay, she is a volunteer correspondent for Reporters Without Borders defending and protecting freedom of the press and freedom of speech around the world. Find her latest work here: http://www.jenniferkarchmer.com/essays.html

Give Me a Topic and I’ll Write You a Story

by Jared McVay

I’ve been writing stories and doing storytelling for quite a few years now and whenever I do a session, storytelling or book signing, I’m always asked, where do I get my inspiration, and I say, “Give me a topic and I’ll write you a story, it’s that easy.”

But I guess that’s not true for all writers. You’d be surprised at how many people tell me they need to do tons of research, develop the characters, and then do an outline before they write the first word, and even then, it might take days or even weeks before the opening paragraph is finished.

I’ve had at least a dozen people tell me they’ve been working on their book for over a year, some, several years and my heart goes out to them. I encourage them to not give up, but inside, I feel most of them will never get the first book off the ground, and that brings me to my subject today – A book series…

Not only my publisher, but also most of the people I talk to say they love a series where they can follow a character from book to book. But most of those folks have no idea of what it takes to write a series. And for those who write the first two or three feel they are easy, but after that things start to get a little tougher.

Unlike a stand-alone book, the author has to build a life for this character, then keep coming up with adventures for that character [man or woman] to get involved in.

At this point I need to point out that the storyline must be able to carry your character from one book to another, like say, a detective, an attorney who specializes in a certain type of law, a western that is filled with action or whatever the writer may come up with. All I can say is make sure the road he or she is to follow will have a strong storyline.

It will be helpful if you have a mind that can slide your character into and out of situations that are both, funny and serious. After all, life is not all funny or serious. We all have our ups and downs. Life is full of surprises, and for the reader to be able to be drawn into your story so deep that they hate to put the book down, the writer has to keep coming up with fresh material, which for many becomes pressure they don’t want to deal with. For those writers, I suggest you stick to stand-alone stories.

With that said, who is to say the writer can’t build a following using the same character in stand alone stories. For some that might be tougher, but for others it is the very foundation they can build a career on.

So, whether you follow a character down a long path with many twists and turns, or put him or her in a stand-alone situation, find the path you are comfortable with and enable you to write your stories.

My publisher suggested I write a western series. I said, alright and sat down at my computer and began. My biggest challenge was what his name was going to be. Once I established that in my mind, I placed my fingers on the keyboard and turned them loose. Two hundred and ninety-two pages later, I had book one, ‘Stranger On A Black Stallion.’ I have written three Clay Brentwood books this year and book four should be out in the early part of 2017. I like to write two to three books a year.

My biggest advice is; don’t let anyone tell you how to write your story. It’s yours and yours alone. Just do the best you can and allow your mind to roam freely, whether it is a stand-alone book or a series.

For me, I like to write several genres, stand-alone, series and children’s books.

In parting, I will leave you with this, “Write to have fun. Tell the stories you want to tell, in your own voice… in a way only you can tell them.”

Author’s Bio: Union stage, film, and television actor for more than twenty years – semi retired. Storyteller – children and adult – part of several storytelling guilds from coast to coast. I write, historical fiction, action adventure, westerns and children’s books… Have won several awards. A humble man who enjoys spinning a yarn.

In honor of those at Standing Rock

by C.J. Prince

She wakened, ears pricked to threatening men’s voices outside her small cabin deep in the harsh San Bernardino mountains.  Fists pounded on the wooden structure.  In darkness she reached for the shotgun, cocked and shot through the flimsy walls and walked outside.

“I’ll shoot your goddam balls off, sheriff , if you come ‘round here again.”

He left.

Juanita White Fawn hitchhiked to Los Angeles on the freeways to find lawyers.  In Crestline two public defenders took her case, my friends Rick Halpern and Phillip Barnett.  Over dinner they told me of Juanita’s plight. 

She was defending a sacred burial site.  The State of California wanted a recreational dam.  Just another story in the plethora of government treaties ignored.

I drove out to her cabin.  By that time she was living in a teardrop trailer next to the cabin.  It was safer.  She wore a faded headband, work clothes and turquoise ring and bracelet.  Every day she milked forty two goats.

That’s how I could help.  I milked goats with her, avoided the buck, the stench of his beard fouling the air.  We walked the dry hills and she taught me the local herbs. 

I had a friend at the San Bernadino Sun newspaper, Kathy Wilmore.  She connected me and I passed along Juanita’s story.  The following week Juanita’s picture was on the front page of the paper, above the fold.

By summer’s end I moved from the state and lost track of Juanita.  She lost the battle with the government.  And her goats and cabin and trailer.  She lost her purpose for living.  Someone sent me her obituary.

The ancient burial site is now Cedar Springs Dam and Silverwood Lake.  May the elders beneath be remembered in peace.

In honor of those at Standing Rock, I tell her story, one lone woman, taking a stand.

cjprince

Author’s Bio:  The crackle of fire, the spin of the dryer, dog and cat stop quarreling and sleep.  C.J. Prince writes at any hour of the day or night as the Muse dictates. In this case, my Muse came as Diane Wood, in a Facebook message that 9:00 p.m. was my deadline.  I read it at 9:05 p.m. So I wrote what moved me.  I made an altar this day dedicated to all the people at Standing Rock and All People who suffer from brutality and indignity.  On the altar was the photo of Juanita White Fawn.  Her story came as a parallel to current headlines so many decades later.   I wear a safety pin. With rapid check for mis-spelling, I emailed Diane.  Thank you. Blessings.  All we can use is our art:  passion for the moment and revealing the truth as we perceive it.

C.J. Prince
2016.12.4
Red Wheelbarrow Writers

Attention All RWB NaNoWriMo Writers!

Dear Fellow Writer,

Congratulations on your contribution to this year’s NaNoWriMo Red Wheelbarrow round robin novel Special Collections! Now it’s time to celebrate with a reading at Village Books next Friday, December 9, at 7 pm!  

Please respond AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, but no later than Tuesday, December 6, and let us know whether or not you would like to participate in this reading. We expect many readers, so the time for reading will be around 3 minutes for each chapter, enough to give the flavor of each writer’s craft.

Just respond to rwbarrow@live.com and let us know your plans. We’ll then send you the instructions for the evening.

We’ve enjoyed playing with you this year and hope to hear from you soon!!

Laura, Susan, Linda, and Victoria