Author Fair at Richardson Public Library

This past Saturday, I had the chance to meet with local readers, fans and other authors at the Author Fair put on by the Richardson Public Library. Library fairs are the best because attendees are interested in one thing — books. As you might guess, I could talk all day on that very subject.

In addition to meeting with several terrific area fans and readers, I spoke with some fascinating authors, such as TJ Xia (can’t wait to read his super well-researched book on creativity and innovation), T.D. Walker (looking forward to her book of science-fiction poetry next year) and Diane Cobalt (writer of successful suspense trilogy Fatal Impact). I also picked up several new ideas for marketing and author networking.

If you’re in the area and you missed the Richardson Library’s first author fair this year, look for it next year. I plan to be there with a new book or two to share with you.

Advertisements

That One Thing: Do it With Style, Writer

Last night, as I read Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem and felt myself in the grips of his imaginative world, I was struck by all the different ways writers can grab you in a story. While there are certainly formulas many writer often follow to tell a good story, I think the best thing a writer can do is to write toward his unique strengths. Cixin certainly has a knack for turning hard science fiction into easy-to-follow concepts that are natural extensions of the story, but he’s also created a fascinating world, a world that he reveals masterfully and at a pace that keeps the reader thoroughly engaged.

But I can be equally caught up in the way another writer crafts characters or dialogue, or crafts sensory descriptions, or plots cliffhangers and plot twists. And of course, two different writers can do those things very differently, but both well. For example, my favorite modern author, China Miéville, like Cixin, has a penchant for masterful world-building. But his style of exposition is vastly different from Cixin’s. For one thing, it’s full of delicious adjectives and a laundry list of visual and sensory details. And yet, I’m in love with both of their writing.

I had a fiction writing professor once who said that he could teach us technique but not style. I’ve certainly found that to be true (even though defining style is a bigger task in itself). A writer has to find his or her own style. We borrow ideas and learn from what has come before us, certainly. But at the end of the day, an artist has to explore what makes them an artist. What is it that you have to say that’s different than the next guy? Or how do you present it differently? Find that one thing and do the hell out of it. Be the best at that one thing.

Do You Have Something to Say?

A friend of mine recently asked me a seemingly small question. I was telling her about all of my creative writing projects (my children’s books, novels, short stories and poems), and she asked, in an intrigued tone, “So you feel like you have something to say?”

I could answer that question by rattling off all the philosophical topics I love to chatter about anytime I’m sitting across someone with nothing but coffee between us. And I could easily write a non-fiction book on just those things.

But I don’t think that’s really answering the question (for one thing, I’m not writing that non-fiction book). And I don’t think it’s such a small question after all. Certainly everyone has opinions, and at least a modicum of a unique perspective. Each of us, I believe, has something to share with our fellow humans. But do we feel that something is valuable enough to charge others’ money for it?

Part of the answer lies heavily with how we share our piece. Because that’s the art of it, isn’t it? Are we a good craftsman? Do we weave a compelling tale, or use poetic language?

But also, is our perspective well-informed? Well thought-out? Does it share a perspective sufficiently unique as to provide something new or powerful or educational?

I can only say I hope so. And I suppose that would be the honest answer, in one form or another, of most artists. We create because we are drawn to do it. I write stories and poems, because I’m feel compelled to do so and because I feel immense joy in the process.

But are the works that result things of value? It is the collision of art and audience that starts to answer that question. Even then, we are left with the question: Did the right art find the right audience?

Book Genres

How Not to Handle Returning from a Writing Hiatus

Writing After a HiatusUpon the times that I’ve returned to writing from a longer hiatus, I’ve exhibited the following, possibly unhealthy, pattern.

  1. Get story spark from divine events.* Hastily jot down notes on character and plot. Start writing.
  2. After two to four weeks, encounter the inevitable snarl. The writing is bogged down, going nowhere fast. Spend a session or two alternating between unsnarling, writing new scenes, destroying old ones, and beating head on desk.
  3. Step back and realize I failed while crafting original story outline, failed to think through motivations , sub-plots and things of this rudimentary ilk.
  4. Get disgusted with story. Start a new story, learning from my mistakes.
  5. Get it right. Pen masterpiece?

As experienced writers understand, momentum plays an enormous role in bringing about good writing. It keeps you on the edge of your game, thinking through all the elements of story a good writer needs to be thinking about. Remembering what you did in the last book, or last week, comparing it to what you just read, and so on. You’re in the zone of your craft, as it were.

If I take a break, then several of those perceptions and skills, some of the subtle, tend to shake loose and become misplaced. If I take a break, I need a practice round, something expendable. Or at least it becomes expendable in the process. I’ve never planned this, but looking back, I’ve recreated this pattern several times. You would think I would see it coming. No matter, it’s still something I have to do. The price I pay for taking a break. I should know better.

*And by divine, I mean mundane.