Tag Archives: Writers

NaNoWriMo’s History. NOW WHAT??

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Okay, so it’s December first. That means the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is over, and you have to stop the writing, but only long enough to take stock. So, how did it go for you? Did you start that new novel? Did you drag the old one from under your proverbial bed and continue? Did you give up after three days? Three hours? Three minutes? Or did you tough it out, fall into a groove, and breeze the rest of the way through? Or are you banging your head against the wall, still trying to figure it out? Whatever way you approached it, you deserve a BIG pat on the back for at least giving it a go, and if you finished, you deserve a big HUZZAH! Now you can join that elite club of NaNoWriMos who’ve done it. And hopefully, you’re on your way to join those who’ve gone onto selling.

Inevitably, you’ll ask the question, so now what? Well, if you enjoyed National Novel Writing Month, you can continue the good feels after the holidays by signing onto NaNoWriMo’s help taking that finished novel to the next level. Need help with editing and revision and where to go next? Then go here for the NaNoWriMo site and let them help your continue your publishing journey. Happy Writing!

TIPS FROM THE MFA PIT, PART 13

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You thought I forgot, didn’t you? Like nearly a whole semester has gone by with nary a mention.  Well no I didn’t! What follows is a discussion on loving the author, but maybe not loving the work. The bone of our contention was Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. No one’s perfect after all, not even literary icons!

There are several things that struck me when reading your critique of Garcia Marquez. The first thing is you can love the author, but you don’t have to love everything they write. To use a cliché, you don’t have to hit a home run every time—on both ends. There are reasons for this, one of which is the perks of being a literary icon. This being one of GM’s later works, after several critical and commercial successes, after winning the Nobel Prize, his publisher more than likely gave him a no-edit clause. Quite literally, they will publish every word the author writes. The author becomes their own editor in the sense that they have the final say over what stays or goes in the work, as their work is considered beyond “fixing,” and that people will buy anything he’ll write anyway. Only big authors get this privilege, and I’ve seen some of my favorite writers go this route to the point I couldn’t read them anymore. Take one Ken Follett.

Back in his prime, he was one of my favorite writers. Not for his deep literary talent, but for pure escapism. His genre was historical thrillers, and he wrote several novels set during WWII, two of which The Eye of the Needle and Night Over Water, kept you on the edge of your seat with every turn of the page. They were novels you’d read far into the night, mainly because you simply could not put them down. Then his success led to a no-edit clause. The first book I read after that I couldn’t get  50 pages in. It’s been years, but I haven’t read anything by him since.

What struck me next doesn’t have so much to do with Garcia Marquez as with how much you’re learning about magical realism. You’re discovering what works and what doesn’t, or rather what works for YOU and what doesn’t. As you read, you’re also developing your own style, as what you would write if it were your own book. I read with interest your synopsis of the work, as it boiled it down to the elements that stood out to you. From what I could gather, it lacked the enthusiasm of when you really enjoy something (as with Beloved  — and oh yes, did you enjoy the firestorm the book caused in the recent gubernatorial election in Virginia? Guaranteed 99.99% of the complainers didn’t read past the first page). Another thing that struck me was the blatant symbolism in it. Calling the protagonist Sierva, at least an Anglo play on the Spanish for servant servidora.  Then there’s her hair being a symbol of freedom, and how hers is shorn. It reminded me of the fairy tail, Rapunzal, whose long hair kept her captive in a tower. Irony, maybe?

Again, we don’t have to love everything from a beloved writer. We can allow them a few misses in their entire body of work. But as I pointed out you can still learn from them, and if that’s not what to do, if we can hone our own style out of theirs, then a lesson learned is a lesson learned.

YEEEHAH! IT’S TIME FOR NANOWRIMO!

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It’s that time of year again! National Novel Writing Month aka NaNoWriMo! Start a novel, grab an old one from under your proverbial bed and revise, or get back to work on one you started a while ago which is now moldering in your cloud or hard drive. C’mon, we all have one lingering about, don’t we? When would be a better time to get back to work on it than during November, when you’ll have all the creative and emotional support you can get from the NaNoWriMo community? Writers write peeps, so you don’t get to call yourself more if you don’t do it. So click here for more information, and then it’s butt in chair and get that genius going!

LIBERTY STATE FICTION WRITERS 11TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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Mark Your Calendar for the
11th Anniversary
Liberty States Fiction
Writers Conference
November 6, 2021

Holiday Inn in Clark, NJ


BOOK FAIR IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC WITH NO ADMISSION FEE.

Our 2021 Conference is dedicated to Indie Publishing, but we have something for writers at all stages of their careers and whether traditionally published, small press, hybrid or indie.

The Liberty States Fiction Writers 11th Annual Conference features a line-up of more than a dozen authors and industry professionals who will share their expertise and experience. Located at the Holiday Inn in Clark, New Jersey, we offer a full day of education and networking for those who are published or want to be published. Workshops will focus on craft, business, promotion and indie-publishing. Love to write? Want to get published? Join us on November 6, 2021.

For more information see Liberty States Fiction Writers website.

Hey! It’s me! Gwen Jones!

Hey! It's me! Gwen Jones!Hey! I know it’s been a long time, but you know, it was summer and I was busy hanging out, sleeping late, and going to the beach. So now it’s back to business and I’m back to teaching and working on my latest project. There’s big changes afoot, and I hope to have something big to disclose pretty soon now, and you know I will absolutely let you know when I do. For the present, I’m attending various writing events, including next month’s Liberty State Fiction Writers’ Conference in Clark, NJ. If you must absolutely know more about it and would like to attend, there’s a limited number of tickets available, so go here to find out more.  There will also be a Book fair in the afternoon, and if you’re like me, you’d rather spend your money on books more than anything in the world. Especially sweet because the Book Fair is FREE and open to the public. So if you’re a writer and happen to be in New Jersey–and who wouldn’t want to be–absolutely check it out!

Summer Break

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It’s been a long school year, and it’s still not over for me, as I went from Fall to Winter Interim to Spring, and now smack into the Summer semester. Those who work 9-5 jobs (or whatever that is these days) may not feel a scintilla of sympathy for me when I say this, but the myth of instructors being off in the summer never met an adjunct college professor. Summers without work are summers without money, so we keep working right through, in condensed semesters that during the regular school year would be 14 weeks, now cut down to five, with all the same material to cover, and the grading coming three times as fast. In between all of this, I’m working on an edit of a book while my agent shops my latest (bites nails, cross your fingers). In any event, I’m a bit fried, so I’m taking a few things off my plate while I wind down Summer I before heading into Summer II. As well as taking a couple of quick mental health weekends out of this office where I’ve spent too much time this pandemic year. (Really, really, REALLY sick of these four walls!)

Okay, enough the the bitch and moan. Enjoy the summer, and I’ll see you in August. Just don’t forget, writers write, so get cracking.

TIPS FROM THE MFA PIT – PART 12

Looks like it’s the end of the semester, though I have just enough time to include one more tip from the MFA pit. I know I haven’t been very timely about passing them on earlier, then two weeks apart you get two, but it’s been a very busy semester, and all of a sudden you look up and BOOM – it’s almost summer. Well, not quite, but close enough in college time. Anyway, this week’s tip look at two topics, the question of character growth over the course of a narrative, and how much info to disclose along the way. Get my side of the argument, then you decide…

Most writing instructors will tell you that a protagonist – or an antagonist – need to show growth over the course of a book. You’ve discovered a read can still be enjoyable and engaging without it. But even if there is no growth, there should be change, in the sense that we get to know their motivation, or perhaps they do, over time. They may not change or alter their behavior, but perhaps they alter someone else’s. Hannibal Lecter certainly wasn’t going to change in The Silence of the Lambs, but he sure as hell changed Clarice. And there’s no doubt that a good villain is just as enjoyable – sometimes more – than a hero. I suppose more than anything, there has to be movement, in one way or another, not only with the story unfolding, but also in the way the story evolves. And in how much is disclosed to the reader.

I’m a firm believe in only disclosing information on a need-to-know basis. Let on what is essential in telling your story while still keeping the reader guessing. Unless we’re writing in omniscient narration, we’ll shouldn’t ever see “Little did Alex know, but he was about to…” This is not Stranger Than Fiction (one of my all-time favorite movies). Drop those breadcrumbs, let the reader feel like they’re part of the process. One of the best books I ever read that did this was Burden of Proof by Scott Turow. When the murderer was finally revealed I literally gasped. I was surprised, but all those breadcrumbs tumbled into place. Each step toward the eventual conclusion, or the solving of the crime, has to also fall in line with the logic of the person acting it out. No “deus ex machina” or Dickensian surprises. The actions taken by the protagonists and antagonists have to make sense both to the characters’ personalities as well as make sense to the story. It’s okay to surprise your readers, but make sure their gasp is one of delight, not disbelief.

Until next semester — happy writing!

TIPS FROM THE MFA PIT – PART 11

Once again another edition of real-life writing in a real-life MFA program. As we’re approaching the end of the semester, I’m giving some advice to a mentee in genre writing, who’s address the topic of writing humor, among other things, like reentering the world after lockdown…

I think we’re all suffering from Spring Fever in all in variant forms. Down here in Jersey, every branch and stem burst out in buds this week, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching my husband drool and drip from every exposed orifice. Plus Monday, I had my first COVID-19 shot. I must admit, I was a little nervous (never enough not to get it), but I’ve had very little side effects beyond some arm soreness from the injection site, and feeling a bit draggy the next day. I go back in three weeks for my second and hopefully, will be equally lucky  that time. It’s going to be weird to not have to be on-guard constantly, and the world seems to be growing a bit wider every day. Makes one wonder how we’ll be reflecting on – as well as writing about –  this past year in the years to come.

Speaking of reporting, Carl Hiaasen recently retired from his long-time position as columnist and report at the Miami Herald. His final column bemoaned the sorry state of journalism, and as much as I love his writing, I couldn’t bring myself to read it, so depressed as I am at the decline of local news. My first two years as an undergrad were spent as a journalism major, and although I’ve always saw reporters as something mythic, I could force myself, at that tender age, to be pushy enough to actually become one (I don’t think I’d have a problem with it now). In any event, Carl Hiaasen is equally adept at writing pathos as he is comedy, but what I really admire about him is the wonderful way he writes dialogue. The man’s a master at it, and if you take away anything from his writing, it’s how he can push the plot along with it. And yes, he’s funny, laugh out loud sometimes, and as preposterous as his plots can be, he somehow makes them believable with the seamless way he weaves reality into it. Florida, it seems, is his first love, and he never strays far from it.

Funny you should mention funny! Humor is DEFINITELY harder to write than serious. We can always summon up feelings of sympathy or danger or even love, but making something laugh is probably the hardest thing out there. So take it as a great compliment if someone says you’re funny. If you weren’t, they most likely wouldn’t mention it at all. Actually making someone laugh is like inducing an involuntary reaction. It’s a talent and if you have it, by all means, indulge it!

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Who’s funny? Am I? Sometimes I am when I try to , and other times I am when I’m not. It’s all subjective, but one thing it can’t be is forced. If it is it just comes out pathetic, and there’s nothing funny about that!

yeah, it’s hemingway, but it’s also ken burns

I was always charmed by the legendary story Papa Hemingway created on a bet, the most succinct yet heartbreaking flash fiction of all time, told in just six simple words:

For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

What tragedy! What pathos! But then I found out it was complete bullshit, as the story behind the story couldn’t be substantiated. Still, it was a good tale on both sides, and a good choice of carefully chosen words, and if he didn’t create it then someone else surely did. Moreover, it’s an excellent example of Getting Right to the Point. In a literary sense, that was definitely something Ernest Hemingway was an ace at

There’s certain labels you hang on Hemingway when you think of the man or the myth: adventurer, serious drinker, womanizer, the ultimate in toxic masculinity. I’ve had a hard time thinking about the way he dealt with women, Martha Gelhorn, especially, and the way he portrayed some of his female characters. Still, I’ve always respected the parsimonious way he writes, no flowery Faulkner, he. Just straight-to-the-heart or jackhammer prose. I’ve tried to emulate it it though fail often. Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying.

Or miss the new miniseries by Ken Burns on PBS starting next week: Hemingway: The Man. The Myth. The Writer Revealed. I‘m always interested in a writer’s process, as it helps me understand my own. Also because I can use all the help I can get.