I asked this special author..."Where do you start?" Then she proceeds to pull her hair out. Just kidding. It's a question some authors are likely asked a lot. So I had to return the favor ;) Anyway, Ms Byrd gave us a fantastic response, so I wanted to share:
Katrina Renee Byrd
Where Do I Start?
I hear this question a lot. It is one question that packs a real punch. When people ask this one questions they are usually asking three things.
1. How do I get my ideas on paper?
2. Where do I find time to write?
3.. Where does the piece of work need to begin?
Where do I start? How do I get my ideas on paper?
“I can think of some great ideas but when I try to write them, there’s nothing there.”
“Honey, there’s something there,” I say as I fluff my boa. “You just have to know how to access it.”
One of the most common mistakes about getting ideas on paper is that we try to edit before we write. We hear the ideas in our head but we work diligently to erase them and we don’t even know it. Here let me show you. Take out a sheet of paper or open your word processor. Write the following:
“sorry” she said but that wasn’t good enough for the teacher. She still said that she’d call her mother That scared Ellen. She walked slowly from her bus stop thinking… When she reached the front steps her mother stood on the porch. “Get into this house right now,” her mother said.
Look at what you’ve just written. Is it punctuated properly? Is it coherent? Is it something you want to share with your English teacher? Of course not but you have gotten the idea on paper. Take a minute to do some editing. Then take a look at my edits.
“Sorry,” Ella said. She stared at Mrs. Johnson, her second grade teacher behind thick glasses. Ella said it again, but sorry wasn’t good enough for Old Lady Johnson.
“I’m calling your mother this afternoon, young lady,” Mrs. Johnson said shaking a finger at Ella then turning her back to Ella and addressing the rest of the class.
Where do I start? Where do I find time to write?
“I am too busy. I just don’t have time to write?
“Busy doing what, honey?” I ask.
That’s the real question. We are all busy but what are we busy doing? If you want to be a writer you must write. I was shocked when I realized this concept. So walking around town advertising myself as a writer is not the same as being a writer? Sadly it is not. Neither is cleaning your house, nursing your boa flouncing career or being at every writers’ group meeting. So when I really embraced this concept I found some fun ways to write small pieces AND get feedback!! Dare I say it out loud? FACEBOOK, blogging, twitter… All of these entities give you the opportunity to come up with creative, short pieces in a short period of time. Another way to jump start your writing life is to carve out small periods of time for your writing. At this point it’s not the number of minutes or hours that you write but rather that you honor the time that you’ve set for yourself. If you say you are going to write from 3:00 pm – 3:02 pm then have your butt in chair, keyboard in hand and sit there for two, uninterrupted minutes of writing.
Where do I start? Where does the piece of work begin?
This question is a bit difficult to answer because so many of us write differently. Some use an outline, some fly by the seat of their pants and some do both. For me, I have come to realize that where I begin writing the story is not necessarily where the reader begins reading it. So when I sit down to begin writing a story I may begin writing “…and they lived happily ever after.” Where as once the story reaches the hands of the reader the first line he sees may be “Once upon a time.”
Some writers write linear and some don’t. Even with an outline I may choose to write chapter five first then go back and write chapter two. I really think the import thing is to know yourself and feel brave enough and free enough to begin writing wherever you’d like.
So to answer the question where do I start? I say, “WRITE!”
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As writers, we need to understand the power of the written AND spoken word. We also need to understand the power of the LACK of words.
To do that, let's consider things from a reader's point of view for a moment. And even from the point of view of someone who is simply speaking.
We have it pounded into our heads that our words, whether written or spoken, can hurt, so we need to watch our words. This is true. Sometimes, every now and then, on rare occasions, we also hear that our words can serve to build others up. This is also true.
However, how many of us realize the FULL power of our words?
When we are trying to make a point while speaking, what do most of us do? We yell or put MAJOR emphasis on what we're trying to make a point of. The rare individual actually uses something called...a pause...to emphasize something specific. In speech this sets off whatever is paused from everything around it. In writing, there is actually the same effect.
We have tools when writing that allow us, for the most part, to duplicate what our spoken words can do. As writers, we should learn each of these tools.
Now, as a speaker, some people just have what we call diarrhea of the mouth. In other words, they don't shut up, for anything, regardless, even if they have made their point already, it doesn't matter, they just keep spurting, and spurting, and don't get the clue, whether you speak up or not, whether their own brain tells them to stop...they DON'T stop.
You don't want to talk like that AND you don't want to write like that. Get your point made as succinctly and beautifully as possible. Nothing more, nothing less.
That brings us to our LACK of words. Sometimes less really IS more. We can describe one thing ten different ways and it has NO GREATER IMPACT just because it's been described ten different ways.
Say something ONE way. The most efficient, most dramatic way. The way that will impact the listener or the reader the most, ONE time. That way it STICKS WITH THEM. When you repeating, you actually end up softening the impact.
And yes, I'm guilty of this myself. So don't click on my books...to the right...or you may be disappointed :P
As writers and as readers, we need to make our speech as tight as possible. As to the point as possible. Have as much impact as possible. Just think, not many people have 20 minutes to hear something you can say in 2 minutes.
So get it done. You'll be happy you did ;)
Ever had a good head-bashing from an editor? Take your medicine. You'll be glad you did. Whether you're a writer or a reader, this will interest you. A word from editor extraordinaire, Laura Clark:
I’ve been doing a lot of proofreading and editing lately for indie authors. It’s something I’m good at, and it gives me a valid reason to stay up all night reading novels. For the most part, I enjoy proofreading and editing, but there are times when it makes me want to slam my head into the nearest hard surface. This happens when I see a good or great story buried under a pile of errors. There are a lot of variables that factor into a writer’s ability to properly use the nuts and bolts of his trade, and I don’t intend to go into those here. Instead, I mean to give writers – both established and aspiring–a few tips on how to use some of those nuts and bolts.
There have been many, many, books written on grammar, style, and punctuation. Some are incomplete, and some are hard to follow, but any of them can be useful--if a writer has one and takes the time to study it. These books have a much larger scope than this blog post. I highly recommend finding such a book and becoming friends with it.
So now, on with the show: a few tips to keep your editor and/or publisher from going stark-raving mad and/or strangling you. This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but it should help a little.
The semi-colon only has two purposes: to separate list items that contain commas, and to connect two closely related independent clauses (sentences) without a conjunction.
I went to the store; I needed milk.
I wrote a long letter full of gossip: the latest news about Uncle Joe, Aunt Patty, and their thirteen kids; chit-chat about my job, school, and my friends; and the big scandal over at Colony High.
There are specific rules for the use of commas. They should not be placed anywhere you feel there should be a pause. Find a book about punctuation and learn the basic rules for comma usage. You'll be glad you did.
Dialogue attribution tells the reader who is speaking. Take care when using words or phrases other than "said" or "asked". Do NOT include adverbs in dialogue attribution.
"I love you," Jane said sadly.
"I love you," Jane said, her voice cracking as tears spilled down her cheeks.
An ellipsis is that little string of dots that denotes hesitation or missing words. There should be only three dots in an ellipsis. If the ellipsis falls at the end of a sentence, then it should be followed by proper punctuation.
"I...I don't know what to do," June said.
"What...what do I do?" June asked.
"But I.... You know what, never mind," June said.
Direct address is when one of your characters calls another character by his or her name, a nickname, or a title. Anytime one character directly addresses another, the name should be set off by a comma.
"Jane, please look at me," Joe said.
"Please look at me, Jane," Joe said.
"Ma'am, look at me, please," Joe said.
"Please look at me, ma'am," Joe said.
Run-on sentences are a very bad idea because they are hard to understand and can make the reader lose track of what you are trying to say in a sentence and this can make them want to stop reading. See what I mean?
Do NOT use song lyrics in your work unless you have a written agreement allowing you to use them. ASCAP or the rights-holder will find out about it sooner or later and come after you. They will take your house, your car, your wife, your dog, and your neighbor’s dog and then bludgeon you to death with your own foot.
There is no reason why folks should confuse these two words. They do not look alike nor sound alike, and they have different meanings.
Loose – Adjective meaning "not tight."
Her hair came loose from its tie.
Lose – Verb meaning "misplace."
I often lose my keys.
Homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings and usages. Learn them!
To – Preposition meaning such things as "toward", "until", or "as far as".
I want to go to bed.
Too – Adverb meaning "also", "excessively", or "very."
I am too tired; my eyes won't stay open.
Two – A number that is one more than one.
There are two wheels on a bicycle.
Their – Possessive pronoun meaning "belonging to them."
That is their truck, not mine.
There – Adverb meaning "that place." Also used as an introductory element.
There is a big stack of pancakes on his plate.
Let's go over there now.
They're – Contraction of "they are."
They're coming to dinner tomorrow.
It's – Contraction of "it is."
It's time to go to bed.
Its – Possessive preposition meaning "belonging to it."
The cat licked its whiskers.
Your – Possessive preposition belonging to you.
It is your turn.
You're – Contraction of "you are."
You're going to be late for work if you don't get up soon.
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