February 18, 2013

Why writing is just like singing

Let's discuss the different types of singers.

There are the oh so talented it makes you want to puke singers. Yeah, maybe they had to work a little with lessons and things of that sort, but ultimately, they are just gifted. Simple as that. My friend Savannah is one of those. Her voice is this husky, bluesy type that can't be taught. She's just gifted.

Then there are people like me. I have very little "natural talent" but I've got determination like you wouldn't believe. I'm a "bit" of a perfectionist. I have practiced and studied music my entire life.

(Here's a short story to give you an idea of what kind of singer I am)

I joined a church a few years ago and immediately jumped into the choir. I just had to be a part of that amazing group of voices.

Shortly after joining the choir, the director announced that he wanted to form a praise team to lead the 8:30 worship. Each service he would have 2 sopranos, 2 male (bass or baritone), and 2 altos on stage singing the worship. Then during the 11 o'clock service these people would still have the mics to lead with the choir.

I was new, so of course, he wanted to hear me sing before he stuck a microphone in my hand. So I sang for him AND I MADE THE CUT!

Sooo, when a solo came up that I thought would be a good fit for my voice, I auditioned.

He gave the solo to one of his "experienced" singers.

Another solo came up.

I auditioned again.

He gave it to another singer.

I've stopped auditioning. He's heard me sing and if he ever feels a song is right for me, I know he'll give me that solo. It's been over two years though, so I've come to terms with the fact that I'm just not solo material.

But I still get to sing in the praise team once or twice a month. And I get to sing with that lovely lady you just listened to. And most of the time she sings a solo, which means I'm trusted to carry the soprano part BY MYSELF! And you know what? I'm okay with that. I may not be a solo singer. I may never be good enough to be in the spot light, but through A TON of hard work, I've trained my vocal chords enough that I'm trusted with a microphone, and I'm considered a strong soprano who can hold her own.

Then there are the ones who think their voice is awesome sooo THEY SING SO FREAKIN LOUD YOU CAN'T HEAR YOURSELF. They don't blend AT ALL. Being a part of a choir means that you should blend with the people next to you. But these people want so desperately to be heard, they belt out and drown all the voices around them. It is possible that they are just deaf. But I think it is more of a selfish thing--desperate for the spotlight.

When singing in a choir, you should be able to hear your own voice blending with the voices around you. It's a beautiful thing when your voice aligns just right with the person next to you and you almost sound like one voice. You compliment each other. This is how it should be!

I think writing is just like singing.

1.) There are those that are so talented they get an agent right away, or a pub contract on THEIR FIRST NOVEL. A part of you is happy for them, but inside you can't help but think 'Really? REALLY??? I've written FOUR NOVELS!!! Where's my contract?'
2.) There are writers who work really hard for a really long time and still never become this great, breakout debut writer, but maybe, if they are patient enough, and work hard enough, they get to see their words in print someday. Maybe they even get an agent who will work with them to help them improve where needed. I am one of those--and I'm totally cool with it.
3.) And then there are the ones who would just assume to stand in the back row and try to drown out everyone else. They don't need a microphone. They are better than that. (And yes, there is one in EVERY CHOIR). They are selfish. They self promote their writing like crazy--but do not promote other's writing. They ask you to crit/beta read, along with twenty other people, but when the thirty of us ask it in return, they are too busy. In their little world, they are the only one who deserves the spotlight. Eventually, they end up alone. No one wants to sit next to that selfish singer (writer)--no matter how talented they may be.

Being a writer is such a privilege. I get to be a part of this amazing group of people. It's all about blending and encouraging each other. And yes, even cheering for those amazing soloist. They can't help it they are so gifted. And maybe, just maybe, someday I'll get a solo too. But if not, it's still an honor to be a part of this group of wonderful people.

I'll leave you with another one of Savvy's songs :)
Go. Write. Be brilliant.

February 8, 2013

Why every fiction writer should write a memoir and every nonfiction writer should write fiction

Now, before you get all huffy puffy with me, hear me out.
Let's start with fiction.
I wrote my first novel (YA fantasy). The plot was mediocre, the characters were weak, and the voice was nonexistent. So after going through it with a cp who pointed all of these things out to me, I sat it aside and began my next novel. Now I knew what I did wrong the first time around and I was going to conquer those weaknesses.
So novel two flowed out of my fingers and onto my screen. If I do say so myself, the plot was pretty solid and I loved the adventure. The characters were awesome, unique, and each had their own personalities. The pace was even great. BUT my mcs (2 alternating povs) lacked voice. I wasn't sure what I did wrong though. All over blogger, and in every contest was that word "VOICE". Some people had it, but I just didn't.
So enter novel #3. I knew I had a great memoir in me. And I felt I was now ready to write it. I'd learned through my other 2 novels how important pace and plot were. So I plotted out my memoir, making sure I really focused that bad boy. And because I wasn't writing fantasy now, I really had to make sure to keep the reader's attention.
So I channeled my inner fifteen-year-old and wrote out my memoir (age 15-17). I flew through it and in 2 months it was ready for betas.
The very same betas who kept saying "where's your voice?" in my other 2 novels, were now saying "hahaha!", "oh I love this!", "You go girl, tell them to go to hell!", "Yes, yes, yes!" And my favorite "This is so good. There's no way this won't get published! Do you want me to pitch this to my publisher?" And "Oh you are so going to get an agent with this. I can't believe that was all true!"
It seems I had to write myself as the mc to find my voice. So whether you have a publishable memoir or not, I say write out the most tragic year of your life--or even just a few chapters. FIND YOUR VOICE--THEN write your fiction. Now that I've finished my memoir (which got two R&Rs from agents and is now back in their hands for consideration) I started writing fiction again and I can tell it's a thousand times better!! I know how to feel what the character feels now. I know how to insert my personality onto the page.
Now, for the nonfic. And please hear me out (I know what I'm talking about).
I have been asked to beta a few memoirs. And across the board, my response is the same b/c they all make the same mistakes. YOU ARE TELLING ME THE STORY. STOP. JUST STOP. SHOW ME THE STORY!!!! WRITE IT AS IF IT WERE FICTION!
It's not that there isn't a story there, it's that because the writer doesn't understand fiction, they aren't able to write their nonfiction in a gripping way. And by skimming the surface and telling me things in time jumps, I'm bored, and an agent will be too. And the others things I see are backstory (please, just stop) and they want to tell their entire life. BUT we don't want to read it. Focus that stuff. Pick just the most important time in your life and hone it in. In fiction you write to an age group. You don't write the entire life of your mc, you start at 12, or 16, or 20 and then you write a few months, or a year. Maybe even 2 years, but not their entire life! FOCUS PEOPLE!
Did you know I had an abusive father? I haven't seen him since I was twelve. (TRUTH)
Did you know I had a tumor in my chin that kept coming back? It disfigured my face for a year and I talked with a lisp. I had 4 surgeries over 1 year! (TRUTH)
Did you know I've been married twice? We won't even go into the details of the divorce. (TRUTH)
BUT YOU KNOW WHAT????? NONE of those things were needed or wanted in my memoir. Why you ask. Because my memoir was about rape, having to learn to trust men (b/c they aren't all rapists), learning to be "touched", and even falling in love, and then the trial. Yes there is faith in my memoir, and relationships with my kid brother and mom--but I only told 2 years of my life and only the absolutely most interesting parts of those two years.
So my point, if you can't figure out how to write your memoir like fiction--then write some fiction and come back to your memoir later.
If you're having trouble getting to the heart of your mc, and you can't find your voice, write out YOUR story, just for the purpose of becoming a stronger writer.  
Write both nonfiction and fiction so that you can learn from both. Do it as a writing exercise. Now go. Write. Be brilliant.

February 1, 2013

Flash Fiction Contest

I just couldn't resist. As soon as I saw the picture my mind ran away with the possibilities of a story. The link to Darci's contest (if you want to enter) can be found HERE. I'm on a horror kick. So I'll label this
Genre: Adult horror. Title: A MOTHER'S LOVE

I crouched behind a stump. I couldn't move. My body was numb. I couldn't even breathe. All I could do was watch.
The headlights topped the hill and came closer. I wanted to cry out to them. Stop, please. Go the other way. It isn’t safe. You aren’t safe. But my instinct for survival was stronger than my humanity.
Gravel crunched under the tires as they drew near. I could just make out the shadows of two people in the front seat. They'd made it halfway through the tree line. Maybe they’d make it. Maybe this time—
A tree limb reached under the vehicle. Another arm of the tree swung overtop of the car and lifted it off the road. The giant oak wrapped all of its limbs around the car and crushed it as if it were a tin can.
I clasped my hand to my mouth to trap my cries. My heart collapsed inside of me. No. Please, oh no. Why'd they come this way? Everyone knows these trees are evil. This can’t be happening.
Two women screamed inside the mangled car. It was the worse sound I’d ever heard... until the screams stopped. The crunching of metal and bones was all that remained.

They were dead.

Soon, I would be too.

A different tree cracked and snapped, like it was popping its knuckles, as it awoke. It snatched the crumbled, metal ball from its neighbor. The first tree grabbed it back. They struggled over ownership, pulling and tugging at their new toy. Their trunks remained rooted, but their braches reached far.
There was no way I could get past them. I needed to go now, but I couldn’t tell the regular trees from the alive ones until they moved. Then it would be too late—just the way it was too late for the women.
Just beyond those trees, my son was dying. In my pocket were the ingredients that would save him. I traveled for days for them, once thought to be extinct. Now all that separated me from my child were one-hundred monstrous trees. There wasn’t enough time to go around. They said my son wouldn't live three days. It's been four.
If I tried to sneak through the trees, the leaves and debris would be too loud. The road was open, but smooth. I'd be seen, but it was the clearest path. I rose to my feet.
Embedded in the stump was the blade of an ax. The long, wooden handle had bloody handprints on it. I placed my fingers over the blood stains and ripped the ax from its post.

I would get to my son. Nothing would stop me.