Story

I’m moving along at a measured pace — adding an average of 300 words a day to my current book. Not that the number of words matters to me, it doesn’t. The only reason I mention it is to let new writers know there are all kinds of writers. Some let the words gush out and try to type fast enough to catch them all. Some, like me, have to pull each word, kicking and screaming, into the world. Some have a compulsion to write; others make a conscious choice. How you write, how often, how many words you write per day are all unimportant, unless, of course, you are a writer under contract. But if you are a writer under contract, you would be writing, not reading this blog.

In the end, the only thing that counts is the finished story. The story doesn’t care how long it took you to write it. It doesn’t care if you bled words onto the paper or created it slowly, one puzzle piece at a time. A finished story exists complete and entire of itself, separate from the author and the author’s work habits.

Sometimes we wonder how our favorite authors write, but mostly we devour (or savor) their works, wanting only to immerse ourselves in the story. If it moves us to tears, makes us laugh or shiver, that’s all we care about for the moment. We don’t care how long it took for the author to create the effect. Being writers, of course, we might go back later and see how it was done, but at the time, all we are interested in is the story.

So, here’s the truth. You can call yourself a writer or not. You can write a thousand words a day or not. You can write every day or not. The only thing that counts is the story.

That’s what we novelists are all aiming for.

Story.

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Speaking of Writers . . .

Today was my day at the Second Wind Publishing Blog, and I posted an article entitled: “What Do You Call an Unpublished Writer?” If the truth be told, it’s a reworking of a bloggery I wrote over a year ago, but back then only a few people read it, so it’s practically brand new. What is also new (or rather eternally fresh) is that particular question, and it got me to thinking how only in the arts do people categorize themselves by their aspirations not their jobs. How many self-named actors in Hollywood or New York are restaurant workers with a few bit parts on their resumes and a head full of dreams?

It seems that writers, even more than actors, struggle with this identity. When do we become writers? When do we become authors? When can we call ourselves professional writers or novelists? It seems there are many steps on the path to becoming a writer, or at least to being able to call ourselves writers, and we have all sorts of definitions to prove that we are writers and other lesser beings are not. A writer writes — always. A writer has a compulsion to write. A writer . . . well, you get the picture. I have never been able to use such adages to define myself. I don’t write always. I don’t have a compulsion to write — it’s a choice.

I do know one thing, a writer does write some of the time. If a person has a novel in their head but nowhere else, that person might be a storyteller (not a bad title in itself) but not a writer. As for the rest of it, does it matter? Perhaps on the internet, where we are whatever we say we are, it makes a difference, but when we are alone with our words and our stories, we are simply being. Not being writers, but being the creat(e)ures we were meant to be.

Join the Suspense/Thriller Writers Group on Facebook

I accidentally became administrator of the Suspense/Thriller Writers Group on Facebook (just goes to show you need to be careful what links you click!), but now that I am in charge of the group, I intend to make it a resource for all writers. If you don’t think you write suspense, think again. Whatever genre you write, you still write suspense. Suspense at its most basic is making readers worry about what is going to happen to your characters. If they don’t worry, they have no reason to read. Besides, all genres make use of the same basic story elements: plot, characterization, scenes, description.

So I am extending an invitation to all writers, published or unpublished, neophyte or master, to join the group. If you’re like most people who join Facebook to make connections, you don’t have any idea how to go about it, so this group will help you get to know people, and it might teach you something — or give you a chance to tell others what you know.

Here’s where you find the group:
Suspense/Thriller Writers 
Here’s where you find my profile (add me as a friend):
Pat Bertram
Here are some of our discussions:
Voice
Branding
Backstory
Characterization
How Real Life Experiences Influence Fiction
Using Facebook for Promotion
Gifts From the Muses
Layering, The Art of Building an Onion From the Inside Out
Titles: What Makes a Good One
What is a Storyteller’s Obligation to History?
How Do We Make Our Writing the Best We Can?
How Do You Promote Your Book When You’re Shy?
What Makes a Story or Scene Suspenseful?
Fan Fiction: Parody or Tribute?

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Free Exclamation Points for Everyone!!!

In celebration of National Punctuation Day (it was four days ago, but who’s counting?) I’m giving away exclamation points to everyone to use as you wish. Or better yet, to not use.

During an online discussion about punctuation, a participant said she wanted one basic rule for exclamation points. My response: “If you want just one rule for exclamation points? Don’t use them.” We get so used to flinging exclamation points around in online comments and emails that we think they belong everywhere, but an exclamation point is often an unnecessary elbow nudge.

“Oh, how fun.”

“Oh, how fun!”

“Oh, how fun,” he exclaimed.

“Oh, how fun!” he exclaimed.

The exclamation in the first example is understood, so a period works just fine. The middle two examples are gramatically correct, though they do tend to poke you in the side to make sure you get the point. The exclamation point in the fourth example is redundant if you use the speaker attribute. And the speaker attribute is telling something we already know if you use the exclamation point. Of course, pointing this out will not change your ways; despite rules and helpful hints, we all have our own quirks when it comes to punctuation, and as I learned during the discussion, we will argue our points even when proven wrong.

So, use or do not use your free exclamation points. They are yours. A gift from me.

A Writer Writes. Always?

A writer writes. Always.

Or so they say. (Whoever “they” are.) Many professional authors write for six months a year and spend the other six months promoting. This does not make such writers less than those who doggedly sit down every day and churn out a quota of words. A writer writes, of course. But always? So much goes into writing — thinking, outlining, researching, learning the craft — that it’s hard to tell when a writer is not working. 

I’m one of those writers who carry on imaginary conversations with my characters. I always plan to jot  down these conversations , but I usually have them when I am out walking, and by the time I get home, most of them are out of my head. A lot comes back when I sit down to write, and some of those conversations end up in the story.  Are these conversations writing? Of course not. But they are part of the writing process.  It is the process, the focus– getting into the story and staying there, keeping it in the back of our minds when we are doing other things, filtering our lives through the mesh of the story — that makes us writers, not simply word counts. 

Does writing this article count as “a writer writes; always”? Probably not. But I am writing, and writing this blog helps me focus my thoughts. Is editing considered writing? I don’t know. Still, I’ve been going through my finished manuscripts once more, taking out all the bits that fail to support the focus of the story, and  now those novels are better focused on the theme. But that editing cuts into my writing time. Does researching book marketing techniques count as writing? I doubt it, but writers who intend to be published one day need to know how to promote their book. All these things that take me away from my work-in-progress help focus my life around writing. Help focus my attention on writing. 

Maybe a better way of describing a writer is” a writer writes, and when a writer isn’t writing, a writer is focused on writing.”