The Five Questions Every Writer Gets

questionAUTHORS.me user and writer Vincent J. Sachar delivers his thoughts on the five questions every writers gets — and he gives answers

BY VINCENT J. SACHAR, AUTHORS.me author 

  1. Where do you get your ideas?

    I laughed aloud when Stephen King mentioned in his book On Writing that this is the one question that he and other writers never ask each other because “none of us know.” Simply stated, we often respond that our ideas come from life all around us. Truth is, I never get a complete idea. I get a seed, a “what if” that then germinates within my mind and begins to form a story.

  2. How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

    I heard writer’s block defined as “when your imaginary friends stop speaking to you.” There may be a lot of truth in that. One way in which I have responded, when I seem to be sluggish, is to skip ahead in my writing to a scene that I know I will include and let the connecting chapters flow when they are ready. Another approach is to have more than one project going concurrently.

  3. Have you ever based a book character on a person you actually know?

    Most of us would likely say we have never based a character upon a real person, but, let’s face it, we pick up personality characteristics, nuances, manners of speaking, and more from people all around us. We should ask readers which character in our books do they believe most resembles themselves.

  4. Do you outline your novels or just write as you go?

    People often wonder how we are able to write an entire novel with its storyline, plot diversions, and twists. Little do they know, we often finish writing something and ask the same question. Yes, some are “plotters” and some are “pantsers”, but all writers do end up looking at our own book with a certain amount of “Where did that come from?”

  5. What does it take to become a writer?

    An author can rattle off any number of characteristics ranging from a vivid imagination, a discipline, or a command of language. Truth is, a writer must write. It is amazing how many people I know have told me that they have always intended to write a book. We do not become writers by intending to become one, hoping to be one, planning to be one. Writers write—pure and simple.

 

 


VJS

Vince is an attorney with a passion for writing. He is an experienced public speaker and also speaks at book events, author panels, and more. Sachar also conducts radio and internet interviews. Vince and his wife, Gwen, also speak at high schools, colleges, and universities. For more: www.vincentsachar.com.

Beyond the First Draft: The Dangers of Rushing to Publication

AUTHORS user and contributor Rod Raglin discusses the dangers rushing to seek publication upon finishing a first draft can pose to writers and the importance of editing, insight and patience.

by Rod Raglin, AUTHORS user, and contributor

So you’ve finally finished your novel.

Congratulations.

What you’ve accomplished is significant and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. How many people do you know who have spent countless hours by themselves sitting in front of a keyboard creating an imaginary world?

It’s only a matter of time before your creation changes your life, and that can’t happen too soon. What are you waiting for? It’s time to start submitting it to all those fortunate agents and publishers you’ve selected, right?

Wrong.

I was once like you, full of enthusiasm and hubris upon completing my first novel. To get my masterpiece published I pulled in all my favors, two actually. I had an acquaintance who knew Jeffery Archer personally (yes, that Jeffery Archer), and I had a business associate who was an editor in a well-respected publishing firm.

The first response came from Archer’s agent. She suggested I take some writing courses. A little while later the editor returned my that first draft. She’d taken the time to line-edit the first chapter complete with margin notes. Suffice to say the editing notes all but obscured the original text.

At the time I didn’t realize it, but I had just blown two really good opportunities in my rush to get published.  That manuscript is still buried somewhere in my filing cabinet. I’m too embarrassed to look at it.

Most recently I’ve taken on writing and doing video book reviews of the work of new, self-published authors. I’ve written a lot of book reviews, but in this category–new, self-published authors–the average star rating is 2.8, which is a bit better than “I didn’t like it,” but not quite as good as “I liked it.”

A few of these authors are brilliant, but most–though they have potential–are hampered by a lack of craft. If they continue writing and reading I know they’ll improve. Writing is like most things – the more you do it the better you get.

I have to add a caveat to that statement. Your writing will improve if you continue to do it while seeking out constructive criticism and taking it to heart.

Most of the novels I’m giving two stars to have been rushed into publication. They’re obvious first drafts. I know you’re excited, but remember – it’s never as good as you think it is, and it can always be better. Yes, always.

Here are some suggestions you might want to consider when you’ve completed your first draft. It’s what I do and though it hasn’t garnered me success, it’s at least saved me further embarrassment.

  • I revise the manuscript a minimum three times or until I feel it’s finished.
  • I read it out loud (it drives my cat crazy).
  • Then I put it away for at least three months or however long it takes to get it out of my system.
  • While I’m waiting to be purged, I work on something completely different.
  • Once I’ve put some distance between my ego and the book, I’m ready. I take out the manuscript and send it to as many beta readers for comment as I can. If you don’t have a stable of readers who are free from conflict of interest – that means no family and no friends, join a writing group, online or otherwise, and workshop the novel.

Once I’ve decided it’s time for the final rewrite I gather all the comments and criticisms together and begin.

When I’m finished I have another decision to make. Do I begin the traditional submission process or save myself a lot of time and frustration and go directly to self-publishing?

If you follow this method I guarantee your final version will be different and better than your first draft. And if by some small miracle The New York Times decides to review it, it will be perfect – or as perfect as you could make it.

Keep writing and remember what Nietzsche said:

The doer alone learneth.


ROD RAGLIN is a writer and AUTHORS.me user. He can be found on twitter at @rodraglin. Check out his blog and his website for more ruminations and insights on writing and publishing.

When the News Takes Hold of Your Writing

BY SABRINA FEDEL, AUTHORS.me USER 

Several years ago, I came across a news story about a young Iraqi-American girl who had been murdered by her father in an act of honor violence. My understanding of these crimes was vague. I had heard the term, but I didn’t really know what it meant. As I was drawn into the story of Noor Almaleki, every detail created new questions for me. How could a father murder his own daughter? Was this religious zealotry or something else? How could a life be worth so little?

I started to study the issue. I learned that honor violence is a crime in which the victim, generally a woman, is hurt or killed to cleanse a family’s honor for a perceived wrong by the victim. It is most commonly associated with people who practice Islam, but it occurs among people who claim to follow other religions, too. None of the religions on which it is supposedly based, however, condone honor violence.

I went even deeper into the story of Noor and other victims of honor violence to try to understand how it could happen. The real picture of honor violence, one that pits a strong group with unbending core rules against individuals who refuse to follow these rules, began to emerge. What also emerged, however, was a story told from the perspective of those who suffer most, in all of its heartbreaking reality.

Because I come from outside of the cultural type of community that I chose to base my story on, I was exacting in my research of that community. I made sure every statement that represented the group came from an actual news report of an honor crime that occurred within that specific cultural subgroup. I also ensured that I didn’t make any sweeping generalizations about the culture because these crimes occur within subgroups of ethnic and religious groups.

When my young adult story was finished, I worried about finding a home for it. Not only is the market for young adult short stories slim to begin with, but this was a culturally sensitive story as well. I didn’t hold out much hope for it to be published, but it was more than just a story to me. It was slinging a tiny arrow at a social injustice. It was a small tribute to the victims of honor violence to try to bring awareness to the problem. It was a story that mattered to me beyond just the words I had put onto the page.

Not only was I able to find a home for my story, but it found a home that was truly invested in its essence as well as its words. Sometimes I think that maybe I was just very lucky. More often, though, I think that finding a news story that wouldn’t let go of me and choosing to follow my heart with it led me to perfect outcome for my story.



sabrina
Sabrina Fedel holds her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. Sabrina’s debut young adult novel, Leaving Kent State, will 
be released on November 11, 2016 and will be available for pre-order on her website.  Her short story, “Honor’s Justice,” was published by Lunch Ticket and has been nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize. Follow her on twitter @writeawhile or find her on facebook. 

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