Tag Archives: writing practice

Poetry Prompts for Ranting and Raving

It’s easy to think of poetry as soft, flowery, and convoluted. It’s the stuff of Shakespeare, greeting cards, and children’s books. It’s precious, sweet, and erudite.

But some of the most exciting modern poetry defies all those stereotypes, and you need look no further than the slam poetry and spoken word communities to see how poetry can be infused with rage, passion, and humor.

These poets have mastered the art of ranting and raving with passion via performance poetry. It’s no wonder that during live recordings of some of their most impassioned poems, the crowd can be heard hooting and hollering.

Today’s poetry prompts encourage you to write a poem that unleashes your passion.

Poetry Prompts

You can use these poetry prompts to write any kind of poem you want. But for some reason, poems that rant and rave work exceptionally well in performance poetry. These pieces have luster on the page, but they explode when read aloud, so I recommend working on a poem that is meant to be performed. There is a list of links to some excellent recordings of performance poetry at the end of this post.

How to use these poetry prompts:

Choose one of the lists below and write a poem using all of the words in the list. You can also write a poem mixing and matching words from these lists or using all of the words from all of the lists.

Social Consciousness Personal Affronts Road Rage & Pet Peeves
humanity
corruption
eager
hunger
fair
power
greed
redemption
freedom
insult
betrayal
violated
lost
rude
bully
robbed
forgotten
liar
curse
line
impatience
thoughtless
chatter
hurry
spam
stop
gesture

Explore Performance Poetry

Need some ideas to help you get started with these poetry prompts? Below are links to a few examples of performed poems that are beautifully executed — well written and brilliantly performed. Once you follow the link, you’ll need to click the pod icon to listen to the performances.

WARNING: some of these poems may contain offensive language. But they show the breadth of subject matter that a performance poem can tackle. Some are full of anger, others are imbibed with grace, and a couple are sprinkled with humor. Enjoy!

All these poems and many more can be found on IndieFeed Performance Poetry, one of my favorite podcasts that is unfortunately no longer active; but the archives remain online for all to enjoy. I highly recommend checking it out (you can also access it via iTunes).

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

3 Types of Conflict and Why You Need to Use Them

Conflict is necessary for all stories. It doesn’t matter what kind of story it is — novel, short story, mystery, romance, thriller, children’s, adult — it will always need conflict. In order to keep the plot interesting and exciting, some type of conflict must be there. It gives your characters obstacles they have to overcome before they can reach their goals.

But how do you create conflict for your characters?

3 Types of Conflict

Conflict can come in innumerable shapes and sizes, but they can ultimately be broken down into one of three categories. Are you using these three types of conflict in your stories?

1. Conflict between your characters

Characters can argue, disagree, disobey the others’ wishes, keep secrets from each other, betray each other, and do many other things that would cause two or more people to butt heads. The most common kind of conflict between characters is when the protagonist and their enemy end up in the same room together.

That’s not to say friends and family can’t fight, though. In fact, conflict between allies can make a difficult situation a thousand times more interesting.

2. Conflict between your characters and the outside world

When events outside of your characters’ control occur — unexpected illness, a sudden loss of money, a death in the family, an injury, global events, etc. — characters are forced to react. Whether they deal with their situation in a poor or healthy way is up to you, the writer, but nevertheless, it reveals a truth about your characters and feeds the fire of your plot.

3. Conflict between your characters and themselves

This is quite possibly my favorite type of conflict, mostly because it can be the most frustrating for your characters. When there are problems your characters have no power over, they can place their anger on an outside person or object. But when the problems your characters face come from themselves, they can only turn their anger inward.

This can be difficult to write, but if it is portrayed well, it is extremely rewarding.

Internal conflict can result from your characters losing faith in their religion, deciding whether or not to break or bend the rules for “the greater good,” wrestling with addiction, doing what’s right versus doing what’s easy, feeling out of control, and more.

Experiment With All Three Types

Stories can have any one of these possible types of conflict, or they can have all of them. What matters most is that there is plenty of it and that it is carried out in the most interesting way possible.

Avoid clichés, play with characters’ relationships with each other, put your characters in the most difficult situations possible, and think about how they will handle these obstacles in a way that is true to their personalities.

What’s your favorite type of conflict? Let us know in the comments.

By The Magic Violinist
Source : thewritepractice.com

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Fiction Writing Exercises: Step Out of Your Shoes

I recently shared a writing exercise that encouraged you to get into a character’s head. Today’s exercise asks you to go a step further and explore characters and ideas that are your polar opposites.

One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of being a writer is creating characters. It is an opportunity to step outside of your own reality and take on a completely different persona. Unless you’re an actor, an undercover agent, or just plain crazy, you don’t get many chances in life to do that.

Writing also lets us explore ideas and share our thoughts, opinions, and feelings on a wide range of topics. To Kill a Mockingbird addressed racism, The Da Vinci Code critically explored religious doctrine, and The Hunger Games examined troublesome aspects of our society, particularly glam culture, class systems, war, and violence among teenagers.

As a fiction writer, there will be times when you need to get into the head of a character who is your polar opposite. You’ll need to have a deep comprehension of ideologies that are not aligned with your own. If you can’t do that, then your story will lack believability.

Today’s fiction writing exercises give you practice in stepping out of your shoes so you can walk in someone else’s.

Realistic Characters

For characters to truly resonate with readers, they must be vibrant and stir the audience’s emotions. Readers need to become attached to the characters, feel sympathy, compassion, even love (or hate) for them. It’s not easy to fabricate people (or other beings) that don’t really exist, have never existed, yet make them seem real. But it can be done.

So how do writers achieve this great feat?

Much credence has been given to the old adage write what you know. Base a character on a friend or family member or yourself. But what fun is that? If you’re an accountant by day, do you really want to play an accountant in your fantasy world too? Probably not. And when you create a character, that’s pretty much what you’re doing, playing a role. You must get into the character’s mind, live the life, absorb the environment in which the character lives. You have to be your character, even if you have absolutely nothing in common with that character.

Fiction Writing Exercises

Each fiction writing exercise below encourages you to get into a mindset that opposes your own way of thinking or existing. Try one exercise or try them all — just make sure to have fun.

Exercise #1: Write a personal essay from the perspective of someone who is your polar opposite.

If you grew up in the big city, write as a country dweller. If you grew up on a farm or lived in a small town all your life, write about an army brat who was raised living in dozens of towns, going to different schools each year. Are you a stay-at-home, married parent? Write as a swinging single making it big in the big apple. If you’re a successful businessperson, write as a prison inmate who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.

You can also write as your ideological opposite. If you’re Buddhist, write from the perspective of a Christian. If you’re Christian, write from the perspective of an atheist. Are you a political junkie? Write from the viewpoint of the political party you oppose.

For the essay, focus on something you have never experienced or that you disagree with. If you are from the city and you’re writing about the country, write a descriptive essay about a farm setting. If you’re a liberal writing as a conservative, choose an issue and write an essay arguing for the conservative position on that issue.

The idea is to get outside of your comfort zone and explore a different way of life or mode of thinking than the one you know. You can then use this exercise to develop a character who is wildly different from you.

Excercise #2: Write a scene with two characters who are opposites.

Create two characters: one who is just like you (write yourself into the scene if you want) and one who is not like you at all. Write a scene that explores their differences. Here are some suggestions:

  • An old-fashioned rancher and a highly successful, modern urban businesswoman are seated next to each other on a plane.
  • A Democratic state politician and a Republican lobbyist get stuck in an elevator together.
  • Someone who is devoutly religious gets into a deep conversation with an atheist at a party.

There is only one rule here: Both characters must be sympathetic. In other words, you cannot make the character who is your opposite into any kind of villain or antagonist, and neither character will change his or her views or lifestyle by the end of the scene. Your goal is to gain understanding, not make a statement.

Exercise #3: Live your dreams and realize your nightmares.

A lot of people are terrified of public speaking. They may or may not have the desire to get up and talk to a crowd, but it doesn’t matter because their fear prevents them from doing so. And we all have dreams — some are goals that we can or will pursue, but other dreams are far-off fantasies that we know will never come to fruition.

For this exercise, you’ll write a short story or scene in first person. In the scene, you’ll do something that you’ve never done — something you may never do in reality but can certainly tackle in a piece of fiction.

Here are some examples:

  • Greatest fear: Either write a scene where you overcome your greatest fear and face the thing that terrifies you, or write as a character who does not have this fear and therefore faces it with ease. For example, if you have a fear of flying, write as an airplane pilot.
  • Dreams and goals: Have you ever wanted to travel somewhere but haven’t gotten around to it? Do you hope to someday find the love of your life or become a star in your career field? Are you working toward your dreams and goals? Write as a character who is living the life you hope to live someday.
  • Fantasy: Do you have a crush on a celebrity? Have you ever wished you possessed magical powers? Ever wondered what it would be like to live in the far-off future or the distant past? Write as a character living out your fantasies.

The idea here is to do something in writing that you’ve never done in real life. It can be something you might still someday achieve or it could be something impossible or unlikely.

Fiction Writing Exercises for Fun and Focus

Fiction writing exercises like these will help you when you’re writing about characters who are not like you in significant ways. These exercises will also expand the types of characters you feel comfortable bringing into your stories.

If any of these exercises stick and you get really into it, write several pages, or try doing the exercise again with different characters. You might unveil a new side of yourself that you didn’t know you had. You might find it completely uncomfortable and decide to go back to writing what you know, but at least you will have tried something new.

Remember, fiction writing exercises are supposed to be fun, but their purpose is to challenge you to try new things and think in new ways, so be sure to truly step out of your shoes and go beyond your comfort zone.

Feel free to post comments about your character. Who or what will you become? What shoes are you going to step into when you step out of your own?

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Is It Plural or Possessed? When to Use Apostrophe -S

It’s one of those grammar glitches that makes English teachers twitch, and it’s a perplexing punctuation problem.

Knowing when to use an apostrophe and when to use apostrophe -s can be tricky, but this grammar quickie provides all you need to know about plural versus possession when it comes to apostrophe -s.

Pluralization

You can have one or you can have many. Do you have a dog or do you have dogs? Generally speaking when you’re indicating more than one, you simply add an “s” to the word. That’s it, you’re done.

Possession

Is it plural or is it owned? If you’re showing ownership, then you’ll usually add apostrophe -s to the word. You have a dog. Your dog has a collar. That is the dog’s collar. If something (collar) belongs to something else (dog), it is given the apostrophe -s to show possession.

Multiplicity

But what if you have more than one dog and they each have their own collar? You have dogs. They have collars. Those are the dogs’ collars. When you’re dealing with more than one owner, the plural “s” is added and the apostrophe follows.

Apostrophe -S and the Word It

One of the most common spelling mistakes happens with the word it, especially when people try to indicate possession. Should you add the apostrophe -s or not? When does it take apostrophe -s and when does it just take an s?

The Exception to the Rule

One word in the English language stands out as an exception to the rule when it comes to plural versus possession. The word it is treated a bit differently. In fact, there is no plural possession at all because it is inherently singular (the plural form is another word altogether: they). That’s a relief. But what about when “it” owns something?

When you’re showing possession with the word it, you simply reverse the rules and lose the apostrophe. The car has wheels. Its wheels are round. See? No apostrophe when something belongs to it.

What About It’s?

It’s is neither possessive nor plural. When the apostrophe -s is added to it, what you’re seeing is a contraction, or a shortening of two words. The phrase it is is being shortened. If you have a hard time remembering this, try saying your sentence or phrase by replacing “its” or “it’s” with “it is.” If “it is” works, then you have a contraction and the apostrophe is required. If not, then just an s will do.

Remembering the Punctuation Rules for Apostrophe -S

Remembering the rules is easy. All you have to do is remember that if there’s ownership or possession, then the word should take apostrophe -s. If there are many (the word is plural), then just an “s” will do. If a word is both plural and possessed, it gets an followed by an apostrophe. And for the word “it,” the rules are reversed.

Grammar and Exceptions

Like most grammar rules, there are exceptions to the rules that dictate how we use apostrophes, and they are many. For example, when there is more than one goose, you don’t say “gooses,” you say “geese.”

The English language is fraught with such exceptions, and plural forms of many words require more than adding an “s” to the end. Learning all the exceptions takes patience and time, and requires that you constantly pay attention to words with special rules. Always keep an eye out for them.

Do you have any tips to add for remembering the punctuation marks and grammar rules for plurals and possessions? Do the rules for using apostrophe -s ever confuse you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

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How to Revise Your Story Like a Pro

It’s suddenly 2018. Have you set an awesome writing goal for yourself this year?

I have, and I’m incredibly excited about it!

For some of us, that goal involves writing something brand new.

But for most of us, our 2018 writing goals probably involve rewriting a work in progress. It’s a draft, roughly complete or unfinished, that never seems to be “done,” no matter how much we tinker with it.

There’s a reason we get stuck in these perpetual works in progress. And if we don’t figure out how to overcome it, we might find ourselves in the same sticky mess 365 days from now.

The Myth of Revision

In secondary school, we are taught the writing process: Plan, Draft, Revise, Proofread, Publish.

As a secondary teacher, I face the most resistance from my students in that third step: Revision.

The first reason why is that we simply don’t want to do it. Revision isn’t nearly as enjoyable as creation, or as easy as correcting surface errors. Plus, it can be overwhelming, leaving us wondering if we even know how to revise a story.

But the second reason why we resist is the word itself, “Revision.” It’s a misleading term. It doesn’t really exist.

What we really have to do when we revise is rewrite.

And no one wants to rewrite, because rewriting is painful.

Demo Day

To properly revise, we have to identify that our existing creation is deeply flawed.

And while it may have been beautiful once before, it is negatively affecting the story around it.

Much like the Demo Day scenes in our favorite HGTV shows, we can’t simply work around the flaws. They’re affect everything else too directly, and have to be taken out with a sledgehammer.

Yet we don’t want to do it. We feel like we’re hurting the ones we love, or “our babies.”

Revision can literally feel like betrayal and death, because we have to accept that our creation, something that we have lovingly cultivated, must be destroyed.

Is it possible to keep parts of our old creation and rebuild around it?

Yes, but it’s surprising (and depressing) how seldom this works. Odds are, if a chapter, paragraph, or sentence isn’t working, it has to go.

Ouch.

Saving Our “Children”

Here’s the good news: Our creations don’t literally have to die.

Instead, they should get added to a “storage” document. When I was writing my novel, The Bean of Life, I was swinging my editorial sledgehammer like Chip and Joanna after drinking a case of Red Bull (my wife watches a lot of Fixer Upper).

Yet every one of my beautiful creations, my little narrative children, was carefully cut and pasted into my “TBoL Storage” document. For each stored bit, I labeled it with a bookmarked heading so I could easily find it if needed.

And you know what? I used it. There were many times I went back into that document and rescued a sentence or phrase that still had a role to play in the story.

But to be honest, I don’t remember 95% of those bits in that storage document (which is 50,000 words long). I’ve forgotten them, mostly because they were ultimately forgettable.

So here’s a tip for how to revise your story: do yourself the loving favor of protecting your creations. Never hit the “Delete” button (unless it’s just a typo). Always cut-and-paste your creations into storage, where they will be safe.

Enlightened Rewriting

To truly revise our work in progress and bring it to a state of “done,” we must rewrite it — often from a blank page one.

This doesn’t sound fun, and it will certainly be a lot of work.

But this new creation won’t feel anything like the first time. A first draft is like hacking our way through dense, dangerous jungle. This draft will be like climbing the stairs of an ancient temple where an enlightened monk awaits us at the top.

Here’s why you need to rewrite on a blank page: A crowded page is a prison; a blank page is freedom.

Trying to work within the confines of our old ideas and rigid prose does not provide the creation freedom that we need.

We need space. We need opportunity.

Maybe a blank page is something you find intimidating. No problem. Keep an important piece of description, or a line of dialogue, to spark your creativity. Give yourself a launch pad.

But remove the shackles of yesterday’s ideas.

It’s a new year, a time for new ideas. And it’s time for a major breakthrough on that perpetual work in progress.

Rewrite With Confidence!

Every old draft is a massive lesson that teaches us about our stories. The fact that we didn’t “get it right” doesn’t make us failures — it makes us artists. Art is failure of a very persistent nature. Some of the best pieces of art in the world were regarded as failures by their creators and contemporaries, and now are revered and copied.

So (re)write this year with confidence!

If your goal is to build the habits and mindset of a successful storyteller, this is a crucial step to take. We have to be able to put old ideas aside, learn from them, and take risky steps forward. Otherwise we will be stuck in a prison of the past, forever fearing the touch of the creative sledgehammer and its wonderful power.

What do you think? Can you revise, even on a crowded page, filled with old ideas that might not be working? Or do you prefer the freedom of an empty page of unlimited possibility?

What steps do you take to revise your stories? Let the community know in the comments!

By David Safford
Source: thewritepractice.com

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3 Steps to Complete Your Writing Goals in the New Year

 

For the last two weeks I have received emails from over eight different companies offering to teach me how to have a wonderful and amazing year next year. Their premise is that I will have a wonderful year if I complete a goal. Since I am a writer, perhaps I should complete some writing goals.

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The companies offer to give me practical advice to assist me. Some of them even offered to give me a certificate of completion when I finished their course. The least expensive offer was close to five hundred dollars.

Today, I will give you my three steps to complete a goal and have a great New Year. And, I won’t charge you five hundred dollars.

3 Steps to Complete Your Writing Goals

I will give you a preview of the three steps. Beware, the next three lines contain spoilers:

Step One: Decide what you want to do

Step Two: Write down what you want to do

Step Three: Do what you wrote down.

1. Decide what you want to do.

Step one may seem simple. The most important word in step one is DECIDE. Yes, make up your mind.

You are creative, right? A writer. You have so many story ideas, which one should you do first?

Pick one. Just one. Work on this idea until it is finished. Focus. Finish.

But first you have to make up your mind. You can never finish something if you don’t start. So for now, make up your mind.

(If you are not sure what you should decide to do, consider these writing goals.)

People cannot hit what they do not aim for.

― Roy T. Bennett

2. Write down what you want to do.

Step two is essential. Well, all three steps are essential. Don’t skip a step.

You have to write down what you want to do.

Don’t rely on your memory. When you wake up the next day and your six cats are meowing to be fed, if you haven’t written down what you want to do, you might never remember. You have bills to pay and cats to feed. If it is not written down, you might not remember what you want to accomplish.

How many pages will you write today, this week? Decide, then write it down. Find a friend who would be willing to receive weekly updates from you. Send them at the end of the week how much you have written.

If you have a goal, write it down. If you do not write it down, you do not have a goal — you have a wish.

― Steve Maraboli

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University of California, after studying two hundred and sixty seven people, discovered you are more likely to complete goals if you write them down or share them with a friend. Seventy percent of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend achieved their goal or got more than halfway there. But of the people who didn’t tell a friend or write down their goal, only 35 percent made it that far.

3. Do what you wrote down.

Step three is an action step. You do what you wrote down.

You can control your future if you always obey what is written down. Before you go to bed tonight, write down what you want your future self to do. Such as, “Write three pages today.” When you wake up you will see the note you wrote the night before, and you will do what it says.

Last night I had my husband decide what time he was going to get out of bed this morning. First he wrote, “I want to get out of bed at seven.” I had him change it to “I will get out of bed at seven.” Then he signed the statement and I signed it as a witness to his promise. He made up his mind: step one. He wrote it down: step two.

This morning at seven, he hit the snooze button. Dr. Matthews’s suggestion to tell your goal to a friend helped my husband this morning. I opened the blinds, turned on the shower, and ripped off all the covers on the bed. Then he did step three and got out of bed.

The Gift of Writing Goals

In twelve more sleeps it will be the first day of a new year. A day of hope; a day where we can begin again. We can have that feeling every day, but the first day of a new year feels like a gift.

So, as you start your new year, think of the three steps. You don’t have to buy a fancy course. You can write. You can complete your goal of writing a first draft, editing the novel you wrote in November, or writing the story of why you flew to Asia in 1983 with a one-way ticket to Bangkok.

Decide what you want to do, write it down, and do it. I believe in you.

Tell your story.

Do you have trouble completing your writing goals? What do you do to help you complete them? Let us know in the comments.

by Pamela Hodges
Source: thewritepractice.com

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Are Writers Born Or Made?

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by JOANNA PENN on AUGUST 9, 2013, from The Creative Penn!

When we start writing,  it can be daunting to read the amazing books by our author heroes and wonder how we can ever be that good.

Thomas Hardy's Tess

Thomas Hardy’s edited manuscript of ‘Tess of the D’Urbevilles, one of England’s greatest writers

Surely, for them, the words just flowed perfectly from brain to page with effortless grace?

But I have seen Thomas Hardy’s manuscript of Tess in the British Library. Check out that editing! Even the greats went through the same creative process as we do. Today’s guest article from Chris Allen explores this further.

Many writers dream of writing from a young age, but are we born with a literary gift, or is it a skill honed over many years?

It’s easy to regard the celebrated thriller authors of our time – Ian Fleming, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Frederick Forsyth, John Le Carré et al – as being superhuman at their craft and having innate talent. We see the countless reprints with the special edition covers, but we don’t see the knock-backs, the evolution of their writing style, and the hard slog they too went through on the road to success.

My first attempts at writing were woeful.

Never what you’d call a disciplined student – school always seemed to get in the way of life – once I decided writing was my calling, I had a fanciful notion that ‘it’, whatever it was, would come naturally. It didn’t.

Discovering Ian Fleming’s The Man With The Golden Gun in the school library as a young teen was the moment that the fanciful notion became a quest.  Hoping to achieve what Bond’s creator had done – building a world of international espionage, heart-stopping action, complex characters and intrigue, I opted to take the experience angle, therein avoiding study, to write my own brand of thrillers. All of which prompts the question:

How do well-intentioned, aspiring writers tread the path to becoming great storytellers?

Chatting recently with a couple of popular Australian authors, namely Greg Barron (author of Savage Tide & Rotten Gods) and Luke Preston (author of Dark City Blue), who with myself and Tony Park are co-founding members of the Action Thriller Writers Association of Australia (ThrillerEdge.com), I wanted to find out how they had honed their abilities. Was it a walk in the park for them? Or was it, like most of us, decades of learning?

Words are Addictive

Luke Preston’s stories have been proclaimed “Noir on No-Doz.” He first put pen to paper around the age of sixteen and the pen hasn’t left his hand since. For Luke, “Writing is not about achievement. It’s about survival. The words are an addiction for which the only cure is getting the words on the page.”

Greg Barron, recently described as “a political thriller writer at the very top of his game,” embarked on his path to publication while in his mid-thirties, and the journey so far has taken more than a decade.

Greg says, “Not only am I not a natural, but I’m a slow learner. There was a moment when I realised that great writing requires both clarity and imaginative embellishment in equal measure. That was about seven years after I started writing. My first drafts are clunky and terrible. Reading them over for the first time is depressing.” Despite that, Greg’s teachers identified early on that he was skilled at putting words together and told him to do something with it.

Meanwhile, never a great student, actually learning to write wasn’t something I did (or ever wanted to do) in a formal sense. Although, having done a fair bit of writing throughout my professional career – in military, law enforcement and government, where the descriptions were necessarily short and sharp, and the facts accessed quickly – this helped in honing my style.

What is Talent, Anyway?

The most important things in life are only achieved with practice, patience and commitment. To some, including me, writing is no different: the concept of natural talent has been profoundly absent in most aspects of my life, instead having to work for everything, which, in itself, is not a bad state of affairs.

There were, for example, at least six full versions of the manuscript that eventually became my first novel, Defender. That process, along with the proofreading, editing, and re-editing, is the only real creative writing development I’ve done.

Luke Preston grew up in the decade that invented Atari and home video, commenting, “Any kid with a pen in his hand instead of a joystick is probably going to be considered talented.” But Luke was a storyteller from early on, and determined each word would be better than the last.

Greg recognizes now that determination was the key ingredient necessary to complement those early assessments of his writing potential, saying, “I don’t think it was evident that I would have the dogged persistence necessary to write a good book, as I had a mind that jumped around all over the place.”

It Takes One Million Words

Teachers, playwrights, university lecturers and agents can act as inspiration during a writer’s apprenticeship, helping to spur burgeoning talent along. Another fool-proof trick is to read widely, but remember to keep your own literary heroes close as a daily reminder of the great heights we writers reach for.

Luke Preston observes that “the hardest part of writing is learning how to write like you.” He says, “I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a natural writer. To me it’s like saying that somebody was born a natural plumber. Storytelling is a craft and a trade. It takes ten years and one million words to build a good writer and when you’re not good, you’re bad.”

As an unabashed Fleming and Conan Doyle fan (some would hazard to say nut), it’s been a tortuous journey in terms of my desire to emulate their creative strengths. By way of an origin point for my inspiration, a copy of Casino Royale, Fleming’s first novel, has permanent residence on my writing desk.

That said, success on their scale has never been my yardstick. I’m drawn to the way Fleming and Conan Doyle created iconic characters based upon their own life experiences. By putting myself at the core of the principal character, while drawing on other interesting characters, both real and fictional, I make my protagonist a hybrid of all those things.

Luke Preston has benchmark writers whose books live on his desk. He says, “When I’m tired, hungover, fed up or just downright lazy, I dip into those books that remind me of the calibre or work I’m up against.”

While Luke currently has copies of Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis and L.A. Confidential by James Ellory next to him, Greg Barron would love to write as vividly as Wilbur Smith, with the beautiful prose of F Scott Fitzgerald, and the detail of Leon Uris. He says, modestly, “In reality, I’ll fall short on all three counts!”

Be Your Best Writer

As creative capitalists, we are each on our own path, some days trudging through treacle, others where we take rare moments of literary flight, so this notion of reaching the apex of a writing career is debatable. More likely is the realization of an idea of us as writers, as it was first dreamed and imagined those many years ago.

Writing words has been a profession for Greg, in terms of his habits and attitudes, long before being published. Today, he has a vision of himself, “at my desk, attempting to do my best every day, falling short most of the time, but persisting.”

Luke Preston strives to be the best writer he can be. He says, “If I had tried to write like anybody else it just wouldn’t have worked. A writer is an accumulation of their experiences, childhood, fears, desires and favourite colours.”

To me, being a successful writer meant reaching that time of life when one could look contemplatively out of a window, recalling people, places and life experiences, while wrestling with how those things might be presented on the page. To some extent, that’s happening, although I’m yet to wear a dinner jacket or drink martinis while doing it!

Between us, we may have published five books and written millions of words over many decades, but success remains an abstract concept.

As Preston says, “I’m not convinced that overnight success exists in the business of words. I’d wager that the writer who believes they were, secretly has a couple of unreadable manuscripts hidden away in their bottom drawer.”

Do you think writers are born or can we learn over time? Please do leave your comments below.

About the Author

chrisallenBefore penning his Alex Morgan espionage series, Chris Allen served as a Paratrooper with three Commonwealth armies; undertook humanitarian aid in East Timor; protected Sydney’s iconic Opera House sails post 9/11; and as Sheriff of New South Wales, held one of Australia’s oldest law enforcement appointments.

Chris’s first novel in the Intrepid series, Defender, was self-published before being re-released by Momentum Books with his second novel, Hunter, at the end of 2012. Both novels rocketed to the top of the charts on iTunes and Amazon with Hunter becoming a bestseller and there is a US film / TV franchise based on his novels in development. His third title, Avenger, will be published next year.

You can read the full transcripts of each author’s interview over at the intrepidallen.com/blog.

Defender: Intrepid 1 is on Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/15jGQr4
Hunter: Intrepid 2 is on Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/12lQIhV

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