Tag Archives: Fiction

Finding Your Place as a Writer: Fiction vs. Non-Fiction

Like most people, the majority of what I read is non-fiction. Conservatively, I would estimate I read half a dozen novels per year and twice as many non-fiction books. This does not include blogs and online articles, slanting the balance even further away from fiction.

So, I cannot help but ask myself, which would I rather write? Shouldn’t I write what I spend my time reading?

True life is tricky. Non-fiction has its own rhythm, requires research, veracity. Moreover, it comes in all shapes and sizes, from blogs, to online magazines, to full-length books. It is hard to know where to start. Then there is the issue of telling other people’s stories. I have thought about writing the stories of my first students, but somehow their histories do not feel like they belong to me, even in those moments where I was present.

Then again, fiction feels increasingly artificial to me these days. I admire those of you who consistently enjoy it, losing yourself in a world you have created. I have been there, but I am having a hard time finding my way back. Every story I begin is a dead end. Expecting Happiness still floats in the recesses of my hard drive, but it too feels stale, like the cap and gown that hang in my closet but I will never wear again. I do not identify with it in the same way I did two and a half years ago.

I know part of my disruption in focus is the transformation my life is undergoing in becoming a mother, but I find myself wondering where I will begin again. I know I will not stop, but I want to put my energy where it matters most, where I am most likely to finish what I start, to write something worthwhile.

So, seasoned writers, I want to know– how have you discovered your niche? Did you dabble in everything? Have you gone through seasons of different genres? Or, has it been a simple love for the same type of stories from the beginning?

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Finding Words Again

Almost every blog I follow disappears for a period. Days, weeks, months. Usually, the disappearance is followed by an apology. I don’t have one to offer. My disappearance has been one of introspection, hibernation. Oddly, there aren’t words for it, and I’m not sure I’m back in any regular sort of way, but I do miss writing.

So, tonight I type to type. I type to find words again, to reestablish a flow, to commit myself to a life of writing, not just a few years here and there, as it has always been in the past. My disappearance has been more than just going back to my world as a teacher. It has been about life and balance and a space of quiet. Words aren’t quiet.

My truth is changing. What I wrote before was true, but I’m not sure it is my truth anymore, or somehow it feels stale, repetitive. It is hard to write something that no longer resonates, fiction or otherwise. I’m finding a new space, which might mean new words, I’m not sure. A new book, a new perspective on teaching, on life.

Beginning again with a fresh group of students is oddly comforting and stifling simultaneously. When I envisioned myself as a teacher, I always questioned when the repetition would catch up to me. I’m restless by nature. As I write the date on our message each morning, I feel time slipping into a strange blur, is it 2011? 2013? 2015?

This is the first time I am repeating fourth grade on my own. Last year’s batch was fourth and then fifth, two years together. I like the feeling of knowing what I’m doing now. There is a confidence and ease that was not there before, but there is also the eery feeling of the same kids, just different faces, different names, learning the same things again, hitting the same stumbling blocks, celebrating the same successes.

I admire teachers who teach for the long haul. Maybe it will be me, this year is just off to a strange start. I miss the old faces who drop by each morning, eager to hug me, brag about their accomplishments. Maybe that’s the problem. As easy as it is to fall in love with children, it is hard to let them go. Maybe my heart is protecting me as I open up to thirty new souls. It’s easier to find reasons to resist than surrender.

So, there you have it. My first real words in weeks. A few tears, too.  Life is change and the same, all at once. I am learning.

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Query Secrets: Knowing Your Characters at the End of Your Book

In fourth and fifth grade, when we want to add on to something someone else has already said, we begin with sentence starters like, “I’d like to piggyback off what so-and-so said,” or “I concur with so-and-so because…”  In the same spirit of properly acknowledging other people’s thoughts, today I would like to piggyback off what Descent Into Slushland shared recently about the importance of knowing your characters when writing your query.

Basically, he suggests that writing a good query hinges on knowing your characters instead of attempting to outline the plot.  He has some great points and examples, so instead of trying to recapture his ideas, I recommend clicking the link above and reading his post yourself. Interestingly, his points inspired me to make a list of the characteristics of my two main characters, Kristen and Jake.  We all think we know our characters, but sometimes we need check-ins to keep ourselves honest, or at least I do.

What I discovered was actually amazing.  I found a small hole in my book that I was able to fill with an additional short chapter, adding another 1,000 words to my word count in the process and helping to create a fuller understanding of my characters and their relationship with each other. Sure, I outlined my characters before I began my book, but they changed through my writing, creating slightly different people than the ones I started with.  Instead of tweaking those original descriptions, I just kept my evolving ideas of who they were in my head, which ended up leaving a gap between who I thought they were and who I wrote they were.

I can tell my query is going to be a lot stronger as a result of this reflection too, although I still refuse to give it my full energy until I finish my final read of my book, (here is my pitch as it stands now).  I guess what Descent into Slushland helped me realize is that written check-ins with your characters throughout your writing are important, not just in the beginning or middle.  Of all the advice I have read on query writing, this has been most useful for the way my own brain works. Thanks Descent!

I wanted to share how informal and quick these check-ins can be. Instead of agonizing over finding beautiful words or painting an entire picture, I just typed in a stream-of-consciousness, errors and all.  What I discovered was a small hole in my book and a good foundation on which to base my query.

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Big Girl Writing Advice Needed: The End, Again.

Sitting in the little cramped attic bedroom of our ocean house, watching out over the waves from a slanted window, I’ve finished my book, again.  When I say finished, I mean I have read it all the way through, adding to it here and there, helping it grow by another 8,000 words, better developing characters, trimming superfluous passages, you get the picture.  It now stands proudly at 67,350 words, hopefully enough to be a short novel, (although, with any luck, it might grow some more as I revisit my rewrites to make sure everything flows).

So, here is my big girl writing question– do I need to reread the entire thing again or just all the highlighted sections where I made changes or added words?

I know everyone has different writing styles, but it really helps to hear what others do as I work my way through the completion of my first book, (which is all still new territory for me).  I really want it to be the best work I’m capable of in this moment, but I also dread rereading the whole darn thing again for what would be the fourth time, imagining myself stuck in reshaping and reshaping for eternity.

Advice?

Please and thanks.

No real time for mermaids, or my less-than-stellar drawings of them, until Expecting Happiness is finished.

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