Monthly Archives: January 2012

To the Drawer-Stuffer Writer

Be A Novelist

Learn to Respect Your Writing

If you’ve hung around Be A Novelist for any time at all, you know I talk a lot about what you do with your writing.  I am a firm believer that writers must learn to respect their own work.

In today’s post, I’m hitting on it again. This time, you are asked to bear with me as I share a funny little poem that came to me many years ago.  I love reading it aloud because it’s the voice inflection that makes it a winner.

The truth of the matter is, we’ve all done it.  We write and write and write and then stuff all of our work into a box at the top of the closet.  Or into a desk drawer.  Or a file drawer.

We don’t trust what we’ve written. We don’t trust our talent level.  We don’t trust our abilities.  We don’t trust the creative flow. So we stuff away what we’ve created.  It’s so safe that way.  No responsibilities.  No pain. No rejection.  But then, no bylines either!

Of course, these days, you may have “stuffed” your work into a remote file deep in your computer.  Same difference.  You are still stuffing it away.

An Aspiring Novelist

In my travels to writing conferences and writer’s workshops through the years, I’ve met so many aspiring authors that did this very thing.  An individual would sign up to have a one-on-one conference with me (which most writing conferences provide) – let’s call her Cindy.  Cindy is an aspiring novelist.  She proceeds to tell me about her novel.  Perhaps the plot sounds pretty good.  It holds promise.  Then I ask Cindy what she’s doing with the novel now and the answer comes:

“In a box under the bed.”box in the closet

“In a file drawer.”

“In the bottom drawer of my bedroom dresser.”

“The top of the hall closet.”

“In an old computer file somewhere. Gee, I hope it’s still there!”

You get the picture!  Multiply Cindy times hundreds of aspiring authors everywhere!  This happened with such regularity I finally resorted to creating this little poem to help beginning writers get a perspective on what they were doing.

As I mentioned at the outset, the poem is much better “heard” than read silently.  I always read it in a very flat, sing-song tone.  When presented to a group of like-minded fellow writers, it never failed to get a laugh – or at least a smile.  Because every person in the room can relate.  Can you?

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Ode to a Drawer

O little drawer so neat and narrow

Be ye desk or file or bureau.

How kind you are to hold my treasures

Without a comment of if I measure

Up to any other artist.

Of all my critics, you are the smartest.

Slips named rejection I do dread.

Not to the mail, but to you instead

O little drawer, I have chosen,

To submit all my work. More than a dozen

Articles, stories and some housekeeping tips.

Your reception is never a rejection slip.

O little drawer so neat and narrow

Be ye desk or file or bureau

I daily wait, but you just never,

Tell me if I’m wise and clever.

Friend that you are, giving no reject,

I guess you forgot to mail my paycheck.

© Norma Jean Lutz 1992

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booksIf you are an affected “drawer stuffer,” perhaps this little poem will help you to see that such actions are totally fruitless.  And perhaps you will see your way clear to change this creativity-killing habit.  Keep that work out and in plain sight.  Finish the project. Enter it in a legitimate contest. Or (imagine this!) send it off to a real publication or publisher.  Do something with it. Stop burying your talents. Respect your talent; respect your creativity.

Here’s to no more “drawer stuffing!”

For more on this subject, check out the YouTube video, “Where is Your Novel?”

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If you enjoyed this motivational and educational blog, you can learn more at the Be A Novelist website.

Greetings, Reader! Come On In.

slateWhat is the Difference?

Want to know the difference between a good teacher and a not-so-good teacher? A not-so-good teacher is mainly concerned about the lesson material. The focus is on the lesson and how much can be dispensed at a time. A good teacher, on the other hand, is mainly concerned about the students and how well they are, or are not, receiving the materials that are being dispensed. And believe it – students know the difference. It doesn’t matter if the student is in fourth grade or in grad school.

Now take that concept and transfer it over into writing. What’s the difference between a good writer (or even a great writer) and a not-so-good writer? The not-so-great writer is deeply involved in the mechanics of writing and has forgotten about the critical process of reading. The good writer is not only concerned about the mechanics of writing, but also concerned with, and aware of, the readers. And believe it – readers know the difference!

Not Just for YOU

Writing will always be a two-way street. As the author, you are constantly in connection with your reader. [Note: If you are writing “just for yourself” that’s fine too, but just keep it contained in your personal journal.]

There is a pattern in the author-reader relationship, a pattern you would do well to study, explore, and seek to understand. The danger is for the aspiring author to take this relationship for granted. Sometimes it’s ignorance, sometimes it’s arrogance (Well, they just have to understand and appreciate what I’m doing; I’m an artist after all), either way it’s author suicide. If you are of the mindset that “literature exists for itself and not for the reader,” you may be in for a rude awakening.

The best authors are those who have a clear understanding that readers want to play an active role when reading fiction. The best authors never treat their readers passively!

teamworkA Puzzle to be Solved

Consider this: every work of fiction, every story, is a puzzle waiting to be solved. The reader loves trying to figure out the solution to the puzzle. It’s the role of the author to drop good hints and yet keep the total solution out of sight until the end.

The puzzle must be hard enough to test skills of deduction, but not so hard that there is no change of solving it.

When reading the works of Rosamunde Pilcher, I love the way she always surprises me at the end. She has me thinking it is the end, but she has one (sometimes two) more twists to the plot up her sleeve. And when it surprises me, I’m impressed with her plotting abilities. And I know she is thinking about ME the reader!

Oh No, Not Predictable!

One word that you never want to see (or hear) from an editor (or your reader, or your book reviewer) is “predictable.” A story that is too predictable is no fun. It’s like hearing an old joke – and you know the punch line. You may smile because it is sort of funny, but there’ll never be a belly laugh. And a plot that is predictable may be sort of enjoyed, but it won’t be a best seller. Nor will it be one that is beloved by your readers. Predictable is simply another word for boring.

Never make the mistake of treating your readers like empty-headed zombies. Remember that more than anything they want to be a part of your work!

Imagine yourself as one who works at a glasshouse maze at the carnival. You know the maze; you know how to get in, how to maneuver, how to get out. But the person coming in for the first time doesn’t know the way. As the author, it’s your job to take them by the hand and gently lead them along the way. You don’t run way ahead and leave them scratching their head and wondering. You don’t follow behind pushing and shoving and belittling them for not finding the way. There’s a balance, and once you strike that balance, you’ll be miles ahead in your fiction writing endeavors.

Come On InBe A Novelist

Never be guilty of leaving your reader out of the writing process. What good is a storyteller with no one to listen to the story? And what fun is writing a novel (or short story) with no one to read it and enjoy it?

And in my humble opinion, writing for an audience of readers makes the writing process much less lonely! You’ll be saying, “Greetings Reader! Come on in!” And together you’ll move forward.

 

Be A NovelistTired of the struggle writing your book? Need a helping hand? Norma Jean’s Coaching Services may be the answer you’re looking for. Fill out the questionnaire on the page and let’s see if we’re a fit. A FREE consultation gets the ball rolling. (Or the pen writing!) Click HERE!

If you ever have any questions, please leave a comment on the page or email me at: NormaJean@beanovelist.com