Monday, December 7, 2009

Getting Attention

A popular game show selects contestants from the audience. People try to increase their chances of being picked by wearing all kinds of costumes, ranging from graduation gowns to aliens. Their outfit might get them attention, but they still have to play the game.

As writers, we hear much about branding, standing out from the crowd, and offering something unique. Yet, everything comes down to our writing craft. Several agents noted they're seeing great query letters and proposals, but the writing doesn't live up to the promises.

I'm doing several things to improve my writing craft: reading quality blogs, craft books, and books by other authors, as well as attending conferences and a writers' group. Most importantly, I'm writing and practicing what I've learned.

What steps are you taking to improve your writing? Are your books character driven or plot driven?

46 comments:

Jody Hedlund said...

I'm doing much of the same thing syou are. I continue to read craft books and just put a couple of newer ones on my Christmas wish list. We all need to constantly be looking at our writing and seeing how we can grow!

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

I'm doing all the things you wrote about.

My stories are more character driven.

I can't read enough about writing from books, blogs and websites! I always have room for improvement in my writing.

Jessica said...

Definitely character driven. :-) I've never heard of that show. Interesting idea.

sherrinda said...

I recently joined a critique group. It hasn't really taken off yet, but I am hoping I benefit from it.

Karen Lange said...

Hi Susan,
I'm doing much of the same to continue learning and growing as a writer. I think there's always something to learn, no matter how long you've been writing. Blessings!

Cindy said...

That's so funny about that game show. I've never heard of it.

I'm definitely working toward improving my writing--doing much more now than I ever did in the past. My stories are usually character driven and sometimes I think it's more of a challenge to make those kinds of stories stand out. But that's where our writing can shine :)

Eileen Astels Watson said...

That's a beautiful gown!!

I write character driven stories mostly and I'm like you, studying writing craft books, attending conferences, and also involved in writer's groups and critique partners. It seems a never-ending journey, though!

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Definitely all of those things you listed. My stories are character-driven. I love focusing on their internal world!

Lily Robinson said...

That's an interesting question. A bit of both. The character is the reason for the plot in my WIP, not the other way around. She is based on real life experiences. I constructed the plot to take her into a fantasy ending...

Notes I have for my next manuscripts are the opposite. So which is better?

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jody -

I don't want to only LOOK the part of a writer. I want to be the REAL DEAL. It takes time, effort, and lots of writing.

You're doing great! I admire your commitment.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Donna -

I've learned so much from visiting blogs and websites. At this point, I'm looking for more critiques of my work. It's an important step in the growth process.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I'm referring to Let's Make a Deal. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Karen -

So true. I took a Clinic at Philly several years ago. Both teachers talked about taking advanced classes even though they had tons of books published.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Cindy -

See my comment to Jess for the name of the show. :)

I haven't attempted any character-driven stories. Someday.

Blessings,
Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Eileen -

I had difficulty finding a graphic for this post, and finally settled on this one. It's much fancier than the game show costumes, but it made the point.

Hmm, it looks like I'm outnumbered with all the character-driven stories. I'll need to study the subject further.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Kristen -

I do have some internal dialogue in my books. All of you are piquing my interest in character-driven stories.

Blessings,
Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Lily -

I think it's nice to have variety. Some people prefer character-driven novels, while others love books that center around the plot.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sherrinda -

I mentioned my own need for more critique. One of the problems I run into is most people read a chapter or two, but not the whole book. I think it's hard to get the overall picture by reading so little.

I guess I need someone to look at my story rather than give me a line-by-line edit.

Blessings,
Susan

Shmologna said...

I've been reading good blogs (like this one!) and I just joined the ACFW. I'm slowly working my way up to finding a critique partner.

I saw Jody Hedlund's comment about putting "craft" books on the Christmas list. That's a good idea!

Also, I'm glad you mentioned that the writing craft is the most important thing. I panic over query letters and proposals! They're important too but the meat is in the writing.

Sharon Ball said...

Susan, I'm doing the same things as you are doing. I find reading the books of great writers really helps me to absorb the techniques discussed in the writing books I read. In fact, James Scott Bell has a new writing book out that I think I'm going to pick up over the holiday. Reading, practice, and networking are the keys.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Shmologna -

Thanks for the compliment. :)

Many of us belong to ACFW (including me). It's a fine organization. You might want to check out their online courses.

Blessings,
Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sharon -

If you stop back here, could you give us the title of Mr. Bell's new book? Thanks.

The writing life can be overwhelming, especially with all the information out there. I think you did a great job breaking it down to the essentials.

Blessings,
Susan :)

quietspirit said...

Susan:
I also blog, read blogs, attend a writing group, and conferences when I can. I have books on the craft I read from time to time.
Is there one out there on Time Management?

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Quiet Spirit -

Good question. I'll have to do some research and get back to you.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Katie Ganshert said...

Thanks for the follow, Susan! I look forward to learning more about your journey!

What am I doing to grow? I read craft books, read blogs, and read, read, read books. That seems to help the most. :)

Carla Gade said...

Susan, I read novels voraciously and spend much time learning the craft from books and online.

Character or plot driven. I'd have to say both, depending on the story. More so, character driven I think.

I used to watch Let's Make a Deal when I was a kid. That dates me, eh?

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Katie -

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I'm looking forward to getting to know you.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Carla -

LOL! I don't think so. The program has been on forever.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Heather Sunseri said...

Hi, Susan! I recently put my writing out there for an unbiased, critique of my writing, and my new critique partner has been wonderful. I'm also reading craft books and attempting to learn to self-edit better.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Heather -

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. :)

Self-editing. I do a fair amount of that for my work, but I could use some improvement. Guess I should pick up the book, "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers."

Blessings,
Susan

Sharon Ball said...

Susan, James Scott Bell's new book is titled "The Art of War for Writers - fiction writing strategies, tatics, and exercises."

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sharon -

Thanks for the title. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Nancy said...

My books are all character driven. I love the characters most when I read a book. What they do is secondary. I'm afraid that leaves me with seveal plot weaknesses in my own work.

Carla Gade said...

Do you think if I get all dressed up in a historical costume to match my novel and send a picture with my proposal it will get me any special attention????????? LOL!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Nancy -

I've been doing some research on the character-driven/plot-driven discussion. One article mentioned that most books contain both elements.

Have you found any books on the subject?

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Carla -

LOL! Maybe that would work at a book signing, but with an editor...it might rank up there with fancy fonts and other gimmicks.

Your best bet is to write a stunning novel. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Patti Lacy said...

Great blog, Susan! So glad a friend told me about it!

Though my books are character-driven, I've worked to plot-up (like plump up, but with action, not fat) the narratives.

Wow, to improve the writing?
Three pages a day, WIP
Good books stacked pyramid-style on the nightstand.
Constant critiquing of others' work (really helps me see issues I am to stubborn to see in my own work)

patti
www.pattilacy.com/blog

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Patti -

Welcome, and thanks for commenting. I've been reading your group blog for a while now and enjoy it.

I found your comment about critiquing others' work to improve your own intriguing. Even when reading books, I find the internal editor at work.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Jeanette Levellie said...

I am writing and praying, like this: HELP ME! PLEASE!!!!!

As you know, my books are character driven. I'm the biggest character I know, whether I like it or not...

Terri Tiffany said...

Lots of craft books-- finally!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jen -

I'm right there with you on that prayer! When I wrote my last manuscript, I'd get up and say, "Okay, Lord, I need some ideas this morning, please."

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

Craft books are a popular item. My problem is getting through them. Like another commenter, I see something I want to apply and run off to fix my manuscript.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Rita Gerlach said...

I recommend the book 'Between the Line' by Jessica Page Morrell. She covers the layers of a novel and storytelling techniques.

I'm always searching for ways to improve my writing. Right now I'm working on a three-book series, and one technique that helps me write tight is handwriting out the scenes beforehand in a notebook specific for that novel. I write faster, too.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Rita -

Thanks for recommending the book. I'll have to check it out.

I'm much faster on the computer. After years as an Administrative Assistant, Executive Secretary, and Order Entry, my fingers are more attuned to the keyboard than a pen.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Diane said...

I am trying to surround myself with quality blogs and peers too. Great to gleen wisdom from others. :O)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Diane -

As all my friends in the blogosphere know, blogging is one of my favorite activities.

I'm honored that you've decided to spend some time here at Christian Writer/Reader Connection. Thank you.

Blessings,
Susan :)