Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Beacons of Light - 2008

As 2008 reaches its conclusion and we rest before plunging into a new year, let's put down our pens for a moment and offer thanks to the many people in our lives who have helped us reach this stage in our writing.

Thanks, too, to all the writers who have shared their thoughts on the writing process with Wordswimmer over the past year. Each one has served as a beacon of light, a buoy blinking in the distance, offering encouragement to other writers to keep swimming through the fog and uncertainty that is often part of this mysterious process of putting words on paper.

Here are excerpts from Wordswimmer's interviews over the past year. With luck, you'll find a beacon to help you keep swimming in the year ahead:

Sneed B. Collard III
: "I try to have a longer work and a shorter work going on at the same time. The shorter works are nice because you can accomplish more in a reasonable period of time and feel like you’re actually making progress. For the longer works, I just have to make myself think only of the next scene. If I dwelled too deeply on what a LONG journey it was going to be, I might never take the first proverbial step."

Michelle Edwards: "What keeps me afloat always is holding on to a particular heartbeat of the story. I keep it in my pocket like Little Brute kept the wandering good feeling. Often, when I am swimming laps (in the pool) or walking in the woods near my home, I am doing work, thinking about plot and characters."

Kathleen Ernst: "Swimming is an interesting analogy because I've always described myself as a 'wader.' I do not outline. I've tried. Can't do it. Instead, I start with an image and wade right in. I've written entire novels (including mysteries) that way, never knowing exactly where I'm going. But for me that works."

Brenda Ferber: "The hardest part came before I ever got published. It was tremendously challenging to be patient and persistent enough to break through the getting-published barrier. Now, the hardest part is trying to continually write something that I truly, deeply love and can feel proud of."

Sundee Frazier: "I always hated putting my face in the water when I did the crawl. I just didn’t get how you were supposed to see where you were going, and sure enough, I always ended up drifting into other swimmer’s lanes. I’m a drifter when it comes to telling stories, as well. For me, the hardest part of swimming is finding a lane and staying in it – or finding a storyline and sticking with it. I may spend months trying to figure out what the story is even about – the heart of the main character’s struggle, where the story basically begins and where it needs to end."

Jo Knowles: "Honestly, I don't know what I would do without my writing partners. Cindy works as a teacher during the day, but Debbi and I always check in with her at night and help cheer her on. We have to show up for one another. It’s the only way I think I would finish anything. I know they need me and I need them, and there’s a wonderful balancing act we perform every day. One day I’m feeling stalled but Debbi is on a roll and her energy will be contagious. Then another day, I’ll be the one booking along and send Debbi and Cindy some cheers to keep going. Also, all three of us make a point to celebrate EVERY step, whether it’s finishing a chapter, publishing an article, winning a contest, getting a nice review or blog mention, or the big one, selling a book. It’s so easy to get discouraged in this business. Celebrating every achievement, no matter how 'small,' helps us stay positive."

Anna Levine: "The trick to taking the first plunge, when the water is freezing, is not to think too much – but just leap in. I don’t know if what I write on any given day will be something I’ll use, but if I don’t take the initial plunge, I’ll never know."

Kerry Madden: "I warm up with notes to friends or I post on my blog. When I'm starting something new, I keep a notebook by the bed to write in first thing in the morning, and it typically turns into a journal in the voice of my narrator."

Sarah Miller: "When things get tough, I wonder, 'Why am I making myself do this?' and I can't even answer my own question. I just keep doing it. I think it's because I feel an obligation to my characters -- to see them through once I've started. It's not nice to leave them stranded in the open sea...."

Emily Smith Pearce: "I love being at the beginning of a piece, when it feels like I’m snorkeling. I’m just in the water, floating, not trying to do much of anything, just observing and collecting images. It’s so exciting to then find connections among these images, things I didn’t know were there but that somehow my subconscious did. At that point it feels the story could go anywhere, and for the time being, it’s absolutely perfect in my head."

Linda Urban: "I can only say that the best days for me are those where I sit in service to the story. Doesn’t that sound pretentious? But it’s true. On the days I keep my ego in check and just let the story work itself, the writing is full and fun and energizing. The remembrance of those days keeps me going on the days when things aren’t so smooth."

T.K. Welsh: "Most of the problems I face are corrected by my characters. That is, there is a time in the development of every book when one of my characters refuses to follow the outline I’ve painstakingly developed. I tell them: Hey, you have to go over here and do this...and they say, no way; I’m not doing that. While that may be a problem, on some level, it also bodes well for the book. It means that the characters have progressed enough to think for themselves. I never win those arguments, nor should I. In some ways, I’m just the instrument that the novel and the characters use to liberate themselves."

Gloria Whelan: "The putting down of the first draft is the process I find most difficult. There is a bird who makes its nest by pulling the feathers from its own bloody breast. That is what a first draft is like. The rooms aren't furnished. The characters have no faces and no clothes. The countryside has no trees or flowers or weather. The characters themselves are cardboard with no likes or dislikes. You would not want to spend five minutes with them."

See you in the water in a few weeks. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

A happy, healthy 2009 to all our readers.


Barbara O'Connor said...

Great post, Bruce! Thanks!

Bruce Black said...

Thanks, Barbara, for being a beacon of light, too, and helping keep me afloat over the past few years.

Linda Urban said...

I love these, Bruce. Thank you for all that you do for readers and writers.

laurasalas said...

Great excerpts, Bruce. I especially love Gloria Whelan's comments. So visceral!

Happy New Year!

Kelly Fineman said...

What a wonderful post this is - and I see a few good friends among those beacons. How lovely!

Jack said...

Happy New Year, Bruce, and other Wordswimmer readers; I wondered when I didn't see the last post change for a while, but now I'm looking forward to more of Wordswimmer's useful takes on writing over the coming year.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

This is fabulous, and what a great idea for a post. (I'm wishing I had time to do the same! Maybe I'll make time and copy your wonderful lead)...Happy new year!

poemhome said...

Great swimming hole you've got there!

Bruce Black said...

Many thanks to all who stopped by over the past few days.

May you find more great swimming holes in the year ahead.

debrennersmith said...

Wonderful quotes. THANKS deb

Bruce Black said...

Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for stopping by.