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WRITER'S LIFE
Fiction
January, 2008


Food of Love

Writing Is A Test Of Strength And Strategy
The stronger your craft, the more saleable your work
By  Rebecca Forster

Writing is like working out and being a champion an individual accomplishment.
W
riting is like long distance swimming or an intense game of tennis. Being a champion is an individual accomplishment. No one else can feel when your form is right, your strength is at its peak, or your timing is impeccable. The trick to honing your creative strength is to condition the right intellectual muscles: concentration, objectivity, creativity, and analysis.

Understanding this, I spend time exercising and perfecting my ability to write a solid story with interesting characters and an enjoyable structure. Following are the three areas in which I am always striving for better performance.
 
Story vs. Plot

There are two parts to this possible writing weakness. The first is misunderstanding the difference between them. Story involves the character's arc, and that arc is driven by the plot. For instance, to sell your novel that takes place in 1940 you might try to pitch it as a book about World War II.  Instead, lead with the story. For example, this is a book about a young girl coming of age in a small French village during the German occupation. Now you focus an editor on the story of a girl rather than trying to impress with her with the overwhelming background of a war. 

Once you identify the story you need to fortify it by creating a strong plot. What elements of life in 1940 would shape the story of your character? What aspects of war would form her concept of justice or her view of courage? What dramatic opportunities would lead your character to show how she is changing and what she has become?

The second part of the plot/story equation is mistaking drama for development. Like many writers, I am susceptible to what I call scene deception. Sometimes I will see a wonderfully dramatic scene in my head. I know exactly how the characters will act and react within it, I know what the dialogue will be, I know where the scene is set. I believe I have a book but what I really have is a unique scene that would be a great opening hook, a middle plot point, or a fabulous climax. I do not have a well thought out novel and more work needs to be done.

Characters

Readers remember a wonderful story because they identify with your characters - hero and villain alike. If your characters are one-dimensional the reader will abandon the book no matter how hard you have worked on plot and story.

Challenge yourself to know your characters inside and out. How do they talk, walk, and eat? Where do they live? Who do they love and who do they hate? Most importantly know why your characters do what they do. Impress an editor with boldness and depth of insight; leave the bland and expected to someone else.

Structure

A book is a strategic work. In tennis, for instance, brute strength is not always a path to victory. Strategy often wins the game. Knowing when to use a deep shot, when to use a drop shot, when a bit of spin is necessary - these are the tactics that win the match. In short, a tennis game is a living thing that is constantly in flux because of the athlete's knowledge of strategy. Writing a book is no different.

Is your writing static and predictable? Does every sentence have the same cadence? Does every character speak the King's English? Does every paragraph have the same number of lines? If you answered yes to any of the above, you need to stretch your creative muscle.

Remember, though, that your creative decisions should acknowledge your genre. I wrote women's fiction with a soft voice and languid sentence structure. I spent creative time building a sense of place with well-chosen adjectives and long stretches of dialogue to acknowledge the reader's desire for an intimate, romantic experience. This is like a long distance swimmer gracefully stroking until she sights land and then gives it everything she's got to reach shore.

Now that I write suspense, I vary my sentence structure drastically often using one word sentences and alliteration to heighten the sense of fear and foreboding. Pounding well-chosen words onto the page will draw a reader into a scene and leave them breathless. Follow that with a calming expository and you keep your reader on a satisfying literary roller coaster. This technique is like an overhead smash followed by throwing the opponent off-base with a deep, backcourt shot.

Strategy, change of pace, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses - these are only a few examples of how to polish your writing in the same way a champion trains for her sport. Pushing yourself in the areas of story, character, and structure development will strengthen your ability to produce engaging fiction

Read Rebecca Forster's excerpt from Silent Witness.
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Rebecca Forster, a USA Today bestseller, began writing on a crazy dare. Upwards of 22 books later, she concentrates on legal thrillers. Currently on the stand are Privileged Witness (Signet, 2006), Silent Witness (Signet, 2005) and Hostile Witness (Signet, 2004). She is married to a Superior Court judge and has two sons. http://www.rebeccaforster.com


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Fiction
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Bald Ego
Mouse Over To Pause

Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

Poetry
The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

Pegasus
It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

Re-Verse
The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at FatherGoose.com


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