Monday, February 18, 2008

A Roar for Powerful Words



Candace Salima just gave me the A Roar for Powerful Words award. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I am now required to dispense my immense wisdom and give three writing tips, which means this should be a short post…

#1 – Don’t get discouraged. We write because we love it. There is magic in putting thoughts on paper that evoke strong emotional responses from those that read it. That and also because I haven’t yet found a good 12 step program to overcome my need to write…

I had a short story accepted for publication in a small periodical. I signed over my writes to the story and anxiously waited to see my name and words in print. The magazine went belly up and I never got published.

I submitted a short story to BYU’s Science Fiction/Fantasy magazine. The professor handed over the submissions to the students who then graded my work. It was very obvious that they enjoyed sword and sorcery fantasy. My story was about an accountant that hated his job, and his alter ego as the Faerie King. It was more cerebral than sword and sorcery. Anyway, the students, who had obviously been taught about conflict and resolution the same week they received my paper, didn’t see any conflict in the accountant, and both students let me know just how much my story sucked. Really, they hated it. Coincidentally, it was the same story that was accepted for publication by the magazine listed just above.

Oddly enough, every accountant who has seen it just loves it. Maybe I should submit it to the Journal of Accountancy.

Rejection letters are a part of the game. Grow thicker skin, or find a 12 step program to get out of writing. Oh, and if you do find one, forward me their address. Just kidding.

If you’re discouraged, submit something to the Ensign or New Era. Sure they might reject you too, but they will do it in a very loving way. I’ve never felt so good about being rejected as I did from them. Obviously, they don’t get their editorial staff from BYU’s science fiction/fantasy department.

#2 – Show your writing to more people than just your mom and your spouse. If you can, find people that really don’t know you very well and ask them to critique it, if they actually know something about writing, so much the better. I started to write a story once. 282 pages later I finished it and showed it to my dad. He loved it. His only critique was that somehow the characters didn’t come alive like they do in other books. Once I let people that knew how to write read it, I discovered that I needed to learn a little something about showing and not telling a story. If you don’t know what that last sentence means, please figure it out before you write 282 pages. If you’re Tom Clancy, you don’t need to know the difference between a passive verb and an active one, (if you’ve read his works, you know what I’m talking about). For the rest of us, it’s a good thing to know the difference. Again, it goes back to the whole show don’t tell thing.

#3 – Write what you know. My fiction writing frequently is in the fantasy genre. Do I know any elves, dragons, magicians, knights, etc? Yes, I do. I met them in The Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter, and many other books. Also, I work into my fantasy stories, things about my own life. As a child, I remember my grandmother bitterly complained about how my dad never once let her win in a game of checkers. Side note – my father is a rocket scientist; he is wicked smart. When I related this story to my father, he just chuckled and replied, “No, I never did.” I wrote that into one of my fantasy stories, and when I need to write about something of a competitive nature I remember that story, and the emotional context of it.

Well there are my tips, your mileage may vary.

I’m going to give this award to Jeff Lindsay (Mormanity), James Peless (This I know to be True), Mike Rogan (politicaLDS), Nichole Giles (LDS Writers Blogck), and just because I don’t always follow the rules like I’m supposed to, I’m going to give one right back to Candace Salima (Dream a little dream) because her political and religious writings are always spot on.

4 comments:

Focus said...

Congratulations on winning the Roar for Powerful Words award, and thank you for honoring me likewise for my humble postings.

Your postings certainly deserved this award.....I especially enjoy your humor.

Now how about doing a short piece on the award itself to enlighten us neophytes as to its origin, etc?

Again, thank you for thinking of me and sharing the award.

jp

Nichole Giles said...

Dan,
You deserve the Award Candace gave you. Congratulations.

And thanks for passing that very same, cheer-inducing award to me. I am honored.

Great advice!

Nichole
ldswritersblogck.com

Dan and Wendy said...

James,

Sorry it's taken me so long to reply. Work has been hectic, and it took me a while to research where this award originated.

This award originated HERE. The founder of the writing group is a man named Seamus that currently lives in France. I wrote him, and he was pleased to see the award making the rounds.

James/Nichole:

Keep up the great writing!

Dan

Anonymous said...

As Dan's wife I am always happy to read his work. I am not sure he is always happy with my responses. That is one of the drawbacks to letting family read what you write. I too loved the accountant story. Dan's fantasy is very good also, toward the end of his 282 pages he has a very vivid fight seen that I like to read over. Dan's poetry is very good and maybe one day he will favor you all with a poem or two.