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Writing, novel writing, writing a book

Struck by a Friendly Conversation

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Earlier this week when I was talking to a friend about how my foray into novel writing was progressing, her response struck me in more ways than one. She said that after reading a book that moved her, she began thinking about doing some writing of her own.

I know. This wasn’t an earth-shattering statement. But it got me thinking, nonetheless.

My first thought was that writing a book isn’t easy. Although I’ve been writing and editing in the newspaper and pr/content marketing industries for years, I’ve only recently wrapped my head around novel writing. And I find myself learning something new every day while struggling to maintain a momentum.

With that in mind, I also thought about the fantasy associated with being a novelist. Like it’s some kind of glam fest. Thanks, Ernest Hemingway. On the contrary, it’s a very solitary experience that’s fueled by the love of weaving words together to tell a story that just won’t go away. That solitary need to persevere it isn’t always easy.

Then I thought about how accessible writing is. Literally anyone can do it. All it takes is an idea and the drive to follow through. Literature is filled with authors who were just living regular lives and taking it one day at a time while crafting a story they just had to tell. And we, the readers, are all the better for it. The unemployed, single mom, aka J.K. Rowling, gave us the treasured Harry Potter series. An 11th grader who wanted to tell the real story of youth in her time, aka S. E. Hinton, gave us The Outsiders. These are just two examples of ordinary people creating something special. They had ideas and the follow through to bring them to fruition. Thank goodness.

I was really glad that my friend expressed an interest in writing. If an idea strikes that she just has to put down, it could just be the next great story that resonates with us all. Why not?

novel writing, Writing, writing a book

Looking to Television for Writing Inspiration: Part 4

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This time around, I plan to conclude my series of TV shows that inspire my novel writing by looking at a sci-fi fantasy show. What I love about this genre is that it allows me to tune out everything and escape into another world. As a writer, I want to create a novel that does the same thing for the reader. It’s a noble ambition I can only hope to achieve. In television, I’ve found one show that has successfully achieved that goal and inspires me in several ways. That show is Beyond.

Beyond is an hour-long drama that tells the story of Holden Matthews, a 24-year-old man who wakes up from a 12-year coma with no ill effects – and with special powers. It ended its second season on Freeform in March and episodes can be found on Hulu, the Freeform App, or On-Demand. Although Freeform has reportedly canceled the show, I hope the execs backtrack or another network or streaming service picks it up.

Creator Adam Nussdorf did such a great job in crafting this show. His focus on characters was spot on. That’s especially true for Holden, a full-grown man who woke up still feeling like a 12-year-old. We watched him struggle to adjust to his new normal, which included newfound powers he couldn’t wrap his mind around. As a viewer, I sympathized with his plight. That connection inspires my own writing as I strive to create relate-able characters a reader will want to feel invested in.

I’ll touch more on characters in a minute. But first, I want to talk about how effectively Beyond created a plot and kept it moving forward. This drama was packed with suspense and every nuance of each episode drove the story straight ahead, leaving no room for extraneous fluff. That’s a great template for me in my novel writing.

Now, I want to get back to characters. Each and every character had a purpose. And what we, the audience, knew about that purpose may change. There were some characters we loved, we loved to hate, or vacillated between the two. Nussdorf did an amazing job of creating those characters and using them to continue driving the plot and kept us as an audience at the edge of our seats, waiting to find out what happened next. That taught me that in my novel writing, I need to make sure I fully develop the characters and make sure they, too, help drive the story.

While Beyond is a drama, it did a great job of adding just the right amount of humor to break up the dramatic tension. That’s really important to me because I love going on a journey that’s well rounded and truly layered. It’s something I’m striving for in my own writing.

Another lesson Beyond taught me is how to craft a series. The show’s second season created a new set of issues and introduced new characters, all while never losing sight of Holden’s plight. That’s just plain good storytelling. And it’s something to keep in mind if I decide to write a novel series.

Beyond is one of my favorite TV shows. And like any good show, it all starts with great writing. It’s that writing that I find quite inspiring.

What inspires your writing? Let me know in the comment section below.

 

 

 

novel writing, Writing, writing a book

Looking to Television for Writing Inspiration: Part 3

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This week, I continue my series on how and why I look to television for inspiration in my novel writing. This time, I’m focusing on my love of the science fiction genre. Yep, I proudly let my nerd flag fly. Besides, what better form of escapism than to delve into a series that draws you into a world all its own?

When I think of this genre, I find the storytelling in one particular TV shows teaches me a lot as I work my way through my inaugural novel-writing project.

 

Stranger Things

Now, I’ve never been a lemming following the crowd off the cliff. But there’s no doubt this sci-fi horror on Netflix has quite a following – rightly so. And that begins with the storytelling, which the Duffer Brothers do amazingly.

This saga, which tells the story of unusually goings on in a seemingly typical small town, does a great job of keeping the audience hooked from episode to episode. The thriller aspect of the series leaves you chomping at the bit to see what happens next. That teaches me that in my own writing, I need to make sure I keep the plot moving so readers will stay interested (and hopefully pull one of those “I can’t believe I stayed up all night to finish that book” scenarios).

Of course, this series is character driven, too. We’re all invested in the characters, their own stories, and their journey. But what I’ve learned from the Duffer Brothers is how to successfully take characters beyond one book. In the second season, we see the characters faced with new situations and the introduction of more characters. We’re invested in their reactions, changes in behavior, and, of course, the new threats they face. That’s taught me that when writing a novel series, I need to make sure my own characters and experiences evolve.

Next week, I’ll continue my series by looking at a fantasy series that inspires my novel writing. What inspires your writing? Let me know in the comments below.

 

novel writing, Writing, writing a book

Looking to Television for Writing Inspiration: Part 2

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In my last post, I talked about how television inspires my writing. This time around I wanted to continue that train of thought by pointing out a sitcom has taught me a lot in my writing efforts. That show is The Middle.

This comedy is wrapping up its 9-season run this month. It’s bittersweet because I’m such a fan. Fortunately, this amazing gem is syndicated with the entire series running on FreeForm and Hallmark Channel.

The Middle tells the story of the Hecks, a semi-dysfunctional family of five living in Orson, Indiana. One thing I love about the storytelling is that each show successfully puts every character in the spotlight each week. Sure, the storylines shift to a different focus in each episode. But even then, we consistently get great insight into the development of each character. That’s no small accomplishment, and creators Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline do it flawlessly. It teaches me that in my writing, I need to keep both of those things in mind.

Another great accomplishment is the overall consistency of the story, itself. That’s evident in the fact that while the characters evolve and adjust when faced with circumstances and just the course of life, they’re fundamentally the same. That’s important, because any good story revolves around well-written characters.

Another constant is the world created around this show. The fictional town of Orson takes on a life of its own, as do the Heck home and all the various spots the family frequent. Not to mention the numerous town residents interacting with the Hecks from time to time. As both a reader and writer, I truly appreciate that.

Finally, while The Middle is a comedy, it has an amazing way of successfully delivering moments that are also poignant, pitiable, sad, or uncomfortable – all without overdoing it at all. That emotional balance is something I’m striving for in my own writing.

While I happily get lost in watching The Middle, I appreciate the storytelling lessons it teaches me as I try to hone my own writing skills.

Next week, I’ll touch on how another genre of TV inspires my writing. What inspires you? Let me know in the comment section below.

novel writing, Reading, Writing, writing a book

Looking to Television for Writing Inspiration

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Like everyone else, I draw my writing inspiration from a lot of places. My own experiences, what I observe going on in the world, and reading. Always reading.

Although my novel writing is still in the learning stages, I’ve found myself also increasingly inspired by television. Yep, television. It’s actually a great tutorial for my novel writing. After all, while a great TV series has everything – amazing acting, directing, costumes, and set design, it has to start with great storytelling.

Since I’ve been paying more attention, I realize storytelling in a TV series and a novel is pretty much the same. A TV series is broken up into seasons, like a novel series is divided into book installments. Each season’s episode can also be considered a chapter. And as with a book, a good TV series is character driven, with the protagonists responding to whatever they’re presented with in comedic, dramatic, or suspenseful fashion.

When watching shows that hold my interest, I’ve realized the way a story unfolds in a book should follow the same pattern as said series. I’ve learned that each chapter in a novel should have its own beginning, middle, and end while successfully moving the entire storyline forward, just like an individual TV show episode does.

After realizing these parallels, it only makes sense that paying attention to the writing behind great TV shows can serve me well as I work to improve my own craft.

Content Marketing, Email Ettiquette, Public Relations

Sending the Right Message with Email

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As communication professionals, we all know how important it is to put our own best foot forward with the content we produce. Not only are our reputations shaped by the work we produce, they’re impacted by the way we interact with others. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed attention to one particular interaction fall by the wayside – the way we communicate through email.

I guess I first noticed poor email etiquette about five years ago. That was when I received an email from a colleague that seemed incredibly curt. I had to take a minute and give them the benefit of the doubt, hoping that wasn’t the tone they intended to convey.

Since then, I’ve noticed these types of abrupt emails have become the norm. It’s certainly understandable. We’re all incredibly busy these days, and any communication we send has to be done quickly. Not to mention the fact that texting has infiltrated and shifted the way we interact. So much so, that we end up treating emails like texts.

But an email isn’t the same as a text, at all. It’s an electronic form of letter writing. While that sounds old school, it’s one thing I try to keep in mind. After all, when I’m emailing colleagues or clients, I don’t want them to be caught off guard by an unintended tone or message.

It only takes me a few seconds more to make sure every email I send contains a greeting, courteous tone, and closing. By taking that tiny bit of effort, I’ve done everything I can to ensure that even my emails help me put my best foot forward.

Library, National Library Week, Reading, Writing

The Best Public Libraries Stay Current

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I’ve already mentioned the impact that reading had on my life and my professional path. That impact is so powerful that I just had to give one more nod to National Library Week before it ends on April 14.

Last week I talked about the types of books I’ve always gravitated toward when visiting the library. And as I mentioned, my tastes have always remained the same. Well, not the same, exactly. They evolved over time. As they should.

The same is true for libraries. While they’re always going to be the best place to find a good story in any genre, they’ve also evolved to keep up with the changing times.

As we’ve become more and more ingrained in our electronics, many people need an excuse to go to the library. If they want to read, they just rely on e-books – when they can break away from social media, that is. But libraries have answered the call by adding free e-books to their offerings. And the best libraries do so much more to attract today’s busy patrons.

The best libraries are tuned in to what’s going on in their communities and rise to the challenge of meeting those needs. I’ve traveled to and lived in a lot of places and seen a lot of libraries over the years. Two of them stand out as my favorite.

Athens-Clarke County Library in Athens, Georgia is nothing short of top notch. As far as books go, this facility is amazing. In addition to offering a vast selection of titles for adults, ACCL dedicates entire section of its website to serving children and young adult readers with book suggestions for all tastes. Not to mention all the fun activities geared toward bringing young readers to the brick-and-mortar site. Speaking of activities, ACCL also has a stage area dedicated to providing free live entertainment that includes anything from classical and jazz to Celtic and rock on a monthly basis. And oh yeah, there’s a café just inside the door to encourage readers of all ages to enjoy a beverage or snack while getting lost in a book. And I can’t overlook my favorite thing about this library: You can check out a ukulele. A ukulele! How fun is that?

Even all that I’ve mentioned is just a small sampling the ACCL offers for all ages. A prime example of why it’s one of my favorite libraries that’s done an amazing job of remaining such a strong fixture in its community.

The Town of Magnolia Springs Public Library, located in Magnolia Springs, Alabama is my other favorite. Where in the world is that, you wonder? It’s on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, just north of Gulf Shores. If you haven’t been to the area but watched “Hart of Dixie” on the CW or read Fannie Flagg’s “A Redbird Christmas,” you’ll be familiar with it.

This library is small and young, just like the town it’s housed in. But it’s got that special something, which is why it’s the most visited library in its county.

Librarian Alida Foster sets the tone with her bubbly personality and eagerness to help visitors find what they’re looking for. Plus, she opens the door for community members to volunteer in a variety of ways. My favorite is a volunteer program in which youth teach senior citizens how to use computers, smart phones, and other electronic devices. This is brilliant because it both provides a much-needed service while cultivating multigenerational relationships.

This library also holds numerous activities throughout the year that also encourage people to get to know each other. But one of my favorite features is the seed library. Housed in a recycled card catalog, this section boasts all kinds of seed from all over – including Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello!

Magnolia Springs Public Library may be small, but its big on keeping up with the times and engaging the community.

Do you have a favorite public library? Share what you love about it in the comment section below.