When having trouble getting started or getting on with the story, invite a few writer friends over for a brainstorming session. Over tea and Christmas cookies, Nancy, Kate, Peg and I threw out ideas no matter how absurd about the story each of us was working on. Nancy bought along freezer paper and we wrote down all the ideas on the back for each story. It helped me get off dead center for my work in progress, and I was able to start yet another beginning for my second novel in the Designer Detective series.
On Tuesday this week I attended a workshop led by Geronimo Tagatac, a short story writer and the Harney Basin Writers Writer-in-Residence for this season. While Geronimo is a short story writer and I'm a novelist, one can always learn something. He asked us what a story is and we discussed that at length. What do you think it is? He said that a short story answers a question and leaves you with another. That's one of the things I like about short stories although I no longer read that many. A novel is different. It has a beginning, middle and end. I always like resolution when I read and write which is probably why I write genre fiction. I like good plots, great characters, and happy endings. I don't read much literary fiction. They are usually very weak on plot and you never know that everything is going to be okay. Geronimo uses his Facebook page for 420 character stories. I thought that a great idea and might try it. He also said that writing close to the bone engages the reader. Some of the authors he recommended reading: Clem Stark (an Oregon poet), David Sedaris "The Santa Land Diaries", Martha Geis "The World Begins Here", Raymond Carver "Honey,why?", Aristotle's Poetics. He read from Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian and from Gabrielle Garcia Marques stories.
This is the advice writers gave me and this is the advice I give to anyone seriously interested in a career in writing. By career I don't necessarily mean one that makes money. Not many writers can make a living by writing. But many writers have to write and those are the people I'm interested in communicating with. Being a novel writer, I would recommend to fellow novel aspirants to write with a goal. How many times have we heard this? Whether it is number of pages or time slot, have a goal. When I'm doing a first draft, I try to write 5 pages a day (double spaced, 1 inch margins, courier 12 pitch). My time slot for butt in chair is 9 AM to Noon, Monday to Friday, with bleed overs as necessary. I usually take weekends off unless I'm on a deadline, and I usually take holidays and vacations.
I'm a serious writer, meaning I have a regular daily writing habit, and I'm interested in sharing my work through publication. My favorite literary form is the novel. I write to entertain myself and my readers.