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The Writer’s Balance

November 24, 2017

A guest post by Stephanie Raffelock

It takes courage to get up every day and write. You have to love what you are doing and you have to believe in yourself to do it.  It’s humbling for me to be the perpetual student of craft and of story. And sometimes on a good day, the best that I can muster for my life’s passion and purpose is insecurity and a lot of caffeine to meet the real and self-imposed deadlines.

The thing I know for sure about writing is this: Muses and inspiration tend to be sporadic at best, and unreliable at worst.  The courage part of writing is working it everyday, anyway. Don’t think I haven’t dreamed about how a dry martini or other consciousness altering accutromonts might stave off the existential loneliness of writing. Unfortunately those things are unreliable too. So how does one buck up and balance the solitude, the glacial speed of professional career development and the other demands of this art form?

When In Doubt, Serve:

I have two mission statements for my writing life.  One, I’ve already stated– get up every day and write.  The other is to find ways to be in service to writers through support, encouragement and educational resources. The second part of my mission statement has provided me membership into a large literary community.  And that is where I find balance.

Support:

Attend local library events. Intellectual gatherings that foster ideas and creativity are essential, and can inform your writing.  Support independent bookstores. Get to know the clerks in these stories and talk to them about your favorite genres. Get recommendations. Create an ongoing dialogue. What sells? What’s the most popular women’s fiction? Have you discovered anyone new that I should know about?  Don’t wait until you want your self-published books on a shelf in their store.

Encouragement: 

None of us can hear positive comments enough.  It’s important to honor the writers in your community. Look for what’s good in other people’s work and share that–we all get enough serious criticism. Celebrate the person who got an agent. Celebrate the one who self-published. And celebrate the individual going to their first writing conference.  These are shared successes and here is where true inspiration comes from.

Education:

Share your talent, skills and abilities with your community. Do you have time to read a book to a group of kids at the library, the bookstore or an assisted living center?  Can you make recommendations for good writing books with authority — because you’ve actually studied the book yourself and it’s helped you? I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve recommended Larry’s books to writers that I knew were struggling to figure out that damn novel format, and each time that I did, I knew I was doing that fellow writer a solid.  Are you continuing to educate yourself through constant reading? I like to read independently published writers, small press writers who aren’t household names but have wonderful stories to tell. It’s important to know what truly moves you and not just what’s trending.

Here’s the Bottom Line on Balance:

Writers think way too much about what they can get. Can I get an agent? Can I get a book contract? Can I get a hundred likes on my author page?  To be truly balanced as both a writer and a person, “what can I give” needs to be part of the equation.

Here’s a personal illustration: This past summer, my book was making the publisher rounds, courtesy of my wonderful literary agent.  She had said to me, “Stephanie, I just know that the right publisher is out there for this book.”  Two months later she sent me 35 rejection notices. And although most of those rejections were filled with encouragement, praise and support, because there was no forthcoming book deal, I was crushed.  This happened two days before the writer’s conference that I attend every year in Portland.  I had wanted to enter that conference, a woman triumphant, but instead, I walked through the door with my head down and my tail dragging.  But that only lasted for about five minutes.

I sit on the Board of Directors for that particular conference (Willamette Writers.) I direct the Young Willamette Writers program and there were lots of people depending upon me that weekend.  So my attention shifted quickly because I had 16 kids to chaperone through the writer’s conference. Sharing in the excitement of being in service to those kids took the sting out of the loneliness and rejection that come with the writing territory.

What drives me, satisfies me and keeps me going as a novelist in the becoming, is that I do the work; I am as authentic and truthful as I can be; and I have balance in how I give my talents back to the world.  You don’t have to wait to be a published writer in order to live the writing life. And to me, part of the writing life is what you give back.

It is only in the authentic fullness of life and gratitude for the gifts we are given that we become better writers, and better people. So, by all means make writing the goal. Constantly search for the sweet spot that is that ineffable quality of voice that makes good writing so compelling. Continue to study and practice all of the time. And balance all of it with the joy of what you can give.

Stephanie Raffelock is an aspiring novelist who writes about the transformational forces of life. She served an internship at The Boulder Daily Camera, and has been published in The Aspen Times and Quilter’s Magazine. She is a regular contributor on SixtyandMe.com as well as a contributing writer for The Rogue Valley Messenger.  Stephanie is the Youth Programming Director for Oregon’s Willamette Writers, and maintains a board position with Southern Oregon University’s Hannon Library. You can reach out to her at stephanieraffelock.com and @Sraffelock.

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Note from Larry: given it’s the Thanksgiving weekend, I wanted to share a bit of good news, for which I am thankful.

You may remember my little side project last year, a relationship book entitled Chasing Bliss. Earlier this year it was named the winning entry in the Relationships category at the 2017 Next Generation Indie Awards.

If you’re looking for an awkward moment in your life among friends and family, write a book on relationships. I could do a reality show on that one.

The book’s website is HERE.

Chasing Bliss FRONT cover final jpeg (1)

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A Few Storyfix Updates

Greetings. I know I’ve been MIA for a while now… my apologies. I also know I led with this exact opener a few months ago… embarrassing. I get it.

Colleagues are telling me I’ve basically lost equity in this site. I prefer to think of it as hitting the Pause button. I’ve never intended to abandon Storyfix, my intention since the beginning of the year has been to reinvent, revitalize and relaunch it.

Why all that? Because after nearly 1000 posts (over 700 of which remain available here), it began to feel like I’ve lined all available walls with thoughts and teaching and modeling and case studies for all facets of craft and process. I found myself getting entrenched in an unwinnable debate about the continuum of process options, and frankly found the discussion frustrating.

I needed to step away. And while I’ve been away (I’ve still been out there teaching at workshops around the country, which is the absolute highest level of what I do on several levels, as well as posting on a few other websites), my resolve to teach writing the right way, the smart way, the enlightened way, has clarified.

Because you see, the writing process is negotiable. The underlying principles of craft – what makes a story work – are not. The key to everything, especially for newer and/or struggling writers, resides in understanding the core and the nuances of that statement.

I return to the battle emboldened. Less tolerant of ignorance. Willing to call out the bullshit (and it’s everywhere) when I see it put forth. More committed to helping writers see through the fog of the conventional writing conversation by providing principles, tools, examples, and processes that elevate and empower, rather than reinforce stagnation and frustration.

There will be a refurbished story analysis service, as well, priced to deliver the highest value for serious writers available anywhere on the internet.

Thanks for your patience. This is going to be an intense, wonderful and rewarding ride on both sides of the PUBLISH button.

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Art Holcomb to join Storyfix on a more regular, visible basis.

Art and I view the storytelling proposition through a very similar lens. If you don’t know Art, use the search function here to find his guest posts (nearly 30 of ’em), and click here to see his website, where you can access his highly regarded audio training programs.

Art will be posting here more regularity, appearing at least twice a month.  That’s in addition to my posts, which will appear at least a month, as well.

The result will be the most advanced craft thinking available on the internet, targeting all levels of knowledge and experience. There are no cloud-dwelling muses here, urging you to channel your inner consciousness and listen to what your characters are telling you. A crashing silence awaits if that’s how you write.

Rather, what you’ll get here is fierce hardcore story craft. The principles that underpin it. Delivered by two literary linebackers (have you seen us?) waiting to flatten whatever lack of understanding or misinformation stands in your way.

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October Workshops

I’m booked for two October workshops, at this writing:

Central Ohio Fiction Writers (an RWA sanctioned group)

Saturday, October 21, 2017 – Columbus, Ohio

An all-day class, delivering a comprehensive deep dive into differentiating craft, applicable to all genres, with a focus on romance and adult contemporary love stories.

Click here for details.

And then, the annual…

Writers Digest Novel Writing Conference

Friday and Saturday, October 27/28, 2017 – Pasadena, California

Two sessions: Concept/Premise as the differentiating story essence (Friday), and Raising the Bar on Your story (Saturday).

Click HERE to view the conference website, see all 30 presenters and the full schedule.

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Blog to Book – an interview by Nina Amir

Check out this article/interview that appeared on Nina’s site, wherein I wax nostalgic about how Storyfix, the blog, became Story Engineering, the book. If you’re a blogger as well as a novelist or screenwriter, you might find you’re already nursing an opportunity to find yourself in the nearest Barnes & Noble.

Click here to check it out.

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New training videos coming this fall.

You may be aware that I have five video training modules out. More are in the pipeline, arriving later this fall.

Art Holcomb has new audio-based training (with workshops) and ebooks on a regular basis. Click here to see his latest.

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Storyfix to undgo a facelift.

I’m vetting designers now to bring a fresher look to this website.

I’m also interested in hearing from you, the Storyfix community, for your counsel on forthcoming content. Use the comments here, or email me directly, to suggest specific topics and focuses you’d like Art and I cover in the coming months. This is your tool, so please contribute your thinking to help us help you.

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A compendium of posts – mine – from Killzone.com

You may know that I’ve been posting to the Killzone.com for well over a year now. There is a diverse group of contributors there, including a couple of well-known authors you may have heard of, not the least of whom is my craft colleague in arms, James Scott Bell.

Click HERE for a sequential thread of these articles. It’s an entire book’s worth of content and perspective.

Next week I’ll be sharing, in full, another guest post I contributed recently to Writer Unboxed, which stirred things up a bit. Because, you see, on that site and on Killzone there are authors who ascribe to this approach to story development: “There is no right or wrong way to tell a story, unless you do it my way,” – their way, in this case – “in which case it is the right way.” One of them suggests writing cannot be taught (right after this assertion he refers you to his upcoming workshops), and another claims he can impart everything of value he’s ever been told onto one side of a 3 by 5 card, which is interesting.

Too bad they’re both full of complete and utter crap on those fronts. Because simply by putting it in print, some poor writer will believe it to be true.

Here at Storyfix, Art and I are committed to shining a light on principle-based story development, with a qualitative focus on what empowers stories, rather than what simply finishes them.

 

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