New Beginnings, Left Turns
Presented by: Kathryn Jane
Date: May 1 – 31, 2022 (one month)
Pricing: A2P Member fee: $15
Non-A2P Member fee: $30
Staring at a blank screen is unproductive. Let me teach you how to get past the roadblocks, get your hands back on the keys and fill that screen with words. Learn useful tactics for digging yourself out of a metaphorical hole, for taking your story a whole new direction, or for making a tiny change that will open up something you hadn’t yet thought of. This workshop will provide you with tools and exercises to help you—or your reluctant muse—climb out of the ditch and back up onto the road.
Kathryn Jane, author, artist, and coach, loves to share her knowledge and experience in a wide variety of workshops designed to assist others on their journey from idea to publication and successful marketing. Her own publishing career has included everything from novels to short stories and a variety of genres including Women’s Fiction and Romantic Suspense.
I love the word default. It is so definitive. It is authoritative when you’re on the right side of it; terrifying if you’re on the wrong side. Default on your loan. Default the game. You have failed to live up to your promise. Over! Done! Fini— unless you do something to change the situation PDQ and get back on track.
Then came computers and the word default got a makeover. It’s softer. Helpful. Kind. The word became synonymous with a do-over. Default is now your safety net. Screwed up your settings? Default. Go back to the beginning. Get a do-over. It’s okay. We got your back.
Well, don’t get too comfy with that default button, especially when you’re writing. I have a new book that I let lie fallow for two Covid-years because I took a creative hike, turning to manual hobbies like sewing and quilting, crafting and cooking. Now I’m back and making a sprint to complete the last 25%. I’m jazzed because it’s almost done. I proudly sent the first three quarters of the manuscript to my editor fully expecting the green light to cross the literary finish-line.
Sadly — and thankfully —her input was the exact opposite. I had dialed in my characters. I had been lazy with my red herrings. I had defaulted in the bad way, and not lived up to my promise to deliver my best work to my readers. On the other hand, she was offering me the chance to default in the kind way: reset, rethink, and rework. It was up to me to decide if I wanted to skate, shrug my shoulders, and publish a book that was ‘just okay’, or go back and make this the best book it can be.
I decided to go with option two. Reset. Rethink. Rework. That’s what author’s do. Thankfully, I have a great editor who is clear that how I define the word default — and how I respond to that definition— is up to me.
I never thought I’d be a novelist, much less a USA Today and Amazon bestseller. I wish I could say that I was an overnight success, but it’s taken years to hone my skills because I am self-taught. The extent of my writing education was to crack open a bestselling novel (with a glass of wine by my side), highlight important passages and transitions, and then mimic the authors’ style. At some point, I found my own voice, and it was magical. I could have cut years off my learning curve if I had access to the online information that is available now. While I love the energy of in-person education, I found two intriguing options for writers, whether they are new or experienced. Maybe one will be right for you.
‘Ninety-Day Novel’ walks you through finishing your first book in three months. There are weekly in person Zoom meetings, recorded lessons, and exercises landing in your mailbox to help you along. It doesn’t get more hands on than this.
‘Masterclass’ is awesome. This platform provides virtual classes taught by award-winning authors such as Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Gladwell, and James Patterson to name just a few. Masterclass will elevate your work, and as an added bonus you’ll learn how to get your finished work published.
CreativeLive is perfect for authors who are feeling pretty good about their craft but are looking for practical advice. No celebrity authors here. Rather, you’ll be learning from entrepreneurs, bloggers, and online personalities.
This September take a cue from the kids. Get back to school and learn from the people who wrote the books on writing. You won’t even need a backpack!
*These links are for information only. Masterclass is $15.00 a month billed annually. Ninety-Day Novel is donation based, with $1,000 being suggested but $500 being the least amount accepted. Creative Live is $13.00 a month.
“I wish I had your job. All you do is sit around and make up stories all day.”
“I’ve got a great story for you. You write it and I’ll split the royalties.”
If writers had a dollar for every time someone told them they were on easy street they would be — well—on easy street. But we know the work is hard, that dedication is a prerequisite, and thick skin is the uniform we wear everyday. So if you ever need to explain the life of a writer, here’s how you can break it down.
STEP ONE: Herd Butterflies
Of the millions of words in the world, a writer must choose 100,000, and fit them together like puzzle pieces to create a seamless story. There is no wand to wave so that they magically fall in place. Nor is there a spell to cast that will take the vague, foggy images on the periphery of writer’s consciousness, give them form and function, and create memorable characters. Likewise a plot and story can be elusive. Initially these ideas are as solid as quicksand. One wrong step and the writer sinks. If we’re not willing to do this painstaking work to corral our butterflies, sculpt our characters, and create a solid plot foundation then we are not writers.
STEP TWO: Sit
Writers sit for hours, and days, and weeks on end. Months go by and still we sit. A writer may mentally plot or test dialogue while seeing to real life, but the hard work is accomplished by putting our butts in the chair while everyone else plays. If we give into temptation and join the party, we are not writers.
STEP THREE: Sand, Paint, and Patch
When the typing is done, the editing begins. Editing is an ugly, depressing, miserable process. Shave a word here, add ten there. Delete pages, chapters, chuck the whole book and start again. A writer prints out hard copy, marks it up until the pages look bloody with edits. Then a real pro inputs the edits and starts all over again. If we aren’t our own best critic, one willing to make things right for our readers, we are not real writers.
So when someone says they fancy your job or waxes romantic about a writer’s life, smile. Admit that writing is a wonderful profession. Insist that you would never dream of taking their amazing idea even though you’re tempted. Assure them that they deserve the literary glory. Do offer to look at their manuscript when it’s finished. While you’re waiting, you can start herding butterflies for your next blockbuster.
I remember a National Geographic article from a few years ago, The Joy of Food, by Victoria Pope, offered an interesting observation.
“The sharing of food has always been part of the human story . . . ‘To break bread together’, a phrase as old as the Bible, captures the power of a meal to forge relationships, bury anger, and provoke laughter.”
In creating contemporary fictional scenes, epic fantasy moments, or science fiction settings, food and the act of eating, humanizes a story. Our mouth waters with tantalizing narrative of baked goods and braised stew. Romance tickles when someone gently hand-feeds a morsel of food to a love interest. Intrigue is piqued while supping at the table of a wealthy nineteenth-century Duke. Warmth ebbs in our bones when characters share spit-roasted game around a campfire in the dead of winter. We smile when a normally dysfunctional family banters happily around a holiday feast, setting aside for a moment, that which keeps them apart.
Food can be a defining backdrop with apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. Driven back to our hunter-gatherer forbearers, societies are demoralized with heart-wrenching memories of how abundant food once was. Haves and have-nots when food is scarce, polarize villages, communities, entire nations. Food as common currency is reborn. Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy is an excellent example of this. S.M. Stirling’s Dies the Fire serialized life when the power went out—permanently. Christopher Nolen’s movie Interstellar, painted somberness from food-blighted, agrarian collapse.
Food weighs heavily when portraying communal tables, customs, folklore, and regional diversity. George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series is rich with culinary indulgence and subsistence living. Tolkien’s Hobbits are quiet, yet passionate diners. Elves are vegans, and dwarves—well—they’ll eat anything that isn’t green. Robert Jordan’s fourteen book Wheel of Time series has more eating scenes than grains of sand in the Wicked Witch of the West’s hourglass. Vampire feeding is a genre unto itself. Opinions vary on what Zombies find nutritious.
Science fiction poses a stronger challenge with respect to otherworldly beings, especially when writers have to define characteristics of sentient alien life. Babylon 5 was a jewel of multiple alien interactions, all with unique culinary customs. Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow did a masterful job of characterizing alien beings by what they shared with pioneering visitors from earth. Hard-core Star Trek fans can cite Klingon fare as if reading from a menu. One of my favorite movies was The Matrix where human “copper-tops” dreamed of real food, but the few humans outside the matrix subsisted on something resembling watery eggs. Has all the body needs, amino acids, proteins . . .” The very sight of it made me gag.
Eating is the ultimate show versus tell enhancer. Here’s one in an old story I wrote that attempts to capture all five senses. A pungent smokiness wafted from the meat offering that resembled a hairless, mummified rat carcass. The skin crackled between her teeth and her eyes watered from its unsalted, campfire bitterness. It was like trying to eat a botched taxidermy job, or an Amazonian shrunken beast stolen from a museum.
A story lacking a good eating scene falls short in illustrating a fundamental anthropological trait, not to mention missing out on a lot of fun writing.
What’s my favorite eating scene? Have to turn the clock back to the 1963 movie adaptation of Henry Fielding’s classic novel set in the British eighteenth-century, The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling, where the handsome Tom and his dining partner wordlessly consume an enormous meal while lustfully gazing at each other.
That’s what I call eating.
A native of Wisconsin and Connecticut, DT Krippene deserted aspirations of being a biologist to live the corporate dream and raise a family. After six homes, a ten-year stint in Asia, and an imagination that never slept, his annoying muse refuses to be hobbled as a mere dream. Dan writes dystopia, paranormal, and science fiction. His current project is about a young man struggling to understand why he was born in a time when humans are unable to procreate and knocking on extinction’s door.
You can find DT on his website and his social media links.
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