Thursday, December 3, 2009

Write On!

Back when I first got serious about writing I subscribed to Writer's Digest magazine. But after a few years of reading I became cynical or realistic, depending on your take.

Articles with titles such as, Write That Best Selling Novel In Only One Weekend and Ten Step Guide to Becoming the Next J.K. Rowling lost their appeal as I discorved the true odds of the business.

Okay I made those title up, but back 8 or 9 years ago Writer's Digest did crank out some sensationalized articles.

I also subscribed to The Writer for a few years after playing host to one of their editors at our local conference, but over time I let that one drop as well.

So it's been a good long while since I've picked up and read a writing magazine but earlier this week one of my critique partners, the oh-so-talented, Caron Guillo, gave me a recent copy of Writer's Digest.

Knowing that I am writing a memoir she gave it to me so that I could read an interview the magazine did with Mitch Albom. Caron knew some of the struggles I was having in writing my Feedstore Chronicles and she correctly guessed that I would appreciate Mr. Albom,s answers regarding his notable memoir, Tuesdays With Morrie.

Odd as it sounds I think there are some parallels between my story and his so now I am eager to finally reading the memoir and study it for structure. But the thing that stuck with me most about the interview was when they asked Mr. Albom the secret behind his being successful as a sports writer, a memoirist, and a novelist.

His answer was that he could his skills lay not in writing so much as they did in storytelling and he said regardless of what you are writing every author should have the same goal -- make the reader constantly ask the same question ... WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Yeah I know that statement sounds so simple, but for whatever reason it struck a chord within me. Perhaps I've been trying too hard shape and bend my story to fit within the standards and guidelines. Perhaps I should simply tell these tales the way I have countless times over the years. maybe I need to forget I'm writing at a computer desk and start imagining I'm pontificating over a few beers.

Thoughts?

28 comments:

Corey Schwartz said...

Shouldn't be too hard for you. You are a fabulous story-teller!

Jane Friedman said...

Good to know that Writer's Digest could be helpful once again. Insightful to read your thoughts.

Charles Gramlich said...

I tihnk the only rules you really need to follow are those you've learned from telling stories and listening to stories. The story's the thing, for sure.

Cloudia said...

Important breakthrough in your growth as a writer, I think.

I love your stories!


Aloha, Travis


Comfort Spiral

Cloudia said...

Found this today:


"If you don't know the trees
you may be lost in the forrest,
but if you don't know the stories
you may be lost in life."
Siberian Saying

Rick said...

Now there's some good advice, Travis. I'm looking forward to you getting to be at least as famous as Mitch!

Jon said...

yeah, i agree with that... the conversational element of storytelling is more important than a formal structure (though i guess it is a structure in its own right, eh?)...

however i think that there's a tendency to tell too much of the story at times, and not let the reader take the imaginative leap to fill in the gaps, to allow the reader to take their part in the conversation and be just as much the storyteller as the writer... otherwise it's a diatribe and not a dialog

G said...

Excellent advice to both give and receive.

If the story is good, and you tell it well, then write like you tell it.

Colleen said...

Sounds like you just found your way.

Bernita said...

Yes.
You are an excellent raconteur - as these posts show.

Melanie Avila said...

I don't know if you're aware, but my first full-length MS was a memoir. It's hiding within several folders right now, awaiting a complete overhaul, but I learned a lot in the process.

I read a lot of memoirs, read a lot of interviews by memoirists, and what you've discovered is so true: it's still about the story. The rest -- the rules, what's worked in the past, etc -- is good to know, but it's what you have to say (and how you say it) that will ultimately lead to your success.

Good luck. :)

dee said...

you should absoutely write from the heart. Stop worrying about what it sounds like and just tell the story...that's the bestest....I really want you to have a copy of Warren's book Reel Livin' that we just published....its a great example of a memoir wrapped up in great storytelling....maybe that will help...are you coming to the TAG Publishing xmas party??

Phats said...

I am sure you'll end up writing a great book! Don't they sell writing for dummies (Not calling you a dummy btw haha!)

angel, jr. said...

You have a great, come listen to me tell a story style. I have likened some of your stories to being in a room with you, listening to you speak. Keep writing like that...

Just my two cents!

the walking man said...

Albom writes for the Detroit Free Press and is far and away the best writer there and has been since he started many decades ago.

I agree, write 'em as close as you can to telling them to your buddies over a few beers.

Junosmom said...

Hi Travis, Wondering who has MTM now? Could you, if you've time, email or comment on my blog as to the website? Thx. PS I've read Writers' Digest as well, It's been awhile.

Lana Gramlich said...

I think I've gone cynical/realistic about art as you had about writing, but if you can pull it back from the edge, more power to you!

WordVixen said...

I know what you mean about WD. I never really got much use out of the actual articles, but they always motivated me at least a little and made the task seem much more doable. I decided to let my subscription drop a few years back, and lo and behold, two of my friends decided to give me gift subscriptions for the past two years for my birthday. :-) Since they went to 6 issues a year instead of 12, I think the articles have drastically improved.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The advice might be good but I detest Mitch Albom so on principle I wouldn't take it. I have found Poet and Writers Magazine to be the best.

alex keto said...

For every rule I've heard, I've heard some one else argue, with facts and convincingly, that such a rule is not important and shouldn't be reagrded as anything more than a speed bump.
First novels can't be longer than 100,000 words? Doesn't matter if it is 120,00 and it is interesting. And so forth

sybil law said...

I like it - I agree with him completely.
Drink a few and see what happens. And blog. 'Cause I loves me some drunk blogging. :)

Mr. Shife said...

Follow your heart and your instincts. I think it has served you well so far. Good luck to you Travis and I really do admire you for pursuing your dream. I wish I had the courage and perseverance that you have to actually to finish what I started writing years ago. Keep fighting the good fight and it will take care of itself. If you ever need motivation just look at what your Saints are doing.

Mariana Soffer said...

Very good advice, but I guess you need to know beforehand what happens next in order to prepare the suspensse for the reader. For me it is pretty hard to think ahead of what I am writting about in the moment cause It is hard not to loose my focus.
Nice blog by the way

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I think Mitch's success lies in his sentimentality. That said, I like his books okay, even if they feel a bit dumbed down.

But I agree. Keep 'em wonderng, that's what I say. One of the agents likes to say "Tension on every page". I like a "question on every page." They might be the same thing, but questions seem easier for me to grasp. What do I want to tell the reader, and what do I want to withhold?

Phats said...

So, I didn't watch the Texas/Nebraska game I wasn't home, but now I wish had taped it!!! Sounds like a great game, with controversy to finish. I was reading on CNNSI today how upset the Husker coaches were even yelling cheaters and you didn't earn that trophy when the presentation was goin on from their locker room haha. I love that kinda stuff. Great season though for Nebraska

writtenwyrdd said...

I've also heard it called making them want to turn the page. But if they don't care, they won't keep reading. Very good point, Travis!

Edward said...

I was really impressed with the non-linear structure of Jarhead by Anthony Swofford. He worked to construct his book emotionally and thematically. I think it's worth a look to see how someone else has done it.

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