Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Q and A about Writing with Bonnie Grove

Everyone needs a break now and then, so we’re giving our grammar guru the day off. Ocieanna will return next Wednesday with more grammar fun and answers to last week's quiz.

This past Manuscript Monday, author Bonnie Grove shared a great article on writing subtext. Part 2 of that article will be given next Monday. In the meantime, we're glad she's back today, answering common questions asked by writers. Welcome, Bonnie!

Q and A about Writing

I enjoy talking with new writers. I’ve met with many at conferences and in chatting with them, and answering their questions (as best I could) I’ve noticed themes in the questions people ask. I'd like to share some words of advice regarding some of the common questions I’ve heard over the past few years.

Question: Where do I start as a writer?

Answer: Read. The first step to becoming a writer is to understand literature. Reading broadly expands your understanding of how literature works, the purposes it serves, and the nearly endlessly creative ways you can approach story telling. Novelist Jim Harrison gives this important advice: "Be totally familiar with the entirety of the western literary tradition. How can you write well unless you know what passes for the best; in the last three or four hundred years?"

Q: Should I plan and structure a novel before I write, or just start writing?

A. Bones. I spoke to many people who didn't understand the structure of the novel. Genre or literary, all novels have plot points the reader is expecting, and if we don’t hit these points, the readers will be disappointed. We all like to think that great books simply pour out of writer’s fingertips, but the truth is the more you plan ahead of time, the less mess you’ll have to clean up in editing. Structuring and planning your novel will not strangle your creativity. It will accomplish the opposite.

Q: How wide a margin should I use in a query letter? What about in the manuscript? Is there a specific font I should use? (and many other questions to this effect)

A: Be creative. Publishing seems filled with rules. How to write a query letter, synopsis, one sentence hook, premise, elevator pitch, and on it goes. It’s enough to give a new writer facial ticks. But fussing over the rules too much can dam up your creative funkiness. Don’t worry so much about the rules that you forgot the true goal, writing a deeply creative, original story in a compelling voice and style. Being amazing is better than being technically correct.

Q: What is the best genre for me to tell my story? I want to tell a story that teaches people ______________ (fill in the blank with a good lesson people need to learn).

A: Message driven fiction is boring. All fiction is spiritual in nature because fiction is the human experience set to story. When writing, it's important to focus on the story - not the moral of the story. Don't write a novel about redemption. Write a novel about characters that live and breathe and experience redemption in a powerful (and unique, and original) way. The message of your story will rise to the surface precisely because you placed it where it belongs - implicitly inside the movement of the story.

Q: What is the most important quality a writer should possess?

A: Being a writer presupposes self-understanding. There are more good answers to that question then I can think up, but I’d like to suggest that a writer of fiction needs to a good grasp of their own identity, flaws and all. A writer should be able to look himself in the eye and “this is your truth”. And secondly, I think a writer needs empathy for the human condition.

Keep writing, keep learning, and let’s have fun out there.

Bonnie Grove started writing when her parents bought a typewriter, and she hasn’t stopped since. Trained in Christian Counseling, theology and psychology, she developed and wrote strength-based social programs for families at risk while landing articles and stories in anthologies. She is the award winning author of the non-fiction Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You; and the internationally published Talking to the Dead: a Novel. Her husband, Steve, is the Senior Pastor of Louise Street Community Church of the Nazarene in Saskatchewan, Canada. They have two young children and one small dog.

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1 comment:

  1. Great interview! Each question was answered unexpectedly. Much stuff to chew on!


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