Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Whole Package

I'm a huge fan of Dancing With the Stars (Go Kristi!). Last night, as the judges were giving their critiques of back-to-back performances, they commented on Cristian's hip action and Jason's charisma. But when they came to Kristi, they said she had the whole package--the charisma, the hips, and on and on.

Isn't that exactly what we're striving for as writers--the whole package? We may excel at dialog, but lack when it comes to conflict. Or great at conflict but our characterization is off. To be a winner, or is our case, a saleable author, all of these elements have to come together, creating a package that captures the reader's attention and holds it for the entire performance.

And guess what? There's always something more to learn. When I first started writing, I remember someone saying, "okay, now that you've got POV down, you need to learn about. . . ." Whatever it was, I remember thinking, "well, why didn't you tell me this with the other," like a needed a checklist of every element of a story.

Ah yes, we've come a long way. And the one thing I've learned is that the learning never stops. Even multi-published authors still attend workshops and read books on the craft. Learning and honing.

Are you discouraged with your writing? Think about what's missing. Is there a particular area that keeps coming up in critiques? Are you missing the emotion or your plot is weak? Then learn more about them. Ask other authors. Read books on that particular aspect of the craft. On Dancing With the Stars, they rehearse for hours each week to perfect their routine--learning then honing.

Do you have a favorite book on the craft? Which one and how has it helped you?


  1. Well, I know I've raved about it over and over, but I love Alicia Raseley's The STory Within Workbook. And here are some others I really like:

    Deb Dixon's GMC
    Carolyn Greene's Prescription for Plotting
    Hauge and Vogler's The Hero's Two Journeys (DVD)
    Various and assorted online classes.

    I love to keep learning! (And I need to keep learning.)


  2. Great Post Mindy! When I saw the Dancing with the Stars picture I just thought Wow! What a dream. And isn't that what we're pursuing? Our dream, to write/publish with the stars!

    Anyway, I'm afraid by the time I get back to writing I'm going to have relearn everything again. I hope all this reading I'm doing is helping to gain some perspective!

  3. The best is when you get contest entries back with a list of those books and the judge telling you you should read and study them. Meanwhile you own them all, have studied them and wonder what went wrong!!

    I really like the Alicia Rasley one Missy mentioned...I also like the Self Editing for Fiction writers...I'm reading the one by James Scott Bell---Plot and Structure-excellent book. I have post it notes and index tab sticking out from all over that book right now.

    Great post Mindy.

  4. Great question at the end. I've noticed there is no consistent issue in my writing through all six books from contest judges and critique partners. (There was in the early years, but not anymore.) Judges all say different things and aren't consistent, and so I ignore those comments. Some love my dialogue, others hate. Some love my characters, others hate them. Some love my conflict, others don't. I think this is true with published authors. We just have to find our "niche" audience and keep going.

    However, I HAVE noticed that I tend to have a particular issue within each book, but it may not be the SAME issue in each book. I think this is where I was trying various writing styles from all the different authors I've read over the years. I believe I was trying to get comfortable with what is MY writing style.

    Now I'm going back to the nuts and bolts of what I've learned, and I'm just writing what comes natural from me, my muse, and the Holy Spirit. I believe this will make my writing voice much stronger. In other words, I'm laying down all the "tiny" writing rules, abiding by the "big" writing rules and just going with the flow.