All tagged On Writing

Guest Post: Hannah Returns & Laments, "Writing is hard!"

Note from Sarah: You may remember Hannah's wonderful guest post last year in which she asked, "Has fiction ruined my life?"​ Well our favorite London teen is back, lamenting that while she loves writing, it's often a frustrating, solitary, crazy-making experience.

Sometime between the ages of four and five I officially decided I wanted to be a writer, and it was a decision I have suffered for ever since.  

In some far off ideal world, I would get an idea, I would write down said idea, it would make sense and there would be rainbows, and music would fill the land, and people would dance, and all would be well with the universe. But actually, when I sit down to write, I repeatedly succumb to inept feelings of inadequacy, which rather alarmingly seem to be increasingly growing in abruptness,  preventing me from feeling like I am progressing.

I think the problem is that I set my goals too high. It’s just that I feel like I would be able to write the best books in the world if  I could just expand t some of the half formulated ideas that dwell within the confinements of this 18 year old cranium to their full potential. To me, it seems as though there is a vast  ocean of unwritten novels that sloshes inside my thoughts, and in theory, I should be able to salvage handfuls of them whenever I feel like it.

Verse Week Guest Post: Gabrielle Prendergast on Backstory & Writing in Verse

We're halfway through our annual Novel in Verse Week celebration here on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves and today we have verse novelist Gabrielle Prendergast who shares an inside glimpse on the challenges of creating backstory with the verse format. Enjoy! ~Sarah

One of the challenges for any author, particularly one who writes contemporary novels for teens, is the task of revealing backstory. Because I started out as a screenwriter, backstory, as it is frequently revealed in contemporary young adult books, does not come naturally. I tend to still see my stories as screenwriters do, as a series of scenes in a mostly linear narrative, so diversions into reminiscence feel awkward to write.

But backstory is critical, and in contemporary first person narrated young adult novels, it plays a huge role in getting to know the main character through their past actions and experiences. “Show don’t tell” is the mantra. Delving into the past allows us to see how the characters became who they are rather than them having to tell us.

Writing in verse, while it shares the conciseness and imagery of screenwriting, nevertheless is antithetical to screenwriting when it comes to inner life. In screenwriting it is a never ending struggle to reveal a character’s inner life, never mind their past, without resorting to flashback or voiceover. In verse novels techniques that are analogous to flashback and voiceover are essential. 

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the WordCount Blogathon, a challenge in which over 250 bloggers from all niches attempt to blog every single day in May. Today, bloggers are swapping posts. My post today is over on Michelle’s blog, where I’m talking about mobile devices and blogging. I was thrilled when Michelle offered to guest blog on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves, as she is a very accomplished writer and journalist who always has wonderful insights that she’s extremely generous about sharing. I know a lot of voracious readers are also aspiring writers, so Michelle’s thoughts on the lessons she’s learned from writers at the top of their game should be wonderfully useful to many of you.

The main difference between you and me and famous writers is that they’ve produced a work or works that through talent, ambition, hard work or good fortune have become well known.

When it comes to the process of writing, though, they’re just like us. They get caught up doing research. They get writer’s block. They’re not always sure of themselves, or organized. They write about what they know.

I learned those lessons and more from writers such as Annie Proulx and Stebastian Junger who I heard speak this year as part of an author lecture series sponsored by Portland Literary Arts, a local organization that promotes literature and literary. I won season tickets to the series in a Multnomah County Public Library summer reading program contest.

In addition to Proulx and Junger, since last October I’ve seen Stacy Schiff, Tom Brokaw and Abraham Verghese.