Writing and publishing questions

The nice thing about weddings – aside from the romance – is that they bring relatives together. I spent most of the weekend talking to various aunts and cousins and wishing we had more time together. My Awesome Son (age 13) spent the wedding and reception armed with a camera and doing a terrific job as photographer. I played my part, too – I made ten pounds of potato salad. I am not what you call a good cook, but I specialize in potato salad. I was very happy when it met with the approval of my aunts.

And now it is Monday and I must concentrate. Argh. I am moving on Saturday – moving 300 miles. Double argh. So many things to do, I don’t know what to do first.

I know! I’ll procrastinate! Let’s go to the mailbag!

Courtney writes: … during the summer we have to read a book from a author we like and write to the author and ask a question that our teacher gave us, then we must write a 2 page report on what our auther tells us and with that information we are supposed to say if we could how would we change one of the characters and one of the main points in the book. I would be very happy if you would write back. My question i got is: how do you create/develope a specific character or relationship to heighten the conflict in the book?

Great question. All stories need conflict. If your character doesn’t have a problem to solve, your character is boring. I think about my characters for months (usually) before I start writing. It is basically like creating an imaginary friend. I figure out what her life is like, what she loves, what she hates, what’s going on in her family, etc., etc., etc. In the course of making up my ‘friend” I see where she is facing conflict in her life – what her problems are. Then I put together scenes that force her to try to solve the problems. Your teacher might use the phrase “rising conflict” in class. That’s when a character faces a small problem in the beginning of a book, and the conflicts get bigger and more serious until The Really Big Problem has to be solved. And then the book ends. Good luck writing two pages about this.

Bill writes: …My granddaughter, S. E., when 13 sent me the below novel, “The Secret of Truth” , she has written many short stories and
is now at 15 finalizing a second novel, “Music of the Dead.” She has not gotten in to publishing. Just loves writing. What other option are there for her fiction?

You are a sweet grandfather and S.E. is very lucky to have you in her life. I am sorry to say I cannot comment on any novels or stories or poems sent to me. I just don’t have the time. Since she is only 15 and is writing for the love of it, I strongly suggest that you allow her to do just that – write for love. I am reluctant to push kids to get published when they are teenagers. It’s not a bad thing, and I understand the desire, but I think it creates a lot of frustrated young writers who give up their art.

Why?

When you start sending your work out there to be published, you are going to be rejected. Fact of life. No avoiding it. Everybody gets rejected. Speak was rejected. Adults who are trying to be published understand this (more or less) and gut it out – they endure the rejections, continue to hone their craft, and eventually break through. Most teens do not have skin thick enough to survive the rejection. They get two or three rejection letters and they think “That’s it, I have no talent, worth, or value. I suck. I will never write again.” And they quit, and that’s a crime.

Notice I said “most teens.” Some teens are savvy about the world of publishing. They are prepared for the rejections and they dive in nonetheless. That’s cool. But you said your granddaugher “has not gotten in to publishing.” She “just loves writing.” Let her love it. Let her write for fun, learn her craft, use writing as a healthy escape from reality and a lens to help her make sense of the world. If she wants to try being published, she’ll research the process and figure it out.

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