Friday, February 22, 2013

What Genre Is Your Book? A Look at the New Hybrids in Creative Nonfiction

A January 18 essay in the  New York Times Sunday Book Review, "I Change, You Change," by writer Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, discusses a new genre called the memoir/self-help hybrid.  More than just traditional memoir, this kind of book also addresses the reader directly, offering advice, examples, even exercises to spur change.

I enjoyed the essay very much--and I am glad all sorts of hybrids are being discussed in the New York Times.  But, hey, folks:  this genre isn't new.  There have been writers and readers preferring it for decades--because it solves a conundrum.

A personal example:  When I published my second memoir in 1997, I debated its genre.  The book was a combination of my stories of loss and change, and good advice I'd received over the decade I went through cancer, bankruptcy, divorce, marriage, and other such upheavals.

Friday, February 15, 2013

How to Fill the Creative Well with a Well-Timed Rest Break

There are some important signs of burn-out that writers need to attend to. 

An overactive Inner Critic. 
A feeling of the blues about one's work. 
A sense of deep depletion, despite enough sleep and exercise.

Any of these sound familiar?

Yesterday I was working on a chapter revision.  After about the fourth draft--making changes, printing out a new version, reading outloud and editing again, then inputting the changes--I noticed I was making it worse.  This is a sticky chapter, an important one, right at the end of the first act.  Everything is supposed to go down. 

It was.  But not in the story--in my own work on it.

I had a deadline.  But I wondered, was it better to take a break now, despite all the urgency of my deadline, and fill the creative well?

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Five-Day, 17,000 E-Book Download--A Self-Publishing Success Story

July 2010.  I'm sitting next to Therese Pautz, a woman in my Madeline Island book-writing retreat.  It's midsummer and outside the fields are beautiful with grasses and wildflowers.  Beyond the fields is the blue expanse of Lake Superior, where this island is located. 

Therese has been for a six-mile bike ride that morning and looks ready for our first class session.

We share a little about ourselves, and I learn she is a lawyer and marathoner, writing her first mystery.  I'm impressed by her determination to learn a creative skill she has no experience with.  I've read an early draft of her story--it's set in Ireland and has a fiesty young woman as its main character. 

There's loads of local color in the narrative--Therese loves Ireland--but the story isn't really holding together.

Therese makes a lot of progress on her storyboard that week, basically rebuilding her book, using the book-writing skills we study each day in our class.   By the end of the week, the book shows more promise, and I am curious to see where she'll go with it. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Why Studying Other Authors Helps You Practice Your Book-Building Skills

This week I am finishing yet another round of edits on my revision of Breathing Room, my next novel.  My wonderful editor, a flight expert, and a screenwriter friend have given me their feedback, and I have a pile of notes to think about, incorporate, and make changes from.

The solution to manuscript problems isn't always easy to see.  That's why I turn to other authors.

For instance, my screenwriter--who has a wonderful eye for the cinematic--recommended I boost the character visuals:  She couldn't always see the characters in each scene.  We writers internalize our characters easily, so we sometimes forget that readers outside our heads can't do this. 

Clues are needed--a quirk, a way of moving, a physical characteristic.  Not too much, but enough to be able to set the person onstage in front of us.

This is especially important, my friend said, in the opening pages.

I agree--but I also hate when the opening scene is loaded with too much description.  It slows things way down.