– A member of the Write By The Rails group and the author of From These Ashes
Readers, let’s welcome Tamela, the wandering storyteller to my blog. She’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.
Tamela, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that, let’s start with the important stuff!
If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?
Oh man, start with the hard ones first! For a real pet? This is going to seem boring, but I’d really just like a dog. I’ve lived with dogs for most of my life, but I’ve never had one that was mine, ya know? I just really want a dog who loves me best. Lame, I know.
Oh, oh, wait, any pet? With no worries about logistics? A dolphin. Not to own really, not in a cage or anything. But seriously, how cool would it be to hang out with a dolphin? Or a unicorn? Wait, what if it turns out unicorns are sort of douches? That would suck.
Yeah, I’ll stick with a dolphin, thank you.
Puppies and dolphins? You have good taste in pets! Assuming, of course, they’re the friendly ones and not the jerk-faces. Next up, a more standard question.
What do you write and how did you get started?
I write small stories about everyday people who have been marginalized or forgotten. I give voice to the voiceless.Or I try.How did I get started writing? I honestly don’t remember I time when I didn’t have stories in my head. I do remember I was 10 the first time I wrote one down.
I get that, Tamela, and I’m probably not the only one. Now, as readers ourselves, to find out if your tastes and preferences align with ours, next up is the all-important question — not that there’s a right or a wrong answer, just a sense of…harmonic resonance.
What do you like to read?
Ahhhh, easier question is what don’t I read. There’s no rhyme or reason to what I read. Right now I’m on a YA kick. I just picked up local authors’ PM Hernandez and Mara Mahan‘s books last weekend and I’m looking forward to checking them out.
I really love going to the library and pulling down books and checking them out based on their cover, their blurbs without knowing anything about the author or any buzz about the book (all the things that marketing types tell you that no one does). Makes me feel like I’m discovering a new treasure. Even if it’s not true.
Last time I found a book I loved that I thought no one else had heard of and that the whole world needed to read, it turned out that it had already been turned into a movie.
*pouts* Well, that answer didn’t really narrow it down for us.
*grins and winks* Good for you! Now, the next two questions are for the writers reading this blog.
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.
The oldest piece of writing advice there is, so old that it’s more a cliche than advice and it’s almost cliche to disagree with it. “Write what you know.”
I mean, I get why it’s advice and there are definitely stories that could have been better told by someone who had more experience with the situation or particulars.
But I’ve found a writer only needs two things to be able to dodge this writerly rule: access to Google and a strong sense of empathy.
The empathy is for the heart and soul of the story about people who aren’t you, Google (or more specifically–research) is for the facts. In this day and age, there isn’t anything you can’t learn more about, nothing you can’t find someone willing to share their experiences about. If you don’t have a healthy sense of empathy, well, you’re probably in the wrong field anyway, so you just stick to what you know… or become a journalist.
And, of course, the flip side!
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.
Tamela, thank you for taking the time to share with us. I really appreciate you stopping by and hope my readers did too. Now, did you have anything you’d like to share with us? Because it’s now…
Shameless Self-Promotion time!
My first (and only so far) published novel From These Ashes was published in 2013 by Vagabondage Press. My latest published short story, “Quantifying Momentum” can be found in The Piedmont Journal of Poetry and Fiction’s anthology Tracks.
Today’s post is from Katherine Gotthardt, talking about how editing your word choices can make your writing SHINE!
Guest Blog: Choose the Right Words (And Live to Tell About It)
By Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed.
You’re a writer. I don’t have to convince you that words hold power. If you didn’t believe that already, you wouldn’t have bothered to pick up the pen or put fingers to keyboard. But what you probably ask yourself all the time as you’re writing is, “Is that the right word?” How do you decide?
In my decades of battling with words, many times losing, I’ve learned that the right words are too often elusive. But in spite of this, I’ve also learned following a few guidelines helps me maintain a steady stream of at least half-decent writing, whether it’s poetry, articles, social media posts or something else. Here are some methods I use when I’m fighting to find the right words.
Banish Wimpy Wording
In your heart of hearts, you know wimpy wording when you see it. “Very,” and “nice” don’t say a whole lot, for example. They kind of take up space with their banality, clogging up the works while stronger words shift back and forth on the soles of their feet, impatiently waiting their turn. Be specific. Be courageous. Tell that “very nice” lady she’s “uncommonly agreeable,” and then decide what that means in the larger context of your work. You might realize “very nice” is not very nice at all, and now you’ve got the start of a more complex character in your novel. Or you’ve created a conundrum in that article you’re writing about the jewelry store owner the next town over, and you’d better watch your tone or you’ll get your publisher in a pickle. But by evicting the weakling words, you’re moving past trite and forgettable writing.
Write in 3D
Human beings live sensory lives. Even when we’re alone in our own heads, we use taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound to make sense of our surroundings. Our memories are made up of perceptions brought to us through nerve endings and cortex, creating meaning from stimuli. We’re wonderful processors of the sensual. Take advantage of that. Use the senses to write in 3D. Don’t tell me there’s a gray dog on the corner. Show me what’s ahead: a bristled beast with iron-colored fur, lifting its leg, leaking on the fire hydrant, the sun beating a rhythm of mirage on the street’s pavement. Oh. Maybe I should cross the street because I’m not especially sure that’s a friendly Fido out for an afternoon romp. Now you’ve created something besides the image. You’ve created conflict – the archetypal “man versus nature.” Superb. Have your characters react accordingly. Move the action along, no matter what you’re writing.
We writers do it all the time. We end up using the same words over and over and over and over and… It bores readers, and when we notice we’ve done it again, it usually horrifies us. How could we have overlooked our repetition of “let’s” five times within four sentences? Ugh! Okay, forgive yourself. It’s easy to make this error, especially when deadlines are screaming from the Google calendar, the cell phone and the land line are ringing at the same time and your pug is barking at the Amazon delivery guy. It’s not cheating to use the tools given to us by the tech demigods. A thorough grammar check should slow you down long enough to help you see the error of your ways, even if your grammar tool doesn’t specifically point out repeated words. And when your brain feels like bubble wrap? Use the thesaurus. I promise you, the Amazon guy won’t tell.
If after using these three techniques you still find yourself losing the war to find the right words, it really is okay. Get up. Stretch. Take your dogs for a walk. While they’re watering the grass, you’ll have time to rest your brain. By the time you return, you’ll be ready to jump back into the trenches. And if you’re still losing the battle?
Thankfully, there’s always the option to edit. Again.