Please excuse any mess around here while blog is undergoing damage repair.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

What I've learned in 2009, Part 4

The greatest lessons I learned in 2009 was that good writing comes from the heart. I spent a good part of the last month discussing contradictions that aspiring writers come across. There are plenty of them, but do they really matter? To an extent, yes. But the most important thing about writing fiction is that it has fire. The rules are secondary. In other words, I've learned not to sweat the small stuff, but to embrace the fire within in me and try to transfer that passion onto the page. Now I'm not saying to throw the rules to the curb, but you should learn when to break them--learn when to let your passion overpower them. A couple of months ago, I did a series of posts on The Fire In Fiction by Donald Maass. This book truly changed the way I approach writing, and I have to say that it is the best book on the craft that I've ever read. I highly recommend it for any writer at any stage of the game. The series can be accessed by clicking on The Fire tag in my sidebar. Here is the first of these posts: As I mentioned yesterday, last weekend, I read two books on the craft of writing by literary agent Donald Maass: Writing The Breakout Novel and The Fire In Fiction. Both were excellent reads, but I'm going to focus these discussion on The Fire In Fiction. In this book, Mr. Maass points out that there are no truly original ideas. "Every novel has antecedents. Every author has influences. It is impossible to be wholly original; even so, some novels feel fresh and shake us with their insight." So, if this is true, what makes the difference? Look carefully at that quote. Mr. Maass states that 'Every author has influences.' That, my friends, is where the fire comes from. It doesn't come from the plot, the characters, the setting, or the voice. It comes from the author's passions, which have developed over time because of life experiences. How do we find that passion within ourselves and transfer it to our writing? This is exactly what Mr. Maass answers in The Fire In Fiction. He talks about two types of writers: the status seekers and the storytellers. The status seekers start out with all kinds of passion, the main goal being publication. They settle for good enough. This kind of passion fizzles out over time. The storyteller, on the other hand, has one goal at heart: making his novel the best it can be, and each successive one even better than the last. This passion never goes away. I think, it's possible to be a little of both. Don't most of us writers dream of the day we will be published? Of course we do. But this can't be our only motivation. We have to strive to become better, stronger writers, and we have to be passionate about the art of writing, not just about the dream of publication. I'm guilty of being a status seeker at times, but I want nothing more than to be a storyteller. What about you? What kind of writer do you want to be? This is obviously my last post for 2009. I'll be back next week to talk about what I hope to learn in 2010. For now, my good blogging friends, Happy New Year!

35 comments:

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Happy New Year, Susan. Call me storyteller. (With passion.)
~ Wendy

storyqueen said...

Oh, I love the most important lesson! Writing from the heart.

This is a lovely post, and something I'm glad I read this morning.

Happy New Year!

Shelley

Rae said...

I aspire to be a story teller only. I am happiest when someone is pleased reading what I wrote. If someone likes it, then it makes me happy. That in itself is sufficient for me. Happy New Year Susan. I hope you achieve all that you desire and ultimate success with your writing next year.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Since I've been coming up with stories all my life, I guess I qualify as a storyteller. But I sure would like to be published and can't deny dreams of that.
Happy New Year--May it be filled with our passions and dreams realized.

Tamika: said...

Fire in Fiction is the first craft book of 2010 that I will read! I'm anxious to get things heated in my projects. I feel God tugging at me to get ready for great things in the growth department of this journey.

I love passion and I want my writing to reflect. Thanks Susan for all the wonderful, insightful posts you've shared this year!

Have a Happy New Year!

jbchicoine said...

When I first started writing Story for a Shipwright, I simply needed to get the story out of my head and into some tangible form. It wasn’t until after my husband read my first draft and said, “this is the one that will get published’ that I really considered it a possibility. Hopefully, I lit a match under it--publication remains to be seen.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Ha! This is so funny to me, Susan! I already wrote my posts for next week and guess what Monday's is about? Influences/relationships to literature. So funny! Great minds, eh?

See you then!

Kristi Faith said...

great post, as always, Susan. :0)

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

Yes, yes, yes. I agree that it takes passion and heart to really craft a worthy piece and to really earn that title of storyteller.

Like a previous commenter, I can't wait to get my hands on THE FIRE IN FICTION in 2010.

Thanks for the posts, which lit a fire underneath me. I can't wait to watch it burn in the new year. :)

Leah Rubin said...

I look forward to reading Donald Maass' books, based on your wonderful recommendations. I'm not currently writing fiction, though I toy with the idea sometimes. Okay, all the time...

I also look forward to reading YOUR stories-- keep up the good work. And happy new year!

L. T. Host said...

Those are some fiesty shoes!

Great lessons, and I was all sad when you said it was your last post of 2009 and then remembered what day it is. Yeah, I think I might still be asleep.

MG Higgins said...

Here's to fire and passion in 2010! Thanks for this reminder. I've got his book next to my desk where I can grab it if I need inspiration. Happy New Year!

Solvang Sherrie said...

Here's to a year of brilliance and inspiration. Have a great one, Susan!

Melissa said...

I bought The Fire in Fiction a few weeks ago and I'm in the middle of reading it now. Awesome book! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Have a wonderful New Year!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I am going to order Fire in Fiction from Amazon today! Sounds like a fabulous book.

I hope 2010 is one of your best years yet! Happy New Year! :)

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Hope you have a wonderful New Year, Susan!

Deb@RGRamblings said...

THE FIRE IN FICTION is one of the books I ordered with my Christmas gift certificates-- Mr. Maass can thank you for that choice :) It's in the mail and I can't wait to crack the spine on that one!

All the best of the New Year to you and yours Susan!

TerryLynnJohnson said...

Great advice. Thank you for your witty and wise blog.

Dawn Simon said...

Nice post, Susan. Storyteller--but a storyteller who wants to be published and improve with each book! :)

Thanks for being one of my very first followers and for welcoming me into the blogging community this year. I hope 2010 is a wonderful year for you!

See you next week/next year! :)

Angie Muresan said...

I have been a storyteller for so long Susan, yet I find that there is a huge difference between a storyteller and a writer. May 2010 bring out the best in all of us! Happy new year to you!

Erica said...

I want to say thank you for the series on The Fire in Fiction, by Maass. I got the book, read it and loved it. It has spawned a lot of great ideas for me!

Happy New Year Susan!

K. M. Walton said...

I am just starting chapter 3 of The Fire in Fiction - thanks for telling me about it. I think I am definitely a combo status seeker and story teller - heavier on the story teller. I love the actual writing and especially the revising and making it better...stronger.

Happy new year, Susan. I wish you the best 2010 has to offer.

Janna Qualman said...

A storyteller, absolutely. One who makes others feel with her words.

And I like your thought that heart trumps rules.

Happy New Year, Susan!

Stephanie Thornton said...

I'm definitely a storyteller, but I want to get Hatshepsut's story out there. It's kind of for me (who wouldn't want their name in the Library of Congress), but I also just want this amazing woman to get a little more recognition.

Happy New Year!

Yaya' s Changing World said...

I just want someone to come pounding on my door and insisting that I allow them to publish my stories for some outlandish amount of money. Is that so much to ask? Now, I ask you...

This is a copy of the same message I am posting in other places. I wanted to visit and thank everyone who has visited or followed any of my blogs. I have so enjoyed this new experience and look forward to getting to know each of you better. May this be a year of joy and prosperity for everyone.

Happy New Year!!!

Keep a hug on,

~ Yaya
Yaya's Changing World

~ Just Joany
Red Wagon Flights

Word Designer

Michelle Gregory said...

i'm a storyteller at heart. when i'm not working on my novel, i write stories for myself that will probably never be shared. i have to be writing something almost every day.

Nancy said...

I agree that it's all about passions. If I write fiction again, I just want to tell a good story and let my passions come out. I may fail on the first part, but I believe that I'm a pretty good at letting my passions come forth. And being of a certain age, I have a lot of strong ones.

WhisperingWriter said...

I just want to be a good storyteller. I want to be able to entertain people.

Happy New Year!

JennyMac said...

Great advice! It is all about the passion. And I think I am a storyteller...we will see if the world of publishing agrees. lol.

Robyn Campbell said...

I want to tell a great story with lots of heart. Great post Susan. Can't wait to read your posts for 2010 my friend. I have learned a lot from you and with you. Happy New Year!! :-)

Heather Sunseri said...

What a great post, Susan! I love the idea of fire and passion being what makes the best of us great storytellers. I hope that those two items shine through my writing long after I've broken too many of the rules to count.

Happy New Year (a little late).

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

I'm going to pick up those two books.

Elizabeth Riggin said...

I agree with this blog, passion is what makes a great writer. Best wishes, E-

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Wow, a lot of learning. Thanks for sharing it all in your posts.

Happy New Year! I hope 2010 will be as mathemagenic for you as 2009.

Come to think of it, for me, too!! :)

kanishk said...

This is a lovely post, and something I'm glad I read this morning.
debt settlement software