Month: June 2013

Debating Damsels

ARWA Retreat – Day 2 by Victoria Smith

From Didsbury to Edmonton to Lethbridge and flooded Calgary, ten ARWA members managed to meet this afternoon thanks to modern technology. Skype, we thank you.

There was definitely heated debate and discussion.

We looked at the relationship between music and writing. How does music inspire a scene or motivate the writer? For some writers in the group, their novels have a unique soundtrack that speaks to the conflict, their characters and the feel. For others, music was relevant to the region where the book is set.

Motivation was also deemed important to building the writer’s spirit or motivation. We could almost all point to a particular song that revs us up for writing, often related to our youth.

See some of our favourite music choices at the bottom of this post.

Rules and voice. Oh man, that was a debate. It started out as a question over whether applying the rules of writing can damage your voice. Or, did it in fact enhance your voice? We didn’t actually come to a consensus on that one. On one side, some felt that the right editing tools can polish your voice and strengthen it. On the other, some felt that regardless of editing, voice means that nobody could have written that book but that particular author.

Writing yourself into your characters, good thing or bad? Neither. Donald Mass repeats the age-old wisdom of write what you know, so your character be a part of you. Perhaps they are an idealized version of you, but they can express the emotion that you might feel in that situation. Unless of course your hero is beheading someone, as one pointed out! Fair point. Some ladies felt that they wanted to write characters that were stronger than themselves, but others didn’t mind characters that perhaps weren’t so strong, but were human to the core, hiccups and all.

And finally success. What is success in writing? We agreed that success is different for each and every writer and can depend on their stage as a writer. For a brand new writer, just having someone say they like their story can be euphoric. Perhaps success is financial, perhaps it’s the joy in clearly expressing your character’s point of view or maybe it’s in finally writing that last page.

In the end, we write because it’s our passion. It can be a love/hate relationship, but it’s part of our core and makes us ‘us’. Write on ladies! Here’s some our of members’ favourite music to inspire you:

Kelly Clarkson – Because of you
Dirty Dancing – Time of My Life
Joshua by Dolly Parton
Sweet Disposition – Temper Trap
Clocks – Coldplay
Epic Score – For intense scores from movies. Good for fight, chase or dramatic scenes.

ARWA Retreat

Despite the flooding here in Calgary, nine of us managed to get together for the first day or our retreat – five in person and four later on in the evening via Skype.

Our discussion brought up a few interesting topics.

1) Should we dumb down our writing – especially vocabulary – for our readers? Most readers read for pleasure/leisure and research shows that the most popular reading level is Grade 8/9. The reader wants to be able to lose himself a story, not constantly looking up the dictionary to find out what a word means. So, yes, do feel free to use the occasional ‘hard’ word but make sure the context is clear. If you want to find out what ‘level’ you write at, check out autocrit. There is also a facility on Word that allows you to do so.

2) Episodic writing. Charles Dickens was the master of episodic writing, but it appears to be having a comeback. Alexander McCall Smith recently released his book 44 Scotland Street. It was first published in The Scotsman, one chapter every weekday for six months – 100 short chapters. Not all the chapters end with a cliffhanger, but McCall knew he had to create an ending which would made the reader want to check in with the story the following day.

So what’s created a renewed interest in the episodic style? It could be the prevalence of blogging – Julie and Julia for example. For a video take on the episodic story, check out The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a fresh retelling of Pride and Prejudice through the daily entry of a modern day blogger.

3) What we sometimes find from both unpublished and multi-published authors is the tendency to recount a scene/event from one person’s POV and then immediately retell the exact same scene from another character’s POV. Unless this is done with great skill it can pull the writer out of the story or bore them. Better to ‘move the story forward’, choose the most relevant POV character and only write the scene once!

We’re going to be meeting at 3pm on Skype tomorrow afternoon. If you’re an ARWA member and would like to join in the conversation you can do so either in person at Diana’s house, or via Skype. Just e-mail Diana with your Skype address and she’ll add you to the list. These are the topics we’ll be discussing:
1) How do we apply the ‘rules’ to our writing yet maintain our own ‘voice’?
2) Define ‘voice’.
3) Give an example of one piece of music/song that triggers your writing – and tell us why?
4) Define success? Does its definition depend upon which stage of the writing journey you are currently on.
5) Can/should an author put too much of themselves into their stories/characters.

Remember, Saturday 3pm, Skype. Stay safe from the flooding and hope to talk to you tomorrow.

The Great Alberta Flood

The City of Calgary has ordered the evacuation of certain neighbourhoods.

As of Friday 10.30am, my house (Diana) is safe and dry. If you need somewhere to stay to sit this out, please contact me.

Everyone stay safe.