“Going to” not “Want to”

A guest post from a new writing accomplice, Zoe Winters. She writes to encourage you to find your dream and follow through, using the television show The Biggest Loser as a classic example. So read on, and tell us your dreams!

One of my heroes is Ali Vincent.  If you don’t know who this is, she was the winner of the last season of “The Biggest Loser,” a weight loss reality show.  Midway through the season she was eliminated, though the show planned to bring back a couple of contestants from home who earned it.

In the elimination room right after she was eliminated she said: “I am going to be the next biggest loser.”  And she said it with such conviction, that though most of us thought she was loopy, we believed her a little bit.  She became the underdog.  When she was brought back on the show, she became a favorite for the win.

As it got down to the wire, both she and Kelly desperately wanted to be the first girl biggest loser.  Kelly talked daily about how badly she wanted to be the first girl to win and how cool it would be.  But she never said any more than that she wanted it.  No one doubted that she wanted it.  And she worked hard for it.  But she didn’t get it.  Ali did.

Between the two, I can only find one difference.  Ali kept saying “I am going to be the next biggest loser.”  Going to.  Not Want to.  It stopped being a dream and started being a goal.  Of course saying you are going to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen.

If Ali had failed she would have had “I’m going to be the next biggest loser,” hanging over her head forever, because she said it repeatedly on national television.  Some people thought she was “too cocky,” but I don’t see it that way.  She was single-minded.  This was her goal and it was happening one way or another and if it didn’t happen she would go down fighting.

If she had failed she would have picked herself up off the ground and kept going.  “The Biggest Loser” was a one time opportunity, but she would have found something else impossible to do and would have done it.  Because that’s who she is.  We need more Ali Vincents in the world.

When approaching your writing, what are your goals?  Do you see them as just dreams?  Things you “wish” would or could happen?  Things that would be really cool if they happened?

Do yourself a favor, decide what you’re “going” to do.  Take your dream and own it.  There are no guarantees that this will get you where you want to go, but when you take control and subtly shift a dream to a goal, it shores up your belief in your ability to reach that goal.  And with strong belief comes creative ways to start moving toward the prize.

Zoe Winters writes paranormal romance.  She can be found at http://zoewinters.wordpress.com  Her novella, Kept, will be released as a free e-book from her website in October.  Her novel, Save My Soul, will be released serially as a free podcast, release date to be announced.

Guest Post: Stay the Course

A guest post from my friend, Graham Carter, a reporter and editor from across the pond. He writes to answer the cries of us writers who have let our doubts get the better of us, and not a moment too soon. So read on, and feel inspired! Next week, a Worderella review of another Gaiman work.

Let’s talk drumming.

Yes, I know this is supposed to be all about writing, but there is an analogy here that I think all writers should be aware of, so stick with it (pun intended).

I am not a great drummer. I only took it up about six years ago, when I was 40, because I ran out of excuses for my lack of musical know-how. There I was, with my sticks in hand, eager to learn – and not a little excited. But the first thing that has to be said about drumming is it’s harder than it looks. Much harder. Much, much harder. Give it a try and you’ll find that trying to co-ordinate two arms, two feet and your brain, all in perfect harmony, often feels like some kind of witchcraft.

So I got myself a good teacher, watched recordings of Buddy Rich and other superhuman drummers in action, always kept my eyes fixed on the drummer whenever I went to a concert, and even went along to several drum ‘clinics’ where seriously good players would play, talk about drumming and show other
drummers some tricks of the trade. And I wasn’t afraid to work hard and practise.

Well, it didn’t work. Rather than be inspired to better things by all that excellence, I always ended up with the same thought at the back of my mind: “I’ll never be able to do that.” The better those other drummers got, the more I realised that – regardless of how keen I was and no matter how hard I tried – I simply did not have a talent for it in anything like the measure that those guys do. I was keen, but I was no natural.

So what has this to do with writing? Well, unlike drumming, writing does come easily to me. It comes so easily, in fact, that I hardly have to think about it to be able to produce something that has more cohesion, more fluency and more interest than the vast majority of the rest of the population of the planet will ever be capable of. It’s what I do, and as a professional journalist and editor of 20 years’ standing, I’ve also become
accustomed to working quickly and efficiently. Words are my friends, and I still love the fact that people will actually pay me to put them in the right order for them.

Fiction isn’t my thing, but I know how to string sentences together to get information across and make a point. And the point I need to make here is that most people – at least 99 per cent of the people you will ever meet, in fact – cannot write.

Never underestimate that fact.

Sure, they’re literate, but task them with writing anything remotely creative or vaguely complex, and they’ll flounder like a fish out of water. Words worry them. Sentences scare them. Paragraphs petrify them. Think about that for a moment while we go back to the drumming…

It was some time before I finally realised what I was doing wrong, and the solution was so simple that I am tempted to call it a revelation. It suddenly stuck me that my whole drumming education was built on how much better some drummers were than me, and it hadn’t really dawned on me that those staggeringly talented drummers I had been watching were only a tiny minority of all the drummers in the world. As far as my actual capabilities were concerned, I was reaching for pie in the sky, and I was so focused on how far there was to go, that I didn’t notice how far I’d come. It was time to switch to watching average drummers instead.

And it worked. Rather than telling myself: “I’ll never be able to do that,” now I come away from watching other, less esteemed, drummers with exactly the opposite viewpoint. “I can do that,” I tell myself – and I can. I will never be a great drummer, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a good one. I’ve found my level, and I found it by looking downwards. In hindsight, it was always a mistake to look upwards all the time, and it’s perfectly clear to me now that I was never going to emulate my betters when they had truckloads of talent and I was a mere mortal.

So, should you start comparing yourself with lesser writers instead of the literary giants you’re trying to emulate? Is it time for you to aim lower?

Don¹t you dare!

Why not? Because you’re not just an average writer, like I’m an average drummer. You’re a natural.

I am certain of this, dear reader, even though I’ve never met you and may not have read a single word you’ve ever written. I don’t need to. I know it simply because you¹re reading this. You’ve come to this website, looking to hone your craft through contact and interaction with other writers. Like I did with my drumming, you’re hanging out with, and seeking inspiration from, people who find this kind of thing easy. But with you there’s one important difference: you stayed.

If you’re comfortable around here, with all this talk of great writing and great writers, then that means you’re still looking upwards. And if you’re looking upwards, it follows that you must be a natural. Only when somebody is a natural do they continue looking upwards for inspiration, rather than downwards, and only when they are a true natural are they able to do this without feeling intimidated.

What’s more, they do it involuntarily. Most of the time, you don’t even know you’re doing it.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but you weren’t one of those hordes of kids who loathed Shakespeare at school, were you? You sensed the greatness of it, didn’t you, long before you could understand what was great about it or even what greatness was? Somehow, you knew.

And now, when you read Shakespeare or Tolkien or Austen or whoever your hero is, you’re not thinking: “I’ll never be able to do that.” You¹re thinking: “I can do that.” And there will be times – there probably already have been – when you will.

So never doubt it. When you’re having a bad day, just remind yourself of the fact that when it comes to writing, you’re not like all the rest. You’re different because you are stretching for things that most people have given up trying to reach – and they may already be within your grasp.

Graham Carter is a freelance journalist and editor who lives in Swindon, England, with his wife, Julie, and their two teenage children. He currently writes a weekly column for the Swindon Advertiser about the trials and tribulations of being over 40, and his blog (www.grahamcarter.net) is a more random collection of thoughts arising from everyday life.

Book: Paperback Writer

Title: Paperback Writer: A Novel
Author: Stephen Bly
Genre: Fiction
Length: 342 pgs

Summary: Paul James Watson is your typical midlist paperback novelist. He lives a typical middle class life with a devoted wife, loving children, and a cabin in the woods of Montana. His life is a little too “perfect, flat, routine, unimpressive,” and his spiritual life is about the same. Thus, Watson turns to his writing to bring the spark back, by indulging in his character, Toby McKenna, a sort of James Bond/Indiana Jones persona. As Watson writes his next novel, McKenna begins to take over, and soon the lines of reality and fiction blur to the point that Watson “may well be lost.”

Excerpts:
pg 16 – Everything waits. Like street gangs in a dark alley, real life waits in ambush. If I glance up more than two minutes from my writing, real life imprisons me.

pg 26 – There is something innocent and healthy about the way a woman never forgets how to giggle.

pg 29 – “Do you mean you actually have something published?”
“A number of books. But sometimes my imagination runs away with me, and I live a scene out before it happens. While I was standing here waiting, I sort of lived out this scene. That’s how I knew about the phone call.”
“That’s really weird. Does it always turn out the way you imagine it?”
He stared at the large lady and thought about a fictional lady named Carrie. “It seldom, if ever, turns out the way I imagine it,” he replied.
She tugged on the sagging lobe of her triple-pierced ear. “Are you sure you aren’t a drug dealer?”

pg 147 – “You mean a whole lot more than just a friend, Paul Watson. She leans on you, P.J., and sooner or later a lady who leans on you will want to hug you. And after she hugs on you awhile, she will want to kiss you. And after she kisses you, she will want you to kiss her back.” [said McKenna, the fictional character.]
“Where did you hear all that nonsense?” Watson challanged.
The Lady’s Other Tiger, remember?”
“I made it up.”
“You mean, it’s not true?”
“I don’t know if it’s true. It just sounded good.”

pg 296 – “When you’re visiting with a lady, listen to more than her words. Seventy-five percent of what a woman wants to say is never put into words. Listen to her heart, her tone. Pay attention to her posture. Study her eyes. Don’t ever take her literal words as the whole story. It never is.”

Why should you read this book?
This was an interesting premise: we’re in the mind of a paperback writer. He talks to his semi-famous character, Toby McKenna, on the drive home from his motel stay. Half of the time he isn’t actually doing anything, he’s just “living out the scene before it happens.” Which makes for one confused reader. At first, I thought it was so clever, how the narrative seamlessly switched from “reality” to “fiction.” I could relate; after all, what writer doesn’t go back and mentally rewrite a conversation gone wrong, or imagine a future conversation so that you get the words just right?

But it got old pretty quick, especially when I lost track of what was actually happening, who was actually real, and what was the point of the narrative. Watson talks to Toby, and when Toby annoys him with his debauchery, he tells Toby to go away and starts a dialogue with God, though, God never replies. By the end of the book, we have some sort of closure, and we know who was real and who wasn’t, I think, but the “real” plot is so haphazard that my disbelief was not suspended, and I feel cheated. An interesting idea with a not-so-great implementation.

Book: Bright Arrows by Grace Livingston Hill

Title: Bright Arrows
Author: Grace Livingston Hill
Genre: Inspirational Romance
Length: 352 pgs

Bright Arrows by Grace Livingston Hill is one of her many “feel good” inspirational romances. I first read Hill in seventh grade, after being told that Out of the Storm (originally written under her pseudonym Marcia Macdonald) was a “Worderella book.” Hill’s plots are simple yet elegant, if slightly dated because she was writing at the turn of the century until her death in 1947. All of her books have a definite message: all paths lead to God. Whether you agree with that or not, and whether you can get past the often-quaint plots, Hill is a pretty good read.

Summary: This particular book is about a young woman who just lost her beloved father from an accident. Her scheming cousin and aunt through marriage only, come in search of her jewels and inheritance. Her schoolmates are coming home from WWII thinking to marry her, even though they call her morals and beliefs antiquated. I will say this: this is a great book for people who feel like a total outcast, no matter the reason, and sends an encouraging message to stand firm.

Why should you read this book?
If you are trying to break into the inspirational romance market, Grace Livingston Hill is a good place to start. She was so prolific during her lifetime that there are many examples to read, and at least you will have an understanding of where the genre came from.