Thursday, March 9, 2017

Guest Post: How do you go from good to great writing?

Dear lovely blog readers,

I know I've been a little . . . sporadic about posting lately. The truth is my life has been really busy with work, tiny house logistics, more work, moving, continuing to minimalize, attempting to put myself on a budget for the first time in like ever, and lots of other good things. But the sad fact is that my blog has gone slightly neglected. I can tell the weeds around here are getting a little high, and I'm sorry about that. I'm hoping to remedy the situation soon. Specifically, stay tuned for a tiny house update. Good things are coming! Yay!

In the meantime, however, we have a super special treat today in the form of a guest post from one of my favorite people ever: Elodia Strain.

To give you some back story, I've known Elodia for almost ten years now. (HOLY COW, I am OLD. She's not old. Just me.) When I first started working as an editor, lo those many years ago, Elodia was one of my very first authors that I worked with and I was so dazzled by her that I just about keeled over from the excitement. I kid you not. I was definitely fangirling the entire time I worked on her book. We've been friends ever since, and her writing has only gotten better!! It is not an exaggeration at all to say that I LOVE Elodia's books.

In celebration of her newest book coming out, which you can find here on Amazon, by the way, Elodia's been on a blog tour and I'm super flattered that she took the time to make my blog one of her stops.

Since we're all about questions and answers around here, I asked Elodia to tell us how to take writing from good to great. (And by "us," I mostly mean me because I really need this advice. Seriously.)

Here's what she had to say . . .

My Quest for Great Writing

As part of the blog tour for my new book, I made sure I got to stop by this one, which is a personal favorite of mine. I admire the blogger as an editor, author, and person. So. Heidi posed me this question: “How do you go from good to great writing?” This is a question I seem to ask myself on a daily (sometimes minutely) basis. And as I’ve asked and worked toward the answer, I’ve come up with a few tried and true tactics that I seem to use over and over, book by book, page by page. Maybe they’ll spark something anew in your personal creative pursuits!

Number one, I think about the readers. A LOT. When I wrote my first book in 2005, I was writing the kind of book I looked for and couldn’t find a lot of—squeaky clean romantic comedies with a little sweet meat to them. Just like inventors talk about solving a problem, I was writing to fill a need. I still do that. Maybe someday I’ll write a super heavy literary masterpiece, but for now, I’m writing for the woman who is overwhelmed by life and needs a laugh, the woman who needs a little pick-me-up. I care about the people who read my books so much. I’m grateful to them, hopeful for them, and always, always aware of them.

Second, I write when I’m not writing. When I start a book, I buy a bunch of yellow (or white, if my go-to store is closed) notepads, and put them all over the house. On the treadmill, next to the kitchen sink, in a basket by the bathtub. These are for my “relaxed brain” notes. Thing is, when I write, I often leave spaces if I can’t find the best words. For example, I’ll type: Ian drove (an old school Americana type of car.) Then, while I’m doing dishes or painting my toenails, my “relaxed brain” will come up with: A 1975 Ford truck. For the sake of trees and cash, I’ve tried keeping my “relaxed brain” notes on my phone, but I always come back to my trusty notepads. (In fact, here is a picture of one week of notes taken while working on The Dating Experiment.)

Third, I try to make every word count. Early on, when I was first started writing, I would sometimes spend hours writing descriptions and backstory that was just kind of…lame to write. And then I had this serious Eureka! moment. I realized if it was drudgery to write, then it probably wouldn’t be a lot of fun to read. This has been one of the single most important lessons I learned as a writer. And it’s not to say that writing isn’t hard, and painful, and all those things, but you just kind of know when something is fun and when its not.

Which brings me to my last tactic. When it comes down to what words end up being put to paper or screen, I trust others’ opinions sometimes, my gut often, and God ALWAYS. This is true for all aspects of writing from plot to characters to setting. I have a whole lot of growing to do as a writer, but I have yet to regret following this pattern.

Wow. What awesome words of wisdom. Thanks so much for stopping by, Elodia! I loved your advice! And thanks to all you readers for your patience with me when life temporarily takes me away from blogging. I promise I'll always come back. And in the meantime, if you're looking for something to read, might I suggest checking out more of Elodia's awesome writing in The Dating Experiment or any of her books, available on Amazon and in bookstores all over. Hope you're all looking forward to a great weekend! I'll be back soon!  —HD

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