The Importance of the Writing Heart

I wrote this post a while ago on the site, but I have been thinking about it alot.

For the last two years, I have been reading more nonfiction than ever before, and many times there is something missing under the surface. Good writing certainly, but still hollow. There is also some good writing advice here I believe, especially for those looking for suggestions or exercises to help their ability take off.

There is this truth around writing that we all can’t put our finger on. It’s enigmatic, elusive. But this “thing” can make a story or destroy it; it can change a letter from something that is thrown away or kept; and it is what makes an e-mail readable or spam.

Let me break this down in a different way.

As a book reviewer, I’ve had the pleasure of reading a lot of contemporary literature. And many times, these works will be by academics with amazing degrees and resumes. No one can deny these books are well-written, with a well-developed vocabulary and well-crafted plots. Yet, as a reader they don’t stick. I have no emotional attachment. It is like finishing a dry work assignment, not a work of art.

Recently, I had the same feeling reading Purity by Jonathan Franzen (you can read and hear my review here). No respectable reviewer will deny that Franzen is a good writer. He is, but his writing always misses something for me. And while I can respect the talent, I rarely remember anything after that last page is turned, almost relieved I got to the end of another gigantic tome.

So what do the academics and authors like Franzen miss?

Technically, they would argue nothing. They checked all the boxes that should make a work successful. Critics and publishers will agree. I might even agree! But it doesn’t change the fact that something was lacking and it is something behind the words.

I’m talking about heart.

Heart is the one thing that truly can’t be taught in an English or writing classroom, but it is also the most important thing a writer will need. And if used right by a writer, it can change opinions, stir a reader to act, and even make people cry or laugh. It is what takes a jumble of words and turns them into a message.

When writing has heart (be it in fiction, nonfiction, or even in marketing or business writing) it can move mountains. It can stir donations, create movements, and make art that truly will live after a writer has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Heart is the one thing all great writing share in all genres and styles. And yet, while we all have emotions, why is it so difficult for so many of us to call upon this organ? Continue reading

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The Importance of the Writing Heart

Writing HeartThere is this truth around writing that we all can’t put our finger on. It’s enigmatic, elusive. But this “thing” can make a story or destroy it; it can change a letter from something that is thrown away or kept; and it is what makes an e-mail readable or spam.

Let me break this down in a different way.

As a book reviewer, I’ve had the pleasure of reading a lot of contemporary literature. And many times, these works will be by academics with amazing degrees and resumes. No one can deny these books are well-written, with a well-developed vocabulary and well-crafted plots. Yet, as a reader they don’t stick. I have no emotional attachment. It is like finishing a dry work assignment, not a work of art.

Recently, I had the same feeling reading Purity by Jonathan Franzen (you can read and hear my review here). No respectable reviewer will deny that Franzen is a good writer. He is, but his writing always misses something for me. And while I can respect the talent, I rarely remember anything after that last page is turned, almost relieved I got to the end of another gigantic tome.

So what do the academics and authors like Franzen miss?

Technically, they would argue nothing. They checked all the boxes that should make a work successful. Critics and publishers will agree. I might even agree! But it doesn’t change the fact that something was lacking and it is something behind the words.

I’m talking about heart.

Heart is the one thing that truly can’t be taught in an English or writing classroom, but it is also the most important thing a writer will need. And if used right by a writer, it can change opinions, stir a reader to act, and even make people cry or laugh. It is what takes a jumble of words and turns them into a message.

When writing has heart (be it in fiction, nonfiction, or even in marketing or business writing) it can move mountains. It can stir donations, create movements, and make art that truly will live after a writer has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Heart is the one thing all great writing share in all genres and styles. And yet, while we all have emotions, why is it so difficult for so many of us to call upon this organ? Continue reading

Gender-Swapping: Some Writing Tricks for Taking on the Other Sex

GendersDuring my blog tour for Permanent Spring Showers (my last novel) I had an interesting question from a reader. It really inspired this post.

Here is the quote:

I always am amazed when a man writes from a woman’s perspective or a woman writes from a man’s perspective so convincingly. I was wondering how the author found writing from the opposite sex’s POV.

I don’t want to claim I’m an expert on this. That would be naive, because truly no one knows what it is like to walk in another’s shoes (or high heels), but I’ve experience doing this in my books and I have some tricks that work for me.

In my new book, I have a few female main characters (including one that has diary entries); and there is my book Megan which is entirely one afternoon in one woman’s life. So if you are thinking of writing a work where the “other” gender is the main POV, well, maybe my advice can help.

Oh yeah, and I’m the dude who wrote an entire book with Jane Austen as the main character… Again, not saying I know everything, but… come on! Jane Austen! That gives me some cred, right? I mean… freaking Jane Austen!?! Continue reading

A Highlighting Break: A Quick Writing Update

HighlighterAfter the madness of the blog tour over those ten days (you can see the posts and interviews I did on the page for Permanent Spring Showers), I needed to get away from the site. Yes, this site you are reading right now.

Yeah, I got a bunch of ideas for posts, that never seems to stop, I just began to wonder how I would feel if I was a follower here. And really it has been feeling relentless, one post after another about the new book. Now, if you found me via my fiction (which is awesome), you might be cool with the updates, but there are others that come here for my personal updates, my writing advice, my rants about entertainment and the like. Well, those readers might be feeling differently. And while I would love for everyone to buy my new book, the last thing I want is for this site to just be about my novels. (I did mention they are awesome, right?) So less about my writing. Deal?

So here’s a writing update!

Wait… That didn’t make sense. Okay, a new writing update! How about that?

Well, I’m busy working on a new novel. I’m in the midst of a second draft. I don’t want to say too much about it (Heck, I don’t even want to say the title here), until I have a copyright in my hand. I will say it is probably the closest I will get to a science-fiction work, which isn’t a science fiction work.  I can also say it is very different from anything else I have done. I really have a hard time finding something to compare it to (from my past works to other authors). And this book has made me cry in quite a few spots.

Crying in a good way, not like in a “Man, I suck.” kind of way. (I do have those moments just not with this book.)

I’m trying a new trick with this editing of the book. I just combined all of my chapter drafts into one giant document (we’re reaching over 420 pages now) and I plan to re-read it with a highlighter. I’m going to highlight the sentences, the moments, even the dialogue, I might not be happy with.

See, I envision this as a targeting editing approach. I’ve not done this before. Usually, I always take my books as a whole (well, except for A Jane Austen Daydream, but everything was different with that book), but this will focus me down just to sections I need to work on during this draft. This feels so efficient!

Okay, can I just say now using the word efficient is rare when it comes to my writing. I’m a scatter shot, all over the place. Let me give you an example, recently I cleaned the hard drive on my computer and found three unfinished screenplays and four unfinished novels. My books are born on the bodies of those that didn’t make it, kind of making me think of those war movies with the survivors crawling over the dead.

Where was I?

Oh, yes, I am writing. The new book is going great and it’s a lot of fun. There, that sounds like an ending. Almost… damn.

And Now the Back Flip! A Writing Update

The GymnastAh, my blog… How nice to be back. I’ve missed you. I feel like I am reopening the door of a room that has been shut for a while, wondering if I need to dust or vacuum. What’s funny about that is that while everything felt like a pause for me, my site continued to grow. Reaching now the awesome tally of 1406 followers. Thank you everyone!

I’ve been so focused on my fiction and writing outside the blog that I’ve only done simple entries over the last few weeks. Maybe others don’t see it that way, but I do when I look at the site. This site was built to challenge myself and my writing and when I don’t… well… I don’t.

While it may have seemed a little dry creatively on this site, I have been very busy. Actually, I feel on a writing high right now, Like I could do anything, accomplish anything if I put my mind to it. I am a gymnast in my mind, certain that I would land on my feet without even that little hop. It’s a good feeling and a good place to be creatively as a writer.

I have a lot of hope, there seems to be a lot of possibility, a wonderful feeling.

Hope is the thing with feathers… and a smile and wink of the eye.

Time for some updates. Continue reading

Want to finish that book? Need some experienced help?

Broken Pencil“Scott was a gift I gave my book. He led me on a wild and wonderful expedition, where I was expected to do all the work. By the end of journey, I had discovered that I was no longer satisfied with just scratching the surface. I trusted my guide as he pointed out danger zones and to places he thought I needed to explore further. I dug, and I dug and I dug…and lo and behold, there was my treasure. Right where I’d buried it. Hire this man, your book, will thank you for it.” -Terri Lee, terrileeauthor.com

One of the things I love to do from time to time is work as a freelance editor with authors. For me, editing is not just about finding those little mistakes (that is the easy bit), it is about finding the better book.

If you are a new writer and want an experienced eye to review your book, sadly you won’t get that through most editing services. They will focus mainly on grammar and then point you to their publishing services and charges.  My goal is the same as yours, to make the best book possible. The kind of book that sweeps a reader off their feet and takes them someplace they were not expecting.

I contract my editing services through Rebecca T. Dickson (editor and founder of Write Raw and author of the book The Definitive Guide to Writing on Your Terms), you can find her and her writing services at her website here.  If you would like to learn more about hiring my services or availability, you can reach her directly at beckster7219 (at) gmail (dot) com. And you can learn more about my editing, my writing and editing philosophy, and my experiences on my page for editing here.

I hope to work with you soon!

A shout-out to my 1100 followers and a request to my readers!

ElsaThis weekend I passed 1100 followers on my blog. That is awesome! As many of you know who have been following  my blog for a while I usually do something silly when I reach a new 100 milestone.

Well, I did have one planned for this time. In a blatant overreach in self-promotion I was going to rewrite the lyrics to the popular song “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen to be all about my writing and posts. A total ego trip… in snow.

It would have been epic and very embarrassing. In other words, perfect. But I have decided to do something different. Actually, I’m writing to you my readers.

I’m preparing a book for you guys! It will be called Me Stuff  and it will be a collection of some of my more popular personal posts. My hope is to be done with the production of the book sometime in March.

Do you like my blog? Do you check it often? Do you have a favorite post? Why do you keep coming back? See, the thing is I want to know!

I would like to include quotes from readers of my site as part of the marketing around the book! Some might make their way onto the cover, most will appear on the future page for the book and any marketing I might do around it. Readers speaking to other readers is how I view it.

If you would like to say something about the site, my writing, etc., for Me Stuff that would wonderful. You can e-mail me here at AJAD.Southard@gmail.com.

I look forward to sharing this book with you. And thank you again for supporting my site!

My Greatest Hits! Genres, Series Writing, and Finding Writing Sucess

JukeboxTo introduce my new editing services for authors via Rebecca T. Dickson’s site (here), we are sharing some of my most popular writing articles. The Greatest Hits collection continues!

Three weeks ago, I linked to the previous three entries (here), these are the most recent articles to be shared. Two of them were pretty controversial on my site. Enjoy!

  • Our Dangerous Fixation With Genres. The world of writing is so “properly” organized, from bookstores to libraries, that I worry about what this may be doing to creativity and the future of our artform. (Oh, and there is a fun bit where I describe the armies for each of the genres. Trust me.)
  • Redefining Writing Success: Learning to Fly in Today’s Congested Writing World. Maybe it is the growth of self-publishing or the fact people are reading less than they did before, whatever the case we need to change how to we look at success as an author… and it doesn’t always point to the wallet.
  • Writers, why does everything need to be a series? Is it because of TV? Comic books? Whatever the case, the idea of writing a series is now very prevalent. It has not always been this way, and I worry about how this is shaping our literary landscape.

If you would like to learn more about hiring me as an editor, you can do so via this page. Or you can contact Rebecca T. Dickson and ask for more information via her site, which you can visit by clicking the image below.

Rebecca T. Dickson, Editor

My Greatest Hits! Editing, Literary Agents, and New Writers

JukeboxAs part of my introduction on Rebecca T. Dickson’s website for editing/writing services, some of my older writing posts are appearing up there weekly. These are my greatest hits, people!

Currently, three can be found on her site, with more to come…

  • The Necessary Humbling of Editing. You can learn a lot about my editing philosophy in this post, as well as my experience working with editors. Oh, and there is a writing horror story as well in it.
  • What I learned from having a literary agent. This still is one of the most popular writing posts I have ever written. It’s good to know that my bad experience has helped so many…. Okay, I jest. There are some good lessons in it, and yes, I would still work with an agent again. To be honest, I hope to find one for my new book.
  • Welcome to the World of Writing: My Advice for New Writers. What would I have liked to have heard when I started down this thorny path of authoring? This is that post.

If you would like to learn more about hiring me as an editor, you can do so via this page. Or you can contact Rebecca T. Dickson and ask for more information via her site, which you can visit by clicking the image below.

Rebecca T. Dickson, Editor

Happiness Forever in Waiting: A Writing Update

GrumpyI expect never to be happy in my writing.

Never happy with a final draft of a book, never happy about the success (or non-success) of any work, and all together grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. Yup, that’s my dwarf… at least as a writer. Usually, I would consider myself somewhere between Dopey and Doc as an actual person. Of course, Doc can play the organ. I can’t, even though my grandparents had one while I was growing up. It didn’t have birds and all that wooden trickery, but it did have great buttons with options for fun noises…. Okay, I lost my train of thought.

Happiness! Lack of it in writing!

This is all not a bad thing really in my opinion (I have even wrote about this before on this site as a writing lesson here). I’ve trained my brain to always consider the next step, to accept when something is done and immediately begin to think what needs to happen next. Happiness would probably just delay everything else. It is frankly too distracting. Continue reading