When I was four years old, I folded several pages of typing paper in half to create my first book, which I misspelled on the cover as "Babby Bobby." It wasn't a page-turner, just a simple story about a baby named Bobby who was sitting in his crib, drinking from his bottle and trying to get through his day. I did my own stick-figure illustrations.
A lot has happened since "Baby Bobby." With the upcoming publication of My Soul to Take (Sept. 6) [EXCERPT HERE], I have authored or co-authored a dozen novels and a civil rights memoir, in addition to short stories and a novella. I have also been thrilled to win several awards, including an American Book Award.
But it wasn't an easy road, and I didn't get to this point alone. I had great teachers, readers and advice along the way.
I also had to learn a few lessons the hard way...like, for instance, that writing never gets any easier. At a certain point with every project, I am besieged by voices that tell me my writing is terrible, my current project won't hold up to anything else I've written, and I'll be laughed out of the industry. Every project.
That's one of my secrets. Recently, when I mentioned this on Twitter, one of my followers confessed that her internal editor has prevented her from writing any fiction since January. That's no joke. For some writers, fearful voices might mean a project is never written at all.
Here's another secret: I have to fight to find time to write too. I've just been able to use my experience as a journalist to train my Muse to show up on a schedule, more or less, whether she likes it or not. To me, there is nothing mystifying about the "flow" process, and I have developed tricks to help put myself in the mood.
I think it helps writers of all levels to understand that we're all walking a similar road, fighting the same battles. That's one of the reasons I love teaching. I coach writers and teach at the graduate and undergraduate level.
But I can't reach everyone in person...so hubby (and co-author) Steven Barnes recently sat me down for a Q&A and chatted with me about everything we could think of on the topic of writing: from finding time to write to characterization to structure to marketing. So now I've "dropped" my first MP3, which is full of the advice I wish someone had given me. Just for fun, I threw in nearly 60 pages of bonus material on a PDF, including my keynote address at the 2005 Maui Writers' Conference and an in-depth lecture on adaptation and the process of adapting my novel The Good House to a screenplay.
This is my first MP3, but it won't be my last. It has a special price this week.
If you or a writer in your life could stand to learn a few secrets, CHECK IT OUT HERE.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in Art Sanctuary's "Celebration of Black Writing" in Philadelphia. After I gave a talk on writing science fiction, I was interviewed by Maurice Waters from BlackSci-Fi.com. (I think these general principles apply to writing all speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy and horror.) Let me know what you think of these tips!