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Writing Nonfiction

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:36:33 GMT

texasgrampy Author Hey, everyone. I had a thought recently: I've been writing fiction for so long and never considered non-fiction because of the belief that it requires a lot of research. Then I realized that it doesn't have to be historically correct as long as it's just my opinion. I started putting down ideas about my personal beliefs on various esoteric subjects and found it to be quite therapeutic. I realized that several great writers simply wrote their beliefs on a certain subject and had enough supporters or followers that they became popular for their work. I think I'm onto a new way of keeping myself fresh and busy at the keyboard.

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:39:05 GMT

texasgrampy Author Hey, rasserj. Just got your post. My stories are "historical" only in the respect that they are actual events which happened to me or happened around me in my life. I take the event and write it down with a slant toward bringing out the emotion or theme that I gleaned from it at the time. Writing the events ver batum, of course, would make the story rather boring unless I took some license and did a bit of elaborating whenever it is warranted. Some of the stories are completely fabricated but are based on something that I imagine to have happened to someone I know. For example: I wrote a story called Little Boy Brown (under my pen name - J. Calvin Westbourne: on Amazon.com) which was about my own son who grew up with an overdose of a little thing called ADHD. I had a dream one night about him being in school and enduring the harassment of his peers because of his inability to pay attention or to sit still for more than a second or two. Th e entire story is fiction but my son read it and agreed that it was a good representation of something that might have happened to him if the circumstances had been right.

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:39:47 GMT

MikeJesus Author So I started planning my first non-fiction tale and I stumbled when trying to decide how much back story to reveal. When one writes fiction backstory is much easier to handle. You created a character who does thing X and events A,B,C made him the way he is, if you choose to not talk about event B then it didn't happen as far as the reader knows (Yeah, I know I'm dumbing the whole process down but let me make a point :P). When it comes to non-fiction you're aware of years and years of stuff that brought you to the place where you're at and its difficult to decide what is truly relevant to the story and what is simple fact listing. This one story in particular, nicknamed "The Tic-Tac Girl Story" over the years that it has been told, is quite a pain in that aspect. The story revolves around 16-year old Mike going to a party whilst going through a pretty rough patch emotionally, getting entirely too hammered and my drunken shenanigans from that night. When I tell the story I judge which details are necessary for the audience's understanding of the sto ry and what are things I don't need to waste my time on because they 'get it'. For example: If I'm met with looks of disbelief when discussing how people tolerated my annoying behavior I can break off into a tangent of how people were excited to have me at the party because I wasn't local and everyone in the given part of the world adores foreigners at that age. If I'm met with judgmental glances on my behavior in general I can at least explain how I got to the point by discussing the individual stressors which to some extent led me to get that irritated in the first place. If I am telling the story to a crowd which has a strong moral compass and deems me a bad person by the end of the tale I can add the footnote about how I recently bumped into the person who most likely had the most hectic night because of me she said she's been telling the same story for years and how everything is water under the bridge. I think I just really need to think about my audience on this one and whether I want my name to come out in a good yet somewhat long-winded light or simply embrace the drunken adventure of a at-the-time-broken person and tell the story as if I was telling it to someone with a broken moral compass. Sorry for the rant, just got myself thinking :P

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:40:20 GMT

texasgrampy Author You sound confused. Don't make it harder than it has to be...just write your story chronologically, then go back and find the part where the action began, follow that to a good stopping point, then move that whole section to the front of the story. The rest should be good to go. Just a few carefully placed embellishments and some grammatical corrections here and there and...Viola! Make it a short story, though, so you can get all the pertinent information in there before you attack it with a red pen. B)

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:54:38 GMT

tmattcarnes Author Posts: 22 Hughes, Thank you for buying the book. Your question speaks to me. For me, becoming a writer has been a long struggle, not with writing itself, but with the inner demons that tell me I can't. Mostly it has meant overcoming the deep-rooted notions in my head that trying to become a writer was a foolish impractical pursuit. I remember reading a book by Philip Caputo and thinking, "If I could write a book that meant to one person what this book has meant to me, I would be fulfilled." Well, more than enough people, both friends and those I've never met, have told me that about my book, but it has only fueled the fire. Writing has become an obsession for me now. I won't be happy until I can write for a living. If I had it to do over again, I would probably join the Green Berets right out of high school, then go to college and major in something besides Accounting. Maybe it would be English, but I don't think there is a particular degree that will make you a writer, and it is the experiences in life that allow you to have something to s ay. I would not trade any of the experiences I've had in life, but there is one thing I would definitely do differently if I could. I would start writing a lot sooner. To answer your question, I remember when I was about to turn 30, I was contemplating how miserable I was in my corporate job, and I asked myself why I was selling my life for a standard of living without making a difference to anyone that I could see. It felt like I was selling my soul for a decent paycheck. I decided then and there that I would not turn 30 without being at least on a path to happiness and fulfillment. That was the moment I decided I just couldn't do it anymore. It was a long time after that before I published my first novel, but I've been on the right path ever since that day. Life is too short to spend any of it doing something that doesn't make you happy. Find work that you love, and if you have the burning desire to write, then do it. Don't wait and don't quit your day job. Devote the portion of your life to writing that matches the desire in your heart to do it. Good Luck, Troy

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:54:59 GMT

tmattcarnes Author Posts: 22 Janet, Thank you for asking. If you read my answers to Lauren and Hughes, you probably have your answer, but I would like to address you specifically. I have always had the desire to write, but I never did anything about it until about three years ago. It took some pretty traumatic life events to finally get me to pay any serious attention to my desire. I wish very much that I had paid closer attention to the desires of my heart when I was in college, but I don’t think it would have drastically altered my educational choices. I don’t think believe that any particular career path will make you a writer. I believe that you will make yourself a writer. Certainly the experiences of your life will alter you and form your perspective, but majoring in English or Creative Writing, if that is even possible, will not make you a writer. If writing were a teachable trade, then brilliant authors would be springing forth from weekend seminars on creative writing. Like I wrote to Lauren, I could read every book and take every class and even obta in a masters degree in Art, but trust me, I have no talent. It would not make me an artist. I might be able to produce an acceptable rendering of azaleas in murky water, but no one would ever mistake me for an artist. Writing is a craft that begins with a gift and desire. Writing skills can be honed and sharpened, and those of us who hope to write well are best served by working hard to do just that. Please understand that I do not consider myself to have some extraordinary gift. I’m just a guy who published a book and hopes to publish a better one and a better one after that. My advice to young writers is in three parts: 1. Write! Write now. Write often. Write faithfully. Finish something and find out if it’s any good. If it’s not, keep writing until it is, or until you lose the desire. You can’t write without true passion for it. If your writing is good, search for a market where someone is willing to pay for it. 2. Get an education in a field you enjoy. Find work that you love, work that allows you time to pursue your other interests like writing. If your writing takes off, great! If not, you’re still a happy person. 3. Be careful about pursuing a “writing job.” If it’s a job, it’s likely that you will be writing things someone else wants you to write rather than things you want to write. Most writers do not find that to be particularly fulfilling. Thanks for asking, I hope this is helpful. Troy

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:55:17 GMT

Prucible99 User Posts: 2 Wow Carnes, I'd never really viewed style as anything other that what to strive for as an author that's easily blended with your authorial voice. But without style, what do you have as an author? I thought it was your indicator.. I always understood that in being an author, sometimes style can come easy for you and sometimes it's something you must fine tune. Maybe I've been focusing too much on the background noise for my writing and need to focus on the story at hand. I've been having severe writer's block issues in trying to define my style as an author. It seems silly now when you put it in that perspective. As you've said though, that the more you wrote chapters and read them out loud to yourself (which is also a tip I've acquired while reading through some of the help logs at TBL) they sounded right and had threaded a basic pattern. Thanks so much for your help Mr. Carnes! This has actually really helped me re-evaluate some of my bigger pieces and try not to nit pick on the smaller details. This has been an incredibly rewarding experience to ask your advice! Thank you so much again! -Prudence

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:55:34 GMT

CTacker Author Posts: 129 Thanks again Carnes for answering all of our questions. I also had a quick question about what you conversed with Prudence about with style. I too, find that I'm addicted to the author's mark of pure style. While it's not something I'm necessarily overly concerned about, I was wondering if you considered style as something that is constantly evolving? Obviously, as a writer, the more you write, the more you practice and the more your writing becomes ingrained and something that doesn't need as much polishing. But what I'm wondering is, some authors (not all) do tend to write their stories around a level of concern for their style. The depictions they're trying to precisely display are deliberate and so they're style must be too if it's drastically varying from a recent piece. Do you believe, as an author, that style is something that can be honed or do you believe that the writer really doesn't need to worry specifically about style because it will just come out as it does in the end? I hope this isn't too confusing. If you don't understand what I'm trying to ask, let me know and I'll try again! Thanks for your time!

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:55:47 GMT

THarding Author Posts: 33 Hey Troy, I was just rereading some of your posts and I saw that you hired an editor as one of the last steps. Can you tell us a little bit more about that experience? Thanks, Tom

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:56:05 GMT

tmattcarnes Author Prudence, Thank you for sharing that. I'm hope something I've said will help and encourage you to let loose and become the writer you are inside. I beleive that anything that goes against your natural voice should be avoided. Good Luck with whatever you are working on. Troy

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:56:42 GMT

tmattcarnes Author Posts: 22 ctacker, Your question is no more confusing than the notion of style itself. My simple answer, and I believe in keeping things simple, is that style is absolutely something that is honed and nurtured and even transformed over time and through practice, but I do not believe it should ever be a writer's primary concern. Our primary concern should always be to tell a story that is worth telling. The style we use to tell the story can enhance or detract from the story, but it can never make something worthwhile out of something of no substance. When I think too much about style, I start to worry about how I sound and how my writing will be received by others. Everything starts to become about me and my ego rather than about the story. I think that as we tell our story, we should be thinking about our readers, about how to best convey the image, the moment, and the message. We should be considering their feelings and not our own. It seems to me that the easiest way to accomplish that is to write the story as you would like to hear it. For me, that means simple but powerful description, and timely and profound dialogue. At least that is what I strive for. I also like to allow my readers draw some of their own conclusions. In answering the last part of your question, I think that style is something we need not worry too much about until we're done telling our story. After all, style is defined as "how" we say things. The only way that works for me is to tell them naturally. After I've written something, I will read it back to myself several times to be sure it sounds natural to me, but that's only done after the fact. If it doesn't ring true or feels contrived or awkward, I'll work it until it sounds right. I suppose that the end result is my style. We all know good story tellers or good comedians or whatever. I believe that the best ones just tell their jokes or stories in the most natural way for them, the way that fits their personality. Sometimes, like with comedians, they purposefully exaggerate their style, but it is still who they are. I think we have to write the same way. I hope that was not too confusing. Thanks for the question. Troy

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:57:06 GMT

tmattcarnes Author Posts: 22 Tom, My experience with a hired editor was probably very unusual. I had already received a publishing contract through the query process, and was advised to have my book edited by a friend in the book selling business. I had assumed (quite incorrectly) that all publishing companies would carefully edit anything they intended to print. I was referred to a man by my book seller friend. He passed him off as a semi-retired gentleman with some experience who had offered to help would-be writers with their manuscripts. We were introduced by email and he said he would look at a few chapters for me and let me know if he thought he could help me. I was too foolish to google the name before I sent him the first four chapters. His response to those four chapters was everything I wanted to hear as a writer. He said it was very clean and well-written and extremely compelling. He made one comment about it being perfect for the market for which it was intended, which offended me because, in my ignorance, I hadn't intended it for a particular mar ket. He also said that if the rest of the manuscript was as good as the first four chapters, he did not think that he could help me. I was very encouraged by his comments, and decided to see who he was. When I googled his name, scads of William Faulkner titles came up. It turns out, to my eternal shame, that the man was a rather well-known Faulkner scholar and English professor who had published more than 25 books of his own, mostly critical works of Faulkner's novels and those of other southern writers. He had even edited nine original Faulkner manuscripts for Random House. He also lectured world-wide and had just returned from a tour of Russia. Naturally, I was horribly embarassed. To think that I had sent my silly slop to a man who had devoted his life to the study of one of America's greatest writers. When I contacted him to apologize, he insisted that he had enjoyed what he had read and would be delighted to edit the manuscript if I so desired. Naturally, I was intelligent enough to take him up on it, and he did the work in less than a week. Ultimately, it gave me the confidence of believing that I had written something good. With that, I was able to enter the frightening publication process without many of the fears and doubts that plague us all. The interesting thing to me is that, had I known who he was, I'd never have sent him my work. No chance, No way. If there is a lesson, I think it's just that you have to let people who are willing, read your work. Use whoever you can to help you make it better. Take the risk of being embarassed.

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:57:21 GMT

THarding Author Posts: 33 Wow Troy, that story is crazy! I don't think I would have had the nerve to send my stuff in to him either. Wow... That must have been such an amazing ego boost to have such an influential mind get so excited about your work though. Wait, you bookseller friend didn't warn you?

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:57:39 GMT

tmattcarnes Author Posts: 22 Not a word, but when he heard what the editor had to say, he read my book, which he probably would not have done otherwise. He liked it, and got behind it. Troy

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:57:58 GMT

tmattcarnes Author Posts: 22 Tom, Lauren, CTacker, Daniel, David, Sky, Dani, Mr. Darcy, Mark, Prudence, Chrissy, Hughes, andd Janet, Thank you so much for your insightful questions. I have thoroughly enjoyed pondering each one and trying to answer them honestly and helpfully. I think the self-reflection required to answer them probably did me far more good than any responses I was able to render. I wish you all great success with your writing. Please don't hesitate to contact me about anything. I would love to feel free to do the same with you as I struggle to finish another book. Perhaps I'll muster the nerve to post something on TBL and let you all throw critical darts at it. My email is tmattcarnes@gmail.com and you can find me on facebook. Dani and Carley, thank you so much for creating TBL. I'm so thrilled to find a place where those of us who are obsessed with writing can communicate, share ideas, moan about our struggles, and celebrate our successes. I would love to consider any other questions and to hear any thoughts of yours regarding my previous p ostings. Surely not everyone agrees with my opinions. I assume that you are too polite to blast me online, but I can take it. Cheers for now, Troy

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:58:15 GMT

LKScribbler Author Posts: 92 Thanks so much, Troy! This has been wonderful! Please keep TBL updated on all your success so they can keep all of us informed!

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:58:40 GMT

Letters Administrator Posts: 55 Dear Troy, On the behalf of the TBL staff, we are so grateful for your involvement with our members. Your interviews have been both insightful and extremely inspiring, sometimes making us smile, other times throwing us into deep contemplation, but always reminding us how grateful we should be for our craft and our fellow word slingers. We wish you all the luck in your future writing adventures (though we know you will not need it). If there is anything we can ever do to help, we're just an email away. Without wax, The TBL Team

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:58:55 GMT

DMHedlund Administrator Posts: 80 Thanks Troy! I have so enjoyed reading all of these posts. Your students are increbily lucky to have such a passionate writer as their teacher. Do please keep us all informed. One day we'll all get to boast that we got to chat with the famous Troy Matthew Carnes right before his career exploded! Good luck! Dani

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:59:12 GMT

CTacker Author Posts: 129 Troy, thank you so much for all of your answers to my questions, as well as the Coterie's.You've truly been an inspiration in writing and a great help to me in my own literary quest as a young writer. I know your book and all future publications from you will do well and appreciate all your feedback, allowing me to question myself and fine tune some of my writing aspects. Please let us know of any upcoming publications or news with your writing! It was so much fun asking questions of a true author! Ctacker

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:59:25 GMT

Hughes Author Posts: 115 Thanks you so much for your involvement, Troy! I feel like I've learned a great deal. And congrats again on the book. It's really well done! Hughes

Tethered by Letters
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:59:39 GMT

tmattcarnes Author Posts: 22 Thank you Dani! Thank you Ctacker! and Thank you Hughes! This is great fun! Troy

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