cover Carolyn - A Most Remarkable Lady by Buddy Clark

Molding the Memoir

With each project we undertake, Amelia Indie Authors’ goal is always to enhance things where we can; to apply our experience and collective skills, knowing that even the smallest changes can help create an improved end product. We try to give you exactly what you want, only better. 

To produce a memoir, we recently had the privilege of working with a fine writer, Buddy Clark of Beaufort, SC, and his editor, Emily Carmain of Fernandina Beach. Buddy had lost his wife Carolyn to Alzheimer’s disease two years before and wanted to share memories of her and her many talents with his family as well as a broader audience. 

Author Buddy Clark had lost his wife Carolyn to Alzheimer’s disease two years before and wanted to share memories of her and her many talents. Click To Tweet

Working with an Editor

Emily helped him to frame the narrative brilliantly, allowing the natural flow of memories from daily life events that triggered them. The memories are told in scenes of dialogue, action, and description. At the end of the book, when Buddy discovers Carolyn’s collection of mementos, drawings, short stories, and diaries, he shares them in the “Reflections” appendix with delightful color images.

From among those images, one stood out as irresistible: a classic black-and-white portrait of Carolyn looking over her shoulder, revealing her bright, engaging smile. We all knew this had to be the cover image for the book.

Interior Design 

My pleasurable task was to design that cover, as well as the interior of the book. This is always a team effort, with each of us reviewing several iterations to make sure any errors are corrected and no new ones introduced. At this point, the details are critical. I refined and retouched Carolyn’s image down to the tiniest fleck of dust, knowing she deserved nothing less. 

I refined and retouched Carolyn’s image down to the tiniest fleck of dust, knowing she deserved nothing less. Click To Tweet

During the process Buddy’s memories made me laugh and cry. In the end, I wished I had known Carolyn, for I’m sure we would have been friends. I think you’ll like her, too.

The book, Carolyn: A Most Remarkable Lady, is now available in hardcover, softcover and e-book on amazon.com, and is featured here on Our Books page.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Voice Affects Content; Content Isn’t Voice

Sometimes well-loved sections must be cut from your manuscript because they do not serve the story. Many of us have heard that we must “kill your darlings” to improve, advice that has been attributed to Faulkner, but apparently goes back even further than that.

You may have written a wonderful bit of prose that captures a feeling or belief that is close to your heart and soul. You may have a deep feeling about an aspect of lifestyle, let’s use running as an example. You’re a runner, so you make one of your characters a runner. And, you write an entire section about your philosophy for running. This is content. Because running is important to you, you feel it is part of your voice. But in storytelling, that is not necessarily so.

Go from Point A to Point B

Pulitzer Prize Winner David Mamet, in his master class for writers, says your job as a storyteller is to get Jack or Jill, your protagonist, from Point A in your story, to Point B, the transformation of the character at the end of the book. The story is paramount, and every aspect of your telling must have to do with that direct trajectory the protagonist must travel. If there are brief side trips from that trajectory, they must have a specific and meaningful purpose.

The classic 1976 movie Marathon Man is a great example in which running, a seemingly insignificant aspect of a character, later becomes integral to the story.

So, if Jack or Jill’s philosophy about running does not have a direct impact on the story, does not inform that trajectory in an important way, it must go. Write it for your own satisfaction, but be prepared to cut it from the story. Doing so tightens the story; it does NOT change your voice.

Your voice as a writer comes from the way you tell a story. In your choice of words, in your phrasing, in the “tint” that you bring to your language. It is unique and natural to you. It is in your character development, your description, and your dialog. It seeps into your prose through the life experiences that have molded you, and the emotions you feel while writing a story. 

Just as how the same piece of music sounds quite different if played on a violin versus a flute (or sung by a choir or a rapper), a story that involves that same plot, characters, world, etc., can still change a lot depending on the voice used to tell it.~ Kat Zhang

Where is my Voice?

What, then, is the best way to develop your own unique writing voice? The truth is, it won’t come overnight. You can study other authors you like and practice using some of their techniques. You may hear the voices of friends or co-workers and incorporate them somehow, or let them inform your characters. Your mind is already at work, filing these details away until you’re ready to use them.

Stories come from the subconscious. What drives you to write, to some extent, are your own unresolved inner conflicts. Have you noticed your favorite authors have character types that recur? Plot turns that feel familiar? Descriptive details that you would swear you have read before (a yellow bowl, a slant of light, an inch of cigarette ash)? That is the subconscious at work.~ Cris Freese

Your writer’s voice is truly an inside job. You already have it, you just have to reveal it. All of those experiences go into the melting pot of your psyche. The more you write, the more you relax into the process of it. When you relax, clear away the clutter of daily life, and open your mind to your own creativity, your unique voice will find its way from your mind and your heart through your fingers, onto the keyboard — and into your content! 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Patience, Tender Writer

As a journalism student in college, I learned several lessons about patience, deadlines, and editors. First of all, editors have no patience with late or sloppy writers. And deadlines are everything.

Often within the span of hours, a newspaper reporter has to come up with a story idea, pitch it to the news desk, research it, conduct interviews, write and deliver a compelling story, allowing enough time for the editor to do his/her thing. In this case, there is no time at all for them to mollycoddle. They might read the first sentence and toss it back at you. “This sucks. Rewrite it.”

Or, things like “It’s wordy.” “You buried the lead.” “Move paragraph three to the top and start over.” Or just, “Nope.” And don’t even think about a clever ending, because it very likely will get cut to make space for a last-minute ad placement.

Growing a Thicker Skin

Such treatment definitely helps tender writers grow thicker skins. But for those whose path to writing has bypassed this rewarding experience, the first time their precious work is edited can be a painful experience. And here’s where patience comes in.

If the editor returns your work quickly, you can suffer the quick rip of the bandage and get back to work much more easily than if they sit on it for weeks and months. Take their suggestions seriously. We all need an objective viewpoint, and what we think does not always come across clearly in what we write. One day you will love your editor.

We all need an objective viewpoint. Click To Tweet

If they take a few weeks or longer to return your work, you can feel stuck in the mud, no place to turn. You’ll manufacture scenarios. They must hate it. They can’t bear to read it. They never made it past the first page and threw it down. Why else would it take so long? Or, maybe they love it, they can’t think of anything constructive to say? What if it’s so good, they are already showing it to an agent, or a movie producer? What if someone gets hold of it and is sending you a contract right now?

Oh, the creative mind does wander. Click To Tweet

Oh, the creative mind does wander.

An editor may do all sorts of things, like add your work to the bottom an already impossible pile. Read it in small bits between trips to the grocery store and childcare. Read it once, set it aside for a week or so, and then read it again to see if their impressions have changed. Fill in the blank with any number of scenarios. Editors are humans after all and have their own priorities.

Feedback is necessary. Suffering is optional. Click To Tweet

But whether well-seasoned or new, a writer is not required to suffer.

Some tips to help the impatient

Patience, for me, is almost an offensive swear word, but I know it’s my challenge to conquer. Here’s what has worked for me so far.

Expect the best, but prepare for the worst

If you’re new to writing and haven’t been edited before, your best course of action is the same as preparing for a hurricane. You’ve done your best; now let it go. Feedback will come quickly or slowly according to wind speed, but come it will. When it does, stand up and take it. Repair after.

Distract yourself

I always have several other projects that need my attention. Right now there are eleven items on my desk, not including this post and the stacks of family photos I’m supposed to scan. Immersion in any one of them will take my mind off the waiting, and hopefully reduce the number of projects staring back at me. I get frustrated and sometimes overwhelmed, but I am never bored.

Get physical

My absolute favorite is to go outside and weed the flowerbeds. I mean weed them, rip those suckers out with brute force. It’s a form of editing and can be immensely satisfying. Plus, you can see your accomplishment before you; what you managed to uncover is more beautiful than when you started. Immediate gratification. Um, you could also just go for a swim.

Pleasure and relaxation

My go-to for this is chocolate and a walk on the beach, maybe some shopping, and if I am really brain-frazzled, just an old movie and a blanket. I don’t recommend alcohol; it’s depressing and highly detrimental to brain cells, especially the creative ones. Ice cream or a magnificent espresso concoction will do the trick much better. As will a massage.

When the feedback arrives — whether you like it or not — put on your big kid pants and deal. Be grateful someone took the time to read your work and pay careful attention to it. You worked very hard on it. You want it to shine. Editors do too.

Maintaining Motivation

Maintaining motivation over the course of any large project or goal can be challenging, and that can be especially true when you are writing. As the author of three books and the co-author of half a dozen more, I know that I’ve had to be really focused on the outcome. I’ve had to utilize all my “keep it going” tricks to get the project done. In case this has been a stumbling block for you, I wanted to share a few of my strategies that helped me see things through to completion.

Maintaining motivation over the course of any large project can be challenging, Click To Tweet

Focus on the End Goal Strengthens Motivation

The first book that I wrote was entitled Marketing Ideas for the Wild at Heart and I wrote it because I had customers who wanted to buy a book from me and I didn’t have one!

Here’s what happened. After earning the top title in my direct sales company’s compensation plan I was asked to speak at events all over the United States. I wasn’t earning very much speaking at events, and it was taking time away from my own business and my family. I wondered whether I could earn money speaking, so I joined the National Speakers’ Association (NSA). There I  earned professional status by doing 25 paid speeches within a year. As part of my membership, I was able to network with other speakers and attend local meetings.

Earning from the Back of the Room

It was there that I found out that speakers earn much of their income from “back of room” sales: books they have authored or co-authored. So, I decided to write a book. That first book ended up selling about 4,000 copies over the next several years. Because I self-published the book, I earned enough on each sale that I achieved my end goal. Speaking became profitable for my business. Figure out what your end goal is and work toward that fuels the motivation to continue.

When I was stuck during the writing and publishing process, I focused on my goal of making speaking profitable.

Be the Reader

All the books I have authored have been instructional in nature, so it has been vital that I put myself in the reader’s shoes. I imagine the same thinking would work for fiction as well. The reader is our customer and for them to “get it” is the goal of our writing. Whenever I got stuck, I imagined the reader. I took my motivation from her. I saw her taking the ideas, working them and being successful. I imagined that examples in my book helped the reader take their business to a higher level.

Knowing that my book might help another direct seller earn more money made it easier to keep going. Someone could more easily feed their family or pay their mortgage or allow them to send their children to a better school. It is likely that what you write, whether non-fiction or fiction, will make someone’s life better. If you are a fiction writer, you help the reader escape or bring them joy or provide a thrill. Your contribution makes a difference. “I have a book inside me and it’s not right to keep it there,” I would say to myself. I believe that taking full responsibility for our lives means using all of our gifts — including writing.

The reader is our customer and for them to “get it” is the goal of our writing. Click To Tweet

Feed Your Inspiration

I find that I can be a better writer when I seek out things that inspire me. Listening to music is one of my motivation go-to’s.  I have a long playlist downloaded on my phone that I can tap in to. My current musical obsession is the soundtrack to the movie “The Greatest Showman.” I like to start my day listening to it in the shower and singing along.

I also find it inspirational to travel and do things out of my ordinary routine. For example, I am writing this article from a hotel room located just 18 miles from my house! My daughter and her friend are attending a local ComicCon, so I decided to get a room for the night. I chose this option so they can have a place to take breaks and change outfits — and I can stay in the room and write.

Even though it is only 18 miles from home, I don’t have the same distractions: no household chores waiting or someone calling or coming to the door. I can concentrate on my writing while looking out the 12th-floor window at the city below.

The girls and I had room service together this morning before they left for the event: it was special because I have worked hard and earned the right. That feeling of accomplishment is inspirational, too.

Focus on the end goal, be the reader and feed your inspiration. I hope these thoughts will help you see that project through to completion.

 

Focus on the end goal, be the reader and feed your inspiration. Click To Tweet

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Writers on Writing: Some Favorite Quotes

There are infinite shades of grey. Writing often appears so black and white. – Rebecca Solnit

The most important thing is to read as much as you can, like I did. It will give you an understanding of what makes good writing and it will enlarge your vocabulary. – J.K. Rowling

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.  – Ray Bradbury

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – E.B. White

 

The road to hell is paved with adverbs.  – Stephen King

Writing saved me from the sin and inconvenience of violence. – Alice Walker

I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. – Harper Lee

A word after a word after a word is power. – Margaret Atwood

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. – Octavia E. Butler