Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Does your story have fire?

I'm working on keeping the pages lit! With a little help from Donald Maass and The Fire in Fiction. Though I haven't attended of his workshops, I've heard Mr. Maass speak at writers conferences. He has a long history in the writing biz, and his inside perspective is invaluable.

More than that, his focus on craft is essential for writers who want their stories to pop off the page. Every sentence, every scene. Here's an excerpt from the book, which is actually a workbook with exercises following chapters.

I know I do. So this book will be one of the many I'm applying toward craft. It's been on the shelf a few years, along with many others. I've been so busy writing, I always thought, I'll get to it later.

Later doesn't help me now. I love the stories I've written, but want to write even better. Make my characters more three-dimensional, more interesting, more exciting, more relatable.

I have to admit, I had an agent's session years ago with Donald Maass, one of those five-minute pitch sessions that make your nerves want to pop out of your skin. I'm terrible at pitch sessions, but I was so confident he'd fall in love with my first few pages. After skimming, he simply asked, "Why should I care?" Of course, he crushed me. I'd spent years researching - the mythology of the constellations, the decades of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties, astronomy. The premise itself is universal and I loved those characters. I still do. But the craft wasn't there on the page. Oh, I think my writing was lyrical and beautiful, but there was no hook.
I haven't given up yet on that story. It was one of my first, and sometimes those "books of the heart" aren't the ones that should be published. But someday, I'm going to prove Donald Maass wrong, maybe using his own techniques. :) I bet he'd like that, too.


Angela Brown said...

I've heard so many wonderful things about Donald Maass. His books have gottedn a lot of credit with a lot of aspiring authors.

I suppose, like you, I need to stop thinking later and think now to get some of his craft improvement materials.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Prove him wrong! Jotting down that book title now...

Jennie Bennett said...

I'm giving a pitch tomorrow night, and I'm sure I'll hear something similar, but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying! You go girl!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I heard him at one conference years ago also. I was too new and too intimidated to sign up for a pitch to him.
I always feel like I have more to learn and can't wait to attend Pennwriters' this year.

Cate Masters said...

Maass is one of the best, Angela. That was my thought, I've put off reading the craft books I've collected for too long.

Ha, Alex. That would feel great.

Good luck JA! Practice with another author ahead of time.

Wish I could go to Pennwriters this year, Susan. Maybe next time it comes back to eastern PA.

Arlee Bird said...

I have so many books on writing that I still haven't read. I get too impatient and just want to write. I know I need to study the craft more. I think I'd do better in a classroom type environment where I have discipline to study and learn thrust upon me.

"Why should I care?" is kind of devastating but I think we writers need an assessment like that now and then in order to keep us on our toes.

Have you heard about the A to Z Video Challenge?
Blogging from A to Z

Cate Masters said...

At the time it seemed overly harsh, but I've come to see his point. Readers do need to care and feel invested in a story if they're going to stick with it.

LD Masterson said...

That's probably one of those questions we need to stick on the wall over our desks. When all is said and done, what does it matter if no one cares?

Cate Masters said...

You illustrated it so nicely with your post on Monday, Linda!

cleemckenzie said...

You have to believe in that idea and keep at it. I love that you're reading his book and trying to use his guidance to make your story zing!

Cate Masters said...

Thanks, C. Lee. Poetic justice at its best. :)

Arlene said...

Why should I care?

Thank you, Cate, for reminding me in a well written clip why I should care about writing guides, advice from agents, rich authors, publishers. I think it's awesome you're not whining I dont have time, you're not only making the time to elevate this craft, you're helping me to do so as well.
Thanks for being such a good friend!

Cate Masters said...

Thanks Arlene. We have to help each other. No one else is looking out for us!