Thursday, May 27, 2010

INSPIRATION | Fighting Irrational Fear

As a writer, one of the recurring fears I face is: What if I sit down to write and nothing comes forth?

Sounds ridiculous, right? A small thing. But if you’re a writer, you live and breathe words. I don’t know if it’s mental, chemical or what, but you need to birth the written word. If you don’t write, you shrivel up inside, much like a slow death. The writer within is part of your identity—not just how others see you, but how you see yourself.

Because I had a childhood habit of quitting long-term writing projects—as I called it, “putting them on the shelf” for later—today my fear has morphed into: “Will I be able to complete another novel?” And as I sit down to write each day, another fear nags: “What if I sit down to write and I can’t gain traction for the first 30 minutes?”

As I wrote From The Dead (and also a prior, unpublished novel), I dealt with the what-if-nothing-comes fear almost every night. The last thing I wanted to do was invest two hours, complete two weak paragraphs, and feel like a failure in my area of calling. But each night, I decided to turn on the laptop, open the outline, and take another step forward with the story.

In time I realized, despite the continual struggle, the first-draft pages continued to pile up. And as I read through them, I found myself satisfied with their quality.

As long as I showed up and put my fingers to the keyboard, the words seemed to flow.

The fear, although real, turned out to be irrational. An empty threat.

I’ve heard it said that showing up is half the battle. I believe that.

I’ve also heard it said, “If you’re afraid, then just do it afraid.”

Are you a writer? Are you something else? Fight the fear. Keep showing up. You’re halfway there.

Hope this helps. Never give up!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

WRITING TIP | What’s in a Name?

How important is a name? If it’s any indication, expectant parents pore over possibilities to find the perfect name for their kid. Often the name alludes to something: a family member, a biblical character, or a characteristic. Parents want their kids to remember a specific something or someone when they think of their own name.

If you’re a writer, you might consider your projects as your babies. You birth them. And for some reason, it seems to take me nine months to complete a novel from first draft to final revision.

If you write fiction, how much thought do you give to your character names? It’s not a requirement. But many writers treat it as a tool in their arsenals.

A character’s name can provide a reader with hidden treasure, a revelation about the character. The name can point to a character’s past, its nature, or its self-image.

I found a great example in the novel Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. (Go ahead, yuk it up. I read it to see what the fuss is about. I also discovered, by George, I'm NOT the target audience!) The book follows the journey of Bella Swann, a teenage klutz who prefers her own company and sees herself as rather plain. My best guess: her name reveals who she truly is, the way her love interest sees her. The Italian word bella means beautiful, the opposite of how Bella perceives herself. Unlike Bella—the klutzy loner—a swan (or Swann, in her case) seems both graceful and beautiful. How often do you see a swan swim alone? Perhaps Bella’s last name foreshadows the relationship to come. (Tangent: As I write this, I’m engrossed in a more suitable James Patterson novel!)

I decided to try it out in my novel From The Dead and grew to love the process. For example, the characters Jesse and Eden are preacher’s kids, so it seemed natural for a preacher to give his kids biblical names. Taken one step further, knowing how I wanted to present Eden—the sibling who’s walked the straight and narrow—I named her after the Garden of Eden, a place of perfection.

Also in From The Dead, we discover that Drew’s mother became pregnant at eighteen years old. In the midst of her pressures, a teen mother might think in simple terms and choose a name she always liked: Drew. It allows her to find a glimmer of relief in a tough situation. And Jada—well, it seemed like a solid name for a girl who grew up in front of a TV camera.

Once you find deeper meaning in a character’s name, it tends to stick with you through the course of the story, much like people carry their names through the stories of their lives.

Worth a try?

Hope this helps. Never give up!

Monday, May 10, 2010

NEWS | From The Dead Named National Award Finalist

CHELSEA, Mich. – Judges named From The Dead, a novel by John Herrick, a finalist in the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

Next Generation Indie Book Awards, an annual contest headquartered in Chelsea, Michigan, is open to independent publishers worldwide. To be eligible for an award, a book must have been released or scheduled for release in 2009 or 2010. Finalists were notified in mid May 2010.

From The Dead, published by Segue Blue, competed in the First Novel category. It is scheduled for publication on August 31, 2010.