Which Comes First?

Ah, ha! I remembered to blog this Wednesday…which with all the stuff I got going on is a blooming miracle!

So, here I am and I have to wonder…what am I going to talk about? I’m sure you’re wondering too. Well, I had several topics in mind. I’ve been preparing quite a few blogs since my next book comes out in a matter of days. Yes, seven to be exact. Yippee! Don’t all rush out and buy it at once! LOL. 

I digress (or rather shamelessly promote myself). I ‘ve been putting together quite a few blogs about random things I write about – small towns, hunky heroes, etc. when I encounter the email for the blog I signed up to do at Romance University. The topic I chose was oh-so crafty. And I am not good with teaching anything remotely resembling craft. No good at all. Honestly, I’m not even sure how I come up with the words I write down on the screen each day much less know how to  tell someone else how to do it.

So anyway, I signed up many moons ago to do a post on creating emotion or something like that.  The time had come to blog, so I sat before my computer for a good ten minutes staring at the blinking cursor. I cleared my desk. Read the cap on my iced tea bottle. Worried about how I was going to pack up all the crap I have stacked all over my office…but I digress again.   So I sat there wondering how in the devil I was going to teach someone how to layer emotion into a story. How in the world had I come up with that topic? Dunno. Must have been one of those nights when I’d drank too much wine and felt powerful or something.

Which brings to point my question in this blog post. Yes. Finally. A point. Is craft really all that important? Can you be taught to layer emotion into a scene or is it better to rely upon your gut instinct and write the dang scene how you wish it to be written? Basically, what I’m asking is did I waste another hour or two banging out a list of four tools to place in a writer’s kit to enhance the emotion of a scene? Hmmm. I wonder.

Oh, don’t worry. I don’t think I failed in my blog post for RU. It’s likely informative and evocative. Whoever might read it could actually find something worthwhile. She might actually examine her tone and mood more carefully or even make sure there are symbols embeded which breadcrumb her theme throughout. Heck, the reader may get out a fine-toothed comb and drag it over the dialogue to make sure it vibrates with emotion. But I wonder if it will actually give her a better, emotionally-charged scene.

What do you think? It’s basically which comes first? The chicken or the egg? Or rather nature versus nurture. Are you born with an innate voice that makes your scenes spark? Or can you be taught through books, blogs and workshops how to rise from the slush pile and stand out among all others?

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8 Responses

  1. Well, thanks Liz! I really didn’t want to think so hard this early in the morning, but….LOL

    I think alot of it has to do with your unique style. No one will say something the exact same way or experience something with all the same emotions. But, I do think we can always learn a few things along the way that will help make us better writers and push us outside the box. I can see how much I have improved and grown as a writer over the years and it’s a combination of books, workshops and plain just sitting down to write. Just my two cents. 😉

  2. ya know I’m giving a workshop at NOLA on created compelling characters, right?

    Yeah…blinking cursor. on my screen. me scratching my head LOL

    *makes note to steal your RU post*

    but anyway, I think on some level everyone has some natural skill set at writing. rather it’s the characters, the emotions, the scenery, senses, grammar, something. the rest can be taught.

  3. Craft can definitely be taught and the right tools can really help elevate a scene from blah to great. And the best writers I know are still studying craft after years of producing wonderful books.

    That said, I think there is an innate talent involved in writing. It’s like sports. Nearly anyone can be taught to dribble and shoot a basketball, and if they have the desire to work hard enough, even those gifted with less than average athletic ability can have a level of success because they developed those skills to the ultimate, while the ‘gifted’ athlete didn’t work quite as hard, didn’t learn the playbook quite as well, and is therefore no more consistently good despite their superior ability.

    And then there are those very few who have both– the exceptional gift and the unceasing drive. And they become the legends…Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods (yeah, yeah, but we’re talking about golf here). Or, in our world…Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien.

  4. You know, funny thing. I’m in the process of moving…like this weekend. So I’m cleaning out cabinents. The usual. And so this morning, I encounter all my old contest entries that I HAD to save. As if I need anything else to batter my ego than holding on to the scathing comment sheets I got. But in doing so, I noticed some pretty telling things. Yes, I have a natural talent, but I learned how to write from critiques, faceless judges, and harsh editors and agent. The little marks on the page the pointed out POV shifts, repetition, lazy writing, have helped me grow as a writer.

    So, I guess what I’m admitting, is maybe I didn’t waste my time. Maybe I have learned a good deal of craft to serve as the seasoning for my talent (which at times is doubtful too.)

  5. I’m with your last comment, Liz. I know that part of my struggle in getting published is my learning curve. (I thought I’d done that in learning to write nonfiction.) Part of it is undoubtedly my reluctance to submit, waiting until the mythical day when I have everything perfect. I have learned a HUGE lot in mastering POV (not to say that I’m there: I still surprise myself by finding I’ve head hopped), pace, conflict, etc. None of which matter in nonfiction.
    But if I hadn’t had the drive to write in the first place and I hope some innate talent, none of the craft knowledge would have been worth a tinker’s damn.

  6. I think there is a learning curve, when it coming to writing. I do think, within boundaries, to be taught.

    But I could have written Beppie’s response. I want everything perfect (ahhh, that mythical day) before I submit!

    All in all, I have to say…Ditto, Beppie!

  7. One good activity to allay the fear of rejection/failure is to have one or more trusted readers (not family or friends) read your work and comment. Even better is to build or find a (writers’) peer group in which you also read and give your reactions. Taking your work public, even in small steps, helps to overcome the anxieties of exposing your work (and you) to criticism or luke-warm responses. Tim

  8. Hi Liz…loved all the digressions and can’t wait for the next book.

    I really think a writer has to have a little natural story-telling ability. And if you struggle with adding emotion onto the page, find a great critique partner who will point out where you’re lacking, so you can fix it.

    ~~Angi

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