The Briar Patch is a local bookstore near my house. I love it there and go there often. Very often, normally a few times a week, though my record is three visits in one day. My friends and I go there to obsess about books and look for new books, and even when we don’t buy anything (we’re only a bunch of schoolgirls who don’t have that much money), the people who work there don’t mind because they’re book nerds too and they get it.
This past Tuesday, Dusti Bowling, a middle-grade author came to the Briar Patch for a book signing. I admit that before that night, I had no idea who she was and wasn’t really sure if I wanted to go to her signing. However, I’m now so glad that I decided to go.
Dusti Bowling is the author of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, as well as 24 Hours in Nowhere, The Day We Met, and The Boy Who Loved Me. I’m currently reading Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, and once I’ve read enough to make an accurate review, I’ll definitely post one.
I went with my friend Nova, A Fangirl’s Insights, you should check out her blog too! Anyway, after the initial rush of people getting their books signed, the store was mainly quiet. To explain why we wanted her signature even though we had never read her books, I mentioned we both wanted to be authors. She immediately, got up, led us to a small area with some chairs, and sat down with us to answer any questions we had about writing. She ended up talking with us for almost an hour.
I can’t write down everything she told us about, but here are some pointers she gave us that could be helpful to any aspiring writers.
The beginning of a story is extremely important because this is where readers decide if they actually want to read your writing. Dusti Bowling gave us a sequence that should be followed when beginning a story: by the end of your first page, readers should know who your protagonist is. Not information about them, but a bit about their personality, something shown in a few of their actions or the way they speak. Once readers know your protagonist, move as quickly as possible to the inciting event. “People aren’t going to read for five chapters for the story to get going, you need to move to your plot as quickly as possible.” Lastly, don’t info-dump. Don’t give huge quantities of background information at the beginning, if you do this before a reader is invested they’ll get bored.
Only Start if You’re Passionate:
Never start a piece of writing if you aren’t passionate about it; chances are, if you don’t strong aspire to create whatever your idea is, you aren’t going to finish it. Don’t try to write something that you don’t really want to write, save your time for the pieces that you truly care about.
Know the Outcome:
The end of the book is what resonates with a reader. An amazing ending can turn a mediocre book into that readers will remember and come back too; an ending that is anticlimactic after a book full of wonderful writing will cause your book to fall flat. Especially with longer pieces of writing, decide on your ending at the beginning of your writing process.
It’s Okay to Use Said:
Many English teachers create a taboo on said. They’re wrong. The thing about said is that it’s invisible. Readers see it so much that our eyes glaze over it. If you try to substitute another word in its place, that word most of time will draw attention to itself. If someone retorts something, people attention will go to the word, retort, and it will draw them out of the story. Other than shouted, yelped, whispered, murmured, it’s fine to use the word said as much as you like. Better yet don’t use any tags at all, just keep the dialogue. As long as readers can tell who’s talking, you don’t need to specify it after every quote.
Find a Writing Group:
It’s important to read and edit your writing, but it’s also very helpful to find a group of people who you can talk with about your writing. For many people, it’s easier to be motivated working with other people, and it can be helpful to have a friendly writing group to help you meet your goals and refine your writing.
Combatting Writer’s Block:
Write. This quote of Dusti’s might not be exactly word for word, but it was something along the lines of: “Just write anything. A dinosaur could come into the room, then he begins to eat an ice-cream sundae… It doesn’t matter if what you write is completely random and you get rid of it, but what you need to do for writer’s block is just to write-through it.”
Dusti Bowling was so friendly and gave us so much helpful general and personal advice. In the back of the store, talking so animatedly about writing, she gave me so much confidence in what I could create with my writing.
Sorry I haven’t posted in a while! First I got cold, and lately I’ve felt like I’m drowning in schoolwork and responsibilities. But I’ll try to post more regularly!
Have you guys ever met any truly inspiring authors? Tell me about your experiences in the comments!