When the time came to select a panel of judges for the fiction panel of this month’s HubPatron of the Arts contest, lmmartin was an obvious choice. Having been the primary Hubber behind last year’s Dark and Stormy Night contest, she is already well-versed in prose-oriented competitions. Additionally, lmmartin is one of the top experts on HubPages in the field of publishing, as she herself has recently published a novel (titled This Bird Flew Away) along with many useful Hubs guiding readers through the process of becoming a published author and finding success in the writing world.
Lmmartin genersouly agreed to answer some interview questions to give us a better understanding of her background, as well as to offer fiction writers interested in entering the HubPatron of the Arts contest some tips that will give them a leg up in the competition!
HubPages: What drives you to write?
lmmartin: I have always written. Writing seems to be an integral part of my being, something I was born with. Even as a young child, I “published” my own books, writing stories, illustrating them, preparing covers and sewing them up one side with yarn. While writing may have taken a back seat at points in my life, the need remained.
So the honest, full answer to your question would be this: I don’t know what drives me to write. I only know I must.
On Hubpages, you’ve written quite a few very helpful Hubs giving advice to commercial and creative writers. What inspired you to create them?
I coach a number of new writers in my “spare” time, something I find to be very rewarding. There seems to be a myth out there that an understanding of the basics of writing: construction, plotting, character development, the mechanics of dialogue, even basic grammar are not necessary so long as one has something of interest to say.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. What makes for good writing is not the premise, the subject matter, the ideas – no matter how brilliant – but the treatment given in presentation. The best of subjects fails if written unintelligibly or comes off flat and boring. I’ve recently reviewed work by someone who has great talent with words, but whose plot is so complex, folding back on itself, full of flash-backs and littered with any number of unnecessary and undeveloped characters, it was impossible to read. So much for the beautiful words!
All new writers need to get a handle on the fundaments of the writing craft. As I ran into the same problems time and again in the work submitted, I decided it would be better to write several articles explaining some of these basic skills to which I could refer writers, rather than continually repeat the same things on an individual basis.
So the Good Writing Is… series was born, along with a couple of others – What makes a writer? and The Absolute Necessity of Checking Your Facts.
I hope they’ve been useful.
You recently published a novel titled This Bird Flew Away. Could you tell us a bit more about it?
For quite some time I’ve been disturbed by portrayals in the popular media of survivors of childhood trauma and abuse. I understand that sensationalism sells but the overall depiction is so far removed from reality as I’ve seen it, so twisted, dark and perverted. If such was the general truth, considering the true number of such incidents we’d live in a very sick society indeed. And we, the viewers and readers seem to have accepted this, throwing about such hopeless terms for survivors as “ruined lives.” How unfair to the millions who have gone on to live fulfilling lives despite their unhappy histories.
I wanted to write something closer to real life, to honor the strength and resilience of children, to portray the path of healing as I’ve come to know it and offer a more authentic portrayal of survivors complete with those scars they will carry but full of optimism – for such is life, real life.
Of course, it was necessary to write all this in an interesting, fast-paced story peopled with complex characters and their relationships. It was the most difficult story I’ve ever written, but I like to think I succeeded. Although sales are slow (whose aren’t these days?) reviews have been favorable and This Bird Flew Away was recently honored as a finalist for literary fiction in the National Indies Excellence Book Awards.
Readers who want to know more can go to the novel’s website.
Your novel is currently on a virtual book tour. Could you tell us more about that? How do virtual book tours work and how can they benefit authors?
Interesting you should ask this, as I recently wrote a Hub on this subject, part of my Penurious Promoter series which tackles the difficult task of promoting a book on a small (or non-existent) budget, a task that makes writing the book look easy.
So instead of reiterating all that information here, allow me to point interested readers to my hub. (After all, isn’t that what hubs are for?) Look for #5, All About Book Tours.
As a judge on the creative writing panel of the HubPatron of the Arts contest, what will you be looking for in entries?
Two things must come together to make good fiction. The first is an interesting premise, the story, itself and the second is its treatment, the use of all the mechanics of the writing craft most of which I’ve mentioned above.
I will be looking for both in equal measure.
The best of stories won’t work without the skills of good writing and even a master of writing techniques cannot make a dull story come to life.
What advice would you give to aspiring fiction writers on Hubpages?
Forget about markets, fame and financial rewards. They are unlikely to come your way – very unlikely.
Write because you want to, because the story must come to life. Write and rewrite (and rewrite again) until it is the best it can be.
Finishing the book is success. Anything beyond that is icing on the cake.
Do not share your work until it is ready. But if you must, be prepared to accept criticism with an open mind and your emotions turned off. (Tough, I know.)
If you are serious about developing as a writer, try and find a mentor – a good editor or a discerning reader, someone who knows the craft. I learned more from my editor, Kathryn Lynn Davis, than I did from all the courses and workshops I’ve taken put together.
Never give up. By this, I don’t mean keep flogging that old manuscript that isn’t working no matter what. Know when to put it away and start something new. Always be working on (which includes thinking about) your next project. With each effort you will improve.
Make writing a part of your daily life. Learn all you can. Read voraciously and learn from other writers.
Most importantly, write from the heart. Forget genres, formulas, happily-every-after’s, market trends and go where your writer’s spirit takes you.
Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts here. Good luck to everyone.
For more information about the HubPatron of the Arts contest, visit the official contest page.