Hacking the Writer’s Life by Janine Donoho

Primitive RoadNo one who knows me would accuse me of being a computer hacker. While the scope of digital life offered by computer, GPS, and yes, the Samsung devices beloved of Intrepid Guy, offer benefits, I occasionally need to read manuals. Despite my ongoing lust for cool tech, a smart phone or tablet’s at least a year into my future, mostly given where we live and the coverage we don’t yet enjoy.

Yet living a writer’s life requires hacks, too. For what is hacking other than breaking a code and getting where you are most likely not invited? Allow me to share a few with you.

Life hack #1: Feeding the brain via two universities, three community colleges, and then working as a gasp! woman in male-dominated fields.

Why is any of this pertinent to a writer? You learn to finish what you start, often under less than stellar conditions.

PupsicleLife hack #2: Winter version: Yaktrax, poles, neck gaiter, and ear warmers with the equivalent layering for the Italian greyhound. This gets us moving while preventing the dreaded pupsicle syndrome.

Yes, dear writers, we need to exercise our torpid bodies. Blood flow’s necessary to our hyperactive brains.

Bleh, bleh, bleh. But what does it take to become an author?” you ask.

Cover Collection 2Life hacks #3-12: Write a bodacious novel—or a googolplex of stories—or whatever it takes to learn your craft. Here’s a glimpse of my current oeuvres. Plus there’s the forthcoming launch of Soundings, Water Elemental in February 2015.

It’s a circuitous trail into hacking a writer’s life. No shortcuts here. Luck is involved—along with learning craft, critical thinking, and long hours in the writing chair. Although another hack has been my standing desk…

So while the initial burst of creative juices might trigger that moment of ah-ha along with entire scenes, character sketches, and plot devices, as writers we hack our way to core story, into character, and through process.

And those, my friends, are the subjects of future blogs. I hope you’ll join me for them, too. Until then, I recommend a daily hack attack into your own writer’s life.Tools of my trade

On Relevance – Part II by Janine M. Donoho

The view from our balcony in Leavenworth.
I had the opportunity to attend Write on the River in Wenatchee this May. Actually, my friend and critique partner Anjali Banerjee was a speaker, so we made it a girlfriend weekend of three that included best buddy and fellow writer Kate Breslin. Since Kate ended up coming a day late due to her spousal unit’s truly wretched bout of gastroenteritis, on Friday before the conference I assisted Anjali as she visited two schools. Incredible writer and presenter both, she gave four different and delightfully relatable programs for various elementary school grades. Introducing her, then juggling props, especially wrapping and unwrapping children in a stunning sari that belonged to her mother, I got a good taste of the peripheral nature of a sidekick. Yes, ‘relatable’ and ‘peripheral nature’ both refer to relevance.
 
Then on Sunday, opportunity again shone when Larry Brooks, who writes critically acclaimed thrillers, spoke passionately about The Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling. This offered another view of storytelling as espoused by Christopher Vogler’s “The Writer’s Journey” and more recently by Donald Maass’ “Writing the Breakout Novel”. However, Larry’s approach, soon to be followed by his book on the subject, clarified the process even further. One of the samples he gave for dissection was the movie Collateral, starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Fox. Dutiful student of the craft that I am, the movie arrived via NetFlix the following week. It delivered on all of Larry’s elements.
 
However, the shocker of the day arrived as an aside. Larry claimed that actual writing, that sublime weaving of words, comes in dead last when weighed against concept, theme, character, structure, scene execution and writing voice. Last.


Leavenworth goat–apropos of this writer’s journey.
As a writer enthralled with both the import and nuance of words, this served as a body blow. All the books on my shelves, also known as ‘keepers’, are well written. However, Larry’s notion does explain many of the big brands in publishing, some of whom no longer write their own novels. So to be relevant to publishers, the six core competencies are paramount, while beauty and specificity of your words rank much lower. Ouch.
 

Which means I need to review my stories for those competencies–again. Maybe you’ll want to do the same. Perhaps publishers will overlook that they’re also delivered with well-written language. We want to be relevant after all.

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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