Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Writing Life by Marian Allen, Guest Blogger

I met Marian Allen online when she participated in a blog book tour class given by Dani Greer, and I had signed on as a helper alum from last summer's class. It is my pleasure to have Marian as my guest today to tell about her personal path to publication. And please take notice of the cover art for Eel's Reverence. Isn't it stunning, and kind of eerie? I love that cover.

To read more of the posts on Marian's Tour, you can review her complete schedule. Tomorrow she'll be at Bodie Parkhurst's Blog: Speak! Good Dog!


My Writing Life by Marian Allen

When I was little, my mother took me to a re-release of BAMBI. Thumper recited a poem with a funny ending and said, "I made that last part up myself." I said, "He can't do that!" Mom said, "Somebody made up this movie. They got paid for it." I knew I wanted to write.

I already got in trouble for daydreaming. I remember wanting to learn my letters, to connect them into words and sentences and put my daydreams on paper.

By the sixth grade, I was writing stories and giving them to my teacher to read. She sent one to a contest, where it won honorable mention. That began my acquaintanceship with marketing.

In college, I wrote a novel. It started out as a parody of romantic suspense, with deliberately stereotyped characters and situations. As I wrote, I got interested in the characters and they grew. The plot took its own twists and turns. The conversations carried me in directions I hadn't expected.

When I finished that book, I wrote another. Then another. Then another.

By that time, I could see the flaws in the first one, and it was obvious why I hadn't been able to sell it. I've rewritten it several times since then, each time learning. I still haven't sold it, but it's a good book, and it will sell, once I get it right.

My second, third and fourth novels were picked up by early electronic publishers (Access Press and Serendipity Systems). They're soon to be re-issued in various electronic formats by Echelon, EEL'S REVERENCE in July of 2010.

I'm a member of the Southern Indiana Writers Group, and we publish an annual anthology of members' work. Writing and critiquing those stories keep our creative and critical muscles strong. And short stories are far easier to sell than novels!

Here's some advice I gave a young friend who asked how she could possibly succeed as a writer when there's so much competition:

As for how you can possibly succeed as a writer, ask yourself what you mean by "succeed". Do you mean "write well"? That's what I mean by success, and competition has nothing to do with that. Other writers can only teach me things and help me. They aren't my competition; they're my colleagues. Do you mean "sell and make money"? My only hope of that is to write as well as I can, with MY imagination and MY voice and MY skills, and to submit and keep improving and keep submitting.

I've never known a good writer who wasn't generous with his or her advice or help. That's because most writers are readers, and want as many good writers to succeed as possible so they'll have more good books to read.

Relax. Write!


Marian, thank you so much for sharing your story. It has been a pleasure having you here. To learn more about Marian and her books, please visit her combination website/blog Marian Allen where she posts about fantasies, mysteries, comedies and recipes. Her part one and part two posts about publishing on Kindle and Smashwords may be of special interest.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good advice, Marian. I have no plans to make a lot of money as an author, but if I write well enough that others enjoy it, then that's hitting the bullseye.

Marian Allen said...

The number one best "sale" I ever made or ever will make was a piece I wrote about my late mother-in-law, imagining her thoughts and feelings about getting up on Sunday morning and making the Sunday open-house meal she had every week for her six grown children and their spouses and any offspring. She read it and said, very quietly, "How do you know all this?" I said, "You told me, a little bit here and a little bit there." With tears in her eyes, she said, "I didn't think anybody was listening." No amount of money could ever equal that.

Marian Allen

Karen Walker said...

Wow. Thanks, Patricia, for hosting Marian. And thanks, Marian, for these words about writing. It is how I feel about it as well. Those words from your mother-in-law are priceless.

Anonymous said...

Patricia - Thanks for hosting Marian.

Marian - You really offer such terrific insight about writing. I think people who write do tend to do what some people call "daydreaming." It's really a process of being in touch with one's imagination and creativity. And I was really touched by your story of your mother-in-law. Wow! I think it shows that writers are also recorders of what they see around them. In way, they're like town criers, even when they write fiction.

Finally, I agree with you about other writers: what a supportive and helpful group they are!! I learn so much from writers, and they're always happy to give their insights.

N. R. Williams said...

You nailed it Marian. I also like the short about your mother-in-law. How touching, and I'm glad she had the chance to read what you had written.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

There are no people in the world like writer's.
How wonderful that you touched your mother-in-law that way. It is a memory for both of you and I hope you make many more.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Marion -- Your mother-in-law story must have meant so much to her. I think it's characteristic that we humans drop little hints about ourselves and assume no one is paying attention. This is a good lesson.

Marian Allen said...

Poet Alice Friman passed along the image of the window with four panes. The first is what we know about ourselves and show others. The second is what we know about but others don't. The third is what others know about us but we don't know or don't realize we show. The fourth is what no one knows (but, in the case of a character, the writer does!) What touched Mrs. Allen was that I wrote about things she thought she kept in her heart but that anyone could see or imagine if they paid attention.

Everybody does this or approaches doing this when they say things like, "What was he thinking?" Or "What did she hope to get out of that?" Writers don't just say those things as a way of saying, "I don't understand." Writers imagine. Writers, like detectives, ask, "Why WOULD somebody think this was something that was worth the effort? What DID he think? What WAS the payoff for her?"

Dang! I think I just wrote another blog post! lol!

Marian Allen

Patricia Stoltey said...

That's a great topic and a new angle for a blog post, Marian. I like it.


Great advice Marian it was great for you to be on Patricia's Blog.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree. Decent writer are very generous with sharing their wisdom and experiences with the world. For free.

I've had many ideas stoeln from me over the years, even though the recipients probably never heard ofme or red my blog. So I can relate.

Stephen Tremp

Anonymous said...

Gosh darn, I keep getting something tacked onto my signature line. Gotta get that fixed. Scratch that last paragraph please.

Stephen Tremp

Patricia Stoltey said...

LOL, Stephen.

Simon Hay said...

Hi Marian. I absolutely agree about good writers being generous. The support online in the writing community is fantastic! I like the new blog post idea too: writers are like detectives. Nice to meet you. Happy writing.

Marian Allen said...

I'm all about detectives. :) I used to work in accounting, and that was like being a detective, too! Is an account out of balance? You had to search the records to find it. Inspired guesswork plus knowing details plus slogging "footwork" equaled success. Did you know there's a discipline called "forensic accounting"? Follow the money....

Oh, dear, there I go on another post....

Marian Allen

Patricia Stoltey said...

Marian, I also have an accounting background. Maybe that's why my Willie character turned out to be a CPA? I think you should run with that post idea, too.

Jim and Karen Overturf said...

That is an absolutely right on truth, Marian! We do all love reading, and the more reading available, the more we have a chance to enjoy, and learn, and succeed! By the way, Eel's Reverence is an excellent allegorical story! Good writing, Marian!