Friday, December 21, 2007

Blogging versus Writing: Time Wasted or Time Well Spent?

As with anything worth having, there is always a load of work involved and for a writer that usually entails hours and hours of research, proofing and editing apart from the freeform creative flow we so readily enjoy. This is (naturally) time worth investing in our literary careers and time well spent in establishing credibility for ourselves as authors and as time has proven, even bloggers. But in the end some might say this is also time lost doing the one thing we are supposed to be doing: writing. Right?


Okay, I know what you are saying and I have read many other perspectives on the matter and one argument is this: If we are blogging then we are writing. And that is absolutely true. And the other side of the spectrum says: if you spend all your time blogging (like I am doing right now) then you aren’t truly writing at all. Naturally this argument is based on the notion that when an author is writing we are (supposed to be or at least should be) working on new material—a character sketch, an outline, a draft for our next short-story or novel—not talking about what we are supposed to be doing, but doing what we say we do. But this isn't always the case and in my opinion if you find yourself stuck in a rut so to speak with your current project, then why not slay the mental block and press onward by simply veering off course in a manner of changing topics and keep the creative wheels turning until you stumble upon that word or phrase you may have been looking for?

Here is my take on the topic. I think if you are not working on any new material at the moment--short-story, novel, screenplay, etc--then blogging is beneficial in the sense that you are putting your writing skills to practice. One of the hardest habits for a writer to instill within themselves is the practice of writing in some form of routine. I have two friends, both of which have been influential within my very young writing career--Britta Coleman, author of Potter Springs and Candace Havens, author of the Bronwyn the Witch series. Both of these authors are extremely talented and both very adamant about this very topic: "Writers write." That's what they say and that's what I believe.


Being that I (try) to write new material everyday when I am consumed with my latest project, I believe you lose valuable time in developing a story if you dedicate too much time to "talking about writing" or blogging. But yet still, even that concept isn't entirely true. I believe if you share enough about yourself—such as your experiences (with your latest project perhaps) with the blogging community—then you are indeed working to maintain credibility and hopefully a readership by simply identifying with an audience and allowing them to partake on your writing journey as you work to complete your next story. I think you do have to learn to cut back on your time dedicated to journaling/blogging and use that time towards working on your current project whatever that might be. It is easy to get side-tracked and even easier to lose a creative streamline of ideas if you allow yourself to be pulled into too many directions at once, as blogging requires one format for writing and creating a novel an entirely different approach.


But in defense of my journalistic side, my inner-blogger if you will, I say blogging is highly beneficial in the sense that if you maintain a consistent ritual for posting informative and sometimes creative blogs, then you are at the very least writing...and in writing and working to maintain some credibility, you have to implement some of the same literary tactics as you would when creating a new story, like research, editing, proof-reading to name a few examples. Take this article for instance. I read a posting from April of this year entitled, "Blogging is About Writing" written by Lorelle VanFossen. In this particular blog the author details and highlights some thirty points to consider when drafting your next blog and one of them (the one that caught my eye while researching the draft for this particular blog) was: “Blog writing is about editing.” I thought this concept was perfect because like myself, each time I post a blog—and they aren’t nearly as habitual as those more practiced bloggers on the web—I spend an ample amount of time re-reading and reviewing my material before I finally submit for post. Another point to consider is number four on her list: Make Your Point in the First 200 Words. How many times have we read this when reviewing or skimming articles and guidelines posted by editors within publishing houses? If you can’t capture your audience's attention in the first chapter, page or (worse) the first paragraph, you are in a lot of trouble.


This particular blog posted by Lorelle VanFossen is extremely helpful and it proves my argument that unless you are working on a new project, then blogging can become beneficial to your writing career if you utilize some of the same tactics for creating a blog as you might a new story. Coming into your own practice of writing is critical in setting the foundational pieces for becoming (essentially) a writer. Like my friends Candy and Britta say: writers write. You are what you believe you are…and you are because you do it. You may not have your next story on the tip of your tongue (or pen for that matter) but you would be surprised to discover how much more the creative juices will trickle and flow when you put the concept of writing on a daily basis to a test. I currently have five first chapters written, in draft form for what will eventually become my next five novels. Now, it may take me fifty years to finish them or maybe ten, or perhaps even less, but the object of the game is to participate and learn and you cannot learn how to write more effectively unless you practice.


So, do I believe blogging is an effective form of practice for the would-be writer? Yes of course; but I also believe that you should reduce the amount of time you dedicate to articles and how-to’s if you are presently involved with your latest story. Stop every once in a while and share some details and insight into the thought process of what you are doing with your audience and readership. We readers love to know the inside scoop of how an author came to the decisions and conclusions for creating their literary masterpiece. But you must be careful not to get caught in the trap of talking about writing more than you are in actively creating new material. If you have ambitions of becoming a published novelist or career writer, then you're just going to have to silence the world long enough to breathe, medicate, think and eventually write.
Do what you were born to do. Do what you believe you can do. Now is the time to stop talking about doing it and just...do it...


Right? Let me know what you think....


Sincerely,
Bobby Ozuna author of Proud Souls www.BobbyOzunaOnline.com

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Ladder of Success: One Step at a Time

I apologize if this comes across as mass solicitation, but I felt inclined to share some insightful, astounding and yet educational news.

Like many of us, I am a writer and I am passionate about books and all things literary—literally (no pun intended). Like some of you, I have struggled in coming to terms with a decision, one surrounded by mass controversy within the literary realm--and that was the decision to self-publish and promote my own writing or hold out until I landed a deal with a traditional (and larger) book publishing firm.

I wrote about my decision to release my first title under my own imprint earlier in the year in a blog entitled “
To Publish or Not To Publish.”. I felt inclined to share some information about how I was feeling more than what I thought the decision would do to my writing career. Needless to say, since then, I have learned quite a bit and on many-a-night, while working to review blogs, post query letters to fellow writers/reviewers, etc, I can honestly say there are times I wish I held out—at least a few moments more. But in the end, I wouldn’t trade it for anything; isn’t it the thrill of the ride, the sudden drops and breaks and loops that keeps us coming back for more?

Hindsight is 20/20; at least that’s what dad always said. I am sure we would all go back and do (some) things differently if we had the chance. But this isn’t a letter about how I feel after not holding out but rather a reminder to each of us that the pursuit of a dream can be a lifelong chase and we shouldn’t measure our successes by whether or not we become the next great author, well, overnight.

I read an article earlier in the summer in Writer’s Digest about an author who had previously published titles to her credit with a major publishing house but yet couldn’t find success with her present release. (At the time of the article naturally this particular book was published…more on that later). She, being a previously published author, described some of the same feelings as many of us writers who were yet to taste our first moment of bliss with mass publication and a large publishing house. She shared the same frustrations and doubt. I thought that was pretty interesting. Here I was battling with my own decisions, worrying that I might somehow ruin my career as a writer—a career mind you that I may still never fulfill—and here was this traditionally published author struggling to find a house, even her own previous house, to take on her next project.

So…what did she do? Good question.

This artist took it upon herself to study and learn the industry, not from a writer’s perspective, but from the business angle of writing. If you are in the midst of releasing your own titles, then you know that is no easy task. The headaches and sleepless nights and lost feeling of being discovered by the world as some would-be, wanna-be author, posing as a legitimate writer somehow behind blogs and banners and how-to articles, can be harder than the re-write process and even harder still than the day you decided to take up the pen and write your first draft.

Earlier this year I made my decision and my life hasn't been the same since. Like the author mentioned in Writer’s Digest I have created my own imprint--Ozuna Publications, owning full rights to the ISBN, copyright and all things related to my novel, "
Proud Souls." I have worked the past two years to polish, edit (and have edited) my story, along with countless hours of research to essentially learn the other side of the literary business--the business aspect of writing. I have studied marketing books and blogs, collaborated ideas with other writers in person and via the web and I have even taken a grass-roots approach to marketing and publicizing my work. I can say this: If I were one inclined to "rush to the top" with overly zealous ambitions of becoming an overnight success or (or even a) best-selling author, publishing under my own imprint would have been the WRONG decision. But spending the past few days reviewing some “top” notch blog sites and review columns, etc, I have to say I was a bit taken in by this sudden rush of personal accomplishment. In the words of others I could traces of my own footprints in the sand behind me, telling myself that I may not be far down the road but I am indeed moving forward.


The ladder of success in the literary world is a long narrow path in which only a handful may ever testify to what is actually at the top of the steps. But looking back now, let’s say 2 years ago to the summer of 2005 and knowing that I took the pen to the paper in July of that summer and wrote the first 60,000 words of my novel within a three month timeframe. And then looking back further to the summer of 2003 when I wrote the first fourteen pages to a potential short-story that I couldn’t end and looking at myself today, four years (+) after my initial attempt at writing the “great American novel” we all so desperately wish to produce, I am honored to say that I may never reach the top of the stairs, but at least I am high enough to look back and see the first step. And I think it’s something we should all do, so as not to become burdened by our own inabilities and shortcomings but rather toot our own horn and pat our own backs and give praise to our accomplishments because in time, with collaboration, research and a little effort, we are moving our way upwards, one rung at a time.

It hasn’t been easy and everyday is a challenge, a challenge to write a new query, working to doctor a poetic plea of those more professional online bloggers whose reviews and opinions and criticisms have obtained an honest online following, hoping that somehow they might say, who is this writer and what is this story and what about them (this man and his story) are worth my time and feedback? There is the challenge of maintaining a website with (hopefully) some content worth reading. There is the challenge of collaborating ideas and networking with fellow writers, all working and racing one another for the ultimate prize—the title of published or at least noteworthy author.

No, it hasn’t been easy and I would never persuade a fellow artist to consider the path of self-publication unless you could find it within yourself to assume the role of marketer, publicist and agent, not to mention Public Relations coordinator and lastly (and most importantly gopher. I have managed to obtain my own imprint, with all categories and documents and stamps approving my “house” as the official owner of my (only) title, Proud Souls. With sweat and blood and time I have managed to register my novel with Ingram and obtained a Library of Congress Catalog Number and I have landed (at least thus far) one bookstore in the Fort Worth, Texas area willing to carry my title. I have some radio interviews lined up for the spring, a major one being with Linda Bagwell, host of the Books-N-Authors and All That Jazz radio feature, compliments of Weatherford College. There are more and more locations where I have practically shoved my foot in the door, slowing giving way to a window of opportunity, all for five minutes of glory. At times I feel like an actor on a stage play, struggling to see the faces of my critics, knowing if I don’t say the right words in just the right time, it will all be over and someone else will fall in behind me as the cycle of try-and-try again progresses ever onward. I do the blog thing but not as often as many others, but I try when I can to provide some form of inspiration and insight into my methodical process of creating my story, because as you know when you are involved in a project as important and as personal as your own book—there isn’t much else to discuss. We become boring and flat over time and “nerdy” for lack of a better word. Once upon a time I was animated in my willingness to discuss the Dallas Cowboys or pickup trucks and maybe even girls, but today I hoop and holler when someone says the words ISBN or barcode. Yes, the life of a writer is a lonely life indeed. Whatever friends you may acquire, if they don’t pass out with boredom by hearing you talk about the same thing over and over again, you should cling on to them with your Kung-Fu grip and put them on your Christmas list for surely they are a friend indeed.

I have learned a lot and struggled a lot more and I have come to appreciate the finer art of the publishing business and the credit those authors who have “made it” with all manner of credit they deserve. Nothing in this world comes free and you know (even if you we’re touching the topic of money), it isn’t worth having unless you have earned it. Do I want riches? No. I am a family man and during the day I pose as a modern day superhero—the network administrator—infamous and evenly mysterious with my PING’s and packets, the double-click’s and the dual core processors that maintain the very websites that may never publicize my work as a novelist. I am a family man who after cooking dinner and brushing teeth and validating homework assignments and green’s or red’s or yellow stars on the daily folder, stresses and worries that I won’t get to bed in enough time to be worth a darn the next day, knowing that I have to write the article, to tell the world, that I am no longer on the bottom looking up, but rather I am on the ladder, pressing forward one step at a time and with each The End and query letter, blog or newsletter blast I am one step closer to letting the world know that I am a writer—an author—a herald to the characters that are borne within my imagination. I look upon my name and my book on the Amazon.com storefront and say oh yes Bobby Ozuna, you are no longer sitting at the bottom of this literary ladder but indeed on a path towards accomplishing a personal goal. Amazon.com is not the finish line but merely another step towards personal achievements within this harsh and cruel and wonderful literary world.

In time there will be more reviews (from some of you I hope, my colleagues and fellow brothers and sisters at arms with pens and journals and metaphorical poeticism.) I am hoping to hear from you, those who wish to take upon the challenge of rating the would-be writer and his work, “his heart’s blood” as W. Somerset Maugham so eloquently put it. No desire of my own will ever surpass the validation of the true literary critics—you—the reader, the homemaker, the network administrator, who searches and longs for a place of solitude to escape the burdens of diapers and call centers—and relies upon our creativity to take them there.


So say to yourselves my friends and colleagues: I am a writer because that is what I am. It is the essence of my soul and neither prize nor admiration will ever make my story less than what it was the day it came to my imagination and it will never feel better than the day I fought to bring it to life.

I can’t wait to hear what you say….


~Bobby Ozuna

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Proud Souls" Chapter 1

This is the Introductory chapters, the Prelude and Chapter 1, to my debut novel, Proud Souls.
I don't know why, but I can't stand the sound of my own voice, as if reading my own work wasn't hard enough...now I have to read it!

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bobby--Unscripted

Welcome to the official Audio Blog for writer/author, Bobby Ozuna, powered by Hipcast.com

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Writing Dialogue: You Play The Part

Last night I was talking to some family and friends about my book, because naturally, when your passion is your art—well quite honestly—there isn’t anything else to talk about. One of the topics of discussion was the concept of dialogue. Primarily, they wanted to know how I created the conversations between characters. Now, for anyone who has attempted to write a scene, you know as well as I, dialogue can be one of the hardest parts of crafting any good story. Oftentimes when we are writing freehand or pounding away at the keyboard, what we interpret as clean, smooth dialogue, actually reads as choppy, blocked and essentially “fake” interpretations of how people actually interact with one another.

I remember years ago while Proud Souls was still in infancy form, running into this same scenario. In my mind I could see my characters interacting and it was as smooth as any scene on television. And to make it worse, after re-reading it (within MS Word), it still seemed to flow magically. Later, like I always do, I printed out my draft and later at night, when everyone would fall to sleep, I would read it aloud, again and again and the more I read the worst it sounded. I had fallen victim to the ever-present trap of formulating dialogue based on the concepts of good grammar and proper English. Needless to say I was stumped for lack of a better word and discouraged—more so than I already was. I stepped away from the scenes for a moment, continually taking mental notes however, preserving them within my mind for a later date.

One Sunday however I got my break. I have happened to become a fan of a show called Inside the Actor’s Studio, hosted by one James Lipton. If you haven’t seen the show, I highly recommend it. In an audience of Master’s Degree students, Mr. Lipton sits in a one-on-one session (so to speak) with many of the great actors of our generation. The environment is relaxed, allowing the guests to smoke a cigarette, have a glass of water, sit on a nice comfortable chair or by the end of the show, have a seat at the end of the stage, where they become readily accessible to the vast array of students and their inquiries. Knowing my passion is for writing and not acting (though I have been told to be something of a character myself) I realized something within the concepts detailed by many of the actors being interviewed. When on the subject of character development, and how so many great actors seem to take on the role of an entirely different person, insomuch that we believe wholeheartedly that they are indeed that person being portrayed on screen, many of the actors had a common approach to formulating and in essence taking on these roles. The answer was simple and I understood what I was missing within my writing.

When these actors are accepting their roles, based entirely on the producer/director’s concepts and visions and later a screenplay, many of the better actors shared how they immediately took on the role of their character, more importantly off the screen. The common consensus between these professionals was this: If they were to truly portray another human being, they would have to become that person for a moment in their lives, to see the reactions of the world around them and better understand their points-of-view and their prejudices, interests, likes and dislikes. And when they did this, they in turn, became that person they were asked to portray from the moment they accepted the role, thereby creating absolutely real fictitious characters.

And that was it! I understood then what I was missing in my own dialogue. If I was to create realistic scenes within my own fiction, I had to—in essence—become the characters themselves. Like these actors on the show, I accepted my role within the various characters of my story. And like an actor, I found a quiet room within my home, took my script or draft in my hand and with a pen, I began making corrections like a screenplay writer or director in a film and acted the scenes as they would appear on a stage. For instance, when the story opens with our hero Justin, sipping his whiskey on his porch swing, watching the darkness envelope his cabin, that was me. I waited for the sun to go down and I sat in a chair in the back of my home and I remained still and quiet, until all that encompassed me was darkness and solitude. In the scenes where Justin is interacting with Tessa Jameson, or with Reverend Polk or Ralph Parison, I took turns playing each part, studying the movements of my own body and natural idiosyncrasies while I spoke and relayed their dialogue. When I did this, I found a multitude of mistakes in my dialogue, much less artificial movements within my characters that indeed made my dialogue “fake.”

Take this example from Proud Souls. Without spoiling anything from the story, here is a scene where our protagonist Justin has his confrontation with the town pastor, Reverend Hillard Ray Polk. What I tried to capture within these few simple lines was not only voice (dialogue), but movement and internal thought process.

“You came here tonight for a reason son. I just want you to talk to me,” Polk said, searching for Justin’s face with his eyes. “Just talk. That’s all.”

In that example, Reverend Polk is addressing Justin in words easily interpreted as how one might talk. But if you notice, with the simple phrase “searching for Justin’s face with his eyes” it is easy for the reader to envision Reverend Polk possibly bending forward or moving his head side-to-side while he searches to make eye contact with Justin.
In continuing with this scene…

“I don’t know what to say,” Justin said. “Or where to start. I have so much anger running through my mind right now that I don’t know where to begin. I feel like I can’t see straight anymore.” He [Justin] ran his fingers through his long greasy hair and then scratched at his beard. “I don’t want to do it anymore.” I’m tired.

In this particular example we can [see] the character running his hands through his hair and then scratching his beard while he explains his feelings for the present situation. This particular passage ends with Justin thinking or saying to himself “I’m tired” allowing the audience to get inside his mental state to better understand the words he was [trying] to convey, being more than a simple I quit attitude, but actually an I give up state-of-mind.
And this state-of-mind is reiterated in a follow-up scene when Justin reaches a point where he wants to convey a message of potential suicide without ever saying the words And this was setup by the internal thoughts, movements and dialogue from previous scenes. Justin stood to continue his plea, waving his arms and hands in a manner of exclaiming his point. “They are dead! You understand that? I had a wife and a son and they are dead. Do you hear what the hell I am saying? They are dead and they left me alone here in this God forsaken world, to rot away, alone in some dirty cabin!”

Now I may never become a master artist at creating dialogue, but I do believe I have grasped a concept that is easily understood and can easily be applied by anyone wanting to add more depth to their interactive scenes. Besides that, when you are in the middle of a tough scene, working to find the right words to get over a particular hump, taking a moment to act out the scenes of your own story is one heck of a way to lessen the stress and quite simply laugh…
I’d love to hear what you think.

FUND a School Project today!!!

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