Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Guest Blogger Janice Hardy: Executing the Idea

I'm very excited to announce a special guest blogger for this week, Janice Hardy, author of THE HEALING WARS series! I've heard many wonderful things about the first book The Shifter and the second book, Blue Fire, was just released October 5th. Thanks for joining us!

Executing the Idea

Back on September 29, there was a post here on the Chasm about which was more important: the idea, or the execution. It got me thinking about how both are vital, but each takes precedence at different points of your writing career. Focusing too much on one at the wrong time might even cause you some extra headaches. (And might even be the reason for some common headaches most writers go through.)

Finding Your Feet
When you first start out writing, I think it’s all about execution. Ideas are great, but until you learn your craft and build that foundation of skills, the best ideas aren’t going to get you anywhere. Also, having a familiar story or trope takes some of the pressure off, so you can focus more on the technical aspects of writing. Learning how to put a great sentence together, build paragraphs that draw you along, create imagery that brings a world to life, are vital skills you’ll need to craft great scenes and chapters.
Because writing builds off itself. Understanding what makes an effective paragraph takes the same basic structure (and skill set) that writing an effective scene does: something interesting to catch your attention, compelling info to keep you reading, and something at the end that intrigues you to move to the next piece.

Learning to Walk
After you’ve developed your basic writing skills and have a solid understanding of the mechanics of writing, ideas become more important. It’s time to train yourself to execute your ideas in a compelling way. It’s about learning to be a storyteller and finding your voice. What are the best ways to deliver your story to the reader? That’s more than just words on a page, it’s how those words are organized into scenes, how those characters are built, how that world is crafted. The writing doesn’t have to be perfect or even all that great as long as the story unfolds the way you want it to.

Learning to Run
Eventually you’ll get to a point where your story is working as intended, but you know you can make the prose better. It’s time to go back to execution. Most likely, it’s the subtleties of writing you’ll be focusing on now. The tiny tweaks that turn good prose into great prose. Tightening your pacing, clarifying dialog and internalization, smoothing your narrative flow. The polish that will make your writing shine.

Taking Flight
By the time you’re submitting to agents and editors, it’s all about the idea, because everyone who gets published is, by default, writing at a professional level. Even if you disagree what “good” means, (it is subjective) you have to be good to even be considered. What sets one well-written book apart from the next on the stack is the idea. It’s possible (and not uncommon) to start querying before you’ve reached a professional level, so never be afraid to step back and reevaluate your writing if you get a lot of rejections. You might be a great writer, and be really close to getting your work out there, but you still have a few more steps to take. Those who can say, “okay, I know my idea is great, but my execution needs a tad more work” are those who will probably see their name in print. Just like those who know they write beautifully, and are willing to step back to find that perfect idea to showcase their skills will.

Ideas and execution. You do need both, but I think trying to do both at the same time all the
time can be overwhelming. There are times when one is needed over the other, and developing
both skills at different times can help build a writing foundation that is solid all the way through.

Janice Hardy's Bio
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

Blue Fire Blurb
Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

For more information on Janice Hardy and her books, check out her website and her blog.

Check out Blue Fire at Barnes and Noble, or Borders!


Vonna said...

You are right, Janice. I think I practiced the first three steps, finding my feet, learning to walk and learning to run, as I wrote my first novel, then rewrote it, and rewrote it several more times. By the time I was ready to move on to a new story, I realized this novel shouldn't go anywhere but under my bed. But the learning experience it provided was priceless.

Janice Hardy said...

Same here. Every time I'd learn something new I'd revise my "starter novel" to incorporate it. The later ones went so much easier.

Brittany said...

Great post, Janice!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great advice Janice. Not only do you break it down, but you also make it sound like those of us who can think about what we're doing and study the craft can get it and be a good author. Thanks.

Janice Hardy said...

I believe anyone who puts in the work can be successful. It might not be easy, and "success" may vary, but writing is a skill like any other. It's something you can learn. Combine that with a talent for storytelling and you stand a great chance at seeing your name in print one day.

Jaleh D said...

Interesting with the alternation between both. Execution, idea, execution, idea. I know that I still need a great deal of work on my execution. But practice will get me there, eventually.

Janice Hardy said...

It will indeed. It's a lot like bootstrapping your way up. Each new piece you learn helps you understand the next in line, and eventually you find yourself at the top. And it just kinda happens one day. You look around and realize the view is so much clearer for some reason. Things just click into place.