Author Carrie Dalby is back here with us again. Today she’s talking about relationships…
When I came up with this topic, I immediately thought of relationships between characters. But as a writer, relationships are much larger than what is in the book. Yes, you’re an artist creating stories, but you are also a professional and working with others is an important part of that. Let’s break it down.
As a writer, you’re in control (for the most part—sometimes the characters don’t do what you expect them to) for the relationships on the pages of the story. You need to make sure your characters interact with their family, friends, environment, etc. in a consistent manner—even if that means people at school/work/social settings see a different side of the character than the people at home. Whatever the character’s attitude is (even if it changes over the course of the book) needs to be real and logical for that individual. Otherwise the reader (see below) will have major issues with your story.
The reader will bring his own set of baggage to the story and will possibly see your characters differently than you. In early drafts of my novel Corroded, several beta readers HATED Mary Weber. On many of the dozens of rewrites, I focused on understanding what made her choose to do what she did and getting to know her better. In doing so, I was able to portray her in a more likeable manner, though readers don’t have to like or agree with characters to enjoy the story. (At least one of those readers still didn’t understand what made her tick, but everyone agreed the changes to the story made her more sympathetic.) The other thing beta readers agreed on was that they LOVED Ben Thomas. The scenes with Mary and Ben were the favorites. That morphed into Ben receiving his own POV chapters (and taking over nearly half the story), which also helped readers understand Mary more because they saw her through someone else’s eyes. It also cemented a #TeamBen mentality among my first readers.
A major part of preparing for readers comes through working with a critique group. I’ve officially been involved in two groups over the past eight years, but the core group—though members have moved away and come and go as their life/needs evolve—has been constant for about seven of those. The critique group is the backbone of my writing life. If I have a grammar question, I can “Dial-a-Nerd” in a chat message and no matter the time of day, one of them will respond quickly with an obvious answer I should have remembered from middle school. If I have a public speaking engagement or book signing, I’m sure to see at least one of those faces there. If I need to vent about something relating to the business of writing, they are the lucky ones to hear it and I’m blessed to receive their support. (Thanks to you all!)
Writing and literary organizations are essential these days to a healthy writing life. I’m a member of my local area’s writing group, Mobile Writers’ Guild, and well as the global organization SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators.) SCBWI offers high-quality regional and national conferences, great networking opportunities, and as Local Liaison, I help plan mini-events in my area. The local writers guild offers networking and outreach in my town with other writers, groups (I’ve given presentations in my group as well as two other organizations in the surrounding area), and to local stores/events where my books can be sold. As part of my local group, I served two terms as president, one as vice-president, and am currently the Young Author Chairwoman. As such, I work with the local International Reading Association’s group (run by dedicated educators) and help plan their annual Young Author Conference and Teen Writing Fair. All these connections help get my books seen by potential readers and cement my name as a professional writer.
The last relationship I’ll mention is the one a writer has with her editor/publishing company. I’ve been blessed to work directly with several people at Anaiah press, but most often it is with one of the executive editors, Kara Leigh Miller—who acquired my manuscripts and saw me through the cover design and other publishing phases—and the editor who I actually worked with through all the rounds of revisions for both Fortitude and Corroded, Sean Connell. While these are business relationships, I’ve found through months (going on almost two years) of communication, I can go to either with mini freak-outs and concerns or seeking guidance when I’m not sure what to do. (Even if I get “it’s up to you, I won’t tell you what to do with your story”, I know there are people outside of my critique group who care about my characters and the life of the story as much as I do and it’s a wonderful feeling.)
Have you seen the fruits of these relationships along your writing journey? What other relationships would you add? There are many more to choose from so be sure to nurture them all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I’m a California girl with Midwest values living in the South: a Wonderwegian. Home is where my heart is– family, books, music, and imagination. If I could name a hometown, it’d be Wonderland.
While experiencing the typical adventures of growing up, I called several places in both San Diego and Santa Cruz counties “home.” In high school I began writing seriously, finishing a novel-length manuscript a year between the ages of fifteen and seventeen.
At seventeen years old, I worked part-time during the day and took night courses at the local community college four evenings a week, as well as worked on the “Writing for Children and Teenagers” correspondence course through the Institute of Children’s Literature. I graduated with an Associate in Arts and Sciences, completed the ICL study course, and had four first drafts of novels written by the time I was nineteen.
I’ve lived on the Alabama Gulf Coast since 1996, and after a break from writing during much of my twenties, I’ve devoted time to the craft since 2005. I’ve sold several non-fiction articles that have published in magazines such as TALL and The Ensign. I was elected president of Mobile Writers Guild in May of 2011 and served two terms from 2011-2013, and have been the Mobile area Local Liaison for SCBWI since 2012. I also volunteer with the local chapter of International Reading Association’s annual Young Author events.
Two young adult novels, Fortitude (historical) and Corroded (contemporary), released in 2016 by Anaiah Press’s Surge imprint. My current project is an adult Gothic series. When I’m not reading, writing, browsing bookstores/libraries, or homeschooling, I can often be found knitting or attending concerts.