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January 30, 2013

Writer Wednesday: Rangeley Wallace

Thanks, Donna, for inviting me to Writer’s Wednesday. Today, I want to discuss briefly some of the tools that have helped me in my journey to become a writer.

When I began to write fiction, I had been practicing law for years, and, as a lawyer, I wrote constantly: motions, briefs, memos and the like. And, I had been a big reader all my life. Thus I was surprised when my first attempts to write fiction were not very good (an understatement). I could write a witty line or two about something, make an interesting observation about something else, but for the life of me could not master the parts necessary to tell a story.

When I tried to write a scene, I discovered that I had no idea how to include description or dialogue. I was clueless about how to approach point of view. I didn’t know how to include a flashback or how to decide if one was needed. The list of things I didn’t know would fill this entire blog but suffice it to say there were many.

Despite my discouraging early efforts, I refused to give up. I was determined to learn more about how to write a novel. I didn’t know any other aspiring writers, so I turned to the local universities and the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md. First, I took two college level courses in creative writing where the other students and the professors read my work and made suggestions and I did the same with the other students’ work. You can learn a lot editing other folk’s work. The days my work was critiqued in class, while sometimes painful, weren’t as horrible as I thought they’d be because I knew I needed assistance. I also took courses at the Writer’s Center where you can take almost any type class you can imagine, from “getting started” to “ point of view” to “writing conflict,” all taught by experienced writers. After I had figured a few things out, I took several creative writing courses in the grad schools in the area.

As the years went by, I met other new writers and joined a writing group. At times there were five or six of us but after several years, I and one other writer were the only members left and recently the last member moved from novels to children’s books. Through the years we’d read and critiqued each other’s work, on-line and in monthly meetings, and I miss those sessions. When I read other writer’s acknowledgements and they mention their wonderful writing groups, I am always a little jealous.

In the place of my writing group, however, I found, after searching on-line and talking with other writers and editors, several free-lance editors who give me the feedback I need. The first few editors I worked with weren’t ideal for me, although I learned something from each of them. Finally, I found the right ones. They help me see things in my manuscripts that I don’t and help me create a vivid fictional world. They help me find the holes in the plot and the problems with a character’s development.

And the very best tool for writing? Write. Write after dinner and on weekends or in the early morning, before the day begins. Write on the bus or subway or while you eat lunch. Make notes -- keep notebooks of ideas and observations, the way people talk and what they do and don’t do and say and don’t say, how they look and walk. Write about the weather, how the sky looks at certain times of the day and the year, the way your child’s hand moves towards her food, and how you feel when your teenager treats you the way you treated your parents. Make notes of everything. And when you have something, when you’ve finally put together a bunch of words and sentences and paragraphs and they make a story, work just as hard to find an agent and to get published.

Good luck!

About the Author:

Rangeley Wallace’s first novel No Defense, was a Wyatt Book for St. Martin’s in hardcover and paperback. She was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama and is a graduate of Emory University, Washington College of Law, American University and Georgetown Law (LLM). She has practiced public interest and corporate law, has prosecuted anti-trust and criminal cases and has defended white-collar criminal defendants in federal court. When she is not writing fiction, the mother of four practices and teaches law in Washington D.C. Things are Going to Slide (Sept. 2012; ISBN 9780991679; e-book $4.95; Bev Editions) is Rangeley Wallace’s second novel.
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