In Observance

I’d be lying if I said today was simply a day of reflection. The weeks that have led up to today have been full of, if not reflection, recollection or something like it. Can you “recollect” memories that you collected unwillingly, that you have barely put out of your mind since you got them, earned them like scars and bruises? Today is a day I observe and almost — in a twisted way — honor. I’ve already given the backstory of what this date stands for, and since I’m already risking repeating myself, I won’t retell the whole story. You can read it here, if you’re interested. All you really need to know is that my fiance was in a horrible automobile accident on October 5, 2010. Recovery was a process of hundreds of baby steps, but he still recovered from his serious physical wounds a lot more quickly than I’ve recovered from the emotional ones.

My eyes have felt wet, pressured and tired the past few weeks as the anniversary has approached. I laid down on my bed last night and cried into his old t-shirt, filled with holes, the one I wore every night while he was in the hospital. Nothing made me cry — nothing and everything. No single memory with sharp edges, no specific haunting image or sound of sirens in my head. It was just a release I needed, still do need.

I let myself admit these things in writing, in public, once a year. The rest of the time, I rarely mention the accident, but not because it’s not on my mind. It almost always is. It’s just that I know it’s too heavy. It weighs down normal conversation, overstretches the good intentions of acquaintances and falls down on friendships, a crushing burden that I’ve learned not to share for the most part. I’m still learning to forgive people for this, for the way what feels like abandonment is really a lack of knowing what to do or what to say or how to be there. Sometimes I think of writing a little note to the people who were (and are) there, to thank them. I just can never think what to say, or whether they’d even want to read it.

Have I made any progress in a year? Do I feel better now? When I read over my post from this time last year, I guess I do believe that words have meaning. Reading it makes me teary again. And in the year that has passed since I wrote the post about meaning, I’ve written 700 pages that I like to think are meaningful. Some of them resonate with me on a deep level, what at least says that those words have meaning to me. I’m torn between hoping that they have meaning to others, too, and hoping that there’s no one else in the world who knows just what it means to feel the way I felt.

I’m looking forward to the day after the anniversary of the accident. Last year, I remember the relief that that specific milestone was over. I felt like I could breathe again. Right now I feel like I’m suffocating on the memories. I’m looking forward the clean air of another, hopefully better, year.

I heard this song yesterday that makes me think of him, or of us. It’s sweet and sad and simple. I keep listening to it.  I want to dance to it and cry to it.

It’s not always easy, but somehow our love stays strong.
If I can make you happy, then this is where I belong.
… I wish that I was stronger so that I had more  to give.
I’ll share everything I have and we’ll find a way to live.
…And I know you too well to say you’re perfect,
but you’ll see, oh my sweet love,  you’re perfect for me.

This weekend, we’re going to take some time to be together, to try to heal. Some things are too hard and too painful to get over, but I think there’s a difference, however subtle, between “getting over” and moving on. We don’t have to get over it. But I want to move on to better moments, to a point where my life isn’t divided into “before the accident” and “after the accident.” Maybe a walk on the beach and a round of mini golf — memories of things we did before the accident and reminders of the good things, even little things, since the accident, will get us somewhere.

It’s not much, but it’s a start.

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Published in: on October 5, 2012 at 7:01 am  Comments (2)  
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Halfway through (and running out of red ink)

Wow, it’s been a long time. I’ll admit it, I’m guilty of the “do as I say, not as I do” phenomenon. I’ve been putting off posting because I was waiting for some grand insight, maybe even epiphany — something earth-shattering that I would learn from reading and revising my novel if I only waited long enough. I forgot that some blog posts — in fact, some of the best blog posts — don’t have an answer. Like compelling writing in any genre, they merely offer an exploration. So, if you’re reading to see a simple answer to the question “what does an author learn while reading and revising his/her own work?”, well, you might as well stop reading right now.

I said in my most recent post that during this initial revision process, I planned to focus on streamlining the story at the sentence and word level. I’m about halfway through the first round of revisions, and I am making a lot of changes to sentence structure and word choice. I’m doing a lot of cutting at the sentence level, and not only will this slash my word count, but it will also make the piece a lot stronger and the pace a lot quicker.

A non-writer friend who has read some of the story asked me, “Why are you so worried about length lately?” Rather than explain, I gave her an example (a real-life instance of showing instead of telling):

The original lines: By the time something happened, the nervous edge had worn off. Kira saw headlights cut through the dark.

became:

By the time Kira saw headlights cut through the dark, the nervous edge had worn off.

The only difference, besides cutting the unnecessary words and improving the pacing of the chapter, is that I’m no longer beating the reader over the head with the fact that something is going to happen. I’m trusting that the reader is, well, reading the story and will realize that, when headlights cut through the dark, something is happening. Yes, I’m only saving two words, but I’m cutting a full line of space in the manuscript. If I streamline parts like this throughout the 812 page manuscript, it’s going to lose a lot of unnecessary words and even more unnecessary length. And you know what? Changes like this are really speeding up the pacing. I’m tempted to say it’s not just that there are two fewer words to read, either, but that I’m no longer telegraphing, telling the reader, “Now, this is what I’m going to write about next.”

I am making some substantial changes, too. Now that I’ve read the story as a whole, I’m able to see that some parts belong elsewhere in the story. I’ve moved passages a few pages farther into the story (or, in some cases, a few chapters). Sometimes it’s about pacing and chapter length, other times it’s about how the story flows, and even other times, it’s about the emotional impact of a scene. When I was writing the first draft, I told a friend it was “like working with a really strange puzzle.” It still is, only now, instead of looking only at individual pieces under a magnifying glass, I can zoom out and see the outline of what I’d like it to look like when it’s finished.

One thInspiration to Keep Writing from my fiance and my best friending I didn’t count on, though, was still feeling vulnerable. I always knew I wanted to write a novel, even when I was barely old enough to start reading chapter books (as opposed to picture books) as a kid. I never knew until I about two years ago how much strength it takes to write a novel, at least one that has real depth, or how much of yourself you give to it. I hope the process is a lot easier on an emotional and spiritual level for other writers than it was for me, at least at certain points. Part of getting through it was jotting down the good, encouraging comments from the two people who read all or parts of the story on notecards and making myself a writing inspiration board, so that when it was hard to keep going, I could look at their words and say, well, ________ thinks I can do this, so I guess I’ll give it a shot.

I’m looking at that board a lot more than I expected to during the revision process. I’m surprised to still find myself struggling under the anxiety of “What if I can’t do this?” I thought 812 pages of the story would convince me that I can, in fact, do this, but I guess that’s why it’s called the writing process, because none of it, not even developing that self-confidence, happens immediately. Instead of “What if I can’t finish the story?”, it’s now “What if it’s not any good?”

Another way I offset the doubting devil is by marking not only the changes I want to make in the draft, but also the things that I like. Sometimes it’s as small as a sentence or phrase, other times a character interaction or even an entire scene, that gets green stars and notes about why I like that part. It’s my way of reminding myself that at least some of it is good, and if some of it is good, there’s a chance that overall, it’s a pretty good story. It’s one that I love, anyway, and I have a feeling there might be other people out there who could connect to it, too — or at least, I have that feeling when I look at the green starred sections. (Interestingly enough, about 1/4 of the way through my revisions, I came across a blog post by writer and extraordinarily prolific blogger Alex Laybourne, who was considering the possibility of marking the best parts of his manuscript, too. I’m glad to know I’m not alone!)

Writers and readers, how do you approach editing a first draft? Do you still have writing anxiety when you’re editing? If so, how do you deal with it?

On Reading and Starting Revisions

I’ve done a lot of reading since my last post — most of it my own work, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I decided that, before I read the manuscript of my novel as a writer, to revise, I wanted to read it as a reader, to see what I felt and thought as I read.

I might have expected reading the full draft of my own novel to feel surreal, but instead, it felt more like I was coming home from a trip I hadn’t known I’d taken. I love the characters and their story, and I can’t wait to start the revisions, to polish up the parts that are still a little rough. I’m excited to read it with a particular purpose. Some parts of the story were hard to read, the most personal parts, so in a way, I’m glad I have another step to take with the story, a way of further separating myself from it. It might be too soon to know if writing it healed the parts of me that have been left broken, but if nothing else, putting those parts of myself into the book made for a deeper, more meaningful story. Honestly, I can’t imagine what I thought I was going to write about before the accident happened. I guess it just wasn’t important enough to hold on to.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to sharpening the scenes that are a little blurry (and not in a good way), cutting out the parts that I don’t need and working with language to get everything right at the sentence level and the individual word level.

I’m nervous about a couple of things, too, though. In an 812 page manuscript, I know I’ve got some cutting to do. I’m a little nervous about what to cut and how to do so without compromising the integrity of the story. Right now, I just have to trust that my writer’s intuition and the opinions of my two readers (my fiance and my best friend) will help me figure it out. I actually want to revise this draft as though I didn’t care about the length, only the quality, and see how much more cutting the manuscript requires after I tighten up all of the scenes and language in the current draft. Then we’ll talk more about what I can afford to cut, and the emotional process of doing that cutting. I’ll admit that I’m also nervous about the opinions of those readers, too. One of them has read the whole thing, but it’s been over the course of almost a year, so he’s read it more as individual pieces than a whole. I’m interested and nervous to see what he has to say of the whole story together. My other reader has only read about 2/3 of the way through, and it’s the last third that I wonder most what prospective readers — not just in general, but the ones I know personally — will think about it. I guess I will find out what they think soon enough.

I’d love to hear from other writers (or artists of any medium): what does it feel like to you to read your own work? Is it exciting, scary, comforting?

 

The End

IfImage we’re being honest… there were a lot of moments I really didn’t think I had it in me.

But let’s start with what came first.

My apologies to those of you who regularly read this blog for omitting an April post. Ironically, the time I usually blog was spent preparing a seminar on blogging — and I don’t mind that at all. If anyone who was in attendence at that seminar is reading this, thanks for showing up; you guys were an awesome group to interact with. And if you’ve started a blog, please post it in the comments, because I want to see!

Moving on: The End.

I wanted to be a writer since I learned to hold a pencil, and a novelist since I learned what a novel was. But, yes, there were a lot of moments I really didn’t think I had it in me.

The manuscript  weighs in at 813 pages (counting a title page) and 198,019 words (and if you can’t say something nice… you know the rest). It took me about three hours to print, and the stack of paper is about 3 1/4 inches high. Believe me when I say it’s a heavy stack of paper, for a story that, at times, felt too heavy to write.

I haven’t kept it a secret that a little over a year ago, I didn’t care to ever write anything again. Or, to be more honest, I couldn’t. I felt (and at more times than I care to admit, I still feel) that there was nothing left inside of me.

 

Luckily, my thesis (and the people kind enough to be involved in my thesis, officially and otherwise) didn’t consider that a valid excuse. So I tried to make writing a form of healing, or at least catharsis. Writing certain parts of this manuscript hurt, even felt like I was pulling out pieces of my soul, but I’d like to think the story is better for it, and I hope that maybe I’m a little better for it, too. Maybe I didn’t find answers, but something to cling to. I believe — writers, feel free to share your thoughts on this, whether you agree or disagree — that we write first for ourselves, and we revise for others. Personally, I’m looking forward to reading this all the way through. I might even sit down and read the whole thing before I take a pen to it. We’ll see.

So how do I feel?
Excited. Exhausted. A little sad. Nervous to see what my two readers who’ve been following the story all along think of the end. Nervous to see what I think of the whole. I feel a little empty, too, tonight, but I don’t regret the pieces of myself I put in here. And I know that, when I come back to the manuscript after a few days’ break, I’ll have a routine not much different from the one I’ve had since the fall. Instead of writing every night, I’ll be reading and/or revising. It’s a sense of loss and success all at once. It’s complicated, and I see now reason it shouldn’t be.

I always like to end a post with questions, but right now, I’ll just ask readers to share their own stories of completion or initiation or even stuck-in-the-middle of a piece of writing. Or you know what? Just share something.

The Luck of the Fictional Character

First, a belated happy St. Patrick’s Day to all!

As I was enjoying my St. Patrick’s Day plans (the reason for the lateness of this post) yesterday, I started thinking about luck. Not the luck of the Irish, but the luck of the fictional character.

I didn’t start out thinking about my own characters, actually, but about my favorite young adult series (okay, I admit there is one other YA series, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, that I thought was better — but it was also much shorter, so as much as I loved it, Harry Potter is still the bigger influence on my own young adulthood). I grew up with Harry Potter and his friends, so I mean no disrespect to the series, its fans or J.K. Rowling, who I still think is a fabulous author (and one of the YA authors who actually deserves respect! Take that how you want to.). But it just crossed my mind how very lucky Harry gets at a certain point near the end of the final book (for the sake of anyone who hasn’t read the book by now but still might in the future, I’m leaving it at that — no spoiler alert needed).

What I love about Harry, the series and Rowling is that the characters choose to do things. For the most part, it’s about as character-driven a story as you can have within the epic framework of a Dark Lord plotting domination. (Same for His Dark Materials, actually. Minus the Dark Lord, for the most part.) So the fact that a pretty important part of the story is determined by luck really got me thinking. Actually, it might have been my fiance who got me thinking, when I told him my observation and he told me, “Well, your characters have luck, too. It’s just really bad luck.”

My characters have their fair share of bad things happen, I’ll give you that. But except for one very tragic thing that happens to one of the two main characters years before chapter one occurs, I can argue the point about bad luck. I think it’s a lot more bad (though mostly understandable) decisions on the part of both main characters and the other characters surrounding them that creates their misfortunes. There’s an exploration in the story about whether fate plays a part in life or not, but even if you’re committed to the fate theory, I think it’s different from luck. One way or another, this character was supposed to meet the other character, one way or another their relationship would have developed along those lines, etc.

The luck conversation also got me thinking about the what-ifs in the story. For example, in chapter one, I have two characters in the same place, and something happens to just one of them. But if that same circumstance had happened to the other character, instead — if instead of shielding his friend and love interest, the male lead had chosen to protect himself, instead, and left her vulnerable — it would be a totally different story. Even though it’s the same settings and characters, with the same big-picture issues, this parallel universe of my story flips all character motivation upside down.

The alternate story would be much shorter and much simpler. And I probably wouldn’t care enough to write it. I’m writing the story because the relationship between these two characters (and the ways they view themselves because of it) intrigues me. There’s nothing intriguing about the inverse relationship. It lacks the depth, development and conflicted emotions that make me want to keep writing the current story (and I hope, will make my eventual readers want to keep reading it).

But I never sat down with a pencil and a sheet of paper and traced the outlines of the plot in various cases. It never once occurred to me that the protective character should have been anything but protective of the woman he’s always wanted to be with, even though she’s with someone else. On one hand, I guess, that’s a part of characterization. One thing I knew about him from the very earliest drafts, almost from day one, was that he would protect her, whether or not she wanted or needed him to, because he felt a need to.

I wonder, now, what I would have done if any of those what-ifs had struck me as better than what is. This far into a story, would I be compelled to finish it as is? Or would I backtrack to the nearest common point and start over on the new path? Or maybe part of the writing instinct that guided me through this story so far had chosen this story precisely because it was the only trajectory that resonated with me.

Writers (and readers), any thoughts on characters’ luck or the what-ifs of fiction? And if your story’s what-if sounded better than what is, how do you think you would handle it?

Leadership and Beginning “The End”

I’ll confess: I’m afraid of not getting to the end.

My novel has exploded into an unmanageable beast with a page count I won’t even dare admit, because I don’t need to hear the reasons why it’s already too long. As I start the final curve of the storyline, I’m reflecting a little on beginning “the end.”

So what’s this have to do with leadership? I’ll get there. At my weekly local Small Business Development Center seminar this week, the topic was leadership, and a few of the ideas got me thinking about that tricky old topic of the Writer Identity. Before I reflect, I want to give credit to Mr. Stephen Walls of the Cumberland County One-Stop Center, who gave an excellent and thought-provoking presentation.

As we talked about leadership, a few key points came up.

“A real leader makes himself/herself less necessary.”

“True leadership creates the environment for people to become themselves and develop their own leadership.”

As creative writers, isn’t that exactly what we strive to do in our work?

Non-writers sometimes look at you like your sanity’s not all there when you say this, but writers have frequently noted that characters in a story are capable of taking on a “life” of their own, where they stop obeying the writer. The characters I’m currently writing about do this all the time. I’ve given up trying to tell them what to do, because I assume there’s a reason they want to do the things they do and say the things they say.

But isn’t this version of leadership — of making myself, the writer, less necessary in the writing and allowing these characters to grow and develop as they choose — a little scary? As I near the end, I’m trying not to think about the ways I may have given these characters too much freedom. It’s strange to think about having trust issues with nonexistent beings. But can I be sure that they know what they’re doing?

As a writer of longer works, generally, my experience with finishing a piece of creative writing is limited. So now I’m appealing to others, who have finished longer pieces or, if you write shorter works, have finished a lot of writing. Even if you don’t have experience finishing writing, and even if you’re not a writer at all, feel free to weigh in. Any tips for trusting your characters or how to deal with the looming finale? What about, at the end, suggestions for dealing with the difficulties of how to say goodbye?

On Characters and Character

“Character is what we are when we are alone and in the dark.”  — M.K. Soni

“Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.”  — H. Jackson Browne

Today I’d like to reflect a little on characters (in fiction) and character (that essence of self, personality and integrity,and the beliefs and actions that accompany them). We agree that characters in fiction should be as fully realized as a real person, that they should have strengths and flaws, desires and fears and needs, habits and manners of speaking and gesturing.

But we have also heard, from many sources, that the other type of character reveals itself most clearly not when we are trying to impress others, but when we have (or think we have) only ourselves to answer to. Sure, our character includes the way we act toward others, and that often includes the way we act around them. But what about those moments where we have the most opportunity or temptation to do wrong — when there is no one around to see how we behave?

Which brings me to the central question of this post: How exactly do the two kinds of character intersect?

In that past, I’ve had writing — a piece of fiction, specifically a chapter from the novel I’m working on — criticized on a basis that, even at the time, seemed a bit arbitrary to me: my character was alone.

Not that things weren’t happening in the story. Quite a lot was happening, actually. And not that pacing was terribly off — it was, a little bit, but the change that fixed the pacing didn’t make the character any less alone.

It was simply that characters, as a rule, shouldn’t be alone.

I understand that, without interaction with other characters, nothing happens to move the story along. I certainly agree that having a character spend too much time alone could  kill any momentum in the story. But at the same time, I’m baffled. Why shouldn’t characters in crisis situations be alone? Real people are.

And so this situation — a single character alone in a crisis — happens twice in this story, to two separate characters (21 chapters apart). (A note about my novel: there are two connected stories going on, with two different main characters telling them.) And to be honest, these were some of the deepest, most difficult parts to write so far, and they’ve been some of the most satisfying to read over — because I feel like I captured the characters’ characters (that is, the fictional people’s integrity) just right.

In both of these situations — one character is dealing with fear and extreme physical pain, and the other, in a very bleak situation, has to decide whether or not to go through with a destructive action — the characters need to be alone. Not only does the plot necessitate it — could you imagine the disconnect if, during these moments, a girl scout selling cookies or a meter-reader rings the doorbell and interrupts? — but so do the characters. How could one cope with such a circumstance or make such a decision in the vulgar presence of an unconcerned, uninvolved or ingnorant spectator? In real life, perhaps, we do this; but I’d argue that there are internal and external aloneness, and that in real life, we tend to surround ourselves in that internal aloneness when we create such defining moments.

I’d make another argument here: when characters (plural) are in crisis together, it has the potential to reveal the intimate details of their relationships. When a character (single) is in a crisis alone, it has the potential to reveal the intimate details of that character’s development — their thoughts and fears and desires. Especially if the fictional character is unreliable, or close-mouthed, or deceptive (and to some degree, aren’t we real people all?), we need to see firsthand that other form of character. Who are they alone in the dark? What do they do when they think no one is watching? And why?

At the time I was dealing with this first section, I was urged to find a way to create another character. I could have the main (alone) character imagine someone else was there, or pretend someone else was. I could have an inanimate object be a stand-in for an absent character.

But wouldn’t that break the spell of aloneness? Once the character thinks someone else is with him — watching, helping or even just gawking — doesn’t that change him and change his motivation in the scene?

I’m curious what other people, writers and readers, think of this. Should there be limits on how you show your character’s character? I think it depends on the individual story being told and the way it’s told, but what about you?

How writers find balance

Something worth exploring: How do writers find balance?

It goes back to one of my first posts. In simpler times (perhaps), you might be a writer of fiction, or of poetry, or you wrote for magazines. Now, though, we writers — like businesses — need to maintain that web presence. In some ways, while we are creating our art, we are also responsible for our personal PR, too. We have to market our identity as writers, even if we don’t have a finished piece of writing to show for it (by which I mean, a finished novel, or collection of poetry, etc. — not that we’ve never finished anything).

And we have to do all of this simultaneously, regularly and frequently. If we write in multiple genres, it can be even harder. How do you balance all of these writing responsibilities?

I’m not even referring to the other roles we have to fill. Certainly the responsibilities of family, work (other than writing), relationships of all kinds, etc., need to be balanced with your written work, as well. But today, I’m thinking about writing specifically.

In my case, it’s a lot of writing.

I own a very small but growing public relations agency, so much of my less-than-creative writing is in promotion of that. I write copy for my own promotional fliers. Last week, I gave a presentation to a group of small business owners, so I wrote copy for that. I am, essentially, doing public relations for my image as a public relations professsional.

Of course, I also have writing to do for my current client, whether that writing is in the form of a press release, social networking posts, email marketing content, etc. I also write two articles for a local magazine, The Women of Cumberland County, each month (one beauty & style article and one “Pet Tip of the Month” article).

Then I’m hard at work on my novel, which has grown from 97 pages  in June to 222 pages (over twice my most successful attempt at finishing a novel so far — but I do intend to eventually go back to that 110-page story, too). I work on it every night without fail, and during the day on occasion.  (Because I don’t write chronolocially, I’ve also got about 50 to 75 pages of misplaced material for this novel, it’s just a matter of getting to the place where these passages belong.)

There’s also maintaining this blog, which unfortunately seems to get the least amount of my time, and maintaining my web presence in other media, like Twitter and my personal and business Facebook pages. I’m also looking for a permanent PR position, so add in the constant revision of cover letters for job applications. I feel like I spend so much time writing in one form or another — but it’s never enough.

Writers, could you weigh in on this?

What are your writing responsibilities, and how do you balance them? Do you find yourself pulled in different directions?

Some days, for example, I feel really tuned into the novel, and I would gladly drop everything else to work on that if I could. Other days, when my creative juices aren’t flowing (and sometimes I think this is just a sign that the piece needs structural tweaking before I can get any further with the actual writing), I find it a relief to keep writing something.

Do you think the requirement for all writers to become multigenre writers is a strain on your identity as a writer? Or is it more of a way to avoid or overcome writer’s block or the emotional exhaustion of being too caught up in the realm of one piece of writing? Is there a way to really balance all of these different writing responsibilities, or is it simply part of being a writer that we’re always playing catch-up?

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Blogging 101 for Small Businesses

Today, I presented a seminar on Blogging 101 for Small Businesses to a group of current and prospective small business owners, managers and employees in cooperation with the New Jersey Small Business Development Center. The purpose was to educate small businesspeople on why to blog, how to blog, and best practices for small business blogging.

For an abridged version of my full slide show, please see the Powerpoint file below:

Krystle Wright SBDC Presentation Blogging 101 Abridged

Krystle Wright presenting "Blogging 101 for Small Businesses" in Vineland, NJ, 0n December 7, 2011

 

For further help with blogging and other public relations and marketing strategies, services and tools, contact Krystle L. Wright Public Relations & Marketing by calling 609.579.0339, emailing KrystleLWright@gmail.com, or visiting KrystleLWrightPublicRelations.webs.com

Thanks to everyone who came to this event! Thank you, Carol, for inviting me and Sherry, for the technology help. Thanks, Ted, for taking and sending me the picture. And thank you, Sam, for being my test audience and part of my real audience.

What is Public Relations, anyway?

“I may sound stupid, but what exactly is public relations?”

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine left this comment on my fiance’s facebook post encouraging people to check out my new business website.

Maybe because the field is so interrelated to other fields like marketing, writing, and social media, or maybe because it’s ever-evolving, or maybe even because I myself didn’t know what public relations was until I was already in the midst of my college career, I don’t think it sounds stupid at all.

I grew up knowing that I wanted to write, but never did anyone say to me, “You know, maybe you should think about public relations as a career.” Even as I was picking up the skills I would eventually need through undergraduate level college courses in writing and related fields, the prospect of public relations never crossed my mind. I like to think that I was aware of it on a not-quite-conscious level. It was a phrase that I had heard relatively often but understood only vaguely. Public relations, I imagined, had something to do with the public, of course, and probably with publicity (but how it differed from advertising or marketing, or even positions as publicists for celebrities, never really mattered to me). I think that, for years, I imagined public relations as having something to do with the CEO’s of huge companies.

Through a mixture of good fortune, good timing and, I like to think, talent and creativity on my part, though, I did eventually find out what public relations was and what it entails. And that is, well, a lot.

I think any definition of PR is probably open to interpretation. Surely there are others who have been in the business much longer than I have who can give a more complete definition of public relations and the history of the phrase and the field. That’s not what this post is about. This is an exploration, not a dictionary entry.

In a simple and perhaps simplistic definition, I think of public relations as promoting something — usually an organization, business, etc. — to the general public. It’s related to marketing in some ways. (More about that later.) It’s making sure that people in general know and like your business or organization and are hearing good things about it, so that when they need that type of product or service, they go to you. It can include anything from sending news about your organization to a newspaper to promoting your organization on Facebook.

I like to think of PR as storytelling that uses many different methods of communication. Public relations, and especially any marketing or communication plan, always reminds me of what the Rowan University Writing Arts department called “multigenre.” Multigenre was heavily emphasized in both my undergraduate and graduate writing classes, and it means expressing an idea in more than one way. A Rowan professor, Dr. Sanford Tweedie, once told a class that I was in that ‘genre’ is “a way of seeing the world.” It’s still the best definition that I have ever heard.

Multigenre public relations means that a story is being told in print, on Facebook, through Twitter… and through any other imaginable channel. It means that news is spread through newspapers, that customers can read relevant information from a business in a blog post and leave a review on a social network. As technology like social media and email marketing continues to evolve and become a key way of reaching customers and clients, public relations is becoming ever more interactive and thus ever more engaging. Let’s face it, a story that catches your heart or your mind or your imagination is nice, but forgettable. A story that catpures all three, though, is going to stick in your mind. If that’s not good PR, I don’t know what is.

So I’d love to hear from some of the professional writing and PR/marketing specialists out there. What is public relations (or marketing) to you?

I’d also like to thank my friend for the inspiration for this post. Hope it answers your question!

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