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Herein, children's writer Molly Blaisdell raves, rants, and rambles about her craft. She also muses about juggling a job, motherhood and writing books, and there is a good dose of rallying, psyching up and inspiring for anyone who needs to seize the day.
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Hi folks, I'm continuing my series on writer myths and that is coming up, but first, I've got to mention some egg action. You may remember that once upon a time I chatted about eggs. It's been a while since I've had an opportunity to mention this fun part of my blog. This week we are near the hatching phase of "egg-dom." So, news is to come!
Now, back to myths. Last week, I chatted about the myth of bad reviews. This week I'm moving on to the myth of "kill your darlings." Okay, it is true that you must often kill your darlings. I mean, most of us remember some relationship that just wasn't moving us forward, and it had to go. Sometimes, we write bland, flat drivel that needs to find the nearest circular file, and that's fine.
But there are times when you need to put down the murder weapon. I mean, killing some of those darlings is a crime or at least a crying shame.
Here is my story. Once upon a time I was collaborating with another author on a project. I would write an awesome line, and the other author would love it too. Then a few days later, I'd get into slasher mode and ditch my awesome line. Delete.
My collaborator was unhappy with the slashing of "awesome" lines.
I answered, "I can always do better." But certain things slowly became clear. I can't aways do better.
My collaborator was like, "I think you are killing our story, and please stop it."
I learned something I love about writing in that moment. Every story is about a kind of collaboration. You and the reader are sitting by a fire. You are the spell maker; they are the mesmerized. If you have created magic the first time, just let it be.
Sometimes you will get it right without trying. Don't second guess yourself. Never leave genius on the cutting room floor.
See you next week with more about writer myths, and perhaps a reason to throw a party!
And now for a mythical doodle. This one is called "Pixie."
Finally here is a quote.I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Hi folks, I really love my series of writer myths. I wrote about a number of writer myths last year and recommend that you give those 4 posts a look. I believe you might find something useful. I'm continuing my series the month. Short and sweet is my motto.
At the end of the day writing is a performance art. Reviews are audience feedback. (OK, I know, not everyone has reviews yet. Hang on, I'll get to that.) Some writers believe all reviews should be avoided. Other just toss the negative ones. They don't want all that negative energy.
Let me start with disclaimer. Some people are out there slinging stones (I'll cover this down the road), and, of course, that kind of stuff should be avoided, but many reviewers are giving honest commentary that will help you improve your works. I suggest avoiding all reviews will keep you from a very honest and valuable way to improve your work. Writing is about reaching an audience. We want the audience to clap, but if they are not clapping, we need to listen.
Not every performance is stellar. I've read multiple books from single authors. I cab attest from experience this is true. Don't overlook author response. It may help you sharpen you work.
Unpublished writers! You can benefit here. I stumbled into one big time helpful practice many years ago. I attended an open read and was at the end of the list of readers. Each participant had five minutes. I found myself fiercely editing my work, during the performance of the other readers. I had believed my work was perfect when I arrived, but an audience responding to the writing put me on my toes. "Brilliance" hopped out of me that I had been unable to access. During my reading, I saw the eyes of the listeners light up. I saw the eyes glaze. I saw the need to listen to the audience.
My advice, stop waiting for someday to connect with your audience. Find a way to connect now. It will change your writing life. I am sure.
Thanks for stopping by! I will be back with more myth busting nest week.
Okay, folks, doodles are back: "Mermaid".
Quote for the week!All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Leo Tolstoy
Hi, folks, I'm finishing up my series on the keys to publishing success. This week I'm going to chat about the pursuit of happiness. It's one thing that many writers overlook. Happiness is important, but we forget to seek it.
We all have challenges, internal and external . Many of us are broken and limping forward anyway. Often times, circumstances are far from fair. We may be trapped by our own failings or the failings of others. Our mental and/or physical health may be failing. How are we supposed to be happy?
Good news. You can cultivate happiness. Here is a list of happiness habits that may help lead you to happy ground. Put them into practice to find success.
Seek your truest writing self in your stories. Really know what you are about. I'm heartfelt, humorous, and intriguing. Find your own little thematic triptych. Know thyself.
Choose to think about the best possible outcome for your work. Not in a fairytale way, mind you. If you haven't written a book, you can't sell one. But, if you've done your research and sent out the submission or query, why not believe that it is going to work?
Kill the monster. It's time to decide that jealousy is worthless. Let it go. Every time you say you are not good enough because someone else is better than you -- you are jealous. Stop it.
Make the target bigger. If your goal is to be on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Fine. I like your ambition. But if that is your only goal, boo. I want you to add 20 things to your list. Here is the rule. If you don't have a 70 % chance of achieving your goals, you need to keep thinking.
Review your goals every day. Post them on the fridge. Put them on the inside of your car visor. Make them your screen saver on your computer. Remember what you want and work toward it.
Stop saying you'll never be published. You are not lame. You are not the worst writer ever. You are not a failure. Remove yourself from the presence of those who say you are just dreaming, this will never happen, and this is a waste of time. Cut out the noise.
Share your genius. Do what you can to help others in your community find their way. Encourage the community around you. Did you know success breeds success?
Okay, that is some stuff to think about. If you have some more personal habits that bring happiness to your writing life, share them here! Let's get what we need. Here is a link to a helpful clip about happiness: The Secret to Better Work, Shawn Achor, TedX.
Thanks for dropping by. I will be digging into writer myths next month. Seize the day.
Here is the pic -- "Comet PanStarrs above the Sun."
Here is the quote for your pocket:
Trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love though the stars walk backward. E.E. Cummings
Welcome to Seize the day! I'm continuing my series --- the Keys to Publishing Success. This week I'm touching on the important key of elasticity.
Elasticity is a physical property of elements to return to their original shape after they are deformed. Writers must have this property to find brilliant success.
You might be smooshed out of shape sometimes, and you will have to bounce back. I mean editors might send you excited emails, and then write back that the accountants said your book isn't viable. Said book may simply sit in your closet for umpteen years after that. Sigh. More stuff can happen. Your new book, the one you worked on for five years, may get one partial request from an agent, and the agent doesn't ever get back to you. You might be strung along by an editor or an agent, rewriting, pouring your soul into your efforts, just to face another no. You might have to shake this all off and start that next book. Elasticity, honey.
There is more to this than you think. Your vision of what being published may be smooshed into the something wholly foreign to you, and you must remold into another vision. Here's the deal. The way books are published may drastically transform in your lifetime. You may get no advance, no agent and see you book as an electronic form only, after dreaming for decades about a physical book and an advance that might buy a beater. Communities may spring up, "incubators" for new authors provided by publishers. These are places to share your work with the world with no pay to you, like American Idol for writers -- many hopefuls, few winners. Self-publishing may transform around you and become a way many authors find their way to publishing success. The bad news, you are as poor as a church mouse. You must work evenings and weekends on top of your day job to gather cash for your endeavor. Elasticity, child.
You might find that you have to reshape what your are writing to meet the needs of the marketplace. You may love writing literary fiction but have to give it up to write a little contemporary middle grade novel. Maybe you will have to take your love of folktales into space. Perhaps your wonderful Biblical story will have to have a modern day retelling. And maybe it's all over for your vampires , and you have to write about a club of sociopaths in high school who engineer the other students to suit their life-sucking needs. Your creative self must be ready to transform . Elasticity, folks.
I hope that figure out a way to be elastic this week and turn the key of publishing! See you next week with one more key!
I'm eschewing doodles this month for pics. Here is this week's pic: "Pretty."
Here is a quote for your pocket: The willow which bends to the tempest, often escapes better than the oak which resists it; and so in great calamities, it sometimes happens that light and frivolous spirits recover their elasticity and presence of mind sooner than those of a loftier character
. Albert Schweitzer.
. I'm continuing
on publishing success
. This post
may have just guessed
I like The Fellowship of the Rings
by J. R. R. Tolkien. Gold star
! To be successful
at writing, you need
than a team
. I think the component
that is a game
is that when
a fellowship forms
, inception happens
. I'm talking
about the science fiction kind
in which shared dreams lead
to amazing places
to me is the best parts
of the creative journey
. It's exciting
to be a first reader
on a project
that is sizzling
is thrilling when
someone in your sphere makes waves
, when writers band together magic happens
. As the shared dream grows
, more happy folks join the band
, publicists and finally the major expansion
. Joining a fellowship is a sure key to getting published. Working alone
is not a good way
. Band together with a fellowship
to influence the world
in powerful ways
. How do you join
? The first thing you have
, so you know what you like and what has
, you have
to be willing
to be generous
with your time and knowledge
everyone in your sphere succeed
. Don't despair if there is nowhere
to join. You
up. If no one
, be willing
to do it yourself, even if you
were once voted most likely
not to lead
. Avoid anyone who wants
to bring you down and
disses your creativity. Always huddle
with the encouragers
. Look for people who
, not folks who
like wine, cheese, gossip and no work
I hope you
. I hope you
are sharing the dream
of others. If you
is barreling your way
. Yay! I will be back next week
with another publishing success key
This week I'm sharing doodle photographs: "Texas Highway."
Here is a quote for your pocket.
The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are. C.S. Lewis
Hi folks, I'm continuing my series about the keys of publishing success. This week I'm going to talk about reinvention. I've observed this several times from unpublished to well-known writers -- an interesting phenomena. I call it it reinvention.You might need to reinvent yourself to find publishing success. What does this mean?
Perhaps you have longed to write the great American novel, but no one is interested in your work. A little middle grade story is bubbling on the back burner, and YAY!, you write it and you become an international success story. You've written twenty romance novels and can pay for coffee but then someone is murdered in your story -- you run with it, and YAY!, your award-winning crime thriller is soon optioned. You might be writing picture books but then you get an idea for a World-War II drama, the book takes off, and YAY!, NYT Bestsellers List and your name become best friends.
The pressure of failure is what pushes you toward success. Don't let repeated failures dishearten and overwhelm you, instead consider reinvention. If things haven't been working out, perhaps it is time to jump ship to another genre. Reinvent.
Reinvention works this way too. Some writers have a butterfly thing going on. They are crawling around like a caterpillar, writing any copy they can get paid for, but miraculous changes are happening within them. They take their lunch breaks, wake up early in the morning and stay up late at night to plunk out their stories. They write all day and then go home, and write the stuff of their souls. The day comes when they self publish and find themselves paying off the mortgage of their home in a matter of weeks. Reinvention is afoot.
The pressure of missing the boat keeps these folks focused. Don't be afraid you'll never get there, your efforts are not in vain. Let yourself dream and hope. This is the cauldron of reinvention. You're not languishing, writing that catalogue copy; you're adding nutrients to your coming transformation.
One more group has spent years at a desk job and haven't written much at all, but they have read, and read, and read. One day the life changes. They lose jobs. The spouse leaves. Tragedy broadsides. It's time to reinvent, and the results are amazing.
Wrapping up, try something new, keep slogging forward, or finally write that book. Reinvent.
This week is another photo: "Texas Big Sky".
A quote for your pocket:
It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. C. S. Lewis
Hi, folks, this month I'm going to talk about the keys of publishing success. I hope this series of practical advice helps you. First, you have to understand something important. Writing and publishing are not the same thing. You can be a very successful writer without being published. Think John Kennedy Toole or Emily Dickinson -- tragic but informative. This series is about finding publishing success, writing success is whole other topic.
One key that opens publishing doors -- innovation. It will propel your work to readers. There is no question. Innovation will open the doors that have previously been closed to you. To leverage innovation, you must learn to recognize opportunity and seize it. Writing is professional skill and you need 10,000 hours of informative practice to become a master. Once you can write, it is time to connect your stories with readers. This is the moment to innovate. Don't get me wrong, traditional still works. If you are connected to the traditional publishing world -- related to folks in publishing, have an MFA, lots of publishing contacts for whatever reason, or are working in publishing, use that. If not, the pathway to innovation will open up new worlds of opportunity.
What is innovation? It is about going in a new direction that no one has thought of yet. Here are three suggested pathways: writing innovation, market delivery innovation, and connection innovation. This is a broad topic but hopefully these quick snapshots will get your started.
Writing Innovation: You can write. You are knowledgeable. Turn a genre on its ear. Grab hold of tired vampires and see them in a light as never before. Dig into an old story like Frankenstein and unearth a new modern day Prometheus. Merge together two different genres in a way that has never been done before. Jack Kerouac, Phillip K. Dick, J.K Rowling ... these are people who dazzle to me. Be a game changer.This kind of innovation takes writing chops and throwing out the rule books. Are you up for this?
Market Delivery Innovation: The way people are reading books has irrevocably changed. Educate yourself about these changes. Jump on wave. Find the sharpest newest forms of self-publication. Check out the Innovations in Reading Prize winners from the National Book Foundation. Investigate Amazon, Smashwords, self-publishing and the future of self publishing. Many traditional publishers have ebook imprints now that don't require agents for submission. This is a market delivery revolution. Educate yourself and innovate to publish.
Connection Innovation: This is about building a connection with readers in an innovative way that leads to publication. Your connection will be all about what is of core importance to you. I like Michael Hyatt as guru on the subject of platform. He can help you reach out to readers. I also think you should check new ways readers are connecting online -- weBook, DeviantArt, ABCtales, Authonomy, Wattpad... there are a ton of different ways out there and the freshest most innovative ones aren't on this list. They are being invented right now. Take connection risks and innovate.
I hope that something here gets your work to readers. I hope that doors swing open for you! Good luck. I will be back next week with more on
This month I'm posting photos instead of doodle: A way up.
Here is a quote for your pocket. Doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results, is the definition of crazy
Hi folks, tons of stuff hitting this week end so this will be short but heartfelt. I've seen authors at the point of despair and feel like I'm teetering close right now. So how does this pitfall work? It's the feeling you get after hundreds of submissions, hundreds of more queries, a number of almost published moments, and a ton of personal notes from many, many, publishing professionals that your works are PRETTY GOOD, but not good enough, for a number of reasons. I will tell you what I do to deal with it.
I keep working. You just don't go this far and give it up. It's not good sense.
I also do little things that perk me up -- go to an open reading, try writing something I haven't tried before, and daydream about the moment when someone says yes to my work. The only thing I'm sure of -- despair is a choking emotion, and it must be negated.
I fight for optimism. I keep a file of notes people have written to me about how much they enjoy my writing. I reread those. I talk to my writing friends about how I feel and this often cheers me up. I think about people who have persevered in much more trying circumstances than mine. I think about the future the most, instead of the past. Last, I hope. I let that thing with feathers perch in my soul.
Here is the deepest thing I know to do. I ask myself if my stories might make a difference. The answer is the one thing I am sure about. I think they will, and so I don't give up. I believe. That is all I can do.
Hope you climb out of the pit of despair if you are in it. I am sure of this too: if you quit, you will not succeed. :) Keep trying.
Here is my doodle: "Diving Bird" This was copied from a petroglyph in New Mexico. I like that the soul of the bird is a smiley face.
One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself. Lucille Ball
Hi, folks, I'm continuing my series on writing pitfalls. I've done several of these: Formula, Amalgam, Too Eager, No Velcro, Choking, Distraction This week is a problem I called stagnation.
You have a great idea and write the book, but something happens between the idea and production. The story falls apart. What you envision in your head is not working. You have produced an absolute mess. Your critique partners cringe when you bring it into group. Months roll into years, and you are still pecking this project that seems to never move forward. You are stagnating and this is not a good thing.
There are two outcomes for this project. One, you will reinvent it, or, two, you will let it go. There is no middle ground for this. The only way to solve stagnation is to shove the project in a drawer for a long while (at least a year). You will be able to save some of these projects, but not all. I have a few files that I've written on in bold caps: CLOSE THIS FILE RIGHT NOW! IT'S OVER. I don't delete projects; they may be organ donors, but I do know when it is time to turn my back on a story.
How? Identification. I stop pecking at the mess and name what is wrong with the thing. Your critique partners can help with this too. It might be a marketing problem: No one wants a picture book about kids killing bugs...your whole premise is just not going to work. It might be a plot problem: The twenty seven murders are dragging this book down. Not all the problems are glaring: Your fantasy world and real world might disconnect.
The bottom line, you must identify the manucscipt problem.Then fold your cards and get out of the game. Drain the writer's swamp by removing this blockage. Let the dang manuscript go and run with another idea.
I hope that you move out of any stagnant waters and streak forward with projects. This is like decluttering your house. You will breathe easier. I will be back next week with more good stuff.
Here is this week's doodle: "Flamingo!"
But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. Arthur Conan Doyle
Hi folks, this month I writing a series about creative pitfalls. Last week I touched on the pitfall of formula. This week's pitfall is called amalgam. I see this in published books sometimes and in my own work (sigh). This is when a content creator brings together a mishmash of ideas -- good ideas -- and then fails to synthesize them into something cohesive. Cough, cough, movie analogy -- Cloud Atlas. I love you, Lana, Andy and Tom. David Mitchell wrote an amazing book, but you three didn't synthesize this and yikes. I do give you props for ambition.
How do you fall into the pitfall of amalgam? You aren't trusting your good ideas, and hence you've gone into the work of others in search of beefy bits to give your story some ooomph. You set out to write a classic regency romance novel. Sparks fly between Jane and her Mr. Bingley. It's innovative and working. Then you read this really great book about time travel, and low and behold, a thieving time traveller -- think Eric Bana -- shows up in your novel, in search of a cursed star sapphire and he seduces your Jane.
Oh, then you read a great conspiracy thriller and decide to mix in some political intrigue about the medieval masons. Jane is the last in a line of powerful steampunk wizards and must kill Mr. Bingley to prove her loyalty to the guild and take down that thieving time traveller, because the cursed star sapphire is part of a magic scepter used to keep Underworld demons at bay. This is not turning out to be a very satisfying romance.
You've written 150K words of your book with no end in sight, and you don't really know what your book is about anymore. You flail around, and wonder what happened. You shove this manuscript into the box at the back of closet that already has 10 other manuscripts in it -- all failed attempts. The good news is all this failure is really a good thing. You need persistence to succeed as a writer.
The bad news is this is not a pile of genius that is overlooked. You have created a pile of a lack of confidence. How are you ever going to get on track? Well, stop being so hard on yourself and try having some fun. Relax. Your best content comes from your emotional core. You obviously like a lot of different kinds of books and mashup isn't an impossible thing, but you are the glue that is going to make it work. You have to take control of your writing life, what do you want? Focus. Classic regency romance? Do that. Something else? Fine, but define it and stick to YOUR vision.
At the end of the day, I 'm not saying to don't mix elements. But if you do, you need to synthesize them and you need to own them. Don't let all the work of others bleed into your book. Be inspired. Be bolstered. But don't be a book cannibal.
So pull out that manuscript that haunts you and start cutting out that bloody mess that has infected your great book. You have always felt there is a good book in there. Believe in your vision. Add in your unique slant. Synthesize. Do it. Climb out of the pit. See you next week with more writer pitfalls.
This week's doodle is called: Blue Seagull.
I'm closing up with a quote for your pocket.
Some things are destined to be -- it just takes us a couple of tries to get there. Jessica Rowley Pell Bird as J.R Ward
Hi, folks, this month I'm going to dig into pitfalls that writers fall into from time to time. I will spend the month of June uncovering hidden hazards in writing. Please check out my earlier series on Pitfalls too. So here goes.
One pitfall many writers fall into is formula. There are stacks of writing books out and writers gobble these up. Faves include Robert McKee's Story, Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer, Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, the Elements of-- series. Yes, these stacks are good books and offer great advice. But here's the deal, the most important part of writing isn't in the books. The most important part of writing is who you are and what you want.(Mythic!)
A novel to me is akin to sailing a ship around a world on a sea no one has never been charted. I'm a voracious reader and I know that many writers stay close to the shore, don't take risks, and end up producing hopelessly mediocre work. And what really kills me is they can do more. I will see evidence of more but they don't do it. Consider this, formula may be holding you back. Don't get me wrong, formula is not a bad thing, but it's like acetaminophen, too much of it will poison you.
So how do you know if you have fallen into this pit? You are surely in the pit in you are trying to mimic another author. Listen to my kindergarten teacher Ms. Crabtree: be yourself. You are in the pit if you read stacks of writing books, but you sort hate the work you are producing. Stop that right now. You are in the pit if you avoid the place you want to go in your story because it goes against the rules. Break the "rules", dang it! You are in the pit if you have abandoned a project you love because folks have told you it is too out there. I say, go there. You may sink the ship, or you may discover a new world.
I hope that you zoom forward this week with your projects. Thanks for dropping by. I will be back next week with more of this series. Seize the day.
Here is the doodle for the week: Owl.
Your quote for the week. I am the master of my fate:I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henly
Hi, folks, time to wrap up my posts on story structure. This month, I am using analogies with building structural elements to shed some light on story structural elements. These analogies only go so far. I hope you find something useful. I'm going to compare micro tension to fasteners in buildings. Micro tension is what holds your book together.
Nails and screws are tiny metal spikes that are driven into wood. Bolts are metal pins inserted through wood. Cleats are angle iron pieces used to strengthen wood. You get the picture. Structures are fastened together with buckets of small pieces of metal. This week is all about the fasteners that hold your book together.
Stories have many kinds of bits that hold them together. Without all these bits your story will fall apart. You are the master craftsperson and your decisions -- where to use fasteners and what fasteners to use -- will ultimately define your structure.
Here are some of the fasteners that you will use to make your structure hold together:
EMOTION -- This fastener is used for character. You must dig into what your character is feeling and shade your wording to capture that feeling exactly. Many people are turning to THE EMOTION THESAURUS by Angela Ackerman and Betsy Puglisi to sharpen the emotional expressions of their characters.
LYRICISM -- This fastener is about the words. You can go over the top with it, but tiny touches of brilliant lines (you know the ones you jot down because you have never heard that thought expressed so well) stitch your book together. Your book needs the wordsmith in you to do better.
SENSORY -- This fastener is used especially in setting. You must make your readers feel. Every book has a sensory psyche that creates mood. Setting must engage all five senses, and you will turn yourself inside out trying to find the perfect vivid descriptors. Do it. Surpass yourself.
SOUL -- This fastener is used to shore up theme. Stories must say something. Tiny fiery thoughts embedded throughout your story will give it a soul. Yes, you challenge readers. Slap them. Wake them up. Infuse your story with immaterial bits. What are you circling?
SUBTEXT -- This is a dialogue fastener.You must create tension by having your characters say one thing but mean another. Look closely at dialogue. Are your characters saying things they should be thinking?
SUFFERING -- This fastener is used to hinge character and plot. This isn't just about one more stupid thing happening to your character. You must do what rips out her heart, defeats her soul, breaks her spirit, ruins her life ... dang, writing is hard.
SURPRISE -- This is another plot fastener. It is all about finding the uncertain instead of the expected. Turn corners that are unexpected. Contrast characters, moods, settings in interesting ways. This tension keeps the reader with you. Take our breath away, please...
TRANSCENDENCE -- This fastener is a big risk one and isn't found in every book. If it works, you will never be forgotten, If it doesn't work, it will wreck your whole book. It takes chutzpah to use this one. Well crafted foreshadowing leads to that moment when the reader is like: Did she really go there? It's shocking. Readers will freak out. Blog posts will fly. Think about those moments that you can never forget in your reading experience and then let that into your creative blood and see what happens. Does your structure need this?
Be aware of the fasteners that hold your book together. Place each carefully with confidence. Donald Maass in his book FIRE IN THE FICTION has some good thoughts about micro tension that may be of some use to you. Whew, this was a big topic. I hope that you have enjoyed this series. Come back next week for my next series: Pitfalls in writing.
Here is this week's doodle: Abstract in watercolor
And finally a quote for your pocket.I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars
. Walt Whitman.
Hi, folks, I'm continuing my series on story structure. Today, I'm going to share an analogy about floors. A floor is the surface of a room where you stand. It's flat, low and static. The sure steady surface in your novel is your author persona. You are going to put flooring into every book you write so it makes sense to me that you understand it and lay it flat.
Persona is something no one says much but just like your characters on the page and your plot is on the page, you are on the page. I'm not talking about "author intrusiveness" which must be scrubbed out. This is the Voice -- a steady assurance from your inner diva, child, or chipmunk who is telling your story. I talked about this some in my post "author persona."
Make sure you have decent floor material. If you are victim, dang, it's going to leak into your book, unless you start building some inner chutzpah. If you are full of pride. Fail. If you are full of humility. Fail. If you are boring in real life you must find an inner persona who is not boring. I hope these thoughts are making you think about what is bleeding on the page. You know, this is what I think: put down the expensive stuff -- the best part of you.
You must cultivate the ability to be the same voice every time you dive into your story. I like this part of writing. I like tossing off all the ups and downs of me and the waves of this life that are pounding me into the shore. I feel the stuff of my everday life flowing away as I put on my alter-ego -- SuperScribe. Rock steady. Unchanging. Able to spin out stories that will capture the planet. Yes, I have fun when I am writing. I laugh my head off. I don't shy away from the glories of muhaha!. I let myself be larger than life. I slip into this persona and let the words flow. It's exciting and comforting at the same time. Sometime your writing persona just might help your real self grow and be better.
Well, that is a little chat. Put some solid flooring in your books. It can be a rough floor or smooth as glass. I'm pretty sure that Gary Paulsen lays in dirt floors, but Gail Carson Levine places down an awesome kind of flooring imbued with magic sparkles. Your floor will be unique, so don't try to Mark Twain, J. D. Salinger, or Harper Lee us. OK? Find the original you. See you next week with more on story structure.
Here is the doodle of the week: "Abstract Cat."
Henceforth I ask not good fortune. I myself am good fortune. Walt Whitman
Hi, folks. I'm continuing my series about story structure. I'm using analogies to structural elements of buildings to shed some like on some structural elements of stories. This week I'm comparing the scenes to joists. Joists are load-bearing boards or girders that run from beam to beam or from floor to beam. They carry some of the weight of the building insuring that the structure is sound. Scenes also carry some of the weight of each story. They fit within chapters, and they glue your story together, like the joist's job in a structure. There are various kinds of joists, and there are various kinds of scenes. I'm going to describe the basic structure of the scene then talk about a few variants. Hopefully this discussion will help you create much more "sound" stories.
The scene is the basic load-bearing element of the story. A basic scene works like this. First, action and dialogue mix, followed by the main character's emotional reaction to the action and dialogue, and then the character thinks about the action and dialogue, and finally the character decides what to do next. The basic scene will appear over and over in your story unless you are seeking something very avant-garde.
HINT: Don't move on to the avant-garde until you can easily produce fluid basic scenes that all connect and move seamlessly from one to the next.
You will use a few variations of the basic scene in your story, especially for action sequences. You might have an action/dialogue, emotion and then action/dialogue/emotion and finally cap that with a basic scene action/dialogue/emotion/thinking/decision. This set-up is generally one chapter. Chapters contain one to three scenes or a hybrid like described. If you try to put more in a chapter the thing implodes. I have found that stories that don't use enough of the basic scene generally collapse.
HINT: Action/dialogue sequences need breaks to give the reader a chance to breathe and process. If your action and dialogue goes on too long you will lose your reader. Find those long sequences and break them up.
One kind of special scene starts inside the main character's head -- I calling this a hook scene. I see this start in books a lot. The action and the dialogue happen off scene. We start with emotion and the thinking of the character wrapped together and that leads to first basic scene of a story. A hook scene must be shorter that a basic scene and is generally used to connect the reader with the main character emotionally and intellectually. The author uses this short scene to hook the reader. You have to tap into a universal emotion and/or intellectual depth to make this one work. Also this emotion and thinking must lead to a real problem in a basic scene. Put a row of hook scenes together and lose your reader.
Now I'm going to touch on the passing scene. This scene is used for transition, usually from one setting to the next. Use it sparingly These scenes are very short. Something like:"Our journey from Earth to Titan took weeks. My emotions ran the gamut. I thought about leaving my father, my pony, my boyfriend, and my favorite burger joint behind, but now I must look forward. The engines fired up as we approached the landing base on Titan." This passing scene gets us from point a to point b, and we have some deep emotional connection, more than in a basic scene.
HINT: Use passing scenes to bring your reader close to the bone of your main character.
There are special scenes that happens toward the end of stories. I'm calling these the bank scenes. One bank scene generally shows up in all books as the "darkest moment." The events of the whole book leads to this scene of revelatory emotion and thought from your main character. Your character feels deeply failure, remorse, agony of decision, pain, brokenness -- no feeling that we like to feel. Your character thinks deeply about the cosmic consequences of her journey Another bank scene is comes after your climax. This scene again is in response to all the scenes in your story. The main character feels deeply, thinks thoroughly and comes to her truth.
Check out your scenes and make sure that your interior structural story elements are sound. Look at your scenes and make sure they are complete or purposeful hybrids. Create a strong story.
And now the doodle: "Alien landscape"
You need a quote for your pocket too! Here's a good one:
Whatever satisfies the soul is truth. Walt Whitman
This week I'm talking about story structure. This is the second in a series. I'm using building element analogies in my discussions this month. I'm going to compare beams to chapters. I am also suggesting you that you go back to my previous story structure posts. I hope that you find something here that resonates.
Beams are a structural element of housing that bear the load of the structure. Each chapter must also carry some of the load of your story. Unnecessary beams add weight to your structure and make it unsound. Unnecessary chapters add weight to story, these chapters must be cut or they drag it down. Each chapter needs to move the story forward. If you can't answer the question: Why is this chapter in this book?" Toss it. Next, you need to have enough beams to hold up the weight of your house. The same for stories. Missing chapters can be problem. An author, in a desire to get to the "good stuff" of the action, leaps ahead, missing sections in stories that make the work seem slight. Finding the right length and number of the chapters takes tons of practice.
Beams are connecting structural elements and so are chapters. Each chapter must truly fit with the one before it. It must be securely attached. Each one leads to the next. How is this achieved? Beams are bolted together, so are good chapters. If your character is falling asleep at the end of a chapter, you leave yourself with with little to connect to the next chapter, other than to wake up. I caution, use "the sleeping character chapter transition" sparingly; it weakens your story. A good choice is to find the place something interesting happens for your character snoozes and end the chapter there. Start the next chapter when the an interesting thing happens not when the gal wakes up.
For example if your gal falls off a cliff and ends up on a ledge, end the chapter there, not when she falls asleep on the ledge. Don't start the next chapter when she wakes up, but when the surprise solution to that cliff problem shows up (perhaps the hot guy tries to help and they both fall into the river -- you know something unexpected), readers will want to turn the page. You have bolted your chapters together. Look at the beginning of chapters and think about bolting them to the previous chapter. Always connect chapters with high action or emotion.
Beams form corners in buildings. So major turns in stories happen at chapter ends that segue into chapter beginnings. If a beam is too long, the house collapses. If a chapter is too long, the story collapses. Perhaps the action goes on for twenty pages, the story really sags. Perhaps there are long descriptive passages for a dozen pages, the story sags. Cut to make it work. A good trick is go to the mid-point of the saggy chapter and cut the chapter in half. This often reveals what you need to cut or add. Do the work to make your story structure strong.
Here are my thoughts on short chapters. If a beam is too short you don't leave enough room under it for the rooms to be created. This doesn't mean you can't have a short beam. It's just, if all the beams are really short, it weakens the story. I am seeing stories these days with extra short chapters. These books tend to have hundreds of chapters. I find this weakening stories. It's a cinematic approach to writing. I'm not saying you can't be successful with it. I mean, straw huts don't have beams. It is viable form of building and it has been around forever. But stories can be so much more than huts. (Yes, I am saying that cinematic film offers a very limited story-telling structure). In the end, I'm asking you to consider if you can say more by varying chapter length.
OK! You have some chapter stuff to think about. Remember this is just an analogy and that they only go so far. I hope that you move forward with projects and create master works.
Here is another abstract piece: Transparent Olives
.Tuck this quote in your pocket:Rexamine all that you have been told... dismiss that which insults your soul. Walt Whitman.
Hi folks, I will spend the month of June sharing what I have learned about story structure in my writing journey. Here is a link to my previous series on this topic, covering five important structural components to story plots. This month I will draw a series of analogies to building structure to help illuminate structural components of stories.
First up is the ridge beam. This seriously important beam connects the trusses of a roof. It's the beam the rafters connect to. It's basically the part of the building that brings us under one roof. Stories need singular focus to work. In a way they need to bring our readers under one roof. You will create this ridge beam for your story by understanding what your character wants. This one desire must be clear from the get go and all other desires must subordinate to it. It's a simple concept with satisfying results.
Some authors write characters that want too many things, like they have mommy issues, they want true love, they desire to have successful careers, they hunger for fame, etc. The reader has to look in so many directions as they take the story journey, and by the end of the book, they don't care. What is important is that the author chooses one ridge pole from these many desires and uses the rest as rafters. Subordinate ideas to the main beam through your story and your readers will thank you.
Another mistake is switching your main character's desire mid-stream. This breaks the roof over your story unless you are very careful and resolve that desire and place a new one in place and stick to it. Mostly desire switching just creates a mess. Proceed with extreme caution. Another huge problem is a character who just doesn't want anything. This story needs a roof to bring all those great ideas together. Dig into that main character's psyche and figure out what's going on. Your readers will rejoice.
HINT: If you can't easily communicate what your main character wants in a sentence or two, you don't know and need to figure that out.
Laser focus on the want of a character throughout a story rivets readers. It holds them in place within your construct Your job as a writer is do whatever you can to not give your character what she wants, thwarting her desire, exploring the consequences of her desire, and finally letting your character obtain her deepest desire or not obtain it by uncovering the tragedy unfullfilled desire.
Trust your ridge beam and create powerful stories that readers will not wat to put down. Come back next week for more on story structure. I hope you find help here to craft stories for the ages.
Here is this week's doodle: Abstract #1
Finally a quote for your pocket I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world
. Walt Whitman.
Hi folks, this week I'm going to talk about another piece of the pre-writing journey, and I'm calling it this piece -- soul. I've been thinking about how to communicate this idea all week. Soul isn't a tangible thing. It's very nature is illusive. Soul is the spiritual or the immaterial part of us infused into our book; it is the essence of our identity.
You must nurture the soul because writing a meaningful book is all about chipping a corner off of that soul and letting it go forever. This process is painful, makes you vulnerable and in the end is an unfathomable mystery. I'm going to offer some activities that have helped me on my journey.
Quiet: We live in a busy world but books need quiet to be spring out of the good ground of you. Retreat. Turn everything off and take a weekend away from all your responsibilities. Move away from the books, the busy, and, probably hardest of all, your own thoughts. No writing. No internal dialogue. No praying. Be still. Be silent. Focus on breathing. That is the whole goal. Once you understand quiet, put some purposefully quiet space into your life each day.
Improvement: Do something that will make you a better person. This is an intensely personal journey. Only you know what will improve you. It doesn't matter what. Talk to your neighbor. Plant some tulips. Stop a bad habit. Start a good one. Be better. Here is a little talk by A. J. Jacobs, "How healthy living nearly killed me", that might give you a smile.
Generosity: Volunteer time to someone or something. I take Mother Teresa as my spiritual guide on this one. Her voice whispers inside me all the time, you can only do small things with great love. There is so much need in the world, ask yourself what grieves you. What is one thing that you can do? Do it. Sacha Dichten 's talk on generosity might inform you too.
Forgiveness: This is about dealing with the emotional baggage that you are carrying. You must put down those dang bags to write that book. Let go of the faults of other. Embrace the chiaroscuro of the world.Don't twist every event to your grudge agenda. Seek to lose the grudge. I like this essay by Alexander Pope -- An Essay on Criticism. To err is human, to forgive divine.
Wander: Inward or out, start making plans to go to that undiscovered country. Get a passport. Put pennies in jar. Seek your muse. Find faith. Whatever journey is calling you, start taking steps. I find that writers need to wander more than folks. Take time to go with no agenda in hand. Where does your heart take you?
Confidence: This idea is an extension of the faith and trust. Cultivate it. You must feel the book in your hands. The heft of it. Become aware of what you do well and don't dwell on your faults. Stop criticizing yourself inwardly and to others. Whisper the good things you want. Write them down. Take a month and write down every good thing you have done each day that. I like this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert about your genius. Grow confidence.
This is some of the stuff I need to create my master works. I hope something here has spoken to you. I will be back next week for a month of musing about story structure.
Here is this week's doodle: Daylily.
I will end up with a quote for your pocket.
All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone. Blaise Pascal
Hi, folks: I'm continuing my blog series Blooming, and I'm keeping with the list-y format. I'm offering pre-writing activities for setting this week. Authentic setting will make your stories pop! I hope that something here helps you utilize place within your stories like it is a living breathing character.
Travel -- One powerful way to create setting is to go there. Here is a link to Stephanie Meyer's trip to Forks, WA. Take a camera, a notebook, a recorder and go crazy! Don't be shy. Talk to old timers, visit old houses, tromp through historical sites, and tiptoe through graveyards!
Shop -- I have more than one friend that shops for vintage photos on eBay. I also like to rummage around in antique shops. Remember a picture is worth a thousand words.
Maps -- I love Google Earth. Man, it is addictive. At Google Maps you can get directions to drive, take transit, walk or bike there. Very handy. I also like Map Quest. Here is a link to 3-D virtual room software. I also am a pretty handy doodler and create maps for my fantasy and sci-fi worlds. If you don't doodle, try fantasy map making software like at ProFantasy Software.
Model -- Here is a link to Dollhousecity. You might want to but miniature set of furniture for a room. Here is a Wooden Dollhouse Set from Amazon. This can be handy if you have a fight scene and need to toss some furniture around. Exactly how does a chair look that is tossed out a window? I mean you could really toss a chair out the window or ....
Archives -- Did you know almost all major cities have online photo archives? Here are a couple to get you started. Here is NYC Municipal Archives. Here is a link to the City of Houston Gallery. Newspapers also have photo archives. Here is one to the Chicago Tribune. I am also a big fan of the digital collections at the Library of Congress.
If you are in doubt, Google it.
I think following up with some of these pre-writing activities are a great way to build strong story bones. I hope that you are moving forward with your project.
Here is this week's doodle: "Dandelion".
Here is a quote for your pocket. All the ideas in the universe can be described by words. Therefore, if you simply take all the words and rearrange them randomly enough times, you’re bound to hit upon at least a few great ideas eventually. Sausage donkey swallows flying guillotine, my love assembly line.
Hi, folks! My cold is better this week, but I keeping my listy format for the month. I'm offering pre-writing activities for writers, and this week I'm focusing on plot. I have found pre-writing activities insure that you create viable manuscripts. I hope that you find something here interesting.
Charts -- Here is a link to actual charts of authors on Flavorwire: Charts and Diagrams Drawn by Famous Authors. You can see how regular writer folk like J.K. Rowling, Jack Kerouac, and Kurt Vonnegut plot stories. I'm not sure how you write a novel without doing some charting. Everyone finds their own chart method. Check out several and then create your own.
Cards -- How do you keep all those plot points together? Here is a 3x5 card method illustration -- the tried and true method -- at Kimberley's Wanderings.
Software -- If you are like me you don't a ton of pieces floating around you. Hey, you lose stuff. This organizational software will help. Writer's Blocks is a popular program to get you started. I am also a fan of Celtx. Many love their Scrivener. It has excellent plotting stuff.
Story Journals -- Here is a peek at author Laini Taylor's story journal at Figment. This a working place to build a plot.
Dreaming-- Try this activity. Think about your plot for about an hour before you go to bed. Think hard about each plot point. You will find gaps. You will find walls where you don't know what happens next. You will think certain plot elements are weak, but you won't know how to fix them. Just think. In the morning take a couple of hours and think again. This time write what you think. Keep doing this until you know. Stuff to put in your story journal.
Gossiping -- Join together with your writing gurus and talk about your plot. Argue. Joke. Sound off. Let them offer their ideas. You might want to tape this or take notes. This is a great way to get a plot engine going. You might put your notes in a story journal.
Chatting -- This is about taking a walk. You tell a trusted friend about your story without interruption. As you tell your story, allow yourself to change directions, up the stakes, and be inventive. After this chat, write about what you learned about your story. You might put this in a story journal too.
Write the book -- Sounds crazy to me, but some folks just don't have a clue unless they start writing. This draft is very exploratory.Your plot will be a mess: dead ends, rabbit holes, and incongruity.You might write 8 versions of the same chapter in it to find one. I have heard of authors who write this draft and delete it. If this is your cup of tea, NANOWRIMO is for you.
If you pick some of these activities and do them, your plot is sure to bloom. Guaranteed.
Here is a doodle: "Louisana Iris."
Quote for the week:Every discourse, even a poetic or oracular sentence, carries with it a system of rules for producing analogous things and thus an outline of methodology. Jacques Derrida
Hi, folks! I hope that you are having a good week. I am down with a bad cold and am wondering why I still have a jacket out in May. It was almost 40 degrees yesterday morning. Brr. I don't know how anything is going to bloom, but my friend the pecan farmer and children's author, Andy Sherrod, assures me that if the ground is warm, so stuff is going to bloom. So how do you get your ground warm?
I will spend this month sharing prewriting activities that I use to ensure success. This week I'm going to touch on prewriting characters. I'm going to give you serious activities to help!
Scrap: Gather together pictures that represent your characters. Building composites using one photo's eyes, another's nose, etc. works. Try istockphoto.com but there are many more stock sites.
Personality: I always take the Enneagram test for my characters. Also do the Jung Typology Test. Here is a link to a bunch more personality tests, and, yes, I do use some of these.
Traits: Martina Boone offers this useful character trait worksheet. I also love these character questionnaires from the Gotham Writers Workshop. My best advice, look at a number of character questionaires and worksheets and then design one that fits your style.
Letter: Have all your main characters write you a letter telling you what they think this journey is about.
Act: Take an hour or a whole day and pretend to be your character. When you are done take an hour to write down what you learned from the exercise..
Cast: Go to imbd.com and see if you can find the perfect actors to play the parts of your characters.
Journal: Write a journal from your character's POV about the events of your story. You don't have to go crazy here, you should do this until it is easy to produce interior thoughts from your character.
Interview: Find folks who you feel may connect with your character and do character interviews of them. (This always makes people cry -- take tissues and a Starbucks card.)
Okay, this feels like enough to get your started. Enjoy the blooming process. Do this stuff and when your start to write, your characters will pop off the page. Guaranteed.
Come back next week for more blooming. Seize the day!
Doodle this week: "Swimming Fish."
Here is the quote for the week.
Just keep swimming
Just keep swimming
Everything will be okay
Just keep swimming
Move your tail
And sure enough we'll find our way
Oh sometimes things look bad
Then poof! The moment is gone
And what do we do?
Dory, Finding Nemo (Thomas Newman)
Hi, folks, this is the last in my series, April Showers. This week I'm going to dip into creative exposure. This is way I jump start my imagination. It's all about feeding your artistic soul.
Here is an example: I just road-tripped to Austin last night to see an early screening of Iron Man 3 hosted by Ain't It Cool News. I met a group of engineers who work on luxury airplanes and an artist from England who comminserated with me about the deep truth that the process of creating art is what interest artists and not selling their art. For me, I feel excited about what I am working on right now -- I remember with fondness the incredible journey of my completed works. We nodded at each other, sharing the weirdnness of this situation.
Then I watched a nicely crafted movie written by Shane Black with Robert Downey Jr., Ben Kingsley and others, having gleeful fun. Why some of these Marvel movies don't win a few more shiny statues is a mystery to me. Fun isn't worthy I guess. At a movie like this, it is all about the spectacle. Spectacle isn't lauded as art in exalted communites. I hope I never reach such heights of snobbery. After the movie I was struck with the most creative piece of the journey -- a misty moon in the sky. I imagined witches, dragons, and monsters in that full moon wreathed in clouds. I call the moon my lagniappe of the journey. What's a lagniappe? Like the thirteenth donut in a dozen, it's that that little something extra.
I think following your curiosity is the best bet when it comes to creative exposure. I search for what challenges me. I try to read impossibly difficult books or stuff that everyone is reading, just to see what that is all about. I search out the weird and the wonderful and make sure I get a chance to revel in it. I also hunger for the divine and search for sacred spaces and holy connections. I'm a self-proclaimed geek and also try to wedge in some geekdom fun whenever I can. I'm a lover of art and good music, and tasty food and chunk out time for that too. Of course, I love writing conferences, open reads, and critique groups, but, oh, I like the opera, a good dance troupe and will stop to watch skaters at the local skate park when I have time.
Here's the deal, not everything speaks to me, but I am very aware of what does. I energize my creative self and make sure that I receive exposure. Not getting enough exposure is like not getting enough sun; your bones start to wither.
I hope that you spend some time seeking creative exposure this week. I will be back next week with a series called Blooming, all about pre-writing activities that help me produce the fruit of writing--manuscripts.
Here is my doodle: "Iron Man Chicken."
Quote for the week:Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Water your soul by pouring the best of art into your soul. Part of the reason for why we create is a response to the world around us. You need to take time to marvel at the natural world around you. Your books will be infused with the wonder of the world as you take the time to admire the astonishing details that surround you.
It's cool to travel to exotic places with breath-taking vistas but I've found that these places aren't always the ones that speak to me the most. In fact, I've found it's difficult to predict which places will speak to me the most. I've come to the conclusion that you must trust your instincts when it comes to connection. The natural landscape that you gravitate toward will sometimes surprise you. Search for the spots that squeeze emotion out of your pores.
I have a little ritual that I perform in new places. I go very still and let the place speak to me. Thousands of detail begin to bombard me. I could never verbalize what I am taking in. But I have noticed that allowing space to take in the details will energize my storytelling. It's almost like taking a memory photograph or movie. I can easily return to these memories and recall every sense. I can also pull in every nuance of emotion I felt. I'm convinced these tiny details are what make your work rise above the rest. You must have the information within you to put it on the page.
Finally, you don't have to go on a far flung trip across the globe to find what you are looking for. Your bluebird of happiness might be in your backyard. You might string a hammock between two trees and just marvel at the sound of the wind and birds. You might stare at the whorls formed by the leaves of a succulent. You might break off sprigs in your herb garden and let the aromas swirl in your mind. Search for what speaks to you. Watch a spider build a web. Listen to bird song and bubbling brooks. Pile sun warmed rocks on your belly. Marvel in the world around you.
All these glorious details will set your mind on fire. Take time to marvel. I will be back next week the the conclusion of April Showers. Meanwhile seize the day.
No doodle this week. Here is a photo of my hammock, but my son Jack is marveling at the moment.
Here is a quote for your pocket: The landscape belongs to the person who looks at it...
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Hi folks, brilliant sunshine, perfect warmth, and blue skies -- not exactly writing weather, but perhaps I can grab a notebook and find a sweet spot under a tree. I'm continuing my series about what waters our creative soul. I think one important piece to thrive as as a writer is to take small steady steps. So many want to leap, and leap right now. I think there is some deep truth in that story of the tortoise and the hare.
One way to make serious forward leaps is to make a list of small steps you can complete over time. As you complete each small step you feel deep satisfaction that you are drawing closer to your goal. You build confidence layer upon layer. Small steps help you avoid becoming stuck. You have a plan and the next thing to do isn't that big.
For example, a problem I'm facing right now is a main character who needs to shift her goal. I'm going over two or three pages a day and underlining anywhere in the manuscript she thinks about this goal Then I journal little paragraphs about various ways her new goal might work in the underlined sections. I've made a chart of chapters vs. goal change. I'm writing an overall plan about how I will achieve the change. Next, I plan to underline sections and then make my planned revisions. I will highlight each revision and let the manuscript rest for a few days.. I think you get the idea. Small steps. I find puddle jumping is the way to go.
I hope that you water your work with some small steps this week. I hope that you make progress and celebrate that progress. Be kind to yourself. Think happy thoughts. Seek the best of everything, the best in everyone, and the best in you.
I will be back with more showers next week! Meanwhile seize the day!
Here is the doodle:PINK BLOBBY.
It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward
. Chinese Proverb.
Hi, folks, welcome to the blog. This month I will touch on what waters creatives. What causes us to break through walls, to open up new avenues, and spring up? Hopefully my musing will help you create your master works.
Here are my first watering words: take advice. I think that many writers shy away from the good advice. I also understand why. We are the creative force behind our works, and no one wants someone messing with that. Here's the dealy, you are not going to move forward until you learn to listen and learn to act. The following three cases may help you make the leap you have been longing to make.
I think we can be prideful about the advice given. Why should I listen to someone who hasn't got a best seller in her credits? You are going to pay a ton of money for advice, you could have gotten from a critique group for nothing. To this person, you must join a critique group and for a period of about six months and make a promise to yourself. "I will let go of my ways and do what my critique group recommends." I mean it -- even if it means putting aside the novel you have been slaving over for 20 years, even if it means changing you POV character in you novel, even if it means switching a whole novel from third person to first person present. Take every bit of advice. Truth: it won't all work. Truth: You will now know what does work. Truth: You are going to make the biggest leaps of your entire career.
Another group is afraid to take advice. They are plagued with self-doubt, unwilling to believe they can indeed pull off the magical advice that has come their way. They have a difficult time believing they can be more. Oh, self-doubters, I want to hug you now. First stop sabotaging good advice by telling yourself you are not as good as the advice giver, best selling authors, whoever. Don't worry about what other people think. Oh, my gosh, start listening to your fans! They love you. Stop minimizing your works. Think about what you want and whisper that to yourself every time you work on challenging advice. Here is my little mantra: "You will finish this book. You will find an agent. You will find a publisher. You will find an audience. You are trying -- the most important ingredient of success."
One more group doesn't listen to advice because they just don't understand it. Repetitive advice may indicate the author lacks a skill set. If you are getting a lot of feedback that relates to grammar, story structure, POV, etc. that it is not going away no matter what you do to your work. You are suffering from ignorance and need to shore up what is lacking . You need to learn a thing or two. No biggie. If you are getting specific feedback -- read a book, work through exercises, or take a class. This is the only way to act on the advice given and finding the road to success.
I hope that you have a happy time taking advice successfully. I hope that you move forward with all that you wish to do. See you next week with more April showers.
Here's some advice from one of my favorite writers. Some people like my advice so much that they frame it upon the wall instead of using it.
- Gordon Dickson
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Hi folks, I'm wrapping up my month of reflecting on theme. I have found that everything you write is connected. Every writer is digging into some universal ideas or messages that are directly connected to her experience.
I went to a workshop with Bethany Hegedus, author and teacher, a few years ago and she convinced me that the magician behind the curtain (me) is the one holding the keys to my story. Her message: understand what you are about -- mind and soul -- and you will find your theme. I also got a big wake up call from Julia Cameron and her book Finding Water. You must learn to say the things you never say. This takes an insane amount of bravery, and I am still working on in it. At the end of the day, you must discover what you are looking for.
What is the theme of your life? What makes you howl at the moon? What turns you red hot on fire? Think about that. Write down all the words that resonate with you. Some of mine: Wisdom, peace, forgiveness, laughter, disrespect, belittlement, mockery, frustration, heaven, hope, worth ... Try making a Wordle of all your words. Post that near where you work and let it simmer. Gather together your favorite stuff: music, movies, TV shows, books, artwork, shoes, whatev. Put your treasure trove in a pile and think about it. Add to the list the words that come to you. What does all of this speak to you? What are you circling? Strip away all that fluff on the outside. Go close to the bone and discover your theme.
I hope these little exercises help you draw closer to the knowledge of your theme. Next week, I will start April Showers -- a series to water you creative soul...see you then. Meanwhile, seize the day!
Here is a doodle: "Shepherd and his sheep"
A quote for your pocket. The soul is in the very likeness of the divine, and immortal, and intelligible, and uniform, and indissoluble, and unchangeable; and the body is in the very likeness of the human, and mortal, and unintelligible, and multiform, and dissoluble, and changeable.