Everything that’s wrong with your story, courtesy of Michael Swanwick.
Someone recently asked me what typically happens on these nights, and going over the ones we’ve done so far made me realize I had never recapped the last one. Because of the holidays, we haven’t met in a while, but we did meet in October at Kim and Mike’s apartment. In honor of Halloween being the next day, we came in costume. Our hosts were a young Carl and Ellie from Up, Jon arrived as an impressively accurate Mr. Tumnus with an amazingly-bedecked Beth-the-Kraken in tow, and I rounded things out as Hermione from her Prisoner of Azkaban days.
We finally tackled the Action topic which had been requested in the spring. We read examples of action passages from favorite books and analyzed what made the author’s style for writing action particularly effective.
Our next meeting will be later this month, where we will try a live-writing exercise. By the way, I just made that term up on the spot, but it looks like it’s actually a thing. Check out an example.
I’d like to propose Dialogue as a future topic. Here’s a good article to get you started on Writing Great Dialogue.
The open tabs are piling up in my browser, so it’s time to share a few more articles.
I’ll start off with this business writing tip to write your emails backwards. I’ve been using the technique extensively at the office, and I think it makes a real difference in the conciseness of my correspondence.
While you’re on the Writer’s Write site, also check out these Three Simple Ways to Get Your Hero to Make a Stand. I think they will come in handy when we talk about Action next month. The third method reminds me of an article I shared a while back called What Disney (and Pixar) Taught Me About Writing Suspense. If you didn’t read it the first time around, be sure to check it out now. Then stick around for this article on Understanding Viewpoint Terminology. Personally, I write in third person objective most of the time, but I appreciated the examples of popular books written in the other styles. And, lastly, enjoy this comic about How to Get Ideas.
Here is some advice on how to Put Your Best Work Out There: Avoid These 25 Newbie Writer Mistakes. I think many of them are obvious, but there are a few gems.
And in 5 Steps to Getting It Done: The Writing Process, I like that the writer included “getting it read” as the final and crucial step because, as he says “People often forget this, but writing is supposed to be for a reason.”
Finally, I’ll leave you with Famous Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers.
I admit it. I like to blog. There’s something about the blogging format that captured me way back when Xanga was a thing (if you remember Xanga, you get 2 points). Is it the immediacy of capturing a thought and spinning it out into the expanse of the web, allowing my voice to be heard, even by a few random strangers who happen to click over to my post because of a random tag?
I have connected with others through blogs, people I will never meet in real life who share my love of design or color or stories . . . or who share my struggles with fibromyalgia. People who, like me, are using their blogs to tell it like it is, or to ask meaningful questions.
I have most recently been blogging about fibro on a blog called Dear Fibro on which I write short notes to fibromyalgia as though it is a person living with me. It’s a very niche concept, I realize, but I have been so interested to see who has read the blog and how many people have begun to follow the posts and leave thoughtful or encouraging comments. This isn’t a plug for my blog, because I know its content is irrelevant to most of you. It’s just to say that it’s one way in which I scratch my itch to write and to express myself with words.
I’ve also enjoyed being a part of several group blogs, including this one. And I wondered if any of the other readers of this blog are bloggers themselves or have favorite blogs they like to read. If so, would you share a link?
Here are a few of my favorites (these may not be everyone’s cup of tea — what’s yours?) . . .
DesignSponge – this is a classic in the world of design blogging. I’ve been following this blog for years and have seen it grow and “mature” over time. The writing is done by several different folks on their team, and I enjoy the different tone/perspective each one brings to the table.
Color Collective – an incredibly simple idea. This blogger pulls beautiful images from various sources and then pulls together a color palette based on each image. I find this inspiring when I’m stuck on a design project or when I just need a jolt of prettiness.
Oh Joy! is the blog of a Graphic Designer, so another design-lover’s blog. She also shares recipes, craft ideas, fun ideas for kids . . . oh, and her blog is full of beautifully shot photos, which is inspiring to the little photographer who lives inside me.
Featured Image used under Creative Commons Attribution License via Mike Licht
I’ve collected enough articles that it’s time to share a few more, beginning with one that’s a little metaphysical in tone. The 5 Tips To Find Your Authentic Writing Voice start out sounding a bit vague and theoretical but end on a concrete note. They’re worth your time to read—especially, in my opinion, #4.
Next we have a brief, practical bit of advice that the folks at Camp NaNoWriMo put together when asked, “How can you be sure that your plot is actually compelling, and not just a pile of stuff that happens?”
That’s followed by one that’s more of a list than an article. Here are 25 Brain Lubricants For Generating Ideas. Two near the middle stuck out to me.
- Get Fearless: What if you could do, say or write anything? It’s just an exercise, so fear not. Step outside of your comfort zone. I think this is excellent advice. Sometimes I have an idea, but then I don’t run with it because I think other people will think it’s silly. I need to remind myself more often that it’s okay to write something that I don’t want to share with anyone else. Confidential writing isn’t limited to the arenas of diaries and classified military files; sometimes it’s okay to do creative writing for your eyes alone. And sometimes a creatively crazy idea becomes just the inspiration you need to get out of a rut. The major twist in the novel I’m writing was born out of an April Fool’s joke, of all things.
- Get Unsatisfied: Look at a satisfactory solution all over again and challenge it. Dismiss it. Find another path that make take you even further. The good is the enemy of the best, right? If we think that we have found a good way to write a scene (or a character’s motivation, or a setting description, or…), we may never discover the best way to write it.
The fourth item is from Writers Write. They’re based in South Africa, and I always find it inspiring to think that writers half way around the world are using many of the same techniques we are here; good writing has very universally-applicable principles. This article teaches you how to Keep Calm and Kill Clichés. There’s not a whole lot to it, but I still recommend reading it because it comes to a strong conclusion: “When we use jargon or clichés, we create fuzziness around the image or emotion we’re trying to get across. Be as specific as you can be and authentic as you can be. Every word must have your blood in it – anger, irony, admiration, etc. Don’t make it look like everyone else’s.“ I usually try to avoid clichés because I think they’re annoying and make writing sound amateur, but I hadn’t ever thought about that deeper reason to avoid them. As a bonus, here’s a link to a site where you can build your own keep calm and…whatever poster.
Another blogger at Writers Write shares What Watching Disney and Pixar Teaches About Writing Suspense. What single component do 10 of the most well-known Disney/Pixar movies have in common? You’ll have to read the article to find out! And read the article you should, because it’s something you clearly can apply to your writing too, if only you have it in mind.
That pretty much does it for April’s articles, but I promised info on May’s events as well. First, we have the GLVWG monthly Writers Cafe coming up next Thursday, the 8th. It’s at 7pm at the Palmer branch of the Easton library, and Nicole is organizing dinner beforehand at Wegmans (just down the road on 248) at 5:30 – thank you, Nicole! And later in the month, I’ll be hosting the next Writers’ Salon on Thursday the 29th. This time we’ll be focusing on setting (and anything else you’d like to discuss).
Lastly, for a bit of humor, check out this game that explains How to be a writer.
I have a habit of opening scads of tabs in multiple browser windows. (Just ask Jennifer. It drives her crazy.) They pile up and pile up as I come across more and more things that I want to save or share but am too harried (or lazy) to take care of at the time I first encounter them. (The web’s interconnectedness, its greatest asset, can be its greatest curse as well.) Anyway, it has reached a tipping point, and it’s time to purge. So here are some fun writing-related things I’ve discovered in the past month…
First off, we have The Periodic Table Of Storytelling. This gem contains 176 storytelling tropes (themes) from the TV Tropes wiki. While a few of them (eg. ‘Screwed By The Network’) are television-specific, most are applicable to any type of fiction writing. You can even mix and match them into story molecules, samples of which are included for favorites like Star Wars, Dilbert, and Wall-E.
Next is this Character Questionnaire. There are plenty of them out there, but this 50-question one features some especially probing set of questions, such as: #24: What social groups and activities does your character attend? What role do they like to play? What role do they actually play, usually? Sets of questions like this—where each question digs a little deeper—are a great way to reveal information about your character’s motivations.
I once attended a class where the instructor told us that we should first “ask” our character a basic A-level question. Then let “their answer” to that prompt us to ask a slightly deeper B-level question. And then finally ask a follow-up C-level question, and that is where you will truly get to what makes your character tick. I was skeptical at first. After all, it’s not like my character is real—I’m simply asking one portion of my brain to interview another portion of it—but it really does help you to think differently and create ideas.
The best example I can give from my own experience was that I once started interviewing a character by asking what kind of car he drove, which led me to the fact that he only ever bought American-made ones, which led me to the revelation that he was very angry at his country because his son died in Iraq, yet he was very patriotic as well. This inner struggle became the main identity for that character. I had none of that back story in my mind; I was just looking for a generic interview question to start with before I dug into something “more significant,” yet that turned out to be some of the most significant insight I ever got about that character.
Here are 8 Tips on Writing Short Stories, from Kurt Vonnegut. My personal favorite is #5: Start as close to the end as possible. I think this is something that the YA genre has been getting right as of late, and I think that may be contributing to its widespread popularity. All of the major YA stories I’ve read in the past few years contain the “inciting incident” in the first or second chapter.
In each story, we the meet protagonist a day or two before the coming of age ceremony for her society (Hunger Games, Divergent, Matched) or the moment he is waking up in a strange new place with no memory of the past (Incarceron, The Maze Runner). A major strength of the first Harry Potter book is that we meet Harry just as he’s about to get his letter from Hogwart’s. (A major weakness is that he doesn’t get it until chapter 4.)
I’ll end on a bit of a diabolical note and share with you Why Revenge is Such a Brilliant Plot for Beginner Writers and 10 Ways to Cover Up a Murder.
I’ve come across quite a few articles this month that I want to share with the group. The first two are from the NaNoWriMo site. For anyone who doesn’t know what that stands for, it’s National Novel Writing Month, which is a movement each November to inspire people to write the first draft of a novel in thirty days. It started in 1999, with less than two dozen people and has grown by leaps and bounds. This year, there was even a crowd-sourced novel produced, which Vicki and I had the fun of contributing to.
Both articles are about editing, since that’s what the NaNoWriMo community is doing at this time of year, having hopefully completed a first draft in November. The first, When to Listen to Your Readers… And When to Ignore Them, is about seeking out those sacred cows. The premise is that it’s not so much other people’s feedback but rather your reaction to their feedback that will help you know what to change. The second, A 7-Step Guide to Big Picture Revision (With Bonus Checklists!), is about revising using a color-schemed outline.
The next two articles are from Writers Write, a South African group that offers training courses. Don’t ask me how I stumbled across them originally. Both are quick hitters. Persuasive Writing – Emotional vs Intellectual Words is a list of almost 100 use-this-word-rather-than-that-word suggestions to up the emotional ante of your writing. 50 Lyric Titles As Writing Prompts is exactly what it sounds like.
Lastly, for Harry Potter fans, we have Tossing Snowballs at Your Clues, which talks about using patterns of imagery as a foreshadowing tool and That Extra Zing, which offers thoughts on setting and world building.
Enjoy! Go forth and write!