Sarah’s & Cynde’s Blog

Quote of the Day: “Lower Your Standards”

My friend Marty G., a professional writer and editor, who has been at it for thirty-plus years, does not believe in writer’s block. When a writer complains she can’t make progress on the first draft of her book, Marty advises, “Lower your standards.” When it comes to the craft of writing, Marty is an advocate for excellence, but he also knows the difference between writing a first draft and a third draft. First, get the words on the page; second, make it better; third, make it zing!

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LOOSEN UP WITH SLAP, BAM, MUZZY, GLOVES…

In the 1970s, poet Kenneth Koch inspired school children in Manhattan to create verse freely and joyfully. To help them associate words and sounds he began with an onomatopoetic word–buzz–and asked them to come up with words that sounded like it–fuzz, fuzzy, muzzy, does, gloves, cousin. He also made noise! He smacked a chair with a ruler and asked them to put the sound into words–hit, tap, smack. He had them close their eyes and listen again and decide what word best recreated the sound. Whack! Snap! Cat!  Koch encouraged them to hear the most accurate word regardless of its meaning. Pap! …

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UNCOMMON SENSE: Concrete, Significant, Dynamic Details

Vivid writing engages all the senses. But a writer doesn’t slather cobalt blue and Prussian blue and titanium white onto the page to paint the sky as it darkens before a rain. She can’t reach for her trumpet and belt a B-flat to herald the end of an act. He rarely has the opportunity to slide a sliver of dark chocolate laced with habanero chile between his readers’ lips. And when was the last time a book reached out with a feather and tickled that spot at the base of your neck?  Writers use words to awaken and engage a reader’s …

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The Wild Freedom of 100 Lines

My writing friend in Mexico introduced me months ago to author CM Mayo’s generous web offering: 365 five-minute writing exercises. Somewhere among those exercises is one that suggests writing 100 lines about a story, scene, idea. I don’t remember the exact details of her exercise, but I am completely addicted to the flexibility it has inspired, and I use it all the time. These days, when I’m diving into a new scene, I begin with 100 lines of free association. These free me of fear and lead me to infinite discoveries, including: dialogue, emotionally evocative sensory details, physical descriptions, various …

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Today’s Quote on Writing Memoir-I Then, I Now

Two quotes today, both from Thomas Larson’s wonderful book The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reading & Writing Personal Narrative: “It feels natural to see the remembered self as a character who has an independent life, chooses for himself, indulges free will. But memoirists avoid such self-casting. The memoir writer does not situate himself in a recreated world as though he were a literary character. What the memoirist does is connect the past self to–and within–the present writer as the means of getting at the truth of his identity.” “For such emotionally intense memoirs we need emotionally revealing memoirists, authors who …

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FIRST DRAFT, SECOND DRAFT, THIRD DRAFT!

Writing a book is a long and demanding endeavor. It is best accomplished by breaking the process into doable steps. These include dreaming, brainstorming, researching, outlining, and drafting. I am always surprised when writers are surprised by the concept of drafts. I know many writers and not one of them has penned a novel or memoir in one sitting–or even in one draft. Most writers confess to a minimum of two, usually three, and sometimes many more drafts. I suggest you aim gently for three drafts: the first being the rough and wild draft, the second being the editorial revision, the …

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SNIPPETS

This week I confessed to a writer friend who lives in Mexico that I’ve been working on my current novel in five- and ten-minute increments. I’m no stranger to writing on the go. I always carry something to write with and something to write on–tiny notebooks, recipe cards, old receipts and gum wrappers. I’ve been known to call my home phone and leave myself “writerly” messages: a few lines of dialogue, some character notes, the sketchy highlights of a pivotal scene.  I often suggest to clients who are over-scheduled and/or phobic about facing the blank page, that they send me …

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Tricksters, Saboteurs, Gremlins, and Other Early Risers

You wake early because you’ve highlighted two hours in your schedule and you’re going to work on your book. The last time you sat down to write, two days ago, the words flowed effortlessly and you felt elated. Now, you touch your fingers to the keys, but instead of joy, you feel a chill at the base of your neck. You are not quite present, a bit out of sorts. You try to shake off the shadow, shake the mood, but you find yourself forcing the words onto the page. You persevere for another ten minutes but it only gets …

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FLASH FICTION, FLASH MEMOIR!

Writers of full-length narrative may easily be enticed by the extreme brevity of flash fiction. A story with a word-count of 250 to 1000 words forces its creator to dive right into the thick of things. And what a joy to complete a story in minutes instead of months.  Now, writers of memoir can join in the dash. Recently, the magazine More encouraged its readers to write and post a six-word memoir. Their example: Revenge is living well, without you. —Joyce Carol Oates, from Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. To read other six word memoirs and …

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The Writers Telesummit 2008

Creativity coach and author Eric Maisel and two colleagues have teamed up to present the Writers TeleSummit 2008, Thursday, September 4th through Sunday, September 7th, 2008. I’ve found Maisel’s books on creativity and self-coaching to be really helpful. I love the clarity of the steps he offers to demystify the creative process. When I read the list of 24 presenters, I was impressed. Among them: Eric Maisel will talk about “Writing and Selling the Nonfiction Book.” This should be inspiring. Agent and author Jeff Herman has written one of the best guides to writing book proposals. His talk “Finding the …

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