@NaNoWriMo2015-Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #30)

Okay, so technically this 30th NaNoWriMo post comes to you on December 1. (Even if I pretend that I’m writing this in Honolulu, we are still minutes into the last month of the year.) So I’m opting for flexible and sending out congratulations to all who wrote their way through November. Hopefully, depending upon where you are in the world–catching up on your ZZZZZZs, watching the sun rise, or midway through your day–you are celebrating your accomplishment. There is more writing to be done, more drafts of your novel (more screenplays, essays, short stories, memoirs). We writers write, rewrite, edit, …

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#NaNoWriMo2015-Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #28)

When I fall in love with a book it is because I experience the story as if it lives and breathes inside me; I can summon and recall the evocative and pivotal images as clearly as if I’d been there. Because I am there, each time I dive into a story I love, I participate as a reader and the most powerful images are a dance of the visual and the visceral. Make wise use of the pivotal images of the story you are writing. What is the opening image of your story? Visualize your hero just as the story …

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#NaNoWriMo2015-Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #25)

Yesterday I wrote about approaching the end of writing the first draft of your novel and the various emotions that will inevitably be stirred up inside of you. In a previous post I wrote about the fact that the fears that arise around writing your book must, in their deepest nature, be connected to the fears of your primary characters. This is simply so. So, now, as you near the end of this draft, do remember to find the way from your fears–their deepest, most primal nature–to the fears of your protagonist. They will be heightened by the approach of …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #23)

If you are a fan of the classic 1983 coming of age/holiday film, A CHRISTMAS STORY, scenes come vividly to mind when I cue you: pink bunny suit; Scut Farkus; Santa and his elves; soap bar; leg lamp; Red Ryder; the dogs and the turkey. Today’s post is a day late and my only excuse is that a version of the ‘dogs and turkey’ scene unfolded in my home yesterday. This morning, I am still carrying around three different brands of carpet cleaner, still sweeping up broken glass and scrubbing butter from the oddest places, still highly miffed at certain …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #15)

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, you are halfway through your month and you might be wondering if you’re going to make it all the way through your draft by November 30th. If you’re flagging, take a deep breath (and perhaps a nap) and give yourself the credit you deserve: you’ve taken on a big challenge and that’s a victory all its own! Did you take a selfie on Day #1? If yes, look it over, put it away, and take another selfie now, on Day #15. If you didn’t take an actual photo, picture what you looked like two …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #14)

When it comes to understanding the story you are writing, teachers stress the importance of knowing what your hero desires, yearns for, desperately wants! They will probably remind you that her goal (want) is something that can be measured externally, in the world. It’s also a very good idea, they say, to know the meaning your hero attaches to getting what she wants. This meaning is internal, having to do with her most vulnerable emotional wounds. Example: She will do almost anything to get that promotion because then she’ll feel validated and successful (instead of feeling like the failure in her …

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Pump Up the Faith Muscles

I just finished a phone conversation with a writer I know. He is new to writing and he’s eager to learn his craft—although he already understands how to write strong, entertaining scenes. I remind him of this often. Still, he worries a lot. I remind him, also, that his characters are strong and they have suffered and we care about them. Characters have the power to invite us into their book so we follow them eagerly across the most tumultuous narrative seas; characters also have the less-than-desirable power to shoo us away from reading because we don’t care about them …

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Always End With a Smile~and Other Writing Lessons from Puppy Class

Last week my daughter and I and our 10-month old recently rescued puppy, Jazz, all graduated from ‘Puppy Basics’. Jazz, who is 13.5 pounds of clever terrier-plus-guess-what, and my daughter, who is wise and a few days shy of her 11th birthday, breezed through the lessons: relax, sit, stay, off, down, lineup, come, and leave it. I did fine, too, as I am fascinated by animal behavior and what it teaches us about ourselves and others. At the end of the class, as is her custom, our instructor Judy reminded us to generously praise our dogs and ourselves because the …

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WRITING RULES

One of my favorite writing rules comes from Dwight V. Swain from his wise and practical book TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER (University of Oklahoma Press): ” 1) Separate creative impulse from critical judgement. The first a most essential step is to recognize the human tendency to mix the two. Then, walk wise around it. To that end, adopt a working rule of “Create now….correct later.” Promise yourself the privilege of being as critical as you like, as soon as the first draft of a scene or story is completed. Until the draft is done, however, stick with impulse. Let …

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ALL PLAY, NO PRESSURE

This November, National Novel Writing Month, offers the perfect opportunity to test out a new idea for a novel. After all, you can benefit from the energy of thousands of other writers. Just knowing so many people are sitting down to write every day can give you juice. If you decide to jump in, I suggest you make it fun. If you’ve been laboring on a novel for months or years (and it’s not flowing to completion), try setting it aside and working with a fresh idea, character, concept. You’ve got nothing to lose and you might discover new things …

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