#NaNoWriMo2015 — Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #2)

Don’t get stuck believing you must draft your novel by a) rigidly outlining OR b) driving your story through the dark blindly with no gas can and no sense of destination. Writing a novel is not an either/or process. Try creating a loose outline with some idea of beginning, middle, end–and fill in the major turning points as you write. Let your hero’s “want” drive the story. Ditto your antagonist’s “want”. Free-write scenes, be a voyeur and watch your protagonist interact with people who are most important in her life. Those moments are vital even if they do not end up …

Continue Reading

WRITER TO WRITER: 12 Possibly Relevant Tips at Year’s End

Do not take your moods too seriously (exclusions to this rule include clinical depression, bipolar disorder, and the like; if any of these apply, seek expert help and do not skip your meds!) because the dark hole you inhabit today may well presto-change-o to a snowy peak tomorrow, and either way, you still have to face the blank page and write the next paragraph/page/chapter/repeat. Do know what makes your skin crawl, your stomach turn to mush, and your brain freeze because chances are at least some of your characters share your fears and, writers, this is useful knowledge. Do know …

Continue Reading

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 …

Continue Reading

COACHING QUESTIONS TO KEEP YOU ON COURSE

When I was nineteen I started a business with a partner and we called it “Hat Trick Hats”. We wanted to be portable. We sold our hand-stitched leather creations on the sidewalks of Santa Barbara and on the Wharf and Union Square in San Francisco. We wanted to be free to make our own designs and decisions and we accomplished both. We needed to make a living and sometimes we actually ended the month with a financial surplus! Of course that money was quickly spent to replenish our supplies to make more hats. Our goal was never to get rich—and …

Continue Reading

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 …

Continue Reading

WORD PLAY

Every writer knows word play is addicting. And, happily, readers flock to those writers who express themselves with originality and authenticity. By that I mean, the images evoked are vivid and often surprising, and the words feel “right” for the narrative world they bring to life. My seven-year-old daughter and I are currently enjoying the series, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. We look forward to our nightly installment, and always we end up laughing out loud. Today’s playful description comes courtesy of Cressida Cowell, the series author, and Toothless, Hiccup’s tiny and sleep-deprived dragon: “Toothless crawled up from his place …

Continue Reading

QUOTE OF THE DAY: DRAMATIC FOCUS

Today’s quote comes from David Harris Ebenbach musing on plot in the book from Gotham Writers’ Workshop WRITING FICTION: “Works of fiction are not, and cannot be, about a million things–they are usually about just one thing. And that thing, the force that draws everything together in a successful piece of fiction, is a single, pressing question.”

Continue Reading

Quote of the Day on Point of View

Today’s quote from Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass: “Point of view is more than just a set of eyes looking upon the world. Those eyes come with a mouth and a brain. Those must come into play, too, or your novel will have the chilliness of a movie camera. There may be times when objective point of view is useful, but by and large it is best to use the singular advantage that the novel has over other art forms: the ability to bring us deeply inside a character’s experience.”

Continue Reading

Story Form–It’s a jungle out there!

I had a call yesterday from a writer who wasn’t sure if the story she wants to write will best be told as fiction or memoir. We talked about fear of exposure and how fictionalizing a life story does not necessarily do anything to address that issue. We talked about the kinds of books she loves to read. At the end of our brief conversation, she asked if I had an exercise that would guide her along a discovery process to find her story’s form. I have a simple step, I said, to take you in that direction. Sit down …

Continue Reading