#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #4)

When I’m drafting my novels I think in threes: first draft is fast and lean and messy (remember Anne Lamott and shitty first drafts); second draft (aka revision) comes after I’ve had the chance to take a breather and then give my book a focused read so I can sense what needs expanding, cutting, honing, deepening, this time moving at a slower pace–remember that revision is seeing again with fresh eyes; if all goes well my third draft is about “housekeeping”–tidying up, freshening up, tossing out, and adding the final touches. When I speak with writers, some new to the …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #3)

Make it easy on yourself–keep your characters in action and in relationship. Physical interaction and dialogue between two (or three) characters is one of the easiest ways to reveal deep traits. When we witness your hero counseling a 12-year-old runaway we will judge your hero’s level of compassion and concern, we will probably get a glimpse of her past and the wound that leaves her vulnerable, and depending upon the 12-year-old’s responses, we’ll know if she is street savvy or naive–in our eyes and in the eyes of the ‘tween. When you begin writing the scene, you will likely identify …

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#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 …

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The Big Nothing, Small Deaths, and How a Dilemma is Vital for Storytellers

 22 comments Two days into 2014 I had a ‘New Year’ conversation with a good friend.  Our talk turned to Noam Chomsky. I’d just seen Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?, an animated documentary on the life of the linguist, philosopher, and political activist by French filmmaker Michel Gondry. (It is, btw, a delightful and provocative film.) Chomsky had been an early influence in my friend’s academic life. We touched briefly on Chomsky’s atheism and his belief in (I paraphrase) the “big nothing” that follows death. The topic of what comes after—nothing or something—tugged at me more than usual, due I think, …

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The View from Here: One Writer’s Thoughts on Viewpoint Any in-depth discussion of viewpoint or point of view (POV) is a complex undertaking because viewpoint is perhaps the most intricate element of fiction. Because in this blog, I aim for simplicity, I will cover a few basics, and, with the examples interspersed, encourage you to register and reflect upon your impressions. For the moment lets consider point of view as the person and perspective used to narrate the story. More simply yet profoundly put by author and teacher Janet Burroway, viewpoint is the vantage point from which a story is …

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The Loose Novelist

This advice from Alan Watt’s wise how-two, THE 90-DAY NOVEL: “I didn’t try to figure out the ending, but rather, imagined a sense of my hero at the end of the story. How was he relating differently to his father? What had he come to understand as a result of his journey? How was the dilemma resolved? What was the visual metaphor, the image that captured the essence of my story at the end? As I pondered these questions, ideas came to me, and I realized that they were a goldmine of images for what preceded the ending. Imagining our …

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Life of Fiction

From Kenneth Atchity’s A WRITER’S TIME: Fiction isn’t identical with reality. Instead, dramatic fiction gives the impression of reality. Aristotle described it as an “imitation” of action. In many ways we prefer the imitation to reality. Fiction has a definable shape, a satisfying closure. When you read a good book or see a good play, you walk away with a feeling of having experienced something definite, something conclusive. Unfortunately, life itself doesn’t often provide such a well-rounded feeling. We go to the theater or the bookstore to find fictions that are philosophically, morally, or dramatically more meaningful than those we …

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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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National Novel Writing Month, November 2011

Ready to join tens of thousands of writers around the world and write a draft of your novel in 30 days? November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and whether you register officially on the website and follow the rules (175-pages/50,000 words) or not, it is a great time to take advantage of collective creative steam. And in order to try, you must truly give yourself permission to work quickly, and messily, through the first draft. Is it a good idea? Yes, if you get the basics of your novel clear first. According to NaNoWriMo rules, you can begin …

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Deep Problems, Big Story

When it comes to creating a great protagonist, the character with the biggest, deepest problem wins. In my last blog entry–Does Your Story’s “Equation” Add Up?– I touched on the terms “story catalyst” and “deep-story problem”. I want to discuss them both in a bit more depth because they are crucial to the creation of a marketable story. A truly effective story catalyst (also referred to as inciting incident) kicks off the narrative, hooks the reader, and sets the protagonist on a journey (dealing with the deep-story problem) that will end in a life-changing crisis and climax. Because they are …

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