Writing Tips

Seeking input for an article

I’m working on an article about publishing for children during the recession. I’d like to add a sidebar of tips from other children’s authors.

How does the recession affect the way you approach your writing business?

Will you do things differently? If so, what and why?

Will you write different things? If so, what and why?

What personal recession survival tactics can you share with other writers?

Thanks in advance!

Sunday, December 28, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |18 Comments

Wednesday writing tip

This week’s writing tip is an oldie but goodie. 

I credit  Anne Lamott with introducing it to me though I expect writing teachers have been saying it to students for hundreds of years.

Don’t be afraid to write crap.

That’s it. That’s really all we need to know about writing, especially when getting your feet wet for the first time or coming back to writing after being away for a while. Don’t be afraid to write crap.

When we expect everything we write to come out ready for publication the fear of not living up to those expectations can keep us from getting those first words down on the page, those first few words that start the momentum of the story and keep us coming back to the page. Trust me, I know this to be a fact. I have written very little since Hugging the Rock. I can say it’s because the day job was stressing me out or because of being laid off or because of worry about my kids or my health or money or because I got up on the wrong side of the bed.

But none of those is the real reason I’m not writing right now. The real reason I’m not writing right now is because I’m afraid to write crap.

It’s as simple and as complicated as all that.

I was reminded of this recently when[info]hulabunny  got brave enough to ignore the worries swirling in her brain and just sat down and started writing. She was sure she was writing crap but dang it all, she was excited about writing crap.

She sent me a few chapters. And she kept on writing. Every night, after her young children went to bed, after taking care of her family and knowing that the alarm clock would be ringing way too early for her to have to get up and go to her very stressful day job. Night after night she keeps writing and I keep reading because I am totally hooked on her story, her first draft.

And you know what? It isn’t crap at all. She’s on her way to writing a dang fine novel. All because she wasn’t afraid to write crap.

Way to go, Eileen!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |11 Comments

Writing Tip Wednesday

This is a short tip today because Wednesday is almost over.

One of the first websites I ever found on the Internet that had to do with writing was a place called Forward Motion which was founded by Holly Lisle. Holly has some wonderful artilces on her website here: http://hollylisle.com/fm/ and I really think you should go check them out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |0 Comments

Writing Tip Wednesday

In-between pain pills seems like a good time to post this week’s writing tip. I’ve been rereading some old favorites lately, trying wrap my brain around the kind of literary career I hope to have. This week it is MAKING A LITERARY LIFE by Carloyn See. Some of the book is directed at brand-new writers but the entire book is good reading for people at all stages of their career. She is, of course, the person who advocates the wonderful habit of charming notes.

But that’s not what this tip is about.  This is about characters. She talks about how, perhaps, we already have our cast of characters in the people we know. She challenges you to write out a list of 10 people who had an impact on your life. Perhaps they were larger that life. Not necessarily your best friends and parents and siblings, though that could be the case. Take a minute and make a list of 10 people that have have been important (you define important) in your life.

Here are mine, in no particular order:

1. My uncle Fred who was a fireman and had no kids of his own. He brought me books that were never books for children.

2. My uncle Jess who lived with Uncle Fred. He had a spitton at the end of his recliner and was a compulsive junk collector.,,,to the point that he could never find anything because he had all sorts of junk he was saving for someday,

3. Mr. Lehmer, the guy who own the local Oldsmobile dealership. He was also my mom’s boss.

4. My grandfather.

5. Mrs. deBenedetti who lived across the street and had the huge rummage sale every year. She saved all the good stuff for me.

6. My aunt MaryJane who liked to go to USO dances and who had a son who was deaf and who was the only smoker I could ever stand to be around.

7. Peggy Harden, my first skating pro.

8. My mother-in-law Meg and her tireless devotion to doing the right thing.

9.  Mickey, the lady who lived across the street from the house my mom rented. She used to make glass grapes and sell them.

10. the Tuey family, except for Grandma Tuey because she scared me.

Now what about the ones that left  a less than pleasant memory.

1. The guy who exposed himself to me when I rode my bike around the block.

2. B – a guy my mom dated who made Brandy Alexanders after school and tried to get me drunk.

3. My aunt Pat who never like me no matter what.

4. The Navy guy I married.

5. CG – a friend of my first husband who was not a friend of mine.

6. W – another one of those friends who was not a friend but tried to fake it.

7. Any roommate my daughter has ever had.

8. One of the people in my neighborhood who has an issue with fences.
9. The lady I worked for when I lived in Virigina – the one that told me to kill the cat. That would be the cat that I took home and had for 11 eleven years.

10. Mrs. Truitt who never believed that her little darling hit me in the face.

This is just a first pass but already there are 20 characters and possible 20 stories. I forgot to mention the minister that ran the horse ranch. Or the guy I dated that had the black El Camino. (Both good guys.) Or the guy I dated with the van and a Napeleon complex, not a good guy at all. But at least I started a list. And now that I started it, I hope I will build on it.

The thing is, See wasn’t trying to tell me that I had 10 or 20 characters, what she was trying to get me to see is that this is my material.  You will hear a lot of people tell you to write what you know and you will hear people tell you to write what you are passionate about. Whatever path you decide to take I think it is most important to know, or to at least acknowledge, where you came from. When I look at my list I know why I write the kinds of stories I write. I can’t help myself. It’s in my blood.

So who are you and where do your stories come from? Try making your own lists and see what you learn.

Write on, right now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |14 Comments

Wednesday Writing Tip

This week’s writing tip isn’t so much about the act of writing as it is about the the act of BEING a writer.

As I progress on my countdown of remaining days at the day job in cubicle confinement (10 working days left) I am trying to envision my ideal writing life….to picture now how I want my days to unfold. Now even if you aren’t a touchy feely new age sort of person I still challenge you to give this some thought. Because the thing is, if we have a picture in our mind of how we want our life to unfold we have a much better chance of it actually happening. 

Several people have me asked me lately about my process which in turn has gotten me thinking more about my process. And here’s the thing…I have always written in the middle of stress, a time when my life or parts of my life, were spiraling out of control. Sometimes it seemed that the crazier my life was, the more I wrote. And now I am approaching a calmer part of my life. I will not be working outside of the home. I won’t be getting up to an alarm clock. I won’t have staff meetings with agendas waiting my doodles. I can’t help but wonder how this will affect my writing because I know it will. I don’t know if I know how live in a world with so much less stress (but hey, I am willing to learn.)

Just because you have all the time in the world doesn’t mean you have all the time in the world to write.

So these last few weeks of work I am trying to find the time to imagine the writing life I want to have in order to get the writing life I most want to live.

I have never been a stay-in-bed morning writer but perhaps I’ll try that, at least for some "morning pages" ala Julia Cameron.

I have never been a go to the library/coffeehouse/park with my laptop kind of writer but perhaps I’ll try it.

I have never been able to write in the company of others, especially friends, but I DO want to try that.

I want to try to go gently to the writing each morning, starting the day, perhaps, with some reading in the inspiration notebook I want to create.

I want to take breaks to visit the garden, pull a few new chunks of Bermuda grass and see what bugs have discovered the yard.

I want to play with a new writing exercise every day, just to warm-up my writing muscles.

I want to rediscover my lifelong love affair with words in such a way that I can’t wait to get to work each day.

I want to take time to smell the flowers, play with the dog, listen to music, go for long walks and just sit in blessed silence.

I hope this will help me create the writing life I have held in my mind for so many years.

I encourage you to think about the writing life you want to live, even if you aren’t living it now. If you think it, you just might make it so.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |12 Comments

Writing tip Wednesday

There’s still a little bit of Wednesday left here in California so here’s this Wednesday’s writing tip.

In honor of [info]beckylevine and her book sale, today’s tip has to do with criticism.

As writers we all have to deal with criticism of some kind or another. Most of the time, I hope, it is of a constructive kind. A teacher or a critique friend points out how we can make a story stronger. But sometimes it feels like there are people who really do want us to fail just so they can say mean things to us. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who has had that kind of experience.) So here are a couple of my thoughts on criticism.

We can’t avoid criticism. When you try to avoid criticism you give energy to the negative comments and that takes the energy away from your real work.

It’s a waste of creative energy to avoid or argue with criticism from experts and critics. We are all entitled to our opinions.

The verb criticize was originally neutral between praise and censure. When you critique you’re supposed to apply critical thinking to a work in order to analyze and interpret the work. Alas, for many of us, the word "criticize" has evolved into a negative definition.

Early on in my career I received some helpful criticism on one my books from a generous editor. She pointed out the good and the bad of my book and encouraged me to rework it and submit again. Because I was so new to the business and so hyper-sensitive to criticism, the only word I heard of her 2 page single-space revision letter was "no." Years later I found that letter and realized that she had been offering me the opportunity to improve my work and possibly make a sale. I have never looked at rejection the same way since.

You may not like the initial feeling of being criticized but you will always learn from it, even if it is only how NOT to criticize someone else.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |8 Comments

Writing Tip Wednesday

Today’s writing tip is not about writing but about finding the time to write and to live a writer’s life. This is, in no small part, motivated by the fact that I am soon to be done with cubicle life and will be a full-time writer/freelancer. This means I am going to have to develop that has been missing for much of my life.

Even though I am still at the day job (22 working days left, if I were a counting down sort of person) I am starting to work toward the transition. I found an old book on my shelf and am rereading it with different eyes then when I first got it – A Writer’s Time by Kenneth Atchity.

Here are just a few snippets.

From the book:
“Productive people have a love affair with time, with all of love’s ups and downs. They get more from time than others, seem to know how to use time much better than nonproductive people-so much so that they can waste immense quantities of time and still be enormously creative and productive.”

My thoughts:
I know some people like that. They seem to have time for everything they want to do and time to waste and play and relax. I want to be more like that.

From the book:
“I firmly believe that anyone can be productive once the decision is made to master time and the necessary skills.”

My thoughts:
Oh man, I hope so. I think the key is making a decision you are willing to commit to, like changing eating habits or trying to stop smoking or exercise more. You can’t just say the words. You have to be willing, ready and willing, to walk the walk. For years I have just repeated the words about being a disciplined writer because the thought of becoming disciplined took more energy than it seemed like I had in me at the time. Here’s hoping that being off of work will give me the time to commit and to develop the disciplined state of mind.

From the book:
He talks about laying a foundation for your writing career. “Immerse yourself in the planning process and build the foundation, and take your satisfaction from the doing of it, not from the having done it…….Your career, you’ll discover, will take the shape of your foundation. ”

My thoughts:
I’ve always believed this, believed you should treat yourself as a professional long before you started paying taxes on your writing income. And for those of us who have been writing a long time, does that mean you can skip this? It depends? Is your writing career, your writing life, is it working out the way you want it to? If so, good for you. You must have your foundation firmly set into place. But if not, if you want more out of your writing life or you want to explore some new areas, maybe you can build an addition which, of course, begins with a strong foundation.

From the book:
“Before anything reaches paper, the business of being a writer is the business of developing self-awareness and honest introspection. Keats called the profession of writing “soul-making” and the first step toward success is recognizing the psychological discipline that writing requires.”

My thoughts:
No two ways around it, discipline is the answer. And here all along I had hoped the answer would involve chocolate. Darn.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |17 Comments

Writing Tip Wednesday

Life is still a mass of confusion due to the delayed depart from the dayjob, a day of total freak-out when I thought I screwed something up and might have fallen into an identity theft scam (omigosh – SO scary), both of my kids having their own personal brand of melt-downs, and me still being sick. How does a writer write though all of that?

Well sometimes they don’t.

But I am trying and that’s where this week’s Writing Tip comes from. It works for writing and it works for life. You simply fake it. If you act like a writer you become a writer. (Note that I am not saying GREAT writer or even a PUBLISHED writer but if you’re in the middle of your own melt-down what usually matters most is getting back to getting words on the page again.)

How do you fake the writing? You start by showing up at your writing place, wherever that might be, instead of ignoring it. You write A LOT of drafts. You let yourself write crap because at least you are writing. You play typist, typing in passages of someone else’s book until you feel the urge to change it.

Just play make-believer for a little while. Fake it til you make it. Pretend you are a writer and your mind will help you create your own reality.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |9 Comments

Wednesday Writing tip

Today’s writing tip is a simple one to hear but a hard one to put into action for a lot of us.

Take a chance and step outside your comfort zone.

Not for the whole book.
Not even for the whole chapter.
Maybe just for one scene.

Don’t play it safe and see where it takes you.
You might be surprised.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |4 Comments

writing tip wednesday

This week’s Wednesday Writing tip is, like last week’s tip, from the school of life. My life to be exact. Which right now consists of one part waiting to find out where I land in the upcoming merger/inevitable layoffs at the day job, one part kicking myself in the rear with writing, one part parental worry about both kids though for different reasons, and one part dog training.

Let’s talk about dog training. My new dog is a 60+ pound German Shepherd puppy who is probably going to gain at least another 20+ pounds in the next year and a half as she matures. Which means we need to get her trained now before she gets any inkling of how big and strong she really is.

Like everything else in life, dog training has evolved. There are many schools of thought in how to train a dog today. We are going with a combination of positive reinforcement and NILIF, which stands for Nothing In Life Is Free. You want a treat? You do something to earn it like sit, shake hands or lay down. You want to go outside? Ring the bell. You want to go for a walk? Don’t bark in my face because I’m just going to turn my back and ignore you until you get quiet.

She’s a smart dog so she figures things out pretty quickly. I wish I had been smart enough to practice NILIF with my kids but that’s a story for a different time.

How does NILIF relate to writing?


Writing is going to cost you something. Always. No exceptions. Sometimes family time, sometimes TV time, sometimes that time in the dead of night when you might rather spend sleeping.

Sometimes the cost of writing a particular story will be the loss of a relationship when someone doesn’t understand how you could write what you did. Sometimes it will be the letting go of long-nurtured piece of anger that dissipates once the story is written.

But make no mistake, it will cost you something. And only you can decide if you are willing to pay the price.

There is an old quote that I don’t have in front of me at the moment so I can’t give proper credit but it basically says that we do not go forward and create until the pain of not creating becomes more painful than the fear of how to create.

Writing is hard work, we all know that. It is often thankless work because so many words are written that the rest of the world never sees. But I tell people all the time that it is not always the most talented writer who gets published, it is the writer who did not give up, the one who kept on going no matter what obstacles appeared along the way.  If I am not further along in my career at this point in time it was because I chose not to pay the price. 

Robert M. Pirsig’s  bestselling book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected more than 120 times before being published.  To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,  by Dr. Seuss, collected 29 rejection slips before it found a home. Stephen King received 84 rejections for a short story that eventually sold to Cavalier magazine.

I have always maintained that you can get just about anything you want out of writing, as long as you are willing to do the work.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |7 Comments

Wednesday writing tip

This week’s writing tip doesn’t come from a writing book, it comes from me and my 20-odd years of experience in the business. 

Writing is hard enough without trying to figure out where to fit it into our crazy days. If you have young kids at home you are likely juggling nap times and play days and dance lessons or Little League. If you have day job you have to figure out where in your already packed day you you find a few minutes to sit down and write. And let’s not forget things like cooking and cleaning and time with your partner. And sleep. In my house there is never enough time for sleep.

If you’re anything like me there are times when you simply can’t write. 

So don’t. Give yourself permission to not write. Tell yourself you absolutely can’t write until a certain date. Take the weight off your shoulders and say enough – I will write when I am able to again.

It’s okay. Really.

Many of us start off writing by reading books about how to get started writing – or nowadays reading blogs about the business. And those books and blogs can be very helpful. 

Except when they’re not.

For years I thought I had to write every day and if I didn’t write every day I was no longer a writer. Now I’m already pretty good at heaping the guilt on my shoulders but every day I didn’t write because a kid was sick or I was sick or in later years because life was just so darn overwhelming, well I felt worse and worse. Now I’ll admit that when I don’t write every day I am rusty when I get back at it. It takes a bit longer to sink into a story and I write a lot more crummy stuff before I get to the juicy stuff. But that’s okay. I’ve sold a lot of books and articles over the years and taking some time off doesn’t cancel that out.

The one personal rule I have tried to stick with for the last 5 or 6 years has been to do just one thing to advance my career or build my business every day. When I’m in writing mode that might mean to just write, to get words on the page. But when I’m in a time of upheaval as I am now it is a good time to do other things, to attend to the business side of my career.

So there’s the tip for the week. Actually two.

If you are at a time in your life where you can’t write for some reason, give yourself permission to not write.

And every day try to do just one thing to build your career.

Write on, right now. Or not.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |13 Comments

Wednesday Writing Tip – Ray Bradbury

This week’s writing tip comes from the little gem of a book, Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury. It is a collection of short essays on Bradbury’s life as a writer. Some of it harkens back to a time in writing that we can’t relate to anymore, the pulps, but much of it is just about being a living, breathing writer and finding your way in the world. You don’t have to read or write science fiction to get a lot out of this book.

Here, a snippet, from his chapter on how to keep and feed a muse.

“Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because if flexes muscles you don’t use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eyes, your ear, your tongue, your hand. And above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile. Such metaphors, like Japanese paper flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes. Ideas lie everywhere through the poetry books, yet how rarely have I herd short story teachers recommending them for browsing.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |9 Comments

Writing Tip Wednesday

This week’s writing tip comes from a wonderful book of meditations for writers called WALKING ON ALLIGATIORS by Susan Shaughnessy. I love this book so much I’ve considered buying a new copy and then <gasp> cutting it apart so I could put all my favorite pages into a scrapbook with artsy stuff all around it and leave it on my desk for inspiration before work.

Each entry is just one page. There is a quote at the top of the page, a little story, and then a directive/meditation for the day. It was hard to pick just one but this one is speaking to me today. (page 47)

First the quote: (Items from the book are in italics. My response in regular type.)

“When I have a chance to write about a period of my life, an experience, and I can rework it into the life of my hero, then everything changes and I can no longer remember what happened in reality. That is why when I am not writing, I am suffering, because I remember too much of concrete life. I have to destroy my past in order to win my own freedom.” Andrei Bitov

Now some people might have issue with the idea of destroy their past but for some us held tightly in the grip of memories that won’t let go that is exactly what we have to do. We have to destroy the past in order to lessen its hold on us. I can stifle myself to the point of near-suffocation by holding onto things I should destroy.

Back to the book:

In many ways, the past is a writer’s capital. Your first glimpse of the sea, the first crack in your heart, the flowers that bloomed on a favorite aunt’s windowsill – these are uniquely yours.

Uniquely to have, and uniquely to share.

The pain is your past is also uniquely your capital. Perhaps it shines the brighter when the light hits it because you have left it so long undisturbed.

In working with your past, you set two processes in motion. One is the transmuting of experience into writing. 

The other is the transmuting of memory into understanding.

What will be left?

What will be left is what is most worth keeping.

I seem to have a handle on transmuting the experience into writing but I often struggle on transmuting the memory into understanding. I return to this page often to help me realize that perhaps I don’t have to do anything BUT write it out in order to understand. In everything in life I try too hard and in the trying too hard I often miss the meat of an experience. I continually mine the pain of my past (and that pain can be real or imagined – it doesn’t matter if it really happened, it only matters that I believe it really happened.) In the mining of the pain I am healed. But not always the first time.

Back to the book. The meditation for the day.

I’m going to take up some truths in my life today. I will pass the through the fire of my consciousness. Something will be saved forever. Something will be laid aside.

This balances it out for me in a way that I can most easily embrace. 

Something will be saved. 
Something will be let go.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |3 Comments

Wednesday writing tip

Today’s writing tip is not so much about craft as it is about being a writer and living the writer’s life. I have struggled with this all of my life thus far and imagine it will be a struggle for me the rest of my life too. It comes from the book Writing from the Inside Out by Dennis Palumbo. Dennis is a psychotherapist who specializes in creativity issues. But before that (and still) he is an author and a screenwriter, most notably of the film “My Favorite Year,” and a staff writer for the ABC-TV series “Welcome Back, Kotter,”. So he knows this struggle well.

When I went to my office bookshelves this morning to look for a writing tip, I looked for a book with lots of little notes sticking out of the side. The book has so many that I could quote from it alone for the rest of the year. But I decided to share what I most needed to be reminded of at this time of my life and career and that’s what Palumbo calls the Three Hard Truths of writing. He devotes a full chapter to this in his book but I’ll just give you the highlights.

“The First Hard Truth: Writing is a craft, as well as an art, and that craft takes time to develop.”

He reminds us that we need to spend a lot of time writing as well as letting go of what we have written. “Time . . . page after page, draft after draft. month after month, year after year. Scenes and more scenes, characters and events and images, discarding and changing and shuffling and reshuffling, and throwing it all out and starting over again.”

Next is, “The Second Hard Truth: With every new project, you have to teach yourself how to write it.”

He explains, “The script or novel or play you wrote last year, or last month, can’t help much, regardless of its similarities in style or context to the new project. For one thing, you’re in a different place emotionally, creatively, perhaps even professionally.”

He goes on to say, “This is not, by the way, a bad thing. In fact, it’s the lifeblood of creativity, this always-newness.”

Finally he shares, “The Third Hard Truth: Writing carries no guarantees. You can never know how a piece of writing will turn out – whether it’ll be any good, whether anyone will like it, whether it will ever be sold. Writing, to put it flatly, is all about risk.”

This is what I needed to be reminded of today. It is about a joy in the process and being willing to put in the time and take the risks just to have the chance to soar. I needed to be reminded of my own process. First I throw myself at a project with all the enthusiasm of a new puppy, tumbling all over myself in the excitement to CREATE. Next I become convinced I can’t do it, that I am not writer enough, that my ideas are boring and been done to death and that I might as well give it all up and just be happy for what I have published so far in my life. Finally (and sometimes this takes years on a project) I reach the point where I just DO IT.

But it is hard because, as Palumbo says, it is all about risk. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |14 Comments

Wednesday Writing Tip

I have never tried to hide the fact that plot and I do not have a loving relationship. It is not my strong point but I continue to try to learn how to harness the power of plot in order to improve my story.

This Wednesday’s writing tip is a pointer to The Plot Whisperer, Martha Alderson. Her blog and her website are both filled with lots of juicy tips on plot. She even has a test you can take to find out what your strength is, plot or character. 

Every month Martha interviews authors about their views and methods of dealing with plot. This month she interviewed me! You can read more about my love/hate affair with plot here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |9 Comments

Wednesday Writing Tip

Today’s writing tip is more about how you think of yourself as a writer. And it’s from a gem of a little book that I recommend to everyone at every stage of their career – Art & Fear – Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland. Even if you don’t consider yourself filled with fear at the thought of writing I still believe this is a must-read.

From the beginning of the book:

“Art is made by ordinary people. Creatures having only virtues can hardly be imagined making art. It’s difficult to picture the Virgin Mary painting landscapes. Or Batman throwing pots. The flawless creature wouldn’t need to make art. And so, ironically, the ideal artist is scarcely a theoretical figure at all. If art is made by ordinary people, then you’d have to allow that the ideal artist would be an ordinary person too, with the whole usual mixed bag of traits that real human being possess. This is a giant hint about art, because it suggests that our flaws and weaknesses, while often obstacles to getting our work done, are a source of strength as well. Something about making art has to do with overcoming things, giving us a clear opportunity for doing things in ways we have always known we should do them.”

This really speaks to me. And when I remember it, especially  “…our flaws and weaknesses, while often obstacles to getting our work done, are a source of strength as well.” I find myself empowered to work on my art.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |8 Comments

Wednesday Writing tip

We all know we need strong scenes in our stories but what is the foundation those scenes are built upon? Emotional honesty.

I’m going back to the same book from last week for this week’s writing tip, Emotional Structure,Creating the Story Beneath the Plot A Guide for Screenwriters by Peter Dunne. These are a few sentences from the same section.

“We must write our scenes from an emotional point-of view.  . . . . . . I want the audience to be more than interested in my story; I want them to be involved. I want them engrossed and feeling the things my characters are feeling. That being the case, I have to let them know how to feel by letting them know in what emotional turmoil my characters find themselves. ”

He talks about a scene where the main character is sneaking out of the house with her backpack. Without any emotional context, the reader doesn’t know if she is a victim of abuse or a delinquent about to go cause trouble somewhere. He goes on to say,

“So I have to make it clear in the scene which she is, delinquent or victim, and I have to do this by expressing her emotional state-of-mind through her behavior. Her actions therefore are not random, they are manifestations of her psychological plight. . . . . . .We can’t have characters doing things just because it’s convenient. There have to be strong, internal reasons for their behavior. The stronger the better.”

Think about a recent scene you have have written. Is it written from an emotional point-of-view? Is your character doing things for the write reasons?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |4 Comments

Writing thought for the day

I love the way Barbara O’Connor does Writing Tip Tuesdays. Sometimes she shares her own tips and sometimes she posts bits of wisdom from writing books she has read. What I love about that is that I have often read the same books but absorbed it as a whole, rather than as a targeted helpful tip. I like the chance to look a little deeper at what the author is trying to teach me. Since I’m trying to do writing thoughts on Wednesday I thought I’d try to do the same thing here. I have 8 shelves of books on how to write (yes, a bit of a junkie) and many of them have gobs of little Post-it notes hanging out the side.

Today’s writing thought  comes from the book Emotional Structure,Creating the Story Beneath the Plot A Guide for Screenwriters by Peter Dunne.

“Good drama is not about the thing. It is how we feel about the thing.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2008|Categories: Writing Tips|Tags: |7 Comments