Do you call yourself a novelist, poet, memoirist, or short story writer? You may find value in expanding how you define yourself as a writer.
If you’re working on a novel, consider dabbling in poetry. If you write short stories, consider writing essays. Here’s how pursuing other projects can help you enhance your career and elevate your writing.
Expand your publishing opportunities. Writing and revising a novel can be a long process that can take years to finish. If you’re writing other work along the way, such as poetry, essays, or short stories, you’ll have that much more writing momentum, a new credit for your writing resume, and another connection that may lead to a publishing opportunity for your novel.
Build your skills. Writing in a new format can offer a fresh perspective that brings something to every writing project you do. When I began studying and writing poetry, I became more conscious than ever about the power of individual words and sounds. This permeated every other project I worked on.
Amplify your writing energy. Writing has an ebb and flow. You may have dry spells where you find you’re stuck. Rather than bouncing your head against a wall, work on something completely different to redirect your energy while your other project percolates in your subconscious. Simply continuing to write will help you feel you’re making progress.
In my earlier post, “Rhetorical Devices: Your Secret Writing Weapon,” I mentioned that, as a poet, I often use alliteration, which is the repetition of the same sounds or the same kinds of sounds at the beginning of words or in stressed syllables.
I never really thought about using alliteration purposely in my prose writing…it just kind of happened naturally as I wrote and tuned in to my “poet’s ear.” But after taking Margie Lawson’s online class on Deep Editing and Rhetorical Devices, I realized what a great tool alliteration (and other rhetorical devices) can be to make my pages pop.
You don’t want to overdo alliteration making your prose sound forced or “writerly” but you can learn to use it to add sparkle to your sentences. Read more
Rumor has it that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write the shortest novel ever. In response, he wrote: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”
Whether or not Hemingway actually wrote those six incredible words, they show the power in simplicity. One of the “rules of writing” that I’ve heard over and over is that sometimes less is more—especially when evoking strong emotions. Novelist and TV Writer/Producer Lowell Cauffiel stated in an interview on Storylogue.com that Hemingway’s “shortest novel ever” reminds him that when he’s editing to especially look for what he can delete or pare down—long paragraphs of description or setting that don’t move the story forward, unnecessary dialogue, or large chunks of information.
There are as many ways to write and as many styles of writing as there are fingerprints but remember the beauty in simplicity and lean writing. To read some of Hemingway’s (short) writing tips, check out this post by Brian Clark: “Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well.” To learn more about six-word memoirs, read Carly’s post.
Every great story has 10 essential elements, says story coach Michael Hauge. In yesterday’s post, I revealed the first five. To recap, a great story must have:
- A hero with a goal who will carry the story forward.
- A setup that shows his life before everything changed.
- Scenes that create empathy with the reader.
- An event or opportunity that pushes the story forward and creates a desire to change the status quo, and
- A new situation that pushes the hero to solve an immediate problem. In the midst of this problem, a new element must emerge:
6. Outer motivation – a visible goal or finish line that the hero wants to accomplish by the end of the story. This goal must be within the hero’s power to accomplish. As a story coach, Hauge focuses on this element. This is a fundamental element to know in order to answer the question, “What is your story about?” In the movie, Gravity, the heroine’s goal was, “I want to get home.” This outer motivation should be easily expressed in a single sentence. The clearer you can be about the visible goal of the hero, the better. The movie, Lincoln was built on one clear goal: End slavery. This goal must drive the story line all the way to the climax.
Along the way, the next element will come into play: Read more
You probably know the key elements of good storytelling and have even observed them in books and movies, but do you consciously use them in your own writing?
At a recent writer’s meetup in Las Vegas, Hollywood story coach Michael Hauge spoke about what makes a great story. He’s coached writers, producers, and directors on projects for actors, including Will Smith, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, and Morgan Freeman, as well as every major studio and network.
Hauge said there are 10 essential elements to great storytelling, and ultimately they’re the key points an agent or editor will want to know when you pitch your project. Here are the first five:
1. The story must have a hero or heroine. This main character – the protagonist — more than any other character, drives the story and has the potential to be heroic. The hero has a desire that propels the action.
2. The Setup. In the setup, you’ll introduce the hero living his everyday life before anything heroic happens. The movie Lone Survivor draws readers into the world of the characters before they go on their fatal mission. The first scenes show them interacting with family and dealing with daily life. In this world, you must use vivid details to, “create a movie in the mind of the reader,” Hauge said. This will amplify the readers’ emotion, and eliciting emotion is a core principle of successful stories.
Fiction novels and movies are “before and after pictures,” Hauge said. The setup is the “before picture.” Sometimes these scenes show how the hero is “stuck.”
While most movies and novels open with action already underway, it’s important early in the story to reveal what was happening before the action began. Read more
In an earlier post, “Use all six senses to make your story come alive,” I write about the importance of using all our senses when creating a scene. Too often, writers rely on sight or visual cues in the scene and forget to include the other senses.
Touch, sound, taste, and smell are just as important as sight, yet are often overlooked.
What senses do you use the most in your writing?
Find out by taking a chapter and highlighting the five senses with five different colored markers or pencils. I did this recently and discovered that after sight, my most used sense was smell, then sound, then touch. I didn’t use taste at all in that particular chapter.
You don’t need to use every sense in every chapter but you do want your writing to come alive and varying the senses will help you reach this goal.
One way to play with sound is through onomatopoeia—words that imitate the sounds the words describe. We’ve all seen this device used in comic books or in cartoons: POW, WHAM, BAM, etc. But you can also invent word sounds to match anything you want. Read more
Do you have what it takes to be a Olympic-level writer?
As I watched the Olympics for the past two weeks, I was inspired by the athletes’ performances — even the ones who didn’t win medals. It made me think about how the principles of winning as an Olympic-caliber athlete can be applied to winning as a writer.
To rise as a writer to the level of an Olympic athlete, follow the same practices and mindset.
Practice daily. Olympic gold medal ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White started skating together at age 8 and practiced for 17 years before winning at Sochi. They practiced nearly every day and their story is the norm. To excel, you must put in the time, create a writing practice. Read more