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Posts from the ‘Writing Life’ Category

How and why you should develop intuition in your characters

This morning, I was working out at the gym on an elliptical machine, not thinking of anything, when suddenly an intense sadness welled up inside me. Having lost my husband over two years ago, I thought it was another layer of grief so I allowed it to rise up and release but instead of releasing, the feeling became more intense and raw. Tears welled up as I continued to work out. I couldn’t figure out what had triggered the feelings and why they were so incredibly strong. And then a thought flashed through my mind—whose feelings are these?

From years of working with and helping people, I know that sometimes I’ll intuit other’s thoughts and feelings, but I’m usually pretty good at recognizing when this happens and setting up my boundaries. For me, this means doing a specific visualization.

This morning, the thought persisted that the sadness I was feeling wasn’t mine. I looked at the man working out on the machine next to me. He didn’t look sad. He didn’t look as if he was in pain. He seemed fine. Read more

What I love about writing poetry

For National Poetry Month, I thought I’d share some thoughts on my most favorite and least favorite parts of writing a new poem:

My favorite part of writing a new poem:

  • The idea that invades my mind like twining ivy and won’t let go until the entire poem has been put to paper
  • Making messy lines and blot outs and squiggles with my colored pen on paper as I play with ideas and words
  • Typing all that mess into a fresh, new document on my computer—that feeling of chaos becoming somehow ordered
  • Rereading the poem, feeling both its wholeness and its incompleteness in my mind and body
  • Editing the poem, fussing with words and line breaks, challenging myself to see what can be more specific or fresher
  • Reading the poem for my writing critique group to see my creation through new eyes, discovering where the poem can be improved

My least favorite part of writing a new poem?

Making the final edits and being “done” with the poem. To me, finishing a poem feels like when your best friend visits after too much time apart—you talk and laugh and cry as if it hasn’t been months since you last saw each other. For those moments you feel whole and connected and in the flow of life. Then she leaves and you’re happier for her having been there, but a little piece of your heart goes with her, and you long for her return before the door has even finished closing.

Finishing a poem is a little like that. I am happy for its completion while longing for its return—which is really a longing for the return of the feeling it evoked in me. Maybe this is why I love giving poetry readings, so I can visit my poems one more time.

What are the favorite and/or least favorite parts of your writing experience? Please share in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Use the flow state to make your writing and your life better

The word “flow” is overused these days. You hear it everywhere. “Go with the flow.” “Get in the flow.” “Don’t worry. Just let it flow.” (By the way, did you know when you tell someone not to worry, it’s scientifically proven that it makes them worry more?)

But being in “flow” doesn’t mean you just sit around doing nothing, waiting for life to take you wherever you think you want to go. No. That’s not flow. That’s called laziness. (And sometimes laziness is good, too, but I’m talking about flow here.)

I first discovered what the flow state was before I knew there was a name for it. Read more

Four tips for writing a synopsis that sells

Before I wrote my first synopsis, I thought it would be a breeze—after all, I’d done the hard part, right? I had finished and edited an entire book! What could be harder than that? Plenty, I was to learn.

Recently, I helped chair a major literary contest where I read over 100 book synopses. I was impressed with a handful of the synopses, but, for the most part, they were vague or poorly written or trying to be “mysterious” when they needed to be clear and to the point. I realized that I was probably not alone in my dread of the synopsis. Writing a GOOD synopsis is one of the hardest tasks undertaken by a writer.

The main purpose of a synopsis is to provide a summary of an entire novel. It must provide an overview of the plot (including the ending), characters, and theme.

Put yourself in the shoes of a literary agent who is deciding from your synopsis whether or not to read the first pages of your book. Your synopsis has to be even more perfect than your stellar novel. No pressure, right?

No worries. Below are a few tips to help you make your synopsis sing: Read more

Start a New Year’s writing tradition: Keep a mini journal

I’ve always been intimidated by New Year’s resolutions. As an indecisive person, it was April before I’d decided on an aspect of my life to improve. And by that point, well, it was already April. But five years ago, I was gifted a mini journal before the New Year that led me to start a new tradition: Keeping a yearly mini journal.

Journals are fantastic ways to document memories and ideas. But a full, blank, white page can be daunting. What happens when I only have four words of dialogue that I want to write down — that memory when I introduced myself to my coworker Jeremy, as Jeremy?

“Hi Jeremy, I’m Jeremy.”

I don’t need to expand on this embarrassing moment, but I would like to look back and laugh at my former self.

In this case, I need a mini journal. Read more

Create a journal to increase sensory awareness

Sensory images are glue that grabs readers and draws them into your story world.

If you want to improve your ability to write sensuously, become more conscious of senses by creating a sensory journal. Supercharge your attention on what’s going on around you as you go through your days, and you’ll likely become more aware. To boost that experience, commit to focus on a specific sense. Start today by creating a scent diary.

As you leave your house for work, take children to school, or do errands, notice how the air smells when you walk out the door. Does it smell like rain? The paper mill across the river? Pine trees? I still remember the smell of chocolate when I walked out of my hotel on a trip to Chicago. I found out that it emanated from the Blommer chocolate factory. Read more

How a goal + writing prompts led to a first-place poetry award

Have you ever wanted to elevate the quality of your writing or increase your creative production? Try giving yourself an assignment. It worked for my blogging partner Carol.

Earlier this year, I gave Carol a poetry writing book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, by Diane Lockward. It happened to coincide with her goal to write two or three poems a week for the month of January.

She ended up writing 18 poems. Fast forward to July, and Carol won first place for poetry in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association contest. See the complete list of winners.

For more insight on Carol’s poetry writing practice, read her post Writing advice from a Tasmanian cave spider, or how to get your creative juices flowing, which includes one of her poems, Advice from a Male Tasmanian Cave Spider.

Try writing a poem of your own based on one of these prompts:

  1. Think about a defining moment or incident in your life and write about it.
  2. Write a love letter in the form of a poem.
  3. Write a poem about a common object.
  4. Find a memento or object that has sentimental value to you and write a poem that reveals the reason and emotion it carries.
  5. Write a poem about moving from one place to another. It could be literal or metaphorical.

Congratulations Carol!