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Posts tagged ‘writing advice’

Plotting a story is like solving a puzzle

Some words send shivers down my spine. Plot. Outline. Crisis. Climax. Beats. Scenes. Structure

Since one of my motto’s in life is to “go fear-ward,” I decided the best way to overcome my shivering was to dive into the world of “plot” and demystify it.

I read books, went to conferences, and played with the different exercises and ideas recommended by others to wrap my head around this idea of plot. (In my next post, I’ll share the books I found most helpful).

Along the way, I had several epiphanies. I realized that all plot really is is a series of events in your story. Plot is what happens. (Tweet this).

And, really, when you think about it, we’ve been learning about plot since the first day we learned to read: Read more

Turn your goals into daily habits

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

I was reminded of the above quote this week while reading Kathie Pugaczewski’s blog post “Keep Pulling.”

Aristotle was right. We are our habits. Day in and day out. Creating better habits takes consistency and discipline for a certain number of days until the pattern becomes ingrained into our very being. Read more

How to create fiction that moves readers

Literary agent and writing teacher Donald Maass says the most successful novels of the early 21st Century are beautifully written while telling powerful stories. He predicts less focus on genre and more focus on fiction that moves people.

What moves people? What connects readers to the heart of our characters? Emotions.

At the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference last month, Maass spoke about how to achieve an emotional landscape in our novels.

He says to ask yourself what new emotions you’ve experienced this year.  Then ask: is there a place in your manuscript where a character can feel this emotion? Read more

Banish your fear of writing with this exercise

“I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. . . . Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation.”— Stephen King

I’m starting a new book with the goal of finishing my first draft in 90 days. I started writing the book last year but was sidetracked with other writing and editing projects. I was also sidetracked by fear:

  • The fear of getting it wrong;
  • The fear of not being good enough;
  • The fear of getting halfway through the story and not knowing how to end it;
  • The fear of writing myself into a corner;
  • And about 100 other fears.

As Stephen King suggests, I’m learning how to let go of my fear to become a better writer. Read more

A letter to writers from John Steinbeck

Does starting a story scare you? Maybe you put off putting pen to paper because of fear. John Steinbeck felt the same way.

In a letter to writers, Steinbeck wrote:

“It is not so very hard to judge a story after it is written, but, after many years, to start a story still scares me to death. I will go so far as to say that the writer who is not scared is happily unaware of the remote and tantalizing majesty of the medium.” Read more

Do your characters have secrets?

When developing characters–hair color, size, likes, dislikes, hobbies, background–do you think about what secrets they might have? Secrets can make your character more complex, human, and interesting.

For ideas on the types of secrets people have, listen to Frank Warren’s 11-minute talk below about an art project he started back in 2004. He handed out 3,000 postcards and asked people to anonymously mail in their secrets. He has since collected over half a million secrets and posts them weekly on his website

Warren says, “Secrets can remind us of the countless human dramas, of frailty and heroism playing out silently in the lives of people all around us.”

What secrets might your characters have?

Guerrilla grouting and writing

End of week 5, emergency remodel.

In February, our upstairs bathroom sprung a leak that dripped down the wall and through the ceiling downstairs. We wanted to replace the bathroom and kitchen floors anyway, so we hired our contractor friend.

We live in a 100-year-old house and, as these projects tend to go, one thing led to another and our two-week job is now almost into week six.

I appreciate our contractor because I’m about as handy with a hammer as an elephant is with a paint brush (excepting those amazing elephant artists). I do have an awesome pink hammer but the most action it’s seen is when I accidentally dropped it on my foot when I brought it home from the hardware store.

Since my contractor will be gone for the next week, I volunteered to do whatever needed to be done in order to keep the momentum going. I want my house back. I want my life back. And I have a deadline because of an event in May. So–my job this weekend is to grout the shower tiles and finish grouting the floors. Read more