All The Writing Advice You’ll Ever Need (Almost)

I received an email yesterday, asking. “How do you begin?

The answer, Linda, is deceptively simple. “Writing Practice,” “Stream of consciousness”, “Timed writings”, “Morning Pages”

Below is the best definition of writing practice that I’ve ever found.

The 7 Rules for Writing Practice (10-minute timed writings) from Wild Mind, by Natalie Goldberg.

  1. Keep your hand moving. Keeps the inner critic quiet.
  2. Lose control. Say what you want to say.
  3. Be specific. Not bird, but wren. Get below the pop psychology labels and be specific to that person.
  4. Don’t think. Keep to your first thoughts.
  5. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling and grammar.
  6. You are free to write the worst junk in America.
  7. Go for the jugular. If something scary comes up, go for it. That’s where the energy is.
While writing prompts can help, simple beginnings include: “I remember,” “I am looking at,” “I know,” “I am thinking of”

Here, Natalie writes “…you are now capable of writing a novel or a short story because you have the fundamental tools. Think of something now that you sincerely want to tell and go ahead and tell it.”

Oh, I wish it were that easy! The two main things not covered in these rules, and yes, I will deal with them in other posts, (see https://kathykolada.wordpress.com/2015/06/11/youarealreadyawriter/ )  are learning to tell a story, and learning to see reality as it really is. Most people aren’t very good at storytelling, having never practiced. Just as everyone assumes they can tell a joke, and they have a great sense of humor, everyone assumes they know how to effectively tell a story. In reality, most can’t. In the linked post I advised daily practice of flash fiction, to get you used to, and good at, telling stories.

Welcome you to a challenging, but fun, endeavor, Linda

Good luck and God bless.

Write on,

Kathy

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The best and worst writing advice I’ve ever received.

Best Writing Advice
Best Writing Advice

Best and Worst Writing advice I’ve ever received.

Best advice, and hardest, I’ve ever received : “Do your thinking on the page.” I go over things far too many times before turning on the computer, so put down far too little. If it’s there in my head, I don’t realize it never made it to the page. When you do it all on paper, yeah, you ramble. You have to go back later and delete that shopping list. But some of your musings will remain as interior dialogue for your characters, some may spark other stories, and some will just make you laugh when you stumble over them later

Worst advice: Choose one project to concentrate on, perhaps the one furthest along or the one with the most commercial potential, and put the others aside.
Result: the worst block ever!
Since then I learned of Asimov’s method of avoiding writers’ block, a system that propelled him into prolific status. He kept 5 projects going, before computers he had a different typewriter devoted to each project, and if the words stopped on one project, he’d just proceed to the next.

Outliner vs. Pantster
The first sounds professional, the second invokes images of toddlers stepping out of their training pants.
Outliners know a lot of what they will write before they begin. Pantsters write by the seat of their pants, and discover where the story is going along with the reader. I have attempted outlines, and will continue to do so, they seem so productive! But don’t hold your breath, the works I have outlines for were all finished before their outlines came to be

What about you, what advice works for you?

Let us know,

Write on

Kathy

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Bridges and Transitions

Bridges and Transitions.
Bridges and Transitions.

When writing my first novel (a learning experience), it bothered me that it did not sound polished. I believe in reading your writing aloud, and mine did not sound professional. The other members of my writing group agreed, but had no clarity as to what was missing, in their writing as well as in mine. In 2004 my question was finally answered by the publication of Write Away, by mystery writer Elizabeth George. http://www.elizabethgeorgeonline.com/

My writing lacked bridges and transitions. Transitions, those are about time, location, simultaneous actions—I thought I had that covered. No, it turns out I actually needed to transition from paragraph to paragraph, and she explained how.

First, each paragraph must have unity. Every sentence should amplify the sentence that precedes it or should refer to the paragraph’s implied topic in some way. If neither, get rid of the sentence for it doesn’t belong there and will impede the story’s flow.

Now that you have cohesive paragraphs, string them together by making sure the last sentence in a paragraph is directly related to the first sentence of the next paragraph, or acts as a prompt that sets up the next paragraph.

Example as to how this works: (from a prologue)  Corrections in Caps, I’m not yelling.

I write screenplays, and I live at McDonalds. It’s temporary, just until some money I’m owed shows up. Three weeks, tops.           I WRITE SCREENPLAYS AND I AM HOMELESS. …TOPS. MEANTIME, I LIVE AT MCDONALDS.

Next to a busy freeway and two miles from Magic Mountain, McDonalds is open all night. Often there are four buses in its lot, and a line of teens out the door until midnight. A large transient population, which the staff can’t begin to know. And every night, writers show up.

TURNS OUT this restaurant has three colleges nearby, and I stay invisible, keep my mouth shut, and eavesdrop on the writing groups as they argue pov, formatting, plot, and which actor will beg to star in their books and screenplays when completed.

They sound like me three years ago. I moved to Los Angeles just out of college, with three spec scripts and that song about it never raining in California memorized.

Now I’m scrounging for coins, even at McDonalds you have to order something, and I’ve met lots of people whose names I can’t remember, and I’ve hooked up with another screenwriter, Don Jessup. We’re good, just not yet found. ON RADAR..

And now, someone wants us dead.

BUT SOMEONE IS NOW  LOOKING FOR US.

TO KILL.

Write on,

Kathy

                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crowd Control (in your series, or in your war)

Series

Jack Campbell   http://johnghemry.com/  A science fiction writer of five series, (I recommend the Lost Fleet, Beyond the Frontier, and the Lost Stars series)   Jack Campbell names characters only if they are important–so the admiral gives the order to the “watchstander” instead of naming him Ensign Henri Olson. Over 13 novels,  being given fewer names to keep track of is a real blessing. (Think David Weber and the Honor series for the opposite).

War

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.    www.suzannecollinsbooks.com       When I finished the series, I wondered how she had kept so many characters clear in my mind, so I went back and counted, 26 including a dead father in the first book. This is the average character count for a novel, so how come it felt like so many more were in there? “Mob references” were used throughout the series, “people from the seam,” “no one from District 12,” “I had heard that in District 4”, “people in the Capital”, etc. Then she gave the same characters several references, the tributes from  District One, their names, and the nicknames they had acquired. These techniques helped make the book feel much more densely populated than it was. Great for portraying a war.

What techniques do you use to handle your crowds? Let us know.

Write on,

Kathy

Paragraph Rules

The Paragraph Rules, for it is here your story lives or dies.

Your story is a succession of scenes/sequels composed of paragraphs. In a paragraph, every sentence should relate directly to the topic of the paragraph, or it should be eliminated.

Start a new paragraph whenever:

  • a new person is speaking
  • a new character comes along
  • a new event happens
  • a new idea is introduced
  • the setting changes
  • time moves forward, or backward.

When proofreading your work, check the end of each paragraph to make sure the flow between them is smooth.

Project:

Take several pages of your current draft and read them aloud. Then, edit them by paragraph for unity and flow. Read the new version aloud. To me, it is this step above all that makes your writing sound “professional.”

What do you think? Did it take your work to a higher level?

Write on,

Kathy

Theme

When I recently finished the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth, I actually threw that third book against the wall. While I had liked the first book, the other two had been a declining experience. But I hung on to the bitter end, curious as to what the author had in mind. Perhaps it was her statement about perceived superiority, or the determination of people to segregate.

No guessing, she broke a cardinal rule of theme by having a character state it openly, considered preaching “people can be cruel.”

I had read one good, two mediocre books, for that? A theme much better served by the classic Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

I have read entire books on theme, but never have I heard it been described so briefly, and so well, as in the writing book Wired for Story by Lisa Cron.

What does the story tell us about what it means to be human? What does it say about how humans react to circumstances beyond their control?

Knowing your theme in advance helps because it gives you a gauge by which to measure your characters’ responses to the situations they find themselves in.

What is it I want my reader to walk away thinking about? What point does my story make? How do I want to change the way my reader sees the world?

While you may be reticent to share the plot of what you’re writing, how about telling us your theme?

Write on,

Kathy