Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 28-March 6, 2021

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Time to indulge in some informal writerly learnings.

K.M. Weiland continues her archetypal character arcs series with part four: the queen arc. Helping Writers Become Authors

Sharon Oard Warner advises you to find the ending before you return to the beginning. Jane Friedman

Yuvi Zalkow encourages you to expose your mess. Sarah Penner considers women’s empowerment in fiction from a bookseller’s perspective. Later in the week, Liza Nash Taylor declares, there will be worms. Writer Unboxed

Jill Bearup considers boob armor: four things you need to know.

James Scott Bell wants you to turn envy into energy. Later in the week, Becca Puglisi shares eleven techniques for transforming clichéd phrasings. Writers Helping Writers

Jeanette the Writer lists eight essential edits for your novel. Later in the week, Emily R. King wants you to find your voice. Then, Ann McCallum Staats shares five hands-on research techniques for spot-on writing. DIY MFA

Shaelin looks at Deus Ex Machina: what it is, why it happens, and how to fix it. Reedsy

Janice Hardy points out six places infodumps like to hide in your novel. Fiction University

Then, Shaelin explains how to write a cliff-hanger that keeps readers turning pages. Reedsy

Janice Hardy asks, does you novel have a problem? (It should.) Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle: Space Sweepers shows us what excellent messaging is. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five common story fragmentations and how to consolidate them. Mythcreants

Emily Zarka examines the Taotie: the mystery of Chinese mythology’s famous glutton. Monstrum | PBS Storied

Nina Munteanu: the semicolon is dead; long live the semicolon.

Harry Potter isn’t a good guy. The Take

Cassandra Drudi encourages you to listen to Waubgeshig Rice and Jennifer David’s new podcast, Storykeepers, an audio book club on Indigenous literature. Quill & Quire

Kyle Muzyka interviews Richard Van Camp on storytelling and its power to combat loneliness. CBC’s Unreserved

John Dickerson interviews Colson Whitehead, the only fiction writer to win Pulitzer Prizes for consecutive works. 60 Minutes

Guy Kawasaki interviews Luvvie Ajayi Jones for the Remarkable People Podcast.

Gabriel Weisz Carrington explains how his mother, Leonora Carrington, used tarot to reach self-enlightenment. Literary Hub

Thank you for visiting, and I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends.

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Jan 24-30, 2021

Welcome to February! Winter is progressing, the light is returning, and we’re beginning to see signs that the lockdown is once again flattening the curve. Yes, there have been problems with the vaccines, but we will see a resolution, sooner rather than later.

You’ve been so good, wearing your mask, maintaining physical distance, washing your hands. Keep it up! This is the way we beat covid-19. Reward yourself for all your good work with some informal writerly learnings 🙂

Barbara Linn Probst takes a closer look at writer time and reader time. Elizabeth Huergo offers some readings for writers: John le Carré and George Orwell. KL Burd: the soul of art. Later in the week, Heather Webb is writing through the pain. Then, Julie Carrick Dalton says, I choose joy, dammit! Kristin Owens says, you asked for it: when it’s time for critique. Writer Unboxed

Why are we so obsessed with characters being redeemed? Melina Pendulum

Janice Hardy wants you to stop being nice to your characters. Fiction University

Tiffany Yates Martin helps you understand third-person point of view: omniscient, limited, and deep. Then, Susan DeFreitas explains the one thing your novel absolutely must do. Jane Friedman

Shaelin shares 8 simple ways to make your writing better | Reedsy

Then, she explains how to write a closer (or more distant!) point of view | Reedsy

K.M. Weiland: story theory and the quest for meaning. Helping Writers Become Authors

Lisa Hall-Wilson shares four ways to write deeper with personification. Kris Maze advises that if your writing’s in a slump, get into the flow! Writers in the Storm

Why The Hunger Games’ Katniss represents all teen girls. The Take

The bombshell trope, explained. The Take

Christina Delay is creating from the familiar. Writers Helping Writers

Gabriela Pereira interviews Julie Carrick Dalton about multiple timelines, climate fiction, and a childhood code of honor. Then, Sara Farmer interviews Sherry Thomas. DIY MFA

Chris Winkle recommends nine jerkass traits that aren’t toxic or abusive. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five emotional arcs that fell flat. Mythcreants

Vigilantes, retribution, and the pursuit of meaningful justice | Like Stories of Old

John Tattrie introduces us to the extraordinary inner world of Charles R. Saunders, father of Black “sword and soul.” CBC

Michael Martin interviewed Cicely Tyson about her new book, Just as I am, prior to her death. NPR

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 27, 2020-Jan 2, 2021

Here comes the first tipsday of the new year. Time to indulge in some informal writerly learnings.

Laura Highcove: how your writer’s intuition knows what advice works best for you. Later in the week, Gabriela Pereira interviews Alexandra Monir about the dystopian superhero story. Then, Kim Lozano shares five musts for writing a compelling story beginning. DIY MFA

Princess Weekes: Wonder Woman 1984 was a bitter disappointment. Melina Pendulum

Janice Hardy offers a five-minute fix to jumpstart your scene. Fiction University

Shaelin Bishop offers her advice on how to finish your novel in 2021. Reedsy

Tasha Seegmiller delves into a writer’s authentic self. Then, Fae Rowan offers three words to help you thrive in 2021. Writers in the Storm

The Himbo trope, explained. The Take

The likeable sociopath trope, explained. The Take

Kelsey Allagood: what Gandhi taught me about telling stories that mean something. Later in the week, Jeanne Kisacky shares strategies for restarting a cold project. Writer Unboxed

Shaelin Bishop shares what she learned about writing in 2020. Shaelin Writes

Bunny lists five Arab and Muslim stereotypes to avoid. Mythcreants

All Stories Matter: The Need for Afro-Futurism | Ramatoulie Bobb | TEDxRoyalCentralSchool

Nina Munteanu is embracing the paradox of creative destruction.

Foz Meadows writes a response to Meghan Cox Grudon and the Wall Street Journal. About the classics and teaching them in a modern context. shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

The Backlisted podcast considers the influence of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising with Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, co-authors of The Lost Words and The Lost Spells.

Livia Gershon reveals sci-fi pen pals James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ. JSTOR Daily

The Merril Collection, AKA the Spaced-Out Library, is 50! Toronto Public Libraries

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Oct 4-10, 2020

Now that we’ve entered month seven of the pandemic, we have to balance self-care with medical compliance. Be kind to yourself and nurture your creativity with some informal writerly learnings.

Black and Indigenous lives matter. All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter.

Wear your masks. Maintain physical distance. Get your flu shot as soon as you can. Sacrifice now (and really, it’s not that much of a sacrifice) will mean that fewer people have to contract covid-19 and fewer people have to die from it. Compliance is not a violation of your rights. It is respect for your fellow human beings.

Princess Weekes critiques Antebellum and movies about slavery in general. Melina Pendulum

Abigail K. Perry does another Story Grid scene analysis: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. Erin Tyler shares five tips for writing about family dynamics. DIY MFA

Joanna Penn interviews K.M. Weiland about outlining your novel and filling the well. The Creative Penn

Over on Helping Writers Become Authors, K.M. points out the link between your story’s first and third plot points.

Jenna Moreci shares her top ten tips for killing off characters.

Janice Hardy shows you what makes a good beginning (if you’re struggling with yours). Then, she explains what makes a good middle (beware of getting stuck in the mud). Fiction University

Leslie Vedder shares three tips for cutting your word count (without giving your whole story the axe). Jane Friedman

If you’re not sure about NaNoWriMo, Shaelin looks at the pros and cons. Reedsy

Therese Walsh: the edge of now, and its gift for writers. Then, Donald Maass discusses timeless endings. Kathryn Craft lists five ways paragraphing supports story. Writer Unboxed

The girly girl trope, explained. The Take

Chris Winkle lists five signs your story is classist. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes the Star Trek series finales, from worst to best. Mythcreants

Jill Bearup explains why a corset stopping a knife strike (ala Enola Holmes) is plausible.

Words with lost meanings (AKA that word you keep using. I don’t think is means what you think it means). Merriam-Webster

Petra Mayer: amidst global troubles, the MacArthur “Genius” Grant winners provoke and inspire, including N.K. Jemisin, Jacqueline Woodson, and Christina Rivera Garza. NPR

Emma Reynolds reports that the 2020 Nobel Prize for literature awarded to Louise Glück. CNN

Thank you for stopping by. I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends.

Ad Astra 2016, day 2: Common mistakes from an editor’s perspective

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that needs correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com

Panellists: Dominik Parisien, Linda Poitevin, Nina Munteanu

MostCommonMistakes

With this session, I chose a different approach. There was a lot of discussion and insight, with examples from various editing projects, none of which I was able to capture effectively on the page. The editors focused on the three parts of a story, the beginning, middle, and end, and, interestingly enough, they discussed three main problems with each part of a story.

As a result, this is a very point-form summary of the main points of the panel.

So here’s the description of the panel from the program:

Whether it’s easy-to-correct grammatical errors or awkward sentence structure, or more complex issues related to characterization, plot, or research, in this panel you’ll hear real editors share the most common mistakes that they see new or inexperienced writers make and tips on how to avoid them. They’ll tell you the things they encounter that have a simple fix, but also the things they encounter that are warning signs of larger problems.

Problems with beginnings

  • Not starting in the right place. Too early (prologues/backstory) or too late (character in danger immediately/no reader investment).
  • Not hooking the reader. If the reader puts the book down, you’re done before you’ve even gotten started.
  • Not having a distinctive, crisp voice.

Mel’s note: Most of these problems can only be solved by experience, either the author’s own, gained through practice, or by leveraging the experience of others, with the help of good critique partners/beta readers/freelance editor.

Problems with middles

  • Solving the character’s problem too early in the narrative. The story ends when the character achieves their goal.
  • Not knowing the story you’re telling/theme.
  • Presenting event after event to get the character from point A (the beginning) to point B (the end).

Mel’s note: Points two and three are related. If you don’t have a handle on your story and its theme, you’re most often going to end up with a series of unrelated events. My recommendation: read Steven Pressfield’s blog and books, and read to Shawn Coyne’s (Steven’s editor) Story Grid book and blog (and now podcast with Tim Grahl—excellent).

Problems with endings

  • Not ending (!).
  • Setting up for a series when the novel is a standalone, or failing to set up for another book when it’s a series.
  • No payoff for the reader/unsatisfactory ending.

Mel’s note: Begin with the ending in mind, even if you’re a die-hard pantser. Endings are torture if you’ve given them no thought until you get there and you’ll likely finish your draft with a hefty case of post-partum depression. Also, one of your editing exercises should be to ‘reverse engineer’ your story from the ending back to the beginning. You can see where important bits of foreshadowing need to be.

And that is my final entry in Ad Astra 2016 reportage. There were readings and launches and the Guest of Honour Brunch, but I wanted to enjoy those rather than record notes on them 😉

See you on Tipsday!

CanWrite! 2014: How to be your own editor with Farzana Doctor June 19

Farzana DoctorThat’s Dr. Farzana Doctor 😉

Learning to edit your work is learning to know when to let go. Maybe that’s what this workshop should be called: Let it go.

This is what I do. You don’t have to do what I do. Do what works for you in your process, but I hope you’ll find some interesting tips and techniques you can incorporate into your process.

First, a couple of definitions:

  • Prose editing is fine tuning: Spelling, grammar, syntax, usage.
  • Revision is substantive, structural, plot-related.

To start the editing process, you must have a completed piece of writing.

What was your intention in writing the piece? That core intention will guide you in the editing process.

Plan the process

Prose editing checklist:

  • Overused or repetitive words. First identify them. Everyone has her or his words. Then, use find and replace to address them.
  • Useless words (Mel’s note: also called zero words, because you can remove them from the sentence without changing the meaning of it) such as, just, only, that, actually, etc.. If you’re not sure what useless words are, Google it.
  • Grammar tics. Again every writer has a weakness. (Mel’s note: mine is commas. I either use too many or too few.)
  • Passive language. Examples: The biscuit was eaten by the dog (the dog ate the biscuit). She was jumping up and down (she jumped up and down).
  • Telling versus showing. Telling has its place, but avoid it where possible. Check your use of adverbs, adjectives, and clichés. These are often signs that you are telling, rather than showing.
  • Dialogue. Tags – do you need them, or would an action beat be better? Do all of your characters sound the same? Said is just fine. Read it out loud to see if it “sounds” right.
  • I start with editing first, because I find it easier. Some writers may not want to do this because it may mean too many wasted words when the revision stage is reached. Editing first works for me.

Revision checklist:

  • Where does the story begin? Is it too early, too late, is there enough action, conflict?
  • The protagonist. What does he want? What prevents him from getting it?
  • Other characters. If you can take her out of the story and not alter it, she should go. Every character should serve the story. Every character should be real, have a background, desires and frustrations of her own.
  • Keep track of plot and subplots. Structure.
  • Description. Is there too much or not enough?
  • Flashbacks. Do they stall the story?
  • Is the ending satisfying? Is it a resting place?

How to do it:

  • Focus. No distractions. Space. Set time, page number, or word count goals.
  • Separate new writing from editing and revision. Could be different times of the day, or different days.
  • Revision iteratively. Editing as you’re going. Must always make progress, however. S.J. Rozan’s method of Iterative Revision – Bookbaby. Start with previous day’s work, and then move on. It’s like a progressive spiral.
  • Change perspective. Step away. Change your font. Read aloud. Print it out. Draw maps. Pretend you are a reader.
  • Create a visual outline. Literally cut and paste your scenes and chapters.
  • Write a synopsis or jacket copy. Write a logline or tagline. Write a poem. Find your theme.

Asking for feedback

  • Who will you ask?
  • When is the best time to obtain a critique?
  • Be specific about what you want/need.
  • Stay general. When did you stall, get bored, get lost?
  • Receive your critiques without resistance. Set it aside. Decide what rings true. Ask for clarification (do not defend).

The rest of the workshop was spent reading and responding to the participants’ works-in-progress.


 

I must admit, I haven’t thought of purposefully editing first. I have edited too early before, and regretted spending all that time fixing scenes and even chapters that I would eventually delete. For me, I would think that revising first makes more sense.

Similarly, iterative revision doesn’t work for me. I get caught in an endless loop of going further and further back. It doesn’t prime the pump for me, it engages my inner editor too early in the writing process and stalls me.

Overall, I found Farzana’s workshop informative and practical.

I hope that you, too, will find something useful that you can use in your daily practice.