Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 3-9, 2018

Another week, another batch of informal writerly learnings.

Jane Friedman excerpts from Tanya Hall’s Ideas, Influence, and Income: what to look for in a book publicist and tips for going it alone.

Donna Galanti offers eleven ways to find and connect with other authors in your genre. Writers in the Storm

Fae Rowan explains why you have to give your readers what they want. Writers in the Storm

Jenna Moreci shares her top ten hacks for your writing process.

 

Agent Barbara Poelle answers a question about word counts on Funny You Should Ask. Writer’s Digest

Nancy Johnson helps you find rhythm in your prose. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass gives you the reason to build a box. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Magendie explores rhythms in reading and writing. Writer Unboxed

James Scott Bell invites you to use the writer’s spice cabinet. Writers Helping Writers

Chrys Fey stopps by Writers Helping Writers to help you boost your creativity mindset naturally.

K.M. Weiland reviews Avengers: Infinity War and gives us four ways to write a better antagonist. Helping Writers Become Authors

Sara Letourneau provides a case study on revenge as a literary theme. DIY MFA

And here’s my latest column. Mythic structure: The Virgin’s Promise, part one. DIY MFA

Ashley Hilst shows you five ways to inject theme into your story (without being obvious). DIY MFA

Chris Winkle explains how to give your hero sympathetic problems. Mythcreants

Monday and Tuesday are under your workweek belt. Feel good about that.

Be well until Thursday!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 4-10, 2018

Your informal writerly learnings for the week, gentle reader 🙂

Marisa de los Santos is writing through the rough parts. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass expounds on high drama and heroism. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Craft: proving your protagonist has what it takes. Writer Unboxed

Jeanne Kisacky discusses the ups and downs of the supporters in a writer’s life: a well-deserved expression of gratitude. Writer Unboxed

The island of misfit characters. Where intriguing characters go when they’re … not quite right. Kathryn Magendie on Writer Unboxed.

James Scott Bell: garlic breath for writers (AKA bad first pages). Writers Helping Writers

Angela Ackerman explains how to raise the stakes by making is personal. Writers Helping Writers

A.K. Perry begins a new series on signpost scenes with the disturbance. DIY MFA

Elisabeth Kauffman answers a question about character motive in her new series, ask the editor. DIY MFA

Sierra Delarosa lists five grammar mistakes writers should avoid. DIY MFA

Peter Selgin guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog: how your story’s opening foreshadows (intentionally or not) what’s to come.

L.L. Barkat, who bid farewell to blogging years ago on Jane Friedman’s blog, returns to explain why blogging may no longer be such a bad thing anymore.

Chuck Wendig responds to Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s tweet defining art and entertainment. Terribleminds

Kristen Lamb: how story forges, defines, and refines character.

Julie Glover asks, are you sick and tired of editing your novel? Writers in the Storm

Oren Ashkenazi explains why the term “Mary Sue” should be retired. Mythcreants

Nina Munteanu says, write about what you know.

Sudbury Writers’ Guild member and vice-president Vera Constantineau is interviewed on Morning North about her new fiction collection, Daisy Chained. CBC

Nnedi Okorafor: science fiction that imagines a future Africa. TED Talks

Leah Schnelbach wonders, how could I forget the liberating weirdness of Madeleine L’Engle? Tor.com

Katy Waldman rereads A Wrinkle in Time after a childhood spent enthralled by Madeleine L’Engle. The New Yorker

Alison Flood reports that Shakespeare may have annotated his own source for Hamlet. The Guardian

Be well until Thursday, my friends!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 3-9, 2017

Here’s your informal writerly learnings for the week 🙂

Autocrit offers five quick editing wins for December. NaNoWriMo Tumblr

Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary gives an agent’s take on NaNoWriMo.

Lance Schaubert writes a defence of spoilers. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass objects to the willing suspension of disbelief. Writer Unboxed

Lynne Griffin stops by Writer Unboxed. Dying to know, afraid to find out: building tension in fiction.

Allie Larkin is refilling the well. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Magendie: the big ole scary monster at the window. Writer Unboxed

Sara Letourneau looks at identity as a theme in YA. DIY MFA

Brenda Joyce Patterson teaches you how to use small forms as steps to a novel. DIY MFA

Jonathan Vars: five tips for building tension into your scenes. DIY MFA

James Scott Bell visits the Writers Helping Writers coaching corner: ten ways to goose the muse.

Julie Glover wonders, what motivates you to finish? Writers in the Storm

Kristen Lamb says all wounds matter: writing better stories.

Jefferson Smith guest posts on Jami Gold’s blog: how can we improve our readers’ experience? Story immersion.

Author Amal El-Mohtar was detained for hours in customs because she was travelling to the States … even though she’s a Canadian citizen. CBC

Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nobel lecture: my twentieth century evening and other small breakthroughs.

Steph Farnsworth: science fiction, speculative fiction, and the problem of imagination erasing race (featuring Nisi Shawl). Stand Up

Here is part one of Adam Fitzgerald’s interview with Samuel Delaney: don’t romanticize science fiction. Literary Hub

Kari Maaren writes through grief: unfinished. Tor.com

Stephanie Marchie describes what happened when she enlisted an algorithm to help her write the perfect piece of science fiction. Wired

Jess Zimmerman: when bad men define good art. Electric Lit

How we eclipse women’s literary brilliance with scandal. Sarah Seltzer for Jezebel.

Sarah Gailey: fear of the female voice. Tor.com

I hope this writerly goodness will sustain you through the week!

Be well until Thoughty Thursday.

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 3-9, 2017

Here are your informal writerly learnings for the first full week of September (!)

K.M. Weiland continues her most common writing mistakes with part 62: head-hopping POV. Helping Writers Become Authors

Colleen M. Story explains how your time personality influences your writing productivity. Writers in the Storm

Susan Spann explains the law (and ethics) of conference blogging. Writers in the Storm

James Scott Bell stops by the Writers Helping Writers coaches’ corner: using the novel journal to make writing breakthroughs.

Vaughn Roycroft is fortified by gratitude. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass muses on what makes a journey. Writer Unboxed

Here’s the second part of my exploration of The Hero’s Journey on DIY MFA.

Crash Course Mythology – The Hero’s Journey and the Monomyth. They do a really good job of illustrating how some of the stages of The Hero’s Journey are optional, or can be shifted 🙂

 

Leanne Sowul: it’s back to school time at DIY MFA—what do you want to learn?

Kristen Lamb explains why suffering is essential for great fiction.

Jeff Lyons returns to Jami Gold’s blog to bust the rest of the top ten writing myths.

Rachel Chaney is Dan Koboldt’s equine expert for this article: matching horses to use, climate, and characters in fiction.

And then, Judith Tarr contributed in praise of the hard-working fantasy horse to the Tor.com blog. What do these ladies have against Friesians, anyway?

Rebecca Solnit: if I were a man. The Guardian

Isabella Biedenharn: Libba Bray has some thoughts on this all-female Lord of the Flies remake. Entertainment Weekly

What growing up in the sulphur city taught me about beauty. Christine Schrum on the Latitude 46 blog.

Cat Rambo announces that games writers will be eligible for an award in the 2018 Nebulas. Geekwire podcast.

Tor.com presents Ursula K. Le Guin’s introduction to the Library of America’s The Hainish Novels & Stories, volume one.

OMG. Droughtlander’s almost over! Actually, the first ep will have aired by the time I post this. Still. OUTLANDER!

 

Ever think Gandalf was a dick? Well, so does Emily Asher-Perrin: five things Gandalf should have admitted instead of being a jerk. (ROFL-hilarious) Tor.com

So I went to WorldCon in August, eh? This happened. The Tea & Jeopardy live podcast taping with George R.R. (Really Really) Martin!

 

Enjoy, and be well until Thoughty Thursday!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 27-Sept 2, 2017

Here are your informal writerly learnings for the week 🙂

Kathryn Craft offers four tips for translating critique-speak 🙂 Writers in the Storm

Janice Hardy visits Writers in the Storm: six ways your setting can create conflict.

Julia Monroe Martin shares seven things she learned from wrecking her novel. Writer Unboxed

Tracy Hahn-Burkett gives a primer in outlining for pantsers. Writer Unboxed

James Scott Bell offers some tips on how to weave backstory into frontstory. Writer Unboxed

Steven James talks about telling the truth in fiction. Writer Unboxed

Natalia Sylvester explains how white writers can be better allies to writers of colour. Writer Unboxed

Jo Eberhardt compares authentic female characters to Hollywood’s passion for gender-swaps. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland shows us seven ways to write thematically-pertinent antagonists. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate explains why doubt is the key to flat character arcs.

Janice Hardy stops by Writers Helping Writers: why characters need choices in fiction.

Sara Letourneau continues her series on developing themes in your stories with part 12: the setting. DIY MFA

Ghenet Myrthil: five lessons I learned writing my first middle grade novel. DIY MFA

Tamara Linden presents five myths to plunder for ideas and inspiration. DIY MFA

Jeff Lyons guest posts on Jami Gold’s blog: don’t believe these writing myths, part 1.

What psychology says about the first page of your novel. Tamar Sloan for The Write Life.

Chris Winkle: when dark and gritty is just exploitation. Mythcreants

More Wordstock 2017 news from The Sudbury Star.

Peter Robb interviews Kate Heartfield for Artsfile.

Gear Bear says that in the genre’s new “golden age,” science fiction has won the war. Geekwire podcast.

Tolkien’s plant passion moves botanist to write Flora of Middle-Earth. David Fuchs for NPR.

Ursula K. Le Guin: on power, oppression, and freedom. Vox Populi

Robin Kirk explores epic fantasy and breaking the rules of infrastructure in the interest of speed. Tor.com

I hope you gleaned some writerly goodness from this curation.

Be well until Thursday, my friends!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 4-10, 2017

It’s another week chock full of informal writerly learnings!

K.M. Weiland wonders, are you a writer, or a storyteller? Helping Writers Become Authors

Julia Fierro guest posts on Writer Unboxed. The three tiers of point of view technique: observation, interpretation, and imagination.

Gwendolyn Womack also stops by Writer Unboxed to write about intuition and writing: what happens next?

Kathryn Craft: early hints of backstory. How to work backstory into your story from the first line. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Magendie explores mind to muscle focus (self-awareness) for writers. Writer Unboxed

Sara Letourneau shares part ten of her developing themes in your stories series: the act II crisis. DIY MFA

G. Myrthil teaches SCBWI conference 101. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira shares her experience at this year’s Book Expo for DIY MFA radio.

Dawn Field shares five ways to improve your verbal imagery. DIY MFA

K. Tempest Bradford writes about WisCon and who is allowed to feel welcome (hint: it’s everyone).

Janice Hardy helps us shift between drafting and editing. Fiction University

Later in the week, Janice wonders, how many settings does your novel need? Fiction University

James Scott Bell explains how to let your characters live and breathe. Writers Helping Writers

Jami Gold explores Wonder Woman as the essence of a strong female character. [For moar Wondy, see below!]

Sonja Yoerg guest posts on Writer’s Digest: how to treat mentally ill characters in your novels.

Fae Rowan lists eleven writers’ survival tools. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle examines the four critical elements that make stories popular. Mythcreants

Kristen Lamb shows us how to remain calm when it all goes pear-shaped.

Tanya Huff shares her experience writing a series: what goes around, shoots back. Unbound Worlds

Jenna Moreci shares her self-editing process:

 

Elise Holland visits Jane Friedman’s blog to offer advice on the perfect cover letter.

Nathan Bransford offers a brief but comprehensive guide on how to research literary agents. Later in the week Rachel Stout visits Nathan’s blog to talk about personalizing your query.

Joanna Penn interviews Orna Ross on the Creative Penn podcast.

Kameron Hurley posts about carrying the weight of the world.

Kate Laity explores Finnish folklore: Louhi, the witch of the north. Folklore Thursday

Nathan Gelgud: how George Orwell’s 1984 almost didn’t get published. Signature

Mary Hines interviews Margaret Atwood on how religion influences utopias and dystopias. CBC’s Tapestry.

Wonder Woman takes over Tipsday:

Charles Pulliam-Moore shares the epic Black Panther teaser trailer. i09

And with that, I shall leave you until Thoughty Thursday!

Be well until then, my friends.

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 28-June 3, 2017

It’s time for some informal writerly learnings.

The Story Masters workshop James Scott Bell refers to? Yeah. I was there 🙂 Where’s your edge? Writer Unboxed

Cara Black says villains are the architects of your story. Writer Unboxed

Jo Eberhardt shares her experience weaving sub-plots into her story. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland explains how to find your story’s big moments before you outline. Helping Writers Become Authors

Elisabeth Kauffman shares her #1 tip for introverts attending a writing conference. DIY MFA

Laura Highcove: when your why is bigger than your fear. DIY MFA

Christina Delay explains why it’s important to control your survival instinct when it comes to your fiction. Writers in the Storm

Tasha Seegmiller guest posts on Writers in the Storm: enhancing your story through micro and macro setting description.

Writing coach April Bradley says theme is the marrow of your story. Writers Helping Writers

Suzanne Purvis visits Fiction University: how to write a sizzling, scintillating synopsis.

Jami Gold: strong characters come from strong writing.

Kristen Lamb says, when running your race—be content but stay hungry.

Dear writers: a book needs time to cook. Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds.

If you want to write a book, don’t listen to Stephen Hunter. Foz Meadows, Shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows.

And here, for your perusal, is the Stephen Hunter article in question: if you want to write a book, write every day, or quit now. Daily Beast

Creative alchemy: experience transformed by imagination with Ursula K. Le Guin and Kristin Kwan on Terri Windling’s Myth & Moor. And here’s more Ursula: the writer as wizard.

Sangeeta Mehta interviews agents Eric Smith and Saba Sulaiman about diversity on Jane Friedman’s blog.

Oren Ashkenazi lists five plausible scenarios for planetary evacuation. Mythcreants

Mary Robinette Kowal shares the highlights of her visit to the SpaceX CRS-11 Cargo Launch NASA social.

The Sunburst Award Longlist has been announced. Think Canadian Nebulas and you’ll be just fine 😉

Laura Miller examines what happens when literary novelists experiment with science fiction. Found this on Twitter with the tweet, when literary authors write science fiction, yet disavow it. Yeah, right? Slate

Charlie Jane Anders confesses: growing up, Wonder Woman was the hero I really wanted to be. Tor.com

And Megan Garber calls Wonder Woman the heroine of the post-truth age. The Atlantic

This is just fun. Why Wonder Woman’s sword can cut through anything. Because science w/ Kyle Hill.

 

Bryn Elise Sandberg reports the sad news that Sense8 has been cancelled. I gotta go over there and cry, now. The Hollywood Reporter

I hope you found something that you needed.

Come back on Thursday to get a little thoughty in your week.

Be well until then.

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Story Masters: May 11-14, 2017

This lovely workshop came to my attention last year through Jenny Madore, a writer friend. It was put together by Lorin Oberweger and Free Expressions. Jenny sent me a notice last spring, yes, that was waaaay back in March of 2016, with the notification and a special early-bird discount.

The notification? Christopher Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Donald Maass would be coming to Toronto to present their Story Masters workshop. Needless to say, I registered on the spot.

Fast forward to May 10, 2017, and I was on my way to the Crowne Plaza Airport and excited to learn from these three masters of story.

Day one: Christopher Vogler

ChristopherVoglerI’ve read The Writer’s Journey (and Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, Murdock’s The Heroine’s Journey and The Hero’s Daughter, as well as watching Campbell’s series with Bill Moyer, The Power of Myth), and I was looking forward to meeting Christopher Vogler in person.

One thing I’d forgotten, having read his book years ago, was that Vogler is a screenwriter. He’s been working with the hero’s journey for forty years, since his film school days.

Highlights of the presentation:

  • A knowledge of structure will help you see the bones of a story.
  • The map is not the journey.
  • Get all five senses on the page – Ray Bradbury.
  • They won’t remember your words but they’ll remember how you made them feel – Maya Angelou.
  • Economy of language.
  • Make invisible things visible.
  • Use dissonance.
  • Theme – boil it down to one word.
  • The chakra system can be used to orient where your story comes from. There’s a parallel between the chakras and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
  • Vogler’s rule – the story’s good if two or more organs are leaking fluids. Visceral, but accurate (blood, sweat, tears, vomit, pee—from fear or laughter, and, erm, sexual fluids—it’s true; a well-written sex scene gets the juices flowing, doesn’t it?).
  • A story should be focused, “in alignment with the grid,” a term from dance.
  • How your protagonist/main character enters the story is critical. Classically, protagonist means the first person to struggle. Now, that’s your hero or main character.
  • A story should evoke catharsis. The classical definition of catharsis was vomiting. Now it’s an emotional cleansing.
  • How stories work: want vs. need. Want is generally external or physical. Need is internal or emotional. There are two story questions, one inner and one outer. It creates suspense. There’s always a price.
  • Every world/milieu is polarized. The hero brings synthesis.

Vogler also showed us a number of movie clips to illustrate the 12 stages of the hero’s journey, discussed the two founders of screenwriting, Aristotle and Syd Field, three-act structure and how the hero’s journey works with it, storytelling aesthetics, and his own meeting with Campbell.

Day two: James Scott Bell

I’ve read some of Bell’s writing craft books and followed his collective/blog – Kill Zone. Again, I was looking forward to meeting JamesScottBellsomeone I’d only ever known as a virtual presence.

  • A writer needs to have an edge. What is it? Unforgettable writing. Seductive believability.
  • Write from the middle. The mirror moment. What’s happening to the character at that moment is what the story’s about.
  • The mirror moment can focus on one of two things: 1) Who am I? What have I become? What will I become? [emotional/spiritual struggle] Or, 2) I’m going to die. [Physical] The death can be metaphorical. Both result in the transformation of your character.
  • Once you know what your story’s about, you have your focus, your theme.
  • Pre-story psychology. Does your character have a moral flaw to overcome? Do they change or get their comeuppance? Is your character ordinary? What circumstances force the character to change?
  • Short fiction is about a shattering moment rather than a mirror moment.
  • Bell’s golden triangle: pre-story psychology leads to the mirror moment, which leads to the transformation. It can be applied in an individual novel, or over the course of the series, or both.
  • The shadow story – what’s happening elsewhere?
  • Keep a story journal to keep track.
  • Great characters jump off the page. They’re unpredictable, burning, wounded, complex, resourceful, courageous, noble.
  • Bell’s corollary to Vogler’s rule: you must have a fluid fight inside your character.
  • Ways to develop character: 1) The closet search – what’s the skeleton? 2) Throwing the chair (out the window) – why do they do it? 3) Best day/worst day. 4) What tattoo do they have, where, and why? Or, why would they never get a tattoo? 5) what would they do or think about in jail?
  • Opposition character: you must know what they yearn for, why they deserve it, and then make your closing argument (convince the reader).
  • Cut the boring parts, or, make them interesting.
  • Fear is a continuum. It raises the stakes. Fear of the known. Fear of the unknown.
  • Scene structure: every scene must have an objective, obstacles, and an outcome [yes, but/no, and].
  • SUES = something unexpected in every scene.
  • Every scene has a reaction: time for thought, perception, emotion, backflash (short remembrance), or flashback (full scene – use sparingly).
  • Dialogue: every character has an agenda. If those agendas are conflicting, even better. Dialogue creates conflict/tension, subtext, sets the tone for the scene, and sets the tone for the characters. Specific concerns: vocabulary, expressions, syntax. They should vary between characters. Dialogue should be unpredictable and compressed. Dialogue should reveal character webs, backstory, and theme.
  • Tools: Orchestration, transactional analysis (Google it), curve the language.

Bell, also from a screenwriting background, showed us clips from Casablanca and Now, Voyager and cited a number of novels (ranging from Gone with the Wind to The Hunger Games) to illustrate his points, linked to Vogler’s hero’s journey, and set us up for Donald Maass’s presentation on the next day.

Day three: Donald Maass

DonaldMaassI think Donald Maass was the story master I was most excited to meet. I’ve bought and read all of his books (except The Emotional Craft of Fiction, which I bought at the event), and I’ve read and shared all of his Writer Unboxed contributions.

I’m such a fan that when I met him in the elevator, I blurted out, “I’m here to see you!” like a total fangirl.

He paused. “Do I know you? You look familiar …”

“We’ve never met in person, but you may have seen me online—the white hair’s distinctive. I share all of your posts. I’m a big fan.” And then, mercifully, we reached the lobby and debarked. I was completely mortified, certain Maass thought I was a stalker.

It reminded me of a recent post by my friend, Kim, who said she becomes so distracted in the presence of a writer that she says the most inappropriate things. Happens to me all the time.

For those of you who haven’t been to a Donald Maass presentation, it’s a bit different from what you might expect. He presents a topic, speaks briefly, and then, he begins to ask questions. The questions are intended to guide you into the heart of your characters, your scenes, your story.

It’s very meditative, very zen. And totally effective.

Unfortunately, after a few hours, the brain stops working and you just write down the questions for future review and examination. At least, that’s what happened to my brain.

I just wanted to give you a flavour of Maass’s style.

Openings

  • Too many novel openings are written objectively despite the prevalence of first and close third person narration.
  • Where does the story truly begin?
  • Story does not equal plot.
  • What’s different and how does your protagonist know things will never be the same? What symbolizes this? What do they do differently? What needs to be explained? What expertise does your protagonist have? What do they know that the reader needs to know? How does the trouble come? Why?

Voice

  • Writers adopt a voice that suits the genre, but not the story.
  • What happens? What’s unique to the setting? What anchors you? What wakes you up to your reality? What’s unique to the character? Name, role/occupation, what task/goal/purpose do they think they have? What’s on the “to do” list of your character?
  • [We then did an exercise in which we rewrote the beginning of our works in progress with three different voices: ironic, academic, and spiritual.]
  • The inner life of the character is the true story.
  • Plot does not equal story.

Emotion

  • You have to write with emotion about emotion in a way that deeply engages readers.
  • What makes you angry?
  • Your protagonist feels a new emotion. Pause. Slow things down. Go deeper. How does that change your protagonist? What will they never do again? What will they never feel again? What will they never feel the same way about again?
  • How do you create the sense of an evolving human being rather than someone to whom stuff happens?
  • Does your character have flaws?
  • My Writer Unboxed colleague Lisa Cron wrote a book called Story Genius that I highly recommend. She states every character has a misbelief that shapes their story. What is your character’s misbelief? Who will be hurt because of their misbelief? What does the character get wrong? What do they believe that will cost them dearly? Who will walk away from them because of the misbelief? What will they lose? What can they do that shows they’ve changed? Is it big? Symbolic? What’s the secret they’ve never told anyone? Is your protagonist concealing something from someone else?
  • What’s the character’s origin story?

Other facets of novel construction

  • Summary. Lorin Oberweger posted on Writer Unboxed about this. When should you use it?
  • Scene structure. Things have changed by the end of the scene. Subvert expectations. Show the inner shift in the novel. Scenes must change either the plot or the character.
  • Enhancing the story world. What’s the environment? What does your protagonist see that no one else sees? What does your antagonist see? Is there a class structure? How does that play out with your characters? What historical events have shaped the world? What are the political structures? What is just not done? Is there a code of honour? How do you make a deal? How do you pay respect?
  • Telling and showing. Both have value.

What do readers want?

  • They want an emotional experience. They want to engage with your protagonist. They want a satisfying payoff. They want aesthetic value. They want a challenge. They want to figure it out. They want a feeling of success.
  • Readers have their own journey.

Third level emotion

  • Pick a pivotal scene in your novel. What is the character feeling? What else are they feeling (cancel out any similar emotions)? And again, what else (that is like neither of the first two)?
  • Use the third emotion you identify to frame the character in the scene. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s very effective. Readers use cognitive evaluation.

Mythic roles (archetypes)

  • What fairy tale character is your protagonist most like? Shakespearean? Biblical? Greek or Roman mythos? Indigenous or other cultural figure? Urban legend?
  • What symbology have you built around your character?

The four things your story must do

  • The macro level: structure/plot/character arc.
  • Scene level: structure and goals.
  • Microtension: every page, every line. Court cognitive dissonance.
  • Subvert reader expectations.

The big event

  • Think of the event that changes everything for your protagonist and the story world. What causes people to think it’s never going to happen? Think of three reasons why. How do we know it will happen? Think of three reasons.
  • Take out foreshadowing. Include misdirection. Manipulate expectations.
  • Choose a secondary character who is good. Invent a way to create doubt. Cast suspicion.
  • Make the reader wait for the payoff. What are three reasons it might be the wrong thing for your protagonist to do? Build a case for doing something different.
  • Every story has a moral map. Point the reader down the path. What makes a reader care even when nothing is happening? Hope. What is good? What can be saved?

StoryMasters

Day four was an analysis of To Kill a Mockingbird in which all three story masters brought their individual strengths to bear.

My brain was mush by the end, but I brought a lot of awesome back with me and twice as many pages of notes as what I’ve shared with you here.

RobertJSawyerOther writerly goodness: I met Jenny Madore in person, saw writer friends Jeanette Winsor and Sue Reynolds, and hung out with Robert J. Sawyer for a bit. It was comforting to know that someone I consider a story master in his own right is still learning 🙂

I had a fabulous time and suggest you check out the Free Expressions web site if you’re interested in attending one of their workshops.

As always, my friends, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

Muse-inks

The next chapter: April 2017 update

Greetings, writerly friends 🙂

Yes, it’s that time of the month again—no, not that time—it’s time for my next chapter update. Yay (flailing Kermit arms)!

Ok, maybe that’s a little too enthusiastic.

That’s what spring does to me, though.

Even though we haven’t had a particularly warm spring up here, the fact that there are more hours of sunlight each day really helps me find my energy.

And what do I do with that energy? I overcommit. That’s what I do.

What does that look like in 2017? Let’s see …

  • work full time;
  • write as much as I can, evenings and weekends;
  • produce the monthly Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter;
  • serve on the Canadian Authors Association Program Committee (and various sub-committees); and
  • sign up for Writing the Other with Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford (yay—it’s awesome, but I can’t keep up with the assignments and so feel crap about it).

Truly, though Writing the Other is one of the bit of writerly awesome to happen this past month. It continues through to the middle of May, so I’ll save the deets for a future weekend wrap-up post. Suffice it to say for now, though, that I would recommend the course to anyone.

A second is my continued semi-regular SF&F column with DIY MFA, Speculations. As I mentioned last week, I’ll be posting to share those columns on the blog. The next one should be coming up Tuesday, and it’s a dreamy one, so stay tuned 🙂

A third bit of awesome was that I participated in was the Sudbury Poetry Project. April was National Poetry Month, after all. When Kim Fahner, Sudbury’s Poet Laureate put out the call, I wrote a new poem and submitted it.

thiswintersky

“this winter sky” was inspired by what has been a particularly gloomy winter here in Northern Ontario. I believe that almost everyone who lives in the northern hemisphere experiences some degree of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and those of us predisposed to depression tend to feel the effects of SAD more than others.

More than, that, though, the poem is about the hope that blossoms when one recovers, or learns to live with, mental illness. This is why I was honoured to have the poem posted outside the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) which is a safe place where survivors of mental illness and consumers of mental health services can gather, learn, and heal.

And now, onto the writing progress report 🙂

April was a decent month. I finished my latest revision of Initiate of Stone. Unfortunately, it only reduced the overall word count of the novel by a few thousand words 😦 I was, however, after a short respite, move on to Apprentice of Wind.

I also revised two short stories for submission to a contest and an open anthology call. We’ll let you know how that goes in the future.

All the new writing in April was once again on this blog.

AprilProgress

Here’s how the numbers break down:

  • 79,078 words revised on the Ascension series, or 113% of my 70k goal.
  • 4,105 words of short fiction revised, or 164% of my 2,500 goal (makes up for not revising any short fiction in the last two months).
  • 6,098 words written on the blog, or 92% of my 6,600 goal.

That’s a total of 83,183 words revised and 6,098 words written. That’s not counting my column for DIY MFA, which I really don’t have a place for on the tracking sheet.

What’s up next: I’m going to continue work on revising AoW, which I don’t anticipate will be finished until next month. Revision will yield (I hope) to writing with respect to short fiction. We’ll see how everyone likes the new plan for the blog.

Next week, I’m heading down to Story Masters in Toronto, with Donald Maass, James Scott Bell, and Christopher Vogler, but that, of course, means that there will be no post next weekend. I’ll have another wrap-up post to share on this lovely event later in the month.

And then we’ll see. This writer’s life is never boring, that’s for sure.

Until next I blog, be well, be kind, and stay stong, because this winter sky will always yield to the light.

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 2-8, 2017

There’s so much writerly goodness out there, I wish I had more time to devote to curating these informal writerly learnings for you.

Aliette de Bodard guest posts on Terribleminds: in defense of uncanny punctuation. I love semicolons, too!

K.M. Weiland adds number 58 to her most common writing mistakes series: too much description. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate shows you how to write stories your readers will remember.

Then, Kate pops over to Jerry Jenkins’ blog: two ways to find out if a scene deserves a place in your story.

Kathleen Jones guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog: six ways to prepare for writing as a second career.

Angela Ackerman shows you how to use timelines to organize story details. Writers Helping Writers

Lisa Preston offers seven strategies for revising your novel. Writer’s Digest

Penny Sansevieri helps us decode Amazon keywords. Writers in the Storm

Fae Rowan shares five tips to get your characters—and you—through adversity. Writers in the Storm

Janice Hardy introduces us to a fun way to learn story structure. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle shares five signs your story is ableist. Mythcreants

Oren Ashkenazi looks at six objectively good stories and finds ways to make them better. Fabulous analysis. Mythcreants

Laurel K. Denton guest posts on Writer Unboxed: changing horses mid-stream (or how not to panic over a mid-book structure revision).

James Scott Bell asks, is your fiction big enough? Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass wants you to captivate readers with your opening lines: casting the spell. Writer Unboxed

Bryn Greenwood: write a book, save the world. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Magendie explores this writing life. Writer Unboxed

Emily Wenstrom helps you grow your online platform in real life. DIY MFA

Shameless self-promotion time again: it’s me! Defining speculative fiction. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira interviews Susan Perabo for DIY MFA radio.

Bess Cozby offers five tips for revising your trunk novel. DIY MFA

Kristen Lamb: the single best way to become a mega-author. Later in the week, she follows up with how you can make all ads, marketing, and newsletters work better.

Jeff Lyons visits Jami Gold’s blog again: creating a strong moral premise for our story.

Michael Everest responds to a provocative post and explains the difference between giving up and giving in. Fantasy Faction

David Barnett responds to the same “failed novelist” post. The Guardian

Alex Brown unpacks Marvel’s “diversity doesn’t sell” argument and explains what diversity really means. Tor.com

The Hugo and Campbell awards finalists announced! Locus

This grammar vigilante stalks the Bristol night putting apostrophes in their right places. Ladies and gentlemen, the BBC gives you, the Apostrophiser!

I hope you learned something tasty 🙂

Be well until Thursday when you can come back for some thoughty inspiration!

tipsday2016