Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 21-27, 2021

Welcome to March! You’ve made it through Monday. Reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings 🙂

K.M. Weiland presents part three of her archetypal character arcs series: the hero arc. Helping Writers Become Authors

Writing Fat Characters – a conversation with Marianne Kirby | Writing the Other

Tiffany Yates Martin explains the difference between criticism and critique. Then, Tasha Seegmiller asks, are you a whole-hearted writer? Later in the week, Laurie Schnebly Campbell explains why character motivation matters. Writers in the Storm

Tim Hickson talks elemental magic systems. Hello, Future Me

Susan DeFreitas shares four key tactics for addressing backstory and exposition. Jane Friedman

Abigail K. Perry points out some must-knows about picking comparable titles. Then, Sara Farmer recounts crime authors caught up in real crimes, cozy to cold-blooded. Later in the week, Constance Sayers shares four historical fiction writing hacks. Then, Briana Cole offers five tips to get your story written fast. DIY MFA

Shaelin breaks down the Save the Cat plot structure. Reedsy

Janice Hardy offers some tips to understand and control your novel’s pacing. Then, Orly Konig shares some revision tips for pantsers: three steps to a full rewrite. Fiction University

Kasey LeBlanc is learning to say no thanks: standing up for your creative vision. Heather Webb declares that hope springs eternal: hang on, writers. We’re almost there. Then, Julianna Baggott shares the results of a survey on process: that thing you do. Later in the week, Julie Duffy wants you to focus on short fiction. Writer Unboxed

Literary Icons You NEED to Know from the Harlem Renaissance (feat. Princess Weekes). It’s Lit | PBS Storied

Kristen Lamb: tough choices are the professional writer’s daily grind.

Chris Winkle set out to praise “The Eye of Argon” and all she got were these lousy writing lessons (and a t-shirt?). Then, Oren Ashkenazi looks at ten justifications for oppressed mages and why they fail. Mythcreants

Bridgerton is a fan fiction about today. The Take

The Jewish American Princess – beyond the stereotype. The Take

Trey Mangum reports that Ta-Nehisi Coates will write the next Superman film for DC and Warner Bros. Shadow and Cut

Thanks for visiting. I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

WWC 2014, Day 2: An hour with Jack Whyte

Jack WhyteJack is simply fabulous. You can read more about him on his web site, camulod.com/aboutjack.


 

When I wrote The Sky Stone, I was called by the Historical Society to speak to a bunch of academics. Do you know what I told them? “Do you think my head buttons up the back?”

Eventually, I was decided to go, and I ended up getting three standing ovations. One of the reasons why? Historians are bound by the historical record. Writers get to speculate. We get to write what the historians wish they could.

That’s the kind of research you have to do, though. You have to be able to speak to a room of historians as though they were your peers.

You can do it all on the internet, but don’t rely on Wikipedia. Because anyone can contribute, occasionally, they do. It’s a place to start, but then go to your public or university library.

Research can obsess you. Answer the questions you need to proceed with your novel but no more.

You have to be able to write with authority.

Look at the art of the time, the architecture, the fashion, the design. Get the whole picture first. Most of it won’t even make it into your novel, but when you get the details right, your fictional world will come alive for the reader.

Q: How did you start?

In college, I was dating a beautiful woman. I called her “the Polish princess.” We made a date to go for a walk together. I read Quo Vadis, while I waited. She was an hour late. It turns out her grandfather was the author. I thought, “Wouldn’t that be neat if this happened to me?”

Everything I write is written to be heard.

I was a great fan of Frank Yerby (Mel’s note: Yes, I totally get the irony of citing Wikipedia in this transcription, but as Jack said, it’s a starting place. You want to find out more, go research.). He wrote magnificent historical fiction.

Read your work aloud. I record it and listen to it while driving. Your errors will become apparent.

Q: What’s a typical writing day for Jack Whyte?

I write from 8 pm to 2 am. The next day, I print and edit the pervious day’s work.

Discipline is the key.

Q: Do you plot?

When I begin writing, I know the ending. Then I look for the start. But I just write. I don’t plot, per se.

I’ve written 9 novels in 37 years.

There’s a bit of snobbery in Canadian Literature. Look at Pierre Burton and Farley Mowat. Commercial success and genre fiction are dirty words.

Q: Have you ever had any legal issues?

Not really. We have a moral obligation not to defame anyone who doesn’t deserve it.

In the end, everything is fiction. Even an historical document, because it was written through the frame of the time its author lived in.


 

Next week: Business planning for creative people.

Tomorrow: Finally ready to write my Series discoveries post and I’ll have a brief update on the week.

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.

Muse-inks

Muse-inks

One of the comments I received on my monthly writing update, The Next Chapter, has prompted me to write this post.

The comment was:

I’m learning a lesson from this, have seen it happen to many others, how the blogging/social media/screen time eats up the creative writing time. Writing must come first, thanks for this warning.

I’m glad when anyone takes anything useful away from my blog and so in one sense, this is great.

But…

That’s not what I intended in writing the post. At all.

I had to go back and check. Was I inadvertently whiny? I strive for a factual reporting. Things are always open to interpretation, but I don’t think I was complaining about anything.

It’s true, every one of my 7503 “new” words I counted last month was written on this blog, but that wasn’t all the writing I did.

I edited a short story for publication, which ended up reducing the number of words in the story, so I couldn’t properly count those. I went through Initiate of Stone and made notes for my next revision, fairly extensive notes, as they involved the elimination of a character from the story. I have flags, and notes in different colours of ink in the ms, and pages of handwritten notes, which I inserted into the binder after.

I did a reverse structural analysis of IoS as well, also by hand, and I had to go through about three attempts before I actually had something that both satisfied me and made sense.

Though I wasn’t successful, I attempted to write a piece of creative non-fiction. This was done by hand, and I’ve decided not to count those words, because, frankly, it’s a pain to keep track of anything I don’t write on a computer.

So it was a productive month, it just wasn’t productive in the usual way.

Plus, I wrote about A Rewording Life, a wonderful project I have been privileged to become involved in, and my opportunity to review an ARC for K.M. Weiland. I forgot to mention my continuing involvement in @M2the5th’s monthly Twitter chats with Roz Morris focusing on her Nail Your Novel books.

When I’m not at my day job, I’m writing, or thinking about writing, or learning about writing. It’s the way I roll.

Since I began these monthly updates, the preponderance of words has always been on the blog.

And I don’t begrudge a single one.

Back in February, I attended WANAcon, and one of the sessions that has stayed with me was Kristen Lamb’s Blogging for Authors. In that session, she said that blogging teaches discipline. It teaches the writer to produce quality content on a schedule. It teaches you to ship.

I don’t begrudge the time I spend on social media either.

I read articles by fabulous writers every day and share and curate what I think are the best of the best. I’m not telling people about the last meal I ate, or playing endless games. I use SoMe with purpose, and I’m happy to say I have developed some legitimate relationships with some truly talented authors.

My SoMe activity is as much about my development as a writer as attending conferences and workshops, reading writing craft books, and, yes, writing.

I’m addicted to learning and SoMe is just one manifestation of that.

I don’t want this post to sound defensive, but sometimes, I assume things when I blog (and you know what happens then). I just want to be clear, and completely factual about why I do what I do.

Nor am I saying that everyone has to do what I’ve chosen to do. SoMe is not for everyone. Blogging is not for everyone. We all find our own ways to get the words on the page. It’s just been something I’ve taken to. And it works. For me.

My commenter took my post as a warning, and maybe that’s what she needed. While I’m happy my post spoke to her, I’m also a little sad that the rest of my message was not received.

The rest of my message?

I’m doing well, and, yes, I’m writing. Writing is a lifestyle for me. It’s a spiritual practice. It’s a kind of therapy. Everything I do, even my day job, funnels into my writing. The word count is only the tip of the iceberg. That’s why I write a post to go with it, to share all the writerly goodness of the past month.

Thank you to all of my readers and commenters. YOU. ARE. ALL. FABULOUS!

Be well.