Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 22-28, 2020

I hope you’re all keeping safe and well.

I’m now working from home and only leaving to walk the dog. Phil continues to be our designated shopper. We’re all remaining as isolated as possible given the circumstances.

While you’re at home, you might have the time to catch up on your informal writerly learnings.

Julianna Baggott is creating in the time of quarantine. Liz Michalski: sea glass. Heather Webb says, the beauty is in the words. John J Kelley: for the love of Moira—the arc of a memorable character. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland touts the power of hopeful stories in a stressful time. Helping Writers Become Authors

E.J. Wenstrom explains how authors can build a true community of fans. Later in the week, Savannah Cordova lists five signs your story’s structure needs work. DIY MFA

Shaelin shares six ways to improve your craft. Reedsy

Barbara Linn Probst visit’s Jane Friedman’s blog to explain the when, why, and how of peer critique and professional editing.

Lisa Hall-Wilson explains how to write compelling emotional triggers. Ellen Buikema explores white space on the page. Writers in the Storm

The Take takes on the weird girl trope.

Chris Winkle helps you make the most of your narrative premise. Then, Oren Ashkenazi explains why zombies aren’t a good pandemic parallel. Mythcreants

Meg LaTorre shares ten fantasy tropes she loves. iWriterly

Jami Gold explains how point of view affects dialogue.

Nina Munteanu: dreams and perceptions and “the other.”

Robert Lee Brewer clarifies fable vs. parable vs. allegory. Writer’s Digest

Adrienne Westenfeld recommends the best books for distancing yourself from reality right now. Esquire

Open Culture introduces us to the world’s first author: the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna.

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

Until Thursday, be well!


Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 15-21, 2020

I hope you’re all staying safe and well in these troubling times. If you’re self-isolating or quarantining, you’ve probably already had a chance to see all the informal writerly learnings I share. If you haven’t, please see this as a helpful resource to spend you time productively if you’re having trouble concentrating for long stretches of time.

I am still working, but I work in employment that has been considered a critical service and, unfortunately, our virtual network is at capacity. Still, several of my colleagues are off because of the school and day care closures and I maintain social distancing to the degree possible. I bring lunch from home and eat at my desk. I have not travelled. When I don’t work, I only leave the house to walk the dog. My spouse is our designated shopper and is also taking care of shopping for our Moms. We’re all being as safe as we can.

Vaughn Roycroft: it’s the end of the world as we know it (and writing feels fine). Dave King says, do it again, do it again! Some practical advice about writing series. Barbara Linn Probst: 36 debut authors tell it like it is. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland tackles five questions about how to manage multiple points of view in your stories. Helping Writers Become Authors

Then, she suggests five inspirational reads (if you’re self-isolating or quarantining).

And … six happy movies or series. This video came first, actually. Katie starts off by explaining her covid-19 inspired idea for a video series.

Emily E.J. Wenstrom: writing unlikable characters readers will root for. Jane Friedman

Lucy V. Hays explains why all writers need a structural toolbox. Writers Helping Writers

Shaelin discusses how to plan a series. Reedsy

And … the trilogy, specifically. Reedsy

Leanne Sowul helps you write through depression. Pamela Taylor wants you to create authentic details about food. Then, Gabriela Pereira interviews E.J. Wenstrom about bringing a fantasy series to a close. Rosie O’Neill shares five ways to rekindle inspiration for your current writing project. DIY MFA

Then, E.J. Wenstrom visited Fiction University to explain how she tricked her pantser brain into plotting.

Oren Ashkenazi provides six tips for avoiding repetitive conflict. Mythcreants

She never wrote more than a page a day, but now, Eden Robinson has a Canada Reads finalist book. CBC

Stay safe and be well. Take care.


Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 21-27, 2019

July is winding down and we’re heading into the dog days of summer: August. We’ve already had more than our share of hot, humid days—fact, I’m not complaining—and I’m trying to make the most of each one. I hope you’ve been making meaningful progress in your creative projects.

It’s time to reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings 🙂

Janice Hardy offers a Sunday writing tip: reveal something new in every scene. Then she wonders, are you asking—and answering—the right story questions? Fiction University

Alexa Donne talks about nailing your beginnings (first sentence through first act).

Tracy Hahn-Burkett says, if you want to make a difference, tell a story. Heather Webb offers some notes from a book tour. Keith Cronin shares some serious lessons from a fool on a hill. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland explains how to make your plot a powerful thematic metaphor. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jenn Walton says, let your imagination run wild. Gabriela Pereira crawls inside the mind of a worldbuilding junkie with Fonda Lee. DIY MFA

Angela Ackerman visits Writers in the Storm to discuss character building for pantsers.

Jenna Moreci discusses some of the differences between flat and round characters.

Justin Attas wants you to create a credible magic system. Writers Helping Writers

Lisa Bell wonders, is your writing plan ready for a crisis? Jami Gold

Chris Winkle explains what storytellers should know about normalization. Choose compassion. Write stories that normalize the positive. Then, Oren Ashkenazi examines five stories with premises that don’t suit their settings. Mythcreants

Structuring a chapter. Reedsy

CBC books recommends ten Canadian science fiction and fantasy books you should be reading.

Ada Hoffman is moving towards a neurodiverse future by writing an autistic heroine.

Thanks for visiting. I hope you’ve found something for your writerly toolkit.

If you’re looking for some inspiration or research material, be sure to come back on Thursday for some thoughty links.

Until then, be well, my friends 🙂


Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 12-18, 2019

And here is your latest curation of informal writerly learnings.

Sophie Masson talks big publishers, small publishers, and contract negotiations. Jim Dempsey wants you to tune out your self-doubt. Julie Carrick Dalton praises the power of writerly kindness. Porter Anderson considers the place of place in our writing. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland shares five ways writers (try to) fake their way to good storytelling. Helping Writers Become Authors

James Navé and Alegra Huston stop by Jane Friedman’s blog: how to plan a book reading that delights your audience.

September C. Fawkes offers story structure in a flash. Then, Sacha Black wants you to nip and tuck your saggy middle with conflict. Writers Helping Writers

Jeanette the Writer covers the stages of editing grief. Later in the week, Gabriela Pereira interviews Sam Sykes about the emotional weight of storytelling. DIY MFA

Jami Gold wonders, are you a pantser, a plotter, or something in between? Click through to the original tweet by Cheyenne A. Lepka—it’s AWESOME! Warmed this old gamer’s heart 🙂

Jenny Hansen shares Brené Brown’s top ten tips for success. Laura Drake follows up on Jenny’s column with this: dare to be vulnerable in your writing life. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle wants you to understand exploitative plots. Mythcreants

Guy Gavriel Kay offers some writing advice: don’t take writing advice. Literary Hub

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found something to help you with your latest creative project.

Until Thursday, be well, my writerly friends!


Two approaches to novel structure I recommend you check out!

I’m no expert with regard to writing a novel.  Admittedly, I’m still revising my first one, and while I’ve had some modest success with my poetry and short stories, I’m a complete n00b when it comes to the mechanics of the novel.  I’m learning as I go and I’ll share these bumbling lessons in my Work in Progress category, but for this week’s Alchemy Ink, I thought I’d do a little curating.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve come across two of approaches that attracted me and that I intend to follow through to their blogging conclusions.

Why did I gravitate to these two writing bloggers?

The short answer is that I’m floundering.  I’m working with a peer group in Author Salon and part of that entails the presentation of my project in a formatted profile.  I’ve never queried an agent before, never participated in a pitch slam, or in a workshop that focuses on developing a pitch, hook, synopsis, or any of the other components of the profile.

In recent weeks, both the critiques of my peers and the advice of AS staff have brought several things to my attention:

  • My synopsis misses the mark.  The synopsis we’re asked to produce for the AS profile must be between 200 and 300 words and so is what’s been described to me as the short synopsis.  This is something that might fit into a query letter and could be analogous to the blurb on the back of a book.  The specific form still escapes me at the moment.
  • My hook line doesn’t ‘hook.’
  • My conflict statement isn’t well-defined.  My plot is very complicated and I can’t seem to distil everything into a concise, yet clear statement that addresses internal, interpersonal, and plot level conflicts.
  • I didn’t have a series title, and the title of the novel didn’t resonate with most of my readers.  This is still in flux.  I’ve chosen a series title and changed the working title of the novel, but there were reasons that I chose the original.  I won’t go into those here, but at least one peer thinks the original was better.
  • My original novel was far too long.  I’ve had to cut it in half and that’s changed a whole whack of things.  When initially confronted with this, I was defensive, and unwilling to move, but after my initial panic, I recognized that I didn’t have to take the scorched earth policy and destroy what was a 295,000 word opus.  So I’ve chosen to break the novel up, using the mid-point as the new climax and am editing down from there to a neat 110,000 words.
  • My climax and denouement are not well defined.  This owes to the above re-envisioning of my novel.  Reworking a mid-point to a climax has brought with it its own challenges.

Other issues have become apparent to me in the process:

  • My protagonist’s story arc is not dynamic in its early stages.  There’s a lot of internal conflict, and some interpersonal, but not much that relates overtly to the plot.  It all relates to the larger story arc, but that doesn’t become apparent until later on in the novel.
  • There’s a lot of disembodiment going on.  This is a tough one.  I can fix the POV issues that contribute to some of this, but dream/out of body experiences and shamanic journeying are central to the story.  I’ll have to let this incubate for a while and write through some of the possibilities.

I’m going to need some help working through all of this.

So what are the two approaches already?

Karen Woodward and the Starburst method

I caught on to Woodward with Part 3 and backtracked through her blog posts from there.  There are ten parts/steps to the process, so I’m going to be following Woodward through them from here on out.

Part 1 entails creating a one sentence description of your story.  This equates to what, in screenwriting circles, is called a log line, or what AS is calling the hook line.  That alone made my Writerly Goodness ears perk up (Didn’t know my authorial alter ego was a dog?  Take a look at the site mascot 😛 ).

Part 2 takes that one sentence and creates from it a five sentence paragraph.  This might make a zippy short synopsis.  Woodward discusses the three act structure here as well, another takeaway from the screenwriting world that has been successfully applied to novel writing.

Part 3 expands each sentence into its own paragraph.  By now, I think I have a decent idea of where the Starburst method is heading, but I’m still curious enough to follow through with it and see where it leads me.

K.M. Weiland and the Secrets of Story Structure

Late to the party with Weiland as well, I didn’t pick up on her series until part three, and was reminded of it this week when Porter Anderson reposted a link to part five in this week’s edition of Jane Friedman’s Writing on the Ether.

Why I like Weiland’s approach

What struck me immediately was that Weiland’s secrets are both organic in nature, having emerged from her own process and experience, and very clear.  Ideas and insight started to pop as soon as I read her first post.

Part 1 answers the question: Why should authors care?  It made complete sense to me.

Part 2 deals with the hook in its story structure form as opposed to the hook line that AS wants.   Still, the way Weiland describes the hook offers insight into what (perhaps) should and shouldn’t be present in a hook line.  It’s the question that the protagonist, and therefore the reader, needs to answer.  For the writer, it propels the plot; for the protagonist, it sets her feet on the hero’s journey; and for the reader, it keeps him or her reading until the question is answered.

Part 3 covers the first act.  How do you introduce your characters, the setting, and the plot stakes?

Part 4 defines and illustrates the first plot point.  What is the first major plot point and how does it differ from the inciting incident and the key event?

Part 5 goes into more detail with regard to the inciting incident and the key event.  At each stage, Weiland uses the same set of examples to illustrate what she’s talking about and solidifies the takeaways in point form at the end of her posts.  Excellent blogging form 🙂

These last three together are important factors to consider in writing the first part of your novel, what AS calls your “First 50 Pages,” but admits could be as many as 100 pages.  This is also part of what’s critiqued  in the AS process and something I may have to rewrite substantially.

I’ll summarize by reiterating my invitation to check out both of these blogs.

Have you come across any excellent online resources regarding novel or story structure?  Please share!