Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 3-9, 2020

Even as various provincial governments consider “opening up,” we are becoming aware of reports from China and South Korea that their attempts to do the same are resulting in another spike in infections and deaths. While I think that, with testing and tracking and sufficient PPE, a certain degree of business resumption can occur, I’m worried that the testing, tracking, and PPE are not in place as yet.

Time will tell.

In the meantime, this week was another rich one for informal writerly learnings. Enjoy!

Sara Letourneau explains how your protagonist’s motivations influence your story’s themes. Later in the week, Gabriela Pereira interviews Helen J. Darling for an inside look at self-publishing. Pamela Gay shares five ways to write about something difficult. DIY MFA

Sonja Yoerg encourages you to give your story the time of day. Donald Maass: the meaning of meaning. Julie Carrick Dalton considers the earned plot twist. Jennie Nash: the secret to more efficient revision is pattern recognition. Writer Unboxed

How to develop a novel, part 3: plot & world. Reedsy

Nathan Bransford shows you how to weave exposition naturally into your story. Later in the week, he suggests giving your protagonist a mini-quest before the plot takes off.

Aziraphale and Crowley share a message with the world.

Tiffany Yates Martin wants you to give your characters agency. Then, Susan DeFreitas serves up the next part of her developing a writing practice series: captivating. Jane Friedman

Jami Gold explains how to improve your story with action beats. Later in the week, she wonders, do your characters take on lives of their own?

The Take explains the woman-child trope.

Joanna Penn shares her self-editing process. The Creative Penn

Meg LaTorre explains how to juggle writing and parenting. Writers Helping Writers

Fae Rowan show you how small decisions can make big story impact. Julie Glover: in defense of editing as you go. Writers in the Storm

Juliette Dunn profiles five characters coded as autistic. Mythcreants

What English does that no other languages do. NativLang

Eileen Hunt Botting introduces us to Mary Shelley’s journals of sorrow. The Times Literary Supplement

I’ve been trying to avoid a lot of overt covid-19 material, but Kim Stanley Robinson’s article is too amazing not to share. Coronavirus is rewriting our imaginations. The New Yorker

And this: Sabrina Orah Mark. Fuck the Bread. The Bread is over. On making your own fairy tale, embarking on your own epic tasks, and finding meaning. Beautiful and wrenching and ultimately hopeful. The Paris Review

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ve taken away something to support your current work in progress.

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

Tipsday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 26-May 2, 2020

We’re staying the course here. I will likely be working from home for the foreseeable. I could also see our local and regional management making the case that we can and should continue to work from home on a permanent basis.

My current position has been largely virtual since I moved into it eleven years ago. There’s still an element of the surreal to the situation (where does the job end, how do I transition into home/creative life?) but now that we’re closing in on two months of pandemic life and  six weeks (for me) of working from home, I’m finding my way to a workable routine.

Here’s hoping that whatever your circumstances are, that you’re finding your feet, so to speak. Everyone’s dealing with “stuff.” Take a break and peruse some of these informal writerly learnings.

Tasha Seegmiller offers five tips for having hard conversations. Ellen Buikema teaches you how to love your hateful antagonist. Writers in the Storm

K.M. Weiland lists 15 productive tasks you can do when you don’t feel like writing. Helping Writers Become Authors

How to master fight scenes (a follow up from the other fight scene video I shared—as Tim will tell you, please watch that one first). Hello, Future Me

Justin Attas explains the puzzle piece plotting method: using what you know to build what you don’t. Susan DeFreitas is helping you develop your writing practice, part five: neurohacks. Later in the week, C.S. Lakin touts the three Ms of character setup. Jane Friedman

Developing a book, part 2: the characters. Reedsy

Nathan Bransford tells you everything you need to know about inciting incidents.

Related: Jami Gold explains the difference between the inciting incident and the first plot point.

Jenn Walton shares three ways to preserve your creativity. DIY MFA

Chris Winkle lists five reasons tension is missing from your story. Then, Oren Ashkenazi considers six ridiculous cultures in speculative fiction. Mythcreants

Nina Munteanu uses a walk in the forest to discover hidden character archetypes.

Alison Flood: study shows most authors hear their characters speak. Do you? The Guardian

Keziah Weir says poetry is having its moment. Vanity Fair

Thank you for visiting. I hope you found something to assist you with your current work in progress, even if you’re not actively writing.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 19-25, 2020

Sunday (April 26th) marked one month since I started working from home and a little over six weeks since covid-19 was declared a pandemic and physical distancing measures were put in place. In that time, several of the small businesses and independent workers whose services I used have shut down operations. This past week, one of those small businesses made the decision to close permanently.

I understand the decision and wish the two wonderful businesswomen all the best, but it makes me sad that they were forced to the extremity. Unfortunately, none of the measures the government offered for small businesses were appropriate for them. I worry that more small businesses will follow suit.

This has been a trying time for everyone for a variety of reasons. Take care of yourselves and take some time to enjoy these informal writerly learnings.

Jan O’Hara: turning points (or, how not to kill your partner during covid-19 lockdown). Dave King discusses the practice novel (also called the shelf novel or trunk novel—scarier words were never writ). Anne Greenwood Brown reveals the science behind the meet-cute. Heather Webb explains how to find and hone your author voice. Writer Unboxed

Becca Puglisi offers nine ways to originalize your story. Writers in the Storm

Shaelin starts a new series about developing a novel. Part one: concept and idea. Reedsy

K.M. Weiland lists four ways writing improves your relationship with yourself. Helping Writers Become Authors

Joanna Penn talks to Gail Carriger about building a unique author brand. The Creative Penn

Susan DeFreitas continues her series on developing a writing practice with part four: easy. Jane Friedman

Lisa Hall-Wilson explains what emotional context is and why your story needs it. Later in the week, Angela Ackerman shows you how to describe a location you’ve never visited. Writers Helping Writers

Jami Gold helps you use scene and sequel better.

Chris Winkle lists five common dialogue problems and how to fix them. Then, Oren Ashkenazi digs into the world building of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire. Mythcreants

How the manic pixie dream girl has evolved. The Take

And the crazy woman.

Maria Popova introduces us to The Lost Words: an illustrated dictionary of poetic spells reclaiming the language of nature. Brain Pickings

Kate Yoder considers the words this unprecedented time of change have brought into our lexicon. Grist

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

Until next time, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends.

Tipsday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 5-11, 2020

Another week of physical distancing has come and gone. Another week of working from home or unemployment, and increasing numbers of confirmed illness, hospitalisation, and deaths from covid-19. There is also hope that, in some areas, at least, that we’re reaching a peak, beginning to flatten or plank the curve.

Treatments are being investigated while a vaccine is in development, but this new normal may pertain until a vaccine is available. I hope that you’re finding a way to navigate the enforced isolation.

My own humble contribution is this curation of informal writerly learnings. Enjoy.

K.M. Weiland lists seven ways writing saves us when life is hard. Helping Writers Become Authors

Susan DeFreitas returns to Jane Friedman’s blog with part two of her developing a writing practice series: community. Then, Susann Cokal suggests that instead of setting a goal, try a writing dare.

Shaelin Bishop explains show, don’t tell, so you can actually understand it. Shaelin Writes

Over on Reedsy, Shaelin lists the pros and cons of past and present tense so you can choose the best one for your story.

Tamar Sloan shares what you need to know to keep the words flowing in difficult times. Writers Helping Writers

Jeanette (the Writer) Smith considers whether you can trust editing software. And here’s my latest column: five books on the tarot for writers. DIY MFA

Jenna Moreci shares her favourite man tropes 🙂

Jami Gold wants you to escape generic storytelling by asking why. Then she helps us understand the past perfect tense.

Janice Hardy helps you identify whether it’s a loss of momentum or writer’s block. Fiction University

Chris Winkle tackles Act II of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Then, Oren Ashkenazi explains what Tolkien did right—and wrong—when he built Middle Earth. Mythcreants

Kristen Lamb shares the truth about introverts and why isolation is hard on us, too.

Thank you for visiting, and I hop that you’ve found something here to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe.

Tipsday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 2-8, 2020

You’ve survived Monday! Reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings.

Janice Hardy says, author, we have a problem: four plotting tips. Later in the week, Janice is poking dead scenes with a stick. Fiction University

K.M. Weiland shares six steps to create realistic and powerful scene dilemmas. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jami Gold uses an, ahem, moving metaphor to discover what matters in our stories. Then, she wonders, where do you want your story (or career) to go?

Jenna Moreci explains how to tell if you should write a series (and when you shouldn’t).

Abigail K. Perry covers James Scott Bell’s final signpost scene: transformation. As one series ends, another begins. The first of my three-part series on the tarot as a tool for mythic storytelling: an introduction to the tarot. DIY MFA

Donald Maass revisits the uncon again: world building for non-SFF writers. Cathy Yardley: your subconscious speaks a different language. ‘Cause tarot (see above)! Writer Unboxed

Meg LaTorre explains how to find critique partners and beta readers. Writers Helping Writers

Kris Spisak advises you to look at these four problem areas when revising. Jane Friedman

Joanna Penn interviews Jennie Nash: would you make a good book coach? The Creative Penn

Chris Winkle explains how storytellers use reactivity and proactivity for effect. Then, Oren Ashkenazi shares seven tricks to improve your minions. Mythcreants

Etuaptmumk: two-eyed seeing. Rebecca Thomas TEDxNSCCWaterfront

Brit Marling: I don’t want to be the strong female lead. The New York Times

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’re taking away something to help with your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well, my writerly friends 🙂

Tipsday2019

World-building: Where do you start?

This is a sample constructed-world as seen fro...

Confession time

I’m a pantser.  I write through first, and restructure later, but I do extensive mapping using my trusty bulletin board, and as I’m getting to know the inner workings of Microsoft Word better, I’m learning to use headings to organize my chapters and sections, making outline view a useful tool too.  I have Office 2007 right now, so that’s the best I can do.  When I have blocked some time to learn more about it, I intend to use a master document to further organize my novel.  I’ll probably start using OneNote to organize a lot of my research, world-building, character sketches, and other resources.  More on that in the future.

Process, process, process

Where to start, indeed?  Really, this all depends on how you write and what your process is.  If you’ve been reading Writerly Goodness, you know my process is organic and holistic.  Some writers might see that as a cop-out, an excuse for a sloppy and ill-defined (dare I say undisciplined?) process.  Really, it’s process as a way of life.

Life = process

That demands a lot of dedication, organization, awareness, and the ability to think, not only on your feet, but sitting, laying down, at work, watching TV, eating …  In short, it means thinking all the time.

Plot leads to setting

If you’re a plot-based writer, that is, if you start with the story, then that will be your jumping off point for your world-building.

Example:

Hard-boiled detective?  Then you’ll have to create that milieu, and that means research.  Add Hammett and Chandler to your reading list, watch the classics of the movie genre, and then once you’ve got the flavour, go for the meat.  What time will you set your story in?  Just because the genre evolved in the 1920’s and 30’s doesn’t mean you have to restrict yourself.  As long as you can evoke the feeling of the hard-boiled detective, you can play.  William Gibson plays elements of the hard-boiled into some of his science fiction.

Once you have your setting, then you have direction.  Research the heck out of it.  Dream about it.  Start mining your life.  Have you ever done or seen anything that is distinctively “hard-boiled”?  Chances are, if you’re attracted to the genre, there’s a reason.  Dig.  You can find it.

But that’s where you’d start, in the Writerly Goodness universe 🙂

Character leads to plot/setting/theme (sometimes simultaneously)

If you’re a character-based writer though, it’s a little tougher.  You write the character, or characters, first, and the story emerges from them.  Sometimes, you don’t even know where or when the story will be set when you start out.

That’s the way it is for me.

If the story is the plot-based writer’s place to start, then character is the character-based writer’s place to start.

Do character sketches, written ones, and maybe actual sketches, if you’re so talented.  If not, find pictures of actors that might fit the bill.  Have them fully developed as people: their back-stories, their personal quirks, their convictions and beliefs.  Invite your writers’ group, or just some writer friends over for coffee, and have them quiz you on your characters, quick-fire style (it’s in the post, about half-way through).  And, of course, keep writing in the meantime.  Only once your characters are real people to you will their stories start to emerge and direct your plot.  Only once you have a developed plot, will your setting and themes become apparent.  Only then will you be able to truly start developing your world.

You may have some ideas when you begin to write, and by all means, start your research as soon as possible.  If you’re going for a contemporary setting, or a historical one, immerse yourself in the time or place.  It might inform your writing as you go and help you develop your setting with crystalline clarity.  If you’re trying to create a truly original fantasy or science fiction milieu, however, those details might have to wait for you to discover them through writing.  The best you may be able to do at the outset is read in your chosen genre.  If nothing else, do that.

Other options

Ultimately, how you write will determine where and when you start to build your world.  Plot- and character-based writers aren’t the only kinds either.  They’re the only kinds I can provide any guidance for, however.  If you’re another kind of writer, then go with your strengths.  Does your theme emerge first?  Or maybe you can’t write in a world that you don’t know and start off with the world first.  It’s all good.  The point is that no matter what you write, you have to put your characters and their stories in a time and a place and you have to know that world as intimately as you know your characters and plot.  It’s the only way to roll 🙂

Coming up

In the next weeks, I propose to post some of my character sketches and the plot lines that developed from them, along with pictures (though I have started to draw some of them, I’m not finished and they wouldn’t come through in a scan well … also, they’re not very good).

In the future, I’ll move on to other aspects of world-building, including a number of print resources on the subject.

Are you a pantser, or a plotter?  Are you a plot-based, or a character-based writer?  Are you something else entirely?  Where do you start in your world building?  Please, comment, like, share!