Monday, January 25, 2016

I 8 Mondays--Best Writing Advice

There was a time when I used to 8 Wednesdays. For the next couple weeks I’m going to 8 Mondays.

Today I’m hitting you with 8 of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever received (quick recall so I likely neglect to mention at least a dozen others…always another post for another Monday). I’m taking the advice I learned and serving it to you Wendy-style (which basically just means giving it to you topped off with my own experience).

Give every character a secret
I don’t remember exactly where this one came from, but it sounds like a Donald Maass tip to me. Constructing novels with this in mind has done wonders to ramp up the intrigue factor in my books. It invites twists in my stories in unexpected and plot-developing places. Secrets = gold for whenever you need more tension.

Sleep on it
It’s imperative to give your story time. Think of your ideas like old school Chia pets. They need time to grow (some more than others). I’ve lost track of how many times I thought I had a story wrapped up and one long soak in the tub or one sleepless night later I’m toying with a whole new spin. Not thinking days or weeks even on this one. Try months or years even.

Motivation is king
Always know why your character chooses to make an important decision. Take copious notes. Study your characters the same way you memorized everything about your significant other in the early stages of the relationship when you’d do anything to prove how in love you were.

Don’t be married to being a plotter or pantser
I used to be a pantser. But I’ve come over to the dark side. Or should I say the partially lit side. I’m both now. I plot and I pants. And I can tap my head and rub my belly at the same time. There are valid points about writing a novel using each of these methods. Get to know what they are. Experiment with both. (Plotters, it won’t kill you.)

Make every sentence work to further the plot
Don’t waste words.

Start in the center of it all
Don’t build up to your start. Invite the reader straight into the center of the action. There’s time to explain. And if you’re a seasoned writer, you’ll find a way to incorporate setting and character introductions skillfully as you throw your readers in the ring.

Theme meet Character, Character meet Theme
Know how the theme of your story influences every single character. Work it. Work it.

Create a satisfying ending
while leaving the reader longing for more.

I’ve read dozens of books on the craft. Ive also written thirteen novels, and I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. I can honestly say the above 8 are the nuggets of advice I keep coming back to. They’re my compass, navigating me through the sometimes rocky terrain of completing a work. Hope they help!

*Another helpful resource

Monday, January 11, 2016

Voice Lessons

2016 is the year of the voice. My voice. Choosing to use it. And not to use it.

Every New Year I find I become reflective about what I want to focus on, and as the calendar pushed us into 2016, I kept coming back to voice. Writers love this word. At least I do. There’s this elusive wonder attached to a writer’s voice. I’m reading an author with an extremely strong writing voice right now. I’m halfway through Gillian Flynn’s DARK PLACES. And whether or not you find her stories twisted and her premises disturbing, it would be hard to argue that she lacks voice. There’s no mistaking when I’ve picked up one of her books.

So, yes, obviously I want to continue to strengthen my writing voice.

I’m also going to be intentional about something else voice-related.

When not to use my voice.

In this era of share-all to be-all, I’ve grown quiet fascinated with getting quieter. Studying some of my wisest mentors and people who’ve earned my respect, I tend to notice a familiar thread. They don’t share every little opinion. They don’t always feel they need to argue. They aren’t fighting to be heard.

Because they’re focusing on something revolutionary. My mentors concentrate on listening, and they know how to discern whether what they choose to share will bring value to a moment or just muddy it up.

The world is already mud-saturated. And I happen to believe all of the oversharing contributes to many things we haven’t even felt the repercussions of yet. Like entitlement, the false ideology we are always in the know or that we’re always right. I think it invites stress and prompts unnecessary arguments. It makes some appear foolish, desperate, and in love with shock value. It offers the false assumption words are enough when action is far better.

Hear me clearly on this. There is a time and place to rise up, to let my words and my views find their way out in the world. But there’s much to be said about taking a moment to ascertain when I’ve encounter that time and that place.

Until then, I’ll be observing all of it. And making up my own mind.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Woman in Red

Happy New Year!

We were on the road when 2016 hit. I was desperately clutching for a coffee carafe at a Residence Inn, when I realized there was a woman standing next to me. I moved aside and said we could share the space.

She was dressed in a red sweatshirt and red sweatpants. Very Santa-esque. And she had something that resembled a shower cap on her head. She had one of those smiles that reels you in instantly. I quickly found a way to continue our conversation.

“Another year to grow older.” I winked at her as she fumbled with a hazelnut creamer. I can be quite friendly when in dire need of caffeine, apparently.

She stopped fiddling with the stir stick and looked me directly in the eyes, a serene expression defining her features. “This is going to be a great year for you.”

It’s amazing how much of an impact a stranger can have. I spent the rest of the day in the car with my husband and kids feeling as though someone spiked my coffee. Maybe that’s how they roll at that particular Residence Inn along the coast. Or perhaps it’s that the woman in red gave me a blessing to start my year. She tipped me off to the best way to begin anything—believing in its potential.

Cheers to a great year ahead!

*Happy 40th birthday to my husband! 

Taking Time

college applications                 homecoming                            flag football                basketball             SATs   ...