Tag Archives: Writer’s Digest

Write On, Wednesday: Playing with Cards

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By Leslie Lindsay  (image source: www.benzinga.com 5.22.13)

Yesterday I booked a trip to Vegas, so it’s no surprise I have been in my kitchen playing cards.  And what the hell does that have to do with the price of tea in China…or writing for that matter? 

The trip is to celebrate the wedding of a childhood friend and the cards well, they have nothing to do with gambling and everything to do with something just as risky–my first novel. 

Affectionally, I refer to myself a ‘pantser,’ that is someone who writes by the seat of her pants.  I don’t plot.  I don’t like it.  I feel it stifles the creative process, rather than juicing them up (my critique partner claims plotting excites her to delve into the story).  I like to deliberate and then get hit with a burst of inspiration I can’t possibly let slip by. 

So when my completed Slippery Slope had some holes and a few too many overall words (doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron…how can a story have holes and be too long?  Beats me), my critique partner determined it was time for me to “pull out the cards.”  As in Tarot cards?  Nah…those are in my story, but not in my real life. 

I painstakenly sat at my laptop, a stack of pastel colored notecards at my side and went through my manuscript chapter by chapter, almost word-by-word.  I assigned a color to each main POV character and then other colors for backstory, section headings, etc.  Here’s how the chips fell (sorry, can’t get out of that gambling metaphor): 

  • Main POV female character is pink
  • Main POV male character is blue
  • Random tertiary character is yellow
  • Female backstory is purple
  • Male backstory is green
  • Section headings/quotes are white

This afternoon, I spread them out on my kitchen island and studied them.  In my hand, I held several cards (for note taking) and a sheet of tiny smiley face stickers. 

Soccer spring 2013 037 Soccer spring 2013 038

  • Red face = cut &/or severely revise
  • Green face = BATP (big-ass turning point)
  • Yellow face = I really like this, even if it’s not relevant.  And sometimes the yellow and green overlapped.  When that happened, I cheered!
  • But the problem is, there are a lot of cards that are left blank.  Meaning, they have plot points on them, but I am not sure if I like it, if it needs to be cut, if it’s even relevant.  Some of those cards are just transition chapters…and do they need to stay?  I don’t know yet. 

Now the big task of weeding out those chapters with the red sticker.  You’d think that would be easy, but not really.  It’s not that I don’t want to cut some of my work, it’s just that well–it impacts the flow I thought I developed. 

In the end, it working with the cards was a little madening, but it did help to be able to look at things as a big picture and then be able to manipulate them (by moving around my counter top, stopping to scrutinize) and the ones that are crud…well, they just may go to Vegas.

Write on, Wednesday!

For more information, look to the July/August 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest, specifically the article, “5 things Novelists Can Learn from Screenwriters.” I just did.  Here’s what the author, Scott Atkinson says: 

“A story can be built in scenes.  Some novelists start on page one and knock out a daily word count until they type “the end.”  But if that doesn’t work for you, don’t worry.  It doesn’t work for [screenwriter], either.  He never starts on page 1 of a screenplay.  He starts with the basic theme and overall journey–what screenwriters call controlling idea–and lets it come together, scene by scene–and not necessarily in order. 

He thinks, “What am trying to write about?….You may have some ideas for scenes and you jot them down as quickly as possible, and start to imagine where they might fall into that mauscript/screenplay.  And then gradually you start piecing tigehter a collage of those things either on cards or colored pencils, in a notebook, or on a piece of paper, and then you start figuring out what happens when.”

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Write on, Wednesday! To Plot, or Not to Plot…that is the Question

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By Leslie Lindsay Write on, Wednesday:  Imagine a Better Writer

As most of you know, I am feverishly working on a novel.  Second draft revisions…rewrites, or whatever you want to call ’em are tough.  The first draft was all composed on the fly.  That is, I am a pantser (as in seat-of-my-pants).  I first heard that term when I attended the Write-by-the-Lake retreat this past June.  I heard it again when I was reading the latest issue of Writer’s Digest (March/April 2013).

So, let’s back up to that statement at the top:  Second-draft revisions are tough.  As I’ve been working through this draft with my wonderful writing partner (who reads, critiques, gives, suggestions, and kicks my butt), I’ve been seriously considering starting the next book with a good old-fashioned outline, thinking it would make those 2nd draft revisions much easier. 

After reading this article in WD, I am wrong, wrong, wrong! 

Take what you want–work how you want–but for me, the outline may not be my bestfriend.  It’s too limiting.  It’s too old-school, it’s too predictable…and it sort of takes the fun out of writing.  Here’s why:

  • Starting with an idea, a problem, or paradox seems to lead most naturally to storytelling
  • Storytelling, by definition is a rambling artistic form.  Okay, try to forget that I said, “rambling.”  Your book should NOT ramble.  Your thought-processes should.  Explore them.  When you have a cool idea, go deeper.  Eliminate the other not-so-good rambles.
  • That said, follow your rabbit holes.  You never know what your inner muse may contribute.  If it sucks later, cut it.
  • Themes and subtext start to emerge from plot-free writing.  I had no idea a theme in my book was “cleanliness, tidyness” till someone in my critique group commented on it.  I learned something about my inner psyhe and my characters. 
  • Each scene–and character for that matter–should behave predictably, but still have a surprise ending.  You can’t always work that out with a plot.  Sometimes those ‘surprises’ startle you, the writer, too.
  • Be able to straddle a couple of genres.  I know, I know…you have heard contraindications for that.  Well, I think a ‘good book’ touches on several genres.  For example, I am currently reading a Laura Lippman novel.  She’s a thriller writer.  Is is all gloom and doom?  Action?  No.  But it does cross into women’s fiction, psychological thriller, whodunit, and more…when you start with a plot or outline, you often do so with the idea (read: rule) that you are writing a romance or Christian fiction, or whatever, so those other genre elements get poo-pooed. 

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Nathaniel Hawthorne

Do your own thing.  But remember, writing is hard work.  It sounds easy, but in the words of Nathanial Hawthorne, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” 

Write on, Wednesday: Establishing Writing Goals for 2013

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By Leslie Lindsay Write On, Wednesday:  Creating a World So Believable Your Critique Partners Think You're Having an Affair

Got an old manuscript shoved under your bed?   Dreams of writing for a big glossy?  Or finally putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and penning that novel you’ve always said you’d write.  Maybe you just want to write more than say…your grocery list.  Well, whatever your writing goals are in 2013, this post will surely help you start tackling them. 

About 4 years ago when I reluctantly began blogging (who’ll read it, it’s kind of like tooting your own horn, etc.), I have grown considerably as a writer.  And the thing with writing is, it’s a cumulative process.  It doesn’t have to happen all at once.  Read that again.  You don’t have to start doing all of the writing you’ve ever wanted to do all at once.  Baby steps.  Start the blog.  Read Writer’s Digest religiously.  Sign up for a continuning education class.  Write something daily.  Start slow.  Build up to writing that novel. 

I know, I know…I am not one to subscribe to the “take it slow” camp.  I want it all.  Now.  Yesterday.  But, that’s not how it works in this business.  And yes, writing is a business. 

Think very carefully about what you want the most in  your next 355 or so days of 2013. 

Go ahead, make a list.  Here’s mine:

1.  Finish and submit my novel-in-progress.  (baby steps:  continue revisions with writing partner, find a suitable group of agents, polish my query, send the darn thing out)

2.  Blog.  Daily is the ultimate goal, but would settle for 3 solid posts a week.  Host guest  authors, speech-language pathologists (SLPs), families also walking the apraxia path. (Again, call for submissions–if you are interested in being featured on “Practical Parenting…with a Twist” just shoot me an email.)

3.  Begin a new fiction (novel) project.  How far will I get?  Hard to say…but really seriously get started on it. 

4.  Attend a writing conference or retreat, most likely at the U-of-Wisconsin-Madison. 

And of course, there are a few others, too like expanding my mind by reading more about the craft of writing, joining a writing organization/group, and networking with fellow writers. 

Writing down your goals will help you actualize them.  Telling others about them will help, too.  I could probably go into a big discussion as to how and why we set goals…but I’ll leave that up to your mom.  : ) 

Here are some great websites and blogs to help you think about those goals for the upcoming year:

  • How to Write Shop.  It’s not a “store” as the name might imply, rather a resource for everything writing related.  Check it out now and often.  http://howtowriteshop.loridevoti.com/
  • Hosted by “writer mama,” Christina Katz, The Prosperous Writer will give you lots of tips, tricks, and more for making those writing (and getting paid to write!) dreams come true.  http://christinakatz.com/
  • Writer’s Digest.  The on-line magazine to everything literary–what it means to be a writer in today’s world.  http://www.writersdigest.com/
  • Agent Query.  Gonna reach out to an agent this year?  Don’t waste your time and money with a print edition of that giant book…go to http://www.agentquery.com/, a trusted database for comparing and narrowing down literary agents. 

Okay–that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  If you have some other sites you love, by all means, don’t hesitate to let me know! 

For now, Write on, Wednesday!

Write on, Wednesday! Do’s and Don’t of Fiction Platforms

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By Leslie Lindsay

You hear all the time, “build your platform!”  But what exactly is a platform, you say?!  Well, the terminology, platform comes from the theater in which the presentor/entertainer (that’s you, the author) is on the stage, while your “audience” (readers) are on the sidelines.  It generally means you have a place to promote your work; that is–readers who care. 

Every writer will have a different strategy to developing his or her platform–it all depends on your personality, your goals as a writer, and often the types of writing you do. 

Here’s a list of do’s and don’t for fiction platforms (but I think you can translate many of these to non-fiction as well).  This is literally a clipping from a Writer’s Digest magazine…but don’t ask what issue.  It’s been tacked to my real-life bulletin board over my desk for awhile now.

WHAT WORKS:

1.  Local publicity; especially if you live where your novel is set

(DOESN’T WORK:  mass snail maillings)

2.  Book giveaways

(DOESN’T WORK:  Non-book [swag] giveaways)

3.  Wide-reaching blog tour

(DOESN’T WORK:  small blog tour)

4.  Group signings and events

(DOESN’T WORK:  Solo book signings)

5.  Cultivating a community where fans want to return

(DOESN’T WORK:  Paid advertising)

6.  Encouraging or teaching fans to do what you do

(DOESN’T WORK:  Book trailers that are merely commercials)

7.  Hosting reader comepetions for media or creative work

(DOESN’T WORK:  Saying ‘yes’ to too many time-comsuming requests

8.  Ramping up the excitement prior to the book launch

(DOESN’T WORK:  Extravagant publication parties)

Here are some other ideas you may like from “Be a Better Writer with Pearl Luke”

http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/writing-platform.html

“All Freelance Writing”  http://allfreelancewriting.com/2010/01/25/freelancing/marketing-pr/30-ways-to-build-your-writer-platform/

Go, on–find at least 5 new ideas…and write on, Wednesday!

Write on, Wednesday! Certain Words

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By Leslie Lindsay

Ever notice how there are certain words that make you feel good (hycionic, dawn) and those that make you cringe (moist, languid)…how about laugh?!  In a sort-of-kind-of recent issue of Writer’s Digest (not sure the actual date, ripped this article out), they talk about just that, “How to Add Humor without Really Trying.” 

Here’s a sampling  the words from their list that is sure to illicit a chuckle:

  • bamboozled
  • canoodle
  • cheeky
  • flanker
  • girdle
  • hornswoggle
  • kerplunk
  • knickers
  • lackadaisical
  • monkey
  • noggin
  • persnickity
  • rumpus
  • snarky
  • tater
  • waddle
  • wonky

Back to those definitions…I have no idea what a hornswoggle is.

horn·swog·gle

verb \-ˌswä-gəl\

horn·swog·gledhorn·swog·gling\-g(ə-)liŋ\
(From Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary)

Definition of HORNSWOGGLE

transitive verb

slang

Examples of HORNSWOGGLE

  1. <I think we’ve been hornswoggled by that carnival barker.>

Origin of HORNSWOGGLE

origin unknown

First Known Use: circa 1829

another I didn’t know….

flank·er

noun \ˈflaŋ-kər\

Definition of FLANKER

: a football player stationed wide of the formation slightly behind the line of scrimmage as a pass receiver —called also flanker back

First Known Use of FLANKER

1940
//
There, learned something new! 

Write on, Wednesday: Fiction Primer

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By Leslie Lindsay

I never really thought I would have much interest in writing fiction.  I had always seen myself as the self-help, parenting, fact-based sort of writer with a slight bent towards memoir/life lessons.  But then I subscribed to Writer’s Digest and began wandering over to the columns geared toward fiction writing.  Character development, story escalation, discovery…well, it all seemed rooted in psychology.  Since I am a former child/adolescent psych R.N., my metamorphsis to “writer” seemed quite natural.

After slaving away for weeks, months even on the revisions of my 16 chapter non-fiction book in Childhood Apraxia, I am ready to take a break from all of that, uh…monotony.  Back to fiction!  But I am a little rusty and I need a bit of a refresher, and perhaps you do, too.

According to a semi-recent edition of Writer’s Digest (sorry, clipped this piece out, no date to go by), here are the 5 key points for shaping your story:

1–Orientation.  Meet the protagonist.  What’s his life like?  What does he have?  Is he about to lose it?  Or, what does he need to pursue?

2–Crisis.  Something bad or unexpected turns the protagonist’s world around…what is it?  What is he trying to avoid or obtain?

3–Escalation.  The protagonist tries to solve the problem or answer the life-changing/defining question.  What does he do?  Show us.

4–Discovery.  The protagonist reaches a moment of realization.  What does he learn?

5–Change.  The protagonist’s life has transformed..  Hint at the lesson, change or new direction here…

Done!  That was easy, right?!  Uh…not so much.  I know that seems pretty formulaic, but you have options; it’s called creativity and imagination.  Apply liberally and you will be cranking out novels in no time.  As for me…well, I better get on with it!