Tag Archives: Online Writing Group

Week Six Summer 2017 Online Writing Group

It’s week six of the Summer 2017 Online Writing Group — we’re closing in on the summer and on our project goals!

Here are our week six goals.

Week Six Goals:

Anne:

I need a Patriot Pass for last week, but I’m continuing with Gardner this week.

Bev:

Week 6: I am going on vacation and will keep a journal of my trip.

Cynthia:

This week, I have two goals:

1.  Continue with writing and revising my Library Assessment course group project of doom.
2.  Continue to find and annotate sources for my Law Librarianship course in advance of Thursday’s online workshopping session (nothing like a deadline to make me produce words)!

Laura:

I didn’t make progress on my creative writing, but I did some writing for my graduate class. This week I need to write another annotated bibliography, and catch up on my blog posts.

Lisa:

Last week was fun, but I got NO writing accomplished.
This week, I hope to write five pages.

Mike:

Week 5: Revised a few more pages of my short story, continuing with the third-person-to-first-person conversion I started last week. Realized I still had some logistical and motivational issues to sort out in the plot, so I started thinking through those as I revised (eliminating altogether some of the passages that had troubled/bored me the most upon my initial re-read).

Week 6: Complete revisions (ahem, again) while doing some research into antique reselling and siblings screwing each other out of family heirlooms, since that is the key backstory in my short story, and there’s just not enough detail there yet to make it fully come to life.

Rachel:

Admittedly I’ve been slacking a bit this week with writing group—but mostly because I’ve been writing other things, so that’s good, right?? (YES!) One of the essays I’d written last year (around the time of winter writing group, actually) is being published later this week, so I’ll cheat a little and say that was an accomplishment :/ This week is a little crazy at work and I know I’m going to have limited creative energy, so I’ll shoot to go through my old notebooks and flesh out some of the stuff I’ve written before, to stock up for my blog. Love that low-hanging fruit!

Robert:

This week wrote 4,153 words. Next week’s goal is 7,000.

Sarah:

Coming soon…

 

This week’s resource post is about listening: listening to the people around you and finding other resources to listen to.

I tell my creative writing students that good listening skills are essential to writers. We need to listen when others talk if we’re going to write realistic and believable dialogue; and we need to listen to what people say to identify what they’re revealing and what they’re hiding. We learn someone’s life story by listening to what they say, but we learn someone’s character by identifying what they leave out.

We also need to listen to the world around us because it’s our environment that provides the richest details for our writing: we just have to pay attention. Right now, there’s a garbage truck rolling through my neighborhood, picking up and dumping trash cans. The cans aren’t really cans at all, but thick rubber, and the sounds they make thudding back on the ground from the truck’s fork lift is an uneven thud. The truck’s brakes gives a dirty sounding wheeze whenever it stops in front of another house, and I can hear that it’s about three houses away.

We can also seek outside resources to listen to in the form of podcasts. I’m a huge fan of podcasts, and because they’ve become so popular in the past few years, there seems to be a series for everything and everyone. It’s not surprising, then, that there are tons of writing podcasts out there. One of my favorite reading websites, Book Riot, put together a list of good podcasts for writers.

Some series are long and some are short; some you’ll love and some you will…not love. But there’s something in there for everyone, so give them a listen!

Until next week, writers: keep your ears open and your pencils ready.

Write on!

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Productivity: It’s Not Just For Robots!

This is the second go-around in our writing group for Rachel Kwon: she first appeared during the Winter 2017 session, and she wrote her excellent first guest post in January. I’m happy she’s back in the group summer (especially since she’s considering starting her own blog, and blogs are great!) and I’m thrilled that she’s here for her second guest post!

This is a guest post from Rachel Kwon, a member of this summer’s Online Writing Group:

I like to think of myself a semi-serious amateur writer (and a very serious fried chicken enthusiast, but that’s another story for another day), and while I am still shaky on the creative elements of writing—you know, producing words so earth-shattering that readers weep and call their mothers immediately thanking them for giving them life so they could read the work—there is one thing I know pretty well, and that’s productivity. Productivity and smashing a to-do list are admittedly less sexy than a well-written piece, but they’re still necessary.

So, how does one self-motivate and make time for writing, particularly writing for leisure, when there are so many other things competing for time and attention? I think a big part of it is simply creating structures and treating it seriously, even if it’s “just for fun.” I’ve found that these three things have helped me improve my writing (and also simply to enjoy it more):

1. Establish a routine…

I don’t think the details really matter that much, but for me, as a hardcore morning person I do my best thinking when the sun is coming up, so about a year ago, I started doing a thing where I would wake up, stretch, put on the coffee, and literally just start writing. Just 15 minutes or so, in my journal, sitting at my writing desk, about whatever was in my head. It was writing that I would just do for myself, but I found that by doing it regularly in this way, I’d come up with ideas for stories or essays that I’d want to share with other people, and it became easier to do that by just having a dedicated time to do it. (Our post about momentum last week really resonated with me, because I feel that having my routine is sort of like free momentum—it’s always easier to keep things going once they’ve already started than to start a brand new thing, and that’s what my routine has offered.)

Rachel's Writing Space

Rachel’s supremely covetable writing space

2. …but know when to stray from it.

Interestingly, early-bird-writing is the exact opposite of the routine I had for over a decade, which was 15 minutes of writing, lying prone on my pillow, before going to sleep. The circumstances of my life were different and I needed to wake up around 4:30 or 5 a.m. so I didn’t quite have that same zest for writing in those wee hours (or for anything—I don’t care how much of a morning person you are; there’s a very fine line between late night and early morning and I believe that line is around 4:30 a.m.). I also like to mix up the setting sometimes and write in the park or in a coffee shop or on the subway (not during rush hour, because then I would have to write into a stranger’s armpit, which is less fun). Some of my best writing has been scribbled on the back of a bar napkin.

3. Don’t overthink it.

Overthinking plagues me. I can’t help but obsess over the most seemingly trivial details. I used to be of the mindset that I should choose my words extremely carefully, and not write them unless I really meant them. That might be a good philosophy if I were using a typewriter, and a typo (literally!) or some imperfect phrasing really was a disaster, but these days I’ve adopted more of a “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” mentality, and oddly enough, I find that I’m a lot more productive when I just write SOMETHING, anything, and then whittle it down to what I actually want to say, the way I want to say it. These days I spend HALF as much time and energy writing a draft of something, no matter how horrendous it is, so I can spend TWICE as much time editing. Someone once said (and I’m paraphrasing), “You don’t win the Tour de France by reading about the race and planning the perfect ride; you win by getting out there, riding every day, and making incremental improvements each time you do.” There is definitely an element of “just do it”-ness involved.

So, there it is. I have some other quirks that I think help, like my preference for Muji 0.38 mm black pens, but those are the high-level structures that I believe have allowed me to be productive with my writing. Now, I think it’s fried chicken time!

 

Thank you, Rachel! Now, go get some chicken.

And the rest of you, write on.

giphy2

If I dance fast enough, Rachel can’t eat me! (Image via Giphy)

Week Five Summer 2017 Online Writing Group

It’s week five of the Summer 2017 Online Writing Group — how you guys feeling? I’m feeling all write! (yes punnnnnnns!)

I offered up a Patriot Pass this week — some people were traveling and knew they wouldn’t be doing much with the short holiday week — so whenever you see it, please imagine those writers doing this:

giphy1

Actually, please imagine everyone doing this.

Here are our week five goals.

Week Five Goals:

Anne:

My reading of the Gardner book has been transformative. I’m continuing it this week.

Bev:

I am done with my course revisions! During week five, I am going to write a letter, because I haven’t since January.

Cynthia:

Patriot Pass!

Laura:

I did a little work on my new story. It wasn’t as much as I’d wanted, but it counts! Next week I’m going to keep chipping away at it. I got a great idea for another new story during my class this week and I’m going to keep it on the back burner. It might be a nice distraction next week, or something I can do toward the end of the summer.

Lisa:

Patriot Pass!

Mike:

Week four progress: Once I started revising the story in question, I realized how badly it was being served by the third-person narration I’d used (i.e. boring as shit). I rewrote about six pages out of the current twelve to first person, and I’ve been really happy with the effect it’s had on the voice. I also moved a few passages around and hit at least two scenes that need to be scrapped or rewritten altogether (as the change in voice wasn’t quite enough to fix them).

Week five goal: Finish revising the remaining pages of the story in its new first-party voice. I missed the contest deadline, so I will be reading some past issues of a few other lit journals to make sure the finished story would be something of interest to them.

Rachel:

I figured out most of the tech and logistical stuff behind launching my blog (I used to have one when I was a teenager and in college, and MAN, blogging has really changed since then!). I’d like to get a critical mass of posts, maybe five or so, before actually publishing, so this week’s goal will be to either select one from stuff I’ve written before (like my essay from last winter writing group, for example), or to write something afresh.

Robert:

This week: zero words.
Next week: goal is 7,000 words

Sarah:

Week 5 goals: I have to edit a new article I wrote on postmodernism and start another article, this time a case study because I need to change things up a bit. I started a 5-week graduate class so I also have some discussion posts to do. Then read, read, read as I pull articles for my course in the fall.

Ted:

Coming soon…

 

Because of the weird holiday week, I’m going to give everyone a couple of writing exercises from the book What If? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. It’s one of those staples of a creative writing workshop (from the ’90s…) and my copy is yellow with age. But it’s still a good resource for writers.

What If Cover

The exercise I’m going to give you guys for today can be used to supplement your current project — try just a background scene that develops one of your minor characters, something you don’t have to include if the style is too much of a contrast  — or it can be a one-off if you need some space from your current project and want to just stretch your creative muscles for a couple of hours. Here it is:

THE EXERCISE

Write a short story using words of only one syllable.

THE OBJECTIVE

To make you conscious of word choice. (Bernays and Painter 194)

For my academic writers, you can try this, too. Work on a part of your research, lesson plan, syllabus and make everything one syllable. See how you can simplify wherever possible.

What If Exercise 70

(Bernays and Painter 194)

Have a safe and creative week, and as always, write on!

 

Bernays, Anne and Pamela Painter. What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers.
HarperPerennial, 1991.

Wrapped Up! Winter 2017 Online Writing Group

Four weeks ago, our winter writing group wrapped up. And it has taken me four weeks to draft and publish our wrap-up post.

Four weeks late.

O.M.F.G.

But even though I am the worst, my writers are the best. They met goals and kicked some ass for a month, and I’m happy they let me lead them along, even if I was late with posts 80% of the time.

Good work, gang!

Good work, gang!

For our wrap-up post, I asked my group to send me pictures of their notebooks along with their wrap-up posts. I was inspired by Rachel’s lovely photo of her notebook on a table in a coffee shop in Paris, and I wanted to know what everyone’s notebooks looked like. So enjoy everyone’s final posts!

Winter Writing Group Wrap-Up Posts:

Alena:

Last week I had a complete breakthrough, realizing how to fix the ending of my short story. It is now close to publication ready, which was my goal for these four weeks. I just submitted it to my fiction workshop class to be critiqued before I submit it for publication in March. I’ve also made a lot of progress on my other story and figured out a new strategy for creating to-do lists. Overall, this group has really helped me! Thank you!

Anne H.:

For my final report, I can admit that I had many days when I didn’t do my study project, but also, I had days when I did, and I have learned much. I’m going to keep going with that project of reading books about writing and creating notes and worksheets. The worksheets are planning documents for projects like novels and screenplays. I have a notebook which I’ve had for about 20 years which is a very nice Circa portfolio, and I have extra supplies too. It’s never had a purpose until now, and it was unused. But now, I can see that I can put the worksheets in there, and I can carry the notebook around, and I can work on my planning. By the next time that I write to you, I’ll have that setup.

Anne's Notbook

Anne’s Notebook

Laura:

I crashed and burned a bit for our last week, but overall, I was happy with what I did. I still want to do a bit of work on my new short story, but I’m still giving myself high-fives because I finished it. (*smack!* [that is the sound of me giving myself another high-five]).

Sticker courtesy of Cynthia and her amazing, sticker-making friend

Laura’s Notebook: sticker courtesy of Cynthia and her amazing, sticker-making friend

Lisa:

So I didn’t finish my story, but I did start and that’s pretty amazing for me! I plan to continue working on this piece until it’s finished (eventually).
I’m so happy to have been a part of the group again. Thank you, Laura! You help keep me on the good path!
I’m including a pic of my Wonder Woman notebook—one of my favs. It’s full of scribbles, to-do lists, and bits of stories.

Lisa's Notebook

Lisa’s Notebook

Matt:

I’ve finished our four weeks with a new draft of the book. Many of the same issues persist,  in particular a cumbersome length, but I’m feeling better about the structure now. The monstrosity has been uploaded to my Dropbox and the link sent to my unfortunate friend Steve, who will probably never speak to me again.

Matt's Legal Pads

Matt’s Legal Pads

Rachel:

My goal last week was to edit my essay, but I realized a big part of editing, other than chopping out as many words as possible while still retaining meaning (my favorite challenge), is to know your audience, and tweak your message for them. Since I wrote my essay largely just to get it out of my head, I ended up just letting it percolate. But I like that I have this draft at the ready, should the need arise to tell the story.

I did spend a lot of time thinking about the climate we live in and how it’s even more important, now more than ever, to keep writing. The outside forces that try to silence us, to censor us, can never take what’s in our minds, and as long as we can get what’s in our minds out on paper or on the internet or scratched into the side of a subway car, it has a chance of living on. It’s when we’re afraid to speak out is when they really win.

P.S. I’m not advocating vandalizing public transportation. (Sure, Rachel. Sure. [*wink*])

Rachel's Notebook

Rachel’s Notebook

Robert:

In this last week I wrote 1,384 words. For the entire session I wrote 9,426 words. I’m very happy with my progress. Attached is a photo of my writer’s notebook. I keep all my word counts and notes there. 

Robert's Notebook

Robert’s Notebook

Good job to all of our writers! I love doing this group, so I’ll keep doing it; and this summer during our eight-week session, I will have very little else to do, so my posts will be on time. On. Time.

Keep up the good work, everyone. Write on!

Get it done!

Get it done!

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Week Four(ish): Winter 2017 Online Writing Group

It’s the fouth week of this winter’s writing group! (It’s not really the fourth week; it’s technically the fifth week because I was such a slouch last week that I never finished writing this post and it’s totally belated.)

So, please imagine that you have just traveled back in time and it’s actually Monday, January 23, 2017 (actually, since our country’s climate is a toxic smog-storm of hatred and bigotry, I’m thrilled to make you go back a week. In fact, let’s go back a few months and start over! [I know, I know — this is not productive thinking, but I’m feeling desperate and under-caffeinated, so get off my back, man]).

All right, let’s get into this.

Week Four Goals:

Alena:

I’ve been feeling very inspired this week and hope to continue this momentum for week four. My goal is to write at least five pages.

Anne D.:

My week four goal is to continue editing and rewriting a piece for submission. I would like to work on polishing the piece more.

Anne H.: Coming soon…

Cynthia:

This week, I hope to write at least five hundred words a day on the novel and finish a short story that I’ve been tweaking for what feels like forever.  🙂

Laura:

My goal for Week Four is to work for at least an hour on my course outline and to write a blog post I’ve been putting off writing about a science fair I helped judge.

Lisa:

I’m going to attempt three more pages this week.

Matt:

I’ve made a lot of progress so far. My overall goal for the final week is just to go over everything I can one more time, to make sure that the new shape is working the way I need it to work. More specifically, I need to write a brief epilogue which takes the form of a handwritten message; I know more or less what it needs to convey, but I haven’t actually put any work into it yet.

The biggest problem I’m facing in this draft is that the prologue still feels way too long, but I really haven’t figured out how to solve that. I’ve got a reader lined up who I’m pretty sure will actually put in the effort to read the whole book, so hopefully he can give me a little outside perspective on the issue. I’m stumped.

Noëmi: Coming soon…

Rachel:

Is it week 4 already?! Time flies! I have a draft of my essay, so this week’s goal will be to edit it down and also figure out what I want to do with it. I want to share it with the world at some point but haven’t thought much about how or when. I think the first step will be to just have a good think about it.

Robert:

This week’s progress: 561 words.
Next week’s goal: 1,000 words.

Sarah:

Final Week Goals: This is my last week to edit. So my goals are to give this beast a strong read through, write the conclusion and abstract and then dive into formatting.

 

For our final week, I wanted to write about organization.

Over my sabbatical last semester, I started to investigate better ways of organizing my tasks to ensure I wouldn’t lose track of any important steps in my grad school project completion. I’m a list maker, and I like to check things off of my to-do list, but I asked myself if there was a better way to visually organize and compartmentalize different tasks.

On my quest to answer this question, I got sucked into the world of bullet journals, and it’s a big world, indeed.

Hours and hours of wasted time

Hours and hours of wasted time

I wasted hours — literal hours — looking at different ways of drawing little banners and icons and reading blog posts by people who claimed to have the best way of organizing your bullet journal.

And I dabbled in it for a bit; I bought some fine-line colored markers and even ordered a small dot-paged journal. But I realized that I love the weekly schedule journal I already have, and I don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

What I did want to do, however, was to reorganize my way of looking at projects. Previously, I’d just made a big list of to-do tasks: small things, big things, everything I needed to capture. And a lot of times, things that I put on that big list got lost in the shuffle as I moved from week to week. So I decided, after listening to an episode of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast featuring a conversation with Robert Talbert about getting things done, that I should list my big projects first, and then give myself some smaller tasks to do to make progress toward completing a specific project.

Et voila, I had my system!

I took my main ideas for organizing my weekly schedule page by merging a couple of bullet journal ideas I’d seen on Pinterest, and this was what I came up with:

This is my system.

This is my system.

The “Projects” on the far right column (green-shaded) are the big things I’m working on; these will travel from week to week. Projects will fall off as they get done, and new projects will be added. But these aren’t tasks; they’re big picture things. This was the most important take-away from the interview with Talbert: projects must be divided into smaller tasks. This will help you feel empowered to complete the tasks; it will reduce anxiety about feeling overwhelmed by a large project; and it will help you manage your time and efforts appropriately.

The red-shaded column is where I put everything I need to capture: things students mention to me after class that I want to check up on; things colleagues ask me about in the hallway; ideas I get when I’m sitting in a meeting. Then, the weekly schedule page (left side of journal) is where I organize those “most important” tasks and spread them out by day. This gives me a sense of small to-dos that I can complete each day toward a larger task, as well as some “one-off” tasks I need to get done.

bullet-journal-page-2

Yes, I did have my “Writing Group Blog Post” as a project last week. That I clearly did not finish. The system is not perfect.

Giving myself a “Next Week” column also allows me to capture something I know that I need to do, but I don’t need to think about right now. Then, the following week when I’m jotting down my important tasks and rearranging my project list, I can add in those things where I need them.

It’s not perfect, and I’ve been playing with the system over the past couple of months. But right now, it helps me keep my ideas, my tasks, and my projects organized pretty well.

Another resource I’ve been using this month to reorganize myself is the book Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte. This book has helped me rethink the way I approach my lesson plans and the lecture/presentations I give to my students. I have long agreed that presentations — especially PowerPoint — need to be image-focused rather than text-focused. And Duarte’s book gave me excellent practical ideas for translating my ideas into images and organizing those images into a presentation that makes sense for my audience.

I got myself a couple packs of different colored Post-It notes, and I’ve been using the wall in my office to organize ideas that I’ll later turn into presentations.

presentation-postit-organization

The only text on my PowerPoint slides should be what fits on my Post-It; anything more is too much

organizing-presentations

These are two presentation outlines; I used different colors to signal the hierarchy of my ideas.

It’s fun to do this, and it has been saving me time when I plan my presentations. It’s easy to move Post-Its around into an efficient and clear path of ideas, and then it’s quick and simple for me to turn these into slides (or not, if I’m “teaching naked” [without technology, you pervs]).

Regardless of what kind of projects you’re working on — work, creative, academic, social — organizing them in large and small groups is helpful, both to motivate yourself to get to work, and to ensure you keep track of details.

Now, give yourself a couple hours to fart around on Pinterest and Google looking at bullet journal ideas. And then, get back to work.

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On Writing: A Love Story

Rachel Kwon is one of our new writing group members, and a woman who I’ll always associate — fondly — with LaSalle Street, fake parades, and Batman, and she is much more interesting than that will give her credit for. I’m happy to welcome Rachel into the group, and to present her guest post.

This is a guest post from Rachel Kwon, a member of this winter’s Online Writing Group:

This is my love story to writing.

As a child, I wrote because putting pen to paper in itself was thrilling. Of course, as a new human, I had no frame of reference, so peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and automatic soap dispensers were also thrilling. But writing was like time travel — I could write about something, and then minutes or hours or days or YEARS later, somebody could read what I wrote and connect with me on some level.

The first story I remember writing was when I was six years old. I wrote about a six year old (how original) who had AIDS, and also came up with a cure for AIDS, but then died before she could benefit from the cure. You know, casual kindergarten topics.

In my teenage years, I wrote mostly for practical purposes. Essays for school. Notes to my friends. Letters to my relatives thousands of miles away. I didn’t think about it as a creative endeavor. I didn’t think I had anything to say, really. Although computers were becoming a THING, I still preferred to write with pen on paper.

I hit my twenties, graduated from college, and started medical school, then residency. Writing for fun took a bit of a backseat, but I wrote lab reports, sure, and convoluted analyses of clinical trials. I took extensive notes as a study aid. I made endless lists in an effort to organize and prioritize my life. As a doctor I wrote endless notes about patients’ histories and physical exams, progress notes, interim notes, all to document that I was taking care of them. I sometimes felt like I was doing more documenting than actually taking care of patients, which sort of made me hate that kind of writing. But my favorite was still just to pick up a pen and some paper (or a bar napkin, or my own forearm) and simply write out whatever was in my head.

Now, in my thirties, I write because I finally have things to say. I write because it’s the only way I can say what I need to say without being interrupted. When I left my career as a physician, I told all but my closest confidantes (to whom I told to their faces, because some things can’t be communicated in writing) by writing a letter. It was important to me to tell my story the way I had lived it.

My relationship with writing evolves as I do. Maybe, in the future, I’ll be writing into the air thanks to holographic technology, as I pet my robot dog and prepare to ingest a savory meal delivered in pill form. But I’ll still be writing.

 

Thanks, Rachel! The letter you wrote about leaving medicine was poignant, and it made me happy and sad a the same time. I have a feeling you infuse that same wonderful, emotional complexity into all of your writing.

Come back on Monday, readers, to see our goals for the final week of our winter writing group. Until then, write on!

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Week Three: Winter 2017 Online Writing Group

It’s the third week of this winter’s writing group!

LET'S DO THIS.

LET’S DO THIS.

Week Three Goals:

Alena:

I had a productive week — but not for my writing. Fortunately, I have a real deadline to force me to make some headway because one of my short stories will be due as a homework assignment next week.

Anne D.: Coming soon…

Anne H.:

I did finish reading and watching Get Shorty, and I’m going to continue this week with reading and making notes on Save the Cat.

Cynthia:

Since it’s the beginning of the new semester, I’m going to use this week to do some fleshing out and editing of the most recent two chapters of my novel and see how that goes. Being kind to myself the rest of the week. 😊

Laura:

I finished my short story! I haven’t submitted it anywhere yet, so I’m behind on that, but since this week will be busier than usual (Cynthia already mentioned that the new semester starts this week), I can do some quick submissions. My goal, other than submitting, is to work on continuing to develop my new course outline.

Lisa:

I was able to get a few pages done this week. It feels like a miracle.
I plan to do this same this week.

Matt:

It’s been a week of dogged progress, mostly restricted to two stories in the group. My plan for next week is just to keep going.

Noëmi:

My Week Three goal is to finish the first week of a Coursera course, Creative Writing: The Craft of Plot.

Rachel:

My Week Three goal will be the same as my Week Two goal (just had one of those weeks at work :/ I’ll blame Friday the 13th and the full moon): to write a first draft of my essay. 

Robert:

This week’s progress: 5,300 words
next week’s goal:  2,000 words

Sarah:

Week Three Goals: 10 more pages which will include the conclusion (insert panic). Then edit, edit, edit. I believe I will be just a page or two shy of the minimum page requirement but I have some sections where I have just been putting place holders until I could get back around to the topic. I have never been very good at jumping around in my writing, I am a start to finish kind of writer.

 

This week’s “advice” will be short and sweet.

I’ve written before about Lisa Cron’s book on writing, Wired for Story, and I wanted to mention her advice about protagonists. She says that writers must know what their protagonists want, and why they want it. This is important because the protagonist’s motivation must inform every action they take, every decision they make. And as a writer, you must know why your character wants what they want. Is your main character being honest with herself that she really wants her family to reunite and be happy; but does she really just want to prove her mother wrong in front of the rest of the family? Now, make sure that everything your protagonist does is fueled by that motivation.

Cron also mentions that everything in the story must be put there to give your protagonist an opportunity to act, react, and make decisions. If it’s not purposeful, then it’s just a device for drama, and that’s ultimately not very interesting.

I found this glaringly obvious in a book I just finished reading, Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10. The protagonist of Ware’s book was beset by all sorts of obstacles that increased the drama, but none of them really tested her character in any real way. Because she didn’t really have a character to speak of. She was murky from start to finish, so every new complication was just a complication, and I yelled at every decision she made because she was just a dummy doing dumb things and I didn’t care about her.

So, don’t do that! But do read Lisa Cron’s book — it’s full of interesting and straight-forward writing advice that you can use for large and small pieces.

Come back mid-week for Rachel’s guest post, and good writing, everyone!

 

Cron, Lisa. Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2012. Print.

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