Monday, January 30, 2017

Maintaining Writing Momentum as the February Doldrums Loom

Has your New Year's Resolution energy faded? Maybe you're feeling swamped, stuck, overwhelmed, sick of the bleak winter twilight? Is your daily word count dwindling down to the double-digits? You are not alone. I'm with you! Luckily, I have a couple of writer-friends who, when things get really dark, manage to lift me up and keep me moving forward.

Here are a few suggestions stemming from my friends' good advice and my piles of writing files! (Gosh, I love rhymes way too much.)

  • STEP AWAY from your computer (if you've clicked all the way to my website you've definitely been cyber-surfing too long). Run up and down your stairs ten times or walk around your block. Pet your dog or cat. Bake something from scratch. You get the idea. Spend a few hours living offline.
  • Make a coffee date with a writer friend or two. NOT a writing critique session so much as a check-in during which you honestly explore your current writing situations and help each other brainstorm a forward-moving plan. And, you know, drink coffee.
  • REVIEW YOUR PROJECTS. Select the manuscript or idea you MOST want to pursue EVEN IF it means leaving something unfinished. Give yourself permission to be inspired.
  • WRITE A TO-DO LIST. General or specific. Word-counts or research goals. Dates set aside for writing-only. Write it all down and post it somewhere you'll see it daily. Write lots of smiley faces on it and call it your friend.
  • KEEP LEARNING. Sometimes the best thing is to take a class or join a critique group. If that doesn't work for you this winter, here are some great writing tips and revision resources that are just a click away!
Have your first five pages professionally critiqued for free at the FIRST 5 PAGES WORKSHOP.

Read up on the business and craft of writing at PUBLISHING CRAWL.

Look for your dream agent (and discover awesome writer people) at LITERARY RAMBLES.

Join the Society for Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI).

Sign up to read a Poem a Day from the ACADEMY OF AMERICAN POETS.

And remember, the springtime, the sun, the inspiration are surely on their way. Seriously, though, Emily Dickinson says it better:

I’ll tell you how the sun rose, —

A ribbon at a time.

(from her poem, A DAY)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

READING LIST: Running Stories

“An itchy feeling began to work its way through my body, as though a thousand mosquitoes were circulating through my blood, biting me from the inside, making me want to scream, jump, squirm. 
I ran.” 
― Lauren OliverDelirium

 Some people love running--the act, the sport, the metaphor. These books are for you.





Monday, January 9, 2017

FREE CLASS THIS SATURDAY at KCLS WOODINVILLE: SETTING & WORLD-BUILDING in FICTION & NONFICTION

SETTING, WORLD BUILDING & THE ROLE OF RESEARCH IN FICTION & NONFICTION with LISA L. OWENS  

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 2017

10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
 Second Saturdays Writing Program at Woodinville Library 
17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville 

What is the interplay between fiction and nonfiction? Whether it’s a detail for a fictional character in a novel or a timeline of events for a nonfiction picture book, how do you know when to stop researching and begin writing? Lisa L. Owens, author of biographies, middle grade fiction, nonfiction picture books, graphic novels and retold classics, will help you put these challenges in perspective.
This workshop is open to writers in grades 7 to adult. Registration is not required. For more details, click here

Monday, January 2, 2017

POST-HOLIDAY WRITING EXERCISE: Exploring Voice

The holidays are over and it's time to get on that "I'll write more" resolution" and work off that finger-flab that came from not enough time at the keyboard these last two weeks. Nothing for it but to leap back into the fire with some tough work on VOICE. As readers and writers know, voice one of those elusive things. It is sensed or felt better than it is described. It is the thing agents and editors are always seeking but, when asked for specifics, respond something to the effect of "I'll know it when I read it."

Voice isn't something to be TAUGHT. It is something writers must FIND for themselves. And, once a writer realizes his or her own true voice, he or she must then summon up the COURAGE to use on the page.

Sounds tricky, huh? Maybe a little scary, too. It requires some brutal honesty and self-assessment. But, when you find that voice--that space in which your writing feels the strongest--I believe you'll agree that it is worth the risk. I have discovered a few exercises that may help you feel more connected to your truest voice. First, jot down answers to the questions/prompts below. Write quickly. Don't overthink!
  1. I write most often in 1st person/3rd person, and my lens is wide/omniscient or personal/unreliable/closely-focused.
  2. I am the oldest, youngest, middle, only child in my family.
  3. I am outgoing/introverted, a leader/a follower, optimistic/pessimistic, strong/weak, quiet/loud.
  4. I would most like to be a character on GAME OF THRONES / YOUNGER / MADAM SECRETARY / BLUE BLOODS / THE BIG BANG THEORY / other.
  5. You are trapped in a mountain cave after an avalanche – write the first sentence.
  6. Three words (or phrases) about an experience that inspired you to write (meeting a great teacher or idol, a critical book read at the perfect moment, a bad grade or lost race).
  7. When I start writing, I feel strongest writing about character / plot / setting.
  8. My favorite BOOK is…
Now, turn a few pages (or chapters) into your current work-in-progress and give them an honest read.

WHAT are the strongest features of your writing at this point? Are you a master of setting? Is your main character compelling and unique? Is your plot full of must-turn-the-page moments?
ANALYZE your manuscript in terms of the questions above. Is your character like you in birth order or temperament? Is your plot style related to your favorite television show, or is your genre similar to your favorite book? Does your "avalanche" sentence style relate to your viewing and/or reading preferences OR is your first writing instinct something totally different?
WHERE are the disconnects? Are you trying to emulate the style of a favorite author or drive a plot you like to watch but don't necessarily enjoy writing? Are you writing a character like yourself (or unlike yourself) for a reason but something isn't ringing quite true? Are you holding something back?
Now, rewrite a few pages in which you LET SOMETHING GO or INVITE SOMETHING IN. If you've set your strong characters in a hard-boiled Dashiell Hammett noire you'd like to read but, plot-wise, is weaker than you'd like, SHIFT your setting to a brighter space. If you're writing a middle-child like yourself, LOOK AT THE WHY and go all the way there--let your middle child character be as vulnerable (or naughty, or funny) as you were yourself. Try capturing the voice or style of your avalanche sentence instead of your reading/viewing inspirations. Draw back to that experience or idea that inspired the book and reconnect it--weave it somehow back into this revision.

So, do you feel wonderful? Horrible? Utterly confused? Write about that.