Half of August is gone and September is rolling into view.
A lot of stressful events occurred in the last few weeks (life between the sheets of paper) but they aren’t my stories to tell right now. They belong to my family but I can share some of my own more positive days.
I’m deep in the middle of a UCLA online writing class and to be blunt, it’s kicking my butt.
Sometimes we need a boot in the behind. And not to sound like a masochist, but it’s a good thing. The class contains a lot of great short stories to read, discussion with other students, and here’s where the shoe hits the soft spot, I must create and write a story every week.
Like everyone else, there’s a ton of stuff to do as a parent, sibling, daughter, and friend that could be done instead of reading and writing for a summer class.
But, I’m viewing this as a test of patience and persistence on my writing journey. Which reminds me of this quote:
At first, the assignment was 100 words, then 150 words, rising to 400 words (easy-peasy) but then we began to climb the word count mountain. Now it’s 500 words, and the final is a complete short story of 750-1250 words due in three weeks when I’m leaving to the UK. (I know, boo-hoo) 🙃
Although I may sound whiny I am enjoying the process. Sometimes it’s good to get back into ‘school.’
So, I thought I’d share a couple of items that may benefit my blog readers who are writers. Maybe you need a little inspiration to stay on the writing wagon.
“Don’t let yourself set page goals, or think in terms of what gets done in a given session of work. Spend the time–the session is what counts, the time. The goal should be two hours, or three, or four, however many. Did you spend the time? If the answer is yes, no other questions. Cultivate patience of the tidal kind. This day’s work. It doesn’t have to be especially productive–no matter how well or ‘not well’ it seems to go in a day, it is always going well if you’re working, if you’re making the time. The good things will come if you’re making the time.” Richard Bausch
And now for an excellent video:
I hope you enjoyed the quote and video. Whatever your chosen passion may be, a good kick in the derrière may drive you over the hump and into the desired place you want to arrive.
Sometimes you need a push, a big one, not a nudge.
After a week of online writing classes, two (what was I thinking?), I felt drained, ready to throw the pen, shut the laptop down.
I needed to get still for a day, shut out the noise on the TV and my head.
If you’re lucky, it’s in those times when the universe, sends you messages and you listen.
The first message was a quote from Stephen King:
I shared the quote on the closed Facebook group for the writers online class. If I felt like I couldn’t go on, I was sure others might feel that way, too. Many did.
The second quote came from a manifesto written by Courtney E. Martin. I read this article today, by Maria Popova, in her weekly Sunday newsletter, the wonderful Brain Pickings. Go to her site to read her inspiring post.
The poster is available through Etsy with proceeds benefiting Hedgebrook, a writers residency program. On Popova’s site, there are three different illustrations with links to purchase a framed poster.
Do you ever want to throw your work in progress away? Chuck the manuscript you’ve worked on for years?
If you’re a writer, you’ve been there and done that.
The last few months I’ve taken writing classes with an editor, Toni Lopopolo and her assistant, Lisa Angle. We’re a small group of writers who brave the weekly sessions with Toni and Lisa so we can become better writers.
I’ve learned I must swing a machete through a draft to become a better writer.
Machete-wielding is a dirty job. You must be merciless. This will hurt, but it’s for your own good.
These tips will help you murder your draft:
Pluck out backstory in the first pages.
Delete the flowery prose that serves no purpose. This includes adverbs and -ing words.
Hack out the ‘terrible 20‘ words that result in the passive voice.
This is the message my October writing life sent me. To that end, I went on a writing retreat with my group, WOmen Who Write (WoWW), attended SCWBI’s Writer’s Day, enrolled in an online University of Iowa workshop (free), and attended the Los Angeles Writer’s Digest Conference.
I’m a little tired from all this, but I have to tell you about our writing retreat in Carlsbad, California and share some writing tips.
We, eight women, arrived at Casa Villaseñor by way of Airbnb, never expecting to meet the esteemed writer Victor Villasenor, author, and owner of the home. After producing nine novels, 65 short stories and close to 300 rejections, he sold his first novel, Macho!, which the Los Angeles Times compared to the best of John Steinbeck.
Rain of Gold became a national best-seller and translated into seven languages. Another of his books was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. I mention this about the author because his body of work evidences his persistence as a writer, the write or die philosophy.
We were surprised to find Mr. Villasenor on the grounds of the home. He was in another house (his casita) because he was finishing up a new novel. I can’t tell you what it’s about but I can say his joy of finishing the work was shared with all of us.
Through conversation, I picked up some valuable writing tips and I’m sharing these with you:
Every sentence needs to do one of the following:
Scare the brain
Touch the heart
Inspire the soul
“Writing is about the moment, you are nowhere else, you are totally there…cause the person to live the moment with you.”-Victor Villaseñor
A few of us made a mad dash for our writing projects and examined our first pages. Sure enough, there was plenty of revision to work on.
The local chapter of Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrator’s (SCWBI) put on a “Writer’s Day,” at the Cal Lutheran University campus.
I attended a panel composed of literary agents and editors which I enjoyed. This is what they look for when they decide to read the first page of a Middle Grade or Young Adult work:
Is the language child or teen-focused?
Are there too many characters?
Do I know whose story this is?
Is the writer guilty of violating R.U.E? ( Resist the Urge to Explain)
Where are we in the scene?
Can I get a sense of the protagonist?
Is the description embedded in action and dialogue?
Do the details further the story?
If your first 250 words make it pass those eight questions the agent may read on to the next page. I venture to guess these tips apply to most fiction.
The esteemed University of Iowa, Writing Workshops has a free online course titled “Storied Women.” You can get a lot of writing bang for no bucks if you take this course. Although the course started Oct. 21, 2016, it doesn’t close until next month. You can still view the video’s and notes on voice, identity, point of view, plot, and structure.
Closer to home was the Writer’s Digest 2016 Writers Conference in downtown Los Angeles. I chose to drive into LA rather than stay at the storied Westin Bonaventure.
Friday traffic was crazy with the rain and the morning commute. The skyscrapers blended into the bleak sky, dark jackets and umbrellas scurried on the sidewalks.
On Saturday morning, the downtown was eerily quiet. No rain, no rushing, no noise.
I have to say, Writer’s Digest gives good workshops at a reasonable price. Jane Smiley, Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, presented last night. Alas, no photo of Ms. Smiley, but you can see some interesting photos of the Halloween Party (which I didn’t attend) on Twitter. Look under #WDNWC16. I do love the “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “Writer’s Block” costumes.
My favorite workshop was “Openings That Sell,” presented by literary agent and editor, Paula Munier.
“This is why I keep reading,” she began. Your first pages must have:
2-The level of craft is high
3-The character makes me feel something: there is an emotional impact in the first scene
4-Something happens (aka you have an inciting incident, a call to adventure)
5-A unique story or a story with a unique twist.
6-There’s a market for this story.
7-The writer has gained my confidence and the page passes “the ahh test.” They provide a certain kind of experience.
8-It’s clear what kind of story is being told by the language.
9-The prose is clear, clean, and concise. Opt for clarity all the time.
10-Free of grammatical errors.
A great story is life, with the dull parts taken out-Alfred Hitchcock
Larry Brooks presented “The Most Important Moment in your Story.” There was a lot of material in this workshop about concept, premise, and the dramatic arc. He has a website, StoryFix.com, where you can visit and read all the good stuff he has for writers.
I hope you found some tips in this post to use or share.