Reading Teaches You Structure

Have you read/heard/been told to read the kind of articles/stories/poems/books you want to write?

It’s good advice, because when you read what you want to write, you are training your brain. Each sentence, each paragraph is actively teaching you as you go.

What is it teaching you? The structure and pacing of that genre.

So, go enjoy an article, a poem, a book. Call it research. Your writer-self will thank you.  

A Novel Takes Time

Are you writing a novel? I am.

Writing a novel requires the creation of a living, breathing alternative world. That’s hard work.

It takes years to write a book, between one and ten years. Annie Dillard says, “Less is so rare as to be statistically insignificant.”

When it bothers you that it’s taking you a long time to finish your manuscript, don’t give up. Keep going. Keep writing. Keep revising.

Writing is hard.

Really hard. It just is. As soon as you accept this, you can stop resisting, and start putting your energy toward moving forward.

Don’t bother looking for shortcuts. It takes time and hard work.

Don’t listen to charlatan’s who say it’s easy. Writing is never easy, and on some days it’s not even fun. But for writers, writing is the only thing worth doing.

“Writing a book [substitute your favorite genre for book] is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”–George Orwell, author of literary classics 1984 and Animal Farm

Tiny Thought #1

Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.
~Howard Aiken

Read your way to writing

 

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I read every day. I tell my students to read and read widely.

Reading is the one necessary prerequisite for writing.

If you’re a reader, you know the forms and conventions of writing and how others use the forms and conventions to shape their work. You know how to write.

Maybe you don’t know how to begin or continue or finish. Maybe you don’t know how to publish what you’ve written.

But I’m here to tell you that you do know how to write.

The rest can be learned.

This blog can help.

Write Some Words

“A word after a word after a word is power,” says novelist Margaret Atwood.

Today is January 9. We’re leaning into the end of the second week of January 2020.  What have you written this year? What are you writing today?

 

The Courage to Write

Cynthia Ozick said, “If we had to say what writing is, we would have to define it essentially as an act of courage.”

To sit down and write when you have dozens of other pressing demands, takes courage. But there is no other way to write.

Today let’s remember Katherine Anne Porter’s words: One of the marks of a gift is to have the courage of it.

Begin Anyway

I’m thinking about this today. Reminding myself, remind my students, reminding you, dear writer . . . Writing is a huge undertaking, immense; it take more than all you have when you begin.

Begin anyway.

Keep writing.

 

Use Emotion

Emotions are contagious. More contagious than any disease. A smile or grimace will spread through a group of people far faster than any sneeze ever could.

As writers, our job is to make sure that readers are moved by what we write.

When we can connect with our reader on an emotional level, we engage them and keep them interested.

To do this, we need to pay attention to the emotions of the people in our stories.

After all, words are merely costumes for the emotions built deep in our primordial soup. These are emotions such as: Anger, Disgust, Fear, Happiness, Sadness, and Surprise.

Emotion is key.

Emotion is essential in both fiction and nonfiction.

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Robert Plutchik Wheel of Emotions

Study Robert Plutchik’s wheel of emotions. Knowing the purpose of each emotion lets you use them in your work, both fiction and nonfiction.

It can be helpful to keep it handout when you’re writing.

Your goal as a storyteller is to get your readers to feel one or more of these emotions. If your story doesn’t trigger any of them, then it’s not really a story.

It’s just a list of facts.

And that’s not very interesting. It’s not the kind of writing that sells.

In a guest post in Writer’s Digest’s editor blog, David Corbet said, “To create genuine emotion when crafting a scene, identify the most likely or obvious response your character might have, then ask: What other emotion might she be experiencing? Then ask it again—reach a ‘third-level emotion.’ Have the character express or exhibit that. Through this use of the unexpected, the reader will experience a greater range of emotion, making the scene more vivid” (para. 5)