Sadness For Another Day

[found on helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com; by ]

“Are sad stories with sad endings the domain of the lonely, the manic-depressive, and the masochistic?

…Take a moment to think about the stories that have changed your life. I’m willing to bet many of them were stories of pain, loss, sacrifice, and sin.

These are the stories that speak bluntly about hard subjects and force their characters—and their readers—to face hard truths and, hopefully, walk away from the realizations as someone slightly different and perhaps slightly better.

Few of us would want to subsist on a steady diet of tragedy, but all of us are better for having occasionally cleansed our reading palate with the astringent bite of these unflinching portrayals of bittersweet truth….

Sad stories don’t have to be depressing stories. The stories that have broken my heart and changed my life are stories of great tragedy, but they’re also stories of great hope. That, right there, is where we find the true power of the sad story—because light always shines brightest in the darkness.”

For more tips on writing from K.M. Weiland, click here.

[found on http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2011/05/are-happy-endings-must.html]

Painting Poetic Pictures

[found on writing.ie; by Maggie Smith Hurt]

“Beginning to write poetry is about beginning to think about moments, stories, memories as their complete selves and then finding the right way to make those things lean, to amp up the right words to convey the tension, ambiguity and softness.

It’s a task a bit like painting a horse on a grain of rice….all the right things in the right place but the space is smaller and so the subject, all the more significant in its purest form, becomes the whole thing, the little nugget of art- the whole picture.”

For more great tips on poetry from Maggie Smith Hurt, click here.

[found on http://www.writing.ie/resources/writing-poetry-where-to-start]

Prevent the Hatred of the Main Character

[found on jodyhedlund.blogspot.com; by Jody Hedlund]

“How can we know if we’re crossing the line and making our main characters too unlikable?

We hear this writing mantra over and over: Add tension to every page, increase the conflict, and get our main characters (MCs) into trouble. In humble obedience to the rules of fiction, we try to heap mountains of problems upon our MCs.

We do this externally in the form of villains, trauma, or drama. And we do it internally in the form of emotional struggles, character weaknesses, or relationship problems. A story wouldn’t be a page-turner without the conflict to move it forward.

However, at the beginning when we’re trying to establish the problems and the need for character growth, we may tip the scales too far. Yes, our MCs need flaws, things they have to work through as the story progresses (aka character arc). But in the process of making our MCs imperfect, we can’t turn them into bitter, whiny, selfish, angry, mean, cold-hearted jerks.

I’ve learned that in making my MCs have real, everyday, human problems, I have to be careful not to shape them into the kind of people no one wants to hang around for 300 plus pages.”

For more writing tips from Jody Hedlund, click here.

[found on http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/2011/05/how-to-avoid-trap-of-creating-unlikable.html]

The Art of Conflict

[found on huffingtonpost.com; by Writer’s Relief Staff]

“Learn the art of conflict. Creating a powerful conflict and weaving it tightly throughout the story is a tricky thing to master, and can take years of practice. The catharsis that a reader will experience at the resolution, however, is worth the struggle. Conflict is what makes us interested in outcome. And your conflict must affect your characters in a way that forces them to act and grow as a result. A story with a weak conflict that leaves the characters exactly as they were at the start won’t be satisfying; your story won’t make a lasting impression.

Here’s a tip: The best way to learn how to write conflict is by reading it. The next time you’re reading a short story or novel, take note of how the author presents the main conflict and the specific ways in which the characters react to it.”

[found on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/27/writing-tips-advice-fiction-authors_n_1628537.html]

Fiction Writing Tips

[found on writingforward.com; by Melissa Donovan]

“The writing tips below focus on the technical and creative writing process rather than the business end of things….

    1. Read more fiction than you write.
    2. Don’t lock yourself into one genre (in reading or writing). Even if you have a favorite genre, step outside of it occasionally so you don’t get too weighed down by trying to fit your work into a particular category.
    3. Dissect and analyze stories you love from books, movies, and television to find out what works in storytelling and what doesn’t.
    4. Remember the credence of all writers: butt in chair, hands on keyboard.
    5. Don’t write for the market. Tell the story that’s in your heart.
    6. You can make an outline before, during, or after you finish your rough draft. An outline is not necessary, nor is it written in stone, but it can provide you with a roadmap, and that is a mighty powerful tool to have at your disposal.
    7. You don’t always need an outline. Give discovery writing a try.
    8. Some of the best fiction comes from real life. Jot down stories that interest you whether you hear them from a friend or read them in a news article.
    9. Real life is also a great source of inspiration for characters. Look around at your friends, family, and coworkers. Magnify the strongest aspects of their personalities and you’re on your way to crafting a cast of believable characters.
    10. Make your characters real through details. A girl who bites her nails or a guy with a limp will be far more memorable than characters who are presented with lengthy head-to-toe physical descriptions.”

For more tips from Melissa Donovan, click here.

[found on http://www.writingforward.com/writing-tips/42-fiction-writing-tips-for-novelists]

Exercise Your Writing Muscles

[found on writingforward.com; by Melissa Donovan]

“A compelling story speaks to us much the same way that music does, communicating thoughts, feelings, and ideas in ways that go beyond concrete language.

The result?

A click takes place within the psyche. When you hear a song or read a story that resonates in this manner, you connect with it on a deep level. It almost feels like the author or songwriter was speaking for you, about you, or to you.

Some say that truly great art communicates directly with the subconscious. That’s why the arts coexist so naturally. Where you find a buzzing music scene, you can be sure a booming literary crowd is nearby. And where filmmakers toil with scripts and cameras, you can bet dancers aren’t too far off.

Creativity breeds creativity and we are like magnets, drawn not just into our own passion, but those that complement and support our passions. Music, film, and art all enrich and inform one another. So do the musicians, filmmakers, artists, and of course, writers.

Fiction Writing Exercises

Some people say that everything has been written, every story told. But that’s not true. There’s always another angle, a different perspective that can be taken. And writers have all the tools they need to grab that perspective and run with it. You just need a starting point, and these fiction writing exercisescan help you find it. Try starting with a song.

Before you get started, here are a couple of tips to help you work through these exercises:

    • Make sure you aren’t familiar with the song’s video or that you don’t rewrite the video treatment.
    • Pick a song you like, something you can tolerate listening to several times over. In fact the more you enjoy the song, the greater the chance you’ll have fun with this experiment.

Exercise 1: A Story for a Song

Some of the greatest stories of all time have been told through song. Remember Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee?” John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane?” What about Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff?” Each of these songs tells a clear and distinct story.

Choose a song that tells a clear story and write the story behind it. This is kind of like traveling backward and trying to find those one thousand words that represent the value of a picture.

Exercise 2: Ambiguous Tales

On the flip side, we have ambiguous lyrics, like “Hotel California,” by the Eagles or “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. Tunes like these have inspired lively debates that ask, what are these songs about, anyway? And if we don’t know what the songs are about, why do they succeed at speaking to us? How do they become enormous hits that cross genre lines?

Choose a song that tells a vague story and write about what really happened. Your goal is to take a hazy story and make it clear.

Exercise 3: Who Needs Lyrics?

This is the biggest challenge of all: choose a piece of instrumental music (with no lyrics) and find the story in the melody, harmony, and rhythm.

Music and Fiction Writing Exercises

Throughout history, great artists have collaborated and mixed mediums and media to come up with fresh takes on ancient truths. These fiction writing exercises provide a new source for inspiration, get you working in collaboration with other artists (musicians), and give you creative license to put a new spin on something that’s been around for a while.

You can write a paragraph, a few pages, or an entire novel. You could also write a script for film or stage. If you’re strapped for time, just write an outline or a few character sketches. And if you don’t feel like writing it down, just work it out in your head. Find the connection between music and storytelling and let it capture your imagination.”

For more great information on writing and exercises by WritingForward.com, click HERE.

[found on http://www.writingforward.com/writing_exercises/fiction-writing-exercises/fiction-writing-exercises-story-for-a-song]

Even Good Writers Make Mistakes? Yes. Five of them…

[found on writersdigest.com by Steven James]

“In fiction, story matters more than anything else.

Yet too often authors forget this and, in their zeal to impress readers or wow editors, pepper their writing with distracting devices that only end up undermining the story itself.

Never let anything get between your story and your readers. Here are five of the most common ways even the best writers veer off-course—and simple strategies for avoiding them.

1. Overdoing Symbolism/Themes

A few years ago I picked up a literary novel that everyone was talking about. In the first chapter there was a storm; in the second, someone was washing his hands; then a character was crying; then there was a baptism. I remember thinking, OK, I get it. Your image is water and your theme is cleansing—now get on with the story.

Problem was, from that point on, guess what I was doing?

Yup … looking for the next way the writer was going to weave a water image into her story. And she delivered, scene after predictable scene.

As a reader I was no longer emotionally present in the story. I’d become a critic, an observer. And that’s definitely not what a storyteller wants her readers to do.

The more your readers are on the lookout for your images, your themes, your symbolism, and so on, the less they’ll be impacted by the real essence of your story.

Does that mean that themes and images don’t have a place in your work? Not at all. But it does mean that rather than building your story around that theme (love, forgiveness, freedom, etc.), or advice (“Follow your dreams,” “Be true to your heart,” etc.), or a cliché (“Every cloud has a silver lining,” “Time heals all wounds,” etc.), it’s better to drive your narrative forward through tension and moral dilemmas.

So, instead of using the theme “justice,” let the events of the story pose a more engaging question: “What’s more important, telling the truth or protecting the innocent?”

Rather than giving the advice, “You should forgive others,” let your story explore a dilemma: “How do you forgive someone who has done the unthinkable to someone you love?”

Let your story do more than reiterate the cliché, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Instead, challenge that axiom by presenting your characters with situations that raise the question, “When do the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many?”

Respect your readers. Assume that they’re as smart as you are. If you can easily identify your own imagery, symbolism, themes and so on, expect that they will, too. And as soon as they do, they’ll be distracted from the story itself.

2. Trying Too Hard

There’s nothing less impressive than someone trying to be impressive. There’s nothing less funny than someone trying to be funny. Eloquence doesn’t impress anyone except for the person trying so hard to be eloquent.

So look for places in your story where you were trying to be funny, clever or impressive, and change those sections or remove them.

Some writers shoot for humor by writing things like, “she joked,” “he quipped,” “he mentioned in his usual fun-loving way,” and so on. Don’t fall into this trap. If your dialogue is really funny, you don’t need to point that out to your readers. (And if it’s not as funny as you’d intended, you don’t need to draw attention to the fact.)

Some authors resort to using a profusion of speaker attributions. Their characters chortlegruntexclaim,reiterategasphowlhiss and bark. Whenever I read a book like this I find myself skimming through the dialogue just to see what the next synonym for said will be. Readers get it. They know you own a thesaurus. Just tell the story.

In the same way, drop antiquated or obscure words unless they’re necessary for character development or maintaining voice. This isn’t to say that you can’t write intelligent, incisive, challenging prose, but any time the meaning of an unfamiliar word isn’t immediately obvious within the context of the story, choose another word that won’t trip readers up. This is especially true as you build toward the climax, since the pace of the story needs to steadily increase.

Similarly, avoid the temptation to impress your readers with your research, your plot structure or your knowledge of the flora and fauna of western North Carolina. When readers pick up your book, they’re not preparing for a spelling bee or a doctoral dissertation or a medical exam; they’re hoping for an entertaining, believable story that will transport them to another world and move them on a deep, emotional level.

Textbook literary devices fall under this same umbrella—they’re too contrived. Writing something like, “She cautiously closed the closet door and crept across the carpet,” might have impressed your English professors, but it does nothing to serve readers in today’s marketable fiction. As soon as readers notice the alliteration, they’ll be distracted—and whether they’re counting up the number of times you used the letter C, or rolling their eyes at your attempt to be clever, they’ve momentarily disengaged from your story. And that’s the last thing you want them to do.

Believe it or not, you don’t want readers to admire your writing: You want them to be so engaged in the story itself that they don’t notice the way you use words to shape it. Anything that jars readers loose from the grip of the story needs to go, even if it seems “literary.” Weed out figures of speech that don’t serve the mood of the scene. For example, if you’re curled up with a book and are deep in the midst of a chapter depicting an airplane hijacking, you wouldn’t want to read, “The clouds outside the window were castles in the sky.” Not only does the superfluous description undermine the suspense, but castles carry a positive connotation that further disrupts the tension. If you can’t resist the urge to use a figure of speech when writing a scene like this, choose one that accentuates the mood: “The jet plummeted through the dungeon of clouds.”

Over the years I’ve heard of authors who’ve written books without punctuation, or without the word said, or without quotation marks, or by using an exact predetermined number of words. To each his own. But when these artificial constraints become more important to the author than the reader’s experience with the story is, they handcuff it.

Whenever you break the rules or keep them, it must be for the benefit of your readers. If your writing style or techniques get in the way of the story by causing readers to question what’s happening, analyze the writing, or page back to earlier sections in order to understand the context, you’ve failed.

You want your writing to be an invisible curtain between your readers and your story. Anytime you draw attention to the narrative tools at your disposal, you insert yourself into the story and cause readers to notice the curtain. Although it may seem counterintuitive, most authors looking to improve their craft need to cut back on the devices they use (whether that’s assonance, onomatopoeia, hyperbole, similes or whatever), rather than add more.

3. Failing to Anticipate the Readers’ Response

A plot flaw is, simply put, a glitch in believability or causality. When a character acts in a way that doesn’t make sense, or when one scene doesn’t naturally follow from the one that precedes it, readers will stumble.

Imagine your protagonist hears that a killer is in the neighborhood and then, in the next scene, decides to spend a cozy evening in the kitchen making homemade pasta. Readers will think, What? Why doesn’t she lock all the doors and windows, or call the police, or run to her car and get out of the area? Thus, at the very moment where you want them to be drawn deeper into the narrative, your readers pull away and start to question your character’s actions—and, to some degree, your storytelling ability.

As soon as an event isn’t believable, it becomes a distraction. So ask yourself at every plot point: “Is there enough stimulus to motivate this action?” And then make sure there is. Always anticipate your readers’ response.

Try to step back and read your work-in-progress as objectively as you can, through the eyes of a reader who has never seen it before. If you come to a place where you think, Why doesn’t she just … ? or, Wait, that doesn’t make sense … that’s where you have some revising to do. And the solution doesn’t have to be complicated. Often you can solve a plot flaw in your story simply by having your characters point it out. If your protagonist says something like, “I couldn’t believe she would do such a thing—it just didn’t compute,” readers will think,Yes, exactly—I thought the same thing! There’s more going on here than meets the eye. The more you admit that the scene has a believability problem, the less readers will hold you responsible for it.

With this in mind, you should also make sure every special skill or gadget needed in the climax is foreshadowed earlier in the story. Coincidences drive a wedge in believability. Foreshadowing removes them. So if the diver suddenly needs a harpoon to fight off the killer barracuda and he reaches down and—how convenient!—just happens to find one, readers won’t buy it. Show us the harpoon earlier so it makes sense when it reappears at the climactic battle.

4. Using a Hook as a Gimmick

Many well-meaning writing instructors will tell you that you need to start your story with a good “hook” to snag your readers’ attention. And they’re right—to a certain degree.

While I was teaching at one writing conference a woman gave me her story for a critique. It started with an exciting car chase. I said, “Great, so this is an action story.”

“No,” she told me. “It’s a romance. The woman goes to the hospital and falls in love with the doctor.”

“But it starts with a car chase and explosion. Readers will expect it to escalate from there.”

“I had a different opening,” she admitted, “but my critique group told me I needed a good hook.”

It may have been true that her story needed a better hook, but she landed on the wrong one. Hooks become gimmicks if they don’t provide the platform for escalation.

Too many times a writer will grab readers’ attention early on with a scene that’s clearly been contrived just for that purpose, without introducing the characters or the setting of the story. Consequently the writer is forced to insert excessive backstory into the next scene—thus undermining the forward momentum of the plot. Take your time, trust your readers and craft a hook that orients them to the world you’ve created. Then drive the story forward without having to explain why you started it the way you did.

5. Leaving Readers Hanging

Never annoy your readers.

Sometimes I read books in which the author withholds key information from readers, presumably in an effort to create suspense. But failing to give readers what they want doesn’t create suspense, it causes dissatisfaction.

For example, don’t leave a point-of-view character in the middle of an action sequence. If, in the final sentence of a chase scene, you write that your protagonist “careened around the bend and crashed into the cement pylon jutting up from the side of the road,” readers will turn to the next chapter wanting to find out if she is
conscious, dead, etc.

But if that next chapter instead begins with another point-of-view character, one in a less stressful situation, readers will be impatient. They don’t want to wait to come back to the woman in the car (or maybe she’s in the hospital by then) a chapter later.

If readers are tempted to skip over part of your story to get to a part they want to read, you need to fix that section. As you write, constantly ask yourself what the readers want at this moment of the story.

Then, give it to them—or surprise them with something even better.”

[found on http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/5-story-mistakes-even-good-writers-make]

A Fiction-Lover’s Devotional

Deadline for this is VERY soon. Check it out.

Casual Elegance story callout

Modern-Day Parables: 
A Fiction-Lover’s Devotional

Deadline: September 1, 2013
Submissions should be sent to: Kathy Ide
 
 

“Kathy Ide is putting together a compilation of short fictional stories accompanied by Life Applications to help readers glean scriptural truths from the stories—similar to the format Jesus used when He told parables and then explained to His listeners how the stories applied to their everyday lives.

A major mainstream publisher has expressed serious interest in this book (and potential series). After seeing the proposal with some sample chapters, they have requested a complete manuscript as soon as possible. So the deadline for submissions to Kathy is September 1, 2013.

Contributing authors will receive an honorarium ($25) and a complimentary copy of the published book. Contributors should be able to purchase additional copies at author discount for sale or give-away. Bios of contributing authors will be featured at the end of each chapter. Titles of recently published works and website addresses can be included in the bio. So this devotional compilation will be an excellent opportunity for new readers to discover you and your books.

Guidelines

FORMAT

    • Title: something catchy that relates to the topic
    • Byline as you want it to appear
    • Fiction Story: 1,500-2,000 words
    • Life Application: 250-500 words giving truth, teaching, and inspiration related to the story
    • Scripture verse that applies to the story (Include reference and version used)
    • Author’s Bio: 50-100 words
    • Plus or minus a few words is perfectly acceptable. Subject to change at publisher’s discretion.
    • Double space, 12-point Times New Roman.
    • In the upper-left corner of the first page, please include your name, address, phone number, and e-mail.
    • In the upper-right corner of the first page, please indicate the theme/topic of your story.
    • Feel free to submit multiple stories.

TIPS

    • Short stories must be FICTION. No true stories (not even fictionalized true stories).
    • Third person is preferable. (First person tends to have the feel of a true story.)
    • Contemporary settings are preferred. Near-past or near-future will be considered.
    • The publisher is very conservative, so the submission content should be too. (Think “Upper Room.”)
    • Since I am a professional editor, I will most likely edit your submission. You need to be OK with that.
    • If you have a fictional story with Life Application based on a Bible character, please let me know as I’m doing a project similar to this one, using biblical fiction, for a different publisher.

If you’d like to see some sample stories to get an idea of what Kathy looking for, let her know (at the email address below). She’ll be happy to e-mail a couple to you.

E-MAIL SUBMISSIONS TO Kathy Ide (Kathy@KathyIde.com)

Please write “Modern-Day Parables” in the subject line.”

I’m a poet, but I don’t know it.

[found on writingforward.com]

“36 Poetry Writing Tips

    1. Read lots of poetry. In fact, read a lot of anything if you want to produce better writing.
    2. Write poetry as often as you can.
    3. Designate a special notebook (or space in your notebook) for poetry writing.
    4. Try writing in form (sonnets, haiku, etc.).
    5. Use imagery.
    6. Embrace metaphors but stay away from clichés.
    7. Sign up for a poetry writing workshop.
    8. Expand your vocabulary.
    9. Read poems over and over (and aloud). Consider them, analyze them.
    10. Join a poetry forum or poetry writing group online.
    11. Study musicality in writing (rhythm and meter).
    12. Use poetry prompts when you’re stuck.
    13. Be funny. Make a funny poem.
    14. Notice what makes others’ poetry memorable. Capture it, mix it up, and make it your own.
    15. Try poetry writing exercises when you’ve got writer’s block.
    16. Study biographies of famous (or not-so-famous) poets.
    17. Memorize a poem (or two, or three, or more).
    18. Revise and rewrite your poems to make them stronger and more compelling.
    19. Have fun with puns.
    20. Don’t be afraid to write a bad poem. You can write a better one later.
    21. Find unusual subject matter — a teapot, a shelf, a wall.
    22. Use language that people can understand.
    23. Meditate or listen to inspirational music before writing poetry to clear your mind and gain focus.
    24. Keep a notebook with you at all times so you can write whenever (and wherever) inspiration strikes.
    25. Submit your poetry to literary magazines and journals.
    26. When you submit work, accept rejection and try again and again. You can do it and you will.
    27. Get a website or blog and publish your own poetry.
    28. Connect with other poets to share and discuss the craft that is poetry writing.
    29. Attend a poetry reading or slam poetry event.
    30. Subscribe to a poetry podcast and listen to poetry.
    31. Support poets and poetry by buying books and magazines that feature poetry.
    32. Write with honesty. Don’t back away from your thoughts or feelings. Express them!
    33. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Mix art and music with your poetry. Perform it and publish it.
    34. Eliminate all unnecessary words, phrases, and lines. Make every word count.
    35. Write a poem every single day.
    36. Read a poem every single day.”
[found on http://www.writingforward.com/writing-tips/poetry-writing-tips]