Category Archives: Writing Tip of the Day

Be your own critic without being critical

Be your own critic without being critical

Here’s how: Write something. Do it now. Now look at it not as an author, but as a reader or audience and ask questions about it. For example, I write, “It was dawn in the small western town.” Now I ask: 1. What time of year was it? 2. What state? 3. Is it a ghost town? 4. How many people live there? 5. Is everything all right in the town? 6. What year is it. Then let your Muse come up with as many answers for each question as possible. Example: 6. What year is it? A. 1885 B. Present Day C. 2050 D. After the apocalypse. Then repeat: D. After the Apocalypse. 1. What kind of apocalypse? 2. How many people died? 3. How long ago was the disaster, and so on. By alternating between critical analysis and creative Musings, you will quickly work out details about your story’s world, who’s in it, what happens to them and what it all means.

Writing Tip of the Day

Let your Muse run wild

Let your Muse run wild

The easiest way to give yourself writer’s block is to bridle your Muse by trying to come up with ideas. Your Muse is always coming up with ideas – just not the ones you want. If you try to limit the kind of material you will accept from her, she’ll shut up entirely. So let your Muse run free. When she gives you an hysterical moment with a polka-dot elephant while writing a serious death scene, consider including it, perhaps as an hallucination. Give it a try, it might liven up your death scene! And after you’ve written it, if it doesn’t work, then save it in a file for later use. It may seem like a waste of time, but your Muse will know she has been treated with respect, and will likely now give you just the idea you need.

Writing Tip of the Day

Be a Story Weaver – NOT a Story Mechanic!

Writing Tip of the Day:

Be a Story Weaver – NOT a Story Mechanic!

Structure is important but not at the expense of passion. No one reads a book or goes to a movie to experience a great structure. Authors come to a story to express their passions and readers and audience members come to ignite their own. While structure is the carrier wave upon which passion is transmitted, without the passion, it’s just noise. Conversely, passion without structure can be full of sound and fury yet signifying nothing. So find the proper balance. Let passion be your captain and structure be your guide.

Writing Tip of the Day

Write from your Passionate Self

Write from your passionate self

We all wear a mask to protect us from hurt in the world. It also blocks the light of our vision. As children, we quickly learn which behaviors are praised and which are punished. We learn to act other than we really feel to maximize our experience. In time,we buy into that mask, believing it is who we really are. But the mask evens out the peaks and troughs of our passion, leaving us afraid to explore the depths of our passion and reveal our true selves in words. To speak with a clarion voice, you must shatter the mask, discover your actual self, and thrust it into the world.

Writing Tip of the Day

Inspiration is all around you…

Inspiration for a novel or screenplay is all around you. Every day the mind naturally takes note of odd juxtapositions, inappropriate contexts and unlikely “what ifs” that crop up in overheard conversations, two television commercials that butt up against each other or folded over newspaper in which the visible part of the headline is “just not right.” Any time you encounter a “tilt” moment during your day, jot it down, as it might be fodder for your next story. For example, you might trip over a concept (computer geeks are transported to the old west), a plot twist (a detective discovers he is investigating his own murder), a situation (Ponce de Leon still lives today), a thematic topic (fracking), a character study (an aging rock star who is losing his licks) a line of dialog (“Just cuz somthin’s free don’t mean you didn’t buy it.”), a title (Too Old To Die Young) or any other creative notion that makes you think, that’s a good idea for a story! What’s more, any of these ideas might be a topic for conversation within your story, as opposed to the overall idea for the story itself. If you train yourself to jot down any unusual notion before it disappears into the block hole of the mediocrity that surrounds it, you’ll never be short of inspiration.

Don’t be a slave to convention…

Beginning writers often look to other successful stories to learn how things ought to work. But so do all the other beginning writers. A book editor, agent, or script reader sees hundreds of manuscripts every year, all made up of the same pieces and hitting the same marks. You’ll never get noticed in that crowd. If you want your work to be discovered, break format, shake it up, do something different. Make your sheriff 8 years old, make your two lovers twins, set your gothic romance underwater. You’ll never be noticed if you don’t stand out.

What Makes a Writer?

What makes you a writer? Writing makes you a writer. Being a writer says nothing about how good you are, how prolific you are, whether you are published or not. When you write you are a writer. When you don’t, you aren’t. So practice your craft and proudly call yourself a writer.

Today’s Writing Tip: Red Herrings

Today’s Writing Tip: “Red Herrings”

Red herrings are false leads. In storytelling, red herrings are used to make something appear more connected than it really is. Several good examples of this technique can be found in the motion picture The Fugitive about a man, Dr. Richard Kimble, who is convicted of a murder he did not commit, and then escapes custody.

In one scene a police car flashes its lights and siren at Dr. Kimble as he is walking down the street, giving the impression he is about to be recaptured. But, in fact, the cops only want to tell him to move along as he is blocking the sidewalk.

In another scene, Kimble is in his apartment when an entire battalion of police show up with sirens blazing and guns drawn. It turns out they were really after the son of his landlord and had no interest in him at all.

In summary, red herrings can inject interest, suspense, and tension without altering the course of the story itself.

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Today’s Writing Tip: “Building Size”

Today’s writing tip:

You can hold your reader’s or audience’s interest by revealing the true size of something over the course of the story until it can be seen to be either larger or smaller than it originally appeared. This makes things appear to grow or diminish as the story unfolds.

Conspiracy stories are usually good examples of increasing scope, as only the tip of the iceberg first comes to light and the full extent is ultimately much bigger. The motion picture All The President’s Men about exposing the Watergate Scandal illustrates this nicely. Stories about things being less extensive than they originally appear are not unlike The Wizard Of Oz in which a seemingly huge network of power turns out to be just one man behind a curtain.

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