Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Cori Chu’

How to Plot by Example

July 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Are you a writer who can sit down and have dialogues and scenes stream onto the computer screen with little regard to structure?  If you are, and are happy with your results, you are one of the lucky writers with a gift.  Most writers need to craft the plot through scene summaries and outlines.

I am not so gifted.  I need to plot to make my stories come together in the end.  For many years I let my writing drift.  It was easier and fun, but always when I read it back, the only salvagable sections were description. 

One day a couple of years ago, I found a talented blogger, who writes about the technique of novel writing.  If you feel like a hamster running the wheel when you write, check this website out.  www.storyfix.com.  Currently, Larry Brooks is deconstructing the novel The Help.  He shows us how to plot by examining Kathryn Stockett’s plotting strategy and how this is a major factor that catapulted her novel into recognition.  (I read that she had many, many rejections in earlier drafts, but she did not give up.)

He has a book out called Story Engineering: 6 Core Competencies.  You can see a preview on his website.  You can get a better idea by rooting around in his blog archive, because Brooks does an excellent job describing the core competencies individually.

Okay, I took a hiatus from blogging.  You would think when I unexpectedly became unemployed I would have time to blog more.  Instead I used the time to figure out what to do.  I spent most of the day doing job search activities in a very dry market.  Blogging sounded interesting as a public journal on personal impressions when I first began the journey.  I had envisioned it more like the journal I wrote as a pre teen.  Months later, my thoughts have evolved.  My goal for this blog is to make it more content rich.  In the next few weeks, I will be examining the topic blogging for money.

 

Not Writing? An Act of Self Sabotage?

March 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Lucky bambooWriting is all about discipline.  I know that.  Then, my question is, what does it mean when you like to write but in the end find writing to be a task?  For those finding it difficult to settle down and write, is it part of our DNA to prefer activities that don’t chain ourselves to a chair?  Or are we running away from ourselves?  Will our writing reveal more about ourselves than we want to share?  All interesting questions for the writer who finds they are not writing.

Recently, I found out that I am not alone in this struggle.  A talented writer/ friend is exploring that very same question.  What in the world is holding us back?  Why are we self-sabotaging ourselves?

Probably the answer is different for all of us.  However, I do see a similarity as I listen to other potential writers (there are oodles of us out there), read writing threads, and read blogs.  It simply comes down to avoidance behavior. 

If you look closely at your favorite writer, or for that matter, any successful person, you will see that people who show up every day and work at their craft, their business, their passion are the ones who eventually reap rewards for overcoming the challenges from every day demands. 

So, I’m talking to all those out there, and I’m talking  to myself —  If you want to be successful at writing, you need to show up and write every day.  Although the editor in you will say “This sucks!”  Keep at it. You’ll get better and faster with just the commitment to working at your writing with consistency. 

If you have experienced yo-yo dieting, you know it doesn’t work.  All those successful weight loss stories come from a place of discipline and exercise.  Sorry to say, I’m learning that writing is no different. 

You are like your first novel.  Just like every character and every scene must in some way advance the plotline of your novel, so must the writing and reading activities of your writing time. 

I’d like to hear from you, if you had many starts and stops to your writing.  How did you eventually move past your hurdles?

August Doldrums

August 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Ooops!  Where did August go?  Was I having fun? Some. Was I working? Yes. Was I writing?  More like outlining. 

I hate putting my writing at the bottom of my to-do list.  Every time I try moving it up, I succeed for one or two days and then I let external demands derail me. I don’t imagine that I am alone.

August has been a month for reading…mostly background research for my germ of an idea for a series based on the Chinese immigration in the late 1800’s.  I should be taking notes, but I am so engrossed in the material that my eyes glide through the pages like a document feeder. 

August has been a time to ponder the direction of this blog.  I didn’t want this blog to be specifically about HOW to WRITE.  There are oodles of websites that can do it well and obviously are better at time management than I seem to be.  I thought maybe the journal angle would be fun, but who really wants to listen to me moan and groan about my inertia?  I certainly wouldn’t, but then again, maybe it would attract attention because global journal sharing seems to be the trend.

I could blog about my research, but then, why would I write the novel, if it is already out there for people to see?  Anyway, I am superstitious.  I don’t talk too much about these things in order to avoid being jinxed or too many people asking me questions like why isn’t it written already.  Maybe I should stick to reviewing a particular topic? 

Hmmm.  Well, it gives me pause for thought about which direction to take this blog.   Stay tune.

Finding Time to Write

July 5, 2010 Leave a comment

When I was in my 20’s I lived paycheck to paycheck for many months.  Eventually, as the Universe would have it, I would have to learn to be more responsible.  I had to have a major repair on my car and had saved nothing for an emergency. 

I did what everyone else would have done.  Charged it.  “Don’t worry too much. You have two paychecks before the bill arrived, ”  I told myself.  It was a very tight 90 days.  I don’t think the Universe expected me to be a financial wizard, but I knew that I had to do something different because living like a pauper wasn’t cutting it for me.   The lesson learned here is obvious:  Save something from every paycheck and don’t spend more than you earn.

That said, I need to take this page out of my experience playbook and apply it to my writing.  No money. No time.  Same difference.  I didn’t put my financial health high on the priority list and sooner or later, the inevitable expense threw my financial equilibrium off (and notice it only took one good size invoice).  Just like my financial negligence, I am doing the very same thing to my writing.  There are other things obviously more important to me, although I espouse how I value writing time. 

So I am applying what I have learned at work…well, intellectually learned at least…to my writing.

Here’s what the business coaches would say if I made novel writing my career:

Make writing the first thing you do each day.  Once the day has begun there is too much competition from distractions and external energies vying for your attention.  DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO OPEN YOUR EMAIL FIRST!  Guarenteed you will not have time to write.

Apply the Pareto Principle.  Those in business may know it as the 80/20 Rule…80% of your desired results come from 20% of your effort.  An example of this rule:  80% of all the books sold are written by 20% of authors.  So, it makes sense, that if you spent 20% of your day or about 2 hours on your writing, would that book be written and published by now?

To apply the Pareto Principle, you must drop all the busy work that gets you nowhere.  You may have to work on defining this, because we all get into habits of just doing.  Before each activity, ask yourself, “Will this task help me finish my novel?”  Some you will say overwhelming ly yes.  Some will be a little less connected.  For instance, a trip to the dentist.  The results of a dental visit is integral to the success of getting that novel done.  If you neglect your health, you will not have the energy, concentration to complete a novel.

You will have to learn to prioritize and organize.  If these traits do not come naturally to you, you need to step up to the plate and figure out how to make this work.

Writing a novel is like running a marathon.  You need to keep going until you reach the finish line.  Any distractions will certainly derail you from your goal.

On your computer create a tme tracker for your writing.  No doubt you have heard about food tracking for dieters. Well, you should track how much time you spend each day on your writing tasks. 

Ask for help and learn to delegate in your family.  Even though your family wants to support you, changing their behaviors to help you might be a challenge especially if you are dealing with teenagers.  I suggest you explain to your family what you would like to accomplish and what it means to them.  Some families will get on board with the change immediately; some will need more time to adjust. 

Learn to say NO.  This is one of the hardest lessons learned for women.  Women seem to be better at multi tasking and well, the nurturing and caring strengths actually work against women novelists.

Write a goal list for your writing.  You do it at work all the time.  You have a list of tasks you would like to get done that day.  You write grocery lists, errand lists, and procedual lists.  You will find better results if you know that you will finish writing a scene with the protagonist that day and read Publisher’s Weekly.  Accomplishing only two things a day for your writing is huge.  When you complete those two things. you know you have gotten something done and are that much closer to the finish line.

Are you ready?  Get set. Go.

Pro Flowers

I am not in the habit of recommending non-writing retail discoveries, but I can’t resist being a raving fan of Pro Flowers.

Not only do their flowers last longer, but they are delivered in the freshest condition possible. Prices are more than reasonable. Check it out for yourself. http://www.proflowers.com

And if you ever want someone to be your raving fan, go the extra mile for your target audience. This includes writing promotions. Pro Flowers has bent over backwards to make me happy. I have been using them over the years, and twice they have stepped up and re-issued my order without a new charge…without giving me a hassle. One a few years ago was a legitimate request, but the one for this Mother’s Day won me over.

Go to http://www.proflowers.com for all your flower delivery needs. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed, even if life throws in occasional glitches.

Nature or Nurture?

April 20, 2010 Leave a comment

I am in transition.  As I reflect back at my life (yesterday was my birthday), I see that I unwittingly followed in my mother’s footsteps.  Was this nuture or nature? 

I can make an argument for both.  My mom is the creative type, a bit wayward.  She has structure in her approach toward her goals, but the structure is limited to the scope of the immediate project.  She is detailed in a microcosmic way, never able to step outside herself and see the bigger picture…see that her artwork is wonderful and how her talent was never discovered (except by close friends and family). 

As I look back into a couple of generations before her, I see her shortcomings are the shortcomings of all the women in her family.  This could be  generational, societal, and ethnic —all equally responsible for her lack of consistency.  It could be a lack of a role model in self promotion.  But what if she were lucky to find the right mentor?  Would her inherent choices in life change? 

While genetics doesn’t help you make decisions, it does govern your responses to situations.  If you tend to be shy, self promotion may be extremely difficult.

I am so much like my mom, it is frightening.  I fear that I will follow in her footsteps.  The path isn’t quite the same, but the results parallel each other.  My mother strove for self-actualization in her artwork.   She is 80 plus years old, still painting, producing her best work, but the staccato rhythm of her projects makes it tough to get any momentum. 

My lifestyle differs from my mom, but yet, I too suffer the same staccato pattern.  Is it learned behavior or the inability to stay focused for any length of time? 

I am moving past my genetics, my learned  behavior.  I, unlike my mom, understand what strategies I have to employ to reach my goal.  I know I am not alone. My internal struggle is shared by many others.  I just wonder sometimes, if the adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has merit.

Reading People

March 23, 2010 Leave a comment

I was in the JFK airport a couple of months ago and picked up a book called,”Reading People” by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius and Wendy Patrick Mazzarella. 

Aside from the fact that I am in marketing and the information might prove useful, I was wondering how relevant understanding people and being able to predict behavior might translate into writing more believable characters.

The writing is conversational…and luckily, it doesn’t have the major fault so many of these types of books have…that is repeating the same information in different words.  The content is substantive and I found myself putting post its with messages to myself as possible character development traits for different characters.

Product Details

It is an easy read.  It is a good mixture of casual description and concrete examples.  I liked the first impressions chapter because with fine detail, the authors examined every physical feature, every action, reaction, and verbal utterance to create our first impression.  They also cover why our first impressions could be faulty and how we communicate or miscommunicate with our clothes and body language. 

As we get older, we become more astute at reading people.  We are more analytical and introspective.  Reading People organizes our observations, connects the dots between what we see and hear and what reality is.  This is fertile ground for characterizations.

Let me hear what you think.  Do you have any books that you really liked?

Writing Workshops

January 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Over a decade ago, I attended several writing workshops.  I always walked away disappointed and wondering  whether I could have used my time more wisely by spending it writing.

Today, I attended a writing workshop that for the first time brought some clarification to why I have been struggling with my writing  all these years.  

What I learned today is that the scope of my project is ambitious for a first time novelist.  The suggestion from the group was to take it in smaller chunks.  While that would seem obvious to anyone, the obvious becane obfuscated through too much isolated thinking and not enough sharing. 

For years I have been searching on and off for a writing partner. Inherently, I knew I needed someone to bounce ideas around with, to help keep me focused, and to provide the mental support when that inevitable writer’s pause strikes.  My mistake, as Edie Hemingway, today’s instructor, pointed out is not pairing with a writer that shared a similar genre.  No wonder why I cringed when my writing partner handed me a 50 page manuscript of science fiction or 3 pages of esoteric poetry!  I had no interest in reading much less critiquing a first draft manuscript.  It wasn’t my niche.

Another point I found interesting was the show of hands of writers who thought they were structured writers and those who thought they were intuitive writers.  I, of course, stood alone again.  I lean toward left brain, structured approaches to all tasks.   As we each presented our thoughts on a small writing assignment, it was amusing to hear how each one of us interpreted Edie’s assignment. 

Mine was 4 sentences, each about 12 words long.  I thought I misunderstood the assignment at first as I watched others writing away, scribbling furiously on a second page.   Just as too many words is not good, paucity of words is not good either.  My writing lacks that emotional ingredient that stirs up the reader’s passion and loyalty.  I have to learn to share my feelings, otherwise, there will never be a wide audience for my writing.

In any case, I feel motivated again.  This class was just what I needed to jumpstart my 2010 writing goal for the year.  Edie’s workshop breathed O2 into my book.

I wholly recommend Edie’s class, if you are in the area.  She runs workshops from her home in Frederick, MD and teaches classes at Frederick Community College.  http://www.ediehemingway.com/

Off to a Good Start in 2010

January 7, 2010 Leave a comment

I thought I would be more accountable for not finding time to write, if I shared this honesty with the world. As luck would have it, I am no further along than I was a year ago, when I had this great idea.

I am excited to go to a writing class this Saturday. It has been a long time….I know you’ve listened to me whine about my writing groups. However, I think this one will be different. Although the instructor doesn’t write in the same genre, the elements in storytelling are all the same.

Well, wish me good luck. I need to stop horsing around and just sit down and write. Till next time…

Eegaads! It's almost 2010.

December 26, 2009 Leave a comment

As we approach the new year, I see that I have made only baby steps in my writing attempts.  I’m embarrassed that I have not written an entry in this blog since September.  No excuses.  I got swept up in my old habits and let time slip through my fingers.

If you are in need of some serious motivation to break old habits, shake things up a bit because your answer to Dr.Phil’s “How is that working for you?” has you shaking your head, I recommend reading James Arthur Ray’s book Harmonic Wealth.  Yes, he is the same dude that is under investigation for deaths at his retreat in Sedona, AZ.  (I am not sure why people don’t use common sense when trying new things.  People, huddled in a sweat tent, must have known that they were subjecting their bodies to the same environment that animals face locked in a parked car for hours in the summer.)  Anyway, if we can surf past this event, and discover what Ray has to say, you might find that there is relevance in his life philosophy and message.

As I read Ray’s book, I liked the fact that the conversational tone wasn’t preachy.  He  tells you his take on life and what he has learned.  His message isn’t new.  What is new is his delivery.  He is able to explain and connect what happens in everyday life.  It is not as random as we might like to believe. 

For us busy people,  he outlines steps to help you realize what you want and how to get it.  As I said, this  nothing new.  For years business schools have touted the management by objective system, but Ray has broadened the scope to open the potential for success in all areas of life.

For the new year, this book/ CD, which is in libraries, might help you slug through and figure out how to achieve your wildest dreams.  So, I have read this book once, listened to the CD, and now look forward to 2010 with renewed enthusiasm for my writing. 

Julia Cameron in her book,  The Artist’s Way, says that if you do a timeline of goals, you will find when you look back 80% will have been realized.  So, join me in creating your timeline for 2010.  We’ll meet back here next year at this time and see how much has come to pass.