Saturday, May 25, 2013

Blooming: Soul

Hi folks, this week I'm going to talk about another piece of the pre-writing journey, and I'm calling it this piece -- soul. I've been thinking about how to communicate this idea all week. Soul isn't a tangible thing. It's very nature is illusive. Soul is the spiritual or the immaterial part of us infused into our book; it is the essence of our identity. 

You must nurture the soul because writing a meaningful book is all about chipping a corner off of that soul and letting it go forever. This process is painful, makes you vulnerable and in the end is an unfathomable mystery. I'm going to offer some activities that have helped me on my journey.

Quiet:  We live in a busy world but books need quiet to be spring out of the good ground of you.  Retreat. Turn everything off and take a weekend away from all your responsibilities. Move away from the books, the busy, and, probably  hardest of all, your own thoughts. No writing. No internal dialogue. No praying. Be still. Be silent. Focus on breathing. That is the whole goal. Once you understand quiet, put some purposefully quiet space into your life each day.

Improvement: Do something that will make you a better person. This is an intensely personal journey. Only you know what will improve you. It doesn't matter what. Talk to your neighbor. Plant some tulips. Stop a bad habit. Start a good one. Be better.  Here is a little talk by A. J. Jacobs, "How healthy living nearly killed me", that might give you a smile.

Generosity: Volunteer time to someone or something. I take Mother Teresa as my spiritual guide on this one.  Her voice whispers inside me all the time, you can only do small things with great love. There is so much need in the world, ask yourself what grieves you. What is one thing that you can do? Do it. Sacha Dichten 's talk on generosity might inform you too.

Forgiveness: This is about dealing with the emotional baggage that you are carrying. You must put down those dang bags to write that book. Let go of the faults of other. Embrace the chiaroscuro of the world.Don't twist every event to your grudge agenda. Seek to lose the grudge. I like this essay by Alexander Pope -- An Essay on Criticism. To err is human, to forgive divine.

Wander:  Inward or out, start making plans to go to that undiscovered country. Get a passport. Put pennies in jar. Seek your muse. Find faith.  Whatever journey is calling you, start taking steps.  I find that writers need to wander more than folks. Take time to go with no agenda in hand. Where does your heart take you?

Confidence:  This idea is an extension of the faith and trust.  Cultivate it. You must feel the book in your hands. The heft of it. Become aware of what you do well and don't dwell on your faults. Stop criticizing yourself  inwardly and to others. Whisper the good things you want. Write them down. Take a month and write down every good thing you have done each day that.  I like this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert about your genius. Grow confidence.

This is some of the stuff I need to create my master works. I hope something here has spoken to you.  I will be back next week for a month of musing about story structure.

Here is this week's doodle: Daylily.

I will end up with a quote for your pocket.
All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone. Blaise Pascal

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Blooming: Setting

Hi, folks: I'm continuing my blog series Blooming, and I'm keeping with the list-y format. I'm offering pre-writing activities for setting this week. Authentic setting will make your stories pop!  I hope that something here helps you utilize place within your stories like it is a living breathing character. 

Travel -- One powerful way to create setting is to go there. Here is a link to Stephanie Meyer's trip to Forks, WA.   Take a camera, a notebook, a recorder and go crazy!  Don't  be shy. Talk to old timers, visit old houses, tromp through historical sites, and tiptoe through graveyards!

Shop -- I have more than one friend that shops for vintage photos on eBay. I also like to rummage around in antique shops. Remember a picture is worth a thousand words.

Maps -- I love Google Earth. Man, it is addictive. At Google Maps you can get directions to drive, take transit, walk or bike there. Very handy.  I also like Map Quest.  Here is a link to 3-D virtual room software.  I also am a pretty handy doodler and create maps for my fantasy and sci-fi worlds. If you don't doodle, try fantasy map making software like at ProFantasy Software.

Model -- Here is a link to Dollhousecity. You might want to but miniature set of furniture for a room. Here is a Wooden Dollhouse Set from Amazon. This can be handy if you have a fight scene and need to toss some furniture around.  Exactly how does a chair look that is tossed out a window? I mean you could really toss a chair out the window or ....

Archives -- Did you know almost all major cities have online photo archives?  Here are a couple to get you started.   Here is NYC Municipal Archives.  Here is a link to the City of Houston Gallery.  Newspapers also have photo archives.  Here is one to the Chicago Tribune. I am also a big fan of the digital collections at the Library of Congress.

If you are in doubt, Google it. 

I think following up with some of these pre-writing activities are a great way to build strong story bones.  I hope that you are moving forward with your project.

Here is this week's doodle:  "Dandelion".

Here is a quote for your pocket.

All the ideas in the universe can be described by words. Therefore, if you simply take all the words and rearrange them randomly enough times, you’re bound to hit upon at least a few great ideas eventually. Sausage donkey swallows flying guillotine, my love assembly line.
 Jarod Kintz

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Blooming: Plot

Hi, folks! My cold is better this week, but I keeping my listy format for the month. I'm offering pre-writing activities for writers, and this week I'm focusing on plot. I have found pre-writing activities insure that you create viable manuscripts. I hope that you find something here interesting. 

Charts -- Here is a link to actual charts of authors on Flavorwire: Charts and Diagrams Drawn by Famous Authors. You can see how regular writer folk like J.K. Rowling, Jack Kerouac,  and Kurt Vonnegut plot stories. I'm not sure how you write a novel without doing some charting.  Everyone finds their own chart method. Check out several and then create your own.

Cards -- How do you keep all those plot points together? Here is a 3x5 card method  illustration -- the tried and true method -- at Kimberley's Wanderings.

Software -- If you are like me you don't a ton of pieces floating around you.  Hey, you lose stuff. This organizational software will help. Writer's Blocks is a popular program to get you started.  I am also a fan of Celtx.  Many love  their Scrivener. It has excellent plotting stuff.

Story Journals -- Here is a peek at author Laini Taylor's story journal at Figment.  This a working place to build a plot.

Dreaming-- Try this activity.  Think about your plot for about an hour before you go to bed. Think hard about each plot point. You will find gaps. You will find walls where you don't know what happens next. You will think certain plot elements are weak, but you won't know how to fix them. Just think. In the morning take a couple of hours and think again. This time write what you think. Keep doing this until you know. Stuff to put in your story journal.

Gossiping -- Join together with your writing gurus and talk about your plot. Argue. Joke. Sound off.  Let them offer their ideas. You might want to tape this or take notes.  This is a great way to get a plot engine going.  You might put your notes in a story journal.

Chatting -- This is about taking a walk. You tell a trusted friend about your story without interruption. As you tell your story, allow yourself to change directions, up the stakes, and be inventive.  After this chat, write about what you learned about your story. You might put this in a story journal too.

Write the book -- Sounds crazy to me, but some folks just don't have a clue unless they start writing. This draft is very exploratory.Your plot will be a mess: dead ends, rabbit holes, and incongruity.You might write 8 versions of the same chapter in it to find one.  I have heard of authors who write this draft and delete it. If this is your cup of tea, NANOWRIMO is for you.

If you pick some of these activities and do them, your plot is sure to bloom. Guaranteed.

Here is a doodle: "Louisana Iris."

Quote for the week:

Every discourse, even a poetic or oracular sentence, carries with it a system of rules for producing analogous things and thus an outline of methodology. Jacques Derrida

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Blooming: Characters

Hi, folks! I hope that you are having a good week. I am down with a bad cold and am wondering why I still have a jacket out in May. It was almost 40 degrees yesterday morning. Brr. I don't know how anything is going to bloom, but my friend the pecan farmer and children's author, Andy Sherrod, assures me that if the ground is warm, so stuff is going to bloom.  So how do you get your ground warm?

I will spend this month sharing prewriting activities that I use to ensure success.  This week I'm going to touch on prewriting characters. I'm going to give you serious activities to help! 

Scrap:  Gather together pictures that represent your characters. Building composites using one photo's eyes, another's nose, etc. works.  Try but there are many more stock sites. 

Personality:   I always take the Enneagram test for my characters. Also do the Jung Typology Test.  Here is a link to a bunch more personality tests, and, yes, I do use some of these.

Traits: Martina Boone offers this useful character trait  worksheet.  I also love these character questionnaires from the Gotham Writers Workshop. My best advice, look at a number of character questionaires and worksheets and then design one that fits your style.

Letter: Have all your main characters write you a letter telling you what they think this journey is about.

Act: Take an hour or a whole day and pretend to be your character. When you are done take an hour to write down what you learned from the exercise..

Cast: Go to and see if you can find the perfect actors to play the parts of your characters.

Journal:  Write a journal from your character's POV about the events of your story.  You don't have to go crazy here, you should do this until it is easy to produce interior thoughts from your character.

Interview:  Find folks who you feel may connect with your character and do character interviews of them.  (This always makes people cry -- take tissues and a Starbucks card.)

Okay, this feels like enough to get  your started.  Enjoy the blooming process. Do this stuff and when your start to write, your characters will pop off the page.  Guaranteed.

Come back next week for more blooming. Seize the day!

Doodle this week: "Swimming Fish."

Here is the quote for the week.

Just keep swimming
Just keep swimming
Everything will be okay
Just keep swimming
Move your tail
And sure enough we'll find our way
Oh sometimes things look bad
Then poof! The moment is gone
And what do we do?

Dory, Finding Nemo (Thomas Newman)