A Writer’s Process, Part 2 – Evaluating the Idea

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The last post I did about the writer’s process introduced the steps involved and talked about catching the idea.

To recap:

Catching the idea

Evaluating the idea

Growing the idea

First draft

Space

Reading the draft

Revision and self editing

Critique group feedback

Rewriting or recreating

More revision

<<GO TO Critique group feedback, if needed>>

Final manuscript

Evaluating the Idea

You have an idea which you think would make a great story. How do you know if this is something you should work on? What about your extensive list of other story ideas? Maybe this one doesn’t stack up to the others you already have.

Let’s look at a few questions you can ask yourself to help you evaluate your idea.

Can you imagine working on this idea (researching, writing, revising, etc.) for the next month, six months, over the next year or even beyond?

Let the idea sit in your idea file for one week. Revisit it and ask yourself: How passionate are you about working on this? Did you think of it over the past week? How often?

Is this an idea that you might outgrow?

How easy would it be for you to walk away from it?

Looking over your list of story ideas, is there another one that’s more burning than this one?

Is this an idea that you find WORTH your TIME?

Maybe you have what you feel is a great story idea, but something is holding you back. What’s going on? What might be frightening or overwhelming about it that is keeping you from moving forward?

And you do have a list of story ideas, don’t you? Do you prioritize these? Which ones might you put under HOT? Under TIMELY? Under I HAVE TO DO THIS NOW? THESE CAN WAIT? MAYBE WHEN I’M 70?

Revisit your story idea list often. Re-evaluate your priorities.

NOTE: Sometimes we become attached to ideas that are not right for us. Don’t be afraid to put that idea away for one that is something that puts a fire under you, propelling you to go forth and conquer the story.

Questions for today: What questions do you ask about your story ideas to make a decision to put words on paper? How do you find this a helpful step in your writing process? (If you don’t evaluate your story idea, is this something you might consider adding?)

Best Wishes,

June

Silence

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Few things under heaven bring more benefit than

the lessons learned from silence and

the actions taken without striving.

 

–          The Tao Te Ching (Translation by Tolbert McCarroll)

We have created a world of noise. We’re plugged in, turned on, and tuned up. Television, radio, computers, cell phones, portable media players, headsets, earphones.

What is this about, and how might it affect you and your writing? What does this take away from you as a writer? Or add?

Deep listening is the ability to hear what another person is trying to communicate. This also applies to listening to yourself, your inner being. An important skill for the writer to develop, this is also about learning: learning to let go and to have things happen, learning to respect, learning to learn in a way that is profound.

Along with observation – another helpful writer tool – silence and listening can give the writer a way to experience people and the world from a different perspective. This is also how we can understand ourselves on a much deeper level. As we come to understand ourselves, our characters grow and deepen on multiple levels.

By being still, tapping into the silence, and listening we might discover:

–          A character’s underlying motivation

–          A way to empower our characters to create stronger stories

–          Ways to react to story situations from the character’s point of view

–          Alternative paths or plots

–          Themes that are important to us that we can build characters and plots around

–          Ways to use setting and other story elements to create mood

–          Solutions to issues or blocks we might be having.

What about sitting down, being still, and listening? At first, you might find this is not as easy as it sounds. We are so use to MOVING and DOING. The focus here is on BEING. You might decide to use meditation to help you or whatever method or technique you might chose to get you centered or grounded.

Remember the lyrics to the song “The Sounds of Silence”? (From the album Sounds of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel) It begins:

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

The seeds of our stories and of our characters are inside each of us. If you listen, you will find what you need to make your stories more powerful.

Explore the silence, listen, and you might be surprised at what you discover.

Question for today: What does silence and listening mean to you? To your writing?

Best Wishes,

June

A Writer’s Process, Part 1

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From the first glimpse of a story idea to the period at the end of a finalized manuscript, all this encompasses your writing process. But how do you know if you’re using the steps that will work best for you?

Like all things creative, you try, try, and try to find what works. You might hear someone say something or you read something about another writer’s process, something that lights you up inside, and you somehow KNOW that you should try this. Other times, you might have to try different methods to discover what works. Be patient, this is all part of the PLAN.

The PLAN? Yes! Part of any creative endeavor is finding your own way, your own path. This is part of the fun of life, of writing. What develops is your own unique PLAN, your writing process. It’s like a journey and getting there is more than half the fun.

Keep in mind: The writing process is not a “one size fits all” plan. Adjust the pieces that you need in the order that makes sense for you.

The stages of a writer’s process might be broken down as:

Catching the idea

Evaluating the idea

Growing the idea

First draft

Space

Reading the draft

Revision and self editing

Critique group feedback

Rewriting or recreating

More revision

<<GO TO Critique group feedback, if needed>>

Final manuscript

NOTE: Not every writer will go through each stage, skipping over one or more. These are general categories which might be used in a variety of ways. Keep your thinking flexible when thinking about these stages and your writing process.

Some of these stages might be repeated multiple times. Others might be skimmed over or skipped. It depends on YOU and what you need to get from idea to completed manuscript.

Catching the Idea

Ideas happen all the time. The trick is to recognize, be open, and catch them.

RECOGNIZATION

Keep a list of places where you get ideas.

What has “set off” an idea for you? Newspaper item? A snippet of dialog? Watching people? Daydreaming?

Does your five senses generate ideas? Something you smell? See? Hear? Taste? Feel?

BEING OPEN

Open yourself up to receiving ideas. Make a statement. Write it down. Believe. For example: I am open to the flow of ideas that exist all around me. I am open and ready for ideas to come to me. (Yes, like an affirmation.)

CATCHING

Some writers work from ideas sparked by the imagination and other from life experiences. No matter where the idea comes from, what is important is catching it. Since these come at us without warning, the key is to be prepared. And don’t tell yourself: This is great. I know I’ll remember…You might, but more likely you might not as ideas can be here one moment and gone the next.

Here are some suggestions for catching the idea.

Notepad or notebook

Index cards

Back of your business card (I’ve done this!)

Word processor document

Digital or voice recorder

Call your voice mail

Camera/video phone

The trick here is to have a way to capture ideas without having to look for the way to record it. That takes too much time. The method must be at the time the idea is fresh in your mind like a fresh baked apple pie straight from the oven.

You do keep a list of ideas, don’t you? (Of course you do!) Try to keep one list, in one place. Take those ideas you came up with outside of your home and consolidate. You might decide to put different ideas into different categories or to prioritize them, for example, the ones you’re most interest in working on.

Question for today: What do you presently do to capture ideas? 

Best Wishes,

June

What is GOOD Description? Part 2

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Description for description’s sake doesn’t make good writing. Whenever possible, description should be woven into the other story elements. Think of description as spice. Without any spices, food might be bland. With too much, the food might be uneatable. And with the right amount, it enhances our enjoyment.

Give your description specifics. Instead of “the dog” use “German Shepherd.”

In place of saying a situation is “mysterious” or a character is “playful” use words or phrases that give the impression of the mood you wish to create.

Find ways to tie description into the action of characters. Use the setting to evoke some emotion or experience of a character.

EXAMPLES:

Active Description

Maggie’s jeans were torn and dirty.

Maggie’s Levi’s drug along the dirt pathway, kicking up dirt which the cotton collected, adding grim to spots of skin that showed through ragged openings.

Weave with Character

He wore a bright, yellow shirt.

Mary flinched, raising her hand to her eyes, as Tom walked out the elevator, his shirt as bright as the noon day sun.

Melting Mood

Brent saw Alicia walk into the café wearing a dark dress and shoes.

Alicia stopped just inside of the dimly lit Café Ramon. Brent watched her look around as he traced the top if his gin glass. Her dress was perfect for a late dinner date and one word entered his mind as he licked his lips: juicy.

Tying into Setting

The house sat on the hilltop, not a tree nearby.

Abandoned, Eldridge Manor sat on the hilltop. Richard took in a deep breath, letting the loneliness of long ago melt into him as he watched the house of his childhood.

Question for today: Up for a challenge? Try this: Take these telling sentences and turn them into GOOD descriptions by weaving them into other story elements.

The waves crashed on the beach.

Wendy ran across the street into oncoming traffic.

His shirt was bloody and torn.

The dog ran through the park.

Timothy watched the storm clouds gather.

Best Wishes,

June