The Artist’s Way Revisited

For you writers who have not gone through an Artist’s Way course…why haven’t you? Perhaps you’ve heard of the benefits of Morning Pages or the Artist’s Date? Those come from this course.

THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron is a must-read-must-do book for all writers, artists, composers, and other creators (but especially for writers). It is a twelve-week course, with each week’s chapter starting with the word “Recovering.”

I’d heard mummers of it in the writing community when it first came out. A friend took it as a college course. I went through it in an on-line group (with strangers). Now, several years later, I’m going through it again on my own. I appreciate going through THE ARTIST’S WAY as a course or on-line group because then you can whine and complain about how you can’t do some of the things or how hard they are, as well as sharing the joys of recovering your creativity. I like going through the book alone now because I can jump around the chapters or select only some of the activities, plus I have no time factor of when assignments must be done.

In each chapter there are tasks or activities to do. For instance, in week seven you are supposed to make a Jealousy Map. Who in their right mind wants to think about negatives things like jealousy? Well, by doing this exercise (one of several in this chapter), you begin to rethink things. You are to list the who (you are jealous of), why, and one action to move out of jealousy. For one of the examples Cameron gives:  Who (my sister Libby); Why (she has a real art studio); Action Antidote (fix the spare room). An example from me: Who (Stephen King); Why (he writes half the day then takes l-o-n-g walks in the afternoons); My action antidote (write 30 minutes each day and take a 30 minute walk each day, with hopes of increasing those times). With baby steps you can move forward, plus get rid of the negative (jealous) feelings in order to move on to your own creativity.

So if you feel in the middle of winter blues and need a creative perk to get you out of your glum-chum mood, or are simply curious about a way to increase your creativity, I recommend THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron.

Commercial over, but I encourage you to renew your creativity. Learn. Think. Grow. Write.

Summarizing — Writing Queries and Beginnings

Literature Blogs
Last week, our critique group continued our story beginnings workshop, based on Les Edgerton’s book HOOKED.

The best thing about doing this workshop was to take the time to think about summarizing into a sentence or three. What is the (whole) story about? How is that story introduced in the first scene or book beginning? We identified the inciting incident, the surface problem, and the story-worthy problem in several published books as well as our own novels. We also picked one novel and identified these elements of a good beginning separately and then compared our notes. All week was a great exercise. Undisciplined as I am, I wouldn’t have done this on my own, not without being “forced” to, by doing it as a group. (It’s all about ccountability. Yay, critique groups and writing friends!)

An added benefit of this past week was to expand my thinking and realize that summarizing a novel beginning naturally led into the formation of other summaries, like a good query or pitch. In order for an editor or agent to read further or ask for more, one needs a good query, a good pitch, a good hook, AND a good storyline. As a result, I ended up redoing a couple query-pitches. It was a good week. It also got me thinking about those all-important first lines!

Whoever said writing was easy never has written, really written.

Now, on to sub and to write. Hoping the same for you.

March 5 Story Beginnings — A Challenge

Literature Blogs

Periodically, my critique group and I do workshops together. We choose a book. We read it. Or one in our midst is knowledgable in one area, she will lead the workshop. We discuss the topic. We give each other assignments. We apply it to our own mss.

This week we are taking a break from our submissions schedule to continue our discussion on story beginnings from last month. We each read the book HOOKED: WRITE FICTION THAT GRABS READERS AT PAGE ONE AND NEVER LETS THEM GO, by Les Edgerton.

His idea is to make sure in the first scene that there is an Inciting Incident (something which upsets the MC’s norm), along with a Surface Problem (a bad situation for your MC), and a Story-Worthy Problem (a goal which changes the MC’s world).

So our challenge this week, and I offer the same to you, is to:
1) finish reading the book, HOOKED;
2) find example beginnings from published books, naming the Inciting Incident, the Surface Problem, and the Story-Worthy Problem; and
3) do the same as #2, but with our own novels.

Keep on growing in your craft!

4 Agents and Michigan Sisters in Crime

Literature Blogs

Admittedly, the past two weeks were overwhelming with writing activities — that is, attending writing activities, not writing writing activities. It started with Miss Snark’s Secret Agent contest on Monday (I got my first 250 pages in for critiques — very helpful). Monday night WriteOnCon held a chat with three agents (interesting to discover their likes and visions for the future). I planned to get a post in on both those events, but sadly, like jokes, the timing is now past.

And then last Saturday, local writer Suzanne, hosted our first Sisters in Crime Michigan chapter (not counting the organizational one) with Bill Howe, a retired crime lab supervisor with the police department and currently the investigator for the county prosecutor’s office. I am not normally a mystery or crime writer, but, hey, these were local writers willing to get together right here in my home town, some coming from two hour’s away.  And learning new things is always interesting to me, especially if I can use some of the facts I glean to put into my fictional characters.

Bill’s presentation dealt with interviews and interrogation skills. Interviews are made with anyone involved, but interrogations are reserved for suspects. Bill addressed the importance of non-verbal communication, and that as one policeperson interviews the suspect, two others are watching the nonverbals. For instance, self-grooming or stalling to give answers (repeating the questions) are signs of deception. Bill explained how the eye direction of a right-handed person (v.s. left-handed) indicated truth or fiction. Interestingly enough, I learned that police are allowed to use trickery during the investigation. Sometimes the interrogator also uses sympathy, relating to the person and why they may have done such a crime.  Bill never felt good about doing this. In fact, it made him feel dirty. But if it got a confession by giving the suspect a way to save face (Bill: I can understand why you would ***. I feel like that all the time.”), it is a good interrogation technique.

The time with Bill passed in the blink of an eye. (Oh, no. Was I looking up and to the right, or down and to the left when I said that?) Will I ever use this information with my own writing? I don’t know. But now that I have it, watch out. I’ll be watching. Are you telling a truth or a lie? (Hee-hee-hee.)

Voice Workshop – Post #3 – Exercises

 Literature Blogs

Continuing with our online critique group’s Voice Workshop. Our workshop teacher, Rose Green, had us do some voice recognition and experimenting exercises. 

Exercise #1, part a: Find a passage in a published book with a good example of voice.

I was terrified of this exercise. Even after reading the assigned articles, what did I know of voice? It’s the very reason I so needed this workshop. I simply couldn’t wrap my brain around what voice was. When I was a kid, if I didn’t know how to spell a word, teachers told me to look it up in the dictionary. I don’t care how big the dictionary, I could never find the word psychology in the “S” section. Finding voice was the same. And then – kapowie – it stuck me. The published author who came to mind has a voice which is the voiciest voice I know: Barbara Parks in her Junie B. Jones series. The passage I chose was from Junie B. Jones is (Almost) a Flower Girl, p. 19.

The next day at recess, I sang the pretty bride song.

I sang it to my bestest friends named Lucille and that Grace.

“HERE COMES THE BRIDE… ALL DRESSED AND WIDE… HER NAME IS CLYDE, AND SHE READS TV GUIDE.”

That Grace looked admiring at me.

“Wow. I never even knew that song had words,” she said.

***** 

Exercise #1, part b: Embland the passage.

What a cool-cool word. I like to roll it around in my mouth. Embland. Embland. What it means is to take out the voice, to make it bland. So here was my attempt:

The next day at recess, I sang the bride song to my friends, Lucille and Grace.

“Here comes the bride. All dressed in white. Her name is Clyde and she reads TV guide.”
Grace smiled and said, “Nice.”

 

What I learned from doing this exercise: 1) I CAN recognize voice; 2) I don’t follow directions very well – I added my own voice with the last word of the emblanding exercise; 3) taking voice out of the passage certainly made the words sound dull; and 4) Dag-nab-it! Why did the emblanded passage have to sound an awfully lot like I write.

*****

Exercise #2  Pick a passage from your own writing and instead of emblanding it, give it more voice.

For everyone in our group, this was much more difficult than doing it with someone else’s writing.  To me, it ended up being more noticing when I told and didn’t show and putting things into my main character’s mind. I found with mine and with some of the others, that it is easiest to do this voice when using dialoge. But friend Jaclyn shot that down with what she did with her own passage. Jaclyn’s changed passage was still in narration, however, in her voicier passage I felt that it read like first person v.s. third.

From Jaclyn’s writing:

ORIGINAL:
Mr. Gormelly, Shasta’s homeroom teacher, was talking to a boy that Shasta did
not know when she entered and made her way to her usual seat.  He gestured toward a
desk at the back of the second row and the boy nodded.  As the students filed into
homeroom, Mr. Gormelly made the announcement.
 
 “Class, settle down and take your seats, please.  We have a new student with us
and I’d like to introduce him before first period begins.”
 
 As Shasta slid in behind her desk, she tried to size up the new boy.  He wasn’t
completely hot but he wasn’t bad, either.  There was something uneasy about him,
though.  Shasta thought it could be the dark look in his eyes; almost like that of a
criminal.  She had to smirk at her own imagination sometimes.
 
RE-VOICED VERSION:
Shasta frowned as she made her way to her usual seat.  Who was that boy talking
to Mr. Gormelly?  She watched the boy glance toward the second row and nod. 
Still fixated on the new boy, Shasta could briefly hear Mr. Gormelly’s voice in the
background, but only caught the words “new student”.
 
Her curiousity still not satisfied, Shasta popped open the flap of her white backpack style
purse and pretended to check out her bangs.  She waited for the boy to sit, so she could get
a better look at his face.  Something about his dark brooding eyes made her think
of the book they’d been reading in English, The Outsiders, and she wondered if
he’d been in a gang in his old school.  Closing the flap on her bag, she tried to settle into
the routine of another boring class, but her imagination continued to remain fixated on
the new kid.