Chrysalis: Emerging Women Writers

January 19, 2010

The Tao of Creativity

I posted this on my personal blog about two weeks ago and had such great feedback from other writers that I thought I’d share it with the Chrysalis crowd.

From The Tao of Webfoot, January 7, 2010

As I peruse blogs and read other people’s books, I struggle daily with a list of shoulds. I should strike every “was” and adverb from my prose. I should add a bunch of controversial subject matter to my stories. I should enter every writing contest that I can. I should build a huge web presence. I should come up with some brilliant ploy to drive rush-hour volume traffic to my blog.

Or should I? Let’s face it—my voice wants to come out more conversational than literary. Edginess is not something that feels natural to my stories, and I don’t think my target audience would like it. I’m not a contest person; words don’t immediately drip from my fingers. In fact, for me, initial ideas are the hardest part of being creative. I am not a daily blogger. Marketing doesn’t come as naturally to me as breathing, the way it does for Shelli Johannes-Wells, and I haven’t been blindsided by any genius inspirations, like Casey McCormick’s Agent Spotlight.

I don’t think I can change these things. Not easily. And the fact is, I shouldn’t. While the writing process takes dedication and hard work, it should also be organic to who you are. If you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing, the creativity will flow. The work won’t seem like work, because your passion and talent will carry you. All these people who I envy and admire aren’t finding their success because they’re trying to be something they’re not. They’re finding it because they’re following their true nature.

The philosophy of Taoism has a name for this: Wei wu wei, “doing without doing”. If you can’t wrap your mind around that, think of water, which is soft and weak, yet can wear away stone. A second concept goes hand in hand with this: P’u, the Uncarved Block. P’u, is a person’s natural state, their innate self, free of prejudices and misconceptions. The idea is that things are most perfect in this state. When you put these concepts together you come up with the following philosophy: By being true to ourselves, rather than striving to be something we’re not, things will come with less effort, and we will be happier.

The uncarved block

A lot of envy and self-doubt comes with writing. Not just for the un-published crowd, but for established, award-winning authors. These feelings are a fallacy. A time sink that robs our creativity and distracts us from our work.  We all have our unique strengths, and that’s how it should be. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted from your path by the glitter of someone else’s gifts. Your own are just as dazzling.

January 12, 2010

The First Step of a Novel: Get ‘Er Down

Filed under: Technique,Uncategorized,Writing — Barb @ 11:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

Welcome to the new writers who have joined our group.

A frequent question that has come up is: How should I start writing a novel? We’ll answer that question, but first, raise your hand and repeat after me:

My basic goal is to get the story down on paper.

Now for the different approaches:

Let ‘er Rip:

Sit down, tell the editor in your brain to shut up and write. Now is not the time to fuss over the intro hook, a cliff hanger for every scene, and punctuation. Simply tell your story. Yes, it probably isn’t Pulitzer worthy. Then edit it.  Go through it a couple of times, at least. You’ll find the beginning is usually weaker than the ending because you’ve become a better writer by the time you reached the end.  Edit the beginning several times.

You’ll want to make it the best you can before bringing it to critique. Why would you want folks to tell you things you already know how to do? Use the critique time to gain new insights and info into technique.

Let ‘er Flow(chart)

A story proceeds across my wall in sticky notes.  Different characters’ storylines are in colors, while the main story flows down the center. So, I know the plot, character development, and pacing before I start.  I also know how it begins, ends and where the turning point falls in between. Armed with this information, I’ll follow the Let-er-Rip technique and get the story on paper.  Miss editor-in-my-mind will come by later and make snarky comments.

Let ‘er Be Plotted

This includes not only a visual chart of the characters’ development and story events, but notecards.

*Character notecards (color coded) Contain description, fears, relationships, history, family, nicknames, etc.

*Chapter notecards: Goals for each chapter, Action within chapter; notes about foreshadowing;

YOu may even break chapters into scene notecards.

*Pacing Chart. The action of each chapter or scene can be graphed to give you  visual evidence that your story is not flat-lining.

This technique requires a lot more prep, but the benefit is that you’ll have developed your characters so throughly and the story so deeply that writing will go much more quickly (and usually the editing will too.)

When I first started, I just wanted to write. Phooey on all that planning stuff. There are some very accomplished writers who use this technique successfully.  For me, I  ended up editing the manuscript at least 15 times.  It could probably STILL use some work.

That’s okay. I’ve accomplished my basic goal. Little steps.

Get ‘er Down on Paper.

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