advice, Amanda Patterson, Central Michigan University, characters, creativity tips, David Mack, Donald Maass quote, In the Novel Trenches, Martina Boone, Mia Botha, Neil Gaiman quote, Writers Write, writing, writing community, writing resolutions
In the entry earlier today, I was going to talk about creativity tips and the writing process, but like some of you may have seen, I got caught up in talking about my own experience. It’s fun to share moments like that with friends and strangers alike, because it’s true what they say: Writing is a lonely business. I have writer friends, of course, but whenever I’m in the metro-Detroit area for longer periods of time, it’s harder to be actively part of any writing community, let alone the one I’ve found at Central Michigan University.
Writers don’t find time to write, they make time to write
Frankly, I consider myself a rookie – it doesn’t matter how many trees I’ve killed in the name of literature – so whenever I can get advice or suggestions, I jump at it. The bold line up there () is something I try telling myself every single day, because God knows there is always something to do, something that is “technically more important.” Towards New Year’s, I read a blog post titled “Be Realistic About Your Writing Resolutions,” which gave me an idea how to stick to some of mine, such as writing on a daily basis, and finishing my novel.
- Make time to write every day. Remove distractions. Eliminate internet access. Tell everyone you do not want to be disturbed.
- Give yourself a realistic daily word count. It could be 200 words or 2000 words – whatever works for you.
Another thing I tell myself, (and it’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way), is that writing can’t be about money. It can’t be about your chances of getting published. Those things are definitely nice, but if that’s your concern, you won’t finish anything. Those thoughts will eventually create self-doubt. I decided to stop worrying despite the fact that my novel doesn’t really fit neatly in a genre; it has a bit of mystery and it has a bit of magic realism. Will that sell? I don’t know, but I’m going to run with it and hope people like it.
The second creativity tip I’d like to mention is how to show not tell. Most of you have probably heard this thousands of times (I have), but you may not have gotten good guidelines on how to learn that trick. In my case, it has been a lot of trial-and-error and years of practicing. Fortunately, I found these advises not too long ago that might help you guys.
- Choose a viewpoint character: It is easier if you are experiencing the scene as one character. You can even try writing a scene in first person if this is hard for you. Use it as practice. You can change the viewpoint later if needed.
- Use the senses: Write a list of what your character sees, hears, feels, touches and tastes. Then write about it without using the words see, hear, feel, touch and taste.
- Be specific: The more specific you are with your descriptions and actions the easier it will become to show.
- Avoid these ‘telling’words: is, are, was, were, have, had. (more telling words to avoid)
- Dialogue: This is one of the simplest tools to use. The moment your characters start talking, showing becomes easier.
As authors we like our protagonists. We are tempted to protect them from trouble. That temptation must be resisted. ~Donald Maass
There are two essential things that need to be brought up as you write, specially in character-driven plots: 1) the protagonist has to step or be forced out of their comfort zone, and face a challenge, and 2) they must experience a change or character growth. If you don’t have the first, you don’t have much of a story. If you don’t have the latter, what’s the point of your story? In reality, whenever we experience something, we take something away from it, even if we don’t realize it. The change can be subtle, temporary or permanent.
Keep your eye out for my Story Time post tomorrow. I will talk about Iris West from “The Flash” on CW Network and evaluate her as a character. Spoiler: As a writer and a woman, I’m not entirely happy with this chick.