March 2022 archive

Tip for Writing: The Flip Side of Writing

As a writing coach, I often share this tip with aspiring authors:

READING is the flip side of writing. Every author, teacher, or writing coach worth their salt will suggest you read widely in your genre if you want to publish—Stephen King* not least among them! We’ll repeat this tip for writers (often) because we know you’ll learn as much about structure and style from considering how your favorite authors artfully construct their stories as you will from even the most instructive books about the writing craft.

Tip for writingFurther, reading—in one’s genre or out of it—reliably restocks our pond of creativity, so that, when we go angling for new ideas and approaches, there are always plenty of fish to choose from.

Also, as poet W. H. Auden is reported to have said, “We read to learn more of what it means to be human.” And it does seem that often we are—consciously or unconsciously—seeking wisdom of some sort when we pick up a book.

This is a fabulous tip for writing and there are a gazillion or so lists of books to consider adding to your reading pile. Among them, THE NEW YORK TIMES Book Review, BookBub, and Goodreads.

A little closer to home (like, here, on this blog!) are a couple of reading lists you might want to peruse. The first, 20 (or so) Novels That Have Impacted Our Lives and Imaginations, was compiled during a very literary walk with my best pal Jill. The second, a post titled Support Black Writers, has a list of lists—Black-authored books that PBS, Penguin Random House, and HuffPost consider must-reads.

*And, as you may know, Stephen King, who reads voraciously, widely, and well, includes a list of 96 books he considers important in his ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT. You’ll find that list on Aerogramme Writers’ Studio.

Wherever you are in your reading life, keep turning those pages and don’t forget this writing tip. Reading not only fills the creative well—it fills our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our imaginations.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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Thank you to Llewellyn Worldwide for kind permission to use the image of the Nine of Pentacles card from the EVERYDAY WITCH TAROT

Story Ideas for Writers

Used to be, I’d have to hunt for great story ideas.

Sometimes, I’d dig out an idea for a story from the newspaper or a conversation I heard at Starbucks. Recently, though, I haven’t even had to get out of bed to gather inspirational goodness. That’s because a couple of bloggers have been delivering fresh literary fodder to my inbox on the regular.

Here are two such story ideas. Either could blast a humdrum story out of its complacency!

1) Inventing narratives

Hip biz guru Seth Godin wrote recently about inventing narratives. He said, That story in your head? It’s invented. It has to be. It might be based on some things that actually happened…. But it can’t possibly be a complete and detailed understanding of everything.

Seth sees this creative interpretation as problematic. That’s because Seth is not a novelist! Novelists are probably especially prone to inventing narratives—and probably particularly good at it! They might tell stories about everyday occurrences, family history, or the big issues life flings at us. What type of story ideas do you have?

For instance, a novelist could make up a story to explain the behavior of someone who snatched a parking spot from her, the reasons her parents favor her sister, or why one person got a terrifying diagnosis but she did not.

Which is actually pretty awesome! (Maybe not in real life—but in our literary lives, for sure.) That’s because it’s a short trip from misinterpreting a situation to taking misguided action on it—which, in fiction, can lead to exactly the sort of trouble needed to drive our story full speed ahead!

Got a dead spot in your plot? A place where not enough is happening? Play with this idea:

  • Your main character misunderstands another person’s motivations—believing them to be acting out of malice, when that is far from the truth!
  • Even worse, your MC takes vindictive action in response to the story she’s concocted.
  • What bad stuff comes tumbling down the hill to complicate her life as a result?
  • How the heck is she going to dig herself out of this mess?

2) Alter egos

Clever tarot writer Kate at DailyTarotGirl.com has been promoting the subversive advice of her “evil twin,” Veronica, for years. As I pondered a fresh approach to story ideas for writers complicating a story I was working on, I thought about Veronica and realized the damage an alter ego could do to a plot!

Just imagine it! What if your main character had an alter ego? A persona she allowed to say, eat, or do whatever her daily persona was constrained against? That alternative personality might be braver, stronger, or kinder than she is in her regular guise. Or that other personality might be sneaky and underhanded. Or, if you’re writing a thriller, she might even be murderous!

And that’s just a start! What kinds of literary trouble might such a character generate? The story ideas seem endless—and fascinatingly, conflict-inducing-ly, complicatedly fraught!

So, that’s it for this week. Now, go forth and blow up your plot with these or any other trouble-inducing ideas. Just light the fuse and stick your fingers in your ears. After it gets over the shock, your story will thank you for it!

Writing coach

Need help with your book or thinking about hiring a writing coach? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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Thank you to Llewellyn Worldwide for kind permission to use the image of the Moon card from the EVERYDAY WITCH TAROT

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