Saturday, September 20, 2014

Writer's Construction Zone: Part 3

Oregon coast (Camp)
After the day's writing is complete, most writers have some discretionary time. Without a plan of some sort, many of us will vacillate between what we want to do and what might be the next best step. 

For example, I'd rather do research for my current work in progress (WIP), than critique someone else's rough draft. But one of my goals is to be a part of a larger writing community. So, I put that reader/editor hat on and start reading.

Especially when writers spend full-time at another job, we can be overwhelmed in choosing what we really do need to work on next. With so many choices ahead, why not begin with an assessment of your writing and storytelling skills?

Writing skills:  Take a moment to assess which of the following you are particularly good at. What writing skills would you like to improve? 

  • Planning to sketch out ideas (from simple to elaborate)?
  • Outlining to more formally map out what you wish to write?
  • Drafting to get those words down on paper reasonably efficiently?
  • Revising of content and structure?
  • Editing for exact expression at the paragraph, sentence, and word levels?
  • Copy editing for grammar, punctuation, and spelling?
  • Word processing skills that support all the above?

Storytelling skills? Imagine you are a kid, sitting around a campfire. The grandfather spins a tale, and everyone leans closer. How does he do it? The audience is riveted to his next words, his hand pointing to the stars, and the exciting conclusion that makes it hard to go to sleep in the tent with the firelight flickering low and the rumble of adults still talking. Are you comfortable with these storytelling skills:

  • Fully-developed and empathetic characters that involve the audience? 
  • A consistent point of view that keeps your audience engaged?
  • A setting that brings the story to life?
  • Rising and falling conflict? 
  • Pacing appropriate for the genre and style of your story?
  • A story arc that reaches a satisfying conclusion and resonates with your theme? 

When we can identify more precisely what we want to work on next, we can then find resources to help us -- whether through an article in a writer's magazine, a creative writing class, participating in a online writing community, or simply reading/studying a book.

For example, to work on that slippery skill of matching your characters to an appropriate point of view, I can recommend Orson Scott Card's classic Characters & Viewpoint, an Elements of Fiction Writing put out by Writers Digest (2011).

Next Saturday, I'll be sharing some thoughts on building that professional development plan. 

Meanwhile, may your writing go well!

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