In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to Get Writing -- and Keep It Going

I'm headed to a local high school today, to listen to readers of THE SECRET ROOM and to coach them -- teens and adults alike -- on how to get and keep a novel rolling. Here's the outline I'm working from:

The Writer’s Workshop: How The Secret Room Was Written,
and How to Start Exploring Your Own Stories

Beth’s Braid Method:
  1. A section of history that is changing in a controversial way (justice!!).
  2. A situation in Vermont that won’t resolve easily.
  3. A character who starts “speaking” to me.

Other Braids:
  1. A wish.                        1. A stranger.                        1. A journey ahead.
  2. A problem.                        2. A discovery.            2. A values collision.
  3. A friendship.                        3. A life change.            3. A sacrifice worth making.

A Toolbox
(a) Situations, places, newspaper articles, letters, poems, special words.
(b) Sensory triggers: candles, leaves, flowers, feathers, music, bells, tea, chocolate.
(c) Memory board: children, babies, pets, trees, roads, houses, postcards.

A Place to Dream and Draw
Notebooks: Adding color, size, organization.
Wall boards: brown paper, “white boards,” doors.
Computers: Files of images, words, outlines, messages. Sort and label!!

Keeping on Track
Goals and timelines.
Friends and mentors.
Rewards versus incentives.
Feeding the Curiosity Cat.

Writer’s Block, Revision, and Other Flashlight Moments
Picture the reader: What change or conviction or amazement or horror do you picture in your reader? How can you evoke this, more effectively? Often this kind of revision calls for structure changes: pacing through paragraph and sentence length, word choices, point of view. Try rewriting one paragraph in a different voice – “I” instead of “she” or vice versa. Past instead of present, or vice versa. Short sentences or long one … experiment, make smoke.

Cut to the heart of things: Ask, “What is this story ABOUT? How can it be more intensely about that?”  This might call for “poetic revision” or for cutting away “the trimmings.” Circle the best parts, mark the compelling areas. Try using only the best parts.

Hansel and Gretel”: What matters in this story? Why is each part in place? What parts are missing?

Have fun!! Read aloud. Picture a Haiku. Look for “growth buds.” Form a tree. Draw a landscape. Add color to your page. Change the music in your room or your mind. Visualize a flame. Fear and faith. Make a distance between “you” and your character. Close the distance between you and your character. Be a rude child – point fingers, ask why.

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