Just Write

First line and Write Towards What You Want To Know

Opening lines of books are so important, as you know. First lines should draw the reader in and inspire the reader to keep reading. Thanks to a book club friend who sent Colum McCann’s article to me, excerpted below. I also like his take on “write what you know.” Colum McCann: A first line should open up your rib cage. It should reach in and twist your heart backward. It should suggest that the world will never be the same again. The opening salvo should be active. It should plunge your reader into something urgent, interesting, informative. It should move your story, your poem, your play, forward. It should whisper in your reader’s ear that everything is about to change. But take it easy too. Don’t stuff the world into your first page. Achieve a balance. Let the story unfold. Think of it as a doorway. Once you get your…

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Writing Personal Essays

We aren’t born knowing how to write personal essays. So, how does one learn to write personal essays? The following is inspired from “A Few Tips for Writing Personal Essays,” by Robert Lee Brewer, March/April 2021 Writer’s Digest. Read personal essays! Then write. You will discover your style as you write. ~ Start with action. Save backstory for later in the essay. The beginning should have a compelling scene that hooks readers and makes them want to continue reading. The following is an example of “start with action.” The hook compelled me to read the entire essay. “When he walked into a San Francisco barbershop after the war, he was told by the owner, ‘We don’t serve Japs here.’ The owner of the barbershop obviously didn’t know who the one-armed Japanese-American was – his name was Daniel Inouye. And, according to one website that honors heroes, he was one tough…

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Real Names in Memoir?

When writing memoir, the question often comes up, should you use real names? There are no cookie-cutter answers. No one-size-fits-all. In “Between Two Kingdoms” Suleika Jaouad handled the situation by stating in the front of the book, “To preserve the anonymity of certain individuals, I modified identifying details and changed the following names, listed in alphabetical order: Dennis, Estelle, Jake, Joanie, Karen, Sean, and Will.” Tara Westover, author of “Educated,” changed the first name of her parents and siblings. Phuc Tran, author of “Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In” decided to keep “the real names of all adults and changed the names of minors not related to him and adult names he forgot. He said his ‘tenuous’ relationship with his parents meant he didn’t care about their opinions and made his book easier to write, noting, ‘I wrote without worrying…

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Scene Checklist

Every scene should be told through a character’s point of view. You can have more than one pov character in a book, (but no more than you need). One reason for this type of focusing is so that we feel the character struggle with a scene goal. The struggle takes place through action and dialogue with little internalization/exposition. A scene is a dramatic unit that includes scene goal, conflict (through action and dialogue) and resolution. What does your protagonist want in the story? This is the external plot. The external plot could be as simple as: Will Jane find the killer?? It is not something like: Will Jane find true happiness? This is internal conflict and may even be a subplot. What does your pov character want in this scene (scene goal)? Without a clear scene goal, you will not have a scene; you will have an event. What’s at…

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Transport readers

“Your main job as a writer is to transport the reader to a fictional world, as in a dream. ” — “The Geyser Approach to Revision,” James Scott Bell, July/August 2011 Writer’s Digest Magazine You probably know this, but perhaps you’re stuck with knowing how to achieve that. A big part is the revision process. The following steps for revision are based on the Writer’s Digest article. Write Hot. Revise cool. Wait two weeks after writing to begin the revision process. Then, read fast as if you were a first-time reader. Take notes about what needs fixing. Capture original emotions you felt when writing. Listen to music that evokes the mood of your story. “Music reaches a part of your mind that you usually have inactive when analyzing. Wake it up and put it to work with tunes.” Create a collage to capture a visual representation of your work to…

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Telling Your Truth

“Telling your truths—the difficult ones and the joyful ones and all the ones between—is a big part of what makes for good writing. It is also what brings you pleasure in the process of writing. Most people who create and tend a garden don’t spend time on their knees pulling weeds just for the perfect end result—the gorgeous display of flowers that others will exclaim over. They pore over gardening books, order bulbs, water a sickly shrub, arrange the flagstones to make a pleasing path, all because they enjoy the doing of it. So, too, it should be with your writing. You want to see your writing grow, to find your daily work absorbing, to discover you can do better on the page than you could three years ago. None of this will happen if you shy away from the truth. The rewards that you seek are the rewards that…

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Strategies For Stress Reduction

By now, many of us know the drill to stay safe during the 2020 pandemic: Wash hands, wear a mask, and social distancing. But what about our mind, body, and spirit? “My lab’s study found the best recipe for dealing with everyday stressors is to try to simultaneously plan ahead about what you can control and stay in the moment mindfully.” —Shevan D. Neupert, Ph.D, “How to Soothe Your Soul,” August 2020 Consumer Reports The activities listed to soothe your soul in this article are the same as the restorative activities in the resource section of The Write Spot: Writing as a Path to Healing. ~ Prepare and plan. “Tasks that distract you now but also benefit you in the future are wonderful.” — Joyce A. Corsica, Ph.D, “How to Soothe Your Soul,” August 2020 Consumer Reports If you are working on a writing project, plan for the result. If…

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Writing Advice

I’m going through old writing magazines and finding gems, like this one, “Top Five Fiction Mistakes.” — by Moira Allen, The Writer, September 2002. “Ask most fiction editors how to avoid rejection, and you’ll hear the same thing: Read the guidelines. Review the publication. Don’t send a science fiction story to a literary magazine. Don’t send a 10,000-word manuscript to a magazine that never publishes anything longer than 5,000 words. Spell-check. Proofread. Check your grammar.” “The one piece of advice nearly every editor had to offer was: Read, read, read. Read widely. Read the authors who have won awards in your genre to find out what has already been done, so that you don’t end up offering old, trite plots without even realizing it. Then, ‘Write!’ says Max Keele of Fiction Inferno. And keep writing. And write some more. When you’re finished, ‘’Let the story sit for a few days…

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Memoirs As Textbooks

Use a published memoir as a textbook to write your memoir. Read the memoir. Read it again to examine structure. Notice where author used narration vs. dialogue to tell the story. Notice the balance between fast-paced action scenes and slower, contemplative scenes. Note when and how backstory is used. Let’s use Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt as our textbook. McCourt’s ability to write as if experiencing events as they unfold, pacing, and his strong writing voice made Angela’s Ashes a New York Times beloved best seller. Angela’s Ashes takes the reader on an emotional journey. There is so much vulnerability in this book. McCourt reaches into our compassionate hearts as he tells his story, moving from childhood to adulthood. He weaves details into a story, similar to the Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. McCourt taps into universal messages and themes. Understanding your theme will help to write your memoir. Possible…