Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Troop vs. Troupe

Another pair of words that often cause confusion among many of us is troop and troupe. While these two terms have different spellings, they share… Continue reading
from English Grammar https://www.englishgrammar.org/troop-vs-troupe/

2018 April PAD Challenge: Day 25

For today’s prompt, pick an intriguing and/or seldom-used word, make it the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. If you have a limited vocabulary, try out brabble, dandle, feracious, impavid, lippitude, or vulgus. Or pick up a dictionary or thesaurus.

*****

Re-create Your Poetry!

Revision doesn’t have to be a chore–something that should be done after the excitement of composing the first draft. Rather, it’s an extension of the creation process!

In the 48-minute tutorial video Re-creating Poetry: How to Revise Poems, poets will be inspired with several ways to re-create their poems with the help of seven revision filters that they can turn to again and again.

Click to continue.

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Here’s my attempt at an Interesting Word Poem:

“reboation”

hear me howl & yelp
into the darkness
over this moment
receiving your kiss
with the lonely moon
our only witness

*****

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He took the word for his example poem and the example words above all from the book: The Gilded Tongue, by Rod L. Evans, Ph. D.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

*****

Find more poetic posts here:

The post 2018 April PAD Challenge: Day 25 appeared first on WritersDigest.com.


from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2018-april-pad-challenge-day-25

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The 3 Questions That Will Solve Every “Plot Problem” You’ll Ever Have

The following excerpt is from Steven James’ book Story Trumps Structure. Prior to the 2018 Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, Steven will present a special hands-on workshop that helps writers dig into the concepts he presents in his book. Don’t miss this exciting special event.


Whether you’re an outliner or an organic writer, the solution to almost every plot problem can be found by answering three simple questions.

Initially, most authors land somewhere on the continuum between outlining and organic writing. If you try to fit your story into a predetermined number of acts or a novel template, you’re more of an outliner.

If you don’t care how many acts your story has as long as you let your characters struggle through the escalating tension of your story in a believable way, you’re more organic.

Both organic writing and outlining have their inherent strengths and weaknesses. (Yes, even organic writing can, in some cases, lead you astray if you don’t let all three questions listed on the next page guide your writing.) Outliners often have great high-concept climax ideas. Th eir stories might escalate exponentially and build to unforgettable endings. However, characters will sometimes act in inexplicable ways on their journey toward the climax. You’ll find gaps in logic. People will do things that don’t really make sense but that are necessary to reach the climax the writer has decided to build toward.

Organic writers are usually pretty good at craft ing stories that flow well. The events are believable and make sense. However, sometimes the narratives can wander, and although the stories are believable, they might also end up being anticlimactic as they just fizzle out and don’t really go anywhere.

So outlining often results in problems with continuity and causality, while organic writers often stumble in the areas of focus and escalation.

Outliners tend to have cause-effect problems because they know where they need to go but don’t know how to get there. Organic writers tend to have directionality problems because they don’t necessarily know where they’re going, but things follow logically even if they lead into a dead end.

… [W]hichever approach you’ve been using, you can build on its strengths and solve its weaknesses by asking the following three questions and letting the answers influence the direction of your story.

1. “What would this character naturally do in this situation?”

This focuses on the story’s believability and causality—everything that happens in a novel needs to be believable even if it’s impossible, and because of the contingent nature of fiction, everything needs to follow causally from what precedes it.

2. “How can I make things worse?”

This dials us in to the story’s escalation. Readers always want the tension to tighten. If the
story doesn’t build, it’ll become boring and they’ll put it aside.

3. “How can I end this in a way that’s unexpected and inevitable?”

Here we’re shaping the scenes, and the story as a whole, around satisfaction and surprise. So the story has to move logically, one step at a time, in a direction readers can track—but then angle away from it as they realize that this new direction is the one the story was heading in all along. However, readers don’t want that ending to come out of nowhere. It needs to be natural and inherent to the story.

The first question will improve your story’s believability. The second will keep it escalating toward an unforgettable climax. The third will help you build your story, scene by twisting, turning scene.

Organic writers are good at asking that first question; outliners are good at asking the second one. As far as the third, organic writers will tend to have believable endings and outliners will tend to have unpredictable ones.

The way you approach writing will determine which of those questions you most naturally ask and which ones you need to learn to ask in order to shape effective stories. …

DIVE INTO THE QUESTIONS

I should mention that, in regard to the first of the three key questions listed above, some writing instructors teach that we should ask ourselves “If I were this character in this situation, what would I do?” rather than “What would this character naturally do in this situation?”

There’s a subtle but significant difference. One of these questions puts you in the scene, and the other emphasizes the character’s response.

Rewriting the 7 Rules of Dialogue

It’s important that you move yourself out of the story and let the characters you’ve created take over. I don’t want to imagine myself as the character. I want to observe the character responding as she would, not as I would if I were her. Step further away from yourself, and remove your own views as much as possible from the situation.

Incidentally, the first two questions also help authors who strive to write books that are either character-centered or plot-centered (remember, however, that no story is character-driven or plot-driven because all stories are tension-driven).

The first question helps plot-centered authors develop deeper characterizations. The second question helps character-centered authors develop plots that are more gripping.

The central struggles of the main character (internal, external, and interpersonal) will only be ultimately satisfied at the story’s climax. As we write the scene-by-scene lead-up, we are constantly deepening and tightening the tension in those three areas.

Some climaxes implode because they lack believability, others because they don’t make sense or they’re too predictable, others because they don’t contain escalation of everything else in the story and end up being disappointing.

Let me reiterate: The solution to most of these problems is keeping the promises you’ve made to your readers by maintaining believability, creating endings that are inevitable and yet unexpected, tightening the tension, ratcheting up the action, relentlessly building up the suspense, heightening the stakes, and escalating to a finish that reaches its pinnacle at just the right moment for the protagonist and for your readers.

Let those three questions filter through every scene you write.

  1. “What would this character naturally do in this situation?”
  2. “How can I make things worse?”
  3. “How can I end this in a way that’s unexpected and inevitable?”

If you’re attentive to them, they’ll crack open the nut of the tale for you.

Learn more in a special in-person workshop with Steven James:

This exclusive pre-conference event kicks off the 2018 Writer’s Digest Annual Conference weekend, when more than 1,000 writers will gather in New York City—August 10 –12—to learn, network, and move closer to their publication day.

If you’re serious about your writing career, Story Trumps Structure will cover the things working writers need to know to tighten their manuscript and keep those readers turning pages: the essence of the story, writing yourself out of corners, the secrets to organic writing, and the plot twists your readers won’t see coming.

The post The 3 Questions That Will Solve Every “Plot Problem” You’ll Ever Have appeared first on WritersDigest.com.


from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/questions-and-quandaries/writing-advice/story-trumps-structure-plot-problems

Intermediate Vocabulary Exercise

Fill in the blanks with an appropriate word or phrase. Answers 1. It is very difficult to give objective criticism. 2. Paying taxes is obligatory.… Continue reading
from English Grammar https://www.englishgrammar.org/intermediate-vocabulary-exercise/

2018 April PAD Challenge: Day 24

Closing in on the finish line of another April Poem-A-Day Challenge, so today I’m upping the stakes for anyone who wants an extra challenge!

For today’s Two-for-Tuesday prompt:

  1. Write a roundelay. Guidelines here. Or…
  2. Write an anti-form poem.

*****

Re-create Your Poetry!

Revision doesn’t have to be a chore–something that should be done after the excitement of composing the first draft. Rather, it’s an extension of the creation process!

In the 48-minute tutorial video Re-creating Poetry: How to Revise Poems, poets will be inspired with several ways to re-create their poems with the help of seven revision filters that they can turn to again and again.

Click to continue.

*****

Here’s my attempt at a Roundelay:

“two wrongs to write”

because my faith in you is true
& i’m a moth drawn to your light
i’ll do what the others won’t do
& i’ll sing love instead of fight
after all the love i’ve been through
i know two wrongs don’t make a right

i’ll do what the others won’t do
& i’ll sing love instead of fight
though it might not make sense to you
it’s what helps me get through the night
after all the love i’ve been through
i know two wrongs don’t make a right

though it might not make sense to you
it’s what helps me get through the night
singing for the ekphrastic few
who understand the words i write
after all the love i’ve been through
i know two wrongs don’t make a right

singing for the ekphrastic few
who understand the words i write
i confess that you are the glue
that holds me to this place so tight
after all the love i’ve been through
i know two wrongs don’t make a right

*****

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He can’t believe there won’t be any more two-for-Tuesday prompts until November.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

*****

Find more poetic posts here:

The post 2018 April PAD Challenge: Day 24 appeared first on WritersDigest.com.


from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2018-april-pad-challenge-day-24

Cue vs. Queue

The words cue and queue sound alike but have different spellings and meanings. They are what we call homophones. To avoid being confused, we will… Continue reading
from English Grammar https://www.englishgrammar.org/cue-vs-queue/

Monday, April 23, 2018

Leveling Up as a Writer with Peer Critique


One of my favorite things about writing is that it’s a craft as well as an art. As writers, we can continue improving our basic skill set. In the days of modern publishing, it’s one of the few aspects of our career that we can control. Setting aside time to write. Putting in the effort. Trying new things.

However, having spent around 10 years in this writing game, I can tell you that not all practice makes perfect. A writer who works in isolation will not improve significantly over time. Leveling up requires stepping outside of your comfort zone. Today, I’m going to discuss how to do that via peer critique of your work.

I’ve been an avid reader since childhood, but didn’t seriously consider writing until my late twenties. I finally bit the bullet by signing up for an “Introduction to Fiction Writing” night class. At the time, I’d been blogging for a few years and had authored a number of nonfiction articles. I figured that adapting those skills to fiction would be easy.

Nope. I was pretty bad at it. That became clear after I wrote my first story and submitted it to be workshopped by the class. My classmates were kind about it, but their feedback showed me that I had a long way to go.

Writer’s Workshop: A Format for Group Critique

In case you haven’t participated in a writer’s workshop, this is how it usually works: When it’s your turn to get a critique, you give a copy of your story to everyone else in the group. They read it before the next meeting. When the group meets, they have a discussion about the story including what they liked, what they didn’t understand, and what might need to be improved. During this time, the author listens but does not respond. After everyone has had a turn to talk, the author thanks them for their critique and may (briefly) respond to the comments.

One nice feature of this format is that it fosters an interactive discussion among those giving critique, without the possibility of the author jumping in to make it confrontational. Another advantage of group critique is that it provides several unique perspectives on the same story. Some of them might focus on the character development, others on plot, and still others on dialogue or setting.

Writing a Trilogy: Essential Tips for Crafting a Three-Part Series

As you get to know the other members of the group, you’ll begin to recognize the things they want from a story. For example, one of my classmates had some script (television) writing experience, so he always liked to see a plot twist. Another student paid the most attention to vivid sensory detail. It made me think about putting these things into any story I would submit for critique. Through that class and another one I took the next semester, I got better at writing. So did the other students, which was a joy to see. The peer critique played a vital part in that. If you can take a writing class or join a critique group, you’re bound to level up as a writer.

One consistent piece of feedback I received about my submissions was that they felt like part of a larger story. I took this to mean that I should try writing novel-length work. It would give me the space to develop a fantasy world and tell more intricate stories. The problem was that a novel is too long to submit to a writer’s workshop. To get feedback, for something that long, I’d have to find another way.

Critique Partners for Longer Works

Fast forward a few years, and I’d written a few different novels. The third of these was about a Las Vegas magician who goes on a quest into a secret medieval world where magic is real. I’d sent out some queries and managed to land an agent. We worked on some revisions, and then the manuscript went out to some editors. Unfortunately, they turned it down, and said that the book still needed some work. My agent suggested that I either hire a freelance editor or find some hard-nosed critique partners to help improve the manuscript.

So I asked a few writer friends of mine (including one from that fiction class) if they’d read my work and provide detailed critiques. They generously agreed, and over the next couple of months, I used their feedback to overhaul my work. In return, I offered to return the favor—to read a manuscript of theirs and provide a critique. After I did so, they critiqued another manuscript of mine, and so it went.

Critique partnerships are essential for novelists, especially those who haven’t broken in. The truth is that most writers are too close to their work to see all of its flaws. A critique partner’s job is to provide constructive criticism of the entire manuscript. This is usually accomplished via e-mail, though it can also be done by phone or even in person.

Because a novel is a longer work, the critique is necessarily longer, too. Most of my critique partners and I exchange two items: an “edit letter” with high-level comments about the character, plot, and other elements, and a copy of the manuscript with inline comments/suggestions marked (using Word’s “Track Changes” feature).

NB: This is usually the format in which you’ll receive your edit letter from a publisher, so it’s worth becoming familiar with it.

Handling Critiques

Importantly, you need not agree with all of the feedback that a critique partner provides. After all, he or she is probably an author at a similar career stage, and may not have the same vision for your book. Even so, if more than one critique partner raises a particular concern, you should probably give it strong consideration.

It’s hard to express in words how beneficial a good critique partnership can be to individual manuscripts, and to an author’s work as a whole. Critique partners are how most novelists level up. I’m blessed with multiple critique partners, and they each have different strengths. We’ve been working together for years, and their critiques have had profound influences on my books. Most up-and-coming authors operate the same way. That relationship can often make the difference between a book that lands an agent and a book that lands a publishing deal.

Agent One-on-One: First Ten Pages Boot Camp

That’s true in my case. Remember how I worked with a few critique partners to overhaul my book? It went on submission soon after that, and was picked up by Harper Voyager (an imprint of HarperCollins). The Rogue Retrieval, my debut novel, was published in 2016 as the first in a three-book series about a Vegas magician in a medieval world. The third and final volume, The World Awakening, comes out in paperback this month.

How to Find Critique Partners

Maybe you’re sold on the idea of a critique partners, but don’t know where to find one. It’s easier than it sounds, especially if you engage the writing community as an active member. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are wonderful places to meet fellow authors. So are conventions, writing conferences, and local writers guilds. There are also regular contests, like Pitch Wars, that pair aspiring writers with more established ones who help improve their manuscript.

Once you find someone who might make a critique partner, you ask if they’d be willing to read for you sometime. Don’t be offended if they decline—some writers aren’t ready to take that step, while others might already have several good CPs. If someone reads for you, generally speaking, you should return the favor before asking him or her to read another manuscript. There are exceptions to this, since not everyone writes at the same speed.

If it ends up being a one-shot deal, that’s just fine—nothing ventured, nothing gained. But if it evolves into a critique partnership, you’ve taken a big step toward leveling up as a writer.


The post Leveling Up as a Writer with Peer Critique appeared first on WritersDigest.com.


from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/leveling-up-as-a-writer-with-peer-critique