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Rifling through your Wordhoard: The comparative value of write-ins

Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in a “write-in” as part of the New West Festival of Words 2018. Having never taken part in a write-in before, I admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it just be three hours of writing time? Would it just journalling?

As it turns out, it was an elaborate challenge to my writing process.  Continue reading “Rifling through your Wordhoard: The comparative value of write-ins”

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Reworking a draft: when do you just have to let it go?

Everyone knows nothing’s perfect after the first draft.

But how many drafts are you supposed to write? Where is that fine line between honing a work and polishing a turd? When do you accept something as a failure–nay, a learning experience?

I think the answer is when it is holding you back.

Perhaps you’re too focused on that one piece that you’re neglecting to think of others. What you imagined was your opus is now your albatross. Something a colleague once said to me in the editing room, “You just have to let it go, man.”

Let it go.*

Sounds easy, sure. But, wow. It’s not.

Continue reading “Reworking a draft: when do you just have to let it go?”

Flash fiction: the mastery (or tyranny?) of form

Flash fiction is a form with such tightly controlled standards that – for me – attempting it is like joining the marines. And I just don’t have what it takes. My usual authorial endeavours are a bit too akin to guerrilla warfare for me to stray too often onto the open battlefield that is the flash fiction market.

Yes, all stories need a beginning, middle, and end. You need to introduce a character, set up their arc, and then watch them complete it. But somewhere along the way, the structure of flash fiction has narrowed to include that little twist at the end: a bow that ties it all together. But when you are required to telegraph your intent so clearly, how do you hide the seams that show where you stitched this all together?

Perhaps I just haven’t worked this out yet.

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Breaking down the writer’s block

What do you do when your usual writing techniques and traditions stop working?

First: get rid of the idea that you need the Muse. The Muse is like that friend who always replies that they’re coming to your event and *maybe* shows up at one of them, late and already a little buzzed. If we waited for the Muse every time we sat down to write, nothing would get done. Continue reading “Breaking down the writer’s block”

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Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet for novels

The Beat Sheet is a trick I picked up in film school. It covers all the major plot elements (“beats”) of a long form story. Now, Snyder was writing about film, which is much more structurally formulaic than prose, but I firmly believe that taking a good, hard look at structure is essential for any novel, especially if you are writing anything other than hoity toity high-brow experimental literary fiction.

So, if you not in that 0.00001% of writers who are writing hoity toity high brow experimental literary fiction, then the beat sheet is worth your time. At the very least, you’ll notice the formulas and structures that so inescapably pervasive that you probably just took them all for granted. Continue reading “Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet for novels”

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. There is nothing more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Joe Strummer

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Triangulating the text

So a while ago I started posting chapters of a genre mash-up, satirical novel online before I panicked and took them down after realizing that they (a) weren’t at the calibre I could achieve, and (b) were not going to be produced as expediently as I hoped.

I’ve since been working on it again.

I decided to shift the tone of the book (first in a series maybe?) when I stepped back and started examining what sort of genre satires and parodies I enjoyed myself. And I realized that I preferred riffs on genre that don’t make fun of the genre in as much as they exemplify it. Continue reading “Triangulating the text”

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The importance of just getting it done

After extensive note-taking and a few false starts, just over two months ago, I actually sat down and starting writing that young adult subterranean fiction piece I first thought of more than half my life ago. (it is now best described as *bracing myself* a dystopian YA novel-meets-Jane Austen.)

I’ve learned through this project the importance of persistence.

I learned how to effectively deal with something that’s not working. Rather than just giving up or sitting around waiting for it to get better I learned to change my approach.

I started writing this story just for fun, just to write and see what happens. Continue reading “The importance of just getting it done”

Pixar’s rules of storytelling

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

Continue reading “Pixar’s rules of storytelling”