Deeper into the looking glass

I recently read a series of posts created from a conversation between Victoria Mixon, writer and editor, and Roz Morris author of Nail Your Novel among many others. The first in this 4 part series was Talking Plot followed by Talking Character ,  Talking Prose, and finally Talking Revision. If you are interested in writing, I would highly recommend reading these posts. I have highlighted a few select parts that stuck out to me, but there is so much more in each of these posts.

Excerpts from Talking Prose:

“Prose is, in fact, the single greatest over-riding quality that separates passing blips on readers’ radar from timeless classics.” ~ Victoria Mixon

When asked what makes good prose “…So what do we find so compelling about this simplicity? Intelligence, perceptiveness. The confidence the writer has to be stylish yet direct. Too many writers assume that good writing has to be complicated, or difficult to read. But good writing doesn’t obfuscate. It lets through all the light it can.”~Roz Morris

Excerpt from Talking Revision:

‘The physics of the story’—such a lovely phrase. Yes, there is great confusion out there about the differences between Copy Editing for correct writing, and Line Editing for beautiful writing, and Developmental Editing for great storytelling. So much of writing a novel happens before you write it. (And then so much happens afterward!) It’s diving deep, deep into the river of this story, swimming at the bottom, feeling into the nooks and crannies between the riverstones for the treasures buried down there. ~Victoria Mixon

The post that stood out to me the most was Talking Character: (Excerpt of part of their conversation)

Victoria: So what’s the single most important thing aspiring writers should know about character?

Roz: Use the plot to test the things the character doesn’t want to face. That makes the most compelling story. It’s the skeletons in the cupboard, the stuff they need to deal with and move on from. Perhaps it’s emotional baggage that’s making them choose the wrong type of boyfriend. The grudge that means they can’t forgive a particular kind of behaviour. The nasty fact they’ve been avoiding. It’s got to be something that’s holding them back or spoiling their lives.

Victoria: Internal conflict. Absolutely. Stories are about people in trouble, characters struggling to save themselves, and the best threats are always internal because those are the ones that are hardest to combat. “You I can walk away from. But me I’m stuck with.”

Roz: Yes, yes, yessity yes! And if they deal with it they will emerge different and free. Which will be extremely satisfying for the reader. Would we be making a simplistic generalisation to say that all truly satisfying stories are really about that question—the ‘me’ that the characters are stuck with? Their own worst enemy who they have to make their peace with? If they can’t achieve that peace, is that tragedy? Even if it’s not high tragedy, it certainly leaves a tragic note.

Victoria: Simplistic generalization? [laughing] You say that like it’s a bad thing! It’s neither simple nor a generalization. It’s the truth. We read to experience the resolution of the protagonist’s worst nightmare, and we have to go through the nightmare to get to the release at the end. In fact, I’d go even further and say we’re reading not for the character’s release but for our own. Storytelling is the careful, powerful, professional construction of a catapult to fling a reader into space toward epiphany. We can’t create the reader’s epiphany—it depends in part upon the reader themself, so each epiphany is a tiny bit different. But a really well-built catapult will put the reader pretty much where the writer wants them to go.

Roz: I wrote about this in a post a short time ago. I work out the emotion I want for the final scene and angle everything towards it. I realised in all my work, even the novels that are only seeds in my head, my last scene would be ‘feels so good to be free’. In each book, the story is about what the character has to do to break into that state of freedom.

~~~~~~~

I am getting closer to finishing the rough draft for my first novel (Yay!) and have found myself delving deeper into each of my characters- getting drawn in to their lives, trying to understand them, learning their reactions to each circumstance and challenge thrown their way. What has been most unexpected; however, is learning more about myself and seeking a freedom of my own truer nature as I grow myself alongside that of my main character as she grows and becomes and finds freedom in herself.

One example: I am not one to quickly embrace changes in my life. It takes me a little more time to process, but once I come to a resolve within myself I am able to go forward and adapt to the change needed. My main character, however, seems to embrace and accept change, ready to move on to what comes next. I admire this in her and is an attribute that I am learning from (slowly).

I want to always keep growing into and becoming the person I want to be, never to remain stagnant becoming stale and a shell of what I could’ve been. This I believe is also our challenge as writers to provide a catalyst of positive growth for our readers. In order for it to come through in our writing it must first come through us.

I love this part of her quote especially as I had been pondering this very thing before I had the opportunity to read it. I would even add “writing” next to “reading”…

“I’d go even further and say we’re reading not for the character’s release but for our own. Storytelling is the careful, powerful, professional construction of a catapult to fling a reader into space toward epiphany.” ~Victoria Mixon

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Out with the old…

You know how the old addage goes: “Out with the old, in with the new”.  Bye Bye 2010 and Hello 2011!   I am READY for something NEW.

Don’t get me wrong there were good parts for sure: Living in TN and experiencing life there with my little family, traveling across the country (with moving truck and 10mo old) coming “home” so our daughter could get to know her extended family, and living at a lake for the entire summer.  Also during this year, my daughter had her 1st B-day, crawled, swam, walked, talked (a LOT), started music class (she loves to sing and dance), and fell in love with the Sesame Street gang (Abby, Elmo, and Cookie to name a few).  It is my joy and honor to watch her learn and grow and develop who she is.  On another front, I started my 2nd novel and wrote approx 60,000 words (which isn’t too terribly bad considering I moved 3 times and have been chasing a toddler around).  Unfortunately, I have yet to complete my 1st novel but am looking forward to it this next year (more on that later).

So as you can see, some great things happened this year and a lot of FIRSTS experienced with my little girl.  Those things I will cherish! There were also things that I am looking forward to moving passed and leaving behind.  Now I know that the struggles and dark times in our lives help shape and form who we are based on our responses and choices, but does that mean that I want to go through them? HELL NO!  No more on that.  It’s time to look forward.  It’s time to evaluate what I want to accomplish and believe for in this new year.  Yes, it’s just another day in the timeline of our lives and is merely psychological, but it’s a milestone marker.  I believe we need these markers to help guide our way and see where we’ve been and to take stock of our lives and evaluate the type of people we have become.  Do we continue in the direction we have been going perhaps making minor adjustments or is it time to correct and change paths?

2011…

First off, I am inspired by Ali Edwards “One Little Word”.  I started this last year and was inspired to do pick a word for this year.  I think I might even take her OLW class.  After much thought and meditation, my word for this year is BECOME.

ME: These are goals for me. Now that might sound selfish, but I believe I am only able to give as much as I have or am and if I’m not taken care of, then I am not able to fully give to my hubby, to my daughter, to others, and to my craft.

  • become more fully the me I am to be. Become and grow myself into ME as an individual, as a woman, as a wife, and as a mother.
  • feel good about myself: eat better, exercise regularly, get “me” time.
  • become DISCIPLINED and consistent with my creativity: writing, journaling, scrapping, etc.

FAMILY: Loving my family more and more in the ways that they need to be loved, not necessarily in the way I think they should.  Spending more time nurturing, cultivating, playing, and simply LOVING my beautiful daughter who will be 2 this year.

EXPRESSIONS OF CREATIVITY: This could be titled “Work” but I want my work to be expressions of who I am, of my creativity.

  • become and grow into a better writer. This also means becoming disciplined and consistent with a writing schedule.
  • finish 1st novel, edits, revisions, and finally query!
  • become more active in my other expressions: I want to be more free and learn to be more expressive and versatile with “journaling”.  I also want to get back to “scrapping”.

This is just what I’ve been thinking about so far and I retain the right to alter and/or add to these at anytime throughout this year.  It’s ok for us me to fail, as long as we I keep trying! (see there I am making this personal to me 😉 I want to remember that life is made up of “the messy bits” and to not try to keep it so “clean”.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!