Moving to Write: Exploring Flow For Narrative Energy

The idea of flow in writing is usually associated with ‘being in the flow’, that wonderful sensation when words and ideas synchronize, when your concentration is totally focused, making you lose all sense of time, when everything seems to come blissfully together.

Movement offers writers a different way of looking at flow.

For example, these two contrasting types of flow give interest and energy to movement and written narrative alike: Continue reading

Perceptual Shifts: Seeing The Strange In The Everyday

sky and clouds

 

I’m sure most writers have heard this advice at some point: write from the known to the unknown. The theory is that this grounds the reader and avoids confusion.

When I was analyzing Virginia Woolf’s “Between the Acts” for my MFA craft essay at Lesley University, I noticed that she often did the reverse. I loved the disorienting effect and the immediacy this gave to the narrative.

Early on in Continue reading

Writing Craft and Community

spare parts for writing a storyI was stuck with my novella, not a bad stuck, just a point when I needed to stop, think, and realign characters and plot.

I pulled a couple of craft books from my shelf at random in the hopes of sparking an idea, or finding a new way to see my material.

  • “Naming the World” (ed) Bret Anthony Johnston
  • “Burning Down The House” Charles Baxter
  • “Creating Fiction” (ed) Julie Checkoway

Writer Unboxed

Not an hour later, I was reading a blog post from Writer Unboxed about the issue of craft books. Although many people shared their favorite craft books and inspirational authors, a number of comments expressed quite a lot of antagonism towards craft books – e.g., craft books are only written to make money; you can’t learn writing from a book…

I was very surprised because I think of writers/artists as curious people and would have thought they would want to see what other Continue reading

Creative Grocery List: An Evening With Peter Carey and Josip Novakovich

little wooden man with veggiesI have a very unwriterly reason for having a soft spot for Peter Carey: my godmother was a fervent fan of his.

I remember a wonderful visit with her years ago in her little house (oh how I loved her royal blue bathtub and loo), listening to her talk in great excitement over tea and cake about “this marvelous new Australian writer” and his newly published first novel “Oscar and Lucinda.”

So when I heard the two-time Booker Prize winner was coming to Montreal to discuss “the writing of inspiration” with Globe and Mail’s Arts Editor Jared Bland at Concordia University, how could I not go? Especially as they were to be joined by Booker short-listed author Josip Novakovich, the master, I discovered last year, of the art of hilarious-but-serious anecdotes.

How to begin

Continue reading

In Search of the Perfect Ending

The End(s)Why am I writing about story endings when the very thought makes me want to whimper and hide my head under my pillow?

Endings! Endings! Oh the agony! But oh the sweetness when you get the right one!

Continue reading

Writing Advice From The Sword: What Fencing Can Teach Writers

unpacking sabersWhat’s a writer to do when winter just goes on and on and it’s March and there’s still snow on the ground and minus temperatures? Take up fencing.

As a movement artist-educator I’ve always believed that changing and challenging your usual ways of moving is an effective and pleasurable way to energize yourself and boost your creative thinking.

Fencing is certainly making my brain sizzle. And there’s the bonus of getting writing advice too!

1. Don Protective Gear Continue reading

Hey, What’s She Doing? Developing Character In The Short Story.

The Illuminated Crowd, sculpture by Raymond MasonJust had two stories accepted, and finally, finally finished the final draft of another story. Feeling pretty chipper (as in ‘OK, now I know what I’m doing’), I re-opened a story I’ve been wanting to finish since July 2012.

So much for thinking I know what I’m doing! I’ve no idea how to get into this story. As I’ve mentioned before, I love first drafts. The next stage is like cracking a nut.

Some nuts just don’t crack easily. You might have a lousy nut-cracker or the shell is too thick and resistant. So you try it from this angle, then that, get out the hammer. Some nuts refuse to open and you have to toss them away. But, if you’re lucky, finally a hairline crack appears, and now there’s a chance of getting to the kernel.

“God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them.” Franz Kafka

When I was doing my MFA at Lesley University, my Advisor Brian Bouldrey wrote on one of my first drafts: “Now you’ll have to re-learn what you know.” At the time I had no idea what he was talking about.

But I’ve learned he’s right. There are Continue reading

Eating To Write: 6 Reasons Why Writers Should Go Paleo!

We are what we eat, so it’s said. Doesn’t it stand to reason then, that we write what we eat?

If this is so, then I’m going paleo.

Paleo Treats© postcard ad

Judging by this postcard ad for Paleo Treats©, my writing would have: Continue reading

Writing Dialogue: The Oops Factor.

two albatrossDoes your character say the right thing – but it’s understood the wrong way? Or takes something well-meaning in the wrong spirit?

I was given a great lesson in writing dialogue recently. It all started with me being upset by some responses I received to a piece of news I shared with family and friends.

The news was that my husband had been diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. It may sound strange that this should be an occasion to gain insights into writing dialogue but, hey, sometimes you have to find small comforts wherever you can.

“Oh, that’s the one that doesn’t amount to much, isn’t it?”

“What a nuisance.”

“But it’s a given that people don’t die of it.”

“Oh yes, I’ve dozens of friends who’ve had it. That was years ago and they’re all fine.”

I got very upset. I felt they were brushing this nasty, threatening disease off as a simple inconvenience, like a sore throat or a headache or the flu. No, my husband said, they’re just trying to be comforting.

Words – those slippery things! One person can use words to mean one thing while another person might understand them in quite another way. Continue reading

Characters, Backstories and Broken Wrist.

wrist in plaster castSometimes characters appear complete with full backstory. More often they don’t. Just as in real life, a writer has to hang around to see beyond first impressions.

Broke my wrist on Saturday. Went to emergency. Still there Saturday evening. Big tough macho fella comes in with bloody hand. Continue reading