“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain

Writing Craft Recap for March

2012 is my "learning the writing craft" year. And once a month, generally on the first Thursday of the month, I will share some highlights of what I learned. And here I go.

My source of craft learning for March was from a few sources: Margie Lawson's Deep Editing class, the first third of Emotions, Character, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress, and some writing magazines/journals I get. I think I'll start from the end and work my way to the beginning.

From ACFW Journal, the April The Writer and the March/April Writer's Digest:
  • Each successive problem, opponent, hurdle, weakness, fear or setback that occurs in your story must be greater than those that preceded it.
  • Read books in your genre - by NEW authors - to determine what's selling.
  • Writing well requires practice  - practice of things you don't do well until you do - whether they're craft or content
  • You don't want readers to admire your writing: you want them to be so engaged in the story itself that they don't notice the way you use words to shape it.
From the first 78 pages of Character, Emotions and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress:
  • To create effective characters, you must learn to be three people at once: writer, character, and reader.
  • Which character you choose as a protagonist determines what the story will be about.
  • Choose physical details that subtly reinforce the impression you want to make of your character.
  • You can build more plausible, complex characters if they want not just one thing, but two that are in conflict.
  • The key to keeping track/control of the many elements of fiction is to write in scenes.
  • Before you write, you should know exactly what the scene is supposed to accomplish.
From Margie Lawson's Deep Editing: the EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More:
  • Rhetorical devices can make a huge difference in the power of your language.
  • Backloading picks up the pace, but flow should trump backloading.
  • Use of scene-themed words can make a big emotional impact.
  • Avoid cliches like the plague (cliche alert!) - unless you "twist" it a bit.
  • If a scene is written well, if your character has a strong visceral response, your reader will have a visceral response.
  • Every word counts.
  • Read your work out loud (yeah - this one was on my list from last month - but I NEED it!).
  • Slip slivers of backstory into your manuscript in active ways.
  • As you review your pages, ask if what you've got there deepens the characters and/or moves the story forward. Otherwise, cut it.
  • Make sure your story starts at the right point.
  • Work just as hard on middle and later chapters as you do on those first few chapters.
  • Compress time when you have boring things going on - expand time to spotlight thought processes, action, and/or emotional reactions. .
  • There are at least ten gazillion ways I can improve my writing.
Hope you learned something too! Watch this spot next month for what I learn in April (including from the rest of Nancy Kress's book, plus applying all I've learned above!).

Questions? Comments? Observations?

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength


  1. As an avid reader, I never knew how much work goes into an author crafting a story.

  2. Thank you for these, Joanne. More helpful than you can imagine!

  3. There is so much to learn, that I think we could rewrite a story 10 times and STILL find ways to improve it.

  4. Thanks for the helpful post!Holly Michael

  5. Thank you! I learn from what you post:)

  6. Joanne, this was really helpful. Thanks for doing all the work and passing it on to us! Awesome.

  7. This is great, Joanne. You're learning from the best and passing it on to us.

    What a treasure you are!

  8. Joanne, I took two classes from the Margie Lawson site from Shirley Jump. They were extremely helpful to me. I'll have to try the Margie Lawson courses, too.

    Good stuff!

  9. You're very welcome, ladies. I can't HELP but share what I've learned - it's so VERY valuable.

    And Crystal - I've taken a Shirley Jump class too, but it was a while ago. Was a great class. May have to retake - Margie is AMAZING.

  10. I took the February Empowering Characters Emotion course from Margie. I posted about it in March on our group blog during the course ( http://www.bookstoblogby.blogspot.com
    I learned so much. I took the deep edits course about 3 years ago & still use those different colors to help my WIP. Good post. I haven't taken the Nancy Kress course. May have to check that one out.

  11. Oops, can't even remember the write name of our blog Sorry. It's bookstowriteby. Blushing, here.


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