“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 January

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.

From The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell:
  • It's not the will to win that counts, but the will to prepare to win.
  • Turn your envy into energy - and more words
  • Self-motivation is crucial
  • Write hard and fast, but edit slow and tough
  • Resist the urge to explain
  • To write comedy, make the characters believe they are in a tragedy
  • A goal is just a  dream unless it has legs
From Six Stages of Change - The Character Arc (a Savvy Authors course taught by Mary O'Gara):
  • Every person goes through six stages when a big change happens in their life: Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance, and Termination or Relapse.
  • Most books' character arcs cover stages three through five -- with stages one and two being mostly backstory and stage six being after the book ends
  • Each shift between stages is the result of the character making a decision
  • Precontemplation is when the character is in denial or uninterested about needing to change.
  • Contemplation is when the character begins to see change is necessary, but hasn't done anything yet.
  • Preparation is when the character starts gathering resources to make the change that has to be made.
  • Action occurs when the character (duh) takes action. This stage carries the hero from the first real, conscious, committed action to being on his knees with everything he has depleted, exhausted and used.
  • Maintenance is when we see the results of the change. The actual change occurs between stages four and five.
  • Termination (not often used in fiction) is when we see that the change caused lasting pleasant change - or Relapse the opposite.
From Avoiding the Mistakes that Scream Novice (an ACFW course taught by Kathy Ide):
  •  Read agent/editor submission guidelines carefully and follow them exactly (yeah, I knew this already, but it was a GOOD reminder).
  • Make sure your writing is as succinct and "sharp" as it can be.
  • The most important parts of your manuscript are the beginning and the ending.
  • Nothing screams "novice" more than punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling errors.
  • Be absolutely certain you have your facts straight.
This isn't, of course, everything I learned -but it's a bit of a snapshot. Feel free to ask questions in the comments if you'd like, and I'll answer there as well.

Watch for my post next month, where I'll share what I learn in February - including from Margie Lawson's class "Empowering Characters' Emotions."

What "learning" of mine was most interesting to you? Feel free to share anything you've learned about the craft lately.

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength


  1. Love the clear and concise explanation of the character arc! I tend to get stuck in backstory because I'm trying to explain my character from beginning to end. Super helpful, Joanne! Thanks!

  2. Wow! I have to read this book! Thanks, Jo!
    Also love your commitment to learning more about the craft of writing.

  3. I enjoyed reading and learning what you have.Thanks for taking the time to type these out. I can always learn more craft.

  4. Joanne,

    I think my first comment got lost! You always amaze me, my friend. I read "The Art of War for Writing" and got a lot out of that.

    The best things I ever learned about writing were to never compare and to always be happy when an author gets published!

    Happy writing!

    Chris Stachura

  5. Hi Joanne. Wasn't Kathy's course great? As an editor, I was glad to see her bring out so many points that are helpful to writers. As a writer, I was reminded of all the things I need to keep in mind with my own writing.

    The Art of War in Writing sounds like a great book! I'll have to check into getting that one.

    Thanks for sharing what you have learned.


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