Archive for the ‘Writing Technique’ Category

Writing from the Inside Out

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

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Anita Amirrezvani will present “Write from the Inside Out” at the next meeting of the Mt. Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club (CWC) on Saturday, September 10, 2016 at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill.

Ms. Amirrezvani will discuss how to create meaningful and unique writing: mine the existential truth of your everyday life, draw on the richness of your cultural heritage, and how to use simple research techniques to deepen your work.

She was born in Tehran and raised in San Francisco. Her first novel, The Blood of Flowers, has appeared in 31 languages, and was long-listed for one of the U.K.’s top literary prizes, the 2008 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her second novel is Equal of the Sun, and she’s co-edited an anthology with author Persis Karim. She has given international book readings, and teaches at the California College of the Arts.

Sign-in is 11:15 am. Luncheon 12:00-12:45 pm. Speaker 1-2 pm. Registration is $25 for CWC members, $30 for guests.

Reservations are required, and must be received no later than noon on Wednesday, September 7th. Contact Robin Gigoux at cwcrobin.gigoux@yahoo.com or by phone at (925) 933-9670.  Expect confirmation only if you e-mail your reservation. For PayPal, click “Buy Now’ on the Mt. Diablo website: http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.comnext-program/. Add a $2.00 transaction fee.

The California Writers Club Mt. Diablo Branch web address is: http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/

 

Memoir Author Tamim Ansary Discusses Writer’s Block

Monday, March 28th, 2016

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Tamim Ansary will present “Why Do We Write?” at the next meeting of the Mt. Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club (CWC) on Saturday, April 9, 2016 at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill.

He will explain why writing is hard, why we do it anyway, what to do when the piece refuses to be written, and what’s the best that can happen?

Tamim Ansary is the author of the celebrated memoir, West of Kabul, East of New York, and writes fiction, non-fiction, history, and essays on politics, and a wide range of other subjects. He teaches through the Osher Institute, and runs a workshop on memoir writing.

Sign-in is from 11:15 am to 12:00 pm, luncheon 12:00 pm to 12:45, including a short business meeting, and speaker from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm. Registration is $25 for CWC members, $30 for guests.

Reservations are required, and must be received no later than noon on Wednesday, April 6. To reserve, contact Robin at ragig@aol.com, leave a message at 925-933-9670, or sign up via PayPal: click “buy now” on the Mt. Diablo website, http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/next-program/. Add $2 transaction fee. Expect confirmation only if you e-mail your reservation.

The California Writers Club Mt. Diablo Branch web address is: http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/

The Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing Workshop/SF Bay Area

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

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C.S.Lakin will present a workshop on “The fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing” at the next luncheon meeting of the Mt. Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club (CWC) on Saturday, March 12, 2016 at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill, California.

Ms. Lakin will discuss the following common flaws: overwriting, weak construction, POV violations, telling instead of showing, too much backstory, and description deficiencies and excesses.
C.S.Lakin is the author of twenty-two fiction and non-fiction books and is an award-winning blogger at LiveWriteThrive. She works full-time as a writing coach and book copyeditor, and is passionate about helping writers see success.
Check-in is from 8:30 to 9:00 am. The workshop is from 9:00am to 12:00pm, followed by a luncheon. The cost is $40 for CWC members, $50 for guests.

Reservations are required, and must be received no later than noon on Wednesday, March 9th. Contact Robin Gigoux at ragig@aol.com, or phone 925-933-9670. Expect confirmation only if you e-mail your reservation.

The California Writers Club Mt. Diablo Branch web address is: http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/

 

Middle Grade Students – Win $$ for your Writing AND Poetry Tips & Techniques

Monday, February 8th, 2016

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Poetry Tips by Poets David Alpaugh and Aline Soules

Getting Started

Start by brainstorming—just as you would for any other project.  What’s on your mind?  What’s in your heart?  What moves you?  What do you care about?  Do your best to come up with your own idea.  This isn’t supposed to be a class assignment, but a chance to share a piece of yourself and practice your love of writing.

Start writing, even if you haven’t come up with your final idea yet.  This is called “free writing.”  It’s been said that if you write for seven to ten minutes, your brain will come up with an idea.

Once you’ve created your “raw material,” it’s time to begin writing your poem.  Now, we’ve moved from inspiration to perspiration, from free writing to craft.

Crafting Your Poem

 Poems are crafted—every word is chosen and placed in its position in the poem for a purpose.  You should never submit a rough or first draft because judges look for your ability to craft your poem and that can take many drafts.

 General craft ideas

  • Show, don’t tell
  • Be concrete and specific
  • Create original images—no clichés
  • Choose the right title (which may come any time in your process)

 Grammar, Usage, Word Play

  • Choose active verbs, e.g., “sit”, not “is seated” or “is sitting”; see if you can think up “punchier” verbs that make your point stronger.
  • Verbs and nouns are strong, while adjectives and adverbs are weak. Concentrate on verbs and nouns and use adjectives and adverbs sparingly.
  • Play around with your poem to make sure every word and its place in the poem are exactly right.  You can play “switcheroo”—move around words, phrases, clauses, whole stanzas to see what works best.

•    Must poems rhyme? No. Many of today’s best poets don’t use rhyme. If you want to write in rhyme, remember that it’s difficult to write well in rhyme. Make sure that your rhyming words make sense and move the poem forward. Rhyme for its own sake doesn’t work. (In most cases, rhyme is more effective for humorous rather than serious subjects.).

  • Highlight the best phrase or couple of phrases in your poem and see if you can bring the rest of your poem up to the same level.
  • Use repetition with care.  Make sure there’s a reason for using repetition.
  • When you think you’re done, see if you can cut out some words from your poem.  It’s easy to let too many “little” words slip in, like “the” and “a” and prepositions and conjunctions, when you don’t need them.  Poems should be “dense,” saying much in as few words as possible.
  • The best way to learn to write poetry well is to read poems by successful poets and pay attention to the way they use language. Poetry employs the same words as prose but is usually richer in imagery and figures of speech, particularly metaphor and simile.
  • After you’ve read a poem you love go back and re-read the first and last lines and ask yourself how the poet gets in and out of the poem? It’s usually most effective to rocket your reader into the heart of the poem instantly, without any introduction or wind-up. Last lines are most effective when they leave readers with something dramatic or memorable to think about.

 Layout

  • Experiment with line breaks.  Do you want short lines or long lines?  Choose the end of your lines with purpose every time.
  • Experiment with your stanzas, too.  Long, short?  What’s best to convey the meaning and feeling of your poem?
  • Another thing to avoid is centering your poem.  If there’s no reason inside the content of the poem to center it, don’t.  It may look “pretty” to you, but if it’s not appropriate to the poem, it shouldn’t be centered, but lined up along the left-hand side of the page.

 Sound

  • Listen to the sounds in your poem.  Are they hard? soft? What do you need in your poem?  Change words or move them around to get the sounds you want.
  • Listen to the rhythm of your poem.  Is it too sing-songy?  If so, make more changes.
  • Read your poem out loud or ask a friend to read it to you.  Does it sound the way it should?
  • Read your poem with a pause at the end of every line.  That will help you to see if your line breaks are in the right place.

Time

You can’t write a poem in a hurry.  Don’t try to write a new poem when the deadline’s due.  Give yourself a few weeks.  After you’ve written several drafts, set your poem aside and come back to it again in a couple of weeks.  Read it aloud and try some of the tips again.  You’ll be surprised at how much you can improve.

Submitting

Only submit a poem when you’re confident it’s the best you can do and it’s ready to go.  Judges can tell when a poem’s not ready, but they love to read the poems that are your very best effort.

For more information visit https://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/young-writers-contest/

 

Five Tips to Inspire Your Creativity!

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016


A few years ago after we purchased new carpet, the seller mentioned, “When you vacuum your carpet every day . . .”

I laughed.

“You don’t vacuum each day?”  She said with a voice that implied I regularly tortured babies and small animals.

“No!”  My intonation indicated she was crazier than I.

“It’s not good for your carpet,” she said, nearly shaking her finger at me.  “It won’t last very long.”

Since our old, worn carpeting was installed into our house for decades, I wasn’t about to tell her it had survived well without any obsessive cleaning.

In our busy lives it’s hard to discipline ourselves to begin a routine.  But if you feel deep in your soul it should be a priority, make it one.  Turn off your gadgets and devote twenty minutes a day for your creativity to develop and flow.

Tips:

1. Train your family or roommates by posting a sign on your door.  Mine says Writer at Work.  Don’t disturb means don’t disturb.  No room to call your own?  A friend set up a small desk inside a closet in which to work.  She wrote several books this way, early in the morning before her kids were up and she went to work as a teacher.

2.  Play instrumental or movie music (without words) to inspire your writing or art.  Amy Tan plays the same music every day for the book she is working on. It trains your brain to get into the relaxed state to create.

3.  While walking, exercising, showering, washing the dishes, wonder about your story, poem, or painting.  Solutions and inspiration comes in the wondering state more than facing an empty computer screen or blank piece of paper.

4.  Motivate yourself with a star on each day you’ve made your writing goal or

5.  Motivate yourself by finding a writing friend to join you.  You can chat online or in person once a week about your goals and projects.

As author Jane Yolen commands, “Butt in chair!”  It’s the way to get your writing done. You’ll feel great once you’ve built this creative routine!

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Meet Zeus!

Friday, May 1st, 2015

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Meet Zeus.   He’s about 7 months old, according to a local German Shepard Rescue group.  My neighbor, Hilde, is fostering him.  Last week she discovered a hard lump near his shoulder.  On Tuesday, Zeus had surgery where the vet found yet another tumor behind the first one.  We talked to the doctor when we came to pick up Zeus.

“I removed the tumors, but it doesn’t look good,” the vet said.

“What’s the percentage chance that it’s cancer?” Hilde asked.

“Five percent that it isn’t,” he replied.

Tears filled her eyes.

“We don’t know for sure,” I said.  “Let’s wait to see what the biopsy says.”

A loopy but still loving Zeus met us and we guided him into the van.  Back in Hilde’s driveway, she and my husband, Bob carried him into the house.

The next morning, still on painkillers, Zeus greeted me with romps and kisses.

“Wow, he’s amazing,” I told Hilde.

“It’s hard to realize he’s sick,” she said.

Today I answered the phone in my office.

“Liz,” said Hilde.  “He doesn’t have cancer.”

“He doesn’t?!”

“He doesn’t,” she said.  “All that worry for nothing.”

We were silent, each thinking about the doctor’s sobering –and incorrect—prediction.

“How could he have said that to me?” she said.

“I know.  Remember Bob’s doctor?” I reminded her.

Years ago, my husband’s constant coughing sent him to his physician who administered an x-ray.  It showed a huge growth in his right lung.  “Cancer,” the doctor said.

We saw an oncologist, who seconded the bad news, pointing out the ugliness on the films.  It seemed to take over Bob’s right lung, as it seemed to take over our lives.

The doctor called a few days before Christmas.  He said we’d have to wait until January to see a lung specialist who would perform an MRI.  Surgery and chemo was sure to follow.

“What if it’s something contagious?” I asked Bob’s doctor.  Maybe it’s TB or an infection?  If he’s contagious, maybe we should cancel our Christmas party?”

The doctor sighed.   “He’s not contagious.  Live your life.  Enjoy your holidays.”

Enjoy?

A few weeks later, the lung doctor questioned us thoroughly.  “I think you have an infection,” he said to Bob.  “Let’s try antibiotics first.”

You can guess what happened.  The drugs cleared up the “tumor.”  Bob’s coughing stopped.

Now when I begin to worry about something out of my control, I try and pre-empt myself.  Do I know beyond a doubt it’s true?

Writing Prompts:

  1. How do your characters face conflicts and tragedy in their lives?  Do they roll easily with life’s ups and downs?  Deny them?  Face them with humor, emotional resiliency, or abject horror?  Write a few scenes with scenarios that could happen to your protagonist.
  2. Write the outcomes of these scenes.  Try different resolutions.  Which one feels right?
  3. Choose a scenario to read to your writing group.  Make sure you ask the write questions as to how to improve your scenes.
  4. Don’t worry.  Over time, your writing does improve!    20150421_164719
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25% less? You kidding?

Friday, April 10th, 2015

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25%    That’s how much we Californians must cut our water usage.  Since we’ve already been conserving, it isn’t going to be easy.  But we will do it.

How many words are in your latest manuscript?  Cut 25% of them.

It won’t be easy?  Yes, it’s difficult at first, but soon it becomes addictive.  Make it a game.

How concise can you write?

Writing Prompts:

  1.  Note how many words you’ve written.  Read your piece out loud.  Begin with the last sentence.   Check for clarity.  Are the tenses right?  Can you say that sentence any more succinctly?
  2. Put your writing away for a while.   Time is your friend.  When you read it again, you’ll see your words through fresh eyes.
  3. Share it with a writing friend or writers’ group.
  4. How many words is your piece now?  Have you shortened the word length by at least 25%?

How can YOU write comedy?

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

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“Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.”  Peter Ustinov

Who doesn’t love humor?  Readers, editors, and audience members yearn for it.  How would we get through the serious business of everyday life without it?  Bennett Cerf once said, “If writers want the sure road to success, for heaven’s sake, write something that will make people laugh.”

How can you make sure it’s actually funny?

According to Norman Lear in his memoir, Even This I Get to Experience, he says, “Laughter lacks depth if it isn’t involved with other emotions.  An audience is entertained when it’s involved to the point of laughter or tears—ideally both.”

Have you ever set out to write a humor scene and gone blank?  No one said comedy is easy.  A Shakespearean actor, on his deathbed said, “Dying is easy.  Comedy is hard.”

Amy Poehler from, Yes, Please, suggests, “Get out of your head.”

John Cleese discovered in So, Anyway, “an important creative principle: the more anxious you feel, the less creative you are.  Your mind ceases to play and be expansive.  Fear causes your thinking to contract, to play safe, and this forces you into stereotypical thinking. “

So exactly how do you write humor naturally?  Find your zone of creativity.  Relax.   Knowing your character, the setting and the situation will help you develop comedy intrinsically.  Ask yourself what’s weird about your topic.  Scary?  Hard?  Stupid?  Brainstorm.

Humor works when there is a setup and a payoff.  It’s what we expect to happen and what really happens.   Techniques include exaggeration, understatement, word play, satire, and parody.

Finally, remember to read what you write out loud.  Humor is all about beats and rhythm.  You should feel your comedy.   Timing is everything.

Writing Prompts:

1.  Where is humor in your life?  Everyone has funny anecdote in their lives.  Write a scene with one of your experiences.

2.  Keep a humor journal.  See something funny on the street?  Your favorite funny line in a movie or book?  What makes it funny?  Funny characters around you?  Funny things YOU do?

3.  Having a tough day?  Pretend you’re Dave Barry.  How would he turn this into a funny essay?  Write it.

4.  Use humor in your artistic projects.  Especially in the serious ones.

5.  Read humor to write humor.  And most of all, have fun!

The Bad Guy: Is He Making You Do Things You Shouldn’t?

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

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The Bad Guy:  How do you deepen him making it integral to your plot?

In the first draft of your novel, are the villains were plain old stereotypes?

Mines were just bullies, through and through.   How could I create fully fledged three-dimensional characters?

Trying to deepen mine, I free-wrote scenes.  Suddenly the bully turned  into a goody-two-shoe!  How did I do that?

When I woke up the next day, a line of dialogue from this character spoke to me.  Next, I read over yesterday’s work.  I had wasted the whole day!

I started over. When the character spoke to me, she accidentally (?) shared her secret desire.  Bingo.  It felt real.  It felt right.  Now this bully is hanging around with me as I take a walk, wash the dishes, and empty the washing machine.

Don’t worry if your first draft, first ideas, or even second or third drafts don’t quite hit their mark.  We have to wade through our initial thoughts to discover the truth underneath it all.

Remember author Sid Fleischman’s words:  “Nothing is wasted except the paper.”  And in our electronic world, that’s not even an issue.

It’s all part of the process.

Writing Prompts:

  1.  What is your most useful way you deepen characters?  Do you hear their dialogue first?  Discover them through narration?  Illustrate them through art?
  2. Secondary characters are as important as major ones.  Think about them as much as you do your protagonist. Write a journal for them.  What is in their closet?
  3. Revising can be the most fun ever.  When those tidbits and discoveries click your plot comes together.  Write about your process on your latest project.  Save it!  Reread it before you begin your next writing.  It helps to see what has worked for us in the past.

 

 

Aussie Makes Me Cry: Saying Goodbye & Writing with Heart

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

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Today we visited our local animal shelter to donate clean rugs and towels.   My husband and I could feel the sadness as we walked inside.  People held or stood near their beloved dogs.  All were cloaked in an aura of grief.

What were their stories?  The dogs weren’t puppies.  These owners weren’t dropping off a holiday pup just because they didn’t want to go through the bother of house training.  As we walked passed the cages, dogs made eye contact with me, their tails wagging, as if crying out, “Hey, look at me! See how cute I am! Take me home!”

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered.  “We can’t.”  Zoie, our nearly eighteen-year-old Yorkie, wouldn’t put up with it.  And we’re having our hands full giving her what she needs as she copes with her dementia, loss of hearing, sight, and other health issues. We must wait.

These dogs can’t.

On the way out of the yips, barks, and crying, I see an Australian shepherd sitting next to two men.   I knew the answer to my question before I asked it.  “Are you adopting?”

They shook their heads no.  I bent down and scratched the dog, who repaid me with kisses.

“My sister is on dialysis, and can no longer keep him.  There’s been a lot of sobbing and goodbyes.  It’s breaking our hearts,” said the man holding the leash, slumped toward the dog.  His anguish spilled out.

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

Before I could say another word, an official came over.  “It’s time.”  He grabbed the leash, and the shepherd knew.  He pulled back, alarmed with fear.

With tears in my eyes, I beat a hasty retreat.

Writing Prompts

  1. Saying goodbye to animals, people and even places may be emotional and heartbreaking.  Do any of the characters in your writing say goodbye?  In your own life?  Write a story with a character or yourself in this situation.
  2. I know it won’t be long now before I must say goodbye to Zoie.  Although I’m trying to brace myself, I know I’ll be bereft when it happens.  I’ve lost friends, relatives, and my parents. Each experience filled me with grief, but later, with time, became moments of memories.  Write a scene showing those moments of joy and memories.
  3. How does the loss affect you today?  Create a poem, song, story, or another genre of art which expresses you.
  4. Living through tough times may be helped by keeping a journal.  Write about what you and your loved ones are going through helps you survive, appreciate the special moments of joy, and be creative.