A Writing School for Working People | Literary Hub

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via A Writing School for Working People | Literary Hub

Another article from Matt Grant that I wanted to share, one that I know he is excited about having written.

I’ve spent a good part of my life encouraging people to write. Writing can be profitable, but it is also good for stability, growth, and your soul. People need to feel the freedom to try their hand at it, to derive whatever benefit it gives them.

To see through writer Grant’s eyes how this school operates was both exciting and a balm to my own soul. Read it and see the good people can do.

Tip ~ INKAS ~ #1.1

I’d like to expand upon my first INKAS post.

There are, roughly, twenty INKAS our group created. Over time, I will try to cover all of them, sharing with you what our students discovered.

Since I was working with writers in grades 3 through 8, the explanations I’ll use have been directed at kids. But, the advice still applies, and I count on you to ‘upgrade’ the tip to your own level.

 

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Our INKAS were divided into groups. The first group consisted of stories we classified as ‘Words that Tell’; words that tell a story. This group of INKAS includes Short Story, Children’s Story, and Children’s Story with Illustrations. (I’ll elaborate on the Children’s Story categories in the future.)

We all pretty much know what a short story looks like, but the INKA will help you remember what a reader expects to find in one.

Remember the best story you ever read? Think about why you liked it. It probably had dialogue, or conversation. It’s much more interesting to ‘hear’ the characters speaking for themselves than to read about that they said. Many exciting stories start out with dialogue. What would you write for a story that started out with this line?

“Hey! Stop!”

A story will usually have action, and description, too, to let the reader know what people and places look like.

It may sound funny, but a writer needs to make sure their story has a strong beginning, a sturdy middle, and a definite ending. Some new writers lose steam after starting out, and they simply stop writing.  A good story has something definite to say, and it stops only when it has said it.

What else makes a good story? What helps it capture your imagination and keeps you reading? One answer: when you can care about the characters. And a reader only will care about the characters if the writer cares about them first.

Whatever happens in your story, whether it is full of action or full of internal thoughts and reflection, the characters should grow and change; something should happen in their lives that is important to them.

Finally, whenever you write, write what is  in your heart. Write about something that you care about. Write with passion ! You will enjoy the writing more. You will stay engaged with the story, and you will keep your reader engaged, too.

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Tip ~ INKAS~ #1

INKAS ?   What are INKAS?

INKAS are a tool I created while working with a school writing club. We discussed what makes up a good story (or poem, or essay, etc), and then jotted down our thoughts.

We came up with INKAS for the 20 categories of writing we studied. Each INKA lists the characteristics of the type of writing named on the box.  The image illustrates the definition of INKAS.

 

inkasImage

 

A recent discussion at our writing group showed me that some new writers don’t know (and some experienced writers lose sight of) the basic characteristics of the kinds of writing we do. So I have resurrected INKAS to help with that understanding. We begin with Short Story.

Short Story   –  typical length: 1500 words

  1. Has a complete beginning, middle, and end; is long enough to tell the whole story

May be aimed at any age

  1. May be based on truth, but is usually made up

May have dialogue in it (use proper quotations marks and paragraphing)

  1. Uses description and active words (verbs); remember the 5 senses

 

and a short story

… tells the reader about something

…has events that are important to the main character and that make the reader care.

…is written economically; every word counts

Tip

3 Basic Rules for Starting New Paragraphs

Okay, so you want to write – a book, a story, an essay – whatever you want to write. But you have ZERO experience.  

You know pages have words on them, and they seem to be broken up into patterns called paragraphs, but how do you know when to do that? Here are the beginning rules. Use them to get started writing your work the way it should be written.

 

  1.  Begin a new paragraph whenever you change speaker.

This means, in dialogue, one person says something, then another one says something.

Each time this happens, each time the speaker changes, they get a new paragraph all to themselves, and their spoken words are contained in quote marks (BONUS tip there)

 

  1. Begin a new paragraph whenever you change topic.

You begin your essay by describing the outside of your house. Then you want to move on to describing the inside of it. Make a new paragraph for the inside description. When you want to describe what the back yard looks like, that is another new paragraph.

 

  1. Begin a new paragraph when it feels like one is needed.

This can be for a pause, a change of direction in the action, or just to change theme or thought, much like a change of topic.

You may have spent some time describing how you felt when the ambulance arrived. Then the EMT has you move into the ambulance, and you need to describe how you felt – maybe more physically than emotionally -, and what the inside of the ambulance looked like.

The arrival is one paragraph, the move into the ambulance is a second, and the description of the interior is a third.

 

Most of all, watch for these things in your reading. As you identify them in what you read, it will be easier for you to remember to use them in your writing.

Be careful what you ask for…

So, yesterday I posted a little blurb I wrote for Remainder. In full flush of having posted it, I read it last night for my writing group. And, so, the pluses/minuses of being part of a writers group, and hence today’s title, be careful what you ask for.

Because I got the full brunt of their critique. To get right down to it, after setting ego aside, I saw the value of their criticisms. Here, after a bit more work and input from my closest critics, is the revised blurb.

If Wilson Parker better understood what he was taking on when he headed into Remainder, then the town’s future might not come down to a race between him and the son of a dying man.

As the war on terror builds, Wilson’s boss is building one of his infamous planned developments   to show ‘those terrorists’ how successful – and unafraid – America can be.

Encouraged by the eagerness of Ray Boone, who sees booze bottles next to the buyout’s dollar signs and Branden McKewen, who needs to move to New York City to help rebuild, salesman Parker expects property deals to go smoothly.  But success requires the cooperation of the landowners, and they are an independent if not eccentric bunch. As the push-and-pull continues, the life-paths of a dozen or more of Remainder’s residents change. For Wilson Parker and 13-year-old Ty Cummins in particular, this year changes everything.

 

Writing groups are great, and I’m glad I asked their opinion, however humbling an experience it was. I am happy I made the changes I did, as the blurb is both more specific and inclusive of better, more coherent detail. It also struck what I feel is the right note.

It’s a reminder to be willing to let go of our babies, and to consider criticisms respectfully leveled at our  work thoughtfully. I kept what I wanted for the new blurb, and discarded or re-worked the rest. It’s all in the name of making the writing better.

words

A small blurb…

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Set in Middle Tennessee a year after 9/11, REMAINDER is about a small community dealing with a potential land buyout by a developer out of Nashville. Amid the early tensions of war and the threat of an end to their way of life, residents nevertheless must face personal drama as well. For salesman Wilson Parker and 13-year-old Ty Cummins, in particular, this year will change their lives.

 

 

*Note

I posted this not only to give more information about my book, but as an example of a small blurb, ie one too  short for the back of your  book, but about right to go in a blogpost, social media, or on a sales page. One of the toughest things I think authors have to do is figure out short, preferably pithy, ways to describe their books; ways that will – we hope – pique a reader’s interest.

 

And it’s on to the next thing

Hard on the heels of launching REMAINDER and filing taxes and the Easter holiday, I am scrambling to publish the third book in my Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat romantic mysteries, FLYING PURPLE PEOPLE SEATER. Working now on final revisions, cover, and formatting as I wonder if going in the direction I did was really a good idea. Ever have those moments?  The ones where you wonder if you just killed your own darling by being daring?

On the other hand, I can honestly say I like what I did with it, especially since it provided me with the epigraphs I love to write. And thanks to my writing group, they turned out pretty nifty. Here’s a couple from FLYING PURPLE PEOPLE SEATER:

Chapter 4

  “What a gas! Bootleggin’ on the river was nothin’ like by car. Bouncin’ across the waves, dodgin’ in and outta the islands… You could slip between two of ’em and no one would know you was there. Especially not the flatfoots they had mindin’ the border… I remember one time, there was this cave I found. I could slide alongside the shore and cut the engine. I’d pole in and angle behind the rocks inside… This time, I gets inside and I’m polin’ back there, and all of a sudden, I can’t go any farther. There’s already a boat in there, and there’s this boat is this guy and a swanky dame with gams that ran from stem to stern smoochin’ like there’s no tomorrow. They couldn’t get out past me, and I couldn’t get past them. We stayed like that for twenty minutes, not lookin’ at each other, just waitin’ to see if the coppers would find us.”

 

Chapter 7

“Me and Pop was never ones for religion. We went to Mass sometimes when Al insisted all the boys show up. But all that Hell and Purgatory stuff, I never believed in that. Irony? Now that I did believe in.”

 

Chapter 14

“I was always the guy everyone talked to – like Lindy. Gettin’ himself into trouble with some dame, which he was always doin’ . He’d come to me for advice on calmin’ the lady down and convincin’ her she’d got everythin’ all wrong. I had to teach him how to treat dames right. Did it, too. Enough so’s Lindy got himself married and had five kids, all girls. Served him right.”

 

I love writing chapter epigraphs. They’re like vignettes that drop clues to what’s happening.

What’s a favorite stylistic thing you do?