path of the storyteller / blog

Why is it so hard to focus? It’s every writer’s complaint.

focus mindset process Jan 29, 2023
 

So there I was, sitting in my local coffee spot, sipping my Americano and mulling the question at hand:

What should my livestreamed talk be about this week?

—when my focus was upended by a conversation at a nearby table.

Reader, I eavesdropped. An intent young man was sharing his hopes and dreams with a patient young lady, who nodded in time to his drumbeat of earnestness.

He listed one ambition, then another, and then two more (you can find out what they were here).

Flushed with feeling and caffeine, he concluded, “That’s it! I’m just going to focus on these four things. Oh, and my music, too!”

That’s five things, but never mind. I knew at once that my topic would be focus. It’s every writer’s complaint.

  • How hard it can be to maneuver ourselves into work mode to start with.

  • How easily we get distracted.

  • How frustrating it is to finally buckle ourselves into the writing chair, only to tinker aimlessly with our work-in-progress...

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How shame holds writers back

mindset Jan 19, 2023
 

The always inspiring Brené Brown defines shame as an “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” 

Is there anyone who hasn’t felt this at one time or another? 

Shame is a tough feeling. It can stop us in our tracks. Even talking about it feels shameful!

My work teaching and mentoring writers over the years has shown me this truth again and again: All the story structure and writing craft expertise in the world won’t matter much if the writer’s mindset gets in the way of actually doing the work in the first place.

All those stubborn, hard-to-admit beliefs that we’re not talented enough, or that what we have to say is not interesting enough, or that our dreams of writing are too foolish and impractical to even admit to others?

That’s shame talking.

Shame holds writers back in so many ways. It...

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Revision is a writer’s best friend

revision Jan 17, 2023
 

Twenty-five years ago, I lived in a little run-down house in Brooklyn my then-husband and I bought for a song.

Seriously, people pay more for cars these days then we paid for that house. 

Life happened, things changed, and the house was sold. It seemed like the best thing to do at the time. 

My daughter likes to keep track of it, though. Last year she sent me the real estate listing:

SOLD! For..... two and half million dollars.

Even typing that makes me sigh. 

Woulda! Coulda! Shoulda! Everybody’s got a story of something they wish they could go back in time and do differently. This is the clarity that hindsight gives us. 

In life, we don’t get do-overs. 

But in writing, we do. The chance to go back and revise our work is not simply a happy option writers enjoy, but a central part of our process.

In today’s livestream, I want to talk about revision. Why is it so important—and so misunderstood?

As...

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What writers can learn from....pickleball?

 

ENROLLING NOW! The Path of the Storyteller program starts in January, and seats are still available. Click here to learn more. 


It’s the game that’s sweeping America, and the world: Pickleball!

I too, have happily fallen in semi-obsession with the new national pastime. It's good for writers to get fresh air and exercise! 

But I also find it’s really good to be learning something new.

It’s stimulating to be a beginner. It puts the focus not on “how good” we are, but on how open we are to learning.

This is a real life skill. The process of learning is the same no matter what the subject matter is. If we cultivate becoming good at learning, we can learn anything. 

Including how to write really good fiction.

See, you knew I’d get to writing eventually!

In my many years of teaching and mentoring writers, I’ve found that writers sometimes have unrealistic expectations about what...

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Today’s the perfect time to do this!

careers mindset process Dec 07, 2022
 

ENROLLING NOW! The Path of the Storyteller program starts in January, and seats are still available. Click here to learn more. 


A question for you: When is the perfect time to act?

To start a new project?

To break an old habit?

To finally drop something that’s not working?

To pivot? Reboot? Change course? Face facts?

I think most of us know in our hearts when SOMETHING needs (or has long needed) to change. But that doesn’t always mean we take action.

Often, there's a panicked answer that rises within us:

Not now.

There’s too much on my plate.

I’m already overwhelmed.

After I get these ten other very trivial things sorted out, THEN I'll be able to finally deal with That One Important Thing that I’ve been putting off for years

We’re all this way. People (and writers are people, don’t forget!) never seem to run out of ways to say “Eek! I’m not ready for this."

...

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Writing: It’s not for the faint of heart.

Uncategorized Nov 23, 2022

My dear storytellers, I’m not doing a livestream today. Instead, I’m tidying up, searching for the purrrfect cranberry sauce recipe (one of these years I’m going to nail it, though honestly I never met a cranberry sauce I didn’t like), and taking things nice and slow.

I’m so grateful for you all. It’s a treat to be part of a community of writers like you—thoughtful about the work, interested in learning how to do better, and aware that the true path of the storyteller is not just a hobby or even a profession, but a vocation. 

We’re all part of the long lineage of storytellers. As you probably know by now, this job is not for the faint of heart!

We hold a mirror up to the world so that it might see itself a little more clearly, and (we hope) take one more brave step toward the light.

We ransack our own hearts and hurts and weave our private treasures into tales that make...

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First person POV done right

first person pov Nov 23, 2022
 

ENROLLING NOW: The next Path of the Storyteller program starts in January 2023. If you’re interested in learning more about my in-depth training in story structure and writing craft, click here now.


First person point of view can be so me me me. All that time stuck inside someone’s head! 

Yet many writers mistakenly think that writing in first person is somehow easier than writing in third, precisely because of this endless monologue quality.

Who hasn’t gotten on the phone with a good pal and talked for an hour without ever once running out of things to say? The words just pour out.

Isn’t writing in first person is more or less like that? So we may naively think, and writers desperate for word count may find the notion of turning on a word spigot very appealing.

Now, listen, my dear storytellers: Writers may long for a word spigot, but readers all want the same thing: a great story, vividly and memorably told, and populated by iconic...

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No more prodraftinating!

 

Anyone who’s read my Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place books knows I like making up words. 

The most popular invention in that series was “optoomuchism,” which is the tendency to take optimism much, much too far. Spending your Powerball winnings before actually checking to see if you have the winning ticket would be an example of optoomuchism. 

Well, today, dear storytellers, I have a new word for you: prodraftinating

It’s what happens when we use drafting as a means of procrastinating.

Now, before you get all flustered, know that I want you to be drafting your books! I want you to have fun doing it, too. Creative work is a form of play, and it should feel like that while you’re drafting.

But what I want you to consider is that scribbling pages of words without making actual choices about what happens is a red flag. It’s using that good “look at me, I’m drafting!”...

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Top ten NaNoWriMo tips (they’re not just for November)

nanowrimo process Nov 09, 2022
 

My top ten tips for winning at NaNoWriMo are good all year round.

More than the falling leaves, more than bags of leftover candy, more than the vast, strange displays of decorative gourds everywhere you look—nothing says November more than flocks of writers head-down, scribbling madly to meet daily word count goals as if their very lives depended on it.

Yes, storytellers—it’s NaNoWriMo season! National Novel Writing Month is here again.

I’m all for anything that gets writers’ creative juices flowing. In today’s livestream I’m offering my top ten tips for having a fun and productive NaNoWriMo. But these tips don’t only apply in November. Think of them as all-weather advice for managing your creative energies.

Whether or not you’re sprinting through a draft this month, I think you’ll find these tips useful. Leave a comment below and let me know!

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Are you lost in the words?

process Oct 28, 2022
 

While writing their drafts, many writers are way way, way too focused on the words.

What? Sacrilege, right? Let me clarify. 

Most writers start drafting by typing Chapter One. Then they do their best to scribble down as many words as they can, on as many days as they can. 

The more words per day, the quicker the draft is done, right?

And isn’t the draft supposed to be a hot mess that we fix later? Isn’t getting to “The End” our primary goal?

I do know this is all very common advice. But I say no.

When we draft, we are first and foremost drafting a story. 

The words of the draft don’t matter (yes, let them be a hot mess!) because we cannot possibly know what words are needed (or what scenes are needed, or what characters are needed) until we have done the foundational work of coming up with a story.

That’s what the draft is for.

I don’t mean we need to start with a turn-by-turn outline. I’m an inveterate...

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