steering the craft

writing for the reader

 

I do get a little cranky sometimes about all the ADVICE out there that’s aimed at writers. 

I say that as someone who gives a lot of advice to writers myself. I take this role seriously because I take good writing seriously, just as I take the courage and vulnerability of those who feel called to write seriously. 

No one falls into the profound work of storytelling at the level of mastery by accident. Instruction and mentorship are invaluable. The giving and taking of advice is a necessary thing.

But that said: Who are we trying to please when we write? Agents? Editors? Random advice-givers on social media, or pros sitting on panels at writing conferences?

Are we writing to please ourselves only? Or is there someone else out there whom we ought to be keeping in mind? That’s the topic of today’s discussion. 


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

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middles, not muddles

 

The middle of your book is the longest part—and for many writers, the toughest to muddle through.

It’s not hard to see why. How do you think of ALL THE THINGS that your hero must do and endure during that long second act? Do you wing it as you go? Map it all out in advance? Figure out the ending and try to work backward?

Let’s talk about the process of creating a dynamic second act that won’t leave you (or your reader) feeling lost.


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

And subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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close, closer, closest

 

When it comes to the space between our readers and our stories, getting close is what we want.

How close? Closer than you think! But how do we “close the distance” between reader and tale?

This question of distance is one of those dare-I-say advanced topics in writing craft that is often woefully misunderstood—so often, in fact, that well-meaning agents and editors have been known to give terrible advice about it.

I’ll talk about that more in this week’s livestream about zooming in.


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

And subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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what to leave out

 

Everybody’s talking about Hemingway this week.

Well, maybe not everybody. But many of us who think deeply about writing have the new three-part PBS documentary about the life and work of influential 20th century American novelist, Ernest Hemingway, on the watch list.

Hemingway started out as a newspaperman, and his voice as a short story writer and novelist was noted for its punchy minimalism.

That makes this a good week to talk about brevity. Compression. The art of leaving stuff out.

Many writers know that “cutting” is part of revision, but it’s not always easy to know what to cut. Let’s discuss.


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

And subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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does your story need a villain?

 

It’s been said that a story is only as good as its villain. Agree or disagree?

The truth is, our heroes need obstacles. Other characters in the tale may be instrumental in providing those obstacles. Why might they do this? Does being a “villain” equate to being “evil”?

More questions about villainy abound! How do we create “bad guys” without writing stale clichés? And how can we bring ourselves to write fully-imagined characters that we ourselves find unsavory?

Mwah-ha-ha! Clearly, the role of the “villain” is fraught with complexity. That’s what we dig into this week.


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

And subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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how do know you’re ready to begin?

beginnings Apr 06, 2021
 

You’ve filled notebooks with scribbled ideas and scoured the baby name websites for character names. But how do you know when you’re ready to actually start writing your draft?

I hear this question a lot. For many writers, there’s a a lot of pencil-sharpening that goes on before we dare type “Chapter One.” Some preparation is productive; too much just might be a form of procrastination. And there are a few specific questions that the wise writer will have considered deeply before putting too many words on paper.

In this livestream we discuss what you’d be wise to know before you start drafting—and what you can trust yourself to discover along the way. There’s some very practical advice here! I think you’ll find it very useful.


My weekly livestream is on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller...

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character archetypes

 

Remember Wilson the volleyball? What a performance! It turns out that even a story about a guy stranded alone on a desert island can have a cast of archetypal characters.

What do I mean by archetypal? That’s our topic this week. Some characters might populate the edges of a tale like extras in a movie, but archetypal characters help provide the energy that keeps your story humming along.

Story energy is a fascinating topic. It’s at the heart of how I think about good writing, and how I teach it in the Path of the Storyteller program, too. If you’ve ever wondered how to design and use your secondary cast of characters, I think you’ll like this episode!


My weekly livestream is on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

Or subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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that thing called voice

livestream replays voice Mar 18, 2021
 

Editors love it, agents “know it when they see it,” but writers are often left wondering: What is voice? Do I have one? If not, where do I go to get one?

Voice is the number one thing editors look for, so why is it such a mystery? Possibly because people mistake “voice” as being something akin to “talent” – an intangible quality you are either born with, or not.

Not so, I say! In fact, my take on voice is this: Voice is not something you have. It’s something you do.

To find out what I mean, join me on this week’s livestream. Let’s unravel this topic and learn how to make your authorial “voice” something to crow about!


My weekly livestream is on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

Or subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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crafting the multi-POV tale

 

By now you know the drill: A great story is a journey of meaningful change. Whose change? The hero’s! And, by extension, the larger world of the story.

But what about all those books that use multiple points of view?

Or that (gasp!) employ a true omniscient narrator that dives into the experience of many characters?

Who’s the hero now? Whose journey of change is it? What holds a tale like this together?

Many writers are drawn to these complex structures, but they’re not easy to pull off. This week I look at what makes them work—and what happens when they don’t.


My weekly livestream is on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

Or subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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what makes an ending truly great?

 

Hands up if you agree: A great story has a great ending.

It feels both surprising and inevitable.

It comes neither too soon, nor too late.

It’s a deeply satisfying conclusion, yet also suggests a fully-imagined future that extends beyond the final page.

Sounds easy, right? Just kidding! We all know it’s not.

Third acts are the most misunderstood piece in the story structure puzzle. In this live talk I unravel what goes into a truly satisfying ending, the difference between “open” and “closed” endings, and the two kinds of satisfaction your reader demands.


My weekly livestream is on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

Or subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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