steering the craft

Creative overwhelm! The struggle is real.

 

We writers are a funny lot, aren’t we? We spend half our time worried about not having enough ideas, and the other half worried about having too many!

Fear of the blank page gets a bit more attention, and understandably so. Who hasn't panicked at the specter of “writer’s block” (which is not a thing, in my opinion—we’ll discuss!), or skidded to a halt mid-draft because you just didn’t know what to do next? 

But creative overwhelm is an equal, if opposite, problem. We keep coming up with ideas. Characters. Potential scenes. We try writing in first person, then third, and now we can’t decide between them. As our cast gets bigger we waffle about who our main character is, and start wondering if we should try to include multiple viewpoints. Is two enough to cover all bases? Is twelve?

And what about the backstory? It feels important too; what if we weave it in as a subplot that takes...

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How much is too much? Compress your prose for maximum impact!

 

This time of year, even the most disciplined among us can become prone to excess.

We do too much, we plan too much, we eat too much, we spend too much.

In our writing, too, we want to make sure we give our readers “enough.” As we revise our drafts to increase reader satisfaction, is it any wonder we’re inclined to add more stuff? More vivid description, more witty banter, more plot twists, more character development?

But does this actually make things better?

In a word, nope!

One of the most important things we do in revision is to compress the prose. We pare things down so the glitter of story energy can shine brightly, instead of being buried under a heap of crumpled wrapping paper we don’t want or need.

How to pare down our prose during revision is the topic of this week’s livestream. Practical decluttering tips in store!

I hope you find the perfect sweet spot for finding peace and joy this holiday season. Not too much, not too little, but...

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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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skip to the good stuff

Fern woke and sat up in bed; she stretched, she yawned. She checked the weather—damp again!— chose an outfit, and got dressed in her favorite blue shirt.

She wandered downstairs and wheedled some breakfast from her mother. "Say, Mother," she said, as they finished eating. "Where’s Poppa going with that axe?”


Sincere apologies to E. B. White! But this unfortunate opening—let’s say it’s from Charlotte's Web in the bizarro universe where Spock has a beard — while perfectly “correct” in a grammatical sense, commits an all-too-common faux pas. It wastes words and the reader’s precious attention by clearing its throat and taking a bunch of practice swings while the STORY is just sitting there on the table getting cold. 

“Where’s Poppa going with that axe?” is where this story begins. There is no need to start sooner. We can assume Fern gets up in the morning and gets dressed before...

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