I’m continually looking for writing tips, techniques, and approaches. I’m forever searching for ways to become a better writer and be inspired. Sound familiar? As a result, I attend conferences and workshops, read articles and books on writing, listen to speakers, and talk with fellow writers. I read novels and short stories all the time. And, of course, I write!
These on-going efforts with writing remind me of my golfing days and multitudinous lessons from golf instructors. (Spoiler alert: I am not the Carol Mann of golfing fame.) Many times I tried and succeeded or tried and failed at a lesson or on a course. However bad it got, I usually found something new or had a lightbulb moment (some days brighter than others), whether landing in the sand or soaring down the fairway. My golfing experiences are analogous to my writing journey – always searching for more, for better, landing in and out of the sand. And always enjoying those Aha! moments.
On a recent Sunday, I attended a short story writing workshop conducted by Author Elizabeth Sims and held at our local Miramonte Hotel. She is the creator of the Rita Farmer Mysteries and the Lillian Byrd crime series, as well as a contributing editor at Writer’s Digest magazine. In addition to fiction, she also writes nonfiction books. e.g. You’ve Got A Book In You. You can learn more about her at www.elizabethsims.com. She proved an original, entertaining, and informative instructor. There were techniques I’d heard before offered in a unique manner. But, more importantly, there were new concepts and ideas. Here are a few of both old and new:
Tips/reminders for characterization.
Give a minor character one physical trait.
Give a major character one physical trait, one psychological trait.
Give a major character an issue. e.g. abandonment
Suggestions for developing a plot.
Develop your story around a “heart-clutching moment.” e.g. huge moral lapse (Judas), nature gone wild (shark), change of heart (Michael Corleone in The Godfather).
Examine the structure of a Sherlock Holmes short story which often begins in a familiar setting with a messenger arriving with bad news. (We did a story analysis in session.)
Paint a scene.
Make one element visual – e.g. a night sky
Make one element non-visual that appeals to another sense – e.g. a chill in the air
Tips for editing.
Cut one word per sentence.
Final pearls to keep in mind as you write:
- Get rid of perfectionism. Just get those words down. Go back later to refine.
- Ignore sequence. Just get those words down. Again, go back later to address chronology of sentences, paragraphs, events.
- Keep asking yourself, “Yes … and?”
- Keep asking yourself, “What if?”
These items are just the surface. Ideas were developed through discussion and lecture plus Q&A. During the course of the workshop, we did writing blasts. I found her technique and approach freeing and fun. Her book, You’ve Got A Book In You, is now part of my library. At the end of the class, we each received an orange power bracelet and on it – you guessed it – are the words “You’ve got a book in you.”
This workshop was definitely a Sunday well-spent.