Happy 2019 to you. May each year just keep getting better and better, and may you meet all your personal and writing goals in 2019.
I’m hard at work revising my course, “Wake Up Your Prose: Description Unpacked,” which I sold two years ago and which I am happy to report was a great success. The feedback I received from those who bought the course was overwhelmingly positive; the only thing it lacked was a bit of polish in the technical department. So not only am I revising and expanding the course itself, I’m having my slides redone professionally and will be improving the audio as I re-record the course. I’m really excited, and can’t wait to launch it! Click here to be on the pre-sale list – no obligation to buy.
One of the wonderful outcomes of revising “Wake Up Your Prose: Description Unpacked” is that it has forced me to write many more words per day than I have been used to, and this is gradually becoming a habit. I’m thrilled about this. If you still haven’t committed to daily writing, I encourage you to give it at least a month’s chance. By month’s end not only will daily writing become a habit, but you’ll wake up excited to sit down at your desk and write.
What I’m reading
These past two weeks I read several books. I read John Grisham’s The Rooster Bar, which I did not like. I also read his earlier book, The Whistler, which I enjoyed. Grisham’s a lot of fun, and I look forward to finding his latest book, The Reckoning, in the used book store, the next time I’m there.
I also read two authors for the first time, Georgette Heyer and Gyles Brandreth. Heyer wrote during the first half of the 20th century. Her historical novels are set in the Regency period (officially 1811–1820, but generally considered to span from the last quarter of the 18th century until the end of the first quarter of the 19th). Her plots are reminiscent of Jane Austen (another Regency novelist, who actually lived during the Regency period). I enjoyed her beautiful use of language.
Why I don’t like Oscar Wilde
Brandreth is “a prominent BBC broadcaster, theatre producer, novelist, and biographer,” according to the book jacket, and he wrote a series of historical mystery novels called Oscar Wilde and _______.” The one I read is Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance. It was a romp, but I find Wilde such a distasteful character that I couldn’t summon up much sympathy for him, or for his sidekick, who is a less successful writer as well as an adulterer. In any case, Brandreth’s writing is excellent.
To round things out, I read P. D. James’s second novel (1963), A Mind to Murder. I think I like her more recent novels better. By the way, James was 42 years old when she published her first book, and 91 when she published her last. (Two collections of short stories were published posthumously.) So NO AGE EXCUSES! Just sit down and write.
Bought one “fun” novel on Kindle for $1.99, and still hope to read that nonfiction book next.
Outlining has never been easier
As I was looking for a valuable piece of writing information for you, I came across an excerpt from a terrific article, which I had saved to Evernote. Unfortunately, I neglected to write down the URL, and thus I have only an excerpt from the article. After searching for the old URL for a quarter of an hour, I am admitting defeat and giving you the information in my own words.
Two crucial questions to ask yourself
Got an idea for a story, an article, or a novel?
Before you begin to write, ask yourself these two questions – and write down your answers!
- What do I know?
- What don’t I know?
What I know
For example, if you’re writing a novel about, say, an orphan who escapes from his orphanage, you might already know that
- you want him to be 12 years old
- you want him to meet a 13-year-old street kid
- you want him to find a long-lost member of his family
- you don’t want this to be a love story
- you want an ambiguous ending
- you want it to take place in a big city
- you want there to be a death in the book
What I don’t know
Once you’ve gotten this all down, it’s time to ask the second question: What don’t I know? This will help you flesh out the book. The author of the original article called it “filling in the blanks.” Here’s an example:
- How will the protagonist escape from the orphanage, and what triggered his escape?
- Who is this street kid? Boy or girl?
- Which member of the protagonist’s family will he meet?
- In order to make the ending ambiguous, what will be the “happy” part of the ending and what will be the “sad” part?
- Which city will this take place in?
- Who will die, and how?
Once you’ve jotted down the questions, start building the structure and/or plot by answering them. Begin to sketch the characters you’ve identified. Add your answers and your sketches to your “What I know” list.
Continue writing down what you still don’t know, refining the piece until you have a comprehensive detailed outline.
For example, if a homeless drug addict is going to die by being shot, your new questions might include: “Who shot her?” “Where?” “Why?” “Who witnesses the shooting?” Or if you’ve decided that the street kid is a female illegal alien from Honduras, ask yourself how she got to the big city, how the protagonist meets her, where she spends her days and nights, etc. Add these answers to your first list as well, and keep asking that second question.
Build on your answers until you are ready to put it all together with your outstanding prose.
New Year’s prezzie
I found a fabulous and
very helpful useful poster online: a list of 128 words you can use instead of very. The website has made it impossible to copy (I would’ve given them credit, of course), so I’m passing along the link instead. Check it out here. I will list a few choice options below:
- very afraid = fearful
- very annoying = exasperating
- very colorful = vibrant
- very deep = profound
- very easy = effortless
- very expensive = costly
- very heavy = leaden
- very high = soaring
- very messy = slovenly
- very often = frequently
- very perfect = flawless
- very sharp = keen
- very simple = basic
- very thirsty = parched
See you in two weeks! And until then,