Category Archives: methods

My Thinking Space


Thinking Space ChildSitting across from me at the kitchen table, five-year old Annalisa gently placed her hand on my forehead and pushed it away from my search for the Thomas Kinkade puzzle piece.  “Nana, please, you are in my thinking space.”  Quick, alert and gifted with spatial intelligence, Annalisa was assembling the only slightly contrasting sky at a two or three-to one pace while I struggled to put the chimney of the garden cottage together.  Hovering over the puzzle, I had encroached on her “thinking space.”

I love the concept of a “thinking space”. Out of that space come the thoughts that lead to action.  No action occurs that one doesn’t first see themselves doing it.  Like writing–one must see herself writing before she will do so.  Out of the thinking space come the ideas that produce the story.

Louis L ’Amour was often asked “Where do you get your ideas?”  He replied, “If a person does not have ideas, he had better not even think of becoming a writer. But ideas are everywhere.  There are enough in the daily newspaper to keep us writing for years.  Ideas are all about us, in the people we meet, the way we live, the way we travel, and how we think about people.  It’s important that we are writing about people.  Ideas are important only as they affect people.  And we are writing about emotion.  A few people reason, but all people feel.”  Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, p. 85.Thinking Chair 2

Ideas are born in our thinking space.  For six years I traveled the panhandle of Texas as an educational consultant with Region XVI Education Service Center in Amarillo.  The panhandle is a little less than 26,000 square miles so it was not unusual to travel 700 miles a week going to various rural schools.  Ideas that began during that travel time were often not completed when I arrived in the driveway of my home, so I would remain in my car until the ideas solidified–pondering in my thinking space until one of the kids interrupted my reverie with, “MOM, I’m hungry!”  Oh, well, to my thinking space in the kitchen!

Ideas come and go even as we sleep.  Begin to collect them in a journal designated just for that purpose. What ideas have had you just today?

Linda Hutcherson

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Filed under creativity, methods, organizing, Writing, writing advise

Getting it Right


Writing and ResearchWriting.  What a challenge. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, facts are part of your writing.  If your work is not accurate, someone will catch your mistake and you will hear about it!  For the nonfiction writer truth and accuracy must be adhered to.  Since readers may not be able to discern the difference, the nonfiction writer assumes this responsibility – and the accompanying accountability.

Many writers refer to and utilize historical facts, experts, interviews and research.  You must be aware of copyright issues, of individuals that claim expertise but are not experts, plagiarism, and the authenticity of memoir writing.The Everything Guide

The Everything Guide to Writing Nonfiction by Richard D. Bank covers many of these issues and can be useful not only to the non-fiction writer, but any writer needing to address these concerns.  If you do your own research then look to The Craft of Research by Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb and Joseph Williams, or The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Research Methods by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D. (definitely written with me in mind.)

For tidbits of historical facts look into The Timetables of History – A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events by Bernard Grun and  The Reader’s Companion to American History  edited by Eric Foner & John A. Garraty.

The Timetables of HistoryThese are just a few references on my bookshelf.  Do keep in mind however, that just because information is published, even in a scholarly work – and may even be on the New York Times bestseller list, this does not mean that everything is the truth. (Or, I got it off the Internet so it must be true!) Legends can and are perpetuated and digging for the truth can reveal some very interesting and revealing reasons for misinformation in original documents and memoirs.

So, writers beware – because these days readers are very aware.

What is your biggest challenge in getting it right in your own writing?

Donna Otto

 

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Filed under memoir, methods, organizing, research, writing advise

Research for Fiction? Of Course!


ResearchI’m in the process of writing a piece of historical fiction, based in first century Macedonia. Though the work is fiction, there is a huge amount of research that goes into the development of the story. Clothing, food, religious practices, vocations and geographical studies all play a part in the setting and set-up.

Finding reliable sources can be a challenge. Religious works are usually vague or absent of concrete details, and historical data can be politically skewed and conflicting, and usually relies on the objectivity of the researcher.

In school we were taught to find multiple resources. With the internet, it is easy to find information—often too much is available. The challenge becomes sifting through piles of speculation and opinion to glean accurate information and truth. And even then, how do you know for sure?Computer Research

My rules have become basic. First, as I study through articles and essays, I look for archeological evidence and historical documentation. I compare commonly accepted fact with what the evidence shows. Next, I find corroborating sources. I look for two to three unrelated resources that say the same thing. Thirdly, I look for details within those articles that propel the story I want to tell. Interesting tidbits that don’t help my story are useless to me.

Lastly, I rely on my gut instinct. If the story idea took hold of my brain in the first place, why? What was it that was important enough to latch on and develop? I look for information that develops that hook. If I’m hooked, the reader will be, too.

What works for you in researching for a story?

Kimberly Black

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Filed under basics, books, description, methods, novels, research, story, Writing

GETTING THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING


Typing Paper SkullRecently, I saw a great post on one of my favorite websites, Writer Unboxed, by Barbara O’Neal titled, The 20 Minute Win.  In the article, O’Neal describes how she manages to stay on task with her writing.  She focuses on her work each day as soon as she can possibly get to it by creating a 20-minute window to write. She got the idea from the late Ray Bradbury who said, “A writer should begin writing before he lets the world in.”

When O’Neal sits down for her 20-minute session, she sets the timer and writes whatever comes up.  Sometimes, it’s a blog.  Sometimes, it’s a scene that comes later in her book.  Sometimes, she even writes in a journal.  The point is, she writes uninterrupted for 20 minutes for the sole purpose of getting the juices flowing.Bottle of Creative Juices

This accomplishes two major things.  First, it warms up her writing muscles and gets her into her Writing Work Room.  Second, it reminds her how little time it takes to actually put words on a page if she will just show up to do it.

I decided to try it for myself.  The only modification I made was to shorten the sessions to 15 minutes.  I wrote the first piece in the allotted time. I started with this sentence: “Am I the only one who thinks the term baby bump is obnoxious and unflattering?”  When the timer sounded, I checked the word count.  Three hundred twenty-nine words.  About baby bumps.  I agree with Barbara.  It gets the writing juices flowing.  Can I sustain the pace of 1,316 words per hour all day – every day – when working on my latest novel?  Probably not, but that’s not the point.  The point is if I will just show up to write and get to it, I can actually produce words on the page.

What then shall I do with this newfound way to exercise my writing muscles and get the juices flowing?  Blog of course.  In the very near future, I will post these 15-minute writing exercises on my new blog.  After spending 15 minutes writing with no internal editing, I go back and spend a few minutes cleaning up the prose.  Then, since I’m in the writing groove, I find it easier to get to work on my latest project.   I have a short story with a February 1 deadline and then it’s back to revision hell with my first novel.   It’s a good thing I have writing to occupy my time.  Otherwise, I might end up watching reality TV.  Oh, wait, if I watch reality TV, I’ll have something to blog about!

Try Barbara O’Neal’s 20 Minute Win http://writerunboxed.com/2012/10/24/the-20-minute-win/ and see if it doesn’t get your creative juices flowing.

Matt Sherley

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Filed under basics, blogs, books, creativity, exercises, methods, novels, organizing, short stories, Writing, writing advise

On Writing the World


I recently took a trip for my day job employer, going from Lubbock, (west) Texas to Mississippi, and on to points in Arkansas and Louisiana. You wouldn’t think there would be that much difference in the land and culture. You wouldn’t think so.

First thing you notice coming in from the air is that great big river. We have some creeks which run in rainy weather, but nothing to compare with “Ol’ Man River.”

Jackson is carved out of hills and trees, and the drive to Vicksburg is beautiful, but foreign, to a plains boy who’s used to seeing for miles and miles.

Staying at a casino hotel in Vicksburg, I watched and photographed the barges making their way up and down the Mississippi, making that grand turn at the bend.

Over the river in Arkansas and Louisiana, you see the flat ground of the Mississippi Delta. Farmland and trees, bayous and river runs.

It’s the people who make it different, though. Peddling farm implements, I meet agricultural equipment dealers. They have their own way about things. It’s like a tee shirt I saw in a touristy shop. It said, “We don’t care how you do it ‘up north.'” That’s the truth. What works elsewhere just don’t necessarily work in the Delta. And when deer season comes, well, you wait until it’s over. They are serious about deer hunting. And duck hunting. And fishing. You get the idea.

History is different there. It was settled by European interlopers a century or more before my area was. The civil war still echoes. Racial tensions, too. Palpable. Not that we don’t have them in Lubbock, but I was unprepared for their intensity the first time I went.

You may be wondering by now: what does this have to do with writing? Contrast. It’s hard to get a view of culture until you see the differences, really understand that while people hold certain common beliefs and concepts, they are unique in many ways. That contrast can breed conflict or delight, very valuable commodities when you’re penning a story.

If you want to write about the world, get out in it.

Joe Trent

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Filed under characters, description, methods, show don't tell, story, techniques, Writing, writing advise

Six Ways to Defeat Writer’s Block


Are there times when you feel like your muse has deserted you?  Days when the writing just won’t flow?  Don’t despair; there are plenty of methods you can use to pull yourself out of the slump.  Here are a few  I’ve used:

1.  Change your writing routine.  If you usually write in the mornings, try moving the time to evening .  If you usually write at home in your office or den, move to a favorite coffee shop.  This forces your mind to work in a new way and sparks new ideas.

2.   Do some people watching.  Go to your favorite place like the mall or a park, any place where people gather.  Take your laptop or a pen and paper and write character sketches.  Listen to the conversations of those around you.  Observe their body language and facial expressions.  Keep these notes in a file for future reference to help develop new characters.

3.  Have an imaginary conversation with your main character.  Would they like your favorite place?  What would they want to talk about?  What did you learn about them?

4.  Describe a scene in nature.  Take that scene and drop your main character into it.  How would they feel while observing this scene?  Would they find it comforting?  Would they hate it?  What new things did you learn about that character?

5.  Write a piece of flash fiction Write down a short list of random words–a proper name, nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs–all completely unrelated to each other and use them in the story.  Do this in less than 500 words.

6.  Write a short story.  Take your main character or your villain and start a storyline unrelated to your work in progress.  What have learned about your character by doing this?  Or did you get an entirely new idea for a book?

What is your method for getting back on track with your writing?

Suzanne Bogue

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