Tips for More Abundant Writing

1. Writing takes TIME. Give yourself time.
2. Make a list of all the reasons why you yearn to write.
3. Look at it every day.
4. If you yearn to write, then you are a writer. Believe it.
5. Put writing first. Write when your energy is highest.
6. Get up early, or stay up late.
7. Pick a starting time, and stick with it.
8. Set a low goal at first – 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
9. Close your door. Tell your family this is your private time.
10. Eliminate distractions: turn off the TV, get a babysitter, unplug the phone.
11. Write fast, without thinking. Write about anything.
12. Don’t force yourself to be brilliant. Give yourself permission to write junk.
13. Don’t worry about mistakes. You can fix them later.
14. Go off on tangents. Follow strange paths. Allow yourself to PLAY.
15. Don’t show your work to anyone until you feel ready.
16. Take walks just to think.
17. Join – or start – a writing group. Meet often, and support each other.
18. Read the best writing you can find: the classics, the award winners, the authors you love.
19. Take writing workshops.
20. Read books and articles about writing craft.
21. Writing takes PRACTICE. Keep playing. Keep believing.
22. Notice the improvements in your skills, and feel proud.
23. Your writing time will naturally increase.
24. You will become prolific.

Shaping Scenes – The Heart of a Great Story

What is a Scene?
Just like in a theater, when the curtain rises…you see a scene.  Characters are moving and talking on a stage
Act 1, Scene 1 – each scene has a beginning, middle, end.

Scene is the basic unit of a story.
The majority of every story is dramatized in scenes. So, the better you are at writing scenes, the better your story will be.

A story is like a string of pearls –the string is the story arc – each pearl is a scene.
Space between the scenes – narrative summary
Scene unfolds in real time – narrative summary condenses the time between scenes.

Three Tools to Improve Your Scenes:

1. Shape Each Scene

The wave form is found throughout nature – ocean, sound, light, all energy, breath, life. The wave is the form of a story. Begin with energy, swell to a crest, them subside and release. The wave form is also called the story arc or plot.

Each scene should take the same wave form:
• Beginning – opens with an energetic hook to captivate the reader
• Middle – complications rising to climax – energy level rises steadily – climax is the last scene of the middle section
• End brings satisfactory release or closure, sometimes introducing a hook to the next scene

2. Use the Greek Unities to Sharpen the Scene’s Focus

The Greek Unities – Aristotle
1. One place
2. One time
3. One action

One place
One setting – may be a road or path – still one place
Bring the setting alive with description, 5 senses
Make the setting do work:
• use details to set the mood – tone
• details of setting can reveal character – a person’s home, car or workplace
Use description sparingly – description alone is static, so weave it into the action
One telling detail better than three ordinary ones
Long passages of description must be extraordinary, active, suspenseful

One time
Know your year, season, day, hour – weather, light/dark, energy level

One action
One main event to move the story forward
Conversation only scene – decision, secret revealed, relationship advanced, etc.
Action scene – something changes to move the story forward

Action requires Actors (one or more characters)
Otherwise – not a scene – just an image
Two or more characters – dialogue & action
One character scene – soliloquy/internal monologue – or action

Action centers on a Conflict – a struggle between opposing forces – the soul of drama
The story has a central conflict
Each scene has a smaller related conflict that moves the story forward
3 types of conflict
Character v. Character
Character v. nature or system
Character in conflict with himself.

William Faulkner: “The human heart in conflict with itself…alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about.”

Conflict creates suspense – feeling of uncertainty and tension that makes reader want to know what happens next

3. Make every scene do work for the story
1. Reveal character
2. Move the story forward
3. Develop the theme

Reveal Character
In every scene, let the reader get to know your characters a little better
Each character has a motivating goal or intention for that scene – what he wants
Obstacles to the goal create conflict
How characters react to obstacles and conflict reveals who they are

Move the story forward
Where does the scene fall on the story arc? It must fit where it belongs and pull its weight to advance the plot.

Develop Theme
The theme of a story is an insight about life or human nature that the writer presents to the reader. It’s the deeper meaning of a story. The story is a metaphor to express the theme – each scene elaborates the metaphor.

A Word about Exposition – facts, backstory, mini-flashback
use in small bites; don’t bog down the scene’s forward movement

A Word about Transitions – signposts for your reader
A transition may be needed at beginning of scene: Let the reader know where you are, how much time has passed

When do you decide all this about your scene?
Before, during or after – any time
Every revision – you’ll discover more
Your scene gets closer and closer to the ideal you want

EXERCISE -
Two friends are standing on a bridge
One wants to walk into town to eat supper
The other wants to hitchhike to Colorado

Review of The Gravity Pilot from Owlcat Mountain

While mythology is a rich mine for fantasy, it doesn’t often come into play in science fiction. That’s too bad, because science fiction as a genre carries many of the same themes and plot arcs as fantasy. So you can imagine how excited I was to find that M. M. Buckner has written a novel that draws heavily on the Greek myth of Orpheus. The Gravity Pilot follows a skydiver and the love of his life as each descends into their own personal Hell.

Orr has given his life to two things: skydiving and his girlfriend Dyce. But when a botched stratosphere dive turns into a record-breaking mesosphere jump, he’s quickly contracted to make jumps to be filmed for a virtual reality world. Dyce can no longer take his obsession with the sport and takes a librarian job in the underground city of Seattle.

Orr later discovers that Dyce has become addicted to fully immersive virtual reality and is a slave to the company who makes it. Orr’s constant pushing of his limits drops him into a dangerous mental state from which he makes jump after jump in increasingly deadly circumstances. But he will give it all up for Dyce, who may be too far gone to save.

I was pleased to see how many different levels Buckner was able to weave into this story. It functions as a sports story, with the descriptions of skydiving and the training and terminology that go along with it. It’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of rampant technology, with the scenes of people helplessly hooked into the full-immersive sims and unable to detach themselves. It’s also a cautionary tale about turning a blind eye to the state of the world’s environment, which underlies the “head in the sand” attitude of the tech addicts who can’t face reality.

There are some obvious parallels to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, although the book is less of an “update” (as it’s being billed) and more of a story infused with elements of the myth. On the one hand, I have to wonder if the publicity linking it to the myth will influence readers in what they see in the tale; on the other hand, I really have to wonder if the majority of readers will be familiar enough with the myth to catch the references. I asked several people at my work if they knew the myth, and no one did—and I work on a college campus!

The setting—a future time when the world is hideously polluted—provides yet another layer to the novel. It all has to do with the choices that we make, not just as a species but as individuals. We can choose to ruin our personal environment or nourish it, just as we as human beings can choose the same for the world as a whole.

While Dyce is the obvious love interest in the book, I found myself much more intrigued with Orr’s relationship with Vera, the lady who hires him to dive for virtual reality sims. Dyce leaves so early in the book that readers don’t get too much of a sense of how she and Orr fit together. The book shows much more of the adversarial relationship between Orr and Vera, and thus I found it the more intriguing of the interactions.

It’s not easy to review this novel because there’s so much going on that trying to describe it would not only take too long, but it would detract from the story. This is a book that you need to read at our own pace and digest in your own way. Rest assured, it’s a rewarding experience.

If readers can let themselves take the story for what it is, they’ll find a richly layered story. The disparate threads of story and theme mesh together, forming a detailed tapestry of love, loss and the forces that draw you towards your destiny. Read this novel to discover why we are all gravity pilots, falling towards our own personal Earth.