Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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July 12, 2011

10 Not Absurd Lessons from Margie Lawson (and Her Peeps!)

By Jenny Hansen

Last Friday Margie Lawson did a guest blog at Writers In The Storm. If you missed it, please take a moment to catch up by clicking here.

As usual, Margie’s advice was spot-on and amazing. However, what surprised me about Friday’s post was the comment section.

I knew Margie had a big following, but I was not prepared for the superhighway of love flowing between her and her students – it was a two-way street full of warmth and generosity. Best of all, for little ol’ me who has never attended one of Margie’s classes, it gave me insight into the magic I’ve been hearing about from my critique partners, Laura Drake and Fae Rowen.

Below are my favorite tips from the comments section – some from Margie and some not. As always, I included the links where I had them so you can explore some of these authors yourself. I limited myself to TEN tips so your brain doesn’t explode from the lava flow of great writing advice!

From Margie:

You should ask these three Critical Keeper Questions [about each scene]:

1. Does it move the story forward?
2. Does it deepen character?
3. Does it carry a Humor Hit you’d kill to keep?

Keep your book’s controlling premise posted where you can see it and will think about it with every scene! (Margie recommends you put it above each chapter header.)

FYI:  A Controlling Premise is an expanded log line. It’s a story summary that is usually three to five sentences long. It includes who, what, where, and why — and shares those dynamics in a way that makes the reader care.

Kristina McMorris:

Here’s a not-absurd tip that I try to live by: Use the opening line and closing line of every chapter to raise a question, and whenever it’s feasible, end each chapter with a power word.

Margie (in response to Kristina):

I’m a big POWER WORD advocate. I vote for Power Words ending as many sentences as possible. Two words that carry no power — are IT and THAT. I vote for nixing as many IT’s and THAT’s as possible.

Louisa Cornell:

I carry a stack of index cards in my pocket everywhere I go. You never know where inspiration or your quirky characters are going to strike next. I am always jotting things down on those cards. When I get home I may rewrite them, but I always tuck them into an index card file box. I keep a box for my current WIP and for other stories running around in my head. Sometimes I have pulled entire scenes and even entire chapters from those card boxes.

Mindy Blanchard (a different take on writing it down):
Number one tip: WRITE IT DOWN! (even seemingly crazed notions can be important at some point. We always think we’ll remember it later, but we WON’T.) Keep notebooks in your bathroom We are always working on a new story. In the car, in the grocery line, etc. I don’t know what I would do without my mini voice recorder in my car. Surely you would think I could remember that juicy tidbit that will make my story rock in the 15 minutes it takes me to get home…What were we talking about?

Anita K. Greene:

A tip I’ve received: Don’t consider your editing done until you’ve read your story aloud. This will reveal tongue twisters, cadence and the ‘word of the manuscript’ – the one word that seems to be the perfect choice over and over again.

Margie (in answer to Anita):

The ‘Word of the Manuscript.’ I like that term. I refer to it as the ‘catch word’ of the book. They’re caught in the writer’s mind — and keep getting tossed on the screen. I catch them – but many writers don’t. Some of the ones I’ve caught are — muttered, seethed, irascible, shuttered, washed over (as in grief washed over her, fear washed over her, regret washed over her . . . ) snubbed, penultimate, discounted, furor.

Lorrie Thomson:

My not absurd writing tip is that I always end a scene on a hook.

Thea Hutcheson:

I learned that you should have all five senses in every 1000 words. It is a way to make sure you have setting in your work and keep your critique partners from having to say, “Setting would be nice.”

Sherry Isaac:

Have you thought about connecting with Mattel, marketing a ‘Margie’ Barbie? They could load her with pre-set Margie-isms: ‘Cliche Alert!’ ‘Write Fresh!’ “Needs more pink!’ She could have EDITS rainbow hair! And a walking stick for those hikes on the mountain.

Rose McCauley:

My one tip would be to persevere. After almost ten years years of writing, my first novella releases this September. Thanks for all the help along the way, Margie.

Margie has started something new!

From now on, she’ll teach all her online courses in a cyber classroom from her web site (using Moodle). Visit Margie’s cyber Open House for Lawson Writer’s Academy, July 14, 15, and 16. You’ll have a dozen chances to win a Lecture Packet or an online class!

To refresh your memory, Margie’s most popular packets are:

  1. Empowering Characters’ Emotions
  2. Deep Editing:  The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More
  3. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist
  4. Powering Up Body Language in Real Life:
    Projecting a Professional Persona When Pitching and Presenting
  5. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors

For more information on Lawson Writer’s Academy, lecture packets, on-line courses, master classes, and the Immersion Master Class sessions offered in her Colorado mountain-top home, visit:  www.MargieLawson.com.

Note: While you’re at Margie’s site, be sure to check out her Deep Editing Analyses while you’re there. You’ll find over 25 short articles that analyze several examples from authors like Harlan Coben, Lisa Gardner, James Scott Bell, Lisa Unger and more!

So, do you have any more writing advice we need to know about? What helps you meet your writing goals? Are there any other special teachers like Margie that you recommend?

We LOVE hearing from you!

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