Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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February 13, 2012

10 Favorite Writing Lessons from Margie Lawson (and her Peeps!)

Several months back, Margie Lawson did a guest blog here at Writers In The Storm called 10 Not Absurd Tips for Fiction Writing. If you missed it, you’ll definitely want to take a moment to catch up. She gave 10 AWESOME writing tips!

A little background:

I’ve been hearing about Margie and her classes for years but it was never when I had enough time for her to hit the front of my radar. As a result, I’d actually had very little exposure to her, even though we know LOTS of the same people.

I was expecting a wonderful post, but what surprised me the most about that last summer's blog was the comment section. The amped up tunnel of love flowing between her and her students was AMAZING. There were smoochie-hugs zinging all over that blog, and the warmth and generosity were beautiful to witness.

I've been saving up to attend her Immersion Master course ever since.

Below are my favorite tips from the comments section I referenced above – some from Margie and some not. As always, I included links where I could 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.

All of us here at Writers In The Storm echo Rose's thanks. 🙂

Need a little more Margie?! Stop by to see her guest blog tomorrow at More Cowbell - she's talking about visceral responses to LOVE as a Valentine's treat to us all. 🙂

She can also be found anytime at Lawson Writer’s Academy. 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

She can also be found at www.MargieLawson.com.  My favorite feature on her site are the Deep Editing Analyses. You’ll find over 25 short articles that analyze several examples from authors like Harlan Coben, Lisa Gardner, James Scott Bell and Lisa Unger.

So, Writers In Storm  Friends…what writing advice do you have? Are there lessons you’ve learned that you’d like to share? What writing teachers have had the most impact on you? We'd love to hear about it!


About Jenny Hansen:

Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the wildly teething Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing.

When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at jhansenwrites and at her group blog, Writers In The Storm. Every Saturday, she writes the Risky Baby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, new parents and high-risk pregnancy.

0 comments on “10 Favorite Writing Lessons from Margie Lawson (and her Peeps!)”

  1. Margie is like an old friend to me. We've met twice face to face at writing conferences. I had taken one of her courses on line before she came to my RWA chapter for a Master Class. These are such great experiences for a writer. Yes, Margie is a jewel. Her classes maximise anyone's writing.

  2. I love Margie's material and approach. I've taken 2 of her classes, and am currently enrolled in her daughter, Tiffany's class. I've taken a ton of online courses over the past year or so and learned something from all of them, but for me, Margie's approach stands out the most.

  3. Great tips from Margie and her grads. I especially love the one from Kristina about using the opening and ending line to raise a question. I've definitely learned a lot from Margie's approach. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Tsunami gushing alert! Diabetics, you've been warned...

    As a moving-up member of Margie's Army (think I'm a sargeant) I can't think of a more influential teacher out there. In a market clogged with 'me too' instructors, rehashing things they learned elsewhere, trying to fill lectures with scant material, you'll find Margie's classes a welcome change.

    But come ready to WORK! I haven't spent that much time on a class since college! More than worth the effort though. My writing was adequate, but Margie's lessons added the depth and sparkle I needed to sell - and I did!

    1. As your critique partner, I can get behind this sort of gushing! Your writing was always good but Margie jumped you up from college to grad school, so to speak. It was immediate, and very, very impressive. 🙂

      1. Jenny, sorry to piggy=back, but WP won't allow me to use the comment box. I loved these tips and look forward to a time when I can take one of Margie's classes. Thanks for much for this post 🙂

  5. I got to see Margie speak at a conference last year and it was lightbulb moment after lightbulb moment. After I came back from the class, I was so inspired by the "write fresh" thing that I got an idea for a new way to open my book 2. So MELT INTO YOU's opening is all because of Margie, lol.

    I ended up buying a few of her lecture packets. They're amazing. Seriously.

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