Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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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? Margie: 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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Going To The Chapel Contest - Finalists Announced

We have five fantastic finalists for our Going To The Chapel Contest!

  • Kristen Boe
  • Donna Omo
  • Carrie Rogozinski
  • Charlie Wade
  • Kelly Whitley
Click here for more details.... We can't wait to hear which entry you like the best! What do you think? (Please post your choices on the actual contest page once you've followed the link :-))
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10 Not Absurd Tips for Writing Fiction - by Margie Lawson
[caption id="attachment_1707" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Margie teaching our Masters Immersion class"][/caption]
I'm very excited to have my mentor, Margie Lawson guest blogging with us today. Fae Rowen and I attended her amazing Masters Immersion Class this year, and are editing feverishly! Here's Margie: A HUGE THANK YOU to Laura Drake and the Writer’s in the Storm bloggers for inviting me to be your guest today.  This is a combo-list, including four points from me, and three each from Francine Prose and Barbara Kingsolver. I’ll share the list of ten then chat about each tip. FROM FRANCINE PROSE: 1. Your first sentence (or paragraph) makes a promise that the rest of the story (or novel) will keep. 2. Give your reader a reason to turn every page. 3. Keep a very large trash can beside your desk. FROM BARBARA KINGSOLVER: 4. Show, don't tell. Everybody knows this rule, and most of us still break it in every first draft. Be ruthless. Throw out the interior monologue. 5. Be relentlessly descriptive. Use details from every sense you own. 6. Don't wait for the muse. She has a lousy work ethic. Writers just write. FROM MARGIE LAWSON: 7. Make multiple Deep Editing passes. 8. Write fresh! 9. Honor your Controlling Premise. 10. Cadence. Cadence. Cadence. NOW – I’LL DIG A SKOSH  DEEPER . . . FROM FRANCINE PROSE:  1. Your first sentence (or paragraph) makes a promise that the rest of the story (or novel) will keep. YES!  If you follow this rule, your readers will be emotionally hooked. They will have to keep reading. Check out the first lines of five of Harlan Coben’s books.
CAUGHT I knew opening that red door would destroy my life.
 
THE INNOCENT I never meant to kill him.
 
LONG LOST “You don’t know her secret,” Win said to me.
 
GONE FOR GOOD Three days before her death, my mother told me—these weren’t her last words, but they were pretty close—that my brother was still alive.
 
NO SECOND CHANCE When the first bullet hit my chest, I thought of my daughter.
 
2. Give your reader a reason to turn every page. SHEESH!  I want to believe that every writer strives to write by this rule. But I’ve read plenty of the first several pages of books that did not give me a reason to turn more pages. I didn’t. 3. Keep a very large trash can beside your desk. OR – Be willing to kill, mutilate, morph, and tweak your darlings.  FROM BARBARA KINGSOLVER: 4. Show, don't tell. Everybody knows this rule, and most of us still break it in every first draft. Be ruthless. Throw out the interior monologue. Ah!  Look what Barbara Kingsolver slipped in at the end.  Throw out the interior monologue.  I’ve read some of BK’s books - -and I know she isn’t suggesting that all thoughts and all internalizations should be nixed.  She’s saying, MAKE THEM COUNT! In my EDITS System, thoughts and internalizations are highlighted YELLOW. I differentiate between YAMMERING YELLOW and WORKING YELLOW. Yammering Yellow is nixed or turned into WORKING YELLOW.   ;-) 5. Be relentlessly descriptive. Use details from every sense you own. Ah – another not absurd tip we all know. It’s a good reminder. 6. Don't wait for the muse. She has a lousy work ethic. Writers just write. So true. Make every day a writing day. FROM MARGIE LAWSON: 7. Make multiple Deep Editing passes. If you’ve taken some of my editing-focused on-line courses or reviewed the Lecture Packets, you know I’m the Queen of Deep Editing. What is DEEP EDITING? It’s what’s in those 1000+ pages of writing craft lectures. It’s adding psychologically based power to create a page turning read. 8. Write fresh! Avoid clichés. Avoid overused word pairings. Share some fresh writing, but not so much or not so fresh that the reader trips. Write like I’m sitting next to you. And give the reader a boost with a phrase or sentence or two of NYT writing in every scene. 9. Honor your Controlling Premise. A CONTROLLING PREMISE is a three to five sentence who’s-doing-what-to-whom-where-and-why-the-reader-cares story summary. I recommend writing your Controlling Premise and pasting it at the beginning of each chapter. It will keep you focused on your big black story thread. 10. Cadence. Cadence. Cadence. It’s smart, smart, smart to make your writing cadence-driven. Read your work out loud, and keep tweaking each sentence and paragraph until the cadence drives you from the first word to the last. WRAPPING UP: I’ve started something new!  I created Lawson Writer’s Academy – and from now on, I’ll teach all my online courses in a cyber classroom from my web site. Visit my 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! It’s your turn now! Chime in. WHAT NOT ABSURD WRITING TIPS DO YOU LIVE BY? You can say HI!, comment on this list, or share your favorite not absurd writing tip.  Post a comment –YOU COULD WIN A LECTURE PACKET! I’ll respond to blog comments several times during the day and be back on again late tonight. I’ll draw the name of the WINNER at 8:00PM Mountain Time. I’ll post their name on the blog about 8:30PM Mountain Time. The winner may choose a Lecture Packet from one of my on-line courses.
  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
Margie Lawson —psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter—developed innovative editing systems and deep editing techniques for used by writers, from newbies to NYT Bestsellers. She teaches writers how to edit for psychological power, how to hook the reader viscerally, how to create a page-turner. Thousands of writers have learned Margie’s psychologically-based deep editing material. In the last six years, she presented over sixty full day Master Classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. 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. Thank you for joining us today. I appreciate your time.  All the Best…Margie www.MargieLawson.com
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