Writing Tips

I've saved you a search, Gentle Reader....here, in one place are as many of my "writing" blogs as I have been able to find.  Peruse at your leisure!

How to Prepare to Write the (Pagan) Novel:

When a Facebook Friend who runs the Pagan Writers' Community asked for contributions to inspire newbies,I put a few thoughts together.

- Clear space
Before starting work on a new project, I like to take a day or two to clean my desk and make space for whatever books or research materials I might need. I also like to take some time to make mental space for the time and effort I’m going to have to put forth. I try, as much as possible to carve out at least one hour of writing time a day no matter what else might be going on. If you have a particular time of day you know you write best, try to make as much time to write as your schedule allows.

- Spend time out of doors, or commune with your deities
For me, nature is our great nurturer. I observe what’s going on outside my window as source of comfort, energy and inspiration. Notice the phase of the moon, pay attention to the season. What’s going on in the animal world around you? How about the plants? Consider how you might harness your creative energy so as to be most productive, and enlist the help of OtherWorldly energies. For example, I don’t write well under full moons, so I tend to use the days immediately before, on and after a full moon as days to do anything but write. I find I frequently do a lot of planning under a waning moon, and write best under a new and waxing moon. You may find your energies are aligned as well to such natural rhythms. Now is a good time to strengthen your relationship with a goddess, god, or nature spirit to help you achieve your goal. Consider your relationship with your writing “deva" and consider how to strengthen it. This might lead you to my next step.

- Create a ritual to use every day
By bringing our attention to the words and actions associated with a particular ritual, the ritual creates focus, which creates energy, which creates the intention and thus manifests the goal. I use a simple ritual every morning to bring my attention back to whatever story I am working on at the moment. My ritual includes ordinary actions like going to the bathroom, washing my hands, and getting a cup of coffee. However, by using this time to envision myself releasing toxins and things I don’t need any more, cleansing my hands and fueling my creative fire, by the time I sit down at my desk I’m usually feeling quite productive. I also light some sage and a candle and sometimes draw a Tarot card if I’m seeking inspiration or feeling blocked.

- Set intention
My intention this summer was to take all the old ideas I’ve had kicking around in the back of my computer, put them into proposal form and send one a month to my agent. So far, I’ve sent her four proposals. My actual writing goals varied depending on the type of story I was telling and how much old material I had to work with.

- Take focused action
All the planning, ritual work and intention setting in the world will do you no good if you don’t take action. The art of writing is as much the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair as it is about anything else. Set a reasonable goal for yourself – one thousand fresh words a day is reasonable - ten thousand is not – and stick to it as much as you possibly can.
October, 2010

Thoughts on Writing Dialogue
A mistake writers sometimes make is to believe that dialogue and conversation are analogous. In other words, if this were an SAT question, it might look something like this:

Conversation is to people as Dialogue is to characters.

I think this analogy is wrong, but I think it speaks to why writers – especially novice writers – can feel dialogue is somehow “difficult.” Iit’s not enough to say that dialogue andconversation aren’t quite the same thing. Dialogue and conversation are as different as a flower from a farm implement.

For me, the relationship between conversation and dialogue is more like that between poetry and language in general. Or, in other words:

Dialogue is to conversation as Poetry is to language.

As I have come to understand dialogue, it's the deliberate distillation of conversation into an artificial form with the purpose of evoking meaning and feeling in a reader. Poetry attempts to do the same thing with the language as a whole. Poetry, too, is a distillation of the language into an artificial form with the purpose of evoking meaning and feeling.

Dialogue should be used by a writer to do two things: reveal character and move plot. If a line of dialogue is not doing one or the other, or even possibly both… I get rid of it. Te next time you find yourself evaluating a snippet of dialogue, whether yours or anyone else's, ask yourself - does it reveal character or move the plot? If it doesn't, consider if it really needs to be there.

More than any other part of a story, my experience as a reader is that I "hear" dialogue spoken aloud in my head, even if I'm reading silently (as I usually am.) Consequently, one of the ways I use dialogue is to introduce and maintain each character's individual "sound" in the reader's mind.

The best way I've found to do this is to read your dialogue sections aloud. i actually recommend you read ALL your writing aloud - to see if you've captured your unique "voice." When it comes to dialogue, this step is one of the most important. Just the words the character uses, and the way in which the character chooses to express her or himself will reveal a lot about the character.
It's also important to get the "sound" right because dialogue mimics conversation. you want the words to flow in the reader's head as naturally as a line of conversation flows off a person's tongue. Having someone else read your piece, especially if they read it aloud, can be even more helpful when it comes to capturing the right tone of "voice" for each character.

When and how to use dialect?  My feeling is to use it sparingly. People dont think they have accents, first of all - no one hears their own. Dialect is like pepper - sprinkle it judiciously but don't let it overpower the stew. you don't want your reader wading through paragraphs of 'dinna's' and 'fashes' and 'lassies' for example. Establish your character as whatever it is she or he is and then allow the reader to fill in the accent. Accent is as much a question of cadence as it is of funny words and spellings- capture the cadence of an Irish brogue, for example, and you will never have to use tortured English to express it again.

My Three Rules for Good Writing
Somerset Maugham, the English novelist, said that there's only three rules of good writing. The trouble is that no one can agree on what they are. Here's my updated list.

1. Don't be afraid to write garbage. What comes out of my head is frequently as smelly as what comes out of my butt. That's why I rewrite as much as I do.

2. Pay attention. A writer is first of all an observer, and actions speak louder than words. What a person does is a lot more telling than what he says. Your five senses are the way to connect with your reader. And God really is in the details.  So pay attention - to everything.

3. Have a reason or a goal. Every journey should have a destination, or at least a reason for it.If you don't know where you're going with a piece, at least have a reason for writing it in the first place. All reasons are acceptable - just know yours.