WIP Wednesday: Putting It Into Words

WriteOnCon has started and it's kind of freaking awesome! Ah, to not be at work when most of the fun is going on. Definitely check it out if you haven't! Everything is archived.

So I've been reading Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel. I don't usually read books on craft, mostly because I'm a slow reader and barely have enough time to do all the things I need to do much less want to do. That and there are so many out there, I'm never sure where to start. In any case, I picked up this one, and I'm finding it to be very useful.

Much of what Maass talks about is stuff we "already know." It's those things we hear and read about all the time that it's practically common sense! Show don't tell. Keep up the tension. Heighten the stakes. Create complex characters. Of course, of course! But really, what does all that mean?

I think sometimes, we know these things so well that we sort of lose sight of the meaning or we forget to really think about them. It's kind of like trying to define words out of the blue. These are words you DO know, words you grasp, words you use, but how many of you have been stumped when someone asks you to give a definition? You know the word, you really do, but you're having a hard time finding the right way to explain it. Happened all the time in SAT classes and still happens now when my sister throws a fast one at me.

This writing book gave me that kind of realization. It forced me to stop and ask, what are the stakes for this character? How can they be heightened? Where is the conflict in this story? Will people care about it?

It helped me put character motivations and plot threads into words. It made these things that were vague in my head into solid constructs. Suddenly, from my intriguing (but vague) premise, I could see where the plot should logically go, what the motivations could and/or should be. Pieces started clicking into place, and I found myself staring down a road, instead of stumbling blindly through a thick fog.

By no means am I actually helming the boat, but at least now I have a better idea of where I'm going and what my characters may or may not have in store for me.

Does putting ideas into words help you see the way the story is supposed to go? Does it help you get past writer's block or untangle unruly plot threads?

P.S. Beth Revis has a cool Mockingjay contest here going on right now. GO WIN!

P.P.S. Another fun lit thing happening on the web: YA Fantasy Showdown. Vote for your favorites. Sabriel would so kick Eragon's butt.

The Hunger Games Workout:

P.P.P.S. The Universe has been SUPER generous to me of late (and it's starting to freak me out), so I'm going to pay the AWESOME forward. Let's just say, it involves BOOKS and SHARKS. Oh and my birthday. :) Stay tuned!!!


Tere Kirkland said...

Hey, happy early birthday!

It took me a long time to realize what show don't tell really means, or what it is to write what I know.

Even with all the writing books out there, sometimes you just need to figure things out for yourself to truly understand a concept.

Great post!

Alz said...

Sometimes I think putting ideas into words just complicates the process. :P If only I could have a direct feed of what I (sometimes vaguely) imagine connected to some kind of word composer, I'd have 239048230948203 masterpieces on my hands. And then I could hook you up to it too and FINALLY GET TO READ ALL OF YOUR AMAZING STORIES THAT I KEEP ON HEARING ABOUT BUT NOT GETTING SO MUCH AS A VERBAL CRUMB OF. Ahem.

Lydia Kang said...

I speed-read Maass's book and I had a similar experience. Nothing was really earth-shattering, but it was a good reminder and poke to make sure I was focusing on my plot and characters with the attention they deserved.

Tahereh said...

awww happy early birthday! and YES HUNGER GAMES WORKOUT FTW!