Category: The Writer’s Life

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Writing is Hard, But

 

Writing is hard. Even writing a paragraph.

You get an idea. You sketch it out until you’ve covered the ground…then you wait.

You take the best parts up a level…then you wait.

As the rest of the piece comes together, you start to know what this paragraph is really doing, so you revise your paragraph some more, planting seeds or tightening connections…then you wait.

And finally, you recite it to yourself for the real music and meaning.

So yes, writing is hard. But it’s easier if you pick stuff you care about. In fact, that might be the only way we ever finish with style.

 

Your Skill is not Static

As a writer, your skill is not static. Instead, the better the project for you, the more skill you will show.

Writing is not a one-size fits all game. There are certain genres where your talent can shine, certain audience members you address when you can really hear yourself think.

Gravitate toward what you love and where you feel comfortable…and your skill level will soar.

The Method & The Mystery

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a guest blog by Kimberly Savage

I make it a point in life: never argue with Albert Einstein. Who knows what he had in mind when he wrote the words above but, to me, he describes the mysterious process of writing perfectly. And how we surprise ourselves along the way.

Applying the method

Starting the first draft of my work-in-progress, I had a sketch of what my book was about: the characters, the setting, the ideas. Enter the Book Architecture Method which both helps you organize the material you already know, and helps you discover things you didn’t know about your book.

I wrote my first draft and then, following the Method, I analyzed it. I figured out my theme. I recalled my scenes from memory. And I wrote down my series.

If you don’t know series, it is the quintessential Book Architecture concept. I think of it as an archetype, which can be a character, a setting, an object, a phrase, an idea, a theme. For more information on series, check out this PDF from Stuart’s third book, Finish Your Book in Three Drafts.

Many of my series that I had in my mind stayed mostly the same, maybe with some cutting and stitching. But I also found I’d started something new in the draft that stood out: Biology.

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What the method reveals

Being able to take a step back is what any writing method should help you do…or else it’s not doing its job. In my case, I saw:

  • Biology is my main character’s favorite school subject.
  • There’s some subtext about genetics – since the character is half Native American.
  • Add to that, the character is a cutter, so there’s blood.
  • And, oh yeah, there’s rumination on life and death – what we know, what we don’t know.

I made Biology a series. If I was wrong, and it turned out to be a dead end, I could always erase it from my series grid.

Then I wrote my second draft, and a funny thing happened. Biology became a big deal in the story. I used it as a metaphor, a scene-builder, a character-enhancer. It became one of the main series of the story. It made my story much stronger, much deeper.

Biology as a series surprised me, because it wasn’t in my head when I’d started. And if I hadn’t been looking for new series and surprises, I would’ve missed it.

Get the big picture

Using the Method is an amazing way to harness the mystery of your own writing.

  • You go beyond what you already know about your story,
  • You identify the mysteries that you’ve created, and
  • You figure out how to make your story stronger with them.

You still have lots of room for all the things you have yet to discover.

So go ahead, give the Method a try. Your story will be stronger for it. And you’ll make Einstein so proud.

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You Can Do It Too: Real Writers & The Method

You’ve read Finish Your Book in Three Drafts.

You’ve attended a Book Architecture class at a conference.

But you’re still not sure how Book Architecture could really work for you.

Two writers – Joshua Hedges and Cathy Sikorski – share their experiences with the Book Architecture Method in this group chat and how they finished their books in three drafts.

How did you hear about Book Architecture?

CATHY: I first met Stuart at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference. Those of us who go to writers’ conferences are always looking to improve our writing and are open to all kinds of ideas. I took his class on a whim and was very inspired by his view on structuring a book. I had finished my first book, and was searching for a publisher, but I was already thinking about my next book.

JOSHUA: I heard about Book Architecture at the Pennwriters conference in May. My first novel took a ridiculous amount of time. Thinking about it makes me feel like a storm cloud just rolled in. I’d work my normal nine-to-five and then write. The weekend would come and I’d write. I tossed first novel mid-way though twice. When I finally decided to keep a draft, I entered revision Hell. There was a point where I revised chapter two fifteen times. I revised so much that the story turned choppy. Eventually, the chapters lost that fresh, original feeling and I hated them. I needed to get faster and focused. I couldn’t write a good book if I hated the book before I finished it. That was what attracted me to the Book Architecture method – the tag line: “Write a book, revise a book, complete a book while you still love it.”

What caught your eye about Book Architecture? What did you like about it?

CATHY: My first book was in a diary format and I liked it that way because of the topic. The linear structure made sense. But my next book would be more chapter structured and I was floundering. So, honestly, I picked up and put down Book Architecture many times in the next year as I was ‘pantsing’ my next book. Since that was my choice anyway as an author, to just get things on the page, I was all about ‘pantsing’. I’ve never been an outliner. So you can imagine how I liked the beginning of Book Architecture.

JOSHUA: I was writing wrong. I know there isn’t one way to write, but I think you could say there are a lot of ways not to write. It took me something like 10 years to write my first novel. Rewriting dominated my writing time. I started to hate writing because I’d write a chapter and then pull it apart. Forever. Sometimes my rough drafts ended up being better than several drafts in because I’d change so much. One minor plot change and I’d go back and revise the whole novel. As writers, we spend most of our time revising, but we live for that creative time when we have a blank page and infinite possibilities. I needed more of that.

The Book Architecture method breaks it up. Three drafts, each with a purpose. I was strangling my creativity with the pressure of getting it right the first time. Breaking up my focus freed me to spend more time creating. What really got me moving was to just get my ideas down on paper. I wrote something like 60k words in around 10 weeks, while being a dad of an energetic three-year-old and having a full time job. I wrote between 500-1000 words per hour. For me that was ground breaking.

Can you describe the project you worked on using the Method?

CATHY: The project was my book Who Moved My Teeth?  This book is a compendium of humorous tales, and advice that I have gathered in my 25 years as a caregiver for 7 different family members in friends and my 30 years as an attorney working with families and elder clients.

JOSHUA: My current novel is a YA space opera about a super planet where there are strong racial divides between those that live on the continents and Polynesian-like island people. An invading Emperor attacks the planet for its natural resources and Toa, my main character’s father, a retired war hero, is called back to war. But when the battle is quickly lost, Toa must find it in herself to master a power locked inside her and save her captured father and her planet.

Were you skeptical about any part of the Method?

CATHY: Yes, I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure that I could buckle down to a structure model. I also wasn’t sure that Book Architecture was a working concept, it seemed disjointed and difficult. Which leads to the hardest part. The glaring hardest part was the cutting up of the manuscript. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around cutting it up, how to cut it up and get it back together or even where to begin in cutting it up.

Once the pages were on the table and I began, it was more freeing than I thought, but I won’t pretend that it wasn’t hard or confusing during the process. I emailed Stuart at one point, and he was kind enough to guide me through the challenge of figuring out how to put it back together. And I will tell you, that because of this process, ultimately I changed really important parts of the puzzle to make the book make more sense.

JOSHUA: Stuart is clear that not every part of the method is for everyone. I took what parts made me more effective and used them. I feel like there are a wide range of options to pick from depending on your skill level. For example, applying scenes to a target is a little tough when you have a lot of different characters. That’s one reason that I opted to get more specific in draft three. I actually cut two character POVs from my novel in draft two which resulted in a good bit of changes. Good thing I didn’t just go back and start revising mid-draft, or I’d still be in the first draft.

What was the greatest improvement in your writing, using the BA Method?

JOSHUA: Speed. I knew I had to write faster, but I didn’t want my writing to suck. I can’t sell what’s in my head unless it’s readable. I’ve seen the benefits of my improved speed in my short story writing. I just finished a 7k word short story that might be published in an anthology and it only took about fifteen hours start to finish. Oh, and I enjoyed it.

I also have more focus on theme. I feel like that’s worth mentioning because we often get tied up in what our characters are thinking and feeling, but it’s the reader that needs to think and feel. The gift readers take with them when your book is on the shelf is the theme. They might remember characters or a few good scenes, but the theme is the bit of knowledge a reader can incorporate in what they think and believe. The theme is what gives writers the power to change the world. The Book Architecture Method talks a lot about focusing on the theme of your book, and I feel like it’s something I’ll be learning my whole writing career.

What do you like best about BA?

CATHY: I really liked that there actually could be a method. I think writers struggle with a beginning, middle and end to the writing process. Book Architecture helped me realize that yes, I could finish this. Even putting three drafts on the process made a light at the end of the tunnel.

JOSHUA: Stuart’s voice is pretty laid back, almost like you’re having a dinner conversation. Don’t get me wrong, you have to pay attention but his little jokes in his books keep things light enough to digest the material. I will have to read these books and implement them a few times to really absorb all that applies to my writing style.

How did using the Method help you succeed with your project?

CATHY: For me, the biggest improvement was probably putting pieces together so that they made sense and flowed from chapter to chapter. I’m not organized as a rule, so I looked at Book Architecture as a way to make my work look and feel and be understood as a cohesive whole. I don’t know that my writing is better…hahahaha….(cause writers are their own worst enemies) but I do think Book Architecture and Stuart’s generous help made my book better!

JOSHUA: With my current novel, after 10 weeks, I have ideas on paper that I can mold into a good book. Writers work so hard and we’re rejected so often. The pages of my novels aren’t words, they’re my Saturdays that I missed with my kid or the dates I skipped with my wife. It’s time out of my life for words I can share. Using my time effectively makes that sacrifice not so bad. It motivates me to move forward and keep writing.

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Joshua Hedges is a debut YA writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. He’s currently seeking publication for a YA dark fantasy novel and writing a space opera. Some of his short stories are web-published here and here.

 

 

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Cathy Sikorski is a practicing attorney in dealing in Elder Law. She been a significant caregiver for the past 25 years. She has engaged in many speaking engagements, radio programs, and podcasts to promote humor in caregiving with her first book, released by HumorOutcasts Press, Showering with Nana: Confessions of a Serial (killer) Caregiver. In November of 2016, Corner Office Books released Cathy’s second book Who Moved My Teeth? a practical and legal guide for adults and caregivers. Cathy is a contributing author for HumorOutcasts.com. She has been featured on the Huffington Post. She can also been seen on the West Chester Story Slam YouTube channel. Cathy has a blog, “You just have to Laugh..where Caregiving is Comedy” at www.cathysikorski.com