I have a link to Writer’s Digest on my Useful Links page, but I’m not sure I’ve actually directly addressed before just how useful signing up for their newsletters can be. Yes, it does mean getting even more emails. When I’m really feeling the weight of writer’s block, it is so easy to just delete the messages without even reading them. If I’m honest with myself though, I’ve often found useful advice in the articles when I take the time to read them.
Did I mention that the articles are usually broken down into easy to digest lists?
Yesterday’s newsletter had How to Start a Novel Right: 5 Great Tips, by Jessica Strawser. I’m still working out how I can apply it to my writing, but #1 and #5 both caught my attention immediately.
“#1: When planning your story’s structure, start with this no-fail method: Create a Doorway of No Return for your protagonist before the 1/5 mark of your book.”
This suggestion fits in really nicely with a book I’m currently reading by Christopher Vogler called The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. In it, Vogler breaks down how techniques of myths can be applied to modern storytelling. Of the stages Vogler describes, derived from The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, one describes “The First Threshold.”
Prior to this threshold, the protagonist has received “The Call to Adventure”—some problem, challenge, or adventure. The protagonist at first refuses the call, but after meeting with a “Mentor,” reaches the point where he or she cannot refuse any longer. It is at this time that the protagonist crosses the first threshold, or passes through the “Doorway of No Return.”
“#5: Instead of ‘write what you know,’ try writing what you feel.”
I can’t explain this suggestion as well as the quote from Lee Child that is used, so here it is:
“Because if you substitute Write what you feel, then you can expand that into—if you’re a parent, for instance, especially if you’re a mother, I bet you’ve had an episode where for five seconds you lost your kid at the mall. You turn around, your kid is suddenly not there, and for five seconds your heart is in your mouth and you turn the other way, and there he is. So you’ve gotta remember the feel of those five seconds—that utter panic and disorientation. And then you blow that up: It’s not five seconds, it’s five days—your kid has been kidnapped, your kid is being held by a monster. You use what you feel and expand it, right up as far as you can, and that way you get a sort of authenticity.”
I’d definitely recommend looking at all five tips, which can be found here.
Some emails I get from Writer’s Digest are just soliciting money for various online workshops, or trying to get me to sign up for the magazine itself.
Other times they seem to be right in tune with what I need to read at that moment, like the article above, or the “From the Editor” section of another email from this week, which had this (paraphrased) quote:
“No one sets out with a goal to be lazy and fail at their attempts. That’s what happens when you don’t set goals.”
As I mentioned in my last post, my New Year’s resolution is to finish a first draft of my novel. Even as I’m setting smaller goals, it is a daunting task to undertake. I’m 300 words short of my absolute minimum goal for Monday (2000-3000 words before classes start), and I know I can do that, but I want to do more than the minimum.
So remember this as you set your goals for writing:
“Sometimes the resolutions we make can slip away from us because we have an ambitious end goal (‘finish the novel,’ ‘pitch 100 publications’), but we never set the mini-goals along the way. It becomes a lot easier to wrap your head around the manageable task of ‘Write 2,000 words this week no matter what’ than it does to see ‘Finish the novel!’ on your to-do list.”
Happy writing, everyone.