Writing Tips

Lifelike writing to engage readers’ minds

Showing Versus Telling in Your Writing
There are two different narrative modes: the breezy, dash through background information or set up, in which the narrator tells us what’s happening—and sometimes even what to think. The advantage here is the ability to move fast through subject matter and time.

But to engage a reader’s full attention specifics are needed, complete with sensory details and dialogue or, in nonfiction, quotes. Writers offer snippets of showing within the general narrative flow or fully unleash its dramatic effect within scenes. That’s showing, and for those new to creative writing—as opposed to correspondence or term papers—this form must be mastered. The goal […]

Writing a Setting into the Story

The Role of Settings in Fiction & Creative Nonfiction
The setting might be of minimal importance in a story that focusses upon a character’s inner struggles, as in Nuala O’Faolain’s creative nonfiction biography Chicago May. Or place may be so important it takes on the importance of a character, as in Michael Crummy’s Sweetland, with a protagonist who remains behind when his remote island home is abandoned.
Does the setting play a major role in your story?
If setting is key to your narrative, use its drama to flesh out your theme (the essential core idea of your story). The landscape, weather or season, or a specific […]

Writing About History

The Art of History, Unlocking the Past in Fiction & Nonfiction, Christopher Bram
Books about writing history are hard to find, so this new addition to the canon is a prize—in every sense. The Art of History is a slim volume that packs a lot of punch.

Christopher Bram is a passionate consumer of history, and a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. His homage to the subject covers all the dynamics of craft, from story structure to the use of details. And scattered throughout is an eclectic mix of fiction and nonfiction examples, because “they’re two sides of the same mountain.” Bram unpacks these […]

Good Writing Requires Great Storytelling

What is a “Story”?
Think of a favourite family story. You’ve heard that tale repeatedly but it never fails to bring a gasp or a laugh.

Now—deconstruct that story. It’s not likely to be a memory of a picnic on a perfect  summer day, when everything went right. The gripper, the one everyone remembers and wants to hear again, hinges on a problem. In fact, it probably follows a series of escalating calamites–after which nothing is ever the same again for the people involved.

That’s a story. It revolves around people we’re interested in. The protagonist of the piece wants something, but everything goes awry. She […]

A Story Structure Guides Readers

Story Structure Gives Readers a Path to Follow
Whether it’s a novel or a fact-based essay, your story needs a structure, a logical flow that’s like a winding path through a wilderness of ideas and details. Readers want assurance there’s a clear direction for this journey.

Structure is an integral part of the planning process, flowing out of your premise and theme. (For more on theme see: http://thescribes.ca/a-theme-provides-a-focus-for-writing/)
What Does a Story Structure Look Like?
Marion Road Smith, in The Memoir Project, cites Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, a memoir of self-discovery, as a book with a clear structure. It has 108 chapters (the number of […]

Write a More Convincing Scene

Show Readers What’s Happening

Give Them the Details So They Can Draw Their own Conclusions
Readers want to be active participants in the story—to draw their own conclusions, rather than simply be told what the narrator thinks. So for passages or scenes where you want full engagement, give them the specific and sensory details. Paint the scene in full colour.

One of my summer reads was Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic Victorian novel North and South. Gaskell was a master storyteller, with convincing characters and gripping plots, but the impact would have been stronger still with less telling and more showing.
Examples of How […]

Help for a stalled writing project

Is Your Writing Project Stalled?
First Draft Rehab
a.k.a
when a promising early draft hits the skids
Blog Post by Annette Yourk, Sept 5, 2016

Your manuscript is tucked into its box. There’s more work ahead, but you’re feeling good. You’ve gone the extra mile; tidied some sloppy sections, tinkered with spelling, and punctuation. You’ve built this story with knowledge, the raw material of memory, and your own imagination and unique view of the world. You know your material by heart. The hard work is behind you now and you can see the summit; where the perfect convergence of idea, motivation, complication and conflict […]

Guidelines for a Successful Writers’ Group

What to Expect From a Writers’ Group
You’ve written and rewritten that piece SO many times you’ve lost perspective. You need feedback. A writers’ group, or a writing partner, is the best way to get that. A friend or lover, keen reader though she may be, will probably just give a polite (or overly critical?) overview. And she’s probably not familiar with the mechanics of story crafting.

A writers’ group will give you honest—and respectful—reflection about your darling, guided by protocols that should include:

Agreed rules for giving and receiving feedback
Members with a similar range of expertise and commitment
Regular meetings […]

A First Step in a Writing Project: Identify Your Audience

Identify Your Audience as a First Step in Your Writing Project
It Determines Content, Voice, Tone and Language
Writing is a complex form of communication. You’re speaking to people who must decipher your ideas through the filter of their own perspective, experiences, culture and education level. But, unlike a conversation, if your book or blog post doesn’t deliver they can walk away.

So who is your audience? Answering this question should be one of your first considerations. Start with a generalized statement about a broad spectrum of readers—and then get specific. Make notes, because writing causes us to think in more depth.
Make Notes […]

Writing tool to release creativity and organize ideas

Mind Mapping: A Thinking Tool for Writers
Try mind mapping (or ‘clustering’) to assess an illusive subject, or sort and organize a log jam of information. It’s a simple brain storming-style exercise. A flip chart page and coloured pens produce a large format reference, but a letter-sized sheet with a pencil works just as well.

Write a word that represents a problematic character or issue in the center and circle it.
Note and circle every idea that pops to mind—with no censoring or judging. Let the words fly at random. Keep working for two or three minutes, or until you run out of responses.
Review what you’ve […]