Writing Tips

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
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 […]

Get a free manuscript review!

A New Draw for a Free Manuscript Review has been Launched!
Jane Wilson’s plans for retirement from a high stress social services job included writing. It’s in her blood. Her older sister Jocelyn Reekie has several books in print and Jane’s an avid reader. But two years passed by without any headway. (Sound familiar?) There’s her acreage in Saskatchewan’s Qu’Appelle Valley, quilting, the odd round of golf, her grandchildren and her critters to fill Jane’s time. Meanwhile, her ideas for a historical fiction piece kept brewing. She had a complex tale in mind, with intriguing characters to match. The problem […]

Writing about a Story’s Setting

The Story’s Setting can be a Dynamic Force
Setting is more than just the place where the action unfolds. It can be a compelling force that keeps the story in a readers’ mind years later. It can shape or mirror the unfolding drama, as a metaphor or with such intensity that it can be counted as one of the the characters.

Document the details of your setting–whether real or imagined–in exacting detail. Note sensory perceptions, the moods, weather, plants, animals, contours and changeability.
Document Impressions of the Setting
Here’s some things to consider as you make journal notes about your story’s locale:

What’s the weather like? (Describe […]

Write About Intriguing People From the Past

Nonfiction Writing is Enhanced by Memorable Characters…but Details about People from the Past Can be Hard to Find
1. Create a timeline of the important events of your main characters’ lives, with all the known details: race, nationality, marital status, education, religion, profession.

2.If there are photographs, document how she looked.

3. What are your assumptions and feelings about this person? (Try the exercise described with the  photograph below. For some historical figures a picture or two and some superficial details is all there is to work with–forcing you to speculate.)

4. Write short (2-5 pages), no frills, biographical sketches of each of the characters.
Revisit Research Materials in […]

Editing a Draft Memoir or Family History

Editing an Early Draft of a Memoir, Biography or Family History   
Here’s some questions to guide your review of an  early draft of a scene, or any nonfiction writing. These questions will focus your attention on story flow and structure, rather than the picky details of grammar and sentence structure. Leave those for the penultimate draft and, for now, apply these questions to a piece you’re reading for someone else, or to your own writing:

• Are character traits revealed through their actions, thoughts and/or dialogue (rather than author “telling”)?
• Was there too much (or not enough) back story/explanation?
• What’s at stake for […]