Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Art of Braiding

The art of braiding stories--not hair--is today's topic. A few days ago I reached for the book Crafting Novels & Short Stories. Instead of beginning at the, well, beginning, I opted to skip the norm and go for a different approach. I sliced open the pages of the book and landed smack dab in the middle. Now, that's shakin' things up a bit! Chapter eleven, written by Heather Sellers, explained this concept of weaving the element of braiding into our stories.

The author suggested imagining three photographs lying on your desk. Being an avid photographer, I enjoy the countless photos that line the walls of my home. Each one tells a different story. There should be at least three strands of stories in your novel but never underestimate your reader. They are intelligent, and they will follow your story line. She says, "You can't be confusing, but you can't spell it all out, either."

Three seems to be the magic number here. Three was my junior high volleyball number, is the number of children I have, and is the age of our youngest, cutest and only daughter. Like the layers in an onion, a novel should peel away, revealing other story lines. Sellers says if a story lacks braiding, this is the reason why stories fall flat and lose steam about half-way through the novel. Layering in a novel allows the writer a chance to tell a tantalizing tale or two or three. Don't forget each story line or braid should contain the same elements found in a single story: characters, plot, crisis, resolution. Don't make the elements seemed forced. And always add the element of surprise or discovery!

It's important to remember that conflict comes in two packages, external and internal conflict. External conflict derives from circumstances or things that happen to us, like a car accident, broken curfew, license revoked. OK, maybe I mentioned those three things because my fifteen-year-old son is about to get his driving permit!!

Anyway, let's not forget internal conflict, things that are happening to us on the inside: worry, fear, guilt, or lack of trust. (I am in no way referring to my internal conflict as I sit in the passenger seat while my eldest son drives me around town.)
Don't forget to incorporate braiding into your next novel, and I won't forget to wear my seatbelt.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Three M's of March

The three M's of March are March Madness, manuscripts, and Monopoly. Did you think I was going to give you some savvy, sage writing advice? Don't worry, it's coming. This blog entry resembles a pep talk in the middle of March Madness. Let's take Basketball, for instance. Coaches prepare their teams and pump encouraging words into their players to prepare them for the game. Some coaches speak a little louder than others. Deep down, coaches are incredibly powerful motivators even when they tell you the things you don't want to hear.

If I had attempted a writing career ten years ago, I would have failed immediately. Now, that I am a little older, my level of patience is much greater (so I keep telling myself). I owe thanks to my husband, our two teenage boys and our three-year-old daughter. Thank you, family, for making my life crazy, chaotic, fast and furious. My pathetic pittance of patience has been stretched and flexed over the years. Being a wife, mother and former full-time teacher, I think I deserve the Pulitzer Prize for patience.

You can't get around the fact that writing is patient work. Learning the craft of writing stories, manuscripts or whatever you are writing takes time. Researching the best books and the greatest authors takes time.Then the revising rolls in: revising, editing, revising. This part can take LOADS of time, like my never-ending laundry pile. With two boys in sports, my laundry mat is open 24/7.

Then comes the waiting game or the send off, when you send your manuscripts off to publishers, contests or magazines. I did name my blog "The Writing Game" for a reason. Remember the game of Monopoly? You have to stick with the game if you are going to win. You have to survive landing on boardwalk with two hotels. But the moment you do win, it's an epic, Monopoly win.
-Coach Hawes, signing off. Go write some books or just play some basketball;-)

October #IWSG: The Rise of the Pumpkin-Head Bots

                                                                 Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We...