Lisa Cron believes all writing is being taught wrong.
Lisa Cron is a woman on a mission: she wants to help you write your story so that your reader is glued to the page from the moment they pick up the book. She’s going beyond plotting versus pantsing to a new level of story analysis.
We dive into the WHY of your story, and what you hope to achieve by telling it. Lisa talks a mile a minute and has so much to say in this episode- you may want to listen to this one more than once to get it all into your brain. We explore the depth of story and what makes a story meaningful and how to write the part of your story that matters from the beginning.
Lisa is not about the slow exploration and wandering through story options; she wants you to get to the meat right away. If you’ve felt frustrated and unsure of what the point is of the book you’re writing, Lisa will help you plow forward. I can’t wait to see what the fire she lights in this episode does for all you writers listening. Get ready for some jet fuel in this one!
Listen Up on iTunes or Stitcher | Lisa’s Site | Lisa’s Books | Lisa’s Twitter | Lisa’s Facebook
Discussed in Episode 78 with Lisa Cron
- Why is is hard to make bad things happen to your characters
- “There’s so much you have to create before you get to page one.”
- “Writing is taught wrong everywhere.”
- Two schools of thought, Pantsing and Plotting. Pantsing the the worst way of writing ever. Plotting is just as bad.
- All the Hero’s Journey books focus not the external plot and the story’s not about the plot.
- The story is about how the plot affects the protagonist.
- “Writers are, in fact, the most powerful people on the planet.”
- Because you read a book starting at page one, it’s easy to assume that’s how you also write a book.
- “The only way we ever change is when we’re forced to.”Stories are about the internal change in response to external events. Those events are often painful. Otherwise they’d not affect meaningful change.
- “By the time you get to page one you really love them.”
- Writers will pull punches because they love their characters.
- “Good change is as hard as bad change.”
- It’s as hard to leave home to get married as it is to leave home to get divorced.
- Stories are about change so your protagonist has to be constantly confronting obstacles.
- The pants-ing, rompy shitty first draft is actually a problem. Even though you know there’s a re-write coming, you have a tacit allegiance to what’s already written – as opposed to the story you’re trying to tell.
- You try to keep as much as you can – injecting story logic from the outside in. That just doesn’t work.
- “The world has way too many interpretive dancers already.”
- If you’ve started and find yourself stuck, take what you’ve got and put it in a drawer. Don’t try to reverse-engineer it.
- “All stories begin in medias res.”
- “A story is about how what happens affects someone in pursuit of a deceptively difficult goal and how that person changes internally as a result.”
- “The story is not about the plot.”
- Your protagonist is the readers’ avatar in the story. Brain science backs this up.
- Protagonists walk into a story with two things already fully formed
- something that they want, and have wanted.
- a misbelief about human nature that has kept them from getting what they’ve wanted.
- It’s this misbelief that needs to be overcome.
- These two things, long-standing desire & long-standing misbelief, are your story’s third rail.
- Forget the term “fatal flaw.”
- Meaning comes from what our past experience tells us. And when we’re little, everything tells us something.
- Most people are writing about the cost of human connection. What does it cost us to connect with another person?
- On Being Wrong
- Story vs plot is the difference between what we’re thinking and what we’re saying out loud. And which of those two is more interesting? Juicier?
- “Stories are about the buckets we’re sweating.”
- Questions to ask yourself as a writer:
- What point is your story trying to make, what are you trying to say about human nature?
- Why is making this point important to you?
- Who is your protagonist before your story starts?
- What will getting their goal mean to your protagonist?
- You can’t write forward, pants it, to find out what achieving the goal will mean to the protagonist.
- All the pre-writing isn’t what you do before you get to the ‘real thing.’ This is the real thing.
- ‘Back story’ is your story.
- On finding the ‘point’ of the story, in the beginning it can often sound simple and/or trite. “It’s better to have loved & lost than to never have loved at all.” It’s a bumper sticker. It deepens as you go forward.
- What is it about this story that makes you want to write it?
- If honing in the ‘point’ is difficult, you can back it out to the protagonist’s misbelief and try to reverse engineer it.
- “We come to story not for the ‘what’. We come for the ‘why.'”
- The why is not a generic thing. It’s very specific to your character.
- This isn’t stuff you can do in a day. Do the backstory work.
- Never write forward until you know the ‘whys’.
- The only thing we can never leave home without is our past. It is how we make sense of everything.
- Don’t do a generic birth-to-death bio. You can find them online. They’re generic and shallow.
Piper Huguley is changing history as we know it.
There are genres and then there are subgenres. One of the things I love about speaking with writers across all types of books is learning about the complicated world their books inhabit. In this case, Piper Huguley writes historical black romance, and this sits inside the romance novel world, but in a completely new way.
I was so moved talking to Piper about how she focuses on an era that has been so glossed over, and tells stories that bring the people of the time to life, people who have been forgotten or ignored in our textbooks. The power of these stories is in our ability to expand what our picture of history looks like, and how many stories get included in our collective memory.
We also talk about how Piper researches and how she writes with historical backdrops without those elements crushing her characters or shutting down her creative process. You’re in for such a treat! Happy listening.
Listen Up on iTunes or Stitcher | Piper’s Site | Piper’s Books | Piper’s Twitter
Discussed in Episode 77 with Piper Huguley
- On starting to write historical romance
- She grew up waiting for each new Beverly Jenkins novel.
- Then thought, what if someone else was writing books like these? Someone else like her?
- How to pick what historical time/moment to write about
- Drawn to Reconstruction Era because it was not being talked out in a way that resonated with her
- This was when many of the nation’s predominantly black colleges were founded
- Most recent novella The Lawyer’s Luck written as a response to an Amazon review.
- “I was always terrified of doing that.” (on writing a novella)
- Novella has proved useful as a “loss leader” to get people reading her work
- Balancing the history in a historical novel with the novel and how to honor both
- “There were people who lived through this particular time period.” (on putting imaginary characters into historical moments)
- Keeps her students in mind as she put personalities into the history. Actual people lived these events.
- She does historical research around her time period for specific aspects of the story
- Upcoming book is about women-of-color mail-order brides, who were passing as white
- Had to dig into both general history & legal history to get it right
- “I’d never had a white hero before.” (on writing her first interracial romance)
- Was told by Tina McElroy Ansa, “Thinking time is writing time.”
- Used to feel guilty about thinking time, but now uses it and writes first drafts relatively quickly
- The Alpha Smart – find one on Ebay
- “Fast Drafting” technique.
- “I do tend to more of a pantser.” (on fast first drafts)
- “The scene has to have a reason for happening.” (on not getting stuck)
- “Why is she dredging that up?” (on not shying away from history)
- Historical romance as edutainment
- “I love blowing up historical expectations.” (on combining history with fiction)
- “It’s not about leaving out, it’s about adding to.” (on broadening historical narratives)
- Romancelandia – the landscape of historical romance
- She’s inside a niche, inside a niche
- Most response has been positive but there are hierarchies and boundaries inside the genre
- “Now people are getting brave.” (on the expanding variety of voices writing historical romance)
- Currently working on a ‘super-secret project’, contemporary fiction – her NANO project
Fran Krause started with a little side project, and then it blew up.
After an experiment with YouTube animation left him feeling singed from the comment culture there, Fran Krause found the kinder world of Tumblr. He decided to explore an idea he had to illustrate irrational fears. He started out with his own, but before he finished drawing his own list, people began submitting theirs. Now, as he puts it, many fears later, his latest book from this project is out and the fears have been translated into numerous languages.
Since writers are a fearful bunch, I️ wanted Fran on the show as soon as I️ saw his work. Thankfully, he was an excellent sport and recorded with me right away. I️ love this project because reading about these fears made me feel less alone. Even if they weren’t fears that I️ related to, I️ still felt connected to the people who had them. And there were so many fears that had me laughing with recognition because I️ saw them in myself and the people I️ know.
We spend so much time trying to hide our vulnerabilities- this project is an amazing example of what happens when you put them down on paper instead. Happy listening!
Listen up on iTunes | Fran’s Site | Deep Dark Fears Tumblr | Deep Dark Fears Books | Fran’s Twitter | Fran’s Instagram
Discussed in Episode 76 with Fran Krause:
- Deep Dark Fears is Fran’s first comic. He started out in animation.
- “I never really got into comics because they didn’t move.”
- Working with the comic artist on an animated show showed him a faster/more direct way of working than he’d been used to.
- Fran grew up with his mother and grandmother telling creepy ghost and murder stories.
- Before Deep Dark Fears, Fran was not really on the internet.
- The animated show Fran was working on bombed and Youtube comments were nasty, so Fran left Youtube.
- “It’s not how I want to feel when I’m making things.”
- Fran put a GIF up on Tumblr and it blew up a little bit.
- “I just sat down and thought, ‘What could I make a comic about?'”
- Fran gave himself a reasonable schedule to draw and post every Monday.
- Time constraints also can impose creativity challenges.
- Submissions just started coming in after a few months.
- “It’s like rolling a piece of gum around in the dirt.” (on letting an idea unfold)
- There are still fears that surprise him. He’s looking for the odd ones now.
- In 2013, it wound up on Buzzfeed, then other sites. He was contacted by some agents and some publishers directly.
- A book publishing contract was very different from an animation contract. It made him feel like Ten Speed really wanted to work with him and he wasn’t being forced to give up rights he didn’t want to.
- “If your book is a failure it’s not going to sink the company.”
- “It’s important to sit with your work.” (on developing your voice)
- Develop your own taste.
- Bemoaning storytelling in feature film vs. books and television shows.
- Fran’s next project is a novel, not necessarily another DDF book.
- “As much as I like TV and movies, I could re-read The Shining any day.”
- What inspires people to do art is the feeling that they can do it, but then some difficult barriers to fight through it make it an interesting piece.
- “It’s sort of like making a movie, only you don’t need help.” (on writing a novel)
- A lot of people are under the false impression that they’re not storytellers and that only authors are storytellers. But everyone tells themselves stories. Only some of us write them down and try to make money off of it.
Steven Tagle wants every writer to know about the Fulbright
A few episodes ago, when Patricia Park was on the show, she mentioned something that made my ears perk up: that she had researched the portion of her book that took place in Korea by applying for and receiving a Fullbright Fellowship. For my listeners abroad: You DON’T have to be a US citizen to apply.
I never knew this was an option for writers, so of course I was dying to know more and share on the show. When a friend introduced me to Steven, I knew I had the perfect resource. Steven spent a year in Greece, researching mythology for his project to re-write myths in light of modern issues facing Greece: the financial crisis and other parts of modern Greek life. As his gorgeous Instagram attests, a year in Greece fueled him tremendously as a writer and has given him ideas for countless new projects.
In this episode we explore the practical steps to applying for a Fullbright, how Steven researched which country he chose to apply to, and how the year away impacted him as a person and as a writer. To say I was ready to leap into the application process after this conversation is a massive understatement. I hope you explore these options as well and I can’t wait to hear about the books inspired by travel and explorations abroad.
Listen up on iTunes | Fulbright Website U.S. | Fulbright Website Rest of World | Steven’s Site | Steven’s Twitter | Steven’s Instagram
Discussed in Episode 75 with Steven Tagle:
- Getting a Fulbright to research your novel
- Where to find application strategies and award statistics for Fulbrights
- Steven’s personal process for securing his Fulbright
- Choosing a country to study abroad in
- Different countries have different language requirements
- Fulbright is flexible – they know your project will change as you spend time in the new country
- “When I first arrived in Greece… I felt like I didn’t have the right yet to write about it.”
- A new culture’s inspiration for absorbing, collecting, and gathering raw material
- The tension between writing while in Greece and just absorbing the culture, and how Steven chose what to prioritize
- On challenging himself to be open and to say yes to new experiences, different from how he lives in the States
- On learning to trust others and try on different parts of himself
- “It allowed me to test the boundaries of what I conceived of as myself.”
- Viewing the Fulbright application as building a bridge between where you are and where you want to go
- The new projects that can be created from the scholar experience
It’s almost November and you know what that means…
No- not Thanksgiving- NaNoWriMo! What does that mean, you might ask? It stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it is a crazy 30 days where writers all over the world try to write a 50,000 work draft in one month.
Just last week, I was in New Orleans with a bunch of amazing people, including Episode #33 Kate Newburg and Episode #39 Tasha Harrison, and it was too exciting not to record an episode together right there in our Air Bnb. We have all done NaNoWriMo numerous times and have worked out what made it successful for each of us (and in some cases, not so successful). If you have been curious about this crazy method of getting a draft done, this episode will take you through all the details, tips, tricks and tools we could think of to help you slam dunk your NaNoWriMo experience.
Thanks so much to Tasha and Kate for being brave and diving in with such enthusiasm. We all hope you have an amazing NaNoWriMo this year. Please let us know your tips and tricks in the comments below, or just share how your NaNoWriMo is coming along. We’re rooting for you!
Listen up on iTunes | NaNoWriMo Website | Kate’s Site | Kate Twitter| Tasha’s Site | Tasha Twitter
Discussed in Episode 74 with Kate Newburg + Tasha Harrison:
- Tales from the tranches of past NaNoWriMos
- Setting word goals
- How NaNo ATL took over an Ikea
- Reasons to do NaNoWriMo
- How to take the pressure off when you’re writing 1,667 words a day
- To outline or not to outline?
- What you can gain from this experience
- What NOT to do during NaNoWriMo
- Tools you might want to use during NaNoWriMo:
- Planning tools:
- Recommended reading: