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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Therapize Your Writing




Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author. Her book, Love Starts With Elle is a RITA finalist. Her next book, Sweet By and By, written with country music star Sara Evans will release this summer. Visit her web site and find her on Twitter.


How To Therapize Your Writing

One of the things we face as writers is improving our craft and learning to discern what works and what doesn’t.

This fall, Susan Warren and I are teaching a Continuing Education class for ACFW called “Become Your Own Book Therapist.”

I thought I’d talk about one way to therapize your own work here on Novel Journey. Is therapize a word? It is now.

After awhile, authors should grow to some level where we can evaluate our own work – like taking the training wheels off the bicycle.

Most of us get stuck. No matter how long we plan or how hard we think things through, we get stuck.

At least I do. Am I alone here? Please tell me I’m not alone.

Here are several things you can do if you find yourself in the middle of a story that seems to have no life or punch, and you’re struggling with where to go next.

1. Go back to the original goal of the story. If you can’t succinctly define it, maybe your goal is too broad. Take some time to fine tune the story goal, whittle it down to a specific sentence.

2. What is the lie your protagonist believes? Are you straying for his or her belief system? Stop to think how your scenes are going. Did she start off afraid of snakes, but is now a snake charmer. Okay, an exaggeration, but you get what I mean. In every story, our characters start off with some kind of belief system and in the middle of the truth, there’s a lie.

The goal of the story is to correct the lie. Make sure the lie is not too broad. I hear this a lot. “She’s mad at God.” Or, “He thinks if he lets her in, he’ll get hurt.”

Great starting points, but why is she mad at God. Why is he afraid of getting hurt.

3. Is he or she too heroic? Like, they can do no wrong and every thing is working out for them? All the conflicts are resolved in the same or sequel scene? Go back to the conflicts, or the scenes where you dropped a story bomb, and stretch it out. Hint at the bomb. Don’t resolve the conflict.

Readers love real, flawed characters who have a heart to overcome.

4. Is your dialog dying? Notice the first sound in dialog is “die.” Bad, flat dialog can kill a scene. Kill a character. Make sure all the good lines are said, not thought.

Here’s what I mean:
“Hey Dan.”
“Hi Fred.” Dan looked like he’d been hitting the gym.
“I heard you were in town.”
“Just moved back.” Fred hated being caught in the middle of a hostile take over, losing his job and moving back home with his mother. He’d never get a date now.

All of Fred’s thoughts give great information. If he says them, then Dan can react and you can move the story forward.

Try to limit “yes,” “no,” “okay” in dialog. Sure, they are necessary at times, but make sure you’re using them to increase tension or for subtexting.

5. Change the point of view. Is the scene feeling slow? Try writing it from another character’s point of view.

I hope these help. Over on MyBookTherapy we’re blogging-a-book and you can see how we’re putting some therapy ideas into place.

Blessings on your writing!

4 comments:

Ane Mulligan said...

Thanks, Rachel. Good advice. I know you sure helped me when you asked me what a secondary, non-POV character's problem was. I hadn't given him one. As soon as I did, things made sense again.

Cecelia Dowdy said...

Wow! Great tips! Thanks, Rachel!

Rachel Hauck said...

Thanks for having me stop by, Ane!

Rachel

Kimberli said...

Oh yes, I've had those moments where the characters stop in mid-action, waiting to make their next move, but I haven't a clue what it is. I have to leave them in stasis while I try to find my mistake. Thanks for the excellent advice!