Shelley Widhalm

Archive for the ‘Writing Advice’ Category

Blogging to be Personable

In Writing, Blogging, The Writing Life, Writing Advice on May 21, 2017 at 11:00 am

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I like to blog about my dog, Zoey, who is an inspiration for my writing. That’s because she’s so cute!

Blogging is a form of storytelling that, like a book, brings in readers who want to find out what happens next.

Readers look to your blog to find out the latest news about your books and projects in progress, publications and readings. What you write can topical, showing what’s going on, trending and new. Or it can be about your processes, specifically how you write, edit and revise, or what strikes you about the writing, marketing and publishing worlds.

The blog posts don’t need to be long—a few hundred words will do—but research shows 500 to 700 words to be ideal. A blog that is 300 to 400 words is considered short, while a blog reaching 1,000 words is on the long side.

Blogs help writers become personal and inviting. The writers demonstrate they care enough to connect with their audiences. They want to share bits of knowledge and their expertise about what they have to offer.

To make blogs more personable:

  • First, narrow down to your target audience, avoiding writing to everybody, therefore to nobody.
  • Communicate your expertise on a subject related to your writing or the topics you cover in your books.
  • Write about your writing processes to give readers a glimpse of what you do to create the finished book or short story.
  • Write about the elements of writing, like dialog, character and setting, to show your personal take on the processes, while also providing readers and writers with valuable information.
  • Be yourself and show your personality as you talk about the topics you enjoy or that are important to your writing

Make sure to update your blogs often, preferably once a week, and post them on the same day. Sporadic blogging, especially every few months, shows a lack of commitment or a loss of interest in the blog.

My Blogging Experiences:

From my own experience blogging, I found several benefits to routine, consistent blogging. I blogged for years about writing and editing, and by regularly writing about the two subjects, I deepened my knowledge and detailed understanding of the elements of the craft. I increased my “expert” status though regular research and study.

I blogged once a week on a variety of topics, including character and plot development, storytelling, story structure, story and character arc, dialog and setting, as well as approaches to the craft that included writing prompts, writing spaces and habits, and inspiration and motivation.

To be able to write about the craft in an informed manner, I had to look up information online, review my notes and article clippings, and organize everything into my own take on the information.

This made me a stronger writer by thinking about writing, writing about writing and analyzing the process of writing. I methodically covered every element I could think of, gaining a better understanding of the material and how to apply it to my own work.

Basically, I taught myself to be a better writer by teaching through the form of writing. I improved my ability to tell a story.

Tips for Writing Memoir (to make it fun)

In Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Memoir, Writing Nonfiction on May 7, 2017 at 11:00 am

Writing a memoir that reads like fiction is tricky.

This requires taking real life experiences and fitting them into the story arc of beginning, middle and end when life typically is episodic without story structure.

There, however, may be episodes of life that work within the arc when you, the main or point-of-view character, face an obstacle and overcome it through your internal strength and motivation with some lesson learned toward the end of the process.

The requirements for writing memoir:

Writing a memoir requires you to make yourself into a character with physical, spiritual and emotional descriptions. You have to face yourself and think about what matters to you, what affects you, what hurts and helps you and why you are who you are.

You look back on your past self/selves and, through the process, come to a different understanding of why you did what you did or what you were thinking at the time.

The self reflection, description and analysis may break you as you put yourself into words and see what you were avoiding when you were just living and trying to deal with whatever life put in your path.

As you take yourself apart to find the words and then the story, try to remember the emotions, events, contents and the feel of scenes from your life. Think about what people weren’t saying. What does their non-spoken dialog, such as body language, gestures and facial expressions, say? What do your non-spoken parts want to tell, not just others but yourself?

Beside the emotional affect that writing about the self may have on you, also consider the reader.

Here’s some more advice for writing memoir:

• Leave out things that interfere with the flow of the story, because readers want a story with thematic cohesiveness, not a diary or journal with too much incidence and detail. Don’t assemble a scattered collection of scenes and vignettes that don’t create a cohesive and complete story.
• Try writing memories into scene form and if you end up with a lot telling, go back and rewrite the scene with more action and detail. Trust your memory to recount the gist and emotional truth of your experience to write the scene and see if there are any recurring images, phrases, themes or metaphors. Use these to dig deeper.
• Track the action that drives your story and ask what the story is that you’re trying to tell. Begin as close to the climax as possible to find the driving narrative that moves the arc.

Thinking of the reader is the last part of writing about the self, because it starts within as a seed that grows outward. Once you find that external place where the words go, then you can bring in others who are outside to give them a glimpse of your inside.

Nonfiction Writing Tips (to make writing fun)

In Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Nonfiction on April 30, 2017 at 11:00 am

Writing nonfiction, unlike fiction, requires sticking to the truth as close as possible.

It’s like wearing something skintight—you can stretch what happened and make up a bit of dialog, but you have to admit, too, that you are writing from memory, while also trying to keep to the truth.

Creative nonfiction, memoir and personal essay are all forms of nonfiction, in addition to all of the categories found in the bookstore from history to science that stick to the facts. Other forms of writing like self-help and inspiration combine experience with ideas and advice, while also giving the writer’s truth. Business and money management books give that advice, all with the goal in mind toward self-improvement.

To be a truthful writer, while also being creative and imaginative and still employing the storytelling elements of fiction, can be a challenge. Storytelling involves telling a story from beginning to the middle to the end with the climax and resolution tying the story together and the character and plot arcs moving the story along.

The characters change as they start out with a want and at the end gets what they need, which is the character arc. Their actions and behaviors through the unfolding of the story give the plot art.

Other storytelling elements include setting, dialog, the voice of the narrator and the detail and description. To bring in those elements while telling the whole story requires combining the art of writing fiction with telling the nonfiction’s truth.

With that in mind, here’s some advice for writing memoir:

  • Make yourself into a character with physical, spiritual and emotional descriptions.
  • Employ storytelling techniques of fitting your story into the story arc of beginning, middle and end and avoid telling everything from birth to death and showing how life typically is episodic without story structure.
  • Leave out things that interfere with the flow of the story, because readers want a story with thematic cohesiveness, not a diary or journal with too much incidence and detail.
  • Show how you, as the point-of-view character, face an obstacle and overcome it through your internal strength and motivation with some lesson learned toward the end of the process.
  • Try writing memories into scene form and if you end up with a lot telling, go back and rewrite the scene with more action and detail.
  • Make sure you follow a particular theme or main subject to tell the story in a cohesive manner. To do this, identify the patterns of your experience and select what is relevant from your life.
  • Lastly, show you’ve changed and grown from your experiences, how you were affected physically and emotionally by those experiences and how you found meaning and insight from them.

Here’s advice for writing a personal essay (a personal essay represents what a writer thinks or feels about a topic or describes thoughts, feelings and emotions related to a personal experience):

  • Write in the first-person point of view.
  • Structure it in various ways, such as a list, a question-and-answer form, a story or a scattering of musings.
  • Make sure to provide a main point, or a message or theme, such as providing meaning through a lesson learned or the outcome of personal growth and development.
  • Avoid lecturing, sermonizing or moralizing.