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Writing Sprints aka Words with Friends

 How do you write?

This  past July, I participated in a virtual writer's retreat organized by a friend. Some participants were writers I know; others were new to me. The format was simple - we met in a zoom room, chatted some, then sprinted. The room stayed open and people could come and go all day as they chose. 

Writing Sprints aka Words with Friends


One day some of us got to chatting, and Lee Tobin McClain mentioned a method of sprinting that she was using quite successfully. We decided to try it.

The idea is you start writing for 20 minutes. Then a quick stretch break. Then you sprint for 15 minutes, take a break. Then 10 minutes. The final session is 5 minutes. Usually you don't bother to take a break between the last two.

My friends, that method has been life-changing for me. After the retreat was over, I mentioned to a friend that I was sorry to lose the sprints. We decided to keep them up with a few other friends. So each morning for the past three weeks, we have met at 9am - either in Zoom or a FB room, and done the sprints.

In that time, I have written 50,398 words!

To understand how impressive that total is, you'd have to know I probably only managed 5,000 between January and July. I'm not bragging here. I'm amazed and oh so grateful for a chance encounter that was a game-changer.

So why do I think this works?  It's the power of a timer, accountability, routine, and friendship.

1) The power of the timer - A few months ago Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling Author, Pamela Kelly posted on FB about a cool timer that was making a huge difference in her writing. I went right to Amazon and bought one.

Writing Sprints aka Words with Friends
It didn't help me. Something was missing.

2) That something was accountability! I never thought I would be able to write with other people staring at me through my computer screen. But you know what? It's tremendously motivating. All those normal urges I have to just check FB, to go get a glass of water (or a scone or a muffin), to go do the laundry - it's harder to give in to them when someone is watching.
J/K sort of  - No one is really watching because they are too busy writing their own words, but the idea that they might be, along with the sight of them concentrating and typing away, keeps your fingers on the keyboard.

3) Routine is key. Knowing I have to sit down at the computer and turn Zoom on at 9 makes it sort of like a power switch that goes on in the brain. 9am. It's time to get to work.

4) Friendship makes it fun. We all know that writing is solitary and lonely, but this changes that feeling. You can take a few minutes to chat in the beginning, chat a bit on the stretches - but you're also there to remind each other that it's time to get back to work. That's also the power of the group, because I have found that on days when for one reason or another, it's only two of us, the chatting lasts much longer.


BONUS:  The other reason why I think this works is because you're getting your longest session out of the way first. As your energy is waning, the sprints are getting shorter. It's easier to power through.
We usually take a longer break and then come back for a second session. 


I've done lots of group sprinting before: 1-1 sessions with friends, #1k1hr, Twitter groups - none of those have worked for me like this has. 




What kinds of sprints or accountability have you tried? Or are you good on your own? I'd love to hear what works for you.







Both Debby and Missy have written at Seekerville before about the Pomodoro Tecnhique

 

The Importance of Goal, Motivation & Conflict.

 

The long days of summer make it hard to stay at the keyboard, but for many of us, they're also a time when we have more time to write. It's with this in mind that I'm doing a re-post.


The reason I'm reposting this particular post is because last week I attended a webinar hosted by FHLCW that featured Shana Asaro. Shana spoke for over an hour and answered tons of questions about writing for Love Inspired and Love Inspired Suspense.

During much of her presentation, she focused on the importance of GMC - the goal, motivation, and conflict needed for a successful submission.I found it particularly fascinating when she mentioned that several years ago, the Love Inspired editors read and studied this book together. That was enough motivation to get me to pull my copy off the shelf and dust off the cobwebs. I figured we could all use a refresher, so here is my original post on the topic.


 Before I begin, a caveat - I can't say GMC by Deb Dixon is one of my favorite craft books (for reasons which I will explain), but there's no doubt it's an important and beneficial one.

The Importance of Goal, Motivation & Conflict.



You see in many ways I could be that cautionary tale veteran writers use to terrify newbies. Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, when I first began to write, I had no idea that there was such a thing as structure or that stories followed any prescribed formula. 

I should amend that comment. I was not consciously aware of it. But because I was an avid reader, and had been for my entire life, I had a somewhat intuitive sense of story structure even if I didn't know that's what it was.

The Importance of Goal, Motivation & Conflict.



So, picture me happily writing away without a care in the real world, lost in my own wonderful story world. 


But then I took a break from writing for a while - children, work, grad school, there just weren't enough hours in the day to make it all work, and writing took the back seat. 

Cue the violin music.

The Importance of Goal, Motivation & Conflict.



No, seriously, the reason I'm explaining that is because I so very clearly remember coming back from my self-imposed writing exile to attend a writer's conference. And I remember being confused because of all the buzzwords I was hearing - and the buzzword that was on everyone's lips was GMC.

GMC. I had no idea what they were talking about. It was like everyone else was speaking a different language.

Finally, some kind soul clued me in to Debra Dixon's book (which had been published while I was off on writing hiatus).

I read it. I saw it's value (which it clearly had since everyone was talking about it!), and I ignored it.

I didn't want to write conflict. 

I liked happy stories.

I didn't want to make them be mad at each other.

Are you laughing at me yet?


I learned my lesson, and that got me book contracts. So here's hoping it will help you too.

I'm going to use a photo of the back cover, because I think this shows why the book is so important.

The Importance of Goal, Motivation & Conflict.



I could try to give examples, but that would sort of be plagiarism, so I'll just recommend you get yourself a copy if you don't have one to dig out of the cobwebs.

GMC is apparently also a really popular topic here on Seekerville.

If you're interested in looking more into it. check out some of these posts:

Mindy's Engaging Openings

Missy had one in the Archives - Battling Through Your Manuscript...Once Scene at a Time

(Note: Missy really gave a detailed explanation of how she uses a GMC chart.)


Then there are all these GMC posts in the Seekerville archives!


So tell me, are you a GMC chart maker? How do you handle planning the goals motivations and conflict for your characters?

Who Makes the Meaning in a Book?

 Happy Summer!


School ended yesterday. Today is the first day of summer vacation, so I promise you won't have to read middle school-inspired posts for a while after today.

Who Makes the Meaning in a Book?


But today, we do have one more. I recently read Lord of the Flies with my 8th grade class. The book is old (older than me!) and a lot of people don't like it, but I have so many activities that we do with it, that the book really comes alive. I'm always stunned when students tell me it's one of their favorite books we've read.


This year, after we finished, I asked them to reflect on this quote by the author William Golding.

When asked about the meaning of his book, he replied:

“There have been so many interpretations of the story that I'm not going to choose between them. Make your own choice. They contradict each other, the various choices. The only choice that really matters, the only interpretation of the story, if you want one, is your own. Not your teacher's, not your professor's, not mine, not a critic's, not some authority's. The only thing that matters is, first, the experience of being in the story, moving through it. Then any interpretation you like. If it's yours, then that's the right one, because what's in a book is not what an author thought he put into it, it's what the reader gets out of it.”


I love this answer so much.

I was thinking about it with two different caps on my head - as the teacher who asks students to consider the meaning of the story, but also as an author who is in the business of making meaning out of words.

I was really interested to hear my students' thoughts - both as their teacher and as an author.


It turns out that the line that most spoke to them was  "The only thing that matters is, first, the experience of being in the story, moving through it."


One student, in explaining how she had moved through the story stated, "Through the characters, I got to experience the chaos, the peace, the sadness, and the thrill of everything that happened."

Another said: "In some parts of the book, I felt like I was actually in the book and moving through it. But there were parts where I did not get this feeling. An example where I did not get this feeling is when the hunters went hunting I didn’t really feel the story moving. The part where I felt the story moving along was when everyone was working together and not fighting."

But a third said "There were parts of the book where I felt as if I was really going through the motion of everything and other parts where I was left confused. Some parts that I really connected to were the murders. When both Piggy and Simon died I truly felt like I was there watching it happen."


Another: "I felt like I was  on the island with all the other boys I felt like I was one of the little ones watching everything fold in itself, watching Jack become a brutal savage and watch Ralph losing control and seeing Piggy get killed I really felt part of the story I was reading."



They were also really eager to tell me the meaning they took from the book. I think William Golding would have been proud of the range of thoughts. They took his words to heart: "If it's yours, then that's the right one."



 I think this book was about how people can get insane and out of control with an obsession with a passion, they have while others try and prevent it but end up getting hurt in the process.
 

What are we really without manners and common sense? Savages? That would make us no different than animals. We hide behind a mask of intelligence and basic knowledge to separate how similar we are compared to animals. Without all we have learned, we’re basically just a vessel driven by emotions of hatred and greed. Would we really know right from wrong if we didn’t have common knowledge or at least look like we have the brains? It really felt overwhelming to interpret so much. Then again, it would make sense. The only difference is that we are more evolved than animals. We have the common sense to just go around killing people, there are usually reasons behind it. But sometimes, there isn’t a reason behind it. Does that make us unstable to live in such a “perfect” society? If we compare ourselves to savages, then killing would be completely normal right? Or would it?

 

I believe the book is really about the true nature of us. How we act when theres no adults or rules around. When we can do anything without being punished since theres no boundaries.

This book is about nothing more than boys trying to survive on their own and trying to keep their insanity (sic) in the process. 

 

While the topic of change was a big message of the book, I do believe there is another main message. Lord of the Flies also shows us the importance of rules and civilization. Once the boys turned away from Ralph all humanity and civilization were lost. They began to become too accustomed to Jack’s uncivilized methods. Without any rules or grasp on humanity boys such as Roger turned from normal kind kids into animals. It was because of this lack of civilization and order that Piggy and Simon died so tragically. It was also why it was so hard for the boys to look at themselves once the navy found them. They knew they could never truly return home because a part of them would always be on that island. 



So why am I talking about this today? 


Because as a teacher, I am privileged to have the opportunity to really talk to readers about their reading, and that is invaluable to me not only as their teacher, but as an author. Hearing what matters to them as readers, learning how invested they were in making their own meaning from the books gives  author me something to ponder. 


As authors, are we trying to impose our meaning on our readers? Are we heavy-handed with our message, or do we wield our pen delicately, giving the reader options, offering a chance for them to create their own message from our books. Especially if it's a message they need in their lives.


As I was pondering this, I was also thinking about a book I had recently read. Because I could really relate to the widowed character, I probably took a completely different meaning from the book than a different reader would - and I appreciated the nuances of the character that allowed me to do so.


And that leads me to thinking about craft and how we make our books the best possible experience for readers because, to quote another student, 


He didn't write the book to give it a specific ending (message) but to entertain the readers.


And of course that is what we have to keep at the forefront as we write.


One of my students was rather succinct in describing Golding's craft. 

Mr. Golding used good words to set the mood for the story. 


As writers, that is our task, to use good words to entertain.

If only it could be that easy!

But easy or not, it is the responsibility we assumed when we chose to write stories. Our good words have the power to affect readers.


One of my students commented: "The experiences of reading books helps us to open our eyes to different wonders in imagination. It leads us to creating our own works and maybe inspiring others."


And to finally quote a wise student - "That is the great thing about reading."


And we get to inspire that. How lucky are we to be writers???


I'd love to hear your thoughts - as readers and writers.



Who Makes the Meaning in a Book?


*Photos courtesy of Pixabay

Why Do We Write?

Hello Seekerville. 👋

Cate here. 

They say confession is good for the soul, so I'll start with a confession right up front.

I haven't been writing much lately - like at all! 

And it's killing me!

I'll come back to that in a minute, but I had to get it off my chest up front before we delve into a discussion.


I just finished reading a book with my class.

 Peak by Roland Smith is the story of a young boy climbing Mt. Everest. It's a wonderful adventure story full of conflict and challenges, and my 7th grade boys were hanging on every word. To be honest, I was too. I read this book with a class almost every year, and I still love reading it. 

It's fun to read through my post-it notes to see what kinds of things I've taken note of in the past and what my thoughts were as I read it each time.The colors of the notes change from year to year so I can see what was different in my thinking. But one question is consistent across the pages and across they years. WHY???

Why would anyone put themselves through what these characters are enduring just to get to the top of a mountain?

Why Do We Write?


Why Do We Write?


Peak is a wonderful book to use to teach students about conflict because there are so many kinds - Peak vs nature, Peak vs his father, Peak vs society, Peak vs himself. The novel is also easy for teaching plot structure because the climax occurs literally at the peak of the mountain. Everything after is just downhill.

But maybe you're asking why am I writing about a middle grade novel?

It comes back to that question WHY???

Why do climbers risk very probable death to climb a mountain. As the title character, Peak Marcello, wisely states: The only thing you’ll find on the summit of Mount Everest is a divine view. The things that really matter lie far below.

So why?

Do you ever ask yourself that about your writing?

Why would anyone put themselves through this???

Why would anyone face tight deadlines and endless revisions only to risk harsh reviews and uncertain sales?

Let me digress a moment before I answer that.

I saw a tweet this morning asking would you:

a) drive 100 miles to meet your favorite author in person, or

b) stay home and use the money to buy more of her books.


There was a wide range of answers from people who would drive AND buy all the author's books to be signed to people who felt so introverted they knew they would back out at the last minute. 

Yesterday Laurel Blount was talking about how wonderful it is to get away with other writers because they get us.They get the struggle. That's so very true. Unfortunately it's not always possible. 

But during the pandemic, this desperation of authors to connect yielded some cool opportunities. Multiple virtual events sprang up. Some were hosted by individual authors on FB live. Julia Kelly started Ask an Author (a FB group with over a million members)

Some were also hosted by bookstores looking to stay afloat and help readers stay connected to their favorite authors. It turned out the advantage was many more people were able to attend than on an in-person author event. I remember at one point being able to chat with authors almost every night of the week!

Friends and Fiction started out as a chat between five authors who happened to be friends but who also had books releasing in the spring of 2020 and had no idea how to marker them. The weekly chat sessions spawned a FB group with over 70,000 members! If you need a writing fix (and writing tip from well-known authors) then this is the place to be on Wednesday nights.

Last week the 4 friends interviewed Laura Dave. They were talking about her mega best-selling novel and they were also talking about how to fit writing time into a busy life. Almost everyone agreed they had to do it first thing when they got up or it just didn't happen - because writing is so hard!

It is hard work. Incredibly rewarding hard work, but mind-blowing, exhausting, draining work - and that'a when it's going well.

So that brings me back to my question - why do we do it??? 

We all have our own reasons, but I think it's similar to the reasons people have for climbing Mt. Everest - because we have to. There's something inside us begging for release. We crave the rush of putting words on paper. we have stories that need to be told. We don't know how not to write. 

Remember I said I'd come back to the not writing part. Work, family demands, stress - all of these have kept me from writing lately - but you know what - they left me CRAVING time to write. The need to dwell in my stories became a physical ache. I had to write. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on why you write.

Or if you don't write - and you are an avid reader - I'd love to hear your thoughts too.


Why do you do it?

Learning Craft From Children's Books - Part 2

 


As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was summoned out of retirement to fill in for the rest of the year after a teacher abruptly quit. The good news is I am loving the experience. The bad news is it leaves little time for writing.


However, sometimes my worlds align. This happened recently when we had an author visit to the classroom. The author, Sarah Scheerger, wrote a book called  Operation Frog Effect. It's a middle grade book about a fifth grade class told as journal entries their teacher assigned. My students loved the story and were so enthusiastic about the opportunity to ask the author questions.


Learning Craft From Children's Books - Part 2


I loved seeing their enjoyment, but I particularly appreciated Sarah's discussion of author's craft, so I thought I'd talk a little about that today.


Operation Frog Effect is told from NINE points of view. Eight of them are students and one is the teacher. Sarah did a really effective job of differentiating the characters, and she explained to the students how she did it.

One character is a girl named Emily. Sarah admitted that this character was most like her and the character's conflict was based on something she experienced in middle school. She used punctuation to develop Emily's character, using a lot of question marks to show her uncertain feelings and a lot of exclamation points to develop her girlish middle school character. As a middle school teacher, I definitely felt she nailed this character's personality and you felt her pain at her friendship troubles.

Kayley is the mean girl, but she's not a stereotypical mean girl. She is "doing it for Emily's own good" because she thinks Emily needs to make new friends (since her besties are going to a new school in September). She is also arrogant and condescending, thinking she knows better than her teacher. The author created this persona within one diary entry just with her word choice (which makes it really good for helping students to understand how word choice affects tone).

Sharon writes all her entries in verse.

Blake is an artist, so his entries are told in illustrated cartoon blocks.


Learning Craft From Children's Books - Part 2


Henry plans to be a movie writer/director, so his entries are all told in script form complete with stage directions

Cecelia has decided to write her journal entries as letters to her abuelita, so they are a mix of English and Spanish with glossary entries as she pretends to teach her abuelita English words. 


Kai has the fewest entries, but his are written as messages to the class frog (who jumps out of Blake's pocket in the opening scene and is adopted as a class pet). His are mostly updates on what is happening in the class.


Sarah was also really honest with the students about the difficulties of being an author and the uncertainties of a publishing life. She explained that for all her books that are published, she has at least again as many that were rejected, but she keeps writing because she loves it! She spoke about writing what she believes and how that sometimes comes into conflict with what publishers want.


As a writer, I am in awe of the creativity and work that was required to produce such a stunning array of characters. Just like I spoke about in my post last month, I am reminded that children's books can be a great source to study for writing tips.


Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving - So Thankful

 As I was getting ready to do my post, I had something in mind, and I was looking for an older post I had done either here or on Yankee Belle that had to do with green bean casseroles. I never found that post, but I found one from 2019. As I was reading through it, I couldn't help but think of all the ways our worlds have changed since then, but all the things that are the same - the things that matter - faith, family, friends.

So, rather than the post about writing and green bean casseroles that I had in mind, I decided to update the 2019 one. 


This Campbell's soup commercial gets me every time (even though I loathed green bean casseroles). So thankful is a good ear worm to have.



My family had a tradition that I imagine is shared by many others who gather on Thanksgiving Day. Before diving into the turkey and all the trimmings, we joined hands in prayer and then shared what we were most grateful for that year.

Today, on this Thanksgiving Eve, let us gather around a communal Seekerville table and share that tradition.





We here at Seekerville are so very thankful for all of you who come each day to talk reading and writing, who share your lives - the good and the bad, and who make Seekerville a community. 


So today I hope you'll share - what are you thankful for in 2021?



PS: Christmas music will be on round the clock soon, if it isn't already, so I was curious. What about Thanksgiving music? I thought this song captured the day so well.







Introducing Anna Zogg and Frontier Secrets Plus a Giveaway

 One of the things that has always impressed me about the writing community is the willingness of writers to help others in need. Rather than seeing fellow authors as competitors, members of this writing community are happy to lift each other, to support, to give advice, to give comfort, and when needed, to pray.

Today, we at Seekerville are blessed to be able to help a fellow writer. Anna Zogg has a new book that released yesterday as part of the Love Inspired Historical limited release program. Normally, a book release day is a joyous occasion, but sadly, rather than celebrating, Anna is busy caring for her husband as he wages a battle against cancer.

Earlier this week, Anna posted an update on Facebook about her husband's transition to hospice that ended with this:

Anyone who knows John knows he is full of life, laughter and has a unique perspective that cancer cannot extinguish. Most importantly, though, is his eye is fixed on "the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14).

 

Since Anna doesn't have time to promote her book, we want to do it for her.  We also want to ask you to join us in prayer for Anna and her family as they work through this incredibly difficult time.

Frontier Secrets:

A woman seeking a new future.


A cowboy with a shadowed past.

Untamed Wyoming is nothing like polished, restrictive Chicago—that’s why Ellie Marshall likes it. On her uncle’s ranch, she’s free. Free to practice her calling in medicine. Free to finally connect with her uncle. Free to explore her feelings for mysterious cowboy Rhett Callaway. In this strange place, Rhett is her constant—the one she trusts to help and protect her…especially when sinister machinations on the ranch come to light. But will Rhett’s murky past drive him away just when Ellie needs him most?



Remember what I said about how writers love to help?

The amazing Shannon Redmon created a book trailer to support Anna's book.




Anna and several of the Seekers have offered to give away copies of Anna's book, so if you would like a chance to read Frontier Secrets, be sure to let us know in the comments (and specify if you prefer print or ebook)


There are so many things we can chat about today. 

Are you happy that Love Inspired is doing some historicals again? I know so many readers were disappointed when the line closed. 

Let's talk about the books you love to read. 

Have you been the recipient of help within the writing community? 


And finally, please join us in prayer for Anna and her husband in this difficult time.

Cate's Favorite Craft Books #6 and some vacation photos

 It's the end of July, and I've spent the last three weeks in Maine, so it seems only appropriate that I choose a book written by an author from my new home state as this month's favorite craft book. 


Ask writers to list their top ten craft favorite books on writing and inevitably their lists will include Stephen King's On Writing


Cate's Favorite Craft Books #6  and some vacation photos



 I first read On Writing in the early 2000s, shortly after it was released. I remembered really enjoying the book. I'd never read Stephen King before - not a fan of the horror genre - but I was immediately impressed with his storytelling ability. 

As I prepared to write this post, I borrowed a copy from the library because my old copy was unavailable due to being in the middle of a move. I have to admit, although I remembered liking it a lot, I had no idea what it was about (other than the obvious - writing), so when I began to look through it for a refresher, I immediately got caught up in reading it. The book begins with an irreverent look back at King's childhood which left me somewhat aghast but also hanging on every word. As I was rereading it  I was struck by similarities to Roald Dahl's Boy: Tales of Childhood. Both books really make you see just how the experiences of their early lives fueled their imaginations and provided fodder for their stories. 

Because I'm A) in the midst of a move, and B) helping my daughter who just got out of the hospital, I didn't have time to finish rereading the book, so August's post will go more into the actual writing advice part. 

In the meantime, I'll leave you with some photos of Maine, the state that inspired much of King's writing.  It's rained almost every day of the three plus weeks I've been here, and when it wasn't raining, the fog settled it. But I love this kind of weather, so I'm happy. 

We have had some bursts of sun, and Fenway seems happy with his new home.


Cate's Favorite Craft Books #6  and some vacation photos

Cate's Favorite Craft Books #6  and some vacation photos


My daughter and I recently "hiked" up the mountain (in our car). This was the view from the top.

Cate's Favorite Craft Books #6  and some vacation photos

The harbor is gorgeous on a sunny day...

Cate's Favorite Craft Books #6  and some vacation photos

Cate's Favorite Craft Books #6  and some vacation photos


There has been so much rain, that toadstool villages have emerged! 

Cate's Favorite Craft Books #6  and some vacation photos


Cate's Favorite Craft Books #6  and some vacation photos

The webs spun by grass spiders have totally intrigued me. If I was a children's book author, I'd just have to spin a tale of tiny creatures living under the toadstools and leaving sparkling webs on the dew-laden grass.

Cate's Favorite Craft Books #6  and some vacation photos



Good thing I love the foggy days because there have been a lot of them this summer.

Cate's Favorite Craft Books #6  and some vacation photos


Cate's Favorite Craft Books #6  and some vacation photos
Somewhere at the end of the breakwater is the lighthouse. We could hear the foghorn, but the lighthouse wasn't visible, and if we turned and looked back toward shore, this was the view.


Cate's Favorite Craft Books #6  and some vacation photos


So back to writing, have you read On Writing? Does it top your list of favorites? We'll talk more about it in August, but please share your thoughts or tell me about how your summer has been going.

Cate's Favorite Craft Books #5 Writing from the Inside Out by Dennis Palumbo

 Hey everyone, Cate here.


This is Debby's usual spot, but she's on deadline right now, so we swapped weeks. Given the topic of today's post, that's actually rather appropriate.


This month's craft book is an oldie but a goodie - Dennis Palumbo's Writing from the Inside Out. The subtitle is Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within.


As I was choosing a book to focus on this month, I spied this one on my shelf and was immediately transported back to that day in 2000 when I first bought and began to read it. Yup, over 20 years ago. I can testify to how long it's been sitting on my shelf based on my sneezes when I opened it to refresh my memory.

Opening this book was like sitting down to visit with an old friend. You immediately remember why you are drawn in. In this case, as soon as I read about the author alone in a rustic cabin in Carmel, CA with "only eleven or twelve bad pages, strewn about the room, two wastebaskets filled with crumpled paper" pacing and "rereading the same dozen pages," I knew I had found a kindred spirit.

As I was rereading the book, it dawned on me that my craft books are really divided into two main categories: Craft and Writer's Life.

As a pre-published author, I devoured both. I wanted to glean any bit of wisdom I could from those who had gone before me and made sense (and word magic) out of this writing process. I was a sponge absorbing all the advice.

But the books I preferred fell into the other category. Those, like Bird by Bird and this one (Writing from the Inside Out) spoke to my writer's soul. They let me feel like I was part of the secret club. They got me. They understood, really understood, that writing is not always (or even often) the blissful existence our more innocent selves might have imagined.

Writing is work. It can be fun, but it's hard work. It's hours spent staring at a blank screen or page on a day when the ideas won't flow. It's those crumpled balls of paper spilling from the trash can or the endless versions of a computer file. It's beautiful and uplifting (when it's working), and it's demoralizing and terrifying (when it's not working). It's messy first drafts, editor revisions, line edits and last minute changes. It's joyous and frustrating. It imparts a euphoria or has you pulling your hair out.

There are a lot of books that document the writing experience because authors love to talk shop and that often means sharing their own misery along with the successes.

I've always found it helpful to know I'm not alone in what I'm experiencing. There's comfort in knowing that no matter how big a hole you've dug for yourself, another author has been there before and, if you're lucky, can offer a figurative rope to pull you out.

Writing from the Inside Out is one of those kinds of books.

Dennis Palumbo is a highly successful novelist. Interestingly enough, he is also a licensed psychotherapist. But before he was either of those things, he was a Hollywood Screenwriter. The opening chapter that I mentioned above? It was his experience trying to write the screenplay for the Peter O'Toole movie My Favorite Year.

And despite all the horrid writing times in that cabin, he went on to be nominated for a Writer's Guild Award for Best Screenplay for that script. That serves as a good reminder that, no matter how arduous the task, the result can be glorious - if we keep at it!



Larry Gelbart starts off the forward to the book saying 
Be warned: 
This is not a how-to book. It offers nary a rule, formula, nor recipe that will allow you to turn out a best-selling novel or a fabulous, million-dollar screenplay.

He adds:

It is not that handy-dandy kind of book and that is just as well. Never before have so many of the smugly expert advised so many of the seemingly inexpert on how to write successfully... The pages that lie ahead provide far more valuable insights and practical tools for the working and/or would-be writer. Instead of a how-to, what Dennis Palumbo has written is a how-come book.

 I love this Amazon blurb from Gary Shandling:

"Dennis Palumbo has great insight into a writer's psyche.... Every writer should have a shrink or this book. The book is cheaper."


So, a craft book from someone who is a writer and a therapist. Win-Win.


What do you think? What kind of craft books do you prefer?

Cate's Favorite Craft Books - GMC by Debra Dixon

 Before I begin, a caveat - I can't say GMC by Deb Dixon is one of my favorite craft books (for reasons which I will explain), but there's no doubt it's an important and beneficial one.

Cate's Favorite Craft Books - GMC by Debra Dixon


You see in many ways I could be that cautionary tale veteran writers could use to terrify newbies. Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, when I first began to write, I had no idea that there was such a thing as structure or that stories followed any prescribed formula. 

I should amend that comment. I was not consciously aware of it. But because I was an avid reader, and had been for my entire life, I had a somewhat intuitive sense of story structure even if I didn't know that's what it was.

Cate's Favorite Craft Books - GMC by Debra Dixon


So, picture my happily writing away without a care in the real world, lost in my own wonderful story world. But then I took a break from writing for a while - children, work, grad school, there just weren't enough hours in the day to make it all work, and writing took the back seat. 

Cue the violin music.

Cate's Favorite Craft Books - GMC by Debra Dixon


No, seriously, the reason I'm explaining that is because I so very clearly remember coming back from my self-imposed writing exile to attend a writer's conference. And I remember being confused because of all the buzzwords I was hearing - and the buzzword that was on everyone's lips was GMC.

GMC. I had no idea what they were talking about. It was like everyone else was speaking a different language.

Finally, some kind soul clued me in to Debra Dixon's book (which had been published while I was off on writing hiatus).

I read it. I saw it's value (which it clearly had since everyone was talking about it!), and I ignored it.

I didn't want to write conflict. 

I liked happy stories.

I didn't want to make them be mad at each other.

Are you laughing at me yet?

I'm going to use a photo of the back cover, because I think this shows why the book is so important.

Cate's Favorite Craft Books - GMC by Debra Dixon



GMC is apparently also a really popular topic here on Seekerville.

If you're interested in looking more into it. check out some of these posts:

Mindy's Engaging Openings

Missy had one in the Archives - Battling Through Your Manuscript...Once Scene at a Time

(Note: Missy really gave a detailed explanation of how she uses a GMC chart.)


Then there are all these GMC posts in the Seekerville archives!


So tell me, are you a GMC chart maker? How do you handle planning the goals motivations and conflict for your characters.

Writing Sprints aka Words with FriendsThe Importance of Goal, Motivation & Conflict.Who Makes the Meaning in a Book?Why Do We Write?Learning Craft From Children's Books - Part 2Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving - So ThankfulIntroducing Anna Zogg and Frontier Secrets Plus a GiveawayCate's Favorite Craft Books #6  and some vacation photosCate's Favorite Craft Books #5  Writing from the Inside Out by Dennis PalumboCate's Favorite Craft Books - GMC by Debra Dixon

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