We made it to the last day of our Writing Conference without the Conference. The goal from the beginning was to share ideas to think about writing outside the box, to deliver something to fellow writers that would help leap over obstacles with a single bound.
Speaking personally, as soon as I published Day One, life hit the fan and my schedule of posting was lost. But in there were valuable lessons – 1) don’t give up and, 2) have a plan. My goal was to post twice a week. Didn’t happen. My second goal was to have a detailed outline for this entire series of posts from which to write from. That saved me.
Today I’m writing about Details; the little things that make or break a story or an article. The devil may be in the details, but that’s only when we allow the details to bog us down. The details can also bring hope to inspire, focus, and bring forth blossoms of literary flora.
Detail 1: The beauty of an outline. Sounds funny – beautiful outlines. For most people, “outline” conjures images of sixth grade teachers, Roman numerals and stringent rules for lining up the numbers and letters. Outlines ride pale horses and research papers come with them.
Alas, there is life after term papers and for the working-toward-professional-writer the outline is as vital as a GPS as we wander through the deserts of Blank Screens.
My outlining process has gone through an amazing evolution as I’ve grown as a writer. I started with the traditional outline format – making my high school English teachers proud. But I now use post-it notes to outline and play around with the order of the scenes. Point is this – make a plan and follow it, changing direction when creativity shows up. The outline is the foundation.
Detail 2: Query letters. This is, after all, a Writer’s Conference, a free sample of writing resources, a booster shot to your mind, a kick in the pants, a means to change your schedule and jump start a new project. Once all that has been accomplished and you have a piece of writing – buffed and polished with every curly preposition in place – it’s time to submit your work.
The details in the query letter, the synopsis, the first three chapters submitted to an agent are invaluable. Don’t rush writing these.
I am intelligent enough to know that I am not an expert in submissions, so I am directing you to other resources, guest speakers of this little conference, if you will.
Detail 3: Think like a writer. This, at times, seems so obvious that I hesitated included it in this post. But after the last two months, I really need to keep this focus.
Thinking like a writer means that the little details make the biggest impressions. For example, my oldest daughter will be thirteen in less than two months. I see her beauty as a young woman emerging in the tiniest way: the way she ties a scarf around her neck, the quick glances in the mirror, the careful way she cares for her clothes. All that juxtaposed against that fine balance she maintains between playing with younger siblings and contributing to a meaningful conversation with adults.
It’s the minute details of characters that peel away the ink and paper of a story to reveal a realistic persona. How she tucks her hair behind her ear, the way he gestures with his hands. Important character strengths or flaws can be masterfully illustrated with these little actions.
If you are writing for children, take some time to read the Newberry books. Read it once just for enjoyment, then read it again paying attention to the language, the way the author describes the scenes and actions. I recently read The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy with my oldest daughter. What a gem!
If you write for adults or focus on non-fiction, read those best-sellers. Take notes. Imitate the masters. Strive to improve your game and find your own voice and style.
And so, we come to the end of our conference. Thank you for joining me. Let me know what was helpful and in what areas of writing you would like more information. I may not have all the answers, but I can find them J
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