Novel Writing Tips: Let the Images do the Storytelling

Aug 29, 2017 by

Novel Writing Tips: Let the Images do the Storytelling

Julia Cameron has an exercise in one of her books where she asks you to list your favorite authors and then write something you feel they would tell you as writing advice if they were sitting at the coffee table with you. So far, I’ve come up with 16 and over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of them.

I feel funny doing this, being an unpublished author. One dealt a setback Friday at that. But one determined to persevere regardless.

But as I’ve seen on YouTube, the Net is full of unpublished authors giving all kinds of advice about the publishing industry.

What I’m offering is a little different. Almost like telepathy. In someways I can hear each of these authors, and in some cases, multiple authors, whispering, saying, sometimes SCREAMING, their advice at me as I sit across the table taking copious notes.

Today’s advice:

“Keep the writing simple and let the images you compose do the storytelling.”

Keep the writing simple. A variation of KISS, but on the eve of the release of the movie Swallows and Amazons, this seems fitting.

Now you may ask how in the Devil can I ascribe this to Earnest Hemingway, Arthur Ransome and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Read most anything from Hemingway. It’s simple to read. Easy to understand. But draws you into complex thoughts because of what he says.

Read Swallows and Amazons. The words are pictures. All of them. Simple scenes. Ones that sail you away on an adventure.

Zelda writes like this, too. Her letters to Scott. They lift you away with the purest of love.

I can hear all of them telling me, not yelling, well Hem might yell, not in a whisper, but in simple terms,  Zelda might use a little Southern directness, but their point would all be the same.

Good creative writing is about putting images in the mind of a reader and letting them interpret for themselves the abundance of the details. This gives the reader a chance to escape and the ability to leave where they are and be transported to somewhere else, which is what they seek when they read fiction.

It’s not about barebones writing. I think I’ve learned that mistake. I’ve learned there is a balance there, too. Readers don’t want news writing, either. Not when they’re reading fiction. Just the facts ma’am worked in the papers, but it doesn’t work on the pages of a novel.

 

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Finding Water

Aug 28, 2017 by

Finding Water

I’m in Week Seven of Julia Cameron’s book, Finding Water.

Julia Cameron’s Finding Water.

This makes 19-straight weeks of following in her teachings, coupled with an equally invigorating study of my NIV Bible. Today I’m on the last pages of a second $0.50 college rule Walmart notebook. In fact, Chandler, my daughter, about fell over last week when I showed her the two-foot high stack of them in my closet.  Every three weeks now, I fill a notebook with handwritten Morning Pages. It’s the best form of prayer and therapy I’ve encountered in almost 52 years.

Friday

Friday was a crummy day and if it weren’t for my growing faith in God–thanks to Julia Cameron’s teachings, my daily study, and the confidence I’ve been building because of my Morning Pages, my weekly artist’s dates, and daily walks, (ones that have been trimmed the past month for medical reasons and the oppressive Texas heat) I’d probably be on a balcony somewhere ready and willing to jump.

Transportation issues presented themselves. Issues with a video project popped up. Issues with my ex reared their ugly head. Another video and web project presented issues. And worst of all, the book project with SMU, the one I’ve worked so hard on since 2014, well, I was not one of the 14 selected to go to New York in November.

And That’s Okay

All off it. It’s okay. At some point, mechanics will figure out what’s wrong with my car. There are always difficulties when you shoot a video project. You work them one or two at a time. They get solved and then you fix the next two or three that come along until the project is complete. Website and video editing problems you deal with. You use your creativity and you fix.

The Writer’s Path at SMU

I am grateful for what I’ve learned through the Writer’s Path at SMU. I would not trade the experience for anything. It’s honed my writing. The past year and a half I’ve been wigged out on opioids.

I am happy for the 14 authors selected. Julia Cameron teaches us in Finding Water to celebrate the accomplishment of other artists. They worked hard. I’ve worked hard, too. And now I’m free to follow my own path.

That’s what I’m going to do on my book, too. I don’t have to worry the next few months how I’m going to pay for a trip to New York in November. Things are tight enough around here as they are. I can now get into the feel of my book now that the opioids are having less of an effect on my brain. I can query to my heart’s desire. My brain is in a different place than it was in late June and throughout July. God wanted it that way. You can read my post from last night to read just how. Again, this is okay. God has me on a different path to getting published.

Even the sermon Sunday spoke to this very topic. With God, nothing is impossible. He has a plan. There was a reason I got hurt. There was a reason it took so long for me to get back on my feet and off the pain meds. There was a reason for all the bad things that happened Friday. I believe that. And most of all, I am okay with it. All of it.

And that’s what puts me further ahead than many.

dc.

 

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Zelda Fitzgerald’s Parents’ Graves–The Sayre Graves

Jul 15, 2017 by

Zelda Fitzgerald’s Parents’ Graves–The Sayre Graves

The graves of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald’s parents are in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama.

The grave site of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald’s parents and family members in Montgomery, AL.

They are marked as #28.

They are not easy to find unless you know what you’re looking for.

How To Find The Sayre Graves

Oakwood Cemetery section. How to find the Sayre graves, the parents of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald.

Heading east on Upper Wetumpka Road in Montgomery, go past the Montgomery Police Department and down the hill toward Alabama Public Television and Paterson Field.

The last three entrances to the cemetery are important. The third one leads to Hank Williams’ grave on top of the hill.

The first one, St. Ann’s Street, is the entrance to the section leading to the Sayres.

Once you pull in at St. Ann’s, take the first left onto Stella Street. At the first right, turn north on Clarmont Ave. and go up the hill. The first right near the top of the hill is also Clarmont, but go straight another 20 or 30 yards. Then stop.

Off to your left, three rows in, follow the path of Clarmont to the west. You will see several tall and full trees, and there are two obelisk-like markers to the west in the next row of the Sayre resting place.

Once you are three rows deep, turn to your right and the Sayre site should be to your left.

Clearly marked at the front of the site is a memorial marker to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who are not buried there.

Photos of the Site

I’ve included photos of Minnie Sayre’s grave, as well as Anthony D. Sayre Sr’s resting spots. Minnie is buried on the far left and Judge Sayre is three graves to her right. Zelda’s brother Anthony Sayre Jr lies immediately to the left of the Judge.

Marker for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald in Montgomery, AL

The grave of Minnie M. Sayre, the mother of Zelda Fitzgerald.

Close up of the tombstone of Minnie M. Sayre, the mother of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, who was born in Montgomery, AL

The tomb of Judge Anthony D Sayre, the father of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, in Montgomery, AL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zelda, Almost Home

In June 2017, I made a short film about Zelda. The premise, what if Zelda returned to her hometown Montgomery as a ghost?

Thing is, the more I learned about Zelda and her haunts in Montgomery, the more it seems she actually does return to the city quite often.

July 24, 2017 will mark the 117th anniversary of her birth in the Capital City of Alabama.

Here is Zelda, Almost Home, available on YouTube. Music courtesy of Moby.

 

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The Artist’s Way–Week 11

Jul 7, 2017 by

The Artist’s Way–Week 11

I’ve reached Week 11 of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. My life has changed tremendously in the past 11 weeks. I will tell you that. Probably more so than any stretch of time the rest of my entire life. The positive impact this book has had on me can scarcely be measured.

Everything You’ve Got

My twin daughters were visiting on Tuesday for the Fourth of July and the younger one, Haley, (by all of seven minutes) (Oh, and they turned 18 today) kept noticing and making fun of taped images I have at key places around the place. The note says, “Everything You’ve Got.” She was trying to be grammar queen on me and tell me it should be “Everything I Have,” but I’m not changing it.

The origin of the line comes from Ryan Gosling’s character Seb in La La Land when he’s talking to Mia outside the Griffith Observatory toward the end of the movie. She’s auditioned for the part in the Paris film and she’s asking him about what they’re going to do about their relationship and their chase for their dreams. Will he come to Paris with her or stay in LA and pursue his dreams while she goes to Paris to chase hers? He tells her, “When you get this part, you’re going to have to give it everything you’ve got.” He knows the importance for her of chasing her own dream, one that is not his own, and he knows the importance of chasing his dream. And to accomplish the dream, every dream, ones you and I have as well, that’s what it takes, “Everything You’ve Got.”

The Writer’s Path

There now are 24 days left for those of us in the final stages of The Writer’s Path Program at SMU. On Aug. 1 we turn in the first 15 pages of our manuscripts for blind-judging. Thirteen of us in the program will be selected to go to New York in November to meet with publishers and agents with the Big Five. The pressure is on. 

But what I have found by working through The Artist’s Way is that whether or not my book gets selected, it’s going to be okay. I’ve taught myself over the past 11 weeks that I am “a prolific writer and a great artist.” We were told to practice saying that allowed in one of the first few weeks. It was kind of hard to do at the beginning, without laughing that is. I’ve gotten better at saying it aloud over the past few months.

My art is an expression of the inner child who lives within me. The one who has been squashed, crapped on, booed, chided, beaten down, put down, insulted, and abused over the course of my life. All those words are being brushed aside because of TAW and what I’ve learned by reading the book, writing my morning pages every single day since I started them, and doing the chapter tasks.

Not Just For Writers

I told my daughter Haley the other night that she should start working in her own book. That it would change her life. Then she threw more wood on the fire of the past saying “I don’t want to be an artist. You’re always broke.” Ouch.

I’ve had a hard eight years of life and no, I’m not making as much money these days as I used to. But more importantly, emotionally and mentally, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I’d trade that for lots of money and the problems that come with them any day of the week. Would it have been nice to have more disposable income? Without a doubt. My life would be even more drastically different had that been the case. But God has also used this opportunity to teach me much about life that I was missing.

I’ve never been much for material things. I want a reliable car, a roof over my head, my Macs, Canon camera equipment, and oil paints and canvases, a comfortable bed to sleep in, health care, healthy food to eat, and enough furniture to be able to sit in a chair and watch TV on rare occasions. The car is somewhat on the fritz right now, which is troubling, and income is shallow. But I have most of those other things and they’re helping me in my experience with life. They are helping me write my book. Two weeks ago I made my first short film on Zelda Fitzgerald. And because I’ve made changes in my food lifestyle, weight is falling off my body. My back injury the past year has hurt me in many ways and held me back. That issue is being addressed through legal channels.

What is most important to me though is how close I’ve grown to God and seen that God, as the great creator, created me, you and the world around me. He made the world in seven days according to the Bible, but he didn’t just stop creating then. He still does it today. And in me, he has given the ability to create new stories, new films, new colors, new paintings, new building designs, new whatever he and I can pair up together to dream.

That’s the satisfaction I have from 11 weeks of reading and working in The Artist’s Way. One does not have to be a writer, or a self-declared artist to gain something from this book, but I will almost bet anyone who follows it methodically, working one chapter a week and then doing all the exercises, writing the morning pages, and doing the weekly artists days will find such a dramatic change in their lives, they’ll never regret having invested the time.

 

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Drawing Art for My Novel Writing

Jun 10, 2017 by

Novel Writing With Pictures

I have 51 days left to finish revising my novel writing for The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club and to turn it in to SMU’s The Writer’s Path program.

I have spent time each of the past few days with iPad Pro and Apple Pencil in Adobe Sketch and in Notes drawing out scenes and characters of my book. Why would I devote time to drawing when I’m in a writing medium?

Creative writing is NOT about putting down emotions on the paper. Not expressly. Creative writing IS about drawing word pictures with words. If you aren’t telling a story with word pictures, you’re locked into telling your readers how you or your character feels. And that’s BORING.

So I have been stepping back from the keyboard and spending more time focusing on what I could see if I was in the scene with my characters. Not how I feel, that I mad that Rose dumped Kirk for Billy Banks, or that Billy Banks is a bully, or Billy’s mom is pretty hot. Those things can be told by drawing word pictures that set the scene. How does a character move his/her face? How are they sitting? Are they biting their lip?

Little Laughing Whitefish Falls

The Little Laughing Whitefish Falls, KI Sawyer AFB. Art done by Donny Claxton for The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club.

A crucial piece of the work is Little Laughing Whitefish Falls. The problem is, there is no place outside the back gate of KI Sawyer AFB in 1977. There is a Laughing Whitefish Falls, which is a beautiful place, but there is no Chimney Rock and a lagoon where kids and alike can jump from four levels into the water. The highest height is called The Devil’s Ledge. It’s 55-feet above the water. But it doesn’t exist.

Now Chimney Rock exists. It’s in Lake Martin, Alabama. The Devil’s Ledge doesn’t exist either, but there’s a piece of rock that sits at the top of Half Dome in Yosemite in California that’s called The Devil’s Diving Board.

Blend all that together and you have a whole new fictional place to build some incredibly important scenes around in The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club. I wind up using the lagoon from behind it, under it, down the face it, and from the four levels to jump.

So I decided if I’m going to write about it, I need to SEE what it looks like. The only real way to do that is to blend elements of each place into a piece of art. And this is where the drawing of the Little Laughing Whitefish Falls came from.

You might try doing this, too, in your own writing. It doesn’t have to look like a Norman Rockwell piece of art. It just needs to have enough visual cues in it that will prompt you in your writing, to help you draw better, more convincing word pictures and leave the emotional dumps and figuring out to the imaginations of your readers. They’ll love you for it. They will.

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I’m Under A Writing Deadline

Jun 5, 2017 by

I’m Under A Writing Deadline

So what does that mean? Naturally, my mind is trying to find everything it can to NOT write. And I have 56 days to meet a writing deadline.

My kitchen is clean. My sock drawer indexed in a way that would make Sherlock Holmes envious. My Scrivener file is full of sub-folders. And I keep rehashing my Resurrection, Supreme Ordeal and fighting with myself about how to actually re-write my Call to Action.

Why is this?

The Quest for Perfection

In Chapter Seven of The Artist’s Way this week, I’m dealing with PERFECTION. Or my mental quest to put out something that is as close to perfection as humanly, or me-ily possible.

I’m on a writing deadline and doing all I can to NOT do what I should be doing.

“The perfectionist is never satisfied,” says Ms. Cameron. “Midway through the project the perfectionist decides to read it all over, outline it, see where it’s going. And where is it going? Nowhere, very fast.”

I’m trying to break out of this syndrome. In a video on the CREATIVE app today for Apple TV, the screenplay writer teaching the class said to “Imagine your harshest critic sitting here on your shoulder. Most like, if you’re fortunate, it’s your mother. Pick a place she would love to be on a vacation to, and send her there for the time being.” Get her off your shoulder, is what he said.

So yeah, I get that. Mom probably isn’t alone perching on my shoulder. I know I have several critics who I need to send packing.

And not just until I finish this draft.

The Artist’s Way

Julia Cameron’s book, done right, a chapter a week, is altering my creativity. She is healing my heart. She’d argue more so that it is ME who is healing my own heart. And she’s right.

I recommend this book for everyone. In 2014 I bought a copy and gave it to each of my three girls who never did anything with it. That’s not a criticism, because in 2014 I started reading it and thinking, I don’t have time to devote 13 weeks to this.

Three years later, that’s exactly what I am doing. I don’t peek into the coming week’s lesson. I review those of the past. I re-read my Basic Principles, and The Affirmations I need to hear. I also read An Artist’s Prayer every couple of days to help keep my mind fresh and healing.

Writing Deadline

I have a third of fourth draft I’m working to revise of my book, The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club. A revision of it must be ready for submission to the head of The Writer’s Path Program at SMU on Aug. 1. The first 15 pages are going to be judged and determined whether or those those of us who submit should be selected to go to New York in November to meet with publishers and agents who work or represent the Big Five.

In the meantime, I’m struggling to not self-sabotage this effort. But it’s hard. I’m finding plenty of excuses to not write. I need to go for a walk. Three miles and an hour’s time. But while I’m walking I’m thinking about the book. And a dozen other things. The garbage needs to be taken out. The floors haven’t been vacuumed in several days. Oh gosh, there’s dust on this computer. Oh my, look, it’s about to thunderstorm. What’s being said that’s dumb on Twitter? How about Facebook? What did Simon Cade or Matt W post in their video feeds about filmmaking today? What’s Hazel Hays up to? What’s in my Mail inbox? Julia Cameron says I need to throw some old clothes out. What can I really do with this closet? Ah, yes, what am I going to eat for….

Chapter Seven

This week Julia Cameron affirms that my story is written. I just need to get it down on paper. Or into Scrivener so I can push it out of Word. I need to think of the writing process as being lowered down via a well into an sub-dermal layer of consciousness. She says writers, creatives, should not be trying to think things up. Then you’re reaching for something that’s out of reach. Visualize being lowered down into that river and the words are floating past. It’s my job to offer them rescue. To gather them into the boat and then put them in the right order onto my pages.

That is a much easier way to see writing. It seems to be working today. Today.

The teacher in the CREATIVE network on Apple TV says that we should schedule time on our calendar for writing and then adhere to the calendar.

I’m going to do a little of both. But it’s not easy. I keep trying to find a way to not sit here. To be elsewhere. And yet to retrain my brain to stay fastened to the chair.

I will say that the extracurricular things I am doing are not all bad. Yes, they are excuses, but they’re also allowing my brain to play. And Cameron also says that a playful mind is the most creative one of all.

I hope she’s right. There are only 56 days left until submission and I have 56 scenes in my work at present…..

And that’s how an extra blog post gets written, too…. 🙂

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