Writing A Novel – Self-Reflection Questions

May 20, 2014 by

The past few weeks I’ve been covered up with notecards. I’ve not been doing this series of exercises as regular, having moved on to plotting, but these still are important.

I also realized I’ve been saying 3″ x 5″ card when I’m really using blank 4″ x 6″ cards. They have more space obviously and one can get them at Walmart for $0.84 per 100.

TODAY’S EXERCISE

So with your notecards, I suggest you do this study.  It can be good for you if you’re developing characters for a novel, or just trying to get a handle of what’s going/gone on in your life.

So here are four important questions to ponder:

If I could go back in time and fix this, what would it be?

Who has had the greatest impact on you? Why?

What was your darkest hour and how did you survive it?

Suggestions about plotting out a story are coming soon. There still are more important questions to be pondering in self-reflection before we get there. Remember, if you are indeed writing a novel or major work, this isn’t meant to be something you just dive into and it’s done over the weekend. If you want to write a serious, logical piece of work, it’s going to take time, research, and of course, a lot of self-reflection, because most likely, you’re going to find a lot of you meshed into the lives of your characters.

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Writing A Novel – Learning From Mistakes

May 2, 2014 by

Writing A Novel – Learning From Mistakes

Airplane Sunrise

Airplane Sunrise (Photo credit: ClaxtonCreative)

The most powerful lessons we learn in life are from our own mistakes. Sometimes they’re silly mistakes. Sometimes they’re gross miscalculations. Sometimes we gambled too much and lost.

Over the past two weeks we’ve been going through a series of daily exercises designed as a self-study, even for someone who may not ever write a novel, short story or screenplay.

The gist of the exercise is simple. Take out a stack of blank 3 x5 notecards, title, number and date them, and then add a list of items associated with the exercise.

EXERCISE:

So here’s today’s challenge. Make a list of what you have learned from the mistakes you have made in your life. Maybe this just needs to be one lesson per card.  It’s up to you and as always, there are no wrong or right answers and you don’t have to share them with anyone else but yourself.  But the premise here is that when you go to writing and creating your characters, you’re going to want to create an arc for them over the length of the story.  That means they start at one point and hopefully, after crossing a couple bridges from which there is no return, they end up at a different point in their lives. Usually in storytelling that means they go from a negative aspect in their lives to a positive one.  They go from being a lazy drunkard to an energetic community leader hero and find redemption, etc.  Over simplifications, but I hope you get the point.

Well to write about those things, wouldn’t it be easier to have something of a list in hand BEFORE you really get going down the path so you have a better idea where you’re going?  And what better a thing to weave in some realness into your characters by dealing with things that you have truly experienced or seen in the lives of others?

Thinking about writing a novel? Now do you understand why this is so important for a writer?

Now thing about how important it still might be to someone who may never write a thing in their life, but instead used this one blog post to make an important life change….

 

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Writing A Novel – Characteristics of People I Like

Apr 29, 2014 by

Writing A Novel – Characteristics of People I Like

An essential part of a good story is being able to add good qualities and flavor into the lives of your characters. You want to create empathy between them and your readers.  Even your antagonist needs to have a soft spot so your readers/viewers can relate to him/her in some way.  It just makes for a better story.

And so today we continue on with our self-study exploration questions that hopefully will help make it much easier to come up with good things about your characters based on this series of exercises.

The good thing about these exercises is that they also can be helpful and beneficial to someone who just wants to learn a little more about themselves.

Last week we began this series and did some exercises. Saturday’s was to get a stack of 3 x 5 notecards and write about things you like. Yesterday’s was things you do NOT like.

Today we’re going to analyze that a little deeper.

To do the exercise, just fill out the top of a card with a heading, in the case of today’s exercise–Characteristics of people who I have liked–and then number the card in the top right corner. I also like to add the date somewhere so that two or three years from now when I come back to these, I’ll have a better frame of reference as to what was going through my head now versus then. When you fill up a card, start a second, third … as many as it takes.

Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

And if you’re doing these exercises for the benefit of your future characters, think about exposition you will do and even dialogue you will write where this will add an extra dimension to your characters.

Okay, so here’s today’s exercise.

EXERCISE

What are characteristics of people I do like? Is it just superficial as in the way they dress, or look or can you probe deeper and really see somethings. Are they like how you want to be seen?  Are they how you are seen?  What do they do you do not?  What do they do that’s similar?  Keep probing, there’s a lot of good that can come from this.

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It’s Saturday – Time For A Mental Break

Apr 26, 2014 by

It’s Saturday – Time For A Mental Break

My three girls, Reagan, 14, Chandler, 17, and Haley, 14. Yes, that makes R&H twins....

My three girls, Reagan, 14, Chandler, 17, and Haley, 14. Yes, that makes R&H twins….

Since Monday, I’ve made a daily post on the aspects I’ve been using to begin writing a novel. Today is Saturday and I’m going to take a mental break–at least here on the blog.  If you’ve been doing the exercises, you probably should take one, too. (If you’re too tied to it, the next exercise is the opposite of the one from yesterday–things you don’t like….)

Following these exercises has put me on a rewarding and interesting road to self-discovery.  This week I’ve heard from friends on Facebook who have said they’ve enjoyed the exercises and have even gone out and bought 3 x 5 blank notecards to follow in stride. That’s satisfying and invigorating. It gets back to my ClaxtonCreative.com mantra of “telling stories with purpose.”  I’m fulfilling my purpose that I feel God put me here to do.

When God Redefines The Possible

To find inspiration, breakfast and the comfort of chaos, I tend to float around a coffee shops, etc. to feel connected and more importantly, to get my butt out of this chair. It gets quite uncomfy after a while. Yesterday morning, I had another pleasant turn that only God could have engineered. Fate is much less cunning to be able to match this feat.

I met a waitress who is on fire for God in a way one seldom meets in this life. When she was introduced to me through my “regular,” Jessica, and she found out what I was doing, she, too, said she was working on her own novel and was about a year ahead of me. She’s writing a Christian novel and from the fire in her heart, one can only know good things will come from her words. There can be no other possibility. Like I have done so many times before, I shared with her about Dr. John Ed Mathison’s book, When God Redefines The Possible.

Good things have always happened in my life when I’ve been associated with that piece of work, so I’m hoping this young lady, clearly half my age, will find some power and inspiration in John Ed’s work to be able to help her in her own walk and in her own write. It is amazing how God bumps us into the right people at the right time.

I said Monday in my first post about writing that I was on an adventure journey. And like the best of them, you run into people you did not anticipate and learn things you did not know before. Aspects that make life and adventures all that much more rewarding. She said she’s veered off of using an outline to write with and though she didn’t use the term, is being a “pantser.”  (We’ll get into what all this means in coming posts.)

Okay, had a late night. My eldest went to her prom and my twins came over to help get her ready and pose for pics.  This picture sums up what my life is all about–telling stories with purpose, God’s purpose, for the benefit of Him, and the benefit of these three angels–(L to R: Reagan, Chandler and Haley.)

A post about Netflix’s series, House of Cards, is slated for Monday as well as new exercises.  Thanks for reading. It’s time for a mental break.

God bless.

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Who Am I? The Self-Discovery Caused From Writing A Novel

Apr 22, 2014 by

Who Am I? The Self-Discovery Caused From Writing A Novel

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My childhood window, upstairs and down. I used to sit at these windows and write when I was in elementary school at KI Sawyer AFB in Michigan and we lived at 208 Fortress.

Somewhere back in time at 208 Fortress Street in base housing of the former Strategic Air Command’s K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I would sit at a kidney bean family heirloom desk with a children’s red type writer and “write.” I would sit in front of the lower window you see in the photo to the right and I would write.

A few years later in Mrs. Reid’s eighth-grade journalism class at Mitchell Sr. Elementary School in Atwater, CA circa 1979-80, I received the worst grade I’ve ever received on a writing project–an F, for refusing to write a short, fictional story. Note, it was a journalism class.

During my senior year of college at Auburn University at Montgomery, in 1987, I received one of my best writing grades–an A, in Nancy Anderson’s Advanced Expository Writing class. Mrs. Anderson, who went by the self-proclaimed nickname “the Dragon Lady,” almost never awarded works with such grades, but I am proud to say, I am one of the few. During that quarter I was taking 24 hours of classes, working on the school newspaper and working at a local department store to help pay for school.

Writing, and principled writing, has been a part of my life since I can remember.

But I am learning at age 48 there still is much I have to learn about writing.

My late maternal grandmother, Joyce Sheptak, used to always to encourage me to “write what I know,” the oft used cliche nearly every writer knows. She always used to cite “I Remember Momma” as her impetus for the suggestion.

During the past month or so since I began this new novel writing practice, I’ve studied much about what I know and come to the conclusion that my writing shouldn’t be as much about “what I know” but about “who I am.”

And that’s led to some amazing self-discovery and analysis. My counselor, friend and web client, Dr. Harold Duncan of Dallas, Texas says right now I’m actually doing something that almost 95 percent of the population, or more, never will do, whether writing a novel or not.

I’m trying to really find out who I am.

WHO AM I?

That’s been an amazing question to ponder. Dr. Duncan says that at age 48 it’s about time I started asking myself such questions. As he has explained, you can’t do what I’m doing in your teens, 20s, 30s or even really in one’s early 40s. In life, we’re just not ready. Our perspectives on such an exercise would be highly skewed.

Think about that for a moment. In our teens, we clearly have no clue about what life is about. We think we do. Many parents have done much to help get us ready to leave and cleave by age 18 and graduation from high school, but even as the eldest of five children, I can honestly assert, I wasn’t ready for that.

Our 20s are spent trying to find a vibrant career and in large part, mine were also spent thinking I needed to find a spouse to start a family. God had other plans.

Our 30s are spent in family and work mode.

Our 40s leap up fast and we think we have become experts about what this life is about and all of a sudden someone pulls a rug out from under you and everything that once was up is down and what was down is now up.

And at least for me, after enduring that mid-40s upsetting of what I thought was going to be a smooth sail to the finish line, I can honestly sit here and pen this. I have some new perspectives on life I didn’t have before.

So who am I? I’m not the person I was at any other point in my life. When I was younger I held the perspective that I probably couldn’t write fiction because ultimately, I hated to see the travesties of life inflicted on my characters. I wanted and thought and longed for a smooth life. I thought that was still possible. After being wronged, cheated and having lost nearly every element of normalcy to my life I once held as dear, I finally feel like I can skewer a character or two of my own in my stories.

More about me to follow. This is, after all, a journey. We’re not going all the way in one or two posts.

 EXERCISE

Time to step away from the computer for a bit, take out a piece of paper and a pen and think about yourself.  Do this exercise:

1) Write down one or two words that describe each of the various roles you currently play in your life.

Fill up the page. Do two or three. That’s fine, there are no right or wrong answers, so long as you’re being honest with yourself. This isn’t for anyone else to see, so be brutally honest with yourself. The more honest you are with you, the more you will get out of this activity, whether you’re going to write a novel or simply work on better defining who you are.

2) Once you’ve made a sizable list go back thru it. What roles are you in that are positive? Are there any that are negative? Do you need to change any of them?  If there are roles you think you need to change, I recommend getting out a 3 x 5 notecard and putting them on a separate list. We’ll come back to them later.

 

My Novel Project

The Beginning April 21, 2014

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