10 Not Absurd Tips for Writing Fiction – by Margie Lawson

Margie teaching our Masters Immersion class

I’m very excited to have my mentor, Margie Lawson guest blogging with us today. Fae Rowen and I attended her amazing Masters Immersion Class this year, and are editing feverishly!

Here’s Margie:

A HUGE THANK YOU to Laura Drake and the Writer’s in the Storm bloggers for inviting me to be your guest today. 

This is a combo-list, including four points from me, and three each from Francine Prose and Barbara Kingsolver. I’ll share the list of ten then chat about each tip.

FROM FRANCINE PROSE:

1. Your first sentence (or paragraph) makes a promise that the rest of the story (or novel) will keep.

2. Give your reader a reason to turn every page.

3. Keep a very large trash can beside your desk.

FROM BARBARA KINGSOLVER:

4. Show, don’t tell. Everybody knows this rule, and most of us still break it in every first draft. Be ruthless. Throw out the interior monologue.

5. Be relentlessly descriptive. Use details from every sense you own.

6. Don’t wait for the muse. She has a lousy work ethic. Writers just write.

FROM MARGIE LAWSON:

7. Make multiple Deep Editing passes.

8. Write fresh!

9. Honor your Controlling Premise.

10. Cadence. Cadence. Cadence.

NOW – I’LL DIG A SKOSH  DEEPER . . .

FROM FRANCINE PROSE:

 1. Your first sentence (or paragraph) makes a promise that the rest of the story (or novel) will keep.

YES!  If you follow this rule, your readers will be emotionally hooked. They will have to keep reading.

Check out the first lines of five of Harlan Coben’s books.

CAUGHT
I knew opening that red door would destroy my life.
 
THE INNOCENT
I never meant to kill him.
 
LONG LOST
“You don’t know her secret,” Win said to me.
 
GONE FOR GOOD
Three days before her death, my mother told me—these weren’t her last words, but they were pretty close—that my brother was still alive.
 
NO SECOND CHANCE
When the first bullet hit my chest, I thought of my daughter.
 

2. Give your reader a reason to turn every page.

SHEESH!  I want to believe that every writer strives to write by this rule. But I’ve read plenty of the first several pages of books that did not give me a reason to turn more pages. I didn’t.

3. Keep a very large trash can beside your desk.

OR – Be willing to kill, mutilate, morph, and tweak your darlings. 

FROM BARBARA KINGSOLVER:

4. Show, don’t tell. Everybody knows this rule, and most of us still break it in every first draft. Be ruthless. Throw out the interior monologue.

Ah!  Look what Barbara Kingsolver slipped in at the end.  Throw out the interior monologue.  I’ve read some of BK’s books – -and I know she isn’t suggesting that all thoughts and all internalizations should be nixed.  She’s saying, MAKE THEM COUNT!

In my EDITS System, thoughts and internalizations are highlighted YELLOW. I differentiate between YAMMERING YELLOW and WORKING YELLOW.

Yammering Yellow is nixed or turned into WORKING YELLOW.  😉

5. Be relentlessly descriptive. Use details from every sense you own.

Ah – another not absurd tip we all know. It’s a good reminder.

6. Don’t wait for the muse. She has a lousy work ethic. Writers just write.

So true. Make every day a writing day.

FROM MARGIE LAWSON:

7. Make multiple Deep Editing passes.

If you’ve taken some of my editing-focused on-line courses or reviewed the Lecture Packets, you know I’m the Queen of Deep Editing. What is DEEP EDITING? It’s what’s in those 1000+ pages of writing craft lectures. It’s adding psychologically based power to create a page turning read.

8. Write fresh!

Avoid clichés. Avoid overused word pairings. Share some fresh writing, but not so much or not so fresh that the reader trips. Write like I’m sitting next to you. And give the reader a boost with a phrase or sentence or two of NYT writing in every scene.

9. Honor your Controlling Premise.

A CONTROLLING PREMISE is a three to five sentence who’s-doing-what-to-whom-where-and-why-the-reader-cares story summary.

I recommend writing your Controlling Premise and pasting it at the beginning of each chapter. It will keep you focused on your big black story thread.

10. Cadence. Cadence. Cadence.

It’s smart, smart, smart to make your writing cadence-driven. Read your work out loud, and keep tweaking each sentence and paragraph until the cadence drives you from the first word to the last.

WRAPPING UP:

I’ve started something new!  I created Lawson Writer’s Academy – and from now on, I’ll teach all my online courses in a cyber classroom from my web site.

Visit my cyber Open House for Lawson Writer’s Academy, July 14, 15, and 16. You’ll have a dozen chances to win a Lecture Packet or an online class!

It’s your turn now! Chime in. WHAT NOT ABSURD WRITING TIPS DO YOU LIVE BY? You can say HI!, comment on this list, or share your favorite not absurd writing tip. 

Post a comment –YOU COULD WIN A LECTURE PACKET!

I’ll respond to blog comments several times during the day and be back on again late tonight. I’ll draw the name of the WINNER at 8:00PM Mountain Time. I’ll post their name on the blog about 8:30PM Mountain Time.

The winner may choose a Lecture Packet from one of my on-line courses.

  1. Empowering Characters’ Emotions
  2. Deep Editing:  The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More
  3. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist
  4. Powering Up Body Language in Real Life: 
    Projecting a Professional Persona When Pitching and Presenting
  5. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors

Margie Lawson —psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter—developed innovative editing systems and deep editing techniques for used by writers, from newbies to NYT Bestsellers. She teaches writers how to edit for psychological power, how to hook the reader viscerally, how to create a page-turner.

Thousands of writers have learned Margie’s psychologically-based deep editing material. In the last six years, she presented over sixty full day Master Classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

For more information on Lawson Writer’s Academy, lecture packets, on-line courses, master classes, and the Immersion Master Class sessions offered in her Colorado mountain-top home, visit:  www.MargieLawson.com.

Thank you for joining us today. I appreciate your time. 

All the Best…Margie
www.MargieLawson.com

This entry was posted in Blogging Guests, Craft and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

110 Responses to 10 Not Absurd Tips for Writing Fiction – by Margie Lawson

  1. Misty Dietz says:

    Hi ladies! Excellent post! I’m in the plotting stage of my next ms and these reminders are wonderful. Nixing the internalizations is my Achilles heel. Can you briefly tell me how you differentiate yammering yellow from working yellow? Looks like I’ll be going back through my finished ms one more time. Thanks for the post!

    • Hello Misty —

      In my EDITS System, all internalizations are highlighted YELLOW. But writers need to know if it’s Yammering Yellow or Working Yellow.
      You can differentiate Yammering Yellow from Working Yellow by asking yourself these three Critical Keeper Questions:
      1. Does it move the story forward?
      2. Does it deepen character?
      3. Does it carry a Humor Hit you’d kill to keep?

      If it’s Working Yellow, you’ll have a YES for at least one of those questions.

      Or – Sometimes, you can simplify and ask this fun two word question: “Who cares?”

      Cheers to your Working Yellow!

      • Misty Dietz says:

        Awesome! This is going to help a lot, especially since I just purchased both your Deep Editing and Empowering Characters’ Emotions packets. Can’t wait to pour over them.🙂

  2. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    I love tip #6. My muse has a lousy work ethic sometimes too. No. 9 is very helpful. If I write it down and stay focused, it saves me a lot of time vs. flying by the seat of my pants.

    • Stacy —

      Thanks for chiming in!

      I recommend putting the header, Controlling Premise, above your Controlling Premise at the beginning of each chapter. Every time your eyes flit over those words, it’s a psychological reminder to your brain to maintain control of that chapter. Writers need reminders to stay in charge of their stories, and their writing worlds. 🙂

  3. angieballard says:

    What fabulous timing! I’m settling in for a week-long challenge with my writing group today. I’m going to print all these out and post them above my computer🙂

    • Angie —

      Posting the list — great plan!

      I hope you’ll add to the list. I could have posted a blog on 100 Not Absurd Tips for Writing Fiction.

      But – the title sounds absurd. And – Laura would have lassoed me to a bucking bronco. :-):-)):-)

  4. Sherry Isaac says:

    Margie, I can never get enough of your wisdom. Have you thought about connecting with Mattel, marketing a ‘Margie’ Barbie? They could load her with pre-set Margie-isms: ‘Cliche Alert!’ ‘Write Fresh!’ “Needs more pink!’ She could have EDITS rainbow hair! And a walking stick for those hikes on the mountain.
    Thanks for today’s editing reminders. I am on a Deep Edit Mission right now. Bruised and broken darlings all over the place, but you gotta shatter some glass if you want to make a mosaic.
    So excited about Lawson Writer’s Academy Open House next week, and being your guest the week after that! WOO HOO!

    • Oh Sherry, that’s a great idea! I can see the Margie Barbie sitting on my desk while I’m editing – a reminder not to quit until it’s perfect!
      Laura

    • Sherry —

      Ah – I want a Margie Barbie! I can see the hair and hear the voice. Too fun!

      I’m excited about your book of short stories, STORYTELLER, coming out in August!
      I’m so proud of you!

      Kudos to you — and all the other Immersion Master Class grads!

  5. Lisa says:

    I am still learning to push myself through Tip #7. I have a perfectionist tendency. I want it to be right the first time. Editing is extremely hard for me, but the deep edits system has give me something to set my teeth into.

    • Lisa –

      Yay! You’re using my EDITS System. Excellent! I bet you’d enjoy ‘Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist’ too.

      You’d learn how to write body language and dialogue cues in fresh ways. Editing may become FUN for you.

      Thanks for posting a comment!

  6. kc stone says:

    Great tips. Thank you so much! Another good one I’ve learned is to leave my manuscript alone and work on something else for at least a month before going back to start edits. Six months is even better and allows me to see things with fresh eyes.
    Love to take one of your courses someday.
    KC Stone.

    • Hey Kelly!
      Waiting a month — or two or three months — is a powerful plan. I feel lucky if I can get someone to wait a week or two. Writers are so impatient!

      Writers are high achievers, and high achievers want to keep achieving. I recommend that they distract themselves by writing a short story, or diving into plotting or writing the next book, then make a couple more Deep Edit passes.

      Great to see you here!

  7. Rhonda Lane says:

    Hi, Margie – No. 9 sums up what i used to have on a sticky on my monitor, a paraphrase of the first Clinton campaign mantra – “It’s the Story, stupid.” (“It’s the Economy, stupid.”)

    Okay. Maybe my muse felt a little insulted by the “stupid,” But it did help her focus more.🙂

    • Rhonda –

      I like “It’s the Story.” Powerful!

      Have you considered rewarding your muse? A trip to Paris? Venice? Sydney?

      I could go with you. I’m sure your muse needs a psychologist. 🙂

  8. Lynn Rush says:

    NICE!! Great tips here. Love those first sentences. You’re so right about those. They have to grab you!

    • Lynn —

      I love being grabbed by first sentences. And second sentences. And third sentences. And fourth . . .

      That’s why I created my Deep Editing systems and techniques!

  9. Sharon Clare says:

    Thanks for a great article, Margie! I love Harlan Coben and Barbara Kingsolver and will have to look into Francine Prose (great name!) I know Harlan reads his books out loud when he edits, and this certainly makes for smooth natural gripping page-turners. Great advice, Margie, to keep our controlling premise posted where we see it and will think about it with every scene!

  10. Gwyn says:

    My not absurd tip is one my gram repeated often in her 97 years; Learn something new every day. It can be writing related, if you prefer, but never discount a new perspective or an idea or element outside your normal purview. It may provide the jumpstart you need.

  11. lisawells says:

    Thanks for all the tips. I’ve attended Margie’s workshops, own most of her packets and have become a reader of Harlan Coben’s books because she uses them so often as examples of great writing. My goal is to someday make it to her editing retreat.

    • Lisa, save up for her Masters Immersion class – Fae and I went this summer – it was THE best thing I’ve ever done for my writing!
      Laura

    • Lisa —

      Why wait?

      Two people who were registered for my September Immersion class switched to a late October Immersion class. If you have questions, you can email me through my web site.

      Since you trusted me about Harlan Coben’s writing — trust me about some books by Margie-grads.

      — Darynda Jones — FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT is out now. Fabulous book. Her second book, SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT, will be released in August.

      — Christa Allan’s debut — WALKING ON BROKEN GLASS — is amazing. Her second, THE EDGE OF GRACE, will also be out in August.

      — Kristina McMorris’s debut — LETTERS FROM HOME — is beautifully written. A condensed version will be coming out in Reader’s Digest. Her second novel, BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES, will be released in early 2012. Who says World War II novels won’t sell?

      YIKES! I’m going to be shot by all my other Margie-grads! Some of them will be spotlighted at my OPEN HOUSE for Lawson Writer’s Academy. Margie-grads include Bronwen Evans, Adrienne Giordano, Allison Brennan, Brenda Novak, Cherry Adair, CJ Lyons, Cara Putman, Lorraine Heath, Mary Burton, Kathrynn Dennis, Jeanne Adams, Lee Roland, Anita Cleeney, Randy Ingermanson . . . and hundreds more . . .

      Lisa — I yammered!

      Hope to see you in an Immersion class sometime!

  12. Linda Cacaci says:

    Hi,
    Great post and great tips! I am printing them out so I can refer to them frequently.
    Linda Cacaci
    LinCaca3@aol.com

    • Linda —

      Smart start! I feel compelled to add . . . consider one of my writing craft lecture packets. Empowering Characters’ Emotions is the first one in my deep editing series. It has over 350 pages of lectures. Deep Editing, the second one, has 390 pages of lectures. I load my courses with deep editing techniques and systems — and lots of examples and teaching points.
      Now you know they aren’t fluffy. 🙂

  13. I guess my favorite non-absurd tip comes from Stephen King and is related to No. 6: Give yourself permission to write a craptacular first draft. Just get it on the page. That’s why revision exists!

  14. Karen says:

    These are great reminders — tips. But I’m a little murky on #7 and #10. I know about editing, but Deep Editing (and in capital letters) made me wonder if there was some technique that you have developed that accomplishes the task in a more effective manner. And I’m a little fuzzy on cadence in prose. I wasn’t sure if you were talking about word and sentence choices -long and short to create a mood — tension for example, or if you had something else in mind in defining cadence. Perhaps because those two, Deep Editing and Cadence are your own points, you might develop them more in classes, but I was left a little curious. Thanks for the tips!

    • Lisa —

      Please read my reply above about my courses and lecture packets. They are loaded with deep editing systems and techniques.

      Regarding Cadence: I pasted some examples from one of my DEEP EDITING ANALYSES from my web site. If you click on the Deep Editing Analysis button on my home page — you’ll find over 25 Deep Editing Analyses. Here are two examples from one of them. They include points regarding cadence.

      LISA UNGER, BLACK OUT

      Let’s dig into some examples from BLACK OUT by Lisa Unger that make her writing as powerful as a hurricane.

      EXAMPLE, Page 118:

      My mother liked to drink. It was a mad dog she kept on a chain. When it got loose, it chewed through our lives.

      Analysis: Lisa Unger played off the cliché: acted like a mad dog. She empowered that cliché with twists, amplification, turning it into a stimulus and showing the response, and backloading. Twenty-four words. None wasted. Every word drives the reader toward the next word. Every word drives the reader deeper into the scene terror.

      EXAMPLE, Page 213:

      I see a flash of something on her face that I’ve never seen before. It happens when our eyes connect through the thick glass of her front door. It’s just the ghost of an expression, and in another state of mind I might not even have noticed it. It’s fear. Vivian is the strongest woman I’ve ever known, and when I see the look on her face, my heart goes cold.

      Analysis: If you’ve taken my Empowering Characters’ Emotions course (or reviewed the Lecture Packets), you know FLICKER-FACE EMOTION. Because this flash of fear on Vivian’s face is critical, Lisa Unger wanted the reader to pay attention to this news of a difference.

      How did Lisa Unger get the reader’s attention? She did not use a stronger descriptive word. She did not have the POV character react outwardly with a typical line, “What’s wrong?” She did not just label the look, fear, and move on.

      She empowered that look by giving it more words, by amplifying it, by indicating it was so brief (the ghost of an expression) that she almost missed it, by labeling it fear, by telling the reader that Vivian is strong (implying rarely fearful), by using cadence, by backloading, by using the look as a stimulus and showing (not telling) the POV character’s reaction, by writing a VISCERAL RESPONSE.

      Margie-grads know visceral responses set the emotional hook for the reader and contribute to making the book a page turner.

      Lisa — Now you have a few hints regarding deep editing and cadence.

    • Karen —

      Aack! I called you Lisa — twice. Sorry!

  15. My not absurb tip is make every scene have a reason to be there. Don’t use it to bring up your word count.

    Can’t wait to see you in Birmingham, AL this month, Margie!!!

    Carla Swafford
    VP – Southern Magic
    http://www.southernmagic.org

    • Absolutely true. A great way to bring up your word count is to make a pass through the story with ‘show’ in mind. Find instances of ordinary phrases, i.e. “He turned and stomped out of the room” and dig deeper into the character and show what he would do that’s different from other people. Maybe for the first time in his life, he’s not gonna blow up and say something he’ll regret later. Maybe he wants to punch a hole in the wall, but won’t. Maybe he’s too well-mannered to actually stomp, but there’s an edge to his carefully controlled steps.

      Do a few of these, especially in your most emotional moments, and viola! You’ve bumped up your word count as a side benefit of improving your story!

    • Carla —

      Excellent not absurd tip!

      I’m looking forward to stretching brains in Birmingham!

    • Carla – –

      I responded to this one earlier, but it’s not showing up now.

      Brilliant tip!

      Can’t wait to work with the Southern Romance Writers on July 23rd! See you in two weeks!

  16. SummerMahan says:

    Hello Margie,
    I love, love #6. Don’t wait for the muse. She has a lousy work ethic. Writers just write.
    Make every day a writing day.

    I agree 100 %. They say a habit is learned in 21-28 days. So block out the same time everyday and just write. Good or bad, just write and wait-for the muse starts to come to you.

    Great blog!

    • Summer —

      Thanks for chiming in with the info on forming a POSITIVE HABIT. So many writers launch a new behavior — and quit before it had a chance to become a habit.

      Glad you have your muse trained. Training Your Muse is one of the topics in my Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors Power Punch course. 🙂

  17. Marne Ann says:

    Margie, the Lawson Writer’s Academy is soo cool! I’m so proud of you and happy for your continued success with this. But when you have a great product and a winning personality, you cannot fail! And I love Sherry Isaac’s idea for a Margie Barbie. How funny and apropo.

    • Hey Marne —

      Great to see an RMFW’er here! I feel your cyber hugs.

      A programmable Margie Barbie would be so fun. Hmm — Tom built an airplane. You’d think he could build a programmable Margie Barbie. 🙂

      Looking forward to seeing you at the Colorado Gold Conference!

  18. I’ve attended one of Margie’s workshops and I loved every minute of it. Great tips and while my muse is a bit of a lazy biddy, I guess we have to keep her around. Number one tip: WRITE IT DOWN! (even seemingly crazed notions can be important at some point. We always think we’ll remember it later, but we WON’T.) Keep notebooks in your bathroom We are always working on a new story. In the car, in the grocery line, etc. I don’t know what I would do without my mini voice recorder in my car. Surely you would think I could remember that juicy tidbit that will make my story rock in the 15 minutes it takes me to get home…What were we talking about?

    • Mindy —

      We must share DNA — or a brain. I’m a record-it-or-write-it-down enthusiast. I even splurged on a Smart Pen last year. I jot down a word or phrase in the special notebook while I’m walking (or at a red light)– and record my ideas. So much easier to turn on the pen, touch the pen to the word, and hear my ideas. If you try the Smart Pen, you’ll be hooked.

      I’m curious. Which full day workshop did you attend? If you have a sec, please email me and fill me in. Thank you!

  19. Jenny Hansen says:

    I loved this blog too! And I’m jealous that, as a WITS blogger, I can’t be in the drawing. *boo-hooing on my keyboard*

    Guess I’m gonna have to check this online academy out and start getting some amazing Lawson packets of my own…

    • Jenny —
      You have more chances to win. I’m guest blogging on two blogs next week:
      — Romance She Wrote, July 12th, Gracie Stanners blog.
      — Digging Out of Distraction, July 15th, Christine Glover’s blog.

      PLUS — You have 6 chances to win a Lecture Packet, and 6 chances to win an online course, at the OPEN HOUSE for Lawson Writer’s Academy, July 14, 15, and 16.

      I hope to see you online several times next week. 🙂

      • Jenny Hansen says:

        LOL…thanks, Margie! I’ve already been through the LWA site (salivating) and even sent you an email with an idea.🙂

        I’ll be back around where you are next week…promise!

  20. Jill James says:

    Don’t add fluff, add substance.

  21. Great list !! Printing them out for easy reference! I carry a stack of index cards in my pocket everywhere I go. You never know where inspiration or your quirky characters are going to strike next. I am always jotting things down on those cards. When I get home I may rewrite them, but I always tuck them into an index card file box. I keep a box for my current WIP and for other stories running around in my head. Sometimes I have pulled entire scenes and even entire chapters from those card boxes.

    • Hello Louisa —

      Ah — another writer who writes things down. Awesome!

      Your index card system sounds like it works great for you. Very smart.

      Thank you for sharing your system.

  22. Great post! Another big Margie fan here (6-time Margie grad, IMC-1-Dallas grad). I recommend all of her classes and retreats. Looking forward to the Lawson Writer’s Academy open house and new classes. Cheers, Ashley

    • Hey Ashley!
      Great to connect with you!
      You are a multi-multi-multi-multi-multi-multi-multi-Margie-grad.
      FYI: I’m offering two new advanced online courses (October and November). Tempting?
      It’s always great working with you. 🙂

  23. Deb says:

    I try to keep reminders of A) #4 around first: “Show, don’t tell.” because I need some kind of constant prompt to do so. One of my favorite quotes was written by Anton Chekhov when he likens “showing” in writing to painting a picture: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” B) Next Mark Twain, who, in trying to instruct writer’s to “be fresh in their writing” (your #8), advised avoiding overused words, phrases and cliches. His suggestion was to substitute the word “damn” for instances where one used the word “very.” Twain’s thought was that an editor would delete the “damn,” and leave the writing as it should be. Maybe damn isn’t as “profane” as it was in his day but, for me, it is just one of the many less profane, expletives I use for my countless reasons to just cuss aloud when I am writing a draft, no “draftss” in the “extreme plural form” (Deb’s Rules of Writing). This is then followed by C) using your #3, the very large trash can beside my desk. Thanks for the tips Margie. What a wonderful blog.
    Deb

    • Deb —

      We think alike too! The Chekov quote is one of my favorites. Every time I read his quote, I see moonlight glinting off a shard of glass. Twain’s quotes and writing tips are powerful too.

      Thanks so much for posting!

  24. After taking Empowering Character Emotions, my non-absurd tip would be: make the reader’s heart pound with visceral emotions. It really works.

    ~Debbie

    • Debbie —

      Woohoo!

      Hooking your reader viscerally, and keeping them hooked with a compelling story, writing structure and style, will create a page turner.

      Kudos to you for working to include the right level of fresh visceral responses in the right places. Revel in the power you’re capturing on each page.

  25. I love all of Margie’s classes. It is great to see/hear her in person, but the online classes are even better because of her personal attention to each participant. I hadn’t heard the terms yammering yellow and working yellow before, but think I understand them now. Thanks again for a great lesson, Margie, and to everyone else for the tips they have shared. My one tip would be to persevere. After almost ten years years of writing, my first novella releases this September. Thanks for all the help along the way, Margie.

    • Rose —

      Congratulations! I’m THRILLED for you!

      I bet your novella is deep editing powered! Please add me to your release list.

      Loved your tip! Persevere.

  26. Pingback: Embarrassing Dating Moment #1: “She Pees In The Woods!” | Jenny Hansen's Blog

  27. Jennifer Murdock says:

    After using one of your lecture packets I now live by number 8. I always try and write fresh and avoid all cliches. My writing is so much better. I never realized how much I used cliches until I had to eliminate them and force myself to come up with something original and creative.

    Also I enjoyed reading everyone else’s tips. So true.

    • Jennifer —
      YAY! I’m impressed! I love it that you’ve given up cliches — and that you force yourself to be original and creative.
      KUDOS TO YOU!
      I bet your writing hooks more agents and editors and readers! Let me know when you get THE CALL!

  28. Edie Ramer says:

    Great reminders! I need to pay attention to #6 and make every day a writing day. My life is crazy busy now, but so is the life of every writer I know. I need to make time to write.

  29. I enjoyed the first line comparisons, especially under each title: I thought it was a great way to “set” the promise, by making the title and first line interact.

    My favorite advice: As soon as possible give each work a title, each character a name. I base that need one two specific quotes:
    –You have but to know an object by its proper name for it to lose its dangerous magic. ~Elias Canetti
    –Names are an important key to what a society values. Anthropologists recognize naming as ‘one of the chief methods for imposing order on perception.’ ~David S. Slawson

    With each successive naming my path is better lit.

  30. Hi, Margie! [waving]

    I can’t think of any tips to share today.

  31. Penny Rader says:

    Margie, would you mind elaborating a bit more on Controlling Premise?

    • Penny —

      A Controlling Premise is an expanded log line. It’s a story summary that is usually three to five sentences long. It includes who, what, where, and why — and shares those dynamics in a way that makes the reader care.

  32. Terri P says:

    Awesome reminders, Margie!

    Thanks for posting them!

    Terri

  33. anitakgreene says:

    Hi Margie! A great post. You’ve given me several new gems to put in my editing notebook. A tip I’ve received: Don’t consider your editing done until you’ve read your story aloud. This will reveal tongue twisters, cadence and the ‘word of the manuscript’ – the one word that seems to be the perfect choice over and over again.
    Thanks to everyone for posting your tips!
    Anita

    • Anita —

      YES! Reading your novel out loud — or using a text to speech program — or recording it yourself — are all effective ways of catching writer errors.

      Good for you for mentioning the ‘Word of the Manuscript.’ I like that term. I refer to it as the ‘catch word’ of the book. They’re caught in the writer’s mind — and keep getting tossed on the screen. I catch them – but many writers don’t. Some of the ones I’ve caught are — muttered, seethed, irascible, shuttered, washed over (as in grief washed over her, fear washed over her, regret washed over her . . . ) snubbed, penultimate, discounted, furor.

      Thanks again for sharing your tips!

  34. I took Margie’s Empowering Character’s Emotions online and then purchased her online packet about Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist. Definitely helped my writing!
    Patti

    • Patti —

      Kudos to you — for applying what you learned in those two courses.

      Hope to see you at the Open House for Lawson Writer’s Academy – -July 14, 15, and 16. You may win one of the other writing craft courses!

  35. Erin Satie says:

    I used to have a huge problem with coddling my characters – I don’t like to hurt them! But I read somewhere that at every step along the way in a book, as authors we should see where our story is going and then ask, “How can I make this worse?” So that’s what I do now. It’s hard! And I have to push myself constantly to be meaner than I really want to. So…”How can I make this worse?”

  36. I admit, I just had an internal squee moment at seeing your shout-out for my novels, Margie. So, so flattering! And after seeing you approximately a zillion times at RWA, I’m already suffering from withdrawal.🙂

    These are such great tips! (The examples from Lisa Unger’s work made me drool.)

    Here’s a not-absurd tip that I try to live by: Use the opening line and closing line of every chapter to raise a question, and whenever it’s feasible, end each chapter with a power word.

    • Kristina —

      Ha! I surprised you! So glad you happened to drop by this blog!

      If you haven’t read Lisa Unger . . . add her to your MUST READ list.

      I’m a big POWER WORD advocate. I vote for Power Words ending as many sentences as possible. Two words that carry no power — are IT and THAT. I vote for nixing as many IT’s and THAT’s as possible.

      Such fun seeing you so often at National!

  37. Lorrie Thomson says:

    I took Margie’s Empowering Characters’ Emotions class years ago, and still refer back to her excellent lessons. My not absurd writing tip is that I always end a scene on a hook.

    • Hello Lorrie!

      Glad you’re still referencing the lectures from Empowering Characters’ Emotions. Hmm – Not to be pushy, . . . I bet you’d like what you learned in my other writing craft courses too. :-))

      Maybe you’ll win a Lecture Packet or online course at my Open House — July 14, 15, 16. I hope you get lucky!

  38. Wow, Margie, I’m impressed as always! I always learn something from your lectures and blogs. Thanks for all the information! I’m going to go apply it now. 🙂

  39. Marcia says:

    Deep editing–that’s what I need to work on. Thanks for a great post with helpful tips.

    • Marcia —

      I wonder if you’ve taken any of my online courses, ordered the Lecture Packets, or heard me present a full day Master Class, or Weekend Master Class. If not — I hope you have the opportunity to check them out sometime. Deep Editing adds power to every page.

      I’m glad the ten not absurd tip sounded good to you. Thank you for chiming in.

  40. Bren says:

    Jumping in late. Was away from the computer all day. Love all this stuff. Wish I could take a class but time is not on my side. I’ll be ordering the packets, though.

    • Bren – –
      Glad you stopped by.
      Sounds like your life is overbooked. That’s why I offer the Lecture Packets. :-))
      I hope you can find some time for yourself this summer!

  41. HELLO EVERYONE!

    I used a random number chart to select our winner.

    Our WINNER is . . . . . . . . . . . . LOUISA CORNELL.

    Louisa — You won a Lecture Packet! If you haven’t taken any of my writing craft courses, I recommend starting with Empowering Characters’ Emotions. If you’ve taken that course, the next one is Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices and More.

    Please email me, margie @ margielawson . com, and I’ll email the Lecture Packet to you.

    THANKS TO EVERYONE FOR POSTING ON THE BLOG TODAY!

    I’LL RESPOND TO THE REST OF THE COMMENTS NOW.

    PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDARS:
    OPEN HOUSE for LAWSON WRITER’S ACADEMY — July 14, 15, 16!
    Hope to see you at the Open House next week!

  42. jodi janz says:

    What a fantabulous post. A lot of things i have heard before but a few great new nuggets. I am about to plunge head first into editing and I am scared to …
    I am printing off the list and adding it as the front page of my many unedited mss. Thank you. I am also definitely checking out Margie’s website.
    That is what I love about reading other people’s blogs – I get to meet other ‘newer’ people. Thanks for taking the time over here Margie.

    • Hello Jodi —
      It’s nice to e-meet you.
      Since you’re going to my web site — check out my Deep Editing Analyses. You’ll find over 25 short articles that analyze several examples from one author — like the Lisa Unger examples I pasted in a reply. They give you a few hints regarding the types of things I teach.

      I hope to see you at my OPEN HOUSE for Lawson Writer’s Academy!

      Thanks for chiming in.

  43. jamilajamison says:

    An excellent post! I am embracing Tip #3, and learning to become far less attached to the characters, events, and even the words that are in my stories. I recently reread the first five chapters of a WIP that I had put aside, and realized that, as much I originally loved it, it will be much better if I overhaul the entire thing and rewrite it, this time with the insights that I’ve gained over the past couple of months of working on it. My editing pen has become my pen, and I am much, much less afraid to hit that ‘delete’ button and embark on some new twist than I have been in the past.

  44. HELLO EVERYONE!

    I HAD FUN RESPONDING TO YOUR POSTS TODAY. THANK YOU AGAIN FOR DROPPING BY WRITER’S IN THE STORM.

    I appreciate Laura Drake for inviting me to guest blog. Laura is one of my Immersion grads. Her writing is as strong as her personality is fun. I’m so glad I got to work with her.

    PLEASE DROP BY MY WEBSITE — and see where I’ll be blogging next week.

    I hope you drop by my OPEN HOUSE July 14, 15, or 16 — and check out my cyber classroom!

    http://www.MargieLawson.com

    Cheers — to your writing success!

    All the Best……………..Margie
    http://www.MargieLawson.com

    • Oh Margie, it was our pleasure! We’d love to have you back anytime. You can see from all the wonderful comments that our readers would too!

      Thank you!
      Laura

  45. Pingback: Doing the Melon “Bootie Shake” at More Cowbell! | Jenny Hansen's Blog

  46. Connie Flynn says:

    Margie, wonderful blog. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. My tip may have more to do with attitude than actually writing, but it often helps writers overcome that dreadful first draft critic. “Nothing you write is ever as terrible as you think it is when you first write it . . . on the other hand, nothing you write is ever as wonderful as you think it is when you first write it. Time always gives perspective.”
    –Connie Flynn

  47. Kelly says:

    Hi, Margie. Kelly here.
    I took EDITS and loved it. I keep it handy and refer to it often. My desk is never without a set of highlighters and a red pen. I’m always amazed when I print out and highlight.
    It’s handy to have a queen-size bed in the guest room–can lay out a whole highlighted chapter on it!
    Hope to get to one of your immersion classes some day.
    Cheers, Kelly

  48. Gerri Bowen says:

    Great tips. One I heard many years ago was turn off internal editor while you write. As I self edit, I allow my editor to return. That way, muse and editor don’t fight so much.

  49. Wonderful post! Tight and to the point- and very NOT absurd🙂. Thank you Margie, and thanks to this blog for having her on here🙂

  50. I learned that you should have all five senses in every 1000 words. It is a way to make sure you have setting in your work and keep your critique partners from having to say, “Setting would be nice.”

  51. Mia Marlowe says:

    Your 10 rules are brilliant and sucinct. I’m taping them to my computer!

  52. All your tips are spot on and most important. My absurd tip is: I don’t care how much time you have, write every day if it’s only 30 minutes.
    Discussion: If you have to force yourself to write and moan and groan about it, perhaps you need to get a job in a bank or at McDonalds. Too tough, but true.

  53. Thanks for the reminders. I write whether my muse is here or not. In truth, I rely on my muse or creativity for the story ideas but believe it is my job to do the rest. I just started titling my chapters instead of giving them numbers. It has helped me stay focused on the purpose. I plan on continuing that practice unless or until it doesn’t work for me.

  54. Pingback: Techie Tuesday: 10 Favorite Writing Lessons from Margie Lawson (and her Peeps!) | Jenny Hansen's Blog

  55. Pingback: 10 Not Absurd Lessons from Margie Lawson (and Her Peeps!) | Writers In The Storm Blog

  56. Pingback: Row80 – Week 2 Check-in | Jenny Hansen's Blog

  57. Pingback: Guest Who? | Sonia G Medeiros

  58. Pingback: 10 Favorite Writing Lessons from Margie Lawson (and her Peeps!) | Writers In The Storm Blog

Comments are closed.