But Don’t Let Go.

Last week, I burbled about the importance of holding on to your writing loosely; accepting the fact that no two people will read the same work. But that’s not to say that you can simply let go of your writing, and not have anything to say since “after all, people will only see what they want to see.”

No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Writing has immense power to show people new things; to change minds and hearts. It’s just that we can’t expect to control exactly what change takes place.

For another thing, I don’t think it’s possible to write without pushing some kind of message. Writing is possibly the most intimately connected discipline there is, since it flows directly from our mind to the page, with no intermediate filter of medium or technique. Our worldview will necessarily flow with it, whether we want it to or not, just as it will flow from our readers.

So take a look at your writing. Is it saying what you want it to? If not, pummel it until it does. And if it persists in saying something different, maybe you should take a look at your worldview. Do you actually believe what you think you believe?

Soul-searching is always a good thing.

That’s what I have to contribute for today, folks. Hope it makes sense.

And y’all get a bonus week of having that old song stuck in your head! Don’t you just love me?

Take In What is There.

“Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. Take in what is there and give no thought to what might have been or what is somewhere else.”

–C.S. Lewis

I believe this quote is from “Surprised by Joy”… but don’t quote me on that.

At any rate, it’s a good thing to remember.

Hold On Loosely.

Okay, now that old song will be stuck in my head for a week. And probably yours too. Apologies.

Lately, my Shakespeare class has been focused on the responsibilities of editors, both in the Early Modern period and today. We even got the chance to role-play as editors ourselves, making choices about which version of a speech from Othello we would use as our original source, or “copy text”, and then updating spelling and punctuation to create the clearest and richest version of the text. Doing this for myself led me to a fresh understanding of Othello’s character, because of the intense focus on detail required to come to what I felt to be the most honest and meaningful interpretation. I solemnly swear I will never ignore a footnote again.

After doing it for myself, I got to read some interpretations from other students, all of which differed radically from mine, but all of which, when I read the “footnotes” provided, were just as considered and legitimate as mine. When my mind stopped blowing, I was left with this thought: No two people will ever read a work in the same way. We all bring our own attitudes and experiences to bear on everything we read, and those things are as unique as the irises of our eyes.

Now, I know that’s not a particularly new thought, and it has certainly been more eloquently phrased by better people than me. But for writers, I feel like this is an important thing to grasp, and perhaps one to which we all need to give more thought.

We may be writing something with a very definite message in mind, one that we want to get across to people, but once that work goes out into the world, it’s out of our hands. People will make of it what they will, depending on their own unique worldview. So don’t stress too much about it. Don’t get such a strangle-hold on your own writing that nobody else has the chance to interact with it and change it into “something new and strange”. Don’t be afraid that people won’t understand. Some of them won’t. But some of them will. Some will understand more than even you. That’s when the process becomes magical; when the work becomes bigger than itself.

Hold on loosely, people. That’s my two cents-worth for today. Now make of it what you will.

Walking in the Wind.



Photo courtesy of Barn Images.


I found another untranslatable word! It’s Dutch this time, and I love it.




Essentially, it refers to getting out in the countryside and breathing fresh air to clear your head. Always an excellent practice. But apparently it’s literal translation is “to walk in the wind”, and if that isn’t lovely, I don’t know what is. We’ve all done that, right? Walked in the wind, and felt it teasing us, pulling it with us, playfully batting away all our cares and leaving us exhilarated and light.

If you haven’t experienced that, you totally should.


Taming Godzilla.

I think this might turn into a Shakespeare blog for the duration of my class. Bear with me. I’ve been doing slightly better at balancing my responsibilities this week, but I still haven’t gotten through the 51 Dramatic Situations, much less figured out how to condense them into a single blog post.

However, I had an interesting assignment in class last night, which I found really useful as a writer, so I’ll just burble about that for a while.

We were asked to compare two versions of the “What’s in a name?” speech from the First and Second Quartos of Romeo and Juliet, and write a 200-300 word response discussing the differences, how they may have come about, and how they effected the way I read and understood the speech.

No sweat, I thought to myself. Ten or fifteen minutes, and I’ll be done.

Cut to three hours later, with me holding a complete essay and wondering what happened.

That’s just the kind of helpless braniac I am, people. I think I’m going to keep a thing simple, and then my brain goes “Hey, new neural pathways! YASSSS!” and before I know it, I’ve got a sort of Godzilla problem going on in my skull.


Godzilla in a scene from the 1954 film. © Toho Co. Ltd.

I’ve always heard that it’s good practice to give yourself a crazy-limited word count, but I’d never actually tried it to this extent before. Usually when I’m writing papers for classes, the problem is how to make the dang things LONG enough!

Figuring out how to get everything I wanted to say about the two speeches into less than 300 words was quite a challenge, but I think I managed pretty well in the end. And it certainly forces you to use stronger words.

I guess all those horrible cinquain warm-ups have been paying off.

So my bit of writing advice today is: Write something fabulous. Then make it fit a ridiculous word count. Tame Godzilla. See what happens.

Featuring: Sonnets in Colour.

As I’ve mentioned in last week’s post, I’m in the middle of a distractingly amazing Shakespeare class. One of the loveliest parts of the whole experience is the people I’ve been able to interact with. We all have Shakespeare in common, but otherwise the diversity is incredible. I’ve met a retired lawyer from Cheltenham, a writer/editor/furniture refinisher, and today’s star, Lena Levin, an artist from San Francisco.

I wanted to feature her today, because she is currently in the middle of a project which brings together two of my favorite things; Shakespeare and art.

Her project is called “Sonnets in Colour,” and her goal is to create a painting for each of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. Here are three of my favorites:

Sonnet 25: But as a marigold in the sun's eye

Sonnet 25

Sonnet 46: a closet never pierced with crystal eyes

Sonnet 46

Sonnet 55: Not marble, nor the gilded monuments of princes

Sonnet 55

On her blog, which I linked to in the name of the project above, you can read the sonnets along with the paintings, as well as her elegant commentary on the sonnet and her creative process. Well worth a look, if you’re craving some beauty.


Oh Dear.

It has been a distracting week. I haven’t done as much writing as I planned, much less gotten through 51 dramatic situations.

So I guess I won’t be writing about those today, as I planned.

Time to improvise.

I know! I’ll write you guys a horrible cinquain:

My Shakespeare class
Is simply wonderful,
I have been irresponsible.

That’s right. I’m currently wrapping up the first week of a super amazing Future Learn course, which I talked about a bit here.

I love it, I love it, I LOVE IT!

I’m meeting kindred spirits right and left. Including someone who will be featured next Tuesday, so stay tuned!

But I promise I’ll pull myself together next week. I will master those dramatic situations, and I will write my brains out.

I promise.


Music for Autumn Walks.

How the heck is it September?  Answer me that, people.

The upside is that it’s time for another film score from Adam Young.

I love these. They’re beautiful, they’re inspiring, and they make blogging on busy days so much easier.

This one is actually based on Sherman’s March to the Sea, but he left all the war and unpleasantness out… So it’s full of hymns and crickets and campfires and rain and dreams.

As always, you can always listen to them from his main site, where you will also find download links from iTunes and Apple Music.

Architectural Structures.

Last week, I promised to update you all on my progress with using Story Structure Architect plan my next writing project. And so far, I’m happy to report, things are going swimmingly.

This week, my focus has been on learning about the 11 “Master Structures,” and structuring my story accordingly. Without completely regurgitating the book, I’ll try to give you an idea of what the author is talking about:

We’re all probably familiar with the traditional Aristotelian three-act structure of Setup, Development, and Climax and Resolution. But then there are all those stories that don’t seem to fit that, somehow… what do we do with those?

If you’re Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D., you develop some new ones (or at least you finally talk about the ones that have existed forever), and detail how each one differs from the traditional structure.

In the book, of course, there is plenty of detail provided about each structure and how it is used, but I’ll keep it short:

The Roller Coaster Ride – Basically, this one never takes its foot off the gas pedal. It’s plot driven, and each act has its own climax. No slow-build nonsense here. Just non-stop thrills. The Avengers comes to mind.

The Replay – This one “is defined as having two or more versions of events in one story.” It can be all Groundhog Day, with one character reliving events over and over, or it can be the same events as narrated by several characters.

Fate – This is the one that starts with the climax, and then does a quick rewind to tell you how it all started.

The parallel – We’re talking about The Two Towers here. Two separate plots happening at the same time, and eventually coming together at the climax.

The Episodic – Episodes. Plain and simple. Like on TV. Each episode has its own individual three-act structure, linked by some sort of common theme or main character.

The Melodrama – Here’s where it gets complicated. There are two types of melodrama, Female and Male.

  • Female Melodrama deals with the fact that patriarchal culture has no place for women outside traditional roles. Stories are usually open-ended, with the character losing out.
  • Male Melodrama deals with family issues. The story does get reconciled in the end, but only through compromise between family life and other things.

But essentially, both types of melodrama are emotional, usually tragic, and slightly over-the-top. You know. Melodrama.

Romance – I don’t think this one needs too much explanation, do you? Boy meets girl, smoochy-smoochy, blah blah blah, happilyeverafter.

The Journey – This can be a journey of internal growth, or a series of mettle-testing external events. There are three types of journey, Feminine, Masculine, and Joseph Campbell:

  • In the Feminine Journey, the hero faces death, symbolic or literal, and is eventually reborn as a complete being in charge of his or her own life.
  • In the Masculine Journey, the hero’s perfect world is upset by a situation, and must choose whether to experience an Awakening which will lead him or her to a mini Feminine Journey, or to Rebel, which usually results in failure.
  • The Joseph Campbell Journey follows a Traditional structure, and is basically… well, your classic journey story. When I was reading the Joseph Campbell outline, I got a little confused and thought I was reading the plot for The Hobbit.

Interactive – More often seen in video games than in novels, but cool if you can pull it off. It’s the choose-your-own-adventure type.

Metafiction – The brain-bending structure. Self-conscious fictional writing. Questioning how fiction and reality are related. The Things They Carried.

Slice of Life – This one doesn’t follow a clear structure. You just pick a point in time, choose an incident to start things off, and then off you go.

So there you have it. Eleven basic structures. I’ve been using them for my story planning this week by applying each one to my idea, and seeing what changes. It’s been massively educational, and even the ones that wouldn’t work (like, at all), have given me new ideas to play around with as my plotting gets more detailed. I highly recommend it as an exercise, especially if, like me, plotting is your weak area.

Next week, I’ll be getting into “The 55 Dramatic Situations.” I have no idea what to expect, but it sounds intense.

So cheers to that.