Tag Archives: writing technique

When blogging: feel inward, look outward.

My life is falling apart. My cat naps on my keyboard. I have a new lover (don’t tell my husband). My best friend died. I just climbed Everest. I live in a deep, dark hole and can’t imagine I’ll ever climb out.

Are you interested yet? Since everyone faces similar situations, you’d think they’d be great topics to blog about.

They are–depending on the execution.

We should blog about our personal concerns, our personal interests. But why would anyone care, just because we have some shared experiences?

Picture your blog reader as a listener. You’re in a coffee shop, talking. Does the listener lean forward, eyes on yours, waiting breathlessly for your next words? Or does the listener’s eyes glaze over? Does he or she sidle away, glad of the lucky escape from someone with such dedicated self-involvement?

I don’t mean we should step back to the point of being impersonal or cold-hearted. Blogs benefit from the self-revelation of the writer: the revelation of how the writer experiences life. Readers read to find a personal connection with the writer.

But we need to extend a hand to readers, not huddle in a private locked room. We need neither rescue nor a pat on the head. To be understood by other living humans like ourselves, we need to expand beyond ourselves.

How do we find this balance between the personal and the universal?

We should try to establish kinship.

When we blog about our lives, we should try to include the readers. Not by our topics alone, but also by our intent.

Though most bloggers are not fiction writers, the approach is similar to a fiction-writing technique. The self-revelation of a blog illustrates the blogger’s journey. As bloggers, we can use an ancient fictional tool: the hero’s journey.

As described by Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, at the end of the quest the hero of the story can bring back what he or she has found and offer it to people, to those who listen to the hero’s story. What the hero discovers is vitally important to them. It will make their own lives better.

Write your personal journey for your blog, but bring what you’ve discovered on your journey back to your readers. Offer your discovery to them, knowing how valuable it is.

Hold on tight to what you feel inside, yes, but express it while looking outward.

As you write, be aware of the strangers there with you. They are strangers, but they want to be interested, sympathetic strangers. They’re looking for a connection with another human being. They need that connection as much as you do.

Look those strangers in the eye. Reach for their hands. You’re about to give them something priceless.

By S.J. Driscoll

One picture is worth a thousand drafts

You’ll see that these notes for a short story aren’t notes at all. Not in the usual sense:

As a first draft, recently I started making schematics of stories instead of writing pages of words that might or might not be changed later.

Using a schematic lets me think about the story without falling in love with or worrying about how it’s going to be written. It frees me from the words, structures, cadences the story will be communicated by, and lets me concentrate on the story itself.

You see a beginning at the left top, the story progression along the middle and the end at the top right. The piece of paper torn from a small spiral notebook shows the first ideas about the story captured in a sketch.

Those sixteen cartoons along the bottom represent possible endings, of which fifteen have been rejected. The ending I’m still considering is represented by the little car, which isn’t crossed out yet. There’s still room in the middle to add other possible endings or sketch some significant details.

The theme of the story is shown by that sequence starting with the word, “why.”

Doesn’t look like much to you, does it? But it doesn’t have to. Preverbal, I guess it’s called? This isn’t communication yet because it doesn’t have to be. This picture shows the state of the story in my mind. The communication–the writing–will come after the story has a form.

Once I get used to this new method for short stories, I’ll probably try it at novel length. Already that sounds like a great relief to me–not to be bogged down in all those words just to plan a story. And the words will be fresh since they’ll come later.

Do you think this technique might be useful to you?

Maybe we could start NaNoSkeMo–National Novel Sketching Month!

By S.J. Driscoll