Write Like Water: Free Virtual Class on Jan 14

Dear Writers:

I’m so excited for this class, so I’m glad people are letting me know already that they want to come! In teaching writing, some of you know that I put a lot of emphasis on movement. Which brings us to the title of this class: Write like water.

I find it helpful to keep in mind that your idea for the story’s structure should be fluid. Thinking of the structure as a container or the packaging for the story, also allows for the possibility of swapping out that container en route or during revision. If the structure you’re trying doesn’t meet the needs of the story, back up and rethink the structure. That’s different than coming up with a structure and then getting lazy and not following through. I’m talking about a total swap out.

Knowing when to keep or change the overall structure is all about balance. Get too loose and you lose your grip on the story. Get too locked in to making a structure work, and you can begin to force fit content into a predefined structure.

The ultimate goal is to find and follow the natural path or flow of your story. The goal is to avoid using an artificial structure because it is glitzy or you just like it. That doesn’t mean the structure has to be simplistic. It might be very complex, but it should be as simple as it can be to do its job effectively.

When thinking about structure, I like the image of a river because it’s sturdy, there are definable borders and walls, and yet it’s also flowy and curvy. It’s both strong and yet has inherent flexibility, and to me that’s one of the goals when thinking about your structure.

That’s why I think of figuring out a story’s optimal structure as finding the path of least resistance. If you watch water, it’s smart. It’s efficient. It doesn’t make things harder for itself. It wisely takes the path of least resistance. It flows downhill most easily. But given time, it carves a path through solid barriers, so it’s also really, really strong.

Another way to say this is that the truth is the easiest to remember. To me, finding the path of least resistance is like finding the honesty and authenticity in your story. Telling it in the most honest way you can, and ultimately that’s what will make the story its most compelling.

There’s more to say, so see you in class!

Here’s the link to register: https://zoom.us/…/regist…/u5Qqf-iqrjMjmiX38_c3VtGYp9KQrQcZQw.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Zoom meeting.

XO Laurel Leigh

P.S.: Here’s a post from Cami Ostman of THE NARRATIVE PROJECT with more events for writers in 2020.

As One Year Ends and Another Begins

WRITE LIKE WATER: How to Find and Follow the Natural Path of Your Story

Dear Writers:

I’m really happy to be collaborating with the The Narrative Project and the wonderful writer/coach Cami Ostman for a conversation we are calling WRITE LIKE WATER: How to Find and Follow the Natural Path of Your Story, on January 14, 2020, at 6 p.m. Pacific time. This two-hour virtual class taught by Yours Truly will be offered FREE through The Narrative Project. The focus is your story’s structure: how to find it, and how to fix it.

Over the years, a lot of the requests I get for help with memoirs and novels pertain to structure. As we all know, establishing the architecture of a story can be tricky because the story’s structural design is both a writing tool and a container for the action line, but the structure should not upstage nor inhibit the unfolding action of the narrative, and neither should it be confused with the plot. One issue we all face is that despite everything we know about story and structure, every story is ultimately unique, so we have to somehow apply everything we know and simultaneously forget everything we know each time we conceive, refine, diagnose, and maximize a story’s structure. I have some techniques I use in my editing that authors and publishers have appreciated, so I’ll share those as a type of To Do list I hope you will find helpful.

If you want to spend a couple hours talking structure with Cami and me, here’s the link to register: https://zoom.us/…/regist…/u5Qqf-iqrjMjmiX38_c3VtGYp9KQrQcZQw.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Zoom meeting.

XO Laurel Leigh

Grandpa Louie, Superhero

Dear Writers,

Daniel Boone was a man, and when I was a kid, Fess Parker was my superhero. It was a joke to my classmates that I rushed home from school every day to watch the show and then recounted it to them the next day at show and tell. I don’t know if my love of character-driven stories was born with Daniel Boone books and shows, but the idea that a character could exist across multiple stories was fascinating to me.

Continue reading

Scribbles from Squaw Valley Writers Workshop – part three by Jilanne Hoffmann

Dear Writers,

Happy New Year! Is it too late to say that? Is there etiquette about that?

Squaw Valley - photo by Tracy Hall

Squaw Valley – photo by Tracy Hall

Anyhoo, there are some fine words of wisdom about writing craft collected here by Jilanne Hoffmann at the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop this year. Had to reblog.

And you can read more from Jill at Dogpatch Writers Collective and on her blog.

Happy writing!

XO Laurel Leigh

Scribbles from Squaw Valley Writers Workshop – part three.

Story Question: Yum?

YumDear Writers:

What is a food your character has never tried and why? For economy, geography, an undeveloped palate or another reason? Upon eating that food for the very first time, what unexpected memory could be prompted, and how could that recollection influence what the character chooses to do next?

Happy writing!

xo Laurel Leigh

Nature Writer (Not!) At Large

With my dog along a trail in Whatcom County’s Sudden Valley. A while back someone built a mountain bike jump, I’m guessing, that’s now overgrown with moss and drops off the hillside. Who could not be inspired to write about this picturesque trail? Me, apparently.

Dear Writers,

You know how Annie Dillard can write about a blackbird and make you wish you had one to come in the window at night and claw you into epiphany? She can turn a minor eclipse into a life-defining event. When I read her work, I of course think of Thoreau and Wordsworth and the like and the amazing abilities of writers like these to interact with and then dramatize nature so profoundly on the page.

Living in Whatcom County’s Sudden Valley, I have green 100-foot trees in my yard, bluebirds nesting in my rafters, lakes I can easily walk to, and deer regularly looking in at me through my basement office windows.

You’d think I’d have it in me to pen a nature-inspired line or two, or at least try. Yet day after day I look out my window and self-confess my irritation that the tree in front of my house looks the same as it did yesterday, and it’s muddy down by the lake and I don’t want to get my shoes dirty again, and I already saw that deer that is now making my dog bark, which echoes in my cave-like office to the point of hurting my ears. “Go away, deer,” I say. I never give them apples.

And. There. Are. Rats. Continue reading

Story Question for Today

Dear Writers,

For those of you working on stories, as your character moves through and interacts with the story world, what seemingly minor element did they notice just now that will inform their actions in a future scene and in a way that may have important ramifications for the larger story? The sun is shining here in Western Washington. Go take a walk and practice seeing the world through the eyes of your character. Continue reading