Writing tips

Story Genius' core message is to know your character's why. It emphasizes the importance of the author's knowing the origin of the main character's world viewpoint.

For this month’s contribution to #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop, I’m reviewing Story Genius by Lisa Cron. A member of one of my Facebook groups recommended it to me.

Story Genius’ Core Message

Story Genius’ core message is to know your character’s why. The author emphasizes the importance of you knowing the origin of your main character’s world viewpoint. Story Genius' core message is to know your character's why. It emphasizes the importance of the author's knowing the origin of the main character's world viewpoint. What specific event happened before the story started that has significantly driven all of her life decisions?

The “Know Your Why” concept is something I explored in my book, The Plot Thickens:21 Ways to Plot Your Novel, in the chapter “5 Whys”. A member of my former writing group, Lisa, always drilled down to the character’s motivation. She force me to answer why they make current decisions based on a specific turning point in their early life.

For example, in an unpublished work of mine, the main character, Naomi, is fiercely loyal to her adopted family. She makes wrong and unethical decisions to salvage her brother’s reputation. Her “Why”? Peeling through the layers of her past, at age eight, she witnessed her birth parents’ murder/suicide. She vowed to do anything necessary to thank her adoptive family for taking her in. She validated their decision with her loyalty. This causes multiple problems from the start of the story, pushing her through the rabbit hole of bad decisions. Ultimately, she has to question her misbelief to attain her true goal.

Questions the author asks you to ask your characters

My very first, official writing conference I attended was Deb Dixon’s, based on her book, GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction. Since then, I’ve always looked at my character’s motivation, but Story Genius, asks you to look further and question more.

  • What early event changed your character’s view on the world?
  • How did it form a false belief  that has stopped him from getting what he really wants?
  • What inciting event at the story’s start pushes against his misbelief and causes him to make more and more wrong decisions as the story progresses?
  • What ultimately forces him to confront his misbelief and allows him to reach his goal?

Story Genius, the Subtitle:

How to Use brain Science to go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel

The book’s subtitle is misleading. While the author touches on how humans are hardwired for story, she did not delve deep enough into the biology of explaining how our beliefs affect our behavior. For the best, in-depth explanation on that theory, pick up a copy of The Biology of Belief by Bruce H. Lipton.

The Biology of Belief does a much better job of explaining how our beliefs affect our behavior than Story Genius

In Conclusion

Story Genius reinforces a story tool I’ve used since the beginning: the character’s “Why” matters and drives the plot. I have not sharpened this tool lately, as I tend to gallop from one plot point to another. I now have to step back, ask questions, and make it clear to myself and my readers why my character makes the decisions she does. If I can bring her “Why” to the forefront, I’ll have a realistic, flawed character the reader can identify with.

What do you think?

Do you explore your character’s background before writing? How deep do you go? I hate character interviews. Who cares if she hated chocolate milk in the second grade? (unless her classmates teased her, warping her sense of friendship that carries on into adulthood, and clouds her view of society). See, that’s what I’m talking about.

Please comment if an event in your character’s past (B.S., before story) shapes the decisions he makes A.S. (after story).

More about #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop is a monthly blog hop for authors who want to learn more about being authors.

#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop is a monthly blog hop for authors who want to learn more about being authors. Held the third Wednesday of the month, the members participate with “posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.” If you would like to learn more or become a member, go here.

I’ll be back in July with another AuthorToolBoxBlogHop tip, and twice a week (fingers crossed) with other writing information and happenings in my life.

Blessings,

Cheryl

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How can you reach your goals when daily life intrudes? By making them S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Today’s June 1st blog post is brought to you by June 4th

How can you reach your goals when daily life intrudes? By making them S.M.A.R.T. goals.Reasons. That’s my excuse for a three day delay in posting this blog. You may like to think of it as “Cheryl’s on vacation”, or “There’s granddaughters to hug and grandsons to cuddle”. No excuses. <segue> Just as there can be no excuses when you make a goal and don’t achieve it. If you use S.M.A.R.T. goals, you’re five steps ahead of the game.

June. Summer. Kids out of school. Vacation. Sounds good, right? I bet your little old writer’s brain is thinking, “long, uninterrupted blocks of time when I can finally start/finish/edit my book.”

Sorry to break your literary heart. Summer is the antithesis of productivity. Vacation time? Spent running from one theme park to the next. The beach? Stop and listen to the surf. Kids out of school? Endless carpooling and answering the whine of “There’s nothing to do.”

Your best time to write, Buttercup, is when you’re busy with everyday life. Truly. No time to write forces you to write. Squeezing words into little corners of time is a surefire way to get it done. Having all the time in the world=”I’ll do it tomorrow.” Take it from one who knows.

So how do you write when your daily life intrudes?

Use S.M.A.R.T. goals to get your work done

What are S.M.A.R.T. goals? S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

  • Specific. Is the goal clear, explicit, firm, detailed? “I’m going to write a book” is not any of those attributes. It’s too nebulous of a goal. Define it further. Write down (and it’s always best to write down your goals) what genre you’ll write. What subgenre. How long will it be?
  • Measurable. Will you write 500 words this month? 50K? How many queries will you send out? How many writing-related books will you read or on-line writing courses will you take part in? Make sure you have a tracking system, whether it’s a spreadsheet, an online tool, or an old-fashioned notebook. You wouldn’t say “I’ll lose 10 pounds by the end of the month” if you never stepped on a scale, right?
  • Achievable. It’s all well and good to say you’ll write 50K words or query 5 editors a week, but are you being truthful or stretching your capabilities? Which brings us to:
  • Realistic. If you’re working three jobs and your mother is dying, your significant other left you, and the dog’s throwing up, you might not have time to write 5K a day. How fast can you write? Can you improve in some way? (dictation, outlining so you’re not sitting down at your computer and thinking “now what?”) Break your goals into smaller, more achievable bits.
  • Time-based. Give yourself a deadline. Will they be daily, weekly, or by the end of the month? Are you looking at word count totals or time spent writing (pick word count)? Throw some milestones in there while you’re at it. If you want to write 500 words a day, and you have 2K written by June 15th, you’re probably not going to meet your goal of 30K by June 30th.

What’s stopping you from making your S.M.A.R.T. goals?

Do you fear failure? Or maybe success? Do you lack ideas? Or have too many and can’t decide on which one to pick? Does your writing normally sizzle out halfway through your book? Is finishing a book tantamount to having a root canal?

Don’t let doubts stop you. Every writer writes a crappy first draft. Every writer, at some point, wants to kill all their characters in a fiery car crash.

You won't have to kill your characters if you use S.M.A.R.T. goals.

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The keys to achieving your S.M.A.R.T. goals

  • Consistency.When I participated in the AtoZChallenge, I committed to writing a 800-1200 word blog post for twenty-six days. Yes, it took time away from my “regular” writing, but I learned I could write quality pieces every day.
  • Commitment. I made a promise to myself to finish the challenge. I not only finished twenty-six blogs, I turned them into an ebook.
  • No vague, open-ended goals. Which will get done? “I’m going to write a book.” OR “I’m going to write 500 words a day on my epic, high fantasy novel, committing to at least an hour a day, turning off TV, the internet and all distractions, including my family.”? Having clear, specific goals will help you achieve them.
  • Keep track of your progress. Make it visible to motivate you to continue.
  • Check in often. Are you on track? What steps do you need to take to stay on goal? What’s keeping you from achieving your goal?

Using S.M.A.R.T. goals will clarify what you want, when you want it done, and how to go about getting it done. Don’t be like me, and let a little vacation and a couple of grandchildren delay you from writing your Thursday blog on Sunday. Make your goals S.M.A.R.T., write them down, and go forth and write!

Blessings,

Cheryl

p.s. Check out more AtoZChallenge ebooks, now FREE, at blogchatter.com.

And mine, specifically, here.

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Writing tools, 26 ways to improve your writing is now available as a free download

Free download of Writing Tools 26 Tips on How to Improve Your Writing is available

Writing tools 26 tips to improve your writing is now available as a free downloadIf you follow this blog, you know that in April I took part in the #AtoZChallenge through blogchatter.com. One of the benefits of using blogchatter as a platform was the opportunity to turn my blogs into an ebook, Writing Tools 26 Tips on How to Improve Your Writing, and have them market it on their website as a FREE download.

Blogchatter has thirty-five books from AtoZ blogs currently available. Find them here. Download my book here.

AtoZ blog mentioned in HuffPost article

For a month-long project, I’m still feeling the effects of my work. An unexpected bonus came today, when a proofreading tip I used in “R” is for Revise Your Rough Draft blog was mentioned in a HuffPost article, written by a fellow AtoZChallenge author.

I’m a little stoked!

FREE ebooks are varied to match your reading taste

As part of the free marketing exchange on blogchatter (considerable, especially on Twitter), I’ve agreed to read and market three books. Future blog posts will include at least three book reviews. (I’ve selected more, but don’t know if I’ll have time by the June 23rd deadline).

I’m currently reading The Power Within, a collection of essays. I’ll have my review up next week (I’m visiting family, so my regularly scheduled blog posts, heck, my regularly scheduled schedule is out of whack).

If essays aren’t your game, how about parenting advice? Or delicious recipes? Or poetry? The ebooks published by the blogchatter group are diverse enough to meet any reader’s taste. There’s a little something for everyone, and I urge you to scroll through the offerings and download a few. Did I mention they’re FREE?

Limited Offer, Act Now!

By the end of July, the right to publish reverts back to the original authors, and the ebooks will no longer be available as a FREE download. I plan on sending Writing Tools 26 Tips on How to Improve Your Writing to Amazon and other distributors to join another of my non-fiction writing advice books, The Plot Thickens, 21 Ways to Plot Your Novel.

In fact, working on Writing Tools 26 Tips on How to Improve Your Writing has inspired me to reformat The Plot Thickens, adding images and a new cover that will compliment what I’ve used on Writing Tools 26 Tips on How to Improve Your Writing.

In double fact, I’ve decided to add several other non-fiction writing advice books to my brand. I’ll cull some from past posts, write original material, or combine both. Subscribers to my newsletter will get a FREE preview, so ***sign up below.****

As always, I appreciate your time and interest.

Blessings,

Cheryl

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