Tag: Laurie Schnebly

On Being a Student – Again

doing homeworkMoving along in Laurie Schnebly’s “Plotting via Motivation” course. . .I’ve learned that taking a workshop on-line instead of in person has some surprising benefits. The most important one for me is thinking time. I’m no good at those brainstorming sessions where everyone in the room calls out possibilities and questions. My ideas need time to brew. They grow from a glimmer to a beacon when they can swirl around in my brain for a while, so when I complete my homework assignment, I’m satisfied that I’ve answered the right questions. 

Another surprise is my pleasure in doing homework. I shouldn’t be. I liked school and homework was part of the package.  The best part of homework is getting it back with the teacher’s comments. An in-person class doesn’t allow the presenter enough time to do that. With the on-line course I get a personal response from Laurie on each assignment. That is so helpful because it deals with the particulars of my story, not just the generalities of plotting.

There is one aspect of the course that is no surprise. I’m terrible at plotting! The beginning comes together fairly well and I know how it should end, but that dratted middle sags in an exercise as much as it does in a full-length novel. Hence, one of the reasons I took this class.  

And that brings me to another reason I’m taking this class. Laurie Schnebly is a terrific teacher. She infuses her lectures with clear examples from various genres so whether  students write horror or romance, adventure or shape-shifters, they can feel at home in the class. 

Finally, I’m becoming intrigued with this character I made up just for practice. Who knows I may find a full-fledged novel here, or at least a short story. 

As the garden work picks up I find myself doing a lot of math. I need to know how much fertilizer to apply per square foot. So I need to determine the square footage. I need to convert tablespoons to cups. How many cubic meters in my wheelbarrow? How many litres in a gallon? When I left school I had hoped to be done with arithmetic forever but it is essential to modern life. Similarly with this writing homework. I hope the lessons learned here will prove useful for the rest of my writing career.

Over the years I’ve taken many workshops from some of the best in the business. I like the personal contact. I enjoy meeting other writers. It’s fun to get a day away from home with lunch laid on. I have a whole file drawer full of the notes and handouts from those workshops. When I read the notes I’m convinced I should be able to write a novel just by following the pattern set out for me. Yet, somewhere along the way, I just can’t get my thoughts to fit into the pattern presented. Having Laurie’s personal feedback makes this workshop special. I highly recommend it. You can see her upcoming classes offered through writeruniv.

This sounds like a total fan-girl article because it is. Feel free to add the names of your own favourite teachers in the comments below.

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Motivation

old fashioned classroomThis week I’ve started an on-line course with Laurie Schnebly Campbell, Plotting via Motivation. We’re at the stage of introducing ourselves. Turns out, we’re a mixed bag of day job writers, homemaker writers, retired from the day job writers, empty-nest writers and writers juggling it all! 

What, I wondered, is the motivation for these various types to take a writing course? From the introduction letters I found

  • Repeaters–those who’ve taken one of Laurie’s courses before and loved it.
  • Those stuck on a wip and looking for guidance.
  • Those looking for a change after being under COVID rules for a year.
  • Newbies wondering what it’s all about.
  • Experienced authors wanting to improve their craft

I could put myself into any of those categories or all of them. I’m bored after a year of mostly staying home. I’ve been to Laurie’s in-person classes and loved them. I’m stuck on a wip but want to try a brand new idea for this exercise. Mostly though, I want to shake myself up. I feel my writing and my motivation have gotten stale.

When I was first published the only option was traditional publishers. So the goal was to get your ms in front of an acquiring editor, followed by the goal of getting her to buy your work. The motivation for that effort varied from personal achievement to making some money to validating the hours I spent at the computer, putting my ideas out into the world.

With the legitimization of self-publishing, a lot has changed. Now, if the goal is to get words in front of readers, there are many avenues. If the goal is to make money, the self-published author has much more responsibility for managing her publishing business. As for validation, does that mean ten people read my work? 100? 10,000? 100,000? Does traditional publishing or self-publishing hold out the most promise for achieving the goal? Am I suited to the “go it alone” technique or would I be better off working with a publishing house? Knowing my own motivation will help answer some of these questions. I think a month devoted to working out character motivation might help me get a handle on my own.

Apart from all of the above, I enjoy mingling with other writers. I find creative people interesting and full of surprises. Like this one, shared by a classmate. It’s called the plot generator.  https://writingexercises.co.uk/plotgenerator.php   

The site gives you six elements of a story, main character, secondary characters, setting, theme, situation and character action. You click on the buttons and up pops an answer in each of the elements. If you don’t like the first suggestion, click it again for a second suggestion. The ideas are totally random. It reminds me of a present I got at Christmas when I was about ten.  A box containing about 30 text covered 5×7 inch cards in different colours offered an endless variety of stories. Any pink card combined with a yellow, blue, green, purple and gold card yielded a cohesive story. Change any of the cards for another of the same colour and you got a different story. It was very clever. I have no idea now what it was called or who was the genius who figured out how to write a story with so many interchangeable segments but the plot generator seems similar to me.

Laurie wants us to work on a new idea. I have a file labelled “story ideas” that never got developed. If I can’t find something in there that appeals, I may go to the plot generator. After all, the class is an exercise in motivation, not the “story of my heart.”

Questions: Does anyone remember that story box idea from long, long ago? Do you know what it was called? Please e-mail me writersstudio@shaw.ca or leave a comment below if you can fill in the blanks of my memory.

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Unmuddled! 10 Lessons

Hurray! The transformation of my writing room from dull to vibrant is accomplished.  As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s a family trait to undertake major renovations during the Christmas season.

I  thank  the health authorities for the COVID restrictions that meant no company for Christmas. Since I wasn’t cooking for a crowd, I had time to paint and wallpaper. Even the pandemic has a silver lining if you look for it.

Today our weather is grey, wet, windy and nasty, but I’m tucked up in my cheerful room and happily writing this blog before I go back to editing the wip. I feel cozy and content and productive. 

What have I learned from this adventure?

  • A sense of humour is vital to the health of a marriage during home renovations.
  • If you want to change your environment, don’t wait thirty years to do it.
  • Wait until you have the new wallpaper in hand before stripping off the old. (I lived in writing chaos for four weeks while awaiting delivery of my order.)
  • Cats cannot resist licking the glue on wet paper or the gooey water in the trough.

    two cats are here

  • A pleasing writing space really does improve productivity.  I don’t keep finding excuses to go somewhere else.
  • While I do not suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) brightness and light do put me in a better mood.
  • Don’t forget about writing rituals. Some people can dive straight into the work, but little steps to set the scene for work help me a lot.
  • Clutter impedes creativity — for me, maybe not for you.
  • Show up at writers’ events even if they are virtual. It was Laurie Schnebly’s workshop that spurred me into making this transformation — finally!
  • In all things, give thanks. We’ve lived through 10 months of limitations and there are more to go. When we cannot celebrate the big events in our lives, rejoice in the small ones. We drank champagne when the last picture was rehung.

    mirror reflects opposite wall

2021 will still offer challenges, but we know we can get there. When the case numbers go up, the lockdown hardens and the case numbers go down. Each of us is powerful in this worldwide campaign to defeat the virus. All great heroes sacrifice for the common good. I applaud all the heroes.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2021.

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A Muddle of My Own

Blame it on the season. Blame it on Covid-19.  Blame it on Laurie Schnebly. I am redecorating my office!

  • The season.  We are approaching Christmas and throughout my childhood, my parents made major renovations to the house at Christmas time. Usually, on Christmas Eve, just before the crowd of relatives arrived, my Dad would be nailing down the last strip of flooring or finishing a bit of painting behind the tree. I grew up on a farm so all seasons were busy, but winter was the least busy. Maybe that’s why renovations happened in December. Or maybe that was Dad’s idea of a Christmas present for Mom. In any case, Christmas the decorating chaos go together in my mind.

 

  • Covid-19. Like everyone else, I’m spending a lot more time in my house these days. Nothing to do but look at the walls and think how much better they’d look with fresh paint, or new wallpaper. Now that gardening season in my part of the world is ended, the interior of my house becomes even more important. And, I’m really tired of this old wallpaper in my office. For years, when I wanted a change of scene, I’d go and write in a coffee shop. With the virus on the loose, I’m reducing the number of times I go out in public.

    piles of books headed for the thrift store

 

  • Laurie Schnebly.  When we had our virtual workshop with Laurie she talked about putting the joy back into writing. She mentioned things like writing rituals. At least, I’m pretty sure it was Laurie who said that. I’d love to check my notes but as you can see, in this mess I can’t even open a desk drawer, let alone go through my files.  So, here I am staring at the grey days of November and an old wallpaper that was never as cheerful as I’d hoped. I thought pink would be bright and bubbly, but dusty rose has turned out to be cold and uninspiring. There is a room in my house that is filled with sunshine most of the day, but it is a space shared with my husband. So, I want to bring the sunshine into my writing space. Sunny yellow is my goal, but I don’t want to change all the accessories in the room. So, I’ve found a sunny yellow paper with hints of pink and blue in the background. But first, the old paper has to go.

Like everything else these days, I looked up how to remove the old stuff on the  internet. The answer was “easy-peasy.” Rip off the coloured layer, spritz the remaining  glued layer with warm water and peel off.

Well, the coloured layer came off easily  enough. I thought I’d be done in a couple of days. The glued layer, however came off in some places and in others, clung like a whiny child. We used so much steam that the  paper on the drywall lifted, but the glue remained stuck. Now I’m looking at weeks of  turmoil. Lesson to self: don’t believe everything you see on youtube!

On the bright side, the glued layer of wallpaper is kind of a buttery yellow, so I’m getting the idea of what my redecorated office might look like. Since everything had to be moved I’ve cleared out a lot of clutter.  I’ve also finished the Christmas ornaments I make for my great nieces and nephews every year. So, there is progress. And once my room is finished, I’ll enjoy the writing ritual of walking in here and congratulating myself on making a change — even though the process was painful. Kind of like writing. I love have the finished product in my hand, but getting there can be a struggle.

The gurus say redecorating can kill a marriage. I’m happy to report dh and I are still speaking to each other and laughing together.

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19 Things I learned from Laurie Schnebly and Zoom

My writer’s group, VIRA, held an all day workshop on Sept. 19, 2020 with Laurie Schnebly. The day was planned a long time ago — before Covid-19.  Since then our border closed, so Laurie could not come in person. Instead, we did a virtual workshop using zoom.  Here’s what I learned about zoom workshops.

  1. Commuting from one room in my house to another room in my house is really quick and easy.
  2. Showing up for a workshop in jeans is really comfortable.
  3. Seeing people only on screen is lonely — especially when many of them turn off their video.
  4. There is virtually no conversation between participants.
  5. The “chat” feature is really useful for catching up on missed information.
  6. A full-day workshop, even at home, is tiring. My brain was reeling by the time we signed off.

So, that’s what I learned on the technical side. On the creative side, the workshop confirmed what I already knew. Laurie is a terrific teacher. Here are some highlights from the day.

  1. From “Putting the Joy Back in Writing” I learned I’m not alone in finding publication can steal the joy I felt when I first put pen to paper (literally, I’m that old.)
  2. Determining why I write, either for myself or for others can put me back on the “joy” track and away from the “have to” track.
  3. Letting go of the results of writing and focusing on the process of writing frees up creativity.
  4. I should re-read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. It is on my bookshelf.

 

From Braiding Your Book I picked up pointers on

  1. Genre Expectations and the need to fulfil those expectations for readers.
  2. Plot – it’s all about goals and conflict, with the love story added in for my genre.
  3. Plot has a shape — the writer must build hope, then dash those hopes and build them again.
  4. Character is the third strand in the braid. 
  5. A character’s origin (backstory) is an invaluable aid in figuring out who your character is and why (s)he acts as (s)he does.
  6. A character’s belief system is key.

 

From Blurbs & Promotion to Suit Your Personality I learned

  1. I’m not the only one who is really poor at promotion because I dislike it.
  2. Laurie’s background is in advertising so it’s not surprising she suggests a blurb is an ad.
  3. Seeing promotion as an advertisement for a product makes it less intimidating than seeing it as a judgement on my worth as a human being!

 

As you can tell, we had a very full day. I was exhausted from listening, I can’t imagine how Laurie kept up her enthusiasm and humour all the way to the end and then took questions.

As a bonus, she held a draw and I won free admission to one of her courses. With so many wonderful choices I had to wait over the weekend until my brain had returned to full function before I made my pick. In March I’ll be taking Plotting Via Motivation.  It’s one of the earliest courses on offer, so I can still take some of the later ones too. 

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