To celebrate the launch of Season Two of Mom Writes, we are planning a webinar on revision with Jennie (as well as a big giveaway)! Come and learn the same techniques that Jennie teaches Abby and Mel that they will be using in Season Two. The webinar will be happening mid-April and will coincide with new episodes of the podcast, so stay tuned for details!
If you want to jumpstart your revision LIVE AND IN PERSON with Jennie Nash, we still have three seats available for our Austin, TX writing retreat. You can get the details and register HERE. (BTW, Abby will be in Austin, too, so you can come hang with 2/3 of Mom Writes!)
In the meantime, we are rereleasing a few encore episodes. This week we had a listener request for Episode 38: Doing All. The. Things. If there’s an episode of the podcast that you are particularly fond of or that you found particularly helpful, let Abby know in the comments and we’ll add it to our rerelease list.
As an aside, this episode was originally titled Fear & Writing. Not sure where or why along the way it changed, but that title was the file name for this episode on my (Abby’s) computer!
In this episode:
One of the most challenging aspects of writing is pulling it all together - what you know about your story, what you know you should do with your story, and all the plot lines and characterizations going on in your head. In this episode Mel and Jennie discuss raising the stakes, avoiding info dumps, and where the line is between not enough and too much information.
People either think one thing or the other:
Jennie points out that Mel needs to work on remembering your character's history and motivations when continuing the story - be more in your character's heads. When your character is an expert on something, or is well-versed in a certain profession, they need to swim in that water all the time and see things through their own personal lens, and you've got to commit to consistency in their reactions to events. Characters are rarely neutral about things that affect them or the things or people they care about.
Jennie and Mel also address info dumps: When you're learning how to engage the reader sometimes it's three steps forward two steps back - lots of repetition means that you're already getting down what you need. There's nothing wrong with doing an info dump as long as you recognize that you need to eventually revise and make it more nuanced. The kind of nuance you're looking for is subtle and placed in thought, dialogue, story details, etc. Info dumps in general box the reader out, but the reader wants to be IN the story, IN the scene, IN the character's head. Ask yourself: "How can I put this back in a moment, back in the scene, and filter the rest of the information through the narrator or character themselves?" The goal is to recognize when you're doing it and know that you can go back and clean it up. It's much easier to go back and fix something that's too much than not enough.
Stephen King says, "I'm convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing". If you're not dialing it up to 11, maybe you need to stop playing it safe and take the risks you need to go farther in your story. Fear of what, though? The fear is about looking at your true self - if you have to sit and examine the nitty gritty details of how your characters make decisions, how YOU or anyone you know might react to anything in your story - that can be a frightening thing. As writers, some of our biggest fears surround being exposed when our readers see us for who we really are through our work.
Abby, Jennie, and Mel close out the conversation with a discussion about art and how it teaches us and connects us as human beings. Many writers seem to have this fundamental dissatisfaction with the way the world is, and a fundamental desire to understand it better. The art that captures our hearts is that which imparts some sort of understanding about those universal struggles and truths about the world. That--the connection with others--is what keeps us coming back to our favorite works of art again and again, whether in writing, photography, painting, or music.