Intentional Writing

I get lots of questions about writing—the craft of it, what my work day is like, how to begin a project.  For those of you who are local (Twin Cities area or SE MN), I’m teaching a class on August 25th, from 6 to 9 p.m.,  at Crossings at Carnegie.

I’m including the class info here, if you’re interested.  And yes, it is possible to think about marketing before you start your book.  If that seems cheap or ridiculous to you (after all, what happens to your muse if you do that?), then you have to reevaluate why you’re writing.  Do you want to write for yourself only?  Or others?  Or both?  Do you want to ultimately make a career out of it?  If the answer to that last question is “yes,” then you must think about marketing before picking up that pencil or typing on that keyboard.  You absolutely must.

Intentional Fiction: How to Direct and Market Your Writing.

Description: “They” tell you all sorts of things about what to write and how to write it and where to market it, but what “they” don’t tell you is all of their advice is hogwash.  If you’re creative, if you’re truthful, if you’ve found a niche, you’ll probably survive in the writing world.  But how do you do that exactly?

Step #1: The trick is to be intentional in what you’re writing.  Your best writing will emerge from something you’re passionate about.  We’ll do several exercises to figure this out, so by the end of the evening, each writer knows his or her strengths.

Step #2: Remember those Venn Diagrams in elementary math class?  It helps to see writing and marketing as friends holding hands.  Think of them as the shared shaded area in the middle.  If you plan well, you’ll have fought half your battle when you go to sell your writing.  This will be explained in class.  Don’t worry; we won’t leave the muse behind.

Step #3: Is there another way to frame what you’re writing?  Meaning, can you take a piece you’ve already written, focus differently on story elements, hone the title, and come away with a stronger piece for submission?

Step #4: If your writing is up to par, how do you find an agent?  Given the state of books today (and the rise of e-books), should you even try?  Or go straight to Amazon?  I’ll tell you how I found my agent, and the best steps you can take to get one.

Step #5: Persistence, persistence, persistence.  We’ll go over a few secrets that will abolish writer’s block forever.

For beginner and intermediate writers.

I hope to see you there.  In this business, every little bit of advice helps.

In the meantime, read, read, read.  Start with Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird or Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones or Stephen King’s On Writing or Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer or Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking On Water.  All excellent.

Here’s an excerpt from Natalie Goldberg’ Writing Down the Bones to get your juices flowing.

This is the practice school of writing.  Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it.  Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway.  You practice whether you want to or not.  You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run.  It’ll never happen, especially if you are out of shape and have been avoiding it.  But if you run regularly, you train your mind to cut through or ignore your resistance.  You just do it.  And in the middle of the run, you love it.  When you come to the end, you never want to stop.  And you stop, hungry for the next time.

That’s how writing is, too.  Once you’re deep into it, you wonder what took you so long to finally settle down at the desk.  Through practice you actually do get better.  You learn to trust your deep self more and not give in to your voice that wants to avoid writing.  It is odd that we never question the feasibility of a football team practicing long hours for one game; yet in writing we rarely give ourselves the space for practice….

Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist master, said, “We must continue to open in the face of tremendous opposition.  No one is encouraging us to open and still we must peel away the layers of the heart.”  It is the same with this way of practice writing: We must continue to open and trust in our own voice and process.  Ultimately, if the process is good, the end will be good.  You will get good writing.

What are you waiting for, my lovelies.  Get writing!

[Post image: Laptop work by sqback on stock.xchng]


  1. kelly g.
    Aug 15, 2011

    so wish i could be there!! xo

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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