A Writer’s Taxonomy

Blooms taxonomyAny teacher knows Bloom’s Taxonomy.  For those not in the teacher loop it’s how educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom classified the levels of thinking. Teachers use the classifications to foster and inspire students’ higher-level thinking skills.

Writers can use the same taxonomy to help improve their writing skills.

Knowledge, at the base, is the most fundamental. ( Imagine trying to solve a calculus problem without knowing how to add, subtract, divide, or multiply.)
Knowledge is knowing the writing basics.  Recalling:
  • grammar
  • story structure
  • punctuation
  • authorial techniques like metaphor, symbol, allusion, characterization, structure, imagery, form, motif, dialog, point of view, theme, and tone
Understanding: More than just recall is required. Comprehending the nuances and effects of the basics guides the writer to creating a better, tighter manuscript.
Writers need to understand how:
  • syntax manipulates a reader.
  • syntax impacts the author’s tone and mood.
  • syntax speeds up, slows down, and emphasizes.
  • story structure is more than just exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
  • punctuation impacts mood and slows down, speeds, up, and emphasizes.
  • authorial techniques and literary devices add depth, flavor, and nuance.
  • the hero’s/protagonist’s weakness; his desire; antagonist’s/enemy’s desire; the quest/plan; battle/crisis; self-revelation; and resolution/new normal are used for maximum impact.

Application: Utilizing what you understand to weave, manipulate, and design plot and characters. This is where each writer’s process is different. It doesn’t matter if you don’t write chapter 2 until chapter 1 is perfect or if you rewrite a hundred times. It’s implementing what you know that is important.

Analysis: Read and study trends and genres in the industry. What do agents/publishers want and expect of your genre? What do readers of your genre crave? Scrutinize industry standards to determine if your novel meets the mark.

Synthesis: Craft your manuscript so it meets those standards. Modify with revisions. Imagine new combinations. Predict the problems an agent/editor/reader might find. Deduce why novel X made it big.

Evaluation: The toughest level by far and the one some writers are ill-equipped for because their knowledge and understanding base is lacking. This is where pride and ego keep the aspiring writer down. This is where a thorough assessing and judging of craft and the publishing world determine your expectations, aspirations, fears, and insecurities. Writers should:

  • judge their manuscript against the current biggies.
  • evaluate how, where, and why the manuscript might need work.
  • solve manuscript weaknesses. Do you need a content editor? Do you need a grammar punctuation editor? Do you know how to assess whether the folks claiming to have those skills actually have credibility?
  • evaluate well-meaning fellow writers’ comments when they claim your writing is amazing. Would you take from-scratch baking advice from someone who only makes cakes from a box?

Where do YOU fall on the Writer’s Taxonomy?

Writers Taxonomy

Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’, Symbols & more Symbols, Rock Your Writing
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Handy-Dandy Responses

handy dandy JPGOn rare occasions, writers may leave their creative cave joining with friends and family to partake of festivities and merriment. On said occasions these friends/family are bound to ask casual questions about your writing, novel in progress, and/or your current publishing process.

Their seemingly innocent questions–delivered with a genuine smile–often leave the new author stymied.  How does a writer respond to casual questions by a non-writer? They’re your friends and family after all, they like you—might even buy one of your novels–so they expect a genuine answer.

Well, before launching into a prolonged too-much-info reply—and you’ll know when their eyes begin to glaze over—here’s a few all-purpose responses.

1. Most often asked question:
Question: How’s your novel coming along?
 Writer: Great thank you! I’m on the [ # of drafts]. How is [ add their hobby here]?

 

2. You know they’re gonna ask!
Question: What’s your book about?
Craft that one-sentence hook or elevator pitch now! If it falls flat you know it needs work.
Writer: A young Kansas teenager battles a diabolical shoe-stealing witch.

 

3. Question: Where do you get your ideas?
Non-writers really really want to know. They don’t understand how our brain works. The trick is to give them a glimpse without freaking them out.
Writer: Ideas come to me in a dream. (The standard Mary Shelly of Frankenstein fame response.)
OR
I have no clue. Ideas just pop into my brain at random times.

 

4. The Inevitable.
Question: I’m thinking of writing a memoir/novel. Do you have any advice?
Writer: ( with big smile) I have lots of advice. Call me when you’re ready to begin and I’ll be happy to answer all your questions over coffee.

As any writer knows, more than one cup of coffee will be required to impart all your wisdom and advice.

 

5. The Inevitable II
Question: Can I be in your next novel?
Writer: Absolutely, how would you like to die?

True story: In the opening scene of one novel,  I very loosely pattern the victim after a friend. When I told him how he dies, he spent the rest of the party telling everyone, “Hey, L.Z. kills me in her book!” “Excellent! ‘Bout time,” was the standard reply. 

 

6: The Movie!
Question: Why don’t you turn your book into a movie?
No need to blast them with a lecture on the fundamentals of script-writing, producing, financing, directing, casting, and other Hollywood fun facts.
Writer: Wouldn’t that be fun? Who would you cast as [ insert name of character ] ?

 

Of course, should you have family or friends with the same writing affliction…um passion, feel free to talk, moan, bewail, share plot problems, and celebrate successes. Although…you did come to the party to take a break from writing!

So…now that you have a few quick answers to some tricky questions, go out there and mingle like regular people.

Note: Click on the picture to read what we think when asked that writing question.
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Halloween Costumes for Writers

“Honey, did you forget about that Halloween party we’re invited to?”
“Noooooo. Not tonight. I’m on a writing role. Can’t stop now.”
“Your friends miss you. You need a break. And you have that crazy look in your eyes again.”

Mmmm…you think. My friends buy all my books, I really should go.

“What am I gonna wear?”

Writers with day jobs tend to devote almost every non-working hour to writing, which leaves little time to plan and create a costume.

Here’s a few no-frills, no-fuss ( mostly ) ideas:

1. Lady Macbeth: Wear a long white nightgown, rub red dye on your hands. Added bonus: no need to change for bed after the party.

2. Bestselling novel: This one is easy. Stop at Home Depot or Lowes  before party. Staple to t-shirt.50 shades of gray 3.  Jackie Collins: Tease your hair, wear black eyeliner and lots of flashy costume jewelry. High heels a must.jackie collins 4. Professor: Dig out your graduation gown. Better still if you put on the Masters or Doctoral hood.

5. Plato or favorite Greek philosopher: Wrap a sheet around your body toga style. Wear sandals. Added bonus: Fall in bed after party, no disrobing necessary.

6. Muse: Wear a sheet toga style and place a few flowers in your hair. Add a laurel wreath fashioned from fake ( or real )  ivy for extra Greek oomph.

7. Outlander: Don a kilt. Undies optional. Warning: Sexy men may get accosted by women.

8. Rough Draft: Use a staple to cover your clothes with pages from one of your rough drafts.

9. Revision Fairy: Roll up pages, staple to a ribbon wide enough to be tied around your waist. I took this photo from Pinterest. Type in book fairy and you’ll see a few variations. ( I think I might wear this to school.)fairy 10. Ernest Hemingway: For the beard blessed, all you need is a turtleneck sweater, a cap, and a copy of Old Man and the Sea or other Hemingway classic. hemingway 11. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Part your hair down the middle. Wear a suit and tie.f-scott-fitzgerald 11. Recluse: Don’t go to the party. Send significant other with your regrets. Recluse sounds ever so much more socially acceptable than misanthrope.

12. Sales Pitch: Dress as one of your characters. When someone asks who you are, launch into a riveting but brief teaser of your latest work.

For the more ambitious, the cleative application of make-up may be all you need. For some fun looks Baroque in Babylon has great ideas!

elf heartbroken marty gra

 

Hope several ideas were appealing. Now, get back to writing!

Related Posts: Readin’ & Writin’  

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The Real Book Drive!

Writers should understand their readers’ preferences. This is often a difficult task. Some readers are faithful to one genre only. Others read everything from hardcore literary SciFi to romance. Readers can’t be pigeon holed. Or can they?

Novels and cars have a few things in common. Both take you places! Both require filling up. Both steer you to new horizons; however, arriving at the final destination does vary by speed.

What if reader preferences could be identified like cars? 
What drives your reading?

belair

The Classic Reader: Lovers of timeless literature read Frankenstein and Catcher In the Rye with equal pleasure. They relish the enduring themes and stellar writing of stories where the movie never ever does justice to the plot and/or literary techniques used by the author.

shelby

The Muscle Reader: Devotees of tales with gumption, verve, and evocative characters. This reader needs emotional muscle to absorb the squeeze-your-heart prose page after pass-the-tissue page. This type of novel is often found on Oprah’s Book Club must-read list.

bentley

The Luxury Reader: Adorers of LONG, thick novels with juicy chew-worthy plots and a plethora of heart wrenching bigger-than-life characters. Game of Thrones or Outlander, anyone? This reader refuses to read a novel under 300-pages, equating word count with BIG universal themes, epic adventures, and lots of detailed descriptions.

honda

The Economy Reader: Fans of the quick easy read. Not only do they enjoy the I-read-this-in-one-night boast, the light-hearted diversion it provides is no-frills fun.

ferarri

The Exotic Reader: Aficionados of tales told with an unconventional voice requiring expert handling and deliberate reading with attention to nuance. These folks might even repeat aloud an extraordinary turn of phrase just to revel in its brilliance. Don’t expect comfort, this novel ride grips the thematic road and swerves around symbolic corners with panache.

What drives your reading?  What drives your writing?

Although I’m often found behind the wheel of a Muscle or Luxury book, a spin in an Economy read gets the ticket when a quick entertaining diversion is required.

And for my car-lovers, if you don’t already know, the cars in order of appearance are: the ’56 BelAir; ’66 Shelby Mustang; Bentley Continental GT; 2014 Honda Civic; and the 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia.

Related Posts: Readin’ & Writin’

Rx for Writing Blocks

writers blockWriter’s BLOCK.  It’s a phrase striking angst and fear into the hearts of writers. The inability to write—anything. The writer stymied, unable to move the plot along.

BAH! Don’t allow that evil phrase to coil around your soul like a serpent.

Call it a writing pause if you must—pause is such a pleasant-sounding and friendly word–but DO NOT give in! Do not cease writing. There are PLENTY of tasks to be done.

Friends often ask if I experience writer’s block. My response? I don’t have the luxury. My hours after the day job and during the weekends are precious. Staring at a computer screen with a blinking cursor and nothing to write? No thank you.

Here’s a few ideas should you should come to place where you are pausing to consider the plethora of plot and character options.

1. Revise and edit earlier chapters. Be vigilant. Often new will ideas come.

2. Write a blog or 2 or 3.  I post a new blog every Monday. Should I find my work week having drained me of all creativity I write the next few weeks’ blogs.

3. Write tweets for future use. Then when you ARE back in the writing saddle those tweets are ready to go.

4. Find and read information about a topic in your story. The internet has information about everything. There must be some subject or object or place or history or event in your story you can learn more about. Research inspires ideas. It really really does. This, more than anything else, generates tons of ideas.

5. Revisit your original research notes for inspiration, plot twists, detail, etc.

6. Google photos of something you’ve written about. Is there a detail that might advance the plot, add detail, and/or be be used symbolically?

7. Create a pinterest board for your work-in-progress. Pictures are worth a 1000 words, right? Here’s mine: Pinterest-30px  It has boards for all my novels plus my WIP.

8. Write engaging captions under the pinterest pins.

9. Revisit your outline. Add to it. Flesh it out. What? You don’t have one? Might that be the source of your writing pause? Knowing where your novel is going helps alleviate the “what next” conundrum.

10. Do NOT commiserate with others experiencing the same thing. Misery loves company—not helpful. Talk to a writer who is on fire! Read their blogs! Let their sparks ignite your own.

11. Take a walk. Walk the dog. Clean the fridge. Perform a mindless task but think about the plot, the characters, the next chapter, the climax, the ending while you’re doing it. Something is sure to emerge. ( I imagine an entire chapter in my head before writing it.)

12. Write a synopsis for the novel.

13. Craft a query.

14. Write a one-line pitch.

15. Write a riveting back cover hook.

16. Re-write the bio on your Amazon author page or website.

17. Re-write one of your first blogs. Add to it—give it new zing! Notice how much better you write now? Give yourself a pat on the back.

18. Re-tag your blog posts. Use better key words.

19. Re-write your twitter bio. You only have so many spaces, make them count.

20. Write a poem or journal entry in the voice of one of your characters.

21. Read one of Shakespeare’s plays. The Bard was brilliant, his characters legendary, his understanding of humans’ proclivities profound. Ideas are sure to follow.

22. Take a drive. The Driving Muse loves to visit then!

23. Identify the reason for the temporary pause. Are you tired, angry, frustrated, grieving? An emotion that overwhelms your creativity isn’t a “block.” Use the emotion to writerly advantage. Note how your body feels during times of intense emotion. Embrace it! You will need to call upon that emotion when you write about a character experiencing the same one. Is the plot line frustrating? Identify why. Is it a plot flaw or a matter of getting from scene A to scene C with a connecting scene B that makes sense?  That’s not a block that’s intelligent plotting.

Did you notice that most of these solutions require writing and/or reading? You don’t have writers block if you are writing. And reading, my friends, is research, an important part of the writing life.

May the Muse be ever with you.

Related posts: Readin’ & Writin’