Sunday, 14 July 2013

A Bug, a Book, 4 Barriers and Mindfulness

Toddler and I have been sick since the middle of last week. Whatever we caught, it didn't want to let go... So no writing done, but lots of learning going on instead which means I still feel like I'm moving forward, even it I can't show something tangible for my efforts.

1. Brandon Sanderson classes on YouTube
I loved watching his first lecture all about writing habits and goals and discovering whether we're the Gardener or Architect type of writer. A pantser's first draft usually has strong characters but a weak ending; a plotter's first draft usually has a fantastic plot but wooden characters. There was a bit of worldbuilding and how to make it interesting... Yeah, lots of insights and things to mull over. GREAT.

2. Craft books
I'm reading Dara Marks's "Inside Story: The Transformational Character Arc" and I'm just blown away by it. Especially by Chapter 5, The Fatal Flaw: Bringing Characters to Life. Let me just quote a couple of the lines I've highlighted that had me putting the book down to ponder the enormity of what I'd just read and how it applied to my own life.

But what truly makes a person independent is not just the acceptance of his or her obligations, but the acceptance of his or her true nature, which is much harder to come by. 

Loneliness, emptiness, despair, anger, rage, and apathy are our nursemaids; they care for our souls and are ever-present when we abandon our true nature to the illusion of an idealized self. Were it not for their vigilant presence in the form of discontentment, depression, and self-destructive behaviour, we might be forever lost. Therefore, if we want to capture the full essence of a character in our stories, it is essential to paint this pain and turmoil into his or her portrait. 

This is a treasure of a book and I'm finding that it's so deep, it requires a thoughtful reading to fully understand the concepts and teachings.

3. What I've learned about plots and subplots
The Plot, of course, is the external story arc. The GOALS the characters are trying to reach. They want to gain something or avoid something.

Then, even in a fairly simple story, there are usually two subplots; Subplot 1 is the protagonist's internal arc and Subplot 2 is the relationships arc (the romance, for instance).

I found a couple of articles on romance arcs, one of which could double as a handy (if sketchy) template: and
And if you're writing a YA novel, then this article describes the teen romance arc very well:

And I came across the most fascinating blog while I was researching subplots and romance arcs. The writer - Ingrid Sundberg - is obsessed with plot structure and has created some amazing posts about every type and variant there is. It's worth checking out just to see the sheer number of story structures that she's researched.

4. The Four Thinking Barriers
I'm not sure how it happened, but I was reminded of something I learned in Holly Lisle's 'How to Think Sideways' course in Lesson 1. In it, she explains the 4 Thinking Barriers to success and how to overcome them. And wouldn't you know, I have all four of them. Bleh. So I'm going to work through her techniques to break them bit by bit. (And that links to point number 5 below.)

5. Becoming Mindful
I came across "Just One Thing" by Rick Hanson a couple of days ago and this has led me to a new goal: To become mindful not just in my writing, but in how I live my life, too.

I've read the first exercise in Hanson's book (Be For Yourself, which means Be Your Own Best Friend) and whenever I catch my mood dipping or thoughts becoming bleak or I find myself struggling with something, I take a moment to pause and say something encouraging or loving to myself. Things like, "You're doing a good job" or "Time to sit down and have a cup of tea" or "How can I make this (task) easier for myself?" What a sense of relief that brings instead of berating or criticising. It really does lighten the load. :) So, I'm practicing each technique for a week before I move onto the next one. It'll be interesting to see where I am a year from now. (There are 52 techniques.)

Ok. Time to check in with my fellow ROWers.


  1. Wow! You are incredibly organized! I'm impressed. Sorry to hear about sick Mommy and toddler. That's never fun and I've been there more times than I care to remember.
    Thanks for the links,
    ~Just Jill

    1. You're very welcome, Jill. Toddler and I are recovering and one scene is calling me to write it. Looking forward to that! :-)

  2. Hope your feeling better, have had a sickly week since Thurs. at our house too. The arc links are great I'll have to share those with my writing group. Thanks for the info and have a great week :)

    Gladiator's Pen

    1. Thanks, Elise. I'm glad you found the links helpful. (At least I used my surfing time productively!) Hope you're all feeling better now chez vous. :-)

  3. Wow, this is a treasure trove of information! I'll definitely check out the Brandon Sanderson classes on youtube, and the book that you mentioned as well. I think they will all come in handy as I push forward on my WIP.

    Hope you and your toddler are feeling better!

    1. Thanks, Lena. Yes, we're much better now, although I can't quite dispense with tissues yet... Brandon's class is fabulous, really makes me want to sit down and DO something. Definitely worth checking out.

  4. Love your "take it week by week" approach. Sorry you and your little one were sick this week, but it doesn't sound like you let it get you down. Good for you. Hope you have a fantastic week this week :)

    1. Thanks, Alex. Your words made me sit back a moment and think. I hadn't realised I was staying relatively upbeat while under the weather. Meditating and the mindfulness technique must be working!

      I hope you have a good week too. :-)

  5. Hi Lisa,
    Sorry to blog crash but didn't know how else to contact you.
    Would love to send you a review copy of The Five Day Writer's Retreat if you are still interested, just send me an email at and I'll send it through. I really appreciate the support!


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