Good morning all!! Had some technical difficulties, but here we are!!
No eye-candy today, chicas. In anticipation of RWA11 next week, I am being serious and talking about craft today. And no one knows more about craft than my guest today, the fabulous Margie Lawson!!!
Everyone I know who has attended one of Margie’s workshops raves about them, so y’all put July 23 on your calendar – that’s when Margie will be doings workshop for our buddies at the Southern Magic RWA in Birmingham!
So with no further babbling by me, here’s Margie!!!
New York Times Writing and the EDITS System
By Margie Lawson
A big THANK YOU to Donna for inviting me to be her guest today. I’m pleased to be here.
Today I’m diving into how to write so well, that your strong writing craft and fresh writing boosts you toward the New York Times Bestseller list. Sound good?
New York Times Writing and the EDITS System
By Margie Lawson
If you’ve taken some of my editing courses on-line, you may recall I recommend adding NYT to your margin tracking list for your WIP. Why? Because when your writing is powerful, it gives you a boost toward the NYT Bestseller list.
I developed six writing craft courses (two courses debut this fall). Each course is loaded with Deep Editing techniques that teach writers how to add power to their writing. One of those techniques is the EDITS System.
When creating the EDITS System, my goal was to determine what components of a scene set the strongest emotional hook. What made a book a page-turner.
The EDITS System is the ultimate SHOW DON’T TELL power tool. Writers use the EDITS SYSTEM to analyze scene components. It shows writers what they have on each page. It shows writers where to add power. It shows writers what’s working, what’s not working, and what’s missing.
When writers use this highlighting system, patterns emerge for each scene. They may be surprised to see that in an emotionally-driven scene, they kept the POV character in their head, locked in internalizations. All thoughts, no visceral responses. If the writer slipped in a few visceral responses, they’d take the scene from the POV character’s head, and the reader’s head, to the reader’s heart.
The EDITS System helps writers find a compelling balance of Emotion, Dialogue, Internalizations, Tension/Conflict, Setting, as well as dialogue cues, action, body language, senses, and more . . . that works for their specific scene dynamics.
Given that the story is compelling, the plot is strong, and the characters live in your heart or dreams or nightmares – what writing craft processes could make the difference between a skimmer and a winner?
How can writers present their story in ways that keep the reader so committed to the read, that they’d rather finish your book, than sleep late, eat chocolate, or have sex?
The answers? I teach writers dozens of techniques that contribute to gluing the reader to your pages. They include writing fresh. Adding psychological power. Using the incontrovertible power of the visceral response, in the right places – accelerated heart rate, sweaty palms, dry mouth, tight chest, clenched stomach, weak knees, blood rushing to chest, neck, and face, adrenaline pumping, heart pummeling rib cage . . .
I’m sharing a few examples of NYT writing in this blog. You’ll find one character description, five dialogue cues and three visceral responses.
Tana French, THE LIKENESS:
I’d been expecting someone so nondescript he was practically invisible, maybe the Cancer Man from The X Files, but this guy had rough, blunt features and wide blue eyes, and the kind of presence that leaves heat streaks on the air where he’s been.
Kudos to Tana French! Don’t you wish you’d written that description?
Here’s one more Deep Editing goodie. I coined the term DIALOGUE CUES to describe the phrases and sentences that inform the reader how the dialogue was delivered. Think: subtext.
Dialogue Cues are not just dialogue tags. Dialogue Cues share how the words were spoken, the psychological message behind the words.
Writers may write short dialogue cues that describe the voice in a basic way:
ν His tone was rough.
ν Her voice jumped an octave.
ν His voice had a sarcastic edge.
ν Her words sounded harsher than she intended.
Writers can go beyond those basics, and add interest and psychological depth to their dialogue cues. They can write dialogue cues in fresh and empowered ways.
Dialogue Cues from Tana French, THE LIKENESS.
1. All the laughter and façade had gone out of his voice, and I knew Frank well enough to know that this was when he was most dangerous.
2. “You’ve always been a funny guy,” I said, hoping the wave of relief wouldn’t leak into my voice.
3. “Hey, fair enough,” Frank said, in an equable voice that made me feel like an idiot.
4. His voice didn’t sharpen, but it had an undertow that made my shoulders go up.
5. Out in the kitchen, Doherty said something shaped like a punchline and everyone laughed; the laugher was perfect, unforced and friendly, and it made me edgy as hell.
NOTE: Examples 3, 4, and 5, have a similar structure. All three share a STIMULUS and RESPONSE in the same sentence. Powerful technique.
That’s one deep editing technique that can take your writing from good to stellar.
Tana French writes fresh. It’s not surprising that her debut novel won a Macavity Award.
In my EDITS System, VISCERAL RESPONSES are the only things highlighted in PINK. Not a kick in the shins. Not an expletive. Not watching someone get shot.
Everything can carry emotion but the only component of the scene highlighted in PINK is a visceral response. Dialogue, action, facial expressions, thoughts (internalizations) – all may carry emotion. But it’s the visceral response that carries the biggest emotional punch.
If the writer neglects to have the POV character experience a visceral response after an emotionally-loaded stimulus – the passage is not as powerful, not as credible. Not a page-turner.
Here are three examples from a debut novel by RWA Golden Heart winner, Darynda Jones. FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT was released Feb. 2011. It’s the first novel in a three-book series sold in a pre-empt to Jennifer Enderlin at St. Martin’s.
Darynda Jones is a Margie-grad. I received a note from Darynda thanking me for what she’d learned in my on-line classes. I’m always so proud when Margie-grads receive awards and contracts and hit bestseller lists.
Darynda Jones, FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT, First Example:
Still reeling from the potential identity of Dream Guy, I wrapped myself in the towel and slid open the shower curtain. Sussman poked his head through the door, and my heart took a belly dive into the shallow end of shock, cutting itself on the jagged nerve ending there.
I jumped, then placed a calming hand over my heart, annoyed that I was still so easily surprised. As many times as I’ve seen dead people appear out of nowhere, you’d think I’d be used to it.
Visceral Response: . . . and my heart took a belly dive into the shallow end of shock, cutting itself on the jagged nerve ending there.
Second Example, FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT:
When I opened the door, Zeke Herschel, Rosie’s abusive husband, stood across from me with vengeance in his eyes. I glanced at the nickel-plated pistol clenched in his hand and felt my hearbeat falter, hesitate, then stumble awkwardly forward, tripping on the next beat, then the next, faster and faster until each one tumbled into the other like the drumroll of dominoes crashing together.
Visceral Response: . . . felt my hearbeat falter, hesitate, then stumble awkwardly forward, tripping on the next beat, then the next, faster and faster until each one tumbled into the other . . .
Third Example from FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT:
My breaths stilled in my chest, my lungs seized, suddenly paralyzed, and a prickly sensation cut down my spine. “What . . . are you talking about?”
“PD got called to his house this afternoon. We found his wife in their bedroom, marinating in a pool of her own blood.”
The room dimmed and the world fell out from beneath me.
“One of the worst domestic cases I’ve ever seen.”
I fought gravity and shock and a pathetic panicky kind of denial. But reality swept in and kicked my ass, hands down.
1) My breaths stilled in my chest, my lungs seized, suddenly paralyzed, and a prickly sensation cut down my spine.
2) The room dimmed and the world fell out from beneath me.
The examples in this blog share fresh psychologically empowered writing. It’s cotton-candy-on-your-tongue writing. It makes the reader want more and more and more. It’s the caliber of writing you find in some debut books, and in some New York Times Bestsellers.
In my six writing craft courses, I have over 2300 pages of lectures loaded with strong examples, dig-deep analyses, and teaching points. Please drop by my web site and check out the line-up of courses offered by Lawson Writer’s Academy.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!
1. You may post an example of fresh writing from your WIP or fresh writing from one of your favorite authors.
2. You may write something fresh – and post it.
3. You may post a comment — or post ‘Hi Margie!’
You could WIN:
1. A Lecture Packet
2. An Online Course from Lawson Writer’s Academy
I’ll post the names of the winners on the blog tonight – between 10 and 11 PM Mountain Time
Visit my cyber Open House for Lawson Writer’s Academy, July 14, 15, and 16.
You’ll have a dozen more chances to win a Lecture Packet or an online class!
Margie Lawson—psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter – developed psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques used by everyone, from new writers to multi-award winning authors. She teaches writers how to add psychological power to create page turners.
Margie taught psychology and communication courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Her resume includes adjunct professor, clinical trainer, facilitator of trauma response sessions, and director of a counseling center.
In the last six years Margie presented over sixty full day Master Classes across the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Writers who have studied her material credit her innovative editing approaches with taking their writing several levels higher—to publication, awards, and bestseller lists.
To learn about Margie’s 3-day Immersion Master Classes in Colorado, online courses offered by Lawson Writer’s Academy, full day Master Class presentations, Lecture Packets, and newsletter, visit: http://www.MargieLawson.com.
Filed under: Interviews | Tagged: craft, Margie Lawson, writing | 74 Comments »