General Tips for Writers

I've been writing and studying writing techniques for ten years now.  Currently, I work as an editor for Eschler Editing, and I am also a screen reader for Covenant Communications.  In my spare time, I teach fiction writing classes in the community and at elementary schools.  So, here are a few valuable tips I've collected over the years.  I know these methods help make you a better writer.  They ensure clarity, help with pacing, and help ensure that a story is character driven and point of view is clear and effective. 

The following books have helped me immensely.  My copies are read, re-read, marked up and dog-eared. 

"Techniques of the Selling Writer" by Dwight V. Swain
"Scene & Sequel" by Jack M. Bickham
"Characters & Viewpoint" by Orson Scott Card
"Hooked" by Les Edgerton

The ideas that have been the most influential are those taught by Dwight Swain and expounded upon by Jack Bickham.  These books teach the concepts of scene and sequel, sensory input, goal-conflict-disaster, motivation-reaction, emotion and thought--all of these concepts add up to a novel that is character driven, emotionally gripping, properly paced, and believable. 

In my fiction classes for fifth and sixth graders, I simplified the wealth of information in these books into one concept--the Choice Cycle.  I tell my students that stories are made up of hundreds of choice cycles, and once they understand that concept, they can write a story that people will want to read. 

A Choice Cycle begins with something happening outside of the character that the character can observe with his senses--a sensory input.  Then, the character has an emotional reaction to that event.  The emotions are followed by evaluation--the character figures out what he is going to do because of what has happened.  Then, the character makes a choice, sets a goal, and takes action.  This ensures that the character drives the story through his choices.  The point of view is clear because the choice cycle hinges on point of view--the character observes what happens, the emotions come from the character, and the choices are made based on what the character wants, thinks, and feels.  That character's resulting action changes the world around him, and a new sensory input begins the cycle again as the villain or the world around the character reacts to the character's choice. 

If you would like to learn more about my classes, or if you would like to hire me for my services as a writing coach, please contact me.


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