Fearless Creativity: Thank you, Eric Maisel!

I found this Eric Maisel video last night, and boy did I need it!

Thanks to Creativity Coach Eric Maisel, for this wonderful video on HOW TO CREATE FEARLESSLY. 

After years of experiencing an easy flow of creative ideas from my mind to my fingers and thus into my book’s Scrivener file, I’ve sunk into a mode where I want to write, but just when the writing starts to flow, I find myself avoiding writing. I started my current novel–writing in a new area, in what seems to be evolving into a genre called boomer-lit, focusing on characters born during the post-WW II Baby Boom generation. These characters are between fifty and seventy now, moving into the final phase of their lives as seniors, elders, parents of children and grandchildren, and–occasionally–living parents of these Baby Boom characters.

I was excited by the idea of writing this book. The span of my characters’ lives gave me a wealth of possible skills, accomplishments, and emotional baggage. And, WOW, and complexity of the family trees and their networks of friends, enemies, and colleagues was dizzying.

I started at the beginning of NaNoWriMo, last November 1, almost 3 months ago. It started with a bang, writing sometimes up to a couple of thousand words a day, but progress soon slowed. It seemed  I would get a couple of good writing days, then the third day, get up almost dreading the computer.

I had 30,000 words written by the end of November when I’d targeted 50,000. During December and January my progress slowed amost to a crawl. I was actively sabotaging my writing, grasping for anything to avoid writing. I did laundry, washed my dishes, checking my email, and had the tidiest house I’ve ever achieved. I didn’t know why I was sabotaging myself, but I was definitely doing a tremendous job of it.

Then, a few weeks ago, I shared my frustration with a writer friend, who told me she was having a similar problem, and had decided to deal with it by committing open her book’s computer file every day, six days a week. She called this process OTFing (open the file-ing). She gave herself a star on her calendar every day she opened the file, whether she wrote a little or a lot. It turned out she usually did do some writing, and opening the file and looking at where she left off kept her in touch with the story, and her book kept moving along.

I adopted her strategy about 3 weeks ago and my novel began to move again. But it’s been moving painfully S L O W L Y

I would OTF every day, but often not until the evening and if I did write, it was often only a few lines. Still, my story was keeping fresh in my mind, although some days I didn’t even know if I liked the story anymore.

I needed help.

So I went online to YouTube and typed in Eric Maisel’s name, looking for this famous creativity coach’s wisdom to solve my problem. Years ago an Eric Maisel book called The Van Gogh Blues had helped me understand the relationship between depression and creativity.

Almost immediately, my YouTube search revealed a 1-hour Eric Maisel video titled HOW TO CREATE FEARLESSLY, in which Dr. Eric Maisel would outline 10 strategies for fearless creating.

It sounded like a perfect fit. After all, I was a writer whose creativity was crippled by fear produced by my supercharged inner critic.

The video turned out to be exactly what I needed. Eric Maisel outlined his ten strategies, explaining them clearly as he went. Listening to Maisel, I learned WHY I so often dreaded writing, while also loving it.

The strategies are

  1. Honor the creative process
  2. Get really easy with mistakes and messes
  3. Create in the middle of things
  4. Crack through everyday resistance
  5. Get a grip on your mind
  6. Get to my own work first thing each day
  7. Expect risks to feel risky (choices provoke anxiety for the human brain, and creative work is filled with choices)
  8. Err on the side of completing projects
  9. Let meaning trump mood
  10. Get smart about the marketplace

Creativity is Hard

Writing, painting, dancing. Every creative process involves making constant choices. What if it’s the wrong choice? The human brain, designed to keep primitive mankind alive, is stressed by choices. For the human mind, every choice is dealt with as if it were a matter of life and death.

Thanks to my curiosity about the human brain, and a lot of research into how it works, I really got it when Maisel described the fear engendered by constantly having to make choices. He was talking about me.

Yes, I was avoiding my book because I had to choose how my characters would respond to situations that threatened, if not their life, their happiness, and their future. I was writing a book complicated in different ways than my previous novels. My inner critic responded this complexity by running wild, sabotaging me by invoking and magnifying every fear my creative self could dream up.   

My creativity, that magical force I’d fallen in love with while playing my grandmother’s piano at the age of seven, imagining the playmate across the street running home in the rain as I created amateur, and very loud, music. That creative spark had blossomed for me for forty books, thirty-five of which had been published. Now it was sabotaging me, but finally, I understood why. 

Last night after watching the video, I honored my creative process (Strategy 1), signed up for Eric Maisel’s Your Best Mind Ever course on Maisel’s website, and went to sleep saying, “I wonder what will happen in my next scene?” 

I woke up having had hardly any sleep, but I wasn’t about to wimp out on Maisel’s expert advice without trying. No matter what, I would get to my own creative work right away (Strategy 6).

I opened my file, started writing, made myself a coffee to keep me going, went back and wrote more. The scene that I’d been skirting around for days suddenly started moving on its own, creating a very tricky situation for my characters!

I told myself I would spend just an hour with that file. What happened in reality? I started at 9 am and didn’t stop until 3 pm.

Word count achieved: 2,000 words, much of it straight out of my subconscious in answer to the question I asked myself before going to sleep.

If anything in my experience resonates with you, check out the video above, and if you want more, check out Maisel’s course on developuing Your Best Mind Ever.

Thank you, Eric Maisel!

Video Course: Playing with Time – use pacing to keep readers wanting more

I’m thrilled to announce the release of my new multimedia course on pacing for fiction writers: Playing with Time: use pacing to keep your readers wanting more. 

I’ve had the course open for test readers for a while, and the response is very positive. I’d love it if you’d check out the free introductory videos and let me know what you think.

I hope you’ll check out the free introductory lessons to the course. If you like what you see and want to register, take advantage of my 50% discount coupon by clicking on the link.

Vanessa

Course Contents

In this course, you’ll discover how to use pacing techniques to build tension, emphasize important story events, and keep your readers wanting MORE.

SECTION 1
In Section 1 we’ll explore story pacing with its three different timing clocks, and a formula that can help you control the relationship between time, speed, viewpoint depth, and emotional intensity.

  • Introduction – the Confusion of Pacing
  • The 3 Clocks of Storytelling
  • The Storyteller’s Pacing Formula

SECTION 2
In Section 2 we’ll look at the way a reader’s perception of time fluctuates with the level of excitement, and study techniques you can use to fine-tune pacing and control your readers’ level of excitement.

  • Scenes, Sequels, and Pacing
  • Reader’s Perception of Time and Sequels
  • Pacing Techniques
  • Pacing, Emotional Intensity, and Viewpoint

SECTION 3
In Section 3 we’ll study the effect different writing modes have on pacing, and how you can control pacing using these modes.

  • How to Control Pacing with Fiction Delivery Modes: Dramatic Summary, Dramatic Action, Dialogue, Narration, Description, and Exposition. (Dramatic )

SECTION 4
In Section 4 we’ll explore the structure of Scenes and Sequels more deeply, examining the relationship between Fiction Delivery Modes and Scene and Sequel.

  • Scene and Sequel: the Building Blocks of Fiction
  • Scene and Sequel meets Fiction Delivery Modes
  • Practice Exercise: Analyzing Pacing using Fiction Delivery Modes

I designed this course for writers who want to improve their control over pacing to keep readers wanting more.  The only requirement for enrolment is a willingness to learn.

I’d love to hear feedback on the course.

Have a great day, and may the muse be with you.

Vanessa

IDEAS, From Spark to Fiction – WATCH THE SERIES

Where do I get my story ideas? Most writers have probably heard that question numerous times, and sometimes it’s difficult to answer. Some of my ideas seem to come out of nowhere, fully-formed. At other times, the birth of a story is made up of several factors that are only clear in retrospect. Many stories grow out of my own experiences, interviews with interesting people I meet exploring, or comment someone makes that stirs my imagination.

To answer the question, I’ve decided to do a series of videos on the creative sparks that have led to different books I’ve written.

Here’s the playlist. I’ll add to it as I post more videos. If you want to be notified when the playlist is updated, signup for my Storyteller Academy newsletter

WILD PASSAGE – IDEAS, from Spark to Fiction

TAKING CHANCES- IDEAS, FROM SPARK TO FICTION

CATALINA’S LOVER- IDEAS, FROM SPARK TO FICTION

If you enjoyed watching these videos, subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified of the next release. A “like” would come in handy as well.

Where do you get your ideas?

Vanessa

Taking Chances – IDEAS: From Spark to Fiction

Where do I get my story ideas? Most writers have probably heard that question numerous times, and sometimes it’s difficult to answer. Some of my ideas seem to come out of nowhere, fully-formed, and other times the birth of a story is made up of several factors that are only clear in retrospect.

The creative spark that eventually became Taking Chances was born during an afternoon walk with my friend Jan, while describing a novel I’d been reading. Although the book was well-written, I was on a rant because I would not believe in the romantic premise …

Click on the video to listen to how Taking Chances was born…

I had fun remembering this one, and if you enjoyed it too and found it interesting, I’d love it if you’d subscribe to my YouTube channel and share the video with others. A “like” would come in handy as well.

Where do you get your ideas?

Vanessa

Wild Passage – from spark to fiction…

People often ask where I get my ideas for my novels. It can be a difficult question to answer, because every story is different.

My novel Wild Passage, for example, had its origins in the most terrifying night of my life. My husband Brian were 70 miles west of the Oregon coast on our sailboat, Julie Marie II, on a voyage from Canada’s Juan de Fuca straight to San Francisco.

Let me tell you the story…

I had fun remembering this one, and if you enjoyed it too and found it interesting, I have a couple of favours to ask you.

I’d love it if you’d subscribe to my YouTube channel and share the video with others. A “like” would come in handy as well.

And have a great day!

Vanessa

10 Tips for Effective Writing

10 effective writing tips for for clear, powerful, and effective writing.

In this video, I’m sharing 10 red flags that I look for when revising my writing, a list I’ve built up over the years, distilled from a combination of my own experience and others.

The core is based on a little book I was given when I first went to university several decades ago, and still have in my bookcase: The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, a little goldmine for writers first published in 1918, and now in it’s 4th edition (with a 2011 Revised edition by the original authors and William Strunk, Junior).

Feel free to make suggestions for other videos and multimedia online courses you would like to see in future. Reply with your suggestions, or tweet @vanessa_grant

Vanessa

Seeking input: Hero’s Journey – at the heart of storytelling

Hi everyone, please could you help me?I am planning on creating an online course for storytellers on how to incorporate the Hero’s Journey into their creations. Right now I’m in my research phase and I’m looking for input.

If you were to take a course in Hero’s Journey – at the heart of storytelling what questions would you hope it would answer for you?

Image licensed under Creative Commons by Esbjorn Jorsater

Thank you so much for taking a moment to help me with your feedback!”

Vanessa Grant
Check out my courses at StorytellerAcademy.ca

Dick Francis, master of mysterious beginnings

First published on PenWarrions.com

I told the boys to stay quiet while I went to fetch my gun. (Twice Shy)

Twice Shy by Dick Francis

When I read those first words of Twice Shy by  Dick Francis, my immediate thought was, “Now there’s a powerful opening hook!”  Then I put the thought aside and kept on reading, because first and foremost I love a good story. Time enough to analyze how Francis hooked me and try (hope) to bring that power to my own writing after I’d read the story. 

So began my study of beginnings. The opening hooks I loved most were the ones that not only promised, but also delivered an amazing read. Many of them were written by Dick Francis.

E. C. Sheedy introduced me to the idea of searching for the power words in writing that impresses me. Gun is definitely a powerful word, associated with violence and death. Paired with boys, which implies youth, it becomes even more dangerous and powerful. The command to stay quiet implies a threat, increasing the dangerous stakes.

In seventeen words, Dick Francis completely hooked me. When the next paragraph reveales that the first person narrator is a Physics teacher in a boys school, using the gun as a prop for a lesson on ballistics, I’m even more intrigued. I know the gun is going to be important – after all, this is a mystery. The narrator will be the detective character, and I’ll be staying up late to read this book.

Dick Francis didn’t disappoint me.

I intensely disliked my father’s fifth wife, but not to the point of murder. (Hot Money )

Hot Money begins with the above statement by jockey Ian Pembroke, whose mother was his father’s second wife. I love the way the author blends powerful words  like intensely, disliked and murder with details that skillfully reveal the murdered wife was preceded by four others, one of whom will be Ian’s mother. I anticipate family discord, and I expect Ian to be the innocent prime suspect.

Hot Money delivers on the promise of its opening sentence with a delightfully complex family arranged in factions around three ex-wives, an intriguing mystery, and the delight of discovering Ian’s complex relationship with the father who, when his own life is threatened, turns for help to his estranged son – the one person everyone else suspects of the murder.

Here are a few more great openings from Dick Francis novels:

Dying slowly of bone cancer, the old man, shrivelled now, sat as ever in his great armchair, tears of lonely pain sliding down crepuscular cheeks. (Wild Horses)

I had told the drivers never on any account to pick up a hitchhiker but of course one day they did, and by the time they reached my house he was dead. (Driving Force)

I don’t think my stepfather much minded dying. That he almost took me with him wasn’t really his fault. (To the Hilt)

StraightAnd then there’s Straight, which I believe is Dick Francis’ most brilliantly crafted novel:

I inherited my brother’s life. Inherited his desk, his business, his gadgets, his enemies, his horses and his mistress. I inherited my brother’s life, and it nearly killed me. ( Straight)

The violence implied by killed is preceded by a tantalizing blend of what seem to be small details (his desk, his gadgets) and the threat implied in inheriting his enemies and his mistress.

What elevates this book beyond the status of a truly great mystery is the way every one of those inherited items became meaningful: not only in solving a murder, but also in painting the evocative portrait of the uncompromisingly Straight man whose death preceded the story’s beginning.

Dick Francis was a master who continues to fascinate me. Every time I re-read one of his novels I hope to soak up some of the magic of his storytelling.

Dick Francis died on February 24, 2010, survived by two sons and a legacy of best-selling mysteries. The fascinating story of his life and its real-life mystery is revealed in family friend Graham Lord’s biography Dick Francis: A Racing Life, which I discovered (and bought) while writing this blog.

The Truth About Trish – free this weekend

the-truth-about-trish600x900My romance novel The Truth About Trish is enjoying a “free” promotion on Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords this weekend.

It seems a suitable time for this particular title to be on free, as I’m giving a workshop today on character-driven plotting, and pacing to maintain tension – and this story was very much a result of character-driven plotting, because I had to dig deep into the characters of Abby (the heroine) and Ryan (her hero) in writing their story.

So pick up a copy and enjoy – and for those of you with Kindles, although Trish is priced at $.99 on Amazon, you can get your free kindle version at Smashwords.

Vanessa

 

Workshop: Character Driven Plotting, Pacing to Maintain Tension

Writing RomanceThis Saturday I’ll be giving a day-long workshop for the Romance Writers of America’s Vancouver Island Chapter. If you’re in the Nanaimo area, come along and join us in an exploration of character-driven plotting, and pacing your novel to maintain story tension.

Workshop Details

When: November 2, 2013, 9:00 to 4:00 (registration from 9:00 to 9:30)
Where: Vancouver Island University, 900 Fifth Street, Building 255, Room 170, Nanaimo (Campus Parking Map)
Cost: $40.00 if registering after October 19th or at the door. Lunch, coffee, and tea is included.

Session 1—Character-Driven Plotting
In this workshop, Vanessa explores character-driven plotting, and the technique of using the hero and heroine’s personal territory to build a bridge between character and conflict. We all want the magic formula to work: characters + conflict = a great story. Sometimes, we need a little help, and adding a territorial imperative to the mix could be exactly what your story needs.

Session 2—Pacing to Maintain Tension
Pacing a book involves finding the balance between showing and telling, between emotional intensity and distance, between slow and fast. Vanessa makes this complex technical subject clear with graphic examples. Topics include time and the writer: story time, reader time, and writer time; the simple rule that covers it all; and how pacing relates to viewpoint and narrative style.

I’m looking forward to a great day with this group of enthusiastic writers!

Vanessa

Workshop Handout