RETREAT IN THE MISTY MOUNTAINS!

Happy campers 🙂

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Retreats are only as good as the women who come along, and this was another amazing group of inspiring, accomplished, compassionate and creative women. For the first couple of days, we lived in the clouds as if we were inhabiting a mystical land out of time where all that mattered was story and human connection. The sun came out on Sunday so we could see the view from the top of our waterfall and soak in the light and new beginnings. 

The Misty Mountain

Over the retreat, we relaxed with yoga, got into the nitty gritty of redrafting in our workshops, created new writing goals for ourselves and had fun chatting around the fire and making collages. Our chief cookie, Gay, provided us with delicious warming winter meals THANK YOU GAY!!

And Monique of Reconnect Holistic Bodywork nurtured our bodies with her miraculous body work sessions. THANK YOU MONIQUE!

Monique our miracle maker and her healing rainbow

Here’s what some of our retreaters had to say about their experiences over the weekend.

“I attended the Springbrook Relax and Write Retreat on 12-14 August, 2022.  This turned out to be an amazing retreat. As a new author, I had no idea what to expect. I met the most amazing group of authors, ranging in age from 20 to me being the oldest at 76. They came from all walks of life and stages of their writing; and I found them very supportive.

One of the highlights for me was Edwina’s assessment of the first 10 pages of my manuscript and synopsis. We had sent these prior to the retreat, so she could assess them ahead of time. Then at the retreat, we met individually with Edwina for her to go over her suggestions with us and give us a written copy of this. I found this very helpful, comments on how to change to saying what I wanted to in a better way, specific feedback, picked-up on two important things which I had not realised were not clear to the reader, use of conjunctions rather than two words so it read more smoothly, and very positive. I left the meeting with Edwina feeling excited to continue editing my book.

Another highlight for me was the atmosphere. My life has included a lot of stress and the whole atmosphere at the retreat was relaxed and accepting. Each morning when I woke up, I simply felt peaceful. And I made friends who I hope to retain for a long time. I would recommend this retreat to any author. What a boost to my journey in writing.” Patty Sierra

Patty and her collage 🙂

“This was my first writing workshop and there was initially some doubt as to whether I should do it because I am only starting out as a writer. I went and found it fully rewarding. I felt like a valued member of the group, and to me these workshops are not just about the skills and connections but the journey and self-identity. I gained confidence and more clarity about my future direction. I highly recommend Edwina’s workshops.”

Nina Curry-Powell

Nina and her interesting collage of words

“Thanks for a lovely weekend Edwina! It was such a wonderful change from my regular responsibilities and I really loved the beautiful surroundings and being able to have long chats about writing with other kindred spirits. I came home recharged, inspired and wanting to do it all again.” Nikki Mottram author of soon to be released crime novel Crows Nest.

“Thank you Edwina for another amazing retreat. Springbrook was the perfect setting in the rain, with the wood fire, delicious home cooked vegetarian meals and a fabulous group of women. I was glad I sent you the ten pages, two weeks before, as it prompted me to get writing and it made what you were teaching more relevant. I really appreciated your professional feedback and after our session I felt more confident to share my writing with others. The gentle yoga and relaxation sessions were such a treat, as was the bodywork session with Monique. Definitely feeling relaxed AND I’m writing! See you again next year.”

Catherine Eadie (repeat retreater)

Catherine and her collage!

“Edwina is a passionate teacher and storyteller. She has a warm, down to earth way of connecting with people that makes everyone feel welcome. Her workshops are fun, creative and engaging — full of practical, helpful advice, and the deeper questions driving characters and story, making it ideal for writers at any stage in their work. I liked how Springbrook in the winter feels like a private retreat — tucked away in the Gold Coast hinterland, surrounded by national parks and hiking trails, with yoga workshops and the most amazing vegetarian food! Also enjoyed the late-night chats and readings by the fire, meeting and connecting with such an interesting group of women writers, who all shared a passion for great storytelling. I have to say that as a teacher myself, I am in awe of Edwina’s style of teaching and her ability to create a true, nurturing spirit of openness and community. At the end of the retreat, I felt connected to my work in a deeper way and like everyone else, totally inspired.” 

Rebecca Belfield-Kennedy

Rebecca’s collage about her work in progress and the top of her mushroom beanie 🙂

Here are some more photos to tell the story for us.

THANK YOU to all the wonderful women who made this retreat so special. These retreats are a lot of work, as Gay our super cookie knows, but it is all worth it when we see women connecting with new writing buddies and having epiphanies about their writing projects.

I’m thrilled to announce that we have been able to secure another permanent spot at the Theoshophical Society Retreat Centre for our life writing retreat in October. OCTOBER 21 – 23 LIFE WRITING AND MEMOIR RETREAT!

So what are you waiting for? Come along and join the fun. Wander through the rainforest to the waterfall, write up a storm in workshops tailored specifically for memoir writers, get cosy in your own private little nun room and feast on delicious home cooked vegetarian meals. This retreat is best for those doing life writing and memoir and for new writers just wanting to put their toes in the water.

So treat yourself to a weekend rebooting your creativity, reconnect with nature and make new writing friends to cheer you on your way. YOU CAN BOOK IN HERE.

Put yourself on the top of your TO DO list for once. Women and non-binary folk welcome 🙂

Lots of love

Edwina xx

The lovely women who ran the centre or headed the Theosophical Society for many years smiling down on us as we gathered in their space.

MAGICAL MAGNETIC ISLAND MERMAIDS – RETREAT RUNDOWN JUNE 2022


Alma Bay, Magnetic Island – photo by Kathy Ewers

“What a lift it was to be in such good company and in nurturing hands. On a tropical island in winter! I haven’t stopped writing since. I can feel my project moving forward every day. And my confidence expanding. Thanks, Edwina.”

Clare Leabeater (retreat participant Magnetic Island June 2022

Beautiful Magnetic Island turned on the sun for us in early June with the water still summer-warm. Wonderful, funny, kind and creative women writers from all over Queensland came together for a weekend of workshops, yoga and fun.

This was a special retreat for me because my sister Natasha came along, even though she’s a visual artist not a writer. As she pointed out on retreat, she’s been forced to be my student ever since we were little playing endless games of school. Guess who was always the teacher. Yours truly. It was very dull. Poor Tashy! However, these days my facilitating skills are much better than when I was four and it was lots of fun to share what I do with someone I love. Thanks for coming Tashy. 

Geri, Fleur and Tashy laughing their heads off at our meet and greet 🙂

We started with drinks and nibbles and our first workshop, getting to know each other and the stories we are writing, or wanting to write. We started imagining new stories and went deeper into those already in progress. 

Yoga every morning helped those most in need of a break from busy lives and burnout to recover and find their inner peace again. Only a few breaths away, ever.

Happy yogis having fun. Photo by me.

Workshops at this retreat were focused primarily on developing narratives that are character driven – whether that character is our earlier selves for memoir, or fictional creations. Stories that spring from characters’ intrinsic goals and desires, strengths and weaknesses are naturally more compelling and meaningful.

Here we are hard at work!

During the long break during the day some mermaids headed to beautiful Alma Bay for swims and sunshine and walks along the cliffs to Geoffrey Bay. While others indulged in massages by Mel, and naps. Nurturing the creative spirit takes a lot of work!!

In the afternoon we did a workshop on screenplay. All writers have a lot to learn from this very plot focused form and it was exciting to see writers have their first attempts at writing for the screen. 

Writers at work! Rose and experienced screenwriter Joanne.

Dinner that night was at Picnic Bay, where the not so great food was more than made up for by the magnificent view across the bay to the twinkling lights of Townsville in the distance.

On the pier at Picnic Bay

Sunday was play day! First some serious reality checking on publishing pathways and the Australian publishing industry (everyone go out and buy a book by an Australian woman author!!), some goal setting then my favourite part of every retreat – our collages. We all start with the same pile of magazines yet, as you can see, everyone creates something unique and beautiful in their own ways.

Then to Alma Bay for a picnic and a swim, even some tarot reading! Then those who were staying an extra night all headed to Horseshoe Bay for sunset with some fish and chips. A beautiful end to our special weekend.

Sunset at Horseshoe Bay.

As always, it is the women who come to these retreats that make them so much fun and a joy to run. My greatest pleasure is making new pals and watching other new writing friendships forming. Best of all is seeing a light go on for a writer who has been stuck who suddenly sees the way forward for their project, or even better, seeing a newbie start writing furiously filled with enthusiasm for a story that is pouring from them in a frenzy.

We’re all just a little bit excited 🙂

Thank you to all the wonderful wise women who made this Maggie retreat so magical. Special thanks to Kathy Ewers – repeat retreater, talented writer and brilliant photographer who took the photos you see here. You can see more of her work and book her for your event HERE.

NEXT RETREAT is in SPRINGBROOK!! Gold Coast Hinterland August 12 – 14 at the Theosophical Society Retreat Centre. FEEDBACK AND REVISION RETREAT for those with a first draft done or underway. See more HERE.

EARLY BIRD PRICES END JUNE 30!! Only $440 for the full weekend, all yoga and writing workshops focused on self-editing, all meals and single room accommodation. YES!! Even if you haven’t written much, or you started well but now you’re stuck, come along and get unstuck!!

Only 5 places left so HURRY! PAY YOUR $200 DEPOSIT HERE to secure your place. Contact me to check availability.

Thanks again to all the talented and generous women writers who make retreats such a joy.

Come along and join the fun!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

MAGIC IN THE MOUNTAINS!

KOOJAREWON 2021

Terese’s glorious floral centrepiece for our workshop room

I never cease to be astounded by the magic of women coming together on these retreats. This last retreat up at Koojarewon Youth Camp in Highfields near Toowoomba was no different. Women from their twenties to their late seventies bonded together, laughed, wrote, stretched relaxed, shared stories and supported each other with such kindness it really did feel like magic.

For the first time we had a doggy on camp, a lovely medical alert dog who sat in on all sessions and was a sweet fluffy presence.

We started as usual with bubbles and nibblies, getting to know each other as writers and as women. So many different stories and we hadn’t even started writing.

Once we did, stories poured from people, with laughter and tears and wonder. Beautiful stories from the heart. We focused in on memoir and life writing and how to make a compelling narrative from the memories of an entire lifetime. The situation and the story, the facts and the meaning we’ve found in those facts with the benefit of hindsight. Because for many of us, the reason we write is to make sense of life, to create meaning for ourselves from the seemingly random events that make us who we are.

We did a lot of writing and learning so it was fabulous to have our talented masseuse (and writer) Jani providing excellent massages to relieve those sore spots. Lots of very relaxed women floating around after their treatments.

On Saturday night, the effervescent Jacqui Carr, retired exotic dancer and writer, once more taught us how to strut our stuff with some pretty hilarious, rather than sexy results! We had a lot of fun J Gillian helped us all calm down with some songs around the fire pit and then we hit the sack. Only to be woken at 2:30 in the morning with an alarm and all the lights going on. An electrical storm had taken down a power pole and cut power to the district so all the back up lighting went on and couldn’t be turned off. We managed to get back to sleep though and allowed ourselves a bit of a sleep in.

Yoga on Sunday and party tricks left us deeply relaxed and ready to set some writing goals and discuss publication pathways. We were lucky enough to have a few independently published authors in the group, Terese Eglington, Virginia Miranda and Sallyanne Peters who could fill us all in on the process of dealing with different scenarios. I’m always happy to use the combined wisdom of the group. Everyone has something valuable to contribute.

We got so carried away doing our traditional collages that we went overtime, but it was all worth it to see the beautiful creations that hopefully will help our dreams to come true.

Here’s our hall of fame!

May all our dreams come true!

Wonderful women, bright and beautiful days among the big trees, everything so lush and green. Great food. Big smiles and happy hearts connecting.

I love these retreats and the magic of creative women coming together. Together we can do anything!

I’ll leave you with a quote I found for my collage:

“Everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express.”

Brenda Ueland.

Take care and keep smiling. Write like a fury and I’ll see you on retreat one day soon!

Lots of love

Edwina xxx

OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND ONTO THE PAGE! How to start writing your stories :)

Almost everyone I’ve ever met has stories in their head that swirl around and around and won’t give them any peace, until they’re told.

Certainly, most of the people I met in my recent tour of Far North and Outback QLD had stories that they needed to get out of their heads and onto the page. 

Writing these stories out and playing with them, using the techniques of fiction to transform the way we see them is a powerful way to get these stories out of our heads – for good! And BONUS we may even create something beautiful from all that pain. Because usually those stories that won’t let us rest are stories about the hard times.

But how to start?

Write a list of the stories on the top of your head – you know the ones.

What stories do you want to tell? Set the timer for 5 minutes and write down as many dot points or titles or other words that will remind you of these stories.

  • Write another list. What stories do you NEED to tell? Write for 5 minutes or until you’re done.
  • One more list. This is the scary one. What stories are you afraid to tell? If everyone was dead, if no one ever read it, what stories would you be brave enough to write?

Okay, now you have a list, your head should already feel a bit lighter. Lists are great for taking mountains and turning them back into molehills again. 

Have you got a story about a car you used to have?

Now take your list and a pile of index cards and write one of your story ideas on each card and put them in a box.

  • Set aside some time each day for writing. It doesn’t have to be long. Participants in my workshops know that it’s amazing how much you can write in five minutes. Start there. Pull out one of your story cards, set a timer and write. Five minutes, 10 minutes. Start small and grow the time gradually. We can all spare five minutes, right?
  • Write as fast as you can, don’t stop. We call this free-writing. Just write. Forget about sounding fancy or poetic or writerly, just get down the story as if you were telling a good friend all about what happened. Spelling and grammar and punctuation really don’t matter at this stage. Just write like a fury and get that story out of your head!
  • Write all the way to the end of that story. Chip away at your story a bit each day until you reach the end of that bit. If you find it’s taking a long time, then consider breaking that story idea up into smaller chunks. For instance, instead of writing “CHILDHOOD” on your story list, be more specific, eg: my first bedroom, time with grandma, the bad day, my favourite pet, the secret. Break it up into little manageable pieces.
  • Don’t look back! New writers (and more experienced writers too for that matter) often make the mistake of going back over the first bits they’ve written and spending ages trying to make it perfect. NO! Don’t do it! It’s a trap!! Just keep going forward.
  • Pick up a new card. Write a new story, and another and another, until your pile of cards is gone.
  • Writing is rewriting. Once you’ve got all your stories out of your head and onto a page, many pages, then you can go back and add specific sensory details, make sure you’re writing in scenes and order the pieces for narrative drive. But if all that doesn’t make any sense, don’t worry. Just get those stories written down. You’ll become better at writing just by doing it regularly. You may notice when you start putting your stories together that there are gaps. Fill them in. But not all the boring in between, day to day details, just the important things we need to know.
  • JUST START! YOU CAN DO IT!

If your literacy skills aren’t great, don’t worry – use the dictating feature on your device. Some of the best story tellers I know aren’t any good at spelling. It doesn’t mean they can’t spin a good yarn. 

So, what are you waiting for? Get cracking on those lists and let me know how you go. I have lots more hints and tips for writing on the website. Or drop me a line and I’ll do what I can to help.

Write like a fury!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

10 SUPER STORY STARTERS!

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Trees as big and beautiful as this one start as seeds. Stories start from seeds too.

Here are some story seeds to plant in the garden of your imagination or memories.

These prompts can be used for both memoir pieces and fiction. For fiction just invent situations for a character, not yourself.

  1. A moment of joy. Big or small. Where were you? What was happening? Use all five senses to describe what was going on. Go into your body – how does the emotion of joy feel in your body? What happened just before this? What happened just after?

2. Shame. Not for the faint-hearted but great story material. A moment of shame, maybe one you’ve carried a long time. Get it out of your head and onto the page – or give it to a fictional character.

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3. The biggest lie you’ve ever told and why. Again you can write from your own life or give it to a character.

4. The best decision you’ve ever made. Why was this decision so important? Great stories are born from these moments that change us.

5. An oxygen mask moment (or light bulb moment). A point in your life when you suddenly felt like you’d had a blast of oxygen, or a light had been turned on and you saw the situation you were in clearly for the first time.

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6. A piece of clothing from childhood. This could be something you wore, (like my favourite Donald Duck T-shirt that I wore until it was in shreds and my mother threw it out), or a piece of clothing someone else wore. What story does it have to tell. Why do you remember it?

7. A smell you love, a smell you hate. Smell can open all sorts of doors. What story of yours starts with a smell?

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8. Witnessing an act of small cruelty. Once, when I was living in Singapore, I saw a harried young businesswoman dragging her screaming five year old across the street, screeching at her, “After all I’ve sacrificed for you!”. It’s stuck with me all this time. A teacher at school? A mean girl at a party? Start there and see where it takes you.

9. A found object. Next time you’re on a walk, keep your eyes open for something. Anything. A scrap of paper with a few words on it. A rock. A piece of rubbish. A leaf or a feather. What story starts here?

10. Rewrite a favourite religious story or myth, updated to present day.

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Okay! Pick one (or maybe two – see Thing 1 and Thing 2).

Now set a timer for ten minutes and write like a fury. Don’t stop for anything. If your pen breaks, write with your fingertip. Find your momentum and just keep going. If you’re still going when the timer goes off, ignore it!

Have fun and let me know how you go 🙂

Lots of love

Edwina xx

Writing Grief

A wise writer once said that grief is the primary impetus for writing. It is certainly what forced me to sit down and bring the stories out of my head onto the page back when I started writing in 2002.

Through writing out the pain of my losses I began to heal.

By reimagining the circumstances and outcomes of my losses, I was able to glimpse another way of being.

By helping others to write out the pain of their hearts, my own heart began to mend.

We write to bear witness to our own pain, to leave a mark for those we love who didn’t have the time or inclination or the power to make their own. As writers we have the power to do all this. 

Sunrise Coolum Beach

We can free ourselves from the endless reruns of traumatic moments in our lives by recording them on the page. But even more than this, by applying the magic of the imagination to the unchangeable facts of our losses, we can transform those stories into meaning. We can create hope and joy where perhaps none existed.

Better yet, the power of the imagination is so strong that the brain, after a while, can no longer differentiate between memories and our imaginings so our gentler, kinder, more hopefully imaginings begin to temper the trauma of the truth.

I have always written to search out or create meaning from the losses in my life. And it has worked. I write my way into being. I write my way through emotions I can’t understand. By finding the right words, by giving my story structure and form, by giving my pain to imagined characters, I am able to leave behind my attachment to these stories of loss.

I am able to create beauty from what had previous only felt like ugliness.

So write! Write out your pain. Reimagine the stories you tell yourself and transform them. Create beauty from the darkness.

That is our power as writers.

“To see that your life is a story while you’re in the middle of living it may be a help to living it well.” 

Ursula Le GuinGifts

If you need help getting started or are floundering in grief and need a helping hand, I’ve just released my new book A Guide Through Grief, which I hope will help you through.

You can buy it directly from Amazon as an eBook or Print on Demand if you are outside Australia, eBook only within Australia

If you’d like a hard copy here in Australia just CONTACT ME and I’ll send you one. Soon you’ll be able to purchase directly from my website.

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the self-same well from which your laughter rises is oftentimes filled with tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy it can contain.”

Kahil Gibran

Sending lots of love your way ,

Edwina xxx

Big Moomin hug

Back Cover Blurb Competition

My friends at Query Letter are running a new competition for back cover blurbs – you know those back cover bites of a book that, in combination with the cover, make you want to read the whole thing.

These can be tricky to write – especially with the strict word limit of 100 words. They’re different from a synopsis where you need to tell the whole story and reveal secrets. A blurb sets up all the questions and leaves them unanswered.

You don’t need to have written the book to enter this competition but if you come up with a great idea trying to think of a captivating blurb then I highly recommend you get writing it!

Have a go! Fascinating characters in an untenable situation that just keeps on getting worse. Go on, you can do it 🙂

Have fun and let me know how you go.

Lots of love

Edwina xx

HOW TO WRITE A SCENE IN 6 EASY STEPS

 

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Are you stuck in telling mode and don’t really know how to make the radical leap into writing scenes? Telling is easy, we tell people our stories every day when we get home. However, you’ll notice that gifted story tellers, those we love to hear stories from, paint a picture with their words. They include setting details and dialogue and make us feel as if we were really there too. That’s the trick when we move from TELLING to SHOWING.

Our job as writers is to make our readers feel as if the story is real, happening in real time, that they are experiencing it. When we bring our stories to life with setting details, action and dialogue, we make our stories feel as real as possible.

But how do you write a scene?

It’s really not that tricky.

Start by writing your first draft of your whole story – don’t worry whether you’re telling or showing. Go for it, tell as much as you like, just get those words and basic story ideas down onto the page. Create your big baggy first draft to sculpt your finished story from.

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Groundbreaking artist – Augusta Savage

Then once you’ve had a chance to separate from the story a bit, go back and find places within that big baggy draft where you were telling rather than showing. Or if your whole piece is stuck in telling mode, then find a key turning point in the action or an interaction between characters that feels important and get ready to turn it into a scene.

ARE YOU READY?

Let’s do it!

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First, spend a few minutes with your eyes closed envisioning the scene as if it’s on a movie scene, taking note of how it’s all unfolding as if you’re the camera.

Think about each character in the scene. What does each one want from this scene? Each character wants different things, so thinking about this early will help you build conflict.

Think about the conflict in your scene. If there isn’t any, there should be, so dream up some point of difference to generate more energy and forward motion.

Now write your scene.

6 EASY STEPS

  1. Where is it taking place? This is your setting and it’s important to ground your reader in that setting at the opening of your scene. Find a few specific sensory details that give us a good idea of where and when we are, and perhaps even demonstrate an aspect of your character, or the mood of the scene, or both.

For example: It had rained all night that summer of 1852 as The Enforcer wound its way between the outer islands of New Guinea.

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  1. Who is there? Your characters, that’s who! Now show your character or characters doing something in that setting, preferably doing something that demonstrates who they are and what they want from this scene.

Example: Fred the cabin boy clung to the ropes as he climbed up the rigging to the crows-nest, cursing the captain under his breath for sending him up.

  1. What is going on? What action is taking place? How is this scene furthering your plot? Remember that ACTing is the main job of a charACTer.

Example: From the lookout Fred saw the sun’s glow leaking out under mounds of cloud. They were steering perilously close to a storm with all sails flying. The captain was a madman. A wave crashed against the merchant ship and almost sent Fred flying, but he grabbed hold of the mast as it swung and lurched, creaking.

  1. Add some dialogue. Some folk find writing dialogue very tricky. My best advice is to just write any old blather that comes into your head and then later edit it down to be as minimal as it can be while retaining meaning. Make sure your characters speak at cross-purposes, all following their own agendas.

Example: Fred called down to the captain at the wheel, “Storm ahead! Pull in the rigging?”

“You giving orders now? I’ll have your hide. Just keep your eyes out for rocks boy!” the captain roared up.

“But the storm!”

“No storm’s ever stopped me.” The captain turned the wheel hard left, heading straight for the black-bellied clouds.

  1. End the scene on a cliffhanger. Don’t tie up all the ends but leave the reader still needing to find something out. For example, I wouldn’t show the ship reaching the storm in this scene, only that Fred was very worried and in danger.

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  1. Follow with a scene not immediately answering that question. For example, to increase suspense, instead of going straight to the ship in the storm scene, I’d perhaps do a flashback scene of Fred being punished by the captain earlier, wrongly accused of stealing bread. Rations are low. So not only is there a storm coming but we know the captain and Fred have a troubled history, and not only that, the ship’s rations are dangerously low.

Following those 6 easy steps should set you on your way to writing in scenes. Use all your senses, make sure your characters are DOING not just THINKING, add dialogue and build suspense.

I hope my ideas have helped demystify writing in scenes for you. Let me know how you go.

GOOD LUCK!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

STIRRING THE PLOT – how to build tension in your writing.

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As writers our primary aim is to keep our readers turning pages, engaged with our stories. Yes, we’re really quite wicked. We like to keep our readers up all night. We also like to make them cry. And laugh too if we can. We want our readers to feel something, to be moved by our stories. And maybe, just maybe, to be changed a little, for the better.

But in order to do that, first we have to get them to finish our story. So we need to have narrative drive, suspense. Forward motion.

We do this in a number of ways.

SET UP QUESTIONS

We set up questions at the start of our story – that’s our hook. Depending on whether you’re writing a novel or a story those questions will be big – Will Tracy survive the volcanic explosion? Or small – Will Bill make peace with his father? Actually, maybe all story questions need to be big – Ben making peace with his father is enough for a novel – probably more than Tracy and her volcano. And of course, if we put the two together…?

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CREATE A CRUCIBLE SITUATION

That’s the true secret of creating tension in your writing. It’s what Sol Stein calls “The Crucible Situation”. A crucible, apart from being a great play about witches, is an old fashioned term for a cooking pot. In modern terms we’d call it a pressure cooker.

What it means is that you put your story and characters under pressure. Put them in a situation they cannot easily escape from.

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Enemies are trapped in a lift together. Ex-lovers are forced to work together on an important work project with the boss watching on. Estranged siblings are forced to organise a 90th birthday for their mother together. Or a couple break up then are stuck together quarantined on a cruise ship. A bomb has been put under the building where warring families have come together to hear a will being read.

THROW IN A TICKING BOMB

The ticking time bomb works a treat. Not only can you throw in a crucible situation but also a time limit. Like Cinderella only having until midnight before she loses all her finery. Like that volcano about to explode. Like that tsunami wave dragging far, far out just before it crashes in. Like a lover about to leave forever on a plane (hence all the rom coms that have one party running through an airport at the end)

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Let’s just say your story idea is about Ben whose father was a mean and violent alcoholic in Ben’s childhood but has now reformed and is trying to make amends. Yes, lots of story material there.

We’ve got out hook question – Will Bill make peace with his father?

Let’s add a crucible situation – Let’s say Bill has a sister and it’s her wedding. She’s forgiven their father and has asked Ben to play nice for her wedding. Ben is stuck with his old man for a whole day and night. They can’t escape each other. Plus, there’s alcohol.

And a time bomb – Ben’s dad has cancer, a bad one. He’s been told he only has a few months to live. Now the pressure on Ben to make peace is urgent.

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That should keep your reader turning pages.

Hope those ideas help. Use them on a story you’ve already got that may be lacking oomph. Add a crucible situation and a time bomb and watch them blossom.

Let me know how you go.

Write up a storm!

Lots of love,

Edwina xx

 

WRITING PROMPTS FOR QUARANTINE!

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Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, in these crazy days of limited movement and social interaction, we still have a great power that no one can take away from us – our imaginations!

Yes! Through our imaginations we can still wander, all over the world if we like. We can create miracles, climb mountains, swim to the bottom of the deepest oceans and all without expensive equipment.

All we need is a little time and the ability to daydream. Never has dreaming and imagining been so important. We need to envision a new peaceful and positive way forward for our world, so that all this grief and loss brings good and long-lasting healing to our beautiful planet and all her people and animals.

So here are a few prompts to help get you started on using your imagination and letting it take you to places you may never have been before.

Your Favourite Place in Nature

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We may not be able to get out much these days but in our minds, we can still travel to our favourite places.

Close your eyes, focus on your breathing and take yourself to your special place, your favourite swimming hole or beach or forest or dessert or field of poppies.

Use your five senses.

What colours and shapes can you see? What is the quality of the light? When you look up what do you see? Look down. Look all the way around, stretch the working of your mind’s eye.

What can you hear? Is there the trickle of water, or the wash of waves against the shore? Are leaves rustling in the breeze? Can you hear birds singing, animals foraging in the undergrowth? Maybe you hear voices? You can have companions on these mind journeys too.

What can you smell? Is the air salty, or sweet and musty from the lush undergrowth of the forest? Maybe you smell pine trees, or the fresh sweetness of mountain water.

What do you feel? Is the sun warm on your back? The breeze soft on your face? The earth deep and yielding under your feet? Sand gritty between your toes? Water fresh and tingling on your skin.

What can you taste? How does the air taste in your mouth? Take a mouthful of that mountain stream, taste the sweetness of the water.

And how does it all feel in your heart? How does being in this special place make you feel emotionally?

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Once you have envisioned it all and dwelt there awhile in your imagination then get writing and fill in all those specific sensory details to bring your special place to life so that anyone reading your piece will feel as if they have been there with you.

All the Good that Will Come from This

 This is a wonderful exercise to do whenever you feel yourself stuck in a difficult situation, as we all are right now. Use your imagination to see a positive and powerful new future for us all. Even in the midst of all the tragedy now unfolding in many places, there is still good. There is still hope.0f8acd5ce0202400b9c03a0dc86b808f

Close your eyes again and envision all the potential for healing and the creation of new and better ways of being which can come from this enforced pause of human activity.

For me the ozone layer healing is a great and wonderful positive that I hope we’ll find a way to maintain. Plus we’re all getting a chance to slow down and pull back from some of the many hectic activities that usually fill our days. This situation has certainly brought into focus what’s most important to us. What we value most. And for many of us, it’s our people, our family and friends. Spending more time with family is also, in most cases a lovely plus to come from all of this. On my daily walks I’m seeing more and more people out enjoying nature now the gyms have closed. Another positive. People are pursuing more creative arts, learning new skills, learning to meditate or do yoga, playing musical instruments that have been collecting dust for years. Gardening. All these small things as well as big things like ceasefires, and fresh air and blue skies over cities that haven’t seen a blue sky in decades. All these and so many more.

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Write a list of at least 10 good things that can come from this. If you’d like to you could develop this into a short story about a utopian future, a future where we create a new world where resources are shared, greed is no more, and all the world lives in peace and harmony with each other and with nature.

 

Write Yourself Friends

 For many people this is a very lonely time. Especially for those who live alone. It’s at times like this we really need our friends and hugs.images

You can write a letter to a real-life friend, telling them all the things you value about them and remembering some good times that you shared. Post it the old-fashioned way and give them a treat in the mailbox.

 

Or you can imagine a whole new friend for yourself, a best friend, a lover even.

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What do they look like? What kind of clothes do they wear? Why do you like them? What do they do for work? What makes them so special to you? Flesh them out like you would a character, fill in all those little details, star sign, sense of humour. Create the perfect online profile of someone you’d just love to meet.

Then imagine meeting them, hanging out and doing something fun.

Write the story of that first meeting, that buzz of electricity when you meet someone you click with. Whether it’s platonic or romantic, there’s still a rare thrill that comes from meeting a kindred spirit.

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So write away. Get them to tell you what they like about you too.

And remember, you can write yourself as many hugs as you need!

What have you been writing during this strange time? Have you been able to write?

Your imagination is a powerful tool. As writers we know how to use it – now wield your power for good.

Write up a storm and keep smiling. Let me know how you go with the writing prompts!

Lots of love

Edwina xx