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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-22-09, 05:34 PM Thread Starter
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Default The Writer's Circle – Week #3 [The Big 'BANG' Approach]

The Writer's Circle – Week #3 [The Big 'BANG' Approach]

Welcome everyone to week #3 of the Writer's Circle! This week is an article by Jill Dearman on her Big 'BANG' Approach. It is a step-by-step article detailing her B-A-N-G theory of the writing process and how following it could be your best bet (for some, not all people) to a life long and consistent writing hobby/career, wherever you want to take it. Please enjoy! —CP

“The Big 'Bang' Approach”
“4 steps to take you from idea to completion on every writing project”
By: Jill Dearman
Quote:
Writing coach Jill Dearman is the author of Bang The Keys: Four Steps to a Lifelong Writing Practice, due out next month from Penguin. Web: www.bangthekeys.com
(I recommend that everyone, whether you are a beginning writer or have been doing so for a while, buy this book when it comes out. I was able to get a little sneak peak of the book from an undisclosed source, and I must say it is a great piece of knowledge. She really knows what she is talking about. This article is just as interesting and helpful. I hope that you gain something from it. -CP)

Quote:
Several years ago, I attended a Torah class in New York City, where the steps in the “creation of the universe: were likened to a mystically infused combination of four Hebrew letters: Yud, Hei, Vav, Hei. The rabbi discussed how these steps were not so different from the steps in an artist's creative process. Consider: Yud = the spark of an idea, Hei = the idea's concrete development or form, Vav = the artist's emotional hook or connection to the creation, and the final Hei = its completion.

In my “Bang the Keys” writing workshops, I have adapted these steps into an acronym (and a philosophy) that encapsulates the process every writer must go through on every writing project: B = Begin; A = Arrange; N = Nurture; G = (let it) Go—BANG.

1. Begin. Grand expectation of immediate, fabulous writing often stop us from just sitting down to type. In our lives outside writing, we tolerate messiness. When we are in school or at work and have to come up with an idea for a paper or presentation, we do. Why? Because we have to. Instead of aiming for perfection, try brainstorming or freewriting or some combination of the two. But when? How?

“Beginning is the hardest,” says novelist Aaron Krach, author of Half-Life. “There is laundry to do, dishes to wash, and oh, that new DVD from Netflix came today. … There are just so many reasons not to start a project. And yet, it is not ever, never ever going anywhere if it isn't started. So I force myself to start. Usually in the morning. Coffee, nothing else. Just me and the computer for 60 minutes. If that's all I can do the first day, fine. But I gotta do all 60 minutes.”

Matthew Howe, horror writer and author of the memoir Film is Hell, due out this month, adds, “When you force yourself to write every day, you become a writer. You train your brain to take little things you see during the day, or little ideas that flit through your head, and turn them into stories. Often, little scraps or snippets you've produced as exercises will become parts of new stories later down the road.”

For those who can't do daily, try every other day. Can't do an hour? Do 20 minutes. Or pull a Graham Greene and try for 500 words. Do that three times a week and your grand idea will have the time and space to emerge.

2. Arrange into a concrete shape and form. Once the idea is clear, the next challenge is to find the proper form to hold it. Is it a screenplay or a novel? A memoir or an essay? Short story or haiku? And once you have settled that question, what will the structure be?

“This fall I was working on a new theater piece, and gearing up for a reading with actors,” my client Aaron Landsman recalled. “At a certain point, the director I was working with said, 'I think you want this to fit your idea of what a “play” is, and I think that's holding you back.' He reminded me that I was limiting the work before it had a chance to really find its style, rhythm and form.

“This was two days before the reading, so I went home, panicked appropriately, and wrote and rewrote for about 26 of the next 30 hours. By the time my deadline for the reading came, it had become three short plays with the same characters. Each functioned independently, and ran about 15 minutes. Together they functioned like a book of linked stories; they accumulated into the something larger than the sum of their parts. The lesson? Let the work speak to you once the first draft's done; it will tell you what the form is supposed to be.”

My client Robin Gaines, a former journalist who has an agent shopping her novel-in-stories, adds, “Arranging the material is the hardest aspect of writing for me. Once I know the general beginning and the end, I just let the characters figure out how they're going to get themselves out of the jams I've put in front of them. Start arranging your notes when you get excited about characters and potential story lines. Let the material stew in your head, and refrain from putting too many boundaries up. The cream of what you're dreaming will rise to the top.”

3. Nurture your project with love so that others may love it, too. As writers, so much of our time is spent wishing for love from the external world—readers, friends, agents, editors—that we treat our projects as coldly as we fear the world will. That is why this step is so important. Once you have begun a project and found a working form, don't take it for granted. Delving deeper into its crevices and engaging on a more emotional level with your characters is essential.

One of the biggest issues I deal with for my clients is the “So what?” factor. The idea is good. Check! The form is clever or classic. Check! But so what? What the reader needs is emotional and mental engagement with the work—exactly what writers must conjure up during the writing process.

Think of your writing project as a significant other, or a close friend. Nurture the relationship by spending time with it, and asking it to reveal itself to you. On a first date, or a first writing session, you are probably able to ask a lot of questions—both whimsical and deep. From “who's your favorite cartoon character?” to “What was the greatest struggle you ever faced?” Toss those question at your characters, and write down what they say.

“I write and edit and write and edit until the story makes me laugh and cry, and it's the book I would want to read,” Gaines adds. “I'm meticulous about voice. If the character doesn't sound real in every sense of the word, I keep rewriting until her or she is either killed off or becomes completely alive.”

4. Get finished and let it go … out into the world. There's a Billy Joel song I listen to when I am trying to write but feel a little disconnected. I only pull it out once in a very long while because it immediately makes me sob uncontrollably! It's called “Famous Last Words,” and in it he sings about how hard it is to say goodbye. To let anything go, in this impermanent world, is a little scary; it's very human to want to hold on. Letting go can make us feel more existentially alone, at sea.

“My best advice here is: Create deadlines, and if you need it, get help,” says Deborah Atherton. “I write eight hours a day for my job, then come home and write at nights and on weekends; with all that volume, I need all the help I can get. Copy editors, submission services, my beloved workshop—I've used them all, and they have all helped. There's a myth that a writer has to be a lone wolf, a lonely artist, a voice in the wilderness—well, it's not true. Accept the help your friends offer, join workshops, take classes, hire help if you need it. Its not easy being a writer! You deserve it!”
Along with this article there is a 'WORKOUT' section for everyone to benefit from as well. It talks about the acronym BANG. Here you go.

WORKOUT
Quote:
DID SOMEONE SAY they needed help? That's a step! And here are exercises for each step of the “BANG the Keys” method:

1.Begin. You're going to use a meditation approach to try to find and frame the seed of a new story, or to jump-start your writing if you've hit a lull with your existing idea. This approach can help you focus and keep your mind from jumping about. Begin by mentally “channel-surfing” for story ideas using the “5 Ws” of journalism. If you have too many ideas and don't know which is the right one, try this guided, repetitive meditation: While you breathe normally, with eyes closed and an open mind, take each idea in turn and gently tap each of your fingers on your knees to help you focus and keep out random thoughts. During the first 10 taps, silently repeat “Who?” in your mind. Do another round of tapping, this time using the next “W” - “What?” Follow with rounds of “Where?,” “When?” and “Why?” Then, write a brief synopsis of your story, using the snippets of images, characters dialogue and whatever else floated through you mind.

2.Arrange.
  • Problems are at the heart of every narrative (and every life), so identify your characters objectives.
  • Now write down the most natural-feeling beginning, middle and end of your story. Just a sentence for each.
  • Write down 10 potential obstacles facing a character (the first that come to mind) between the beginning and middle of the story, and the middle and end. It could be something as simple as his car won't start and he'll be late to a meeting, or, more ominously, his wife telling him, “We need to talk.”
  • Polish and pare down to 12 sentences – a nice frame to get started with.

3.Nurture. Imagine the spirit of your character hovering over your desk as you write. She tells you, “Yes, you know me very well, better than my best friend, my spouse, my shrink! But there's something you're still missing about me. …” Let your character speak in the “I” voice and tell you what you still don't see. Do five minutes of freewriting (no pauses to think!) or 500 words, whichever comes first.

4.Go. Imagine the beginning of your next story (whatever form) embedded in the ending of this one. Write a scene that feels like an ending, but in the back of your mind, think of it as a beginning, too. For example a college student says goodbye to his family at the end of his holiday visit, but perhaps that goodbye is really the opening of the story about his next semester in school, when a life-changing event takes place.

-J.D.
Alright! Let the conversation begin! I have a few questions to kick things off. First: Does everyone set aside a little bit of time to write each day? I know I do. It seems that the best time for me to get writing done is right in the morning before I have to leave for work. This gives me about three hours to do a bunch of writing right after I'm through dreaming. Its not a bad routine really. It has even helped me get into a rhythm in the morning and be able to get the day off to a good start. I wake up, grab a cup of tea (BIG cup of tea, it needs to last. I prefer English Breakfast, its a very rich black tea with heaps of energy inside...idk, I'm sure the caffeine is enough to gag a mule but wtf, it helps. Oh, and no milk, just straight. Its a good swift kick in the mouth after just waking up. Where was I?) and plop my buns down on my metal freakin' folding chair while the sun is coming up. My desk is situated right by the window so it allows for lots of nice natural light. I find it very easy to concentrate. I guess what my question really is is, what is your workspace like? Does it facilitate your writing habits? Is it somewhere where you can be comfortable? I feel that having the right workspace is one of the most important things any writer can have. Especially when it comes to the BANG system. Your workspace needs to be able to accommodate the 'meditation' aspect of it so you can do some brainstorming and not be bothered by the outside world all the time. I know that whenever I do any freewriting, I need some sort of classical music on. I guess it helps fuel my thoughts. My current choice for music notesies is the soundtrack to Miyazaki's “Spirited Away.” It is absolutely amazing. There are some very powerful movements on the CD, as well as many beautiful melodies and sweet, calming tracks. It is quite a variable arrangement.

My next question. Does anyone really have a hard time letting 'Go?' I know that here on Heresy, there is the option of editing your entires for a set number of days, so there really isn't all that much letting go to be had. Your story is always where you can see it, and you can change different aspects of it if you so please. I wonder if there are others out there like myself who truly does let their stories go after posting/publishing them. I for one do not like to edit (except for perhaps grammatical errors) my stories once I've posted them. Especially, the first ones that i've done. Simply because I find it being a gauge showing me how I have progressed. My stories have grown in complexity and depth and description. I'm quite proud of myself. Again, how do you all “Let Go?” or don't you?

Question #3! When it comes to getting help, who do you turn to? My 'editor' and I have been friends for a long time and he has always been someone that I can bounce ideas off of. He helps calm me down when I've gotten myself into a tizzy and can't quite seem to do anything. He helps me error check my work when I'm busy or when I swear I've checked every last bit of my story. Because usually I haven't...haha. Does anyone here have an editor? How about another person to throw ideas at? A parent? A significant other? An old volley ball with a hand print face you've named Wilson? Anybody? If so, what is your relationship like?

That about wraps it up for this week. I hope that everyone was able to gain something from this. Please feel free to let me know about things that you want to have discussions about. I'll add it to the list. I've got a few ideas for the next couple of weeks and they should be pretty good ones. Please enjoy, everyone. Have a great week!

Write on,

Commissar Ploss

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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-22-09, 06:09 PM
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Great addition to the Writer's Circle, Ploss, it is easier, IMO to write in small chunks then big stories. Personally, I randomly have ideas throughout the day, like one day I'll be sitting around the hangars or eating lunch, not paying too much attention, and without any prompt I'll just think of something and say "wow, that would be really awesome". It's often a race between my thoughts and how far down on the page my story is. I like to have a number of "reserve" ideas, in case I have to go away for a while, or focus on something in real life. It is important to keep up some momentum, as I know from experience as soon as I run out of ideas a story totally loses all it's appeal. I often make up a complete scene beforehand, choreographing fights and making a full mental image of the setting before I ever hit the first key. Essentially it's good to keep a pace, but you should NEVER try and keep the pace with a dull idea, as that waters down the story something fierce.

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-22-09, 07:21 PM
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An interesting approach to writing... :/ Personally I disslike structure, I find it ruins creativity. But I am very interested in the "Arrange" part. It has given me an idea. Over the next few days, the piece I'm working on atm (The Black Crow - it's in the Original Works section) is going to go up on my wall on lots of bits of paper. I will rearrange them whenever I find new ideas, and actually prepare a proper story I think.

As for who to turn to for help, the closest thing to an editor I have is my friend Lloyd, who I tend to make proof-read my stories (and he points out all the stupid flaws in them), and who has helped me with my writing consistently for the last year. This would be my advice to you all: get a friend who knows the English language VERY well (he is an A level English student who wants to study script writing next year in uni) to proof read and discuss everything with you.

Edit: HAHAHAHA, post number 69 for me. XD I'm so immature at times... lol


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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-22-09, 07:27 PM
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I am much like Dirge and Dearmans' 'Begin'- whenever my concentration wanes my mind will play with ideas that i'll often write down to include on my planning sheets later on, which take the form of mind maps or lists of words and phrases.

Yet I could never force myself to sit down and devote the next 20+ minutes to writing, I feel some of my best ideas come from the most unstructured of timetable and am not pressured by getting anything solid on paper. Which is why i've yet to post anything here in 'Original Works'.

While I do not sit down and spend time on the story itself I do like to devote some time to finding background material- i've many links I bookmark or text I download to look over later, to get ideas from and which authenticate the story I am working on (heh, I take the "by the book route" with stories and as 40k is new to me, I find having the codex a good anchor).

As for letting go, I don't. I've had so many unfinished pieces- because I am my worst critic (as they say), I am my editor. Heh, all thoughts and no action

Edit: (posted without refresh) and it would seem i've a similar view to Void too.

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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-22-09, 10:53 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah, i'm in agreement to the structure issue here as well. Although this article did prompt me to start designating time to write, i'm agree with your statements on how structure seems to deter creativity. As an example, i hated highschool, but i loved college (university for those across the pond ). probably due to the structure issue. Highschool was too structured, but then when i got to college, i could choose my own classes and show up when i wanted to, and i LOVED IT!

Now, like i said, i do designate time in the mornings to writing. This is mainly so that i can get my jotted ideas down onto the computer. I acutally carry a composition notebook around with me everywhere i go. This is so that i have a place to put down the ideas that spring up when i'm not near my comp. Here is a cooky example. I'm actually commenting right now from the mechanics shop while my car is getting worked on. lol no joke~! They have internet kiosks here and even Starbucks coffee dispensers for free while you wait! its awesome. And guess whats sitting right beside me as i type this...my composition notebook. I'm getting an oil change and writing stories! like i said, i bring this thing with me everywhere. its in the passengers seat when i drive around. If an idea strikes me while i'm on the freeway, i pull over, and write it down. Absurd, maybe. Convenient, not so much. But effective, YES. Then at the end of the day, i put my notebook on my desk and go to sleep. I dream about what it was that struck my brain fibres that day, and when i wake up, i grab a cup of tea, sit down and Arrange. My notebook is just a jumble of character names, ideas for storyline, enemy encounters, quick paragraphs, love stories/scenes, pistol whips and end of the world scenarios. But when it comes to writing it down on the comp, it somehow manages to work itself out into a cohesive story. Most of the time .

oh and Void_Dragon:

Quote:
But I am very interested in the "Arrange" part. It has given me an idea. Over the next few days, the piece I'm working on atm (The Black Crow - it's in the Original Works section) is going to go up on my wall on lots of bits of paper. I will rearrange them whenever I find new ideas, and actually prepare a proper story I think.
thats great man! Its this kind of thought provoking stuff that i'm trying to accomplish with the Writer's Circle. I'm glad that you were able to gain something from this article/discussion. Please let me know how it works out for you. I'm really intersted to hear about it.

write on,

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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-23-09, 01:27 AM
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My own ruminations upon the questions asked.

1: I try to set some time aside, but don't do it often enough. Once I get through the tough part and actually get the first two, three, five paragraphs done, though, it generally flows very fluidly for another thousand to two thousand words. The hard part is breaking through the barriers that you built around ideas, and actually beginning the day's writing. I have spent too many hours string at a screen that contains the same thing it did yesterday, before moving off to browse the web or do something similar.

2. Editing stories is really a beautiful thing. Actual publication, I imagine, would be a whole other ball park (Little League kiddie field to the World Series, I imagine). That said, larger edits than reworking a paragraph, at most, are hard to dig into and actually do - more hard than beginnings.

Actually, I would like to contest the idea that beginnings are one of the hardest things to do. I have no shortage of ideas, personally. The hardest part is the beginning of the middle, when the initial rush of enthusiasm dies and you're left holding the fragments left from the rave-like fiesta of ideas that you had the week before.

Beginning stories - not too incredibly hard, especially if you have a writing plan set up. Beginning the day's writing - many times harder.

On the subject of planning out your work and the plot: I think that self-imposed structure is not unduly limiting. Yes, it keeps you from killing your characters on a whim or because it feels right (and then realizing that that character had the secret pass-code burned into its brain. However are they going to get in now? - or somesuch), but when you are the one who sets the arch, you know that you can abbreviate passages, or let scenes stretch on for another hundred, or even thousand!, extra words.

3: Fellow fan fiction writers. These are the key; the core. They read your works, praise you, flatter your ego, and most importantly, give you constructive criticism. Don't go bothering or bullying them into reading your works, though - if it's good, they will come. Reading and critiquing the works of others is the best way to get them to come to you.

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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-23-09, 03:06 AM
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I have to be in the mood to write
I cant set aside a time because if it doesnt feel right the words wont flow
I need that little spark of inspiration but then i dont plan my works
I'm more instinctive
Like yesterday reading mossy toes stuff gave me that little jolt and it flowed
Thus my workspace is wherever the hell I am
Either a desk or my bed

Yes I have trouble letting go
I constantly come back and edit my work until it feels right
though i often loose interest and come back weeks later to add a bit

I have to give it time to edit my work
i need to detatch and then come back to it
cos when i post it it looks perfect
So i have to wait and then edit but im rarely satisfied

Oh and I bounce my ideas of a friend of mine
Ironcially an ex
She writes poetry and we generally bounce stuff off each other
Even if its just a few lines
It works pretty well

kudos to lillian thorne for the awesome sig
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-23-09, 03:43 AM Thread Starter
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Great contributions guys! I've enjoyed seeing the various opinions. They have been vary insightful and it just goes to show that every writer has his own way of going about the writing process. keep it up!

Just wanted to let everyone know that the Writer's Circle threads have been de-stickied in preparation for a new Writer's Circle index thread. Sort of a table of contents that will provide links and short summaries of each week as a new post. Both Squeek and Galahad have suggested this as a course of action, and i agree with them both. I'll post the index'd thread sometime this week. Week number 4 of the WC will be posted as a regular thread as normal, but it will not be stickied. It will then get a summarized post in the index thread along with a link to its specific thread. This will keep things organized and provide less clutter in the Original Works section. It keeps from having to sticky each and every WC thread...it would get kind of crowded...and i'm sure the mods would like to have me stop bothering them every time i want something stickied! keep an eye open!

write on,
Commissar Ploss

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Last edited by Commissar Ploss; 06-23-09 at 03:47 AM.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-09, 02:00 AM
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I promise I'll get to this one tomorrow lol. Right now I'm worn out from a long day's work and not in a thinking mood ! However, having read over it, it looks interesting.

Good luck and good gaming,

Nate

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"I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed man."

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Well, seeing as how you capitalize your characters, use proper grammar and punctuation, I'd say you qualify.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-09, 03:03 AM Thread Starter
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No worries Nate! Whenever you get a chance. I understand about the work issues. lol

CP

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