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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Overview Nonfiction: Topic

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

Practice makes perfect, as one saying goes, so, as we continue to discuss nonfiction attributes, the next blog sections are designed for writing your own article alongside our general conversation.

Topic= why plus what.

Based on your own why concepts of curiosity and connection, choose one topic from the brainstorming this past week in your subject list. Will it be from a passion you still have or an interest in why you originally discarded a topic and now wonder about it?

First brainstorm some preliminary “what to share” possibilities to mull over. Next week we’ll look at some research suggestions. Right now daydream.

Prepare your initial purpose, or what you think are the primary questions you want to consider. Brainstorm possible themes within your topic. What type of attitudes might readers find interesting or be resistant to?  Which point of view do you feel most comfortable with and which would be a challenge?

The purpose here is toward communicating new knowledge. Children have enormous curiosity. Concepts are as important as facts, especially for the very young. Wonder is the motivation for all ages.

Focus on the heart of your topic, your potential audience age, the questions you need to research for clarity, confirmation of truth, vocabulary, and the impression you desire to share.

Action Steps:
Begin to ask the questions now.

1. Who is your intended target audience?

2. What will be the reader expectations that you need to include?

3. What overall effect do you want your readers to leave with?

a. Hope? What kind: emotional, physical, spiritual?
b. Solutions? What kind: cost, time, and/or relational?
c. Entertainment: Why? Long term—short term?

Share: What information communication did you choose as a primary focus and for what age? Why?

Read deep, marcy

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sample Excerpt from Strategy # 3

Eight Strategies For Innovative Settings

“For some minutes Alice stood without speaking, looking out in all directions over the country – and a most curious country it was… ‘I declare it’s marked out just like a large chessboard!’” Lewis Carroll

Historic Landmarks

Geography alone does not build up atmosphere and emotional connections in our worlds. Instead we also need to understand landmarks as potential maps and mirrors in order to recognize, choose, and transform their unique characteristics to our story. Our landmarks then become a natural part of our world rather than a stage prop of location.

A historic landmark can be public or private, such as a town cemetery or a century-old family plot on an estate. It may be internationally known like the Eiffel Tower or local as a statue in a neighborhood park. It can be natural or manmade.

A commemorative landmark can carry a sense of pride by one faction of a population and a long-held grief of failure for others. A historic landmark may have been created by whimsy such as oddly shaped trees, or odd-shaped dwellings, or a serious preventive measure against loss of life, as so many well-known lighthouses have provided.

A historic landmark can be of value to one individual, or to a nation, or to a continent. The fact that it carries a history makes it personal whether the reaction to it is positive or negative or neutral. Sometimes the landmarks can just be subtle reminders and other times a key influence. They have the ability to influence theme, character, plot threads, and setting.

The key is to make a personal impact that invades, lingers, and reacts.

Build Your Story: As you choose or incorporate specific landmarks (fictional or real) for your novel world, especially those that will remain constant through a series, begin asking these questions of each key spot you choose.

1. Is it natural?
2. Is it manmade?
3. What is the history behind it?
4. How might different characters personally react to it?
5. Is it considered to be holy ground? Why?
6. If so, is it open to everyone to visit or considered forbidden?
7. Which characteristic makes you curious? Why?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sample Excerpt from Strategy #2

Eight Strategies For Writing Innovative Settings


Landscape includes interior and external sites, emotional connections, literal space, and geographic background. It includes the climate, weather, topography, and amount of daylight. Each of these areas has the capacity to silently boost the sacred connection between reader and character by allowing the reader to identify with the literally tangible, yet subtle details.

For example, in the movie The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmund Dantes spends many years in prison. The site of his confinement is the Chateau d’if, a historical fortress built in the 1500’s. This landscape is cold, damp, rocky, and dark—a mirror image to Dante’s emotional life. Even when a landscape is confined to one room, or is a silent backdrop, we can use its natural attributes to influence our scenes and their emotional impact.

So how does this translate to practical application? We begin a piece at a time and build the world from emotional resonance. We not only draw out our physical locations, but doodle out the emotional impact they have on our characters. We brainstorm each setting’s location, even if only as a brief two-minute list. If you see something that triggers an emotional reaction, but you’re not sure how to use it, then put it in the resource pile for later.

When you read for research, pick out the parts that intrigue, comfort, challenge, or frighten you. And temporarily leave the rest behind. Keep a list going as to where you found that information, so if you need to return for more details, you’ll find it easily. It’s a banquet laid out before us and we can’t possibly eat it all at once. So we pick out the best parts first, in case we get full. The parts that stir our hearts, the parts that we react to emotionally, become our map routes, our mirror reflections, and our atmosphere internally.

Externally, we discover our connections through landscape, as Elizabeth George explains it. To her landscape is “the broad vista into which the writer actually places the individual settings of the novel, sort of like the canvas or other medium onto which a painter has decided to daub color……when we discuss landscape we’re also talking about…the emotions that are evoked by the setting.” She continues, “Landscape is the total place experience in a novel.”

Build Your Story: What literal climate, weather, topography, or daylight can become an emotional mirror for your character’s internal struggle?

                                                     Read deep, marcy

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Overview Nonfiction: Introduction Trust

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“Surely a kind of fascination or a deep desire to learn more about a subject must be there from the start.” Jane Yolen

Nonfiction easily warrants a workshop all to itself but as most fiction techniques also apply to this genre in this section we’ll look at the aspects that are assigned to it more specifically.

The well-known guidelines for solid nonfiction are still the basic who, what, when, where, and how, but the undergirding purpose is why.


These elements are the main criteria regardless of age. Both for the reader and from the author if the material is to have any impact beyond straight factual information. Think of how many times your thoughts have glazed over during a boring meeting that is solely fact based, even when you know it is information you need.

As babies move into understanding language they often point constantly to people and objects even before they can shape words in a desire to know. Toddlers have the capacity to drive the most patient adults to exhaustion with their why questions.

Nonfiction sings when curiosity begins a dialogue of interest. When an author has a connection with their topic and a desire to share, then trust is built.

So what do you do when assigned a topic of no interest to you or you feel is already boring. Think of someone hearing the topic or word or definition for the very first time and perhaps the only time they will ever hear any information on this subject. Then look for the spark of communicating truth in a voice that shares. Maybe with humor, or your own reluctance, or a surprise you discovered, but share one-to-one.

And it must be accurate so as an author you need to do the digging. If this is the only information on this topic they will ever hear, it must be the truth. Otherwise trust disappears and boredom replaces interest not only in this particular subject but possibly in others as well.

To paraphrase a comment by Jane Yolen, beautifully written information books have changed lives because though they are informational in the broadest sense the authors have written them out of the deepest commitment and passion.

I think that magazine articles and blog posts can meet this standard as well if the authors are sharing from their hearts.

Action Steps:
1.Make a list of all the subjects that have been of interest to you growing up?

2.Which ones did you discard and why?

3.Which ones do you still find fascinating? Why?


Share: What main passion do you want to share?

Read deep, marcy

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sample Excerpt from Innovative Settings

Eight Strategies For Writing Innovative Settings

“The tourist may look at a place and think ‘What does it do? What is it like? How much does it please me?’ but the fiction writer must look at a place and think ‘What does it suggest? What does it mean to me? What does it mean to my characters?’” Jack Hodgins

Hodgins suggests that in order to achieve this perspective, a writer needs to construct a place—“real or invented”—rather than describe it. By choosing specific details you both impress the landscape on your reader and connect them to the meaning of your world. Think habitat.

“Stare at your world until you discover what it has to offer you,” he says.

There are many ways to develop this focused center in any scene. You can begin from the inside out by imagining the location of your setting visually and finding just the right pieces to fit the emotional core. Or you begin from a natural habitat and focus on the specifics that define your atmosphere and story questions.

For example, a setting on the moors can portray an image of beauty, wildness, danger, freedom, and loneliness. An added element might be the choice of dwelling. Is the habitat an ancient stone castle, weather beaten with crumbling bricks, a wooden hut, or a modern architectural masterpiece? How would each of these possible homes blend, or contrast, with the physical geography?

Deserts, oceans, forests, meadows, streams, canyons, and islands all have distinct characteristics. Even if your character will be interacting with all kinds of terrain there will still be one that is “home.” One that will quietly represent a direct heart highway, either toward security, or away toward uncertainty.

Too early in your story yet to decide which habitat best suits your purpose? Try this brainstorm. If your character were to transform into her emotional habitat, what animal or bird, flower or tree, body of water, type of wind would she become? Where would you most likely find that setting geographically?

Build Your Story: What in your character’s natural habitat could become a danger to him or her?

Read deep, marcy

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Book Review Highly Recommend

Bring Your Fiction To Life by Karen S. Wiesner

Go deeper. Bring a multi-layered perspective to your writing from the initial spark through to the published launch. At whatever stage you are in your writing career this craft book delivers a solid foundation, clear instruction, several practical suggestions, and expert advice.

One of the qualities I most appreciate in Karen S. Wiesner’s books on writing is her intense commitment to share and develop her personal experience. She undergirds each concept with well-founded definitions, gives concrete published examples to amplify them, and then offers high quality understandable applications to follow.

Her ongoing feature of her books to include accessible worksheets goes the extra mile here by giving authors readymade templates from which to personalize. And she does not generalize them but gives specific details for each skill set she develops.

Personally I found two particular areas I’d like to explore more in my own work immediately. Wiesner points out that our blueprints are “just one of many layers of your story.” Her ideas regarding examining them for cohesiveness helps reduce uncertainty and laborious revision by catching the holes early on. For career writers she has insightful suggestions for applying the multilayered approach to all our stages and projects to produce quality consistently.

Taking the time to recognize the potential benefit of three-dimensional characters, plots, settings, scenes, marketing, goals, and personal process, is valuable time spent to truly develop stories that readers can’t resist. Enjoy.

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sample Feedback: Betta’s Song Chapter One Excerpt Critique

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

Many organizations that offer contests have a rubric that their first readers are often given to judge quality, using numbers one to five with five as the highest. Then the highest scored entries are passed along to the final judges. The basic intent is to identify the “catch” of the opening chapter, regardless of genre.

Also there is more than one reader per entry so it’s the total score that moves forward. As readers we all have inherent desires for any story we read. Some want deep character angst, some are more engaged by action or setting or curiosity. So the same first chapter could have high marks from one reader and low from another in the same box.

After participating as a preliminary judge for several years I decided to develop my own introductory analysis for my clients as an general overview first step. Not every category may be relevant for an immediate first chapter, depending on genre and depth of subject, but they should all be clarified by the end of the novel opening—which is usually by the third chapter.

Or for young readers many of these may need to be clarified within the first few  sentences or paragraphs. The main purpose is to establish what the first impressions are. Is the reader connecting to the character or dilemma or possibilities? And do they want to read on when the chapter ends? That is the crux.

So go ahead and apply this outline to the whole chapter of Attack, or to an opening chapter in a book you are now reading.

Share: According to this overview do you think there are any holes in this opening chapter than should have been addressed or clarified? What makes you want to read on? Or not?

                                                   Read deep, marcy

First Chapter Analysis Guideline, by Marcy Weydemuller

Opening First Impression

Story Writing Strengths

Story Writing Weaknesses

Delivery Strengths

Delivery Weaknesses

Story Question

Main Character





Genre Specifics

Read On?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Eight Strategies for Writing Innovative Settings,

New Workbook series launches NOW

Looking to make your settings memorable?

In Eight Strategies for Writing Innovative Settings, we’ll examine key strategies to create impact for the settings of our novels regardless of genre. Each section focuses on one strategy with three or four applications and creative writing prompts to customize to your work. Whether you are just beginning a project or ready to revise, these suggestions will give you critical perspective.

In addition, we will look at novel excerpts from a variety of genres to see how authors have built unique settings—and how we can apply these techniques to our own work.

Build Your Story: What questions do you want answered for your specific setting?

Write with Impact workshops are a compilation of techniques, exercises, and observations that will give your writing a fresh slant, prompt your creativity, and take your writing to a deeper level.

What exactly does it mean to write with impact? When we go deeper into our stories with heart-to-heart connections and associations, we can write stories that make an impact on our readers.

Read deep, Marcy 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Strategic Settings Launch

New Workbook series launches this week.

Looking to make your settings memorable?

In Eight Strategies for Writing Innovative Settings, we’ll examine key strategies to create impact for the settings of our novels regardless of genre. Each section focuses on one strategy with three or four applications and creative writing prompts to customize to your work. Whether you are just beginning a project or ready to revise, these suggestions will give you critical perspective.

In addition, we will look at novel excerpts from a variety of genres to see how authors have built unique settings—and how we can apply these techniques to our own work.

Build Your Story: What questions do you want answered for your specific setting?

Write with Impact workshops are a compilation of techniques, exercises, and observations that will give your writing a fresh slant, prompt your creativity, and take your writing to a deeper level.

What exactly does it mean to write with impact? When we go deeper into our stories with heart-to-heart connections and associations, we can write stories that make an impact on our readers.

                                  Read deep, Marcy

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sample Feedback: Betta’s Song Chapter One Excerpt 4

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

Attack (4)

Narah crawled toward their hut. More horses galloped to the channel’s edge, reared and turned back. She flattened herself against the bank, sobbing. Two people struggled above her. Narah gasped. Iscah was desperately clinging to a large water basket. The soldier wrenched it from her grasp and flung it into the stream. Iscah let out a piercing wail and collapsed into a heap. Narah slid down the bank toward the water. The basket had lodged between two boulders and was rocking back and forth. Jael! Jael must be hidden inside. Trembling, Narah looked up. Black smoke billowed over the bank. She dashed into the water, grabbed off the lid. Jael was crouched inside choking on sobs. Narah pulled her out and kicked the basket loose to drift.
            “Come, Jael, come.”
            Narah hugged Jael tight and ran as fast as she could back down the channel around the bend. She stopped at the cave to push Jael in.
            “Go, Jael, go to the back.”
            Jael whimpered and clung to Narah. Narah took deep, gasping breaths. “Narah is coming too.” Narah crawled into the narrow opening. Jael buried her face in Narah’s lap. “Big sister,” she cried, then sobbed silently.
            Narah stiffened at the sound of splashing in the water. She edged backwards and lay on her stomach, eyes hidden behind the grass window. She froze. Their footprints were scattered all over the damp bank. A large, burly man rushed from the bend. Balak! Narah shook as Jael continued to cling, whimpering. Balak stopped for a moment and tilted his head as if listening. Then he strode upstream.
            Narah reached for a branch. Leaning forward as far as possible, she brushed their footprints, smearing them, but couldn’t reach the ones near the water. The ground shook again. The horses were in the stream. Narah pulled Jael to the back of the cave. The thunder grew closer. Her eyes fixed on the grass curtain, Narah rocked herself and Jael back and forth like Betta did when she sang to her after a bad dream.

Share: In what way do you connect to Narah emotionally in this scene? Or not? What makes the difference?

Read deep, marcy

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sample Feedback: Betta’s Song Chapter One Excerpt 3

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

Attack (3)

            Narah slid down the steep slope to the waterbed. The channel was low today. She waded a few yards to a thick patch of tall grass her grandmother needed. With swift expertise Narah examined and picked the best pieces. Wrapping them together carefully, she laid them on the bank while searching out a special bouquet for Timon. Her hair kept falling in her face, slowing her progress. The narrow channel wound a jagged path through the rolling brown hills down from the mountains. Not many miles past their village towards the grasslands, it became a trickle and went underground.
            “I wonder if the tiny, blue flowers are open yet?” Narah’s voice rippled in the silence.
            She walked along the river’s edge to the far end of the village land, then into the water to round the narrow bend. The flowers glistened in the hot sun, their deep, dark blue a contrast to the pale sky. She bent low under a canopy of shiny leaves. The shallow stream had exposed Narah’s special hiding cave. She started to clear the debris from its entrance. A few feet into the cave the mud walls turned to rock and opened into a small tunnel. Narah liked to crawl inside to cool off on hot summer days. Although the other village children seldom came past the bend, Narah had often fashioned a grass overhang to hide the entrance.
            Narah hummed as she worked. Flies joined her, buzzing back and forth over her head. Hot sun warmed her back. A donkey brayed in the village, followed by muffled voices scolding.
            Bits of twigs, grass and mud covered Narah’s arms. She slid down to the stream to wash, then she lay in the sun. Above her an eagle swooped, diving and soaring.
            “How far to the next village, eagle? Can you see it?” Narah closed her eyes. “I will fix Betta a bed of our pillows,” she yawned, “to ease the shaking and the bumps of the cart tomorrow. Are you, too, going to hear the prophet? My uncle Timon is with him,” she mumbled drowsily.
Screams pierced Narah’s dreams. She sat up, startled, not sure where she was. The ground shook like a thunderstorm. Dust and smoke filled the air. Fire! A fire in the village. Narah ran through the stream, heedless of the rocks cutting into her feet.
            “Betta, Betta,” she sobbed.
            She scrambled up the steep bank, and ducked instinctively as a huge, black horse reared, narrowly missing Narah’s head. Horses? Narah cowered in the grass. Through the smoke she could barely make out figures. Soldiers and horses were dragging women and children into carts, and then setting the huts on fire. Narah choked. “Grandmother!”

Share: In what way do the sensory details strengthen or weaken the setting? How?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sample Feedback: Betta’s Song Chapter One Excerpt 2

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

Attack (2)

“Are you not afraid of Balak? Sometimes I think he makes the boys throw things at me. No one tries to hurt me except when he is there.” She felt a thin line of moisture form along her forehead. Drops glistened against the thick, black hair pulled back from her face exposing her hairline scar. She continued to tremble and her hands shook.
Betta rested her hand on Narah’s shoulder. Betta hesitated. “Narah, you have not fainted for several months now.”
Narah’s slight body still shook. “Will there…..will there be many people tomorrow, Betta?”
            “Yes, but you need not speak to anyone, Narah, if you do not wish to. You can stay by my side at all times. You may find that your fear of people has left you now that you are eleven and there no one will know you. No one will bother to tease you or try to frighten you. We are all going to hear the prophet. That is on everyone’s mind. Remember we will spend time with Timon, too.” Betta chuckled. “Won’t he be surprised to see us!”
            Narah clasped her hands together. “Oh Betta, I can’t wait to see his face. I shall fix him his favorite flowers from the stream. Will there be room in the cart?”
            “I’m sure we can fit them in. Be careful, the bank is slippery.”
            “How do you know?” Narah asked. Then she pointed at her grandmother’s canes. “There’s bits of mud on the bottoms. Betta, you are not supposed to go to the stream without me.”
“I did not,” Betta smiled. “I just hobbled along the top edge. It is such a pretty day. I do need some of the tall willow grass near rock point. The large basket still has to be edged, and if I can finish today, it will dry tomorrow while we are gone.”
            Narah smiled and Elizabeth murmured a prayer of thanksgiving for protection, then she hugged Narah. “Go now to pick your flowers for Timon and a handful of grass for me.”
            Narah blinked at the bright sun as she stepped outside. First she looked toward the village, but the pathway was empty. She glanced at the only other hut set apart with theirs from the other villagers. Iscah, their friend, dozed in the shade rocking her new baby. Her three year old, Jael, sucking her thumb, slept beside her. Narah smiled. Even when asleep, Jael must dream of food.

Share: What positive or negative personality trigger points do you identify for each character? Why?

Read deep, marcy

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sample Feedback: Betta’s Song Chapter One Excerpt 1

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

Revising requires re-seeing.” Jack Hodgins

What kind of feedback will you need? Each of us has personal strengths and weaknesses. And we all need at least one or two critical readers for our projects. One of the most important skills a writer can develop, says Hodgins, is to develop the ability to read your own work as if it had been written by another, and learn to listen to your story.

Since Betta’s Song is now published, I’m hoping that its feedback has passed the test. And yet, each reader has different criteria regarding whether they want to read on or not.

Attack (1)
“Narah, stop fidgeting!”
            Narah, face flushed, turned around to face her grandmother. Twinkling blue eyes softened the old woman’s words.
“Child, you are too restless, you will become feverish.”
            Narah crossed the small room to lean against her grandmother. Stroking the weathered cheek, Narah breathed deeply, sighing. “It is such a long wait, Betta.”
            “Is your wait one of excitement, child, or are you nervous?” Betta tilted Narah’s face upward.
Before she could reply a muffled curse sounded outside their door and Narah dodged behind her grandmother. Betta motioned to a thin basket in the dim corner and Narah yanked it next to them.
            “Good day, Balak.” Betta nodded as he stomped through the doorway. “Your basket is ready but still damp. Narah was to deliver it to your wife by the supper hour.”
            “Your stupid brat should be working the fields, Elizabeth.” Balak wove unsteadily, peering around the room. “Instead she hides behind you. The wife needs extra help. I will take her.”
            Betta grasped Narah’s shaking body. “I am sorry to hear your wife is in need, Balak, but as I cannot walk today, Narah will stay with me. Some families are bringing their babies to us while they work the fields this afternoon.”
            Balak snarled and threw a small pouch in Betta’s lap. A trickle of flour seeped through. “You and your brat would starve if not for us, Elizabeth.” He leaned into Elizabeth’s face. “You need to be more grateful.”
            Elizabeth gripped her canes as she rose. Balak stepped backward. “Thank your wife for the flour, Balak. I hope your work in the fields goes well today.”
            Balak’s face reddened, then he turned abruptly, snatching the basket as he left. Narah eased her grandmother back into her seat and scooped the spilled flour into a wooden bowl.
            “He was angry, Betta, when you mentioned the fields.”
            “Of course, child. Do you see other men standing around the village mid-day? They are all hard at work.”

Share: What is your immediate first impression of these three characters? Why? What one word might you choose for each?

Read deep, marcy

"The Seeker" Rachel Marks | Content Copyright Marcy Weydemuller | Site by Eagle Designs
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