Ninja Writers http://www.whatisaplot.com Tue, 19 Mar 2019 17:23:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.1 http://i0.wp.com/www.whatisaplot.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/cropped-NW-logo-1.jpg?fit=32%2C32 Ninja Writers http://www.whatisaplot.com 32 32 Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. http://www.whatisaplot.com/travel-eat-sleep/ Sun, 20 Jan 2019 22:56:33 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6803 Jack London on keeping a notebook. (The Commonplace Book Project) “Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up in your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” — Jack London I like to […]

The post Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>

Jack London on keeping a notebook.

(The Commonplace Book Project)

Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up in your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.”
— Jack London

I like to imagine a very young Jack London following the gold rush, traveling by boat to the Klondike, writing down everything he thought, everything he saw, everything he felt, in his notebook.

It’s said that he wrote 1000 words a day, long hand, nearly every day of his adult life.

His first short story, “To Build a Fire,” written in his early 20s, is still considered one of his best.

I‘ve kept notebooks for the last three years. One a year. Not quite journals, because I don’t do much reflective writing in them. (That’s what my posts here are for.) Just ideas. Lists. “Every stray thought that flutters up in” my brain.

One thing that this project has taught me already, less than twenty days in, is that when you scratch below the surface — when you look beyond the work you’ve fallen in love with — there is almost always some imperfection. Sometimes devastating imperfection as I found with Coco Chanel and Marion Zimmer Bradley.

London had ideas about race — especially about the ‘Yellow Peril’ of Asian migration to California during his lifetime — that are disturbing. He also often wrote highly empathetic non-white characters.

Sometimes, when he wrote about race, it makes me think of that one weird uncle who makes everyone uncomfortable — and even more uncomfortable the harder he tries to prove that he’s not a racist.

Here’s what he wrote about a 1910 fight between Jack Johnson, a black man, and Jim Jeffries, often called the Great White Hope.

READ MORE . . . 

The post Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
How to be a More Curious Person http://www.whatisaplot.com/how-to-be-a-more-curious-person/ Fri, 18 Jan 2019 17:51:01 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6801 For all of my life, every once in a while, I’ll read a book or watch a movie or in some other way take in a story — and it will stick. That is the closest I have ever gotten to real magic. I don’t know how else to describe it. The story just kind of melts […]

The post How to be a More Curious Person appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>

For all of my life, every once in a while, I’ll read a book or watch a movie or in some other way take in a story — and it will stick. That is the closest I have ever gotten to real magic.

I don’t know how else to describe it. The story just kind of melts into me and becomes part of me. And whenever I come across it again, I recognize it as mine.

That’s how it was for me the first time I saw Meet the Robinsons. I knew it was my story. It’s based loosely on a picture book by William Joyce called A Day With Wilbur Robinson and everything about it makes me happy.

It’s about finding family and forgiveness and the incredible things that happen when you let your imagination fly — but mostly, it’s about curiosity.

There’s a Walt Disney quote at the tail end of the movie that hits me so hard every time. I’ve had it on my bulletin board for years, right above my desk where I work.

READ MORE . . .

The post How to be a More Curious Person appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
Louisa May Alcott on Reaching http://www.whatisaplot.com/louisa-may-alcott-reaching/ Thu, 17 Jan 2019 02:55:10 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6797 This is a Commonplace Book Project Post. “Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” — Louisa May Alcott, as quoted in Elbert Hubbard’s Scrap Book I was nine years old […]

The post Louisa May Alcott on Reaching appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
This is a Commonplace Book Project Post.

“Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
— Louisa May Alcott, as quoted in
Elbert Hubbard’s Scrap Book

I was nine years old the first time I read Little Women.

I’m not sure I have words for how it affected me. It was the first real novel I’d ever read. Jo March was the first character who I really, truly fell in love with. She was awkward and wasn’t sure where she fit in and her imagination was too big for her body . . . just like me.

I didn’t exactly want to be Jo March. I wanted her to be my best friend. I wanted to make a secret sorority with her. Every time I roped my sisters into putting on a play with me, I channeled her.

READ MORE . . .

The post Louisa May Alcott on Reaching appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
The Best Writing Advice Ever http://www.whatisaplot.com/best-writing-advice-ever/ Wed, 16 Jan 2019 15:41:13 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6792 Dear Shaunta is a weekly column. If you’d like me to answer your question, send it to shauntagrimes@gmail.com. Dear Shaunta, What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? From, a Ninja Writer Hey, Ninja! Oh, this is a tough one. I’ve been given lots of great advice. In my junior year in high […]

The post The Best Writing Advice Ever appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
0-ellg-m37ojy3kjg

Dear Shaunta is a weekly column. If you’d like me to answer your question, send it to shauntagrimes@gmail.com.

Dear Shaunta,

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?

From, a Ninja Writer

Hey, Ninja!

Oh, this is a tough one. I’ve been given lots of great advice.

In my junior year in high school, my English teacher wrote a little note in the margins of a paper I turned in to her that said something like, “You’re a good writer. You should keep up with it.” I wish I’d had the presence of mind to save that. I can’t even remember her exact words, but the sentiment stuck. I kept up with it.

When I was in my mid-20s, I moved to the Armpit of America to be the newspaper reporter and I had an editor. Since I was the only writer, I got a lot of one-on-one attention from him. He taught me, once and for all, the difference between its and it’s. (My pinky finger still wants to put that stupid apostrophe in for a possessive when I’m on a roll, but at least I know it’s wrong now.)

He also taught me that writer’s block is not a thing. A deadline is a deadline and a sluggish muse is no excuse.

Read More . . . 

The post The Best Writing Advice Ever appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
April’s Magic Bullet Download 50% Off! http://www.whatisaplot.com/aprils-magic-bullet-download-50-off/ Sat, 14 Apr 2018 16:50:13 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6734 Just a quick note to let you know that the April Magic Bullet download has been marked down by 50% for the rest of the month. The is a good chance to try the system for a couple of weeks for just $5. You’ll get: Dated daily and weekly dockets for the month of April […]

The post April’s Magic Bullet Download 50% Off! appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>

Just a quick note to let you know that the April Magic Bullet download has been marked down by 50% for the rest of the month. The is a good chance to try the system for a couple of weeks for just $5.

You’ll get:

Dated daily and weekly dockets for the month of April (these help you organize your time so that you actually get your writing done.)

A monthly accountability calendar.

A writing log.

A list of writing prompts for the month.

Just click here. No coupon or code needed.

Another way to do it.

Did you know that anyone who supports Ninja Writers through Patreon at the $10 level or above automatically gets the monthly Magic Bullet download? If you go sign up at the $10 level now, you’ll get instant access to the April download–plus everything else those patrons have ever received as thank you gifts. AND when May’s Magic Bullet Download drops to patrons around April 25, you’ll get that. You can try the system for six weeks for just $10.

You can stop Patreon support at any time. If you’re still a patron on May 1, you’ll be charged $10 again and you’ll get June’s download around May 25. And so on.

And either way, you’ll be helping to keep the lights on for this amazing community. Thank you!

 

RECAP:

Head to our shop and get 50% off the April Magic Bullet download ($5.)

OR

Become a $10 patron at Patreon and get the April AND May Magic Bullet downloads, plus all the previous thank you gifts.

The post April’s Magic Bullet Download 50% Off! appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
Ninja Writer’s Academy: Are You Using a Hammer to Crack an Egg? http://www.whatisaplot.com/ninja-writers-academy-using-hammer-crack-egg/ Fri, 13 Apr 2018 19:57:13 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6724 In our Facebook group this week, there’s been a lot of talk about sensitivity and censorship and trigger warnings. I thought it might be interesting to look at those things for this week’s Ninja Writer’s Academy post. Here’s the dictionary definition of a trigger warning: Noun: a statement at the start of a piece of […]

The post Ninja Writer’s Academy: Are You Using a Hammer to Crack an Egg? appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
crack-an-egg

In our Facebook group this week, there’s been a lot of talk about sensitivity and censorship and trigger warnings. I thought it might be interesting to look at those things for this week’s Ninja Writer’s Academy post.

Here’s the dictionary definition of a trigger warning:

Noun: a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content)

 

It is common to find a trigger warning at the start of a story or article that mentions potentially traumatic topics such as violence, rape, or grief so that a reader can make an informed decision about reading.

My personal take is that I don’t need a trigger warning in fiction. I know my personal sensitivity levels pretty well. I don’t like to read books that make me cry and I really don’t like to read about cancer. Everyone has their own limits. Those are mine.

I can usually tell from the description on the back of a book that a book is about cancer.

I personally have such an aversion to reading a book with a sad ending that I have developed a habit of reading the end of a book first. I also look up spoilers for suspect movies.

Trigger warnings are what they are. I don’t pay much attention to them–but that mostly says to me that they aren’t for me. They don’t bother me. Based on the discussion in our group, they do bother some people. If someone who has something to add to difficult conversations only feels comfortable saying them with a trigger warning, then I say warn away. I’d rather have the warning then a silenced writer.

What bothers me much more is something that I think goes hand in hand here: gratuitousness.

Here’s another dictionary definition, this one for gratuitous.

Adjective: uncalled for; lacking good reason; unwarranted.

Violence, sex, or any other potentially traumatic thing, can be powerful in a story. It can be life-changing for the reader and the writer both. I can still vividly remember reading a book called Don’t Hurt Laurie when I was in late elementary school, about a girl who was being abused at home. I was so enthralled with it that I checked it out several times from my school library, and caused the librarian some worry. A few years later, I was equally as moved by the Flowers in the Attic series. My own work deals with traumas from my past and my family–parents in prison, substance abuse, mental illness.

I’ve also experienced some stories that instead of shifting something inside me, just made me angry. The violence or sex or whatever felt gratuitous–like it was only included to make me cry. That feels manipulative. (Trigger warning: SPOILERS!) The kid dying at the end of Pay it Forward and Meg Ryan’s character dying at the end of the movie City of Angels come to mind.

Someone in our Facebook discussions wrote that sometimes violence is used to show that a villain is villainous. My first reaction to that was: that’s lazy writing. Let’s think about the most villainous of villains. Darth Vader. He’s a violent dude. He annihilates an entire planet. His own daughter’s entire planet. But before that happens, it’s his disconnectedness and coldness that show us his nature. It is Vader’s fall from grace, evident even in the first-released Star Wars movie, that cements him as a tragic villain. We would know he is cruel without the violence–although the violence moves the story forward and doesn’t feel gratuitous (at least to me.)

And the thing we remember most about Darth Vader, the moment that’s the crux of his entire character, isn’t a moment of violence. It’s a moment of discovery when we learn that he is Luke’s father.

This week, think about the violence, sex, or other intense parts of your book, and analyze whether or not they are necessary to your story or if they are gratuitous. Are you using those moments to manipulate emotion in your reader? If you are, how can you go deeper?

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know.

Deepen your work by getting rid of gratuitousness. Identify scenes of violence or sex or other intensity and analyze whether you’re using them only to manipuilate reader emotions or to tell the reader about your character, instead of showing.

Come show your work on Facebook.  It can help to get feedback from other writers.

Come hang out with me during office hours.I’ll post the thread in the morning on Sunday 4/15/18 and answer all your questions live for an hour. I’ll email Sunday morning to remind you and let you know when the live hour willi happen. Make sure you click the link below to join the mailing list so you get the email about the time of the office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that.

If you’d like to support Ninja Writers, check out our Patreon page.

Don’t forget to visit our new Ninja Writers Shop!

The post Ninja Writer’s Academy: Are You Using a Hammer to Crack an Egg? appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
Ninja Writer Book Club (4/13/18) http://www.whatisaplot.com/ninja-writer-book-club-41318/ Fri, 13 Apr 2018 03:54:21 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6720 Oh my goodness, it’s been a long time since we did this. Here are the books that Ninjas are reading this week. We are such an interesting bunch! Click any cover to go to the Amazon page (if you buy a book while you’re there, you’ll be supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you!!!) Or hit up […]

The post Ninja Writer Book Club (4/13/18) appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
ninja-writer-book-club-1

Oh my goodness, it’s been a long time since we did this.

Here are the books that Ninjas are reading this week. We are such an interesting bunch!

Click any cover to go to the Amazon page (if you buy a book while you’re there, you’ll be supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you!!!) Or hit up your library or local bookstore.

As an aside, this is a good exercise in why covers matter. Especially if you have a plan to indie publish. Think about which of these stand out to you, in thumbnail form. Which compel you to click? Why? Which are obviously something you’d want to read, just based on the cover? Which have covers that don’t give you a clue as to what kind of book they are?

Non-Fiction

Children

Fantasy and Science Fiction

Graphic Novels

Humor

Literary and Classics

Mystery and Thriller

Paranormal and Horror

Romance

Short Stories

Young Adult

The post Ninja Writer Book Club (4/13/18) appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
Free Stuff You Should Sign Up For Now http://www.whatisaplot.com/6717-2/ Sun, 08 Apr 2018 04:52:33 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6717 So, this weekend I’m in California with my daughter at a soccer tournament. And, as you may have noticed, the regularly scheduled Ninja Writer Academy post did not happen. Tomorrow I’ll be driving home all day, so there won’t be office hours either. I’ll post a thread and you guys can leave questions while I’m […]

The post Free Stuff You Should Sign Up For Now appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
free-stuff

So, this weekend I’m in California with my daughter at a soccer tournament. And, as you may have noticed, the regularly scheduled Ninja Writer Academy post did not happen. Tomorrow I’ll be driving home all day, so there won’t be office hours either. I’ll post a thread and you guys can leave questions while I’m driving and I’ll answer them tomorrow night. (Or, let’s be honest, possibly Monday morning, depending on how exhausted I am.)

On the plus side, Ruby’s team killed it today! They played in the rain and they’ve made it to the finals tomorrow. Ruby had a couple of seriously spectacular saves in the goal.

Okay, so I thought since I just don’t have a lesson in me for today, I’d share a few free resources with you.

Two Free Audible Books

We listened to The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas on the way up, and we’ll finish it on the way down. It  is absolutely fantastic, and it reminded me to remind YOU that you can get two free audio book downloads from Audible right now.

Try Audible and get two free audiobooks.

Free month of ConvertKit

If you’ve been around here any length of time at all, you know how I feel about ConvertKit. Writers need email lists. Period. And ConvertKit is a great way to manage it. Super easy. Super powerful. Just plain super. It’s not free (it costs $29 a month for up to 1000 subscribers), but you can click this link before April 15 to try a month for free. You’ll be able to noodle around and see how things work, so that when you’re ready for a paid service, you’ll be able to make a good choice.

This free course from Sean Wes about building an audience

While we’re on the subject of building an audience, go sign up for this free course from Sean Wes if you haven’t already. It’s really good. And it’s totally free, no strings attached. Sean is one of the most generous people I know.

Austin Kleon’s newsletter and Ryan Holiday’s reading list

Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist, has a really cool, totally free newsletter that you should sign up for right now. Once a week, on Friday, he’ll send you ten things to inspire your creativity.

I also really love Ryan Holiday’s reading recommendation email. It’s just once a month and I really look forward to it.

This Ray Bradbury video

I’ve watched this maybe  a dozen times and I always get something from it.

The Plotting Workshop

If you haven’t signed up for the free Ninja Writer’s course, The Plotting Workshop–what are you waiting for? It’s an eight week course that will help you develop a story idea and then plot it so that it practically writes itself. And it’s FREE.

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know.

Get  your free  stuff!

Come show your work on Facebook.  It can help to get feedback from other writers.

Come hang out with me during office hours. Okay, this  week, office hours are a little wonky. I’ll post the thread in the morning on 4/8/18 and answer all your questions by Monday. I’ll email Sunday morning to remind you. Make sure you click the link below to join the mailing list so you get the email about the time of the office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that.

If you’d like to support Ninja Writers, check out our Patreon page.

Don’t forget to visit our new Ninja Writers Shop!

 

The post Free Stuff You Should Sign Up For Now appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
Ninja Writers Academy: Start an Email List http://www.whatisaplot.com/start-an-email-list/ Fri, 30 Mar 2018 23:09:42 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6713 I get ideas for these lessons, a lot of the time, by paying attention to what comes through our Facebook group. This week, someone posted about starting a newsletter and I realized we haven’t talked about email marketing in a long time. Here’s the thing about having an email list: it belongs to you. It’s […]

The post Ninja Writers Academy: Start an Email List appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
ninja-writers-academy_start-an-email-list

I get ideas for these lessons, a lot of the time, by paying attention to what comes through our Facebook group. This week, someone posted about starting a newsletter and I realized we haven’t talked about email marketing in a long time.

Here’s the thing about having an email list: it belongs to you.

It’s hard to imagine Facebook or Amazon going out of business–but just watch the news right now. The president is trying to curtail Amazon. Facebook is having confidence problems. You just never know. If your entire connection to your readers relies on one of those, then if they collapse, so does your access to your fan base.

But, if you have an email list? Then you can reach out, no matter what any other service is doing.

Here are some sobering facts though:

If 20 percent of your list opens any single email you send out, that’s on the good end of normal. Thirty percent or higher means you have a very active, engaged list. (Read: you are never going to write an email that everyone reads.)

If 2 to 5 percent of the people you sent your email to actually click on a link you’ve sent them, then you’re hitting industry standard. (Read: the vast majority of the people you send an email to will not act on it.)

People are going unsubscribe, pretty much every time you send an email. Industry standard is 3 percent. When I email this blog post to all of you (there are about  15,000 Ninja Writers on my email list), I expect about 15 to 20 people to unsubscribe. (Read: don’t take unsubscribes personally–sometimes people just aren’t in the place to hear what you have to say.)

Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how you can start building an email list.  It all starts with an email service. You can use a free service like Mail Chimp when you’re getting started. The problem is that the free services are generally clunky to use. So, especially if you’re not very tech savvy, you might want to invest in your writing business (and yeah, it’s a business, even if you’re not making money yet) by signing up for a really good email service.

I use ConvertKit. There are lots of others, but since I’ve never used them, I can’t really speak to them. For your first 1000 subscribers, you’ll pay ConvertKit $29 a month. (After that, Mail Chimp and most of the free services are comparable in price with ConvertKit.) There aren’t too many products out there that I’m really, really evangelical about, but I truly love ConvertKit. You can click here before April 6 if you want to check them out for a month for free, just to at least see what a premium service is like compared to a free one.

Okay, so once you have your service set up, you need to get some folks on your list! My favorite place online to get ideas for email list building is Video Fruit. Here are some to get you started.

ASK. Seriously. You can easily build a landing page on ConvertKit (which is one reason why I love it over the free services, which pretty much require you to have a website  to link to.) Post a link to it to your Facebook page, your Instagram, where ever you connect with your friends. Send a message to your mom, your best friend, your third-grade teacher–anyone you can think of–and say: “Hey, Bob! I’m starting a newsletter about my writing. Can I add you to it?” Easy peasy.

WRITE. Start a Medium blog and include a link to your email list landing page at the bottom of every post. You can use a free service like Upscribe to add a form right to your posts. It integrates easily with your email service. Voila.

OFFER SOMETHING. Come up with something that your readers might really like. It can be shockingly small. A checklist or a one-page printable is fine. Think of it like bubble gum at the check out counter. You want it to be something very small that doesn’t take a lot of thought. You want your reader to say, “well, yeah, of course, I want  that.” Offer it in the form or on your email landing page in exchange for an email.

I think that’s enough for this week. Next week we’ll talk about actually writing your first newsletter.


Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know.

Sign up for an email server–either a free service or a free month at ConvertKit.  And ask your friends to sign up.

Come show work on Facebook.  It can help to get feedback from other writers.

Come hang out with me during office hours. I’ll be online in our Facebook Group on Sunday 3/31/2018 to answer all of your writing questions. I’ll email Sunday morning and post on Facebook to let you know exactly what time office hours will be. Make sure you click the link below to join the mailing list so you get the email about the time of the office hours.1

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that.

If you’d like to support Ninja Writers, check out our Patreon page.

Don’t forget to visit our new Ninja Writers Shop!

The post Ninja Writers Academy: Start an Email List appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
Ninja Writer’s Academy: How to Avoid Stage Directions http://www.whatisaplot.com/ninja-writers-academy-avoid-stage-directions/ Fri, 23 Mar 2018 22:25:34 +0000 http://www.whatisaplot.com/?p=6709 Welcome back to the Ninja Writer’s Academy. In case this is your first time, here’s how it works: every Friday I’ll post a quick writing lesson. You take the weekend to work on it. On Sunday, I’ll hold office hours on Facebook where I’ll answer all of your writing questions. (The time fluctuates because such […]

The post Ninja Writer’s Academy: How to Avoid Stage Directions appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>
stage-direction

Welcome back to the Ninja Writer’s Academy. In case this is your first time, here’s how it works: every Friday I’ll post a quick writing lesson. You take the weekend to work on it. On Sunday, I’ll hold office hours on Facebook where I’ll answer all of your writing questions. (The time fluctuates because such is the life of a soccer mom, but office hours are usually at noon PST. Make sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to sign up for the academy to get an email reminder on Sundays.)


This has come up on our Facebook page a few times recently.

How do you avoid writing that reads like stage direction?

Here’s what I’m talking about:

John walked across the room. He sat on the edge of the sofa. He looked across the room at Mary. She was perched on the back of a chair, glaring at him.  They had been fighting all day and the atmosphere in the room was tense.  He was so done with this.

Can you see the problem? Every sentence starts with either a proper name or a pronoun. John, Mary, he, she, they. It winds up reading like a list of actions, or stage directions, instead of a paragraph in a novel.

So, how do we fix it? I have a couple of ideas.

Use sensory details

Sensory details are just what they sound like: details that involve the five senses.

So, instead of He sat on the edge of the sofa, you could write An aching pain radiated down his back as he perched on the edge of the sofa, but John wouldn’t let himself settle back and get comfortable.

Show, don’t tell

This is something you already know. Instead of telling us that John and Mary that the atmosphere in the room is tense, put us in the room with them and let us feel it. Even her breathing irritated him, the way it huffed in and out. Like a freight train or an angry bull. 

Also, hopefully, you’ve done the work of showing that they’ve been fighting all day already. You don’t need to repeat it here, which brings me to the next point.

Leave out the boring stuff

Do we need to know that John walked across the room? Is it important?  Probably not. You can just cut that particular stage direction out altogether.

Also, like I mentioned in the point above, you don’t have to tell stuff that you’ve already shown. Trust your reader to know that John and Mary have been fighting all day if you’re shown the fights.

Let’s look at that paragraph again, just with the changes I’ve outlined here.

An aching pain radiated down his back as he perched on the edge of the sofa, but John wouldn’t let himself settle back and get comfortable. He looked across the room at Mary. She was perched on the back of a chair, glaring at him. Even her breathing irritated him, the way it huffed in and out. Like a freight train or an angry bull. He was so done with this.

See? Not a list of stage directions anymore. And just one more line of space, we get to feel how angry John is with Mary and how tense the situation is between them. When John says that he’s so done with this, suddenly, we believe him.

You could go even further. Instead of telling us that Mary is perched on the back of the chair, show it. The back of his favorite chair bit into the back of her upper thighs as she pinned him with a pale blue glare.

And technically, you might not need to say that he’s so done with this. Instead, show how he is fed up with an action.

So one last time.

Original:

John walked across the room. He sat on the edge of the sofa. He looked across the room at Mary. She was perched on the back of a chair, glaring at him.  They had been fighting all day and the atmosphere in the room was tense.  He was so done with this.

Better:

An aching pain radiated down his back as he perched on the edge of the sofa, but John wouldn’t let himself settle back and get comfortable. He looked across the room at Mary. The back of his favorite chair bit into the back of her upper thighs as she pinned him with a pale blue glare. Even her breathing irritated him, the way it huffed in and out. Like a freight train or an angry bull. 

“I want a divorce.”


Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know.

Take a passage of stage direction from your novel and fix it.

Come show work on Facebook.  It can help to get feedback from other writers.

Come hang out with me during office hours. I’ll be online in our Facebook Group on Sunday 3/25/2018 to answer all of your writing questions. I’ll email Sunday morning and post on Facebook to let you know exactly what time office hours will be. Make sure you click the link below to join the mailing list so you get the email about the time of the office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that.

If you’d like to support Ninja Writers, check out our Patreon page.

Don’t forget to visit our new Ninja Writers Shop!

The post Ninja Writer’s Academy: How to Avoid Stage Directions appeared first on Ninja Writers.

]]>