<![CDATA[inyourownbloom.com - Blog]]>Thu, 26 Jan 2023 12:49:58 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[The Telling Detail: Using Specificity To Tell Your Stories]]>Fri, 20 Jan 2023 23:46:39 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/the-telling-detail-using-specificity-to-tell-your-storiesPicture


One of the cardinal rules of storytelling is: make it specific. Any time you use stories, specificity helps to translate ideas, which live on an abstract level, to the concrete. 

So don’t be afraid to get real specific in your stories.
 
The trick though is not just using specifics to set a scene, describe a character, or illustrate an action. Good writers understand how to use the telling detail. 

Telling details are those details that tell us more than just what’s on the surface. 

Here are two examples of telling details.

"…the mother shrouded in a filthy ski jacket and tattered pants, draped over her child's closed casket."

The detail, Marion Roach Smith explains in her book about writing from life, relays the mother's grief, "stitched into the details about the jacket." (The word choice "shrouded" also echoes the death shroud, which further reinforces the point. )

Here's another example from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, where she introduces the character Nick:

"He's wearing the uniform . . . but his cap is titled at a jaunty angle and his sleeves are rolled to the elbow, showing his forearms, tanned but with a stipple of dark hairs. He has a cigarette stuck in the corner of his mouth, which shows that he too has something he can trade on the black market." 

The details - and the narrator's observation of the cigarette and what it means - hints that Nick may be predisposed to breaking the rules in this rigid society. 

Don't worry too much about trying to find the telling detail in your first draft: often these become clearer as you get an understanding of your story's themes. But it's important to be aware of them. Next time you're reading a good book, look for examples of the telling details and see how they add to the story.


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<![CDATA[You Are Not the Poem (or Essay or Story): Detaching From Your Writing]]>Tue, 17 Jan 2023 19:07:06 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/you-are-not-the-poem-or-essay-or-story-detaching-from-your-writingOne of my favorite lessons from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones is the lesson of detachment. In one chapter called “We Are Not the Poem,” she says: “Don’t identify too strongly with your work.” 
One takeaway is that we can remember to check our egos when we are asking for feedback on our work.
I have been repeatedly impressed by the brave students I have seen who have written and shared their stories about themselves and their lives—difficult, hard, sad stories about depression, suicide, and loss— and eagerly awaited feedback.
They wanted to make their writings the best they could be. They recognized that these stories were important, and that sharing them was powerful, and that by checking their egos and hearing honest feedback, they could make their stories even better.
It almost seems paradoxical—how can you detach from something that you are investing so much energy into? In a way, it’s like a religion. You have to trust, and have faith. 
For some reason the image that comes to me is of a railway car being detached from an engine. Your ego is like an empty (or even full) cargo car. The engine drags it behind. It may slow it down. Perhaps the fuel you need is in it. Instead, detach the car from the engine.
Put the fuel in the engine. Make the engine the glorious best it can be.
Make sure everything is working and in place and that the engineer who is driving it is competent and alert and not swigging from a vodka bottle.
Once everything is in place, unhook that car from the engine and let it go. Let your writing out into the world and just watch what happens, as if you were merely someone waiting for it to pass by. 


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<![CDATA[Lessons at 52: Just Hang On]]>Mon, 16 Jan 2023 16:11:09 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/lessons-at-52-just-hang-onPicture
Once, not too longago,I was so upset that I drank half a bottle of wine and then sat on the floor crying. Fortunately, I had a friend nearby. I was feeling bad about something I should have done, that affected another friend’s life. My friend had shown forgiveness and understanding, and now I needed to show those things to myself. 
If there’s onething being alive 52 years has taught me, it’s that pain doesn’t last forever, at least not at the sharp, almost-unable-to-breathe way it first hits.

That doesn’t of course mean it doesn’t come back.

And it doesn’t mean that it might still be there as dull aches that come up. Some moments, some days can be simply unbearable. And once you’ve been through enough of those moments, you know you just need to hang on and get through it, to just let it flow until it’s ready to release.

Like holding a crying baby.

Like hanging on tight on a roller coaster ride for one more heart-dropping descent or loop-de-loop.

If you just hang on and be patient, you’ll find yourself back with your feet on the ground. And you’ll look up at the people on the roller coaster ride, shrieking and think, I got through that, and look, there are other people who are going through it now, and in the end, while we all might survive it a little differently--some with a smile of exhilaration wanting another go, some with a grim face of “I did it,” and some will stalk away, deciding they never want to do THAT again.

Of course we don’t always have a choice about living through the pain. But we must just hang on, and trust that we’ll get through it. 



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<![CDATA[January 14th, 2023]]>Sat, 14 Jan 2023 16:34:36 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/january-14th-2023<![CDATA[How To Cut the Flab (in your writing): A demo]]>Fri, 13 Jan 2023 15:06:38 GMThttp://inyourownbloom.com/blog/how-to-cut-the-flab-in-your-writing-a-demo
Writing short-form content has taught writers a lot about writing more  concisely. 

But how you get an idea across in under 300 words? 


First you need to pick one idea. Just one nugget.

If you’re not sure what that nugget is, write about it until you figure it out. Or talk it out with someone  (make sure they don’t interrupt you to tell you about the funny thing the dog did at the park ). They can ask questions, though. That might help. 

Once you’ve figured out the gist of what you’re saying, you can go back and cut the flab. 

What’s flab? 

Unnecessary words. You need to chisel away anything extraneous.

What’s extraneous? 

Anything that’s not serving the purpose of:

1) engaging the reader and 
2) expressing your main idea clearly.
 

Warning: Don’t edit out too much of the voice-y stuff. (For more about voice, read this post by Tim Denning.) 

Want more? Read on to see previous drafts of this post, where you can see how I revised and edited it from over 400 words to under 220. Notice that version #2 was actually longer - but that's ok, because I was still working out my ideas and wording. Note that I also decided that, instead of just including examples, I referred interested readers to see these drafts instead. Also, note, I edited it even more than the drafts shown here. 

FIRST DRAFT

VERSION #1 (405 words)

Your writing probably needs to lose some weight. 
Writing short-form content has taught writers a lot about writing more  concisely. 
But how do you do it? How do you get an idea across in under 300 words? 
Well, obviously first you need to pick a nugget, a piece, one idea. 
If you’re not sure what that nugget is, I suggest writing about it until you figure it out. Or talk it out with someone  (make sure they don’t interrupt you to tell you about the funny thing the dog did at the park ). 
So first don’t worry too much about how short your writing is. Get the ideas out. Once you’ve figured out the gist of what you’re saying, you can go back and cut the flab. 
What’s flab? 
Unnecessary words. 
How do you know if a word, phrase or sentence is unnecessary? 
First, you need to have a clear idea of the main idea of your piece. Got it? Good. 
Then you need to chisel. 
What’s extraneous? 
Warning: Don’t edit out the voice-y stuff. But make that stuff work. 
Extraneous is anything that unnecessarily repeats an idea or adds too much information. 
Extraneous is also any wording that might turn off your reader.
Here’s an example. Below is paragraph number #5, before I cut the “fluff.”
If you’re not sure what that nugget is, I suggest writing about it until you figure it out. Or talk it out with someone – that can help (make sure they don’t interrupt you to tell you about the funny thing the dog did at the park – you need to be able to talk without interruption). 
I took out two pieces here: “that can help” and “you need to be able to talk without interruption.” Now, these phrases are not really that extraneous – they do help drive home a point. But, in writing “small” and really being fierce about cutting the flab, I can still make the point without those words. And while the bit about the dog is not strictly essential, it’s doing some work – providing a vivid example. 
So try it. Pick a topic, write a page or two, and then go back, and see what can be cut out. What’s unnecessary? What speaks to your central, core idea? What will grab the reader? 
You don’t want to cut anything that might potentially 
*get your idea across in the clearest possible way
*grab the reader’s attention 



 VERSION #2 – 440 WORDS


Your writing probably needs to lose some weight. 
Writing short-form content has taught writers a lot about writing more  concisely. 
But how you get an idea across in under 300 words? 
First you need to pick one idea. Just one nugget.
If you’re not sure what that nugget is, I suggest writing about it until you figure it out. Or talk it out with someone  (make sure they don’t interrupt you to tell you about the funny thing the dog did at the park ). 
Once you’ve figured out the gist of what you’re saying, you can go back and cut the flab. 
What’s flab? 
Unnecessary words. 
How do you know if a word, phrase or sentence is unnecessary? 
First, you need to have a clear idea of the main idea of your piece. Got it? Good. 
Then you need to chisel anything extraneous.
What’s extraneous? 
Anything that’s not serving the purpose of:
1) engaging the reader and 
2) expressing an idea clearly. 
Warning: Don’t edit out the voice-y stuff. (For more about voice, read this post by Tim Denning.) 
Extraneous is anything that unnecessarily repeats an idea or adds too much information. 
Extraneous is also any wording that might turn off your reader.
Here’s an example. Below is paragraph number #5, before I cut the “fluff.”
If you’re not sure what that nugget is, I suggest writing about it until you figure it out. Or talk it out with someone – that can help (make sure they don’t interrupt you to tell you about the funny thing the dog did at the park – you need to be able to talk without interruption). 
I took out two pieces here: “that can help” and “you need to 
Warning: Don’t try to write your first draft without the flab. Everything you put down is potentially gold. 
Want more? Go here to see previous drafts of this post. 

VERSION 3 (304)
In this version, I've highlighted a few of the areas I edited. Notice how I cut for repetition and unnecessary words. 

Your writing probably needs to lose some weight. [DECIDED TO CUT THIS LINE]
Writing short-form content has taught writers a lot about writing more  concisely. 
But how you get an idea across in under 300 words? 
First you need to pick one idea. Just one nugget.
If you’re not sure what that nugget is, I suggest writing write [REPLACED "I suggest writing" with one word, "write"] about it until you figure it out. Or talk it out with someone  (make sure they don’t interrupt you to tell you about the funny thing the dog did at the park ). 
Once you’ve figured out the gist of what you’re saying, you can go back and cut the flab. 
What’s flab? 
Unnecessary words. 
How do you know if a word, phrase or sentence is unnecessary? 
First, you need to have a clear idea of the main idea of your piece. Got it? Good.  [CUT - REALIZED I ALREADY SAID THIS ABOVE]
Then you need to chisel away anything extraneous.
What’s extraneous? 
Anything that’s not serving the purpose of:
1) engaging the reader and 
2) expressing an idea clearly. 
Warning: Don’t edit out the voice-y stuff. (For more about voice, read this post by Tim Denning.) 
Here’s an example. Below is paragraph number #4, before I cut the “fluff.”
I took out two pieces here: “that can help” and “you need to be able to talk without interruption.” Now, these phrases are not really that extraneous – they do help drive home a point. But, in writing “small” and really being fierce about cutting the flab, I can still make the point without those words. And while the bit about the dog is not strictly essential, it’s doing some work – providing a vivid example to help engage the reader (I hope).

Warning: Don’t try to write your first draft without the flab. Everything you put down is potentially gold. 
[CUT ALL THIS AS I DECIDED TO SHOW FULL DRAFTS INSTEAD] 

Want more? Go here to see previous drafts of this post. 






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