yeah write #64 summer series grid is open: hosted by saalon muyo

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Yeah write #65 summer series grid is open here

 

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Week One: writing a clear narrative

This week’s prompts are at the very end of this post. Please welcome our first guest editor Saalon Muyo who tweets as @saalon and blogs at Saalon Muyo. If you have any questions or need any clarification on today’s topic or prompts, please feel free to begin a discussion in comments.

If you’re here just to hang out, click here for the yeah write #64 hangout grid.

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It’s All About You

[dropcaps_default] L [/dropcaps_default] et’s just get this out of the way. This is all about you. Bask in that for a little bit. You don’t have to worry about anyone else’s problems. No one’s going to break in to shout about how they had an experience just like that but oh my god it was even CRAZIER. You’ve got a blank page and all it wants to do is listen to what you have to say. Sounds like therapy without the copay, right? This is going to be fun.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking there’s a catch. Of course there’s a catch. What do I look like, Goodwill?

This is one of those great power/great responsibility deals. You get to say whatever you want, about anything that comes to mind, but unless you’re planning on hiding your therapy-without-the-copay writing in a shoebox somewhere, you’re asking someone else to stop being narcissistic long enough to read it. Unlike the therapist-with-the-copay who’s getting paid to listen to anything you have to say no matter how many tangents, meanderings and narrative dead-ends there are along the way, Your Supportive Audience is hoping you treat their time with care and respect. Blogging is a spectator sport, and your audience wants blood. Er, I mean, they want a well written narrative. Which could potentially involve blood, I suppose.

This is where it gets a little complicated. Our lives? Not exactly a goldmine of clear narratives. Sure, there was that really interesting thing that happened today, but before that happened there were these other slightly less interesting things, like how your cat caught a mouse and left it in your shoe, then the neighbors were fighting so loud you could hear them through the walls, but Jill called while you were trying to listen and that was kind of funny because…

…see where I’m going, here? In the middle of whatever story you’re trying to tell are all these little stories. Those little stories are really distracting. They confuse your sense of what to write and, if you can’t get a handle on them, they’ll confuse your audience. Telling a really good story about yourself means deciding, first and foremost, exactly what that story is. This story is all about you, but what part of you is it about? What was it about this story that stuck with you, that made you desperate to tell it publicly?

Without that core, your story is just an event. Remember getting gotten glossy-eyed reading those Raccoon Chased Into Middle School Air Conditioning Unit stories in the local newspaper? That’s an event. What you’re telling is a story, and stories have a beating heart that a mere event (or series of same) lacks. Before you worry about how to tell a good story you need to find that heart, cutting away everything else in your way. You need to find the this must be told at the expense of all the little details and distracting events.

It’s there. The reason. The little pearl that made this particularly story stick with you. You might be able to unearth it before you start writing, or it might emerge as you start writing what you think the story is. Either way, don’t rest until you’ve found it. Whatever that Reason is, if it compelled you to write, it’ll compel your audience to stick with you when they read it. Find the heart of the story, then mercilessly discard everything else.

Now you’ve got the why. What about the how? Stay tuned. That’s next.

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find the heart of the story 

Very very very important, you guys. This is Erica M talking now, by the way. We are going to use the provided prompts as a diving board into your stories. Choose one, then let the prompt lead your brain in and out of 1,000 places. Whatever ripple it creates, that is the story we want to read. Do not under any circumstance use the actual prompt in your story, do not refer to it anywhere in your post, not even as a footnote. The prompt is the entry point for your imagination.

Does the image of thunderstorms remind you of summers on your grandparents’ farm and summers on your grandparents’ farm somehow reminds you of that one summer you spent in Belgium and that one Belgian summer brings to mind that time you got into an altercation at La Guardia with a gate attendant and ended up on the no-fly list? The no-fly story is the one we want to read with nary a raindrop mentioned. For if we end up reading 35 posts on thunderstorms, I will cut somebody, and no one wants that.

Keep your writing style! Do you tell stories with humor? Prose? Verse? Photos? Illustrations? Keep doing that. This is not the time to go all Thomas Pynchon on everybody because that would be perfectly awful.

Have fun! Remember to cut away at everything unnecessary to your story. Everything. I can’t wait to read what everyone comes up with. No more than 500 words. If it’s not ready for prime time today, no worries: link it up Tuesday, Wednesday or by noon EDT [-4 GMT] on Thursday.

Read the summer FAQ page for other details. You’re awesome for being enthusiastically prepared.

The prompts have been graciously provided to us all summer long by Tom Slatin who’s written a wonderful list of 130 journal prompts. He’s asked us to send him the links to the best ones because he’s a great guy and wants to check out your best work.

Choose one. Let your imagination loose. Link up when it’s ready. Don’t forget to badge your post. 

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  • Write about your greatest fear
  • Describe a time in your life when everything turned out fine despite the odds
  • If you could start your life over from birth, what is the one thing you would change about yourself?

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Yeah write #64 summer grid is open…


37 Responses to “yeah write #64 summer series grid is open: hosted by saalon muyo”

  1. Love this! Is there a cut off on the number of links you’ll accept? If so, hopefully, I will be back in time.

  2. I think this is a great idea. I love seeing all the different ways people react to the same question.

  3. This is great writing advice Eric! I wish I could print it and tape it up on my wall. I have neither a printer nor a wall at the moment. So I will just have to hold it in my heart ;)

  4. Glad I made it and I’ve loved reading the other posts so far.

    I don’t feel like I’m usually a rambler, but 500 words was hard! I was definitely cutting and felt like I could have said so much more! Maybe I shouldn’t have chosen such an emotionally charged experience :)

    Thank you so much for this challenge – it was a learning experience for sure. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

    • I’m glad you made it to the grid! 500 words murders me, seriously. Writing less than 1,000 words drives me nuts, but it’s (unfortunately) a good exercise to occasionally try to keep yourself to as few words as possible. It does make the longer things you write tighter and more focused. That doesn’t mean I enjoy it, though. ;)

  5. I am so pleased about the challenge of the summer writer’s series. I feel like I’m competing against my self instead of all the other bloggers, which is really my preference. It was a good experience forcing myself to be ruthless with the words. Thank you!

  6. Wonderful advice, @saalon. It’s so true. “Write what you know” should (almost) never be “transcribe an experience.” There’s a reason why great stories start right before a major event. Most of our lives are boring as all get-out. And I mean GET-OUT! Just because something happened doesn’t mean it should be written down and shared formally in writing. (I consider choosing to link-up with Yeah Write formal.) That’s what an excited phone call is for.

    Very excited to see what folks submit!

  7. This is my first time actually joining the grid and I am equal parts nervous, excited, nauseated and inspired! You always remember your first time.

    • I was a newcomer less than a month ago, and it’s completely overwhelming, isn’t it? I’m glad to have you on the grid for my week here! I’m looking forward to getting to your post! Welcome, welcome, welcome!

  8. I love it! I didn’t know that was you from y our V post a few weeks ago. I love the advice and I am not sure I know how to do what you are suggesting. In fact, I am pretty sure I didn’t do a great job with my post, BUT i had a great time trying and I am willing to learn. I hope that’s enough.

    • Yes, I am, in fact, the V-Day post guy.

      Writing advice is really, really tough. Both to give and to take, because the advice that works for me has been so internalized, so ingrained into the way I work, that I have to separate it somehow from it and try to turn it into something helpful. I’m never really sure if I’ve accomplished that when I’m done. I just hit send and hope. And taking it is hard for the same reason: Even if you think advice sounds great, it takes a long time to take someone else’s advice and reshape it into something that fits into the way you work. So don’t be concerned if it only makes sorta-sense. If it’s advice that ends up working for you, it’ll get there naturally as you write and edit and get feedback and do it all over again.

      Being willing to learn and put yourself out there by publishing your words isn’t just enough. It’s awesome, and it’s the only thing we can ever do as writers. Learn, write, repeat. Forever. Thank you for joining the fun!

  9. Love this idea.
    Had to go out of town last week and didn’t get to read or comments on posts. Did get to see some of the ones I follow!
    Thanks

  10. Many times, when I try to write to a prompt, I go blank. I don’t know if it’s the lack of sleep, but this one was easy, once I figured out how I was going to handle it. I know I’m quite guilty of wordiness. This is going to help a lot.

    I like that we get more time to write and don’t have to sit and wait for the grid to open just to get a spot.

    I’m really looking forward to more of this summer series.

  11. I love your writing Saalon. It flows so smoothly and it’s truly an effortless read. Thanks for being one of the guest editors!! We are in good hands!

  12. I am so excited about the summer writing series! As someone who tends to be long-winded with my writing, this will help me learn to reign-in my posts.

  13. I’m very excited by this week’s prompts and I really love love LOVE the advice given by Saalon in this post. I hope everyone enjoys the week, too!

    • I’m hearing your post is *awesome* and I can’t wait to read it!

      • I hope you enjoy it! I’m a newbie here — last week was my first on the Challenge Grid and the previous two were my only two on the Open Grid. I have really, really appreciated the work that these writers put into their posts and love reading them — they’re all gems in their own way. I’m learning so much!

  14. Our power has been out for 4 days since the dc storm and may not be until Friday. Blog less fit now and have teensy glimpses on iPhone. Missing yeah write this week.

  15. Love the series, love the prompts! I wish the prompts had been given before the grid opened up, because I’m afraid people will fill it with whatever just to get on and then I won’t be able to get in! But either way, I’m going to take my time with this and hope there’s still a spot when I get done.

    Thanks!!

    • Sara, there’s something to worry about! Erica is moderating the grid over the summer, so if the grid gets filled with posts that don’t fit the topic and prompt, they’ll get moved to the hangout grid. Take your time and write your heart out. It’ll be great.

  16. Great advice, Saalon! And as with most good advice, it sounds easy – “just get to the heart of things” – and then is incredibly difficult. Can’t wait to see what comes into the grid…and now i have to go think about things I’m afraid of but without writing about fear. hmmm….

    • Thank you so much, Deborah! The simple advice is always the hardest, which is why I end up repeating it to myself over and over again on…well, any place that’ll let me say it. I’m really writing to myself in these posts and hoping that the advice is worth it to someone else, too.

      • Excellent advice for this newbie, thank you! I am so excited that I found YeahWrite and even more excited for this Summer Series. I haven’t entered a writing contest since the 4th grade. I feel like a kid again, but my stories have less to do about horses now.

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