Presentation Formula

Ken Gallacher was our guest speaker in June. His topic was “How to break through writers block and developing a formula for presentations.”
Ken used a white board and wrote down his outline structure for making stories and content fresh for an audience.

I. Lead – What is your most engaging story about your topic? (write this third, then go to #4, 5, 6, and 7)
II. Theme – Why do they need to know about it (write this second)
III. Body – What do you want them to know? (WRITE THIS FIRST)
A. what happened in the past with this topic? (#4)
B. what’s happening now? (#5)
C. what’s happening in the future? (#6)
IV. Close – How do they benefit? (#7) [tie to the theme or lead if possible]

-Don’t build it in outline order; build it in the order of these questions:

  1. What do you want them to know?
  2. Why do they need to know?
  3. What is your most engaging story to go along with this topic [Ken told us a story about a train at a mine in Eureka]
-The Lead hooks.
  • Controversy is good bait, but is a counterfeit form. It never sustains.
  • News headlines–the word “could” is used as bait–gas prices could go up; an asteroid could hit the earth
  • A true leader does not use controversy as bait–a leader unites. They bring people together and find common ground.
  • The Lead in an article is usually the title
-Always have two perspectives:
  • What YOU know
  • What it’s like to NOT know what you know
-The author’s or presenter’s goal is to create a bridge between the two
  • use analogies, metaphor, simile–something they can relate to
-When presenting, get out with the people. Walk around.
-How to remember your outline? Create an acronym from the outline. Use a key word from each step and then take the first letter to make a phrase you remember.
-Tell stories—you remember them better and so will they.
-Brains are wired to memorize in sequence—Once upon a time . . . this happened, then this happened . . . and they all lived happily ever after.
-Stories are GOLD—collect them
-Presentations need to be 80% stories and 20% content (the points you want to make). Your stories will drive home and support your content.
  • Story (90 seconds)
  • Point
  • Story (90 seconds)
  • Point
  • Story (the story should be relevant to the point you’re trying to make)
-If you need to expand the presentation, expand the Body (III, above).
  • Do 5 stories.
  • Don’t overdo the points—go heavier on the stories.
-To come up with stories about yourself, make a list of things that went wrong in your life and how it changed you and how you emerged victorious.

-Check out Patricia Fripp, a master of presenting:
-Check out–#2031 is “How to give an engaging presentation.”

Homework: Look at how titles are structured in news stories. See what they use to draw you in.

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Lose the Writer’s Rut with Travel

aloha-colorful-flowers-pictureAloha and Hello Fellow Writers,

Whether you have the chance to travel, or are content to explore Utah’s unique locales, summer is a terrific time to find new favorite places. Go see new sights, taste new flavors, and try new things. Adventure awaits you!

It is too easy to fall into a rut with the same schedule, same routine, and same favorite eateries. However, the brain thrives on change. Every time you experience something new, the brain must create new pathways to process the experience. These pathways open up new and different thinking patterns, which, in turn, can fuel greater creativity. It also can give a greater sense of fulfillment, because you can proudly say, “Hey, I’ve tried that!”

Contemplating trying new things will open up a different palette of sensations and emotions. The greatest one of these is fear. What if you won’t like it? What if it’s boring, or too loud? Well, what if? Unless it’s physically dangerous, or you are allergic to it, do it anyway. Take your fear by both hands and tell it who’s boss. There is something to be learned, even from experiences we don’t enjoy.

One of the most prevalent emotions for fictional characters to experience is fear. You’ll write about it much better if you allow yourself to experience it from time to time.

I’m eager to hear about all the marvelous and scary things you find along the way!

Yours in the craft!

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Seizing the Day


Hello Fellow Patrons of the Page –

Summer is coming to a close and it is time to reflect on the experiences that have come our way, both big and small.  I hope that everyone seized the day in one way or another and that new memories have been made. If not, there is still time! Remember, new doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, only something you haven’t done before.

Some of my summer memories will include taking my family to Moab and visiting Arches National Park, eating snowcones at sunset, watching hummingbirds dive bomb each other at the feeder, and soaking up a little too much sun.  It’s true, I had hoped to have a few more stretches of writing time woven in here and there, but nobody’s perfect. My goal for the year was to submit something every month to a contest or open call, and I’m pleased to say I’ve managed to do so.

As for the coming fall, it is my hope that we all find the inspiration we need to continue on creating and shaping our works-in-progress. Every hour spent working and editing is another hour closer to finishing!

Yours in the craft,

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Action Scenes

Ali Cross gave a fabulous lesson on how to craft a great fight scene and up its POW factor.

Pack a Punch:

  • Be grounded

Stand up and make the movement you are writing about and notice how your body feels doing it.

  • Be Realistic

Consider the abilities of your character—don’t make them a martial arts expert unless they’ve been studying for years and years.

Consider the negative and positive effects of adrenaline.

  • Be Imaginative

Be aware of the environment. How does it help or hinder the action?


Order in Action:

Know the purpose of the scene—is it plot driven or character driven?

  • Choreography

If plot driven, show a few action-based, blow-by-blow details.

If character driven, give personal, internal thought.

The POV will also determine how much detail is given.

  • Tempo

Vary the speed.

Use one-word paragraphs interspersed with longer segments.

Consider your reader.

If a longer scene has a down time, add a moment of introspection.


Write Wisely:

Word choice


Expand your vocabulary.

If a car chase, use the right vocabulary—RPM, drift, grinding/shifting gears, burning rubber—this is not the time to explain what these items are.

-Use strong active verbs

Shane stood at the edge of the water, the gun in his hand. (first draft)

Shane ________at the water’s edge, the gun _____ in his hand.

Pick verbs to show action. Then pick verbs that change the tone.

Shane crouched at the water’s edge, the gun smoked in his hand.

Shane teetered at the water’s edge, the gun dangled in his hand.

These details can be fixed in the revisions. Get through the first draft then later punch up the action.

Nothing passive in action scenes—the subject is doing the action.

Mike was swarmed by demons. (Passive)

The demons swarmed over Mike. (Subject is active)

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Writing is Scary

business-card1-pngHello Everyone!

If you are anything like me, you are thrilled at the cooler temperatures and even more thrilled to have kids back in school. Summer filled itself with the whole rainbow of crazy and I’ve been itching to get my writing time back. Of course, now that I have a few precious hours of kid-free time back each week, I’ve found a whole new energy to get the house in order instead of working on my WIP.

Procrastination is that magical fairy that whispers, “Before you work on that chapter, you really should fold the laundry” or “If you are going to tackle that scene, you should go find the chocolate first.” Before you know it, you are vacuuming under the oven and wondering if it’s worth it to repaint the baseboards.

We’ve all done it. It’s okay.

The hardest part is just getting started, especially in a project that scares us. We start to think that we can’t, or worse, shouldn’t try things that are challenging.

The truth is, writing is scary.

When we let truth bleed out onto the page, we risk allowing ourselves to feel, and feel deeply. It can hurt. We cry. We clench our fists in anger. We fly free and soar. When the writing starts to flow, it feels as if we can delve into the very bedrock of human emotions.

So, yes, it’s scary, and we don’t want to start.

Do it anyway!

Yours in the craft,

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Preparing for NaNoWriMo


976a2-13938573_1106450169421877_3533276810722257230_nDearest ghouls, ghosts, and gruesome ghasts,

Here we are once more, facing another beautiful autumn with its vibrant colors, harvest smells, and hearty foods. October for many of us is preparation time for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For those of you planning your exciting new projects here are a few words of advice.

  • Stay true to you—if aren’t an outliner, don’t feel pressured to become one. If you are one, go for it! Now’s the best time to plan out something new and awesome. Aren’t sure what you are? This is a perfect time to experiment on a different way to plan your next project. You’ll never know what works best for you unless you try different strategies.
  • Pace yourself—it’s easy to get carried away with planning. Remember, the big push is in November and you don’t want to be tired of your project before the start date rolls around. Part of your planning needs to include something practical, figuring out how long it will take you to meet your daily goal. Take a few timed tests so you have a good idea of how long you’ll need to schedule for each writing day in November.  Often it isn’t as long as you think.
  • Reward yourself—sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference. Think of things that you will work for and stock up. These can include treats, favorite drinks, favorite songs, you name it. For me, it’s Jellie Bellies, hot cocoa, Pentatonix, pedicures, and Doctor Who.
  • Last of all—don’t stress it.  Stress is the mind killer. The more you worry about writing, the less you will actually write. Make it fun, make it enjoyable, and most of all enjoy the process. I hope to hear amazing things come the end of November.

Yours in the craft,

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Giving Critique

critiqueisnotscary1.  Ask the author what kind of feedback they want.

  • Stick to their guidelines
  • If you are beta reading for structure or plot, you’ll need to skip over typos and grammar
  • On the other hand—If you notice a writer making a consistent grammar or word mistake you could make one note to point this out (don’t highlight every time they make that mistake). This was very helpful with the first beta read of my first MS as I didn’t realize I was breaking a punctuation rule with each bit of spoken dialogue.
  • Giving the author more than they asked for is a waste of your time and not helpful for them

2. Be Honest.

  • w/o hurting feelings
  • Let the writer know the good and bad of the story
  • Assume any writer asking for your opinion will be big enough to handle a negative response.
  • Along with this, if your personal bias, reading style, comfort level, general taste makes it impossible to give constructive criticism, give it back to the author.  It’s okay to say NO.

3. It’s Not Personal.

  • Check your personal agenda at the door. If you don’t like rainy scenes, or a particular word, or redheads, keep it to yourself.
  • There is a difference between pet peeves based on technical mistakes and pet peeves specific only to us and our personalities

4. Be Specific.

  • Point out exactly what parts you like and, if you can, why
    • “this sentence moved me to tears”
    • “this description is so real it made me feel like I was flying”
  • Sometimes I just put a smiley face in the comments bubble or margin when I like a particular passage
  • Also, when there are problems, give the writer something concrete on which to build revisions:
    • Example from Paris Lights: a friend pointed out a passage was telling and that I knew something was wrong with it because I rushed through it as I read it out loud. I looked over the sentences and wondered how to fix it. This info is essential for the reader to know. Then my friend pointed to another paragraph and said “This. I need to see more like this,” and I knew how I could fix the problem spot. Pointing out something she liked gave me a clue of how I could rework the problem.
  • It is important to point out the good bits.

While you are being specific . . .
5. Avoid YOU statements and WHY questions.

  • You” statements and “why” questions put people on the defensive
  • Instead of: “You didn’t put enough character development into chapter 4, ” try: “I need to see more character development in chapter 4”
  • Instead of: “Why did you . . .,” try: “I don’t understand . . .”

Some other critique phrases you could use:

  • I don’t understand . . . (whatever it is).
  • The detail seems . . . (to slow the pace, insufficient, disjointed . . .).
  • The . . . (character, setting, etc.) is coming across . . . (feisty, depressing, important, etc.). Is that the intent?
  • This scene gives the feeling of (irritation, happiness, frustration . . .) Is that the intent?
  • How did . . . (Sally get to the store, John saw down the tree, etc.)? (Use to point out missing information.)
  • Wouldn’t a character . . . (who has such and such a trait) do or not do . . . (such and such)? (Use to point out inconsistent behavior.)
  • Wasn’t . . . (John a blue-eyed man, Sally submissive, etc.) in Chapter (xxx)? (Use to point out inconsistent information.)
  • Carol’s (goal) seems to be . . . Is that correct?
  • I’m confused about John’s motivation.
  • And most important . . . I really liked . . . (end on a strength)

A few guidelines for authors:

  • Be clear in what type of feedback you want
  • Show your beta reader gratitude
  • Don’t argue or take offence
  • Give the edit some time to sink in, especially if it’s harsher than expected
  • Use the “two people have to agree rule” before making any changes
    • One of those two people can be you, but if you can’t agree with the suggestion put it on the back burner. If another reader points out the same thing you may need to reevaluate
  • Respect the reader’s time
    • If you have a tight deadline be up front with that and be gracious if a reader can’t meet your timeline and must decline.
  • Return the favor

The main overarching rule for both writers and readers is to treat each other with

Kindness & Respect
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