Creative Writing Project: Energize Your Manuscript | Dani and Steve Alcorn | Skillshare

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Creative Writing Project: Energize Your Manuscript

teacher avatar Dani and Steve Alcorn, Authors, Mentors, Online Instructors

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Writing Big


    • 3.

      Writing Well


    • 4.

      Project: Polish That Page


    • 5.

      Next Steps


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About This Class

The Creative Writing Project series helps you complete a novel, short story or screenplay. Each class focuses on a specific step in the creative process, from brainstorming to publication. The goal is to get you published!

This class helps you energize and polish your manuscript through techniques such as writing big and writing well. When you complete this class you will have a manuscript that sings, and you’ll be ready to publish you Creative Writing Project.

The classes in this series include:

  • Creative Writing Project: Brainstorm Your Story
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Character
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure Your Story
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 1
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 2
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 3
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure a Scene
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Setting
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Great Dialogue
  • Creative Writing Project: Energize Your Manuscript
  • Creative Writing Project: Publish Your Book
  • Creative Writing Project: Market Your Book

Meet Your Teacher

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Dani and Steve Alcorn

Authors, Mentors, Online Instructors


Steve Alcorn is the author of many novels and non-fiction books. His publications include mysteries, young adult novels, a romance novel, children's books, history and non-fiction about theme park design, and the writer's guide How to Fix Your Novel.

Dani Alcorn is the Chief Operating Officer of Writing Academy, a writing instructor, and author of Young Adult fiction, screenplays, and a screenwriting handbook. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northwestern University, where she majored in Psychology and Radio, Television, & Film.

Steve and Dani have helped more than 50,000 aspiring authors structure their novels. Many of their students are now published authors.

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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to the creative writing project. I'm Steve Alcorn, your instructor and mentor. These classes air all about projects. They're all about creating your own original novel, short story or screenplay step by Step one project at a time. The ultimate goal of this course is by the time you've completed these projects, you'll be ready to publish. I'm the author of a number of novels, travel books, Children's books, nonfiction books about the theme park industry and the book How to Fix Your Novel, which tells you all about the techniques you'll use to structure and create your own original work of fiction. It's techniques that will draw upon throughout this class in order to achieve your ultimate goal of getting into print. So let's get started the creative writing project. This lesson is all about how to energize your manuscript. In this overview, I'll introduce you to the topic of energizing your manuscript. What do I really mean by that? Well, it's writing as well and as big and as impressively as you can in order to wow readers and editors and create the best work possible in our first key concept, Lecture will look a writing big a term that I use to mean making your writing. Powerful, energetic, captivating, interesting. Then, in our second key concept lecture, I'll take a look at writing Well, this means polishing your works, that it reads like professional writing, and I'll show you lots of techniques to make that easy to do and yet really a vast change in the quality of your writing. In the project section of this class, you'll have an opportunity to polish a page of your already existing work. It'll be exciting for you to see the before and after versions that you create. And in the final lesson, we'll take a look at the next steps you can pursue to further your writing career. So let's get started. 2. Writing Big: The first step to energizing any manuscript is what I call writing big. And that just means making your writing bigger than life, making it exciting, making it vibrant, making it very visual, very tactile, putting your reader right into your writing. So let's look at some ways to accomplish that. First of all, look at the power of suggestion. You can suggest subtle things that will convey all sorts of unwritten things to your reader . If you say that there's a candle that is wafting its sent up into the room, your reader can immediately sense the smell of that candle what it looks like. They've already pictured the color of it, where it's sitting and what it smells like, maybe even what it tastes like on their tongue. And yet, all you've said is that there's a candle that's burning. So by suggesting just subtle little things and adding them into your settings, you can really in folk a lot of other senses in your reader, always as you write, show don't tell. The difference is that if you say there was a candle burning on the mantle, you're telling somebody about that. But if you say that your protagonist entered the room and immediately detected of the scent of the candle is it wafted above the fireplace mantle. Now you're showing us what that is like, and you're forcing us to experience it the way that your protagonist does. So that's showing rather than telling. If you can put things into dialogue rather than describing them. Descriptions tend to get boring because it feels like the author intruding and telling us something. But if the characters talk about it, then it's right there in the scene and it's exciting. Try to use metaphors as much as you can. If the candle is like a torch, then you can use a simile where you say it's like a torch or you say the torch of the candle burned. And that's a metaphor where you're actually calling one thing. Another thing. Maybe it's not a torch. Maybe it's smoldering. Maybe it's like a smudge pot used to keep the frost away from orange trees. And so maybe the candle is a smudge pot, sending its foul aroma into the room. See, just by using a metaphor, you bring it to life and associate it with other things. Try to avoid cliches. Um, don't say that the light from the candle twinkled in her eyes like 1000 stars. It's been said before. It's flat. It's dull. Try to come up with original things that you can use for such comparisons to keep your writing fresh. If you're in doubt about whether something is stale, it probably is and just find a different way to say it. Or remove the comparison entirely and just say that the candlelight was reflected in her eyes. That's not cliche. That's just fine, especially avoid dead Met metaphors. Expressions like that was dead as a doornail. Those air so overused and we were not very much aware of them because they're used to routinely. But they're metaphors that at one time meant something and no longer do, and those should not be included in your writing. Try to use symbols if you can. Most professional authors, I think, would say that the symbols in their work got in there by happenstance, fortuitously or by subconscious activity on their part. But if you can plan for assemble and to use it to unite your work throughout, that's a perfectly fine idea. For example, if you want to contrast the beginning and ending circumstances in your story have the same object, but have it behaving differently or have the protagonist interacting with it in a different fashion. And that object becomes a symbol that then might even be able to be incorporated into other parts of the work in the middle. And finally, to just make your writing real. Think about what something is really like. Like in my candle example. I've touched the surface on it, but to really make it riel, the character might go over and touch the mantle. And maybe it's cold to the touch because it's made out of onyx. Or maybe it's warmed up from the fireplace below it. Use all the senses and make things tangible. Really Put us into the scene and make us feel everything about the scene. And then you'll truly be writing big. So as you write big, do these things keep your sentence structure simple. You don't need long sentences with lots of kamas and lots of dependent phrases. A lot of times my students will start off with something that says, Arriving at the house comma, he went into the door. Well, you can't do both of those things at once. You can't go into the door while you're arriving at the house, but that's what that phrase means when it's tacked onto the beginning like that. So split up, he arrived at the house. He went into the door. It's fine to use two short sentences. You might be able to make both of those sentences better, but you won't make them better by gluing them together. Describe actions in real time. Don't use the word had if you're using had you're in trouble. He had arrived at the house and he had gone in is very, very passive. Let's back up. Have him arrive at the house. Have him go in and then have things happen. Don't say what happened in the past. If you can avoid it. It's very inactive and try to show your characters emotion in the class. On scene writing, I showed how all scenes air followed by Sequels where the emotion is conveyed. Make sure you don't start omitting those secrets. Make sure that we know how your character is feeling as they're progressing. Now when you're writing big, don't do these things. Don't write long flowery, complex sentences they're hard to read will lose the point, and they don't carry as much impact to something shorter. Don't summarize things. If they're interesting, don't say they had a fistfight and then went to the bar. That was interesting. Let's hear about it. Let's hear every blow of that fistfight and how they finally resolved and went to the bar. But on the other hand, if something is boring, like he drove to work, we don't need to find out how many times he shifted gears or where. What's cross streets he stopped at. You can summarize that and don't analyze things. Let's come to our own conclusions. Don't tell us something that happened and then tell us what the importance of that event is or what it means or what it implies or what it might imply. It's fine for the character to ruminate on that, But as the author don't step in and analyze what's going on, don't say it would be the biggest day of his life, or that had been a horrible day if we experienced the day with him. We know that it was a horrible day. You've shown it to us you don't need to tell us about it. So those are the dues and the donuts and all of my favorite techniques for writing big. Now let's look at how to polish your text in the next lesson. And right, well, I'll see you there. 3. Writing Well: There are entire classes that have been written on the subject of how to write well from grammar to creative writing, all aspects of polishing prose. But I'd like to touch on some high points in this because I found they've been particularly useful to my students. So here are a few techniques that I like to make sure apply to every piece of writing that I do first of all and, most important, be active, not passive. Don't use words like is our was were had those air all very passive forms of verbs, and they will bore your readers to death. Instead, replace them with active words instead of a book on the table being described as there was a book on the table. Simply said the book lay on the table, and you can get much more elaborate if it's something that's more interesting than a book. So always have the object doing something or have someone doing something with the object don't have it existing in a state of being. Adjectives are tools. They're not decorations. Don't gratuitously tell us that the book that is on the table is blue bound in leather with little gold swirls around the edge, guilt on the sides of the pages and as a rumpled the dog eared corner. That's too much. And it's certainly too much in one sentence. Adding, all those adjectives on doesn't really improve the description. If you just said there was a tattered old book lying on the table, now you've asked us to envision What color is it? Is it leather? Because it's old? What is tattered mean? Is it got a bent corner, or is it scuffed on the edge? We can imagine those things, So if they're not important in the details, just give us enough to use our own imaginations. Don't use adverbs. Basically, as Stephen King has said, get rid of all the adverbs adverbs. The road to hell is paved with adverbs, as as he says, and into paraphrase Shakespeare. First kill all the adverbs, adverbs, air tacked onto verbs to try to make them mawr interesting. They don't they just sort of weigh them down. So if someone is running quickly, well, there's no way to run a than quickly haven't improved the verb. You've harmed the verb by tacking on that extra word. And even if the adverb seems like it is clarifying the verb. There's always a better verb. We have a lot of verbs in English. Find the best verb so that you don't need to have an adverb tacked onto it. In general, there's really no reason for an adverb to be in your finished work. So here's an example of a book that didn't take that to heart. Twilight is actually a guilty pleasure of mine. I kind of enjoyed being in the protagonists head for the entire book and for some reason found her interesting. But it's not very good writing, and in particular it is laden with adverbs, some of them just incredibly silly. So enjoy with me now a few of the silliest adverbs, all just from one or two pages of Chapter 13 of Twilight. I've underlined them here to make them stand out. He gently freed his other hand while gently is doing basically nothing in that sentence because we assume that he didn't slap her before he took his hand away, and then her hands fell limply. Well, if they're falling, they're pretty limp already. You don't really need that advert into my lab and then softly he brushed my cheek will let you know of any way to brush something other than softly, or it would be a slap. So if you re read the sentence without the adverbs, you'll discover the sentence becomes stronger and more vivid by eliminating the three words that were supposedly making it clearer. Here's the next one. He startled me. Suddenly, Well, there's no way to grab something other than suddenly. And if you're startled, probably it happened because of something sudden. So that's not doing anything in the sentence, pressing my palm to his face and inhaling deeply. Well, if inhaling you're probably inhaling pretty deeply, there's really no other way to do that. So that's not really doing much of anything, either. And then here is another one. He laughed quietly and gently unloosed, and my stranglehold on his neck Well, presumably, he wasn't arresting her away from the stranglehold about to kill him. And, as Faras laughing quietly, wouldn't that be giggling, snickering, chuckle ing? Isn't there a better verb for that particular word? And then here's the craziest one of them all. I felt as if I were stupidly sticking my head out the window of an airplane. I cannot think of a single way to stick your head out of a window of an airplane. That would not be stupid. So here's what you don't need. As you're polishing your text, you don't in the characters viewpoint need words like see and hear. They're just kind of dead weight. If you say she saw the sun coming up in the East, Well, if you're in her viewpoint and the sun comes up in the East, it's because she saw it. So you don't need to tell us that she saw it. You probably don't need the East either, because that's usually where it comes up and you don't need to say that she heard the train approaching on approaching train sounded. Its whistle indicates that she heard it. If you're in her viewpoint, because otherwise we wouldn't know about it. You don't need the word that I'm a big matter. What I do is when I finish a manuscript, I searched through the whole manuscript for the word that, and I guarantee if you do that nine times out of 10 you'll discover that the word is doing nothing. And if you delete it, sentence makes exactly as much sense as it did with it. You also don't need excess verb ege, So don't talk about the rosy fingers of dawn coming up gradually in the East. Just say that the sun came up that will be quite sufficient and watch out for those cliches they slip in so insidiously. And because we don't really hear them anymore because they're cliches, it's hard to find them. Go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb and look for those cliches. You also don't need coincidences. Coincidences happen in real life. You go out to the store and you run into somebody that you were about to telephone. But in fiction, it doesn't work so well because in fiction we expect life to actually be more logical than it is in the real world, and people will start to go. How come on if you put too many coincidences into your fiction, so try to avoid them and have people do things purposefully in order to cause the plot to advance, don't have in advance just by pure chance. So that's what you don't need. And those air my tricks for polishing your text to perfection and in the project for this class, you'll have an opportunity to do exactly that. I'll see you there 4. Project: Polish That Page: Well, here's a fun project to polish a page of your text, so find something that you've already written in your manuscript and save a copy of it as it is now in the associate ID materials for this project. I've included some reference sheets that summarized the writing big and writing well techniques that were covered in the lessons of this project. So take a look at those for reference and apply each one of them in turn to every sentence of that page of your manuscript copy and try to incorporate as many improvements as you can think of. Compare your foreign after pages and see what the differences between the two see. If you're really energizing that manuscript, bringing it toe life and removing the sins that we talked about in this lesson and then if you feel so inclined, share the material with us in the communities discussion area. And let's take a look at how you did have fun with this, and I hope that you use these techniques for your entire manuscript and be excited about all the improvements that you can make when you energize that manuscript 5. Next Steps: thanks for joining me on this journey. I've enjoyed it and I hope you have to. Thing is one of a dozen different projects that are available through this series, of course, is if you follow all of these projects from brainstorming all the way to marketing, you'll be able to bring your idea for a novel, short story or screenplay to reality, step by step and project by project. In the meantime, I hope you'll follow us on Facebook and be sure to sign up for free writing tips. I look forward to seeing you there. Until then, happy writing.