Now I've already said how I believe in economy of words and really think hard before you add another word to your piece of writing, but an indentation is free. (laughs) It costs you nothing and it shouldn't be random and arbitrary. It's not one of those things where you've written six sentences it's about time you indent. Indent means something and what it means is, you're moving forward in your story. Old, bad, fuddy-duddy English teachers used to talk about the topic sentence of the paragraph and say they'd things like first say what your paragraph is going to be about, then say it, then say what you've just said. Forget all that. Those English teachers are dead now and I'm not missing them. But the paragraph is a real tool. The indentation is a real tool that tells me that the story is progressing. I always think, I'm going to act this one out. I always think of a story that I tell or an essay that I write as a road trip and because I started out my life and was, for many years, liv...
ing on the East Coast and now I live in California. I picture starting out in Maine on this road trip and ending up in California and I would actually say to a student of mine or just to myself writing. Okay, now I'm in Maine, now I'm in about Vermont and now I'm in New York and now I'm in Ohio and now I'm probably right around the Rocky Mountains. That's kind of like the conflict, tension part of my story and then my landing place is California. Every one of those indents is like a stop on your road trip. Look at that. Does that inspire you to read this paragraph? No. We need a little help here. Especially now. Especially in these days when our attention spans have all been diminished by the Internet and so much else going on in the world. We need to break it down and incidentally something that will help you a lot in your own writing is a little test. Name. Give names to your paragraphs. I don't mean that ultimately for your reader, you show your readers these names, but name them for yourself and if you're doing a good job with your story telling, if you've created a nice road trip with a steady forward motion, just reading the list of the names will sound like a story. And maybe you get, maybe you stay for about three paragraphs on one, in one state where you kind of linger where there are a lot of diners with good pie there or whatever, but still we will feel there are distinct subjects for each of those paragraphs.
Everyone’s got a story to tell. Some are funny. Some are inspiring. Others are tragic. But no matter how compelling your story might seem, it won’t resonate with readers unless you’re able to effectively translate your concept onto the page.
Celebrated journalist, novelist and memoirist Joyce Maynard will give you the tools you need to transform your brilliant idea into an absorbing memoir that readers won’t be able to put down.
Maynard will begin by walking you through the process of identifying your story and how best to tell it. She’ll then help you develop your story through language, story structure, dramatic tension, dialogue, description and editing. Finally, she’ll address the challenges of the writing life, such as how to create a productive practice, design a comfortable writing space, deal with rejection and find an audience.
In this class, you’ll learn how to:
- Understand the difference between telling what happened and exploring your journey.
- Figure out what to include in your story and what to cut out.
- Decide on a point of view, a point of entry and a structure.
- Get over your fears of revealing embarrassing truths about yourself.
- Stop worrying about being judged.
- Deal with loneliness and find your tribe.
- Develop the arc of a sentence, a paragraph and a story.
- Listen to the sound and rhythm of your sentences.