Everyone has AHA! Writing Moments. Those times when what was confusing suddenly becomes clear. It could be with the principles and elements of writing itself, or perhaps the writing journey.
I've invited some friends to share their AHA! Writing Moments, and hopefully they'll inspire you! And if you're like me, curious about the term AHA Moment, itself, the New York Times has a brilliant article on the topic, here.
"My own AHA Moment was when Associate Editor Rachel Burkot explained to me that every single scene must show how it relates to the hero and heroine and their journey. Episodic writing had been explained to me but I never really got it. This explanation made me understand I could keep my scenes, I just had to turn them around to make this point clear, thus advancing the story development." Tina Radcliffe
"I had sent in several submissions to Love Inspired when editor Emily Rodmell kindly took the time in a rejection letter to explain to me what exactly Love Inspired books are about regarding tone, plots, etc. Though I'd been reading Love Inspireds, I'd missed the boat on some key elements to their stories. Sometimes you just need something laid out in black and white to "get it". That rejection was my AHA moment." Jessica Nelson
"Sadly, I have AH-HA moments every day of my life, but how long they stay is questionable. My first came when I was talking to my editor for the very first time on the phone and asked her if she remembered the pitch I'd given her two years prior at ACFW (yes, apparently I really was that stupid not to realize editors come away from conferences glazed and with very little memory after a gazillion pitches). But I thought she might remember the crazy woman who blathered on about Gone With the Wind and how she'd begun writing her own novel (A Passion Most Pure) at age twelve after reading GWTW. Nope. When I realized that the manuscript I sent her was still sitting in a slush pile in the corner of her office, the proverbial light bulb went off in my "pitch" dark brain, illuminating my first AH-HA moment: Go for an agent first, publisher second. Sigh. Sure wish I'd paid my electric bill earlier ... :) "
The high word counts are a gift and we should all be cheering when someone gets there. (Thank goodness this was before I joined 1K1hr or I'd have jumped from the roof before I got to the praying part!)" Virginia Munoz
"My AHA moment dawned while listening to Randy Ingermanson's recorded Continuing Education workshop from the 2011 ACFW conference. In essence, he was talking about characters and how every character in your book believes he/she is the hero. Even the villain, no matter how evil, believes he's doing the right thing. In just a couple of sentences, Randy de-mystified the whole GMC thing. The concept of characters having a life before Chapter One of my book became crystal clear and I saw how each character maintained their values and goals - their very identity - while confronted by conflicting ideals and how, by having their beliefs pushed to the wall, the unavoidable self-examination makes them grow." Audra Harders
"For the longest time, I couldn't get what seasoned writers meant when they bandied about the term "deep POV." I felt like I had POV down, but I wanted to go deeper. I read everything I could find about deep POV, but all I got was a glimmer of understanding at first. One day the floodlights went on. POV is "seeing" everything through a character's eyes. Deep POV is "thinking and feeling" everything the POV character thinks and feels without any explanation or "telling" words. It's "showing" how a character perceives the world so intimately that readers feel as though they're one with the character. That flash of insight was illuminating and helped me take my writing to a new level." Keli Gwyn
"My AHA Moment happened as a result of my agent, Natasha Kern, strongly recommending I read Stanley Williams's book The Moral Premise. The concept wasn't exactly unfamiliar to me. I'd been picking up on MPs in novels and movies without really realizing that's what they were. But Stan's book helped me understand how writers can begin to identify the underlying MP of their story and then learn to consciously use it to deepen and strengthen both character and plot."
From Missy Tippens: "I had an "aha!" moment while taking Shirley Jump's online writing class, Good to Sold. On Shirley's checklist, she says to make sure each scene has a goal. Well, duh! I've always known that. But she showed us ways to check each scene and to fix those that didn't have an obvious character goal. I've found this exercise helps me make sure each scene serves a purpose (thus, less episodic writing!)."
"POV was a real struggle for me. It just took me forever to get what it meant straight. Now that I do it seems strange I couldn't understand the concept.
I remember reading a Jennifer Crusie romance and there was ONE paragraph in it with two different people having dialogue, something that's almost never done, which is why it was memorable.And with my neolithic understanding of POV I thought she'd changed the Point of View character within that paragraph.And I loved it.
I was saying back then, "SEE! Big star authors don't obey this rule, I don't have to either!"But later...much, much later...I re-read that paragraph and realized that even with those two dialogue lines it really wasn't in two people's POV and that clicked a light on. AHA! I started to see what POV really meant." Mary Connealy
"I thought the external and internal things that stand in the character’s way of achieving his/her goal was the conflict. My AHA moment was when my critique partner Shirley Jump said that the ROMANCE should also create another layer of conflict to the hero and heroine’s internal and external Goals, Motivations and Conflicts. The result: the romance complicates everything." Janet Dean
"A big AHA moment came to me via this post by Jenny Crusie. The gist is that when you’re writing, you must strike a balance between juice and craft. Juice is the pure joy of writing—the ideas, creativity, emotion, and excitement. Craft is the container for the juice—the thing that holds it and gives it structure so it’s not spilling all over the place. Both are essential to a good story, and you need to get the proportions right. For me, drafting = juice, and revising = craft. But the bottom line is: You gotta bring the juice! "
"We only get one "aha" moment? Because I think I might be the "Aha!" overachiever, with folks bashing me over the head to point out the obvious regularly! Like Tina's words of wisdom on episodic writing, a big one for me was re-thinking sentence structure. We all have a voice. A style. Our own flare. But words are words and if you're using too many words to describe things then you're wasting kissing time. Wasting kissing time should never be taken lightly!!! Reading a Seekerville post by Cheryl Wyatt, a light bulb went off... If I could re-structure my sentence the way she demonstrated, and cut ten words/page, that would be cutting 3,000 words WITHOUT CHANGING THE STORY. A whole candelabra of light bulbs went off. Ping! Zang! Zook! I re-visited the story and averaged 20 words/page. I cut over 6K without losing a thing. Now I do it automatically as I do my initial edits... Cut. Slice. Chop. Dice. What a wonderful lesson learned for this long-winded author!"
Ruth Logan Herne
From Glynna Kaye "A significant AHA! moment for me was when someone (my now-agent Natasha Kern) explained PREMISE to me in a way I could understand and apply it. From that moment onward, I can't imagine writing a story without laying that strong foundation, applying the glue that ties all the scenes together. In addition to a outer-level concept, I create an inner-level sub-text, a "what's this story REALLY about?" statement of premise that helps keep me focused from beginning to end.
At its most basic structure: ______ leads to ______. But ______ leads to ______.
1) Basing self-worth on the ability to please others leads to self-dissatisfaction and the pleasing of no one. Basing self-worth on what God says about you leads to peace and self-acceptance.
2) Fear of rejection leads to self-imposed isolation and superficial relationships. Embracing relational risk leads to acceptance and deeper connections.
3) Blind ambition leads to destruction of relationships. Love-motivated sacrifice leads to enduring bonds.
From Mia Ross: "I’ve had plenty of AHA moments, but the biggest one occurred in 2009. I’d only written single titles up to that point, and my agent had mentioned (more than once) that it would be great if I wrote a series. Translation: if you could figure out how to give editors and readers what they’re looking for, we just might be able to land a publishing contract. My AHA came when I dusted off an old project that I still loved. Through more experienced eyes, it was easy to see the story had some merit but no focus. The supporting cast was distracting, and there was no underlying structure holding everything together. Once I realized those secondary characters could take starring roles in other books, the series concept finally made sense to me. If you’d like to see the results of my AHA moment, check out www.miaross.com."
"My AH-HA involved scene endings. Early on, I wrote long, long, long chapters to get to the big-bang, cliffhanger chapter ending that I knew would keep the readers engaged. Trouble was I meandered through those long chapters with details that slowed the pace instead of moving the story forward. Author Rita Herron critiqued my work and suggested shorter scenes with a hook at the end of each section. EUREKA! I didn’t have to include everything the character did each and every moment of his life. Instead I only needed to write the important scenes that moved the action or revealed his inner conflict or motivation or change of heart or all of the above. I also needed to end each scene, as well as each chapter, with a hook." Debby Giusti