"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Did You Know ...

by Maxine McCoy

I've learned some interesting facts here and there that maybe you already know, but maybe some of you don't. I thought I'd share just in case. They all have to do with focus.

Did you know that:

Dean Koonz said it's been proven that if you write every day your subconscious will begin to do your writing for you. Here's what I know about stimulating your subconscious to write for you. While you're sleeping and in the recesses of your consciousness while you are doing other things, it will be putting your story together for you. What you'll be aware of consciously is that suddenly the problem in chapter four will resolve itself in your mind. That precise wording in the prologue you couldn't get just right will come to you in perfect order, seemingly from out of the blue. The first line of your novel, that most important line of your book, will pop into your mind and it will be ideal. Your subconscious is a genius and it wants to please you. You just have to ask it, not in words but by focus.

In Characters Make Your Story, Elwood suggests we carry a notebook around with us and jot down habitual expressions on peoples faces, habitual postures, etc. An easier way would be to choose an actor you want your character to look like, pick a movie he was in where his actions would be most like your hero's. (If your hero doesn't fit any particular actor, you can put together different features of various ones that do.) You can watch the DVD with a notebook in hand, writing down just how the voice sounded when he was alarmed, the way he walked when he was discouraged, the expression on his face when he looked at the heroine – the raise of his eyebrow, the twitch at the edge of his mouth. You'll be able to observe his facial expressions, habitual postures, clothing, walking gestures, speech, the sound of his voice – all aspects of him. You can watch the DVD over and over so you can focus on details, details, details.

In The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle says it actually takes about 10,000 hours of practice time to become what our society determines a genius. The Bronte sisters wrote wonderful books before dying at a young age. In the biography of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell, it was said the young women were geniuses, that their talent was magical and they were natural-born authors. Juliet Barker, Oxford historian, proved that isn't true. From a very young age, the Bronte sisters wrote stories to entertain each other. The stories were, as Barker put it, “slap-dash writing, appalling spelling, and non-existent punctuation.” Their plots were most often bad imitations of magazine articles and novels of the day. Their little books, at first, lacked any sign of genius. That doesn't take away from their impressive achievements. They produced a lot of wonderful literature, but they had to learn and practice like the rest of us. They just started at a very young age and were totally dedicated to gaining the knowledge. Coyle shows how hours of what he calls “deep practice” can make anyone a genius, whether in writing, art, music or whatever we focus on. His book explains how to do deep practice.

In The Power of Focus, Jack Canfield tells us “Do you know the #1 reason that stops people from getting what they want? It's lack of focus. People who focus on getting what they want, prosper. Those who don't, struggle.” Jack should know. His Chicken Soup For The Soul series sold more than any other book ever published. If we have two or three hobbies, a busy social life, and work two jobs, we won't have much of a chance of becoming a best-selling author. We need to write every day, dwell on details about our main characters, and continue learning and practicing our writing skills. It all comes down to focus.


  1. This is a terrific post, Maxine, and some good advice (or reminders) for all of us. I find it very true about the subconscious helping us solve our problems while we sleep or when we get our mind off the issue for awhile. Also, a great suggestion to pay attention to the little details of expression, posture, clothing, etc. The first time we watch a movie it's for the story and the characters, but it's interesting how much you realize you missed when you watch it a second time and pay specific attention to the background, the props, etc.

    --Linda S.

  2. Excelent post, Maxine. Brian Tracy produced a very powerful audio tape program back in the 1980s entitled the Phychology of Achievement that discusses the very concepts that you talked about in your post. The subconcious is a very powerful tool.

    I also found interesting, your comment about comparing your character's features and actions to a movie actor. I suppose I'm not unique, but when I'm writing a story, I really don't sit down and plot it out on paper step by step. I watch it in my mind for days at a time as it unforlds as though I were watching a movie, and I quite often compare my characters to those I've seen in a movie, or even in real life. When I finally sit down to write the story, the subconcious goes to work, and it pretty much writes itself. So, yes, I agree, the subconcious is a very powerful tool, indeed.

  3. I love this this, Maxine! As usual, with your genius and expertise, you've put together another great post. My subconscious really took over when I was writing the first book I sold.

    One example was when I needed something to create a distraction. I couldn't think of a thing to save my book advance. I just kept on writing, hoping the idea would pop into my mind when I got to the point of actually writing the words down. My subconscious did not disappoint! My noisy diversion came in the form of a woman's suffrage march, a group I'd mention before. When I began typing about the drums and singing, the hairs on my arms raised.

    Sherry R.

    PS I want a copy. :)