I met Patricia Charpentier at a Florida Writers Association meeting on September 3, 2014. Her topic that evening was writing memoir. I’m working on a novel, but I found all the points she made would apply to my writing as well. Her generosity and patience were evident, and I loved her motto: “The only way to do it wrong is to not do it at all.” Yes. Right. Remember that.
Fast forward to August 30, 2016. I had a chance to attend a free webinar Patricia offered that explained the content of her upcoming program about detail and description. Perfect. I quickly enrolled, and almost exactly two years after our first meeting, I started the program on September 8, 2016. My success was so overwhelming that I couldn’t wait to sign up for the next program—and the next one after that!
I hate to admit it, but up until last September, my novel was stalled. Time was passing fast and writing was going slow. At the time I hadn’t defined it, but it is clear to me now that my search was for inspiration, accountability, a little confidence, and a lot of turning down the volume of my inner critic. I found tools and coping mechanisms for all of these issues in Patricia’s programs.
The following are 10 highlights from Patricia’s programs I’ve attended that help explain why my novel has gone from a standstill to an almost completed first draft. Thank you, Patricia!
- Video Format and Handouts: Program elements are presented in a video format that you can stop and start at will and re-watch anytime you want (for six months). The handouts for each module are helpful, too, for notetaking and referencing later.
- Word Count Spreadsheet: Every day during the program you can log your word count onto a shared spreadsheet. Accountability! It is a practice I continue after the programs end as well.
- com: This website allows you to write your morning pages online. It also tracks how many days in a row you write and other statistics. I signed up last September and have missed only a couple of days of writing since. Again, accountability… and it’s fun.
- Posting Work: I thought this would be the scariest part, but all the participants are so gracious and it helps to see other people’s responses to the same prompts and assignments. This turned into one of the most important parts.
- Writing Buddy: Patricia connects you directly with another participant that you may speak with each week. You can share what’s going on with the current assignments or your own personal projects.
- Notebook: Creating a notebook provides a place to print and save the writing you complete each day, your notes, etc. This provides both inspiration and a sense of accomplishment.
- Back Cover Blurb: This assignment forced me to review my novel from beginning to end. I’d never had the courage before. Writing this blurb and sharing it with others helped make my book real. Someday I will have a tangible book in my hand and it will need an enticing back cover blurb—now I’ve got a head start.
- Timeline: Patricia provides a launching point to create a timeline that helps crystalize the trajectory of your story and how it fits into the world view at the time the events are occurring in your story.
- Sensory Detail Exercise: The tool Patricia provided to tap into your memory reached right into my heart of hearts. This exercise helps you journey back into your memory and see and feel and hear and smell and taste a specific moment from your past. I visited my grandmother’s kitchen—I was there. This is powerful.
- Quiet the Critic: The tips in this module help you confront your inner critic in ways I didn’t think possible. For years this has paralyzed me, but now I have tools to tame that ugly beast—and they’re working.