Archive for the ‘Classes’ Category

Un-Doing Days

In Classes, Craft, General, Musings on July 12, 2011 at 4:54 am

It wasn’t long ago that I purposely set my alarm clock for5:30 a.m.every morning, slipped out of bed before the sun rose, and sank my toes into the slightly scratchy carpet of our then-apartment with a cup of coffee and readiness to write. The darkness, the slither of silence, the burnt chicory smell of good java—these things were my company as I took special time for myself before my “real work” several hours into daylight later.

Those were my “doing days” as I’m thinking of them now. I wrote so early because once my colleagues and clients awoke there’d be emails to exchange and the mounting pressure of “must-get-it-all-done” riding hard on my spine. In my doing days I was so proud of how much I did—writing freelance articles, a book, a novel, editing manuscripts, recording book reviews–in such quantities that I’d sometimes look at my “to-do” board with a feeling of terror, wonder at how I would get it all done, and if working for myself was folly or fortune. The higher and tighter my shoulders by the end of the day, the greater the sign that I’d somehow measured up, that I was capable of carrying a load so heavy without fail.

Once I became pregnant I was amused and annoyed by the most ethereal sense of distraction that came over me—my mind flitted wherever it pleased and could barely be reined in, a flying creature with barely any mass. I was tired, so so tired all the time, and could not roll out of bed so early, and if I did, I’d sit staring at the blank page wondering what I thought I had to say. At the time it was infuriating, but now I look back and see my body beginning to help me make a shift that would change the shape of my days forever. For a spacy mind was the least of the changes having my son would bring.

 Three years into my son’s life, the map of my working life looks like a seismograph. From doing almost nothing for the first three months of his life, to rallying back around to writing a novel in his nap hours, to putting him in nearly-full time daycare only to feel the familiar pains of a body that is doing too much…I have begun to circle around to this new place and time. These are un-doing days.

Today, I sat at the top of a man-made rainforest, where blue butterflies the size of my palm circulated with what looked like a brash certainty in their freedom. If I stood still long enough, they skimmed the top of my head, grazed a cheek, teased my eyelashes. The heat of the building, the chatter of tourists–none of it bothered me. I was completely enchanted by their flight. I realized, I could sit here for hours and do nothing but watch them fly. And in that seemed the crux of the lesson I am beginning to learn, and which I hope my readers will take to heart too: there is value in stillness, in rest, in observation.

I am undoing old habits of working too hard and too long. I am taking more time off, and spending more moments relishing my son’s short-lived youth. There are fewer achievements, shiny and hot with effort, to hold up on a platter over my head, and yet, there are deeper seams to tap now, both creatively and in my work, roads that I have refused to take out of fear of letting go, stopping.

And how does this play out here? Everything is going to change now. You’ll see a new website very soon, with this blog integrated in it.  I’m going to be teaching more–stay tuned for some new twists on my classes that will allow for more interaction–and doing less of other things. In a nutshell, my new goal and direction is to write, and to thus bring to all of you the lessons and experimentation and thoughts on craft that I, myself, am continually integrating into my own work.

 Come, un-do with me.


Fighting Writing Overwhelm

In Classes, Fiction Writing on December 13, 2010 at 11:00 pm

The other day I stopped in a brand name, big-box bookstore to meet a friend on an out of town trip.  (As a rule I try to buy my books and magazines from my local Independent bookstore, but I often glean ideas to order by visiting the biggies). Like a snake to a hot, flat rock I found my way by instinct to the writing craft section whereby, just like Garp in John Irving’s novel The World According to Garp nearly flatlines at the choices in an American grocery store aisle, my brain immediately began screaming “TILT. TILT.”  There are so many books on the craft of writing; on how to be a Breakout novelist; a bestseller; how to write plots and plot mysteries and kill your darlings and write about killing and in just thirty days plot your way to a million dollars and a yacht.

In a word, the writing section can be downright OVERWHELMING.

And it got me to thinking about what is really the most crucial advice that a new writer needs to know. As I have written two of these books of instruction, (Make a Scene, and with Rebecca Lawton, Write Free) so I feel somewhat responsible for contributing to this top-heavy field of information. As someone who coaches writers, and edits manuscripts and teaches writing, I know that if you let a new writer read “all the right books” what you’ll have is a writer who might just want to give up before she begins.

That’s why I keep teaching my favorite class: Fiction’s Magic Ingredient, which is–no surprise–all about the golden nugget of fiction writing, the scene, part of my personal writing mission. That’s it. I’m just teaching you one thing–but I’m teaching it to you from every angle. So if you want to cut through the overwhelm and learn about the one essential magic piece of writing that will honestly and truly change your writing forever, there are still a few spaces left at: . It is a wonderful gift to give to a writer in your life as well, and before December 20th, I’m offering a $40 discount.

Fiction’s Magic Ingredient is 8 weeks long and begins January 10th. It is online and self-paced, using yahoo groups. Regularly $249, you can register for $209 until December 20th.

Let me help you cut through the noise!


Scene Writing Workshop and Feedback Session

In Classes, Craft on September 23, 2010 at 9:11 pm

With Jordan E. Rosenfeld and Amy McElroy

Friday, October 29, 2010


BookSmart. 80 E 2nd Street. Morgan Hill.

Cost: $85

 In this workshop we’ll explore the crucial key to captivating readers—the scene and all its facets—to build a vivid, engaging piece of writing, whether fiction or non-fiction.  Students will also workshop a piece of writing in class. Come prepared to do some brief in-class writing, as well as to read your work for group feedback. We will take a working lunch, so either bring lunch or purchase it from BookSmart’s tasty deli counter, serving soups, hot dogs and chili.

 Participants may bring any piece of their own writing, but will only read 2 pages in-class for feedback from the group, including the instructors.


 Jordan E. Rosenfeld is author of the writing guides Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, and Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life, with Rebecca Lawton. She freelance writes, edits and teaches. Learn more at:

Amy McElroy is a freelance writer, editor, and writing coach.  Most recently, she aired a series of personal essays on the NPR-affiliate KUSP in Santa Cruz.  Her formal training and experience as a writing coach began more than 20 years ago at Hollins University.  After some years as a practicing attorney, Amy is now continuing her work as a writing coach at Gavilan College.

 Workshop Tentative Schedule:

10:30-10:45 Introductions

10:45 to 11:30- Instruction

12:00-12:15 Break to get lunch

12:30-2:15  Workshop with feedback.

2:15-2:30 Questions, class survey

For questions or registration, email:

jordanwritelife (at) gmail (dot) com or amyjmcelroy( at) verizon (dot) net

To Convince you…

In Business of Writing, Classes, Publishing on July 21, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Next week, July 30, is the last date to get the early registration discount of $30 for my class, Revise for Publication, which begins August 16th for 6 weeks. In case you’re uncertain about this class, here are some recent testimonials:

“I was so overwhelmed I contemplating throwing all 400 pages [of my novel] into a locked trunk and burying the key. REVISE FOR PUBLICATION is Jordan Rosenfeld’s answer — and my salvation…. Jordan’s “Story Matrix” tool beats index cards, storyboarding, complex excel tables, and other methods I’ve used to keep my story, characters, and timelines straight, and was what made me recognize all the holes in my story — and how to plug them in. Best of all, Jordan provides real and honest feedback on the weekly assignments — no sugar-coating from her. If you have a heap of words waiting for better than a spit-shine polish, take Jordan’s REVISE FOR PUBLICATION course. I ended up with a vastly improved novel and an indispensible set of writing tools to apply to every story I write.”
–Linda Wastila-Simoni

“I highly recommend Revise for Publication for writers of any level who want to refine their work. The course lessons and individualized feedback helped me identify areas of improvement within my manuscript, challenged my writing skills, and encouraged me to think outside the box. Jordan Rosenfeld’s editorial advice is honest, constructive and insightful–and she makes the editing process FUN! Revise for Publication has helped transform my manuscript and I’m certain I will continue to use the tools I’ve learned in this course throughout my writing career.”
–Jeanette Marie (

Trust Your Gut to Cut

In Classes, Craft, Musings, Publishing on July 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Here’s a tidbit from my six-week online course, Revise for Publication. Next session: August 16 through October 14. Get your manuscript in shape! Register:

Trust Your Gut to Cut

I like this mantra not only because it rhymes, but because it has so often proved true. Recently, in my novel, there was a phrase I loved to the point of obsession even though it seemed florid. The first comment I chalked up to personal opinion, cradling my words to my breast like infants. Yet reader after reader after reader lined it out every time saying it jarred them out of the fictional dream. Only after about 10 readers had done this, did I accept what I knew all along: It was over the top and needed to go.

Often you’ll have an inner knowing that something isn’t right, is too much, or just doesn’t fit, be it a sentence, a scene, or a character note that rings false. The problem is, you don’t really know how to fix it, so you ignore it. Then, either feedback rolls in, or in your own revision process you finally face facts: this should go. It may be hard to let go but trust your instincts. Those little niggling doubts about something not working are almost always right.

Revision is a little bit like emerging from a deep denial. And only when you truly embrace that a lot will have to go, in service of it becoming a better book,  does revision become fun. It happens, I swear.

To get support in the revision process, register for Revise for Publication: Before July 30, get a $30 discount. (Regular: $169. Early reg: $139).

When should characters think, act or speak?

In Business of Writing, Classes, Craft, Musings on June 22, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Lately, rather than imposing an order on my blog posts, I’m simply blogging about the issues that come up for students and clients.

When writers struggle with a scene, I’m finding the most common reason is that they don’t know how to balance the elements. And by “elements,” more often than setting and sensory details, I find it comes down to this:

When should my character think, speak, or act?

The best scenes have a little bit of all three.

In every scene, a character should set out with an intention that is thwarted or met with conflict (and sometimes achieved).

Dialogue and action are the best ways to convey most things: plot info, character personality, as well as character’s feelings and opinions.

But: When there is something your character can’t/won’t say, that can’t be acted out (unless s/he is a mime!), thought (interior dialogue/internal reflection/contemplation) is required.

And remember to SAVE dialogue for hot topics–the kinds of conversations you’d like to eavesdrop on; for tense and conflictual exchanges; for subtle but necessary plot details.

As for action–it runs from the smallest physical tic to the biggest global catastrophes. Action creates a sense of “real time”–which is crucial to bringing people into your world.

When you’re trying to find the balance in a scene, start by asking: Should my characters: think/act/or speak more or less here? And what would be the most active way to demonstrate my scene goals? (Hint: internal reflection is not the most active).

If you’d like to learn more strategies, I’m teaching Revise for Publication, 6 weeks, beginning August 16. .

Revision Fatigue

In Classes, Craft, Publishing on June 18, 2010 at 4:00 am

You know that feeling you get when you’ve looked at your book a hundred times, fixed more nuances than you can hold in your brain, massaged more character dialogue than you’ve actually spoken all month and so on? The point at which if you never had to look at your novel again you’d die happy?

It’s called revision fatigue, and in my experience, it actually means one of two things. The least likely is 1) You’re really just done and can’t accept it yet. But nope, wait–more likely it’s 2) There is somewhere deeper you still need to go and you’re resisting it.

The kind of revision many of us start with is similar to taking off the toenail on a gangrenous foot (sorry for the yucky analogy)–it’s not going to fix what ails it, and in fact, it can fool you into thinking something is “alive” when it’s actually just hanging on for dear life (I was going to say ‘limping along’ but I just couldn’t do that to you all….hahah).

If you have revision fatigue, here are a couple of questions to ask yourself to try and go deeper, thus “waking up” your story:

  • Have you started it in the “right” place? Are you perhaps trying to explain away too much, lump in a lot of unnecessary back-story, or would scintillating flashbacks perhaps add a more useful tension than starting when your protagonist is five? Do you start your story in a “dangerous” place right in the midst of an unfolding action or event?
  • Have you mapped out your plot, taken its inventory, to see if there are any evident gaps?
  • Have you put your protagonist under the most intense, yet plausible, circumstances you can possibly fathom?
  • Has your character undergone a noticeable kind of transformation by the end?

If you’re interested in revision support, I’m teaching a 6 week online course titled Revise for Publication. Register at: $30 early registration discount!

Write Free and Realize Wild Dreams

In Classes, Craft, Write Free on May 8, 2010 at 3:12 pm

I am so excited about this retreat that I can’t wait to post it! Becca Lawton and I declared 2010 the Year of Realizing Wild Dreams in our Write Free e-letter. And now we’re going to help 20 people do just that in a spectacular day-long retreat in September on the gorgeous California coast.

Realizing Your Wildest Writing Dreams Day-Long Retreat

September 18, 2010.  10 to 5

 Join Jordan E. Rosenfeld and Rebecca Lawton in beautiful Bodega Bay for a day of inspiration to realize your wildest writing dreams.  Includes craft workshops, lunch, and Write Free activities.

 Limit 20 participants.  $175.  $25 discount to first 10 registrants who send a check to:

Wavegirl, P.O. Box 654, Vineburg, CA 95487. 



Nurse Ratchett of Scene Writing: Or, When and Where to Use Exposition

In Classes, Craft on May 2, 2010 at 2:40 pm

I’m working with a wonderful new editing client whose work is so good and so exciting I look forward to it with the same joy as I do my own writing. She’s the kind of talented where I feel more like a stage hand than the director, just moving her props around and making sure she remembers her lines.

She has, however, likened my tendency to insist on scenes over summary to Nurse Ratchett, from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And you know what? I take it as a compliment.

The inspiration for my book, Make a Scene, came from working on hundreds of first draft manuscripts when I used to edit for a service. These books were brimming with potential that was almost always lost inside heavy exposition and  adjectives and adverbs that took shortcuts to developing characters and building action. I saw it over and over and over again.

So, is there room for summary, for exposition in a good novel?

Of course there’s room. In small, elegant, threading sentences in and around your scenes:

Moments of reflection (interior monologue) that give us a sense of a character’s voice.

Strategically placed imagery that sets a mood.

Getting your characters from one place to another without a whole lot of unnecessary language.

You can learn more about the “uses and perils” of exposition, and deepen your mastery of the scene FREE, by registering for my June, Revise for Publication class ( ). With it, you get a free class if you register today: Fiction’s Magic Ingredient, Part Two, which begins TOMORROW, May 3rd!

Win a Free Class!

In Classes, Craft, Publishing on April 29, 2010 at 6:45 pm


As I begin to shift some of my classes around, condensing Fiction’s Magic Ingredient into one long 8 week class, rather than two separate 4 week classes, I’m offering a super fantastic deal:

If you register for my June class, Revise for Publication, June 7-July 16, 2010, TODAY, you could win Fiction’s Magic Ingredient Part Two FREE. That’s a $149 value, 4 weeks. Begins May 3rd.

To register for the June class, visit: