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“Wired for Story,” a writer’s guide to the reader’s brain

By Mayra Cuevas

This is the second installment in a series of three posts highlighting books that have helped me during the process of composing my first novel. The first one was “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. 

“Wired for Story” by Lisa Cron is a writer’s blueprint to the reader’s brain. Cron explains logically how stories affect humans at a physiological level and how the writer can tap into that experience to create a story addiction in the readers’ mind. Cron backs every premise with scientific research and study citations.

In a nutshell, Cron’s message is that our writing must cater to the reader’s brain function, literally. The writer can design a story that will resonate with the reader by connecting with the natural way humans process stories.
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On Writing Well, my take on William Zinsser’s classic

By Mayra Cuevas

The next three posts will highlight books that have helped me during the process of composing my first novel.

I will begin with “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser, and oldie but goodie that is as relevant today as it was in 1976 when it was first published.

Although Zinsser’s book is a guide to writing nonfiction, his principles can help the fiction writer achieve a more succinct and clean prose that is both practical and colorful.

Zinsser is a master at uncluttering prose. And he teaches how to distill the writer’s message to its purest form.
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Writing Fight Scenes

A short fencing lesson gave me a different outlook on writing fight scenes.

By Mayra Cuevas

Other than punching a guy in the nose (once in self-defense) I have never been in a fight. I have no idea how to prepare for a fight, participate in a fight or know how it feels to hit or be hit.

Given that my novel has several scenes that involve all of the above, my lack of fighting expertise became an issue.

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Compassion for your Writer Self

By Mayra Cuevas


Rejoicing in others 

I deeply rejoice if you are a writer whose full time job is to work on your next book. I am not one of those people. At least not for now.

My main frustration with writing doesn’t come from lack of ideas, but from lack of time.  Like most of the aspiring novelist, I struggle with carving out time to write between my full time job, family, friends, volunteer work, spiritual studies and those pesky everyday responsibilities like doing laundry, paying bills and shopping for groceries.  Even when I try my very best to steal an hour here and there, the antagonistic forces are sometimes all too strong.  Writer’s block would be a luxury, but neither my critique partner and mother of four, Prof. M, or I have the time for such indulgences. Any time we get is spent furiously clicking our keyboards.

It is here that compassion for your writer self needs to kick in.
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Working with a critique partner

By Mayra Cuevas

Find Yourself a Critique Partner

Find yourself a critique partner was some of the first advice I received from published authors.  The first time I heard this I stared at the speaker blankly. What the hell is a critique partner? And where do you find one?

As always, I turned to my trusty friend Google.

A search for “critique partner definition” answered the first question. The role of the critique partner was to read my story, provide encouragement and point out what I needed to work on (more details on this below).

A search for “finding a critique partner” led me to a website that promised I would find the critique partner of my dreams. It was clear before I dived in I needed a strategy. Read more

A writer’s intention

By Mayra Cuevas

Buddhism defines intention as a mental factor that moves the mind to an object. Our intention is the power behind everything we do, say and think. It motivates us throughout our day and our life, giving meaning to all our actions.

A loving, compassionate intention, Buddhist believe, will only lead to positive results or good karma. The opposite is true for a negative intention, which will always result in problems for yourself and others.

I struggled with finding my true intention at the beginning of my writing. Read more

Outlining Queen, or how I discovered that I’m NOT a pantser

By Mayra Cuevas

I’ll admit it, when I began writing the first draft of my novel I was clueless. I’m still clueless to a certain extent, but less so after having survived the first draft.

For two years before I started writing the first draft I carried around a pile of note cards with various thoughts on characters, plot and locations. Then in February of this year, I took an online course entitled Writing Young Adult Fiction. The course helped me organize those ideas into something that someone, somewhere would want to read someday.

By the end of the course I was feeling so optimistic about the process that I took three days off of work to write. Read more

My first writer’s conference… or how I walked into my first agent pitch with a tear in the back of my dress.

By Mayra Cuevas

My first writer’s conference… or how I walked into my first agent pitch with a tear in the back of my dress

My story begins about a month before the Georgia Romance Writer’s Moonlight and Magnolias Conference.

As part of the event you had the choice to meet with editors and agents to pitch your story. I was skeptical at first, because I didn’t have a finished manuscript but a friend told me some writers send in their manuscripts six months or even a year after they pitched it, so I decided to go for it.

I googled every name on the list until I had read everything there was ever published about them online. Finally I picked two fabulous lady agents who were looking for YA books. Read more

The First Draft Hangover

By Mayra Cuevas

For months I’ve dreamed of how I would I feel the day I finished the first draft of my first novel, a YA fantasy. I indulged myself in the thrill, the excitement and the relief of it all… all of which lasted one day and was quickly replaced by the first draft hangover.

My first draft took me 54 days of almost daily writing, preceded by six months of research and outlining. The final product was 51,000 words, a big stack of papers sitting on my desk and a story. I was very proud. My Facebook post was brimming with gratitude and optimism. I was reveling in my own private bacchanalia of writer’s ecstasy. Read more