Tag Archive for process

Better Writing Through Chemistry

A friend recommended the movie “Just Like Heaven.” Reese and Ruffalo starred; I admired their work. On HBO. DVR set. Off I go.

better writing through chemistryWanted to love this love story about a doctor who dies but isn’t dead yet.  Her spirit haunts her apartment which he rents, and somehow he’s the only one that can see and speak to her.   Hijinks ensue, love blossoms, yada, yada. The story was light, yet interesting enough, but there was one big problem:

The leads had zero chemistry.

It was like R&R met and hated each other, or they signed on, got paid, and checked out. “Just Like Heaven,” sadly, was not.

We’ve all read books that were just so-so. Clear plot, good characters, well edited, but the reading doesn’t incite your passion. Instead of being engrossed in the words, you keep having passing thoughts of other things to do instead.

When you write, you have to create good chemistry with your writing. When you cultivate this relationship, delight in every phase of the process, feel happy with the product, and launch the book into the world with positive expectation, readers sense it. They connect to it. It’s what they want. Their passion and joy connects with the passion and joy you’ve infused in your writing.

Having readers say of your book “I really bonded with that character” or “It swept me up” or “I never wanted it to end,” well, that’s a love story, one you’ve created from dynamite chemistry.

Recipe for Robust Revision

Sign up for classes: Writing MemoirScreenwriting, Conquering Writer’s Block, and Creative Writers Workshop.


As a person new to grilling, I recalled a truth that once meat is cooked, it remains more flavorful if it rests before cutting and serving. This allows the juices which escaped to the middle while over the flames to reestablish themselves throughout, bringing moisture to every bit. If you cut into it while the meat is too hot, much of this valuable flavor will dribble out. So toss the salad, refresh beverages, and give a word of thanks as you inhale the aroma before taking the first bite.

grilling meatThe same is true for your writing. Like resting the roast, rest your draft before revising. And while it cools down, rest yourself. Taking a break from the piece is vital before revision to clear your perceptions and come back fresh. 24 hours will do, but I like 48. If under a tight deadline, change your perspective through working on something else, having lunch, reading a bit, or getting away from your writing desk by exercising, meditating or talking to a friend.

Return to your writing with a renewed appetite to genuinely experience its flavor. As you savor, you can easily notice what parts are juicy and which ones need an infusion of creative essence. Consider taking steps with revision beginning with a perusal of the work as a whole, making broad directives in the margin like “edit down,” “choose one,” “divide sentences,” “awkward,” and a personal favorite, “?” Don’t cut into it just yet. Examine it before scrutinizing line-by-line, before chewing on it word-by-word.

With grilling, the results rest with the fire and timing. Robust revision involves passion and perseverance with plenty of room for patience.

Holiday Present: Claim Your Good

Are you naughty or nice to your writer self?

present by Christine Wong Yap

As you explore and grow as a writer, you discover, like all of us, that writing involves much more than computers, ergonomic chairs and trendy standing desks, as well as many more skills than you learned in school.

Put those toys aside, and imagine what gift would help you feel good as a writer. Stretch, if necessary, to believe in its amazing arrival.

Remember when magic and make-believe were present every day?  I bet at one time you did.  Give it another whirl.  Pick up a pencil, pen or crayon, and write a letter of your heart’s wish.  Build your belief starting with words like I have–

I love to write!  I’m worthy of my best gifts,
and I gratefully receive a writer’s perseverance!

This year has whooshed by, and though I’ve written lots of blog posts, emails and hundreds of journal pages, my book isn’t complete.  I’ve enjoyed editing, contract and ghostwriting projects while my book patiently waits.  So for this holiday season, my gift to myself is intentional focus on my own book. For the new year, I’ll claim the time for my heart’s project alongside my work, and trust all is well.

As a writing coach, I know a young woman who wants the gift of delight to allow her writing to bring spontaneous laughter to her.  A gentleman desires an abundance of crackling creative ideas.  One writer seeks personal acceptance, forgiveness and healing through her words.

What about you?  Ask for what you really, really want.  Notice what you initially want may lead to something else.  Ask for that, too!

  • Authenticity, Enthusiasm, Release
  • Creativity, Play, Celebration
  • Intention, Support, Strength
  • Purpose, Communication, Collaboration
  • Exploration, Openness, Discernment

gift tagWrite your letter, and send it to yourself.  Read it with fresh, compassionate eyes.  Recognize the truth of the desire, and then, like an expert holiday shopper on a mission, find the way to give yourself the present of an enriched writing experience.

Here’s the holiday’s best kept secret – the gift is already yours.  Your desire birthed the intention; you simply have to claim and use it.

There’s no question of naughty or nice.  Simply know you are good.

artwork by Christine Wong Yap

Teen Writer Success: College Hopeful

*Academic Coaching available by appointment

The flustered Mom called me eager for help with her daughter Lily’s college application process.

teen writer success 2She mentioned Lily was an aspiring fashion designer who maintained good grades alongside strong extracurricular activities, but struggled with writing.

When we met, I was puzzled after reading the first of four essays. Her mom saw the bewilderment on my face and slunk out the door.

On the topic of a proud moment in school, the teen’s messy essay explained leaving art class and being alone in the hallway when she heard her name announced over the intercom.  She’d been chosen for the homecoming court.  Lily went on to write that she didn’t win, but she was proud of being thought of as pretty.

Looking up from the paper, I found Lily poised and smiling, no doubt like she had been on the football field during halftime.

I affirmed that, yes, she is a lovely young woman, but she wasn’t applying to modeling school.  More importantly, the essay had no interaction, no moment showing her character other than being flattered, much less something that exemplified her integrity in academic or artistic endeavors.  It didn’t illustrate her hard work or pride in her efforts.  The only attribute highlighted was simply looking good.

She argued with me, so I pulled out my best impersonation of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn to let her know the judges would look for a focused message and strong writing skills.  It was time to show herself in a garment of her accomplishments and goals.  “After the entrance committee reads this, do you want to be in for the big college career, or do you want to be out and go home from crafting a pretty, but shallow story?”

She wilted into her thoughts, reluctantly agreed, then bellowed, “But I don’t know what to write!”

“Come on! Tell me one proud moment now.”

“Ah, well, I dunno.  I guess winning Governor’s Honors in art and going to camp—“

“Great!” I shouted as I wrote it down.  “Another!”

writing and sketching“When I accepted my school’s art award and saw the look on Mom and Dad’s—“

“Excellent!   Again!”

“Um, working with Habitat for Humanity then going to the ceremony and being hugged by the single mother who—“

“Splendid!  You have three to choose from!”

“But which one?” she whined.

“Any of them!  What one begs to be written?”

The wheels raced in her head. “I guess the house where I had fun painting the interior after nailing on part of the roof, but I didn’t expect the new owner’s joy to make me cry.”

“Great!” I said, holding up my hand for a high-five before adding, “You can do this!”

Her mom popped in with a hesitant smile, “Going good?”

“Yes, Mom.” Lily genuinely smiled.

“We have a new topic and are underway on Essay 1.”

The mother smiled, and when Lily lowered her head to begin writing, Mom winked at me and mouthed “thank you!”

Looks won’t get anyone accepted into their top-tier college choices, but after writer’s coaching, schedule management skill work, and learning the importance of revision, Lily was in.  All of them.  She had a full court of great opportunities to choose from.  How beautiful.

Read other success stories about academic coaching for immediate needs, a teen needing confidence, another needing an attitude adjustment, and a real job seeker.
Disclaimer —  It’s true: writers write what they know, and, yes, I write from my experiences.  However, all characters and situations in my stories are fictitious fusions, creative amalgamations.  Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or real interactions with me are purely coincidental.