Public Speaking Engagements

I am happy to appear at book clubs, writer's clubs, book signing events and more. I've taught seminars on "Character Driven Plots," as described below. Please use the contact form and message me.   Writers’ Workshop: Character-Driven Plots Sponsored by eFrog Press Spring 2015 Location: Hera Hub Carlsbad • 5205 Avenida Encinas, Suite A, Carlsbad, CA 92009 Quote from the August 16, 2014 Workshop: "The eFrog Press Writer's Workshop on Aug 16th was amazing! I got so much practical information on how to Write a character-driven plot from author Sandra Woffington that I actually started writing my book. LC [Linda Scott] and both the authors, Sandra Woffington and Julie Bawden where so generous with sharing their personal process and all the information you would need to get started writing your own story. Don't miss out on the next workshops. This one was so informative and a lot of fun! Thanks HH [Hera Hub] for hosting it." --Kathleen Trumpe   … [Read more...]

Where Did it Start?: An Interview

Romantic woman using laptop

I'm asked a lot of questions about writing, inspiration, and where it all comes from, so I thought I'd answer typical questions here in a post and share. Enjoy!   Where does your inspiration come from? I'd love to know.   You grew up in Bakersfield, California. What was that like? I can’t imagine growing up anywhere else. We called it Nashville West, since Buck Owens and Merle Haggard were topping the country charts. I still go back to visit friends and stop by Dewar’s for ice cream and taffy. Living in the heat well-prepared me for life in Saudi Arabia too. You married and moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1979. Did you have to veil? Not at all, and I didn’t cover my hair, but I dressed in modest kaftans. Saudis were welcoming and hospitable. I fell in love with Saudi Arabia: with the people and the desert landscape and the Red Sea! It was like going back in time, except it changed daily. Mud-walled palaces came crashing down and new shiny marble ones … [Read more...]

Writing Lessons: Introduction


There are a thousand blogs on the internet about writing. What makes this one different?            I’m a teacher, award-winning novelist, screenwriter, developmental editor, blogger, and have my MFA in Creative Writing. I teach, I write, I edit. I wanted a repeatable system that ensured dynamic character development, powerful 3-act plots, quality writing and dramatic impact. And, I wanted to be able to do it again and again. (My first novel, historical, took years to write, and the second, using my system, was written in 8-weeks--first draft). Can I teach? Yes, and by nuts and bolts, not page after page. Most people (like me) want good information, and they want it fast. Move step-by-step or jump to a topic.If you’re new to writing and just “have an idea,” I encourage that you move step-by-step. Can I write? My senior honors thesis at UCI won the award for “the most outstanding” (big deal—that means I can research and write analytically). My debut novel won … [Read more...]

Writing Lessons: Table of Contents

Step 1: Create Dynamic Characters Step 2: Create Key Plot Points Using the 3-act Structure Step 3: Decide Point-of-View and Perspective Step 4: Learn Basic Writing Techniques (and Novice Mistakes)           1)  24 Sentence Patterns Used by Pros           2)  Active vs. Passive Verbs           3)  Action vs. Dialogue Tags           4)  Worst Words—Omit Them!           5)  Show, Don’t Tell           6)  Specific Details & Research           7)  Sensory Details           8)  Flashbacks vs. Info Dumps           9)  Characterization: Direct vs. Indirect         10)  Story Structure Styles         11)  Dialogue vs. Narrative Passages         12)  Invoking Emotional Responses         13)  Avoid Adverbs         14)  Figurative Language         15)  Poetic Techniques for Fiction Writers Step 5: Craft Riveting Dialogue and Scenes Step 6: Write Your Novel, Story or Screenplay Step 7: Revise and Edit Step 8: Traditional vs. … [Read more...]

Step 1: Create Dynamic Characters

Indiana Jones JPEG

Dynamic Characters: Gender, Age, History and Character Traits Why start with character? 1. Dynamic—means takes decisive action, think dynamite. Characters should challenge one another—explode. Mistake number one—creating inconsistent, flat characters who are “too nice” to one another. From day one, create oppositional characters who will challenge and perhaps change one another. 2. “Character Driven Fiction” means just what it says—the characters (and their character traits) drive the action of the plot. If you start by creating dynamic characters who take dynamic action, you will end up with “Character Driven Plots.” The opposite is “Situational Plots,” which means that the author has devised “things that will happen to a character.” The character becomes a puppet and the author, the puppeteer who makes the flat character dance. The puppeteer says, “I’ll make this happen to my character” and then that will happen. Let the characters act, speak and drive. 3. If you think of … [Read more...]

Step 2: Key Plot Points Using the 3-act Structure

Plots Blockbuster Pure and Simple

Why do I need to follow a structure? I write “organically” as it comes to me. Ever since Aristotle defined the six elements that make a drama great in Poetics, every dramatist since then has copied the format. Shakespeare used it, and every screenwriter since still uses it. Why? Because it works! Time after time after time. A structure ensures that you hit major turning points when you should. The reader expects them, and if you decide to “do it your way” you risk losing readers. A structure ensures that your process is repeatable. Therefore, you ensure quality from book to book or project to project. Some erroneously think that creating a plot (I never use the word outline, which falls short for many reasons) “restricts the imagination.” Wrong! The creative process is the brainstorming involved in creating character and plot. (A friend of mine writes “organically” as she moves along, but then she hits a wall, throws out entire chapters of writing, and sometimes even sets the … [Read more...]

Step 3: Decide Point-of-View and Perspective

Points of View

Why decide POV and perspective now? I’ve had many writer friends and editing clients decide, after the novel is finished, to change POV. Again—time waster. This means an author does not understand POV or did not consider it as a vital decision to make prior to getting in the car and driving to the end of the road. Now, he or she must go back to the starting line and drive the course again—only to find, at some point, it doesn’t work. Why not? Because it changes the entire story, as explained in the next point. Imagine you’re at a bereavement reception. A little girl, sick for a long time, has died. The others present include a successful father, doting mother, shy sister and friends, including a little boy and a psychologist who is helping him. If you recognize the plot, it’s The Sixth Sense. Depending on the POV, you have an entirely different story: Mother’s POV (horror story): She acts like the perfect mother. She dotes on her children, even as she poisons them. Once her … [Read more...]

Step 4: Introduction to Basic Writing Techniques

Before you start writing. There are basic techniques and skills that are all vital—they are the building blocks of good writing. Avoid massive re-writes by learning them now. Then go back to them as you write, as you edit and when you need help. There are 15 techniques, interactively linked. When you're done with one, click the link at the bottom of the page to go to the next. You can always return to the interactive Table of Contents to pick up where you left off. These are all a part of Step 4, hence, they are numbered Skill 4.1, Skill 4.2, etch. Enjoy! Skill 4.1: 24 Sentence Patterns Used by Pros is still under construction--here is the link to Skill 4.2: Active vs. Passive Verbs Go to Skill 4.2:  Active vs Passive Verbs   … [Read more...]

Step 4.1: 24 Sentence Patterns Used by Pros

The Art of Styling Sentences

Why is this important? Subject predicate. Subject predicate. Subject predicate. Are you bored yet? I am. Learning how to use the 24 most powerful sentence patterns used by professional writers not only varies your sentence structure and eliminates boredom (always a bad thing to bore your reader), but these sentence patterns are sheer dynamite when used at the right moments. And—it gets better—there are only 24 of them to master! I will explain each in simple terms below and give you examples. I teach these to my middle school students, who are ready to create more elegant papers and fiction—if they can do it, so can you! For more practice, buy this wonderful book (the source).       The Art of Styling Sentences by Ann Longknife, PhD, and K.D. Sullivan.               Pattern #1: Pattern #2: Pattern #3: Pattern #4: Pattern #5: Pattern #6: Pattern #7: Pattern #8: Pattern #9: Pattern #10: Pattern … [Read more...]

Skill 4.2: Active vs Passive Verbs

Banish Boring Words

The verb is the powerhouse of every sentence. If the verbs are dynamic, so is the writing. If the verbs are dull, so is the writing. It’s that simple. I once edited a manuscript where the author claimed to know all about active versus passive verbs, but here are the verbs in his first few sentences: pushed, looked, saw, put, pointed, ran (looked and saw are also markers of a novice—explained later). These are active verbs but boring, overused ones. Your verbs will either sizzle or sag. Where do you find amazing verbs—ones that sizzle? Start with the wonderful book below—I have several copies in my classroom and one on my writing desk at all times. Pages 8-13 provide lists of active verbs. Yes, 6 pages of them! Here is a small sample: praised, rooted, cheered, slapped, scaled, smacked, crushed, bombarded, infiltrated, sniveled, wailed, schlepped, and guzzled. The verbs are categorized by action. For example, under “drank” you’ll find the following: chugged, consumed, downed, gargled, … [Read more...]