Hi. I'm Jenna McGuiggan.
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Come to Your Senses: Writing Sensory Details

Do you write with your body, mind, heart, or soul? In other words: When you write, are you focused on the external or internal world?

Some writers tend to focus on the internal world of thoughts, ideas, and emotions.

Others pay more attention to the external world of sensory details, actions, and descriptions.

Neither approach is wrong, but too much of either can lead to lopsided writing. One way to enrich your writing is to combine the inner and outer worlds so that you have a balance between them.

I used to write almost exclusively from my head and heart, with a strong focus on thoughts and feelings. There might have been some action, but there was little description. For example, my essays could have been summed up like this:

First this happened, and then this other thing happened. This made me feel certain things, but then someone said something, and I felt this other way. Next, I said something and this other thing happened, which made me think more deeply about it, and my feelings changed.

An essay like that, coming only from the head and heart, can lack texture. As a result, readers probably won’t resonate with the story, especially if they don’t already know me and care what I think and feel. Yes, it’s possible to write a compelling piece without the five senses, but it’s much harder to draw readers into the world of your story without those senses.

To create the world of a story (or essay or poem) on the page, you need to bring in the rest of your body.

You need the five senses: taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound. You need concrete, physical details and descriptions.

Writing that lacks sensory details usually feels flat and lifeless. You can enliven your work (and give it depth and texture) by learning to pay attention to the tangible, physical world — and by bringing those concrete, sensory details into your work. This will help you to create a written world where meaning can take root.

If you'd like to learn much more about using the five senses to add texture and vibrancy to your writing, please join me in The Word Cellar Writers Guild. Each month I present a different writing module (like a mini e-course). December's theme is Come to Your Senses, and it includes tips on how to slant and shade sensory details to create meaning, metaphors, and connection with readers. Learn more and join The Writers Guild here.


You're Invited: The Word Cellar Writers Guild


When I was deciding whether or not to go to grad school for writing, I knew I was looking for three things in my writing life: more creativity, a deeper understanding of the craft of writing, and a writing community. In other words, I wanted more connection. I wanted to connect with other writers, with what was happening in the world of writing and publishing, and with my own internal well of words. 

I knew that academia wasn't the only place to find those things. I knew I could find each element elsewhere and cobble together what I needed. But truth be told, I didn't want to cobble things together. I knew I could do it, but I felt tired just thinking about this patchwork approach. 

What I really wanted was one place where I could find the connection I so longed for. And so I went to grad school. And despite my student loans, I'm really glad that I did. 

But. (You knew the "but" was coming, right?) As much as I loved grad school, I still don't believe you have to turn to academia for these things. 

And so. (Of course there's an "and so," yes?) 

And so: I created The Word Cellar Writers Guild to bring writers together to foster creativity, to hone the craft of writing, and to thrive in a community of other writers. 

As I say in the video above, The Writers Guild is an online community for writers devoted to this thing we love. 

It's a place to geek out (or freak out) about words, books, and the highs and the lows of being a writer. 

Social media is great for staying connected to people. But sometimes it feels like a huge, noisy party where hundreds of conversations are happening at high volume, with everyone is shouting about what matters to them.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes you just want to sneak away to a quiet corner with a few people who really get you, have something nice to drink, and talk about this thing that matters so much to each of you: writing.

These kinds of conversations and friendships are some of the best things that came out of my experience in graduate school. I founded The Writers Guild to bring more of us together in a dedicated space for writing. 

I created The Writers Guild so we can connect and create. So we can commisserate and celebrate. So we can geek out and freak out about all things writerly. 

Membership to The Writers Guild is currently open. You're invite to join us. You can choose a monthly or an annual membership. (There's even a deluxe annual membership option that gives you four writer care packages delivered to your door. They're pretty sweet.) 

All of the details are available here. We'd love to have you. 


A New Online Community for Writers

Let's get this party started! The Word Cellar Writers Guild is now open. 

We've been working magic behind the scenes. Please come over and check out the brand new website that we've built for you. (This website here is also sticking around.)

The Writers Guild is focused on three key aspects of the writing life: Creativity, Craft, and Community. The website is already bursting with good things, and it's just going to get better and better.

This month's Writing Module is called Story Gathering, all about the art (and pain) of figuring out what to write -- and getting started. The Resource Library is stocked with inspiring author interviews, a plethora of writing prompts, and more. The Community Forums are waiting for your discussions. 

You can choose from Monthly and Annual Membership options, including a Deluxe Annual Membership that includes four writers care packages. These beautifully curated packages will arrive by postal mail and will be filled with writerly goodies. (I'm kind of ridiculously excited about them.) 

Oh, and if you choose an annual membership before the end of the year, you'll get a free one-on-one coaching session with me.

Okay, I could tell you so much more, but I really hope you'll check it out for yourself. It's a big day here in The Word Cellar, and it won't be the same without you! 


The Writers Guild opens November 9


Time flies when you're having fun. It also flies when you're deep in the throes of launching a new project that you've been dreaming about for years. In my last post, I announced that The Word Cellar Writers Guild was coming soon. And now "soon" is almost here! The virtual doors open one week from today on Monday, November 9. (Which, let me tell you, feels oh-so-very-soon when I look at the final items on my to do list.) 

The Word Cellar Writers Guild is an online membership site that focuses on three key aspects of the writing life: creativity, craft, and community.

Here are some of the ways we'll do that: 

Writing Modules

Each month we'll explore a specific writing-related theme with a learning module. Monthly themes will be related to a writing craft issue, a specific genre of writing, or an aspect of living the writing life. Think of the modules as monthly e-courses, or mini-master classes. You'll be free to work through these modules at your own pace, and once a module is published on the site, it will always be available. 

Resource Library

The Resource Library will hold oodles of good things, such as writing prompts, book recommendations, author interviews, and other bits & bobs to inspire you. The library is already stocked with some great interviews, including conversations with Brené Brown, Marianne Elliott, Sue William Silverman, and others. We'll be adding interviews with writers and other creatives as we go, and I'd love to hear who you'd like me to interview. Leave a comment below or email me {jennifer[at]thewordcellar[dot]com} and let me know if you have a favorite writer/maker/artist that you'd like to hear from.

Community Forums

The Guild has its own private Community Forums where we can get to know each other, ask question, share answers, and generally geek out over all things writing. When I envisioned this community, I knew I wanted to be able to have conversations and connections in a beautiful, password-protected space, without the need to turn to social media. (Goodness knows I love me some social media as much as the next person. But I wanted to create an online space dedicated to writing, without the distractions of online quizzes and adorable kitten videos. Because, really, who can resist those quizzes or kittens?)

Other Goodies

>There will be so many other great things happening in The Guild. I'll be hosting regular live, virtual events, such as small group chats, author readings, craft Q&As, and shared writing studio time.

>We'll also have a book club/book read-along every few months. Stay tuned for the announcement of the first book selection. (I'm also open to suggestions for this, so send me a note if there's something you'd like to read, and I'll add it to the list of possibilities.)

>And then there's this, which I'm so very happy about: real, live writer care packages delivered by postal mail! When you register, you'll have the option to add four beautifully-curated care packages to your membership. (Think: Books, writing goodies, and treats to delight and inspire you. I’m personally selecting each item in these packages, and I’m ridiculously excited to send them to you.) 

I can't wait to throw open the virtual doors and invite you in. If you'd like to receive a special reminder email when The Writers Guild opens on November 9, please add your name over here. 


The Word Cellar Writers Guild (coming soon!)

For the last few years, I've been dreaming of a beautiful online space where we writerly types come together to learn, to share, and to grow.

A place where we can go as deep and as  w i d e  with our writing as we dare.

An online destination that feels like the best bookstore + library + café + book club + writing retreat wrapped up in a virtual home.

A membership group for writers who crave more creativity, more community, and a deeper understanding of the craft of writing.

I've been dreaming and working and planning and scheming for awhile now. And I'm so excited to tell you that it's almost here: The Word Cellar Writers Guild

Nearly all the writers I know (from the newbies to the pros) want to write more pages, to have more joy in the process, and to create deeper connections with other writers.

I want those things, too. So I created The Writers Guild to bring us all together to get more of what we want in our writing lives. And it's going to be so good. I'm buzzing away behind the scenes to get it ready for you. 

What will happen in the The Writers Guild? Here's a list of what members will receive:  

  • Monthly Mini-Master Classes
  • Supportive Community
  • Small Group Chats
  • Live Q&As 
  • Feedback Workshops
  • Prompts & Exercises
  • Inspiring Guests
  • Resource Library
  • Book Read-Alongs
  • Exclusive Discounts
  • Surprises Goodies

During the last five years of teaching online classes, I've met hundreds of you (virtually and in-person). Some of you have met each other. Now it's time to connect the dots and all come together in one beautiful writing community

This dream community has literally been years in the making. Now it's really happening, and I am inviting you to come along. (Because honestly, it won't be the same without you.) The doors will open this fall, and I'd love to send you an invitation when they do.

Many more details are coming soon, so please sign up here for your invitation

Thank you for being part of my extended writing community. I can't wait to gather with you in this newest incarnation of The Word Cellar!