I’ve known artists who begin a painting by making a sketch. I see this as a form of experimentation or a rough draft to get a sense of what could be. As a writer, I practice my own form of sketching by playing with words on a page to see what images and ideas rise to the surface.
I first began this form of poetic sketching after reading the book “Poemcrazy” by Susan Wooldridge. I’d type random words in rows on a page, cut them up, and place them in a jar. Taking a handful of words, I’d see which words resonated and how they could be arranged to create a whole. This form of poem making reminds me of how I view writing poetry as a puzzle to solve, figuring out the best way to fit words together to form a pleasing whole. Read more
In honor of National Poetry Month, I wanted to share three previous posts on the subject of poetry:
What I learned by reading poetry in front of the Rotary Club is a fun post about my evening out with other poets at a local Rotary Club event.
In Improve your writing craft with this assignment from author Ray Bradbury Carly shares my all time favorite tip from this amazing man. Hint: this advice is not just for poets.
Three poetry sites to inspire your muse is a post that lists three websites I subscribe to and why.
One of the things I love about reading other people’s work is what I learn from it.
So, last year, when I was asked to be one of the judges for a prose competition, I said yes. The competition guidelines listed the areas we were to rank on a scored number system—things like characterization, setting, dialogue, point of view, etc.
Of the twenty or so submissions I read, there were a variety of stories—from a gothic, steampunk, coming-of-age story to a memoir about losing one’s memory in the aging process.
A few submissions stood out above the others like the shiny, bright agates my cousin and I would hunt for on the beaches of our childhood. These submissions wove all aspects of good writing and storytelling together into a whole that hooked my interest from the first line and never let go.
The majority of the submissions fell somewhere in the middle of the pile—not to be rude—but what I might call “mediocre land.” They weren’t poorly written but they didn’t grab ahold of me and say, “Read this, now!” In fact, in many cases, I couldn’t wait for the story to be over because I was bored.
So, what did I learn? Read more
Writer John Gardner once described novels as “vivid, continuous dreams.”
I like it when my dreams inspire my writing. But, lately, I’ve been overly busy with our business and having more work-related dreams. This week we had website issues that I struggled with and, last night, my hubby and I were discussing the website before going to sleep.
I ended up dreaming about websites all night. I tossed and turned, my subconscious mind trying to solve the problem, and woke up with some great insights this morning–albeit a bit tired.
Other nights, I usually read before going to bed–the favorite part of my day–so often my dreams will stem from what I’ve just read. When I read The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novelby Garth Stein I kept dreaming that we bought a new puppy that wrecked our living room furniture. When I read White Oleanderby Janet Fitch one night I dreamed I was an orphan living in the wilderness. Read more
In his well-known book on screenwriting, Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, Blake Snyder explained that the title of your screenplay (or novel) is an important component of your logline (for a novel, think of the logline as your one sentence pitch).
A killer title, he wrote, must have irony and tell the tale of the story. One of his favorite movie titles was, “Legally Blonde,” because it encompassed the essence of the story and was unexpectedly humorous. On the other hand, he felt the movie title, “For Love or Money,” was a horrible title because it was too vague. (There’s even been four different movies with that title, none of them memorable).
Snyder’s advice on titles can apply to any writing project–even poetry or short stories. He made me realize that the working title for my current project had to go because it met none of his criteria for a good title–it didn’t show what the novel was about, it wasn’t unusual or ironic, and it didn’t hook the reader. In fact, the old title probably got in the way of my writing. Yikes! I may change the title again in the future but at least my new working title is pointing me in the right direction–the direction my story wants to go in. Read more
I’ve heard people who teach writing give advice that if you want to write good dialogue to eavesdrop on people’s conversations in coffee shops, train stations, and other public places.
Personally, I think writing mentor Robert McKee’s advice is more accurate: only eavesdrop on people’s conversations if you want to learn how NOT to write good dialogue. Read more
“How you do one thing is how you do everything.” I can’t remember who originally said this but I’ve heard it many times.
Learning to write or do any art is like peeling an onion. A concept or craft technique I learned two years ago will continue to unfold and grow to a deeper level in my understanding.
One of many of these moments came to me last weekend at the Surrey Writers Conference. I heard over and over that, as writers, we should only send out our best work.
I know this, of course, but it resonated at a deeper level of understanding for me this weekend. Read more