Part of writing includes stalled starts and manuscripts that are better left in a drawer. But sometimes those pieces of writing that didn’t work out can be turned into something new. Add to that, poems or essays or short stories that reveal ideas and characters so compelling that they may generate brand new works.
One example of this is the memoir Breaking Clean by Montana author Judy Blunt. The first chapter was initially an essay Blunt wrote as a college writing assignment.
Short story writer Pete Fromm wrote How All This Started, a novel, which began as a short story by the same name that was published in his short story collection, Night Swimming.
I recently read a poem to my writer’s group and my writer pals said they wanted to know more about one of the characters in the poem. Maybe my poem will lead to a short story or novel.
Even drafts that don’t work may have promise. As we write and read and write again, we change and learn. We have a new perspective. A draft that didn’t seem to work years ago may have new life in light of all we’ve learned.
What drafts or works have you written that still resonate? Maybe now is the time to give them new life.
In a webinar Tuesday, James Scott Bell shared some writing best practices. For now, here are four tidbits of writing wisdom. Watch for more words of writing writing wisdom in my next post.
1. Write – It’s pretty obvious, but how many people do you know who “want to write a book someday,” but never seem to do it? Probably because they don’t just write. It’s the first step.
2.Don’t bore the reader – Whatever you do, if you want to write a gripping book, you can’t be boring. Keep this idea in the back of your mind as you write. Read more
One of the challenges of revising my own work is that I’m too close to my words and ideas. I recently found a technique, though, that helps me achieve distance and offers a new perspective.
When I read my drafts, I practice the same skill that I use when I critically read and annotate literature. I ask myself what I think the “author” (me) intended to communicate from a writerly perspective.
I select a piece of my text and ask:
What did “the writer” mean or want to say? Why did the author choose this approach, this way of saying it, this form? I examine sentences and words with the same lens that I do when I read and analyze fiction, poetry, and memoir to ask myself if the sentences work. Do they flow? Why did the writer make these choices and what is the result? Read more
What do you want your readers to feel after turning the last page of your novel or memoir? I’ve been thinking about endings because I’m revising my memoir and want to make sure it measures up. Here’s what I’m using as my guide to create a satisfying conclusion.
A good ending:
Echoes or answers questions or ideas raised in the beginning. Every story is essentially a mystery that must be solved. Readers want to know that they will find the answer to the dramatic story questions by the time they reach the last page, even if the answers aren’t neat and tidy. City of Thieves: A Novel by David Benioff is one of my favorite books for the way the ending ties back to the beginning. Read more
When I was writing my memoir, it seemed as if the editing process would last a lifetime. When I finally felt as if my manuscript was ready to send out to the world, I took the advice of agent Don Maass and applied one final editing technique. The results were pretty remarkable. I highly recommend this process for all writers whether you’re a beginner or a published professional.
Here’s how it works: When you think you’re done with your manuscript, take a handful of pages (20 to 30) and throw them up in the air. Repeat until the entire manuscript is scattered across your floor. Then randomly gather the pages into one big pile.
Now, go through your manuscript page by page (still out of order). As you read each page, find a way to do these two things per page: Read more