To kick off National Poetry Month, I’m sharing a poem from my poetry book, “The Dragon & The Dragonfly.”
The idea for the poem came from a prompt to write from an animal’s point of view. I’d just read an article about my favorite author Neil Gaiman’s time in Tasmania helping with a documentary on the Tasmanian Cave Spider, so that’s the creature I chose.
How did the poem come together? Read more
Do you call yourself a novelist, poet, memoirist, or short story writer? You may find value in expanding how you define yourself as a writer.
If you’re working on a novel, consider dabbling in poetry. If you write short stories, consider writing essays. Here’s how pursuing other projects can help you enhance your career and elevate your writing.
Expand your publishing opportunities. Writing and revising a novel can be a long process that can take years to finish. If you’re writing other work along the way, such as poetry, essays, or short stories, you’ll have that much more writing momentum, a new credit for your writing resume, and another connection that may lead to a publishing opportunity for your novel.
Build your skills. Writing in a new format can offer a fresh perspective that brings something to every writing project you do. When I began studying and writing poetry, I became more conscious than ever about the power of individual words and sounds. This permeated every other project I worked on.
Amplify your writing energy. Writing has an ebb and flow. You may have dry spells where you find you’re stuck. Rather than bouncing your head against a wall, work on something completely different to redirect your energy while your other project percolates in your subconscious. Simply continuing to write will help you feel you’re making progress.
When I first decided to venture from writing poetry to prose, I read a lot of how-to craft books and took a few writing courses. Eventually, I decided I wanted a more focused approach so I enrolled in a low-residency MFA program through Goddard College.
You don’t need an MFA or any kind of degree, of course, to be a writer, but it was perfect for me. It allowed me the time I needed to focus on craft, and it forced me to read widely. This is what I’m thankful for most, I think, is the opportunity to read and learn how to analyze other writers’ work. I read works from authors whom I never would have otherwise read. Read more
Is there a short story you’re struggling to write? Sometimes, you have to let the story write itself. I generally like to have an outline of some sort before I start writing, but lately I’ve experimented by starting with a remnant of an idea, or a character, or even just one sentence or phrase.
I realized that with one of my stories, I was simply trying too hard. I was over thinking it. If you’re stuck, try letting go and having faith that your story will reveal itself.
Try these exercises to find your way into a short story:
1. Make a list of 60 first lines. Let the list sit for a few days or weeks. When you look at it again, see which ones resonate. Pick one and imagine the next line. Work on it a little very day, adding sentences and paragraphs. Some of the lines may never work into a story, others may inspire something new and you might find them taking you in new and unexpected directions. Read more
Where do you get your ideas for short stories? I like to think of them as slices of life. An event or image sparks an idea with an emotional response at its core.
Author Sam Weller says a haunting memory sparked, “The Girl in the Funeral Parlor.” An image of a woman and her baby in a casket formed the kernel of an idea. At the end of the story, he explains how it came to be, including how he was influenced by author Ray Bradbury. Read more
In my post, “Six Elements of Great Short Stories,” I wrote about the six things literary agent April Eberhardt said we should think about in our stories: setting, character, point of view, conflict, plot, and theme.
She suggested carrying some index cards with these elements listed and using them when we see something in our daily life that sparks our interest.
She used the example of the day she was driving in the city and saw a car full of nuns next to her. What drew her interest was the unexpected–they were driving a new Lexus and laughing hysterically. She began to wonder about their story.
So, if I take her advice and list the elements of this situation on my index card, it could look something like this: Read more
Instead of making a list of New Year’s resolutions, my friend Nicole likes to have a theme – a single statement that encompasses a key idea that she wants to focus on for the year. For 2012, I decided to adopt a writing theme – one that would help me focus on the power of imagination.
Sometimes it’s easy to over think the writing process. I’ll worry if I don’t know where my story is going. I begin to doubt myself and the project. Then I have to remind myself (again) that we write to discover, to find out what happens. It’s okay if I don’t know everything that’s going to happen.
In The Story Behind the Story: 26 Stories by Contemporary Writers and How They Work, author Stephen Dobyns says he was inspired to write a book of short stories after hearing advice from writing mentor Raymond Carver. Dobyns asked Carver how he had written a particular story:
“He (Carver) said the first sentence had come into his mind and he just followed it. The sentence was something like: “He was vacuuming the living room rug when the telephone rang.” Carver said, ‘It came into my head and so I tried to see what came next.’ In such a way had the story unwound itself.”
After the first sentence, the whole process had been a process of discovery. Read more