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The three Rs

Recycle001With Earth Day looming, it’s only fitting that Maja Todorovic of Business in Rhyme should remind us of the Three Rs of Writing:

Reduce: Take an old draft or something that doesn’t quite work; cut out all the stuff you don’t like; make something new out of what remains.

Reuse: Take old books, magazines, junk mail, grocery receipts – anything with words; cut or tear out words or phrases that strike you; arrange them into a poem, a paragraph, an outline, whatever.

Recycle: Find something you wrote a long time ago, when you were in a different state of mind; turn prose into poetry (or vice versa), rewrite it in a different voice, change 1st person to 3rd (or vice versa), revise the bejeezus out of it – use your old work to inspire something new.

(Reminder: There are still ten days left in National/Global Poetry Writing Month. It’s not too late to get your poetry on!)

Small-Blue-RGB-National-Poetry-Month-LogoHave you ever wondered why April is National Poetry Month in the U.S. (and other places as well)? Perhaps because both Geoffrey Chaucer and T.S. Eliot open epic poems with references to the month: “Whan that Aprille with his shoores soote” (Canterbury Tales) and “April is the cruellest month” (The Waste Land). Or perhaps because many English-speaking children learn this simplest of rhymes almost as soon as they can speak: “April showers bring May flowers.”

April is also National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMo. If you want some writing inspiration, any number of sites offer daily prompts:

(These work just as well for other types of writing, if poetry isn’t your thing.)

Whatever writing you do this month, take time to appreciate the poetry that already surrounds you in song lyrics, in mnemonic devices (30 days hath September…), in the everyday speech of your community.

Happy Poetry Month!

Think you might try your hand at poetry this year during National/Global Poetry Writing Month? You only have three more days to wait/prepare!

If you are looking for ideas, NaPoWriMo.net has great suggestions and resources, including links to over 300 (so far) participating blogs and websites.

Most April prompts don’t get posted until March 31, but if you want a bit more of a head start, these might fit the bill:

Sharpen your pencils and charge up your laptops — it’s going to be a creative month!

Irish novelist Catherine Ryan Howard (a.k.a. Catherine Caffeinated) is nearing the end of a blockbuster blogging bonanza to generate excitement for the North American release of her suspense/thriller, Distress Signals, on 2 February. Her blog is an excellent source of information and ideas about getting published as she has experience with both traditional and self-publishing.

Earlier this week she posted a thoughtful discourse about receiving and responding to editorial feedback, which led me to search the blog’s archives for previous posts about editing. To save you the trouble of a similar search, here’s an annotated list of relevant links.

Why hire an editor?
https://catherineryanhoward.com/2013/03/28/why-hire-an-editor/
Guest post that explains how editing is not about whether your writing is good but about making sure you put your very best work out there.

Structural editing for self-publishers
https://catherineryanhoward.com/2013/04/04/structural-editing-for-self-publishers/
Guest post with useful information about structural (also called developmental) editing and suggestions for how to stay on budget without forgoing necessary feedback.

Copy-editors: what they really do
https://catherineryanhoward.com/2013/10/15/copy-editors-what-they-really-do/
Guest post that describes copy-editing as both comprehensive and indispensable in preparing a manuscript for publication.

Proofreading explained
https://catherineryanhoward.com/2013/10/17/proofreading-explained/
Guest post that explains how proofreading differs from other stages of manuscript preparation, with tips about ways to make the most of this highly specific editorial function.

How do you know when editorial feedback is right?
https://catherineryanhoward.com/2017/01/23/how-do-you-know-when-editorial-feedback-is-right/
A frank discussion of the joys and agonies of the editing process.

Be sure to look through the comments that follow these posts as well, because they contain pertinent questions and further discussion.

Here’s to always putting forth the very best work we can!

dec-2016It’s a new year, but I want to pass along some ideas from the tail end of the old year. ECWG member Tom Zumwalt writes about writing on his blog, and his 13 December 2016 post contains some wonderful observations.

The image of plot as a river really resonates – it may be slow or fast, murky or clear, winding or direct, filled with obstacles, branches, pirates, or crocodiles. It carries the characters (and ideally the reader) to a place they weren’t before, and nothing is exactly the same when they arrive as it was when they departed. This can be a terrific tool for mapping out your plot or for assessing what you’ve already written: do we get lost in that tributary? Are there too many rapids, or not enough? Does the whole thing move along so slowly that everyone abandons ship and drowns out of boredom?

But the river – the plot – is simply a vehicle for the characters. Without them, we never embark on the journey. They are the only reason we care about the river. With the right characters, even the most placid river will not be boring, because they will do stupid or brave or terrifying or outrageous things on the way, and we will be riveted.

So heed Tom’s call: create characters we cannot look away from and send them down the river.

http://writefromthegitgo.blogspot.com/2016/12/look-out-rock.html

In honor of the shortest period of daylight in the year, the northern hemisphere celebrates today as Short Story Day. (The southern hemisphere celebrates it on 21 June.) I was woefully uninformed about this holiday until the good folks at Writers Write, a wonderful, South African-based resource for writers, posted about it on their blog. They included links to other posts about the short story, and I’ve highlighted some below that I thought might be of particular interest.

The Long and the Short of It touches on some crucial differences between novels and short stories. This observation resonates with me most: “Rather than length as a dividing line, short stories – the good ones anyway – have a stronger sense of unity than a novel.” Novels can afford to meander; short stories have to make every word count.

Cut to the Chase offers great tips for beginning a short story. My favorite: “Read over your opening page and cross out every single line that is not indispensable. When you get to the line that simply cannot be left out, you’re at the start of the story.” This is a great editing tip for fiction of any length.

20 Unforgettable Quotes is just that – a list of clever, pointed, wry, and even soulful quotes about the short story. My favorite is from Stephen Colbert (#15).

It seems fitting to end with words of wisdom from the king – Stephen King. My favorite bit from Stephen King on Writing Short Stories is, “You need to take out the stuff that’s just sitting there and doing nothing.” Words to live by, my writing friends.

Short stories are my favorite prose form, so I intend to spend the day binge-reading Neil Gaiman and Ursula Le Guin. Happy Short Story Day!

 

Forget the NaNo

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

“So what does that have to do with me?” you ask. “I write poetry/essays/greeting cards/short stories/fortune cookies/memoir/cookbooks/etc.”

Point well taken. But you are a writer, correct? And people all around the world are gearing up to engage in a massive frenzy of writing, creating all sorts of activities and events and infrastructure to support the work of writing for 30 whole days.

So drop the novel bit. Drop the national bit, too. Let November be your WriMo, your Writing Month. Write whatever you want. Write something different every day, if you want. Be part of that river of creativity that is about to be unleashed.

Just write.

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