It’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.
Posted in Craft | Tagged characters, plot, Tom Zumwalt | 2 Comments »
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!
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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.
Posted in Craft | Tagged NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, writing advice, writing practice, writing tips | Leave a Comment »
Now that the weather here seems to have settled into an unmistakably summer pattern, it’s easy to lose energy and momentum. I don’t know about you, but the heat just saps all my energy, mental as well as physical. So I was quite happy when a post from Carol Tice (of Make a Living Writing) popped up in my reader with the subtitle, “18 Ways to Jump-Start Your Creativity.”
No matter what kind of writing you do or where in the process you are, something on this list is certain to breath a little fresh air into your work. Number 11 (Collect and compare styles) and Number 15 (Copy and substitute) appealed to me right away, as I’ve been trying to do more reading of late.
Whichever of these suggestions might speak to you, don’t be afraid to modify them to meet your goals or needs – after all, getting creative with the list is a perfect way to jump-start your creativity.
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Fifteen days of Lexington Poetry Month have passed; fifteen days remain. That’s plenty of time to take part in wonderful poetry events happening all over town this month and even write some poetry of your own.
To give yourself a leg up, try this: make a list of five things you’ve seen in the past 24 hours. Write a poem (or short story, book chapter, flash, whatever) that includes each of those five things. (Derived from a prompt posted by Bianca Spriggs on the Accents Publishing Blog.)
Posted in Craft | Tagged Accents Publishing, Bianca Spriggs, Lexington Poetry Month, LexPoMo, poetry prompts, writing prompts | Leave a Comment »
Doris Settles and co-author Dixie Hibbs (the first woman inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame) have written Prohibition in Bardstown, KY: Bourbon, Bootlegging and Saloons which came out May 2 from History Press. First-person stories collected a quarter-century ago, legend, recipes and more abound in this fun, provocative book. Learn both the intended results and the unintended consequences of the temperance movement, which had been around since the birth of this country. This is the story of America’s only native spirit: Bourbon–and it’s afficianados, as well as its detractors from the ancient days of distilling in Babylon to the current Bourbon Craft resurgence we are experiencing today.
Doris and Dixie have copies to sell, and books are available from Amazon, Joseph-Beth, Morris, and local gift shops!
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Today marks the end of the fourth week of NaPoWriMo – only two days left! Once again, the good folks at The Poet’s Billow have provided a quick and easy exercise that works equally well for prose and poetry.
With eyes closed, open the dictionary at random and place your finger on the page. Write about the origin of whatever it is that your finger landed on. (This would probably work with almost any book, but the dictionary also provides some reference information to help you along.)
Posted in Craft | Tagged NaPoWriMo, National Poetry Writing Month, The Poet's Billow, writing practice, writing prompts | Leave a Comment »