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Posts Tagged ‘writing tools’

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago I started working on titles for poems, to get me going with a bit more focus.

I got a little sidetracked when one became more like a story plan, but it’s always a good exercise, with positive results.

Now I am working on the next phase; building up some draft poems to see which ones work, which ones I like, and which ones I want to take further.

There’s a degree of order in my process this time because of my desire to write about the world as it is now – and the last few weeks have given me more material than I want, frankly! – but I want to keep as open a mind as possible because writing often takes you in unexpected directions.

It’s important to let it too; in this set of work I want to take unexpected routes.  If I can surprise myself, maybe I will surprise my audience too.

I also want to challenge myself with this work. Last time I wrote a particularly politically-inspired poem it didn’t feel finished or complete enough when I first performed it.  I believe that was because it didn’t quite say what I intended.  This time around I need to eliminate that sense of incompleteness because all it does is saps my confidence.

So I am spending my writing energy from now until at least my holiday in May on getting these poems as good as I can, or at least beyond the first draft status!  From then onwards, let’s see what my audience think…

I will share a few of the unused titles over the next couple of weeks: they might not get my writing going but perhaps they will work for one of you 🙂

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

 

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Firstly, apologies for another short post; it’s been a long day and I have no idea where the last hour of it went!

This week I have been thinking about titles.  In all sorts of ways, actually, but keeping to the writing point, I focussed on how a title builds a poem.

When I did my second writing course way back in 2010-11, there was an exercise where we had to write a poem based on a given title.  I have shared the poem that came from it before but if you’re interested let me know and I’ll post it again.

I loved that exercise, because it relied on something sparking in me, and led to me creating my own list of possible titles. ‘Stone Dragon’, the poem about my Grandfather, was born from that list.

I am struggling now with the poem inspired by the sofa cushions and thought this ‘pick a title’ approach might help.  I won’t post the options but I will admit some make me want to go in a completely different direction.

Maybe I should let them: writing to demand is hard enough, writing to a particular theme on demand is worse.

Still, a working title to build from might be helpful if only to focus my attention on something specific.  I need to really get to grips with this project before another year is over…

If you have any fun ideas or useful words for me, feel free to post them; I need all the help I can get!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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This weekend I attended a writing convention and I learnt a few things. Not just about the speakers, but about myself.

It was the Deal Noir event, the second of these I have attended, and this time I went with no thought about learning to write a crime novel.  It’s not that I have given up the idea forever but that I am not pursuing it now.

I think one of the panellists summed up my feelings when he said each book is a year of his life, and (to paraphrase) he can’t spend a year on something he doesn’t love.

That was the first thing I picked up: I am not in love with any of the ideas I have been developing.

Another panellist was saying that writers have the choice to stay in the middle lane or to veer off down quiet roads where no-one else is going.  I love the idea of the unexpected route but that was the second thing I realised: I have been working in the middle of the road since finishing the family tree novel.

Maybe that’s why I am not in love with the ideas: they don’t speak to me with enough gusto.

I write because I love to write, and I don’t want my life to be without writing, but I need to think before I write, to understand why something is or is not working effectively.  Whether something is too safe, too middle of the road.

I have worked on changing things since new year but I wonder if I am just tinkering around the edges.  I need to be more bold, more reflective, more brave. Only by challenging myself can I expect to push my own boundaries.

But it wasn’t all self-examination. I also got lots of practical ideas and inspiration, some good giggles, new books, and a personal pep talk to keep going.  Everyone has a different writing story but as I said to some of the writers as they signed their books, I want to enjoy the journey.

Maybe focussing on poetry for a while is just what I need, to get me into a more reflective writing style.  It might rub off on my prose!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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This week has been all about getting inspiration for the new project I spoke about last week.  There’s a school of thought that says writing is habit, rather than waiting for the one or two magic moments that form a scene or send a character in to fight whatever enemies you think up.

I’ve always felt this was true for prose and less so for poetry, but when time is limited, you have to give your inspiration a bit of a kick start!

This is where a notebook comes into its own : by collecting ideas like scattered seeds – stories I’ve heard, words I like, song lyrics that create strong emotional responses, political angst, the colour of leaves on a September day – I can look back and see what I think can be nurtured into poetic life.

Today’s idea was for a poem inspired by a post it note that had got lost between the sofa cushions. The poem reflects on the way our lives change over time and how something that was important can be so easily forgotten. Maybe I will post it here when it’s done.

This is good timing, because I am just about to start a course on writing poetry, with a view to engaging more with my own.

I am a more natural writer of poetry than prose and I find the process more fun, so getting into a project demanding new work is a real positive for me, and I am excited to see which of my little seed ideas blossoms and creates fruit of its own!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I have recently been working on finding quotes about a variety of concepts.  I started by looking things up for my wall at work, where my Action for Happiness poster is a little lonely because I have taken down some photos – I need to change things up sometimes!

I have subsequently been looking for quotes for other things, and other people.

I am not sure why they help but they do.  Perhaps it is the knowledge we are not alone in feeling something, or that a positive thought has a positive impact, or even that it gives us a different way of looking at things.

Whatever it is, it’s actually quite fun to look at lists of quotes.  As you may remember I was even inspired by a quote to write my poem Cicero and now I am pulling together a new set list I may well use that technique again.

There is power in words to inspire, delight, agitate and infuriate – and all of these can spur the writing imagination. Plus you might find a comic gem or two along the way!

So quotes are now in my basket of writing tools to draw upon when I need to spur my imagination – or my sense of humour!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I am studying more slowly than planned but so far it’s been a worthwhile exercise to get back to thinking more analytically about writing.

The biggest benefit, however, comes when I get back to putting a story on paper.  Specifically, how less really is more!

I have some great tips and techniques for revising my work, from thinking through each scene to see if it does what it should – and includes the elements that give it purpose – to identifying how to tighten up the language and what type of words to consider cutting first.

All I need now is to take my ideas book, and see what ideas I want to pursue, if any!

One thing I will try in my next writing outing is revising as I go, a technique that works for many people but has never really appealed to me.  However it seems sensible to try it and see if it helps because my whole ethos on the next story is about planning, organising and controlling – I don’t want to write another 50k words before I realise my story is fundamentally flawed!

Now I have a better, more practical understanding of the revision process, I need to make it part of my writing practice.  That will take some time but we all know writing is at least partially habit so I don’t see why editing should be any different!

Until next time – happy writing,

EJ

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Last week I talked about purpose in writing and this week I thought I would expand on the idea and talk about how word choice impacts on perception.

We see examples of this every day – from politicians to journalists and even in the most mundane conversations we might have at work or in a shop.  Word choice can make someone feel good, or leave them deflated, unsure, or scared.

It makes sense, therefore, to think hard about the type of language a character will use.

Maybe you have a cheerful, happy go lucky character who always sees the possibilities of a situation.  In conversation they would be upbeat and positive, and using a phrase like ‘I hate her’ would would be completely out of character.

That’s not to say they can’t say it – it might be a reflection of the extent to which another character should be disliked or distrusted – but that it wouldn’t be a throwaway comment like it might be for a teenager complaining about their classmate.

Of course language is also more subtle: a description of someone as being ‘unlike my friends’ instantly makes them an outsider, something other, and puts up a barrier between the narrator and the person.  A description of a group as ‘infesting’ somewhere makes them a plague or like vermin.  When your narrator says someone is ‘worn at the edges’ it tells you that the person they are describing is a little scruffy and tired looking, and your narrator is making a judgment on that basis.

There are countless examples in every book so it’s worth reading with the word choice in mind.  Change a few words in your head, and see the impact.

Word choice can fundamentally change the perception of the reader and it is incredibly important to get it right. If you want a character to be likeable, don’t make them use mean or unpleasant language.  If you want someone to be mysterious, don’t make them verbose.

The same principle applies to all elements of writing: scenes, descriptions, expositions all need to be approached with a clear view of how to convey your message, your story, through the words you choose.

That is the best way possible to share the world you imagine with your reader.

Happy writing,

EJ

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