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Publishing of Book:The Art and Craft of Creative Writing

Art-and-Craft-of-Creative-Writing_cover Thanks for visiting my blog for  the past four years. During that time, I’ve read and learned about the writing life, poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. I have read many books, learned a great deal, and written a couple hundred craft essays. In January of this year, I decided to write a book based on what I have learned. And so from April until a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a how-to creative writing eBook. It is called “The Art and Craft of Creative Writing.” It is based on what I have learned. To purchase the book, visit http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F4VOYRK

The book is more than 400 pages long and includes the following chapters chapters:

 Table of Content

  • About the Author 3
  • Introduction. 4
  • THE WRITING LIFE. 7
  • The Art and Craft of Writing. 8
  • The Writing Life: Journal Writing. 16
  • The Writing Life: Reading Like a Writer 19
  • The Writing Life: Learning to Write Creatively. 24
  • The Writing Life: Finding Inspiration to Write. 29
  • Ten Myths about Writing. 33
  • Writer’s Block. 36
  • The Writing Life: Developing Your Writing Voice. 39
  • Blogging as a Form of Creative Writing. 44
  • The Writing Process. 49
  • Writing the Opening. 54
  • Writing the Ending. 57
  • Revising Your Work. 60
  • WRITING FREE VERSE POETRY.. 65
  • Poetry: An Overview.. 66
  • Free Verse Poetry: An Overview.. 74
  • The Title of a Poem.. 80
  • Finding Inspiration and a Subject for Your Poem.. 83
  • Writing Free Verse: Stanza, Line, Syntax. 87
  • Writing Free Verse: Word Choice. 93
  • Writing Free Verse: Adding Sensory Details. 96
  • Writing Free Verse: Using Figurative Language. 100
  • Writing Free Verse: Adding Sound Effects. 104
  • Writing Free Verse: Meter and Rhythm.. 108
  • Writing the Prose Poem.. 113
  • Learning to Write Free Verse Poetry. 116
  • WRITING SHORT FICTION.. 123
  • Writing Short Fiction: An Overview.. 124
  • Writing Short Fiction: Creating the Setting. 130
  • Writing Short Fiction: The Plot 134
  • Writing Short Fiction: Character and Characterization. 139
  • Writing Short Fiction: Dialogue. 144
  • Writing Short Fiction: Point of View.. 148
  • Writing Short Fiction: The Theme. 152
  • Writing Short Fiction: Literary Techniques and Poetic Devices. 155
  • Writing Short Fiction: Voice and Writing Style. 161
  • Writing Short Fiction: Beginning and Ending. 166
  • How to Write a Short Story. 170
  • WRITING CREATIVE NONFICTION.. 176
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: An Overview.. 177
  • The Ethics of Creative Nonfiction. 184
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: Using Humour in Your Writing. 189
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Personal Narrative Essay. 194
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Opinion Essay. 202
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Meditative Essay. 209
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Lyrical Essay. 215
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Segmented Essay. 219
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Literary Journalism Essay. 224
  • The Literary Journalism Essay: On Popular Culture. 229
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: Narrative History. 237
  • The Literary Journalism Essay: The Global Village. 243
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Profile/Biography Sketch. 248

For anyone who desires to embrace the writing life, write free verse poetry, write short fiction, write creative nonfiction, such as the personal essays, and more, this book is for you. It is filled with advice, tips, suggestions, how-to explanations, and more. You can buy it at Amazon for $7.00. To purchase the book, visit:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F4VOYRK I will not be making any more posts to this blog. It is time for another project. Good luck in your writing endeavors. Dave Hood,B.A.

The Writing Life: The Art and Craft of Creative Writing

Dave Hood

“The Act of Writing Makes You a Writer.”—Julia Cameron

The best creative writing is both an art and craft. How is it an art? First, creative writers use  a set of cognitive skills to discover ideas to write about.  They learn to mine their memories, use their imagination, observe the outer world, apply their creative thinking abilities, and explore their curiosities.

Secondly, creative writing is the art of self-expression.  Writers  share their thoughts, feelings, and perspective about themselves and the world they inhabit.

Thirdly,  writers use their creative talents associated with language to write imaginatively with similes, metaphors, sensory imagery, and more.

Creative writing is also a craft in the sense that writers must learn the rules, guidelines, and techniques of writing.  To write,  a writer must learn the rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  If the writer intends to write a poem, short story, or personal essay, the writer must learn the techniques of these genres.

Some people believe that  writing cannot be taught. I don’t agree. I feel that anyone who is motivated can learn both the “art of creative thinking” and  the “techniques” of creative writing.

In this article, I’ll explain how writer’s can learn to think more creatively by developing  several cognitive skills, which can be used  to find ideas and material.  The following will be covered:

  • Creative thinking
  • Memory
  • Imagination
  • Observation
  • Curiosity

I will also explore the craft of writing.  The following will be covered:

  • Showing and Telling
  • Literary techniques
  • Poetic Devices
  • Word choice/diction
  • Sentence Variety
  • Paragraph Development

The Art of Creative Writing

Creative writing is more than just writing about facts. It also is about using your creativity abilities to find ideas and collect material. It is also about thinking creatively so that you can discover a simile or metaphor to write a poem, or short story, or  personal essay.  In this section, I’ll explore a few ways in which you can learn to think more creatively.

Creative Thinking

You can learn a few creative thinking techniques, which will assist you in discovering  new ideas and details for your writing. These techniques will also assist you in writing better metaphors, similes, and types of comparisons.  Here are a few techniques that you can learn:

  • Brainstorm a list of ideas. How? Find a topic, and then list all the ideas that you might want to write about.
  • Ask “what if.” You can use this technique to write fiction or a poem. And then answer the question. Examples: What if you were diagnosed with a serious illness?…What if a meteor  plowed into the earth?…What if you won the lottery?…What if you  lost your job?
  • Challenge your assumptions.  You can use this techniques to find ideas to write about, to write poetry, to write fiction. What assumptions do you have about people, places, things, yourself, the world around you. Often truth is a matter of perspective. Your truth is often different than someone else’s.
  • Ask the question: “Why?” Then answer the question. You can use this technique  to find ideas and material to write about. You could begin by freewriting. Or you could do some research. For instance, why did 9/11 happen? Why do people write? Why do people smoke? Drink? Become murders?
  • Change your perspective. Step into the shoes of someone else. Emotional truth (How did it feel?) is always a matter of view point. You can use this technique for fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction.
  • Do some mind mapping. How? Take a blank piece of paper and draw a circle in the centre. Write down the topic inside the circle. For each associated idea, draw a line outward, and write the idea in a smaller circle. (Like a spoke in a wheel)
  • Look for alternatives. There is always more than one way to write a poem, tell a tale, or write a personal essay. You can use this technique for any type of creative writing.
  • Learn to make comparisons between different things. The easiest ways are to learn how to write similes and metaphors. A simile compares two thing by using “like” or “as.” Example: Writing a novel is like running a marathon. A metaphor compares two different things directly or indirectly without using “like” or “as.” Often the writer makes the comparison by using “is.”  Example:  Memorable writing is a work of art.

By learning to think creatively, you develop your artistic side.

 

Mine your Memory

Memories are the foundation of creative writing. Learn to mine your memories of people, places, events, and experiences. Here are a few techniques:

  • Write about what author Brenda Miller calls “the five senses of memory.” We experience the world through our sense of sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing. For instance: What is your favorite smell? What is the worst thing you’ve seen? What is the most delightful thing you’ve tasted? Once you have an answer (and there is no one right answer), write about it.
  • Do some focused freewriting. Sit down, write about something in your past, such as a birthday, graduation, first experience. As you write, you’ll discover that once you uncover a memory, you’ll discover related memories.
  • Use a timeline. For instance, pick a year from the past. Find out what happened during that year in the news.  World events, public figures, popular culture will bring back memories from your past. A good way to use a timeline is to conduct a Google Search.
  • What are your memories of special occasions, such as holidays, vacations, birthdays, graduations?
  • What are your achievements and accomplishments? What are your biggest mistakes?
  • What are the memories of first encounters? First car? First girlfriend? First job? First accident?
  • What are you happiest memories? What are your saddest memories?
  • What are the family traditions?
  • What are the turning points in your life?

For additional information on how to find ideas to write about, read “How to Write Your Own Life Story” by Louis Daniel.

Learning to dig up your memories is part of the art of writing.

Use Your Imagination

Most people are taught  to focus on facts, truth, reality. They are not taught to develop their imagination.  Imagination is about using your mind to create sensory details or mental pictures of things that are not actual present in your senses.  The best creative writers know how to use their imagination to uncover ideas and details. Here are a few methods you can use to develop your imagination:

  • Ask the question: what if? Then answer  the question.
  • Learn the writing technique of showing and telling. Showing is about writing a scene. A scene includes action, dialogue, setting, sensory details. Showing the reader also means writing concrete, significant, particular details. Showing is about writing sensory details.
  • Practise freewriting.  You can use focused freewriting or unfocused freewriting. If you use focused freewriting, you select a topic, and then begin to write. If you use unfocused freewriting,  you write down whatever details rise into your consciousness. In both types of freewriting, write down the sensory details, and show the reader what happened.
  • Practise responding to writing prompts. A writing prompt forces you to use your imagination to write in detail by using similes, metaphors, description. If you are interested in using writing prompts to develop your imagination, purchase a copy of ” The Writer’s Idea Book” by Jack Heffron or “The Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves.
  • Ask and answer the  questions that journalists use to develop a story: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? You can use this technique  write a poem, short story, or personal essay.

Learning to use your imagination will enable you to write more creatively.

Observe the Outside World

As a creative writer, you must  learn to observe the world in which you live and make note of  what you experience with your senses.  Here are three ways to collect details about the world around you:

  • Live in the now. In other words, make note of what is happening or what you are seeing, or hearing, or feeling, when as the event or experience unfolds. This means that you don’t live with the auto pilot switch turned on. It means that you are aware of what is going on in the present moment.
  • Make note of sensory details. When you observe an event or experience, make a mental note of what you see, hear, smell, taste, touch.
  • Carry a notebook wherever they travel. When you see something interesting,  record the details. Make notes using concrete, specific, significant details. Make notes of anything unusual. Make notes of any idea that pops into your mind that might be used for a piece of writing.
  • Take yourself on an artistic date on a regular basis. For instance, visit the art gallery, buy a ticket to see a film, peruse the bookshelves of a bookstore. The artistic date will provide you with ideas to explore and write about.

Curiosity

The best writers are curious. They desire to know why? They desire to find answers to important questions. They have a passion for learning. They read books, magazines, newspapers— to feed their hunger for knowledge.

How can you develop your curiosity?  Write down all the topics or subjects you’d like to learn. Take one of those ideas or subjects and learn about it .  Read  books, magazines, journals. Do it for pleasure.  Conduct research to become a subject matter expert. Write about what you’ve learned.

As well, keep a writing journal, and make note of words, ideas, concepts, news events, that you don’t understand. When you have a question about something, write it in your journal. If it’s an important question, conduct research on the Web or visit the library. Then learn your material. Next, write about what you’ve learned.

Here’s an example of why curiosity is important to writing. Suppose you dream of writing a historical novel. Before  you can write about that period in history, you’ll have to conduct research of that time period. How would you conduct research? You can search on the Web, visit the Library, and read books on the historical period. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to write nonfiction details in a piece of fictional writing.

The Craft of Creative Writing

Creative writing requires that you learn the craft of writing. You  must learn the rules, guidelines, and techniques of writing. Otherwise,  readers will not read your work, and editors won’t publish your work. Here are a few important techniques about craft you should learn:

Showing and Telling. If you intend on becoming a creative writing, you must learn how to show and tell the reader what happened .  Showing the reader is about  writing in scenes. It is about creating word pictures in the mind of the reader.  Typically, a scene includes a setting, action, dialogue, and sensory details. These are details  about sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing. Telling is about summarizing what happened. It is about compressing and condensing time. It is about excluding vivid details.   Example: I woke up, read the newspaper, ate breakfast, then worked all day. It was an uneventful day.

Literary Techniques. You must learn the literary techniques  for writing fiction:

  • Setting
  • Plot Development
  • Character and characterization
  • Theme
  • Point of view
  • Voice and Style
  • Suspense, flashback, foreshadowing
  • Showing and telling

You will use these to write poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, such as a memoir or personal essay.

Poetic Devices. You must learn how to use the following poetic devices:

  • Simile
  • Metaphor
  • Imagery
  • Sound devices of assonance, alliteration, rhyme, onomatopoeia
  • Symbolism
  • Personification

You will use these to write poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

Word choice/diction. Use a dictionary to find the right word with the right meaning. Use a thesaurus to find the word with the right shade of meaning.

The Sentence. To avoid sounding dull,  learn how to use a variety of sentence structures, including:

  • Intentional fragment. Use of a phrase or dependent clause instead of an independent clause.  A famous quotation. New words that interest. Lyrics from a song. Observations. Overheard conversations. Fleeting memories. Dreams. Photographs.  Lots of odds and ends are included  in my writing journal.
  • Simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences.
  • Periodic sentence or climactic sentence. You begin with a series of details, and end with the independent clause. Example: Falling from the tree into the ice river, gasping for air, being then pulled by the strong under tow, I exerted all of my energies to swim to shore.
  • Cumulative sentence.  You begin with the main idea in an independent clause, and then add one idea after another.  Example: I love the spring, the fresh air, sunny days, blooming flowers, green grass, watching baseball,  and riding my bike.

To learn more, read “The Writer’s Portable Mentor” by Priscilla Long. She identifies the various types of sentences you should learn to write.

The Paragraphs. Learn how to create a variety of paragraphs.  Author Priscilla Long, in “The Writer’s Portable Mentor,”  identifies four paragraphs that you should learn to write. These include:

  • The direct paragraph. This type of paragraph begins with a topical sentence, and then adds details.
  • Climactic paragraph. It begins with examples or illustrations, and ends with the main, controlling idea or topical sentence.
  • Turnabout paragraph. It is a paragraph that begins in one place and then turns in another direction in the middle. This type of paragraph contrasts ideas.  You signal a change in direction to the reader by using  the words,  “but” or ”  nevertheless” or  “and yet.”
  • Statement paragraph. Begin with a statement and then elaborate with a series of sentences.

Developing Your Writing Skills

Becoming a good writer takes time. And during that time you must learn and practise. What must you do? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. If you are just getting started, purchase a few writing tools: a notebook, pen, laptop, dictionary, and thesaurus.
  2. Begin keeping a writing journal. It will develop your habit of writing.  Write in the journal each day.  Write every day for 15 minutes or so. Write about anything that inspires you or is on your mind.
  3. Find ideas to write about. An easy way is to read the newspaper,  books, and magazines.
  4. Learn the craft of writing. Learn the rules of spelling, punctuation, grammar, and writing style. If you don’t have a copy, pick up The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.
  5. Expand your vocabulary. There are many ways:  1) Learn a word a day. 2) Every time you bump into a word you don’t  understand, look up its meaning. 3)Use these new words in conversation and in your writing. 4) Discover synonyms by using a thesaurus. For instance, instead of using the word “walk”, you might say  plodded, dawdled, marched, strode, stroll, lumbered, wandered, traipsed,  trekked.
  6. Read poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction for pleasure. Reading will inspire you.
  7. Read as a writer. This involves reading and analyzing the writer’s style, tone, and voice.
  8. Learn to write imaginatively. This involves learning how to write similes and metaphors and other poetic devices. It also involves learning  how to show the reader what happened, how to write sensory images that appeal to the readers sense of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. It involves learning how to write concrete, specific, and significant details. A good book to help you is “Imaginative Writing” by Janet Burroway.
  9. If you are not interested in learning on your own, take a creative writing course in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. Or join a writing group. Or attend a writing conference. Or take a trip to a writing retreat for a few days.
  10. Schedule an artistic date with yourself. Author, Julia Cameron, in “The Artist’s Way,” suggests that you go on a “Artist Date” each week. This involves participating in something creative each week or two–such as visiting the book store, the art gallery, music concert.

If you desire to become a strong writer, you must learn the art and craft of writing. Begin by  embracing the writing life. Write and read every day. Keep a journal. Get into the habit of writing. Learn the rules of spelling, punctuation, grammar.  Learn the elements of fiction. Learn the literary techniques and poetic devices. Learn to show and tell what happened.  Learn how to write free verse poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction.  Experiment with your writing. Find inspiration. Learn to write creatively with simile, metaphor, sensory imagery, and vivid description.  The act of writing each day makes you a writer.

Resources

For more information, read the following:

  • The  Right to Write by Julia Cameron
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • Tell It Slant by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  • Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
  • Imaginative Writing by Janet Burroway
  • How to Be a Writer by Barbara Baig
  • The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long

The Writing Life: Writer’s Block

Monday, February-11-13

Dave Hood

What is writer’s block? It is a psychological state in which the writer is unable to begin, or  continue, or end a piece of writing. Sometimes a writer is blocked for a short period of time, such as a few days. Other times, the writer is unable to write for weeks, months, years. The writer who is blocked might feel there that there is a lack of inspiration. Or the writer might feel  unable to develop an idea into a poem, or essay, or story. Or the writer might feel that their work is not good enough for publication. Whatever the reason for the mental block—the writer is unable to write.

Many writer don’t believe in writer’s block. In “The Poet’s Companion,” a splendid book on how to write poetry, author Kim Addonizio, who is a well-known poet and writer and instructor of creative writing, suggests: “We don’t believe in writer’s block. We believe there are times when you are empty and times when you are full” of ideas to write about.

However, many writers, including myself, believe that sometimes writer’s are blocked. Grief, depression, addiction, anxiety, illness, fear of failure, self-doubt, burnout,  and the internal critic who demands perfection or undermines your confidence can empty the well of creativity, leaving you with a lack of inspiration and a blank page.

Some writer’s also believe in the  “muse”–some sort of higher power that provides them inspiration to write. This is just myth, just like Greek mythology.  The ancient Greeks  believed in the various Goddesses of the muse, who provided a select few creative geniuses with inspiration. In my view, it is the writer who must find inspiration and continually write, even when he/she doesn’t feel like writing.  The writer creates his/her own muse.

By nurturing creativity,  you can bring an end to writer’s block or  prevent it.  For a writer, creativity is about uncovering ideas to write about and then applying techniques of fiction to craft a complete story, or using various poetic devices  to compose a poem. Sometimes a writer might have a good idea, but he/she doesn’t know how to begin, to develop , or to end the piece of creative writing. Or the writer is stuck in the middle of a piece of writing. Or  the writer might not have any ideas. And so the well of creativity is empty.

How do you nurture creativity and prevent writer’s block? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Maintain a work-life balance. There must be time for work, time to socialize, time for fitness, time for solitude, and time for play. Often people who are burned-out have spent far too many hours writing—and forgotten to attend to other aspects of their life.
  2. Keep a writing journal or writing note book by writing in it each day.  What can you include? Anything related to the art and craft of writing. You can  freewrite, make a note about something eventful, write down the word and meaning of a new word. You can experiment with the techniques of fiction or poetry, such as simile or metaphor.  You can write about an overheard conversation, something on the news, a memory, your anxieties, a movie, song, poem, someone you loath, what happened in your day, a fleeting moment, something you’ve learned. You can add  photographs, news clippings, recipes, quotations, anything that is inspirational to your writing journal. Not only will the journal keep you in the habit of writing, it can also supply you with ideas to write about.
  3. Go on an artistic date every week or so. Author Julia Cameron, who wrote “The Artist’s Way,” suggests that you can find ideas to write about if you go on an artistic adventure by yourself each week or so. You might visit a bookstore, buy tickets to see a music concert, attend an art gallery, visit a craft show–do something new.
  4. Read widely and deeply for pleasure. Not only should you read books on the craft of writing, but you should also read the best poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction available.  Marvelous contemporary poets include Mary Oliver, Charles Simic, and Billy Collins.  For a list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century, see www.modernlibrary.com/top-100/100-best-novels . Or select and read a novel from Time’s 100 All-time novels. You can find countless other poems and poetry at The Poetry Foundation. You should also stay informed–by reading magazines and newspapers. All aspiring writer’s should read literary journals and The New Yorker magazine. Reading can be a pleasurable escape, an easy way to discover new ideas, a simply way to learn, and one of the best ways  to expand your vocabulary, providing you look up the meaning of a words you don’t understand in a dictionary.
  5. Make fitness part of your daily routine. Take vigorous walk or engage in some other aerobic exercise each day. Do yoga. Pump some weights. Join and attend a fitness club. Take a bike ride. Physical exercise, especially aerobic,  will build self-confidence,  clear your mind, and release tension from your body. It is one of the best ways to combat stress and refresh a tired mind.
  6. Find an hour each day for solitude or personal time–away from the solitude of writing. This quiet time can be used for personal reflection, to meditate, to take a walk in the woods, to rest, and so forth. The purpose of solitude is to provide you with a break from the stresses of life.
  7. If you are unable to write because of burn-out, you must take a break. When you’re burned-out, you won’t be able to give your best effort. The break will reenergize you. You might take a trip, go on a vacation, or just stop writing and use the time to in leisure activities you enjoy.  How long? It all depends. Once you’re feeling refreshed, you can begin writing again.
  8. If you don’t have anything to write about, do some freewriting. There are two types: Focused and unfocused. Unfocused freewriting is about sitting down with a pen and notebook, and then writing about anything that pops into your mind. Focused freewriting involves sitting down and writing about a particular topic. For instance, you might freewrite about why you cannot write. And when you are freewriting, answer the journalistic questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how.
  9. Find an outlet or enjoyable leisure activity. Play baseball, tennis, squash. Do some cooking. Socialize with a friend. Take up photography, learn how to play the piano, or some other musical instrument. What every you do, be sure that you are doing something enjoyable that is not about writing.
  10. Sometimes you must continue to write even when you don’t feel inspired to write, unless you are suffering from burnout. Why should you continue to write? The act of writing will  provide you with inspiration and content.  This material can always be revised or discarded. Writing each day will also keep you disciplined, and allow you to capture ideas or expand on them.

For more information on preventing writer’s block or finding ideas to write about, read:

  • The Writer’s Idea Book: How to Develop Great Ideas for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Screenplays b y Jack Heffron
  • A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion & Lively Muse for the Writing Life by Judy Reeves
  • Where Do You Get Your Ideas: The Writer’s Guide To Transforming Notions into Narratives by Fred White.
  • The Right to Write by Julia Cameron
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • The Artist’s Way By Julia Cameron

The Writing Life: Myths About Writing

Dave Hood

Have you always desired to become a writer? A writer is a person who writes either as a commercial   writer, which is a writer for hire. Or the writer is a literary writer– inspired to share something important with society, or add something to literature or culture. The literary writer is not a writer for higher, nor does this type of writer earn a salary. The literary writer is often a starving artist until he/she becomes recognized by the establishment. The literary writer frequently toils at a job to pay the bills, so that he/she can write in the evening or on weekends.  Writing is a labour of love.

To call yourself a writer, you must write on a regular basis. Ideally, you must write each day. Writing must become a habit, a daily ritual, work you do to achieve some purpose–such as publishing a book of poems, short fiction, memoir, or personal essay. Despite good intentions, many aspiring writers never embrace the writing life.  Just ask  a few MFA graduates if they are writing. You’ll be shocked to learn that less than 50% are still writing anything five years after they’ve graduated. Why is this so?

Self-doubt, procrastination , “the internal critic” usually prevent the aspiring writer from writing anything meaningful.  These obstacles are usually rooted in false belief or myth.  These myths prevent the writer from remaining dedicated to the writing life. Writer Valerie O. Patterson has identified several of these myths in her article “10 Myths about the Writing Life,” published in the November/December 2012 of The Writer Magazine. I have expanded on her seven reasons with explanation and three additional reasons why people fail to write and fail to embrace the writing life.  Here are ten myths of writing and the writing life:

 

  1. A writing room is required to write. This is just not true. While it would be nice to have a writing room, many people just starting out don’t have the space to write. Perhaps, you live in a small one bedroom apartment, or share a house with many other people. All you really require to write is a private space, such as a coffee shop, park bench, bedroom, your car, any space free of noise and distraction. Any quiet place where there is inspiration is acceptable.
  2. You require the tool of  computer to begin writing. This is also not true. Hemingway, Wolfe, Carver, Faulkner, T.S. Eliot—and many, many other writers never had the luxury of crafting their fiction, personal essays, or poetry with a computer. To write, all you require is a pen and pad of notepaper. As well, you should own a thesaurus and dictionary.
  3. Writing requires inspiration. Many aspiring writers believe they have nothing to write about, and so they wait for inspiration to motivate them to write something memorable.  To become a writer, you must get into the habit of writing each day. If you wait for inspiration, you might never write. And so, you must seek out inspiration—tapping into memories; reading a wide range of books and magazines; embracing popular culture; taking an artistic date; doing some freewriting; keeping a journal.
  4. The lack of time prevents you from embracing the habit of writing. This is just an excuse. Each day, you must find time, or make time. That means you must make writing a high priority. It should be at the top of daily to-do list.  Either you schedule time, or you find a few minutes each day to write. For instance, you might write for 15 minutes while drinking your morning cup of coffee, or  for 15 minutes while you are computing on the subway, or for 15 minutes before you drift off to sleep in the evening. Suppose you write for 15 minutes each day. This works out to 2 hours and 15 minutes each week. This collection of time provides you with more opportunity to write than if you don’t write at all.
  5. Your first draft must be your best draft. Writing is a process. First, you discover an idea. Then you write down the points you wish to make. Then you write an opening, write the content, and end with an important point. Many aspiring writers believe that this first attempt is all that is required. Read any profiles or biographies of published authors of poetry, fiction, or personal essays—you’ll quickly discover that  Most writers revise their work many times over before they create a memorable piece of writing, something that is worthy of publication.
  6. A Master’s in Fine Arts with a specialty in Creative Writing (MFA) is required to become a writer. Read the biographies of many great writers, and you’ll learn that many of them never graduated with a MFA. In fact, most writers are self-taught. They’ve learned the art and craft of writing on their own. And then acquired additional knowledge, skill, expertise by enrolling in a few courses, workshops, writing retreats, or by joining a writing group.
  7. You must be a published author to call yourself a writer. This is just not true. Many aspiring writers who craft memorable work have not been published–but this doesn’t mean they never will publish. The act of writing makes you a writer. The habit of writing each day means that you are a writer.  And with the birth of digital publishing, you always have the opportunity to self-publish. Many great writers have self-published their work , including Walt Whitman.

 

Other Myths of Writing

Other myths that prevent people from writing include:

  1. Great writers are born, not made. In other words, the ability to learn the art and craft of writing poetry, fiction, personal essay  is genetically determined–and cannot be learned.  You can learn the craft of writing by learning the rules of grammar, spelling, punctuation; by expanding your vocabulary; by learning the variety of sentence structures; by learning the different types of paragraphs; by learning how to write into a structure. You can learn the art of creative writing by learning some creative thinking skills, such as brainstorming, asking what if, and shifting your perspective. Two important cognitive tools to help you: Learn how to tap into your memories and  develop your imagination. You can also learn how to write creatively by learning the technique of showing and telling a story;  by learning how to write similes and metaphors; by learning how to write concrete, vivid, significant descriptions; by learning how to write sensory imagery, using language that appeals to the reader’s sense of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. You can also learn the craft of writing by teaching yourself or by enrolling in writing courses. A few good books to help you learn the craft of writing: The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, On Writing Well by William Zinsser, Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale, The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long, Woe is I by Patricia O’Connor.
  2. You cannot write because of writer’s block. Many established writers and instructors of writing claim that writer’s block is just procrastination, self doubt, or burn out. If you are procrastinating, create a schedule and make writing a high-priority. If you have self-doubt, learn to ignore it, and write. Or, if you don’t feel confident enough to write, learn the craft and practise your writing.  If you are burned-out, take a break for a few days, a few weeks, or a few months. Then get back to the habit of writing. Other ways to prevent writer’s block include yoga, walking, jogging. These activities, if done regularly, will clear your mind and help you relax. Another good way to clear your mind is to mediate. A few other great ways to prevent writer’s block are to take the artistic date. Read for pleasure and to relax. Stay informed by watching the news on television, by listening to it on the radio, by reading the newspaper, or by reading the interesting content online. Embrace popular culture, photography,  music, film, art, sports…
  3. There aren’t publishers who will publish your work. With the dawn of the Internet, you can create your own blog and self-publish your writing. You can also self-publish your collection of poetry, short fiction, or personal essays by using software tools offered by Amazon or Apple, which will allow you  create and sell a digital e-book. These books can be read on a tablet or smartphone.

 

Books that Address the Myths or False Beliefs of Writing

In addition, many writers have addressed the myths of writing in their books on how to become a writer. Here are a few books you ought to purchase, read, learn from,  and keep on your writing bookshelf:

  • The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  • The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life by Priscilla Long
  • Sin And Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose by Constance Hale
  • Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus
  • Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
  • Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O’Connor
  • The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed by Karen Elizabeth Gordon
  • Escape into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg
  • The Story Within: New Insights and Inspiration  for Writers by Laura Oliver
  • Imaginative Writing by Janet Burroway
  • How to Become a Writer: Building Your Creative Skills Through Practise and Play by Barbara Baig
  • The  Right to Write by Julia Cameron
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

 

You can become a creative writer by learning the art and craft of creative writing. You must also embrace the writing life. To do this, you must make writing be a high priority, like someone training to run a marathon or practising to win a gold medal at the Olympics. You might also have to overcome false beliefs, which are usually rooted in myth. To become a writer,  you must get into the habit of writing each day. And you must read poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction on a regular basis. This sort of writing material will inspire and illustrate the art and craft of creative writing.  And then you must practise your writing and attempt to publish. At the very least, you must write in a journal each day–with the hope of publishing something meaningful at some point in the future. To help you learn the art and craft of writing, you might consider enrolling in a few writing courses or joining a writing group or attending a conference or taking a journey to a writing retreat. These tasks and habits won’t guarantee you’ll publish, but you can certainly call yourself a writer.

The Writer’s Craft: How to Write an Ending

November 26, 2012

by Dave Hood

How do you end a poem, short story, novel, personal essay—or any other type of creative writing? Writing a good ending is as important as writing a compelling opening…You should give as much thought to your ending as your opening.” This is the advice William Zinsser shares in “On Writing Well.

There are many ways to end a piece of creative writing, such as with a relevant quotation, with a recommendation, with a call to action, by referring back to the beginning. Often the genre you are writing and the idea you are writing about will dictate how to end.

The ending should provide a sense of closure to your writing. To write an ending, you should know when to end and how to end a piece of writing. Different genres, such as a short story, personal essay, or poetry,  have different suggestions for writing an ending.

In this article, I’ll explain what an ending must accomplish and provide some general suggestions on how to end a narrative or poem.

What Must Your Ending Accomplish

In the “Handbook of Magazine Article Writing,” it is suggested that the ending of an article should do one of the following:

  • Leave  readers with the idea that they have learned something.
  • Leave readers with the idea that they have gained some insight.
  • Show  reader how the information in the article impacts or relates to their lives
  • Encourage readers to conduct research or additional investigation.

In “On Writing Well,” William Zinsser makes a few suggestions about ending a piece of creative nonfiction:

  • “When you are ready to stop, stop. In other words, don’t write too much.”
  • “The positive reason for ending well is that a good last sentence–or last paragraph, is a joy in itself. It gives the reader a lift, and it lingers when the article is over.”
  •  “What usually works best is a quotation.”

Zinsser also tells readers not to end by summarizing. For instance: “In summary…or “To conclude…”

Why? A summary is repeating yourself by compressing details that were already shared with the reader. Instead, you ought to make one final point that resonates in the mind of the reader.

When you end, you must have answered all questions posed in the story or article or personal essay. Otherwise, the reader is left wondering, and feels your writing is incomplete. As well, the essay or narrative should be brought to a close. In other words, the reader knows that the narrative is complete. For instance, if you are writing about a journey, the end might be when the character reaches his/her destination. If you are writing a meditative essay, you might leave the reader with some final point to ponder. If you are writing an opinion essay, you might end with a final point. Writer Elizabeth Anderson, in her essay “IF God is Dead, Is Everything Permitted?” (The Portable Atheist, selected and introduced by the late Christopher Hitchens), ends her essay with the following judgement: “The moralist argument, far from threatening atheism, is a critical wedge that should open morally sensitive theists to the evidence against the existence of God.”

A great ending, in my view, leaves the reader with something to ponder or meditate about after he puts down the piece of writing. Sometimes the writer shares an epiphany or a lesson learned or words of wisdom.

There are no rules on how to end a piece of creative writing, only suggestions. It is up to the writer to decide how to begin and how best to end a piece of writing. Your end should make some important final point. A good final point is like a knockout punch.

How to Write An Ending

There are several ways to end. It all depends on the genre.  A personal-narrative essay usually ends when the story ends, often with some epiphany. In a poem, the last line often makes some emphatic final point, some idea the writer can take away and ponder. In a short story or novel, the ending can be closed or open. In a closed ending, the story ends, and nothing else happens. In an open ending, the reader is left to imagine what might happen in the future. Trilogies end with an open ending. A popular technique for ending a story is to use a “cliff hanger.” Sometimes the writer ends a short story or novel ends with dialogue from the protagonist. Some writer’s end articles or personal essays or meditative essays by referring back to the beginning.  Other writers begin with a question, explore the question, then you can end with one final answer.  Many writer’s end with a final quotation.

Check out most literary journalism essays in the New Yorker, and you’ll discover that most writers end their writing with a final quotation from someone they’ve interviewed. In the essay, “Slackers” (July 30th, 2012),  writer, Malcolm Gladwell, ends with the following quote: “None of the doctors who treated me, and none of the experts I’ve consulted since the day I collapsed, have ever heard of anybody being gone for than long and coming back to full health,” he writes.” He was back on the track nine days later.” Clearly, there are many methods you can use to end a piece of creative writing. The decision is yours to make. It is a creative choice of the writer.

David Remnick, author of “We Are Alive”, ends with the following quote: Springsteen glanced at the step and stepped into the spotlight. “Hola, Barcelona!” he cried out to a sea of forty-five thousand people. “Hola, Catalunya!”

 You often read true and fictional stories about a calamity or disaster. The writer opens the story by describing a setting of normalcy. And then, the bomb is dropped, or the hurricane destroys the quiet life of the living, or the earthquake obliterates a town. The writer describes the cause and effects, and the struggles to survive and cleanup. In this sort of narrative, writers often end by “returning to the state of normalcy.”

 Some writers end with a telling anecdote, or by pointing to what will happen next in the story, or tell readers where to find additional information. Other writers end with an epilogue, which tells what happens to the characters later and how their stories continue.

Other ways to end a piece of creative writing include:

  • With a judgement
  • With recommendation
  • With a prediction
  • With an insight
  • With a hope or wish

There are no rules for ending a piece of writing, only suggestions. And every form of writing–whether a personal essay, poem, short story, article—has its own suggestions for ending. The final decision about how to end a piece of writing is the writer’s. It is one of the creative decisions of writing. Often the writer relies on a “gut feeling” or “intuition” or “sixth sense.” The worst thing a writer can do is overwrite or write a double ending. The best way to end is to leave your reader satisfied while giving the reader a sense of closure. William Zinsser writes, “The perfect ending should take your readers slightly by surprise and seem exactly right.”

Resources

  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  • The Story Within: New Insights and Inspirations for Writers by Laura Oliver
  • The Elements of Story: Field Notes on Nonfiction by Francis Flaherty
  • Handbook of Magazine Article Writing, edited by Michelle Ruberg and Ben Yagoda
  • The New Yorker, “Slackers: Alberto Salazar and the Art of Exhaustion” by Malcolm Gladwell (July 30, 2012)

The Writer’s Life: Writing a Beginning or Lead

By Dave Hood

The beginning of a poem, short story, personal essay, article must arouse readers curiosity and inspire them to read your work. Otherwise, readers will quickly become bored and stop reading.

In the splendid book “On Writing Well,” a text on how to write creative nonfiction, William Zinsser, suggests that when writing creative nonfiction “the most important sentence is the first one. According to  Zinsser, a good lead or beginning does the following: It grabs the reader’s attention and inspires the reader to read further. This is called a hook. And it tells the reader what the writing is about. It also tells the reader why the piece is important to read.

In this article, I’ll  explain what a beginning must accomplish and how to write it. This will apply to poetry, short stories, personal essays, and articles. Keep  in mind that for each genre, there are countless ways to begin. And so, I will identify some, but not all, of the most common techniques.

What Must the Beginning Accomplish

Many writers get stuck when they begin writing. Essentially, they don’t know how to write a good opening. I often find it the most difficult part of writing. Frequently, I am unsure about the method to use. Should I begin with a question? Fascinating fact? In the middle of the action? Usually, the type of writing determines how to begin. For instance, to write a meditative essay, I usually begin with a question, and then answer this question in the body of the essay or article.

If you desire to find a way to write an opening, following these suggestions: First,  it must introduce the topic you are writing about, whether a poem, short story, personal essay, article. In other words, it must tell the reader what you are writing about–life, death, winter, summer, a person, place, thing, event, experience. Secondly, the beginning must tell the reader why the topic is important. (This does not apply to poetry.) Otherwise, the read might believe that the story or article or essay is not worth reading—It won’t satisfy their informational needs. Thirdly, you must capture the reader’s attention–inspire them to read your piece  of writing.

There are many ways to begin a poem, short story, personal essay, and article. Each of these genres has its own methods.  For instance, a narrative poem might begin at the beginning of the story, a short story might begin in the middle of the action, a meditative essay might begin with a question.

Sol Stein who wrote the splendid book, “Stein On writing,”  suggests that the first sentence and paragraph must do the following:

  • Excite the reader’s curiosity
  • Introduce the setting
  • Lend resonance to the story

To achieve these purposes, a short story or novel must often begin by shocking, such as someone getting murdered;  surprising, such a character doing something strange or bizarre;  or sharing something unusual, such as the character making an odd comment. The writer can also share surprise, something unusual, something shocking by beginning the story in the middle of the action, with a scene, with dialogue, and much more.

Here`s how fiction writer, Ray Bradbury,  begins his short story, The Veldt:

“George, I wish you`d look at the nursery.”

“What`s wrong with it.”

” I don`t know.”

Here`s how, fiction writer,  Raymond Carver begins Cathedral: This  blind man, an old friend of my wife, he was on his way to spend the night.

Here`s how writer Adriana Barton begins the article, “The Habits of Resilient People,” in the November 19th  edition of the Toronto Globe and mail: Among the thousands of people whose houses were destroyed, some are already bouncing back.

In each of these examples, the writer arouses the curiosity of the reader.

There are no rules about what type of beginning to use. Nor are there any rules how long the beginning should be. Some beginnings are short, only a few sentences. Other beginnings are only a sentence in length. Still, others are longer, taking several paragraphs. The length of your beginning and the method you use to begin will depend on whether you are writing a poem, short story, novel, personal essay, or article.

How to Write the Beginning

In journalism, many writers use the inverted pyramid. In the opening, they write the lead, followed by important points, and then less important points. The lead includes the conclusion and omits background information and context. This is often confusing for readers.

In creative writing, you don’t use the inverted pyramid to begin a poem, short story,  personal essay, and so on. Instead you can use other methods or techniques.

A beginning should tell the reader what the piece of writing is about, why your piece of writing is important to the reader, and inspire the reader to continue reading. Essential, a beginning introduces your writing and gives it focus.

How to Write  an Opening for Creative Nonfiction: There are many ways to begin writing a meditative essay, personal essay, or opinion essay. William Zinsser, in “On Writing Well,” identifies a few of them:

  • Ask an intriguing question. Begin with a question that answers `What is the article about. `Example: How can the federal government reduce unemployment? Basically, you are asking a rhetorical question–because you already know the answers.
  • Make a thought-provoking statement. Example: The owners have locked the players out because of “greed.”
  • State a compelling or fascinating Fact. This type of beginning shares a provocative fact or figure. Example: The unemployment rate is 10%, the highest since the Great Depression.
  • Write an anecdote. Write a vignette or story that is related to your topic in the first paragraph. In the second, tie the story or vignette to your topic.
  • Use a provocative quotation. Write an interesting quotation from an interview or one that you discovered when you conducted research. Where to find a quotation? The Internet is one place. I like to use “The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.”
  • Write a summary lead. It compresses the article or essay into a few sentences. Tell the reader what your article is about, summarizing the main points.
  • Use a combination lead. This method requires you to use a couple of methods. For instance, you might begin with a question, and then add a quotation from a well-known person.

There are other ways write an opening for a piece of creative nonfiction, such as an essay. Often a personal-narrative essay, for instance, begins with an angle, or controlling idea that tells the writer how to focus and tells the reader what the personal essay is about. This angle is an approach  or perspective. It is a way for the writer to approach the subject, to find a path in. There are many types of angles, such as a contrast of points of view, an unlikely comparison, a dream versus reality,  contrast of people or categories.

How to Begin Writing an Opening for a Fictional or True Story: Writer/Instructor Laura Oliver, in her splendid book, “The Story Within,”  provides several other suggestions to begin a fictional or true story. Here is what she suggests. You can begin:

  •  With a list. Example: Here are the reasons why President Obama won the election.
  • With a personal reflection. Example: As I recall….
  • With a reminiscence. Example: I have fond memories of my childhood.
  • With something you didn’t know. Example: Prior to reading the article, I didn’t know how use the comma. This learning experience taught me…………
  • With a portrait in words. Example: When I image dad, I see a man who is smiling and laughing…
  • With an assertion. Example: I don’t believe that God exists.
  • With a mystery. Example: I don’t know how I crashed the car…

Asking Journalistic Questions: You can also begin by asking journalistic questions. You can also use these questions to explore an idea or topic, and to organize your work. Before I write a beginning for a piece of writing, I like to pose and answer these journalistic questions:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where
  • Why?
  • How?

Answering these questions often provides me with the answer for how to begin. These answers also tell me how to organize and explore what I will be writing about.

How to Write an Opening for a Poem: There are many ways to begin a free-verse poem. It all depends on the language of poetry you intend to use. If, for instance, you are writing a blank verse poem, your first sentence would require iambic pentameter–five feet of unstressed/stressed units. If you are writing a meditative poem, you might begin with a scene. If you are writing a narrative poem, you might begin with an observation, event, image. Or a provocative comment by the speaker. Here`s how poet, Charles Bukowski begins `The Way it Is Not as follows: “I tell you, I`ve lived with some gorgeous women..” There are countless ways to begin a poem, such as a description of a setting, person, event.

The Epigram: Many writers begin by an epigram. It is a statement or  brief saying in prose or poetry, in which there is an apparent contradiction. It might be a very short, satirical,  witty poem. It can also be a compelling, provocative, short quotation by some famous person. Example: “What is an epigram? A dwarfish whole, its body brevity, and wit its soul.”(Samuel Coleridge) I have read where writers have used the epigram as an opening for poetry, fiction, personal essay, and articles. The epigram gives a piece of writing some context and helps to introduce the topic.

Final Words: I’ve learned that there are many ways to begin a poem, short story, personal essay, or article. Most often, the genre you are writing and the nature of the piece of writing determines how to begin. Whether you write poetry, short stories, personal essays, or articles, the beginning must grab the reader`s attention and introduce the idea you are writing about. It should also tell the reader why your piece of writing is important to read. The first sentence and first paragraph must surprise, show, or arouse curiosity in the reader, or you risk having have your piece tossed away like an old newspaper.

For more information on how to write a beginning, read the following:

  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  • The Story Within by Laura Oliver
  • Writing Your Way: Creating A Writing Process that Works for You by Don Fry