Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Weekend Lessons

This weekend I attended my first writer’s conference in years. The workshop was led by Clive Matson, a widely published author of poems, stories and essays. He has also led numerous writing workshops all over the world. I must admit right off that I am not inclined to take a lot of workshops because the true secret to writing is to sit down and write!

Before I signed up for the workshop, I had never heard of Mr. Matson or read any of his books. But, something within urged me to attend. Often when I make decisions, I look for yellow flags telling me to proceed with caution and red flags telling me to stop. While deciding whether to go, no yellow or red flags popped up.

One of the first things Clive said was, "I'm not here to teach you to write. You already know how to do that." In the workshop, we sat our butts down and wrote. A lot. Then, we shared our priceless gifts and heard feedback from all, and then ended each session with our reactions to critiques.

I learned multitudes about my own writing process. I tend to listen to the negative voices in my head, especially telling myself my writing is not good enough and/or publishable. I’ve never heard this from another human being, it’s all my own inner dialogue. What a realization that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to my writing!

I also realized I have strengths in my writing. I am able to follow a point of view through and I describe very well. I hate adverbs- they are the lazy writer’s best friend. Okay, sometimes adverbs clarify, but mostly they distract. I must say I am the queen of description with few adverbs.

Will I take another writing work shop? Maybe. But, the secret to writing?

Sit down and write.

© 2007 Susan Littlefield

Friday, March 9, 2007

Tools of the Trade

Just like lawyers need law books, and doctors need medical manuals, a writer has many tools of their trade. For me, my greatest tool is reading the type of literature I like to write. Two of my favorite authors are Stephen King and James Patterson for their ability to take an idea and turn out beautifully crafted prose that both frightens and entertains me. After reading one of their books, I don’t want to turn the lights off and I’m leery of any shadow or movement. Once I start reading a King or Patterson book, I can’t put it down!

I want to be able to write like both of these brilliant authors. My writing interest lies in writing literary pieces based on characterization rather than plot. I recently submitted two of my short stories to magazines. One tale is about a woman going to any lengths to be someone else. My second story shows the dark side of being a twin. By reading what I like to write, I was able to turn out a few interesting stories of my own. I’m still waiting to hear back but, no matter the outcome, I know I’ve submitted my best product.

Another tool of writing is involvement with a writer’s community. At the present moment, I am a member of an online writer’s community where we exchange ideas about writing and post works to be critiqued. Because the critique section is password protected, I feel assured that my writing is read and critiqued by others who are serious about this art. My next step is to either find a local writing group, or to create one. Either way, my online writing community will remain a necessary tool for the support I give to and receive from writers all over the world.

I am excited about attending an upcoming writer’s workshop later this month by a published writer. I have been told to bring either my laptop or plenty of paper. As a writer, it is important that I work hard to perfect my writing skills. Writing workshops and seminars are excellent tools. Besides learning about how to make my work product better, I will congregate with other writers of varying skill level.

Finally, I try to write something every day. Writing is what a writer does. I've dusted off the first daft of a novel I wrote 10 years ago. I want to continue writing short stories on a regular basis and submitting them for possible publication. My goal is to write at least 1000 word per day. Well, now that I’ve written these 4oo some odd words, I’d better get to work on meeting my word goal for today…

© 2007 Susan Littlefield

To Go Oxford....or Not

Do you use the Oxford comma or do you omit it? Some grammar sages say to either keep it or omit it, unless omitting the Oxford comma will...