There is not a single writer’s group meeting I attend that I do not learn something, or at least get inspired or motivated. I even got a blog post (this one) out of it, plus a possible regional short story idea. I like to write regional, because as Allison Mackenzie stated (at least in the movie) in “Peyton Place”, there is nothing like opening up a newspaper where the names mean something to you. There is a peculiar sort of delight when I open up a book and see Pensacola (my hometown) or Poplar Bluff (my birthplace) mentioned.
One of the neatest things I learned was that it is possible to “age appropriate” your writing. Just as there aren’t any recommended ages listed on children’s books (which I think is done on purpose, to sell more books; I’m such a cynic, I know), I wasn’t aware there was a way to figure out how to determine at what age level my writing was.
For my second collection of children’s nursery rhymes, “Golden Forks and Silver Spoons” (“Golden Stars and Silver Linings” being the first), in the “Just-so Stories” section (a la Rudyard Kipling), I “graded” my poem, “How the Colon Became a Semicolon” (who doesn’t love semi-colons, the noncommittal things they are), and have realized that perhaps I wrote a book of children’s poetry rather than simplistic nursery rhymes.
Because I am a “For Dummies” kind of person (I am consulting the “Dummies” books, rather than my textbook, to help me slog through the college course known as Computer Concepts), I want to share how grading our work is accomplished, screenshot by screenshot (as I am a visual learner).
Basically, just follow the cursor. In the fourth screenshot, just make sure “show readability statistics” is checked.
That is how I wish all computer programing books were laid out, because I would so get it.
Now, onto my list of writing tips (which have helped me). The 5-minute freewriting challenge that was posed to us at the meeting was on what makes one a successful writer, and this is what I came up with.
- Write everyday. (Stephen King writes at least 2000 words a day.)
- Don’t edit as you go. (For a perfectionist like me, this is extremely hard, but I’ve gotten better, because I’ve found that once I get it on paper, it’s a snap to go back and clean it up.)
- Submit at least twice a month. (I would say once a week, but I haven’t even reached this goal myself yet. I try to count my blog posts as submitting/publishing).
- Become a proponent of lifelong learning. No matter what your major is, there is inspiration for writing everywhere. My Anatomy and Physiology class inspired a series of medical poetry. My ethics (philosophy) class has just plain inspired me.
- Nurture your spiritual side. Just one verse in the Bible can (and has, for me) inspired an entire poem, short story or novel.
- Become proficient in Microsoft Word.
- Stretch your writing muscles by writing in different lengths and genres. (I’ve also written the same story in poem and short story form. However, I have found that before writing a novel, decide whether to write in first-or third-person.)
- Share your writing, but also be willing to listen to others share theirs, and give sincere compliments and constructive criticism.
- Have another creative outlet, such as photography, crafting, etc. Anything that gives you a break from the screen, but keeps you away from the television.
- Don’t watch too much TV, or at least be purposeful in what you watch. Don’t just turn it on for the sake of turning it on. I don’t channel surf. When I turn the TV on, there is something specific I want to watch.
- Be persistent. What one publisher may not take a shine to, another one might. Just look at the rejection as another opportunity to make it better.
- Once you believe a piece is as good as you can make it, put it away for at least six weeks (Stephen King may say six months, I can’t remember), so you will look at it with fresh eyes. However, if there is a deadline, give it your best and send it in. This is where being a perfectionist can be a hindrance.