Summer mini-writing workshop: Writing truths


Save everything. If a stanza doesn’t fit in one poem, don’t force it in. That’s the beauty of mitosis. Not every piece has to be part of the same puzzle.

I’ve often found myself writing backstory on my characters, only to cut it all out and paste it elsewhere (or not). You don’t have to use everything you write or know about your characters. Sometimes, that’s just for your information.

Well-told stories, however fantastical the circumstances, if written with believable characters, become part of our alternate realities.

I love a story chock full of symbolism, but never make any literary device (or gimmick) more important than the story itself. It’s either about the characters or plot, or, ideally, both.

When you have daily deadlines, and you can’t let your piece marinate, read it aloud.

Take advantage of dead time (e.g., waiting for the doctor). I wrote an entire blog post on my phone during such a time.

“How To” articles are great for work, but “How to Not” is great for play.

Read Margaret Atwood’s essay, “Reading Blind.” Just as we should mostly (depending on the format) write in the active voice, we should develop the habit of active listening, for that is one of the requirements of mastering the art of conversation. I have always learned more by listening than I ever have by speaking (and embarrassed myself less).

Sometimes, you must finish existing projects before starting more, but don’t hesitate to outline future projects, so you can rest your mind about shelving them temporarily.

In every character, there is a story. In every perception of that character, there are at least ten more.

Pages out of history can be the skeleton for your story, but it must be fleshed out with characters. It’s all the difference between hard news and human interest.

Keep everything you write. I was able to use certain lines from an old essay outline to write a poem on short notice for a contest.

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