Thursday, August 29, 2013

Step 1: Getting Started

Thumbnail image for StartLine.jpg
Thought for the Day: "I don't know where my ideas come from, but I know where they come to. They come to my desk, and if I'm not there, they go away again." ~Philip Pullman

The very best way--in fact, the only way--to become a better writer is to write. You will have to decide on a schedule for writing, therefore, and commit to it. Decide on a schedule that works for you. Some writers write every day, but you don't have to. Maybe you will decide to write Monday - Friday, or two or three days a week. Some writers write for a specified length of time, an hour or two, or until they have 1,000 words, or maybe one page, or two or three. I have a friend who declared Thursdays writing days; she wrote only on Thursdays, but she wrote every Thursday, no matter what. She is now a tenured professor of Creative Writing and has just published her third book...

Do these things first:

Thumbnail image for clock.jpg1. Decide on your writing time and write it on or program it into your calendar. Treat it like any other appointment you make (unless you are the kind of person who misses appointments, then treat it as MORE important than that).

2. Next, write down the details of your plan. For example: "I will write on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, from 9:00 - 10:00 a.m." Don't take on too much, too soon, or you will get discouraged and quit. But if you do slip, you can revise the plan and start again.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for yellow pad.jpg3. Figure out where and how you will write too, and write that down (you are creating a contract with yourself). Will you use your computer? Then be sure you have it set up somewhere you won't be interrupted and that you have a power cord. Are you going to write longhand? Then you will need paper and a pen or pencil (and a pencil sharpener and a flat surface, and again, some peace and quiet). Plan ahead and ready your space and materials before your "appointment" time.

4. Make a list of projects you want to work on, if you have some in mind. Again, for example, write "This school year, I will complete 5 poems in my zombie apocalypse series (or whatever...), and revise the short story that I wrote for a class last year."


5. If you don't have any projects in the works, try Morning Pages until you do (see also "Artist Dates"). The idea of Morning Pages comes from The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, and they are a great exercise even if you are an accomplished writer already.

6. When you have all this written down, put My Writing Plan across the top, sign it at the bottom, and display it near your writing space. This is a promise to yourself.

A Writing Prompt: Write a "list" poem that addresses the questions below. (Click here for an example of a "list" poem by me, and here for one by a real poet.)

--What I could be doing instead of writing
--What I will do to make myself write
--What I will write about
--Why I will write

Writing Advice:
How To Write a Book When You're Really, Really Busy

Inspirational Words: "I write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I am inspired at nine o'clock every morning." ~Peter De Vries (author of 23 novels!)

Resources and Links:
Creative Writing Prompts
Writer's Digest

Step 2: Choose a Model Text

Thought for the Day: "I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it's better than college. People should educate themselves - you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I'd written a thousand stories." ~Ray Bradbury (1920 - 2012)

ray bradbury.jpg Ray Bradbury, who died on June 5, 2012, was the author of Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man and numerous other works, and was also and obviously a big reader... Notice the equation in the quote above: ten years of reading equals a thousand stories. This is our Thought for the Day because what you are going to do this week in order to help yourself as a writer is choose something that you loved to read. The thing you choose will be your Model Text; that is, the text itself (short story, novel, graphic novel, poem, essay, screenplay, etc.) will teach you something that you can strive towards and emulate in your own work. (Teachers: this is something like working with a Mentor Text. If you would like more information about Mentor Texts, please let me know.)

saint maybe.jpg Step 1: Choose a piece of writing that is similar to something you want to write. If you are writing a fantasy novel, choose a fantasy novel that you have read and loved. If you want to write a realistic short story, choose one that you really admire and, again, one that is similar in subject and style to what you want to write and what you are able to write. You should not necessarily choose the best thing ever written. I admire Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury very much, but I do not write like Faulkner, nor do I intend to try. I have chosen Anne Tyler's Saint Maybe for this exercise in the past because I think she is a wonderful writer, her books are the kind that I want to write, and because on my very best day, when all the planets are aligned and the universe is smiling on me, I can kind of write a little bit like Anne Tyler (while ideally remaining entirely myself, creatively speaking).

stephenking.jpg Note: If you can't come up with a text to study and emulate, then you are not reading enough. Stephen King says, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. Reading is the creative center of a writer's life." While you catch up with your reading, I would be happy to help you find a model text, just get in touch with me (Dr. Mandyck).

Step 2: Make a THOROUGH study of your Model Text. If it is a shorter piece, then read it again. If a longer one, then skim it. Consider the following:

How many pages long is your text?
How many chapters?
Do the chapters have titles or just numbers?
Does the author use epigraphs, diary entries, letters, anything like that?
How long are the paragraphs?
Is there a lot of dialogue or a little?
A lot of description or a little?
Action-packed or more contemplative or internal?
First person or third?
How many narrators?
Big words or small?
Flowery prose or plain?
How much time passes from beginning to end?
How many characters are there? (You should probably write them all down.)
Are they mostly male or female?
What is the setting?
Who do you think is the intended audience?
What is the conflict that drives the plot?
How is the story resolved?

Great Book with Magnifying Glass.jpg Your questions will be different if you are writing poetry or nonfiction, and you will probably notice some things that I don't ask about here, but I hope you see what I mean. You should be intimately familiar with your model text and really understand what went into its making.

Step 3: Write a one-page report on your Model Text, describing it in as much detail as you can. Don't critique it or praise it, just describe it. For example: "Anne Tyler's Saint Maybe is about a family of five adults and three children and takes place over the course of 27 years. Each chapter is narrated by a different third-person limited speaker, and each chapter has a title that serves to illustrate the theme of the chapter, although does not name it explicitly ("The Man Who Forgot How To Fly" is one example). Tyler uses a lot of dialogue, detail and exclamation points." And so on.

Step 4 is a Writing Prompt: Consider the thing you are trying to write, even if it exists only in your head right now. What characteristics of your Model Text can you use in your piece of writing? Write another report, which might be several pages long, on the Piece of Writing That Is Yet-To-Be, describing it in detail. You might not yet have all these answers, but you should consider and address them in your report. For example, who is your main character? Who are the supporting characters? Where is the story set? What year is it? Are you writing long chapters or scenes or short ones? Is the action building to a climax, or is the struggle to be more subtle or internal? If you have a work in progress, great. Thoroughly describe it as it is right now AND describe what you have in mind for it as you go on.

And here is the kicker: what is your piece ABOUT? When someone asks you (and they will), "What is your story, novel, screenplay about?" what will you say? Imagine that you are writing the blurb for the inside cover of your book, or the short description of the movie that will be made of your book. : ) (The inside cover of Saint Maybe says, "In 1965 the Bedloe family lives on a quiet street in Baltimore. It is an ideal, apple-pie household, and seventeen-year-old Ian has all the usual expectations and dreams for the future. That is, until the night when he meddles in his older brother's life--and from that careless moment on, nothing can ever be the same." Try something like that.)

Thumbnail image for frustrated.jpg Note: This will probably be hard! The first time I did this exercise with a novel in progress, the first thing I wrote in my report on my own work was: "I have no idea what this novel is about!" So, struggle with it, if you must. Work on it over several days at least, and keep thinking about it even when you are not sitting down to write; let your subconscious mind chew on it too. When you feel finished, you can put it aside, but someplace handy because you WILL come back to it as you continue to work.

Writing Advice:
4 Reasons for Making Time To Read 
Inspirational Words:
Anne Tyler: Author Interview

Resources and Links:
Creative Writing Exercises for Craft
Be a Better Writer

Step 3: Make a Scene

You should at this point have a writing plan that you are committed to, a model text that is offering you insight into and guidance on your own work, and a sort of road map of the project or projects you are working on. We have, in other words, done a lot of good preparation for writing, and a little bit of writing too. Now we get down to it...

Thought for the Day: "Don't say 'the old lady screamed.' Bring her on, and let her scream." ~Mark Twain

It's the best possible advice for fiction, and really for most kinds of writing or even speaking: show, don't tell. If you tell someone that an experience was thrilling, they will have to take your word for it. If you SHOW them that same experience through detail and dialogue, they will FEEL thrilled themselves.

How do you show rather than tell? You make a scene! Here is advice from an indispensable text in the Elements of Fiction Writing Series, Plot, by Ansen Dibell:

"Showing, in fiction, means creating scenes. You have to be able to cast your ideas in terms of something happening, people talking and doing, an event going on while the reader reads."
Thumbnail image for plot.jpgHe goes on to say, "A scene is one connected and sequential action, together with its embedded description and background material. It seems to happen just as if a reader were watching and listening to it happen. It's built on talk and action. It's dramatized, shown, rather than being summarized or talked about. In some ways, it's like a little independent story."

Below is an example, a scene of four teenagers, all of whom have been drinking, driving home on a dangerous road.

"The feeling was backwards from a roller coaster, actually. The long descent was not the scary part. But then the car, carried by its own unchecked momentum, dropped into the valley at the bottom of the first hill and lurched around a curve to begin a steep, twisting climb. They jerked left, then right, then left. It felt like skiing, Jane thought, although she had never been skiing. It felt like skiing looked. She had been watching the back of Ryan's head, but now she looked out at the trees whisking by. She wondered briefly how many animals had been killed on this road. 

Then they were at the top of another hill. Jane glanced at Jesse's feet. She couldn't tell absolutely, but it looked like he wasn't touching the gas or the brakes. He had turned the music down at some point without Jane realizing, but no one took advantage of the relative quiet to speak. They were listening to their own speed. Jane felt the back wheels leave the ground at the same time that their headlights went out. Cheryl screamed, but Jane stayed quiet, noticing how time seemed to be suspended, like darkness equaled stillness, like they were hanging in a space ship in the night. When the headlights of the oncoming car beamed into her face, she couldn't think for a second what that sudden blinding light could be."

Writing Prompt #3: Choose one of the ideas below and render it as a scene. Show. Don't tell.

1. An experience in Nature.
2. A scene of sickness or injury.
3. A young person telling a parent something he or she would rather not have to tell.
4. A conversation that turns into an argument between two people standing in a line.
5. A first day at school or a new job.

Step 4: A Formula and a Short Short

Thought for the Day: "Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief." ~from Hamlet by William Shakespeare

bird-by-bird.gifAnne Lamott is the author of seven novels and five works of non-fiction, among them the peerless Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. If you could only read one book on how (and why) to write, Bird by Bird should be that book. Among the extraordinarily useful advice Lamott provides in Bird is a formula for fiction that another author, Alice Adams, shared in a lecture on writing the short story. It is simply this:

A-B-D-C-E, for Action, Background, Development, Climax, Ending. 

Lamott says, "You begin with Action that is compelling enough to draw us in [use what you know about scene here] and make us want to know more. Background is where you let us see and know who these people are, how they've come to be together, what was going on before the opening of the story. Then you Develop these people, so that we learn what they care most about. The plot--the drama, the actions, the tension [more on plot next week]--will grow out of that. You move them along until everything comes together in the Climax, after which things are different for the main characters, different in some real way. And then there is an Ending: what is our sense of who these people are now, what are they left with, what happened, and what did it mean."

formula 2.jpgThis is not the only way fiction can or should be structured, but it is an EXCELLENT way to get started! The A-B-D-C-E formula works beautifully for narrative non-fiction (like maybe a college essay...) as well, and can even be used successfully in argument or academic writing.

Below is an example of a short short story, that is, a story of 500 words or less. These stories are sometimes called sudden or flash or micro fiction. They are harder to write than you might think... Can you detect an A-B-D-C-E pattern here?

micro fiction.jpgFrom Carpathia, by Jesse Lee Kercheval, from Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Really Short Stories, edited by Jerome Stern. This book is available at our library. 

It happened on my parent's honeymoon. The fourth morning out from New York, Mother woke to find the Carpathia still, engines silent. She woke Father; they rushed to the deck in their nightgowns. The first thing they saw was the white of an ocean filled with ice, then they saw white boats, in groups of two or three, pulling slowly towards the Carpathia. My father read the name written in red across their bows--Titanic. The sun was shining. Here and there a deck chair floated on the calm sea. There was nothing else.

The survivors came on board in small groups. Women and children. Two sailors for each boat. The women of the Carpathia went to the women of the Titanic, wrapping them in their long warm furs. My mother left my father's side to go to them. The women went down on their knees on the deck and prayed, holding each other's children. My father stood looking at the icy water where, if he had been on the other ship, he would be.

When the Carpathia dropped off the survivors in New York, my parents too got off and took the train home, not talking much. At the welcome-home party, my father got drunk. When someone asked about the Titanic, he said, "They should have put the men in the lifeboats. Men can marry again, have new families. What's the use of all those widows and orphans?" My mother, who was standing next to him, turned her face away. She was pregnant, eighteen.  She was the one drowning.  But there was no one there to rescue her. 

Writing Prompt #4: Write a story of 100 - 500 words using the A-B-D-C-E formula. You can choose one of the ideas from the end of last week's post, either rewriting what you wrote last week, or choosing a different idea this time. Or maybe you have an idea of your own for a story. Whatever your idea, you should employ what you've learned about scene in the Action and Climax sections at least, and probably in the Development and Ending sections too. Only in Background might it be appropriate to tell, rather than show. Try to include description and character development and at least one line of dialogue. I would be delighted if you shared your efforts with me!

Writing Advice:
How To Write Flash Fiction
Flash What? A Quick Look at Flash Fiction

Anne Lamott.jpgInspirational Words:
"Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you're conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of." ~Anne Lamott

Resources and Links:
Fiction Factor: The Online Magazine for Fiction Writers
Flash Fiction Markets (Even if you do not feel ready to submit your work for publication, take a look at some of the magazines that publish flash fiction, such as Flashquake and Brevity, for ideas on how to improve your own short-shorts.)

Step 5: Plot is a Verb

Thought for the Day: "Plot is character revealed by action." ~Aristotle
Often the hardest thing about writing fiction is deciding what should HAPPEN. It's probably why so many (I would argue all) writers write from personal experience. We can have great ideas--a society that "reaps" its young people to fight to the death on TV, for example--but turning an idea into a plot is tough.

Stewie.jpg What might help: start with CHARACTER. If you are writing a story, think first of the people who populate it. Name them, describe them (not just physically, but by temperament too), and--most important--determine what drives them. What does your main character WANT? 
Like Aristotle, Anne Lamott says that "plot grows out of character," in other words, the kind of person your main character is will cause things to happen. Think of the "plot" of your own life. What has happened to you so far? Are you a great and hard-working student who just won a scholarship to the school of your choice? Your character created that plot, in the same way your character might create a different kind of plot if your innermost self believed that a college education was useless and therefore you said no thanks to the scholarship and instead hitchhiked across the county getting to know your fellow man. Imagine what kind of plot might grow out of that character in action! (Sorry, parents, but somebody has to write On the Road...)

boxing gloves.jpgThe other thing that will make plot happen: CONFLICT. Nick Daws says that conflict is "the engine which drives a short story. It might be a conflict between characters, or between your key character and something in her environment, or within your main character herself...but conflict is what 'hooks' readers and keeps them involved." Conflict will not only hook readers, it will hook you into continuing to write the story! It will give you something to write about, a plot.

Daws goes on to say, "Give readers characters they will care about, then make life difficult for them by introducing conflict into their lives." Think of these great literary characters. What is it that they want, and what conflict is introduced that then results in the plot?

THE-GREAT-GATSBY.jpg Gatsby in The Great Gatsby
What he wants: Daisy!
Conflict: Daisy is already married, and also of a social class to which Gatsby can only aspire, in spite of all his wealth.

Wilbur the pig in Charlotte's Web
wilbur.jpgWhat he wants: Wilbur wants to live happily ever after in the barn with his friends.
Conflict: Wilbur is going to be killed and eaten unless Charlotte the spider can save him!

huck.jpg Huck Finn in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
What he wants: To escape civilization.
Conflict: Civilization doesn't want him to escape. Also, civilization says that slavery is right, and through his relationship with Jim, Huck starts to suspect otherwise.

Writing Prompt # 5:
Step 1: If you have a short story or other piece of fiction already in progress, choose a character in it. That character will probably be the main character, but it doesn't have to be.


If you do not have a work in progress, think of someone you know and turn him or her into a character, starting perhaps with that person as he or she is, but fictionalizing as you go for Step 2.


See Twelve Ways To Generate Ideas for Fiction under Writing Advice below, and try number 3.

Step 2: Write a character sketch that thoroughly describes who the character is, inside. What, in other words, is your character's character? What does he fear, what makes him happy, what makes him crazy, who are his best friends and why, what is his life goal, what stands in the way of that life goal, what are his habits, his routines, his hobbies, his aversions? What has shaped his character in indelible ways (maybe his mother died before he ever got to know her, maybe he is the eldest son of an ambitious man, maybe he is a nerd in love with the prom queen, whatever large or small circumstance that has gone into making your character who he is. at the end of your sketch, write this question: what does the character of Blank want more than anything? Then answer it.

Step 3: Play God. Say Blank wants more than anything to be a country music star. (I don't know, you decide what Blank wants!) As God, what are you going to do to stand in his way? Strand him 20 miles outside of Nashville when his car breaks down. Make him fall in love with a girl who hates country music. Break his guitar strings. Introduce him to an unscrupulous music producer. Or maybe all of these things and more! CREATE CONFLICT.

So, at the end of this week's writing prompt you will have a full character sketch, a statement of that character's central desire, and a list of things that will thwart that desire. If at this point, a plot unfolds in your head, feel free to keep writing...

Writing Advice:
How To Structure Your Short Story by Nick Daws.pdf
Twelve Great Ways To Generate Ideas for Fiction by Nick Daws.pdf

Inspirational Words: "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." ~Albert Einstein

Editorial note: Ever since I heard this line, it keeps coming back to me. I do think Einstein was pretty smart, but his intellect would have been of no use without his persistence! When you are tempted to give up, opt out, move on, remember Einstein and stay with the problem longer.

Resources and Links:
Short Stories: 10 Tips for Creative Writers
Conflict and Character within Story Structure

Step 6: Dialogue

Thumbnail image for dialogue.jpgThoughts for the Day: "The character of a man is known from his conversations." ~Menander, Greek dramatist (342 BC - 292 BC)

"Each person's life is lived as a series of conversations." ~Deborah Tannen, author and professor of linguistics

What is the purpose of dialogue? Dialogue in fiction (and sometimes in non-fiction) brings characters to life. Good dialogue will also move the plot along. Consider this passage from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, on Harry's first day in Professor Snape's class.

HP.jpgSnape, like Flitwich, started the class by taking the roll call, and like Flitwich, he paused at Harry's name.

"Ah yes," he said softly, "Harry Potter. Our new--celebrity."

Can't you just hear the venom?! Immediately you know that there will be trouble between these two. Here's more:

"Potter!" said Snape suddenly. "What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?

Powdered root of what to an infusion of what? Harry glanced at Ron, who looked as stumped as he was; Hermione's hand had shot into the air.

"I don't know, sir," said Harry.

Snape's lips curled into a sneer. "Tut, tut--clearly fame isn't everything." He ignored Hermione's hand. 

68 words and four characters revealed!

dialogue3.jpgWhat is the best way to use dialogue? SPARINGLY. Notice that some of Harry's dialogue is internal, indicated by italics. And Snape doesn't make a long speech about how much he has heard about Harry Potter and how much he resents him, and the whole long back story between Snape and Harry's parents which is still to be revealed. But the FEEL of all of this is in the few words that he speaks out loud, as dialogue. Most of us think about a bazillion things a day; we speak just a small fraction of those thoughts. Would-be writers of realistic dialogue should keep this in mind.

Consider the Rule of Twelve from the Be a Better Writer Website by Pearl Luke. Luke says:

Grab your favorite novel and find a passage of dialogue. Any passage. The first one you see is fine. Now count the words between punctuation marks. You'll seldom find more than twelve.
We speak in short bursts of words, and your characters should do the same. If you find longer phrases and clauses in your dialogue, shorten them. Use twelve as a maximum, and aim for exchanges of half that many words to keep dialogue terse and crisp.

Writing Advice (read before trying the Writing Prompt):
10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Dialogue
Dialogue Writing Tips
Seven Keys to Writing Good Dialogue
Top 8 Tips for Writing Dialogue
Writing Dialogue with Tension

Dialogue2.jpgWriting Prompt #6: If you already have a piece underway, look through it for dialogue. First, notice if there is ENOUGH dialogue. An entire story can be told in dialogue alone, but a story cannot be told effectively without dialogue. At least one of your characters should speak on almost every page, ideally to one or more of your other characters. Dialogue is a way of showing, not telling, and we recall how essential that is, right?

Next, count how many words your characters speak out loud at a time. Is it more than twelve? Then it will probably sound unnatural and unconvincing.

Third, does each character have a distinctive voice? Some people use big words and some don't, and some are funny and some are not, and almost all of us have some kind of verbal tic that we may or may not be aware of. I have a friend who says "what's her bucket" when she cannot recall a person's name, and another who says "anyhoo" when the conversation seems to flag, and another who starts quite a few sentences with "the fact of the matter is," all of which serve to reveal character and personality. Give your fictional characters distinctive voices.

Fourth, if the dialogue you've written so far is not quite perfect, consider the advice here and revise it!
If you do not have a piece in progress, choose one of the following for an exercise in dialogue writing. In each option, you should start with a line of dialogue and build the scene from there. For all of these options, it might help to do some brief character sketches first to learn who your characters are before you try to make them speak.

1. Your character's best friend catches him or her in a lie.
2. Your character meets someone new that he or she dislikes immediately.
3. Your character goes to a job interview for a job he or she doesn't really want.
4. Or write a scene in which a seemingly harmless conversation takes a dramatic turn. Maybe one member of a couple decides he or she wants to break up, or decides to change something significant like a religious belief, or whatever else strikes you as dramatic.

welty 2.jpgInspirational Words:
"To imagine yourself inside another what a story writer does in every piece of work; it is his first step, and his last too, I suppose." ~Eudora Welty

Resources and Links:
Collaborating To Write Dialogue
Punctuating Dialogue

Step 7: Developing Style

Hemingway.jpgThought for the Day: "All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know." ~Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, IL on July 21, 1899. (So, Happy Birthday, Hemingway!) He started writing as a young person, for his school newspaper, and also worked for The Kansas City Star before serving as an ambulance driver in World War I. His writing, almost from the start, was like nothing anyone had ever read before. The National Endowment for the Arts chose his novel A Farewell To Arms for their "Big Read," saying that Hemingway's style "is among the most recognizable and influential prose of the twentieth century. . . . Hemingway's technique is uncomplicated, with plain grammar and easily accessible language. His hallmark is a clean style that eschews adjectives and uses short, rhythmic sentences that concentrate on action rather than reflection."

Consider this passage from a story called "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber":

african-male lion.jpgIt had started the night before when he had wakened and heard the lion roaring somewhere up the river. It was a deep sound and at the end there were sort of coughing grunts that that made him seem just outside the tent, and when Francis Macomber woke in the night to hear it he was afraid. He could hear his wife breathing quietly, asleep.

Words of one or two syllables, clean sentences, powerfully-evoked emotion. Macomber has to get up the next morning and hunt this lion; can't you feel his dread?

iceberg.jpgSo this week we talk about writing style. Hemingway had a theory that he could cut his writing to the bone, and still convey everything the story needed. According to Hemingway's Iceberg Theory, a lot of what you will do after you have a first draft down is CUT. Read more on the Iceberg Theory.

You need not write like Hemingway, of course; there are many different writing styles, as many styles as there are writers. You will find your own style as you continue to work on your writing, but it doesn't hurt to consider the style of successful authors who have come before us. Interestingly, in his book On Writing: A Memoir, Stephen King says that he has rule similar to Hemingway's, almost like a mathematical formula: 2nd draft = 1st draft minus 10%.

Read 7 Editing Questions To Make Work Sparkle and then try the Writing Prompt.

stephen-king.jpgWriting Prompt #7: Take something you have written, and apply the Iceberg Theory, the Stephen King Revision Rule and the 7 Editing Questions to it, ruthlessly! Go through your piece and cut every word, every sentence, every passage or paragraph, that is not earning its place on the page. You will come across words and sentences you love...but are they essential? You might especially find inessentials in dialogue. Review last week's post and cut there too. You might need to change the structure or some other things about your work after you have cut, but do the cutting first. When you have reduced this piece to its bones, read it aloud. Anything else that could go..? When you feel satisfied that your piece is as lean as it can be, put it aside, if you like. Or if this exercise has inspired you, keep writing, then cutting, then writing some more.

Writing Advice:
William Zinsser on Simplicity (Zinsser is the author of an extremely useful book called On Writing Well, a must-read for any aspiring writer, and especially helpful for non-fiction)
William Zinsser on Style (This website unfortunately attributes this piece to "David Zinnser," but the rest of the text is correct and from On Writing Well!)

Inspirational Words:
"I have rewritten--often several times--every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers." ~Vladimir Nabokov

Resources and Links:
Strunk and White's The Elements of Style (See especially "Vigorous writing is concise.")
The Writer magazine
Writing Concise Sentences