Poetry workshop: First and last lines

We hear a lot about the first line and first paragraph of a short story or first page of a novel - how important it is to engage the reader and hook them into your story. It's no different for a poem. From your first line, a reader can and does make up their mind about whether to read the whole thing. A generous reader might give you three lines or a stanza, but especially if your poem is on a blog or webpage, it's too easy to click on to the next one. You may well resist this opening of … [Read more...]

Poetry workshop: The title

Why should a poem have a good title? What can it add? Why is it important? Many poets wrestle with titles and end up using what is called a "label". So their poem is about whales, and they call the poem Whale. Or after trying a few different titles, they decide to call it Untitled (or to be clever and call it Untitled 23). A poem without a strong title is a missed opportunity. A good title can do a number of things: * It can act like the first line of the poem and pull the reader in * … [Read more...]

What makes a great verse novel?

The first verse novel I ever read and loved was Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. The second (four years later, in 2003) was Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. But in between those two, I read a lot I hated. And I’ve read more since then that I thought were just banal, chopped-up prose. It was hard to complain about them, though, because I didn’t really know what a verse novel was “supposed to be”. However, in the past 6 months I’ve had to tackle this question in considerable depth, because I chose … [Read more...]

Reader’s question: when is it plagiarism?

Flannigan writes: When is it plagiarism? Recently, I was getting on with my writing, and I was doing well, too. Getting the words in, doing something different. Inspiration poured from books I’d read and things I’d seen. It was fun. I was having a laugh. But I missed reading. So I’d decide well, I can do both. So every day, I’d read a chapter of my book, and then write a bit. I’d write, read, write, read, write, read. It got to the point where I was reading a chapter of a book, and … [Read more...]

Why writers need to research the past AND the here and now

You might be writing something set in the present day, in your home town or city, and feel you have no need of research. But today’s readers are drawn to stories with details and descriptions that feel authentic and that can be visualized – it’s part of the way our culture has become so much more visual. While I’ve written a number of historical novels now, and honed my research skills through trial and error, I’ve also come to realize that even my contemporary stories improve with realistic … [Read more...]

Ask me a question about writing

Today, it's your turn. Ask me a question about anything to do with writing, critiquing, editing or publishing! If it's straightforward to answer, I'll compile some questions and answers and put them in a post. If the answer needs a whole blog post, I'll do that, too. If you don't want to post in the comments section here, feel free to email me at sherryl (at) ebooks4writers (dot) com. Join in the discussion! … [Read more...]

Life writing and fiction: too much or too little?

Recently I’ve critiqued several fiction works that were at least partially (if not completely) based on the author’s own experiences. We all do this, of course. We give our characters our own reactions to terrible and wonderful things, we use our memories of events and people to create action and character, and we even use overheard or remembered conversations as a basis for our dialogue. In other words, every fiction writer uses snippets in different ways. But when you write something that … [Read more...]

Creating your writing space

Over on my other blog, I've been writing about solitude and how much we writers need it. Not just for writing, but for thinking and dreaming. Yet so often this needs to begin with your physical space. Some writers are lucky to have a whole room for themselves, away from the household and the general noise. I know a few who rent writing rooms in community spaces, and some who write in cafes and public places. At home, a writing space/place can be an issue when you share with others and there … [Read more...]

Creating your own 28 day writing challenge

Over on my other blog, I've been reporting on a recent challenge I undertook. Simply, it was to write for 30 minutes every day for 28 days. The second part of this was to have at least one accountability partner, and check in with them when you had done your 30. So this is how you do it: * Find at least one accountability partner. They don't have to be a writer, although I think this helps. They can choose to do their 30 minutes as walking, or meditation, or practising the piano. * … [Read more...]

What percentage of your writing is worth publishing?

When I first started writing, I think the percentage of my work that was “worth publishing” was pretty close to zero. Isn’t that true of most writers? We start tentatively putting words on the page, unsure if we are communicating effectively even with ourselves, let alone any outside audience. We might have a burning story to tell, but however much it burns inside of us, our audience won’t be interested in reading it until our writing abilities and skills have improved enough. What is enough? … [Read more...]