Are authors really managing to release quality books without paying for professional editing, design, marketing and other services? Or are you going to have to dig into your savings and fork over thousands of dollars to make sure you release a great book? How much does it cost to publish a book?
For instance, if you add a carnival to your world, the characters will probably attend, or at the least, discuss it. The goal is not necessarily to add details randomly, but to enhance your overall setting. In doing so, you have the opportunity to create a unique world, one that you can now navigate with ease.
Creating a map every time you start a story will allow you to fully imagine and then create this new world. When you go to lay down those details in the story, they will no longer be vague. Her short story collection, Red Barn People, is now available.
How awesome would it be to have a writer who had no idea what had actually happened, or who these characters were, take over?
Better yet, how about one of your favorite writers? It seems that collaborative literature is coming back into fashion, or perhaps it never left.
The poems are brief and have a singular voice, which makes them even more curious--did they take turns writing a line, pass them back and forth? Did they work in person or via e-mail?
What if you hate what the other person has written? He has two somewhat well known books -- the novel, Grendel, and the book on writing, The Art of Fiction.
I happen to own a first edition of his excellent and out-of-print novel, The Sunlight Dialogues, which I have yet to have a conversation about, because no one's heard of it, let alone read it. For the most part, people will know The Art of Fiction, a book from which I hijack an exercise for my classes.
Gardner's exercises go something like this: Describe a lake from the POV of a bird, but don't mention the bird. Or, Describe a barn from the POV of a man who has just committed a murder, but don't mention the murder.
A good writer, he writes, should be able to convey to a reader that a man has lost his son in a war simply through describing a place, never having to mention the death. This is advanced writer territory, but its technique can be hammered home early in writing classes.
What I do with this exercise is ask all the students to write down an event or series of events that have put them in a particular mood.
Some actual examples that students have written: The students write down these events that elicit a specific mood-response, emotional response, then fold the paper, hand it to another student, but they do not look at the event on the slip of paper.
These examples are from the adult education creative writing course, not the college. That's important to note, because what we do next is head to a bar. At the bar, I tell everyone to get a drink, if they like, find a place to sit, get out a notebook, and then open up the slip of paper to find out what has just happened to them -- so, you're at the bar, and today you were not charged an overdraft fee when you had clearly overdrafted.
Now, look around the room and describe everything you see -- the bar customers, what they are saying to each other, the bartender, the servers, the floor, the crap on the walls, the smell in the air, the beer on your tongue, the music from the jukebox, the displays on the megatouch game, and on and on.
But don't mention what happened to you. Everything in our sensory world comes through our mind and heart and looks, feels, smells, sounds, tastes different given our emotional state.
For the college kids, we go to a park if it's nice. Everyone likes a little field trip, don't we? Then we come back together, share what we've written and everyone in class guesses what the emotional state was or the events that created it. It's a cool game.
Rarely do products of writing exercises become anything substantial. Perhaps a line, an idea that can be expanded, but on the whole they are what they are: Necessary when you're not performing, creating, inspiring yourself. At their best, these psychological tests as writing exercises get your brain going crazy, which allows you to do something new, which is what you want, isn't it?
The image above is a Rorschach "ink blot. These are all symmetrical images, and the patient is to interpret what the abstract ink blots are.
So if you say, It looks like a butterfly, then you're free to go. If you say, It reminds of the twisted monster in my demented heart, then you're likely not free to go.
To use this as a writing exercise, simply list everything the image could be; then everywhere the "thing" could be; then everything the thing could be doing; then all the inner feelings of the thing.
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