Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why write? To be surprised

Teaching, much like motherhood, can revive ideas and views. When I asked the memoir writing students in my class at Politics & Prose bookstore to introduce themselves and say what brought them there, one student said that she came "to be surprised" by what she might write.

So simple and so true. While outlines and planning are important, it is also important to simply write, make discovers and yes, be surprised.

After all, you can't create something truly new if you simply repeat what has been written before.

I'll be back to the manuscript editing with fresh eyes tomorrow. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Additional Memoir Writing Workshop Section @ Politics & Prose Bookstore in March

Due to popular demand, we opened another section of Memoir Writing Workshop (Mixed Level) at Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C. I'm excited to be teaching four Mondays in March: March 3, 10, 17, and 24, 1:30 - 3 p.m.

Register today through the bookstore. (The January/February section sold out quickly.)

I look forward to working with you! You're welcome to email me with any questions (Chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.)


Class description: 
It's never too early or too late to start fashioning your memories into words. This four-week workshop will offer you the tools to write a memoir by breaking it down into pieces: linked personal essays. The class time and take-home writing assignments will primarily focus on student work. Participants will also respond to writing prompts, workshop drafts, and discuss on-going projects. We will consider issues of editing, revising, organizing research and chapters, as well as some strategies for publication. Students will receive feedback from peers as well as from the instructor.

This class is for you if you are thinking about starting a memoir or have already started to draft some chapters. Or maybe you simply want to try a new writing genre. In-class writing prompts will change every session; you are welcome to take this class more than once.


Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Alive!: Your Outline

Your outline is - or at least should be - a living thing that needs attention throughout the writing process. It needs to be updated as you research, write, edit and revise. Keep it close by and current. Whether you are writing a poem, short story, chapter, novel, memoir or anything else, you should be using an outline to keep your ideas organized.

As you are writing and glancing at your outline, it can help you to remember:
     Your piece's main idea (argument/thesis)
     What you've disclosed (what the reader already knows)
     What is coming (to foreshadow/build to new ideas)

Writing is a form of learning. As you write, you better understand your subject. Your thesis and general understanding of your piece are likely to shift as you continue to write, revise and edit. That means that your outline needs to be updated, too.

Your outline should include your piece's main idea and then a summary of points for each paragraph or stanza (see an example of a traditional outline here). You might make your outline more visual with text boxes that can be moved around which is sometimes called a mind map.

However you choose to craft your outline, remember that it is an important part of the writing process. It will keep you on track to help you to write something with a narrow focus. Don't let it grow stale and out of date. Feed it new information and it will serve you well.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Editing: Writing as Succinctly as Possible

Last month Salon.com published Two-sentence holiday fiction from fabulous contemporary writers. Some people say that Hemingway may have written the shortest story when he wrote, "For sale: Baby shoes, never worn."

My long-winded point? Whittle down your writing to make it as succinct as possible. Whether you are writing a poem, short story or novel, challenge yourself to cut unnecessary words. Let each word do as much work as possible for you.

As an editing exercise, carefully look at your outline (yes, even for a poem.) Then, cut each chapter or paragraph or stanza in half. I know, that's harsh. But this exercise will help you to better understand the core of your piece and what's unnecessary.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cheers for a New Year!


National Aquarium in Baltimore
To many adventures, writing and otherwise, in the New Year!

I love a shiny, new start. A new year, like a new semester, offers the chance to look at your goals and successes - and challenges - with fresh eyes. In the past, I've written about self-evaluations, setting writing goals, and making time to write. I hope that you will take some time to consider your projects, goals and dreams for this new year.

2014 is already promising to be a busy year. I'm looking forward to teaching memoir writing classes at Politics & Prose bookstore (there are still some openings in the classes; register today!), reading my poetry in the Northeast and presenting at the AWP conference in Seattle, working with clients as their private writing coach, as well as continuing to blog here and over at Woman Mother Writer

Are you a writer? Let me know if you're interested in writing a guest post for this blog (sometime throughout the year or for National Poetry Month.) 

Cheers for the new year! Thanks for continuing to visit this blog in 2014!