Creative and Memoir Writing Class

January 11, 2023 with Carol Brennan King

It has been a while since we met together, but those weeks have been filled with studying and prepping for new classes for me. It has also been a great time to think ahead of what we can do this semester to move us all ahead in our writing lives.

After we talked about what we did over our break as writers, we also talked about the value of setting goals, a topic we explored more deeply later in class.

TOOLS

  1. Owl at Purdue or The first thing I wanted to give you as writers was a handy and easy-to-use online resource. A couple of years ago, I taught an online English class to a group of students for whom English was their second language. One of the resources I shared with them is The OWL at Purdue found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKwj4AmnQhs.

Google https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/mechanics/ for information on the mechanics of writing – from that page, you can move on to writing guides. We talked about particular writing styles or style guides required for writing for new papers or journals, for example. This page will give you a Style Guide Overview and links to the most used style guides. Browse here a bit.

2. Another very useful tool is Grammarly. You have heard me refer to Grammarly often in class. It is a free tool, and once it is installed on your computer -not a big deal- it will highlight mistakes you might have made on your work and how to fix them.

SCHEDULE YOUR WRITING FOR SUCCESS

It is important to have the right tools for success as a writer, but if you don’t have a plan for success, the tools will never be used.

Today we talked about seven steps to a successful writing plan.

  1. Set your Objective. Write it down and put it where you will see it. And share it with a trusted writer friend with whom you can check in periodically. Do you want to write an article and see it published? Write that goal down. I like to use a whiteboard in my office. I have long-term goals and short-term goals to get me to the long-term goal.
  2. Break your goal up into manageable chunks. For instance,If you want to have an article published, do some research for places to publish what you want to write about. Maybe give yourself two weeks to do this.Settle on a topic and journal, then do some brainstorming on your topic. Otherwise known as research. Write down how long you want to spend on research and stick to that time. Otherwise, you may fall in love with research and never write.Decide how long you want to give to the writing of the piece. Put it in your day-timer or on your bulletin board. You get the idea.
  3. Set deadlines for all the steps to get your project to publication.
  4. Create a schedule for the entire project. This is a good time to say that a book may take as long as 2-4 years to get from the idea to the bookstore.
  5. Protect your writing space. If you don’t have your own permanent writing space, find a briefcase, or something like that, where you can keep your laptop, notebooks, writing tools, writing journals, etc. Again we are talking about being organized for success. If you are always searching for a workspace, you probably will get little work done.
  6. Create personal rewards for reaching a goal You pick. Maybe a new leather journal, a package of the pricey coffee you like, or your favorite fragrance candle. Or maybe it might be a walk in the park, dinner out with a writer friend. Think of something affordable and rewarding.
  7. Stick to your plan, but give yourself some wiggle room when life interferes. Rewrite your plan, moving the new dates into your daytimer.

One of the most important things I have done for myself is to have a writing coach. Every Monday I give her a printout of my goals for the next week and an honest analysis of how I did the last week. I confess this last thing has done as much for me as any other thing I do to keep focused as a writer.

In class, we also talked about 5 Little-Known Mistakes Most Writers Make, a great article from  Savannah Gilbo. Google her name and you will come up with piles of great material

The first mistake that we talked about was the idea that you had to write “the most beautiful prose in order to write a story that holds the reader’s attention.” The reality is that by the time you purchase or borrow from the library any book, it has been through the hands and efforts of many professional editors. So, just get your story down; remember that the first draft is just a first draft. Once you have your ideas on paper, you can polish them to your heart’s content, and your editor’s heart’s content.

Mistake 2 is “believing you can write a perfect draft if you just do a little more research, planning or outlining before you write. As Bilbo says, This may be why 97% of stories are never finished.

    Mistake 3 is “Believing you need to have a rock-solid, completely original story idea before you start writing. Or thinking you must have everything figured out before you start writing.” Nope, Nope. The first thing you must figure out is what genre is your story? Each genre has different marks. More about that in a minute. Well, maybe next week!

    Mistake 4 is “believing you have to follow every single writing method in existence in order to write a quality novel. INSTEAD, pick one or two methods that you like or that make sense to you, and then stick with what you chose until you have a finished first draft.

    Mistake 5 is “believing a college education or degree is necessary to write a story. Break the writing process down and tackle one thing at a time.” This helps you build confidence as you start checking things off from your list.”

    Now, if you looked closely, you noticed some quotation marks around the material above. This material and more by Savannah Gilbo can be found at her/masterclass.

    Google 5 Little-Known Mistakes Most Writers Make
    (+ What to Do Instead) or just google Savannah Gilbo writing helps.

    Check it out! I think she’s one of the best teachers online.

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