Daily Writing Tip 34 of 100, The Open-ended Writing Process

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – The Open-ended Writing Process

Source – Writing With Power by Peter Elbow

The open-ended writing process is at the opposite extreme from the direct writing process. It is a way to bring to birth an unknown, unthought-of piece of writing-a piece of writing that is not yet in you. It is a technique for thinking, seeing, and feeling new things. This process invites maximum chaos and disorientation. You have to be willing to nurse something through many stages over a long period of time and to put up with not knowing where you are going. Thus it is a process that can change you, not just your words.
***
To begin the sea voyage, do a nonstop freewriting that starts from wherever you happen to be. Mosyt often you just start with a thought or a feeling or a memory that seems for some reason important to you. But perhaps you have something in mind for a possible piece of writing: perhaps you have some ideas for an essay; or certain characters or event are getting ready to make a story. You can also start by describing what you wish you could end up with. Realize of course that you probably won’t. Just start writing
***
Keep writing for at least ten or twenty or thirty minutes, depending on how much material and energy you come up with. You have to write long enough to get tired and get past what’s on the top of your mind. But not so long that you start pausing in the midst of your writing.
Then stop, sit back, be quiet, and bring all that writing to a point. That is, by reading back or just thinking back over it, find the center or focus or point of those words and write it down in a sentence.
***
Now repeat the cycle.

What great advice!

Sometimes I write a story with the entire thing preplanned in my mind (or in an outline on paper) and sometimes I start out staring at that blank page with no idea where I’m going. I have to admit, the unknown voyage, for me, usually ends up stranded on the rocks somewhere, taking on water fast – about to sink. I like how this teacher seems to systematize the usystemic – to organize the chaos.

I like the idea of, “start by describing what you wish you could end up with.” Of course the next sentence is frightening.

I’m going to have to study his technique and see how it works for me. At any rate, it will give me a dollop of badly-needed confidence.

Maybe you would want to do the same.

Tabasco and Log Cabin

“I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure”
― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Dix Coney Island Denton, Texas (click to enlarge)

Dix Coney Island
Denton, Texas
(click to enlarge)

Dix Coney Island

Daily Writing Tip 33 of 100, Learn About the Hero’s Journey

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Learn About the Hero’s Journey

Source – The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those constant human fantasies that tend to tie it back.

Anyone that creates anything should read and study Joseph Campbell and the ideas of the universal myth and hero’s journey. Just be careful about it.

My personal opinion is that the use of the Hero’s Journey Monomyth as the only legitimate scaffold on which to build a plot is oversimplified and overused. If I have to see or read one more story where the protagonist has to (or appear to) “die” at the climax of the story only to be reborn as a great hero… well, I’m sure I will see it more than one more time. Everything – especially big budget films and young adult novels has to follow this same script or it won’t get made.

I think sometime I will work at scouring my dreams and fears and come up with my own monomyth. Maybe everybody should do that.

Daily Writing Tip 32 of 100, Exhaustion

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Exhaustion

Source – On Writing, by Stephen King

The bigger deal was that, for the first time in my life, writing was hard. The problem was the teaching. I liked my coworkers and loved the kids – even the Beavis and Butt-Head types in Living with English could be interesting – but by most Friday afternoons I felt as if I’d spent the week with jumper cables clamped to my brain. If I ever came close to despairing about my future as a writer, it was then.

There are so many days that I plan on writing in the evenings, but as I stare at the terrifying blank screen I realize I am too exhausted to think, let alone write. I’m sure everyone that has to provide feels the same way.

I don’t have a solution, sorry. The only advice I can offer is to cheat – to find nooks and crannies of time where you can scribble before the day is wasted. Television is the enemy, too… I find if I even glance at the tube I’m not going to get any writing done – it sucks the ideas out and chews them to death.

What’s the old typical awful advice? — Oh yea, You are are going to have to buckle down. Buckle down? That’s not very useful, is it?

Unfortunately, I haven’t come across anything better.

Daily Writing Tip 31 of 100, A Future For The Novel

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – A Future For The Novel

Source – For A New Novel essays on fiction by Alain Robbe-Grillet

It seems hardly reasonable at first glance to suppose that an entirely new literature might one day – now for instance – be possible. The many attempts made these last thirty years to drag fiction out of its ruts have resulted, at best, in no more than isolated works. And – we are often told – none of these works, whatever its interest, has gained the adherence of a public comparable to that of the bourgeois novel.

This essay was written in 1956, sixty years ago – a year before I was born. It could have been penned yesterday.

When Alain Robbe-Grillet espoused on how the public fancied the bourgeois novel I’m sure he never imagined the extremely popular horror of the young adult genre. I guess it’s good that people are reading, even if they are reading Pablum… but still.

Of course, there is plenty of unique stuff out there. For example, Alain Robbe-Grillet’s work. I stumbled across his unique novel Jealousy… and loved it – I even found it entertaining. Many don’t.

So be it.

That’s one good thing about literature – everything that has been written (pretty much) is still out there. Sure, the teenagers or the book club ladies might not be gobbling up the avant-garde, but it is still there in an obscure dusty library or a musty used bookstore or Amazon or Abebooks or some slightly crazed but trusted friend (get with me if you want).

It’s all there.

And maybe we can work on adding to it.

Daily Writing Tip 30 of 100, So What’s It All About – This Fiction?

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – So What’s It All About – This Fiction?

Source – About Fiction by Wright Morris

All novels are burdened by the need to make life more interesting than we find it. The means the novelist has to do this are limited, but the reader’s appetite is insatiable. He wants something of interest. He seeks something of value. The writer can only confront him with words. Words and more words.

I hate that feeling when there is a word that I need, an exact word, to describe something that I need to tell about. I can feel the meaning and its mystery bothers me like a bug in my throat. After thesaurusing and googling and tearing my hair out I suddenly realize the word I want is in my mind – but otherwise doesn’t exist.

At that point I have to throw the writing out. There is no way I am going to get past that point. There are only twenty six letters (give or take) anyway – how can anyone be expected to write anything new and interesting with the same twenty six symbols that everybody else has already used – in millions and millions of works before.

The author of today’s quoted work, Wright Morris, wrote one of the most influential books (on me) that I have read – Ceremony at Lone Tree. One reason it was so memorable, unfortunately, is it is the only book I read in school because I had to that I thought was worth the paper it was printed on. Pretty much.