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It is 3:45am on Wednesday, June 28th 2017

Resources/Links

Other Minnesota Writers’ Groups

The League of Minnesota Poets

Lake Region Writer’s Network

Minnesota Writers Resources, Classes and Workshops

The Loft Literary Center

Minnesota Authors

Kent Nerburn

William Kent Kreuger

Sharon Harris

Jerry Mevissen

Tarah L. Wolff

Minnesota Book Stores

Beagle Books of Park Rapids

Online Writers Connections and Groups

Coffee Connection Poets

Jackpine Writers’ Bloc Writers’ Tips

EXERCISE
We mentioned some possible writing exercises — writing a poem first, then writing it as a short story, then a prose poem, etc. Also perhaps rewriting someone else’s poem after they have read it. Another good thing to do is to rewrite your own story or poem from a different point of view. Try writing your poem idea in various poetic forms. Try writing the same poem in several different forms and see how it changes the meaning or changes your ideas about the poem. This really helps you to come up with things you might not think of other wise.


EXERCISE

First, write a sentence that is not true. Then keep writing, write a paragraph that continues on and is true. Second, write a sentence that is true. Then keep writing, write a paragraph that continues on and is not true.


EXERCISE

1. Write for 3 minutes, all in one sentence.

2. write fast paced dialogue, one page. two characters talking, never allowing the other one to say over 10 words before they interrupt. you will notice that the voices will begin to distinguish into two very different people.

3. write 3 sentences, all on the same basic subject. the first sentence is something true about you. the second sentence is partially true and partially untrue. the third sentence is something totally false about you. Then, write 3 sentences again, all on the same basic subject. the first sentence is something totally false about you. the second one is partially true and partially false. the third one is true about you.

Which part of the last exercise was the easiest for you to do? the hardest? generally starting with the truth is the easiest for people. the lesson is to see if you can get away from being biographical


EXERCISE

Jerry had been to a class by Allison McGee. She wrote Shadow Baby from the perspective of a 12 year old girl. Here is the three part exercise.

1. Take a child, (preferably a character in a story of yours) or pick someone you know (under 12.) Write down a description of the child using nothing physical, no emotions, or personality. Say things that he or she likes, such as: sleeping late, home cooking, movies, chocolate chip cookies, video games, Xmas, dogs, etc.

2. Take an adolescent, (preferably a character in a story of yours) or pick someone you know. Add an object to the story with this person. (pocket knife, notebook, telephone, or torn dollar bill, etc.) For example, the adolescent sitting whittling with his pocket knife, explaining that it was given to him by his Dad, who he misses very much.

3. Write a paragraph, witnessing the vulnerability of an adult. For example, a challenged adult says that he misses his Dad too, etc.


EXERCISE

A great exercise is to rewrite a story of yours from a totally different point of view.


EXERCISE

Here is a good writing exercise. Have one person write one sentence. Pass the paper to the one on the left. That person writes a sentence to follow the first, etc.


EXERCISE

Pass around a photo. Have everyone write about the photo, start a story from the photo, etc. We will bring some photos for the next meeting. We took one of Tarah’s photographs and each wrote for 3 minutes, whatever came to mind. Some of us got great ideas for the start of a story or poem.


EXERCISE

Russ wrote a pantoum. This is a poem with stanzas of four lines. They often begin and end with the same line or the second line of the first stanza might start the second stanza. They sometimes rhyme abab. It is the slowest of all verse forms and is perfect for evocation of a past issue. Writing a sistina or pantoum or some other very structured poem is a great exercise. Both forms are fun and a good exercise. Try writing a poem in one form and then the other and then free verse.


EXERCISE

Jerry also attended a Metaphor Writing workshop. He gave us several good tips from the class. Think of an emotion; give it a color, give it a temperature. Write 10 descriptors. Fear could be described as cold and blue. The other writers would try to guess what you were describing. Put some items in bags and touch the items without looking at them. Using adjectives, let others guess what you are describing.


EXERCISE

1. Write down your dreams. Sometimes they are like a vision or they give you a message. You can get great story ideas from them.

2. Set out a few assorted items on the floor. Choose one item and write about it for 5 minutes. Great way to come up with a story line. Or, add this info to a story you are already working on.

3. Slow down your writing. Change speeds in your story. Choose one detail to really write about thoroughly, like your character shaving, etc. Take some common ordinary detail and really describe it. This changes the pace of your writing.


EXERCISE

Try writing a piece in first person, then rewriting it in second or third person. Write as a poem and then as a short short story. For poems, watch the rhythm, try inner rhymes. Try cutting out as many words as possible, make it as short as possible.

It is very important to know how to re-write. Knowing when to stop is also important.

A poem should be like Teutonic plates in geology–two things going on at the same time, passing each other.

Take a well-known poem that you like. Try writing a parody of it, using similar lines and words and phrasing, perhaps a different subject. This helps to reinforce good rhythm.


EXERCISE

One exercise is to write 6 sentences that would make good last lines to a short story, one page. Then write the story to come down to each of those final sentences. Another exercise is to write a story that takes place in one spot. There has to be at least one clue to the reader that the main character is due for a major change in his life but he doesn’t know it yet. Another exercise is to describe an act of rebellion either major or minor.


EXERCISE

If you had to empty your pockets (or purse), what in it would characterize you? What three items in your life would you like to have placed in your coffin?


EXERCISE

Write for 3 minutes. Describe someone you know in terms of two or three objects that you associate with them.


EXERCISE

Picture yourself going down some steps. When you get to the bottom, what do you see and where do you go next?


EXERCISE

Russ gave us an exercise. Write for three minutes about a certain situation, two people involved, each having a bad day and you can only use words with one or two syllables. The situation was: a guy is sitting at a car garage, waiting for his car to be fixed. His wife comes in, tells him about some problem she is having. He is having trouble with the garage. they are each trying to explain their problem to the other. Notice that when you write with only one or two syllables, the piece is fast paced, intensified.


EXERCISE

Another exercise is to write the same story or poem from 3 or 4 different viewpoints. You might still choose to write it from the original viewpoint that you were using, but you will now see it much better than you did originally.


EXERCISE

When describing something, show, don’t tell. Attempt to describe moonlight without using the word “moon” or “light.”


EXERCISE

There are several types of sentences, simple, compound, complex, and compound/complex combined. Using these in various ways, you can speed up the action or slow it down. This creates flow.


EXERCISE

Russ gave us an exercise to do — choose one of these things and write for 5 minutes on it:

1. character — describe a person who made a strong impression on you, an encounter you had, how they dressed, how they spoke, describe the place, why it was memorable, and as they walked away, where did they go, who was the next person they spoke it.

2. place — describe a public place from your child hood that affects you today — powerful emotions

3. first person — write a true statement about yourself, like some traveling you have done, details. Then write a false statement about yourself. like — I have never left the country. and feel how different it is to put yourself into a different persona rather than the truth – it liberates you.


EXERCISE

Here is a good writing exercise. Using a dictionary or even a regular book, just go through and put your finger down on a word. Write this word down and find a few more. Use these words in a poem. This can help you come up with something vastly different than what you usually write.


EXERCISE

LuAnne brought a sample of Burmese poetry. It has a long and distinguished history. Classical Burmese poetry comes in many lengths and forms, but most of it is characterized by a repeated sequence of 3 internally-rhymed lines consisting of 4 syllables each-a pattern that has become known as a Climbing Rhyme. Try it out!! We all learn by stretching ourselves. Often we learn that we can do something that we thought we couldn’t do. Sample:

CAN’T GET TO IT

Cluttered desk annoys

unused toys hide,

swell, buoyed by dust.


CHARACTERS

You should take each major character and write down many things about each one. There are endless ways to describe a person — don’t just always use height or hair color. Make them so they are unique. Do it in narrative, usually more than an index card. The more you know these people, the more you know how they will react to situations in your story and interact with the other characters. Don’t get stuck using people that you know — if you have 3 cousins, make an imaginary 4th cousin and see what he would be like.


CHARACTERS

Give the bad characters some redeeming characteristic and the good ones some flaws.


CHARACTERS

We discussed that many writers outline their novel so they know where they are going with the story. They have one index card for each character describing all their physical characteristics so they can make sure not to contradict themselves.


CHARACTERS

Russ told us what he has been doing with his novel. He has a whole loose leaf notebook for the outline. He has all the scenes outlined. He has listed what the dramatic purpose of each scene is. He has a list of all the characters, then a description of each character. What are their desires? What are their fears, their beliefs? He also writes a physical description and a brief history of the character. He describes all the locales where the scenes will take place. He writes details about the towns, the farms, the homes, etc. He writes this all in long narrative sentences.


CRITIQUING

When you critique someone’s work, mark what is good, not what is bad. (One method).


EDITING

There are two kinds of editing: 1. content editing, which is reading the whole thing and looking at the big picture, structural. 2. line editing, looking at punctuation, each word, is it in the right place, etc.


SUGGESTION

Your story will consist of an intro, you present a problem, describe how the characters deal with the problem, then solve the problem.


SUGGESTION

A mystery is more complicated to write because you have to know exactly what you have revealed to the reader. Everything has to tie together.


SUGGESTION

Mary Oliver writes about writing poetry. She says that artists start out by imitating the masters. Poets generally do not do that, but we should. If we could imitate the masters, then we would learn. We have to have a desire to create. If you imitate the masters, you can hone your craft and then find your own style. You have to know the rules first so you can break them if you want it.


SUGGESTION

One writer said that they had learned that the end of your story should circle back to the beginning. So, you have to know your ending first. Another writer mentioned that an attorney does this. They need to know what their final argument will be so that everything they say will lead up to that. Work toward your goal.


SUGGESTION

Russ took a class — What do Editors Want — they are looking for love of language, vividness, uniqueness, good diction, enthusiasm, love of their characters.


SUGGESTION

Russ was telling us that he has learned that in describing your story, you should be able to state the plot in one sentence. There should be several dramatic incidents that lead up to it. You can focus lots of power there. Sometimes it is as important what you leave out as what you put in.


SUGGESTION

Will Weaver sent us some very helpful writing tips.

1. First, there’s no “trick”, no formula for getting published — but two things make the difference. Most importantly, your material (poem, short story, whatever) must be honestly heartfelt — must have personal importance to you. This often means writing about things, issues, problems, etc. that most people would let lie. Thoughts that most people would never say aloud. Writing this kind of material means breaking through the censor inside all of us: our instinct to be a nice person and fit in with our family, friends, church group etc. I do not mean here that we should be about exposing our deepest darkest secrets all the time; what I am saying, is that we can give some of those issues and secrets to a fictional character, or to a poem, and that personal intersection will empower the writing. It will also help us finish what we’re writing, which is no small matter. Call this the “energy of personal intersection.” Example: Say we have elderly aunt whose life could have been so much more, and we have always felt badly about how things turned out for her. Why not use her, altered for fictional purposes, in a story, in a novel. She could even be the heroine of a romance novel, and our personal intersection will still be there…

2. My second point is simple: revision, revision, revision. Every page of a novel I write has been gone over 15-20 times, sometimes more. You hear this advice all the time. However, another important thing for emerging writers is to find a published writer who “speaks” to you — whose writing you greatly admire — and lay your page alongside his or hers. Closely compare the writing. How is that writer’s prose different (better than) mine? What are her sentences doing that mine are not? This is very important, this visual comparison, in that it gives you fresh look at your writing style. This close compare/contrast was very helpful to me in the past.


SUGGESTION

Russ mentioned a book he had read by Twyla Tharp on maintaining creativity. It was about tuning in to your type of creativity. Is there a theme to the story? She called it the “spine.” Try to see the structure behind the scenes, between the reader and the writer. Often the writer gives too much or not enough. The reader should be able to reach his own conclusions.


SUGGESTION

Someone mentioned that in a story, your ending should seem inevitable. You also need to be able to write about how circumstances affect the character in the story, not just always totally tell the story. We also mentioned knowing your ending before you start. One writer mentioned having an index card describing each character so you don’t forget hair color, eye color, etc. If you decide to totally change something about a character, use Find and Replace in your Word processing program. Someone mentioned never having more than 3 characters in a scene since it is too hard to follow.


SUGGESTION

Russ told us a couple of nuggets of wisdom:

One theory is that the best writing comes out of a wound.

A happy story starts and ends happy. A story that starts unhappy can have an ending that is interesting and different.

To portray conflict, ask yourself, what does your character desire? What is your character afraid of?


SUGGESTION

Russ brought us some good information on revisions. One method for making revisions is to use bracketing. You go through your piece that you want to revise and bracket the best parts that show rather than tell, the parts that stand out as the best parts. Pick out the dramatic parts of your work, see how it moves from one dramatic conflict to another. This will show you other parts that you could improve or delete.


SUGGESTION

It is a good idea when you are writing, to quickly write your story through one time. You need to see where you are beginning and where you want to end up. Otherwise it is like driving a car-eventually you just run out of gas if you just keep on wandering without knowing where you are supposed to end up.


SUGGESTION

Another tip when writing-describe the major locales of your work thoroughly and completely, each by themselves. Later, as you are writing, you can draw some information from these descriptions. Also do this for the major characters, their thoughts, fears, etc. This makes them so they aren’t so shallow, it helps you know how they will behave.


SUGGESTION

Use smell, touch, taste, etc. to show the reader things instead of always telling. This will make it much more vivid.


TIPS TO OVERCOMING WRITERS’ BLOCK:

Sit down and just write, anything at all. It is like taking a walk in the woods. Sooner or later you come across a deer trail and you can turn onto that trail.

Write a word, any word. What does that word make you think of? Write down that word, and another and another. See a pattern and a connection.

Approach your story idea from a new angle. Imagine your story idea as scaffolding. If you are stuck, you can leap over it and write something that happens after the part you are stuck on. Or write the difficult part in retrospect.

When you are stuck with your writing, not sure where to go with your topic–try free association. Just sit and write thoughts, ideas, topics, tangents, that come to mind regarding your subject. This should help you see a pattern and a place to focus on in your writing.