Tag Archives: writing exercise

A reading event at the Breathe Conference

Last spring I attended a wonderful conference for undergraduate writers. It was Taylor University’s Making Literature Conference. I went to numerous workshops in which undergraduate writing students read original essays, fiction, and poetry. I enjoyed being back in a college classroom, among students, and around a generally academic atmosphere.

I attended two workshops during that conference that featured multiple writers. They read short pieces aloud which were thematically related (e.g. “Mixed Prose: The Body”). The sessions were typically 50 minutes long and featured three different writers. After all the pieces were read, the writers then participated in a Q and A session with the audience.

I found these sessions to be enormously meaningful. Watching another writer overcome their nerves and step out on a ledge (as it were) was inspiring. I found myself rooting for the students to read their work well. And the Q and A sessions afterward were encouraging and insightful. As an attendee I walked away charged up to go do my own writing and to feel more confident about sharing it with others. I imagine that the presenters felt their own confidence get boosted as well.

writers conferenceI liked these sessions so much that I pitched two of them to the Breathe Conference planning committee–and they said yes!

If you’re attending the 2015 Breathe Christian Writers Conference, and if you’d like to have an opportunity to share your writing publicly, please read this post on the Breathe Blog and submit your work. The full details are included here. I would love to see you at one of these sessions.

If you are introverted the way many writers tend to be, it will be a challenge. However, I can assure you, it’s one worth taking. And don’t worry. You’ll be among friends.

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Help me pick a Six Word Story

Have you ever tried to write a six word story? I learned about a website called Six Word Stories.net via my friend and flash fiction aficionado, Josh Mosey. The editors of this site post a new six word story every day. Readers can submit their own. I decided to take a stab at it tonight. It’s a good exercise. Tell me which story you think I should submit to the site.

  1. New library book. Strange story. Returned.
  2. Didn’t exercise last weekend. Behind again.
  3. He said “love.” She said “like.”
  4. Almost a winner. Trying to smile.
  5. Grabbed the gun. “You’ll regret that.”
  6. At home again. She wept gratefully.

 

Writing six word stories forces you to be extremely picky about your word choice. You don’t have the space to be even remotely verbose. (For example, there are no room for adverbs like “extremely” or “remotely.”) As I wrote the above stories I found myself contemplating every word, especially the pronouns. Because the pronoun might be the only descriptor given of the character in the story I wanted to be careful about which ones I used. I tried to give every sentence as much resonance with as large an audience as possible.

For example, on my first draft of #5 I wrote “Grabbed his gun. ‘You’ll regret that.”’ I took out “his” so as not to limit the reader. Perhaps it will be more powerful for some to imagine a woman saying “you’ll regret that”. Who knows.

In #6 I left in “she” because I think the image of a woman weeping gratefully might have more power than a man weeping gratefully. First of all, it’s likely more easy for most people to visualize a woman weeping than a man. And it also begs the question, why is she weeping? Was she kidnapped? Did one of her kids go missing? Was her baby taken? Did she escape from horrible evil? I think all of those questions are more likely to come to readers’ minds if the character is a “she” rather than a “he.” (Note: I’m not trying to make any sort of statement about gender roles with these comments. I’m just trying to play off of what I think most readers’ likely response to the story will be.)

I left the pronouns in #3 for obvious reasons. Every reader understands the age-old uncertainties between men and women in romantic relationships.

So is there a story here that stands out among the others? Let me know and I’ll submit it to Six Word Stories.net. Give this exercise a try. It’s a fun way to stretch your writing muscles.

-AR

My life as a writer (so far)

I was recently asked to sum up my life as a writer in 500 words or less. I thought you all might be interested to see what I wrote. It was a challenging exercise, but I’m glad I did it.

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I began writing seriously in the spring of 2007. I was working in a book store and found a few friends with similar reading tastes. We bonded because of our love of great writing. We eventually started a writers group that still meets to this day.

Since starting our group in 2007 (dubbed, “The Weaklings”) I’ve participated in the “3-Day Novel Contest”  numerous times, I’ve published book reviews and small news articles in the local press, and I’ve had articles published in online magazines.

In 2008 I began working for Zondervan publishing house (a Harper Collins Co.) and have written press releases, blog posts, and book jacket copy as a part of my job. My interest in quality writing has been fueled by my work at Zondervan, particularly as I’ve interacted with copy editors and acquisition editors. I’ve also had the opportunity to do some macro-editing and slush reading for our editorial team.

I now (attempt) to write daily. I journal frequently, I write short stories, I write a blog, I’ve drafted two novels, and I write small non-fiction pieces whenever I have an opportunity or an outlet to do so.

Writing has become many things in my life. It’s a tool I use to process my experiences. It’s a vehicle for expression. It’s also a joyful means to tell a story. And it’s one of my favorite ways to let my creativity run wild.

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Writing this little piece was hard because the word count seemed too small. I had a hard time making cuts. However, the more extraneous material I deleted, the easier it became. I eventually focused the piece enough to include only the most important points, and came in way under the word count: 235.

Could you write something like this about your life as a writer? Give it a try! If for no other reason, it’s fun to look back and see how far you’ve come.

-Andy