In a writing group, we were challenged to write a cento in a given time from poems we were handed. A fun exercise!
Many years ago, in a writing class, I’d taken all the student poems which had a line or two rejected or criticized for whatever reason and placed them together in a poem. I read this in the same class and our Professor recognized what I’d done and appreciated it.
“UnWalden Pond” was published in That’s Going to Hurt a few years ago.
Centos are fun poems to write. Some publishers require citations for each line. Some publishers do not. I think it’s probably a good idea to keep notes of where you got what and call a cento a collage, patchwork, or otherwise identify it for what it is.
Judy Blume recounts a story in which she took a writing for children class and they set out the rules involved in writing for young children, then she went and broke all of them.
Rules have purpose, have value. They give us the basics.
Hear me out on this – I believe we need to know the rules. We don’t need to necessarily continue to follow the rules.
Picasso followed the rules. But when he was comfortable and confident, he broke them in order to develop his own style.
Every writer should know the rules of writing. Even if they choose not to follow them.
In the morning, when I’m writing, I have a cup of tea sitting next to the computer as I write. It starts steaming hot and I sip. I set it down and if I get moving on my writing, it slowly grows cold.
My cup sees me in the morning the way no one else does, hair up, sweats on, staring at the screen with the cup pressed between my hands, sometimes next to my lips. What else does my coffee cup see?
What would your coffee cup say about you?
Imagine a story about you or your family from your coffee cup’s point of view.
I spent much of my time in grad school trying to please a certain teacher and understand the secret formula for a short story.
Up until that time, I’d only written novels (or novellas), longer pieces of work in which I developed the characters and followed a plot. These felt full and complete.
Writing one small selection vexed me.
So I read and read and researched and attempted one time after another to create a successful short piece.
I suppose there is no formula and no one right answer, which is what I was looking for – the correct answer.
Of the things written in grad school, the one instructor I attempted to satisfy deemed them mostly unworthy.
It wasn’t until near the end of graduation that an instructor said “half of that story was the best he’d ever read.”
He didn’t tell me which half.
However, almost all those stories have been pulled out, dusted off, and accepted with few edits. Hence – dear teachers – they were good! I had learned something; I had accomplished something. (I must be doing something right, over 30 published in the last few years!)
There may not be one right answer, and there’s no secret, nor is there a hidden formula. Short stories need to get to a point, need to have conflict, need to show a budding of growth – perhaps.
Is there anything worse than a bad review? Probably, but we don’t think so when we get one.
But ask yourself why you’re upset.
1. Is there some truth to the review? No – then forget it! Yes – then what is it?
One woman relayed that her one star review mentioned grammar and punctuation errors. She said, “I know there are some, but there’s not that many!”
It seems she knew she put out work that was not of a superior quality; she can’t be upset when someone calls her on it.
2. Is it someone who just wishes to malign you? Accept that there are going to be haters. Everyone has them. Remember this quote: “Well behaved women rarely make history.” If someone dislikes you – you might just be doing something right.
3. Someone told me – it’s only the writer who reads all the bad reviews. I think that’s supposed to make us feel better. But it’s true. When you look at reviews, do you search out every bad review there is? or do you read maybe the top five or ten of all the reviews?
I, personally, read a few of each. A few of the five star, a few of the three star, and a few of the one star – critical readers can tell if someone has an ax to grind or if they have real concerns.
I hear a number of writer’s ask about how to get inspired or keep inspiration. I think they’re confusing inspiration with motivation.
We are inspired by the things around us, an odd phrase, a beautiful scene, a great idea. The motivation comes to write it down. You must keep motivated long after the inspiration abates.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where dedication comes in.
With dedication to the craft, even when motivation and/or inspiration fail you – you will not fail.
Inspiration is just the beginning! Stay dedicated. Motivation will follow.