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Monthly Archives: March 2010

What I Learned about Writing this Week…from Graphic Novels

Graphic novels engage parts of my mind that standard novels don’t. Not only am I reading a story, I’m seeing it unfold; in a way, this is counterpart? companion? to watching a movie with subtitles. Not only do I get the pleasure of piece-by-piece revelation, I can take the delightful time to admire the artistry of characters brought to life in color, line, and shading.

Manage Your Metaphors

Every document is, essentially, a phone call — a conversation between you and your readers, and you’ve got to establish a connection before you can start talking. I’ve said that before, haven’t I?

I’ve also said a good first draft is a block of marble, from which to carve that glorious statue known as a final manuscript. Oh, and telling instead of showing is the same thing as playing a game of poker with your cards on the table. Good document structure is a tower of red, yellow, and blue blocks. Poetry is magic, punctuation is alchemy, and so is blogging about your life.

Band Poster (Technical Writing Exercise)

Remember last week’s article about the shape of a document? Remember that hideous image growling out at you halfway down the scroll? Well, this week your assignment is to do one better.

Write a Sonnet (Creative Writing Exercise)

This week you’re going to write a sonnet. Some of you just rolled your eyes, because sonnets are child’s play. Some of you just gripped at a failing heart, because sonnets are Shakespeare-level expert stuff. If you’re in either category, you missed the point of yesterday’s post. That’s okay. I’ll say another word or two about it next Tuesday, but for now I want you to humor me.

Loving Language (The Purpose of Poetry)

When I was in third grade (or maybe it was second), I wrote a poem about sunset, and rest. I did it in number 2 pencil on a sheet of wide-ruled paper torn out of a 78-cent spiral notebook. I illustrated the edges, with an angry sun and an optimistic moon, and my best effort at a seagull. I can remember this in such clear detail, because I’ve still got that page. It’s creased with folds, and the pencil’s faded, but I’ve still got it, tucked away somewhere. The meter is awful.

What I Learned About Writing This Week…from Mark Z. Danielewski

If memory serves (and, sometimes, it does–wearing a get-up not unlike that of a roller-skating carhop), I first came across Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves in a Facebook® ad. Yep, that’s right: I succumbed to a social networking site’s shameless commercial lures. I went with the flow, I yielded to temptation, I clicked a click that click-clicking clickers should refuse to click. Shame on me.

The Shape of a Document

Last fall I taught my first college-level writing course — Technical Writing at Oklahoma Christian University (my alma mater). My class consisted of a bunch of computer science and information technologies students, and a handful of English majors. It was an interesting mix.

I wasn’t out to teach them how to do my job. I did ask, first day of class, how many of them had considered becoming a Technical Writer after graduation. The answer (quite predictably) was none. When I got around to asking what they were planning on doing, every one of them named a profession that would require some proficiency with technical writing, even if it wasn’t their main job description.

Strip Poem (Technical Writing Exercise)

Later this week, I’m going to spend a lot of time talking to the creative writers about poetry, and on Friday they’ll get to write sonnets. I wouldn’t expect sonnets out of my technical writers, but I still recommend that you take the time to read Thursday’s article, when it comes around. Poetry is language distilled, and technical writing is all about efficiency, brevity, and impact. The approaches are different, but the destination is the same.

So this week I want you to be poetic, too.

My Experience with the Conscious Me Pre-Writing Challenge

This year, I participated in the first annual Conscious Me Pre-Writing Challenge. Not only did I participate…I won it. This challenge is all about Writing it Early, which I talked about at the start of the challenge. That’s something you need to work on, whether you’re a blogger, a novelist, or anyone else who has to do serious writing from time to time. It always feels like a hassle, a necessary evil — or maybe you see it as a luxury you can’t afford — but it’s one of the best things you can do to make your work better (and, ultimately, to make it easier and less stressful).

Pre-Writing Challenge Weekly Updates

I’ve mentioned it a couple times, and even devoted a whole page to a detailed description, but I’m participating in the Conscious Me Pre-Writing Challenge.

It’s all about Writing it Early, which I talked about a couple weeks ago, just as I was getting started. I thought it might be beneficial to you guys, my readers, to know a little bit more about the challenge, and about my experience with it.