Writing Prompts

 

Illustration of a removal van with Love Removals written on its side.

[illustration – Trivia's Pursuit by Karla Pringle]

This week use the illustration or these two prompts as inspiration for your existing work or to begin a new piece:

“You fell in love with vending machines.”

Paper Squares by Alice Bishop
VI 2013 – On the Ledge of the World

Or

“My life is full of waiting rooms.”

Waiting Room by Susan Fox
VI 2009 – Lost and Found

 

What we talk about when we talk about editing

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It’s been said that For Sale (which we wrote about last week) is some of Hemingway’s best work, but how does this story achieve what most novels attempt to do, in just six words?

Anton Chekhov once wrote: ‘When you want to touch the reader’s heart, try to be colder. It gives their grief as it were, a background, against which it stands out in greater relief.’

Tight writing can often reveal something about ourselves we rarely understand.

Instead of using a ton of descriptions, stripping down your work can be revealing. It exposes subtext, increases tension and creates rhythm. It reveals elements of characters, setting and atmosphere we can relate to. It can also bring in a break in pace when you need it.

Less is more, but not easy to achieve. There is often a fear of your work becoming a Gordon Lish rewrite, and you need to be sure you don’t lose the voice or meaning of your piece.

Don’t stress, there are methods to lose the clunk and keep the voice. Use one word instead of three, know your vocabulary, create a rhythm, and use active words.

Cara

If the editing side of things interests you, check out The Emerging Writer’s Festival ‘Emerging Editors’ conference this Friday at Melbourne Town Hall, discussing art, beauty and limitations to an editor’s craft.

For details visit: Emerging Writer’s Festival ‘Emerging Editors’

Image is by Nick McPhee

‘For sale: Baby shoes, never worn’

Ernest Hemingway writing at a desk

Oh Hemingway, such a trend-setter. The title of this post is arguably the most famous piece of flash fiction ever written.

Flash fiction goes by many names (which seems counterintuitive I know): sudden fictionmicro fictionmicro-storyshort short story or postcard fiction. But whatever you call it – to express something in such an immediate and constrained form remains a particularly acute challenge to writers. In this form, more than any other, every word needs to be vital, as it is generally 300 words or less (with some pieces as short as six).

Right now I’m anticipating Flashing the Square: an open theme competition for flash fiction of 200 words that will be transformed into short videos screened at Federation Square during the Melbourne Writers Festival (August 21-31). 

Flashing the Square is a whole new way to absorb stories. I love the idea that a writer’s carefully crafted moment is displayed on a screen for an audience of strangers to consume at the same moment: laughing together, sighing together, ooh-ing and aah-ing together and talking about it afterwards. Could there be a more gratifying moment for a writer than to watch the raw reactions created by a piece of their work?

And if that doesn’t get your fingers typing perhaps this will: First prize is $300. (That’s more dollars than words people!) And even if yours isn’t one of the selected pieces to go up on the big screen it will still be considered for publication in the anthology of Flashing the Square – and you know how we love a good anthology!

Flashing the Square is taking submissions now.

- Written by Sophie Hobbs

Writing prompts

heart-in-hand_thumb

[Image by D. Sharon Pruitt]

 Try to use these phrases in a short story or use them as inspiration to begin one:

“I don’t love you anyone.”

Bee Stings by Hannah Story
Visible Ink 2013 – On the Ledge of the World

Or

“I debated if love was the answer.”

Sleeping by Michael Crane
Visible Ink 2009 – Lost and Found

 

Workshopping

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Why workshop?

Let’s face it. It’s rarely easy pulling off a great piece of writing – be it 200 words or 20,000. Getting feedback from your family and friends on something you’ve written is nice, but unless they secretly hate you they’ll most likely tell you it’s awesome. And maybe it is. Or maybe it’s not quite as awesome as it could be… yet.

“All writing is rewriting” goes the popular saying. A workshopping group can help make that process a whole lot less painful.

Starting a group

Five people to a group is a pretty good number. Any less and you risk not having a wide enough pool of opinion; many more and you could drown in feedback. Some groups like to workshop one writer each week; others, a couple. It’s best if you forward your work to the group a couple of days ahead of your meeting day so that everyone has enough time to read it a few times, think it over and make some pertinent notes.

It’s probably best if the group is made up of writers at a similar stage in their career. You want to all feel equal in your abilities — or at least equal enough to feel confident offering and recieving feedback from each other. Likewise, it’s useful to work with writers who are interested in similar material to you. There’s not much point joining a science fiction or fantasy group if you’re into writing bodice-rippers. Unless of course you write sci-fi bodice-rippers — in which case: great!

It’s helpful if your group’s members have a mix of strengths. Someone might be great at structure, another might be a gun with voice, character or dialgoue. Draw on each other’s gifts.

Meet at each other’s houses, or other quiet spaces.  And meet regularly — once a week or fortnightly.

Giving notes

Be constructive. As Sian Prior, author of Shy: a memoir, suggests in her ‘Guide to constructive workshopping’: ‘focus on the good points first’. Writers are presumably in the workshop because they want to know what isn’t working, but everyone likes to know they’re doing something right as well.

Focus on solutions, be precise, concise and always keep in mind what the writer’s intention is, not what you think it should be. Your job is to help your fellow writer make their writing better, not insist that they reinvent it to your taste.

Getting notes

Try not to jump in and defend yourself if you’re receiving feedback you don’t agree with. It can be overwhelming listening to multiple opinions about a piece you’ve sweated over, and not every note is going to resonate with you. Hold your tongue, accept what’s said and process it later. You might still disagree with a note — and that’s okay.

Don’t pre-empt others responses to your work by telling them it’s ‘very rough’, or ‘isn’t very good’ before they’ve even started reading it. Again in the words of Sian Prior: silence your inner critic. ‘There is no value in lowering the reader’s expectations by self-criticising.’

Don’t know any writers?

Put a sign up at your local library, get in touch with your local Writers’ Centre (there’s one in every state of Australia), ask around your uni classes, workplace etc, or just go online. There is a growing number of workshopping groups on the interwebz — which is also super handy if you have any big restrictions on your time or ability to travel.

Now: get writing!

Jo

 

Emerging Writers’ Festival

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Our good friends at the Emerging Writers’ Festival (EWF) have their much anticipated festival and campaign coming up in a few short weeks and with that our anticipation grows. The Emerging Writers’ Festival 2014 Program Launch was held on 30th April and is absolutely one festival you can’t afford to miss, running from 27 May-6 Jun. Many incredible authors will appear as guest speakers, showcasing their work and passing on their invaluable knowledge for all. Ender Baskan, Hannah Kent (Publishing Director of Kill Your Darlings), Bernadette Foley and Nathan Farrugia will all be making an appearance.

The Emerging Writers’ Festival is a non-profit organisation whose main objective is built around assisting emerging writers. It celebrates originality and inspiration, encourages new talent and is a place where diverse opinions and expressions from Australia’s literary scene can be represented. 

The main event of the 2014 Emerging Writers’ Festival, ‘The National Writers’ Conference’, will span two days. From 31 May to 1 June, industry professionals from across Australia will unite at the iconic Melbourne Town Hall. The conference is designed to rouse writers of all genres and styles.

Varying from the emerging to the established, writers and panellists propose exciting and diverse perspectives on the industry, sharing personal details about their writing lives, along with analysing and discussing the art, craft and business side of working as a professional writer. 

The 2014 EWF will be supported by five new Emerging Writers’ Festival Ambassadors – Hannah Kent (Burial Rights), Benjamin Law (The Family Law, Gaysia), Krissy Kneen (Affection: A Memoir of Love, Sex & Intimacy), Maxine Beneba Clarke (Foreign Soil) and Felix Nobis (Boy out of the Country) – who will offer mentorship and direction to new writers present at the festival. This is a rare opportunity to learn from some of the finest Australian writers working today.

Additionally, Lily Mae Martin will be joining EWF this year as the Official Artist, capturing moments throughout the day in her unique style of drawings. The festival will also have enthralling musical performances for all to enjoy. 

Find more info about the awesome events and how to book for them here: http://www.emergingwritersfestival.org.au/events/