Michelle Wittle On the Eve of NaNoWriMo

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As we all begin to make our last preparations for NaNoWriMo, I wanted to offer some advice I learned about what to do when writing a novel.
1. Just write. Do not stop and edit because that will stop your creative flow. After everything is said and done, then you can edit.
2. Before you start writing, really think about your point of view. If you do not establish this before you start writing, your point of view will have a tendency to shift as you get further into the book.
3. Have a small outline. Establish your main character, the major conflict, and the resolution. Your first twenty pages should be the set up to all these things. Don’t worry about giving your story away becaue the reason the reader will continue reading your book is to find out how this all plays out. Readers do not like surprise ending and they want you to be honest with them.
4. Think about the tense of the story. Is this happening now in the present or is your main character looking back. This is another craft point that, if not thought about in the beginning of the writing process, has a tendency to shift.
5. Try to write at the same time every day. This may not be practical, but do your best to make it that way. It will help keep you focused on writing and it will also help you feel less overwhelmed. If you know from the hours of eight to eleven you will be writing then do it. Turn off the cell phone, don’t go online. Just write.
I will also be participating in NaNoWriMo, so we can all share in this adventure together.

Writing Prompt Wednesday

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Sometimes a place has its own story. For that reason, today’s writing prompt deals with setting.

Think about a place you are very familiar with. It could be a childhood home, your office, or maybe a place you visit often.

Write down, whether it is in a list of prose, all your ideas about this place.

Then, write down any special memories you have about being in the place.

Next, take a character (one you’ve been working on or a new one) and introduce them to this place. Let the character see this place as if it is brand new to the character. Take your favorite memory of the place and see if your character is willing to become part of your memory.

Here’s my example:

Favorite place:

Childhood home.

Fire place, gem-like floor by the green front door, Grease lighting, black iron railing, brown carpet, closet with white doors off to the left.

Memory:

Being sick and putting my face on the cold floor by the front door.

Character:

Erin knocked on the door. The rumor was this house ran out of candy and they were giving out cash instead. Erin, like most kids who’s allowance was twenty-five cents a week, enjoyed the idea of getting some extra cash to fill her Kermit the Frog plastic piggy band. So far she saved only four dollars.

When the green door opened, Erin screamed the phrase, “Trick or Treat.” The mother, tall and dressed in a orange sweater with bats flapping their wings across her chest asked what kind of hobo was she. Erin didn’t know how to answer that question and instead opened her blue and white striped pillow case.

The mother smiled and tried to block Erin from seeing inside the house. It was too late. Erin’s eyes found the other little girl with an E.T. mask around her neck lying on the floor tracing the gem-like design with her fingers.

“What’s wrong with her?”

The mother turned her attention to the floor and smiled. “Oh, she’s got a cold.”

“Oh.” Erin kept her pillow case opened and the mother dropped in a short stack of foiled material inside the pillow case. By the size of the roll of coins, they were either dimes or pennies. Erin silently prayed they were dimes.

Michelle Wittle On Social Media Networking

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Do writers have to have a blog?

Well, I’m not one to order people around, but I will say having a blog is a great way to help start your social media presence. Blogs also help establish your readership. This does not mean you should put your creative work on your blog. You can, but I don’t suggest it because it’s like my mother said, “why by the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

Your blog should certainly be your voice and your writing style. Think a bit outside the box. Do you like to travel? Blog about that. Do you like to cook? Blog about that. It worked for the chick who cooked her way through Julia Childs’ cookbook, right? You want to create a blog you want to continue updating. Blogging does take time and it needs to happen often, so you want to make sure you talk about things that really interest you. Also, consider scheduling your blog. Most sites will have a place for you to schedule your blogs. I do this all the time and it helps a lot.

Should I have a twitter account?

Again, I’m not one to boss people around, but having a twitter account is a good thing. You can quickly gain followers and find new friends. A lot of literary magazines are on twitter and they like to update their followers with contests, new blogs, deadlines, and other writing information. Twitter only gives you 140 characters so it is a quick burst of information. If you haven’t already, join twitter. Follow me @michellewittle if you want and @philastories is on twitter, too. I will tell you twitter is a bit addicting (in a good way).

Twitter is also a way for you to promote yourself. Tell people when you have a new blog up. Let people know you see something funny. Or retweet other articles you find helpful.

What about facebook?

Well, yes, as a writer you should be on that as well. Basically, the same reasons you are on twitter, you should be on facebook. It’s another place to find other writers and talk. Besides, who doesn’t want to find old high school friends…just to look at their photos?

While this seems like a lot of work, it really isn’t. Schedule your tweets, posts to facebook, and your blogs. Spend one day working on your social media stuff and have them scheduled for the whole week. If you can, have everything point to your own website. You want to make things easy for people to find.

The Internet has changed the publishing world. Writers need to change with it.

Writing Prompt Wednesday

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Fall is my favorite season. I love the colors and the spice sents. I’m a big fan of the spiced teas and the joys of cuddling with a new book and a hot cup of something that isn’t coffee. Pumpkin anything is a big score for me.

So, today’s writing prompt is about the change of seasons.

On one sheet of paper, or whatever you write on (post-it note, computer, Starbucks napkins) write down all the things that remind you of the season of fall. Take about ten minutes and write whatever comes to your mind, even if it is something that doesn’t make too much sense.

Now, start googling these things. If the season of fall reminds you of leaves, find out really why those leaves change color. What are the sceintific terms for what happens inside the trees and the leaves? Write the down. Then maybe research how this information came about. Who first noticed trees do what they do? How did people know what leave gets what color? What do the different colors mean?

By doing all of this, you are looking at something that you know about the season and finding out things you didn’t know, or knew at one time and forgot, or never even thought about. Your assignment is to write about that unknown.

Whether you express it in a poem, fiction, or even a creative nonfiction piece, the purpose again is to explore the unfamiliar in the familiar.

 

Michelle Wittle On MFA Programs

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Now that I am done with my MFA, I feel like I have more authority to talk about MFA programs and what one really can gain from being in one.

Most people enter an MFA program because they think by the time they are done, they will have a complete and publishable manuscript. Some even think Random House will be knocking down their door looking for their completed thesis.

If that happens to you, consider yourself one lucky son of a bitch.

For most of us, getting an MFA does not equal guaranteed publishing.

I think the purpose of an MFA is not to validate if a person is creative or not, but to teach a person what kind of writer he or she can be if he or she is open to everything.

I went into my MFA program thinking I would be a great novelist. I swore off poetry and playwriting never crossed my mind.

I had my first reading at my school and I was truly honored. I was in the program for only a few months and I felt like it was a true honor to be asked to read at a public reading. At this point, all I had was a novel (poorly written I will add) and some Creative Nonfiction pieces. I read my creative nonfiction piece.

I bring this up for two reasons. In that audience sat two women who would reshape my MFA path and my career as a writer.

The first is a fantasic poet. This poet read a poem that was the most romantic poem I’ve ever heard in my life and it was on the strangest of subjects. I figured if this poet could find love in urine, I should probably suspend my fear of poetry and take the class.

The second woman would become my thesis advisor. She is a Jacklyn of all trades: playwright, short story writer, poet, and visual artist. After taking this woman’s summer acting class, I remembered how much I loved the theatre and I ventured into her playwriting class. Five months later, I wrote a full-length play and a thirty-minute play which became my thesis.

If I didn’t keep my eyes open and if I didn’t have these options open to me, I would have missed out on writing poetry and plays. Those two genres have shaped me as a writer in ways I still haven’t been able to fully grasp.

That is why people shouold go to an MFA prgram. School allows you the opportunity to read other genres you might not thought you would be interested in. School gives you a place to safely  explore writing in a different genre.

I went into grad school thinking I would be a fiction writer exploring what I wanted for my life rather than what I have in my life. Instead, I walked out of the program comfortable writing in all genres and knowing my truth strength as a writer comes from dialogue and how I see the world, not what the world has done to me.

Maybe Random House isn’t knocking on my door, but I do see myself as one lucky bitch because I opened myself up to learning new things and I’ve come out a stronger writer. Isn’t that really what we all want for our writer selves?