Michelle Wittle on Research

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As I start crafting my newest full-length play, I realize how important doing research for writing is to creative and crafting process.

Before when I would write, I would start drafting and the word vomit would ensue. I still think for some areas of writing this is important. Having the idea and watching it form on the paper is a great way to start working on a short story or a novel. Also, it gives you a sense of accomplishment.

However, with plays and even with poetry, I think it is important to do some research before words hit the paper.

I’m learning so much more from this research first process. Things are falling more into place because I can see how to manipulate things and situations more. Finding research first gives me a larger base for adding scenes and details. I’m more excited to write the new play, too.

I started with a Major Dramatic Question (theme). Then I looked to other plays that discussed this same theme. I looked into Greek Mythology and folktales that discuss this same theme and that is where I found the most inspiration.

So, if you never tried researching before you write, try it and let me know what happens. Hopefully you’ll have the same success or something even better.

Michelle Wittle On Epic Fails?

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I stopped writing my novel for NaNoWriMo. Take a second with that.
The novel started taking a turn for the worse and this new character popped in to say hello. She wanted a bigger role than I wanted her to have and she was really annoying. I also noticed all my characters use one of their senses. They are either looking at or looking away from something.
I don’t think I’m cut out to write novels.
I can write short stories. Believe it or not, I’ve got some poems I wouldn’t be ashamed of if they got published. I don’t mind walking into my life for some Creative Nonfiction. I love writing plays. But this whole novel thing, I’m not too sure about.
I’m not saying I’ll never write another novel. I still have those two novels sitting around collecting dust and who knows what else. I think for right now, I have to go where my strength is and it is in playwriting.
And who knows. I say this today and tomorrow I could be knee deep in another novel.
I called this post today an epic fail. It isn’t. Every time we read and every time we write, we learn more and more about ourselves and our writing self.
If anyone else feels like he or she has lost his or her way in a novel, my advice is not to do what I’m doing. Stop where you are and insert a new page. Write past the difficult part. No one says when you draft your novel, it has to be sequential.

Michelle Wittle On Week One of NaNoWriMo

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I wanted to take this blog today and check in with all the NaNoWriMo-ers out there.
So far, I have about 15,000 words and I won’t lie, I’ve had some small rewrites.
As the novel continues to reveal itself to me, I’ve noticed some characters are wanting to be a bigger part of the novel than I first thought. That means I had to go in and add more scenes earlier in the book.
Also, I was having a big problem starting Chapter 7. I started and restarted it about four times before I could hit into the correct way to write the chapter.
Writing a novel is not easy and we need to support one another. So, let me know how you are doing and where you are in your novel.

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.

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?