Stepping Outside The Comfort Zone

Writing encompasses a variety of styles– journals, novels, short stories, screenplays, poetry, newspaper and magazine articles. Some writers are able to write in any form; some will attempt many styles before finding their niche. I believe a great way to improve your skill is to step out from your comfort zone every once in a while, and challenge yourself with a new form of writing. I write fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry. My challenge to myself was to step away from the familiar and write a review of a theatre show. I got the chance to write one after a couple of new theatre companies banded together and debuted a performance of three short plays rolled into one.

I have dabbled with different styles through classes and experimenting at home. I rarely post my experimental writings, but I do so today so that the theatre companies who worked so hard on their performance might now have a testimonial for past shows which they can use to build their business.

Practice writing in different forms and styles; it never hurts to be prepared for any unexpected offer of a writing job – and you may find a new niche to display your talent.

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Freedom in Words

There’s a powerful freedom in writing. In the world of story, you can be anything, do anything and go anywhere. Poets can paint pictures with words. Fiction writers can create new worlds. Creative non-fiction can take readers on an emotional journey, connecting them to facets of their own life. The freedom of wordplay has astonishing power. Words can heal wounds, revive lost memories, exhilarate and thrill; they can trigger happiness, grief, hope, despair, anger, and tranquility; they can paint images within the imagination.

It’s a refreshing change to face a blank page and break all the rules of conventional society. In the stories you create, there is nothing you can’t do. People can fly, new species can be born, the past can be altered, and the future can be shaped. In fiction, there are no limits, and as a writer, it can be a wicked delight to revel in the freedom of a blank page. In creative non-fiction you are bound by the facts, but you still have freedom to craft a captivating piece with the words you choose. In poetry, you can dance with metaphor, tango with simile and create effervescent images.

Don’t be afraid to explore your freedom and push the boundaries of your imagination; let your words take you on a wild ride of reckless abandon before they are restrained in the process of editing. Allow your creative self to live in a boundless freedom that is waiting to be discovered on a blank page.

Lifting the Words

DSC_0445I was an actress on the stage for many years. Our first meeting as a cast was to read the play out loud for the first time. Our voices brought the words and characters to life – we found our inflections, we played with accents, we discovered the rhythm of the dialogue. In rare cases we also found spelling errors and awkward sentences.

Reading your work out loud is a fabulous way to lift your story from the page and hear your words in motion. Listening to our work helps to uncover accidental changes in point of view, tense and spelling errors. By reading our work out loud, we can discover flaws we won’t see on the page. Did my character suddenly switch sex in the middle of the story? Did the setting change from one part to another? Does it flow? This technique is particularly useful for dialogue. We talk every day, our ears are accustomed to the way we speak. On the page our dialogue might look normal, but when we give it a voice we can pick up on the awkward or stilted voice of our characters. Sometimes I even record my reading and play it back. Reading out loud is also great practice for that wonderful moment when we may be asked to share our work in public.

Our voice won’t find everything that’s wrong with our story, but it’s a first step before handing it over to our first readers and editors. You can be sure they will catch what you miss.

 

Saving Our Babies

DSCN3919The one hard lesson in a writer’s life is knowing that one day you’ll have to kill your babies –and of course by “babies” I mean the wonderful creative works you spend most of your time crafting. A writer spends a huge chunk of time working on their projects, and throughout that time we connect and fall in love with our characters, evocative imageries and plot twists. Our stories become a part of us until that dreadful day when we hand it over to an editor. Our perfect piece is ripped apart before our very eyes, and there’s nothing we can do to save them…or is there?

All manuscripts must go through an editing process. What looks like perfection to our biased eyes, may very well look like a mass of confusion to a first reader. The reality is that our baby will change in the hands of another person, someone we trust to transform our work into its best presentation. When you’ve poured all your energy into creating and bonding with your work, it can feel like someone is ripping your heart out when you have to change it. We are too close to our own work to see its flaws, and so we throw tantrums, fighting to keep all the decorative details we think makes our piece seamless – but the editor knows best how to polish it and make it dazzle.

However, you can always salvage the scraps you love; there is always the possibility that they will thrive in another project. In this way, you can keep alive the words, the phrases, even the chapter of something you spent so much time cultivating. Perhaps that part of your baby will live again in a new story and survive. I always keep the things I cut in the hopes that they will find a new home in the future. And so far, I have not been disappointed.