Search

2B or Not 2B

Creative Writing Tips and Tricks

Month

July 2016

Poem of the Week: The Lady of Shalott

Are you stumbling about the spheres of the literary world, scouring all of its lands for inspiration?  If so, fear not, because every week, I plan on sharing a poem with you that I feel will easily ring in your thoughts and lay a seed of motivation in your mind.

This week’s poem is the ballad “The Lady of Shalott” by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It is a poem based on the Arthurian era and written about a maiden locked away in a tower due to a terrible curse. Through the mirror in her room, she sadly overlooks the ever-flowing fields, the occasional farmers, and the glittering city of Camelot. The Lady is surrounded by life on a daily basis yet has never been able to join in on the vitality around her.  However, when a handsome knight rides from that lively city of Camelot one day, The Lady’s curse seems to swell, thereby threatening the thin line between life and death.

I first read “The Lady of Shalott” in the seventh grade, when my language arts teacher wrote a lesson to show us the connections between modern media and older literature. She had us recall the famous, contemporary country song “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry, telling us that it was inspired and clearly written about Mr. Tennyson’s poem; in fact, the poem itself is displayed in the music video, which today boasts more than one hundred twenty three million views on YouTube.

Before actually having us read the poem, my teacher let us hear a vocal rendition of the piece by Loreena McKennitt (a beautiful voice indeed; you can listen to her version here). With the song being more than eleven minutes long, it is clear that the poem is quite lengthy. However, although “The Lady of Shalott” contains many parts and several stanzas, I was always enraptured by its rhyme, rhythm, and medieval ambiance. The poem’s imagery is phenomenal and describes the nature surrounding The Lady beautifully, and also effortlessly describes the tragedy of her death.

“The Lady of Shalott” is a poem that pulls at the heartstrings and pulses with a consistent rhyme scheme. If you haven’t read the poem already, feel free to click the link located at the beginning of this post and experience it for yourself. Leave a comment on your thoughts; I’d love to hear what you think of the poem, as well as anything else you might conjure up!

The image above was retrieved from Goodreads.

The Disappearing Act of Literature

Earlier this year, local and chain bookstores alike began disappearing from the land of South Florida. In my hometown, for example, a tasteful Barnes and Noble in the bustling downtown area was replaced by a trendy L.A Fitness. The city of Miami has especially seen its fair share of magic acts, further contributing to the pandemic that encompasses a severe lack of physical access to literature. With vast amounts of bookstores going out of business, hard copies of books are slightly more inconvenient to obtain, depending upon where you live. What used to be a five-minute drive is now a twenty-minute one. So where do fellow book readers turn to retrieve their fiction? To digital distribution.

Devices such as Kindles, Nooks, and various phone applications have grown to such proportions that they act as both major causes and effects of the disappearance of bookstores. After all, technology is constantly attached to the average consumer, whether it dwells in their pockets or purses. I am not saying that this is a bad thing, exactly; cell phones and handheld devices are a part of the global technological revolution and therefore contain both pros and cons.When it comes to the literary world, however, the cons outweigh the pros. With the ability to buy a book with a simple click of a button, less people experience the social enlightenment of venturing inside an actual bookstore with tangible novels. People who read novels online cannot even try to imagine the poignant tang of fresh paper weaving between lined shelves; they cannot leaf through a book of their choosing and appreciate the format in which it was printed. They cannot know what it is to feel the weight of a novel pressed into their hands, nor can they experience the brush of a book’s spine skimming against the folds of their palms. Reading digitally has essentially stripped the population of the many cultural and human aspects of reading physically. Reading with a real book in hand makes one feel… alive.

Such vast digital distribution also leads to a deterioration in literary knowledge. No longer will you see Huckleberry Finn, 1984, or Moby Dick sitting eagerly on a shelf.  There are no classics resting on the visible shelves of the digital world to remind you of the their existences. In actuality, instead of displaying the classic books writers and readers learn from, the front pages of digital distributors will display superficial YA novels. And why is this? Because these types of books are easy. Just like reading a novel on the go with a tablet, reading new, trendy novels are the next best thing. So, after our bookstores disappear, will the classics vanish as well? That is up to this generation to decide.

I’m sure we all agree that the literature we love must be saved and secured. We must be sure that it stays within physical reach for future generations. Leave a comment below to contribute to the conversation. I believe it is an interesting topic to talk about, and I am open-minded to any opinions.

Revising: How Much is Enough?

Every writer wishes that their piece could be perfect. We delete, we re-write, we cut, we paste. I see it as part of “the Circle of Life” for writing. It is essential to creating a well-rounded, thought-out piece of art. But when you spend hours upon hours revising a chapter of your novel or story, when is enough… enough? At what point do you set aside your computer and beam with satisfaction with what you’ve achieved?

The truth is that your writing is never finished. No matter how many times you go over your piece, your future self will always find a reason to change something about it, whether it be simply tweaking a word or changing an entire paragraph. With this in mind, you must know that you will never be completely satisfied. You must be happy with your present best.

Undoubtedly, revising can prevent you from moving on with your story or work. I myself am a huge grammar advocate; therefore, I always find revision to be the longest part of my writing process. At one point I’ve found myself spending hours simply perfecting a single scene in a short story. However, if you follow the following steps, you just might be able to prevent yourself from falling into the revision abyss:

  1. Once you finish a section of your piece, set it aside immediately. Yes, you can breathe a sigh of relief and revel in your accomplishment, but do not succumb to the allure of immediate revision. Save your document and close your laptop; walk away from your piece. My English teacher always said that a proper revision session only happens when the writer walks away and does not revisit his/her work for at least a day. This technique gives you, as the author, a fresh new look at your piece and limits the amount of mistakes you will miss while reading.
  2. When the day has passed, come back to your piece. Read through it and correct any and all grammar and spelling mistakes. However, restrain yourself from completely changing sentences, paragraphs, or key aspects of the piece. To help with this task, you can write down any ideas you have in a notebook if you wish to turn your story in a different direction. Walk away from your piece again for a day.
  3. When you finally get back to your piece and you still wish to change key aspects of it, ask yourself these questions: Will these changes make my story better? Will they cause further complications? Will they make me feel more confident in my piece? If you are satisfied with your answers, you may change certain parts of the story, but be sure that you are doing it for the greater good of the piece.
  4. Move on to the next section of your work and do not look back until you are completely finished!

Revising is an easy part of the writing process to get lost in. Use these tips to guide yourself through the dark.

When Publishing Teen Writing

With so many thoughts and ideas buzzing around their minds, teen writers look at writing as their ability to release their building emotions. Because of this, I find that many teens are often some of the greatest writers out there in the industry, bursting with maturity and skill. But what of their talent? What of their recognition? There only seems to be a few publishing opportunities out there for teens to take advantage of. However, those existing openings act as phenomenal launching pads. Here are a few I have utilized and am familiar with:

  1. For a little more than three years, I have used an online publishing site called Teen Ink.  Their editors are diligent with a keen sense of good writing. They offer Editor’s Choice awards to pieces that are exceptional, and, when pieces are breathtaking, they allow them to be published in their physical magazine. Teen Ink is a reliable publishing website that acknowledges and provides recognition to exceptional teen writers.
  2. Canvas is another publishing opportunity for teens that offers opportunities for those with a craving for recognition. This publishing branch is run by teens and for teens; therefore, teenagers who submit to this website will feel confident that their work is being received by those who understand them. Canvas has a low acceptance rate, however; because of this, it is quite the challenge to be published in their literary journal.
  3. Creative Communications is yet another route for teenagers to take when they wish to be published. Creative Communications publishes books seasonally. They also maintain great communication with their submitters and value each piece that is submitted. Additionally, there are opportunities for fantastic writers to be placed within the Top Ten section of submissions; when a piece is accepted into Top Ten, the author automatically receives a cash prize. I believe that this is a great way to encourage teens to submit their best work.

Although teens are not always granted the appropriate recognition for the profound and skillful writing they may complete, I assure you that there are opportunities out there. I also encourage teens to submit to their school’s literary arts magazine and to submit to local competitions and contests, if and whenever possible.

How to Prevent Excuses

You sit down to write your daily portion of musings. Your hands are poised at the keyboard, each finger hovering over corresponding keys. You’re biting your lip, waiting for a strike of inspiration to crackle inside your brain. You begin to type up the beginning of a sentence in a word document: “The…” You pause and look up at the clock and cringe. You haven’t played with the dog since this morning. Maybe you should take him outside. And, while you’re at it, you should probably take out the trash; it’s pickup day tomorrow. You look down at your nails. Maybe you should paint them, or cut them, or go to the nail salon. After all, you’re tired. You deserve a break. A nap would do wonders, actually. Yes. Yes, a nap. You stand up from your desk and walk toward the door.

Especially in this age of technology and digital diversions, distractions are thrown at people from every direction. Writing becomes difficult when there are still so many things pulsing and writhing on the agenda and in the world around you. An article written in The Telegraph reported that “the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds.” However, all creators have an extraordinary sense of self-discipline and therefore act as outliers to this research. Although distractions and excuses are hard to tackle, you do have the capability to set aside a certain amount of time to write every day. It is well-known that, in order to achieve greatness and success in the writing world, you must constantly write. It is like weight training; you must constantly train your muscles to be bigger and stronger. And if you do not do this on a regular basis, your skills will weaken.

I frequently come across the problem of making excuses. I either lose confidence in my writing and give up on a project I’m working on all together, or my entire To-Do List for the day suddenly rushes into my thoughts and I cannot think of anything else. But I developed a handy system for myself to prevent these pesky thoughts from festering and preventing my writing.

  1. Write at least thirty minutes every day, once a day. It doesn’t matter how many words you write or how much you get done. It doesn’t matter the length of your words or the overall quantity of the writing. All that matters is that you put your heart into it, and you set aside time for yourself to write. Whether it be several poems, a single poem, a synopsis of a story idea you have, or anything in between, a writer must always write. Setting aside this time for yourself will offer you security, confidence, and a certain pride with your work. Set aside this time at night before bed, when the day is done and gone and you can focus on yourself. I like to relax in bed with my PJ’s on and expel my ideas for the day onto a word document on my laptop.
  2. Get excited about your work. When you are not proud of your piece, you tend to set it aside and lose confidence in it. Create tangible, quality pieces over time using the time you allot yourself every day to improve it. Being proud of your work is important; when you feel pleased with what you have done, you are more likely to send it out to publishers and contests.
  3. Always read when you can. As writers, we always look to other authors for inspiration, support, and ideas. With other writers’ works on your mind, it is easier to create your own words and worlds.

Remember, when it comes to writing, the only person in the way of achieving your dreams is you. You are the one who creates the excuses, and you are the only one who can stop it.

Good luck!

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑