Hi! My name is Emily O’Malley, and I’m Hannah’s roommate. I’d like to think that we lucked out; it isn’t every day that your roommate is also in your major! Since I didn’t plan on majoring in English before starting college, she and I didn’t coordinate it, but I love it.
The most important thing when it comes to writing is exactly that – writing. Almost as important, however, is having a community of writers that give one another feedback and help make each other’s work stronger. There’s a reason that professors want you to do a peer review session or go to the Writing Center to improve your essay!
Now, just because Hannah and I are both English majors doesn’t mean that we write exactly the same (although we thankfully have the same taste in music). Hannah writes poetry primarily, and while I adore poetry and can help her edit it, I’m definitely not a poet. While we both excel at academic writing, I think I probably enjoy it a bit more, especially critical analytical work.
In writing, the broadest division is whether you write poetry or prose, which is basically anything but poetry. Some of my work is brief pseudo-memoirs in which I describe my own experiences, while my novels in progress are not specifically rooted in my personal experience. I used to write a lot of short fictional stories, but I’ve moved away from that style recently.
One of the things that I love about writing is that different stories are better suited for different styles, so you get to maneuver the different formats to find the right way to tell your narrative.
My current project, which is occupying most of my attention, is a play. I tend to prefer screenplays, but the story that I’m telling is better suited for the stage. People tend to think that film is the most dialogue-heavy medium, but that isn’t the case at all. In fact, many screenplays on the market are thrown out without being given a sufficient reading because they obviously have too much dialogue.
One rule of thumb to consider is how your story needs to be told to convey its meaning to the audience. If it relies on internal narration or thought, then a novel or similar format is probably best. If the visual optics, like setting and body language, are crucial, then a screenplay is the way to go. Finally, if dialogue between characters is the most important thing, the best format is most likely a stage play.
A lot of my writing is centered around mental illness and the post-trauma experience. I draw my inspiration from the expatriates, particularly Ernest Hemingway, as well as from my own life.
My play, Lost Star, is a metaphorical journey through the five stages of grief. I’m very excited about it, but it’s definitely a slow process. One of the difficulties with writing stage plays or screenplays, a reason why a lot of new writers give up on it and decide to either not write or to write it as a novel instead, is that formatting is difficult to manage. It takes a long time to complete a page of the script because special attention must be paid to each indentation and margin setting.
However, it’s definitely worth it! There are formatting guides online and it’s even possible to get screenwriting or playwriting software that does the formatting for you. If your story would best be told in one of those mediums, then I encourage you not to give up on that just because the margins are a bit tricky.
Sometimes, I’m in the mood to write but not in the headspace to work on my play. That’s where my secondary projects come in. It’s important to keep the creative juices flowing even if you can’t work on your primary focus, so I encourage people to either free-write or have other stuff to work on. For me, that means a Western novel and a stand-up comedy set that will never see the light of day. Exploring new genres and styles is crucial to growing as a writer!
Contact Emily on Twitter @_stardusty or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org