Mix Up Your Writing

When it comes to enriching your writing life, you might want to stir some fresh and daring ingredients into the mix. Why not challenge your habits and see if you can write yourself out of your comfort zone?

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-11-52-01-amThe following questions and hand-picked resources, which are tried and approved by Singapore Writers Group members, might help to remix your writing life in a way that works for you.

by Marion Kleinschmidt of Coill

Up your joy

Do you struggle for quality writing time? Ask yourself:

– Would it help to “free write” first thing in the morning, as suggested by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way? Find out more about Cameron’s “Morning Pages” method in this blog post by author and writing tutor, Emma Darwin.

– Could you book a writing gym, a desk in a co-working space… or a cleaner?

– Would a personal writing coach be an option?

– Or at least a writing buddy or group to hold you accountable?

– Would it help to let go of perfectionism and just “write down the bones” of your piece? See the book of that name by Natalie Goldberg.

– Which type of writing gets you going? What’s easy to finish? Maybe start there…

– Finally, can you identify your best time to work and block that period each day?

Check out these resources to up your joy:

The Woolf Works co-working space for women features rentable desks, “Shut Up & Write” sessions, and an accountability group.

Free Open Online Course: Start Writing Fiction has great self-study materials and exercises to get you started and give you some structure.

Nanowrimo: write 50,000 words in a month in the company of enthused writers around the planet. Runs every November.

Pestowrimo is my personal pet project: write 500 words of prose or 10 lines of poetry a day for a month, with or without feedback option.

Mass Open Online Courses by the University of Iowa’s renowned International Writing Program bring together budding and experienced writers from around the globe.

Michelle Tessensohn: Singapore-based Master Coach helps writers to find clarity and calm and to unblock what stops them from achieving their goals.

Motivational Reads: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, also check out her “Magic Lessons” podcasts.

What is your writing vs sharing quota?

Do you hoard or squander? Unless you have already found your ideal sharing zen, you probably tend towards one or the other: hogging your drafts because you’re terrified of feedback, or oversharing to the extent that you only write for a given deadline and audience.

The optimal quota depends on you and the stage in your writing journey. 80% writing time to 20% sharing time could be a great goal.

If you’ve never workshopped your writing, now’s the time to start. The Singapore Writers Group offers critique partners who attend regular meetings. Can’t find a meetup in your genre? Create your own SWG meetup.

Whether you need more guidance or solo writing time, an organised writing retreat can satisfy either desire, while surrounding you with like-minded peers.

Who are your beta readers and teachers?

Can you make a better effort to find peer critics who are a notch or two above your level? Try writers’ groups, festivals, professional courses and workshops.

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival

Singapore Writers Festival

An optimal beta reader digs your genre and creative mission – rather than suggesting you write the way they do.

When it comes to learning your craft, professional mentors are indispensable. Shop around!  You’ll know when you find somebody who truly brings out the best in you.

Advanced Creative Writing: this affordable six-week online course teaches the process of writing a short story. Suitable for beginners and experienced short story writers looking for structure or guidance.

The Writers Studio Online offers ten-week technique-based writing courses. Learn how to split mood from tone in fiction and other nifty moves.

Gotham Online Writing Classes have great variety of advanced, time-intensive online writing classes across different genres.

A215 Creative Writing is 9-month online course covering fiction, poetry and the process of getting published.


Should you push harder for publication?

Probably yes. But let’s face it, this part of the process hurts and we all need a sane strategy. How about sending your best work out to a whole range of potential outlets, from more to less ambitious? Maybe it’s worth investing in writing courses and workshops where you might get noticed by established agents or publishers? If all fails, can you use your first novel to learn about your limitations as a writer and in the book market – then tackle and flaunt your second one as if it were your first?

SWG writers have found agents through avenues as unique as attending a “Twitter pitch contest”. Chat to the trail blazers and read up on how they got their books and stories published.

The Curtis Brown writing school is led by literary agents and professional writers.

Aerogramme Writers’ Studio is a blog on books and writing, packed with tips, resources and avenues for publication.

Lit Hub features literary truffles and relevant features from publishers, journals, bookstores, and non-profits.

Bonus question: Should you get a writing degree?

While there’s no need to get a degree to prove that you can write (you can!), a Creative Writing MA delivers the most potent mix of all. Singapore just started its first taught programme at Lasalle College of the Arts.

The cons: Most writing degrees require intense amounts of time and finances, kill your social and family life, and force you to read tons of peer drafts.

The pros: an MA is opportunity to complete a concrete project with high-quality input. It gives you an actual qualification, a network of beta readers, and inroads into the publishing world. Plus, reading all those peer drafts hones your editorial judgement.

But please note: you can put together your own program by combining the resources that most appeal to you over a stretch of time at your own pace.

Whatever you do, definitely make safe plans for the post-degree motivational slump!

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