Writers' Ink at Caledon Public Library

Startle and Illuminate


In the book ‘Carol Shields on Writing’ edited by Anne and Nicholas Giardini, each chapter features an In Brief summary of the salient points. Little light-bulbs of ideas. Here are a few, selected by Alton Chapter member Elaine Coish, from the section Be Bold All the Way Through

  • Journalling pays. Keep separate ones for things you see, the beginnings of stories, what catches your attention. Use them to learn how to write sentences; practise in a journal
  • Set a structure. Sit and write a certain amount of time. Have a place to go and sit
  • Try to write two pages a day. Do your two pages, then go for a walk. Think about what you’ve written and where it will go organically the next day
  • Don’t write yourself out; write to the point of exhaustion, not past it. Save something to prime the pump the next day.
  • There is one line that unwinds a poem. A poem should be a flash of a camera; some part of it goes off
  • The idea of rhyme in poetry comes out of prayer, incantations, ringing bell, hands clapping
  • Poetry hands people an experience they’ve had but haven’t articulated
  • In poetry, avoid commenting on images you create.
  • Use a thesaurus
  • Every writer is troubled with getting what’s in the head onto paper
  • Alice Munro takes a simple narrative structure and gives it fullness. Learn from her. Reading her is as good as taking a creative writing course
  • Everyone says the first sentence is the most important, but the truth is the second one is.
  • You don’t have to write every step the characters take. “An hour later” is sufficient
  • Write long sentence branches at both ends and balance them with short ones. When you’ve finished a paragraph, look at the beginning of the sentences to see that they don’t all start the same way
  • Don’t worry about writing autobiographically out of fear of injuring others. First write everything about the person accurately,and mask it later. One can alter components of a piece after writing it. Robertson Davies, when asked why he was writing so well into his sixties, said, “People died.”
  • E.M.Forster acknowledged that in any narrative there will be characters to be rounded and others who are flat; this is a convention we accept
  • It is hard to take sentences out
  • People like to read dialogue. This is a way to provide the relationships between people, and information about age, class, gender, what they do without spelling it out. Dialogue can give tone to your writing keep it transparent. Say your dialogue out loud so that it sounds natural.
  • Finding a voice can take lots of false tries. It takes time to settle into it. If you are lucky, things arrive in the passage of time. Once you find it, stay faithful to a voice
  • Writing is going the way of film – quick cuts. Paragraphing can move you easily, and is a good tool. Mavis Gallant often has one-sentence paragraphs
  • If you use flashbacks, there must be more than one, each must be of a similar length, and there must be a pattern of how they work out.
  • Description is the right details in the right place. Don’t present details in lists; keep the reader’s patience in mind.

About Alton Chapter

The Alton Chapter of Writers' Ink meets the 1st Wednesday of the month from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Alton Branch.

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This entry was posted on December 19, 2016 by in Writing Advice and tagged , , .

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