Writing About Writing, and Works in Progress

I’m not very good at writing (or talking) about my writing.  I like to be able to slowly work on a project in private, and then only begin talking about it and announcing it publicly when it is nearing completion and I am ready to bring it out into the world.  I think at least part of the reason is that I don’t complete every project I begin (some just don’t have the steam to make it through to completion), and most end up taking longer to complete than I anticipate.  I don’t feel comfortable talking about a work in progress if I don’t know when (or even if) I’ll complete it – because why bother getting people interested in a project that may go nowhere?  Also, I feel unsure about whether people might be interested in the details of my writing process – or if it’s just me thinking aloud to myself.  I like to simply do the work, but I feel awkward talking about it (and it seems that many creative people may feel the same).

That said, I thought I would do a quick summary of my current writing projects and works in progress, just to let you know where I’m at, and to serve as an introduction for new readers.  If you’d like to read more about my writing and my writing process, please do let me know!

Novel Writing

My major work in progress right now is my novel, The Way North.  It’s an adult fantasy about a young mathematician searching for answers to his visions of a mountain, which leads him to a mysterious book and a secret from his family’s past.  I started writing this novel in February of 2011, worked on it off and on while I was in university (mostly off, as my school work did not leave me much spare time!), and finally finished it last year, when I was no longer in class.  I did some initial revisions of it this January, and over the last several months I’ve been receiving some incredibly valuable feedback from my beta readers.  I’ve also been reading through the manuscript, making notes on things to revise, rewrite, remove, and add.  This process has taken a lot longer than I expected, but I’m finally set to begin the second round of revisions, after which I will need to decide whether to get further feedback from readers or to start sending out querys to potential agents/publishers.  The whole process is very new to me, and I mostly just figure things out as I go, but I do have faith that if I am patient and persistent and keeping improving my writing, then I will be successful with it.

One thing that I am really excited about is that I have just (in the last week) started to write the first draft of my second novel, which is going to involve both time travel and a made-up island located off the coast of northwest North America.  I have a lot more confidence starting this second novel, because I know now that I am capable of completing a novel-length story.  I’ve also learned a lot from the mistakes I’ve made writing my first novel.  And I also hope that, since I’m no longer in university, I’ll be able to finish this first draft in a lot less time than it took me to finish the draft of The Way North.

Poetry

I’ve been writing poetry for just about forever.  I’ve lost or recycled most of the oldest poems, but I have kept all of my poems from the last 5 or so years, and lately I’ve been returning to these and picking out the best of them.  I’ve been revising these, and hopefully one day soon I will have some in a state where I feel comfortable sending them out.  I stopped writing poetry for a while in 2011/2012, but last August and September, to get myself back into it, I practiced writing one short poem a day, and I also spent several months working through the exercises in Steve Kowit’s wonderful book on writing poetry, In the Palm of Your Hand.  I’m not sure how successful either of these practices were, since I’m still not writing much new poetry, but maybe once I finish revising more of my old poems, I will feel more like writing new stuff.

Short Stories

Short stories are the most difficult form of writing for me.  Although I have been used to thinking of them as similar to novels – hey, they’re both fiction, after all; short stories are just, you know, shorter – once I started trying to write some myself, I realized that they are a very different form of writing.  To me, short stories seem as different from a novel as poetry is from prose.  The scope of characters and plot in a short story is drastically different from that of a novel.  I’ve read quite a few “how to write fiction” books, but none of the ones I have read have addressed the basic difference between a short story and a novel, which I think would have been very helpful for me to read.  (If you happen to know of any writer who has written a good discussion of that difference, please let me know!  I’d love to read it.)  I do have a few short stories limping along, and I hope to be able to spend more time working on them over the next few months, especially now that I’m done reading through The Way North.

Would you like to read more about any of these writing projects, or about my writing process in general?  Please let me know if you do (or don’t).

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3 Responses to Writing About Writing, and Works in Progress

  1. ressacar says:

    Your comparasion about short stories makes me smile (especially because I wrote a lot of poetry in prose), I have difficulties with them too. On an another point, can you give me an exemple of the exercice in Steve Kowits’ book? I need motivation to keep going and I’m asking myself if this could be the way to succeed.

    • Heather says:

      Steve Kowit’s book is probably the best book on poetry writing I’ve read, and I’d highly recommend it, yet I find it difficult to pick out a single example. I love Kowit’s exercises because he spends a lot of time beforehand clearly explaining the concepts (alliteration, rhyme, meter, metaphor, etc.), and makes the exercises themselves specific enough that I know exactly what I need to do and yet open enough that I still feel that I have some freedom in choosing what I’ll write about. For example, the first poem to write in the book is “a childhood memory”, which I think is a fairly common writing prompt, but Kowit also includes exercises beforehand on recovering memories and taking notes for the poem and sets some specific limits on the poem (in this case, no rhyme and not longer than 35 lines). For me, this makes the exercise easier and more interesting to work with than a simple prompt like “write a poem about your childhood” would. I found the exercises enjoyable to work through, and I ended up completing all of them! I can’t say whether the exercises would work as well for you as they did for me, but I think the book would probably be worth a try.

      • ressacar says:

        Thank you very much for this answer! I think the details in the prompts could help me too, because, well their is already tons of prompt on the internet (but not as precise) and it does not look appeling to me

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