Dina Friedman's Monthly Writing Advice

Vol. 1 # 1, May 2001 - Getting Started

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[Note from Shel: You're receiving this because you signed up for it at either http://www.frugalfun.com or http://www.accuratewriting.com (or clicked on an e-mail link in a message from me)

It took us rather longer than we expected to get this newest tipsheet off the ground, but from here on in, you'll get these bulletins once a month.

Thanks for your patience. and now, on to words of wisdom from our resident Writing Coach, Dina Friedman]

Writing Tips--Getting Past the Blank Page

Whatever your idea--the great American novel, a letter to the editor, an essay, even a diary entry--the hardest part is often getting started. You stare at the blank page or computer screen, and suddenly the words that seemed so clear when you were struck by inspiration in the middle of a business meeting or driving home on the interstate are gone, vanished, kaput!

So what do you do?

Don't fall into the trap of only writing when lightning strikes. Persistent writers need to invoke the muse, and sometimes that means plugging away when inspiration is nowhere in sight.

Here are some tips for jump-starting.

Start in the middle:
Don't struggle for the perfect opening line. In your first draft, don't struggle for perfection at all. Sometimes the words just flow like water over rocks. Most of the time, you have to heave boulders. So find the thread that got you the idea and just go with it, even if it's fragmented or hazy. The muse is likely to be hiding somewhere within those jumbled thoughts. As you write, you'll notice the long grass parting, the boulders loosening, a path unfolding.

Use stimuli:
Just like dancing, drawing, or playing a musical instrument, writing takes practice. To warm-up, find a prompt. Pictures, objects, a random word out of the dictionary, a line from a poem can all be extremely effective in unlocking the words within. Start with the images the prompt evokes and soon you'll be well into the images of your own sub-conscious. Warning: don't edit at this point. Let the thoughts flow.

Take Advantage of Inspiration When It Hits:
Buy a tape recorder for the car to keep track of all the brilliant turns of phrase that get lost when you're driving home on the Interstate, or a small notebook to surreptitiously jot down your poetic insights at a boring business meeting. Carry the notebook everywhere. Then inspiration will always be in your pocket.

Make Writing A Habit:
Set aside a daily time for writing, even if it's just for a few minutes a day, and use the above tips to transform your raw, unformed ideas into workable beginnings. Then stay tuned for next month's column on revision to learn how to make them sparkle.

Once a month, Dina Friedman sends out a Writing Advice Tip covering some aspect of writing: overcoming writer's block, grammar and usage hints, vocabulary builders, etc.
A prize-winning fiction writer, playwright and poet, she teaches in the Speaking, Arguing and Writing program at Mount Holyoke College. She is available for individual consultations either in person (western Massachusetts) or online.

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Dina Friedman, mailto:dina@frugalfun.com , 877-FRUGALFUN/413-586-2388 * Manuscript Consulting * Editing * Training in Writing and Speaking * Overcoming Writers Block * Resumes and Career Services Please visit our 300+ page website at http://www.frugalfun.com for free marketing advice, arts/travel/business zines & more: Fax: 617-249-0153

A monthly tip covering writing technique, grammar, creativity, or overcoming writer's block
Visit http://www.accuratewriting.com

Dina Friedman, M.S.W., has worked with individuals and groups on issues for thirteen years. A published fiction writer, poet, playwright, and journalist and winner of several awards and honors, she coordinates academic writing workshops for Mount Holyoke College. She has taught rhetoric, English Comp, and creative writing at the University of Massachusetts, Holyoke Community College, and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

You can use our expertise for what you need most: counseling on writer's block, an exercise to get started or get through the stuck places, a thorough edit, help generating ideas, a consult, or just someone to check in with to keep your project going...

On projects involving business marketing or large nonfiction, you may be working with Shel Horowitz, author of five nonfiction books and more than 800 articles. Since founding Accurate Writing & More in 1981, he has worked with numerous business owners, students, and employees to improve their writing.

Please click here to get started--this will send a message to dina@frugalfun.com entitled WritingCoaching--or call 800.683.9673 or 413.586.2388 (9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern Time).

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