Monday, January 23, 2006


Editors complain that sometimes we writers don't know when to start a story -- we give too much background information. Editors call this the "Front Porch. " All the experts say to start a story or poem with action, something to immediately engage the reader, THEN go back and give some background info. However, experts also say when writing for children, don't use flashbacks, as kids respond more readily to a story that is chronologically straightforward. (Are you as confused as I am?) Today, write something that gets right inside the front door. I'll meet you for iced tea on the front porch later. :)


  1. First, let me say that I by no means call myself a writer - never been published (tried but got rejected) - just do it because I like/need to. Have a degree in Literature, but didn't do much with creative writing. Still, sometimes I get frustrated when trying to set something down on paper and this Daytip says it all ... how to begin?

    That said, when you have an idea, do you just start writing what comes into your head? Or do you kind of make an outline and try to organize that way? Perhaps the better question is how to re-read what you've written and learn how to pick out what's "good".

  2. I have a whole binder of what I call "false starts" -- Ideas, snippets, great lines that haven't found their home yet. I find it is best for me just to write at first with no set form, esp. with poetry. With prose (what I'm in the midst of now), I still find starting "free" works for me, but only up to a point. So I'll get a couple of chapters written, then I will have some idea of where I'm going, and that's when it really helps me to do a basic sketch outline. But of course, the outline changes as I go! The hard part -- the part that requires the most discipline FOR ME is not getting lost, discouraged, giving in before I get to the end. Just yesterday I "finished" a first draft of my revision and felt joy for a few minutes, then flipped through it and started seeing all the holes. Grr..... Spine is there, but now I've got to dig in deeper and fill in all those gaps. If anyone tells you writing is easy, don't listen, 'cause that's a darn lie. :)
    One of the best tips I can give you for learning to discern what is "good," is to read good literature. You'll know it when you read it: the lines that resonate, the lines you remember when you're in the shower. It also helps to have a critique group. It helps when another writer validates your work -- then you know if your "reading" your own work accurately. It's such a gut-level, soul-level thing... just keep at it!

  3. In Natalie Goldberg's (sp?) Writing Down the Bones she talks about reading over what you wrote - with some distance - and finding the pockets of energy. That's a good book for getting motivated . . .

  4. That makes me feel so much more "normal" about how I've been going at it! Today's tip about making time is key. I'm not involved in a writer's group, but will see what's available in my area. I'll take you up on your offer and e-mail you a poem to look at. Your advice is appreciated.

    Thanks for the book recommendation, Julia. I'll check that one out. I've got "Bird by Bird" right now and the poetry how-to book by Ted Kooser.

  5. Anna, I look forward to reading your work!


Your thoughts?