First, thanks so much for checking out the writing tips each week. This blog is about ten years old now–I can’t believe I still have stuff to say about the writing life. Due to COVID-19 in my extended (not immediate) family, I’m going to take a couple weeks off to watch my grandkids so my daughter can continue to work. I’ll be back as soon as I am not totally exhausted by little kids!
Writing Tip for Today: During this short pause, you might try something I often do in the last days of August, when it seems like everything is sweaty and slow.
Get out some older or unfinished work (from under your bed?) and read over the work. See what kinds of changes you’d make today. Evaluate to determine if the piece or work is still salvageable, and think about how that would happen.
If your older stuff isn’t usable, what about the idea? Maybe the idea was better than your skill when you began. Some ideas are “evergreen,” meaning they’re always topics of interest. Switch out any places where technology, style or other factors have changed.
Don’t laugh at the early version of you as a writer. This is how we develop craft: by writing crap, practicing and practicing some more. If nothing else, you are probably a much better writer now than you were then.
Another idea for Dog Days of August is to see what you could write for winter holidays. Most periodicals work at least six months in advance, so get out a Santa hat or brew some pumpkin spice and write your way into a magazine or newspaper.
Check out the guidelines for publications you want to target. Be sure you understand what sort of pieces they publish and who their audience is. Find at least one back issue to sample the content.
Consider using a slimmed down version of a longer work. By boiling down a long essay or even a book-length manuscript to its essence, you can choose details and still remain inside word guidelines. Polish the short piece the same way you would any other piece you want to publish. Editing, critique groups and even reading your work aloud can help you shine up your work to a professional sheen.
During August, I like to experiment with forms I’m not familiar with or have little experience. If you’re a novelist, write poetry. If you write nonfiction, take a stab at fiction.
Try a piece where you focus on a small detail of life. Expand that detail to all your emotions and what that detail might symbolize for you. Writers are in the business of “perpetual noticing.”
If none of these tips inspire you, never fear. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks, recharged and with enough time to think without my “grandorables” asking ten thousand questions. Happy Writing!