My Process: Short Works

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Many weeks ago, I posted on how I go about writing longer works of fiction. People seemed interested and so I promised to talk about my process with writing shorter pieces.

Poetry is instinctual and comes from big emotions. The hardest and the happiest times in my life generate the most work. It comes in pieces, phrases. It is moonlit. I’ve always meant to keep a notebook by my bed or a small pad in my purse for when inspiration strikes but I am more likely to type something into my smart phone.  More often than not, I start with a pretty line rather than an idea. I transfer this to a file on my laptop where most of my current poetry lives. Each piece gets a page and I flit between them until they are done.

Now, that used to be it for me. I called a poem done and was done. I realize now that this didn’t come from any sort of over-inflated self confidence, but rather a neurotic avoidance of editing. And you can’t (or shouldn’t) publish anything without editing (although I kind of do it all the time with blog entries).

I edit now. I pick and pull at my poems–moving things around and changing it back and forth. I’m picky and it’s hard for me to believe that a line or word is good enough. I think that it will take a lot of willpower to declare something done. I might have to just close my eyes and click, hoping for the best when submitting pieces for publication next year.

And as for short fiction…if you’ve been following along my writing journey for this year, you will notice that I have not succeeded in writing any. But the way I used to do it, was to take a lot of inspiration from songs and I usually started with a large, slightly abstract theme. I would pick and choose from pieces of my life or lives of people I know and try to tell a story in only a couple thousand words. I focused on details, scene and characterization, and tried to experiment with language and voice.

But I’m really bad at endings.

I think writing in different forms in invaluable practice if nothing else. So tell me, how does your process differ from mine? I’m curious!

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