Friday, July 24, 2009

Open Your Notebook - Volume 1, Issue 1

"What I write when I force myself is generally just as good as what I write when I'm feeling inspired." -Tom Wolfe
It might seem counterintuitive for a writing newsletter to say - but say it we will (and often). Reading about writing isn't writing. Writing is writing.

That's why Open Your Notebook, the bi-weekly e-newsletter about writing from authors Chris Clarke-Epstein and Miriam Phillips, will be short on keeping you reading and long on provoking ideas for writing. Every other week you can expect something to think about and a writing exercise. So, buy a notebook, sharpen your pencil, and prepare to write. Remembering, of course, that intending to write isn't writing, writing is writing!

Most writing exercises are geared towards creative writers, writers of fiction vs. non-fiction. But no matter your medium, you must learn and practice your craft. Non-fiction is no exception.

The first thing to do is to identify your voice; that is, the style, manner, and written sound you want to convey. Try this exercise from Fred White's The Daily Writer: 366 Meditations to Cultivate a Productive and Meaningful Writing Life (Writer's Digest Books, 2008).

How can you help yourself uncover your natural voice? Write a page in which you describe, in a relaxed, informal manner, without groping for impressive words, how you feel about one of the front page stories appearing in this morning's newspaper. After you finish the page, read it aloud. If it doesn't sound like you, circle the phrases or sentences that seem artificial or forced. Then keep revising the paragraph until it seems to capture your natural voice.
Now apply the voice test to your current work in progress. Turn to any page, read it aloud, and if it sounds artificial, get busy revising it.