I’m all fired up after declaring I will dedicate next year to craft work within my writing practice: technique, structure, word choice, revision (gulp). The moment I pressed publish on my previous entry, 2014: The year of the craft, the moment I made the decision to postpone submitting until I have a firm grasp on writing, I felt giddy about focusing on what I love (writing) instead of what writing might get me (publication).
So giddy, in fact, that I read The Elements of Style, the first of my craft work resolutions, before the new year even began. I read the tiny guide-book in two sittings, chuckling and highlighting “Aha!” passages throughout (see review on Goodreads). Strunk and White invigorated me, and I went directly from the final page of their delightful little book to the first page of the latest issue of Creative Nonfiction. The special double issue, which celebrates the magazine’s 50th volume and 20 years of publication, chronicles the history of creative nonfiction, the genre, and Creative Nonfiction, the journal. The essays on its pages – sharp, poignant, beautifully written, and on a level I have not yet reached – convinced me of the rightness of my resolution, and I realized I’d better come up with a plan of action while my resolve is still strong.
I debated whether to share my steps here because, well, the titles are kind of embarrassing. “Mentor Monday.” “Talking Tuesday.” But the thing is, I’m not a young thing anymore; I need memory aids. If I want to hit several elements of craft work, and if I want to practice them regularly, I need to make time for each one in my week. And I’m pretty sure the only way I’m going to remember what I want to do each day is via a mnemonic device that works for me: alliteration. Here’s my plan, in all its cutesy glory:
I dedicate Mondays to craft exercises prescribed by writing mentors (i.e., the books I resolve to read this year). Specifically, I plan to work through Priscilla Long’s The Writer’s Portable Mentor. I plan to work through Long’s exercises with my writing group, but if you want to adopt this schedule, any mentor will do. Most writing books include writing prompts or exercises, and Monday is the day I plan to focus on that aspect of craft.
Revision advice that crops up again and again, across writing books, across writers, across writing blogs and websites and comment sections, is to read your work out loud to listen for mistakes. I, too, have written about reading out loud, and how effective it is for finding holes or unnecessary repetition or phrasing that just doesn’t sound right. But despite learning the lesson first hand, I rarely remember to read my work out loud. Tuesdays will now be dedicated to the auditory element of revision.
Word Work Wednesday
This may be the day I’m most excited about in the week. I LOVE word work: exploring dictionaries, cataloging color names, mining for verbs, making mind maps. In February of 2013 I started a lexicon. At first I registered a favorite word every couple of days. Now it sits dusty on my writing shelf, along with all those writing books I started and abandoned because I was burning with submission fever. No more. My lexicon will get a work out every Wednesday in 2014. This Wednesday, Christmas day, I plan to collect words for the color red: holly berry, cherry pie, peppermint swirl.
I didn’t really need an alliterative title for this one because I meet up with my writing group on Thursdays; it is unlikely I will forget what Thursdays are for. In weeks we don’t meet, however, I will spend Thursdays doing what we normally do in writing group: 10 minute prompted writes, exercises from writing books, and planning for the next week’s work.
Do I need to explain this one? Friday is for whatever the heck I want it to be for.
That sounds awfully stuffy doesn’t it? If you can come up with a W word for reading, please let me know. I plan to dedicate weekends, if I have leisure time, to catching up on reading: magazines (Poets & Writers, Creative Nonfiction); literary journals (The Sun when I finally save enough money for a subscription), online journals (Vela magazine, Brevity), and of course, all the writing books I aim to finish throughout the year.
That’s the plan for 2014. I’ll let y’all know mid year how it’s going. Until then, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may your resolve hold for all your 2014 resolutions!
P.S. If you have any favorite festive yuletide words, please share them here. I’d love to gather them in my lexicon for this week’s Word Work Wednesday. Thanks!