I love autumn: trees shedding golden leaves crunching beneath my feet, pale blue sky sharing space with billowy gray clouds, flocks of birds soaring overhead on their yearly journeys, and bushy-tailed gray squirrels leaping from thick oak branches to thin pines.
For the writer, fall is a perfect time to close the door and write while rain taps against the window, or curl up with a favorite book and a steaming cup of hot chocolate in front of a dancing fire.
These months leading toward the end of the year offer many writing activities such as NANOWRIMO—an acronym for National Novel Writing Month—and How Writers Write Fiction, a free writing class from Iowa University. I encourage you to seek out both to help improve your craft.
Most of all, though, the present season is a great time to review, to reflect, and to create.
Take a courageous step to write in an unfamiliar genre or style, test yourself and journey into potentially uncomfortable territory—searching new things will make you a better writer.
If you normally write fantasy, try a hard-boiled mystery; should romance be your forte, write a science fiction story (with romance thrown in, of course); a historical fiction writer may find a shoot-em-up western a nice complement. Whatever you write, fall is a great time to experiment; you might find interests broader than you realize.
The main thing, as always, is to write daily.
I have a snippet file, a document where I note anything not associated with a current project: observations, characterizations, bits of dialogue; possible story, novel, or article titles; thoughts about the craft, scenes, plots and their twists, a shopping bag of succinct and interesting tidbits.
Often during the year—and especially this season—I open the snippet file and read through my collection. Some are trite, a couple may prove semi-profound, but always interesting. Inevitably I find an item I can either adapt to a current work-in-progress or something that prompts me in a new direction—and it’s kinda fun.
I carry a 3×5 lined notepad wherever I venture, and it fills with snippets scrawled in the heat of the moment. When I sit at my computer, I add these bits of writing to my snippet file, which has now grown to dozens of typed pages and hundreds of entries. Notes such as:
Dale walked on tip-toes as if his heal harbored a painful splinter he dare not put weight on, like a mouse dancing across cactus.
Mournful groans of the emotionally afflicted.
Mourners wailed and groaned as the casket carried by eight pall-bearers passed by.
The rich know not the travails of the poor, who dream of being like them one day.
“I like your beard; it covers your face.”
Unimaginative and of little value by themselves, perhaps, but one may provide a springboard to something more. If you do not have a snippet file (and every writer should, in my opinion), start one and review it occasionally—you will witness improvement to your wordsmithing skills, and it might even trigger a new project.
See you on the next page,
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