Archive for October, 2011

Writers’ Tip: Creative Nonfiction


Maple Tree Weighed Down

Here I am again after one very early 10-inch surprise snowstorm in central PA and a lot of tree damage later. The weather warmed up yesterday and melted practically all of the white stuff, leaving a lot of downed limbs for my hubby to clean up.

For this blog, I thought I’d share some valuable nonfiction tips for you who like writing in that genre. Thanks to author Patti Souder, who spoke at our Susquehanna Valley Writers Workshop on October 8th, we have some tips to share with you folks who like to dabble with nonfiction genres.

Patti has been writing articles, drama sketches, and nonfiction books for over 20 years. She also has taught creative writing on the college level, so her suggestions are well worth noting.

I’ve listed the highlights of her one workshop session entitled “Creative Nonfiction: An Oxymoron?” So if you’re a nonfiction writer, take note of the excellent advice this experienced published author suggests.


Literary Elements Used to Create CREATIVE NONFICTION


Borrow from fiction techniques:

  1. Develop characters.
  2. Use dialogue.
  3. Include details.
  4. Adopt an effective point-of-view: use inner thoughts.
  5. Limit your tag lines.

Incorporate poetic elements to increase your artistry:

1.        Use imagery to create sensory impressions.

2.        Borrow from nature: Example – a moth beating its wings against a window can picture the frustration of helpless people when oppressed by authority.

3.        Use metaphors

4.       Vary your rhythm, style, and length of sentences.


Important Elements to Remember


Creative nonfiction is NONFICTION:

  1. Be factual.
  2. Anchor your manuscript in real experience.
  3. Do your research.

Creative nonfiction requires PERSONAL PRESENCE:

  1. Go beyond mere facts.
  2. Add your voice.
  3. Share personal perspectives and reflections.
  4. But remember that your writing MUST be grounded in actual experiences.

Don’t avoid challenges:

  1. If you’ve written the truth, let the challenges come.
  2. Be ready to back your manuscript with research findings, testimonies, and recorded facts.

So, there you have some excellent tips on writing “creative nonfiction.” Whether it be drama, personal interest articles, drama sketches, or biographies, you can make your writing come alive with a fiction spark if you incorporate some fiction techniques in your nonfiction work! Just remember, your nonfiction can get “weighed down” if you use boring techniques. Spruce it up with some hints from an experienced published author!

Limbs Weighed Down

Next time we’ll discuss how to handle those nasty rejections from those editors at the publishing companies.

Happy writing!



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A Challenge for You!

View From My Yard on a Foggy Day

I often speak at writers conferences and present workshops to help those who are just starting out in the writing/publishing world. During my presentations I’ve often stared into the blank faces of newbies who don’t have a clue about what I’m discussing, and I’ve found that it has much to do with their lack of knowledge concerning the writing/publishing business and the many “odd duck” terms we writers use.

For you who are more experienced, this little quiz will be old hat for you. It’s a 20-question matching quiz to sharpen the writing/publishing part of your brain. So, take a few minutes, grab a pen and paper, and let’s go: 


 1. _______GENRE                                          A. $ EARNED AFTER BOOK IS OUT


                   MULTIPLE SUBMISSION

 3. _______ QUERY LETTER                          C.  SUMMARY OF BOOK ON COVER

 4. _______ COVER LETTER                          D.  UNDERLYING MESSAGE

 5. _______ PROPOSAL                                  E.  CLEVER BEGINNING OF STORY

 6. _______ CRITIQUE/EDIT                        F.  CATEGORY

 7. _______ REJECTION                                 G.  “PLEASE LOOK AT MY WORK”

 8. _______ CONTRACT                                 H.  ALL ABOUT YOU & YOUR WORK

 9. _______ MARKETING/PROMO                 I.  “DOES NOT MEET OUR NEEDS”

10._______ PITCH                                           J.  SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT YOU

11._______ HOOK                                           K. SENDING IT TO THE PUB. CO.

12._______ STORY LINE                                 L. “ENCLOSED PLEASE FIND …”

13._______ THEME                                          M.  $ FOR NOT BEING PUBLISHED

14._______ PLOT                                             N. EARNED BEFORE BOOK IS OUT

15._______ BLURB                                           O. ESSENTIAL REVIEW OF WORK

16._______ CREDITS                                        P. OF THIS A WRITER DREAMS

17._______ BYLINE                                          Q. LIST OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS

18._______ ADVANCE                                     R. ACTION IN YOUR STORY

19._______ROYALTY                                       S. WHAT YOUR STORY IS ABOUT

20._______KILL FEE                               T. GETS THE ATTENTION OF THE EDITOR OR AGENT


  Well, how do you think you did?  Here are the answers:

1.   F      2.   K.     3.   G      4.  L.      5.    H    6.   O      7.    I.    8.   P.   9.    J.     10.    T

11.  E.    12.  S.    13.   D.   14.  R.    15.  C   16.  Q   17.   B.   18.  N.  19.   A.  20.  M

Next time we’ll discuss “creative nonfiction.”

Happy writing!



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On Writing: Haiku Poetry

On Writing: Haiku Poetry

Sunrise Splitting Trees

If you’re a poet at heart, then you’ve probably tried all different kinds of poetic forms including the fun subgenre and smallest literary form: Japanese Haiku. If you aren’t familiar with Haiku, enjoy learning about this interesting form and try your hand at it.

Without getting extremely technical, traditional haiku can be defined as of poem with 17 syllables in three lines or phrases of 5, 7 and 5 respectively. Although haiku poems are often defined as having only 17 syllables, the terms “syllables” and “on” are not the same; therefore, some Haiku forms have more or less than 17 syllables. (To learn more about more complicated forms of haiku, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiku#Syllables_or_.22on.22_in_haiku ) But for the sake of convenience and introduction, we’ll consider the three-line/17-syllable Haiku poem.

The best-known Japanese haiku was written by Matsuo Bashō (1644 –1694), the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. During his lifetime, Bashō was recognized for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form; today, after centuries of commentary, he is recognized as a master of brief and clear haiku. His poetry is internationally renowned, and within Japan many of his poems are reproduced on monuments and traditional sites. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matsuo_Bash%C5%8D )

One of Basho’s most famous Haiku poems is called “Old Pond.” Let’s look at it in the Japanese language, which, of course, has the conventional 5, 7, 5 pattern: fu-ru-i-ke ya (5) ka-wa-zu to-bi-ko-mu (7) mi-zu no o-to (5) Translated into English, we see the syllabication isn’t there, but the short and poignant meaning is:

old pond . . .

a frog leaps in

water’s sound

See how simple, yet descriptive this poetic form is?

Here are a few general rules to apply as you go on your Haiku trek:

1. Avoid the use of personal pronouns.

2. If you use personal pronouns like I, don’t capitalize them.

3. Use sentence fragments.

4. Work on an eye-catching first line.

5. Save the “punch” for the last line.

 (For more details go to: http://www.ahapoetry.com/haiku.htm#comego )

Please forgive my importunity, but here are two Haiku I wrote years ago:

“The Deer”

A rack and a tail

The blast of a gun echoes

And he lives no more


“Peaceful Valley”

 Sparkling cool waters

Trickle down dark mountain paths

Serene wilderness

So, there you have what Haiku is all about in a brief synopsis. Go ahead, try it; I think you’ll enjoy playing with words and creating a work of art in such a short form in such a short time.

Next time, we’ll test your knowledge with a writers’ terms matching quiz.

Happy writing!


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