Sunday, February 12, 2012

Writer's FAQ #1

So here's a new series I'll be working on. I call it the Writer's FAQ. I think there are a lot of small questions that never really get touched on in writers books, because they focus a lot on larger topics like Theme and Character and Setting. So I'm going to work on some very specific questions sent to me by our lovely readers or given to me by members of The Milwaukee Writers Workshop.

Q: How do I keep my writing fresh and inventive?

My answer to many questions like this is two-fold: read and write in equal parts.

In all seriousness, though, to keep your writing 'fresh' is to understand what is going on in the contemporary world of the style you're writing. If you're writing science fiction, for example, know what other science fiction writers are writing. That doesn't mean go and buy every new book as soon as it comes out; it just means keep tabs on what's popular, what's pushing the envelope, and who is doing things that impress you. 'Fresh,' to me, means unique, and that means creating your own voice and finding your place in the world as a writer, within the context of your peers.

'Inventive' is a slightly different matter. They're kind of one-in-the-same, but my interpretation of this word is that it means "outside the box." I don't know that this is always necessary, but it's certainly a good way to go. Genres -- of all varieties -- begin to have tropes; it's inevitable. Understanding those standards (tropes) and utilizing them to your best advantage, or in some cases doing away with them entirely, is the best way to make your writing inventive. Understanding takes knowledge, though, so I'll go back to my original statement: read and write in equal parts.

I think some of the most Fresh and Inventive writing comes out of short fiction. So in the next week, go to the bookstore and look for some of the literary journals in the magazine section and pick up one in your favorite genre. See what those writers are doing. See what they're not doing, too, because honestly not every writer is going to speak to you -- even though they got published. That's ok.

If you have a question for the Writer's FAQ, send it to boone@milwaukeewritersworkshop or visit us on Facebook.

No comments: