Tag Archives: writing advice

An English Education

Robert_Frost_NYWTS_3
Robert Frost

“There are two kinds of teachers: the kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can’t move, and the kind that just gives you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies.” – Robert Frost

When the topic of my chosen career path surfaces, I tend to get the same responses:

A sizzling sound made with the lips as if something or someone is burning.

A sympathetic hand that embraces my shoulder.

Usually the response is accompanied by a statement along the lines of “Wow, high school English huh? You’re brave. I could never do that” said almost as if I was donating one of my kidneys.

I must admit that I initially started out as an English Literature major. I wanted to become a writer. I wanted to spend my days sitting beneath trees, or walking alongside a lake with moments of inspiration captivating me into fits full of words and splendor.

Yet, something was picking at my side, and to be honest, some of it involved the haunting echoes of my family asking, “What are you going to do about money, Lauren?” But if you’ve read my biography, you’ll know that most of my educators influenced my passion for writing.  I sat back one day in my chair and I thought, “What is it that you are truly passionate about, Lauren?” and when it came down to the answer, I realized that I am more passionate about my ever-growing ability to write rather than writing itself. I sometimes wonder where I would be without a notebook, without a word document, or more importantly without the ability to articulate words to form pieces of intricate details that embroider the influx of my emotions and thoughts. Can you imagine how it must feel to have such a strong sensation to express yourself through words, but the well of words being completely dry? I have nightmares about such things! I once had a nightmare that I couldn’t read and I awoke gasping as if someone had choked the life out me.  I want to teach. Mostly because I become so horrified by the idea of who I would be without my ability to read and write that I feel it is my civic duty to ensure that the rest of our children have the same opportunity.

A Glance into My Process of Editing

So, I wrote this poem:

A gift of hope fades
to withered branches
waning as time passes
into dried sticks
and potpourri.
The scent of death fills the air
while promises re forgotten.

This was my first draft of the poem which has since been edited into this (still untitled) piece:

His bouquet of oaths fades
to withered branches
waning as time passes
into dried sticks
and potpourri.
Decay perfumes the air
while his promises are forgotten

While there aren’t a ton of changes, they are still significant and I’ll go on to explain each one and the processes I went through in editing the first poem into the second poem.

The Best Way to Become a Writer According to Stephen King

In case you live in a pop-culture vacuum, Stephen King is one of the best selling authors of our decade. To quote the first paragraph of his Wikipedia article:

Stephen Edwin King (born September 21, 1947) is an American author of contemporary horror, suspense, science fiction and fantasy. His books have sold more than 350 million copies and have been adapted into a number of feature films, television movies and comic books. King has published 50 novels, including seven under the pen-name of Richard Bachman, and five non-fiction books. He has written nearly two hundred short stories, most of which have been collected in nine collections of short fiction.

In other words, dude knows how to write and writes a lot. What’s more important than his volume of works is the success of his works. As an author, his work has transcended the novel and short story and has penetrated the movie screen. As of today, Stephen King has over 150 writing credits on films centered around his written work.

I Can’t Write a Short Story without Structure

I find that for different types of writing I have different writing styles. My process for writing a poem varies vastly from my methods for writing a short story, even though they are both creative writing in nature. For me, a poem is something that can flow naturally or almost be stream of thought – I just think of what I want to say and how to say it, and it happens. A short story is much more complicated than that for me.

When I write a short story, I need to create a whole mythos around the project and flesh out each of the characters before I can even start outlining what will become the plot of the story. When I say short story, I mean something 10 pages plus – if I write anything less than that, I usually think of it as flash fiction, or a very short piece that doesn’t need much development. I’m not the kind of writer that can sit down and write 20 pages without detailed planning.

This is what I look like when I type. Pink dress and all.

This wasn’t always my method for writing, but rather a style I have developed over time. When I first started writing short stories creatively, I approached as I did poetry. I sat down with an idea and just wrote and wrote and wrote to see what came out. Often, what came out was okay, but had a lot of plot holes and developed in weird ways that weren’t exactly engaging to read. I found that while I had good ideas starting out writing a story and the first few days of writing went pretty well and had decent (and believable) plot and character development, as time passed, I lost ideas and plans that I had mentally put together for the piece and what I ended up with was nothing like what I initially intended to put out.

Who & Whom: Does it Matter Anymore?

I don’t use the word whom when I write. For a long time, I didn’t understand the difference between whom and who, so I stuck with what I knew. It seemed to work. None of my teachers in K-12 ever pointed out the mistake, and neither did my professors in college. In fact, it wasn’t until my senior year at CSULB that I finally felt I had a firm grasp on the two words. In English Grammar, I learned that the easiest way to remember the difference between whom and who is to replace whom with him or her and to replace who with he or she. For example:

We all know who/whom ate the last piece of cake.

Which sounds better?

We all know him/her ate the last piece of cake.

Or

We all know he/she ate the last piece of cake.

Well, the second one of course, which is how we know that who ate the last piece of cake is correct. Yet, knowing the correct word usage hasn’t made me include the word whom in my writing any more than before.