Writing Exercise: Shared Poetry (Campfire Style)

Think hot potato. Then think poetry.

That’s right, a really fun and probably terrible poem is about to burst into existence.

Here’s a writing exercise I did with my sister for funsies, and it was really really fun.

What you need:

  • 2+ people
  • 2 different colored pens
  • 1 or 2 pieces of paper
  • A timer (you can Google “timer” and get a really simple one)
  • A dash of imagination and adventure

Here’s the rules:

  1. You put the timer on for 30 seconds at a time.
  2. Start the timer! You each start writing a poem on your page. Hopefully you have legible handwriting.
  3. For 30 seconds, you write and write and write. When the timer goes off, finish the word you’re on. (Or don’t! You can cut off in the middle of a word if you want!)
  4. Trade papers! Start the timer again!
  5. Go back and forth like this until you’re about half way down the page. Now might be a good time to change the timer from every 30 seconds to every 45 seconds (or longer).
  6. When you get to the bottom of the page, stop! Or if you think the poem has ended or needs more space, feel free to keep going or stop early.
  7. Your poems are done!
  8. You each get to add a title to one of the poems!

Here are some helpful hints:

  • Leave an inch or two at the top of the page so you can add a title once it’s finished.
  • Leave an inch or so margin on the left side of the page in case you want to go through and add doodles or art or something later!
  • Use pens that have a different enough color so you can tell who wrote what.
  • Don’t forget to sign and date it! Sign it in the color you wrote with.
  • If you finish it and want to share it with us!
    • Twitter: tag us (@McRebecky and @MelAnn1313) with the tag #campfirepoetry
    • Instagram: @MelAnn1313
  • If you just want to let us know if this was helpful or fun, leave a comment here and share your experience!

Here’s what one of ours looked like!

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The final version, typed:
Except Nothing
the aroma of damp, decaying leaves
and crisp fall air with nothing,
nothing on the skyline except
except
except
maybe that’s just it — Nothing.
Does it frighten you?
You, who has spent time frolicking in fields
of death — graveyard flowers, cracking headstones,
trash left by those who couldn’t forget
the emptiness of horizons, the loneliness of what
once was, now only a void.
This is you.
Or it was. At least. Once. It was. I promise.
Death. You are Death. Right? Or have you
abdicated that title in exchange for a
new one. Are you Angel? My angel?
I almost feel the decay of winter
chilled against my fingernails, my toes. Is this–
this– the sky you’ve left for me?
Bleak, gray, unyielding to my cries and prayers?
Except
Except
It is not empty. I am not empty. I am Death, too.

The Lie of the 1-Step Process

Looking at any process from the outside is simple. I come at this from two perspectives: having explored a hefty portion of the “Writing a Book” process and having made my first real “Process Tree” for my job as a Technical Writer.

The process I’m making at work is how our team handles documents that we are rewriting and remodeling. Outsiders think the process goes like this, a one-step process:

Our team makes stuff more awesome.

And even I was fooled by its outward simplicity. I thought it went like this:

Draft > Layout/Design > Final Proof > Publication

It turns our the process vaguely (and pixelated) looks like this:

pixlmap.png

As you can see, it’s way more complicated than it first seems. It goes more along the lines of:

First Draft > First Proof > Content Consult > Design/Layout > Final Proof > Interactive Test > Storage

So I figured, what other process in my life did I at one time think (oh-so-naively) was simple? Only to then discover, en medias res, that it was anything but?

Writing. A. Book.

I thought it was a one-step process. Like “update documents” was a one-step process, right? Write a book. Easy peasy. Well, easy until I was in the thick of things. Then, of course, it got more complicated. I figured, okay, it’s a FIVE step process:

Write book > Revise book > Get representation > Get published > Write more books

I thought it was straightforward. Let’s explore how wrong I was. Without getting too far into the weeds, let’s see what this process actually looks like.

Into the Weeds

This is what the process looked like after about an hour of process-mapping. And I only made it up to the “querying” stage before it all exploded.

bkprcs2

Here are the basic stages (probably): Drafting Zone (orange) > Revision Hell (blue) > Query Trenches (purple) > Agent Land > On Submission > Editor Land > Pre-Publication Stuff > Publication Destination > Post-Publication Road

And because I love a good terrible-rendition of my process, here’s a brief idea of what my person journey through these stages looked like for the first book I wrote/trunked. Note that this process took me a culminating of 4 years.trip1

 

And here’s the one that actually made it (purple), when I finally got my awesome literary agent. I spent a good deal of time in the Revisions, and you can see a bunch of other trunked or unfinished books along the way. You should always be spending more time in revisions than anywhere else, I think:trip7

I’m thinking maybe I’ll do a flowchart for each major stage (at least the first four, since those are the ones I have managed to get through) and post them separately. Thoughts?

Ask Authors Questions

A New Writer’s Resource

Ever wanted to know that you’re not alone as a writer? Ever wondered if other writers have weird rituals before they write? Where do writers find their Critique Partners?

Today marks the launch of the Ask Authors Tumblr blog, where over 100 writers participate in answering a big question each week. And they answer smaller questions submitted by visitors all the time!

Ask Authors Blog

What it Does & What it Has

The blog taps the resources, knowledge, and wisdom of the 125 writers who were contestants in the 2015 Pitch Wars contest. It also has a Resources Page (in development) that will host a slew of links that can take you to various resources that we’ve found helpful for querying and publishing advice.

There’s also a Twitter you can follow, just in case you’re not on Tumblr and you want to receive notice of when new questions go up and when fun things are happening!

How it Works

Every Monday, a new Question Post goes up, where the Authors Crew asks and answers a big question. Everything from the difference between Beta Readers and Critique Partners to our favorite terrible writing advice.

Any time in between, they’ll post responses to Asks that come in.

How Do You Ask?

Head over to our Anonymous Ask page, where you can inquire your heart’s desire! Book recommendations, tips for a pesky grammatical mistake you keep making, or the philosophy of the writing universe?

Feel free to ask anything!

5 Resources: Tools and Toolboxes for Writing

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It’s that time again! Here are five resources to help any aspiring author:

Toolboxes

Ask Authors Tumblr Blog — Sometimes the best tool is one that isn’t in our toolbox. That’s why find, building, and interacting with the writing community is so important. Tapping the knowledge, experience, and advice of over 100 writers, I’m hosting a new Tumblr Ask Blog called Ask Authors. Have a question about writing, querying, agents, or need advice? Ask us anything! The blog’s first post will be in 6 days (Monday, April 25, 2016)!

Pitch Wars 2015 Crew Blog — In that same vein, a bunch of the writers from the 2015 Pitch Wars Contestants are putting together a blog to share writing advice and experiences. It’s a wonderful site that is sure to provide unique insight into the world and minds of writers. The blog’s first post will be in two weeks! And there is a permanent link to it on the AskAuthors blog so you can easily go between them!

First Five Pages; What Agents Look For — This is a series of interviews with literary agents. Each interview covers what the agent looks for in those first 5 pages or so that accompany the query letter. Pace, tone, first sentence, characterization, and voice—get ready for a lot of insight into an agent’s mind! (pssst—my agent answered this question somewhere in there!)

Tools

Questions to Ask an Offering Agent — Even if you aren’t expecting this call anytime soon (the call where an agent offers to represent you), it’s good to know where your head will be at. What questions do you ask that agent to get a sense if they are a good fit?

Big A** Character Sheet — This thing is awesome. It helps you learn more about your character (or proves how much you already know). I guarantee you won’t get through this list without learning something new about your main character. Great for both the drafting and revising stage. Challenge yourself to go through for your villain or your secondary characters!

5 Resources: Blogs I Follow, Articles I Love

You have to take advice before you can give it. If you’re trying to share an experience, knowledge, or story, you have to be well-versed in that world.

This goes for a lot of things. Read books before writing them, learn calculus before tutoring your neighbor, bake that iffy cupcake recipe before suggesting it to your coworkers, especially if they’re going to bring it in next week and you’ll have to smile and take a big bite, wondering why it’s so gritty (and if there’s real sand in there, not just unincorporated heaps of sugar).

Yeah, that spiraled to specificity pretty quickly. Moral of the metaphor is this: Research is important, especially if you want to give advice. And I do want to share advice and experiences and stories. So here’s some of the blogs and articles that have given me advice that I can, in turn, give to you!

3 Stages of Editing — This is a pretty brief article that covers the three basic stages of editing. I’ve talked about editing a bunch of times, but this article is very concise. I agree wholeheartedly with the process (even if I do some of the steps out of order occasionally—I’m looking at you, copyediting stage).

Analyzing the First 250 Words of Bestsellers — We all know a first page/chapter has to be polished. It’s important for getting agents, editors, and readers to commit to your book (kinda like a first date). Nicollete promises to go through the first page of several bestsellers and analyze what makes them great. I have high hopes for her analyses, and I think it could spawn really productive conversations.

New Leaf Literary’s Tumblr — Stepping aside from the fact that I signed with Pete Knapp at New Leaf and I’m now one of their clients, I’ve been following New Leaf’s blog for a very long time. A year, at least? Probably more? Either way, this blog’s shining point is that the staff at New Leaf (most often Suzie Townsend) answer questions about querying, publishing, representation, and more! Their blog is where I learned about Pitch Wars, the wonderful contest that resulted in me getting an agent.

Pete J. Knapp’s blog — While I’m being biased, here’s my agent’s blog. I highly suggest you follow the blogs of agents you admire (particularly those who answer questions about the whole process, like Pete), as you’ll learn an incredible amount of vital information about the querying process and the business. It really is invaluable to understand where agents are coming from, what type of people they are, and how they operate.

Authors on Tumblr (Victoria Aveyard, Maggie Steifvater, John Green, etc.)— Tumblr is one of the biggest platforms on the internet for blogging and interfacing with others (along with Twitter). It’s cooperative, user-friendly, and has the almighty Ask feature. More and more authors are responding to Asks and engaging with their audience in wonderful ways. Fan art, interviews, hilarity, and community abounds! So, find your favorite authors on Tumblr (and Twitter!), if they are there, and see how they interact with their fan base. It’s invaluable to see author’s insights, the way they present themselves on their public forums, and how they interact with others.