Saturday, November 25, 2006

Biographical Essays

A couple of posts ago, my friend, Barb, commented that she likes to write autobiographical and biographical pieces. These are usually essays, but might be written somewhat like a short story with description and dialogue and so forth. I looked through my writing links and didn't find anything that particularly addressed this type of writing, although sites about essay writing should be helpful.

I did a search on "writing biographical essays" and came up with California Writing Project, which is geared to teachers of junior high and high school students, but still provides some information and how-to's on writing what one might call character sketches. It's a 23-page pdf file, so you could save it to your computer with Adobe if you like it.

This paper has quite a bit of information and some fill-in-the-blank forms to help you gather information. It even talks about how to write an autobiographical or biographical poem, which would be an interesting project. There are a number of books and websites listed at the end that would be helpful, too.

I hope that Barb and the rest of you will find it useful and helpful. Sometimes even just one or two bits of new information can spark ideas in your mind to use in your writing.

Writing Fiction

I have discovered a website for author Holly Lisle that contains not only information about her books, but also articles and podcasts about writing fiction. Scroll down the screen and look at the index on the right side.

There are articles, FAQs, and workshops to read. Ms. Lisle has put together a website with a lot of help for the aspiring writer or the already published writer. You'll find some things that will encourage you and give you some tips for overcoming problems.

Another site you might enjoy and find useful is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. website. There is a lot of information there--a nice index box is at the bottom of the screen. The writing page has articles for writers--some funny and some serious--which you will enjoy.

These two sites will give you some ideas and information to help you on your way. Much of it applies to any type of fiction.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What am I Doing?

I said I wasn't going to try to teach anybody anything. So what am I doing linking to "how to" websites for book reviews, essays, and poetry?

Well, I'll tell you. I neglected my gift of writing for a long time. What I could have used years ago would have been some instruction and some direction to get started. Some short things I could work on. And some things, like the book reviews, that you might be able to write for your local or state newspaper and earn a few bucks, if you want to.

I thought that if there is anyone reading this blog who wants to write, but what with one thing and another (you know, "life") hasn't really done much or learned much about it and has forgotten everything learned in school--well, I just wanted to give such persons a jump start with some short things that you could jump right into.

What are your writing ambitions? Mine are to write mystery novels, perhaps with a medieval twist, or maybe a fantasy twist. I have lately been getting more and more interested in nonfiction, though. I may try to write more things in that direction. I would still like to have a nice little collection of poetry I have written, and I hope to improve my blog posts by improving my essay writing. I think it helps to have in mind what type of writing you would like to do, so that you can focus your efforts, but at the same time, be open to other types of writing that you might not have considered before. What about travel writing? What about reviews (of books, of movies, of restaurants) for your local or state newspapers? Are there articles you could write for a magazine focused on your favorite hobby?

Of course, you can just write for your own enjoyment, or write a blog (!), or write personal and family history. Writing is something you can take in any direction you want to.

When I link to this or that, it is just to give a starting point to those who might not have considered that type of writing, or who want to brush up on their skills. If you are like me, you enjoy reading pieces about writing anyway! Just have fun with it and feel free to post comments or tell me about links or books or magazines you have enjoyed.

Poetry Forms

There is a page of "Poetry Forms" at Sol-Magazine which could prove useful to beginning poets, or might even introduce more experienced poets to a new form or two. I have seen some other sites, but will link to them another time.

Sometimes poetry can be the perfect answer to an urge to write creatively without being such a long piece of writing like a novel or even a short story. I used to just write stuff that "sounded" like a poem, which I suppose was bringing out a natural rhythm, and there isn't anything wrong with writing that way, but it is also enjoyable to take an established form, such as haiku or sonnet and work with those, following the rules.

The discipline of fitting your ideas to the forms of poetry can be useful practice for all writing. The same thing holds with writing those little 5-paragraph essays. If you have neglected developing your writing skills in any disciplined way, you can start with these short pieces and work on those without feeling like you are spending too much time on it. And it'll fit in with your daily schedule of work, kids, pets, errands, etc.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Getting Started with Essays

Essays are more or less what we post on our blogs. We write a lot of them in school, at whatever educational level we are. There are many websites that can offer help, usually affiliated with universities, but sometimes not.

One site I've run across is Essay Info. It offers Basics of Essay Writing, Writing Guides, Essay Types, Citation Styles, Presentation Writing, and Business Writing (see the left sidebar on the site). It should give you some help in starting to write essays, or in polishing the essays you already write.

Guide to Grammar and Writing also offers you some help with essays and with grammar. Click on "Index" in the middle of the page for a list of what they offer.

An example of a university affiliated writing website is O.W.L (Online Writing Lab) from Purdue University. Click on "The Owl at Purdue" at the top of the screen and look at the list in the right sidebar for the topics that interest you. You can also do a little searching and find such writing helps from your favorite university. For example, see "Other Online Writing Centers" here.

These types of sites can give you some quick grammar advice and some basic essay writing advice that will help you polish your own writing. If you are like me, you write without any very formal method and, while that is fine most of the time, there will be times when a subject is important to you, or you know there will be arguments against your view, and you want to put more effort into writing a finely tuned essay.

Most of us are good at Googling by now, but I like to highlight sites that I think may prove useful to you. Still, if you aren't satisfied with these suggestions, you could run a search of your own. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Writing a Book Review

Writing a book review is something I haven't tackled myself on any serious basis, but many bloggers like to review books at least occasionally, and I hope to do some, as well.

I found an article on the web that describes how to go about it, so I thought I would link to it in case you would like some direction to get started. It is from Los Angeles Valley College and is called, appropriately enough, "How to Write a Book Review."

Book reviews don't need to be all that formal or thorough, but the suggestions in that article will give you some guidance and some ideas. It is common practice to link to the book on some booksellers website, such as Amazon, just so that people can see it and read the publisher's description and perhaps some customer reviews. If you want, you could add a disclaimer that says you are linking there for information purposes only.

I personally find book reviews helpful in deciding whether I would like a book well enough to either buy it or look for it at the library. It helps to find out whether the book reviewer thought it was well written or poorly written, whether it is scholarly or more for the lay-person. Of course, a reviewer might hate a book and you would love it, but at least you would know something about it to help you decide whether to seek it out or not.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I'm No Expert

In spite of the fact that I have a B.A. in English, I am not an expert in writing. I'm also not a published writer, unless you count blogs! ("I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV.") It's not my intention to use this blog to teach writing--I just wanted a place to discuss writing and to post ideas and information that I think might be useful to others, as well as to keep track of it for myself.

I plan to blog about any topic related to all types of writing--essays, poetry, non-fiction, fiction, and academic. I'll probably talk about grammar as well as composition. I hope that as people find my blog, they will feel free to post comments and ideas and information of their own. Even if some of the posts are old hat, I hope there will occasionally be some new information, ideas, websites, or books mentioned that will prove useful.

I also would like to write about books and literature sometimes, since those topics interest me as well, and are closely related to writing.

Here's to new ventures!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Yet Another New Blog for Me

I am starting yet another new blog--this makes three!

I love to write and thought I would like a blog that was only about writing and related topics. I may stray into books and literature a bit. I hope you will enjoy reading this as much as I will enjoy writing it.