Great advice from a seasoned pro is always welcome. I just came across some helpful techniques in Writer’s Digest online from Sally Koslow, a former editor-in-chief of McCall’s. She’s also the author of several nonfiction books and four novels, most recently, The Widow Waltz. Here are seven tricks of the trade that Sally uses to woo her muse:
1. Exercise to kick start creativity: Forget Pilates or Zumba. Instead, pick a repetitive pastime like solo walking, running, biking or swimming. Activities like these give your mind a rest and mimic a dream state, which can be creatively rich.
2. Cross-train your brain: If you write fiction, try your hand at non-fiction. If you write non-fiction, try crafting a short story. As Sally observes: “For fiction, imagination is the glue. For non-fiction, it’s curiosity. Memoir is a hybrid that needs a big scoop of both.”
3. Picture your scenes as a movie: Let key momeents in your story unfold in a relaxed way as if you were watching a film and “take notes on what you see and hear,” suggests Sally. I’ve tried this from time to time: It’s a great way to get a scene up and running.
4. Print your work out: “Don’t reread your work exclusively on a screen — it will look too finished. Print it out, more than once. The longer you work on something, the greater the fatigue-factor. It’s normal to get sick of your writing after a while. Every time you print, switch fonts to trick your eyes into seeing your work in a fresh way.” I switch fonts every time I write a KWD post, just for fun and to see what impact a type style has on what I’m writing. Sometimes I use a different color to print out a draft — love Sally’s idea of using different fonts to give a draft a shot of adrenalin!
5. Read your work aloud: “You may sound full of yourself, but this is the best way to listen for rhythm–or lack of it, to zone in on klutzy spots and to hear words you overuse: all, always, just, so, usually, very, perhaps, really.”
6. Keep a list of words you overuse: “When you’ve finished a chapter or draft, use your writing program’s find/replace feature to see what you can cut or change.”
7. Let your work gel: Once you feel you’re finished, put your draft aside. Then, as Sally says so well: “Read, rinse, repeat–again and again.”