Inkpop Blog

Write, Read, Connect

inktip #1: Get ready to write

Posted by inkpop on October 2, 2009

TheGreatPerhapsThe Great Perhaps author Joe Meno on how to read, practice, and experiment your way to great work

Joe Meno is a writing machine. At 35, he’s already published seven books, including Hairstyles of the Damned, The Boy Detective Fails, and his latest, The Great Perhaps, about an unusual  family of scientist parents (the dad’s afraid of clouds) and two teenage daughters (Amelia’s an aspiring revolutionary and Thisbe’s a recent God-finder).

A prolific risk taker, Meno views writing as an experiment. “If I write 100 pages, I’m happy if I use 30 of them,” he says. “The best thing is not to be precious with your work, to see it all as disposable.”

Also a creative writing instructor at Columbia College in Chicago, the young professor’s got a few tricks up his sleeve to help new writers get into a story-generating groove and for experienced scribes to bust out of writing ruts …

Read, read, and read some more

Sounds rather obvious, but the more you read, the more you’ll learn about what makes good writing good. Meno recommends reading excerpts of published works aloud with a group because it helps you to identify good writing and to think about using these success traits in your own work.

Write with a partner or small group

Assemble a group of writers who support and challenge the other members. Meet with your writing crew on a regular basis, and dish out mini assignments such as “describe the main characters in this piece” or “summarize the story in this work in one paragraph.” Meno says working with other writers forces you to write. “It’s much better to write something you’re unhappy with, that you can go back and experiment with, than to not write anything at all,” he says. “The answer is in the writing. It always is.”

Start smalljoemenopic

Starting with basic building blocks removes the intimidation factor in writing — especially when you’re trying to write a lengthy book. “The best way for me to begin is with a scene — a few characters talking, doing something, even if it’s not going to be the actual start of the material,” Meno says. “The scene helps me stay grounded and gets me figuring things out quick.”

Visualize your reader

As you write — or even as you merely daydream about your work — picture an ideal reader or audience, which helps you to focus on steering your work in the right direction. Some writers envision an actual person, while others picture a type of person or demographic (say, American teens). Meno thinks of his books as letters addressed to particular readers because they allows him to get “a clear sense of audience, which is necessary for finishing what you start.”

Don’t stew over the opening line

Yes, the opening line is extremely important and you should definitely aim to write a winner from the get-go, but don’t obsess over it. “I don’t worry about the opening line until almost everything else is written,” Meno says. (Blogger’s Note: An upcoming inktip column covers awesome opening lines.)

Take notes

Do you get your best ideas in the middle of the night? When you’re in the shower? Whether you scribble thoughts in a notepad, journal, or (even better) on your computer, keep track of your random spurts of genius. All those bits and pieces may add up to greatness.

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