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  Issue #82

Free Writers' Newsletter

   Dec 23, 2009  

        

Finding fresh ideas to write about
By Marcella Simmons

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Finding fresh ideas to write about is not as hard as you think but how well you are able to write those ideas into a saleable story or article is totally left up to you, the writer. As Orson Scott Card states, “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones
who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any.”

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My children have given me many writing faucets to choose from over the years – just raising them presented ideas of all sorts and sizes! But turning these ideas into something an editor would accept was always my problem. I’d take one or two of the best ideas and write it into a story or
article only to have it rejected in the end.

These rejected masterpieces would end up in file thirteen – out of sight and out of mind. It finally occurred to me this past week that there might be some salvageable stories in my filing cabinet but after hours of skimming through the entire three drawers of rejected manuscripts it was
hopeless. These stories were out-dated, and most of them were badly written – it was of no wonder they were rejected.

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After hours of rummaging through old manuscripts that had yellowed with age, rusty paper clip imprints on some of them, I pulled out several that might be salvageable if I did a total rewrite, complete with new information and a new twist. My work is cut out for me! 

"Potty Training My Two Year Old" will now become "Potty Training Tips for Grand Parents" or "Helping Mommy Potty Train the Two Year Old at Grandma’s House" or "Ma-Maw 911" or something similar! My article dealing with Teen Dating will now become an article for young single mothers starting over. My "Cooking for Teens" will now become "Cooking for Infants and Toddler Grand Children" or something like that!

These are just some of the ideas I came up with after pulling a few old rejected articles from the rejection pile. In life, ideas are lurking everywhere. As Card stated above, we walk past a thousand ideas a day! If we don’t grasp these ideas while they’re in reach, we might miss the opportunity of a sale. Looking back over that filing cabinet of rejected manuscripts may have seemed like a waste of time, but there is an idea in each one that is worth grasping at some point in my life. And that’s a wonderful thing for me.

My life is full of exciting things to write about as I am sure yours is as well. Reach out, pluck one off the vine and write it up – see where you end up with it. If it gets rejected the first time out, save it for a rainy day where you can come back and rewrite it at another time. But life is so
rich in ideas that before you know it, you too will have a filing cabinet of ideas just waiting to be revised, rewritten, and resubmitted. Start writing!

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About the author
Marcella Simmons has been writing professionally since 1988 – she has over 650 published credits in over 350 small press publications nationwide. In 2005, Simmons had her first book of poetry published, and is working on several book projects at this time. She continues to write a regular weekly column for a local newspaper in her hometown, as well as many other writing projects. "Writing is a way of life for me," she says. Simmons is the mother of eight children (all are grown now) and she has seven grandchildren with another on the way. "My family is also a way of life for me, and my inspiration."

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First lines and last words
By Sreelata Menon
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How many of us actually remember the opening lines of any of the numerous books we’ve read? Not many I guarantee! Or for that matter the concluding lines either? Yet those lines must surely have made some impact one way or the other on most of us. Otherwise would there be successful authors making waves or books being termed classics such as they are? And alright, if not, why would you be induced to read on or sit back and sigh happily after a good read?

It is usually the back flap or cover of a good book that lures one into checking out the innards of a worth while volume. And if the opening lines don’t impress at first glance we quietly give it the quick go by, don‘t we? So even if we aren’t able to remember them later, those first few words would have deemed to have done their job well had we been reeled in.

Almost all interesting books open well. Usually. They conclude well too. Doesn’t the opening of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte ("There was no possibility of taking a walk that day") make us curious to know more, to know why? It sets us up right away for whatever treat is in store for us. And after we are done, the concluding chapter’s "Reader I married him. A quiet wedding we had" gives us a sense of elation at the now satisfactorily concluded tale.

Is there a serious reader today who has not responded to American literature’s most inviting first line "Call me Ishmael" (Herman Melville’s Moby Dick), or for that matter not remember its evocative "thar she blows", or thrilled to the Alexander Dumas popularised motto of the three musketeers: "all for one and one for all", years after they've overgrown them? To be true the latter two neither open nor conclude but are mere lines in between which nevertheless have the power to evoke memories of a thoroughly fine read even years after. And to this day emotions in a Thomas Hardy or a Jane Austen do not fail to create a flutter among its new readers despite its antiquity. Such is the power of the chosen word that if these authors like all who came after hadn’t begun well or finished even better (despite the allure of their stories) chances are that they too would never have made it to the bestseller lists. 

Standing tall among superb conclusions of all times would be without doubt Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. While Rhett Butler’s last words "my dear, I don’t care a damn" play with our emotions, Scarlet O’Hara’s "After all, tomorrow is another day" opens up possibilities of a patch up or a tempting sequel if nothing else.

And let’s not forget Agatha Christie. Almost all her conclusions have tremendous shock value. For instance witness the ending of Witness for the Prosecution where Romaine declares "that will never happen. I will not be tried as an accessory after the fact for murder. I shall not be tried for perjury. I shall be tried for murder the murder of the only man I ever loved" (and she stabs her cuckolding husband)! Delicious.

Another much tested recipe for a good read regardless of what’s sandwiched in between, is perhaps a fairy tale. All fairy tales not only begin with "once upon a time…" they also end with the lovely "‘…and they lived happily ever after" thereby satisfactorily concluding a more than happening tale. Its beginning not only sets the tone for the telling, its conclusion also captures the essence of a story well concluded. Now this is one start and finish no reader, it is guaranteed, will ever forget. 

Actually it is to the short story writer that the credit should go for mastering the knack of dealing the first intriguing invitation, engaging the readers’ intellect and finally delivering the punch line to give the reader the feeling that it was a worthwhile seduction indeed. A good example is the American short story icon O.Henry. The beginning of any O.Henry story will set you up for a tale that is sure to tickle your intellect along with some proverbial surprise twists at the end. 

Just as George Orwell’s celebrated opening "It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen" (Nineteen Eighty Four) and the immortalised conclusion of "They hand in hand with wandering steps and slow, Through Eden took their solitary way" (John Milton’s Paradise Lost), have stood the test of time, the first lines of any worthwhile read must necessarily hook the reader, as it were, and tempt them into wanting to know more, while the last words or chapter must have an impact that lingers on even after the book is done. 

Hence first impressions and conclusions that impact are important. They do count. Stimulating beginnings fire up our imagination as nothing else will and good endings usually leave us with a sense of satisfied resolution. There is without doubt nothing like the joy of an anticipation of a good read and no satisfaction as delightful as a perfectly concluded book. It goes without saying that the content or the plot will naturally have to maintain the momentum, making the journey in between meaningful.

The secret to the art of ‘telling’ a good story, short or otherwise, would therefore be the necessity first to master the art of intriguing the reader with a few choice lines and then delivering the deliverables with some unmatchable panache that will knock them out at the end literally. In other words the selling point for any exciting manuscript would be an enthralling (well written) plot enriched by persuasive, intriguing openings and clever endings.

So it does stand to reason, doesn’t it, that your opening lines as a writer need to be as carefully crafted as your last lines, notwithstanding the brilliance churned out in between?

About the author
Sreelata Menon is a freelance writer who enjoys writing on all kinds of topics. She writes on current happenings online as well as for national and international print publications. She also writes weekly blogs on various issues including freelance writing for diverse websites. Her book,
Freelance Writing for the Newbie Writer has just been released to some rave reviews. A Masters in History, she loves to research and create. She can be reached at sreelata0@yahoo.co.in 

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In this issue:

Spelling conventions

fwn uses English spelling conventions. Spellings such as "realise" "colour", "theatre", "cancelled", etc. differ from other spelling conventions but are nonetheless correct. 

News:

Markings Magazine seeks poetry
To celebrate its 30th birthday in May 2010 Markings Magazine is looking for submissions of poetry from around the world to feature in an issue on the theme "Around the world with 30 poets".

For contact details, click here, or visit the magazine's website here

For over 500 poetry magazines, click here

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Competition results
The winners of the 2009 RRofihe Trophy and the mifiction interactive fiction competition have now been announced.

Leslie Maslow of Brooklyn, New York wins the 2009 RRofihe Trophy with her story "Mum", while William Dunn of Barcelona takes first prize in the mifiction competition. 

A full list of winners for the mifiction competition can be found at mifiction.co.uk. The 2010 RRofihe Trophy is now open for entries at opencity.org/rrofihe.html

For over 100 writing contests, click here

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Adbusters seeks political submissions
Adbusters, a magazine dedicated to reinventing the "outdated paradigms of our consumer culture", is seeking submissions of political fiction and nonfiction, that further the
critical perspective and offer activist solutions.

For more information click here, or visit the magazine's website.

For over 1,200 other magazines, click here

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