I am your draft. AMA.

Consider this Q and A exercise from Brian Kiteley’s outstanding The 3 A.M. Epiphany.

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2250 Names

From the outstanding Metro: Journeys in Writing Creatively by Hans Ostrom, Wendy Bishop, and Katherine Haake, consider this exercise about names.

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Poems as dialogue

From David Starkey’s excellent Creative Writing,

Read published poems . . . and respond to them with poems of your own. It doesn’t matter whether you respond to the subject of the other person’s poem or just a single line or image. Generally it’s most effective to find the moment of maximum energy or tension in the published poem. Identify what excites you about the poem, then make the same thing happen in your own work.

Try this using either a favorite poem or one of the “2250 Five poems” at MetaphorByMetaphor.com.

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Poems as letters

From David Starkey’s excellent Creative Writing,

Write a poem in the form of a letter. Richard Hugo’s book 31 Letters and 13 Dreams is a great source for these types of poems. Hugo addresses poems to close old friends and to newer fiends he doesn’t yet know well. He brings these people detailed news of his own life and asks for information about their world. However, because the letter is in the form of a poem, Hugo condenses what he has to say and present the material as eloquently—and as imagistically—as possible.

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2250 Five poems

Consider these five poems.

We will talk about them in more detail during class.

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Toward a synopsis

Answer each of the following questions. Use just one sentence in each answer.

  • How did your protagonist get involved in the story?
  • What conflict arises to move the novella forward?
  • What is the broad setting of your novella?
  • What is the main thing that that will make your novella interesting to readers?

Combine the above information into a paragraph of fewer than 50 words.


Write a one-page synopsis in the following format:

  • Use the paragraph you’ve just written.
  • Then, in one paragraph, explain the plot points involving your main character. Mention only the main plot points. Mention the most important secondary characters.
  • Then, in one paragraph, describe how the novella’s main conflicts are resolved. Reveal the ending.

(inspired by a post at Masterclass.com)

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4420 “Gimme a Map, Please”

From Elizabeth George’s Write Away, a brief consideration of plots.

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Relationships and characterization

Interview at least two other characters about the main character:

  1. How well do they know him or her?
  2. What do they know about him or her that he or she does not know about themselves?
  3. Do they think of the relationship as equal or does one “maintain” the relationship more than the other?
  4. What do they remember about the main character? Why?
  5. How did the relationship begin and how could it end?
  6. What tensions and joys are part of the relationship?

Write a scene between one of these two characters and the main character that exemplifies the answer to at least one of these questions.

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Fiction writing techniques in a scene

Consider this excerpt from a scene in Ben Winters’s excellent The Last Policeman. After reading it, answer the following questions:

  1. What methods of characterization are used? (Can you list five?)
  2. Describe the merits of the dialogue.
  3. How does the plot begin to change in this scene?
  4. How is setting created in this scene?
  5. Identify an image. Identify an instance of the use of figurative language.
  6. How are relationships between these characters revealed to readers?
  7. What, if anything, distracts you from this scene? How might it be revised?

Draft a scene for your novella. Take a moment to plan it. Be able to describe techniques you’ve used.

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4420 “Designing Suspense,” “Modulation,” and “Home Improvement”

From Benjamin Percy’s outstanding collection of essays, Thrill Me, here are “Designing Suspense” and “Modulation.” Read them carefully. We will talk about them in class.

In addition, here is “Home Improvement.”

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