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Submit for Issue 58
SHORT STORY COMPETITION
Try these ideas to revitalise a story you’re not satisfied with:
■ Give your main protagonist a makeover by changing their religion, political persuasion, body weight, age, day job...
■ Broaden a character’s personality by giving them a surprising or paradoxical hobby (lap-dancing, bread-baking, stamp-collecting...). Consider using ideas, terminology and images from the hobby to add a further layer to your description
■ Treat your existing story as a prequel or sequel to the even more compelling story you are really going to write. Use the same scenario and characters, but propel them forwards or backwards in time
Devised by Margaret Wilkinson
◊ Closing date: 18 March 2013
◊ Enter the competition
From the Mslexia Workshops Collection
devised by JANE HOLLAND
The Spark of a Poem
Beginning a new poem is about striking a spark in your mind. Continuing the poem involves blowing on that spark to fan the flames. Blow too hard and the fire is extinguished. Too soft and your poem ends up lopsided or unfinished.
Beginning a new poem is about striking a spark in your mind.
A genuine spark rarely comes in word form only. Words are usually there, in the form of a first line, but they tend to arrive with a mental image and a certain feeling or mood. This initial image or mood will encapsulate the whole of the poem-to-be.
Exercise: First Lines
1. Take a few moments to think up the first line of a poem. This is your poem in proto-form.
2. Write down what the first line tells you about the poem it wants to be: short, long, descriptive, discursive, narrative, associative, formal, free.
3. Sketch out the poem according to your answer to 2. above. Did it follow your plan or deviate? Use your findings to help you write another poem
Is your first line metrical and end-stopped? This may suggest a closed form for your poem, like a sonnet. It may invite repetition further in: more end-stopped lines, statements of fact or rhetorical questions, neat hammer-blows. This tends to suit descriptive writing or the development of an argument.
Is your first line metrically ambiguous? Does it run on in an enjambement? Does it begin a speculative train of thought? This could suggest free-verse poem, more organic, less rule-based. Ensuing lines may be long or short. You may develop a narrative that invites the reader into the story.
If your poem becomes a mixture of these two styles and things feel akward, go back to the first line for correction. Developing a poem’s argument can entail shifting away from the original spark, but this may take you too far in the wrong direction.
Once the whole poem is at draft stage, don’t be afraid to jettison these first lines or rearrange them further down for better effect. Just because a spark “gives” you the poem doesn’t mean it “makes” the poem. A poem is a working unit. It shouldn’t rely on one part alone for overall effect.
More Writing Workshops
NEW! Beginnings – The first in a series of three inspiring short story writing workshops devised by Katy Darby, designed to help you approach writing, or editing, a story for entry into the 2013 Mslexia Short Story Competition
Setting and Transformation – The first in a series of three children's novel writing workshops devised by Ann Coburn, designed to help you write material for your entry into the 2012 Mslexia Children's Novel Competition
Poetry from Art – The first in a series of writing workshops originally devised by Pascale Petit to help you create new poems to enter into the 2012 Women's Poetry Competition. Also available: Myth making and Clothes poems
Putting a Pamphlet Together – A series of three mini workshops devised by Clare Pollard to help you put together an entry for the 2012 Women's Pamphlet Competiton
April's workshop is an edited version of a workshop originally published to inspire work for the 2011 Women's Poetry Competition. For the latest on the writing world, publishing and creativity subscribe to Mslexia now. To sample more Mslexia features or to find out about the latest issue click here. To purchase this year's diary, which is full of writing workshops and resources, click here.
Plunder our selection of writing workshops for inspiration:
The Mslexia MA in Novel Writing – Character, led by Jenny Newman
...with life coach Bekki Hill
Explore the unconscious and turn your life into literature
Hayfields or horse-dung