Putting It All Together: An Absolute Blank Retrospective

Absolute Blank

By Theryn Fleming (Beaver)

Toasted Cheese celebrates its 4th anniversary on January 18th. In honor of that occasion, I thought it would be a good time to take another look at the Absolute Blank articles of the last four years and put them all together in a way that makes searching for an article on a particular topic easy to find.

Background Image: Daša|dashsinclair/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

We kick off our retrospective with a quiz of sorts. Do you ever wonder if you really are a writer or perhaps what kind of a writer you are? Take a few minutes and find your writing style—or styles. This quiz pokes a little fun at the foibles that every writer exhibits to some extent. The good news is that the flip side to every flaw is an asset that a writer can use to his or her advantage.

Want to write, but not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions for beginners. When starting out, first and foremost, write because you must, not because of dreams of fame or fortune. But even if you’re not earning a living from your writing, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t respect yourself as a writer.

If you’ve long dreamed of writing, and have finally carved out the time and space to do so, you may find yourself at a loss for material when you actually sit down to write. What can you write about? Why anything at all. Write about what you know or write about what you don’t know—or anything in between. The first draft is all about putting words on paper—it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Remember starting is hard and blocks happen. We all procrastinate. You can overcome those obstacles by setting realistic goals. And when you meet a goal, don’t forget to reward yourself!

If the idea of writing a story, poem, or article is too daunting to begin with, try something less intimidating: journaling, blogging, or fan fiction are all great ways to get your creativity flowing without the pressure of having to finish something.

If you’ve decided to try your hand at a story or novel, you’ll need to come up with some characters and give those characters names. You’ll also need to decide whose point of view you’re going to write from. Your characters will need to talk to each other. If you’re writing a fantasy story, you may need to create a language.

Your characters will also need a place to live, real or imagined. Description can be difficult—too much? too little?—especially when it comes to those pesky sex scenes. Keep going! Eventually you’ll reach the ending.

Or not. Have trouble finishing the stories you start? If you need a “gentle nudge” in that direction, or have just always dreamed of writing a novel, but never attempted it, why not join thousands of other crazy writers in November and get a novel under your belt in one month or less.

If fiction isn’t your thing, you can write about your life experiences, pick up some freelance assignments, or turn an area of expertise into a book.

If you keep at it, one thing’s guaranteed: eventually you’ll reach the end of something. Maybe a story, an article, a poem, or yes, perhaps even a book.

Yay! Awesome. Way to go. You rawk! Stick your work in a drawer (literal or metaphorical) and take some time to celebrate.

Okay, finished celebrating? Great. ‘Cause you’re not done yet. Now you’ve got your first draft down, it’s time for some editing. Start by cleaning up your grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Think you’re finished? Step back and look at the big picture. Does it sound like you? Have you picked the right words? Does it flow?

Once you’ve done all you can do, it’s time to let someone else have a stab at it. While he or she is going over your work with a fine-toothed comb, don’t forget to reciprocate.

While you can submit stories, poems, and articles as-is with just a brief cover letter as an introduction, if you’ve finished a novel and are ready to look for an agent, you’ll need a query letter and a synopsis. Beware, the query process can be wearying. Expect rejection and don’t take it personally—all writers go through it.

If you want a break from the standard submission process, try entering a contest.

Writing can be a solitary, inward-looking activity. Don’t forget to look outward occasionally. Writing conferences can be sources of inspiration, particularly if you get to meet a favorite author. Talking to published authors can give you perspective on the process. If a conference isn’t in your near future, don’t be afraid to contact a favorite author and strike up a conversation—many have e-mail addresses or other contact information on their websites.

Let us know what kinds of articles you’d like to see here in the future and keep on writing!

Final Poll Results

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