May 11th, 2009


Shakespeare says...

...who wants to win a copy of Rosemary and Rue? This time, we're raising the stakes a little bit, and requiring a bit more effort on your part. So here's the game:

You all know that I adore structured poetry, from the haiku to the virelai. (Actually, that's a lie; I abhor the virelai. But I respect people who actually enjoy writing them.) You also know that you're a pretty creative lot. So here: the gates are thrown open! Write me a structured poem about Rosemary and Rue. Since you haven't read the book, it can be about anything from what you think it's going to be about to pre-ordering to how much you want a copy—whatever makes you happy. Any structured form is allowed, as long as you can tell me what it is when asked.

Entries will be taken through the end of the week. Then, next Monday, I'll put up a voting post, and let people vote for their favorites. The winner will receive, naturally, a copy of Rosemary and Rue. Just in case that's not sufficient incentive, there will also be a prize for participation—just entering a poem will enter you in a random number drawing for a signed cover flat. I don't have very many of these, so this is something pretty spiffy for you to stick on your wall.

Game on!

Thoughts on Writing #29: Outlines.

Welcome to the twenty-ninth essay in my ongoing series of essays on the art and craft of writing, all of which are based around my original fifty thoughts on writing. We're starting to get into somewhat more specialized concepts; surprisingly, I still find that I have things to say, which is good. Here's our thought for today:

Thoughts on Writing #29: Outlines.

Since every outline needs a bit more than a single word, here's today's expanded topic:

Outline as much as you need to. I have books where I've written incredibly detailed outlines, including locations and characters involved in every scene. I have books where I pretty much just plunged in blind and started hacking around with my machete, praying that nothing in my new-found jungle was going to give me Ebola. Even those books eventually got "event chains" written on Post-It notes and stuck to my computer, because I needed to keep track of who was where. Neither style is superior to the other.

Outlines are scary, I think because most people's experience with them is limited to academic papers and the idea that there's some secret "ideal outline" that will turn the simplest of ideas into a New York Times best-selling novel. If that ideal is out there, shouldn't it be pursued? Yes. And also no, because the truth behind the ideal is that the ideal is different not only from person to person, but from project to project.

Now that we've established that outlines exist to confuse us, are you ready? Good. Let's begin.

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Because I don't ask you to do what I won't do...

...may I present the virelai. This is one of the most sadistic little poem forms I've ever encountered, and my passion for structured poetry means that I've encountered quite a few. Because I am a masochist, I here present three of the damn things, titled, respectively, "A Warning To Certain Princes," "Wicked Girls III," and "Wolves, Woods, and Whispers."

These are technically all virelai anciens, with patterns of four twelve-line verses, wrapping first to last and back again. That's because I am so totally not writing an example of each type of virelai. Not unless I'm getting paid.

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