Tag Archives: Janet Burroway

Week Four: Summer 2017 Online Writing Group

It’s week four of the Summer 2017 Online Writing Group and words are happening!


Image via Giphy

Here are our week four goals.

Week Four Goals:


I’ve changed course of little bit. Inspired by Laura’s post last week, I started reading John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction. I have owned book for decades, and I even took it to Aruba last December / January to read, but I still haven’t read it. So that has become a priority for this week.


Week Four goal: Finish course revisions. Period.


This week will be devoted to gathering research and roughing out an outline of ye olde group project for Library Research Methods and Assessment. If time permits, I’ll continue to find and read sources for my Law Librarianship annotated bibliography project.


I didn’t hit my week three progress, so my week four will be doing double-duty. I’m still looking for a good “home” for a short essay I wrote, and I need to start a new short story. I didn’t get the windmill blog post written, so that’s my job for this week as well.


Last week: Actually wrote about two pages!
Next week: Shooting for five more!


This week was not productive. I made a few notes on the scenes I had planned and started the outline, but got distracted by work stuff. Towards the end of the week, it hit me that I had too many unfinished short stories floating around, so I decided to reconsider my overall goals and hold off on the new book for a few weeks.

Week Four: Complete a final round of revisions on a short story I’d workshopped over the winter and try to submit it to an Open Fiction contest that has a deadline this Friday…


I outlined some topics to write about for my book, and even started writing one of them. The idea I was thinking about for last week was to self-publish through a blog or something, and I think I’m going to try it. Lately, I’ve been trying to adopt a “done is better than perfect” mentality, which is hard because it’s the opposite of my gut instinct. Anyway, my new end-of-summer goal is to start publishing on a blog, and next week’s goal will be to figure out how to do it. (You know how I feel about blogs, Rachel! [I love them. I love blogs.])


The last week’s goal was 7,000 words. I wrote 1,995 — I was out of town for three days.

This week’s goal, as usual, is 7,000 words, but I have four days of home renovation, so I doubt if I’ll make it. (Robert, you’re always ahead of the game, so do your renovations!)


Coming soon…


I spent hours on this one sonnet, trying to capture an idea about courage. It seems so small, considering the time and effort and countless revisions. Anyway, that was my week three goal, to hammer and polish it to what seemed the right luster.

Week four goals are about re-entering a fiction work (a quasi-children’s fantasy) and finding that elusive momentum…


And thank you, Ted, for the perfect segue! This week I wanted to talk about momentum, specifically, keeping it. We’re in week four of our eight week session, and this might be the time you’re losing a bit of steam. You’ve made progress for almost a month, either by producing words and pages, ideas and outlines, or by letting your project consume many of your waking thoughts. And that’s exhausting.

Roo Sleeping

Roo is exhausted just listening to me type about it!

But even if you’re tired, you need to keep the momentum. And if you don’t think you have anything more to say right now about your project/s, then you can keep the momentum by revising.

Janet Burroway, author of an excellent book on writing that I use in my creative writing classes (and she’s appeared on the blog before), has five helpful questions to ask about your work as you’re revising:

Is the language fresh? Have you avoided clichés, familiar descriptions, and any unnecessarily abstract language?

Is it clear? Have you answered the journalist’s Ws: who, what, when, where, and why? Will the reader understand when scenes change, when time has passed, and when new characters are introduced?

Is it too long? Cut. Cut everything you don’t need. Cut adjectives. Cut words that aren’t moving things forward. Each word matters, so if you find one that doesn’t, get rid of it. (If I were revising this section, I’d delete everything except the first word: cut.)

Where is it underdeveloped? See below for an exercise to help you with this one.

Does it end? The ending does not need to be happy, nor easy, but it needs to happen. Your protagonist should change in some way, even if it’s small. She should accept something about herself; she should see the reality in which she exists; she should decide to act; or she should decide to not act. If none of this has happened, your story hasn’t ended. (Burroway 205 – 206)

Five easy questions to ask during any step in your writing process! The fourth question, about development, can be explored further with a writing exercise Burroway includes:

Burroway Try This 7.13

(Burroway 206)

Doing this exercise will help whenever you feel stuck or if you feel yourself slowing down. And if you need more help, get Burroway’s book and check out the excellent things she has to say about all aspects and genres of creative writing.

Until next week, write — and revise — on!


Burroway, Janet. Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft. 4th ed., Pearson, 2014.





Week Seven: Online Writing Group

It’s the seventh week of the Summer 2015 Online Writing Group!

We’ve got two weeks left in our online writing group! OH MY GOD!

We didn’t have a guest blogger this week, and a few of you got me posts after Sunday, so I’ve posted this a bit late. Are you disappointed? Too bad, suckers.

Here are Everyone’s Week Seven Updates & New Goals:

  • AnneMy goal for this week is going to be something simple: I want to go through my old journal entries and see if there is anything there to add to and improve. I have some things I wrote during my time at Columbia that I want to revisit as well. I’m going to be starting a new job this week so I’m going to have to rework my schedule a bit and see how the writing goes this week. As of right now, it’s up in the air and whatever happens this week, happens, writing wise I mean. (Hope the job is going well, Anne!)
  • Anuar: My goals for week seven are the same to add three more chapters to my book and I’m a bit behind but I’ll try to write more often over this last two weeks.
  • Bev: This week I’m going to keep a journal of my trip to the little cabin near the Boundary Waters north of Grand Marais, MN for another edition of Bev and Jane’s excellent adventures.
  • Bonnie: No update
  • Curt: No update
  • DonnaNo update
  • Laura: I want to get two more blog posts done this week — a short one about the play and a longer one about my favorite band that I’ve been thinking about for weeks now. I’ve also got an estimated four to six pages left on the story I’m writing, and I’d like to finish that this week.
  • LisaOkay, I’m going to say two pages. That’s all I’m shooting for.  🙂 (That’s enough, Lisa!)
  • Mary: No update
  • Mary MargaretNo update
  • Matthew: No update
  • Mike: I have the same objectives as last week (to flesh out the first half of the story draft), but not out of total slackerness. I wound up spending more time on the second half of the story and its climactic scene instead, so progress happened.
  • RobertNo update
  • Samantha: No update
  • Steve: No update

I couldn’t decide if I should use this week’s post as a list of links or a list of prompts, so you’re getting both!

The following is a list of links that, as writers and readers, you might find interesting:

And now, here’s your list of writing prompts (these are non-fiction, but you could like adapt them for fiction if you wanted to):

  • “Write a memoir about a job you have held. Show (and tell) why this job did not lead to a life-long career” (Burroway 250).
  • “Make a list of family mysteries or things you feel uncertain about in your family history. Interview someone in your family who might be willing to fill you in” (Roney 105).
  • Write about something that’s stuck in your craw — a graduate school professor of mine, Larry Heinemann (who is wonderful and everyone should read Paco’s Story [and every Chicagoan should read Cooler by the Lake]) gave me this assignment once, and whenever a student is stuck, I repeat it. What idea, moment, argument, or observation have you not been able to shake for the last few days or weeks? What’s stuck with you? Write about it. Now.
  • Write 250 – 500 words about your worst fear. It doesn’t have to be rational (I’m scared of sharks and have been known to get the terrors for a few seconds while in a swimming pool); it doesn’t have to exist (unicorns, vampires, narwhals [wait, narwhals exist, nevermind]). But why does it scare you?

Okay, got enough? Now, get to writing! Next week is our last week; we’ll have one more list of goals, a guest post from Lisa, and more amazing content to keep you procrastinating long into the wee hours of the morning!

*Burroway, Janet. Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft. 3rd Ed. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2011. Print.

Roney, Lisa. Serious Daring: Creative Writing in Four Genres. New York: Oxford, 2015. Print.

*Burroway is a writer whose textbook I use in my creative writing class and whose textbook I used when I was an undergraduate learning the craft. Her approach is practical and straightforward, and I recommend reading her book for useful tips and an excellent anthology of poetry, prose, and drama.