Luna Station Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.
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Freewriting

by Elisabeth Sharp McKetta

But, you might ask: how to begin? Sure, these ideas on wiring blocks of writing into mythic structures is nice and all, but how to get those blocks of writing out on the chopping table in the first place?

My best answer is the free-write. Use it as the building block for all stories, real or imagined. All you need is a timer and a way to write: computer, pen and paper, or old-school typewriter. Find a writing prompt (if you wish, visit elisabethsharpmcketta.com for a year’s worth of daily prompts!) Set the timer for ten minutes. Then write like mad.

Write freely without thinking about final drafts, genres, or editing. Write a lot before going back to read what you’ve written, for it will feel raw. It is raw. You just began writing it ten minutes ago and finished it now. People sometimes talk about writing and birth as related practices, and indeed I often feel myself in what feels like a midwife’s role when working with an author on a book.

The way a baby looks when it is born requires clean up: clamping the cord, wiping away blood, perhaps giving it some oxygen, before it becomes a good looking kid. Writing is the same way. There are many stages of clean-up, and our job as writers is to write first, and then step back and sort through the raw mess and find parts that can be grown, cultivated, polished. Our job is not to look at it and say, “Yuck! It’s all pink and it can’t open its eyes yet.” Our job is to say, “Look. It’s perfect. It’s alive. It has legs. It will grow.”

Once you have a file full of compost—five pages, ten, twenty—it is time to begin shaping it into myth.

Try this: Using your birth-love-death free-write from last month (or any life story you choose), mark the beginning, middle, and end. Step back and ask: what myth or fairy tale shares its themes? Note similarities; list creative links.

A bit about the columnist:

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta is the author of The Fairy Tales Mammals Tell and the founder of Poetry for Strangers. She teaches writing during the summer at Harvard and during the rest of the year in Boise. Visit author page