Every year, FIU’s Creative Writing Program hosts the Student Literary Awards – a writing contest where students of all majors can submit works from three genres: fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. This year, students can compete for a $400 prize in each category.
To help prospective writers interested in submitting work before the February 5 deadline, Honors College student, and one of last year’s winners from the Undergraduate Poetry Division with her poem “Firearms Instructor,” Brittany Torres Rivera offers her advice.
Hesitant to submit at first, Torres Rivera received a boost of confidence, and some writing advice, from her creative writing professor, Michael Garcia. “Professor Garcia was instrumental in this part of the process, since I had never revised poetry before,” said Torres Rivera.
Below are five tips Torres Rivera shares from her experience:
Tip #1: Freewrite. It’s your best friend. I set an eight-minute timer with an idea in mind, and write whatever comes to mind. Now is not the time to decide whether something is “good” or “bad,” just allow your mind to wander naturally. At the end of the eight minutes, read through what you have, highlight any interesting words or phrases, make some notes if you have them, and leave it alone. Come back later, and you may find that the inspiration has taken on a new context, theme, or importance.
Tip #2: Don’t rush the process. Writing takes time. Even a five-line poem can take weeks and months to finish, so don’t feel bad if you can’t get a draft complete in an hour. Write what you can, and don’t force anything that isn’t there. With time, it will come together.
Tip #3: Explore different genres. When I started taking creative writing classes, I thought that, of all the genres, I could only write poetry. I focused my writing energy on this one genre and didn’t consider branching out into different forms. However, my senior year creative writing classes have forced me to write short stories, Op-Eds, lyric essays, micro memoir, and even recipes. Writing in these diverse forms has forced me to rethink how I write and has led me to better understand myself and my voice. Also, the more diverse your writing, the more stories you’ll realize you have to tell. I highly encourage everyone to write outside of their preferred genre, because it could end up being your new favorite.
Tip #4: Take advantage of resources. Use a thesaurus. Ask a friend. Email a professor. All of these resources can provide inspiration or guidance on whatever you’re writing. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to get help. Sometimes, even reading something new can get your creative juices flowing. Read different genres, styles, voices, and stories. Just engaging with writing is sometimes enough to prime you for a writing session.
Tip #5: Revise, revise, and revise again. A lot of times, writers, especially poets, have a sense that the original draft is the best draft, that it contains the initial inspiration, and should, therefore, not be tampered with. However, you’d be surprised how much a piece of writing can improve with revision. I often find myself uncovering new themes, being more inventive with my words, and being even prouder of a piece of writing after I’ve revised.
For more information and to submit a piece to the contest, email Professor John Dufresne at firstname.lastname@example.org by Feb 5, 2021 at 5pm.