Melissa Donovan is a self-employed copywriter and web content specialist. She writes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Her blog, Writing Forward, which was recently named one of Writer’s Digest “101 Best Websites for Writers,” offers creative writing tips and ideas.
1. How did you get started as a writer?
Like many writers, I started out as a reader – a voracious reader. I could read before I turned four years old and I have always devoured books. When I was about thirteen, I started journaling and writing poetry. I also enrolled in journalism class and worked on the school newspaper.
2. Favorite books (especially for writers)
Writers can learn a lot by reading well-written works by successful authors. If you want to improve your language, read Jazz by Toni Morrison. If you’re having trouble creating realistic or believable characters, read Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Read the classics and read extensively in whatever genre you want to write.
3. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you
I’m a huge animal lover, and one of my goals is to write and work on behalf of the No Kill movement, which seeks to end the unethical and unnecessary killing of homeless animals in shelters. You can learn more by visiting the No Kill Advocacy Center.
Normally, I’m pretty shy and I don’t like speaking in public or being the center of attention. The only exception is when I’m dancing. I love to dance, and when I do, my inner exhibitionist comes out and my shyness disappears. I like to own the dance floor.
I started working as a freelance copywriter on a whim. I had been working for a company that went out of business, and six months later I was tired of the job search, tired of corporate life, and tired of playing it safe. So, I took a leap of faith and less than a month later, I was in business.
4. Best and worst part of being a writer
The best part of being a writer is telling a story that people care about. Also, the writing community is incredibly warm and supportive, so it’s an honor to be a part of that. It’s all about making that human connection.
Having said that, the worst part is the solitude. The only thing I miss about having an office job is meeting and working closely with other people. The Internet is helpful in maintaining a sense of community but it’s not quite the same.
5. Advice for other writers
Read and write. Those are the only two things every writer absolutely must do.
Where can people get writing tips and exercises?
My website features writing tips to help writers improve their craft, along with activities like poetry prompts and writing exercises. The poetry prompts are especially popular because the challenge is simple – write a poem that contains all of the words from a list.
One of my favorite fiction writing exercises asks writers to get into their characters by chatting with them, putting them in situations outside of the story, and writing a monologue from the characters’ perspective. It’s called “Getting Into Character.”
Tell us a story about your writing experience.
I took a fiction writing course in college, and I remember reading my story out loud to the class – not something I enjoyed much, but it was a class requirement. They laughed, and the best part was that they laughed where the story was supposed to be funny. I remember thinking that I can do this – if I can make people laugh with my writing, then I can be a writer.