Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Get Ready for NaNoWriMo 2009!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this November? In less than two weeks the word frenzy is on! This is my first year as an official participant. I wrote a novel in a month on my own back in January and loved it so much that I couldn't wait to go again in November. Though still a newbie myself, I made a list of dos and don'ts after January's experience. I'm much better prepared this time around and so I thought I'd pass along what I learned.

Keep it simple. My plot got a little out of control last January. In the words of Tim Gunn it morphed into 'one hot mess.' The story had its good points but I overcomplicated the plot for the time I had to work everything out. My advice: streamline your plot. While I did manage to tie up my loose ends, I was nearly hospitilized in the process.

Stay in modern times. I wrote a medieval mystery last winter. While I do know quite a bit about the time period, I don't know it all and I didn't always have the time to look things up. I got frustrated and ended up with a lot of placeholders and generic descriptions as a result. So unless you know everything about the time period or you do your research before November, I suggest keeping your plot in the modern world.

Write what you love. For all my research issues in January, I do love both the medieval period and mysteries so I had a lot of passion for my story. Pick a genre and a subject that you love and it will push you through the dark hours in November.

Write what you know. Unless you do spend a lot of time researching beforehand, it helps to stick with things you're familiar with including settings, careers, cultures, and hobbies/interests.

Planning doesn't hurt. In January, I spent about five minutes the night before I began brainstorming for a plot. But I kept wishing I had thought things through a little more before I started writing. If you've written a novel-in-a-month before, you know there's very little time to think once you start. So this year, I'm taking the next couple of weeks to get my plot worked out, think about my characters (and name them all), and do any research I know I need to do.

If you've never written a novel in a month, I promise it will be the most thrilling, painful, and revitalizing experience of your writing life. If you're unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, definitely check out the official website and consider joining this year. And if you're a NaNoWriMo vet, pass on your words of wisdom.

NaNoWriMo here we come!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Writing Prompt: Funeral Home Antics

Something funny is going on at Whitfield's Funeral Home and your character is going to find out what.

Write the scene where your protaganist discovers the funeral home's secret. Aim for 2 pages.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Weekend Writing Prompt

This isn't so much of a writing prompt as it is something to think about. If you have a few minutes today, think about what your character(s) like to eat. What do they crave when they want comfort food? What do they grab out of the fridge or pantry to munch on in the afternoon? What type of dessert do they always choose at restaurants? It's these little details that often help to define real people, and it works for characters too.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Writing Prompt: Train Wreck

I cross a lot of train tracks where I live, but most aren't used during the day so I sail over them without stopping. Sometimes when I'm crossing a track I think, "what if I get hit by a train this time?" That gave me the idea for this prompt.

Your character crosses the same train tracks without thinking every day for work. Today is different. Today he gets hit by a train. What was he thinking about up until that point? What had his day been like so far? Was he in a hurry? Write a short story based on this concept in 500-1000 words.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Writing Tip: Incorporate What You Know and Love

I've often found myself less inclined to write what I know, and more interested in writing the exact opposite. However, as I've learned to incorporate more of the familiar into my writing, I've come to appreciate the value of applying that same advice. Using places, careers, and interests that you know and love has three key advantages:

1. Believability. If it's a place you've been (or lived in), an interest you have, or a career path you're familiar with, your writing will show it and your readers will buy it.

2. Less research. Instead of starting from scratch with something you know nothing about, you can go into your writing with a foundation. You may still need to do research, but you may be more driven to delve into the subject.

3. Enthusiasm. We tend to put more heart into something we're passionate about. So if you use what you know and love, either as a starting place for your writing or to fill in details, your enthusiasm for it will seep through and affect readers.

If you often shy away from including what you know and love in your own writing, try the opposite. Consciously choose settings, careers, or interests that you're familiar with and/or are passionate about. It may take you in unexpected directions and to equally exciting places as the unknown.

Try This>>
Experiment with your work-in-progress or another piece that takes place in unfamiliar territory. Change the setting and place your characters where you currently live, a favorite vacation spot, or another place you know well. Write a new scene in this new setting and see what happens. Are the details more clear? Do you find your writing is less stilted and more free flowing? How does this new environment affect your characters? Aim for 2-3 pages.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Weekend Writing Prompt

If you have 15-20 minutes this weekend, try this prompt:

Your character picks up the phone to make a call and hears someone she knows planning a criminal act. Who's making these plans? And what will your character do about it? Aim for 2-3 pages.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

3 Techniques for Developing Well-Rounded Characters

You'd probably agree that one of the biggest challenges in fiction writing is creating dynamic characters. Even with an original plotline and interesting conflicts, if your characters lack development, everything else will fall flat. It's much easier to forgive a faulty plot with dynamic characters than flat characters within a fascinating story. You're less likely to fall into this hole when you know who you're writing.

Getting to know characters is much the same as making friends. How do make friends? By communicating. It's similar with characters. You need to get them talking just like a real person. How do you do that? There are lots of tricks and techniques out there. Here are three that I've found helpful in creating dynamic, exciting characters.

Technique #1: Character Journals

Why It Works: Getting into a character's head by speaking in his/her voice can help smoke out details you may not get otherwise.

How You Do It: Get started by summarizing the story from his/her viewpoint. You want to write how the character would write - not you. If you don't have a story for this character yet, just start with things you already know. Roll with impulses and don't fear rambling; rambling often leads to gems. Perservere when you feel like you're getting nothing; if you keep writing, you will uncover minor and major details that may change everything.

Give It a Whirl: Spend a session writing a journal in the voice of the main character from your work-in-progress. Choose a part of his/her life you'd like to know more about. Start with something you know and work from there, or go with the first thing that comes to mind. Aim for at least two pages.

Technique #2: Interviewing Characters

Why It Works: Asking targeted questions can help you get behind a character's actions to his/her motives.

How You Do It: You ask questions, your character answers. Like character journals, write the answers in the voice of your character. Answer honestly from his/her viewpoint, not your own. It may help to start with basic questions like age and birthplace and to move into questions that pinpoint a character's feelings about an event or the motivations behind one of his/her actions.

Give It a Whirl: Pick one character you want to know more about. Brainstorm for a few minutes, listing all the questions you can think of to ask. Then, spend the rest of your session answering them. Aim for 10 questions.

Technique #3: Daydreaming

Why It Works: Much like freewriting or free associating, daydreaming about your characters and their lives may help you make new connections or expand on ones you've already made.

How You Do It: Just imagine your character(s) at home or work, at a party or off doing their favorite recreational sport. Picture him/her talking to another character. Let them live in your imagination and go about things as you think they would. There's no paper commitment, so you can have them say and do all kinds of things that you might hesitate to put on the page. Let them act out of character just to see what happens.

Give It a Whirl: Choose one character to spend some time with and place them at a party, a typical day at work, or a night alone. What does your character do? How does he/she react to different people and situations? What does he/she wear or drink or think about? Play out these scenarios in your head, and put your epiphanies on paper.

What are your favorite character development techniques?

Illustration credit, Borqje

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Happens Next?

When readers ask this question, all they have to do to get the answer is turn the page. When writers ask this question, much more work is in store to find out. Sometimes you get to a point in a story where you've bled your ideas and have no clue where to go from there. Before you stall or move on to another project, try these two techniques to push your story out of the doldrums.

Go Back to the Original Idea
Sometimes to go forward, it helps to go back to the original concept. What got you to this point in the first place? A character? A scene? A snippet of dialogue? Revisit those first images or pages and try to remember your initial feelings about them. What about the idea drove you to write the story? What kept it moving? If you're not sure, go back and analyze. There is a reason you started telling this story. And that may very well help you to figure out where it needs to go next.

Talk to Your Characters
Nothing happens without the characters. When all else fails, go back to them. Spend some time journaling from their points-of-view, interview them, write scenes and conversations that have nothing to do with the story. Let them live in your imagination. Watch them go about daily life and experience interactions and conflicts outside the main story. Your characters are leading anyway so let who they are and what they do lead you to your next move.

What happens next may not be as far off as it feels. Keep writing, thinking, and imagining and you will unleash the next chapter in your story.

Try This>>
Spend a writing session journaling from the POV of your main character. If you've never tried this, have your character talk about the story to get going. Let him/her ramble. It may take more than a page but stick with it and you will unearth something new and possibly unexpected that may just spark an idea for what happens next.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stick to a Writing Routine During Summer

If it's summer where you live, you may be experiencing the craziness that seems to happen. It's warm and sunny, kids are out of school, people take vacation from work. And you don't want to miss any of it. Where I live, summer lasts about three months (if we're fortunate) and everyone gets a fever to be out of the house or office and onto the beach or at least out shopping. I'm not immune and I find summer a difficult time to keep up with all the essentials, including writing. Here are a few tips that may help you to keep those words coming during the crazy months of summer.

Rearrange Your Writing Schedule
Between vacations, maybe having your children home every day, and just the irresistible weather, your writing routine may suffer. So rethink it. Is there a time of day that would work better during summer? Maybe first thing before other responsibilities or the sun beckons? Or perhaps later, after you've done everything else and things quiet down? Work with your lifestyle, not against it, and you're guaranteed to get more writing done.

Take Your Notebook With You
Bring your notebook when headed to the beach or going away for the weekend. Plop under your umbrella and take advantage of the relaxed environment. If you want a break from your work-in-progress, use a writing prompt or exercise instead. Use the change of pace to fuel current ideas or spark new ones. You may find you not only can but want to squeeze in more time for writing when you're away.

Don't Stress
Summer can be filled with a lot of extras - vacations, weekend getaways, beach or pool days. As a result, you may miss some writing sessions here and there. Stick to your schedule as best you can but don't be too hard on yourself. Make goals you can reach during this time of year. And don't feel endlessly guilty over missing a session once in a while. You can still stay on track, you just may slow down a bit. Eventually, life will shift again and you'll return to your old schedule.

So enjoy the summer months while they last. Benefit from the time you may have off and away. Let it bolster your enthusiasm for your writing projects and help you generate new ideas. Most of all, work with your summer routine and keep writing!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

4 Reasons Brainstorming is Essential to Good Writing

As writers we hear a lot about brainstorming - how and when to do it especially. But there are many reasons it's emphasized. I didn't used to give my writing the brainstorming it deserved. But over time I discovered how much even a little enhances the depth and quality of my work. Here are four prime ways constant brainstorming will improve your fiction as well.

1. Stronger Characters
There is nothing like weak character development to ruin a story. Prevent yourself from falling prey to it and learn everything you can about your characters. It doesn't matter if most of those details go unrecorded in the finished story. What matters is that you needed to know them to portray your characters faithfully. Remember, your readers can't know your characters unless you know them.

2. Original Plotlines
The more brainstorming you do, the more original your writing will become. Many times our ideas start off very simply - and obviously. But the more you think about it and explore options and alternatives, the more likely that you'll stumble across that "aha!" moment.

3. Clearly Defined Conflicts
Conflict is necessary to any story but without enough brainstorming the external and internal conflicts may get muddled down. You need to know what your characters are contending with. And again, brainstorming will help you get down to the heart of the conflicts. You'll produce intriguing ones instead of the stock conflict that we've all seen before.

4. Perfect Details
Life is in the details and so is good fiction. Characters, settings, plots - they all improve with attention to detail. But the details don't usually come unless you search for them. Brainstorming will take your writing from a lot of vague descriptions to specific character traits and setting details that will make both live on the page.

You don't have to sit down and make a formal session of brainstorming every time. Muse on your story and characters when doing mindless activities like dish washing. Think about it before you fall asleep at night. Play "what if?" while you run errands. There are lots of little moments like this that can become productive brainstorming times. When you do sit down to work, you'll have much more to work with. So don't underestimate the benefits of brainstorming.

Try This >>
Take one character and write down everything you know about him or her. Then, focus your brainstorming efforts on what you don't know. Spend 20 minutes listing or clustering the possibilities. You may be surprised and delighted by what you discover!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tips for Organizing Your Ideas

If you're like me, you have several story ideas bubbling at once. In some shape or form, it's a good idea to organize those ideas. You don't want to lose those precious character tidbits, the brief scene you scribbled on a sticky note, or that brilliant plot twist you wrote down in your main writing notebook. There are just as many organizational methods as ideas so work with what works for you. Here are a few ways to keep your writing free from chaos.

Create separate files. Create a file for each idea, keep it somewhere handy, and prevent those scraps of paper from disappearing.

Create separate computer folders. Same idea as above, just digital. You may want to organize further and create a new file for each subject (e.g. setting, plot, dialogue).

Keep separate notebooks. Get a notebook for each idea and use it only for that concept.

Use binders. Either get one binder for each idea or use just one and separate ideas with tabs.

Use accordian files. Get one for each idea and use the tabs to categorize further (e.g. setting, plot, dialogue).

Combine two or more of the above. I have about four ideas right now that are in some stage of development. My primary idea has its own notebook. The other ideas have file folders that I keep in easy reach. Then, I have my main miscellaneous writing notebook that I use for writing exercises, general brainstorming, and stray ideas. When another concept starts forming into something more solid, it will get its own file.

Try This >>
Spend a few minutes examining your writing organization system. Is it working for you? Do you know where ideas from brainstorming sessions, focused exercises, and moments of inspiration are when you need them? Do you have trouble sticking to the system you have in place? Taking a little time out to tweak or even overhaul your system can make a big difference in productivity when it comes time to write.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Writing Tip: Incubating Ideas

Sometimes before you start writing or outlining a new idea, give it time to incubate. Brainstorm, whether in your head or on paper, letting the idea mature. Now, at other times, you just need to dig in and start working for the idea to grow. But if you feel that it's not time for that yet, wait. Listen to your gut. Dwell on the idea, letting your mind wander over the possibilities. A single idea that's rather plain can sprout into an exciting concept if given the chance. So be patient and let that good idea become an awesome one.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

30 Ways to Fill Your Creative Tank

We all eventually feel bereft of ideas. Life becomes routine at times and that may seep into our writing. So what can you do about it? You don't necessarily need to do anything drastic. Simply switching up your daily routine or trying new things may be all your creative self needs. I've listed 30 ideas that may help you escape from routine writing.

1. Visit an art museum.
2. Take a walk (or run).
3. Learn to cook or bake something new.
4. Read a book that's an unusual choice for you.
5. Take a different route to a familiar place (like work or school).
6. Rearrange or redecorate one room in your house.
7. Take a day trip to a place you've never been before.
8. Drop everything and do something completely frivolous.
9. Watch a TV show or movie on a subject you know nothing about.
10. Get together with a friend (or friends) you don't know as well.
11. Eat something you've never had before.
12. Do your morning or night routine backwards.
13. Listen to a radio station that plays music you don't normally listen to.
14. Learn some basic words in a different language.
15. Do one routine errand at a different location.
16. Play a sport or game (if this is routine, play one you've never tried).
17. Watch a movie or TV show you have no interest in (you might be surprised!).
18. Eat lunch or dinner somewhere new.
19. Learn one new word and use it as much as possible.
20. Do a crossword or word find (if that's normal, go for riddles or sudoku).
21. Research a mythical or legendery character you don't know the history of.
22. Pick up your favorite magazine that's unrelated to writing or work (I love Fitness and InStyle).
23. Try a new flavor of coffee.
24. Play with your cat or dog (or with someone else's cat or dog).
25. Indulge in a guilty pleasure.
26. Go outside - to the park, the beach, a sidewalk cafe.
27. Do one thing you've had on your list for ages.
28. Pick an activity that interests you and learn how to do it.
29. Ride a bike.
30. Go to a concert or another live performance.

Those are my 30 ideas for rejuvenating your life and writing. What are your ideas?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Writing Prompt

Imagine an ice skating rink that appears in your backyard every night, regardless of the season, then disappears at dawn. Write about when you discovered it and what happened next.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Writing Prompt

In 300-500 words, write about a young gymnast representing her country in the Olympics. What is her life like behind-the-scenes? What does she think and feel? How does she act once the cameras are gone?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Writing Prompt

What would it be like to drive into a lake (or river or sea)? How would you react? What would be your first thought? Second thought? Think about it and then write the scene in 500 words.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Writing Prompt

A person drowns him or herself in a lake. Why? What happened to lead to that end? Write his or her story in any word length.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tips for Interviewing Characters

What is the best way to get to know someone? Talking to them of course. It's not much different with fictional characters. They may not be real people but they should be real to us. And one way to know them better is to interview them. You can draw up motives and feelings and get the dirt on a character's background. Like most aspects of writing, there are no rules for how to do this. But I do have some tips that may help you get started.

Ask focused questions. For example, I wrote a story from the husband's perspective about a troubled couple that miscarried. But I really didn't know how he felt about it all. So I asked questions like, 'Did you want the baby? Did you feel the baby would help your marriage? Did you feel pressured from your parents and in-laws?' Aim to ask questions that will expose how the character really feels.

Answer naturally. Don't force the answers. You may have to think about how to answer but that's why it works. Don't worry about every word being relevant to your purpose for interviewing. Anything extra you discover about the character in the process is relevant to you.

Think like the character. Don't answer the questions how you would answer. Answer them as if you are the character even when his or her point-of-view doesn't match your own. That's not always easy but you're digging for what makes the person tick and you won't find that out by fudging the truth.

If you've never tried character interviewing, I suggest you do. It's a fun and revealing exercise that may land you with some juicy content for your story or novel. You may feel a little crazy, but if you didn't, you wouldn't be a writer.

Get Writing!
Interview one character from something you're currently working on. Your Goal: To learn more about the character, revealing something that will deepen his or her presence on the page.
Photo credit, scragz.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Writing Prompt

A woman wears evening gowns even to do ordinary things like go to the market. Write a scene with this character in 300-500 words.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Get More on Twitter

Looking for daily prompts, tips, and other fiction writing related stuff? Follow amy and the pen on Twitter for just that.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Overcoming Obstacles and Finishing That First Draft

Writing that first word of a story or novel can be like summiting Mt. Everest! There's this whole blank page in front of you and no one else can fill it up. Your heart beats a little faster because you know you're on the threshold of creative potential but you're afraid to step over it. Such is the excitement and terror of a first draft. What are some of the things that can hinder your progress in getting to the end, and what can you do to deal with them?

First Draft Freedom
The first draft of anything (even this blog post) is a beautiful thing. You have free reign to say whatever you want, however you want. No one has to know what mangled phrases and misused words littered that first attempt at a masterpiece. Like a newborn baby, you don't know exactly what the idea will be when it grows up. Like a child, a first draft needs a little freedom to explore and discover what it wants to become. Unlike children, your first draft needs no limitations. In fact, the fewer the better. Below are a few things that could get in your way and tips to avoid them.

Obstacle #1: Editing and Rewriting
These two things do not belong in the same room with you when writing the first of anything. Repress the desire to rewrite the first sentence; don't fret over word choice; and leave things blank if you can't think of the word(s) you want. If you can't think of a name for a character, try inserting NAME until later. I find that keeps me from stalling and also reminds me that that character needs a name. Ideas won't flow if you stop to adjust mistakes constantly or rewrite every sentence as you go. The Editor is your best friend later but not now.

Obstacle #2: Overthinking
Should Jimmy find out from his brother that Christine lied to him? Maybe not but this is not the time to worry about it. Remember that your first draft is a skeleton, a place to start. For now, follow impulses, embrace wild or incredulous ideas, and pick details from a hat. Analyzing belongs to the rewriting portion of the program. I've heard published authors mention how a main character's name (and to some extent identity) changed in rewrites. Clearly, they didn't fret over details on the first go around.

Obstacle #3: Criticizing
"This is the worst story anyone has ever written!" Comments like that should never be uttered to yourself while writing the first draft. This is the time for fumbling and blundering. You'll write boring passages, scenes that are D.O.A., and rough dialogue. But you may also find a character with a lot of emotional potential, stumble upon a moment when the story becomes something more, or write a scene of raw feeling you never knew you had in you. There's a lot of magic that can happen if you push through the imperfection. Tell The Critic to take a vacation. You have work to do.

Push to the End
Writing magic can happen in a first draft when you stop editing yourself, thinking too much, and criticizing every word. When you shush these three obstacles, you may find a story in the rough just waiting for you to chip away at it until you expose its full potential. And that is worth all the anguish a blank page can bring.

Get Writing!
Take an idea from your notebook or a favorite writing prompt source. In one writing session, complete a first draft of this idea (beginning, middle, and end) in 500-1000 words. Your Goal: Telling yourself you're writing a complete first draft of a story is a great way to quiet mental obstacles. You'll be more focused on writing, and putting a deadline on the draft can really kick things into high-gear.

What is your biggest obstacle when writing a first draft? How do you overcome it? Share your thoughts here!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Writing Prompt

A baby is born and says, "Hello. My name is...." Write what happens from there in about 500 words.

What's your response to this prompt? Post it here!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Leaping Out of My Comfort Zone: Writing a Novel in a Month

Most of you have probably heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I've never participated and this past November (when the contest takes place), I had too much going on personally to take part. Instead, I decided to do it by myself in January 2009. So I buckled up over the last week of December 2008 and told myself there would be no wriggling out of it. I was writing a novel in 31 days.

I've never written a novel in a year or more nevermind one month. The NaNoWriMo challenge is writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, or around 1,667 words a day. NaNoWriMo creator Chris Baty recommends giving yourself a maximum of one week to plan. The way my life went in December, I had a few hours to scrape up a vague premise and main character. So on January 1, 2009, I knew I was writing about a young woman in medieval England who was marrying a complete stranger and leaving her home and family.

The first day or two of writing I thought, "This is going to be the worst novel ever." I walked along with my main characters, feeling them out, seeking out a plot. At one point, my biggest aspiration for my main character was that she would have a baby! That would have been fine too but the characters started speaking and dealing with each other and pretty soon the main storyline was charging ahead. In the end, I wrote I pretty satisfying tale and actually exceeded the word minimum by about 10,000. More importantly, I wrapped up my story, which had some exciting twists that even I didn't see coming.

Will I do things differently the next time I write a novel in a month? Yes and no. I knew going the historical route would be difficult. I have a decent knowledge of the Middle Ages but it drove me nuts ignoring details I didn't have time to research. So next time I'll stick to a modern setting. I also found the plot got a little more complicated than I desired. The hardest part was wrapping up all the loose ends. I did well but afterward I realized I'd still missed something. I'll definitely keep things simple the next time around. I still won't spend much time planning ahead though. I like not knowing exactly where it's all going.

Would I do it again? In the middle of January I was ready to start again in February. And at the end, when I was burnt out and struggling to finish the story, I still wanted to. So yes. When November 2009 rolls around, I hope I can participate. If not, I'll do it on my own again. I came out seeing character development in a whole new light. Writing short assignments of 300-500 words now seems like nothing. And I see my writing from a whole new vantage point.

If you've never written a novel in a month, I recommend trying it. You'll be scared, excited, and frustrated, sometimes all at once. But when you finish and have the first draft of a book in front of you, I promise you won't regret one minute of it.

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo? What was your experience?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How to Concentrate When Writing

Do you have trouble concentrating when you write? Do you find thoughts of anything and everything, from laundry to weekend activities, rush into your mind? I certainly do. I know part of it is the desire to procrastinate. But some of it is just life. Many of us have families and day jobs and homes to care for. These things take time and energy both physically and mentally. So how can you escape from all these things begging for your attention? Here are a few suggestions I've found helpful and I hope they will help you too.

Quiet outside distractions. Some distractions are simple to cut off - the TV for example - while others not so much, including family members or others in the house. If possible, find a room you can disappear into and close the door, or at least a space away from everyone. You might try leaving the house, going to a park or another place. I've even written in my car while parked outside a fast food joint. Sometimes just switching environments can make all the difference in your concentration level.

Put on background music. Light, non-intrusive music can help quiet the other thoughts in your head and help you to focus on the task at hand. I find lightweight classical music (Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach) and classic jazz make great companions. Whatever music you prefer, playing it softly can really help you get down to business.

Deal with one thing crowding your brain. If something keeps nagging me, sometimes I just get up and deal with it. I tell myself that I will fill the dishwasher and then I am under obligation to sit down and write. It's not always a good idea though. If you know that it's just a procrastination trick, it may be better to ignore it and keep writing. But if the task is important (you forgot to pay a bill), you may be better off taking care of it first. But make sure to make a deal with yourself that you're only doing that one thing because it's important. Don't let the tricky Procrastinator lure you away from your notebook!

So when it's hard to concentrate on writing, try to turn off or escape from external distractions, switch on some soft music, or take care of one task that won't leave you alone. Then sit down, take a deep breath, and put that pen to paper!

What helps you to concentrate when you're writing? Post your suggestions!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Writing Prompt

A woman walks around town with a parrot on her shoulder. In about one page, write a scene where the woman bumps into a new neighbor. What does the parrot say? What does it reveal about its owner to the new neighbor?

What did you come up with? Post your response!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Writing Prompt

On a beach, lifeguard chair marked ZOE vertically on the side is empty. Who sits in this chair? And where is he/she? Write a scene in 300 words.

What did you come up with?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Apologies for the Lack of Entries

Hello everyone! I want to apologize for the scarce amount of entries this month. I'm a little distracted with other things but I will try to post them as regularly as possible. I may not be on my usual schedule, though, so check back if nothing is posted Tuesday or Thursday. Everything should be back to its usually scheduled program in February so please bear with me until then!

Thank you for your support and comments, and keep writing!


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

5 Books Every Fiction Writer Should Have

Who doesn't love a good book about writing? Especially one that motivates you, encourages you, and teaches you. I have a few such books on my shelf that I turn to when I need a jolt or help on a particular aspect of writing. Check them out for yourself, and scour the shelves of your local library or bookstore for other gems!

1. The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron
One of my favorite book finds of all time. This is my go-to book for ideas and encouragement. The hundreds of prompts make you delve into yourself, dredging up experiences and emotions that add depth to your writing. I always feel ready to write after reading a chapter of this book and I repeat some of his advice to myself when I need a boost.

2. The Writer's Idea Workshop: How to Make Your Good Ideas Great by Jack Heffron
A follow-up to The Writer's Idea Book. The prompts and ideas in this book help flesh out ideas you already have or pieces you've started. It can help you identify why an idea isn't working and what to do about it. I go to this book when I start the rewriting process. I've found that the ideas are not only helpful but often liberating. If you feel down about an idea when you start reading, you won't when you finish!

3. Fiction Writer's Workshop by Josip Novakovich
A play-by-play of the parts of a story. He uses lots of examples from renowned authors, and has fun and challenging exercises at the end of each chapter. I've improved my character development and descriptions with the help of this book. And I successfully fought my fear of dialogue with his suggestions. A must-read in my opinion.

4. The Art & Craft of the Short Story by Rick Demarinis
A writing life-changer for me. Reading this book and then following the exercises took me to new places in my writing and helped me reach the next level. It's a motivating read that will help you to see your fiction in a different light.

5. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King
Excellent resource that answers fiction-specific editing quandries. One of my favorite chapters shows you how to properly setup dialogue and how to write it like a pro. It includes checklists and exercises to hone your skills.

What are your favorite books about writing? Share your top five by posting a comment.

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