Posts tagged writer
Harnessing the Writing Fairy: Self-discipline in Writing (Quote of the Day)

Sometimes I go through dry spells. We all do--no matter what our art or profession. I'm currently stuck on chapter 18, which I began probably three weeks ago. That sounds pathetic, I know. We've been so busy in my house, and on top of that, three sicknesses hit our family—pretty much in the same week. It's been a hard time for writing, to say the least. I haven't felt like doing it. But I know if I wait until I really feel like writing... Well, I wouldn't say it would never happen, but the moments would certainly be few and far between.

Like anything worthwhile, writing takes discipline. We can't just wait until we're possessed by some magical writing fairy that speaks through our fingers or sings through our pen. We have to take the initiative ourselves, sit down at our desks, and write. If at all possible, schedule a time of day to write something. Even if it's not a chapter in a novel, write something. Even if it's not what you need to write, write something—a poem, a song, a paragraph, a response to a writing prompt. Write something. This day, this hour, this minute. Just write.

Today's Prompt: Write a story from the perspective of someone who is employed in the job you would least like to have. This character, however, loves what he/she does.

Happy Writing!


A Simple Fact of Writing (Quote of the Day)

It's my husband's birthday party today, so there's no time for explanation or a lot of pretty words. Luckily this quote doesn't require an explanation, and the words are pretty enough on their own. All of us writers know this well: if there's a story in you, it has to come out. That's all there is to it.

Today's Prompt: Write a story about the most disastrous birthday you've ever had. If all your birthdays have gone smoothly, make something up!

Happy Writing!


Writing for Money--or Not (Quote of the Day)

Watercolorquote Can I get an amen? There's this weird notion amongst people that if you get published, suddenly you're rolling in the dough. Nope. First of all, that's a fallacy. Second of all, you don't write because you want to get paid. It wouldn't matter if you never made a cent. You write because you can't help it; because there are characters and words in you and they have to come out, one way or another. Ultimately, you don't write for the money; you write because you have to.

Today's Prompt: Write a story surrounding a character with these traits:

  • 30 years or older.
  • No stable profession.
  • Addicted to get-rich-quick schemes.
  • Has one talent: a knack for losing money.

Happy Writing!


Hooking a Reader (Quote of the Day)

When I began the novel I'm currently working on, Ourselves and Others, this was my process:

  1. Thought, "I'm going to write a book based on what happened to me."
  2. Opened a word document.
  3. Proceeded to write the most boring 10 pages I could possibly write.

Luckily, upon an initial reading I realized it was awful and promptly scrapped it in favor of "take 2," which is 300 times better than my first try. But even after starting over, things were rocky for a while. I ended up completely restructuring the opening, changing tenses, and renaming my main character about three times before the first chapter was up to snuff.

This only proved to me that the hardest part of the writing process is indeed the beginning. Getting started is difficult enough on its own, but then creating something that will hook readers and draw them into the story? That's the real challenge. That's where the fate of your book hangs in the balance, after all. A novel could be a masterpiece, but if the beginning doesn't attract, no one will read far enough to find that out.

Personally, when beginning a project I always try to think, "What would make me want to read this book?" and then write that thing. Easier said than done, I know. But I do have a little trick up my sleeve to help with that:

Raise a question.

That's it; it's that simple. In the first paragraph—in the first line, if you can—present a question that must be answered. Curiosity is a great motivator for the reader. And of course, you don't literally have to ask a question. What I mean is, say something that will make the reader ask a question—even something as basic as "what happened?" or "what does that mean?" They'll read on to look for the answer, and hopefully your writing keeps them reading even after they find it.

Today's Prompt: Write a story that begins in an ending and ends in a beginning.

And here's a bonus "prompt" for those of you who have completed works or have works in progress:

Copy and paste the opening paragraph or two of your novel in the comments section. Share your beginning with the rest of us!

If you share your opening paragraph and you have something published, feel free to leave the link, just in case you've hooked somebody. ;)

I'll be posting my openings in the comments as well, so read on if you're interested.

Happy Writing!


Up for Interpretation: Quote of the Day

What people say, much like fiction writing and poetry, is up for interpretation. I found this little gem in my arsenal of writing quotes. Now, I've looked at it backwards, forwards, sideways, and upside down and I can't quite seem to figure out exactly what Murakami was trying to say. So I'm throwing this one out to you. How do you interpret these words and why? 

Today's Prompt: Write a short piece of fiction (no more than 500 words) that could be about one of two different subjects, depending upon interpretation. Do not clearly explain what these subjects are, but leave it up to the reader to decide.

Happy Writing!


Teach Your Children to Read (Quote of the Day)

I was about four years old when I learned to read, and I haven't stopped since. There's no limit--from one of the great classics to a shampoo bottle while I'm in the shower, I read anything I can get my hands on. My appetite for written words is unsatisfiable (and can I get an amen on the shampoo bottle thing? Because I know I'm not the only one who does that).

Sadly, it seems that the number of people who share that appetite is dwindling. I keep seeing articles about the decline of reading, and I have to wonder: what is the world coming to?

We need to teach our young people to love literature as much as we do, folks. If not, the literary world as we know it will change for good. If this quote is true (and I believe it is), an absence of good readers will result in fewer good writers, which will then lead to even less readers. It's a vicious cycle that we can stop. Teach your children to read, not as a chore or some kind of homework, but as a wonderful, irreplaceable way of life.

Today's Prompt: Think of your favorite kids' or young adult book. Now write a compelling paragraph or two describing what this book is and why you love it. Try to convince anyone reading your words that they should read and love this book too.

Happy writing!


Where do your ideas come from? (Quote of the Day)

I'm most likely to get ideas when I'm in the car and my husband is driving (and not talking). For whatever reason, sitting there watching the scenery whiz by produces the perfect conditions for my characters to come out of hiding. I'm not the kind of person who thinks, "This is what I'll write; this is what my characters will do," etc. Actually, I don't think in words at all. I see things in my mind and then I write them down. So I suppose any setting that is conducive to daydreaming and imagining is conducive to writing for me.

Where do you get your best ideas? Is it sitting at your computer or somewhere else?

Today's Prompt: Describe in detail your ideal writing conditions. Write this narratively, as though it's the setting in a story. What are the sights, sounds, smells that help you write? Artistically include them in this setting.

Happy Writing!


Quote of the Day--Alice Walker

retroflowerwreath How many of you novelists out there got your start writing poetry?

*Raises hand*

For me, it was awful, teenage-angsty poetry about death and blood and my oh-so-horrible feelings and stuff. Happily, I eventually transitioned into poems that read more like this and less like Poe on Xanax and whiskey. Now, as Alice Walker says, I've gotten into writing novels, and that poetry is deeply engrained in everything I write.

I love language; I love the way I can harness it and use it to express exactly what I need to express. Poetic devices make that process infinitely more sophisticated. To be quite honest, I don't know if my writing would be worth anything if I had no sense of poetry. Guess it's a good thing I do!

How about you? Are you a poet, or have you ever considered yourself to be one? How does that affect your writing?

Today's Prompt: Write a narrative poem from the perspective of a teenager. Now turn that poem into a short story, using at least three lines from your poem, word for word, in the text.

And today I have a small bonus for those of you who are currently writing novels and would like to share, no extra writing required:

Go through your novel and find a particularly poetic passage or line that you'd like to share with all of us. Post it in the comments!

Happy Writing/Passage Finding!


Quote of the Day—Gloria Steinem

As a full-time mom who doubles as a graphic artist, I constantly feel like I should be doing something else. When I'm sitting on the porch enjoying my morning coffee, I feel like I should be cleaning before my kids wake up. When I'm cleaning, I feel like I should be working on a project. When I'm working on a project—a business card or some bridal stationary for my portfolio, perhaps—I feel like I should be playing with my children. And when I'm playing with my children, I feel like I should be drinking coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

And I always feel like I should be writing. Then when I actually do write, it's like there's nothing else in the world. That's why I wait until midnight to work on my novels: because I know if I didn't, my children would be running around naked, covered in Dorito dust and climbing on the furniture. My clients would fire me. The house would eventually just rot  and melt into the earth, and I'd still be sitting in my computer chair, occasionally wondering what that smell was.

Writing has a way of doing that: sucking you into a created world and making you forget about the one you live in. That's what I love about it. I never feel like I should be doing anything else when I write because there is nothing else. There's only me and the story in my head. Personally, I'm okay with that.

Today's prompt: What mundane task should you be doing instead of this prompt? Write a story about it, but include elements of fantasy.

Post your story below, if you'd like. Happy writing!


**disclaimer: because the Internet doesn't come with a "tone of voice" button... This is hyperbolic. I swear I would notice if my kids needed attention. I'm not quite in the running for worst mother of the year yet.

Quote of the Day—W. Somerset Maugham

Today I'm living that chauffeur mom life and driving the kids around to their various appointments, so there's not much time for reflection on the daily quote. I picked this one because it's quick, it's true, and it made me laugh. Here's hoping it makes you laugh too!

Today's Prompt. You moonlight as a limousine driver. But one night, you show up for a job and end up getting more than you bargained for. The first thing your (or one of your) passenger(s) says to you is "Hurry; pop the trunk!"

Happy Writing!


Quote of the Day—E.L. Doctorow

Someone managed to capture in two sentences exactly what my writing process is like. It's rare that I can see more than a chapter in front of me, but somehow it works. That's how books get written: one chapter after the other. At the same time, I know several people who flesh out a plan before they ever begin writing, and then follow it step by step until they reach the end. I've tried it, and it doesn't work for me at all. I'm too prone to getting caught up in the details of the plan, rather than following the story as it unfolds. I suppose in the end, just as with everything else, we all write in different ways and what works for some people doesn't work for others.

So what's your process like? Are you a planner or do you go with the flow? Have you ever tried a different way?

Today's prompt: Write a short story, on a subject of your choosing, but not in the way you would usually choose to write it (with planning or spontaneously). If you never plan, make an outline of the plot before you begin. If you're a stickler for planning, pick a subject, think of an opening and just go with it. Your story must have a "twist" ending.

When you're done, consider these questions:

  • How did you feel writing in an unfamiliar fashion?
  • Did you find it difficult or simple to switch from one tactic to the other?
  • How might this exercise help you be a more effective writer in the future?

Post your response in the comments! Happy Writing!


Quote of the Day—Chuck Palahniuk

Yes. This. There's a certain level of detail that, as a writer, I conciously reconcile myself to revealing. For example, I knew that if I was going to write a novel based on a particular experience, I would have to disclose certain things: the fact that I was once committed to a psychiatric ward; what got me there; the things that occurred there; etc. I signed up for those things the moment I decided, "You know what? This is a good basis for a novel." However, there are details that I didn't intend to share, particularly when it comes to my feelings about certain things. In many circumstances, I find I'm not even aware I feel a particular way about something until I write about it.

This passage, which I wrote just a few days ago, comes to mind:

"Alright." Watching me seriously, he leans back and crosses his arms over his chest. "So people have these moments—maybe something good happens; maybe they meet someone they like; I don't know—but for some reason in these moments people just forget. They forget how crappy everything is and life seems okay—until another moment comes along and reminds them of all the crap. That space between the moments? That's what people call happiness."

Looking over his head into the setting sun, I squint my eyes thoughtfully. "Maybe that is happiness, James."

"No, that's delusion. Life can't be—well—life one minute and then great the next. Things don't change that easily."

I keep staring at the sunset, scratching my bitten nails across the iron tabletop. He really believes it: that the spaces between our moments sit there like empty sundae cups, waiting to be filled with something sweet and temporary. Delusion, he calls it. But if it isn't real, what's the point? I guess James would say there is none. For some reason that terrifies me.

For some reason that terrifies me. Strangely enough, that wasn't just my narrator speaking. James holds a perspective that I've encountered in someone before. When I decided to write about it, it was only an element: some strange quirk that makes for an interesting character. But once I actually sat down and started writing, I realized the effect this idea has on me. It terrifies me, simple as that.

So what deeply personal things have you revealed about yourself through writing? Anything you didn't know before?

Today's Prompt: Take any subject of political or social significance (something people generally feel strongly about) and write a short story surrounding this issue. Afterwards, read through it carefully and answer these questions:

  • Is your own perspective revealed in this piece?
  • Do you share the narrator's feelings, or do you disagree?
  • If you disagree, does that show in your story?
  • What have you learned about yourself through writing this piece?

Post your answers and any relevant passages/quotes in the comments! Happy Writing!


Quote of the Day--Steven Wright

pagenumbersquote This is just a fun one for your Friday! I know there are times I've felt like this once I "started" a project. For a long time, I felt like that with Ourselves and Others. Luckily, I was finally able to move on and have been writing like a storm ever since!

Have you ever started something and felt like you couldn't get past the page numbers?

Today's Prompt: Write about a soccer game from the perspective of the ball.

Have fun with this one! Happy Writing!



Quote of the Day--Henry David Thoreau


I chose a quote about love today because this subject is the most difficult for me. Stereotypically, as a woman, I should easily be able to write a great, lovey-dovey, emotion-loaded scene, right? No. Wrong. I would much rather write a scene of someone being literally cut off at the knees than write a kissing scene. Don't worry; I can do it. It's just not quite as easy for me as many other types of writing. Oftentimes I have a hard time suspending my disbelief enough to write someone falling in real-true-honest-to-god-love within a handful of book pages. Realistically, it always seems like it should take longer than it does, which is something I feel while reading as well as writing. Ironic, considering that my husband and I got engaged 1 month after we met...

Anyway, I've decided to take this quote and apply it to my writing. "There is no remedy for (writing about) love but to (write about) love more." Practice makes perfect; isn't that that thing everybody says? So if you're like me and have a hard time writing about love, let's practice together.

Today's Prompt: Write a story in which the main character meets someone completely new and proceeds to fall in love--believably--in ONE PAGE only.

May the Force be with you.


Quote of the Day—F. Scott Fitzgerald

When I saw this quote this morning, I had an initial interpretation. But then as I thought about it more, I got another interpretation. And then another one. And for the life of me, I can't figure out which one I believe in the most. So, I'd like to turn this into a discussion. What do you think? How would you interpret and apply the above quote, as a writer? After I get some response, I'll comment with my own thoughts.

Today's Prompt: You are an undersea diver who has been hired by the government to retrieve some items from the wreckage of a naval vessel. Write a story detailing your experience, including the type of vessel, what you have been instructed to find, and why (to the best of your knowledge).

Post your response in the comments! Happy Writing!


Quote of the Day—Colin Powell

I chose this image for this quote because sometimes I really feel like that little bird with that giant shovel. When it comes to doing the work it requires to finish a book, market yourself, get published, etc. it can feel like a burden too heavy to lift. But of course, we have to keep at it. Even if the work seems impossible, dreams don't come true in our sleep! It takes sweat, determination, and hard work to make them happen. So keep at it and don't give up until you get there.

Today's prompt: In the yard, there is a bird feeder, chock full of birdseed. But sleeping directly in front of it is a large, grumpy cat. Tell us how you would get your breakfast if you were a bird.

Post your response in the comments! Happy Writing!


Quote of the Day—Ernest Hemingway

Another great snippet of wisdom from Hemingway. A character isn't worth reading if he/she doesn't become a real person to the reader. It's hard to care about the fate of something that isn't alive, after all. The most effective way to follow this particular piece of advice, in my opinion, is to base characters on flesh-and-blood people you know—or even people you don't know. Writers can't be just writers. We have to be readers, listeners, watchers. We have to observe the real in order to make our creations realistic. So if you need to write a person, look at people. Observe them. What are the little things that make them unique and give them dimension? Do they cross their arms often; say "you know" at the end of every phrase; breathe loudly through their noses? It's details like this that make people human, and ultimately, will make your characters human too.

Today's Prompt: pay a visit to your local library and choose a person to observe. Learn about this person through his or her mannerisms. Who do you imagine he/she is based on the actions you've observed? Write a short story centered around this person.

Post your story in the comments! Happy Writing!


Quote of the Day—Emilia Fox

I can sit by myself for hours—days, even—as long as I have a book. To be honest, I'm the kind of person who reads the same books over and over again, so I become well acquainted with these "friends" of mine. Not that I'm not open to making new friends, of course. Each book I've never read before is an opportunity for that, which I welcome. Even the books I  write are like friends to me, and I hope that in writing them, I've created a future friend for someone else.

Today's prompt: You have the following main character and/or narrator:

Thomas Bleakley: aged 42, works in technical support, lives alone, has six cats and a prominent display case for his dead mother's ashes.

Write something worth reading about Thomas Bleakley.

Happy Writing!


Quote of the Day—Henry Ford

It's Good Friday. The sun is shining, my husband is off work, and my two littles are being especially cute. So I'm going to keep my thoughts short today: believe in yourself. No matter what other people think, believe you can,  and you will.

Today's Prompt: Imagine your life as you would like it to be in five years. What will your achievements be, where will you live, what job will you have, etc? Write a short story based on this future life of yours.

Happy writing!


Quote of the Day—Woody Allen

I've decided I'm showing up today—showing up for my kids, showing up to write, showing up, period. Sometimes I find myself so overwhelmed by all the things I have to do that I don't even try. But how can a person be successful if he/she doesn't even begin? When you work for yourself and there aren't any concrete consequences (like getting fired) for playing hooky, it can be hard to make yourself do what you need to. I know that's true of me with my writing, and I think it's a pitfall of many of my fellow writers out there. But we want to be successful, right? We want to achieve and do what we set out to do. In order for that to happen, we actually have to set out to do it. Every single day, we've got to show up.

Today's prompt: Make yourself write when you don't feel like it. Even if you've already written today, or even if you think you'll write later but don't feel like it beforehand, make yourself do it. It'll be good practice for the next time you don't feel like writing at all.

Happy writing!