Writing Challenge Update–And Some Writerly Links

inspirationToday is day 16 of the 30-day writing challenge. We’re over half-way to our goal, and it’s feeling pretty good. Have I written every day? All but one, when a migraine flattened me, and I there was no way I could face the page. The other days I managed to pound out some words on my new project–some days more than others–but I’ve made steady progress. My focus is to write every day, not to worry about word or page count, but to get something written every day that will get me closer to my goal. I’m happy with what I’ve done so far, and look forward to the next two weeks.

On the way, I’ve found some blog posts to pass along to my fellow writers to help keep them (and me!) focused on writing every day. Here are three of them. Hope they help you on your writing road, too.

How to Always have a Bagful of Exciting Writing Ideas  by Tal Valante

“Whether you write a blog, fiction, or non-fiction, inspiration is all around you. Here are some ways to make your daily life an endless source of writing ideas.”
http://writetodone.com/always-bagful-exciting-writing-ideas/

Mastering Mood-Dependent  Writing Stages by Kristi Holl (This one was particularly timely for me during the writing challenge.)

“… I found a chapter in The Write Type by Karen E. Peterson very encouraging. The author said that not all the stages of producing a story or book involve heavy-duty creative thinking. If you’re not feeling the best some days, use that time for a writing job that requires less energy–but still has to be done sometime.” http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/2015/04/mastering-mood-dependent-writing-stages/

Anne Lamott on Writing and Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity by Maria Popova

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” http://www.brainpickings.org/2013/11/22/bird-by-bird-anne-lamott/

Good luck with your own writing challenges, and I wish you every success in reaching your goals!

 

Writing Prompts for April 2015

Hoping to see these in my garden soon.

Hoping to see these in my garden soon.

Okay, better late than never. Here are the writing prompts for April. Enjoy!

1. Use one, some, or all of these words in a story or poem:

  • bowl, blue, bicycle, branch, break
  • time, book, window, sword, lane, tree

2. See where one of these opening sentences leads you.

  • You should enter the contest.
  • Snow in April? No thanks!
  • Branches, black with rain, beat against the window.
  • Sam’s car raced around the corner.
  • I loved the sound of birds singing in the trees. Today, at 5 a.m.–not so much.
  • There was no need to get close to the man to see if he were dead. I’d had too much experience to be wrong now.
  • A red light flashing on the control panel wasn’t usually a major problem. This time, it was different.
  • Josie looked different today.

3. Here are some titles to play with: Broken, Spring Promise, Murder on Wednesday, The April Fool, Through the Window, Dog’s Day, Sadly Ever After.

4. What scenes can you image with these lines of dialogue?

  • Look out!
  • What’s your problem?
  • It’s not my problem, but it will be yours if you run into that.

 

  • Have you told Jim,yet?
  • No.
  • Why not?
  • I’m not sure that he needs to know.

 

  • Well, that’s the last time I do that.
  • How can you be so sure?

 

  • Hey, that’s mine!
  • Can you prove it?

 

  • I quit!
  • What’s the matter?
  • Look. It’s a mess.
  • You have a point.

5. Spring seems to be taking its sweet time showing up where I live. It was a long and hard winter, and, certainly, other parts of Canada had it a lot worse. Nonetheless, I’m impatient with how long it’s taking to finally have some warm days. What makes you impatient? Especially something over which you have no control. How do you cope? How does your character cope with impatience?

6. Negative thoughts can sometimes be the only ones you hear. Kick them aside for a while and write a list of 10 things about yourself that you like or are proud of. Do the same for your family and your characters.

Have a writerly month, and if you want a boost to your productivity, don’t forget about the 30-day writing challenge starting on Tuesday.

 

 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge Starting April 7

IMG-20130709-00210If you’re looking for a way to get your writing back on track, I’m running a writing challenge for 30 days on my Facebook author page. Participants don’t have to do anything more than post “I did my writing today” or words to that effect in the comments of my daily post. Join me and other writers who want to get back to writing every day and need a little boost to keep going. I’ve participated in similar challenges before. Having someone waiting to hear that I’ve done my daily writing has been an effective incentive to help me reach my goal.

My role is cheerleader–and some days, fellow sufferer–to help you stick to your daily writing by offering you a place to check in every day. You decide how much you want to write. Set a time limit or a page limit or just be glad that some days you wrote a couple of sentences. It’s the sticking with it that counts.

If you’re interested, just drop by https://www.facebook.com/pages/Heather-Wright-Writer/336470796443870 to let me know you want to join the challenge on Tuesday. Love to have you on board!

And now, I need to get down to writing April’s writing prompts (a few days late), having been very distracted by the hacking of my writing prompts’ page for a ciallis ad. Yikes! Just a mild panic here, but my web host took care of it, so, back to work!

Finding Writing Time and Setting Your Story in the Here and Now

Finding More Writing Time

Finding More Writing Time

I hope you’re enjoying a taste of spring wherever you are. We’ve actually had some temperatures on the plus side of 0 Celsius for a few days. Cardinals and juncos are returning, the crows are making a lot of noise, and some of the snow is melting. All good.

I found a couple of blog posts that I thought I’d pass along. The first one, How to Eke Out 2 Hours of Writing Per Day, has great tips for finding extra time to write, but I also think it can help you find some extra time for whatever personal or work project you need to work on. The second, How to Build a Rich Setting for a Contemporary Story, offers excellent strategies for writers of all ages who are writing about the here and now and who want to make their setting tangible to their readers.

http://authormarketinginstitute.com/how-to-eke-out-2-hours-of-writing-per-day/

How to Eke Out 2 Hours of Writing Per Day

am institute (author marketing) February 12, 2015

“It’s easy to get into a productivity rut. When life gets jam-packed with work and family obligations, 10-minute tasks can easily turn into half-hour endeavors. This problem is universal, but most people never squeeze out the necessary time to fit in creative work. You have to strive for better to be a writer. Here are five ways to carve out two hours of writing per day:”

http://goteenwriters.blogspot.ca/2015/02/how-to-build-rich-setting-for.html

How to Build a Rich Setting for a Contemporary Story

This blog was written by Stephanie Morrill who writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Check the archive on this site for other great tips for teen writers.

“… can you imagine Gilmore Girls with no Stars Hollow? Veronica Mars with no Neptune? Gossip Girl would be wildly different without it’s NYC backdrop, as would The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things.

“I think the first question to ask yourself when figuring out your contemporary novel is if  you should use a real place or make one up. This depends on the type of story you’re telling ….”

If you would like to get advance notice of my new books, writing tips, interesting links and new writing prompts, please take a moment to sign up for my mailing list in the box on the right. I promise no spam and no three times a week emails asking you to buy things. I’ll just drop you a line about once a month when I’ve accumulated some interesting news and useful material. Thanks!

Writing Prompts for March 2015

A little spring for a snowy March day.March is coming in like a lamb here—a very cold lamb, but a lamb. And I’m grateful. After a February of very cold temperatures, way too much snow, a broken circuit breaker, a leaking pipe, and a furnace replacement, I’m ready for a change. Here’s my personal public service announcement: Please install a carbon monoxide monitor if you haven’t already. If ours hadn’t gone off when it did at about 8 o’clock in the evening, and we’d gone to bed without knowing about the leak, we might not have woken up the next morning. A chilling thought.

I’ve tried to keep snow and wintery thoughts out of the writing prompts for March. Hope you enjoy them and have a creative month ahead.

1. Use one, some, or all of the following words in a story or poem:

  • Key, glass, red, petal, end, call
  • Paper, control, gold, drop, glow

2. Here are some opening sentences for you to try:

  • Low battery. Exactly the two words I didn’t want to see right now.
  • After sitting at the same desk for three years, I figured I was beyond seeing anything new. I was wrong.
  • Henry died two years ago, but I saw him for the first time today.
  • “What do you mean, you’re out of lemons?”
  • Unlike Disneyland, my hometown was not the happiest place on earth.
  • A day at the mall. I’d agreed to spend a day at the mall. An hour was my usual limit.
  • The voice on the phone was warm and convincing.
  • The flames had nearly reached the stables.

3. Here are some possible story or poem titles:

Turning the Corner, The Blue Stone, Wind and Weather, Death at the Races, Framed, Table for Three, How to Stop a Killer, Spring and Violet, Street Corner

4. See if you can write a scene for these lines of dialogue:

  •  I just heard from Henry.
  • And?
  • He’s not coming.
  • Why?
  • He said you’d know.

 

  • I can’t believe how hot it is.
  • You chose this place for our vacation.
  • Yeah, when I thought they’d have air conditioning.

 

  • Have you seen Henry?
  • No. Why?
  • He should be here by now.

 

  • Your secret is safe here, my lord.
  • And why should I believe you?
  • Because you are still alive.

 

5. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you finally choose that career or are you still secretly wishing for that childhood dream to be real? Why or why nor? Answer the same questions for your characters.

6. What was your favourite piece of clothing when you were a child? A special sweater make by grandma, a t-shirt with a favourite TV or movie character, a shirt from you favourite team? Describe the garment and how you felt wearing it. Do the same for your characters.

Self-Publishing Tips, Resources, and Looking Back.

My Books--Only one is not self-published

My Books–Only one is not self-published

I wrote the post below in January 2014, but lately I have seen increased interest in the subject  from writers I’m meeting online. Many are new to the process, so that’s the reason for the reprint. The blog offers some resources and cautions that newcomers need to know about.

Looking back, I can see that I’m even more committed to the model than I was a year ago. Last summer I took an online course with Kristen Eckstein, a 30-day boot camp for creating a non-fiction series–the results of which I hope to see published by June. It was an inspiring experience, and provided further reasons for me to stick with the self-publishing model. And, in all honesty, I must admit that I’m having fun with it.

Marketing is the biggest challenge, but I’ve drawn up a plan that I hope will help me connect more effectively with my audience, and that, you’ll be glad to hear, doesn’t involve hourly, computer-generated, buy-my-book updates on Twitter. I’m a patient person and willing to let the process take the time it needs to show results. Wish me luck!

Here’s the repost of the 2014 blog. I hope some of the information in it is useful as you negotiate this exciting and challenging publishing option.

*************

I have fumbled my way through self-publishing over the past few years. Trying things, making mistakes, seeing how things turn out. Thought I’d share a bit of that experience.

I’ve used a couple of publishers since I started self-publishing. Right now I’m using CreateSpace  https://www.createspace.com/ and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) https://kdp.amazon.com/kdp/self-publishing/signin?language=en_US  After I finish setting up my book in CreateSpace, I can choose for it to be sent to Amazon KDP (they are the same company.) CreateSpace will also send it to other epub distributors, too. Both services are free, though CreateSpace offers services like custom cover designs, copyediting, and marketing for a fee, if you want to take advantage of them.

I’m using CreateSpace for my second edition of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens, and I’m fine with having them distribute it to Amazon and other sellers, such as Kobo. For my sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl, I’m going to go with CreateSpace and KDP only. There are some promotion options with KDP that are only available if it is the exclusive distributor for a set period of time. I’d like to try those promotions, so I’m going to give that option a try for my fiction. For 201 Writing Starters, I went to Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/ . They had a very easy-to-use product and also provide a free service. If I do another edition of the book, I will probably go through CreateSpace, though, because it offers free cover design options that I prefer to use rather than coming up with my own.

The first edition of Writing Fiction was published through iUniverse, a vanity press. I wouldn’t choose that route now for a couple of reasons. First, I want to earn more money per sale, and royalties are much better on my own. Second, I am more confident about being able to format a book that would look professional, and third, I know a lot more about the industry. I was lucky in that I took advantage of a sale offer at iUniverse and didn’t spend money on extras, and I can say that I have earned my money back. A few writers I know who took the vanity press route have realized they will never earn their money back.

I got the templates for the interiors of the dragon books and Writing Fiction – Second Edition from Joel Friedlander http://www.thebookdesigner.com/ at a very reasonable cost. You can see inside the book here to see what one of his formats looks like: http://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Pearl-Heather-Elizabeth-Wright/dp/1483954021

If you’re thinking of the self-publishing route, be aware of the new trend among traditional publishers to have their own vanity press. They make it look like you’re working with Simon & Schuster for instance, but you’re really paying to have your book published with a vanity press that is part of a large company with a very poor reputation. Read this blog from Writer Beware®: The Blog to get the details: http://accrispin.blogspot.ca/2012/11/archway-publishing-simon-schuster-adds.html To make sure that you are working with a reputable company always check Preditors & Editors, an excellent site that has a listing of publishers/agents along with recommendations and cautions.  http://pred-ed.com/

To end on a more positive note, here’s a link to a great blog post from Jane Friedman with a lot of helpful links to help you make some decisions about your publishing future.  http://janefriedman.com/2012/01/28/start-here-how-to-get-your-book-published/

Good luck!

Writing Prompts for February 2015

I heard this fellow yesterday, but I haven’t seen him yet.

The view from my window is in shades of white and brown today. White, newly fallen snow seen through the brown branches of the columnar maples that mark the edge of our yard. This duochromatic (is that a word?) view is surprisingly restful this morning. I thrive on bright colours, but today it’s okay to just enjoy my white and brown world.

Earlier, I spent an hour plowing through files of teaching material that I’m culling for my next writing project–lots of white paper in brown file folders. Clearly my theme for my morning. Light and dark will be the theme for tomorrow, too, as we wait for several groundhogs in Canada and the US to tell us, by the lack–or not–of their shadow, how much winter we have left. Wiarton Willie is the prognosticator that lives closest to us. The town of Wiarton has built an entire festival around this famous albino groundhog. To find out more about the festivities click here.

Whether spring will be early or not, the writing still needs to be done. I hope these prompts add some colour to your February.

1. Use one, some, or all of these words in a story or poem:

  • fire, red, cracker, edge, cover, case
  • hat, snow, candle, black, run, wind

2. Try one of these opening lines to start a story:

  • It’s amazing what you can do when your life is in danger.
  • Falling on ice hurts a lot more when you’re no longer six or wearing a snow suit.
  • I have done as you asked, my lord.
  • Henry leaned on the railing, his back to the sea.
  • The photo album in the antique shop was from the turn of the last century, so why did the woman in the photographs look like me?
  • I should have mentioned that I was afraid of heights.

3. Here are some titles that might suggest a story to go with them: Lost Hearts, Danger Island, Driven, Snow Men, The Gamble, Hunter, Ice Cap, King’s Ransom

4. What scene can you create from these lines of dialogue?

  • Remind me why I have to be nice to her.
  • Don’t ask. I’m finding it hard to think of a reason right now.
  • That’s what I thought.

 

  • I’m sure I heard something.
  • So what.
  • If the noise is what I think it is, it means we’re not alone.
  • Oh.

 

  • Wolves are like two-year-olds.
  • Why?
  • When you can’t heat them you know you’re in trouble.

 

  • Why did she have to come with us?
  • Funny, she asked the same thing about you.

 

  • I think I’ve found something.
  • Where?
  • Over here.
  • Oh. I think you’ve found more than something.

5. In the past week, I’ve managed to find the direction I’ve been looking for in my writing since the beginning of January. Brainstorm around any variations on the words direct or direction, and see where your imagination takes you–director of a company or a play, direct vs alternating current, the compass rose on a map, your own plans/goals for the future (or just the next week)–you get the idea. If an idea for a story or poem comes from your brainstorming, consider writing down your first rush of thoughts with the computer screen turned off (or prop a piece of paper over your laptop screen.) When you can’t see what you’re writing, it’s easier to eliminate  your editor from the process. You’re more free to play when the red and green lines and squiggles aren’t telling you that you made a typo or haven’t written a complete sentence. Worry about those later, just enjoy the story.

 

 

Delaying Tactics

My Books

My Books

Fortunately, it’s only gloomy outside–a grey, foggy, damp, cold January day. Inside, it’s cozy and I’m having fun looking at photos for possible book covers, and playing with the collage function in Adobe Photoshop to create a new cover photo for my Facebook author page (see photo to the right). And yes, I know I should be writing.

Two weeks ago norovirus came to visit, so a lot of writing did not get done. Drinking gingerale, eating crackers, sleeping–yes.  Writing–no. And this week, I caught up on a project that got behind while I was sick. Could I have done more of my joywriting? Of course, but I’m an expert at delaying tactics, and it’s amazing how the days can fly by.

And this is not something new. I thought I’d look for a blog to share about procrastination for any fellow sufferers out there, and went to my favourite writing blogger, Kristi Holl, for inspiration. Well, this is embarrassing. Here’s the link to Kristi Holl’s blog on procrastination, where you will see me bemoaning this same problem last April, and for the same reason: I finally have more time to write. On the plus side, I did actually write three books last summer: two non-fiction for self-publishing and another for a contract. And I finished editing five short stories, and, with a friend, produced a short story anthology for boys, with the layout and publishing side being all my responsibility. But I clearly did my share of moaning before the production of all these words got underway.

So, I declare this year’s moaning period is over. New start today. Onward!

Hope you have a great writerly week ahead!

 

Teacher’s Guide – Work-in-Progress

My first project for 2015 is to complete my book: A Quick Guide to Teaching Teens to Write Fiction. I’m well on my way, developing material and finding resources for use in high school or home school classes and adding accompanying templates and rubrics to help both students and teachers. The book could also be used if you are running an after-school writing club.

So far the book’s plan covers the basics of story writing skills, from brainstorming and planning, through writing great beginnings, plotting (with templates), writing dialogue, developing characters, writing description, and writing conclusions, to editing–and there are still a few more things I’d like to add. If there’s anything you’d like to see included, please let me know. I’m happy to find the resources you need. Also, if you can think of a better title, please let me know! Creating titles is just not my happy place.

I’ve added new writing prompts, too, so drop by the writing prompts tab and see what ‘s new.

To get updates from me about new books for teachers, home schoolers and young writers, please sign up for my mailing list using the sign up box on the right. I promise not to bother you with spam, just the occasional update on new books, resources, or link to blogs that I think might interest you.

I wish you all the best in 2015!!

Writing Prompts for January 2015

IMG-20130709-00210Along with the prompts for January, I’ve found some excellent blog reading to start your new year.

I love Kristi Holl’s writing advice. I own three of her books and check her blog regularly. She’s on a break now until after the New Year, but she has a great archive of thoughtful blogs to help launch your 2015.

If your New Year’s resolutions’ list looks like you are heading into a year of giving up everything that’s fun, check out Kristi’s blog to find out how to add some joy and renewal time to your resolutions that will help you reach your goals. http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/2013/12/a-writers-happy-new-year/

When I think of accomplishing any goals, the words “motivation” and “will power” come to mind right away. For me, however, neither is terribly reliable, and both are tough to sustain over the long haul. Kristi passes along a simple system that just might make both obsolete and help you reach your goals in a way you never thought of before. And yes, this system will be a part of my New Year’s plans. http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/2014/08/no-motivation-or-willpower-simple-solution/

Happy New Year! I wish you all the best for 2015!

January 2015 Writing Prompts

  1. Use one, some or all of these words in a story or poem:
  • Cut, water, moon, silver, nail
  • Handle, clock, door, blue, box, bell
  1. See if these opening sentences inspire a story:
  • I could barely see the house in the fog.
  • Yesterday was a mess. Today didn’t look too promising either.
  • I liked visiting Henry. He always did everything he could to make me feel welcome. His dog, on the other hand, didn’t copy his master.
  • I’m sorry. I dropped it.
  • It can’t be that late already.
  • The box slid to the ground and fell open.
  • Even dragons get the blues
  • Everyone believed she’d run away—everyone except me.
  1. Maybe one of these titles will suggest a story or poem:

A Quarter Past Midnight, Death by Text, Runaway, Dare, A Reason to Care, Road to Fear, Wish Me Luck, Summer Camp Disaster, The Coin

  1. What scene can you write around these lines of dialogue?
  • It would be nice if you’d listen to me.
  • I was listening.
  • Then, what time did I say we were leaving?

 

  • Why did you come back?
  • I wanted to see you.
  • Okay, you’ve seen me. Now go.

 

  • Do you have the key?
  • Yes.
  • What’s the matter?
  • I’m not sure we should use it.

 

  • That was a mean thing to do.
  • I didn’t mean it.
  • You did, too.
  • Okay, I did. So what?

 

  • What’s that in your hand?
  • Nothing
  • You’re sure?
  • Yes
  1. What does the start of a new year mean to you? With what feelings do you look back upon the year that has passed? Think of the good things that happened in 2014 and take a few moments to write them down so that you can remember them. If other people were helpful in creating your positive memories, consider sending them a note to say thank-you. Think of the character in you story. How does he or she feel about the start of a new year?