Back to the Writing Schedule

IMG-20130709-00210Is your creative output in a slump at the moment? Mine certainly is. I have lots of excuses, too, such as the busyness of starting teaching again, looming freelance deadlines, house projects requiring progress, marketing tasks, and creating a website and publishing the first in a series of short story anthologies for boys. I’m busy. I’m working. I’m getting things done in all areas, so what’s the problem?

The problem is—I’m a writer. I have stories I want to tell, and they’re not getting on the page. It’s time to carve out the writing time again. I know from experience that I can find the time to write every day, but I just don’t do it. For me, the best writing time is at night before I go to bed with journal and pen—or very early in the morning, when I wake up at the crack of stupid and can’t get back to sleep.

In 2013, I participated in a couple of accountability challenges (Thanks, Kristi Holl) and they made all the difference to my creative output. Kristi organized interested writers into groups, and when each of us had finished our writing for the day, we sent a “done” email to the group. It may seem strange that sending an email to a group of strangers would be enough incentive to keep me writing every day, but it was.

I’m lucky to have a good friend, and fellow writer, whom I’m going to ask to be my accountability buddy for a while, until I get back to writing every day again. If you think that trying something like this will help you get back on track, go for it! And let me know how it works for you.

The biggest accountability challenge in the world is coming up soon—NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.) The folks who run NaNo are already getting in gear for this year’s challenge: write 50,000 words in the 30 days between November 1st and 30th. Over 340,000 people met the challenge last year. Drop by the NaNo website and learn more. If you’re a teen or pre-teen writer, they have a young writers program that’s perfect for you. They also have a lot of free writing resources for any time of year, not just November. Maybe you could get a teacher to run a NaNo club at your school to help motivate you and your fellow writers to reach their goals.

If you’ve discovered some great ways to keep the writing going, please share. I’m always looking for new ways to get myself to write everyday, and I don’t think I’m alone.

Hope you have a writerly week ahead!

A September New Year’s Day

School Supplies 3Big changes today. My son moved into residence at a local university, and even though he’s not far away, his absence will change our lives significantly. A cheerful, talkative, smart young man and talented musician, he’s leaving us with looking for ways to keep the house from feeling so quiet and so empty. It’s time for him to move on to the next part of his life, and for us to sort things out here, too. Interesting times are ahead for all of us, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’re heading to school this September, as teacher or student, I wish you every success as you take more steps to grow and learn and decide what kind of person you want to be and what kind of future you want for yourself and those around you.

For my Facebook friends today, September 1st seemed more like New Year’s Day–full of plans for new projects, new directions and resolutions to make much-wanted changes. If one of your resolutions is to write more, here are some writing prompts for September.

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

a) Bus, trap, rain, pen, dread, grey, coin

b) Rail, gold, title, wind, surprise, empty, fall

 

2. See if one of these opening lines inspires a story:

  • Are you sure you’re okay on your own?
  • I don’t know what comes after this.
  • Does that car look familiar?
  • When the last time you saw Rick?
  • I thought he was going to win.
  • I’ve lost it. Again.

 

3. Here are some lines of dialogue that you can use to write a scene or include in a story.

  • Move over.
  • Why?
  • I can’t see.

 

  •  Have you heard from Henry lately?
  • No. He’s been awfully quiet.
  • That’s not like Henry is it?
  • No.

 

  • Are you ready to try again?
  • I wasn’t ready to try the first time.

4. Maybe one of these titles will give you a story idea:

Bricks and Sticks, Meeting at Sunrise, The Blue Throne, Mystery on the Red Planet, The Hunter, Open Book, Game Day.

 

5. Leo Tolstoy wrote: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Think about what it would be like to live in a family different from yours. If you have lots of siblings, imagine going through a day as an only child. If you have sisters, imagine your life with brothers of vice versa. You get the idea. What kind of families have you created for the characters in your story? Make a list of the details that you thought of while imagining a different family and see if you can use them to help build the families of your characters.

Inspiring Links for Teen Writers

New JournalSometimes the Internet just seems to throw something my way that leads me to explore even more. Today I started with one link and ended up with a series of websites about writers who were published in their teens. If you’re a young writer, you will find lots of great writers and books here to inspire you.

Here are the links to the sites I found. Enjoy! And keep writing!

Authors Who Wrote Great Books Before They were 25.

23 Writers Who Were Famous Before Age 23

List of Books Written byChildren or Teenagers

Teen Author Bookshelf: List of Published Teen Authors When you drop by this website to check out this list, take some time to explore the great resources here. An excellent site for teen writers!

Teen Writers Find Publishing Success

Yes, You Can Get Published as a Teen Another great site to explore!

Back from vacation and … mini habits

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Wow, how quickly the vacation bubble bursts. One day you’re relaxing on the deck reading a book, with nothing more challenging ahead than choosing the next book to read, and the next minute your life is back to deadlines, errands, and chores. No complaints. We had a great time. We spent some time beside Lake Huron and also headed to Cleveland to explore the sights and take our music-crazy son to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame–a nice combination of sight-seeing and lazy days.

I’ve been enjoying the work I returned to, and I picked up another smaller freelance job, as well, this week. That’s my limit now until early October. I’ve got school to prep for school soon, and I have a new course to teach, so freelancing time won’t be in great supply for the next month and a bit–just enough to finish the projects I have and enjoy my classes without going crazy.

I’ve got Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens out to a few places for reviews. Waiting is not my happy place. And then there’s the worrying about whether I’ve actually written anything worth reading at all, and maybe it’s really awful, and … well you get the idea. Writers don’t really need critics. We can be hard on our work all by ourselves.

Thanks to Kristi Holl’s recent blog, “Not Enough Willpower to Reach Your Goals? Try Mini Habits!“, I’ve started to read Stephen Guise’s book, Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results. The concept of setting very small daily goals is really appealing, especially with school and deadlines looming large. The idea is that you set a really small goal, one that’s not bigger than your willpower, such as writing 50 words a day. If you set a goal of writing 500 words a day, you’d probably resist doing that because it seems like a lot of work, especially on those days when you’re worn thin with other stresses. However, it’s more likely that you won’t resist the challenge of writing 50 words a day. You’ll take the time to do that because you know it’s easy to do. You will have met your goal, written something, and checked off something positive (yay!) on the to-do list–all good. Aside from the self-esteem boost of reaching your goal, there’s a good chance that you will write more than those 50 words–also good. This strategy can apply to anything from eating well to exercise to thinking positive thoughts. Check out Kristi’s blog to find out more. She explains it better than I.

Hope that your writing is going well, and over the next week, that you make progress toward your goals (with or without mini habits!)

Writing Prompts for August 2014

The_Dragon's_Revenge_Cover_for_KindleWow! August 1st! What’s happening to the summer? I hope you’ve been busy with the things you love to do as well as dealing with life’s necessities.

I’ve been very busy, but in a good way, and am happy to have both of my self-published books now online. The first is Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens, and the second is my fantasy for middle readers, The Dragon’s Revenge, a sequel to The Dragon’s Pearl. You can read more about The Dragon’s Revenge here. To celebrate its release, The Dragon’s Pearl is free right now on Kindle until Sunday. Here’s the link to check it out: http://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Pearl-Temple-Blue-Mist-ebook/dp/B00C0C94G2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1406805446

The other work I’ve been doing is writing business case studies for an educational publisher to go along with a new textbook, and writing a kids’ version of Frankenstein for Caramel Tree Publishing. They specialize in ESL material. Frankenstein won’t be out until next year sometime. With my friend and co-writer, I’m also working on an anthology of stories for boys that we hope to have out by early September.

And like you, I’m still looking for new stories to write.

Here are some prompts to help you find your stories this month:

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

Blue, rain, bridge, driving, insect

Trees, sign, warning, chase, silver

 

2. Here are some titles for you to try: It’s Conditional, Dream Valley, A Piece of Sky, Lodging Exit 52, Silver Creek Adventure, Mail 346.

 

3. Try one of these opening lines and see where it leads:

How long ‘til we get there?

Looks like rain.

From here, the place didn’t look that scary.

There was only one way out.

I’d had a root canal, broken my wrist, and been kissed by Mackenzie Schmidtheimer, but all of them together weren’t worse than a family road trip.

 

4. What kind of scene can you build around these lines of dialogue?

Where are you going?

Why?

Look at the sky.

 

I want to go now.

That’s impossible.

Why?

You haven’t met Sirus yet.

 

The place has changed since I was here last.

One thing has stayed the same though.

What’s that?

It’s still dangerous.

 

5. Describe your ideal concert? Who would be playing and where? Who would you go with and what would happen that would make this experience the most important one in your life so far?

6. In your imagination, picture a street corner that you know well. In your imagination, turn that corner and find something completely surprising—a circus, the same street in the year 1850, a Roman ruin … you get the idea. What happens next?

 

 

 

 

Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens

BookCoverImageWell, the day has finally come and Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens is available at Amazon and CreateSpace. Yay! The Kindle version should be up in a day or two, and in a few weeks, it should be available on Kobo and at other on-line retailers. A labour of love, this book has kept me inspired and busy for the past several weeks, tweaking and adding final touches. The cover photo may still change, but for now I’m breathing a huge sigh of relief. You can take a peek at the Table of Contents below.

Hope you have some fun, writerly days ahead!

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Getting Started  7

Joywriting           8

What do I need to be a writer?  9

Habits and Goals              11

Choosing Your Goal         11

Writing Every Day            12

Don’t Miss a Word           12

Write with a Friend or Two          12

Pantser or Plotter: Which are you?          15

The Pantser        15

The Plotter         16

Where do I get ideas for stories?              17

What if?               18

Write What You Know   18

Pick 4 Words      20

Writing Prompts               21

Plotting Tips       23

Basic Rule of Plotting      24

Story Planning   24

Plotting with the Hero’s Journey               27

How do I start my story?               31

Who should tell the story?           33

Point of View: First Person          33

Point of View: Second Person    34

Point of View: Third Person         34

How do I describe my characters?            37

Show Don’t Tell                38

Change Is Good                39

Character List     41

How do I describe the setting?  43

Think about how much you really have to describe.         43

Use Comparisons             43

Get the Senses Involved              44

Draw a Map or Use Photos          44

How do I write dialogue?              47

How do I end my story?                51

How do I make my writing better?           53

Revising and Editing        53

Words   53

Sentences           53

Combining Sentences    54

Paragraphs         55

What do I do when a story gets stuck?   59

1. Outline.           59

2. Forget about making the first draft perfect.    59

3. Write more than one story at a time.60

4. Put the story away.    60

5. Brainstorm.    60

6. Ask “What if?”              61

7. Don’t worry.  61

Last Words          63

Bibliography       65

Moving Soon

I’m in the process of upgrading my website and moving it to a new web host. I’m fairly tech savvy, but these things still make me nervous. Not everything always goes smoothly, as you know.

The new website address is http://wrightingwords.com. At least it will be when it’s set up. I hope!

Fingers crossed that this won’t be too complicated a process!

Hope to see you soon at the new location.

Storm front rolling in. This is how I feel about moving my website. Yikes!

Storm front rolling in. This is how I feel about moving my website. Yikes!

A Website Milestone–and Looking for Balance (again!)

Owen Sound Windows

Owen Sound Windows

A huge THANKS to all the people from 172 countries who drop by to visit my website! This morning, my website surpassed 100,000 page views. A big day for me! It’s a pleasure spending time with you. I hope you and/or your students and/or your children are having fun with the writing prompts and are making use of the other resources here. It’s exciting for me to see how many creative people there are out there, and how many people love to write stories. I wish you lots of fun and wonderful surprises as you pursue your writing and teaching goals.

I’ve been doing some of my own writing lately: some short stories for boys for a self-pub project, and an adaptation of Frankenstein for an ESL publisher that I’ve worked with before. I was planning a relaxing summer, but the adaptation, the stories, plus another large freelance gig, are keeping me busy–and, as it turns out, too busy. I chug along at full speed for a certain amount of time and then just hit a wall. Today is “wall” day.

20140622_141428

Photo taken at Owen Sound marina

All I hear is the clock ticking and the worrying thoughts in my head about how I’m going to get everything done on deadline and still find some time to relax, too. Well, guess what? Part of that break is happening today. Time to take a deep breath, get the calendar out, and plan the work–and–the down time.

Plowing through, head down, shoulders up and tense as can be is my usual approach to projects and deadlines. I always want to get the job done the day it’s assigned; however, I’m learning to stop before I get too carried away. It’s time to break the work down into small bites and find a little balance.  I’m going back to a favourite blog post by Kristi Holl, “How to Recover Your Writing Energy–All Day Long!” She offers some excellent strategies for helping pace a busy day, and I definitely need to listen to that advice today.

2014 Peonies

2014 Peonies

If you have some tips for pacing a busy writing (or anything else) life, please share. I’m sure I’m not alone in needing some help with this one.

Have a great, writerly day!

PS. Lots of photos in the blog today. I got a new smartphone and have been playing with the camera. :)

 

Writing Prompts for July 2014

IMG-20120521-00409Happy Canada Day to those north of the 49th parallel, and an early Happy 4th of July to those living south of our border. May you all enjoy safe and relaxing holidays with family and friends.

Since we’re half way through the year, now’s a good time to check in with your writing goals How close are you to achieving the goals you set back in January? Have your goals changed? Did some events or people come into your life to take away your writing time? Now is not the time to fret over time passed or lost. Celebrate what you did accomplish and spend a little time over the next few days thinking about the next six months.

Maybe the goals you set were unrealistic for your lifestyle, or schedule, or personality.  Is there one small thing that you could change that would free up some writing time? Is there a TV show that you are still watching in reruns even though you’ve seen every episode? Can you delay checking your email, Facebook, etc. in the morning and give yourself a half hour of time at the beginning of your day? Skipping that time in front of a screen and heading for your writing project could give you a scheduled time every week (or day!) in which to put some words on paper.  Maybe writing in your journal while you’re having lunch or just before bed will be all you can do to keep the writing flowing during a busy summer. Even a small number of words, as few as 250 a day, can leave you with a decent-sized manuscript at the end of six months.

When the busy holiday weekends are over, here are some writing prompts for you to think about for the rest of the month–or for the next six. :)

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

a) blue, floor, mirror, shoe, ribbon, fear

b) screen, shine, cover, window, ink, push

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

  • Prom met all expectations.
  • “Turn that off now!”
  • Waiting stinks.
  • The boys found the body right after lunch.
  • “What’s in the bag?”
  • Sirens echoed through the valley.

3. See if you can think of a story or poem to go with one of these titles: Love’s Embers, Brook’s Brothers, Chase, Blue, The Last Tower, Mouse House, One Small Moment, Candle Power, Apple Days

4. Can  you think of a scene to go with these lines of dialogue?

  • That’s mine.
  • Are you sure?
  • Are you sure you want to ask that question?

 

  • I thought your magic would help us to get out of here.
  • I thought it would, too.
  • So, what’s the matter?
  • Someone’s using stronger magic.

 

  • You said you had the key.
  • I do.
  • Then why don’t you use it?
  • I’m not sure I want to know what’s on the other side of the door.

Hope you all have a writerly week ahead.

A Count-Your-Blessings Post

Met these characters in King's Landing, New Brunswick

Met these characters in King’s Landing, New Brunswick

Inspired by writer Laura Best’s recent post, I’m going to answer the question she ended with: Has anything small made your day recently?

I don’t know if the events of last week count as small (I thought they were a pretty big deal), but they certainly made my day–and my week!

Two weeks ago I agreed to do some work for a new client. I was very excited about this new company, which had contacted me out of the blue and promised work soon. The project was confirmed two Thursdays ago and required interviews with three different people, but I didn’t start getting the contact information and article topics until last this past Monday. I got the last person’s contact on Tuesday, so the soonest I could do the interview was Wednesday. The articles were due on Friday. I got a note from the marketing person on Wednesday saying that she’d talked to her boss, and because she’d got the information to me a bit late, and because she was taking an extra long holiday weekend, that they were giving me an extension to this Thursday. They didn’t want to rush the project. Okay. I’ve been freelancing for a long time now, and I’ve never, ever, had a client do that. Needless to say I really want to make this client happy, and hope that they will send more work my way.

Last week my application was due for an e-writer-in-residence position with a nearby library. The application package included two reference letters. I asked my local teen librarian and a teacher, whom I’ve known for many years and whose school I had visited several times, to write letters for me. Thinking of what they wrote, still makes me blush, but reading those letters definitely made my day.

I was also offered a writing gig for a current client. I love working with this client, but his company’s contracts never include the 13% HST (sales tax) that I have to send to Canada Revenue on the freelance work that I do. The last few times, I have deducted the tax from my fee, but this time, the fee was such that I’d be losing an amount that would represent quite a few hours of hard work being done, basically, for free. The client and I had a great phone call about the project (he’s very creative and supportive) and he said he’d take care of my contract concerns–no problem. Such a relief! The new contract was in my inbox within a couple of hours.

It has definitely been a special week. I hope that you find moments in the weeks to come that “make your day,” too.