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.”

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.




No Excuses Now

BlossomsSpring is making a valiant effort to warm up my part of southern Ontario, though the roof tops were white with frost this morning and double digit temperatures have been scarce. But I know things will change, and the trees will soon show signs of green.

I’ve been making valiant efforts to write every day–and failing lately. I was making great progress until the middle of last week when a nasty cold decided to take up residence just as my final marks were due–along with my taxes–and a major freelance gig needed to be finished. Nothing like a cold to slow down everything. However, the marks went in on Friday, the freelance gig and taxes were done yesterday, and as of today, I have nothing to stop progress on the books I’m working on. A great feeling.

And a scary one. I can be the world’s champion procrastinator when it comes to getting down to the work. My best solution for getting the writing done lately has been to not write at the computer and to keep my phone on mute. I love checking Facebook and my email and playing Free Cell, and can waste a lot of time doing that instead of writing. I’ll be trying out some strategies in the next couple of weeks that I hope will help me make serious progress on my projects. I’ll let you know how they work. If you know of any tried and true techniques, please pass them along. I have a lot to learn here.

In the meantime, I’m talking to a couple of grade 8 classes on Wednesday about what a writer does, so I need to work on finding props and organizing my presentation in the next couple of days, too. I love class visits, so I’m really looking forward to my Wednesday morning with Mr. Brenneman’s classes.

I hope you have a creative week ahead!

Slowly But Surely

My daily writing challenge for April continues, and, so far, I’ve written every day or worked on my editing. I’m definitely not flying through the work a great speed, but each time I go back to it, I feel like I’m seeing the project a bit more clearly and finding the right voice for it.

Finding the right voice is always a big part of of my first draft struggles. With fiction, I try first person, third person limited, omniscient–sometimes all in the same chapter! For non-fiction, it’s a matter of settling the level of vocabulary and finding the write tone to use to talk to my reader. All this playing as I write means that a lot of words will be rewritten or thrown out the next time through. I can’t wait for that day, because it means the first draft will be finished and some of the tough decisions will have been made. I like the editing part a lot.

Spring is finally starting to become a reality here. Although I still see lots of snow from my window, grass, very brown and soggy, is claiming its space in my landscape. Birds are singing and the basement has managed to get only slightly damp. Warm days are in the forecast, and I’m looking forward to taking my writing outside. Last Thursday, I took a trip to Starbucks and made a lot of progress on planning the book. I find that a change of scene can really boost my creativity. Do you like to work outdoors or in places other than at your desk or usual writing spot? Where do you like to write?

Wishing you a creative week ahead no matter where you choose to write!

Hoping to see these in my garden soon.
Hoping to see these in my garden soon.

Accountability Challenge Check-In

A Saugeen Lane
A Saugeen Lane

Today marks day 14 of the accountability challenge, and I’ve managed to write my early morning pages for 13 of the 14 mornings. I really do work better when I have to check in with other writers. Their short emails about their progress are inspiring and a big reason why I keep going some days.

Sometimes, the early morning pages are a place to make the to-do list or rant or get things prioritized or just let the mind wander. And all that’s helpful, too. When I get to the writing later that day, the decks are cleared of whatever I left behind on the morning pages, and the writing comes  a little easier. Because of a daily writing habit, I’ve drafted two short stories for an upcoming deadline and figured out how to adapt another idea for the same project. It’s a lot easier for me to find writing time later in the day, when I’ve started the morning behaving like a writer.

I’m planning a second edition of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens and am rereading The Hunger Games as a source for some examples for various writing tips in the book. It’s quite a ride, and I’m enjoying it. I love it when research turns out to be fun!

I hope you are progressing toward your writing goals and that you have a writerly week ahead.

Thoughts on the End of the Writing Challenge

End of the day in my favourite place
End of the day in my favourite place

Today marks the last day of my early morning writing challenge. And now I face the ‘what next?’ question.

Did writing every morning make a difference in the rest of my writing for the day? Yes, it did.  I really believe that, later in the day when I got down to doing my other writing work, having written in the morning did make it easier to focus and find the words I needed. I was encouraged by what my other group-mates were doing, too. Some were adding daily to their WIP. That was a big incentive for me, who was doing very little on that front. The early morning writing helped me sort out why. It gave me a place to think about the project as a whole and to find some positive self-talk about what I was doing, had done and would do. It gave me a place to make plans and think ahead. For that alone, the daily writing was worth it.

I often get caught up in a short-term to-do list because there just isn’t time to think out a little further into the future. The gift of that early morning writing time has helped me look ahead at what I want to do with my most recently published book and given me the patience to get more of my ducks in a row before I start marketing in earnest. The book is a fantasy for grades 5/6 and I want to finish a teacher’s guide and get my website organized before I try to interest people in the project. A lot of home-schoolers visit my book website. I want to have everything they need to teach my book ready for them. I’m thinking of branching out into Pinterest, too, because that’s where they share the free stuff that’s on my book site. (If you have any advice about using Pinterest, I’d love to hear it.)

So what next? What next means continuing to do my daily morning writing. It’s been too valuable to put aside now. I’m hoping that one or two others in my group feel the same, because checking in with other writers really helps keep me going.

So thanks Kristi Holl for launching this month of writing accountability. I hope you enjoyed the experience as much as I did! (Check out Kristi’s books, too. Writer’s First Aid and More Writer’s First Aid at http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/more-writers-first-aid/

May’s writing prompts will be posted tomorrow!


Memories of Last SpringWelcome to the beginning of a new month. I’ve started my recent writing challenge (see previous post) and am looking forward to a month of daily writing and creativity.

Here are some writing prompts for April.

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

a) robin, melody, fence, puddle, trunk, sigh

b) clip, branch, green, boot, window, call

c) meadow, snow, range, leaf, creep, sight, wonder

2. Here are some story/novel titles. Can you think of a story that might go with them?

Branching Out, Last to Die, Broken Glass, Heart’s Journey, Runner Smith, The Dread, Mystery on the Grand, Time’s Window, I Wish I May.

3. See if you can start a story with one of these sentences. Maybe one could work as the end of a story, too.

a) That’s blood.

b) Soon I’ll never have to answer that phone again.

c) I thought you two had already met.

d) I specialized in white lies.

e) Chris! Get that thing out of the way right now!

4. Here are a couple of exchanges of dialogue that might inspire you.

a) I’m tired.

You’re just saying that because you’re bored.

Okay. I’m bored and tired.

b) I thought he was supposed to be here by now.

Cut him some slack, will you?

And he’s earned that how?

c) What’s in your hand.

It’s mine. I found it.

Let me see.

I hope you have a creative month ahead and that you get the chance to enjoy some lovely spring weather. Today we’re in horizontal snow broken by sunshine and fat gray clouds racing across a blue sky. The wind is whistling down the chimney, and I’m actually thinking of lighting the gas fire. All I can say is, “Hurry up Spring!”

My April Challenge

DaffodilsI follow Kristi Holl’s blog and own 2 of her books, Writer’s First Aid and More Writer’s First Aid. I find her blog and her books inspiring.

For the month of April, Kristi is running two challenges. One is called Writing on Schedule. Inspired by writer Dorothea Brande, this challenge asks you to commit to writing at one particular time every day. This can be tricky, but Kristi believes that it’s worth the effort to make that deadline stick: ‘Persevere! Ignore all the little voices that tell you it doesn’t really matter when you write, or won’t matter if you skip it just this once. Push on doggedly. If you do this, Brande says the “unconscious will suddenly give in charmingly, and begin to write gracefully and well.” From experience, I have to agree.’

The second challenge is called Harnessing the Unconscious. This challenge, also inspired by Brande, requires writing first thing in the morning before the rest of the day intrudes on your mind. Kristi explains, ‘This exercise helps you “train” your unconscious to flow toward writing (instead of something else). As Brande says, “the first step toward being a writer is to hitch your unconscious mind to your writing arm.” This exercise is to help you make that automatic connection so that later you can do this on demand.’

Well, this is definitely the challenge for me. By the time I get to my writing, I’m so fidgety and my brain is so full of to-do lists and other things that I would rather clean the bathroom than look at a screen or my journal. The words ‘flow’ and ‘writing’ have been strangers for quite a while. I really need to find an ‘automatic connection’ that will help me write ‘on demand’ and if that means waking up fifteen minutes earlier every day, I will do that.

If you need a writing challenge for April, one of these two might just be the answer. I’d love some company next month, so let me know if you’re signing up, and we can encourage each other to make these positive changes to our writing lives. I’ll be posting some new writing prompts for April soon, in case you need some inspiration to get the words on the page.

p.s. I reviewed Kristi’s book here http://wp.me/pBoEr-6U

p.p.s A reminder that my book 201 Writing Prompts is on sale at Smashwords, at 50% off the $2.99 price with this code ZA54M until March 31st.

Planning for 2013

photo by Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons
Time Disappears in a Good Book Photo by Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

The writing challenge that I set myself 22 days ago is progressing well. I haven’t missed a day, though I pulled couple of late nights to make sure that I kept to my commitment. I’m looking forward to reading all the crazy things I’ve written when the challenge is over. Writing whatever comes to mind has been a very “interesting” process.Today, and for the next couple of weeks, I’m focusing on making plans for my freelance writing business for 2013. I’m looking for ways to grow my services by developing a training course in clear writing for local businesses and by expanding my creative writing workshops into more schools, and by … Well, you get the idea.

The task of setting business goals is a lot easier with some guidance from other experienced writers. Here’s a link to Paul Lima’s chapter from Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing. Whether you are in business or not, answering the questions that Paul poses here will help you create a plan that will help you reach your goals.

Another link that certainly helped me get my goals in perpective is from Kristi Holl at Writer’s First Aid. Here she talks about small goals that she believes will make a big difference to her writing output next year. http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/2012/11/simplified-writing-goals-for-2013/ Also have a look at Set Goals NOW for 2013, and with Kristi’s and Paul’s suggestions enjoy New Year’s Day knowing that you’ve done good work to make 2013 your best year yet.

Do you take the time to make yearly plans for your business or your writing life? Do you have any resources or suggestions that help with goal setting and planning?

December Writing Prompts and Challenge Update

Flags at DeerhurstYesterday, I completed Day 14 of my daily writing challenge. There were a couple of days last week when I really just wanted to forget it and have a nap, but I was very happy that I persisted–not because I created a particularly riveting piece of prose, but just because I wrote something instead of nothing. Yup. That was all it took to put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

Here are some writing prompts for you for December, and if you don’t find these inspiring, I’ve just posted another 20 at http://wrightingwords.wordpress.com/writing-starters/ Have a creative December!

1. December brings the year to an end, and if the Mayans were right … no, I really don’t believe that. Here are some song titles  that might inspire a story: End of Night, End of the Road, My Endless Love, End of Time, Last Waltz, My Last Breath, Last Child, Last Time, The Last Night.

2. Use one, some of all of these words in a story: pine, snow, wind, crack, red, dead leaves, flame.

3. Here are some opening lines:

A dead battery was the least of my problems that morning.

Jim said he’d checked the cottage yesterday. It wasn’t like him to forget to lock the door.

Beth put her mug down with a thud and jumped up from the table. She really had heard it. It wasn’t her imagination.

Dry leaves scuttered across the driveway.

I hated it when snow fell horizonally.

Chris woke to the sound of crying. It was 3 o’clock in the morning and he’d been alone when he went to bed.

4. Use one, some or all of these words in a story: chimes, midnight, window, stone, willow, song

5. Try one of these “seasonal”story titles: The Holly and the Slimy, In the Creep Midwinter, Siren Night, Shiver Bells, Snowfall Blues, Black Ice, Gifts, Holly’s Heart, New Years and No Tears, Ribbons and Robin.

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