Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Five Minute Exercise - Integrity

1. Set your clocks/timers for Five (5) Minutes.

2. Write about Integrity. What personal virtues define who you are? How does integrity and the ability to achieve success relate? Get into as much detail as you can for the next five minutes.

3. Ready?

4. Go.

5. Finished? Review and be amazed.

I hope you had fun. Come back next Friday for a new writing prompt.

Was this exercise helpful?

Did you succeed with this writing exercise? Was it helpful? Were you able to find and write about your own integrity and personal virtues? Were you able to define how integrity and the ability to achieve success relate?

Why or Why Not?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Writing Tips - 10 Good Writing Habits

From Gotham Writers' Workshop Inc. comes 10 Good Writing Habits by Zadie Smith.

From Wikipedia: "Zadie Smith is a British novelist, essayist and short story writer.
As of 2012, she has published four novels, all of which have received substantial critical praise. In 2003, she was included on Granta's list of 20 best young authors, and was also included in the 2013 list. She joined New York University's Creative Writing Program as a tenured professor on September 1, 2010. Smith has won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2006 and her novel White Teeth was included in Time magazine's TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005 list."
In her late twenties, Zadie Smith wrote her novel, White Teeth. This novel is a look into various lives in contemporary multicultural London. She wrote subsequent novels, The Autograph Man and On Beauty.

Zadie Smith is considered one of the freshest and most ambitious voices of her generation.

Quotes by Zadie Smith:

“When I write I am trying to express my way of being in the world. This is primarily a process of elimination: once you have removed all the dead language, the second-hand dogma, the truths that are not your own but other people's, the mottos, the slogans, the out-and-out lies of your nation, the myths of your historical moment - once you have removed all that warps experience into a shape you do not recognise and do not believe in - what you are left with is something approximating the truth of your own conception.”
― Zadie Smith

“The very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life.” 
― Zadie Smith

“The past is always tense, the future perfect.” 
― Zadie Smith

10 Good Writing Habits by Zadie Smith

1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.

2. When an adult, try to read your own work a a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.

3. Don't romanticize your "vocation". You can either write good sentences or you can't. There is no "writer's lifestyle." All the matters is what you leave on the page.

4. Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can't do aren't worth doing. Don't mask self doubt with contempt.

5. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.

6. Avoid cliques, gangs, group. The presence of a crowd won't make your writing any better that it is.

7. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the Internet.

8. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.

9. Don't confuse honours with achievement.

10. Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand - but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.

-- This list came from an article in The Guardian.

There you have it. Wisdom from Zadie Smith.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Five Minute Exercise - Perceptions

1. Set your clocks/timers for Five (5) Minutes.

2. Write about perceptions. Perception can be defined as knowledge acquired through the senses. What insights or intuitive judgments do you possess? Get into as much detail as you can for the next five minutes.

3. Ready?

4. Go.

5. Finished? Review and be amazed.

I hope you had fun. Come back next Friday for a new writing prompt.

Was this exercise helpful?

Did you succeed with this writing exercise? Was it helpful? Were you able to find and write about your own perceptions of intuitive judgments?

Why or Why Not?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Writing Tips - 8 Basics of Creative Writing

Today's lesson comes from Kurt Vonnegut. From Wikipedia "November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. His works such as Cat's Cradle (1963),Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973) blend satiregallows humor, and science fiction. As a citizen he was a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union and a critical pacifist intellectual. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association."

About Vonnegut's writing career - also from Wikipedia - "Vonnegut's first short story, "Report on the Barnhouse Effect," appeared in the February 11, 1950, edition of Collier's (it has since been reprinted in his short story collection, Welcome to the Monkey House). His first novel was the dystopian novel Player Piano (1952), in which human workers have been largely replaced by machines. He continued to write short stories before his second novel, The Sirens of Titan, was published in 1959. Through the 1960s, the form of his work changed, from the relatively orthodox structure of Cat's Cradle (which in 1971 earned him a Master's Degree) to the acclaimed, semi-autobiographical Slaughterhouse-Five, given a more experimental structure by using time travel as a plot device. These structural experiments were continued in Breakfast of Champions (1973), which includes many rough illustrations, lengthy non-sequiturs, and an appearance by the author himself as adeus ex machina.
Vonnegut attempted suicide in 1984 and later wrote about this in several essays."

I won't go into them here, as they're not really writing related, but a collection of 15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has or Will is something you might enjoy reading.

Something from Kurt Vonnegut that I will share with you is from the preface to his short story collection Bagombo Snuff Box. In it, Mr. Vonnegut shared what he calls Creative Writing 101. And, I share it with you today.
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something; even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things - reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them - in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

There you have it. Wise words from a literary legend. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday Five Minute Exercise - Uniqueness

1. Set your clocks/timers for Five (5) Minutes.

2. Write about uniqueness. How many times in your life have you felt a little more unique than most of the people around you? This is often the case for writers. It can be difficult to remain true to your soul when you feel different. Get into as much detail as you can for the next five minutes.

3. Ready?

4. Go.

5. Finished? Review and be amazed.

I hope you had fun. Come back next Friday for a new writing prompt.

Was this exercise helpful?

Did you succeed with this writing exercise? Was it helpful? Were you able to find and write about your own uniqueness?

Why or Why Not?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Writing Tips - 10 Writing Insights

From Gotham Writers' Workshop Inc. comes 10 Writing Insights by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd.
Tracy Kidder is a renowned nonfiction writer, known as a literary journalist for the way he combines story and voice with exhaustive research. He is the author of Among Schoolchildren and The Soul of a New Machine, which won a Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

Richard Todd served as executive editor of the esteemed magazine The Atlantic and as the editor of his own book imprint at Houghton Mifflin. Kidder and Todd collaborated on the book Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction.

1. To write is to talk to strangers. you have to inspire confidence, to seem and to be trustworthy.

2. It is always prudent to remember that one is not Tolstoy or Dickens.

3. Don't concentrate on technique, which can be the same as concentrating on yourself. Give yourself to the story.

4. The reader wants to see you not trying to impress, but trying to get somewhere.

5. For a story to have a chance to live, it is essential only that there be something at stake. A car chase is not required.

6. Try to attune yourself to the sound of your own writing. If you can't imagine yourself saying something aloud, then you probably shouldn't write it.

7. The creating of a style often begins with a negative achievement. Only by rejecting what comes too easily can you clear a space for yourself.

8. Use words wantonly and you disappear before your own eyes. Use them well and you create yourself.

9. The best work is done when one's eye is simply on the work, not on its consequence, or on oneself. It is something done for its own sake. It is, in Lewis Hyde's term, a gift.

10. Be willing to surprise yourself.

Thank you to Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd for their insight. Thank you to the Gotham Writers' Workshop for their interview.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday Five Minute Exercise - Your Own Voice

1. Set your clocks/timers for Five (5) Minutes.

2. Write in your own voice. Try to discover your own voice by writing about passionate topics. Do not worry about the eyes and minds of the world. Only write what you know to be true in your heart and soul. Use the voice (the gift) that was bestowed upon you. Get into as much detail as you can for the next five minutes.

3. Ready?

4. Go.

5. Finished? Review and be amazed.

I hope you had fun. Come back next Friday for a new writing prompt.

Was this exercise helpful?

Did you succeed with this writing exercise? Was it helpful? Were you able to find and write in your own voice?

Why or Why Not?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Eight Question Meme

I found this meme from the Stay At Home Mom blog. I thought it was interesting and wanted to join in. It looked like fun. So, here goes, my 8 Question Meme for May 8th:

1. What were you doing 10 years ago?

I was working on my second book, NOT WITHOUT ANNA. I was finishing it up for my publisher.

Here is the book blurb for Not Without Anna: Katherine, shocked by her daughter's death, too late, realizes she had been out of touch with her daughter and didn't recognize the stranger Anna had become. Charles, helpless to reach his son, watches him slip away. He's unable to comprehend Mike's nightmares and depression as he deals with his girlfriend's death and his own guilt.

2. What 5 things are on your to-do list?

1. Relax
2. Write blogs
3. Complete vacation plans
4. Don't forget Mother's Day
5. Remember May is Mental Health Month

3. What are 5 snacks you enjoy?

1. blueberries
2. raspberries
3. chocolate
4. Sobe Lifewater
5. popcorn

4. Name some things you would do if you were a millionaire:

1. Donate money to my church
2. Travel more to see my children and grandchildren
3. Put money away for my grandchildren's college fund
4. Put money away for our retirement
5. Get my husband whatever he wanted

5. Name some places you have lived:

1. Michigan
2. California
3. Arizona
4. Idaho
5. Wyoming
6. Florida

6. Name some bad habits you have:

1. Worry too much
2. Assume the worst
3. spend too much money
4. spoil my dog and parrot

7. Name some jobs you have had:

1. Marine
2. Data Coordinator
3. Technical Writer
4. Technical Support Consultant
5. Documentation & Internal Training Manager
6. Sr. Documentation Specialist
7. Technical Publications Manager
8. President/Owner
9. Author
10. Blogger

8. Name those you are tagging for this meme:

I encourage anyone who finds this meme interesting to join in and post on their blog.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Writing Tips – Adverbs

Adverbs. People have a love/hate relationship with them, especially when it comes to writing fiction. There are the camps where nary an adverb can be found while in another camp, adverbs flock like sheep. So, which is it for you? To adverb or not to adverb?

To get it straight: Adverbs are words that modify. It is understood that there are five kinds of adverbs.

1.    Adverbs of Manner
She moved quickly and spoke softly.

2.    Adverbs of Place
She has lived in the country all her life.

3.    Adverbs of Frequency
She takes a tractor to the backfields every day.
She often goes with her father.

4.    Adverbs of Time
She attempts to get back before dark.
It’s starting to get dark now.
She finished clearing the last field first.
She left early.

5.    Adverbs of Purpose
She drives her tractor slowly to avoid hitting tender plants.
When in town, she shops in several stores to get the best buys.

For the sake of this article, we will discuss using adverbs in fiction writing.  If this were a true grammar lesson, we’d discuss adverb clauses, adverbial phrases, infinitive phrases acting as adverbs, and so much more. But, I’m not going to give you a grammar lesson on adverbs. We are going to have a discussion of their legitimate use in fiction writing.

One more tip. Most adverbs end in –ly. In fact, most adverbs are formed by adding –ly to adjectives.

For example: drowsy (an adjective) + -ly = drowsily (an adverb)

As for how other writers view the use of adverbs, the most famous criticizer of adverbs is Stephen King: “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they're like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day . . . fifty the day after that . . . and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it's--GASP!!--too late.
”(Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Scribner, 2000)

“In order to write good stuff you have to hate adverbs.”
(Theodore Roethke, quoted in The Glass House: The Life of Theodore Roethke, by Allan Seager. McGraw-Hill, 1968)

You can read more about Why the Adverb is Not Our Friend by Richard Nordquist.

If you’d like further explanation of the use of adverbs and How to use Adverbs Correctly check out this article and discussion by Tanya.

I think everyone will agree, that if you use the adverb correctly and appropriately, it’s less likely to get kicked to the curb during an edit.

For more information, read How to Use Adverbs and How to Use Adverbs Correctly.

An article in a 1996 Writer’s Digest magazine suggested that once you complete your first draft use the “Edit – Find” feature of your word processor to search for “ly” words. Once you find these words, rewrite the sentence. You’ll find your writing stronger, tighter, more powerful and easier to read.

Karin Schroeder said, “In my early twenties, I began a love affair I still struggle with to this day to put behind me. My partners in crime? Adverbs and adjectives. These culprits lulled me into believing they actually strengthened my writing. Was I in for a rude awakening.
That day came when a critique partner pointed out that I used purple prose. Being a beginning writer, I had no idea what she was talking about. But I soon learned as I began to sneak how-to-write books home.
Weak verb/adverb example:
       Frowning angrily, she moved hurriedly towards him, saying very harshly, "You bastard."
Example rewritten:
       Scowling, she stalked towards him. "You bastard."
See the stronger verbs that replaced the weaker verb/adverb combinations?”
As Rogenna W. Brewer said, “--ly adverbs distract from the action. Eliminate the need for them with action verbs. Instead of: "She went quickly…" try: "She hurried…" or "She bolted…". An action verb creates a picture for the reader. The right action verb creates an exact picture. "Hurried" and "bolted" both imply quickness, but each creates its own mental image.”
On Writing Well, 5th Edition - William Zinsser
“Most adverbs are unnecessary. You will clutter your sentence and annoy the reader if you choose a verb that has a specific meaning and then add an adverb that carries the same meaning. Don't tell us that the radio blared loudly - "blare" connotes loudness. Don't write that someone clenched his teeth tightly - there's no other way to clench teeth. Again and again in careless writing, strong verbs are weakened by redundant adverbs.
So are adjectives and other parts of speech: "effortlessly easy," slightly Spartan," "totally flabbergasted." The beauty of "flabbergasted" is that it implies an astonishment that is total; I can't picture someone being partly flabbergasted. If an action is so easy as to be effortless, use "effortless." And what is "slightly Spartan"? Perhaps a monk's cell with wall-to-wall carpeting? Don't use adverbs unless they do necessary work. Spare us the news that the losing athlete moped sadly and the winner grinned widely.”
For more information go to Those “ly” Ending Adverbs.
I stumbled across a blog about writing fiction by Matt Moore. He defends the use of the adverb and does it quite well.
He writes, “But this does not mean you have to excise an element of grammar. Eliminating adverbs is like eliminating gerunds, adjectives or any grammatical form. That is, there’s a difference between taking issue with weak phrasing that uses adverbs, and eliminating all adverbs just because you think it’s a “rule”.”
Matt goes on to say, “While adverbs can distance the reader, they can also have a powerful effect. In a story I just finished, “That Which Does Not Kill You”, I wrote:
It was how she examined and selected the limbs that freaked Teller out. Gently, delicately. Almost lovingly.
By using dry, clinical words like “examined” and “selected” and then contrasting them with three “ly” adverbs, I want to throw the reader off balance.
So, go ahead and use adverbs as long as, like every other word in your story, they add something. But if you rely on them to make up for shortcomings, that’s when there’s a problem. But the problem is not the adverb itself. It’s more complicated than some rule.”
If you’d like to read the rest of the blog, go to The “Avoid Adverbs” Rule is (Very) Wrong.
So, there you have it, the pros and cons of using adverbs while writing fiction. There are good arguments on both sides. I think in the case of most fiction writing rules, you use your best judgment and if you’re going to break a rule, do so with gusto!

For more information about using adverbs:

I hope you got something useful out of this blog about adverbs. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Five Minute Exercise - Future

1. Set your clocks/timers for Five (5) Minutes.

2. Write about your future. Do not let your doubts, fears, and negative voices intrude on your life plan. Get into as much detail as you can for the next five minutes.

3. Ready?

4. Go.

5. Finished? Review and be amazed.

I hope you had fun. Come back next Friday for a new writing prompt.

Was this exercise helpful?

Did you succeed with this writing exercise? Was it helpful? Were you able to write about your future?

Why or Why Not?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Give Me 250 - Freedom

Let's celebrate our writing. Your Writing Coach has the "Give me 250 on Wednesdays" prompt. Every Wednesday I will give you a prompt and all you have to do is give me 250 words on whatever pops into your head about the prompt. It can be a draft or a final revision. Just give me the 250 words you want to share. Post the 250 words on your blog. Celebrate your writing!

Then, when you are finished, link your permalink post here and discover what others have posted for their 250. Share this link with your Twitter friends and Facebook friends. Share away. Just celebrate and share. Use the hashtag #250Wednesday on Twitter.

Only one rule: Encourage the person who linked before you. It's important that we all have validation for our writing. Encouragement is important. Validate another's writing; be supportive, just like you'd want someone to validate yours.

Invite your friends to join in the fun. What can you write in 250 words with our prompts?

This prompt will stay up for your writing pleasure for one week, Wednesday until Tuesday. Then, the prompt changes.

Let's grow this writing prompt challenge. Grab the button and share with others.

250 Wednesdays Button

5/01/13 Prompt - Freedom

Today's prompt asks you to write about freedom. Freedom of the heart and soul. Do societal expectation and guilt attached to your roles affect your choices in life? Do they affect your freedom to do and be what you want? Write about how you can possess true freedom of your heart and soul.

Have fun with this. Did you enjoy the writing prompt?