Friday, September 30th, 2011

Writing Prompt – Wanderlust

Wanderlust - a strong or irresistible urge to travelI always get a little itchy around the change of seasons — for a change of scenery — particularly during Autumn.

Is it because I know Winter is just around the corner and I’ll be cooped up inside? Or, is it the allure of Fall foliage that has me wanting to gad about?

I’m not sure.

It could simply be the weather. (I stepped out onto the porch this morning into bright, clear sunshine, hot on my arms, coupled with a cool breeze. Perfect hiking weather.)

Or, it could be I need of a change of pace.


The ache is there, simply to get away.

Here’s Your Prompt:

Go somewhere you’ve never been before, and write. Do you frequent the same coffee bar to write? Try a different one. Do you go to the same park? Try a different bench, with a different view. Turn your back on the old one.

The point here is to see something different while you’re writing.

Can’t get out of the house? Write in a different room (or on the front porch, or even in the hallway.)

If this isn’t appealing, pull out some old snapshots of places you’ve been, or postcards you’ve received. Give them a good look and write about what you see.

Open an atlas, or spin a globe. Close your eyes and let your finger drop down on a location. Write about it. Don’t do any research, just write what you know. If you don’t know anything, make it up. Write what you think the scenery might look like, and how the people look and talk and act. Write about the things you could do there.

Before you begin your journey, don’t forget to write a farewell letter.

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

I’ve Lost the Last 25 Pages of my Manuscript…

…and I’ve been in a total funk.

I’ve been putting off writing in the hopes that I’ll find it….but as the days pass it’s looking less and less likely.

It’s my own fault. I own that.

But still.

Tomorrow I need to start over.

Although….I’m still thinking about working on something new while I hold onto this little fragment of hope.

Who wants to re-create 25 pages?

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Writing Prompt – Change of Seasons

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

Today is the first day of Fall, my favorite season.

I love crisp weather, the smell of woodsmoke, and the changing of the leaves. I’m also a big fan of shorter days and longer nights. (I love the night!) And, I can’t wait to wear all those things I’ve been knitting.

I love fall colors…crisp, red apples; heavy, orange pumpkins; papery, yellow leaves.

Summer is a shadow — a watered down step-sister — of her vibrant kin Autumn, and I’m glad she’s moving on.

Fall is rich in sights and sounds that just aren’t as available in the summer months. It’s like Mother Nature turns a switch and suddenly, instead of these hazy, lazy, sultry days, we’ve got sound and motion when the wind rattles dried leaves still on the branches; and, we’ve got rich color in pumpkins and gourds and mums; and we’re bombarded by the perfume of pie, and wood smoke, and simmering stew and baked turkey.

Yum! Autumn is a hedonist’s delight!

Here’s Your Prompt:

A veritable cornucopia of writing prompt ideas…

  • Write an essay about something you did or remember during the Fall when you were growing up — something you have strong feelings about, good or bad: raking leaves, carving pumpkins, sneaking cigarettes outside in the cold, a bonfire, a family get together.
  • Word Association: Harvest time. Falling leaves. Corn mazes. Acorns. Pumpkins. Scarecrows. Hay rides. Halloween. Haunted Houses. Thanksgiving.
  • Tell a ghost story: one you’ve made up, or one you or someone you know has experienced.
  • Imagine that you (or your character) is forced to live outside though Fall and Winter. How would you survive? What would be the worst part about it?
  • Write about the changing of the seasons. How they affect you or your characters. What’s bad about the change? Or good? What if the season never changed?
  • Write about your favorite season. Why is it your favorite? what makes it better than all the others?
  • Write about your least-favorite season. Why do you dislike it? what makes it the worst time of year?
Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Nine Ways to Tighten Up Your Writing

Word count meant a lot more to me when I worked for the newspapers. I hated being assigned “20 inches” to write a story, and then having to cut it down to 15 when a fire broke out on Broadway and that story required some of my space.

But word counts are important in non-fiction, too (even if the advent of the ebook has us writing longer and longer works.)

I’m currently working my way through a finished manuscript that’s about 125,000 words long. Ideally, I’d like to cut it back to the 85,000 – 95,000 word range, but I’d be happy with 100k.

So, after debating about several scenes which I removed, I’m left with tightening up the manuscript’s wordiness to pull it together.

To tighten it up, I’m omitting:

  1. Adverbs, and replacing the modified verbs with more specific ones.
  2. “To be” constructions: sentences that start with “It is…” or “There are…” can usually be reworded in a shorter form.
  3. “To be” appositives. (An appositive is a noun that names another right beside it in the sentence.) For example: Reliable, Diane’s eleven-year-old beagle, chews holes in the living room carpeting as if he were still a puppy. Example (and more information available) from:
  4. Possessive Constructions. (Too much use of the word “of.”) Reword or turn phrases around to get rid of it.
  5. “Excessive” mood setting, scene setting, internal and external dialogue. (Chop! Chop! Chop!)

Here are some things you can do to tighten up non-fiction:

  1. Make contractions. (I used to feel this was cheating, but I don’t anymore.) 🙂
  2. Similarly, get rid of coordinating conjunctions between complete sentences. For example: I hate to waste a single drop of squid eyeball stew, for it is expensive and time-consuming to make. When every word counts, deleting these words works wonders. More about coordinating conjunctions here. (The cool example came from there, too.)
  3. Get rid of rhetorical comments, parenthetical statements, and/or your own editorial comments*.

* Unless it’s an opinion piece, of course!

What tricks do you have to tighten up your prose?

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Writing Prompt – Haiku

Haiku Written in Japanese ScriptHaiku is a form of Japanese poetry consisting of (usually) one stanza of verse.

Traditionally, the first and last lines contain 5 syllables and the second line contains 7.

More strictly:

The soul of a haiku poem is a “cutting” word – which separates two ideas – but also shows how the two ideas are related.

Most pre-19th century Haiku also contain a “kiro” – a seasonal reference in the poem. These kiro come from a strict, delineated list of words, mostly references to nature (which made some folks mistakenly conclude that all Haiku are written about nature.)

Finally, traditional Haiku are written vertically, instead of horizontally. (I love the visual appeal of words tumbling down the page.)

Here’s Your Prompt:

We’re not going to be strict today. Simply write a haiku of three lines, containing 5, 7, and 5 syllables (in that order). Write it about some recent event or something you feel strongly about.

Bonus points if you post in the comments!

Here’s mine:

Displaced, dispossessed
No office to call my own.
It rained in the house.

The image used above comes from the website Alice nel paese delle gozzoviglie.. It also contains the translation in English.

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Today’s Writing Prompt Will Be Short

Sad, sad, office.A short writing prompt is in order today.

As you may know, I no longer have an office to work from (for the time being).

In spite of the lofty writing goals I’ve set for myself…I’ve got “home stuff” to accomplish in order to get the office — and the rest of the upstairs — back in order.

In the spirit of transparency, here are the writing goals:

  • Write, edit and post the writing prompt
  • Kick out 3,000 words on the WIP
  • Create a cover for my short story, On the Path*
  • Answer any writing email that’s been lingering since the roof event.
  • Several house-related items that aren’t important in a writing world… 🙂

I’m a little worried I won’t be able to do the 3K words… wish me luck.

Now, on to the writing prompt.

*On the Path was previously published in “Triangulation: Dark Glass,” edited by Pete Butler. Rights have returned to me, so I want to post it at Smashwords.

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

You Should Write at Night to Be More Productive

So, I wrote a few days ago that I’m a more productive writer in the evening.

Quite a few folks weighed in on the subject, including several who posted to lists I frequent, as well as private email. People wrote at all times of day, and for various reasons:

– early birds who get up before dawn while it’s still quiet
– parents who write at night after the kids go to bed
– students who find time to write in between classes
– etc.

Writer Jeff Goins postulates on his blog that everyone should write at night to be more productive. In a guest post there by, Jonathan Manor, he states:

The reason that most writers — “good” writers — choose to write at night, is because their mornings, afternoons, and early evenings have filled their bodies with inspiration.

I don’t know about you, but my mornings, afternoons and early evenings usually fill me with fatigue, a healthy dose of workplace annoyance and rush-hour traffic agitation. There’s not much inspiring about the routine (except the thought that I’ll *finally* have time to write when I get home).

Do you agree or disagree with Manor?

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

What Were You Doing on September 11, 2001?

Twin Towers being struck by a plane, September 11, 2001.Years ago, at family get-togethers, I used to hear my grandparent’s ask, “What were you doing when Kennedy was shot?”

I was born long after the event, so these questions and answers felt more like a parlor game than shared remembrances — or shared horrors.

Everyone had a different story, each unique, and each remembered with such exacting detail that you could almost imagine yourself there as the tale was told.

I never dreamed I’d have my own such question to ask.

What were you doing on 9/11?

I was working in a federal building just outside of Washington, D.C. I was de facto Webmaster for a USDA agency, and working on a Web site. I’d just finished a particularly taxing page and popped over to Yahoo for a news break.

Yahoo was reporting that an airplane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Buildings. It was a one-line story, breaking news, and they had no further details. No photo accompanied the story.

I had the foresight to hit “print” and capture the page. I still have it. It reads:

Plane Crashes Into World Trade Center
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A plane crashed into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center Tuesday, witnesses said.

I’m glad I printed the story, because I was unable to visit my other go-to news sites for more information. The Internet was tied up. In a ‘denial of service’ caused by people wanting more information, servers became quickly overloaded.

I tried phoning the Husband of Awesome™, but phone systems and cell towers in the D.C. area were also tied up.

We had a small black-and-white TV in the break room, which got poor reception on good days, but I remember watching President Bush, interrupted while reading to a group of second-graders, stop and make a statement.

After the second plane strike, and the hit on the Pentagon, fear began to percolate in our building. We were the tallest Federal Building for miles around. Could we be the next target?

Federal employees were eventually told to evacuate their buildings and go home. Those inside the beltway had trouble getting out. Streets were packed, people apparently walked for miles to get home. Just outside the Beltway, the roads were like a ghost town. I remember getting onto the highway and being amazed that mine was the only car there.

After a while, a few more cars came onto the road, but the eerie feeling didn’t leave, even with their presence.

I got home, turned on the TV, and sat glued there for the rest of the day. Images of the planes hitting the towers were replayed over and over again. It’s changed the way I see airplanes.

To this day, I can’t look at a plane in the sky and not remember 9/11.

What were you doing on 9/11?

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Writing Prompt – Lipograms

A lipogram is a form of writing (or word game) which forbids the use of a particular letter or letters. Generally, a lipogram forbids the letter ‘e,’ one of the most common letters in the English language. But many variations have been used.

Entire novels have been written in lipogram. For instance, author Walter Abish wrote Alphabetical Africa, constraining each chapter by alphabet. Chapter 1 uses only words beginning with the letter A. Chapter 2 allows words beginning with A and B, until Chapter 26, which permits all 26 letters of the English alphabet. The second half of the book removes letters in the reverse order in which they were added. Z words disappear in chapter 28, Y words in chapter 29, etc…

Over at the site, Curious Notions, the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence” is re-written several times. Here is just on example:


Sing a song of sixpence
A pocket full of rye.
Four-and-twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.
As the pie was opened
The birds began to sing.
Wasn’t that a dainty dish
To set before the King?

The King was in the counting house
Counting out his money.
The Queen was in the parlor
Eating bread and honey.
The maid was in the garden
Hanging out the clothes.
When along came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose.

No Is or Ss:

Croon a kreutzer canzonet,
A pocket full of coal,
Four-and-twenty waterfowl
Baked beneath a roll.
When the roll unfolded, well
They all began to peep —
An elegant entrée that made
The Monarch clap and leap.

The Monarch, under lock and key,
Computed all the money.
The parlor kept the Queen, who ate
Of bread and clover honey.
The flower garden held the wench,
Who hung the wool and lace.
A crow appeared and plucked the olfact’ry
Organ from her face.

Here’s Your Prompt:

Re-write a famous nursery rhyme, poem or saying in the style of a lipogram.

Here are some resources you may need to help you:

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

What Earthquakes and Hurricanes Won’t Do…

…apparently, your local contractor will happily accomplish…whether you want them to, or not.

My poor sad office:
Office Drywall

And by that I mean, of course, help me to get rid of all those books that I have been collecting.

See that great expanse of office in the corner missing its drywall? Waterlogged. Along with a great many books on the bookcase that exactly fit that space.

A few months ago, the Husband of Awesome™ and I decided that our 30-year old roof needed to be re-done. We’ve been putting it off for years for a number of reasons, mainly of course, because it didn’t leak. But we realized we were pushing our luck, so we finally bit the bullet and signed a contract.

When newscasters forecasted rain, the local contractor put up some black paper (“guaranteed to hold through several rainstorms”) and called it a day.

I know you probably know this already, but I’ll say it anyway: paper is not waterproof. (It is my opinion, that the local contractor did not adequately prepare.)

The other local contractor at our house today–the one that handles clean up after fires and floods–spent their time ripping out drywall (wet-wall, really); sucking up standing water in my attic space, ventilation, and upper floor; pulling up carpeting, and hauling in blowers, fans and dehumidifiers.

Quoth the Husband of Awesome™: “We’ve got like a thousand machines upstairs and in the attic.”

It’s really noisy in here right now. And the machines have to run continuously until Friday.

I’ll be spending that time weeding out the books. Again.

I joked on Facebook last week that the earthquake which knocked many of these same books to the floor was telling me then that I needed to do another purge.

Okay, Universe, I get the point.