Write Now Prompt for October 24, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The leaves fell like rain outside the window.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

The stories all around us

bathroomladderWe are in the midst of remodeling the bathroom (the only bathroom) in our house.  Like anyone who owns an old home, I had my fears about this project — what horrors would we find with the plumbing or the electric or the subfloors or the joists or the structure. In fact, the first day of the project, every time the contractor came out to get something I assumed it was the time he was going to say, “Sir… we’ve gotta talk…” and then proceed to show me that the room was held together with toothpicks and superglue.

Thankfully, that conversation hasn’t happened (so far, though we’re almost done so I think we’re okay).  What did happen, though, is that opening the walls, ceiling and flooring of the bathroom opened up a history that we had previously not known. It also  opened up a set of possibilities for us to come up with some quite interesting stories about what we found.

First… there was the ladder.  We opened up a wall which seemed from the outside to be just empty space.  Inside, we found an old, wooden ladder.  What is that ladder’s story?  Why was it left in the wall? Was it there for safekeeping, locked away for “a rainy day”?  Was it placed there absentmindedly and then ignored as the plasterboard was put up? Was it the only thing that was holding that portion of the house up at some point (goodness, I sure hope that isn’t the case!)?

Then there was the insulation. Apparently, the best insulation around was newspaper. As we touched it, it disintegrated immediately, turning into dust right in our fingers because, apparently, newspaper really isn’t all that good to use as insulation.  I was able to gently pull one sheet of newspaper out of the ceiling and it stayed intact long enough for me to see the date — December 29, 1963.  So, we learned that the last time this room had work done on it was 51 years ago. Imagine what we might have been able to discover about an era long ago had those newspapers been just a tiny bit more stable. We could have read the articles and learned about the local politics of the day, or the national and world news the local paper thought was important.  What if every home used the ceilings and walls of its bathroom as a time capsule and through this method of archival a society’s entire history was recorded? Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Next, we found a wall full of razor blades. Now, this explained a few things for me, specifically why I would find random old, rusty razorblades in the basement every so often over the past twenty years.  But more importantly, I learned something.  I had not known that they used to put a slot in medicine cabinets into which old razors were discarded.  Apparently, this was common and when you were done with the razor you would stick it in the slot and it would “magically disappear”.  Well, now I know where the razors re-appeared.  But imagine if such a technology did exist…stick your unwanted stuff in a slot and have it whisked magically away… perhaps re-appearing in a similar slot somewhere else where a person may need the item, or perhaps just falling away into a landfill (or my bathroom wall).

This remodeling job has provided the seeds for a lot of stories. Perhaps my 2014 NaNoWriMo novel has been waiting in the walls of that room for the past 51 years.  We cleaned up everything we found there in those walls and we’ve sealed it up nice again, but I wonder if in another 51 years someone will open these same walls up and learn something new about life in 2014, or find a new set of stories to tell.  The biggest thing this job has done for me creatively is reminded me once again that there are millions of stories to be told, all of them sitting there waiting to be discovered in the things we do and encounter everyday but don’t think twice about.  So, what’s your every-day normal world telling you to write about today?  I’d bet if you look carefully, you’ll find some really exciting stories to tell.

Hook your Readers

Readers are a fickle lot. If your writing hasn’t grabbed their attention within a few sentences, its likely your story will be laid aside and another chosen in its place. There are a number of ways to entice a reader to continue with your words, but the most effective tool is the ‘hook’; a sentence that emotionally engages the reader. Obviously some of these opening sentences will be more applicable to certain writing styles than others; but are worth investigating none the less.

Questions
One of your characters can open with a question to bring immediacy and context directly into play. “What? You eat slimy slugs in your sandwiches?”

Dialogue
Short simple dialogue will have the reader question the story immediately, wondering what has just happened.

Idioms
Dependent upon the style of your writing, you may open with a idiom. Slang and idioms are not normally accepted within formal styles of writing, but can give a deeper and richer meaning and texture to a sentence if used well. They also have the danger of being clinched, so care is required with their use. Examples of idioms which carry imagery which extends beyond simple words include “at loggerheads,”, “over the moon”, “vicious cycle”.

Exaggeration.
A characters view on the situation can be captured quickly with their exaggerated outlook, eg “A billion flies have defended on my face”.

Setting
This is perhaps the most utilized within the toolbox of hooks. Adjective and adverb rich, care needs to be taken not to overdo the setting and lose the reader inside it. Too much scenery or back story will send the reader packing. Use words and images in your opening setting which will convey the overall tone of your story, be it dark, whimsical or suspenseful. If you are using the setting as your opening, it can hint towards a characters mood or intent.

Contradictions
This opening works well for stories full of emotion. e.g., “I have a loving husband, a huge home with servants, an important job; but why do I feel like my life is falling apart?”

Onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeia is defined as a word, or set of words, which imitates the natural sounds of a noun. Examples include “whispering pines”, “the slurp of the slushy”, “the last gulp of a coffee”. This stylistic tool allows the writer to vividly convey a scene quickly.

Exclamation
Another tool for a character to express something, or for the writer to engage the reader personally. “ Phew! If you thought it was hot in the desert, wait till you work in the bakery Matt does (or I do)…”

Writing an effective hook will pull your audience in but is not necessary to write first. As your story develops, you may discover the right hook to begin your story with and be able to mold your opening paragraph to include it. The hook should encapsulate what will be found within the story.

Write Now Prompt for October 21, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

He set foot on his old college campus for the first time in 20 years and all of the memories flooded back.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

The Writers Circle: Seasons

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

Do you have a favorite time of year to write? Is it easier for you to feel creative at some points during the year than others?  Do you have a favorite time of year in which you set your stories?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

Write Now Prompt for October 17, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The old coffee machine started to brew its daily pot of coffee, but sputtered, popped and stopped before completing the task.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Tiny Bursts of Inspiration

As the kickoff of NaNoWriMo approaches, it’s a good idea to get warmed up. The same way you’d warm up your leg muscles before running, you need to make sure your creative muscles are ready for the task.

Toward that end, I thought it might be helpful to point out the tiny writing prompts that we share on our Facebook Page. Maybe you aren’t aware of them–and judging by the statistics, you aren’t. 5 days each week we post a prompt that’s designed to give you the spark for a very short burst of creative writing.

Most days you could respond to the prompt in 5 minutes or less, but there’s no reason you can’t stretch it into a longer bout of writing. These prompts have been going on for a while–there’s more than 450 already–and they’ll keep going up 5 days a week (no Tuesdays or Fridays, because on those days we put up prompts on this blog) through this year’s NaNoWriMo and beyond.

Here are a few examples of the Micro Writing Prompts. Check our Facebook Page for hundreds more.

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The Bumble Bee

 shari_post_20141015It isn’t supposed to be able to fly, you know. The bumble bee isn’t built with the correct anatomical construction for flight, but try telling that to a jail-striped insect lusting after pretty flowers between bouts of breathtaking aerodynamic displays. Of course it’s just a worker bee after all, motivated but sexless, doing its robo-job on behalf of the hive, all glory to Her Royal Highness, the Queen.

We can learn a lot from the busy bee, industry and work ethic being at the top of the list. Butcher, baker, or writer, you can’t beat the bee for getting the job done. I’m not fussy about who claims the title writer for themselves. Published writer or wanna be, (I’m in the latter category, sigh,) as long as you write, keyboard nib to virtual page, you’re a writer to me. I’ve written five books, two for children, three for adults, with more story ideas in the chute, awaiting their place in the computer files. Not a claim for commendation, but not a candidate for sloth either.

I read so many articles about getting over writer’s block, way too much time and space wasted wondering why so much is written about how we can make ourselves do what we all claim we love to do – write. Frankly, my dears, the only caveat I see about calling oneself a writer is staking the claim and then standing back to wall, describing bricks as the Big Block. I live in California, earthquake country – I know that a brick wall falls incredibly fast. Ambition matters less than motivation which matters less than inspiration which is always fleeting and subject to bouts of fancy and antsy. What counts is work. I don’t care if you do NaNoWriMo or prefer flash fiction or need a prompt to get your juices out of the blender – you must write. Standing in line for your Bucky Brew and thinking about the next line you plan write to as soon as you fire up the laptop counts for Good Idea, (as when Mom says, “What a Good Idea, Sweetie, now eat your broccoli.”) but writing only happens when it’s a hard wired commitment. Damn the broccoli. Fire up. Write.

Here’s a strategy: Don’t count. I work with children who crab and fuss about the number of words they’re supposed to write. “I can’t think of any more. Is this enough?” they ask. I ask them if what they’ve written completes their article and states all they mean to express in the best possible language. Most want to return to the formula of the number of required words; it’s a benchmark they can measure. Staring at word count and trying to get to a target guarantees frustration as the optimal number remains elusive. What? Only 125 words? But I need yadda yadda amount! You might as well start at the dictionary, list its words, stop at an arbitrary number, and stake your flag on that territory, page 329, done! The effect will be much the same, with the same blah value and impact. Those kids who simply write, getting their thoughts on the page, telling everything they know, do better of course. Grammar and spelling aside, that which issues from their hearts tumbles into something worth reading. So don’t count. Just write.

I began my first adult book with no clear goal in mind other than to tell the story that had been beached in my brain like a ship in the sand. It wasn’t going anywhere until the tide rolled in and took it out to sea – er, until I sat at the computer and wrote the story. I figured at first that I’d be lucky to get to about 50,000 words to tell the story, (I wasn’t doing NaNo; 50,000 just seemed like a good number) but a funny thing happened on the way to that market – I went way past 50,000 and found myself up in the hundreds of thousands. (Shall we draw a number line to see what that looks like? Oooo, big!) Required some serious editing.

I’d written like the bumble bee that flies, completely unaware of the dynamics needed for success. I wrote because I had a story I wanted passionately to tell, peopled with characters who’d been living rent free in my head and needed digs of their own, and a story arc that was about to explode if I didn’t get it down on paper. (OK, it’s a computer, but the old fashioned image of me as writer working at my worn wooden desk, scribbling words from a leaky pen is more visually appealing than me in front of my white/black computer screen, my tush broadening with each paragraph. As my Mom actually says, “You know it, girl.”)

Here’s another strategy: Write what you love. If you don’t love that bad boy, that unlikely plot, that trampy vixen, that innocent Everyman with the droopy eyes, how are you gonna wanna write them into being? How you gonna make your reader wanna read what you wrote if you don’t love your story? Don’t fuss over genre or blockbuster tomes, worrying that you don’t want to write ___________ (here you may fill in the blank of whatever genre is most popular at this moment or any author currently on the best seller list.) Stop jingling the change in your pocket. Wrap your fingers around a pen. Plant a kiss on your story, hug your keyboard, and write what’s in your heart, cads and all. The first novel I wrote? It wasn’t a hot genre in 2012 when I entered it into ABNA, yet it placed within the top 250 books. That placement was heady confirmation for my story but my blue ribbon came when I wrote the final word a few months before.

Success is simple. No matter the designated label or projected numerical outcome, whether writing in November, February, or July, it’s all the same. Don’t count words. Write what you love.

And if you’re still wondering how that tubby bee does in fact fly – because we’re all successful empirical scientists and we know he does – he flaps harder. Just like we should.

 

Write Now Prompt for October 14, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The woman in the black dress was not who she claimed to be.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Looking for Balance

BalanceI’m not sure I’ve ever heard NaNoWriMo (in the running for the clumsiest acronym ever) spoken aloud. But each year from October 1 through December 7 (or so) it’s nearly impossible to be part of the online writing community without wading, hip-deep, into the NaNo fray.

Will you or won’t you? Does it work, or is it just a gimmick?

I’m a bit of a NaNo moderate. I see the appeal, and I see the usefulness, but I’ve never felt it’s the right tool for me. I’ve never been able to focus on word counts as a way of motivation. Rather, I’m the type to play around with different sparks of inspiration, accepting the fact that some days I’ll write 11 words and some days I’ll write 11,000. I’ve done NaNo 3 times, officially, and won all 3 (unless you don’t count the time where I did 4 small projects to make up my 50k. And I’ve done smaller scale NaNo once or twice–where I set a smaller goal, and don’t officially participate.

I’ve never used much of what I’ve written, but the Decembers that have followed my NaNos have been very productive. But then, that’s what Nano’s about…finding what works for you to get yourself writing.

This year, I’ve not yet decided if I’ll participate at all. I have a rather big event happening on NaNoWriMo Eve, and while I won’t say what that event is, I’ll be travelling for the first 9 days of NaNo on a vacation that traditionally comes right after this event. Combine that with the normal November holidays, and I’ll lose half the month. So 50k, is nothing more than a dream.

And to any of you, looking at your crowded November calendar, who say, There is just no way

That’s OK!

Personally I’ve never heard or felt any peer pressure to join NaNo, but I’ve always felt self-pressure. Like I’m selling out my writing dreams if I don’t do it. Even as I write this post I feel like I’m making excuses.

Trust me–down that path, madness lies.

So I bargain with myself. When I return from vacation, I will try to write 25k through November. But I will not sign up, and I will not obsessively check my word counts.

I also won’t beat myself up for not joining. And if I miss my goal, I won’t beat myself up over that, either.

No NaNoWriMo is OK.

There’s always December.