Write Now Prompt for April 21, 2015

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:

Neither side was happy with the judge’s decision.

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.

When a writer is not a writer

By the very definition, a writer is someone who ‘writes’.  It’s something that infects the blood, drives you to finish that paragraph, become a stalker in coffee shops –  to listen in on conversations for character development, create an obsession with Pintrest with boards so weird and varied, you decide you need an alias login so you don’t need to explain the midget horse board or the 18th century womens’ underwear collection. Writing is that passion in the blood until one day something happens and you stop writing. Excuses and busyness lay hurdles in front of your writing. Suddenly, its months since you opened your writing files. You’ve stopped “writing”. You have nothing to write about. Many state it’s just a bump in the road, a slight case of writers block. But you know in your heart, it’s more like writers atrophy.

So when, along the journey, do you consider that you are no longer a writer? That you “hang up” your writing tools and “call it a day?”

I am a private person, who doesn’t share a huge amount of the turmoil and issues I have faced in the last few years; but feel its time to give light to some, in the hope that it inspires or motivates others.

Flashback 8 years and flash fiction writing was a living, breathing obsession for me. I had several vibrant blogs, loyal followers and built strong professional relationships with writers around the world though collaborative writing projects. I wrote new fiction every week, was part of an exciting editorial team, had begun my path in publishing and submitted a number of articles a month to various online writing websites. Writing both fiction and non fiction was an emotional outlet for me and a way to deal with the mounting personal issues my family was facing. In short, six months before my husband of 24 years eventually died from a horrific brain tumour, I stopped exploring words. I stopped sharing. My worlds became numb and my characters voices, once so clear; were silenced.

This halt to writing was no ordinary writers block. No manner of workshopping, brainstorming and doodling on blank pages could encourage words to flow again. I had access to excellent tools for creative blockages and over time, attempted to utilise them to kick start my lifeless passion.  Attempting to write even the briefest email has been excruciating. The great nothingness of depression has been an overwhelming and consuming entity living skin deep against my heart.

Once, I proudly wore that sly smile as I announced I was a writer, before giving a few details about my latest WIP. It took a lot of courage and self belief to go beyond the “faking it till you make it stage”. Now, I hide behind the statement of “I used to be a writer”; and even that feels false.  The journey back to ‘being a writer’ seems insurmountable. However, deep inside, there is a tiny flame which continues to flicker, waiting for inspiration to feed it, for passion to set it alight again.

Over the years, I’ve written some great columns, given great advice, coached and mentored many emerging writers, so for me, there is a huge slice of humble pie sitting in front of me to consume before I set off on my journey again. Though more than a bump in the road, I am hoping this diversion away from writing will prove to be a strength, rather than a hindrance to my overall journey.

I stand now, unable to claim to be a new writer; but unwilling to claim writer status. How many readers out there are able to empathise and stand with me in this no-mans land of writing? How have you launched yourself off again? What strategies have worked (or not worked?)

I would like to publicly thank the readers, writers and editors of Today’s Author for being so gentle with me over my absence. It is my intention to hang out here more often. Who knows, I may even start writing again.

Write Now Prompt for April 17, 2015

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 snake oil salesman was surprised to learn that his concoction actually worked.

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.

Seven Reasons For and Three Against Critique Groups

I tend to be a solitary person. I have no problem spending the day with myself, me and my computer (and a good book), exploring the world from the safety of my home-based office. I live through my characters, test my boundaries through them. I prevail over great adversaries and unbeatable bad guys. I out-think both friend and foe as I write, rewrite, and refine my story until it comes out exactly as I’d like it to. Nowhere in my real world can I be as popular, smart, strong, and energetic as I can be in my fictional life.

There is one compelling reason, though, that I venture into the physical world: Monday evenings, twice a month, with my critique group. I joined this wonderful group of fellow writers so I could bond with kindred souls, be around others who could talk non-stop and forever (literally) about authors, books, POVs and story arcs. I found not only that, but more as I wandered down the yellow brick road in search of authorial fame and fortune. Some glorious victories and a few hard truths (mostly about myself).

Here are seven reasons why I’ll never give up my writer’s group:writers group

  • They catch my factual errors. In fact, they announce them, challenge me, and dispute my research if they’re sure I’m wrong. I better know what I’m talking about before I’m on the hot seat.
  • They let me know if a scene sounds authentic. That’s a gem. It’s easy to think the image is perfect the 2,159th time I stare bleary-eyed at the same page. They read with fresh eyes.
  • They tell me when a scene sounds right and delivers what I’d hoped. I love that.
  • They force me to show my work to others. They saw my first and second novel before my husband did.
  • I get as much out of listening to the review of other author’s WIP as I do being on the hot seat myself. My fellow writers take their job seriously and do their best to accurately and intelligently decode the mistakes found in the selection being reviewed. I learn a lot from their words that I can apply to my story.
  • They are fascinating people. I could listen to their life experiences all day and when one of them misses a few meetings, I worry about them. I see these people more than most of my family. Well, that’s a good thing.
  • Agents want your work to be critiqued before you arrive in their mailbox.  They want to know they’re not the first besides your mother and dog who have read your story. A critique group qualifies.

That’s pretty convincing, isn’t it? These next three are all on me. They are personal quirks that challenge me even as I intellectually understand the pluses of having my work critiqued:facial expression boulder man

  • I am too shy. It’s difficult to put myself out there, bare my soul, share secrets I don’t tell anyone. Yet, here I am trying to explain to this circle of patient, caring writers the motivation for one of my scenes. I don’t like talking about myself and that will never change.
  • It hurts. I don’t take criticism well. I get upset. Sure, I should have a thick skin, but I don’t. I never have and–here’s the surprise–I don’t believe that should preclude me from being a writer. The fact that I die inside when people don’t like something I’ve slaved over for months doesn’t mean I’ll never make it.
  • They contradict each other sometimes. That’s not a bad thing. It means that in the end, it’s my decision to follow well-intentioned advice or toss it to the curb.

That’s it. The pros of my writing group vastly outweigh the cons so I’m sticking with them.

Are you struggling with a decision about joining a writer’s group–really committing the time and effort it requires to make it work? Here’s Holly Lisle’s take on that subject and Writing-World’s overview on the subject.

More on writing:

Writers Tip #52: Join a Writers Groups

Writers Tip #72: Don’t Worry About What Others Think

10 Tips from Toxic Feedback


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, adjunct professor, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. 

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Dress Rehearsal

DressRehearsalMy husband is used to seeing me walk around muttering to myself. Or so he says, as he casts me a quizzical look while I cast myself into my story. A sheaf of pages in one fist, my other hand waving in the air or pressing the top of my head, I speak my book. A dress rehearsal of sorts. Over and over, I read passages aloud, running words across my tongue, phrases through my teeth. Do they sound right, do they inspire and explain, or are they awkward and confusing? I twist like a drill at tense moments, collapse into a chair when a scene changes, drop my voice to a mouse squeak if secrets are being shared, shout like a football coach when a character is angry. Sometimes I choke up. Is the scene set as solidly as a block of granite, can one taste the spices in the mountains, did I scratch my hand on the bark of a fallen tree where my character sat to consider her future? I wander as I read; hubby looks askance. Don’t interrupt, I’m editing my book. The dramatic presentation isn’t meant for him and I’m embarrassed that he sees me, but still I don’t stop. It’s part of a lengthy strategic approach for editing my book: to read my book out loud.

If you ask my advice on the best way to ascertain the power of your writing and the suspense of your plot, I will tell you to read your book out loud. It’s often the most sincere and best advice I give because much of the rest might be thought of as criticism ill or unfairly placed. Read your own book, you will sense its worth for yourself.

Before I begin to read my story, I’ve already edited for a thousand small errors and structural faults. Spelling and punctuation are corrected, paragraphs are organized, and the story is complete with most of the loose ends tied in knots. Reading aloud is not for a work in progress, it’s for the one that’s near the end of the work order. I’m vigilant about finding fault, I’m tough on myself, and I’ll do this out loud reading after letting the story sit untouched for a few months. I can then think of my writing as that of a stranger, the neighbor whose barking dog wakes me just as I’ve fallen asleep. I want it to irritate me because only then can I ferret out the weak parts for repair. I read with a plan and stick to the plan. I read it out loud twice (at least) red pen in hand (OK, highlight key on the computer) cutting and pasting as I go. Slash and burn if needed.

The first reading is to proofread for continuity of facts. I look for dates to line up on an actual calendar and the book’s invented calendar, make sure proper names are spelled the same throughout, ascertain that scenes show up in chronological order, and insure an important action doesn’t get repeated a few chapters later. I watch out for lapses, diluted suspense (happens when a resolution is revealed too soon or with blah words) and holes in plot that will leave readers confused or frustrated. Unusual words can only be used once and maybe should be swapped for words that won’t send folks to a dictionary. (However, I don’t shy from 50 cent words; sometimes they are the ones that best fit a passage.) The first out loud reading will capture most of these mistakes.

To help keep this part of the story organized, I keep sets of files on my computer. There are writers’ programs available I could (maybe should) use. Still, my files serve me well. They’re titled and organized so they’re easy to find when I want to check facts or sort the timeline. Relationships, background information, the impact of history, character development within the story are all noted and stored. Usually there are files of real people, incidents, and places as well as the imagined ones that comprise my book.

The second reading is to gauge the physical sensation of the story. Does the story arc make me react, do I feel something intense when actions are described, am I sympathetic to the characters and their dilemmas, do I care enough about the complexities of the plot that I will spend time determining if it makes sense? My words must make my gut curdle and my hair stand enough to hold up a halo and my teeth ache with the pain of being held in my jaw. If I didn’t write a story strong enough to wrest emotion from me, then who else will care what I wrote? It’s this last reading that will convince me it’s a decent book or a work I must improve before it sees daylight. Thespian that I am, I walk and read, sit and read, dream and read, emoting, whispering, quoting the words of my story, fixing, changing, polishing.

When I’ve read aloud until my voice is hoarse and my eyesight bleary, I’m ready for readers. Still they are at first only critiquers, the folks who get the free book in order to inform me what does and does not work after all. They catch the oversights I should have caught. They are not the paying readers I hope will line the Amazon block to acquire my book. But I’m grateful to this hearty crew who read, think, comment, trying to help me get it right, make it better. I want the “critters” to know that if I’ve asked them to read my story – editor, agent, writer friend – I’ve put a great deal of effort into it. I’ve already read it aloud myself, many times. No one gets a sloppy “first draft” from me. I respect all readers too much.

My hubby who watched my peculiar dress rehearsal? He’s an unwitting audience and a saint.

Write Now Prompt for April 14, 2015

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 never enjoyed paying his tax bill, but writing that check seemed particularly painful today.

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: Editing before Sharing

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:

How ‘perfect’ do you need your work to be before you allow another human’s eyes to set upon it? What methods do you use for editing before sharing it with others? Do you read it out loud? Do you go line by line and word by word? Share your strategies, tips and tricks in the comments below or in the forums.

 

 

Write Now Prompt for April 10, 2015

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:

She opened the bottom drawer and found an envelope stuffed with hundred dollar bills.

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.

Just for Fun: Inspiration

Today let’s discuss where you got the idea for your current work in progress or for any of the stories, poems, scripts or novels you’ve written.  Did it come to you in a dream?  Was it something embarrassing your child said in front of your boss one day? Was it inspired by someone you know or something you experienced in real life?  Did an advanced alien race implant the idea in your mind before you were born, leaving it to grow and flourish until just the right time?

Whatever the inspiration was, leave a comment here to discuss it or add a topic into the Cafe on our new discussion forums!

Write Now Prompt for April 7, 2015

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:

Spring Break was not starting out the way they had hoped it would.

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.