Category Archives: Creativity

A Better Toolkit: The Value of Practice Writing


by Christine Hennebury

Note: I know that a lot of people don’t like to do writing exercises, or in fact,do any writing that isn’t their WIP. If that’s the case for you and things are going well, carry on! However, if you are finding it hard to get your writing done, you might want to consider the benefits of practice.

Writing is like any other skill, it improves with practice. You can get practice by regularly producing stories and articles, but there is also value in deliberate practice for practice’s sake.

I’d like to see more writers carve out a little time to write for the sake of practicing, without a ‘product’ in mind. Writing for practice sharpens our skills, hones our ability to write on demand, and improves our regular writing habits.

Practice gives us better tools. When we use those quality tools in our stories and our articles, we will be far more effective as writers.

If the idea of writing for practice seems odd to you, consider how practice works in another context. In Taekwondo, for example, I spend a lot of time practicing.  For patterns,  I break them down  into smaller ‘fundamental’ movements and do them over and over again. Then,  I slowly go over the whole thing, figuring out how the different sections fit together. For kicks and punches, I end up doing each one hundreds of times and I work on specific parts of the motion.

In the last few years, I have come to accept the value of doing the same thing with my writing. When I joined the 10 Minute Novelists 365 writing club, I got into the habit of writing every day which felt great. Despite feeling great, I still had some frustration because I felt that I wasn’t doing anything with my writing. It was just sitting there.

That’s when I realized that ‘doing something’ with the writing was not where the value of daily writing was for me. it was about establishing a pattern, it was about practicing. It was about learning how to get my brain into writing mode.

Ever since that first year with the group, I can now ‘force’ myself to write. I can choose to bring my focus to the page – a skill I developed in the 365 group – and just start writing. No matter what the topic,  the skills I developed though practice always see me through to a finished product.

That’s just one benefit of writing practice.

Practicing All The Pieces

Being able to choose to get down to work is not the only way that practice is helpful. When I write for writing’s sake, I practice things like character development, opening sentences, descriptions, and transition lines.  It’s just like when I break down my TKD patterns into chunks – that kind of practice is not intended to be visible to others. I never write a story by saying ‘Here is my opening sentence, here is my transition, now I will add my character.’ I don’t need to consciously choose each of those story aspects because my practice has made me confident about them.

It’s much like when I do my patterns for a competition, I don’t name each move in my head. I just let my body take over and pull the practiced pieces together. When I’m writing, my practice with the bits and pieces means I have lots of skills to apply quickly to a story or article.

“Writing is like a sport – you only get better if you practice.” – Rick Riordan

 

Good Use of Writing Time

I know that a lot of us are strapped for time. When you are short on time, it might seem counterproductive to use some of it practicing. However, any time that we spend practicing makes us better at our craft. That, in turn, means that, we will be able to write more quickly and be more effective  in writing our WIP. We will have a sort of ‘muscle memory’ for better writing.

 

Ways To Get Some Practice In

  1. Substitute – Pick one of your short writing sessions each week to dedicate to practice instead of your WIP.
  2. Warm up – Start each writing session with a few minutes of practice.
  3. Pick a Time – Choose a specific time each week/month/quarter to practice your writing. Choose exercises ahead of time and dive in.
  4. Find the cracks– Keep a ‘specific practice notebook in your bag or in your car.  Do practice exercises in little crevices of time in your day.
  5. Talk it out – Try describing things aloud as you drive. Dream up good opening lines and say them to yourself while you make supper. You are still practicing, even if it’s not written down.

 

Writing for practice is a very different thing than writing for a specific purpose. Practice writing may not produce publishable material but it will make you a sharper writer.

When you get lots of practice, you will find it easier to get down to work, and you will have a very effective set of writing tools at your disposal.


Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her  hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her writing & coaching at www.christinehennebury.com  or visit her on Facebook .

 

Persistence, Perspective, and Fun: Working Through Writing Challenges


by Christine Hennebury

Writing can be a lot of fun but it also involves a lot of hard work. If you find ways to add fun while sticking to your project, you’ll be a lot more satisfied with your progress.  

When we first imagine ourselves as writers, we envision fun things like best-selling books, talk show circuits, and piles of cash. Or, at least, we imagine ourselves triumphantly writing the perfect scene.  We don’t envision the days that we sit in front of the computer struggling with a single sentence.  

When we do consider those days, the ones where writing is hard but we have to do it anyway, writing becomes a job instead of a hobby.  That can be helpful for taking ourselves seriously but it can take away some of the fun.

When our fun levels drop, we start to avoid writing.

 

Since the world needs our words,  we need to find ways to add more fun and to increase our persistence. Here are a few tips that can help:

 

1) Add Something Fun

When you reach a part of your writing process that doesn’t thrill you, see what you can do to make it more fun. For example, you may not enjoy editing but there may be ways to make it more fun.  Perhaps you could print your manuscript  in your favorite color, or by using a colored pen. Or  you could play special music,  or have a specific snack (or drink) while you do certain tasks.  You could even try doing  those tasks in a different place – my hammock makes an excellent revision spot.

Some writers even find it useful to have one specific spot for writing and another one for revising. And they have both decorated to match the ‘mood’ of the task.

The key here is to add a layer of enjoyment that helps bring you back to a challenge task. It doesn’t matter how weird that layer is, as long as you enjoy it!

2) Change Your Perspective

I’m not going to suggest that everything will become magically fun as long as you have the right attitude. However, if you consider certain aspects of writing to be dreadful, and you dwell on it, you will keep dreading them. So, you have to find a way to change your approach and make things easier on yourself.

When I need a change, I often find it useful to ‘reframe and rename’ my frustrating tasks. For example:  I like to think of reviewing my first drafts as part of my ‘montage’ – you know, the series of quick scenes in movies between the ‘before’ and ‘after’- it helps me keep that part of the work in perspective.

If you think of revising as ‘cutting through the jungle’ or editing as ‘polishing your brilliance’, it gives you a new way to look at it. If you call your plotting process ‘my evil plan’ or ‘drawing a treasure map’, it can help you have a bit more fun.

 

3)  Plan Lots of Rewards

When my coaching clients are struggling, I tell them to reverse their reward ratio.  So, instead of earning a 10 minute break after an hour of writing, they give themselves an hour off after 10 minutes of writing.  It seems counterproductive at first but it keeps you moving forward until you reach a part that you enjoy.  Just make sure to pack that hour full of things that make you happy.

If time off doesn’t motivate you, pick another reward that will draw you through the work process. Again, it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it serves you well.

 

4) Alternate (Or Take A Day Off)

While there is a sort of virtue to be found in slogging through the hard stuff, you don’t have to do all the hard stuff at once. You can alternate between challenging work and the more enjoyable pieces on any given day. Or, you can just take a day off from whatever tasks you struggle with and only do the fun parts of your writing project that day.

Feel free to add unnecessary fun bits when you can, too. If you enjoy imagining what your characters would do in a restaurant, or, at a party, feel free to write that. Even if it doesn’t make it into your final manuscript, it still gives you information about your characters and moves you forward. Anything that keeps you writing is a good thing.

 

5) Accept That There Are Hard Parts (I Know, I Hate That, Too)

Good writing is work. There are lots of fun parts and there is victory at the end, but it is work. Even once you made it more fun, you still might not want to work on some parts. That’s when acceptance can come in.

This is the point where you say ‘This is boring and I am doing it anyway.’

Usually, once you get started, you will find it is not as awful as it seemed. I find the *idea* of some aspects of writing far harder than the actual task. Once I actually start working, the task is far less intimidating.

Another aspect of acceptance is to remember that this frustration just might be part of *your* writing process. To use an example from another context: I like to travel but all the preparatory work. Ensuring that I have all the details in place is stressful, no matter how fun the trip will be. There is a point in every travel plan in which I decide that it would be easier not to go at all.

I used to think that the feeling was a sign that I shouldn’t go but now I know –  it’s part of my preparation process. This is a feeling that surfaces for me when I am trying to work on something that has a lot of detailed parts. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s not a sign, it’s just part of the process. That means that when it arises, I can recognize it, take a deep breath (or seven) and keep working until it passes.

You can do the same thing with your reluctance to do certain types of writing work. If you don’t give the feeling any extra meaning, you can accept it and keep writing.

We all have parts of the writing process that are challenging for us. It’s completely normal. Once we make those challenging parts easier on ourselves, we will be able to get through them more quickly.

The next time you are staring down your writing nemesis, try some of the tips in this post and they should help you keep working, and, turn your nemesis into one of  your allies.


Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her  hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her writing & coaching at www.christinehennebury.com  or visit her on Facebook .

Prompts Are Everywhere: Using Writing Prompts to Spark Creativity

Have you ever needed that spark to write? Try writing prompts.

A blank page glares back at you, taunting you to write something. Anything. A minute passes. Then another. Three cups of coffee later, you find yourself on social media watching cats riding Roombas and the page remains woefully blank. Ideas are everywhere, but sometimes we need a kick in the brain to notice them. Writing prompts provide something the bottom of your caffeinated beverage cannot: a fresh idea. Prompts can help you out of a rut and trigger new creativity.

Let’s say you been “adulting” all day and your brain is full of kids, bills, and work. Maybe your muse took a nap because you’ve been agonizing over where to put commas as you edit. Or you woke up extra groggy this morning and that third cup is a joke because you know you need the whole pot. A prompt is a great way to start a writing session when your brain is in the wrong mode. Take 10 minutes and sit down to write. Find a prompt that triggers at least one spark for you, set pen to paper (or whatever your preferred method) and write. Don’t stop until the timer dings. Let the ideas flow and give your brain permission to play. It wants to play, so let it. There is no right or wrong way to use a prompt. It’s whatever strikes you in the moment.

The most basic prompt is a short list of words.

A good list will have at least three words that don’t fit together at first glance. Random prompt generators typically give a character, place, and object. Some include additional elements like time and weather. Your creative job is to connect the ideas. When you find the right prompt, your brain will begin building a story around them without asking you permission. First, connect two items, then add in the next. Ask questions, be curious and, most importantly, find a way to the chocolate.

The words hat, rose, and chocolate might be connected first by a hat with a rose on it. Expand upon the idea by asking the ‘W’ questions— who, what, where, why. Who is wearing the hat? A woman. When did it come from? A store, maybe not important. Where is the hat? On the bench next to the woman. What is that hat doing there? Well, this is where it gets really good…remember that guy she met in line for hot chocolate? The words don’t have to be used verbatim. If chocolate gets you thinking about Mayan conquerors and the quest for gold, go with it. It’s a prompt, not a law. The best prompt is the one that takes you in an interesting direction and won’t let you NOT write it.

Writing prompts come in many shapes and sizes beyond three-word combinations. All provide an entry point to a story.

  1. First lines
  2. Dialogue
  3. Character based
  4. Setting based
  5. Photo
  6. Ripped from the headlines

Writing prompts are everywhere.

A Google search yields dozens of writing prompt sites. The 10 Minute Novelists’ Pinterest page has a curated list. If that’s not enough, the app store for your phone contains several dedicated prompt apps. Canned prompts are great, but you can also make your own. One photo prompt can be worth a thousand words or more. This style of prompt is also readily available when you search on the term, but consider following photographers on social media or using stock photos.

An adjustment to your viewpoint or a narrowing of focus results in a different way of seeing the mundane.  For example, a storm passed through knocking down chairs and tables at an outdoor cafe. In panoramic view, the closed cafe sat at the end of a row of shops abutted to a huge parking lot. Like any old downtown. By narrowing the focus to see only the knocked over chairs and tables and asking questions, the scene is transformed. Who caused all this damage? There was a struggle. They were waiting for her. Was anyone hurt? He got there too late, so he didn’t know what happened to her. Why would anyone take his one and only love? Oh, right the gambling debts.

Searching for an even more exotic source for prompts? Try news headlines. Science news covers everything from medical testing to planetary discoveries to the amount of wine we should all drink. Headlines from foreign countries bring you concepts that are just that— foreign. Controlling the kangaroo population, mobile hospitals, red ants floating in pools. What if you built a world where the constraints of the headline were the rule? Everyone must drink a glass of wine a day for longevity, but otherwise, they wither away. And maybe it isn’t wine, but some other government supplied an elixir of doom. Two steps from the headline becomes a conspiracy laden dystopia. Add a character who can’t get his elixir and you will probably need more than the prescribed ten minutes.

Allow writing from prompts to be sloppy.

The sentences don’t have to make sense but do let the ideas flow. Where you start may not be where you end and it’s ok. Stories have a character in a setting with conflict and prompt may give you only one of these elements of story telling. All writing is progress and you never know when you can use the ideas from a simple prompt. Do you have a favorite style of prompt? Has one led you to a larger work? Leave a comment if you’ve benefitted from prompts.


Sara Marschand has been writing Urban Fantasy and Science fiction since she ended her full time career in engineering. When not writing, she enjoys everything produced by Marvel studios. Sara lives with her spouse, 2 noisy kids, a frog and a goldfish that spits rocks. Visit her blog here.

What’s So Scary About Writing What You Don’t Know?

Writing what you don’t know can be scary! Creating a world out of thin air can be intimidating.

This is exactly why there is this whole, big, stupid, “write what you know” controversy.

Some who oppose “write what you know” argue that you should choose imagination over familiarity. Perhaps you should venture outside your own time or country. Perhaps you should dig around for inspiration that comes from subject matter you know nothing about.

Research-filled and imaginative writing will take more time and effort, but it could be worth…
These are all good arguments, but generally speaking, the more outside of your current life you write, the harder and more time-consuming your creative work may be.

If you decide to write what you don’t know, you may have to do these things:

You may have to do research beyond Wikipedia. If you are choosing to write about a setting beyond your own experience, it will be critical that you find accurate resources so that your details are right. Wikipedia, as great as it is, may not be enough. Instead, consider looking at libraries or reference books. Here’s a warning: you may fall down a rabbit hole! You could get so wrapped up in what life was like in 1880s Chicago, that you’ll forget what you’re looking for.

You may have to fill in the gaps of what can’t be found out. There are some things that we’ll never really know about specific time periods in history. Did slaves in ancient Rome worry about their hair? You could probably guess no and be okay. If you, in all your research, don’t come to a definitive conclusion about a specific situation, then it’s a safe bet your readers won’t know either. You can, with all honesty, take a guess, and not lose your artistic integrity.

You may have to imagine new feelings. This can be fun. You may get to fall in love all over again, but this time to an alien on Mars, a Confederate soldier or a Brazilian carnival dancer. It may be a bit troubling to write from another gender’s point of view, but with enough research, you can do it. Many times our emotions are universal so romance in one setting can often feel like romance in another. But if you’re not sure, try to talk to someone who’s been there and felt that way before.

You may have to go to some dark places. This can be scary. You may have to mentally recreate a violent act or emotional abuse. If these kinds of thoughts are new to you, consider yourself blessed. But because you haven’t experienced it first hand, you may have trouble touching authentic emotions. Personally, I’ve had enough darkness in my life. I’m not that willing to relive it for the sake of my story.

You may have to ask others about their experiences. In your research, you may find it helpful to find groups or communities who know something about your subject matter. Often they are enthusiastic about it, so they’ll be happy to help. You want to come to them prepared with questions. You also can’t expect them to do your work for you. Consider using someone in this field as a beta reader to check your accuracy.

You may have to think about physics and math. Writers, generally speaking, avoid these subjects. That’s why we’re writers. But if you are writing in complex mathematic or scientific settings, you’ll need to make sure that your science is accurate, even though your situation is all fiction or fantasy. If you are creating the world that breaks physical laws, you may have to justify it somehow. Science and math research should be able to help.

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You may have to take time away from actual writing. Research takes time! And if you’re already writing in 10-minute increments (like I wrote this blog post) then you’ll find that the project will take longer than you think. The reason that I don’t write historical fiction is that I like getting my drafts done in a timely matter. You’ll have to make a decision if writing what you don’t know is work the digging around.

You may have to document your details. The more imaginative your world, the more you’ll have to keep track of. You may make decisions on climate, geography, and architecture and for every choice you make, you’ll need to remember it later. Consistency is critical in all stories, but in a vast science fiction or fantasy world, it’s of double importance. Create a system that will make keeping your facts straight easier.

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You may have to study other genres. If you have set out to be a fantasy or science fiction writer, you should know what you’re getting into. Read all you can in these genres so that you get a feel for tone and expectation. Each genre has rules to follow and you want your book to follow those rule so that your readers know what to expect. Reading is always good for you.

You may have to travel. Sigh. If you are going to accurately write about exotic places, you may actually have to visit them. This fact, along with coffee and long periods of isolation, is the very best reason to be a writer. If you can afford it, don’t rely on Google maps and street view and your Facebook friends from Togo to tell you everything you need to know. It may be best to update your passport and pack your bags.

Ways To Be More Creative by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelists

You may have to make phone calls. I, for one, write, so I don’t have to talk to people on the phone. Although I cheer the concept of automatic bill pay and email, I may balk at the idea of cold calling experts about things I don’t know. Regardless of how you feel, or even if you want to show off your hairdo on Skype, the accuracy of your work-in-progress may require this. Let’s hope you’re less neurotic about it than I am.

You may have to talk to experts. Which means you may have to ask for favors. You may have to ask them for moments of their time. You may have to go so far as to buy them a coffee to get them talking. The information that a legitimate expert has will be priceless to the development of your work-in-progress. Who knows, you may even make a new friend in the process.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
Kurt Vonnegut

You may have to question yourself constantly. That is, you’ll have to do this more than you do already. If you are going to write what you don’t know, then you need to check and recheck those facts. This is especially true in historical fiction. The readers of your books will know exactly when the bustle made an appearance in 19th-century fashion. Don’t assume that you can get away with saying your heroine went to the ball in 1831 wearing one.

You may have to ask more of your beta readers. If you restrict your setting and subject matter to only what you know, then your early readers will assume that you were there, or you experienced it. They will look at you as the authority. But if you venture outside of what you know, then you’ve given your early readers more freedom to question you. Listen to all they have to say. They may see a flaw you haven’t noticed.

One of the biggest argument for writing more than you know is that it gets you outside your comfort zone. Writing what you don’t know is a little unpredictable: you and your readers can potentially discover something about the world you didn’t know anything about.

Go as far as you want, don’t be afraid. Make this story yours.


If you liked this post, you may also like

16 Simple Things To Do To Be More Creative or

What’s So Bad About the Advice, “Write What You Know”?


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Shipping: 14 Ways To Develop Romance In Your Story

Man, do I love a good, believable romance.

I like the slow kind, where looks are exchanged, where she ignores him, where he adores her, where their journey leads to something beautiful and long-lasting. I like the kinds of romance where the undercover action is a result of commitment, not the possibility of it.

Good romance stories, in my opinion, have the reader fully engaged in the feelings of the couple long before they figure it out themselves. I didn’t know there was a term for this.

Oh, this is why I write fiction!

I can get emotionally involved in the romance of characters without actually getting emotionally involved! And that’s what we want as writers, we want our readers to push our awkward heroine into the arms of the tall, dark stranger who happens to have a soft spot for kittens.

Shipping: 14 Ways To Develop Romance In Your Story

Let’s just put a caveat out there: I’m assuming that this romance that you’re writing is the journey of two people who fall in love and decide they can’t live without the other. If you’re writing the kind of book that, ahem, is only interested in the physical rewards of a relationship, without the nuance, the subtext, and the mature emotional growth, then you don’t need any help. You just need a Barry White soundtrack.

If you’re interested in something more story-like, more journeyed, and more character-driven romance, keep reading!

But how do we do this? How do we “ship” our characters? Can we toy with the feelings of our readers enough that they are rooting for the couple long before the couple is rooting for themselves? How do we pace this romance in such a way that our readers want to see what happens next?

The following suggestions are only that, suggestions. Perhaps you can use a couple to more couple your couple.

Put them together. If they are going to fall in love, then they need to be in each other’s company, in a variety of settings. Maybe the settings could be more formal, intentional dates. But maybe, they wouldn’t have to be. Maybe they work together, or maybe they are neighbors. I think the best stories of true love have a lot of conversation. Now, your reader may not need to read every bit of it, but you can’t build a foundation of a relationship if they never spend time together. As sweet as Sleepless In Seattle was, it kind of drove me crazy that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan weren’t in the same room together until the very, very end.

Go slowly. No matter how you feel about “love at first sight,” it can feel forced in writing. It may be better for one character to have some sort of emotional response to the other — and it doesn’t have to be a positive one. He accidentally trips her and she calls him a jerk. She gets his coffee order wrong and he snaps at her, not because he’s a big meanie, but because he just lost his job. This emotional response, positive or negative, is the spark. Something needs to be ignited at that point.

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Show that they like being together. Now, there is probably going to be that tease factor — where she picks on him and he picks on her. They do kind of need to annoy one another. But deep, deep down, they like having the other person around. And it may be that they don’t know why. I’m not convinced that you need to figure it all out completely either — it could be that he’s that stable male figure she’s been longing for. It could be that she’s got a quality or skill that reminds him of his mother.

Make them need each other for practical things. Now we all need each other. We need our cars repaired, we need our taxes done, we need our trash picked up. Perhaps your characters could have occupations that provide legitimate, non-erotic services that would benefit the other. I say this, but I have seen way, way too many stories about a young, probably awkward and klutzy woman who just bought the inn/B&B/old house/coffee shop and is dependent on the boyishly good-looking contractor/handyman/plumber who is charmingly annoying. If you want your romance to stand out, be creative with your occupational choices for your characters. Need ideas? Try looking here. 

Demonstrate how confused they are. Our hero and our heroine need to be in conflict between their reason and their heart. Your reader needs to see this. She says she doesn’t like him or care about him, but that’s not what her actions show. He says that she is nothing special, but he lights up when she comes in a room. Friends may ask them about their googly eyes, and this is when they deny everything. You could have them lose sleep, have trouble eating, or find themselves distracted.

Give them a chorus to argue with. You hero and your heroine need to spout off about each other to someone. They need coworkers, BFFs, a sympathetic sister, a nosy aunt, someone, that they can talk about their love interest with. Of course, the friends see this relationship blooming more clearly than our hero and heroine do. These friends will have the job to give warnings, remind them of other decisions, tease them, manipulate the circumstances, and perhaps create conflict. The more complicated you make the supporting characters, the more drama you can create, and this is a good thing. Make sure these character and their motivations are well understood by your reader.

Create a pursuit. It could also be that one of them has more interest than the other. There should be decisive action by one to get the attention of the other. If you are going to tease the reader, you need to take your time with this. One of your main objectives is convincing your reader that they will get together, and the matter of when will keep them turning pages. In the pursuit, the pursuer needs to make some big mistakes. The pursuee should be offended, insulted or ignorant. Don’t make this easy. Put as many obstacles as you can in the path of the pursuer. But, don’t go so far as to discourage your readers or make your pursuer look like a weirdo. (Unless that’s your intention, which means you may be writing an entirely different genre altogether.)

Give them a clarifying moment when all could be lost. Your hero finds out that he’s being transferred to Poughkeepsie. Your heroine calls her local convent to ask if there’s an opening. The Ex shows up and wants to reconcile. You need to create a moment, I think late in the second act, in which it really looks like a permanent move is going to made by either one. What will happen next is critical.

Your hero and heroine realize that there are legitimate feelings here. Someone will have to make a dramatic move — either confess your feelings for this love interest of yours or lose them forever. Oh, this should be awkward, cringe-worthy and blubbering, but it must be done. This is the moment if you’ve been building this up all along, that your readers have been waiting for. Possibly, this is the moment that all of the friends have been hoping for. This is the moment in which they acknowledge to each other that they love each other.  And then? A permanent decision has to be made — you get to decide what that is.

Keep their actions and their analysis consistent. If you want him to be introverted, kind of geeky and OCD-ish, he may be much better at following directions than improvising. If you want her to be an extrovert, lively and free-spirited woman, then don’t make her too analytical about his intentions. The best way to create believable reactions in romance is to have thoroughly drawn characters. You need to really know them so that they are convincing.

“We are all fools in love”
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Make him want to “rescue” her. Please don’t think that I’m trying to stir the pot in 21st-century culture. But I believe that deep, deep down, a man in love wants to “rescue” the woman he admires. Back in the day, that rescue could have been from a dragon, starvation, the plague, or various Barbarians. But your tough-as-nails, feminist heroine is not perfect. Or at least she shouldn’t be. She needs to have weaknesses and make mistakes.

This is where your hero comes in. He needs to do something, big or small, that helps her out. We all need help from each other and this couple will need each other too. I think the best way to ship this is to create two or three of exchanges in which he “saves the day” for her. Make the first one an accident, but then make the next more deliberate. This will get her attention. She’ll be grateful. And if you really are going to put them together, then have her express her gratitude to him. Your readers will eat that with a spoon!

Make her want to get his opinion. A woman’s heart goes to the one she respects. He has a point-of-view on a particular issue — it could be something simple, like how to plant daisies. It could be something complex, like the US’s relationship with Sweden, but regardless, he has to have opinions that she respects. And she’ll seek it out. His viewpoint will be elevated above all other viewpoints in her mind. She may not do this deliberately, but she’ll do it just the same. Again, I’m not trying to appear to be overly Puritan, but he will need encouragement to pursue her. The best way for her to encourage him is to express respect or admiration. Make her see him as a hero. Your readers will too!

“The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds. And that’s what you’ve given me. That’s what I’d hoped to give you forever”
Nicholas Sparks

Make them both want to improve for the other one. She attempts competency, intelligence, or sophistication to get his attention. She may not even realize she’s doing this. All of a sudden his opinion of her matters and she can’t explain it. He has standards in something that she thinks is beyond her. She may sense this most acutely when some other girl is better than she is at something. Our heroine may find herself reacting to this emotionally. This reaction, of course, is noticed by her friends and the reader. This is so shippy, you’re going to have to call the harbormaster.

Make him willing to be uncomfortable for her sake. This is where the seeds of true love germinate: when we are willing to put down our own desires for the benefit of someone else. He may not even realize he’s doing it. Or he may deliberately choose to be uncomfortable for her sake. If you want to plot a developing relationship, brainstorm for ways that he would sacrifice for her. Start small, in subtle ways that he doesn’t know about. Then move to the bigger things. This list could be a great outline for you. Even if you aren’t writing from his point of view, having him do this, and then have others notice, especially your reader, will ship this like crazy.

Consider making them both cowards. They both have to be afraid of dealing with the issue. Even if they are brave in every other area of their lives, they need to be fearful of rejection. I think that a reader who recognizes this cowardice will identify with it. I also think that your reader could cheer on a character who kind of freaks out about the possibility of romance. Now, this will only work if it’s consistent with your character’s personality. I’m going to bet though, that of all the couples you know, one of the pair is the neurotic one. I saw my husband’s when I looked in the mirror this morning.

Admittedly, all romance stories are unique.Or at least the good ones are.

I believe that the uniqueness can come in the setting or the quirks of the characters. But the story of romance itself is an old one. It’s a literal or figurative dance between two people who balance each other out and eventually get on each other’s nerves.

If you’re a romance writer, maybe this little list will help you and those crazy kids you have falling in love.

There’s no ship like a relationship!


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

 

Write a 100 Word Story! Include 3 Words! Win A Contest!

This is the place for a weekly flash fiction contest!

Can you write a story in 100 words?

The Apples To Apples Drabble! 

The Rules: 

  1. Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100-word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.
  2. Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week. And you can ignore the small words that explain it clearer. We just want the big three.
  3. Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!
  4. Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 
  5. Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to ignore or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method. 
  6. Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.
  7. This contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight. Comments are welcome throughout the week, but no more entries are allowed. 
  8. All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica, and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.
  9. Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Friday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. You can sign up for this here! 
10 Minute Novelists Insider Monthly Magazine by 10 Minute Novelists
Sign up for the monthly literary newsletter, 10 Minute Novelist Insider & get your free copy of Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A Day!

This week’s cards!

 

What to be a Better Writer? Think Like A Sculptor!

When I was a new writer, I had a lot of misconceptions of how writers wrote.

I had a mental image of a writer sitting in front of a typewriter with a stack of blank paper next to them.  Wasn’t that was how all writers worked. I thought that the first sentence I read in a book was the first sentence that the writer wrote. And I thought that the first thought was the best one. I thought that writers had to have everything in their story figured out long before they sat down to write it. Foolishly, I thought writers who were good enough to be published never had to rewrite, revise, edit, proofread or question themselves.

As I learned more about writing, I saw how wrong I was.

I learned that process of writing was hard, that it required heartbreaking and soul-crushing determination at times. And I learned that the search for the right thought, the right word or the right image was a common one. Also, I learned that great writers were willing to work and suffer for the sake of excellence and that craftsmanship was a process.

Most importantly, I learned that the final story represented only a small fraction of the work that was done by the author.

Now that I’m a little more experienced, I understand that page 1 of a novel is hardly the beginning of a writer’s journey. The mental image of a puzzled writer sitting at a typewriter isn’t an accurate one to me.

Writing A Novel Is More Like Sculpting A Fine Piece of Marble

What to be a Better Writer? Think like a sculptor!

Like a sculptor, writers start with a big hunk of nothing and end up with something beautiful.

 Good sculptors don’t start whacking and hope for the best. Marble is expensive; a good sculptor would plan the moves of his hammer and chisel carefully. A good sculptor has a plan; he may spend hours consulting experts on proper form, on proportion, on style.  A good sculptor would practice by making sketch after sketch, filling notebooks with different perspectives of ideas. Before a sculptor ever lifts his hammer for that first big wallop, he’d know what he was doing and why.

An experienced sculptor takes big moves in the beginning of his creation. He pounds big chunks away at first until he gets a very rough shape of the idea in his head. Then, his moves become finer and more delicate. Smaller tools are used to make rough shaped recognizable. Soon the sculptor is able to use tools like files and knives to create the detail. Each curve, each muscle, each surface is carefully and slowly handled. Over time, the sides of the sculpture are shaped. It may be a while before the viewer can understand the vision of the artist.

But the sculptor is not yet done. The finest details must be attended too — textures, eyes, fingernails. No detail must be ignored. The sculpture is not finished until every square centimeter of that creation is buffed by the creator.

What Can We Learn From The Sculptor?
  • A sculptor learns from the experts. As writers we need to take the time to learn our craft from experts around us. Our art deserves attention to plot, structure, character, description, dialogue and point of view.
  • A sculptor sketches his ideas in advance. Lucky us, our media, ink and paper, is so cheap enough that we don’t have to worry about our mistakes. But that shouldn’t stop us from practicing.  We should write regularly and grow in skill and confidence so that when we do sit down to draft the novel, we are at our best.
  • A sculptor understands that work that is rushed will show. Good writers are patient writers. They take the time to craft their work well and don’t rush in to publishing just because it’s easy. Our art and our readers deserve to have quality work from us.
  • A sculptor moves around his sculpture, focusing on facet at a time. His work is circular or spiral, not linear. He is free to travel from section to section, improving it as he is inspired.
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Now, when I start my novels, I want to think like a sculptor.

I want to review my notes and instruction from coaches. And I want to spend time with the outline, the character development, the plot, long before I ever draft a word. I  want to “swing that hammer” with confidence and that only comes with learning. Probably, I’m not going sit down with my art and think linearly. Instead, I’ll move from big idea, say the plot and move into the smaller details, like line-editing.

I had plenty more misconceptions as a writer, but envisioning correctly who I am in the process of the art has been encouraging and helpful.

Writing is art. And the more I work in the process, the more artistic I become.
What do you think? Is the sculptor a good metaphor for the writing process?

Did you like this post? You may also like

16 Simple Things To Do To Be More Creative or

Top 10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful


 

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

10 Writing Prompts To Help You Unstick Your First Draft

Sometimes drafting that story stinks.

You’re all excited in the beginning, you can’t stop writing! But somewhere you get stuck. And you may want to quit.

Keep in mind, your purpose in writing the first draft is to just get the raw material of a story. You don’t have to create a masterpiece. You don’t even have to be all that coherent. In fact, what you’re doing wrong may be stressing you out. Instead, just write down what comes to your head. Don’t self-edit. Don’t go backward. Just put down word after word.

10 Writing Prompts To Help You Unstick Your Draft

 

The following prompts may just get you over your little funk and get you enough inspiration to…

1. Describe what everyone is wearing. This is especially for your girly-girls. Go into detail about the honey colored cashmere twin set that the receptionist has on. Have it remind you of your Aunt Grace and the time she took you shopping at Macy’s and you got squirted in the eye by the perfume counter and now you can’t smell Jennifer Lopez’s new scent without thinking of Aunt Grace. Do it. Your draft needs this.

2. There’s an annoying noise bothering the main character. What is it? And then describe it. What does he do about it? Even if this has nothing to do with your story, the act of writing it out can trigger something else. You may be glad you went off on this tangent.

“Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.”
H. Jackson Brown Jr.

3. Your main character is really, really hungry. Have him stop and feed himself. Does he cook or go out? What does he eat? Go into detail. Why does he like bacon and blue cheese burgers so much? What does he do with his egg allergy? Why does he suspect the waitress is up to something? Not enough characters eat, in my humble opinion, so schedule some elevensies and see what happens in your draft.

4. Your main character has been in this exact position before. What was it like? What did she do differently? What feeling does she now have about this? Pride? Shame? Fear? Tell the reader. Even if you go into dangerous unnecessary backstory, do it anyway.

5. Give your main character a ridiculous middle name and tell a story of how they got it. Who cares if this has nothing to do with the plot, just write. It could be that this could open up a long lost secret or motivation that can help unstick you!

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6. That weird thing that you heard about from a friend last week — about the dog, or the appliance repair man or that puff piece on the evening news — put it in your story. Even if it’s not completely plausible. In fact, go through all your old notes and see if there’s something salvageable from other stories that this one could use.

7. Put your main character in a car accident. These are never planned. Think about how they would react, what types of injuries would be the worst. Would they be at fault? Would they take responsibility? Every draft needs something unexpected, right?

 

8. Your main character finds a cell phone. It is ringing. They answer it. It’s someone the main character knows. Who is it? What do they want? This assumes that your story isn’t set in Longbourne in 1810. Even if it is, go for it. You may discover something.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
Kurt Vonnegut

9. The weather goes crazy. Is it a major thunderstorm? Hurricane? Blizzard? This too is not in our control and it shouldn’t be a choice for you — put your main character in a storm and let them wrestle with the elements. Like we can ever do anything about the weather.

10. Finally, set your timer. Go small. You might be stressed out that you don’t have an hour or two to put in the big numbers. That’s okay. You need lots of small numbers. If you’re a fast typist, you can knock out three hundred words in ten minutes. Take any of the above suggestions, work for ten minutes and watch that word count climb.

Here’s a secret: you don’t have to write what makes sense. You just have to get to the end. Once you get that draft done, then you can get serious about what says and what gets cut.

Just write. You can do it. It will be awesome.


If you liked this post on writing prompts, try these:

How Champion Free Writers Combat The Blank Page or, Top Ten Ways To Deal With Writer’s Block


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Tell A Story In One Hundred Words!

This is the place for a weekly flash fiction contest!

The Apples To Apples Drabble! 

Can you write a story in 100 words?

The Rules: 

  1. Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100-word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.
  2. Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week. And you can ignore the small words that explain it clearer. We just want the big three.
  3. Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!
  4. Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 
  5. Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to ignore or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method. 
  6. Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.
  7. This contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight. Comments are welcome throughout the week, but no more entries are allowed. 
  8. Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Friday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. You can sign up for this here! 
  9. All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica, and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.

This week’s cards!

Apples to Apples Drabble for March 17, 2017

 

16 Simple Things To Do To Be More Creative

Everybody wants to be more creative.

Creativity is that moment when your ideas come together in just the right way, you may see something that no one else did. Creativity is problem solving, but it’s also strategy, connections and applications of concepts. When we’re on fire creatively, sometimes we don’t know where the original spark came from but we know we like the innovative blaze it ignited.

The problem with creativity is that it’s the hard work of the mind and sometimes the ideas just aren’t there.

We know what makes our bodies tired, but often the mind gets tired in entirely different ways. If we are writing for a living, or hinging our professional success on creativity, then we can’t afford to waste too much time not innovating and creating.

13 Simple Things To Do to Be More Creative

 

The first step in becoming more creative is to start with your physical well-being: Get enough…
These alone won’t make you creative, but they will bring your mind to the optimum situation where creativity could occur.

Other ideas to set yourself up to be creative.

1. Get your mind off your task. I am a mother of five, so I know all about distractions. It turns out that having my kids come into my office every thirty seconds to show me something insignificant and dull is good for my brain. Distractions can make me more creative. They certainly make me annoyed.

2. Do something logical. Now according to this researcher, the jury is still out on how exactly one brain activity helps the other, but doing logic puzzles, Sudoku or crosswords certainly can’t hurt your creativity. I’d like to think of these logic breaks as cross-training for your mind. If you focus only on inventive thinking, your brain could be need for a rest.

3. Put yourself in a low stakes creative setting. Don’t know what to write next in your novel? Go get your pencils and adult coloring book and veg out. When you are coloring, you are making creative choices, but because they are rather insignificant ones, your brain can take a breather. Maybe after a couple of pages, you can face your writing again.

Ways To Be More Creative by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelists

4. Exercise. This article a University of Georgia study showed how exercise increases memory and analytical thinking.  here’s even this series on Youtube called Yoga for creativity

5. Get out of your own head. According to this article from PsychCentral, your overthinking about your task could be the very thing that paralyzes your creativity. It certainly can paralyze the rest of your life. Consider putting projects aside and deliberately putting your mind on something new. This may be all it takes to get fresh perspective.

6. Change the scenery. This thorough article gives lots of examples of how to create novel experiences during your week so that your creativity is encouraged.  Even things as simple as altering your commute or rearranging your office can stimulate your brain and make your ideas flow.

7. Go through your old notes. According to this article, “innovation can only ever rearrange what already exists.” I would agree. As storytellers, we’re always remixing old ideas — old character tropes, old plotlines, familiar settings — to make something fresh and hopefully innovating. Your old ideas may not be brilliant on their own, but if they are coupled with your current experience and insight, you may find great inspiration.

8. Try a new juxtaposition. Analogies can be a great way to stimulate creativity. When I was in college, I was introduced to the idea of the synectics model, which is a way of comparing unlike objects or creating fresh analogies to stimulate creativity. This video explains it too. Occasionally I use this  (with my original notes from the ’90s) to understand my themes or characters better.

9. Discuss your idea with other creatives or peers. We all know that having someone to trust to bounce ideas off of is helpful. Don’t know any writers? It just so happens that I lead the liveliest writers group on Facebook. You should join us.

10. Make lists. I love, love, love everything that Brain Pickings has to say, but then they did an article on how Ray Bradbury would make lists to stimulate his thinking. Oh! This is perfect! Do what Bradbury does and you could write the next Fahrenheit 451!

11. Meditate. I was totally sold on this idea when I read this: “We can stop wringing our hands and waiting for the muses to fill our minds with novel and useful ideas. The science suggests that we can take an active role in inspiration and that this exercise can help!” I would believe that anytime you pursue mindfulness, you’re going to come out ahead. Not to mention that your stress level decreases, your blood pressure lowers and you feel physically energized.

12. Get organized. You’ve probably read the phrase, “A tidy desk is a sign of a sick mind,” or something along those lines. Maybe you’ve used your disorder as an excuse to be creative. But the good folks at The New York Times have done a little science and they think you should tidy it up if you want to be creative. Now set your timer and get to it. You’ll probably like the way it looks when you’re done.

13. Listen to music. According to this Psychology Today article: “Music not only affects your creative musings but also your energy levels.” But you probably already knew that. You already knew that some music makes you get up and dance. Some puts you in the mood to write. Sometimes music takes you on a memory trip. Music is powerful, so plug in those earbuds. You’ll be inspired in no time.

14. Take a nap. Of all the thing on this list to bolster creativity, THIS IS MY FAVORITE! Our little brain cells need a rest! I’ve always suspected as much, but it’s nice to know that science backs me up when I close the blinds and tell the kids not to bother me for 45 minutes or so.

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15. Move forward on the worst idea. So in the 30 seconds I was using to Google all of these suggestions, I couldn’t come up with the documentation to support that moving on the worst idea was a good creative strategy. I still stand by it and this is why: assuming the stakes or low (and really, drafting a novel in this saturated market rarely creates high stakes for anyone) try the worst idea on your list of potential ideas. Move forward. Take a step. See what happens. Either you’ll discover that it’s not such a bad idea after all, or you’ll adjust it and modify it so much, you’ll create more and more ideas and you’ll be recharged by your discovery. It’s a win-win.

16. Read. Of all the things on this list, reading is one that you should be doing anyway. You probably don’t need a reminder that reading feeds your subconscious, increases your vocabulary and knowledge, opens your mind to new ideas and helps you think critically, but I’m going to paste a link in here anyway to make it official. 

You can’t specifically turn your creativity on and off like a tap, but you can set your mind up strategically so that it has the better chance of being creative.

Got any more ideas? Send me a comment! I’d love to hear how you’ve become more creative.


Like this post? You may find these helpful too!  

Top 10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful

Or, Top 10 Ways To Deal With Writers Block


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

What’s So Bad About the Advice, “Write What You Know”?

What’s so problematic about “write what you know?”

I swear, sometimes in writing circles, these are fighting words.

Mark Twain famously gave this advice. And in the context of who he was (um, very famous for his fictionalized accounts of his boyhood on the Mississippi River) and the time period in which he lived (yeah, so authors in the late 19th century were just dipping their literary toe into fantasy) this made a lot of sense. He also had his own sales figures to contend with: his books Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were commercially successful. His more fantastic stories,  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court  and The Prince and the Pauper were not. If you were sitting on Mark Twain’s porch in Hannibal, Missouri in 1890, asking for good writing advice, he would have totally said, “write what you know, son!”

What's So Wrong With The Advice "Write What You Know"?

I think that most people who hate this phrase, write what you know, think that it's a command,…

I also think that the imaginative progression of literature through the 20th and 21st centuries can create literary snobs.

We write in entirely different contexts that Twain. We run the risk of taking this advice too literally, too rigidly, and too seriously.

I think we can all agree that writers should not limit our writing to only our own experiences. But if we don’t know what to write, it is perfectly okay to refer to the familiar. That neighborhood you played in as a kid. The taste of chocolate almond ice cream on a hot summer night. The smell of your sixth-grade classroom. There is nothing wrong with returning to what you remember. In some respects, your own experiences can add a vividness and depth that a fully imaginative paragraph won’t.

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And then there’s the business of emotions. Your deepest darkest emotions are part of who you are — they can show up in your prose. If you’ve felt a pain of any kind, you can articulate this pain into your prose. Of course, you lived heartache — so you can make your sad words effective ones. You probably never accidentally stabbed your friend because you thought that he was really your uncle who had recently married your mother right after your father died, right? But you have been betrayed. So you can get Hamlet. Shakespeare did too.

And then there are these little composite touches. Your heroine is a bit like your first boyfriend, but he’s also kind of like your boss and he has a gallant streak like your husband. Because you have had relationships, both bad and good, you have vast resources to draw from. If you are a wise writer, you realize that you need to make your hero more interesting than your first boyfriend who grew up to be an accountant. You make him a professional cheese sculptor instead.

In this article, author Jason Gots suggests that “write what you know” is one of the best and  most misunderstood pieces of writing advice ever.” I agree with him.  He suggests that writers fall into a trap of thinking that unless they’ve experienced it first hand, they shouldn’t tap into their imaginations or speculate on something they’re not familiar with.

10 Minute Novelists Insider Monthly Magazine by 10 Minute Novelists
Sign up for the monthly literary newsletter, 10 Minute Novelist Insider & get your free copy of Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A Day!

Back in 2007 or so, I was doing a little research on what it as like to be a Pastor’s kid. The main character in my book was a lonely, frustrated twenty-something who resented the fact that the only job opportunity she had was as a church secretary in her father’s church. She was hardly a believer, so I was hoping for some good conflict. I chose this topic to write about because even though I was not a pastor’s kid, I grew up in a church and my parents were active enough that I saw the ins and outs of church life. I hadn’t first-hand experience with what it was to be a PK, but I had a pretty good idea. To enhance my understanding  (and to procrastinate writing about it) I found an online group for pastor’s kids. I approached a couple of women and asked them if I could pick their brain.

One got very angry and defensive. Her claim was because I had never been there, I “had no right” to write about it. My response to her was that I didn’t believe that Shakespeare was ever a lovesick teenage girl in Verona. He still wrote Romeo and Juliet. She didn’t like my argument but said she’d help me if I promised a free book. I found someone else to help me.

My point is that I think that a good writer shouldn’t be afraid to explore new points of view and create imaginative worlds.

I also think that when we as readers start pointing our fingers to writers and claim that they are “playing it safe” by turning to the events and people they once knew, then we’re hardly helpful.

Writing is an art, so the debate of the source of where we get our inspiration is a moot one.

As you grow in your craft, you’ll learn how to twist your own experiences around to the perfect story. You’ll be inspired by those people who can tap into the fascinating things they do know. You’ll be amazed by the worlds that imaginative writers can create — what they don’t know.

So take this advice, “write what you know,” just like you take all writing advice. Take it with the smallest grain of salt. Be comfortable with who you are. Don’t look at what others do, or what others expect from you.

Just write.


Did you like this post?
Try these: Top 10 Ways To Equip Myself To Be An Expert Starer or Top 10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful.
Thanks for coming by today!

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

The Weekly Apples to Apples Drabble Contest! You Can Win!

This is the place for a weekly flash fiction contest!

The Apples To Apples Drabble! 

Apples to Apple Drabble Flash Fiction Contest by 10 Minute Novelists

 

The Rules: 

  1. Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100 word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.
  2. Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week.
  3. Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!
  4. Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 
  5. Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to unapprove or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method.
  6. Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.
  7. Contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight.
  8. Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Monday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. 
  9. All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.

This week’s cards!

Apples to Apples Drabble Contest from 10 Minute Novelists

 

Good luck! 

The Weekly Apple to Apples Drabble! Submit Your Entry Below!

Support 10 Minute Novelists

This is the place for a weekly flash fiction contest!

The Apples To Apples Drabble! 

Apples to Apple Drabble Flash Fiction Contest by 10 Minute Novelists

The Rules: 

  1. Write a drabble. A drabble is a 100 word story, with beginning, middle and end. A drabble can be any genre. Make it exactly 100 words. You can do it. That’s what adjectives and adverbs are for.
  2. Include each of the three Apples To Apples cards in the photo. All three. Not two. Not four. ALL THREE. New cards are chosen every week.
  3. Paste your drabble into the comments below. Then share this with your friends. The more comments you get on your entry, the more likely you are to win!
  4. Absolutely no links, screen shots or salesy type of behavior in the content entry. 
  5. Winners are chosen by the amount of positive response they get. Comments like, “This is great!” or “How funny!” or “Good job!” are the kinds of things that will be counted. Negative comments like, “this contest sucks” or “the rest of the entries are losers” or “WTF?” will be unapproved. The author of this blog reserves the right to unapprove or block any content that is suspected of originating from trolls. In the event of a tie, winners will be chosen by this method.
  6. Limit 3 entries per person. If you’re having fun, come back next Friday.
  7. Contest is open from 5:00 AM EST every Friday and closes down the following Sunday night at midnight.
  8. Winning entries will be announced on the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group page the following Monday. The entry will also be published in the monthly digital newsletter, 10 Minute Novelists Insider. 
  9. All entries must contain no profanity, no graphic violence or erotica and no hate speech. Entries that do not abide by this rule will not be approved. Consistent abuse of this rule will warrant a blocked user.

This week’s cards!

Apples to Apples Drabble Contest! 10 Minute Novelists

Good luck! 

Description: Six Ways To Tone It Down And Make Your Story Stronger

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Description can be overdone like Girl Scout cookies, sunny days and reality television.

In our fiction writing, description can play a key role. It can make the details of the story come alive vividly. Good description engrosses the reader in the story. But like fine wine, news in an election year, and most pork products, if you have too much description, you may regret it.

Many times writers get a little too excited with their descriptions of the people, places and things in their story.

As much as I loved the beauty and genius of Les Miserables, I totally skimmed through dozens of pages describing the sewer systems of Paris. With apologies to Victor Hugo, he could have cut that description and the story would have been just fine.

Take a lesson from Monsieur Hugo: When you are drafting your manuscript, and you get to the part where you really want to get into detail, consider these six things first.

Description: Six Ways To Tone It Down And Make Your Story Stronger by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Description May Be A Kill-Worth Darling.  If you’ve spent years and years on your manuscript, it is easy to get too attached to details. Are you obsessed with your  world-building? The heroine’s eyes? The arrangement of the house? The description may be slowing down your pacing. You may be boring the reader. Your description may need to be toned down to make it stronger.

Description may be overrated. Authors are often in love with their own poetic words. To the reader, description is much like seasoning in a main dish. Good detail enhances what is featured, not substitute for it. If you think you have too much detail, take it out, read it aloud, and judge which version is stronger. And if you suspect that you are a little too attached to those purdy words you wrote, you’re in good company.

“In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children

Description can be spread out.  Your character can show details in their actions.  Put in the descriptions into the dialogue. When your character bolts through the door, maybe she needs to knock over that Ming vase. When her lover goes after her, confused, have him run his hands through his raven black hair. By sprinkling specifics in the actions of the character, you are making it more palatable to the reader.

Description can be tied to narrative voice. Your point of view character tells the story. Weigh carefully how much he or she would notice in their world. Certain personality types notice detail. Some don’t care a bit about it. Generally speaking, a female character will soak up their environment much more than a male one. Generally speaking, a sensitive character will pay extra attention to an environment. A colder one may not.  Reread your manuscript with this in mind and see how you can make things more consistent.

“For me, good description usually consists of a few well-chosen details that will stand for everything else.” — Stephen King

Description is stronger with the right noun. The more specific you are with your nouns, the clearer the picture can be for your reader. A Douglas fir is a more vivid picture than a tree. Keep your pacing consistent by choosing the right noun.

Do You Have Too Much Description? By Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelists

Description is even stronger with the right verb.  For the same reason, a precise, active verb carries the weight of a sentence and creates an interesting picture. Search for weaker verbs: is, was, are, had, has, have, walk, said, went, etc. Then, substitute stronger, more clear verbs. And while this task does sound tedious, it would be worth it to go back and make the sentences stronger.

There are no original plots, so writers must depend on the details to make a story interesting and readable. As you revise your story, keep these suggestions about description in mind.

And go easy on the Cheese Doodles, you might regret it later.


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community.