Brainstorms, and the Art of the Query

The prompt for the June 7 Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge was not an easy one for me for a variety of reasons. First, I don’t write magazine articles. And second, I’m not yet in a position to send out query letters.

This week’s prompt:

Brainstorming – think up five ideas for magazine articles. Pick the best one, and send it to an editor in a query letter.

The Brainstorm
If I were to write articles, what would I write about? I have no specific expertise in anything. I know a bit about a fair number of subjects, but I doubt I could be called an expert.

I do know little bit about hand crafts such as counted cross-stitch and crochet. But all I know on these subjects I’ve learned from other experts. I have nothing original to add to the conversation.

I’m the mother of three boys, and I’ve learned a thing or two about raising children, specifically boys. We’ve just left the preschool years behind us for good and are currently in the gap-toothed smiles phase. But as a parent, I’ve failed at least as often as I’ve succeeded, so what could I hope to offer anyone on the topic of parenting?

Then there is the writing itself. I feel the least qualified of all to offer any advice on this topic. I’m muddling my way through this process, trying to learn as I go. And hoping I don’t make too many mistakes along the way.

Still, I am a writer. I write this blog. I write short stories and novels. And I sometimes struggle with what to write about. Therefore, I did use this prompt to explore some ideas I might want to pursue both for my blog and in fiction.

I came up with a few ideas, more than the recommended five, in fact. I’m not going to share my list here, however. A girl’s got to keep a few secrets, after all.

The Query
As for the next part of the prompt – write and submit a query letter – this was even harder for me than the first part. As I said, I don’t write for magazines, and I’m not currently prepared to submit any short stories for publication. Nor am I quite ready to reach out to an agent.

Instead, I used this prompt as an opportunity to explore some marketing ideas. It can’t hurt to be prepared with knowledge when I am ready to submit an article, a short story or a query letter to someone with the goal of having my work published. There are a number of resources available for seeking out publication markets, The Writer’s Market perhaps being the largest.

One day, hopefully soon, I will be at a place where I will need to seek out an agent. At that time, it would be good for me to know how to write an effective query letter. Again, there are tons of resources available with a simple web search. The Writer’s Digest blog is a wealth of information on all aspects of writing. Here are a couple related to writing queries:

How to Write the Perfect Query Letter

The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter

And this article from AgentQuery.com:

How to Write a Query Letter

All three include links to various other potentially useful articles as well.

These Wednesday Challenges aren’t always just about the writing. Sometimes, like this one, they are more about the business side of writing. Still, no matter where you’re at in the process, and no matter what your specific writing goals might be, I think it’s useful to visit this side of creativity once in awhile. It could even be that in writing a synopsis for your novel you discover the true conflict at the heart of it.

Did you find this exercise useful? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge – June 7, 2017

Welcome back to the Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge! This is the place to find unexpected inspiration to encourage creativity.

I’ll post a writing prompt here each Wednesday. Use it to spark your own writing—a journal entry, a poem, a short story – or a query letter. If you wish, consider sharing a link to your response in the comments below. There are some simple rules, so check them out below before posting.

Thanks for playing along! Happy writing!

Here is the writing prompt for the week. Have fun!

Brainstorming: Think up five ideas for magazine articles. Pick the best one, and send it to an editor in a query letter.

Rules for posting to Wednesday Writing Challenge:

  1. Must be family friendly.
  2. Hate and intolerance will not be accepted.
  3. No pornography, erotica, graphic violence or excessive profanity.

My aim is to maintain a site that’s open to a wide audience. I write for middle grade on up to adults. I will review any content shared on my site, and reserve the right to remove any link.

Please, have fun. Be creative. And let’s write more words!

Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge #2

Be your own thesaurus. Pick a word, and write down as many synonymous words as you can. Then, expand to synonymous phrases, then to synonymous metaphors. Play with the idea of similarity.

For this week’s exercise, I chose to explore the word pot. I had no good reason for choosing this particular word, but I couldn’t come up with anything more exciting. Rather than spending too much time dwelling on what word to choose, I decided to go with the first thing that came to mind. My gaze landed on the little ceramic pot that holds the slips of paper with these exercises on them. It’s certainly not an exciting or glorious word, but I went with it anyway.

So what is a pot, but a container. A tool used for cooking. In that sense, I came up with the following similar words:

pan
container
bucket
kettle
bowl
basket
cauldron

From this list of words, I moved easily into a series of synonymous phrases. Here are a few I came up with containing the word pot and other similar words:

Pot calling the kettle black.
Out of the pan, into the fire.
Kick the bucket.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

While I didn’t come up with any synonymous metaphors centering on the word pot, I was struck by a certain similarity that emerged in the above phrases. There is in all of them, a sort of negativity. I can’t help but wonder about the origins of these idioms.

I think the idea behind this exercise is to complete it quickly, to let the mind play with words. I think it should be used to create surprising connections between words and ideas that perhaps you hadn’t thought of before.

This might not have been an especially useful exercise, at least not in the immediate sense of producing material for a larger work. Even so, it was interesting to see where I could go with a mundane word such as pot. And I do love the word cauldron. It has a sort of magical quality about it, don’t you think?

I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore: A Review

Book #7 on my 2017 Reading Challenge, a book with a number in the title, I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore was a fun read if not quite as satisfying as I had hoped. This book is also part of my core “rainbow list” and I’d been looking forward to reading it for some time.

The premise of the story is catchy and intriguing:

Nine of us came. We live among you. Three are dead. I am number Four. I am next.

This book tells the story of a boy, calling himself John Smith. He’s one of nine others who came to Earth from another world and have been hiding here for the past several years. They are being hunted by another race of aliens, the ones who destroyed their home planet.

I Am Number Four opens as John (then called Daniel) and his adult “protector” are compelled to pull up and move again, something that has happened already many times since they arrived on Earth. They end up moving to the small town of Paradise, Ohio.

John makes friends here – and enemies – and doesn’t want to move again. But things begin to happen that makes this almost a certainty.

Overall, I liked this book. The action scenes are great. The suspense and the crisp writing style move the story along at a fantastic pace. My one big complaint is John’s poor decision making. He behaves badly and makes stupid decisions for selfish reasons. And while I understand why he feels the way he does, his responses felt excessive.

Traces

Today was my coworker’s last day before she heads off to a well-deserved retirement. The official countdown began a couple of months ago, building in anticipation until today. A day of great joy for my friend, but a bittersweet moment for the rest of us. Farewells are never easy.

This anticipation of saying goodbye to a friend started me thinking about the things left behind when relationships end or change. What impressions – or traces – are left by those who are no longer around?

In regards to my newly retired coworker, she leaves behind a legacy of kindness and compassion. She is one of the kindest people I know, and I will forever be grateful for the privilege of working alongside her even for such a short time.

There are others, of course, who have left traces of themselves behind. The obvious ones like parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. I am who I am today because of the foundation these key people laid for my life.

There the less obvious ones. Like the girl in eighth grade who took a chance on the new girl, the painfully shy one who was probably a little bit odd. She showed me what it was to be a little wild. And though we’ve moved on, her friendship still means the world to me.

The college roommate who became a lifelong friend. She taught me what it means to share space with another. Her faith in me helped me to climb out of the self imposed shell I’d created for myself years before.

And still there were others…

The young woman from India who became a college roommate and cherished friend. She opened my tiny experience and showed me a global perspective. She is a far better friend than I ever deserved.

Or the girl in middle school born without arms who taught me that friends come in all shapes and sizes.

The high school English teacher who tried to get me to challenge myself, and reach beyond “just enough” for something greater. I wish I’d listened to him at the time.

The uncle who believed in me enough to tell me he would read my truly terrible first novel.

The list could go on. Employers, coworkers, classmates, teachers, neighbors, youth group leaders, pastors and Sunday School teachers.

For every relationship by birth or by choice, I am grateful. Every chance encounter that has left its mark on my life. Not all of the traces left are positive. But I’m grateful even for the negative ones, as they have hopefully left me a stronger person.