Unlock the Muse – February 26, 2019

I went to see How To Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World this week with my children. They were all excited to see it, and so was I. I love these movies, and without giving anything away, I think I can say this movie is a great ending to a well done series.

I read a lot of series fiction, and I tend to write it as well. The How To Train Your Dragon movies are an excellent reminder of what it takes to put together a good series. I’m currently in the middle of writing a series of novels, and my hope is that I can bring the overall story to a satisfying conclusion such as the Dragon series.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Begin a short reflective essay with the phrase ‘I remember…’ and continue as far back as you can. Be descriptive.

Memories are elusive, changeable things. Capturing them can be tricky, especially the older they get. Explore this exercise with a partner, someone who shared an experience with you. Separately write down everything you can remember about the event. Compare notes and see what’s the same, and what is different.

It’s play week! Here’s a roll of the Rory’s Story Cubes to get the fun started. Try focusing on one image at a time. What ideas do each one evoke?


Happy writing!

The Rules for #140Line

Twitter just gave us 140 EXTRA characters per tweet! It’s madness I tell you! Whether you’re a fan of the extra long tweets or not, here’s a new hashtag game that actually encourages LESS! So, get ready to tighten those lines and share your very BEST!

Read the rules for #140Line here.

100 Posts – Time to Celebrate!

I’ve been at this blogging thing for about a year and a half. I’d like to say I’ve got it all figured out. That I’ve found my place in the blogosphere, and I’m happily working away at creating good and consistent content and that my little blog is growing.

The truth is, I don’t have it all figured out. I haven’t found where I really belong in the blogging world. And I still struggle with creating consistent content. I do, however, believe that my blog is growing. Slowly, to be sure, but growing just the same.

This is my 100th post. I’ve written about words. Words I’ve read and words I’ve written. I’ve read a lot of books and shared my thoughts with you. I’ve written about my progress on my own novels and even shared some short fiction.

There are also nearly 100 fine folks who have decided to follow my blog. I’ve decided to celebrate by offering a giveaway to you, my faithful followers. Once I reach 100 followers, I will randomly select one of you and I will send you a copy of one of the books from my reading list. The winner gets to choose which book! I will also have a special thank you gift for everyone who enters.

Looking through those who have followed my blog, a good number of you are other book bloggers. You are, like me, readers. Therefore, I will have a special bookmark as a gift for each of you.

If you don’t wish to participate in the giveaway, you don’t need to do anything. If you would like to be considered for the prize, just send me an email to let me know that yes, you’re in.

I’ll need an address to send you a special thank you gift. I promise, I won’t send you anything else!

If you know anyone who might find my blog interesting, please spread the word! I appreciate each one of you. Thanks for sticking with me through this learning process. Here’s to many more posts!

If Writing a Novel Was Like Baking a Cheesecake: A Recipe for Success

I was making a cheesecake the other night instead of writing, as I frequently do when there’s a pot luck at the office the next day. In fact, I’ve become almost famous among my coworkers for bringing in these rich, delectable desserts.

I like cheesecake because it is a beautiful, decadent dessert with a sort of mysterious reputation for being difficult to make. They can be challenging. Making a perfect cheesecake might be difficult, but in truth, a delicious cheesecake is not that hard to make, just follow the recipe and trust your instincts.

As I worked on the cheesecake rather than my novel, the thought occurred to me, if only writing a novel could be like baking a cheesecake. Mix it up, put it in the pan, bake it. An hour later, done! Sadly, I can’t write a novel in an hour. I don’t know if I’d trust anyone who said that they could.

Then I thought, why not? Why can’t writing a novel be just like making a cheesecake? So, here it is, the recipe for writing a novel. Maybe not a perfect one, but a good one.

-flour: genre
-sugar: time
-butter: place

-cream cheese, softened: plot
-sugar: theme
-eggs: characters
-the extras (vanilla, caramel, nuts, and so on): your own voice

1. Start with your chosen genre and blend in all elements of your setting. Press the mixture into your pan. I recommend an adjustable pan, one that can stretch or contract to fit the needs of the story you’re trying to tell. A “one-size-fits-all” pan will only generate cookie-cutter fiction. Bake the crust for a predetermined period of time allowing your world to become real and solid. Remove from the oven, set aside and allow to cool.

2. Combine the plot with your theme until smooth. The cream cheese is the essential ingredient in a cheesecake. Without it, it isn’t really a cheesecake. For a novel, this is the plot. Essential and pervasive, you don’t really have a story without plot. The sugar is your theme. Apparently, every story has one. This will sweeten the story and soften the edges of the plot, and if mixed well, becomes undetectable.

3. Next, add your characters slowly, one at a time, beating only until blended. Beating the mixture for too long will remove too many hard edges and soften the inevitable friction between characters. Add as many characters as it takes to achieve the right consistency, but not so many as to turn it into a souffle. Don’t forget to throw in at least one bad egg—every story needs a villain.

4. Blend in any unique, personal elements, adding your own voice, or flavor to the overall story. Pour over the prepared setting. Bake until the edges begin to brown and the middle is just set.

5. Return it to the oven because the center isn’t done yet.

6. Maybe just a few more minutes will do it.

7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Run a knife around the edges to loosen it from the pan. Allow to cool completely.

8. Refrigerate several hours, or overnight. (Translation, cool your heels while you wait for your manuscript to be accepted somewhere.)

It turns out, baking a cheesecake is a perfect analogy for writing a novel. But it’s not done yet. Now, you share it. The cheesecake is a dessert made for sharing and doing so, is much the same as sharing a novel. There is the same sort of fear, the giddy anticipation when you serve the cheesecake, or reveal the book. Is it really done? Will anyone like it?

In order to be complete, every novel needs to be read, just like every cheesecake needs to be eaten. And like a cheesecake being eaten, a book can be read much faster than it can be written. In the end, after all the hardship and toil, the consumer gets to enjoy your end product. And it takes mere moments in comparison to the time you put into your beautiful work.

Ultimately, a cheesecake will not be left untouched. I can almost guarantee that. Someone will cut into it. And the thrill that comes from watching people enjoy your efforts is unparalleled. As I’m sure, is the thrill of receiving a good review on your writing. A good book, like a cheesecake is made to be enjoyed.

Happy writing!

If you’re curious, here’s the cheesecake I made the other night. It turned out great!