Unlock the Muse – January 17, 2018

January is half over already! What progress are you making on your goals? For myself, I finally managed to do some writing this week. Not much, but it’s a start.

Inspire
Here’s your writing exercise to help get the words flowing this week:

Start with: “Never underestimate…”

What have you underestimated that turned out completely wrong? Extrapolate on that and turn it into fuel for your fiction. Ask yourself a series of “what if?” questions and see how far you can take it.

Whatever you do, don’t underestimate yourself!

Encourage
According to Walter Mosley in This Year You Write Your Novel, simply writing every day isn’t enough. Carve out a specific time for your writing. Put in the time even if you aren’t putting down any words. It can be too easy to suddenly give in to the need to wash the dishes, fold the laundry or mow the lawn. Make sure your family and neighbors know you aren’t available during this time. This time is for writing. As Mosley puts it:

Don’t write in the journal unless you’re writing a chapter of your book. Save the world at 8:30 instead of 7:00. Let the lawn get shaggy and the paint peel from the walls. For that time you have set aside to write your novel, don’t do anything else. Turn the ringer off on your phone. Don’t answer the doorbell.

Set aside the distractions. Don’t let procrastination derail your writing.

Equip
W
riting Question of the Month: Speaking of procrastination, what is your favorite non-writing activity?

My answer: If I discount reading (which I consider a writing-related activity!), Netflix has become my go-to distraction. I’m currently binge watching Once Upon a Time.

Please consider sharing your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask! Put it in the comments below, or send your question by email here:

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Unlock the Muse – January 10, 2018

A week into the new year, and so far, I haven’t accomplished a single thing toward my goals. This past November, NaNoWriMo took a lot out of me, and I took the month of December off to recuperate a little bit. Now that January is here, it’s really time to get back to writing.

Inspire
Here’s your writing exercise to help get the words flowing this week:

When you have an idea, write it. Sure, it might hit you in the grocery store. Write yourself a note. Plan to write about the idea for half an hour that night.

I keep a notebook handy at all times for just this purpose. In my purse, by the bed, on my desk. I even have an app on my phone. For those grocery store moments.

Your challenge this week is to write down your ideas as soon as you can. Then, at your next writing session, spend at least a half hour to flesh out the idea. Explore it and see where it might take you.

Encourage
According to Walter Mosley’s This Year You Write Your Novel, in order to push through and write your novel in a year, you’ll need to let go of all restraint. Let go of all the social niceties that makes life possible (maybe not in public, though!). Don’t let guilt stand in your way either. Release the inhibitions and fear over what your grandmother, your neighbor, your ex, might think of you or your novel. Finally, don’t get caught up in trying to model your writing style on some ideal. This is your story, write it your way.

Equip
Words are the tools writers use every day. So it never hurts to learn a little bit more about the words we use. One such word-tool that’s at the heart of this weekly post is Inspiration.

According to the oxforddictionaries.com, Inspiration (n.) is defined as follows:

1. The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something creative. The quality of being inspired, especially when evident in something. A person or thing that inspires. A sudden brilliant, creative, or timely idea.

2. The drawing in of a breath; inhalation. An act of breathing in; an inhalation.

From etymonline.com:

…the word Inspiration dates back to circa 1300 and meant “immediate influence of God or a god,” especially that under which the holy books were written. It comes to us from Old French inspiracion “inhaling, breathing in. And from Latin inspirationem, noun of action from past participle of the Latin word inspirare “blow into, breathe upon.”

The sense evolution seems to be from “breathe into” to “infuse animation or influence,” thus “affect, rouse, guide or control,” especially by divine influence. Inspire (v.) in Middle English was also used to mean “breathe or put life or spirit into the human body; impart reason to a human soul.” Literal sense “act of inhaling” attested in English from the 1560s.

Go, breathe life into your novel. Inspire!

Please consider sharing your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask! Put it in the comments below, or send your question by email here:

Unlock the Muse – January 3, 2018

It’s the first week of 2018. What are your writing goals for this year? For myself, I have three main goals. One, finish a novel. Second, to organize my research and background materials for my two middle grade series. And finally, to improve my writing.

To this last end, I’m sharing with you this new and improved weekly writing exercise. If practice makes perfect, then let’s practice.

Inspire
Welcome to 2018! To help spur you on to complete your writing goals this year, here is your first weekly writing exercise for the year:

Think about the last time you laughed so hard you cried. Who was with you? What provoked the outburst? Journal about how a good laugh can be just what you need.

Have fun with this. Savor the details and let the memory take you where it will.

Next, take it one step further. Use the imagery from your memory to write a poem, or write a laughter scene into your novel. Let your characters enjoy the same level of mirth you once did.

Encourage
I am nearly always reading a book on the craft of writing. Currently, it is This Year You Write Your Novel, by Walter Mosley. Somehow that seems like an especially appropriate place to start at the beginning of a new year. Chapter One of this book is titled: The General Disciplines That Every Writing Needs. It opens with classic writing advice that, if you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’ve no doubt heard over and over again: to be a writer, you must write.

Mosley insists that you should write every day.

The first thing you have to know about writing is that is it something you must do every day.

As the basic principle of his book is to write a novel in a year’s time, this advice certainly makes sense. Though it may seem like tired, overused advice, it’s still important. The consistency of habit will allow your unconscious mind to continue to dwell on and dream about your story even while you’re not actively working on it. Habit and routine are the first keys to unlocking the muse.

So, go on. Write. Every day.

Equip
Q: What’s the big deal about passive voice?

A: Passive voice is weaker and less direct than active voice. Using active voice whenever possible will strengthen your fiction. From The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White:

The habitual use of the active voice, however, makes for forcible writing. … Many a tame sentence or description or exposition can be made lively and emphatic by substituting a transitive in the active voice for some such perfunctory expression as ‘there is’ or ‘could be heard.’

So here’s to a new year filled with successful writing! Please consider sharing your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask! Put it in the comments below, or send your question by email here:

Unlocking the Muse – Introducing a New Weekly Inspiration & Resource for Writers

I’ve been giving a lot of thought over the last couple of months to my weekly writing prompt post. I have never been truly happy with the name Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge. It doesn’t really convey what I hope this challenge will be for myself and other writers. And the tag #WWPChallenge sounds more like some sort of wrestling event.

The purpose of these writing prompts is two-fold. First, it should be fun. Writing is hard work, but there should always be the element of fun, or it no longer feels worth doing. Second, it is to inspire ideas. Sometimes the idea well runs slow, and prompts and exercises such as these are designed to prime the pump. It may not turn into anything. Or it could be your next big thing. It might be the key you were looking for to fill a hole in your plot. It just might be the very thing you need to unlock your muse.

Therefore, I am reinventing this weekly post. It has a new name: Unlock the Muse. A new cover photo (courtesy of Pixabay). And a new format designed to inspire, encourage and equip your writing.

Inspire:
This weekly Unlock the Muse post will have three parts. First, the usual writing prompt you’ve come to expect each week. As always, this will be a random writing exercise designed to get ideas flowing and put words on the page. Whenever possible, I’ll include some ideas on how the exercise might be valuable. Writing exercises aren’t the same for everyone, but they’re only intended to be a spark.

Encourage:
The second part of the post will include either a nugget of writing inspiration from a favorite author, or a snippet of wisdom gleaned from whatever writing craft book I’m reading at the time. I’m always reading one in hopes I might learn something worthwhile from those who’ve been in the business of writing much longer than I have. Currently, I am working on This Year You Write Your Novel, by Walter Mosley. It seems an appropriate book to start the new year.

Equip:
I’ll conclude each post with a question and answer. I invite you to ask me a writing-related question, and I will do my best to find an answer. For now, questions should be about my specific writing process or questions about grammar and language usage (English language only, please). Keep in mind, unless the question is about a specific rule of grammar, the answer will be my opinion, and should not be taken as the absolute and only right answer.

It’s your turn now. What sort of writing exercises work best for you? Who are your favorite writers and writing craft books? Do you have a question about a tricky grammar issue, or just want to know my writing process? Leave a comment below!

Or send me your question(s) by email here:

 

Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge, December 27, 2017

Welcome to the Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge! Join me in finding inspiration in unexpected places. Each week I post a new prompt intended to spark ideas for whatever writing project you’re working on—a journal entry, a poem, a short story. The possibilities are endless!

If you wish, consider sharing a link to your response in the comments below. Please be respectful with anything you post, and thanks for playing along! Happy writing!

How did you get your first job? If you’re not there now, why not?

Have fun. Be creative. And let’s write more words!

What are your writing goals for 2018? Write more? Finish that novel? Try poetry, or script writing? Whatever your goals, my hope is that you’ll find new inspiration along with me with this weekly writing exercise. Join me in 2018 as we Unlock the Muse!

Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge, December 20, 2017

Welcome to the Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge! Join me in finding inspiration in unexpected places. Each week I post a new prompt intended to spark ideas for whatever writing project you’re working on—a journal entry, a poem, a short story. The possibilities are endless!

If you wish, consider sharing a link to your response in the comments below. Please be respectful with anything you post, and thanks for playing along! Happy writing!

Take 10 photos from your camera – the last 10, or 10 chosen at random – print them, and paste them into a journal (or use an electronic alternative), and write clever or humorous captions about each photo.

Have fun. Be creative. And let’s write more words!

New year, new look, new name! This weekly writing challenge is getting an upgrade in January. Watch for more details next week!

Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge, December 13, 2017

Welcome to the Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge! Join me in finding inspiration in unexpected places. Each week I post a new prompt intended to spark ideas for whatever writing project you’re working on—a journal entry, a poem, a short story. The possibilities are endless!

If you wish, consider sharing a link to your response in the comments below. Please be respectful with anything you post, and thanks for playing along! Happy writing!

Create a list of your characters’ motivations. Write the name of the character, his/her immediate goal and ultimate motivation.

Have fun. Be creative. And let’s write more words!

Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge is getting a new look! Watch for updates coming in January.