Unlock the Muse – January 31, 2018

It’s the end of January. 2018 is one-twelfth over already. It’s not too late to get started on new writing goals.

Your writing exercise for this week is:

Unmotivated to write? Vent your frustration in a journal entry that begins: “I can’t write” or “I don’t feel like writing.”

The words “I can’t” are two words I struggle with in my own home. My second son tends to use it all too often about things I know him to be perfectly capable of. It’s maddening, and I’m doing my best to instill confidence in him. And one way I can do that is model confidence myself. So instead of the “I can’t” in the above scenario, let’s give “I can” a try!

There is a long standing debate about writing styles, and in my typical NaNo circle, this is seen as pantsing vs. plotting. Walter Mosley in his book, This Year You Write Your Novel, describes it this way: intuition vs. structure. The structured writer knows what the story is about from the beginning, whereas the intuitive writer must discover the story along the way. I am very much an intuitive writer. It’s just the way it works best for me.

The intuitive and structured methods are equally valid. Whether you start out knowing the whole story or you don’t know a thing beyond the opening scene, you will still have a finished novel at the end of your labors.”

What sort of writer are you?

January has five Wednesdays. It’s sort of like a bonus. It’s also a full moon, the second during the same month, making it a blue moon. It’s also supposed to be a lunar eclipse. Talk about bonus!

Therefore, I’m declaring this bonus Wednesday a “play day.” No questions, no answers, no etymology lessons. Just a game. A game of Rory’s Story Cubes:


I’m confident there’s a story in there somewhere!

Happy 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:

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.

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.

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.

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:

Writing Prompt Challenge for Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Welcome to the Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge! Now that NaNoWriMo is over again for another year, I’m back to posting a weekly writing prompt.

Join me in finding inspiration in unexpected places. Each week I’ll 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 are you feeling today? Assess your mood in words. Be as creative as possible. Personify the emotion, dress it or engage it in a dialogue.

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

Changes are coming soon to this weekly writing challenge. Stay tuned!

Nov 8, 2017: Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge – NaNoWriMo Edition

Welcome to the NaNoWriMo edition of the Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge! I know not all of you participate in National Novel Writing Month, but I do. So my focus this month will be on writing a novel in 30 days.

To that end, I’ve selected a bit of inspiration to help myself and other writers through the madness that is NaNoWriMo.

Creativity is an act of defiance.
Twyla Tharp

Your challenge this week, is to defy the doubters and nay-sayers. Lock away your inner editor and all the self-doubts. Your story is important. Write your novel!

Check in below with your current NaNo word count, or share your favorite writing affirmation. Let’s write more words!

Happy writing!

NaNo Prep For Non-Planners, Part One: Ideas

November is National Novel Writing Month. If you don’t know what that is, check out their website. This will be my eighth year to participate in this writing challenge. It’s tons of fun, if you’re into this sort of thing.

So far, each year I’ve jumped into this event with little to no plan at all. But this year, I’m doing things different. I’m going to spend a little time planning my novel before I start writing it. I thought it would be fun to invite you along with me.

Whether you’re a planner, or not, now’s the time to get started. And the place to start is generating ideas.

Where do ideas come from?
If you’re a writer, or any other sort of creative person, you know that ideas are out there, sort of floating about in the universe. No one really knows where they come from. You probably also know that those ideas can be a bit elusive, slippery, hard to hold on to sometimes.

Whether you are a NaNo participant or just trying to start a new writing project, here are a few plot generator websites that promise to get your creativity flowing:

  • This story starter site offers a sentence with a character and a scenario as a jumping off place for a new story. Writing for young people? There’s also a story starter version for kids.
  • Or try this Story Idea Generator which is similar to the first story starter site. 
  • This plot generator offers ideas for a variety of creative writing – short stories, films and more. It even breaks things down by genre – fantasy, paranormal romance and more. There’s even a category called Bronte Sisters.
  • Finally, this Random Plot Generator gives you the opportunity to mix and match various story elements – characters, setting, situation, etc – to find a combination that inspires you. 

These options are by no means perfect, but they can be a place to start.

Is my idea big enough for NaNo?
So you have an idea for a novel. Great! Then you sit down to write it only to run out of steam half way through. Ever happened to you?

I have a tiny little idea for a story that came to me a couple of years ago while I was in the middle of writing about three other novels. I wrote the idea down and set it aside. I didn’t have the time to pursue it right then. Now I’ve decided to pull it out for NaNo 2017. But it’s barely an idea. Little more than a character and a beginning.

How then, do you know if an idea is big enough to support an entire novel? Brainstorm. Play with the idea and build on it. Here are some brainstorming techniques that might help you build your idea into a full-size novel idea:

5 Brainstorming Strategies for Writers

Your assignment for NaNo Prep week one
If you’re just taking the first steps to writing your first novel, or if you’re like me, and don’t usually plan ahead for one, I hope you’ve found here some strategies to get started. This week, use the resources and ideas here and find and/or build on your novel idea.

Here are three questions to focus on:

  1. What is your story about?
  2. Where does your story take place?
  3. Who is telling your story?

Use the brainstorming exercises and see if you can come up with the premise, or theme, of your novel. Do the exercises suggest a location or time? Will you write in first person point of view or third person?

Best wishes to you on your noveling adventure! I hope these ideas and resources have been useful to you in some way. Next week, the focus will be on characters. Happy writing!

Ideas, Road Construction & My Tuesday Commute

The Wednesday writing prompt challenge for this week was

Put your character in a situation you were in yesterday.

This prompt once again had me at loss. Put my characters into a situation I was in yesterday? My typical “yesterdays” aren’t all that exciting. However, when I started this weekly exercise, I made up my mind to take these prompts seriously, so I sat down to think about what I did “yesterday.”

It was a Tuesday. I went to work. My typical commute takes approximately fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on traffic. I like to use the time to think about the novel I’m working on, the day ahead or whatever comes to mind. It’s a great opportunity to do some brainstorming. Though not always especially productive as I can’t write down my ideas while I’m driving.

Right now, there is road repair work going on along my usual commute, so I’ve been obliged to find an alternate route. The new route is taking the interstate through town. I don’t like driving on the freeway. I find it very stressful for me. As a result, I have less time to ponder the issues facing my fictional world while I drive.

Most of my novels don’t take place in a modern type setting with daily commutes and traffic issues. And in the ones that do, the characters are too young to drive, though they’d likely have a usual route to school.

Though I thought hard on it, I really began to suspect I would have no answer to this week’s prompt. But I got back to work on my novel anyway. It is Camp NaNoWriMo month, after all. And it turned out, I could put a road block in my novel after all. One of my characters must make a grand entrance into a major city, but the roadway is blocked by some sort of traffic mishap.

So, once again, my subconscious mind manages to make the seemingly random leap from writing prompt to novel progress. The writing prompt is what you make of it. It’s purpose is only to get the ideas flowing and words on the page.

Did you take the dare?

Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge – June 28, 2017

It’s Wednesday Writing Prompt Challenge again! This is the place to find unexpected inspiration to encourage creativity.

I post a writing prompt, or exercise, here each Wednesday. Follow the prompt precisely, or use it to spark your own writing—a journal entry, a poem, a short story. 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!

The writing prompt for the week is clearly a little out of date. But let’s have a little seasonal fun out of season all the same. If you’re not into St. Patrick’s, choose another holiday along with the appropriate icons that go along with it. Happy writing, and have fun!

Start a narration that takes place in Ireland and involves a lost leprechaun, a bar keeper and an inanimate object that can talk. (A pint of beer, perhaps, in preparation for the upcoming holiday?)

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!