Unlock the Muse – December 17, 2019

This month has been a whirlwind of chaos for me. I’ve gone from Christmas production to jury duty to sick kids and husband, and now I’m sick myself. Now, here it is the middle of December already and I haven’t accomplished half of what I’d hoped to do. I can’t help but wonder, what’s next?

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Raise the stakes in your story. Whatever troubles your character is facing, they could be worse. If you’re losing interest in writing a story about halfway through, it’s probably because there’s not enough at risk. If your character is facing a life-and-death situation, put his relationship in danger or put other people’s lives at risk if he fails.

If you’re not sure where to go with your story, take it to the next level. Burn down your MC’s home. Start the fire with the MC still inside. Whatever is happening, make it worse.

Encourage
The word next is a versatile word. It can be a noun, a descriptor, or even a preposition.

next
adjective:
1. (Of a time or season) coming immediately after the time of writing or speaking.
2. Coming immediately after the present one in order, rank, or space.

adverb:
1. On the first or soonest occasion after the present, immediately afterwards.
2. Following the specified order.

noun:
1. The next person or thing.

preposition:
1. Next to.

The word next, “nearest in place, position, rank, or turn,” comes to us from the Middle English word nexte, through the Old English word niehsta meaning “nearest in position or distance, closest in kinship.” It is also related to the Proto-Germanic word nekh (meaning “near”) + the superlative suffix –istaz, as well as the Old High German word nahisto, meaning “neighbor.”

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – November 19, 2019

I recently tried a new route to work. More and more, urban growth has been impacting my normal route, and things have consequently slowed down. And now, signs have been posted indicating a massive development project will be underway on this route for the next several months. It seemed like a good time for a change.

Of course, new isn’t always better, and in this case, it made little difference. Sometimes in our writing routines, it might be a good idea to try something new. If what you are doing feels slow and stagnant, change it up. Take your laptop out to a cafe or a park instead of writing at your desk. Write in the morning instead of at night. Use pen and paper instead of your computer.

A new routine can shake things loose. If you’re stuck, give it an honest chance. You can always return to the normal routine if things don’t work out. And maybe you’ll return with renewed energy.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Spend 10 minutes today drafting the beginning of that dream novel or poem you’ve imagined writing.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, you’re likely already deep into that new novel idea that maybe doesn’t feel so new anymore. In which case, it might be better to jot down some quick notes on the “shiny new idea” that hit you in the middle of the night and table it until November is over.

If you’re not NaNo-ing, there’s no time like the present to dive in to that novel you keep thinking about. Write it!

Encourage
new
/n(y)o͞o/

adjective
1. Not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time.
2. Already existing, but seen, experienced, or acquired recently or now for the first time.

The word new comes to us through the Middle English neue, which comes from the Old English neowe, niowe, or even earlier, niwe meaning “made or established for the first time, fresh, novel, unheard of, untried.”

I found this bit from etymonline.com very interesting:

There was a verb form in Old English (niwian, neowian) and Middle English (neuen) “make, invent, create; bring forth, produce, bear fruit; begin or resume (an activity); resupply; substitute,” but it seems to have fallen from use.

Apparently, even what’s new can become old. Maybe we should bring it back into use – I’m going to newen a novel!

Make something that didn’t exist before. Experience something for the first time. 

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – October 15, 2019

I love the fall. The world around me has changed its appearance. Trees are disguised as living torches, and the morning sun is concealed by clinging fog. It is a beautiful time, full of mystery and transition. A time when anything is possible and the alter ego is let loose.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Pretend you’re forced to dye your hair. Why are you being forced? What color would you choose? How do you think your friends would react?

Why would you dye your hair? Hide your identity? Practical joke? Now it’s your character’s turn. Give one of them a reason to dye their hair – or force them to do it. How do other characters react to this change?

I think I’ll go with purple. Or electric blue.

Encourage
dis·guise

verb
Give (someone or oneself) a different appearance in order to conceal one’s identity.

noun
A means of altering one’s appearance or concealing one’s identity.

As a verb, the word disguise dates back to around 1300 meaning “to conceal the personal identity of by changes of guise or usual appearance, with the intent to deceive,” from the Old French desguiser (change one’s appearance).
(from etymonline.com)

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – September 17, 2019

As I’ve mentioned before, a writer’s education should be ongoing and never-ending. There is always something more to learn. This learning might take any number of forms. One such form is the MFA in Creative Writing. Last week I looked at some of the top reasons why someone might want to pursue such a degree.

But the MFA isn’t the right choice for everyone. Here are some reasons why it might not be:

  • Cost: The typical MFA degree is a 2-3 year program, and the cost starts around $30,000. Even a low-residence program is likely to cost more than $10,000.
  • No guarantee of publication: Even with all the work to improve craft and the potential connections made during a degree program, the competition for publication is still intense.
  • Focus on literary vs. genre fiction: Despite the proliferation of MFA programs, the focus of nearly all of them remains on literary fiction. If you want to pursue genre or commercial fiction, the MFA might not be the best place.

If you’re looking for more on the subject, here are a few websites I found:

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Catcher in the Rye, Peyton Place, Blubber – sound familiar? They should, because at some point in their history, all these books were banned. Write about your favorite banned book, and explain why it never should have been censored.

Think about why a book gets banned in the first place. All sorts of books have ended up on banned book lists, including the American classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, and the hugely popular Harry Potter series. Right or wrong, they get banned for various reasons. But if you think about it, theses books have touched a nerve, exposed something raw and real, and made someone uncomfortable. How does this relate to your own writing? Just this, don’t worry about what others might think of what you have to say. Write the story you need to write. Let it be real and raw. Because that’s where it will reach out and potentially change someone’s life.

Encourage
ed·u·ca·tion
noun

1. The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.
2. An enlightening experience.

The word educate comes from the early 15c Latin, educare meaning “to bring up, rear, educate.” It’s also related to educere which means “to bring out, to lead forth,” from ex- “out” + ducere “to lead.”
(from etymonline.com)

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – August 20, 2019

Summer vacations are coming to an end across the U.S. Soon, children will be returning to school, to routine. Before you settle back into your usual writing routine, give yourself one last hoorah. Do something unusual with your writing.

Also, take some time out to go shopping! Back to school sales are a great time to stock up on all kinds of writing supplies. Pens, binders, printer paper, a new desk chair! Give yourself permission to splurge a little, on something. Even if it’s only those super adorable Star Wars push pins. It is, after all, still vacation!

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Take the last bad story you wrote and attempt to edit it into something worth reading.

That story you wrote yesterday, or last year, or whenever, that just didn’t come out the way you wanted it to, take another look at it. Rewrite, edit, reshape the story into what you want it to be.

Encourage
va·ca·tion
/vāˈkāSH(ə)n,vəˈkāSH(ə)n/

noun
1. An extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling.

From the late 14c, the word vacation – meaning “freedom from obligations, leisure, release (from some activity or obligation)” – comes from the Old French vacacion “vacancy, vacant position” and directly from the Latin vacationem (nominative vacatio) “leisure, freedom, exemption, a being free from duty, immunity earned by service.”

The use of the word in English meaning a “state of being unoccupied” or “formal suspension of activity, time in which there is an intermission of usual employment,” dates back to the early 15c. As the U.S. equivalent of the British holiday has been in use since approximately 1878.
(from etymonline.com)

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – July 16, 2019

How can July be half over already? The Camp NaNoWriMo deadline looms ever closer, spurring me forward toward my goal. I’m still lagging behind, but doggedly pressing on.

In light of this looming deadline, I thought I’d take a look at what others have to say about deadlines. This article by Jeremy Miller talks about the power of deadlines. He describes a deadline as an incredible tool for harnessing energy and achieving results.

Another article by Andreea Clair lists a few reasons deadlines are a good thing. Reasons such as better prioritization, improved productivity and increased efficiency.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write a letter to yourself when you were 10. Tell this young you what you wish you had known or understood them.

Life doesn’t really give us do-overs, but if it did, wouldn’t it be nice to be armed ahead of time with the information that help us reach our goals without hitting so many roadblocks? Oh, and you’ve got a week. Go!

Encourage
dead·line
noun
1. The latest time or date by which something should be completed.
2. Historical: A line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners were liable to be shot.

The word deadline comes from around 1920, the American English newspaper jargon meaning “time limit.” It is perhaps influenced by an earlier use of the word (1864) to mean the “do-not-cross” line in Civil War prisons, which figured in the trial of Henry Wirz, commander of the notorious Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia.

For more on the story of Henry Wirz and the history of the word deadline, check out this interesting article by Paul Anthony Jones.

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – June 18, 2019

June is already half over. Summer solstice is days away, ushering in the official start to the season. Already we’ve experienced record breaking temperatures where I live, though thankfully, they have come back down to a more reasonable level.

This month, I’ve been focusing on organization. Have you tackled any of the challenges? Personally, I’m still working on clearing my writing space. Yeah, it was that bad. My summer calendar also, is a work in progress. Still, I have a new challenge for you this week.

This week, build a Rolodex-style system for your characters. Whether you use an actual Rolodex, a series of index cards, or 3-ring binders with full page dossiers for each character, create a profile for each character in your work in progress. Include more detail with your main characters, but be sure to write up something for even the most minor of minor characters. Little is more frustrating than creating a small time character, giving her a name, then being unable to recall that name when she shows up again several chapters later. Give her a profile, even if it contains nothing more than her name and role.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Follow the scent. Of all the senses ignored by writers, the sense of smell has to be the most over-looked. Those two little holes in the front of our face tell us a lot about the world, so don’t let your characters miss out on the olfactory experience. Re-enter a story you wrote, and add smells.

I’m among the guilty in neglecting the sense of smell in my writing. Scent can trigger strong memories and emotions. It can be quite powerful if used well in your fiction.

Encourage
or·gan·ize
/ˈôrɡəˌnīz/

verb
1. Arrange into a structured whole; order.
2. Make arrangements or preparations for (an event or activity); coordinate.

The word organize comes from the early 15c, from the Middle French organiser and directly from Medieval Latin, organizare which comes from the Latin word organum, meaning “instrument or organ.”
(from etymonline.com)


Happy writing!