November just flew by, and I’m sure December will, too. I’m working on a big freelance gig right now, and there’s the possibility of another project for a children’s publisher before the month is over–lots to keep me busy! I’m determined to find time for joywriting, too, in amongst all the other commitments, though, believe me, I’m not aiming for a high word count. I have a book idea that I’d like to plot out to see if it’s worth pursuing, and I want to go back to journaling every day. That’s my limit.
I hope you find some ways to stay connected to your writing through the holidays. It’s a tough slog getting reacquainted with those writing muscles after they’ve been allowed to be lazy for a long time–and, trust me, I speak from considerable, sad experience. If you need some inspiration to help you fill a journal page this month, maybe some of the following writing prompts will help.
1. Use one, some, or all of these words in a story or poem:
- holiday, red, flash, tin, tremor, find
- salt, light, hand, turn, cover, water
- bag, handle, glass, date, black, walk
2. What is your character’s favourite holiday movie? When and where was your character the first time he or she saw it? Who was your character with? Does the memory make your character happy or sad? Why?
3. See if you can imagine a story to go with one of these titles? Behind the Curtain, Red Mittens, The Centre Closes, Mr. Snow, Dead on Time, The Last Photograph
4. Imagine what might be happening before, during and after these lines of dialogue.
- Where is it?
- I left it at school.
- Then you can’t come with us.
- We’re done here
- But we haven’t –
- I said, we’re done.
- Have you heard from Gregor?
- No. We’ve not heard from him for five days?
- Then, there’s no news of the battle either?
5. See if some of these opening lines suggest a story.
- “No. You unwrap your present first.”
- I yanked out my earbuds. That noise had to be a scream.
- Margot always ate her vegetables first.
- The smell of smoke lingered long after the blaze had died.
- I huddled in the stern as the sea slammed the little boat.
- Why was her floor covered in broken glass?
Hope you have a creative and happy month ahead!
My personal NaNoWriMo has been chugging along for 26 days now, and, I’ve produced over 16,600 words so far. Compared to those writers who are meeting and surpassing their 50,000-word goal already, it might not seem like much, but it’s a big accomplishment for me. Did I miss a couple of days? Yes. Did I move on, and keep writing? Yes! For me that was the important part–not quitting.
I had a lot on my plate this month, which I won’t take the space to itemize, but belonging to a group of people who posted their progress and encouragement daily and who faced their own challenges made a big difference to my own self-encouragement and to my determination not to let them or myself down. I can’t say enough about the value of having some writing buddies in your life who are positive and respectful and for whom you want to do your best.
To meet my check-ins this month, I wrote at times of day (and night) that I never would have considered remotely feasible. Has that made a difference to my writing life? Definitely! I have always considered myself strictly a morning person. The best time of day for me to write was first thing, and if I missed that opportunity … well, there just wasn’t much point in even trying at any other time of day. Was I ever WRONG! It was so important for me to get the words down for my check-in, that I wrote at all sorts of times of day, and discovered that in order to be able to string words together good enough for a first draft, I needed no special time or place. Wow! Talk about freedom! And a lesson has taken me waaaaay too long to learn. Armed with that knowledge now, I feel hugely excited about meeting my next goals.
So when the month is over, can I take what I’ve learned and go back to being a solitary writer and still write every day? I’ve been a part of three writing challenges this year, and, except for the odd glitch that gets thrown into everyone’s life, I’ve stuck to my goals every time. I’m ready to stick to this, too. I’ll be checking in with my own writing log after November 30th. I’ll keep you posted.
For those of you south of my border, I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. And for everyone, you have all my good wishes for lots of creative days ahead!
I set my own NaNo challenge goal and joined a group of like-minded writers in order to stay motivated and get the writing done. What a great idea that has turned out to be. I’ve been crazy busy with a lot of other things, but reading the daily writing posts from the other 36 writers has kept me inspired and writing.
I’ve learned a couple of things about the way I write, too. First, I need an outline. My work for the first week was based on notes for stories that I had scribbled in my journal over the past six or seven months ( a lot of unfinished business), and getting those stories written was a breeze. Then, I opted to work on something new that was really only a germ of an idea, even though I was excited about it. What a difference in output–and how I felt about the words I put on the page. While my fingers clicked the keys, there was a part of my brain that kept saying, “Well, this writing doesn’t matter. You’re going to throw these words out once you get the story organized. Just get to your daily quota.”
Shudder. Ugly writing mantra. Go away!
The other thing I learned (again, I might add) is that my writing needs to be purposeful. I started NaNo a few years ago and happily clicked myself 20,000+ words into a novel that I knew all along would never really go anywhere. I thought I would enjoy writing just for fun. Wrong. I stopped writing it and wrote Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens instead. It was my dream book. The one I really wanted to get out there. It had my heart. Purposeful writing. Yesterday, I put the non-outlined book away and went back to the sequel I’m writing to The Dragon’s Pearl. I reread the entire book, edited, and then wrote a section that I had only roughed in (made my quota) and moved the entire project a big step closer to publication. This book has my heart, and I guess I just don’t like unfinished business. I’d tried to put it aside to work on something new, and I couldn’t do it and actually produce anything worth reading.
I needed to learn that, as long as I’m writing every day, I’m fulfilling an important goal of my NaNo–and, I hope, developing a writing habit that will stick. I’ve also realized that this month, I’m probably going to have to stop thinking about word count for a couple of days and do some serious outlining before the writing can get in gear again. That’s okay, too. The NaNo experts always suggest spending time outlining before starting the event. For me, a definite non-pantser, that is good advice. I’m just going to do it in the middle that’s all. If I don’t reach my word count goal of 22,500 words, I won’t be heart-broken. If I have a bunch of good words and a plan that I can keep following after November that will result in a finished novel, then I’m a winner. Where am I now? I’ve written 6656 words–6656 mostly purposeful words. Like Martha Stewart says, “That’s a good thing.”
Hope you have a great week ahead and that you meet your writing goals big or small.
I hope those of you who are participating in NaNoWriMo this month get off to a great start. I signed up, just to keep track of my words and see my goals getting closer to completion. There’s no way that I’m going to write anywhere near 50,000 words, but I like the discipline of the event. I know a few others who have signed up, and we will be cheerleaders for each other for the next 30 days.
For those of you who like to take a different approach to NaNo word counts, YA author, Nicole Humphrey Cook, describes a reverse NaNo system that leaves you only having to write 1 word on the last day. Check the system she uses here.
I hope you enjoy writing whatever you write this month, and here are some writing prompts to get those creative engines running.
1) Try one of these opening sentences to start a story or novel:
- I was beginning to wonder if driving a car was something I should be doing with a cranky Dalmatian in the back seat and a migraine pounding behind my eyes.
- Some tunes bring back the wrong kind of memories.
- I’d thought the carpet was clean until my face made close and painful contact.
- At times like this, I knew better than to ask, “Why me?”
- Was I the only one who had noticed that there’d been no squeal of brakes before the car hit the gate post?
2) Here are some titles that might suggest a story: Blue Yesterday, The Ring Keeper, Last Wishes, Diary of a Dropout, The Ruby Secret, The Gold Claw
3) Can you picture the scene when you hear these lines of dialogue?
- Did you hear about Henry?
- No. What’s new?
- He’s run away.
- Please stop doing that.
- It reminds me of someone.
- Your brother.
- I have to leave.
- But, I need your help.
- It’s a bit late to ask.
4) See if these random words suggest a story or poem:
- knife, paper, ice, coat, silver, lake
- clasp, frame, red, strike, notes, tin
5) What masks do your characters wear to hide their feelings in certain situations? Whom do they trust to see behind their masks?
6) What costumes did your characters want to wear on Hallowe’en when they were children? Did they want to be superheroes or bunnies or witches or pirates or ….? What was your favourite Hallowe’en costume? Why was it your favourite?
Well, winter’s been doing its best to threaten us this week–icy car windows, the scramble to find mittens and scarves, fat flakes of snow flying horizontally past windows, but none of the snow has stayed on the ground long enough to be considered ‘real’ snow. Personally, I’d like winter to wait just a little longer. Fall has been extraordinarily beautiful here. We must have had just the right kind of summer weather we needed to create the oranges, golds, and yellows that still brighten the trees.
Today is a sit-by-the-fire-and-watch-the-sleet kind of day. And a writing day, too. Naturally, there are lots of other items on the to-do list, but writing is going to be top of the agenda for the next hour or two. Nice.
Are you planning to try National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November? I’m working with some other writers on an amended version of the NaNo challenge to get a couple of my current projects past the stalled stage. We all set our own goals, or use the NaNo daily, 1667-word-count that produces a 50,000-word novel by November 30th. Some of the writers in my group will be signed up for NaNo, and others, like me, will have their own daily word count goals. Either way, we will be checking in every day to report on our progress. If you’re signed up for NaNo, I’d love to hear what you’re planning to work on, and I also wish you every success.
I’m going to shut things down for a while, get out the journal, and do some writing. Since it’s November 1st next week, I’ll be brainstorming some new first-of-the-month writing prompts, too.
Hope you find some creative time today!
Today marks day 14 of the accountability challenge, and I’ve managed to write my early morning pages for 13 of the 14 mornings. I really do work better when I have to check in with other writers. Their short emails about their progress are inspiring and a big reason why I keep going some days.
Sometimes, the early morning pages are a place to make the to-do list or rant or get things prioritized or just let the mind wander. And all that’s helpful, too. When I get to the writing later that day, the decks are cleared of whatever I left behind on the morning pages, and the writing comes a little easier. Because of a daily writing habit, I’ve drafted two short stories for an upcoming deadline and figured out how to adapt another idea for the same project. It’s a lot easier for me to find writing time later in the day, when I’ve started the morning behaving like a writer.
I’m planning a second edition of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens and am rereading The Hunger Games as a source for some examples for various writing tips in the book. It’s quite a ride, and I’m enjoying it. I love it when research turns out to be fun!
I hope you are progressing toward your writing goals and that you have a writerly week ahead.
Today is rainy, damp and dreary–and a perfect day for me to hunker down with the laptop and get some writing and editing done. Hope you are having a writerly day, and if you need some inspiration, here are your writing prompts for October.
1. Start a story with
• a character eating slowly
• a character cheering
• a character pushing something
2. Try one of these opening sentences:
• Yellow leaves crackled underfoot.
• Ben pulled the brim of his hat further down over his eyes.
• The cave was dark, but at least it was dry.
• The last thing Helen needed now was a crying little brother.
• “Storm’s coming.”
3. See if these snatches of dialogue spark a scene or story.
“We need to find shelter.”
“Yes, I’d figured that out.”
“I can’t take another step.”
“I know. I’m tired, too.”
“You don’t understand. I really can’t take another step.”
“Whose car is that?”
“Hal’s, I think. Why?”
“I’ve seen it before.”
“I’m not sure you want to know.”
4. Think of a story that might go with one of these story titles:
Rider Wrong, In the Mirror, Homecoming, Tow Away Zone, Drive By, The Last Train.
5. Use one, some or all of these words to inspire a story or poem:
- car, leaf, blue, and, glass, chain
- plate, stick, chair, day, ring, wall
Hope you’ve been enjoying a great start to autumn. We’ve had a long run of sunny days and cold nights and are starting to see the colours change in the trees. Lovely. This is my favourite time of year. There’s just something about the angle of the sun that feels right to me. I know that it’s the same angle in the spring, but spring doesn’t come with crunchy leaves and flocks of starlings and fresh apples.
The writing has been muddling along. Not every day, but bits and pieces here and there to make me feel like I’m making progress. I’ve signed up for Kristi Holl’s accountability challenge again and am committed to writing first thing in the morning for 25 days in October. Since, two days a week, I’m up before 6 AM to take my son to band and then get myself to college ready to teach an 8 o’clock class, you can see that this definitely will be a challenge. But, I have so much on my writing plate that I’m considering starting tomorrow just to get a full month of progress underway. I’ll let you know how that goes.
I had a very quiet house last week when both my son and my husband were away. I also realized that absolute silence isn’t my best working environment. I’m on the hunt for some new music to accompany my writing time. I’m really enjoying the soundtrack to Life of Pi. Instrumental music works best for my brain. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
Hope you are having a creative week!
Well, life decided to hand me a surprise last week. While driving along a busy and fast-moving street, the hood of my car opened and smashed into my windscreen. Fortunately, I was in the curb lane, so I could pull over quickly, while praying I wouldn’t get hit from behind by a driver surprised to see a stationary car in his lane. I was fine–but didn’t stop shaking for two hours.
If you’ve been through something like this, you’ll know that, the day after the event, you feel weak and unfocussed and have a brain full of nasty ‘what-ifs.’ The one that stuck in my brain was that my husband and I had traded cars the day before, so he could have the newer car for a 90-minute, nighttime drive on major highways. What if this had happened to him on the highway? Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to have a good imagination.
Until Tuesday evening and Wednesday got lifted out of my normal week, I was really enjoying working through my writing list. I had used Kristi Holl’s idea of writing down a list of 20-minute writing tasks (see previous post), and came up with a pretty good list that would help me move forward on the 3 (non-billable) projects I have underway. I finally got back at it again on Friday. It has been a great motivator for me, and as projects move along, I know I’ll be adding more to the list. I really recommend giving the idea a try. I had hoped to report a lot more on the writing front, but that’s what life handed me last week. Next week can only be better, right? Hope you have a great, creative week ahead!
Week One of Classes: I survived. The students survived. And I’m sure we all went home on Friday night relieved that the first week was over and feeling a lot better about next Monday morning.
And the writing, Heather? Okay. Not so good there. I completely lost track of the mindset that would have helped me do some writing last week. I forgot that, in order to get any writing done when I’m busy, I have to stop thinking about writing a story, but instead think about writing in smaller pieces. Sadly, I sit down thinking that I really need to get that story written, and then I freeze because I don’t have the time or the ability or the energy to concentrate through such a complicated process. I can type, but I certainly can’t create.
Today, I finally came in for a landing and remembered the lesson I’d learned before about all this, and now, I’m ready to face another busy week that will include writing on terms I can cope with. The lesson is in this quote from Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird:
“I go back to trying to breathe, slowly and calmly, and I finally notice the one-inch picture frame that I put on my desk to remind me of short assignments. It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being.”
I don’t have the time to write the story, but I can write a small part of it–one scene, one moment, one character description, one brainstorming page of scribbles to work through a plot point. I can research something, or journal to clear my head. All good. All doable. If I remember the one-inch picture frame.
I’m going to reread this blog by Kristi Holl, too. “Chop! Chop! Writing in 20 Minute Slices.” If you’re having trouble feeling like a writer when life gets crazy, you might want to read it, too.
Hope you have a great week and that you find the time you need, even if only a few minutes at a time, to feel like a writer.