Category Archives: writing

Three Writerly Blogs for You to Visit

Crocuses --Spring must really be here!

Crocuses –Spring must really be here!

Today I thought I’d pass along three of the writerly resources that I visit often.

One of my favourite blogs is by Kristi Holl, author of Writer’s First Aid, More Writer’s First Aid, and many other books. Aside from blogs on the craft of writing, Kristi shares her extensive reading and insights into the other aspects of the writer’s life that can get in the way of creativity, such as procrastination, writer’s block, dealing with rejection, solitude and toxic friends. You name an issue that writers deal with and she’s covered it. I always find her blogs inspiring. http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/

The title of Jane Friedman’s blog, Writing, Reading and Publishing in the Digital Age, says it all. The site is a wonderful resource for writers tackling the challenge of getting published or self-publishing. Jane tackles topics from query letters to author platforms and blogging, from how-to-publish an ebook to marketing, and a lot more.

The last blog on the list today is from Elizabeth Spann Craig, a traditionally- and self-published mystery writer, whose regular posts cover all aspects of the writer’s craft. Every week she creates a list of the writing-related blog posts that she’s found in her research and posted on Twitter. This weekly round-up, called Twitterific, is like having your own personal writer’s magazine delivered to your door every week. There really is something for everyone on the list. http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/

Hope you have fun checking out these blogs and that you find something in them that will help you on your writer’s journey. If you have any inspiring or informative blogs that you’d like to share, please add their links in the comments below.

Wishing you a creative week ahead!

Amy’s Marathon of Books—Guest Blog Post

Heather Wright:

If you love Canada’s YA writers and their books, please enjoy the blog and consider supporting Amy’s Marathon of Books.

Originally posted on Laura Best:

I’m so excited to announce that Amy Mathers has kindly agreed to be a guest on my blog today. Perhaps you’ve already hear of Amy and her Marathon of Books. She’s been getting quite a bit of media covering and, yes, she even appeared on Canada AM a few weeks back! The buzz around Amy and her “Marathon of Books,” began back in December and continues to grow. If you care about books, teen books in particular, I hope you’ll support Amy and her quest to raise $100,000 dollars to endow a Canadian teen book award. I know you’ll be inspired by Amy’s story and her determination to help promote teen fiction in this country. To date Amy has raised $10,000 dollars toward her goal. I think that’s an amazing feat in itself. If you’d like to support Amy, why not pop on over to her website HERE and find out how. 
Dear…

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Slowly But Surely

My daily writing challenge for April continues, and, so far, I’ve written every day or worked on my editing. I’m definitely not flying through the work a great speed, but each time I go back to it, I feel like I’m seeing the project a bit more clearly and finding the right voice for it.

Finding the right voice is always a big part of of my first draft struggles. With fiction, I try first person, third person limited, omniscient–sometimes all in the same chapter! For non-fiction, it’s a matter of settling the level of vocabulary and finding the write tone to use to talk to my reader. All this playing as I write means that a lot of words will be rewritten or thrown out the next time through. I can’t wait for that day, because it means the first draft will be finished and some of the tough decisions will have been made. I like the editing part a lot.

Spring is finally starting to become a reality here. Although I still see lots of snow from my window, grass, very brown and soggy, is claiming its space in my landscape. Birds are singing and the basement has managed to get only slightly damp. Warm days are in the forecast, and I’m looking forward to taking my writing outside. Last Thursday, I took a trip to Starbucks and made a lot of progress on planning the book. I find that a change of scene can really boost my creativity. Do you like to work outdoors or in places other than at your desk or usual writing spot? Where do you like to write?

Wishing you a creative week ahead no matter where you choose to write!

Hoping to see these in my garden soon.

Hoping to see these in my garden soon.

The Determination of Daffodils

Determined Daffodils

Determined Daffodils

March decided to leave like a lamb today, and I got to work on this blog post while sitting outside on my deck—in a warm sweater. The hydro corridor and all the backyards that I can see are still covered in a thick layer of snow, but the sky is blue and there is some real warmth in the sun.

We have a narrow flower bed along the sidewalk that leads to our front door. For the first time yesterday, I could see daffodil leaves peeking out through the snow. The daffodils had actually been growing while they were still covered. Now that’s determination—and a reminder to me to be more persistent in finding ways to pursue my writing goals when I’m snowed under by life and its craziness. I find it far too easy to put the writing aside when things get hectic. I’m sure that while my daffodils were covered in two feet of snow, they weren’t surging ahead an inch at a time. They were growing incrementally, a millimetre at a time. That’s what I need to learn to do. If I can’t write a lot, I need to write for just a little bit (even if it’s just a couple of sentences or a paragraph), look something up, do some clustering or brainstorming around one of the topics or characters–but do something!

One part of life’s craziness will be ending soon, when my school year comes to a close in a few weeks. It’s time to start getting my writing life back in order, instead of (unsuccessfully) trying to balance school, freelancing, writing, and family. I’m hoping that with one thing less on my plate, the writing will get back to being the priority it should be and that the energy to get creative will come back, too.  I’ll be very glad to get rid of the guilt and pay proper attention to the two books that have been on hold for the last little while.

Time for a personal writing challenge again to get me back on track. I have two books-in-progress. I have completed the first draft of one and need to do the editing and revisions. The other is in the first draft stage with several chapters finished, but lots to write yet. For the month of April, I will work on one of my books every day. It’s time to make time to get the work done. I’ll keep you posted.

To put a little spring in your writing, here are some writing prompts for April.

1. Use one, some, or all of these words in a story or poem:

  • Ice, fence, ribbon, branch, sky, warning
  • Tower, pierce, call, shadow, lonely, spare

2. Try one of these opening sentences and see where it leads:

  • Finally, the road was clear and we had our chance.
  • Lily was always so careful.
  • I had never seen Henry that angry.
  • I should have listened to my mother.
  • I knew it would be a mistake if we stayed here too long.
  • “Do you think we’ve dug it deep enough?”

3. What scene can you invent to go with these lines of dialogue?

  • I don’t think you’re giving him a fair chance.
  • I gave him a chance.
  • I said ‘a fair chance.’

 

  • I thought you were bringing Lucy.
  • I did. She’s right behind me.
  • No. She’s not.

 

  • Parker said to be there by six o’clock.
  • So what if we’re a few minutes late.
  • You don’t know Parker.

 

  • You can’t leave yet. We haven’t made a decision.
  • You’re right. We haven’t made a decision—but I have.

 

  • I can’t find Jacob anywhere.
  • Jacob can be pretty hard to find.
  • I don’t know where else to look.
  • I know one place you haven’t tried.

4. Here are some titles. Can you think of a story to go with one of them?  Voices in the Wind, The Motel Mystery, Rocky Roads, Bonds of Blood, The Last House, Third Chances, To Sleep Perchance to Dream.

5. If you’ve experienced some severe weather this winter or have read about severe weather in other parts of your country or the world, imagine your characters dealing with these conditions. Think of all the things that you could do to test them—no power, no heat, no food, no way to communicate, etc. How do your characters deal with hardship? What do they learn about themselves and others? Is there a place in your story where you can use this new knowledge or add some adverse weather conditions to move your plot along?

The Pit and Me

A Saugeen Lane - to remind me that I have to get moving toward my goal.

A Saugeen Lane – to remind me that I have to get moving toward my goal.

Some people hit a wall when they’re working on a writing project. I hit the pit—or rather I dive into it–full of self doubt and insecurities. For me, self-doubt is inexorably linked to procrastination, which expands, like the gases in Boyle’s law, to fill the space in my life where I should be writing. And I stop writing. Not for long, but for long enough to get gloomy about it.

So that’s what I have just done—again. And if this is a pattern of my writing life (and it is) then why do I keep writing?

Putting words on a page is hard work, and sometimes, like a two-year-old, I just want to sit on the floor with my blankie and yell, “I don’t wanna!” But, of course, I do “wanna.” I want to put those words on the page, not because it’s some huge pleasurable experience to do so, but because I love the feeling afterward—of having written. Scrolling back, checking the word count, printing and holding the pages, revising—that’s the fun stuff. And that’s what keeps me writing.

It will probably come as a surprise to no one that the pit stays completely out of sight when I’m working on a paying gig. Oh, I still procrastinate, but I don’t get all gloomy about things or question how I have the nerve to call myself a writer. The validation of a contract is a great cure for the pit.

So I’ve now embarked, full of enthusiasm, on a new project, and have found the pit again. So what’s next? A slow climb out, inspired by my procrastination mantra:  “You’ve done this before, so just get on with it.” (Chocolate helps—and Swedish berries, too.) I know that I will get the work done, and I will find the enthusiasm again.

Do you hit a wall or find the pit when you’re working on a project? What helps you keep going?

Writing Prompts for March, 2014

Hoping March ends like this!

Hoping March ends like this!

I don’t know if March is planning to come in like a lion or a lamb, but either way, those creatures had better be wearing their long winter underwear. The forecast high for March 1st is 28 F or -2 C. Perfect for a human to spend the day in front of the fire with a journal or a good book.

If you have some writing time scheduled today, have some fun with these writing prompts.

1. Use one, some or all of these words in a story or poem.

  • car, hill, mirror, sign, cloud, red
  • stone, string, door, box, fireplace, worry
  • window, storm, search, park, call

2. Start a story with someone who is in one of the following situations:

trapped, laughing, lost, running away, flying.

3. Try one of these opening sentences to begin a story:

  • He told us to meet him at midnight.
  • The path hadn’t looked so creepy in daylight.
  • She lit the match and smiled.
  • The old man wiped his glasses with the sleeve of his robes and then spoke.

4. Can you write a scene around one of the following dialogue excerpts?

  • I bought Bill a present.
  • Why?
  • Because I know it will make him furious.
  •  Jacob said to turn right here.
  • Yes, I heard him.
  • Then why aren’t we turning?
  • Wait! I’ve dropped something.
  • We don’t have time to go back.

5. Can you think of a story to go with one of these titles?

The Lighthouse Mystery, Bailey’s Town, The Future Door, Red Light, Deserted, Keeping Faith, Cliff’s Edge

6. March can come in like a lion or a lamb. A stubborn person is often compared to mule; a sneaky one to a fox or a weasel. Do you use animal imagery in your stories? Do you ever compare your characters to animals? When Laurence Olivier tackled the part of Richard III (a very scheming and bloodthirsty character) he used the imagery of a spider to help him create the character. Go through your story and think of creatures to which you can compare your characters. This information might help you find a new slant on the way your characters might dress or how they decide to solve a problem.

Writing Prompts for Pre-Teens

School Supplies 3I’ve decided to expand things a little and add some story starters and writing prompts for pre-teens to this website. Check this link or the new tab at the top of the page to find 90 new prompts for young writers and their teachers. If you write stories for grades 5 through 8, you might find something there to spark your imagination, too!

If the February blahs have been distracting you from your writing, Kristi Holl has a great blog about getting your writing life back on track. Needless to say, with my creative history, I bookmarked that one. If you’re looking for some inspiration or advice about writing, publishing, freelancing, and just about anything else writer related, try The Write Life’s 100 Best Websites for Writers–definitely a “something for everyone” compilation of websites.

Hope you have a great week ahead!

I’m currently working on a new book, Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Pre-Teens. If you would like to know when the book comes out, please fill out the following form. I promise that you will not be bombarded with spam emails, just the odd thing that I come across that you might find useful, a couple of sample chapters as I work through the project, and my newest writing prompts.

Weather and Things

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

The people in my part of the country don’t need a groundhog to tell them how long winter is going to last. We know we’re dreaming if we think we’ll actually have green grass in six weeks. Even if the temperatures warm up, the giant mounds of snow we have piled at the sides of our roads and driveways and side walks will be a long-lasting reminders of the freezing and snow-filled winter we’re still enduring. The only weather predicted above 0 degrees Celsius in the next two weeks is for two days of freezing rain next week, and we’d all be happy to skip that, thank you. To say spring will be welcome is an understatement. I hope you are having some sunny days where you are.

Primulas

Primulas

Even with the temperatures so cold, it’s amazing what a difference a sunny day can make to my spirits. I spent most of today working in the livingroom and enjoying the sun that was streaming through the windows. Yay for laptops. After finishing the draft of an article that I have to send in on Friday, I spent a chunk of the day doing research for a new project I’m thinking about tackling. So far, so good on that front.

Do you find that the weather affects your spirits? Does a gloomy day inspire you or make you want to curl up in a blanket and nap until it’s over? I’ve added some cheerful spring photos to the blog today to remind me that winter will finally end–with or without groundhog. :)

Irises

Irises

 

 

 

Writing Prompts for February 2014

Snow--and more snow

Snow–and more snow

Well, I can’t say that I will miss January. Bitter cold temperatures, high winds,and too much snow shovelling, a furnace that wouldn’t work properly making for some very cold mornings and not terribly warm days, a blocked sink due to water frozen in the pipes, and in the midst of it all my husband ended up in hospital for 5 days having emergency surgery. He, the first priority in all of this, is now doing fine, though unable to do anything strenuous right now, and hopes to return to work some time next week. The sink is unblocked and the furnace is being kind, though now the pump beside it is leaking–another service call for Monday, and lots of mopping up in the meantime. And the weather? Pretty much the same. The temperatures have risen a little bit (-3 degrees Celsius actually felt warm yesterday) but we’re expecting another snow dump today. Good-bye January, and good riddance!

Do you ever have times like that when so many problems conspire to challenge you all at the same time? How do you cope? I put a lot of things on the back burner. I cancelled classes, so I could be home when my husband came home from the hospital. I asked for an extension on a freelance project deadline, and tried hard not to feel guilty. We are all still tired, but grabbing a bit more down time is necessary right now. My son’s been off school for several days because of end-of-term final exams, so we’ll all be getting back into the rhythm of work life next week. In the meantime, small bites for everything else, and some time by the fire with a good book or my journal.

Onward to a new month and a fresh start! And to get some February creativity going, here are some new writing prompts.

1. Try using one, some, or all of these words in a poem or story:

  • clock, chain, grip, moon, shade, lock
  • band, star, blue, fever, petal, lie

2. Here are some opening sentences to try:

  • “Carly hates me.”
  • Peter hid under the table.
  • The jewels sparkled in the sunlight.
  • Marcus pulled his cloak more tightly around his shoulders
  • “When was the last time you saw Henry Marsh?”
  • Margot closed the book she was reading and turned out the light.

3. See if you can come up with a story to go with one of these titles:

Night Among the Mad, Spineless. The Secret Three, The Journey Home, Walking on a Shroud, In the Mirror, The House by the River

4. Think of a memory that involves a piece of music: a popular song that you always sang along to, a lullaby, a TV show or movie theme, a melody that you or someone you knew played on an instrument, a song you sang on the way to camp, or in church. Describe the events, people, or emotions that you associate with that piece of music. Do the same exercise for the main character in your story.

5. What scene can you weave around these lines of dialogue?

  • How did you get here?
  • Magic.
  • No. Really, how did you get here?
  • I think I’d better explain.

 

  • I wish it would sop raining.
  • You want to get back on the road, don’t you?
  • Don’t you?

 

  • Here. Catch.
  • What is it? It’s really heavy.
  • That’s not all it is.

 

New Edition of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens

BookCoverPreview 2I’m very happy to announce the release of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens–Second Edition.

The second edition of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens contains expanded chapters and over 50 writing prompts to help young writers find story ideas and defeat writer’s block.

Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens has the concise answers that teen writers need to their writing questions. Whether at the beginning of a story or in the middle, or whether the words or flowing or or mired in hesitation, teen writers will find writing prompts, encouragement, concrete solutions to writing problems, tips for plotting, writing dialogue, characterization and more.

Reviewers of the first edition said:

Writing Fiction is a bare-bones resource. If the information isn’t useful, it isn’t there. That is what makes it so valuable. Teens don’t have to wade through pages of padding to get to the good stuff. The book contains only the good stuff. Teens interested in writing will make good use of this book.”

CM: CANADIAN REVIEW OF MATERIALS, Manitoba Library Association

“This guide to writing fiction speaks directly to young writers and provides tools to help them become successful in their writing endeavours and to have fun doing so … The author’s love of writing and enthusiasm for sharing her expertise with young writers shines through this guidebook, making it a wonderful resource for young writers.”

CANADIAN TEACHER magazine

To read a couple of sample chapters, please click here.You can purchase copies at Amazon.com here and Amazon.ca here.

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