Advice, Block, Craft, Doubt, Prompt, Tips, Writing

Keep the pen moving

My friend and fellow writer Cristina Trapani-Scott has begun a series she calls Twelve Days of Writing. In her first entry, she told how she taught her creative writing students to get past the inner voice that tells them they can’t write. We all fight that voice from time to time.

Cristina started her students with a prompt and told them to write for ten minutes. The secret, she says, is to keep the pen moving. Chances are you will be surprised that you’ve come up with at least a few good nuggets, even if you veered away from the prompt.

I know a lot of you write flash fiction, often from prompts, but that’s not a habit I’ve developed. I suppose I should at least try this ten-minute exercise. I tend to fight regimentation far more than is good for me. I don’t think a little discipline will kill my creativity. It might just preserve my sanity.

I suggest you check out Cristina’s first lesson and return for the next eleven.


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Craft, Feedback, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Goals, Novel, Query, Rejection, Short story, Writing

A Year’s Worth of Writing

Have you reviewed your writing progress in 2010? In this and another post or two in the next two weeks, Ill take a look back at the highlights of mine. When I looked back at all the posts for this year, I was surprised at how many twists and turns I took.

At the beginning of the year, I thought I had a finished novel in query status, so I turned my attention to short stories. I wrote a post, Writing vs. Crafting, in which I vowed to not only read more short stories, but to write and submit for publication some of my own. Nothing to report on my stories, but I did read more of those written by others, including fabulous debut collections from Robin Black and Tracy Winn.

Next, I jumped out of the box and started my year of living dangerously. (Even though I lost sight of that along the way, it may explain the way my writing year will end. Stay tuned.) But back then, I dared myself again by trying a writing challenge: a micro flash story. And I wrote it from a prompt, which is something I hadn’t done for decades. It was so much fun I invited my readers to take the challenge too. 

And then, I fell apart. Rejection spawned dejection and in barged the Blue Muse. From the bottom there’s no way but up, so I went into warrior mode and wrote a new query letter and opening paragraph for my novel; entered two contests; and dissected a Flannery O’Connor story for a discussion group.

The decision to edit my novel again reminded me of a good beating and then, continuing with new experiences, my novel spoke aloud. I discovered frigid fiction, but soon I became blinded by the words. To my rescue came the fabulous Kayla Olson who volunteered to read and critique for me.

Again I needed to be reminded to wait for the words. Before long I had reason to panic over platform, but as the end of the first quarter of 2010 came to a close, I was riding the train of eternal optimism.

Your turn: Have you charted your writing progress this year? How did you fair?

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Advice, Creativity Workshop, Fiction, Goals, Inspiration, Novel, Prompt, Writing

Are you prompted to write?

Along with meeting our weekly Creativity Workshop goal, Merrilee gave us tips on ways to come up with writing ideas and assigned us the task of looking at three photos to spark three ideas each. Sometimes a story idea sparked, sometimes a line, possibly an opening, for a story came to me.

Creative Commons via Cobalt123

It was hard not to see this photo other than in a “techo” sense, so I went with that … and a bit of fantasy (which I don’t write.)

  1. A radical new technology enables photographic evidence of the human soul.
  2. She stared at the beautiful blue visualization on the monitor as his favorite song played in Media Player and her heart slivered into shards.
  3. She held her breath and touched the pulsing blue orb, but this time—oh, this time—encountered no barrier; she reached further.
Creative Commons via bslmmrs

Since the main character in my recently completed novel is a brokenhearted man who flees to his cottage by the sea, that’s what immediately came to mind, but I pressed on … sort of.

  1. A suicidal woman retreats to a beach cottage and falls in love with life again.
  2. A recluse suspects that her neighbors on either side are planning to kill her.
  3. In a rental cottage overlooking the sea, a man finally confronts the fallout from his years of alcoholism.
Creative Commons via moriza

This photo just struck me funny, so I had a little fun with this one.

  1. A woman realizes that her husband had lost his mind along with his hair.
  2. If she had to listen to one more of his ridiculous ideas, she would murder him in his sleep.
  3. She knew in that instant on a sidewalk in Manhattan, their marriage was over.

I’ve rarely used photos as prompts, though something I actually see often sparks an idea. Dreams are a big source of inspiration for me. Music can be a good one. Occasionally, some bit of conversation sets my muse to scribbling down an idea. What serves you as a writing prompt?

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Fiction, Flash Fiction, Inspiration, Prompt, Writing

The experiment results are in!

Thanks to all who participated in my writing prompt experiment. I changed the actual “results” to bold font to make it easier to see them among the comments, and if you took the prompt challenge, but haven’t shared your result yet, please do in a comment there. I think it’s interesting, the way we all started with the same words and then went in different directions. And just because I’m always curious how other writers work, I have some questions for you:

  1. Did your result come to you spontaneously, or did you give it some thought?
  2. Did you stick with your tried and true category/genre or try for something different?
  3. In the original prompt, the instructions were to write for 10 minutes without stopping, then put it aside until the next day when you could edit. How long did it take you to write yours and how heavily did you edit it?
  4. Do you regularly use writing prompts? And, if so, how often do they result in a finished piece?

If you care to know, my answers to the above questions are:  1. I stayed with my usual category.  2. It came to me spontaneously.  3. I followed the writing instructions (hard for me because I’m used to editing as I go) and I edited very little the next day. (That’s not to say it couldn’t use more.)  4. No, I don’t think I’ve ever used a writing prompt before.

And I know you’re all just dying to know what I wrote from the prompt 🙂 so, here’s a link to my flash story: Unspeakable Words

 

Fiction, Flash Fiction, Fun Fridays, Writing

Let’s try an experiment

It’s Friday and I feel like doing something exciting. (Keep in mind, I’m a writer and I don’t get out much.) I’d like to propose an experiment. The other day, Christi Craig, tweeted a link to a flash writing prompt. I don’t usually take prompts, but as you may have read, I’m living on the wild side now. Actually, the link gave several prompts to choose from: single words, a photograph, a line beginning.


Nothing came to me when I read the single word prompts, I wasn’t inspired by the photo, but when I read the line beginning, a scene flashed on my internal movie screen. So I typed the four-word prompt and kept going. I wrote only three paragraphs, 217 words, but it felt complete to me … or maybe that was only as far as I had the heart to take it. As is, I think it would qualify as a flash story … or maybe that would be micro flash. (You tell me … on Monday.) Although the opening could lead in just about any direction, I went dark. It wasn’t intentional; I just used what came to mind in that instant.

So, I’m inviting you all to experiment using the same prompt. Write a flash story, an opening paragraph, or just an intriguing first line and share it with us here. I’ll post mine on Monday. I think it will be interesting to see the variety of storylines our creative minds come up with. (If you come up with good piece and don’t want to risk wasting your electronic rights by posting it on my blog, just share the first paragraph or two.)

Here’s the prompt: Through the open window