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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: writing challenge, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Book Review – The 30 Day Writing Challenge by Sara Crawford

The 30-day Writing Challenge claims to help readers begin or enhance their daily writing habit. Whether you are a writer, blogger, or journaler this book is for you! Author Sara Crawford encourages and inspires writers of all skill levels by challenging us to ‘stretch our writing muscles’ and create a daily writing habit. The daily writing exercises and prompts focus on technique, inspiration and craft while covering the different genres of writing.

Crawford does an excellent job being real with readers. I fell in love with her book after reading the following paragraph:
I would like to acknowledge that in my own writing, I constantly do the things that I say
you shouldn’t do. I am far from perfect. Every writer has room to grow and improve, and I
include myself in that. However, I strive to be a better writer each and every day, and I live by
these rules, principles, and ideas in my own creative life.

I really admire someone who can be themselves and I felt encouraged instead of judged after reading this small tidbit. It made it much easier to move forward with the exercises and I felt like Crawford understood me. I missed a day here or there but feel this is the type of book I can pick up again and again. This isn’t something you do once and forget about.

In many ways The 30-day Writing Challenge reminds me of a diet. Sure, I can lose weight quickly, but if I don’t continue with good eating habits, the weight is going to creep back on. If I want to be successful, I need to stick with it, even after the initial success. Similarly, if I use The 30 Day Writing Challenge to get on track and then set it aside instead of faithfully writing and practicing my craft, I am going to falter.

Thank you Sara Crawford for providing a fun and encouraging book to help build successful writing habits. The 30-day Writing Challenge is a great book for anyone who enjoys writing, blogging, or journaling!

Sara Crawford has a BA in English from Kennesaw State University and an MFA in Creative Writing (emphasis in Playwriting) from the University of New Orleans. She is represented by Marie Brown Associates, and she is the author of upcoming young adult novel, The Muses.

Previous publications include her play, The Snow Globe, from YouthPlays, Driving Downtown to the Show (Lulu Press) and Coiled and Swallowed (Virgogray Press). In addition, her poetry has appeared in Burlesque Press, Cermony, Share: Art and Literary Magazine, and Illogical Muse.

Find out more about Sara by visiting her website: http://saracrawford.net/

Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, three young children (Carmen 6, Andre 5, Breccan 5 months), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

0 Comments on Book Review – The 30 Day Writing Challenge by Sara Crawford as of 3/1/2014 4:32:00 AM
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2. I'm only 20000 words in. You?

3 Comments on I'm only 20000 words in. You?, last added: 11/23/2010
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3. Day 28: Mapping Out Writing Time: Beware the Shifts in Power

See Beau.

He looks a bit fuzzy in this photo, but don't hold it against him. Isn't he cute?

My sister-in-law asked us to puppysit for five days and four nights. Look at Beau. How could we resist?

The girls were thrilled. They love Beau.

He really is cute.

Except...Beau woke all of us at 3:15 IN THE MORNING the past four nights, barking up a storm, quieting down every once in awhile, and then breaking out into low whimpers. Perhaps you've heard them before. The PAY ATTENTION TO ME, MY MOMMY IS GONE whimpers that make you ignore how tired you are so you will protect said puppy.

The first night, I brought Beau outside, thinking he needed to relieve himself, but all he wanted to do was play. The second night, we tried to ignore him and hoped he'd quiet down. By the third day, all of us, even Beau, were a quivering mess of nerves. Thank goodness, Beau is so sweet and adorable.

Imagine, if you will, the shifts in power over the past week. Beau is so cute, we all want to cater to him. Every bark, every whimper, commands a power so great, at least one of us springs into action to take care of the little puppy, especially since he had a couple accidents in the house. Does he want to play? Go out for a walk? Sit next to us and hang out? He's such a loveable dog, we're captive to his charms.

The three girls argue over who gets the honors of walking Beau. The little guy is overwhelmed. He's not used to the noise of our household--plus multiply the chaos with all the friends who stop by to admire him. I'm on edge because of sleep deprivation and trying to keep too many prying hands from grabbing at Beau. The little guy realizes I'm the power source to food, water and calm from the kids, and constantly follows me around. Spy Girl notices my mood and does everything possible to ensure Beau stays, including taking Beau on long walks and picking up the poop, which makes Beau, Ninja Girl and Wonder Girl think she's a goddess.

Ninja Girl loves Beau so much. It turns out she isn't allergic to him, which makes her want to play with him even more. This makes her feel normal, in a world where she's allergic to practically everything, and it makes my heart melt, until she falls asleep in school because she's so tired from Beau's early wake-up nudges. Husband wonders when his sister will rescue us, so our life will return to normal and he gets more attention than the puppy. Wonder Girl and Ninja Girl specialize in terrorizing Beau, pouncing on him every chance they can, showering him with hugs and love and his absolute favorite--playing in the snow. All they have to do is get the leash out and Beau runs and jumps on them, tail wagging, barking with delight.

6 Comments on Day 28: Mapping Out Writing Time: Beware the Shifts in Power, last added: 2/2/2010
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4. Library Science

While everything else on this site is as family-friendly as Mr. Snuffleupagus, 
this entry is not.

I have woefully neglected the Co-Dictators of the Universe, so to appease them, I offer this (hastily written, once-edited) entry to their Story Sharing awesomeness.  It shocks even me.

The door sticks, so I jam it hard with my hip, and it opens onto the alley with a light rain of pale green plaster. The usually comforting smell of burned cigarettes and urine is tinged with a sour, acrid tang. Vomit, just in front of the dumpster, which is on my left, the south end of the library. On the north end is access to the street, so I move that way to escape the smell of someone else’s puke.

“Assholes,” I mutter, lighting up. I can’t smoke on the front steps: “it’s bad for the patrons” and Williams nearly pissed herself trying to stay all sweet apple pie while she explained, my first day, that I couldn’t smoke in the stacks. Shit, I have a library degree, does the woman fucking think I’d endanger the only extant copy of 聖教初学要理 in America? She seriously needs to get laid.

(Oh, and for those of you who don’t read Japanese, that title is: A fundamental Catechism of Christian Doctrine. Did I mention it’s the only copy in America? I mean, the volume is a wood-block print made up of Japanese paper with Japanese binding, printed at Nagasaki. I might vomit just thinking about anything happening to it.)

That’s the problem - not people not reading Japanese, or needing to be laid, but people thinking that librarians are all cardigans and bobby socks and don’t smoke. Like, if you’re intelligent enough to read, you’re supposed to think smoking is a cardinal sin, a crime, a waste of your goddamn youthful health. Bullshit.

Librarians aren’t supposed to have tattoos, either, I think, looking fondly at the newest ink, a flower-bedecked swastika. Its vibrancy stands out against the rest of the ink covering my right arm, varying degrees of darkness depending on their age.

Fucking stereotypes.

It’s my dinner break so I have 20 more minutes than when I sneak a usual cigarette break. And anyway, I’m not hungry lately, not for food. I light up again, concentrating on the sky changing colors so I can pretend I’m meditating instead of just being lazy. I name the kaleidoscope hues: mauve (from Latin, the color of the mallow), amber (from Arabic ʼanbar, ambergris), violet (from Latin viola, a violet, not the musical instrument, whose origins are Old Provençal, from viula).

What a crappy week. Leaving my diamond nose stud at Carl’s and knowing that he’ll hock it because he hocks everything to pay for his disgusting habit and it doesn’t even matter how many times I deep throated him. Bastard.

The sky’s going from mauve to indigo, and I’m getting skeeved by these deep shadows that look like they’re vomiting black on the graffiti.

And the dissertation committee asked the most inane questions about my theories on 3D imaging and rare manuscripts. What will it cost? Who the fuck cares? Those cocksuckers have no imagination. This is why God made rich patrons who want their name on a library building even though they use books to wipe their asses.

As I pull out my third cigarette (and last, I swear silently to my mother, but I am skipping dinner and I need satisfaction somehow), I notice a little pile of grey lint. No, not lint, some kind of finch. Bombycillidae, maybe? Unlucky guy is dead, his eyes squeezed like someone’s popping a zit. Which reminds me of my dead Uncle Ernie, God rest his sou

5 Comments on Library Science, last added: 4/12/2010
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5. Besty Red Hoodie Blog Event Day Four - A Writing Contest from Gail Carson Levine

Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly

I have a treat for all you writers out there today. Gail Carson Levine, who has written an excellent book about writing for children called Writing Magic, has kindly created a little writing exercise contest for you. This is her challenge:

When I talk to children about “Little Red Riding Hood,” I suggest they picture themselves in the place of Little Red.  Then I ask if they would listen to the wolf and leave the path.  They all say they wouldn’t.  I challenge them.  “What if the wolf was as clever as the smartest person you know?  Might he trick you into doing what he wants?”  They start weighing the possibilities.  I go on.  “What if the grandmother was your real grandma?  Would she let herself and you be eaten?”

This happens to be an excellent exercise in character development for writers of any age or experience, to replace fairy tale characters with real ones.  The real people by their natures force old stories to change and become more complex.  After all, even in a story you can’t make your brilliant best friend say something stupid or your stubborn cousin suddenly turn compliant.

The most important task in expanding fairy tales is to slow the action way down.  Imagine that the heroine just flung a cloak of invisibility around her shoulders.  What does the cloak feel like?  What’s the fabric?  Is there a label?  Wait!  Back up!  Can she even see the label, or does the cloak vanish the moment it’s touched?  What are her sensations as it envelops her?  Does invisibility happen instantly or creep up?  Can she continue to see herself even though others can’t?  And so on.

So here’s the challenge: In “Little Red Riding Hood,” Little Red meets a talking wolf.  Talking animals appear in many fairy tales, and they’re a source of wonder that you’re about

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6. How Might You Challenge Yourself as a Writer?


by Robert W. Walker

There are indeed many challenges a writer faces from beating back inertia to becoming redundant on the page to using the wrong tack on approach to opening the story or novel in the wrong place and on and on and on. Building character is a challenge, but we must have in our lead role, our star character fully-realized; we are challenged to live with him or her for a long time, but we take that challenge to make this character special as the more we know him or her, the more easily manipulated along a storyline. We are challenged too by plot, and many of us find this far harder to come to terms with than character, yet a fully realized character can suggest or imply a plot.

I challenge myself with each book I write. I challenge myself by doing a setting that is for me exotic—that is out of my safety zone as I may never have been there.

I challenge myself by creating a character at opposite ends of the spectrum than myself – say a female Medical examiner and FBI agent or an 1893 Inspector in Chicago or a pair of interns on the Titanic.

I challenge myself often with a storyline that is meant to tease the reader into thinking one thing but second guessing himself at the same time.

Most recently, I have challenged myself to set up a novel with two separate storylines running simultaneously in two different time “zones” – one in 1912, the night Titanic went down, and the other one hundred years later with divers capable of working two and a half miles below the surface and swimming into and through Titanic’s interiors in 2012. This was indeed a huge challenge but oddly enough, I based my structure and desire on none other than the film and book Fried Green Tomatoes. It may sound at odds but I wanted to duplicate my own feelings coming away from that story – that I at once wanted to be in the past story and the present story each time I was inside the other story than the one I wanted to be in; in other words, each storyline was compelling. So my challenge to myself was to make each storyline so compelling as to make the reader want to return to BOTH whenever he or she was in past (wanting to get back to present), and in present (wanting to get back to past).

So what sorts of challenges do you set for yourself as a writer? Would love to hear about them here. I know if you write, you face umpteen challenges but at times one might have been particularly prickly and you might be so proud that you met it and overcame it well. So let’s hear about that!

Rob Walker

3 Comments on How Might You Challenge Yourself as a Writer?, last added: 9/17/2010
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7. Day 15: Mapping Out Writing Time: Pay It Forward

We went apple picking today. I almost had a heart attack when I saw the entrance fee. If you need a better view, click on the photo. This is a haven for little kids. There's a huge play area--complete with moonbounce, petting zoo, jungle gyms, climbing walls, a maze, haystack climbing stack, etc.

But, I digress.

There were four lines of people waiting to gain entry. I couldn't help but notice that once some people paid the fee, they handed tickets to the folks behind them. This went on for some time, a few people shared these tickets, while most tucked them away for later use. Of course I was curious what this was and found out soon enough. Included with my receipt were 4 coupons for 50% off the next visit (1 coupon per person). I admit, I was small-minded enough to be jealous of the lucky people who saved money. For a moment.

Because what I noticed, was even better. Once I gave away my tickets, I bored my girls with an informal 10 minute observation on human behavior--specifically--paying it forward.

"In the order of nature
we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them,
or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again,
line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

What do you think I discovered?

Write-a-Scene-Writing-Prompt: Few people are made of altruistic goodness--wanting to pay it forward--every single time someone shows them a kindness. Some people are generous, but know how to show restraint if necessary. Others, are a little more careful with what they are willing to give up. Generosity can be shown with money, time, efforts, friendships, love, gifts, coupons, etc.

Where does your protagonist fit on the Pay it Forward scale? Write a scene where your MC has to give back, ie: to the community, to a friend, to a stranger, etc. Is this a punishment, that turns into a pay it forward situation? Or is this something your MC wants to do because someone was kind to her? Is this something he can do easily? Or does she fight it every step of the way? Does he pay it forward in the midst of lots of fanfare? Or does she do this anonymously? Have fun!

10 Comments on Day 15: Mapping Out Writing Time: Pay It Forward, last added: 10/1/2009
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8. Day 16:Mapping Out Writing Time: Look Fear in the Eye

Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.
- Dorothy Thompson

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.

Time for a little pep talk--throw away those negative thoughts that slow you down. No need to have them in your way.

Prove to yourself that you can do it--make the time, write those words, bring your characters to life. Your story needs to be told.

Kick your fear to the curb and follow your dream. Or...you will always wonder...

Hmmm. Think I feel better already.

How are you doing?

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: What are your MC's dreams and fears? Write a scene where your protagonist has doubts about his abilities. Is she alone or talking to friends/family? What happens that makes him want to quit or continue? This should be an angst-driven scene. Build up conflict and emotion!

4 Comments on Day 16:Mapping Out Writing Time: Look Fear in the Eye, last added: 10/17/2009
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9. Day 17: Mapping Out Writing Time: Not Fitting In

Today is a half-day of school and it figures I will be without Sophie, my ten-year-old car. Sophie has been working hard to keep us safe. It's time to bring her in to get some work done.

Spy Girl isn't too happy Sophie won't be with us. A bunch of 5th grade girls made plans to go into the center of town, have lunch and shop. Spy Girl wasn't included and she wants Sophie to whisk her away to the movie theater or someplace else where she won't have to run into her friends. I find this so strange since all these girls are coming to Spy Girl's birthday party this weekend.

I'm trying to be cool about the whole thing, but of course I'm a little upset since I don't want to see my child left out. More importantly, I don't want to feed into her disappointment and make her think this is horrible. However, I'm also relieved--I'm not ready to have my just-turned-eleven-year-old walk around town, unsupervised, in the midst of middle schoolers and high schoolers who will be hanging around, enjoying the half-day off from school.

It'll be interesting to see what happens this morning at school, if new plans are made for this afternoon...

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: There will be times when your protagonist won't feel like part of a group. Write a scene where your MC doesn't fit in. Is it her choice? Does it bother him? Describe the situation and the other players. Dig deep to find the motivating factor.

Don't be afraid to let your inner teen out and reveal insecurities. Remember to show the emotion and conflict! Be brave!

10 Comments on Day 17: Mapping Out Writing Time: Not Fitting In, last added: 10/23/2009
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10. Day 19: Mapping Out Writing Time: Celebrate in Style

Spy Girl had her birthday party over the weekend. Fifteen friends stopped by to help her celebrate. Her birthday theme...a Rockin' Movie Party.

The Jonas Brothers greeted the girls when they came into the house. Let me tell you, the one thing I neglected to purchase were ear plugs, which I should have worn, along with ear muffs.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to take pictures of the screening room (AKA the living room) before the party, so you'll have to picture it. Tiny lights sparkled along the walls. Blue and green streamers hung along the fireplace mantel, windows and doorways. And the concession table: full-size Skittles and Starburst, blue margarita plastic glasses (Spy Girl arranged them into a pyramid), root beer, lemonade, and of course, lots of popcorn with marshmallows.

Yes, you read it right. Popcorn and marshmallows. Pop a big batch of popcorn. Pour popcorn into a big bowl. Sprinkle salt and tiny marshmallows over the hot popcorn. Yum!

The girls descended on the movie treats and found a place to sit on the rug and sofas. Spy Girl chose Zorro and in hindsight, it wasn't the best movie for 15 girls of varying tastes. I think it was too much adventure for half the girls, who wanted to see a chick flick.

After the movie, I served dinner: pasta and meatballs, garden salad with croutons and my homemade focaccia.

Then, came the karaoke sing-off. Let me tell you, if there is one thing you should have at your disposal during a party for a group of girls, it is a karaoke machine. HUGE hit! We have an awesome machine, with two microphones and camera. Perfect for this group of girls. They sang and danced and sang some more. I loved how some of the shyer girls became rock stars when they had their chance at the microphone.

We also did photo shoots with the Jonas Brothers. Nick, by far, was the favorite, and the girls swooned and shrieked. And I realized my husband, He Who Doesn't Have a Good Name Yet For My Blog, did the smart thing by high-tailing it out of the house.

The girls then danced and sang some more. They were disappointed when their parents came to pick them up. All in all, the party was a success. Most importantly, Spy Girl had a great time.

As for the goody bags, I found these pins....

I also made CD's of Spy Girl's party music and put them in these great jewel-colored cases. Then, I put a CD and a couple cool pins in a green striped cellophane bag and tied them up with a pearl blue ribbon.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: What kind of celebration will be part of your MC's life? Is it a coming-of-age celebration, a cultural or religious holiday, or perhaps a secret society induction? Keep in mind, the celebration doesn't have to be traditional. Remember to share the significance and the emotions it should evoke. Have fun!

11 Comments on Day 19: Mapping Out Writing Time: Celebrate in Style, last added: 10/28/2009
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11. Day 23: Mapping Out Writing Time: The Double-Edged Sword

Life seems to get in the way of my writing. The flu, three children, a husband, managing office work that piles up faster than I can organize, housework, soccer, too much homework to supervise, holiday pressures, and general doldrums have provided more than plenty of opportunity for numerous excuses and bad creative behavior.

When I do write, my husband and children sometimes get resentful of my time away from them, voicing their disappointment when I'm at my laptop. My writing is usually done on the sly, in tidbits, spread thin.

Right now, writing seems to be my double-edged sword. If I write, chaos erupts and my family is unhappy. If I don't write, the household runs more smoothly, but I'm restless. It's a tough balancing act to maintain peace in my writing world, where sacrifices must be made, and sometimes it's difficult to see how, and if, we can all win.

Gah! I don't mean to sound so dire, for my children are the world to me and I will move mountains for them. Deep down, I know they believe in me and my writing, in a shout-it-from-the-rooftop type of way, but they are young and they still need me. As I do them. And that helps me get through the tough days.

I'm writing about this because sometimes it's just nice to know there are people out there who understand how difficult it is to write when others depend on you, but write anyway, and find a way to make their dreams come true.

I want to be that person. I will be that person.

I am that person.

And I know you are, too. That is all.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Write a scene where your protagonist is faced with a double-edged sword--two choices--one favorable, one not so much. What does your protagonist do? Why? How do others react? Remember to evoke emotion, conflict and consequences.

Now get your butt in the chair and write.

8 Comments on Day 23: Mapping Out Writing Time: The Double-Edged Sword, last added: 12/12/2009
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12. Day 24: Mapping Out Writing Time: Staying the Course, Even When Others Don't Believe

"Mom, I forgot to mail my letter to Santa!" Spy Girl flew into the kitchen this morning, envelope in hand. "Do you think it's too late?"

For the past few years, I've been waiting to have the talk with Spy Girl about Santa. Her friends have been dropping comments since the second grade, and despite the doubt cast by naysayers, Spy Girl's belief in Santa is much stronger. She'll defend Santa to anyone who tells her otherwise. As far as I know, Spy Girl is the only fifth grader in her school that still believes.

I'm cool with this.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: There are times your MC is going to face opposition from people who have different convictions. This may be a matter of right vs. wrong or life vs. death, or it can be something where both sides are right, depending on upbringing, maturity, religious beliefs, race, etc.

Write a scene where your protagonist is faced with an opposing view, but has a different belief. Is this an easy situation, where both sides agree to disagree? Or is there something at stake, where winner takes all? Or perhaps the situation is more complicated and there is no clear winner. Emotion and conflict should factor in big time in this scene(s). Good luck!

4 Comments on Day 24: Mapping Out Writing Time: Staying the Course, Even When Others Don't Believe, last added: 12/25/2009
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13. Day 27: Mapping Out Writing Time: Using the Green-Eyed Monster for the Greater Good and Happiness Giveaway #1

January. January. January.

I despise how I've allowed these four syllables to throw me into a funk these past few years. It's not supposed to be this way.

January is meant for new beginnings. We say farewell to the old year and herald in the new. We write up our New Year's Resolutions and try to commit to becoming thinner, fitter, smarter, better, happier, and kinder. We shovel the snow and enjoy adrenalin-pumping winter activities like skiing, skating, snowboarding. And let us not forget January is named after the Roman god, Janus, the god of gates and doorways, of beginnings and endings.

I've alway loved planning out my New Year's Resolutions, but lately, it's difficult to muster up the enthusiasm to set them in stone, to be reviewed in the next year. (Yes, I do this sort of thing.) I blame it entirely on being cursed blessed with a January birthday. Think it's hard to write down New Year's Resolutions? Try it with a January birthday. This double whammy ensures twice the pleasure of reflecting on what hasn't been done. And if you're in your forties (gulp), when every new year becomes more precious, the success and failure of each goal becomes a critical analysis. And yes. Sometimes when you see good things, well-deserved things happen to people you like and respect, sometimes it's hard to tell the Green-Eyed Monster to leave you alone.

Even with friends and family.

Some friends invited us over to their house for dinner on Saturday. They bought a new construction home and it is Spectacular, with a capital S--all the latest and greatest of shiny things. Radiant-heated bathroom floors. Stainless steel kitchen appliances. Custom designed kitchen. Beautiful, big windows. Huge flat-screen tv... Shiny. Shiny. Shiny. When I came home, all I could see was my house, stuck in the 1960's, overshadowed with imperfections. Big Time.

The next day, I picked Ninja Girl from a friend's house. They invited me in to see their stunning kitchen remodel with incredible slider doors to their backyard, overlooking their personal skating rink.

"This should be you." The Green-Eyed Monster gnashed her teeth. "You've been living with old appliances and a run-down kitchen for years. It's not fair!"

"It's not in the budget right now. Soon." I hesitated.

"Ah, but think what you could do if you knocked down some walls in your kitchen." She curled her slimy hands around my shoulder and shone a light around my dumpy kitchen. "Hire an architect, order designer cabinets. Spare no expense! Look what you've put up with. Don't you deserve better?"

I grabbed a tape measure and started drawing out a plan. Man. I deserve a dream kitchen. The Green-Eyed Monster is right. Fuhgeddaboutit. It should be mine. I deserve it just as much as anyone else. Why do they get the nice kitchen? They're younger than I am. I work just as hard as they do. I deserve it. Fuhgeddaboutit. Forget I need to replace Sophie, my eleven-year-old car first. Forget about our plan to wait another year to replace the cabinets. Forget about the budget. Forget about... Gah!

The nice thing about getting older is I'm no longer a prisoner of the Green-Eyed Monster. She can reel me in, but now, I've accepted I'm wise enough to know there is a time for everything. It's easier to let the Green-Eyed Monster know her place. Sometimes, it's enough to know good things do happen to people, the people you are happy for, and that your time will come.

Work hard. Use the Green-Eyed Monster for motivation and inspiration, to nip at your heels and help you work harder. Great things WILL happen to you. Soon enough.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Let's face it. Mos

20 Comments on Day 27: Mapping Out Writing Time: Using the Green-Eyed Monster for the Greater Good and Happiness Giveaway #1, last added: 1/14/2010
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14. Day 28: Mapping Out Writing Time: Brilliant Plots Require Easy Organization and Happiness Giveaway #2

If you wish to be a writer, write.

And write, I will.

But first, I have to tell you about the portable plotting organizer I put together the other day for my new WIP. It's so simple, I can hardly stand it. It may very well keep me sane during my writing and revision process, and that, my friends, is HUGE in my book.

When I start a new project, I usually write a chapter or so, to see whether my muse is inspired to brainstorm. Next, I write the most basic of outlines and get to know my characters. Then, I plot away.

Plotting is hard work. It requires imagination, the ability to make the impossible believable, and incredible persistence, sometimes fortified with strong coffee or tea. I believe if a writer has a good system to organize plot, it makes writing so much easier. Or, at least it's a productive way to unleash writer's block angst. Can't figure out what to write next? Take out the system and hash it your plot. Over the past few years, I've tried post-it notes, wall charts, computerized spreadsheets, and journals. And while they all work, they didn't quite click with me for one reason or another.

Then, I discovered the beauty of the index card. This may sound strange, but scenes became much easier for me to visualize and then capture the written word. Color coded 3" X 5" cards are cheap, easy to store and rearrange. I love how easy it is to throw away an index card or two if an idea is pure crap. No more scathing notes to myself (within reason) or huge X's crossing out text. Need to change a few scenes around? Just move the index cards, no problem. I love how there's no organizational eyesores to clog up my brain with unnecessary noise. There's no need to obsess about how I'm going to clean up my plotting, because I can't read through all my scribbles. This clarity of focus helps me concentrate on writing, which is always a very good thing.

Two years ago, Spy Girl came home from school with math facts written on index cards, fastened by a loose leaf ring. I was smitten. If you love office supplies as much as I do, you'll understand why I had to go to the store.

See the pretty cards all fanned out? These loose leaf rings are a lifesaver. I don't have to worry about losing the sequence of events. Instant peace of mind.

I recently came up with a new idea for a manuscript. It freaked me out since I'm still putting the finishing touches on PB, plus I have a few other manuscripts in the works. But, who am I to say, "No," to my muse? So, I went to the store to pick up some index cards, and found this index card organizer.

It may not look very impressive, but I practically drooled over it. Colored index cards, holes already punched in, 2 loose leaf rings, and 2 tabs. All of a sudden, I had the urge to figure out the best way to use this, and soon discovered 15 Comments on Day 28: Mapping Out Writing Time: Brilliant Plots Require Easy Organization and Happiness Giveaway #2, last added: 1/16/2010
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15. Mapping Out Writing Time: The Early Bird Gets the Worm

So, rather than start my 30 day writing spree tomorrow, when the kids start school, I thought I'd start today.

Remember the deal? 2 hours of straight writing time (though I'll also include book-related research, NO Internet research) on school days, for 30 days, no time wasting allowed.

I am a horrible sleeper, so I started writing at 5 am. Problem was, I couldn't help it. I checked my e-mail, in case some incredible news migrated over in the middle of the night, which led to reading a few blogs and suddenly, 30 minutes disappeared. *Slaps forehead.*

Good thing I started my practice run today.

Make today count.

Writing Prompt: Write a scene where your character benefits (or on the flip side, is punished) for being early...

7 Comments on Mapping Out Writing Time: The Early Bird Gets the Worm, last added: 9/3/2009
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16. Day 2: Mapping Out Writing Time: I Don't Want To Blues

Spy Girl and Ninja Girl had a great first day of school yesterday. They're happy about their teachers, thrilled to see their friends, and ready to get to the learning.

Of course there is always one who needs to be different...Princess Rock Star. Her first day of school was today. When she woke up this morning, she claimed illness, but quickly revived to play an early round of tennis before school. My husband brought Princess Rock Star to her class--we figured there would be less meltdown possibilities with him in charge...

However, we didn't count on the UNKNOWN.

About ten minutes later, Husband called me up, his voice strained. Things didn't go so well. When he brought Princess Rock Star into the building, someone greeted them, and then a woman swooped out of nowhere, behind them (where the doors are), said she'd bring Princess Rock Star to her class and grabbed her hand.

Princess Rock Star freaked.

Husband had no idea who this woman was, why she approached them from behind without identifying herself first, and he tried to calm down Princess Rock Star--the woman still clutching her hand. He helped bring Princess Rock Star into the classroom, where the woman proceeded to pry Husband's and Princess Rock Star's hands apart. Princess Rock Star cried more. At that point, Husband asked woman to leave them alone and let Princess Rock Star compose herself. Princess Rock Star calmed down, once she realized the woman gave her space, asked for a tissue, wiped her eyes and nose, kissed Daddy, and then walked into the morning circle and sat down.

It turns out, when I picked Princess Rock Star up after school, she was all smiles. Her school day turned out okay after all.

BUT, she's not looking forward to returning in the morning and seeing the woman...it made quite an impression on her. Princess Rock Star had a meltdown this evening, asking if I would stay outside her classroom the whole time tomorrow. She wants her own personal guard.

I wish Princess Rock Star had good memories of her first day of school, but this one is going to scar her for awhile.

How's that for the modern way of separating child from parent on the first day of school?

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Sometimes we just have to do things we don't want to do. Write a scene where your reluctant protagonist is faced with agonizing torture, but must go through it, ie: school, dentist/doctor appointment, promised best friend something, clique pressures, save the kingdom, etc. What's the outcome? Remember, conflict and emotion is key!

11 Comments on Day 2: Mapping Out Writing Time: I Don't Want To Blues, last added: 9/5/2009
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17. Day 3: Mapping Out Writing Time: Falling into Research

Needless to say, drop off for kindergarten did not go well this morning. Princess Rock Star wasn't herself and wouldn't stop crying. It proved quite challenging to get her into the classroom. If not for the kindergarten fiasco, I think things would be quite different. However, I'll never know.

I love our school, especially the way they handle Ninja Girl's food allergies. I know the person meant well, but it didn't work for my child, and for that, I am so disappointed the person couldn't figure it out. Thanks, Everyone, for your good wishes for Princess Rock Star. I am so grateful.

Of course, with all this excitement, I deviated a tiny bit from my writing plan. I still wrote, but the regularly scheduled program had to be interrupted for sanity's sake--I had to clean the house.

Let the chorus begin.

The windows needed some sparkle and since it was a beautiful day, I figured I'd tackle them. There's a bay window in my living room, measuring six feet across. The windows pull out for easy cleaning, and as there were quite a few little fingerprints on them, they were my first project. Windex and paper towels in hand, I sprayed and wiped, and the inside windows soon gleamed.

The middle section gave me a little trouble. Every time I opened the bottom 3 1/2 foot-wide window, it slid right back down. After pulling the window out, I discovered the right side pin was off the runner. An easy fix, I thought, and climbed up the window ledge to align everything back into proper position. After some fiddling, I figured out one side of the window needed to be lowered a few inches, to maneuver the pin from the other side back in place. What I failed to factor in was how heavy this double-paned, 1970's monstrosity would be and why I, at 5'3", thought I'd be able to lift this 3 1/2 foot-wide window, all by myself.

Everything fell into place. The pin slid in the runner, and I slowly lifted up the left side of the window to even things out. I'm so pleased at this point, ready to crow about my fix-it-skills to my husband, when the weight of the window became a bit much and snap! The window totally came out and both runners flew up the casing.

Did I mention I'm standing on a 1-foot-wide window ledge, 2 1/2 feet from the ground, holding a 3 1/2 foot by 2-foot double paned, insulated enormous glass beast in 78 degrees, with sun glaring in my eyes, and thirty minutes before I have to pick up Princess Rock Star from school, and I hate it when I can't fix things, especially when I have to explain what happened to my husband?

I knew how to get this to work, and I proceeded to line the pins up with the runners. Everything was going smoothly, when the window shifted too much on one side, I lost my balance and fell to the ground, knocking over a lamp, the window crashing with me.

Needless to say, a good superhero I would not make--no flying away for me. But, I am lucky --escaping with a few bruises, scrapes, and some aches that are surfacing as the day goes on. As for the window, it didn't break, though a corner cracked open with about 2 inches of exposed glass. We also have a deep gouge in the wood floor, guarded by our sofa.

Our handyman told me later, looking at the window and then back at me--in shock? dismay? speechless? respect?--I am one lucky person--people have died from this type of thing, from this particular manufactured window. Gulp.

And for those who are curious, he fixed the window in ten minutes flat.

Two good things came from this.

One: The first thing my husband said when I called him in a panic, "Are you okay?"

Two: This escapade proved to be incredible research for a particular scene in PB.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Research is an important key to making your scenes believable. Conduct some research, ie: research via the Internet or go to the library and hunt for books pertinent to your subject, sit in the park and observe mannerisms of people around you, go to the museum to look at artifacts, listen to how teens talk, learn how to do things your protagonist loves to do, interview experts, make something happen, etc.

Layer in the details into your scene (be sure to touch on the 5 senses) and watch your work come to life.

Happy Writing!

12 Comments on Day 3: Mapping Out Writing Time: Falling into Research, last added: 9/6/2009
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18. Day 6: Mapping Out Writing Time: Dangle the Carrot

Sometimes, no matter how good the intentions, you need a little bit of a nudge--a reward--if you will, to get in the right mind set. PB needed a break from me and since for the first time I had NO children around, I finally did what I HATE most to do when surrounded by my angels.

I went shopping.

What an experience! I forgot what it was like to browse in stores and came back home a new woman. Especially as I discovered the LUSH vegan handmade lotions. What a godsend! No dairy or egg! Safe for Ninja Girl, as long as there are no nut ingredients. Most of you are probably scratching your head, wondering what on earth I'm writing about.

Did you know many beauty products (soaps, shampoos/conditioners, lotions, makeup, etc.) contain some derivative of milk, egg, or nuts? Label reading extends to all products that enter our household. It's an eye-opening experience--it's disappointing to walk away from all the shiny new potions that promise to make me much younger and improved to read all the chemical ingredients, in fine print, on things we eat or put on our skin. Do we really need to put things like 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde, phthalates, lead and other heavy metals on our body? I don't think so.

It was a treat to read the LUSH product labels--most of the ingredients are natural organics and as for the synthetic ingredients, they are far less than what's in most labels. Made me so happy I treated my girls (and me) to a couple lovely potions. Now I can't stop smelling my hands, the scent is so wonderful. Ahhh!

But, I can write. Time to focus on some sensory details.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Time to reward your protagonist. Write a scene where your protagonist gets a break from the conflict and refuels before the next crisis hits. How comfortable is your protagonist with the treat? Still on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop? Or totally immersed in the good times? Happy Writing!

2 Comments on Day 6: Mapping Out Writing Time: Dangle the Carrot, last added: 9/11/2009
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19. Day 7: Mapping Out Writing Time: We Shall Remember

The Prayer by Celine Dion and Andrea Boccelli is simply beautiful and helps fill the need when words of comfort simply can't lift the pain. I offer you this breathtaking duet of grace and hope on this day.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: There are times when your protagonist needs to remember the past and hold it close. Write a scene where your protagonist honors someone, something, some place. Bring it in with a close camera lens and let the emotions flow. This doesn't necessarily have to be heart-wrenching, but let it be hopeful. Peace.

5 Comments on Day 7: Mapping Out Writing Time: We Shall Remember, last added: 9/13/2009
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20. Day 8: Mapping Out Writing Time: Elation, Ruin and Grace

It took less than 50 seconds before Taylor Swift's big moment over winning MTV's VMA Top Female Video Award was ruined, right in the middle of her acceptance speech. In one gracious move, during her own winning moment for Video of the Year, Beyonce gave the grateful 19-year-old a second chance. A brilliant move and a gracious act of kindness.

Which act will you remember more--the repugnant behavior OR the incredible grace that lifted a teen up?

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: We don't have control over many situations. Write a scene where it's time for your protagonist's Big Moment, ie: first date, first kiss, prom queen, scholarship, award, contest, etc. Create the anticipation, the agony of the wait, the hopes and fears, and let the scene unfold. Emotion and tension should fill the pages. Is your protagonist a good winner/loser? Or a bad winner/loser? Happy Writing!

11 Comments on Day 8: Mapping Out Writing Time: Elation, Ruin and Grace, last added: 10/2/2009
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21. Day 9: Mapping Out Writing Time: Persistence

Sometimes, it's hard to keep moving toward a goal.

You're not feeling well.

There are too many things on the To-Do List.

The house is a mess.

The family needs attention.

You don't know how to say, "No," when asked to volunteer in yet another role at your kids' school.

People ask when your book is going to get published and wonder why it's taking so long.

Did I mention the house is a mess?

Yet, you keep going on. Because it's what you want. It's soaked into your bones, your very being.

You find slips of time and keep writing. And writing. And writing.

Despite the doubt. Despite the naysayers. Despite everything.

Be persistent. It will get you to your goal. Need another nudge? Just listen to Ray Bradbury.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: What does your protagonist need to accomplish? What is the motivation and hold back? What is there to gain? to lose? Write a scene where your MC needs to demonstrate persistence at all costs. Does he/she succeed or fail? Let your protagonist suffer. Lots of conflict and emotion are needed here! Happy Writing!

3 Comments on Day 9: Mapping Out Writing Time: Persistence, last added: 10/3/2009
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22. Day 11:Mapping Out Writing Time: Unexpected Surprises

If you didn't have a chance to stop by the readergirlz chat with Kristin Cashore last night, you can still go over and read the transcript. Kristin was awesome, GRACELING much loved, the conversation delightful, and I'm going to go all fangirl here--not only were we lucky to have Kristin who wrote my favorite kick-butt novel of last year...Megan Whalen Turner was there! Megan Whalen Turner of the fantastic ATTOLIA series! Truly a wonderful surprise.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt
: Today's your MC's lucky day! Write a scene where your protagonist receives an unexpected surprise of the good kind. ie: a love note, a phone call, a fantastic prize, a visit from the fairy godmother, a glance from a much wanted admirer, finding out he/she is the heir to an incredible fortune, etc. This should be fun scene to write, after all the conflict building and crazy emotion we've stirred up these past few days. Remember to think happy, happy thoughts and the luck will surely rub off on you.

4 Comments on Day 11:Mapping Out Writing Time: Unexpected Surprises, last added: 9/21/2009
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23. Day 12: Mapping Out Writing Time: The Hero's Journey

Here's a video of Christopher Vogler, creator of The Writer's Journey for screenwriters, describing The Hero's Journey for the movie, The Matrix. Watch this video for a quick synopsis of The Hero's Journey.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Watch this video carefully and map out The Hero's Journey for your protagonist. If you dare, write a scene/chapter based on one of these steps:


6 Comments on Day 12: Mapping Out Writing Time: The Hero's Journey, last added: 9/24/2009
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24. Day 13: Mapping Out Writing Time: On Gratitude

I started this blog over 2 1/2 years ago because of a dare. My sister insisted that if I really wanted to become a published author, I'd better conquer my fear of having people read my work. Her solution? A blog.

"Get yourself out there," she said. "Blogging allows people to read what you've written. If you're lucky, you'll find a great community of support. You really need to practice letting go."

She had a point.

"Bet you don't have the nerve."

Gah! I had no choice.

Despite my doubts, because of my little sister, who not only is a fantastic artist but also an incredible writer, I wandered into the unknown and emerged a winner. I've been blessed with new friends, my on-line critique group, and my involvement in readergirlz, the WBBT/SBBT, and the Cybils. When I started blogging, I never thought anyone would read my blog, and to discover that there are people who stop by on a regular basis...well, that pretty much makes my day. It's wonderful to be part of such a supportive community and for that, I am so grateful. To think it all started with my sister.

A big hug and thank you to my sister. And a big thank you to all of you--THANK YOU!

Now after all this, it may surprise you that I've been remiss in some acknowledgments. *hangs head in shame* A few people have stopped by over the past couple months to leave various awards. There's really no good excuse for this...I've been quite negligent on passing them along. Please forgive me.

Since I'd like to spread the wealth, I'm going to share these awards over the next couple weeks. Here's the most recent--a very cool award that's “the result of a discussion about what the acronym BLOG stands for, and the creative responses to the question.”--The Blogman Award:

Thank you to Jim Harrington - Quotes on Writing Blog for this honor.

Here are the rules:
1. Tell us your favorite hero/superhero (it doesn't have to be Batman, after all) and why.
2. Copy the badge and post it on your blog.
3. Present the badge to five (the number of points on a Batarang) other worthy bloggers.
4. Post links to the five people you nominate.
5. Comment on their pages to let them know they have been nominated.

As you may remember, I'm up to my eyeballs in superheroines. Wonder Girl just turned six and I'm still planning her Wonder Woman birthday party for her friends. Sadly, it's slim pickings for girls and superheroines, which really ticks me off--is it too much to ask for superheroine party supplies? While I'm at it, what about a superheroine with a normal figure and proper attire? Sigh. Thankfully, we have a fun party theme--a Super Heroine Training Camp Party. Details later.

As for my heroine, without a doubt, it's my sister.

I'm having a hard time choosing just five people. This award is so cool, I'd love to share it with all of you. Who is your favorite hero/heroine?

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: How does your protagonist express gratitude? Write a scene where your MC needs to show appreciation to someone. What do they do? Not do? Are they reluctant to give thanks? Enthusiastic? This gives you a chance to dig deep into your MC's personality. Have fun with this!

Want a writing prompt tied with a contest? If you're under 25, enter the readergirlz writing contest by September 25th. The winning work will be posted on readergirlz author-in-residence Beth Kephart's blog. The winner will also receive a signed copy of UNDERCOVER by Beth Kephart-- a beautiful, beautiful book. What are you waiting for? Write away!

5 Comments on Day 13: Mapping Out Writing Time: On Gratitude, last added: 9/27/2009
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25. Day 14: Mapping Out Writing Time: The I Want It Now Blues

Remember Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? This spoiled young girl wanted everything--a golden ticket, an Oompa Loompa, a golden geese, the golden egg--ALL Right NOW!

Not everyone knows what they want. Sometimes it's wrapped up in immediate gratification or based on current trends. Or maybe it's reflected in the mood of the day. There's a certain level of respect, albeit a very thin one, we should offer Veruca, as she absolutely without a doubt knew what she wanted, how to articulate it, and by the way, if you didn't understand, it was all to be delivered right now. Yes, she was extreme and yes, she did fall on unfortunate circumstances, but she had her moments to shine and exploited used them to her advantage.

It's hard to wait for the things we most want. It's even harder when you're young, when patience is a foreign word, and you believe you deserve the world. Think about this as you discover what your MC wants most and how to get this to happen in your story. Hey, even better, use the following Magic Questions. Proceed with caution...if used properly, you'll find your story transformed. If not, you'll have one [email protected]#$#.

REMEMBER These Magic Questions:
  • What does your character want most?
  • What is the main thing that will drive your MC to reach her goal?
  • What kinds of things will your protagonist do to get what he wants?
  • When push comes to shove, what makes your character reach into inner reserves to get what she wants?
  • How does this influence others around him?

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Write a scene where your MC finds resistance when acting upon desires. I know, I know. Your manuscript needs to be built with scenes like this. So, get writing! Remember to ask yourself the questions I've noted above, before writing each scene. These questions are magic. They will help drive your story forward and create a compelling story. Come on. Try it!

5 Comments on Day 14: Mapping Out Writing Time: The I Want It Now Blues, last added: 9/28/2009
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