Wednesday, May 30, 2012


You know how I wrote about "Expanding your territory" last week, by branching out and writing in areas that you aren't familiar with?

What if you could do that and not have to write a book, or even an essay for that matter? What about a plain and simple writing prompt that forces you to write -- and only write-- twenty five words?

Writer's Digest has these incredibly cool exercises that do this. Writing prompts are one of them, and this one -- the super short one-- is not only fun, but hard. Twenty five words? That's like only being able to take a sip of coffee out of a twelve-cup pot. Hard to do, and not as easy as you'd think.

Here's the contest: Take a look at this picture, and write the opening sentence to a story. Easy, right? Actually, no it isn't. Everyone has a million ideas, and yet, when it comes to writing, seems like those million ideas boil down to just a handful ... a handful of openers that everyone has heard of.

Don't be like that. Don't be normal.

Do what I talked about in my "Openers" post and open things with a bang -- dead in the middle of action.

Not "it was a dark and stormy night and everyone has heard this opening" opener, but something wickedly different like, "Bobby loved to watch houses burn down, especially when he started those fires from his lantern" type of opener.

Again, this is a great exercise. It's a way to find new avenues to prevent writer's block, to write about things you'd never write about, and even to get published. Kind of the goal of writer.

Click here to enter this contest.

Exercise hurts because it forces you to go against the normal. But exercise, when done daily, gets easier with time and it makes you stronger. You do want to be a strong writer, yes?

Go to for tons of other cool writing exercises, contests, articles, interviews and reviews. This site should be bookmarked for as long as you're a writer. Essential site.

Besides, any site with the word "writers" in it HAS to be decent ...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Expanding Your Territory

Camp NaNoWriMo
I've written several times about why we need to expand our writing, as in, writing in styles and genres that we normally don't write in.

I can hear you saying, "That's all fine and dandy for someone else, but for me and my thriller manuscripts I don't need that kind of practice."

Now, I want you to hear me saying. "You're wrong!"

Why? Because, we have to always be learning in order to keeping knowing. That sounds kind of lame when I write it that way. But here's the gist: to be really, really good at something, requires continual, daily, practice. This means writing in your genre, and writing in OTHER genres to be not only a good writer, but a great writer: someone who can understand all sorts of things because of this very act of writing in a genre one normally doesn't write in.

So, what do you need to do? Try doing what I'm doing. Well, so I'm probably not doing all of these, but here are three examples of things that you -- yes you, you writer way in the back of the class who thinks this blog post doesn't pertain to them -- can and should do to brush up on your skills.

A writer is not a writer unless they write, and they're not a writer unless they can write in all sorts of ways. Just as an actor is not a true actor (from what I understand) until they can be all characters, from the evilest of murderers to the kindest of cops. You know what I mean. A variety, a cornucopia of acts that when all put together, creates a whole: a complete person.

Check these options out, have fun and work at it! This will help you. I promise.

1. Enchanted Conversations: A Fairytale Magazine. This is a great blog that has contests with retold fairy tales. GREAT site. I've submitted before. Very fun to re-write a fairytale with different characters and settings. Challenging, but again, 'tis the point. Free to submit and contests are monthly.

2. Ether Sci-fi and Fantasy Quick Reads: I would love to try this one. Mostly because I've never written sci-fi story, despite the fact that I like reading the occasional sci-fi book, I want to see if I can do this. This is so not my style, or genre, but hey, I can try! Again, this will sharpen my skills. How can it not? Besides, you can win an Ipad. Awesomeness...

3. Camp NaNoWriMo: I've done this before too, but only the November contest. This is where one writes a book (50,000 words) in thirty days. Totally crazy fun. Doesn't need to be your best work, all you have to do is write. It's a way to get your backside into gear and get that book out that's been rolling around your head. When a deadline looms, I like to think I work better and faster: a perfect reason you should sign up too. And what's even better is that this competition is free, and you can go at your own pace (as long as it's 50k words total at the end of the month) and you have friends who are doing this with you. This Camp NaNo is for June and August (separately) and is easier going than the driven NaNo in November. This Camp NaNo also has us in smaller groups. I'm looking forward to getting a book or two out this summer.

Happy writing!

Monday, May 7, 2012


Sorry I've been MIA for a little bit. I needed a little break after blogging for thirty straight days!

Anway, I'm back and I'm curious to know something. You know how the first few sentences in a book are critical for hooking the reader, well I would love to know your imput on this little paragraph:

The hammer in her hand felt smooth and comfortable, and as cool as a glass of water.  Cleopatra Riley grabbed the key from her pocket and walked to the cabinet in her darkened closet. She unlocked it, and after opening both wooden doors wide, took out all of her porcelain horses, setting them on top of the dresser. In a few seconds, what had taken almost ten years to collect, was gone – smashed to hundreds of pieces

Does it draw you in? Is it too wordy? Do you want to read more? I know beginnings are SO important. Important as in, getting an agent to request a partial, or having them say "thanks, but no thanks."

What are some of your favorite openers? Some book openers are hilarious, some are serious, some are just confusing -- but appropriately so. But, almost all of the ones I've read are good because they are to-the-point, in the middle of conflict, and drawing me in from the first few sentences. The way books should be.

For example, here's my opener from The Puzzle Master.

The sun peered through the window and Marshall’s eyes opened with a start. What time was it? He sat up in bed and checked his clock. 7:05. Perfect, still early enough. He scrambled out of the sheets, already hot and sticky, and headed for his closet, tiptoeing past his older brother.

My goal was to have Marshall in the middle of a conflict. He had to get to his favorite store before it opened, but that was because he was looking for his special "treasure" and because he only had thirty minutes in there. He also wanted to get out before his family woke up, thereby further delaying his mission.

If your opener doesn't suggest a problem, or conflict, or isn't in the middle of said conflict, you've got the wrong opening. You want to bring the person into the room, so to speak; welcome them in with tea and cookies and get them to put their feet up on the ottoman because they're enthralled with the room (book.)

Rework it, make it snappy, like the opening of a movie -- because that's about the patience people have for reading anymore -- and then you've got something an agent will beg to see.