Category Archives: Top Ten Lists

You might be an aspiring author if…

I started thinking about Jeff Foxworthy, and the old red neck jokes, and came up with this: You might be a writer, author, aspiring author/writer, if….well, here are ten of my own benchmarks. Let me know if you agree…or can add a new one!

10. Entering a bookstore (full of works by already published authors) leaves you feeling both invigorated and envious.

9. You read novels, short stories, memoirs, poems for both pleasure AND education.

8. Every email, flyer, notification, tweet, blog post, magazine ad, etc. that offers a webinar, class, conference, getaway or service that you cannot attend, drop in, frequent, or take advantage of due to time, money and practically leaves you with that regrettable notion that you’re missing something important.

7. Every fantastic novel you’ve read since you’ve started your own has made you want rip out the pages, pour water on the Kindle, and throw them both in a fire pit; because, daaamn, this author is SO much better than you are!

6. Laundry, food shopping, house cleaning, wedding planning, tooth brushing, eyebrow plucking, nail clipping–just about everything other than writing–feels like a GIGANTIC waste of time.*

5. Everyday you kick yourself for not beginning your project sooner–like when you were 12.

4. What to do first? Research publications? Network? Blog? Tweet? Read? Write? Drink?

3. On a daily basis, you: curse out the world, for moving too fast; yourself, for getting to old; your friends, for using one of your perfectly good, full-of-spare-writing-hours weekends to whisk you away to Atlantic City; your cat, for sticking her butt in your face as you try to write.

2. You’ve realized by now that in this creative pursuit, there are no patterns, no formulas, no quick tickets to success; in fact, the only thing you can really count on is sheer persistence.

And on that note…

1. No matter what stage of the game you’re at, you’re going to keep doing it, because frankly, it’s who you are.

*This does not include new episodes of Mad Men.

 

 

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Filed under The Writing Life, Top Ten Lists, Writing Fears

Ideas for Writing: Five plot-centered prompts to get started!

Be kind, please. I’ve never actually done something like this before. Well, OK, that’s not 100% accurate. Once in a grad class, a professor asked us each to create our own writing prompts. Then he read them (anonymously, thank goodness) out loud and we all picked one for a free writing exercise. He didn’t withhold his opinions, however, on which prompts were worthy and which ones were crappy. I remember when he read mine, he raised his eyebrows and blinked three times in row, a facial expression that could only be construed as: Whoa, this one’s out there. I still believe very much in my prompt! In fact, I included it below–see if you can figure out which one received the ‘look.’

Anyhow, these are some original writing prompt ideas. In this segment, they relate to the plot points of a novel, story, poem, etc. If you’ve seen any of them before, it’s pure coincidence. As far as I’m concerned, they all come from my intrinsic writing brain:

1. A woman is standing at her kitchen sink washing dishes, when she notices, from out the window, a solitary, red (or any color, really) balloon floating in the vast sky. This reminds her of a significant childhood experience. Write about it.  OR A solitary, red balloon is floating in the vast sky. Tell the story of how it got there.

2. Four teenage friends are trying to get into (any concert) back in (any year). Write about their adventure.
For example, it’s 1978, and four high school sophomores from New Jersey are just dying to get access into CBGB’s. How does the night unravel? This may or may not require some research.

3. An old man from the World War II era is taking a long train ride to visit his grandson. When a  strange woman takes a seat across the aisle from him, he is suddenly taken by a distant memory–the day he lost his virginity to a prostitute while in the service. This also may require research.

4. A little boy (or girl) gets separated from his mother at a carnival, and witnesses something that terrifies him. Tell the story from the child’s point-of-view.

5.  A young man sees a young woman in a movie theater, and swears he knows her from someplace. He barely watches the film, because he is trying in vain to figure out why she seems so familiar. After the credits, he follows her outside and approaches her. Who is she? What happens?

This is a fun exercise because it not only gives my readers potential ideas, but it gives me ideas too. Any of these prompts can twist and turn in directions a writer never expected. That’s really the beauty of it all, isn’t it?

Anyone else want to contribute? Pen your own writing prompt below!

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Filed under Characters, Inspiration, Plot & Structure, Prompts & Writing Ideas, The Setting, The Writing Life, Top Ten Lists, Writing Tips

Have you ‘scene’ it?

“If I’m at a dull party I’ll invent some kind of game for myself and then pick someone to play it with so that I am, in effect, writing a scene. I’m supplying my half of the dialogue and hoping the other half comes up to standards. If it doesn’t, I try to direct it that way.”
—Evan Hunter

I think as an intrinsic writer, I’m often looking for scenes. Let me explain: I often examine my surroundings looking for a story to tell. Generally though, a given situation will only supply a scene. A story is more involved; for example, stories involve finely-tuned characters with flaws and backgrounds, and well-structured plot that weaves, riffs, and undulates until all the loose ends are connected, until all the kinks are unwoven.

Scenes, on the other hand, can happen anytime, anyplace. So can ‘concepts,’ or ‘themes,’ if you will. I attended a wake tonight. The deceased was the elderly mother of a cousin. I scanned over the old black and white family photographs glued to the poster board, and reveled a little in her ‘golden era’ shots and poses. Bobbed hair, church hat, porcelain visage, simultaneously carefree and classy. From here a ‘concept’ developed: ten to fifteen years from now, these types of snapshots won’t be occupying the empty spaces of funeral homes. The youthful pictures will depict long hair, sideburns, and bell bottoms. Abracadabra. A theme is born.

This is how I think these days. This notion–however fleeting–could find itself in the pages of my novel one day. I didn’t always know it, or at least I couldn’t always put into words, but I’ve always, without a doubt, for most of my life, been creating scenes. Is that what makes me an intrinsic writer?

I became aware of it in my early twenties. Oddly, at bars. Who’d of thought? While most kids my age were focusing on getting drunk and hooking up, I’d plant myself at a bar stool and observe. I’d look around for a scene to create. For a lifelike moment to imitate in my stories. I’d give strangers identities, and I’d do gut checks…how are you feeling, Katie? Here you are alive in this moment. What do you got? What can you carry forth? I labeled myself a ‘philosophical partier.’

I guess in order to write, one must look to write. It’s a sacrifice in a way. To live on the outer most circle. But to us intrinsic types, it’s not just worth it, it’s second nature.

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Filed under Breaking Through, Description, Inspiration, Prompts & Writing Ideas, The Writing Life, Top Ten Lists, Writing Details, Writing Process, Writing Tips