Have you ever noticed?

Have you ever noticed that some writers have pretty strong opinions about using a thesaurus? Like it is cheating in some way. I thought of it just now because I'm revising a short story and reached for my thesaurus. I needed another word for "dejected". As a writer, I figure I'll use any tool on offer. It seems crazy not to. Writing is hard enough without me sitting here banging my head off the desk wasting an hour trying to think up another word for dejected when I can just quickly flip open a book and find a dozen options. So there's my two cents worth on thesaurus use. What do you think? Is it cheating?

(I went with "broken-hearted", in case you are wondering, but I might change it again. You know how it is with revising.)

Random Writing Exercise # 16

Write a short story that includes these three words: windmill, mongoose, sing.

Week 65

It was the first vacation Stan and Laverne had taken in seventeen years and it had not gotten off to a good start.


"I have often rewritten - often several times - every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers."

~ Vladimir Nabokov

(I hear you, Vladimir.)

Help for Haiti

If you would like to send aid to Haiti but are unsure of how to do that, or what agency you would like to contribute to then my friend and fellow writer, Sam of the Beginner's Mind blog, can help. He has been busy compiling a list of worthy and reputable agencies. Click here with an open heart. Thank you, Sam!

Week 64

Ted had been digging for most of the afternoon and as he slowly stood up, carefully straightening his aching spine, he was dismayed to see the hole was only chest deep.

Musings from the Desk

There has been such a wonderful outpouring of help and concern for the people of Haiti. But in such times it is easy to feel that as fiction writers we cannot help. And perhaps we can't directly. But lets widen our scope for a moment, let's not think only of Haiti, but let's think of all beings in the world, of all those suffering, whether through a natural disaster, famine, loss of a job or loneliness. Can we as fiction writers do anything to help alleviate this suffering? I believe we can.

You may have noticed that many of my writing exercises focus on getting in the skin of a character. And that's exactly what I want you to do as fiction writers - invest yourself completely in the heart and soul of the character you are writing about. Become the character. Because an interesting thing happens when you do. Not only does your fiction get better because your characters become more fully developed and therefore real to the reader, but you become a better person because you begin to develop empathy.

Empathy: the power of identifying oneself mentally with (and so fully comprehending) a person or object.

When you are empathetic you care about your fellow humans, you care about this miraculous planet we find ourselves sharing. And when you care, your readers begin to care as well. Through your words they may begin to think about people or a situation from a perspective they never had before. Things they may never have considered previously, they may now begin to care about. And all because of your writing. So as fiction writers we do have the opportunity to have a positive impact on the world, and perhaps, to even change it for the better.

Writing Adventure # 5

It's been awhile since we did a writing adventure exercise her at First Line. Even though it is winter in my part of the world, which means I use any excuse to avoid leaving the house, I think it is good for the creative soul to get away from the desk sometimes. So grab your notebook (or laptop) and lets go!

Go to a place of departures - and no, I don't mean a funeral home. Go to a train station, an airport, a bus station, a subway platform, a taxi stand - you get the idea. A place where you can watch people leaving. Focus on someone who looks interesting. Where are they going? Are they looking forward to the trip? Dreading it? Who is meeting them? What are they expecting to happen when they arrive? Have they travelled to this place before? Write a short story.

Week 63

Edgar tugged the panama hat low over his forehead before stepping out the door.

Book Review - The Creative Habit by: Twyla Tharp

You might not think a writer could learn much from a choreographer, but if the choreographer was Twyla Tharp and it was her book, "The Creative Habit" we were talking about, then the writer could learn plenty. At least this writer did.

"The Creative Habit" is to creativity what a Lonely Planet guide is to a traveller. It is a guidebook, a friend on the road and helpful advice from someone who has trod the way before you. Twyla Tharp believes, as I do, that creativity is a language. That even though the final product may differ widely - it may be a painting, a novel or a dance - the process that guides the project from first spark of inspiration to completion is the same.

With interesting insights, great suggestions and unique exercises Tharp guides the reader through the various stages of creative development. From generating ideas, to what to do when these ideas stall, or go wrong, Tharp has been there herself and is brimming with practical tips and advice.

I admit to a passion for dance - my creative life began at the barre not at the desk - but I think there is something here for every creative person, no matter what their discipline. When I began reading "The Creative Habit" I was working on a short story that had ground itself to a halt. Using some of Tharp's exercises got my pen moving again. And that has to be the highest recommendation for a book about creativity.

Just Discovered

I just discovered this great site and wanted to tell you about it. It is called Inked-In. It is a community for writers, musicians and artists. That's about all I can tell you right now because I've just signed up and am still awaiting approval (fingers are crossed). But it looks like it's got loads of information and plenty of interesting people. If you're interested click here.

Week 62

Randy felt a prick of apprehension when he saw only one set of footprints emerging from the edge of the forest in the freshly fallen snow.

Random Writing Exercise #15

Grab a dictionary. Open it up to a random page and without looking point to a word. Do this two more times. Now use those three words in a short story.

(My three words are: presentation, Great White Way and tank.)