Random Exercise # 23

Use these three words in a short story: point, rattlesnake, lifeboat. 

What You Need Most

It is tough being a writer.  Rejection is unavoidable and there are so many opportunities to lose faith in yourself, to lose your way. 

But you musn't. 

Which is why I think what you need most as a writer is to believe in yourself.  You need plenty of other stuff too, but without believing in yourself and your writing, it will be tough to keep going. 

And you must keep going.

So, how do you develop the kind of self-confidence and belief in your work that will keep you going no matter what?  Well, I think you always have to work to your own highest level.  Always do your best, in other words.  You might be able to trick the rest of the world, but you'll never fool yourself.  Only you know if you've given it your all at your desk. 

And always give it your all. 

My advice: if you know you've got one more draft in you, write it.  If there is a sentence that is sloppy - keep at it until it's smooth.  Don't fall into that trap of thinking no one will notice.  In my experience someone always does.

One more thing: don't compare your writing to anyone else's.  Run your own race.  Do the best you can.  Admire other writers, learn from them, allow them to inspire you, not discourage you.  And if you continue to write as best you can then someday, somewhere, someone will wish they could write as good as you.

Week 77

As soon as June recognized the voice on the telephone she felt a tingling in her belly.

Secret Diary Writing Exercise # 9

Pretend you are God, or whatever your version of god is, and write an entry in their diary.  Are things going disastrously wrong, or are things going according to plan?  Is there even a plan? 

(This exercise is not in meant in any way to be blasphemous.  It is intended to lift you up and broaden your perspective.  Being a writer is a bit like being a camera operator on a movie set.  Sometimes you need to come in for a close up and sometimes you need to pan back to see as much as you can.) 

If I Build it Will They Come?

Everyone tells me that since I now have a book published I must have an author's website.  To this end I very earnestly bought a copy of "Do It Yourself Websites for Dummies".  Seriously, I did.  Me, who pretty much has her computer skills maxed out just putting together this Blogger post.  My Dummies guide was set aside after a few chapters.  As I told a friend, "I need a Dummies guide to understand my Websites for Dummies Guide." 

I then discovered there are places on the web that promise you can build your own website using their templates and graphics even if you a computer spaz like me.  Except they didn't use the word spaz.  I was very excited by this, I have say, but then some friends implied if I went that route I would create an amateurish, tacky-looking website. 

The obvious solution, of course, is to just hire someone to build me a website, right? But I looked into what that would cost me and all I'll say is I'm hoping in my next lifetime I'm a web designer and not a writer.  I even came across a site that only builds websites for authors.  They charge three thousand dollars.  This infuriated me so much I will not mention their name.  Most first-time novelists will not even make that much money in royalties.  But every first-time novelist will be pressured to build a website.

Yesterday it occurred to me that the only time I have ever gone to an author's website is to research what they looked like before I built my own.  After giving it a bit of thought I realized that I am more interested in the actual book than the author.  Which means when I hear about a book that interests me I usually go to Amazon, read the jacket description, flip through the book if I can, and read any reviews that are there.  I may not buy the book there...

So, do I go the amateurish, tacky route?  It's affordable and will get me a website.  Or do I wait until I have the money to hire a proper web designer?  Which may never happen.  Or do I scrap the whole idea and forget about having a website all together?  And just start selling myself as the new J. D. Salinger.

Week 76

John stared down at the crumpled note that read, "Unzip Rumble Fish" trying to work out what it could possibly mean. 

What's in a Name? (and a Writing Adventure Exercise)

Everything, or least to me.  I spend a lot of time finding just the right name for the characters in my stories.  The wonderful thing about naming a character, as opposed to naming a baby, is you know the character's personality before settling on a name so you're able to pick one that perfectly sums up the character for a perceptive reader.  The right name can be a clue, or a hidden joke.

I even collect names.  I have a journal devoted to names that I find and like.  In it are first names, last names, full names, names from different eras because names go in and out of fashion.  Don't believe me?  Give it fifty years and Brittany will seem as outdated then as Gertrude does to our ears.  I find names just about everywhere.  While reading (history books are especially good hunting grounds), in those baby books filled with lists of names, phone books, graveyards, even the waiting room at the doctor's has given me some treasures. 

Try keeping lists of interesting names for yourself, if you don't already.  Sometimes just a name can be so inspiring a character will grow out of it.  If you'd like, you can turn this into a Writing Adventure Exercise.   A great place to visit is city archives, or a small local museum - any place where you will find plenty of photos of people from long ago.  Read the names of the strangers in those old black and white pictures and I guarantee you will find something to inspire you.  Before you know it you will have a list of fantastic names and from them characters will come alive in your imagination. 


"Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead."

~ Gene Fowler

Confessions from the Desk

For some girls it's shoes - for me it is journals and sketchbooks.  I just can't get enough of them.  Especially if they are Moleskines!  I enjoy buying them so much they tend to pile up, their pages blank and waiting.  So I am always excited when I think up a new use for a journal (plus it gives me another reason to buy more - it's a vicious circle, I know, I know). 

Today I was sitting at my desk working on my new novel.  One of the problems of writing a novel I discovered the last time around was there is so much to remember: the names of all the characters, their ages, what season it is, what year, character's professions, the names of streets characters live on, the places they go, research notes and sources - the list goes on and on.  As I was jotting down yet another post it note to myself I happened to glance up and see a small blank journal languishing on my bookshelf.  Aha!  So this time around I am going to write all the stuff I need to remember in a small black sketchbook.  I am still working out how to organize the material but I think page one will be devoted to title ideas.  Because I don't anyone will be interested in reading a book called, "novel #2".

Week 75

George's excitement began to fade when he thought about what his friends were going to say when they found out. 

Random Exercise # 22

This exercise is really Part Two of exercise # 21.  Hopefully you have spent some time thinking and writing about how a stranger sees you and you've gone beyond the physical.  You have written about how your posture conveys your mood (you know you walk differently when you are happy then when you are sad, etc).  You have discovered that carrying a notebook and pen creates a different impression than carrying a laptop.  And because I asked you to be kind, hopefully you did not write about your fat thighs (which do not exist!) but instead noted how patient you were while waiting in line behind an old woman who simply could not decide between a slice of banana bread or a blueberry muffin. 

Now that you have learned all that because you hoped someone would notice it about you, go out and describe some people that you see.  Go beyond their mousy brown hair, crooked teeth and glasses.  Who are they?  Are they having a good day?  Are they shy with people, but love animals?  What does the book they are carrying say about them?  Try to give them the depth you hoped someone else spotted in you.

Random Exercise # 21

This exercise is intended to strengthen your powers of description, but I'll warn you, this one might be a wee bit hard.  I want to you to pretend to be a writer sitting in a coffee shop and who should walk through the door?  But you, of course! Describe yourself as a stranger sees you.  (Be kind!) 

And remember to not just focus on a physical description - how you dress, how you move, what sort of things you carry with you, all contribute to the overall impression you make.  You are far more than just a height, weight and hair colour.  And this writer that is watching you has above average powers of observation - what do they see?