Writing Adventure # 12

Sometimes you just get stuck. The ideas, for whatever reason, stop flowing. Your inspiration gauge is on empty. When that happens it is time to take an inspiration walk!

Inspiration walks are great because there's no pressure, no way to do them wrong and somehow they always manage to surprise you. Here's what you do: get outside and get moving. You can take the same old walk you take every day or you can go somewhere completely new. It doesn't matter. The only important thing is to leave everything you are worrying about at home! The worries cannot come with you. Then walk. Don't think. Just pay attention to your surroundings. And when you notice something interesting (it doesn't matter how crazy or insignificant it is) jot it down on a piece of paper or in a notebook. Once you jot it down, forget about it and keep walking. By the end of your walk you should have an interesting list of items. It may read like this:

- girl in red beret
- squirrel with no tail
- graffiti that reads "if the shoe fits, buy the other one"
- a falling leaf
- mean-looking old woman squatting on a bench

There will probably be a few items on that list that rub up against each other and spark an idea. And then you'll be writing again!


"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle."

~ Albert Einstein

Week 99

The summer I was sixteen two things happened: my mother died and the carnival came to town.

Book Review: Creating Short Fiction

I already briefly mentioned Damon Knight's "Creating Short Fiction" in an earlier post while I was still reading it and said that I liked it. Well, I finished it and I like it a lot. This is an incredibly useful book on crafting short fiction. I think there is plenty in here for both the novice writer and the been-around-the-desk-a-few-times writer. There is a wonderful section explaining various different viewpoints and the advantages and disadvantages of each (that section alone may be worth the price of the book if you are particularly puzzled or interested in whether to go with a limited omniscient viewpoint, a detached viewpoint or a multiple-character viewpoint). There is also a great section on developing characters and good advice on what to do if your plot fizzles out.

This book does a great job of leading you from initial idea to finished story without being boring along the way. Also included are examples and exercises. I'm glad I read it.

Writing Adventure #11

Go to your favourite people watching place. It could be a park, coffee shop, the mall, train station - wherever. When you see someone interesting write a three sentence bio for them. Get creative! Here are a couple examples:

Steve is an ex-firefighter. He enjoys playing Scrabble and grooming poodles. Secretly he wishes he could do the tango.

Marcia loves cowboys and lemon meringue pie. In grade school she won a spelling bee contest. She has never learned how to walk in high heels.

Week 98

Tyler stepped out into the Las Vegas sunshine thinking that had been easier than he had expected.

Random Exercise #33

I've been doing this for a couple of weeks now and I hesitate to throw this one out to you because it won't lead to you writing fiction (I don't think?). But it is turning out to be so much fun I decided to let you in on my new secret writing joy.

Confession: I'm not much of a journal writer. I go through fits and spurts with it. But I like the idea of having some sort of record of my life to look back on one day. So I started trying to sum of my day in one sentence. I figured one sentence was manageable. At first they were long and crazy. Things like: I went to visit my Mum today and when I stood up from her sofa my jeans were so covered in cat hair they looked like they were made of fun fur, not denim, and when I couldn't scrape it all off with her lint brush she accused me of not knowing how to work it properly and I said "Mum, if I figure out how to write a book I think I can figure out how to work a lint brush" but she looked doubtful and I felt like I was going to explode.

But now they are getting all Zen-like and poetic. I say things like: The sunset breeze calmed me into pink happiness. (Well, actually I made that one up - but that could be today's).

Anyway, if this appeals to you, I invite you to try it. It's fun!

Confessions from the Desk

I just received the good news that a short story of mine is being published in the Fall 2010 issue of the New Plains Review! This acceptance letter came at a good time for me. My confidence, which even on a good day hovers around ankle-height, has lately dropped even lower. So it felt good to have a story accepted. It renews my energy for the grant application I am working on and makes me want to get back to work on those two short stories that are being stubborn about being written. And, of course, it helps keeps me going while I write novel #2.

I always thought having a novel published would bring me to a place of more confidence about my writing. I guess not, huh? It turns out these things really are more about the internal than the external.

Week 97

Gus was in his car, paused at a red light, when he saw his neighbour hobble out of the Pink Palace beauty parlour in tears.

Confessions from the Desk

Sorry for the lack of posts and new exercises lately. I'm up to my neck in work at the moment. The most pressing being a grant application that I am working on. Remember those two short stories that have been giving me grief lately? Well, I got a copy of Damon Knight's "Creating Short Fiction" and have been reading that. It is great (expect a proper review when I finish reading it) and has been giving me so many things to think about that I've actually gone back to the short story I wrote last winter and am now rewriting it! I confess I am getting a bit worried about this new trend of mine to spiral backwards through my work and rewrite it. I mean, how far is this going to go - will I start rewriting stories I wrote (and published) ten years ago? Somebody stop me if I try. The plan is to rewrite this story and submit it along with my grant application and then return to the two stories that I've been working on throughout this summer. That's the plan, anyway. We'll see how it works out.