Random Exercise

This is more of a fun word game than a writing exercise, but sometimes it is good to wake up your brain and just be silly with words.

Grab a dictionary and find a word that you don't know the meaning of. When you find one - do not look at the meaning! Jot down the word on a piece of paper and make up your own meaning for it. Then search for another word. Keep going and let yourself get more and more outrageous. Maybe when you have a list of silly words you'll be inspired to write a nonsensical poem.

(*When you are finished you may want to look up the actual meanings of the words. Did you have any of them right? Close? I hope not!)

Musings from the Desk

Don't you love when inspiration hits? The muse, she kissed me this morning. There I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when a short story unfolded itself in my mind complete with a title (I am terrible with titles!). Then the narrator of this story started whispering in my ear and I tell ya, I started spitting out toothpaste in the rush to get to my desk. Of course, everything that seemed so easy and brilliant in front of the bathroom mirror turned out to be much harder when I actually tried to squeeze those words out of me at my desk, but things went pretty well and I'm hoping this one fulfills its early promise and actually develops into a short story.

My second novel is coming along well. I work on that every weekday morning. But I love it when someone totally new and unexpected arrives in my imagination, fullblown and ready to make a debut on the page like today. That's what keeps me writing.

(And you thought it was the fabulous wealth and super-stardom, didn't you?)

Dialogue Exercise

Work this line of dialogue into a short story. It can be at the beginning, in the middle or even the last line of your story. Have fun!

"He had a great time, it was me who hated it."

Ask an Author

Mostly I write this blog to try and inspire others to write. But I would also like to provide you with the sort of information you need to be successful. So, if you have a burning question about the writing process or the publishing business, leave me a comment or send me an email at: reallyratherbereading(at)gmail.com and I'll do my best to answer it.

(And don't worry about whether it is a 'stupid' question or not. I happen to believe there are no stupid questions. I spent ten years asking every writer I met every question I could think of, stupid or otherwise, and I got my novel published!)

Musings from the Desk

There are days when I just don't understand the publishing world.

When my novel, The Last River Child, came out I was surprised by how much I was expected to promote the book myself. I was completely unprepared and found myself on a quick, steep learning curve to finding ways to get the book reviewed and myself interviewed. I was so grateful to everyone who helped me along the way and gave my book a mention.

When things settled down with promoting Last River Child I decided to use this blog to help other writers by adding author interviews and the occasional book review. I decided to focus on two areas that I thought would be of interest to you, my readers: books about writing and the creative process (Laraine Herring, author of "The Writing Warrior" and "Writing Begins with the Breath" was our first guest) and also first time authors from small presses (Erika Dreifus, author of the short story collection, "The Quiet Americans" kicked off that series).

And so I have been contacting authors when I have the time to try and arrange reviews/interviews. So far all of the authors have responded enthusiastically and it has been fun for me to 'meet' new writers. But today I learned one of the publishers was not willing to send me a review copy until they knew how much traffic my blog received. I have sent them the numbers and now am waiting and see if they deem this blog worth whatever the postage will cost them to send me a book. All day this has been making me feel sad and weird. It is so tough to get a book written, and it is so tough to get a book published, and it is so tough to get a book some press. I thought it would be easier to help other writers with their books but today it felt like it was even tough to do that! I'm probably just tired and having a bad day but that's how things felt at the desk today.

(As for this writer, don't worry. I am looking forward to having them as a guest on First Lines and they will make an appearance here, whatever their publisher decides.)

Writing Adventure

The weather is getting a wee bit warmer here so I am itching to get outside for a writing adventure.

Find yourself a spot outside where you can sit comfortably for a few minutes. Take a look around. Then open your notebook. (I know that you faithfully carry a notebook with you everywhere because you are a WRITER.) In your notebook describe your surroundings. When you are finished, close your eyes and sit for a few minutes absorbing your surroundings again. What new things did you notice? How did having your eyes closed change the place for you? Open your eyes and describe the place a second time in your notebook.

Week #124

Leo wondered if anyone told the truth about anything anymore.


"Everyone is talented, original and has something important to say."

~Brenda Ueland

Timed Fiction Exercise

It was Natalie Goldberg who got us all doing timed writing exercises. Lately I've been thinking about using the same techniques to write fiction. Why not? So many times we sit staring at that white page in front of us, or at the cursor on our computer blinking away up there in the top left-hand corner of our screen, unable to put down a single word, feeling that anything we think up isn't good enough. This exercise is intended to smash through that resistance. Forget about plotting your story before you begin it, forget even who the characters are. Just dive in and see what emerges. (My favourite times at the desk are always when something unexpected happens in a piece that I am working on.)

How this works: Decide how long you want to write for. It can be ten minutes, twenty minutes or an hour. Then grab one of the sentences below (or use your own first sentence) and begin. The only rule is you must keep writing. You are not allowed to stop and think about what the next sentence will be. You must keep your hand moving! Don't think! Don't plan! Just write, not knowing what is going to happen next. Trust your creativity! Trust yourself!

The sentences:

Justin been afraid of clowns ever since his sixth birthday party.

I usually never remember my dreams, but last night's was so vivid, so real.

Lucy stared into the chicken coop and wondered what had ever possessed her to become a farmer's wife and move to this wretched place.

Random Exercise

Use these three words in a short story:
chocolate, camel, vibrate

Mary Oliver interview!

Okay, I know that this blog is about fiction, and it isn't the place to talk about poetry, but for my favourite poet, Mary Oliver, I'm going to make an exception. Mary Oliver almost never gives interview but she did this month in the new issue of O magazine. Click here to read the interview. (It's really great!)

Week #123

Dora watches from behind the lace curtain of the second storey window as the police knock on her neighbour's door.

Random Exercise

Look around you. Don't think. Find three things that are green. Use those three items in a short story.

(They don't have to be those three specific things. If one of your items is a half-dead houseplant that you feel really sad about, feel free to change it into a thriving, carnivorous jungle plant in your short story.)


"Every artist was first an amateur."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Theme Exercise #6

Remember how this one works? I give you a theme and you are immediately driven into a creative frenzy and produce a piece of fiction that brings you joy and fame and riches and is made into a movie, and, yes, you write the screenplay for it and finally get to make that Oscar speech you have been practicing in your bedroom for years.

So, what are you waiting for?

The theme is:

Week #122

The helicopter was so close Holly could feel the thump of its blades inside her chest.

For all you Elvis fans...

A new short story of mine has just been published in "Lies with Occasional Truths" magazine. It is called, "Thank You Elvis" and is about a Lisa Marie Presley impersonator. And yes, Elvis is in it. You can read it here.