SECRETS & LIES – Daily Writing

If you are writing fiction and you want to spark a two-character scene and/or a short story, endow one character with a secret and the other with a lie. Now let them interact without either one revealing the truth. Too lazy or virtuous to come up with something juicy? Visit the Post Secret website for inspiration. It’s one of my favorite “writerly” sites online.

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DREAMING CHARACTER–A FICTION EXERCISE

I’ve been cooped in at home all week with a sick child. Today, Pearl is on the mend and I had the chance to hop on my trail bike and take the dogs out for a ride. When I haven’t been on the trail for awhile, I’m always amazed how the New Mexico sky and landscape ground me, and how bike riding fires up my imagination. Along the way, I came up with a writing exercise. If you feel so inspired, try it and let me know what happens. 1) Invent a new character or choose one you’re already working with. Let …

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THE RANT!!!

When was the last time you had a really truly terrible sucky day? One of those worst days, when everything went wrong and you felt defensive and angry and backed into a corner? Maybe you really were backed into a corner–by your best friend or by the driver who cut you off in the parking lot and then waved a single digit your way. Maybe the bad stuff lasted a few hours or a few minutes; either way, by the end you were ready to blow your stack and rant! I’ve had my share of bad streaks and the rants …

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FICTION QUICKIE

You have a photo album, right? Those faded snapshots from childhood, the bad-hair-day graduation pic, the formal wedding portrait…and the next wedding shot from the chapel in Vegas? Or maybe you don’t keep any photos but your mom has scads. Or yours are on MySpace or Facebook. Or your ex posted a few on the net. Or (even more interesting) you’ve destroyed every likeness of yourself.  Your fictional characters have their own “Kodak moments”. Take ten minutes and daydream about one of your characters and those celluloid and digital snapshots of her life. Discover one that she keeps hidden. Picture …

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THE GIFT OF TIME

Last week, busy with life and various editorial projects, I found myself feeling out of touch with my novel. My writer friend Dianne reminded me of something important that I had momentarily forgotten. “Give yourself dream time and mornings,” she said. “Let the book be with you when you are drifting off to sleep, and use those first minutes of the day for writing your pages.” I took her wise advice and the reconnection to my characters and their story was immediate, vivid, and visceral. When you give yourself the gift of time, choose those golden “windows” that are your …

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TEN THINGS I’D DIE FOR

When I asked Stephanie, a writer friend, to list ten things she would die for, her initial response was that she could handle it in one of two ways: “the mushy stuff you could get serious about such as dying for family. But I thought to myself that would never happen so I took the other approach…somewhat self-centered and fun and it has some mushy stuff but not much.”  The list is reprinted (fresh and wild) with her permission. *  A life size replica of Shaquille O’Neal as a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup *  The ability to fly *  A …

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Quote of the Day: “Lower Your Standards”

My friend Marty G., a professional writer and editor, who has been at it for thirty-plus years, does not believe in writer’s block. When a writer complains she can’t make progress on the first draft of her book, Marty advises, “Lower your standards.” When it comes to the craft of writing, Marty is an advocate for excellence, but he also knows the difference between writing a first draft and a third draft. First, get the words on the page; second, make it better; third, make it zing!

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LOOSEN UP WITH SLAP, BAM, MUZZY, GLOVES…

In the 1970s, poet Kenneth Koch inspired school children in Manhattan to create verse freely and joyfully. To help them associate words and sounds he began with an onomatopoetic word–buzz–and asked them to come up with words that sounded like it–fuzz, fuzzy, muzzy, does, gloves, cousin. He also made noise! He smacked a chair with a ruler and asked them to put the sound into words–hit, tap, smack. He had them close their eyes and listen again and decide what word best recreated the sound. Whack! Snap! Cat!  Koch encouraged them to hear the most accurate word regardless of its meaning. Pap! …

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UNCOMMON SENSE: Concrete, Significant, Dynamic Details

Vivid writing engages all the senses. But a writer doesn’t slather cobalt blue and Prussian blue and titanium white onto the page to paint the sky as it darkens before a rain. She can’t reach for her trumpet and belt a B-flat to herald the end of an act. He rarely has the opportunity to slide a sliver of dark chocolate laced with habanero chile between his readers’ lips. And when was the last time a book reached out with a feather and tickled that spot at the base of your neck?  Writers use words to awaken and engage a reader’s …

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The Wild Freedom of 100 Lines

My writing friend in Mexico introduced me months ago to author CM Mayo’s generous web offering: 365 five-minute writing exercises. Somewhere among those exercises is one that suggests writing 100 lines about a story, scene, idea. I don’t remember the exact details of her exercise, but I am completely addicted to the flexibility it has inspired, and I use it all the time. These days, when I’m diving into a new scene, I begin with 100 lines of free association. These free me of fear and lead me to infinite discoveries, including: dialogue, emotionally evocative sensory details, physical descriptions, various …

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