by Michelle Hubbard
For those of you who don’t follow the blog, “Throwing Up Words,” there was a writing exercise Carol Lynch Williams posted a few months ago that was instrumental in fleshing out my middle-grade novel.
It was simple: write fifty things that could happen in your novel.
My writing group and I wrote on the back of our Zupas menus, a flurry of ideas tumbling out into a scrawl, as fast as we could go.
I kept three of mine. Three out of fifty may not seem like much, but it was three more than I had before.
I recommend number one be, “My main character dies.” Just to get you started. Be outlandish. Put down plenty of what you never would use, because it might lead you in a right direction even if you don’t use the original idea.
When you write down what you would not do, sometimes the unconsidered becomes considerable.
“The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.” John Steinbeck
“Sometimes when I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe. ”
Today, think for fifteen minutes before you write. Just sit in your writing chair and think about all the possibilities your book has. Be like Truman Capote and ‘hardly breathe’ at the thought of what your novel could be.
Holidays bring up all sorts of emotions for people. This Thanksgiving, consider writing memories from past years. Brainstorming events that created deep feelings can lead to big story ideas.
Don’t neglect the small remembrances. You know how unique details stick in your brain? Specifics add life and longevity to your manuscript. For Thanksgiving, my aunt always made Frog-Eye Salad. The name alone is memorable. Can’t you just see the little frog eyes? What Frog-Eye Salad type details can you remember?
Photo Courtesy Bing Images
We’re almost at the end of the month. How are you doing on your goals? Even if you made a huge to-do list or word count that now seems more daunting than defrosting a 20 lb. turkey in half an hour, don’t give up. Take some time during this holiday weekend, perhaps when everyone else is recuperating in front of a football game. Give your writing some TLC as well, even if you write for 15 minutes each day. Or, if that’s not possible, take a good break and make some new,
Maybe January is your writing marathon month. Maybe you’ll ring in the new year with a 5,000 word night or a newly-edited manuscript. The choice to write is yours. The benefits, if you do make time to be true to your personal goals, will be yours as well.
William Faulkner said, ” Don’t be ‘a writer’. Be writing.”
He also said, ” In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
He’s right. But you can do that in December. Now? Write, write, write!
“Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.” John Steinbeck.
Feeling a little like a clown? Are you writing every day? Reaching your goal? What would John think?
You’ve been writing for eighteen days now. How is your word count? Are you keeping up? If your stamina is waning, maybe it’s time for some fresh perspective.
I went hiking recently. As I picked my way down the trail, sliding on wet rocks, using branches and tree trunks to lower myself past giant steps of rock, I thought about my book characters. They’re presently being pursued through desert hills. Yet while my main character and his friend have obstacles, I realized a more realistic setting could give them additional organic challenges. They can’t just walk along a smooth slope. They should be scaling rocks above uneven ground, sliding down steep grades while clinging to tree roots. And it rained in my last scene. Where are the slick stones and muddy trail?
Getting out on that trail gave me a completely different way to look at my manuscript, somewhat akin to the Coke bottle story: a teacher challenged his class to draw a glass Coke bottle. Most drew variations on the bottle’s unique curved shape. But one student’s sketch made everyone wonder. He sketched one large circle with a smaller one inside it. His angle? Looking straight down.
If you’re struggling with where to go in your story, ask yourself: How can I look at this problem, plot, or character from a completely different angle?
You don’t have to take a long hike over muddy ground. A simple walk, a trip to someplace you’ve never been, or even some internet research could help you discover the perspective to keep your writing moving forward at an inspired NaNo pace.
Been struggling with your writing goals?
Writing prompts can help trigger your thought and get you writing again when you are stuck. They can give you a new situation to put your character in or add fresh direction to the plot. Here are a few writing prompts to help you finish the month strong.
- Add this to a scene: a huge fire,
- Add an explosion somewhere in the scene. And remember–an explosion doesn’t have to be what you think at first. It might be something a little different.
- Use these words in your writing: crazy, half-baked, sympathy, score, jump, insinuate, love.
- Let something terrifically good happen for your character as you write.
- Have your character meet someone new.
- Use something from the news in your writing.
- What is the worst thing that could happen to your character? Let it happen.
- One good kiss scene, that’s all we ask. Write it out. Have fun.
Have fun with the writing prompts.