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.
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?
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.
It was a great week at WIFYR. Here are a few highlights.
Alyson Heller from Aladdin Books, an imprint at Simon and Schuster answers questions in the morning class taught by J. Scott Savage. I hear they had some “Savage Reviews” in that class.
Agent Steven Fraser charmed us all as he shared many insights on the publishing industry. He said in one morning workshop, “I can’t wait to get up [in the morning] and sell a book and get it into the hands of a child somewhere.”
And the lovely Ammi-Joan Paquette, our other agent, also shared precious tidbits of wisdom. She said, “Your best strength is going to be to tell the story only you can tell.”
Some conference attendees who wanted more time to critique and improve their craft participated in the Brown Bag Critique at lunchtime.
What was your favorite part of the conference?
Don’t forget to enter your first two pages for a chance to have Cheri Earl read and critique your first page in her afternoon lecture. It’s an opportunity to be recognized, something akin to being discovered from the slush pile (albeit a smaller one).
For each “Cold, Hard Readings” breakout session, Cheri will choose up to five, first-two novel pages written by conference participants (chosen randomly and in advance) and critique/discuss-in front of the group-the detailed strengths and weaknesses of each. The experience in Cheri’s breakout session will be something like coming out of a public bathroom with your dress tucked up into your nylons. . .lots of fun. A group discussion will follow the critiques.
Entries are to be submitted to Amy White’s at firstname.lastname@example.org by June 14th at the latest.
I discovered a fabulous mix of reality and fantasy in Ammi-Joan Paquette’s Tiptoe Guides. The photography and illustrations combine to create a child’s adventure exploring what might be hiding in the water or flowers they see around them.
The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids leads the reader along the shore, allowing them to discover tide pools where baby mermaids love to splash and treasures that might catch a mermaid’s attention. The reader follows the mermaids as they feast, chase dolphins and play hide-and-seek in the coral reef with their seahorse buddies. A glimpse of the fantasy world of a mermaid in the real places we see along the shore make this a book young readers will choose more than once.
The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies is a similar adventure as the reader looks for clues in everyday places where fairies might be. In the tulips, under the waterfall and blossoms on a tree are all places where the reader may find some fairy magic. Bareback chipmunk riding and hide-and-seek provide some fairy entertainment.
Both books are a beautiful look from our world into a fantasy world that will attract young, adventurous readers.
Ammi-Joan is multi-talented. Not only is she the author of these and other books, but she is also a literary agent. We are excited to welcome her as an agent working with the conference next week.