Friday, March 30, 2012


Here are some favorite quotes about writing.

"Sure, it's simple, writing for kids . . . Just as simple as bringing them up."
Ursula K. LeGuin

"You must write for children in the same way as you do for adults, only better."
Maxim Gorky

"Most new writers think it's easy to write for children, but it's not. You have to get in a beginning, middle and end, tell a great story, write well, not be condescending--all in a few pages."
Andrea Brown

"Easy-to-read is hard to write."
Pam Zollman

"Three Rules for Literary Success: 1. Read a lot. 2. Write a lot. 3. Read a lot more, write a lot more."
Robert Silverberg

"I have found that a story leaves a deeper impression when it is impossible to tell which side the author is on."
Leo Tolstoy

"Every writer I know has trouble writing."
Joseph Heller

And, just for Julie, who's struggling with this today:

"It is perfectly okay to write garbage--as long as you edit brilliantly."
C. J. Cherryh

"A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."
Thomas Mann

“The first draft of anything is $#!%.”
Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blogging from A to Z Challenge

Erin Shakespear
Erin Shakespear

Want to get your name out there?
Gain a following?
Wish you were a more dedicated blogger?
But maybe...
You have trouble figuring out what to blog about?
Is it hard to find time to do it everyday?
Need a fun blogging challenge to take part in?

A TO Z CHALLENGEAlrighty, then you should check out the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

This is a fun idea.

Not only can you sign up and join the blog hop (there are more than a thousand participants!) and find new readers and make new friends, you can also use the challenge as a method to become a better blogger, stretch those creative juices and come up with a slew of fun blog posts.

Who's with me? Hmmmmm?

I just signed up and I'm excited about what I have planned for the month.

Now, you might be thinking...."I do not have time to write 26 blog posts." or maybe something like..."Boy, this is a boring blog post." or perhaps even, "I wonder if that moldy potato salad is still in the back of my fridge?"

All of these are very important things to think about (except for the boring one. That's just plain rude). Especially that salad. How come you didn't finish it? I love potato salad.

Also, keep in mind, our posts don't have to be super long. Make them short and sweet! Do some author interviews, book reviews or share teasers from your WIP.

You can sign up for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge Here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rehabilitating the Reputation of the Middle

by Deren Hansen

I had a peculiar experience reading a well-promoted YA dystopian novel: I quite liked the middle but didn't care for either the beginning or the end.

Writers so often have trouble with the middle of the story that we call that set of problems, "the muddled middle." In general, the problem is that, with an intriguing beginning and a mind-blowing ending, the middle gets reduced to what you have to go through to get to the end.

Last week I discussed story maps as a way to navigate what Brunonia Barry calls "The Mess in the Middle." Then I came across Justine Musk's post about, "The secrets and revelations of a powerful middle act." Justine said,
An important part and purpose of a story’s middle act is revelation. The middle act, as Michael Halperin puts it, “is the central place where revelations, motivations, and confrontations take place – making the stories we create live and breathe.” Information rises from that secret underside to raise the stakes, deepen character, and shift the reader’s perceptions.

It also changes the course of the story. The protagonist is forced to deal with this new information and the impact it has on his life. He can no longer hide or deny. He is past the point of no return. But because of the necessary confrontations that result, his character transforms. He gains the wisdom he needs, the shift in perspective, to become a more complete individual — which allows him to defeat the antagonistic forces in a way he could not do at the beginning of the story.
Viewed in this light, the middle is more important than the beginning or the end because it is the place in the story where the transformation occurs that makes the ending possible.

One of the reasons writers have trouble with middles is because they confuse complications and revelations. Complications, often in the form of a string of problems, are like trying to fly into a busy airport where you spend more time either on the runway waiting to take off or in a holding pattern waiting to land than it takes to cover the distance to the destination. A revelation, to continue the travel analogy, is taking ground transport because you missed the flight, discovering you can get get to the destination more quickly, and then using that fact later to help defeat the antagonist.

I enjoyed the middle of the book I mentioned above because it was full of intriguing revelations (and I didn't enjoy the end because it made many of those revelations irrelevant).

Look at your middles. Don't bloat them with empty complication calories. Test each scene in the middle and ask, "does this scene reveal something the characters need to know or be by the end, or is it simply delaying the resolution?"

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Writing Truths from Reality

Another short post, I’ll not procrastinate the next one and hopefully get a long juicy one out :).

First of all I want to warn that in this post I am going to address some religious aspects. I promise that I do this from a writing perspective and don’t care what religion you are or how your beliefs conflict with mine; I just want to share some ‘ah-has’ that I’ve found when examining my own beliefs that have helped me wrap my head around certain writing aspects.

I don’t know much about very many religions but hopefully this basic christian belief can be molded to fit others; God created us and has given us all great potential and purposes. Well, we as writers (yes, imagine a moment theoretically that in our current state we’re comparable to God) create all these different characters and send them into our world with their different purposes, but usually these aren’t all good purposes. Of course, we have to keep control of our story and have conflict but I think that we should create all our characters with at least a potential for greatness; then it is when ‘their own choices’ kick in that they go in all their different directions.
Another cool aspect—of at least my religion—that I have related to writing is trials. I believe God knows us better than we know ourselves and gives us trials that will try us most and either make or break us in the path to meeting our potential. He helps weave all our personal stories together perfectly so that we meet who we need to meet for the best growth and we are tried in the best ways. Same should be done by us as writers, we have to throw the worst possible thing (though God may be a little nicer and more lenient) for our characters personally at them and then guide them through it how they choose. We also have to do a fair amount of weaving of subplots and stories that will give the best overall story and relationships.

What are your writing ‘ah-has’ that relate to real life?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Page Turners

By Julie Daines

The Ten Commandments of Writing and When to Break Them
Writing Conferences. We go. We listen. We obey. Maybe sometimes we obey too much.

My next few posts will be about when to break the writing commandments.

Commandment #3
Thou Shalt Keep the Reader Wanting More

This is something I hear all the time, always keep the reader wanting more. And while that is true, many writers take it the wrong way. 

Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:

~Withholding information in an effort to create suspense. As a general rule, if your POV character knows something, so should the reader. 

When a reader cares about your MC and the stakes are high without being contrived, that's suspense. Withholding information just frustrates a reader.

~EVERY chapter does NOT need to end in a cliffhanger. This starts to feel contrived and tires the reader. When techniques get overused they become cliche. 

If you've done your job well, the reader will be invested enough in the story to want to read on to the next chapter. 

~Don't leave the reader hanging. This happens a lot in multiple POV stories. A writer will leave one character in mortal peril, then switch to another POV of a character in a less stressful situation, presumably to keep the reader in suspense.

Readers are not that patient, in the end, they will skip ahead to see what happens to the character they are invested in at the moment of peril. That is a bad thing and needs to be fixed.

You have to constantly ask yourself what will readers want, and then deliver. 

What are some other situations where writers take the need to have a page-turner the wrong way? 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Weekend Writing Prompt

More writing prompts from "The Writer's Book of Matches: 1,001 Prompts to Ignite Your Fiction"

  • "Hold on to something. This is gonna be wicked."
  • "She's in the backroom," he told the ambulance driver.
  • "Can you recommend a good book?"
  • After learning to play chess during his incarceration, a rehabilitated felon sets out to join the U.S. Olympic team.
Pick one that speaks to you and get writing! Find more information about this book at

Friday, March 23, 2012

From the Friday Mailbag

by Scott Rhoades

If you're a writer, you know how popular you are at cocktail parties because of the vast stores of knowledge in your head. You also know how much mail and e-mail you receive from people seeking enlightenment.

You also know that the above paragraph describes one of your fictional worlds.

In reality, you know all this stuff, or have read interesting information, and you wish people would ask you the right questions, so you could share your knowledge. But you're holed up in your writing room, counting paddle ball hits while you avoid writing, so nobody ever does.

One of the great influences on my own writing, a brilliant columnist for the local paper where I grew up, the late Ray Orrock (that's his picture over there), used to occasionally write columns full of answers to questions he wished people would ask. I'm going to borrow a page from his legendary act.

So here, now, are some insightful answers to questions I'll never be asked, from my mailbag that's always empty.

Dear Mr. Roach: Love your blog and read it at least a couple times a year. Here's my question. My writer's group always says my stories need more emotion, but where I come from, we hide our feelings. I'm not even sure what emotion is. Where can I learn more about emotions? --Bob, from La Verkin.

Dear Bob from La Verkin, I'm glad you asked. I recently found a web page (you do have Internet down there in La Verkin, I trust) that discusses several emotion models, and how different emotions relate to each other. Although good writers don't actually name the emotions their characters are feeling, it's good to know which emotions are available to them. is a good place to start.

Hey, Rotz-Dawg, I have a question por voo, see voo play. I want to write a book and I have lots of idea, but I can never seem to get started. Do you have any suggestions? -- Stan the Man from LeVan.

Dear the Man, you are not alone. Most people with an idea for a novel or story never start. But I'll assume your problem is that you're just not sure how to to start, and not that you like the idea of writing better than actually doing it. The best thing to do is just start. The beginning of your story is the part that will probably be rewritten the most, so don't let a bad beginning stop you. Just get something down, and get going. Or, you could do as the good folks at The Writer Magazine suggest in this week's writing prompt, and begin at the end.

Mr. Rhoades, This letter is to inform you of a pending law suit--

Wait. How'd that one get in here? Next.

Dear Mr. Rose, You know all, so I thought I'd ask you before I asked anybody else. What is the future of publishing? P.S. Are you related to Pete Rose? Phyillis, from Flowell.

Dear Phyllis, if I were a betting man, I'd bet that I'm not related to Pete Rose, since we don't have the same last name. I'm Rhoades, not Rose. As for your question, there's lots of hand-wringing these days about the death of publishing as we know it. The "as we know it" is the key. I think the publishing world is getting a grasp on its changing world, and there are signs that it is turning around and becoming profitable, due in no small part to digital publishing. The thing I wonder about is whether fiction will ever have the same place in our lives that it did in the first half of the twentieth century. But publishing itself seems to be getting healthier. For an insider's answers to this question, you might check out this interview with the Chief Digital Officer of Simon & Schuster, Ellie Hirschhorn. And while you're at it, take a look at this response from author Bob Mayer.

I think we have time for one more question.

Dear Miss Rhodes, I keep hearing that social media is important for authors. I have a MySpace page and a Classmates account, although I haven't been on Classmates for several months. Is that enough? Howard S., from Orderville.

Dear Howard, social media is very important to writers. Social media sites are one of the best ways I know to spend the time I should be writing. Therefore, they are dear to my heart. Sadly, I don't think your Classmates and MySpace accounts are enough. They don't take enough of your time. You might end up having to actually write. I would suggest you join Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, Goodreads, and any other site you can find. Then you can spend all of your time building your platform, without needing to actually write. For one of the best discussions on how writers can benefit from social media, I'd suggest Robert Lee Brewer's Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Writers.

That barely scratches the surface of my mailbag, but it's enough for now. Thanks again, Ray Orrock, for the inspiration to answer these questions this way, as well as for all the other ways you inspired me. Miss your column tremendously.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Proper Care and Feeding of Conflict

Erin Shakespear

"The greatest rules of dramatic writing are conflict, conflict and conflict."
                                                   -James Frey

Conflict. Oy...we need a lot of the stuff, right? In our books my living room, between the wee natives, not so much.

But how do we make conflict? How do we stuff enough into our stories to turn them into Must-Be-Read-Until-The-Crack-Of-Dawn page turners?

I'm glad you asked! I'll just turn to my notes from a lecture Patti Gauch gave. Yep, I know, I'm talking about her again. I tell you, she's brilliant. And then I'll sprinkle in some wisdom from other awesome people.

The Proper Care & Feeding of Conflict

#1: Start in a hole. 


What does you character want? Put them as far away from this as possible. Make 'em suffer! It's for their good. Give them a large dose of internal conflict. They want something so very very badly. It's the thing they want most in the world, but they are their biggest obstruction. Somehow they are standing in their way. Or maybe someone else is. Someone else is keeping them from getting this Great and Grand Thing They Need. Just make it big and make it good. 

#2: Dual Desires 

Okay this is just an awesome idea. Dual desires? I'd never thought about this before until I read Daisy Carter's blog post about conflict. What if your character wants two equally good things? Or one is good and one is not so good, but he just can't choose? Two different love interest? Yep. that would definitely add some major conflict. 

The story...must be a conflict, and specifically, a conflict between the forces of good and evil within a single person. - Maxwell Anderson

#3: Load It Up

You could give your character one conflict. But why not throw in all three? A conflict internally, something he wants desperately, a conflict between those around him, with a friend or family member and a conflict within his environment. Oooooh, that would be a whole lotta conflict. 

#4: Set the Stage


Let your atmosphere reflect your main tension. Throw in some mist, creaking doors, play with the lighting. Be the stage director. Set your stage.

#5: Pacing

Slow down when you're about to have a big moment. Let your character take time to notice the smells around him, the sounds (back to the creaking), what the floor feels like against his bare feet. Draw out the anticipation. Make us feeeeeeeeel the conflict.

"If you think you're boring your audience, go slower not faster." -Gustav Mahler

#6: Fear

When you're watching a scary movie and someone says, "Hey, I know I should stay in the house, with the light and the friends surrounding me because there's that risk of the crazy masked murderer attacking people with a cheese grater and a spoon, but I think I heard a strange noise out there. Yeah, sounded kind of like someone scraping something against metal, almost like a grating sound. I'm going to go investigate. But I'll take this baseball bat with me and I'm sure I'll be fine. Yep, I'll be right back."


Mmmmhmmmm, yeah...buh-bye now. 

We sit on the edge of our seats wishing the person would stay in the house and hoping they'll actually make it back safe and sound. Or that they would have at least put on the protective rubber suit hanging beside the door. But there's no hope for that guy. Nope, he's done for.

Make your reader want to shout, "Don't go!" or "Don't do that!"

Fear, yep it works, right?  

#7: Give your character a secret

I love secrets. Give your character a good and juicy secret he tries desperately to keep from everyone else. Make him hold onto it. Make it eat him up. Make him go to extreme measures to keep that secret hidden. Or maybe someone finds out. And of's the wrong someone, right?

Thing about your own secrets or your friend's or your spouse's. Think about what your character faults are. Does he try to keep them hidden? Or something about his past? Maybe he did something wrong. Maybe he made a wrong choice. And now he doesn't want those he cares about to know. You can learn a lot about people by the things they try to keep hidden.

And we're all hiding something.

#8: Hit "em where it hurts

At Writing for Charity on Saturday, Jennifer Nielsen talked about how we need to know what the worst thing that can happen to our characters is. We don't need to make it happen, but we need to know what it is. 

But if you're looking for more conflict, maybe it needs to happen. What is the most dreadful and horrible thing that could  happen to your character? What would they do if it happened? Or maybe it almost happens. Oh, the horrible anticipation of watching The Worst Thing Ever coming towards your beloved character. Yep, that will definitely keep us turning the pages.

Or maybe it's just something really really bad. You might not want to completely ruin your character's life. Either way, make it worse, make your character truly suffer. Take away what they want and then dangle it in front of them like a carrot.


#9: Dialogue

Use the dialogue to increase the tension between your characters. What can your characters say to make the conflict greater? Do they lie? Does your main character believe something false he's told? Or maybe your characters is threatened. Or maybe your character swears revenge on the Spoony Cheese Grater (the mass murderer of doom).

#10: Cliffhangers

Ooooooh, I love a delicious cliffhanger. Seriously, this is my very favorite part of writing a chapter. I love coming up with a massive cliffhanger which (I hope) makes the reader's mind explode with questions. Try it out! How can you end your chapter so the reader has to read "just one more"?

#11: Mystery

Can you include a good mystery? Something that keeps your characters wondering? Fill your character's heart (and the reader's) with fear and confusion. Drop clues which only create more and more questions in their minds.

There you have it. Stuff your manuscript will all of that and you'll surely have enough conflict.

"Turn the screws! Blow up the balloon! MAKE IT WORSE!" Patricia Lee Gauch

How do you add conflict to your stories? Do you have a stellar surefire way to throw your character's lives into peril and make us want to keep reading about them?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"12 Totally Awesome Books to Read With Boys"

A great link for a KSL article:

Story Maps

by Deren Hansen

Fear about freedom is the point of contention between writers who are plotters (architects) and pantsers (gardeners). Architects take comfort in their outlines because they're afraid of dead ends. Gardeners take comfort in chaotic creativity because they're afraid of constraints. But in reacting to their fears, both camps are liable to overlook a fundamental story requirement and get themselves into trouble.

Brunonia Barry, in a post about, "The Mess in the Middle," on Writer Unboxed, talked about story maps, her solution for avoiding the narrative dead ends that usually crop up in the middle of a manuscript.

Story Maps are not about what happens, but why. For those of you gardeners whose hackles rise when you hear anything that sounds like a preplanned constraint, story maps are not plot outlines. They're maps of the motivational course of your characters through emotional time and space.

An intricately plotted story degenerates into a roller coaster ride without the trajectory of motivations that bring characters into conflict at certain times and places. A character driven story can easily veer off in to the weeds if the characters aren't constrained by their motivational trajectory and can do what ever they want. (Harry Potter, for example, wouldn't be Harry Potter if at some point he'd gotten fed up with the whole Voldemort business and settled in for some quality video game time with Dudley)

J. Michael Straczynski makes the case, in Bablyon 5, that the two fundamental character questions are, "Who are you?" and, "What do you want?" A story map simply tracks how a character's answers to those questions change over time.

The form of a story map is far less important than its function. You can use the dreaded outline, draw it as a graph, write it out as part of your bible, or etch it on the moon with a giant laser (well, maybe not that last one).

To put it another way, story maps are about what matters to the people in the story. They're one key way to approach the ideal of the Grand Unified Theory of Character and Plot.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reasons I have Multiple Unfinished Manuscripts in my Drawer

-one ms was rejected no less than 6 times (it was loved by a publisher who went out of business a short time later)

-one was read by 20 friends who LOVED it and 1 friend who HATED it

-one needed new illustrations and I didn't take the time to redraw them

-one required a "dummy" book to showcase the pictures I took and I never got around to finding out
how exactly to do that

-one worked better as a short story instead of as a novel and I didn't think I could write a good short story-- though I did some good research on what makes a good short story (which is attached to the original notes with a paper clip)

-one had a strange split between really funny, personable characters and a heavy, dramatic subject and I wasn't sure if it worked or not

-one picture book got pretty far until I couldn't figure out how to draw the Taj Mahal in a spider web

-one was missing page # 7 and I couldn't figure out what to put

-one has a blind guy as one of the main characters and an actual blind professor listened to it and said I chose the wrong degenerative disease and I couldn't figure out how else to make my character go blind in the given time frame

-one had far too many words for a picture book and I couldn't decide where to cut

-one is totally forgotten-- I'm sure I'd be surprised if I came across it

-one needs a revamping of the princess' governess-- I think she's a bit too harsh

-one requires a new ending

-one requires that I actually decide how to end it

-one was just a whim and it was fun writing it (though it would never, ever be published)

-one is WAY too autobiographical to actually be fiction :o)

-one was offered a vanity press offer, which I declined since I don't have $3,000

-one was described as being "too good, too pie-in-the-sky" and I didn't have the heart to throw in more drama just to make it more of a soap opera

-one requires a complete overhaul since I wrote it in a "stream of consciousness" style for NaNoWriMo and it lacks chapters, a coherent time line, and that ever-important denouement and ending

Sometimes it's easier to start a new manuscript than it is to work through the bugs/kinks/problems that hold you up. Plus, the thrill of the discovery for a new manuscript is much, much more exciting than slogging through the 8th revision and reworking the same scene over and over again.

Some day some, perhaps not, but definitely NOT all of them will get reworked. They will see the light of day again and be dusted off and reworked. When? Not so sure on that. I think it's going to take a herculean effort of forcing myself to do the nitty-gritty, sometimes painful, less than glamorous work that characterizes the majority of a writer's time but is never glorified or portrayed in movies.

I'll get there. For now, I decided to at least be honest about my list of excuses.

What are yours??

Monday, March 19, 2012

Luck is all you need!

Can you create your own luck?

Thomas Jefferson said it best: "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more luck I have."

An open writer goes to a writer’s conference and sees the potential to make new friends and contacts with the possibility of getting in touch with an agent or editor. A closed writer sees competition and shuts down.
Luck is what happens when you open yourself up to chance. Chance meets optimism.

You’ve worked on your manuscript, loved it, and now you feel the time has come to introduce it to the world. You hold you story out the window and wait for the Agent Fairy to fly by and pick it up. If only that’s how getting published worked!
Luck is what happens when you sign up to pitch your story to an agent, find the perfect outfit, wear an extra layer of deodorant, prepare and deliver your one-minute speech. The next minute you’re being asked to send the full manuscript to the agent. Preparation meets opportunity.

I’m sure you’ve heard many authors say they were in the right place at the right time for their book to be sold. Does that mean they stood around at writer’s conferences, waiting for an agent to spot them and ask for their story? Do they mean once they typed the words “The End” the journey was over? Did they land a book deal on the first query? Most likely not.
Luck is what happens when you write and write and edit and on query number 189 you land a book deal. Discipline meets perseverance

One hundred eighty nine rejections. That is a lot of  “no thank yous” or “your story is a right fit for us.”  A lot of soul crunching pain, wondering if your dreams are worth the trouble. Each time the backbone gains a little more strength, scar tissue interweaves over the weak spots, giving us the courage and strength to move on. Again and again. Muscles grow stronger from resistance. Become resistant to rejection.
Luck is what happens when you persist through the rejections, never giving up, and are open when the right agent says yes. Perspective meets strength.

Stop searching for that elusive four-leafed clover. It gets grass stains on your knees and only wastes precious time you can use to create your own luck.
Luck is what you make it, my friends. Now go out and make some.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What is Fiction with VS Grenier

I loved how the ICL broke down what fiction is to a writer when I first began my journey down the world of ink. They say, “Fiction is something made up—a story that originates in the mind of its creator and is then set down in writing. The whole idea is to use language in wildly creative ways, invent incredible worlds and develop wonderful—sometimes crazy—characters and plots.”

Simply put, fiction is based on facts or circumstances from our everyday lives. You can use memories, real events or even elements of facts you have learned in school, from an article, documentary or book, however, fiction only has touches of truth. The rest of fiction is an altered reality that seems real, but isn’t. Things happening can be plausible or not even possible as long as you can get your reader to believe in what is happen and suspend their disbelief.

Types of Fiction
When you begin shaping your story, keep an eye on the end product—genre of fiction. Is it an adventure? Sport story? A mystery? Comedy? Fantasy? A mixture?

  • Real-life fiction—Contemporary characters coping with problems, from everyday concerns to serious moral and social issues. Can be set in any historical backdrop to present day.
  • Multicultural fiction—Ranges from contemporary stories with ethnic elements to folktales and stories set in other lands.
  • Adventure—A quest, a flight, a challenge and plenty of obstacles along the way. The emphasis is on the fast-paced action.
  • Sports—What it takes to win, what it means to lose—in the context of a specific sport, specifically presented.
  • Mystery and Suspense—Puzzle solving in all its forms, from small backyard mysteries to real-world crime; though without depictions of actual violence except at the older teen to adult level.
  • Romance—Classic plots using authentic details of today’s culture and often bittersweet rather than happy endings.
  • Humor—Amusing characters and situations, quirky plot twists, neat resolutions. Humor that builds—not jokes or one-liners.
  • Fantasy and Science Fiction—Instant make-believe, invented worlds (whether past, future or extraterrestrial) for all readers. Highly appealing to YA and under readers.
  • Historical Fiction—Believable characters, a good story and imaginative research can bring even the most distant time and place alive.
  • Animal Stories—A beloved genre that’s been updated to stress documented animal behavior and habitats. Animals-as-humans remain fine story characters for young children; for older readers, realism in depicting animals is necessary.
Understanding the different types of fictional genres is important so you understand how much you need stay within our reality. 

Let’s look at Harry Potter for a moment. The story is a fantasy, however the story always starts in London—a real place and within our reality to a point. The “Magical World” of Harry Potter normally happen when he gets on the Hogwarts Express or enters into the Leaky Cauldron. However, some magical things do happen while Harry is in “Our World” and these things are easily explained away in the readers mind as “magic” so they are able to suspend their disbelief. 

But if you look deeper into the Harry Potter story you’ll notice it’s more than just a fantasy. You also have Romance, Humor, Sport and Multicultural elements as well. To make a great story, you’ll find there is always a blending of fictional genres. This makes the story come alive and believable to the reader.  

Writing prompt
Look at each sub-genre of fiction and write the FRIST word that comes to mind. Take those words and brainstorm a story idea. This is call “Free Association”. Using free association can provide a great springboard to help stimulate your creative adrenalin.

What I Came Up With
If you want, use it as an idea started and see where it takes you. Or  do your own “Free Association”.
Real-life fiction—friendship
Multicultural fiction—New York
Mystery and Suspense—Stanger
Romance—New love
Humor—Uneatable things
Fantasy and Science Fiction—Aliens
Historical Fiction—Baby Ruth
Animal Stories—Talking dog

I didn’t use everything I came up with, but here is the general idea that came to me.

A spot story set in New York City. The main character is an alien who was sent here to learn about Earth. He is in disguise as a human kid age 12, but looks totally different than us normally. He also has a companion who is a talking dog. The alien eats things that humans don’t eat such as paper or wood. He does make a friend with a kid who is loner but not by choice. They end up on a baseball team together and the alien because famous as a pitcher. This leads to more conflict as he becomes the first youngest major league ball player and he is worried the humans will find out who he really is. 

Of course this is all just random ideas I’m throwing out, but you see how one thing leads to another and then another? Now it’s your turn and remember, JUST HAVE FUN WITH IT. The actually plotting comes later. Just get your ideas down first.

BIO:VS Grenier is an award-winning children's author, founder & owner of Stories for Children Publishing, LLC., award-winning editor-in-chief of Stories for Children Magazine and chief editor for Halo Publishing, Int, and also, the host of the blog talk radio shows Stories for Children, Families Matter and What is Success on The World of Ink Network. Learn more at or at

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Weekend Writing Prompt

More writing prompts from "The Writer's Book of Matches: 1,001 Prompts to Ignite Your Fiction"

  • "Being around you people makes me feel like a genius."
  • An army private learns that he has to go back to war for a second tour.
  • "I . . . love you?"
  • A man sneezes painfully. He looks into his handkerchief and finds something that looks like a microchip.

Pick one that speaks to you and get writing! Find more information about this book at

Friday, March 16, 2012

National Novel Editing Month

by Scott Rhoades

I just learned that March is National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo). I'm a little late to the party, but I'm still in time for the cake.

NaNoEdMo participants sign up on the website and log the hours they spend editing, with the goal of 50 hours during the month. We still have time for 25. The site has lots of tips for successful editing.

In honor of this occasion, I thought I'd share a few of my own favorite editing tips.

Your Printer is Your Friend

I know ink and toner cost a lot, and paper's not cheap either. But for at least one editing cycle, print your manuscript. There are things that are hard to see or fix when looking at one page at a time.

Resist the Urge to Change

For this editing pass, you are marking stuff. You don't want to change things. You just want to mark possible problems. That's another reason why you should print a copy. It's too easy to make changes on the computer.

Don't Read

Don't read your printed manuscript. Scan it for the potential problems I mention below. If you read, you'll get caught up in the story and you won't see the trees for the forest, or the weeds for the garden, or whatever.

One Thing at a Time

Of course, it's good to go through your entire novel in general editing passes where you look for everything. But when copy editing, it's useful to look for one thing at a time. For example, if you tend to use too many adjectives and adverbs, make one pass looking only for adjectives and mark them all with a colored marker. Then, make a second pass looking only for adverbs, and mark them with another color. Even if you don't think this is a problem for you, mark up that printed manuscript anyway. When you see all those colors, you might be surprised.

Do the same thing for other problems you might have. Do you use your character's name too often? Do you use "weedy" words like "just" and "very"? Do you tend to over use "be" verbs like is, was, and were? Use new colors for each of those problems.

Watch Those Nouns and Verbs

While you're marking up that manuscript, make a pass where you look at nothing but your nouns, and one where you look at your verbs. Are they as strong as possible? Hint: if you used an adverb, your verb can probably be stronger. Did you write "He walked slowly into the room"? Replace "walked slowly" with a stronger verb that means the same thing. Did he saunter or amble? Creep? Sashay? Those words say more about the character and provide a better mental image of what he did than "walked slowly" does.

Same thing with nouns. "His dog greeted him at the door" is one thing. But what if the dog is more specific, like a great dane or a poodle or a chihuahua of a golden retriever? Each of those is a clue that points to character traits. What if you have a humungous ugly hit man with a smashed in nose, cauliflower ears, and a scar from the left side of his forhead to the bottom of his right cheek. He walks slowly home--I mean, he shambles home--opens the door, and is greeted by his Pomeranian. That's not the dog you expected? Good. That makes it interesting and it reveals character.

Make It Personal

If you are in a writers group or have beta readers, then you know what problems you have with your writing mechanics, or at least which problems your insane readers claim you have when you know darn well you don't. Prove them wrong. Pull out a colored marker and scan only for one of those You marked that eight times in the first two pages. Maybe you have a problem, after all.

The marker method works great for just about any mechanical problem. It's not as useful for big-picture issues like plot structure or the need for an emotional reaction. But at some point, you have to catch all those mechanical things too, so try this method. You might just be surprised what you find.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Simple Test

Erin Shakespear

*I've been looking through my journal that I take with me to conferences for ideas to blog about.

I came across some notes I jotted down when I last heard Candace Fleming teach. She was speaking about picture books and how to make strong characters for them. She talked about a simple test to take for your book.

Like I said, this was for picture books, but it could apply to any story...

A Simple Test

This is a story about who?

Who wants what more than anything else?

But your character can't get it because?

Until what happens?

There you go. Answer those and your story will be brilliant, right? Well, it's definitely worth a shot!

*Sorry for the super short post. I've run away from home to hole up in a hotel and write and also attend Writing for Charity on Saturday. I have a lot to do. I better get back to work!  And, oy! I'm missing my family like crazy. How do people do this? How do they go away often? I think I could drive myself completely insane with mommy guilt...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Backstory is Story

by Deren Hansen

Rebecca Talley recently offered helpful advice on creating backstory for your characters in a pair of posts at ldspublisher's blog. (See part 1 and part 2.) While character questionnaires might be a good place to start, Rebecca encouraged us to dig deeper.

She suggested we consider:
  • Narratives about major events in your character's life.
  • Interviews with your character.
  • Lists of events that affected your characters.
  • A web or mind-map connecting your character with events, people, feelings, etc.
  • A collage of representative images with notes about their significance to your character.
As I thought about her suggestions, I had an epiphany: backstory is story.

Think about how you understand yourself. When you're getting acquainted with someone (and they with you), do you give them a resume that lists your accomplishments? Resumes may be useful in a job interview but that's not how we interact with people and, more importantly, that's not how we think about ourselves. Once we get past the small talk, we start trading stories about ourselves.

Ask yourself:
  • What stories do your characters tell about themselves when they meet people?
  • How do they tell those stories?
  • What stories do your characters choose not to tell about themselves when they meet people?
  • Are there situations in which they would tell the stories they usually avoid?
  • What stories do your characters tell themselves about themselves?
Action reveals character. The stories they choose to tell and the way in which they tell them speaks volumes. If you haven't nailed the voice, ask your character to introduce themselves to you. More generally, don't ask how your character would react, ask how they did react.

Deren blogs at The Laws of Making.