Category Archives: Creativity

Reading, Writing & Arithmetic

By Terry C. Misfeldt

This is about what is commonly known as the Three R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic but we’re not going to spend much time writing about Reading. We will cover how Writing can be improved with Arithmetic. It’s adapted from a Get Motivated Workshop presentation by Amy Jones.

One of my take-aways from the presentation was Amy’s comment that we all have 86,400 seconds in every day. There’s no excuse for anyone who complains they don’t have enough time in the day. It’s how you spend it that matters.

So let’s start with SUBTRACTION. Success as a writer is enhanced when you can subtract stuff from your life. Stuff like events, hindrances, and worry. Is it essential you attend a fundraising luncheon for a charity you’ve only a passing interest in supporting? There are things that may appear obvious for subtraction from your schedule–such as watching every baseball game of your favorite team on television–while others may be more subliminal like scrubbing the bathroom floor every day. Subtraction adds time to your writing itinerary.

Next is ADDITION. You may already have these in your regimen, but consider adding them if you don’t. Add things like Planning, Purpose, Passion, and Play. Yes, P words. Add some time for planning your projects…and your time for writing, re-writing, editing, marketing, and the business side of writing. Add more passion for what you’re working on because that gives you more purpose to accomplish your objectives. Add time for some recreation, too.

MULTIPLICATION. Multiply your expectations. If you can easily write 500 words a day, could you multiply that to reach 1,000 or 1,500 words with a bit more dedication to the keyboard?

DIVISION is important, too. You must be able to divide your writing time with your work, personal and family commitments. Relationships may falter if you lock yourself in your ivory writing tower 14 hours a day and neglect to feed the dog or spend time with your children.

Yes, writing involves arithmetic.

Writing for Comfort

By Debbie Delvaux

Writing for comfort.

When I was a young girl, I never had the opportunity to really be one of the gang as I was always feeling left behind. Being the second of two daughters and very shy at times.

I would try to keep up with my sister and her friends. You know like the story goes of the second left behind or the tag along. Sigh!!

Well anyway, when I would be finding myself alone and no one to play with, I would either swing and drift to another world or walk the neighborhood and imagine myself as a member of their family.

The older daughter or just a secret agent disguised as one of their own members.
So many lives to pretend to be and yet so little time to be them when you would hear your mother call to supper and then to bed.

But as a day would go on, I would still try to live that life and be off somewhere when the television got too boring or the weekend too long with nothing to do.

To this day I can see myself in one of those many secret lives and that has given me the chance to now sit at my laptop, make that life come true and with no interruptions except when the telephone rings or one of the cats grabs my leg for attention.

Many of the lives spent elsewhere have given me comfort when I had hard times, bad times, or even silly times to say I will try that in a story someday.

So in retrospect, I have been given a gift of imaginary lives and way to live my own life the way I wanted it to be.

She Came Sneaking In

By Rhonda Strehlow

She came sneaking into our lives on little cat feet.

We’d left the back door open because we were cleaning the garage.

We first learned of our invader when our dog, Buddy, started barking fiercely in the kitchen. Initially I thought one of those darn little chipmunks had sneaked in—that had happened before. But when I entered the kitchen, the first thing I saw was a tiny ball of fluff eating out of Buddy’s food dish. When Buddy approached to voice his complaint, she whacked him on the nose with a paw the size of a nickel. He backed off. She continued eating. When she was full, she decided to explore. We followed her from room to room. She ignored us.

“What should we do?” I asked my husband.

“Keep her?” He suggested.

“Did we want a cat?” I asked. Rescue dog, Buddy, was a handful. Abused by former owners, he was alternately scared or aggressive. We were still engaging the services of a dog whisperer to help him relax. Did we want to take on another potential problem?

Then I made the mistake of picking her up. She snuggled and promptly fell asleep.

“Please run to the store to get food and dishes and a bed.” I whispered.

“So, we’re keeping her?” My husband whispered back.

“It looks like it,” I said as she snuggled closer.

Rescue cat enjoys comfort of home

We live in the country. She had a long walk to get to our house. We checked with our neighbors, no one was missing a kitten.

When I took her to the veterinarian the next day and discovered she weighed exactly what my premature granddaughter weighed at birth, I knew it was a sign that we’d made the right decision. When the vet asked her name, I looked at her white paws and blurted out, “Boots.” That was a mistake. We should have named her Queen or Your Majesty since my husband, Buddy and I have become her loyal servants.

How I Started Writing – from a Newbie

By Laura E. Aronis

I didn’t think I could write! Me? I couldn’t imagine having enough imagination for something as enormous as a whole book! Characters? Plots? Climax? Resolution? No way! I was content to read other amazing works of fiction, often rereading them over and over again, (which I didn’t realize was setting me up for being a writer.) 

I might have an idea come to me on occasion, or I might daydream about some scenario taking place around me, but I NEVER thought of putting pen to paper and writing it out! That would just be too embarrassing! No one would want to read something that came out of my head, that’s just silly! Until one day… The day that the idea was just too good, the scenario too exciting and the characters too interesting for me to keep them inside and risk them leaving me as I slowly thought of new adventures and stories. 

I didn’t know how to begin, so I started with something that looked a bit like this:

Jack: Let’s go up the hill.

Jill: I do need a pail of water.

Narrator: Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. 

Jill: Jack! There’s a boat– (Wait, that’s a different story) Watch out!

Narrator: Jack sees a large boulder coming straight at him and tries to run but…

Jack: Ahhhh!

Narrator: Jack yells as he falls down the hill. There’s silence as his crown (head) breaks.

Jill: (gasps)

Narrator: And that’s the end of Jack. But wait! What’s this? Jill is tumbling after!

The End

Obviously, I knew that wasn’t the way to do it, but I had to start somewhere. I took what I had written and started over, thinking about how other writers had done it and began:

Jack was bored. Nothing interesting ever happened in Kilmersdon, the town where he and his wife, Jill lived. He watched his wife knitting tiny little socks and could take it no longer. “Let’s go up the hill,” he said. Jill finished counting the stitches in the row she was working on and smiled at her husband.

“I do need a pail of water,” she said. Jack took Jill’s hand and they walked out the door. Jill grabbed the wooden bucket that always sat just inside the door of their thatched stone cottage. They walked side by side down the lane that led to the small school, as that’s where the well was located.

They enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine and each other’s company as Jack chased Jill along the old stone wall and up the steep hill that the neighborhood children had to climb every day. 

Suddenly Jack slipped on some loose stones on the path and tried to catch himself by grabbing the top of the wall, but the large stone he managed to grab was loose and came off in his hand. It landed on top of his head, crushing his skull.

“Ahhh,” he said as he started to roll down the hill, much to Jill’s horror. As she tried to run after him, her foot got caught in her skirts and she came tumbling down the hill after her husband. 

The End

So, it doesn’t matter how you start; if you have an idea, just start. You may end up with a morbid nursery rhyme that parents will sing to their babies long after everyone involved is dead and gone.

Writing Perspective – Day 30 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 30 – Brainstorming

In a book called Book in a Month, I found another gem.

Brainstorming. I know this is a duh topic. When it comes to writing, you need to brainstorm. Everything in your story earns a gold star for this one.

You brainstorm your topic, characters, scenes, turning points, cliffhangers, setting, conflict, triumphs, tragedies. Nothing is left to chance when it comes to your story.

You brainstorm your characters – how many, who are they, where do they live, what are their occupations.

With that, you get your setting. What is the theme of your story, what roles do your characters play in the story? How will they get from point A to Z?

As you brainstorm your story, you put flesh and bones on your story. You get to know everything about your characters, you research where they live if you don’t already know. You research their backgrounds unless you’re intimately aware of that background.

If you’re reading a book, I guarantee the author brainstormed to get it where you can’t put the book down until you read the last page.

If you’re writing a blog, you brainstormed to determine a topic for the post. When you get near the end of your project, you start brainstorming the resolution of the story. How does it all fit together? What did your characters learn along the way? How did they grow?

There’s a lot to writing a novel, a blog, even a letter to a friend. It all takes thought and brainstorming.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Marketing

Writing Perspective – Day 29 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 29 – Time Management

So, you want to write. How do you begin? There are many ways to begin as I’ve already discussed. However, one I haven’t is Time Management. Look at your schedule. What is your daily routine? Do you have room to squeeze in one more project?

If you’re serious about writing, you need time to put your butt in the chair and write.

One author had only time after his kids went to bed, so that’s when he wrote. Others can only write in the morning before everyone else is up and the day gets busy.

You write when it’s best for you or you make time. Since I’m retired and my time is my own, I write whenever I have the opportunity. Usually, it’s in the afternoon.

Along with Time Management is your word count. How much time you have will determine how many words you can write in the amount of time you give yourself.

There was a time when it was easy for me to write 5,000 words a day without thinking about it. I haven’t seen a 5,000-word day in a long time. My most now is half that. Still, it takes butt in the chair time to make those words happen and without time management, it won’t.

Another important aspect of Time Management is where you write. Some people need noise, some solitude, some need to see what’s going on, some need to be away from every form of distraction.

What is your need? How do you focus on your writing? For me, I need quiet, but I also need a window on the world. I need to see what’s going on in the outside world. Sometimes what is happening out there is an inspiration for what goes on the screen or paper.

There is also the time when you need inspiration, so Time Management means you’re out taking a walk in nature or going to a museum, park, the mall, any place where inspiration strikes. Be sure to take a notebook and pen/pencil with you so you can write down what you see and hear.

Time Management isn’t only for the office. With today’s technology, you can take your office outdoors. Take your laptop to the park and write, provided it’s not raining or snowing when you decide to work outdoors. Take it to your patio. Let the outdoors be your inspiration for what you write on that particular day.

Time Management isn’t limited. It can do whatever you need to do as long as you’re filling that time with writing.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Brainstorming

Fishing & Writing: How to Tell the Difference

By Larry Wilson

Writing to me is a lot like fishing.

I pick a lake, bait, and the perfect rod and reel combo, watch the weather, venture out with a plan to catch my limit of walleye, perch or even a meal of bluegills. 

I head out with high expectations, ready for anything.

And I get skunked. Nada, Zip. Not even a bite.

Some days Lucy yanks the ball away, again.

I did do a little better than that on a recent trip to Fox Lake. The water was just a little green with August algae. Heck on some days it looked like pea soup.

The guy at the bait shop informed me “…getting Northern, a few Panfish but no Walleye to be found.”

The best-laid plans.

Likewise, a story outlined, researched, rough draft, second draft, edited, revised, re-written, and reviewed, then offered for critique, edited again and again, and submitted for publication.

Only to be rejected.

Why bother at all?

It’s like the mountain to a climber. It’s like chasing the fish. Because I need to.

It doesn’t take much to keep going. A bite here a nibble there. Catch a positive review from someone — encouragement from a peer.

I caught a bullhead-that’s something.

Some days I had to force myself to face the dawn, climb into the boat with coffee and bait and venture out in search of perch.

It’s the same with writing.

Put butt into chair. Bring coffee. Do whatever it takes to put words onto paper. Share with someone.

Repeat.

I need to savor the process, whether it’s waves lapping the boat, or tapping at the keyboard. Watching a bobber or reading the latest revision.

Breathe the fresh air or listen to old-time rock ‘n roll.

Right now I’m looking out the window watching the waves from an easterly wind blowing through gray clouded skies.

“When the wind is from the East, fish bite the least.”

So I might as well write.

Writing Perspective – Day 26 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 26 – Beginnings

The Hook—good beginnings.

Every writer wants his or her work accepted. How do you make a good beginning that will keep the publisher reading your work, and see your story published? It doesn’t matter whether it’s a short story, poem, or novel. If you don’t grab the publisher in the first few paragraphs it won’t see the light of day.

To help with that, several years ago, I bought a book called Hooked by Les Edgerton. There are a lot of good ideas to not only keep the publisher reading but your reader as well.

The beginning of your book sets up the problem, the scene and you meet the characters. It gives just enough backstory to keep the publisher interested, but not too much that it ends up in the slush pile. You want to avoid the slush pile at all costs.

I’ve heard authors will spend more time on the beginning paragraphs and the first chapter of the book than the rest of the book.

If you don’t know what hooked you with your favorite book, take it off the shelf and read the first paragraph. Not only were you hooked, but more importantly the publisher of that book was too.

I admit I’ve struggled with the opening. I want to get it right. I want to build tension. I want to set the scene. Before I presented Thread of Evidence to my publisher, I read it at Writer’s Guild to get feedback. I value their feedback. I had way too much boring information in the opening paragraphs, boring information best left for other parts of the book and filled in as backstory where it wouldn’t be boring, or taking it out altogether.

You want to give your reader/publisher the setting, what is going on in the opening paragraph. Your publisher/reader needs to know in that opening if they are reading a historical novel, science fiction, contemporary romance, mystery, or another genre.

Does this grab your attention? Why or why not?

————-

Ten-year-old Jo-Ann Carter stood in the drawing room, arms crossed, with a stubborn expression on her face. Her pale green eyes flashed angrily as she watched her mother tie a blue-gray bonnet beneath her chin, matching her long flowing fitted-waist satin and taffeta dress. She stomped her black-shoed foot on the floor, a pout on her face. “I want to go too!”

—————–

That is the opening paragraph of Scarred. Do you want to know what comes next? Wanting to know is the reason behind every book on bookstore shelves and on your bookshelves. You wanted to know what’s next. Keeping your publisher interested will keep your reader interested. Keeping your reader interested will result in books sold and money in your pocket. And that is what every author wants, money in their pocket. It won’t happen without a good beginning. So, get the hook right and you will be on your way.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Dramatic Through Lines

Writing Perspective – Day 25 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 25 – Avoid Shortcuts

Welcome to day 25 of writing tips for any kind of writing – novel, short story, poetry, blog.

I’ve discussed many different areas important to writing. Looking through the material I received from a recent UntitledTown conference, I find another gem.

Shortcuts. Don’t take them. The idea is to be creative, not a duplicate of someone else’s writing. As I’ve seen on the blog site I blog on, many occasions people get inspiration from posts and ideas come forth and become new posts. Some are answers to questions in posts, some go off in a completely different direction from what the person wrote. We have many people who inspire us to write further on a topic or create a spinoff on the same topic.

In the same way, novelists can use or leverage what others have written to create something new and vital, breathing life into what might have been a dead subject.

You can glean ideas from a myriad of places, not only in books you’ve read but in news stories, conversations you have with friends, or people in general. Ideas are everywhere. Ideas lead to creativity, and creativity leads to a finished story.

As you’re expounding on what others have written, don’t take shortcuts. Don’t plagiarize. Make it your own. We all have opinions on what we read or hear. Great conversations come about from a single thought or idea. The same is true in writing. Opinions matter.

Don’t take shortcuts by making what someone else wrote a template for your writing. Make the story new and genuine. You know what a template is. It’s a basic form that follows a pattern. Romance books are good examples of template writing. The template is the same for every book. The only difference is the names of the characters and their locations. There’s no imagination in that kind of writing, and very little research either for that matter. Throw the template away!

Don’t take shortcuts with your writing. You have an idea, so find out everything you can about your idea. Don’t expect that someone else’s legwork, research, is the unvarnished truth in the matter. Search it out yourself.

In a book I’ve written and am currently working on, I relied on a movie I saw as total truth with the information provided in the movie. That is, until I did my own research and found out the animal in the movie for that location wasn’t native to that location and isn’t found there.

No shortcuts. Do your own legwork and be creative. That’s what writing is all about. When you do the work, and you know you’ve done it well, you can sit back satisfied your reader will appreciate the work you did when he or she reads it and then recommends it to others. You might even find good reviews of your work. When you do, you know you’ve passed the test and your reader will look for more of your books because they trust the one you wrote.

Have you read books that look like the author took a shortcut, used a template, and fell short of your expectations on the topic? Or have you read books where you know the author did their best to create a good story and got all their facts right? Have you recommended books, given reviews on books, or passed those books to other readers? If you have, the author did a good job with the subject.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Beginnings

Writing Perspective – Day 28 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 28 – Conflict

Looking through Story Structure Architect, I found an obvious one I forgot – Conflict.

Conflict is important to any story. You need conflict or you don’t have a story.

It doesn’t matter what genre you’re working in. Your conflict takes up the middle of your book. It’s what needs resolving. You can have a simple conflict with a simple solution. Those are usually your less than 300-page books. Or you can have your complicated conflicts with more than one issue. You can also have one compounded issue. When you think you’re getting close to the answer, something else happens and throws you off track and in another direction.

Personally, I like complicated and compounded. It makes for a better read.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Time Management