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The Writing Bug

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  • November 21, 2019 9:39 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

    By Brian Kaufman  

    Writing is a solitary endeavor. That simple truth comes with attending problems. Writing in a vacuum, glued to your story, it’s hard to maintain professional balance. I recommend writing groups, one of which has been instrumental in any publishing success I’ve had.

    But the benefits of a critique group don’t extend to your home office or writing cubby. The writing process itself requires some moderation, and the more focused and maniacal you are about your craft, the more likely you’d benefit from the help of a “writing partner.”


    Who's A Good Boy?!

    Gus is my 14-year-old Dachshund. When I write, he’s there with me, sitting on my right foot. I don’t have to tell him I’m working. He sees me flip open the laptop and gets into position. There’s a comfort in that.

    “No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.” – Christopher Morley

    Relaxed, I’m better able to focus. But his contribution goes beyond quiet companionship. I want to tell you what he taught me about writing.


    Did you ever search for the right way to say something only to have your sentence hijacked with fluff language or preposition overload? One technique I use is to answer the question, “What am I trying to say here?” in a straight-forward style.

    I turn to Gus and make my case with plain words. Having explained myself (or discovered I had no idea what I was trying to say), I rewrite the sentence (or delete it).


    “I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.” – John Steinbeck

    Speaking of speaking out loud, I have argued in favor of reading prose out loud during the editing process. Guess who gets to hear my story? Unlike my wife (who has been known to suffer from a glazed look in the eyes when listening to extended passages), Gus is an avid listener. Better still, he’s not judgmental, so I can focus on being my own critic.


    The dog needs an occasional break, of course. So does this writer. Rather than force my words with a marathon writing session, I step away from the computer and take Gus for hourly walks.

    The writing process doesn’t stop when I’m out on the road. Some of my best lines come while hiking. When I return, my fingers seem fresher, and the work begins to flow again.


    We live in the mountains. My nearest neighbor is a fifteen-minute walk away. Gus can explore nature without a leash. Early on, I discovered that he will not be rushed. He wanders, sniffing, and doing his business at his own pace. As a novelist, I appreciate a smell-the-roses approach that pays off in a fully-formed fictional world. 


    More, I’ve been taken with the things that he notices. A piece of granite with mica flecks. A deer’s hoof print. A wildflower, halfway up the hill. Tiny details that make the walk—or the novel. Our hikes remind me of the virtues of pacing and patience that apply directly to writing long-form.

    “They [dogs] never talk about themselves but listen to you while you talk about yourself, and keep up an appearance of being interested in the conversation.” – Jerome K. Jerome

    Breaking my writing time into chunks, like breaking a novel into manageable scenes without rushing, is an excellent way to build a novel-length story. The headlong rush of a NaNoWriMo tale is another. Gus and I prefer the less-hurried approach.


    My Civil War novel, Dread Tribunal of Last Resort, comes out next July in hardback (Five Star Publishing/Cengage). I began work on the book twenty years ago. Epic historical novels require research, some form of an outline, and above all, patience.

    I stopped and started the project a dozen times before settling on an approach that worked—cans of diet soda, an office full of reference books, and a dog on my foot. Thanks, Gus!

    Writers And Dogs

    Famous Writers with Their Dogs

    The Writer's Dog


  • November 07, 2019 10:13 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

      By Eleanor Shelton

    We're seven days into November, and for many writers, that means they are doggedly working National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  In case you are one of those intrepid sprinters who have committed to producing at least 50,000 words by the end of the month, this isn't a blog about how to write a novel in thirty days.  Technically, twenty-three days. 

    For those unaware of the significance of these thirty days, many a novel will be written with lots of blood, sweat, tears, angst, and jubilation.

    Many grand sentences have been conceived in mere moments. And stunning plot twists and ingenious characterization tactics can be employed to produce dancing prose. But NaNoWriMo is about words. Getting the words to the page.

    For you first timers, there are things to keep in mind when you type the 50,000th word. 


    It may be good, but it’s unlikely to be great.

    Depending on the genre you are writing, you will have finished a goodly portion of a novel. That’s awesome! You may need to tamper your excitement after your initial celebratory lap. You might be eager to query agents and find representation for your masterpiece. DON’T DO IT!

    According to Fuse Literary Agency, their agents dread their December 1st email inbox. And they aren’t the only ones. Fuse has gone so far now as to close their submissions for the entire month of December, why? NaNoWriMo fever.

    “NaNoWriMo excitement leads to euphoric querying. Alas, it also leads to obligatory rejections, and neither party wants that. It’s a waste of your time and the agents’. 

    ---Fuse Literary Agency

    Please don’t query agents the minute NaNoWriMo ends. You may have loads of good stuff, a coherent story, and unique characters, however, it’s probably not ready for prime time. Put that book away for a couple of weeks. Ring in the holiday season however you celebrate. 

    Resist the urge to shoot that manuscript off to an agent. It's a rough draft. Maybe your beginning is tight and perhaps your ending is fresh. Much like brownies, the middles . . . maybe not so much.


    Committing to 1667 words a day for thirty days (that adds up to 50,000ish words) is a lot. At the end of the first week, you’ve skewered your opening first chapters with a saber. Over the next couple of weeks, your inspiration may start to wane. 50,000 words is work. This is where you need your enthusiasm more than ever! But your fervor has gone to the vet and been snipped. Now what?

    Kristin Owens, who teaches a Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo classes, has seen it all. “The hardest part for most writers is finding the motivation to keep at it. Here’s where you need writing friends. Not just friends but WRITING friends. Because they get it. All of it."

    No splainin necessary. Find a critique group, a write-in, local writing organization (most of my writer friends I found through NCW) to connect. Writing is a crazy lonely gig, don’t make it any harder by suffering alone,” she advises.


    Don’t forget, you have a life.

    You’ve signed up on the NaNoWriMo website and you’ve connected with some other NaNoWriMo inmates. You now have a mentor who is encouraging you to get your daily words done. But don’t neglect your children, spouses, pets, day job, and friends. Remember, NaNoWriMo is just thirty days. Come December 1st, the frenzy is over. Make sure you still have a real life when you emerge.

    Avoid burnout.

    Take breaks. Step outside for fresh air. Venture into the world periodically, so you get inspiration for your writing. More importantly, you may have a partner who you need to live with for years to come and friends who will buy your book. Don’t be so focused on your novel in progress that your wife/husband/friends are gone when you look up from your computer.


    Comparisons are as bad as clichés.


    Or as my mother said frequently, "Comparisons are odious." Did your mother ever tell you that? Of course it’s true, but we're human, you can’t help it. No matter how many words you write someone in your NaNoWriMo circle will have more. That’s OK. The idea is to provide a kick-in-the-pants to get your story down in black and white.

    So at the end of the month, ideally, you have around 50,000 words? Now you have to take a hard look. Is there a beginning, middle, and end? Are there characters that have wants, needs, and obstacles? Do your scenes move the plot forward? 

    It's of no matter if someone in your group wrote 125,000 words or 50,000 words. The revision must happen regardless. You may be faced with some difficult choices, but getting started won't be one of them. You did it! You wrote all of the words!


    Two years ago, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time, and it has made me more productive than ever. In order to get my word count in, I had to get up early before any other work had to start. Now, I get up every morning by 5 am to write. I built the habit during those thirty days.

    You may have created the seeds of a best seller. Or something you may have to sit on for a little while longer before it's cooked. The bottomline is you have established your ability to write most of a novel beginning to end. Use NaNoWriMo as a fantastic springboard towards a rewarding writing life. Just please don’t let all those words go right to your head.


    For more information about NaNoWriMo visit

    14 NaNoWriMo Novels That Have Been Published.

    NaNoWriMo Hangover: 8 Steps to Recovery

  • October 31, 2019 8:39 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

         By David E. Sharp

    It’s the end of October, and my latest writing endeavors have had nothing to do with novels, short stories, poetry, or any of the other usual suspects. Instead, it is a murder mystery game based loosely on the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

    A fellow librarian and I collaborate each year to fill our library with clues, secrets, and plots for our visitors to unravel. Portraits and descriptions of the suspects hang from the walls. A stack of case file folders sits near the entrance filled with newspaper clippings, old handwritten notes, and other incriminating bits of evidence to sift through.

    Sit down with the least expectation of yourself: say, "I am free to write the worst junk in the world."

    --Natalie Goldberg

    I often consider the week a success or failure based on whether I achieved my word-count on short stories or novels each day. I find I produce a considerable amount of content I don’t even plug into the equation.

    Even when I am not “writing,” I am continually writing! For library programs, presentations, distractions for my children, or just pointless drivel to kill a dull afternoon. (Oh, and blog posts. I write those too!)

    The adage is that when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. There is wisdom here. My hammer is a word processor. While it’s natural to lean into your strengths, I’ve had a few hard lessons that some problems won’t be solved by creative storytelling.

    I have found at work, as a parent, in the minutia of everyday responsibilities, or in confronting new and challenging problems. I can usually find a way to inject plot and character into the situation.

    Creativity is a transferable skill with a wide range of applications. And while much of the “content” I produce will never see the inside of my writing portfolio, it forms the elemental protoplasm from which I draw ideas.

    Which makes me wonder: what were all the in-between writing projects of Dickens or Hemingway that we’ll never get to see? Did the Bard of Avalon ever write a Weird Al-style parody for the private amusement of friends and family? Perhaps it’s best, we never know.

    Meanwhile, in the thick of plotting novels and short stories, I often forget about the half a decade of annual mystery party games I’ve helped to pen. But I shouldn’t. Because they were fun, and they have a kind of worth of their own.

    What are your in-between works? Have any of them become something more than they were meant to be?

    Writing RX 

    Fighting Tofu

    More Fighting Tofu

  • October 24, 2019 12:54 PM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

    By J.C. Lynne

    If you haven’t noticed, we’ve got a theme going. I know, show don’t tell, but lately, that hasn’t worked well for me. Some of you are absolutely thrilled with the change of seasons, not me. 

    Oh sure, I love Halloween. I mean, who doesn’t love costumes and candy. If you don’t, you are a savage. 

    It’s the smell in the air. The crisp scent of turning leaves sends my mind into a nostalgic spiral. Persephone’s journey back to the underworld seeps into my bones. My body takes on the golden shift of leaves and the drop in night temperatures like a mantle.

    I hate it. 

    To add to this melancholy, this year sees all of the offspring out of the house. 

    Empty nest is a real thing. Parents, we have rearranged our thought matrix to include, if not prioritize, our progeny. Depending on where you are in the process, it’s been years, possibly decades. 

    It feels weird to take two steps forward without taking five steps backward. 

    Don’t get me wrong, The Beard and I have done our job. They are capable of adulting, maybe not as graceful to start, but we’ve given them the tools. Except, I want a commune. Independent, community living with all of the saplings and their respective partners. 

    I will make do with monthly family dinners.

    Here’s the rub, I wrote four books while teaching full time and raising three-plus kids.  I cordoned off time because it was a precious resource. Two hours a day in the summer, two hours every Sunday when school was in session.

    You Don't Need A Word Count.

    Now the house is empty of humans most days. Only Fintan The Whipping Boy demands attention when I appear to be too focused on work. 

    I’m barely getting two hundred words a day onto the page. 

    My brain, unaccustomed to this wide-open space-time, is spinning without traction. The ideas are there. The story is moving. Just not in the word count. GAK.

    Asking other launching parents for advice didn’t help. Both April J. Moore and Kerrie Flanagan sold everything and moved. Maybe I’m too much of a cave troll, but that notion hasn’t fired up my inclination to change locales.

    I've Always Wanted A Pool.

    Also, everything I send to The Beard on Zillow causes him a little brain freeze. Apparently, we are supposed to be downsizing. Shrug. That being said, don’t be surprised if I find a camper and take to the road. 

    On the bright side, the house is mostly clean and I don’t miss the piles of dishes in the sink. Laundry still sucks. 

    The next move is to finish the damn book.

    Empty Nest Syndrome

    Coping With Empty Nest

    Thriving Empty Nest

  • October 16, 2019 12:25 PM | JC Lynne (Administrator)


         By Ronda Simmons

    It’s autumn when we witness the return of Ugg boots, infinity scarves, and pumpkin spice lattes. There is something about the change of seasons, especially when summer gives way to fall, which gives my writing a kick-start.

    In the summer, it’s easy to justify not writing. It’s too hot, too humid, and too vacation-y. Fall marks the beginning of the school year (even though I graduated decades ago) and suddenly it’s not such a chore to sit and work.

    But first, a PSL. 

    We change as writers.

    Our writing lives go through seasons as well. In the spring of my writing career, I was as tempestuous as an April storm. Just as a rainy day could quickly turn to a balmy one when the sun came out, so could a lousy writing day turn into a good one with encouraging words from a writing friend.

    I’m not sure what season I’m in now, but I do know that writing is much different for me than it was back in those days. I’ve written a lot of words.  Some of them even passable, and I’ve learned and grown as a writer. I have more discipline. I have more patience. I am more focused.

    I’ve learned that I can’t force myself to be a more literary writer, as one of my best writing pals is. She can sit down and bang out 5000 words of gorgeous prose. I can’t, and I’ve come to the realization that I’m more of a Hemingway, she’s a Faulkner.


    Sometimes you’ve got to say goodbye.

    Do we call this Finter?  

    I recently made the decision to leave the critique group that I have been a part of for over 4 years. I’ve changed, my writing has changed, and I’m no longer a good fit for the others. I cannot give them the time they deserve, and my writing has shifted to a different space. One where they aren't interested in going.

    It was hard to let go because without them, I wouldn’t be a writer today, but it had to be done. It doesn’t mean I had to like it.


    I care about the people in that group. They have evolved into a family of sorts, and I love the work they are doing. I’m as excited for their successes as I am for my own. My moving on will not change that.

    Sometimes the hardest choices are the best choices, even in writing.

    In the end, it came down to a business decision. I’ve only got so many hours in a week to devote to the craft. I’ve got a new writing partner. It’s a better fit for the season I am in.


    If you find yourself in a similar position, know that it’s OK to make a change. Sometimes, change is good.

    Stasis = Death

    How Creative Writing Has Changed The World

    What It Means to Mature as A Writer

  • October 09, 2019 9:20 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

    By Eleanor Shelton

    Do you remember a year or more ago when a dress that some said was blue and black others said was white and gold? Or how about those tennis shoes that looked pink to some and grey to others? It’s kind of freaky if you think about how we can see one thing and assume that we are right and others are wrong.

    But those others are our friends, colleagues, family. How can we share the same political beliefs, worldview, and sense of social justice, and yet when a pair of sneakers is clearly pink, how can they see them as silver? It’s frankly disturbing!


    I remember arguing in a car full of people who saw the sneakers as silver. I was the only hold out for pink. I felt righteous indignation until I wondered if it was a good thing that we didn’t see things in the same light (admittedly, it was a thought that took a while to mature). I could change my point of view about those sneakers and that darned dress.

    Not that I see the colors wrong, but that if we see things differently, our world is full of opportunity for a different dialogue.

    It’s the same with literature. What I love to read or write isn’t what my friend enjoys. My closest friend gobbles up sci-fi and especially vampire stories. Dystopian delights can put her on the couch reading all day. For me, mysteries and thrillers with exciting characters are what keeps me from participating in life.

    While I don’t understand the lure of new and different worlds, I can appreciate that something grips her so hard that the rest of the everyday life falls away into annoying background noise.


    As 2019 is about to become 2020, I saw a list of the decade’s most influential books. One of those books on the list is The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrecht. I had just checked it out of the library by coincidence and was thinking hard about not finishing it.

    It wasn’t gripping me. But then I saw it on that list. Damn! Was I giving up on a book that was one of the best of the decade? Others saw it as excellent, I felt the story was too slow to develop.

    But as writers and readers, we grow and change. Life gives us new perspectives that are reflected in the way we look at art, literature, our own writing, even the world around us. Thank god we grow and change, and thank Godder (a new word I just made up) that we see things differently! In the lists of “must-read” books are several Japanese authors, and American authors of color.

    That change is a significant step toward opening us to different perspectives. What I read and enjoyed as a child (Little Black Sambo) is cringe-worthy to me. I’ve changed, my readings tastes have changed, and my perspectives have evolved.

    And those things should change. It's how we navigate the world and build understanding for those people who don't necessarily look like, sound like, or live like we do.  

    Just for the record, the sneakers are grey, and the dress is white and gold.

    Why You Should Read Books You Hate

    25 Most Hated Books

    Book You Hated in High School

  • October 03, 2019 11:12 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

       By Laura Mahal

    The 2019 NCW anthology—Rise!—was recently released. Within its covers, readers will find pieces of incredible depth and beauty, with themes of resilience, adaptation, and the relationships that bring us grief, joy, and wisdom.

    Change is an ever-present force in our lives. Whether we rage against it or embrace it, change impacts all of us.

    I spoke with several writers, who generously weighed in on how they cope with change:

    1.) When one door closes, another one opens.

    Patricia Stoltey, the author of Wishing Caswell Dead, offers this example:

    What I’ve learned in my many years is that change is going to come whether we want it or not. My best writing-related example is the announcement Five Star made after publishing my first three books. They dropped their whole mystery line . . . I had to look for another publisher or haul out an old unpublished piece of historical fiction (Wishing Caswell Dead) to rewrite for Five Star’s remaining line—Frontier Fiction/Western. I did the latter, surprising myself with a new love for historical research. In this case, adapting made my life easier and helped me discover a different writing direction.

    Lesson learned: When life insists, you step onto a new path, adjust in such a way as to thrive.

    2.) Look to the stars. 

    Jason Arment, the author of Musalaheen, said this about adaption and moving in a new direction:

    [I] read/studied those who have come before.

    He added:

    It’s good to analyze one’s methods and especially concerning efficacy. Not just how they are useful, but how they are ineffective.

    Ronda Simmons, a blogger for The Writing Bug, suggested visualization.

    Imagine what you want instead. For example, if the problem were my job, I would ask myself, ‘What would be my perfect job?’ and then ‘see’ it.

    Lesson learned: Be open to looking within. Seek inspiration from others who have made the types of changes you may also be required to take. Attitude is key. Try reframing the transition into a positive outlook.

    3.) What advice would you offer others who are facing unasked-for changes?

    Ronda Simmons:

    First, be kind to yourself. Do the self-care things that work for you. For me, I ramp up the time I spend in prayer and meditation. Also, for me individually, in times like this, I clean my house. Having an organized, clean environment settles my nerves and helps me stay on track.

    Pat Stoltey:

    For those facing enormous challenges, it’s essential to seek help and get good advice, take care of yourself, choose a new approach to significant obstacles, and allow yourself to move on when it’s time. Change is inevitable. We must adapt.

    Sheala Henke, author of Painting Half the Sky:

    If we’re not moving, we’re not growing, and in that way, maybe looking at change through the life cycle of the butterfly can help us move ON, OUT, and elevate us UP . . . Epicurus said of the pupa, ‘All tucked up in there is a little fist of opportunity. It waits, deep and dark inside, and when the time is ripe and ready, it can transform the entire world with one flutter of new wings.’

    Lesson learned: Take care of yourself. Change isn’t easy. But be open to it. Because it might lead to the exact transformation, you require in your life.

    Ten Ways to Cope With Big Changes

    Five Ways to Embrace Change

    How to Embrace Change Forced on You

    Thanks to our Northern Colorado Authors:

    Pat Stoltey:

    Jason Arment:

    Sheala Henke:

  • September 26, 2019 9:37 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

    By David E. Sharp

    Writers have an endless list of strategies for jogging their creativity and stretching their imaginations. Writing prompts, character development exercises, free-flow sessions, and the like are all great. But I also like to step away from the desk and sharpen my creative skills in another way.

    Also, let's face it, we could probably use a little face time with actual people. 

    Group Game Night!

    I love to gather fellow creatives around a table and match our wits in an arena of cards, dice, or gameboard tokens. Will it get your novel written? No! Will it get you over the latest bout of writer’s block? How would I know? But is it a fun way to make yourself a better writer? Yes, with an emphasis on the fun!

    I’m not talking Monopoly, though. Unless your book is about a shoe seeking to become a real estate tycoon, this isn’t going to do much for you as a writer. Instead, here are a few of my favorite games that utilize those creative writing skills.


    Abstract Communication Games

    Writers must continuously strive to find innovative ways to communicate ideas to their readers. Metaphor, personification, and symbolism are all crucial, but they only work if your reader can make the connection. These games challenge you to find unusual ways of communicating with your fellow players.

    Mysterium: One player is a ghost who must communicate with the other players, not through words, but through abstract images to help them discover a murderer. It’s like clue but with a spooky twist. Perfect for October.

    Good for All Ages.

    Dixit: Another game that uses abstract art. Here you want to describe your art in a single word that will help players pick your piece out of a lineup. Don’t be too obvious, though. You only get points if you also mislead some of the players at the same time.


    Storytelling Games

    The benefit here is obvious. These games utilize cards to make communal storytelling more challenging and keep you thinking on your feet.

    Gloom: Each player takes control of a family upon whose members you must cast trouble and misfortune. Play cards to inflict tragic life events, or happy circumstances upon your opponents. However, your plays don’t count if you don’t narrate how each event comes to pass with lots of dramatic emphases.

    Once Upon a Time: Similar to a campfire story-in-the-round. However, in this version, you have a hand of story element cards – characters, settings, events, etc. As you include these elements in your story, you may discard the accompanying cards. However, your opponents can steal the narrative if you name a feature that corresponds to one of their cards. The first player to drop everything wins.

    Creative Combinations Games

    You’ve written yourself into a corner. How will you get your characters out of this fine mess? Here are some games to help you come up with unusual solutions.

    Wing It: Each player has a hand of cards describing a complex assembly of “survival” gear. You will have to combine them in creative ways to overcome random problematic events that are sure to come your way. Find the best solution to take the victory.

    A Lighter Version of CAH.

    Snake Oil: Similar to Apples to Apples. Here you must create an invention from a limited list of combinable words to create the most coveted product for the customer. Incidentally, the customer might be a surfer, a vampire, a pirate, or any other odd person from round to round.


    Put the Role in Role Playing 

    If role-playing games are in your wheelhouse, here are a few that can help you cast characters in vivid detail.

    Fiasco: This game isn’t so much about winning or losing as it is about watching a narrative unravel into a total disaster. If you’ve ever wanted to play a part in a Cohen Brothers movie, this may be the game for you. Create characters, connections, and aspirations through randomized means, then hold on tight as you watch your fictional world come tumbling down.

    Murder Mystery Party: Go all out with costumes, invitations, and cheesy character voices. These games come with notebooks containing clues each character must divulge in consecutive rounds, and some secrets they don’t have to reveal unless directly asked. Can you find out whodunnit? You can sure have fun trying.

    Most of these games are available through Amazon or at your local games store. Link up with some of your fellow writers and get to work. These games aren’t going to play themselves!

    Check Out Game Reviewers For More Suggestions.

  • September 19, 2019 6:35 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

        By Ronda Simmons

    Professional football players warm-up before every game or practice. So do rock climbers, Little Leaguers, dancers and anyone else whose work or art is physical. Increasing heart rates improves your circulation. Stronger blood flow delivers more oxygen to the brain and body and gets the fluids moving to lubricate joints. It readies them for physical activity and prevents injuries.

    She's thinking about her WIP.

    A proper pre-session warm-up can be as valuable to an author as it is to an Olympic athlete. It is challenging to sit down at a keyboard or desk and begin writing really excellent prose all at once. Gently getting the synapses to fire can prepare the writer to produce his or her best work and can prevent the dreaded writer’s block.

    Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down The Bones, quotes Katagiri Roshi's term: "fighting the tofu." You know tofu, it's viscous and unwieldy. Wrestling in the muck is ineffectual. Writing warm-up can clear out your brain and get to the good stuff. Sorry, tofu lovers.

    One way to warm up is to re-write a passage from an author you admire. Copy their prose word for word. Here’s one I often use, the opening paragraph of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway:

    In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.

    I write it and then delete the whole thing. Once I’ve warmed up with a little Hemingway, I find my mind limber and ready to go. My own words flow more easily. I get into the zone more quickly.

    I chose this particular passage because it’s haunting and beautiful, and I admire Hemingway’s concise, unadorned style. You might want to try something by Faulkner if you are more of a fan of his long sentences and subordinate clauses.

    Or pick anyone else, from Neil Gaiman to Shel Silverstein, Stephen King to Maya Angelou, Diana Gabaldon to Andy Weir to rework. Maybe memoir is your thing. Find an excellent autobiography and copy a couple of beautiful sentences as an exercise. 

    My favorite? I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron.

    You may find this technique works for you. Find an excerpt that you consider perfect. Copy it and fall in love all over again.

    There are other warm-up techniques, including automatic writing, personification, letter writing, and many others. 

    The Ten Best Writing Warm Ups

    7 Fun and Easy Warm Ups to Start Your Writing Day

    Teaching: Creative Writing Warm-Ups

  • September 12, 2019 10:09 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)


    By Brian Kaufman

    Perhaps you just finished work on a successful project and wonder what sort of book can match the emotional impact of the one you just finished. Or maybe you are amid fielding rejections and wonder if you’re writing in the wrong genre.

    There are variations of the questions you face, but they all boil down to two words—what next?


    The question assumes you don’t have a contractual or strategic answer, like a book deal or an ongoing series. If so, you may come to envy the freedom that my central question implies.


    I have two answers for you. The first answer is, do something different.


    This might not be good advice from a marketing perspective. Projects are best staged to build and support previous work so that the release of a new book is a marketing tool for your backlist. But doing something different is great for your writing.


    My poet wife once announced her attention to write a villanelle—a nineteen-line poem with two recurring rhymes. (The one you know is Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.) I asked her why on earth, anyone would ever do such a thing. Her answer was simple. “It’s new, and I need to stretch.” Enough said.


    My second answer to the question of your next project has to do with your calling as a writer.

    If you have more than one book in you, then you may have a project that you’ve been keeping on a back shelf, waiting for the skills to pull it off. Or perhaps you have a vague idea of writing the perfect book. Or the Great American Novel. Or maybe just a book that matters.


    I had three such books in mind. One was a multi-chapter, multi-character novel that I couldn’t wrap my head around in any structural way. The second was an epic historical. The research and plotting seemed beyond my abilities. The third book had a touchy theme that might prove too contentious.


    Then my folks passed, one after the other. That kind of loss will give you pause.


    I started writing when I was twelve. More than five decades had gone by, and I still hadn’t written the books I was meant to write. So, I got busy.


    If you have bucket list projects that have been on the back shelf, let me encourage you to get busy yourself.


    If, on the other hand, you have a desire to write an important book but don’t know exactly what that looks like, here are a few ideas to help your thought process:

    • Poke a wound. If a subject makes you uncomfortable, touches a raw nerve, or leaves you conflicted, then that subject is worth exploring.

    • Remember what made you want to write. Was it a certain kind of story? A theme that resonates with you on a cellular level? That’s an excellent place to start your project search.

    • Change the world. Is there a cause you believe in more than any other? (I’m not suggesting you write a polemic. In fact, you might even start with the other side of your issue, knowing that by fully understanding counter-arguments, you can avoid a superficial story.)

    • Reveal the meaning of life. Aristotle said, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” Literature gives us both good and bad truths. Tell us yours.

    • Write something beautiful. The world is full of ugly things. Balance the scales a little.


    The search for your next project can improve your skills, put a checkmark on your bucket list, or change the world. Don’t let the search frighten or frustrate. A world of possibilities awaits!

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