Monday, April 25, 2016

Weekly Writing Prompts

I know I haven't been the best lately with sharing about my writing course with James Patterson and also my reading challenge for 2016. Life just seemed to get in the way, and I found myself off track and not writing like I've wanted to. So here I am trying to get myself back on a schedule of some kind and making time to write not only on my blog but also my books.

I am happy to say that I have completed one of my novel outlines. I'm in the final stages and ready to begin the writing process. I'm really happy with how the outline turned out and I feel it was a great way to begin as there were things I didn't even think about putting in the book and things I just didn't see or notice until I went back through the outline and saw how they did or didn't work.
Outlining is key I think for any writer and something all traditional publishers and agents ask to see before taking on a new author or when working with a new author after signing them.
Hopefully, the manuscript will turn out better than the outline, and the book will get published. One can only hope.

Okay, something I'm going to start doing is posting weekly writing prompts to help those who are struggling with writing. I use these myself, so I hope they help you as they have helped me.
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Here are 5 prompts to try out this week. They're from Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ' book, WEEKLY WRITES: 52 Weeks of Writing Bliss!, which contains over 365 writing activities, prompts and ideas to fill up your journal.

1. List at least 5 situations you hope you never have to find yourself in. Then write the courses of action you would take if you do find yourself in those situations. (Week 14 - Indecision)

2. What are some of the things you expect from yourself? List ten to fifteen of these expectations, pick one and then write about it for ten minutes. (Week 40 - Expectations)

3. Build a story from this weird or absurd news: "In an attempt to get a date, a man in Turin, Italy arranges at least 500 bump-and-stop car accidents with young female drivers." (Week 22 - Absurdities)


4. Create a superstitious society. Invent omens and superstitions and make these the driving forces behind the actions of the people in your society. (Week 38 - Warnings)

5. Someone you have never gotten along with for years suddenly steps up and says hello to you while you are walking in the park, shopping or having coffee. She strikes up a conversation as if the two of you are the best of friends. How would you react? (Week 15 - Reactions)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Guest Post: Listen to Begin Writing

Brenda Ueland, author of If You Want to Write, said, "Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When people really listen to each other in a quiet, fascinated attention, the creative fountain inside each of us begins to spring and cast up new thoughts and unexpected wisdom."

The most meaningful works -- books, paintings, sculptures, songs, crafts, a garden, anything -- are created by those who have learned the art of listening: listening to their hearts and to the hearts of others.

It is when we listen that the most extraordinary seeds grow and become tangible. They become a motivating book, an awe-inspiring painting, a formidable sculpture, a most melodious song, a bouquet of breathtaking blooms.

It is when we listen that we create tangible expressions of our compassion, understanding, love. It is when we listen that stories, poems or books begin percolating inside us.

And it is when we listen that the unexpected wisdom and insights joyously leap in front of us, giving meaning in all that we do, spotlighting on what we do and can do for others.

Below are 5 sparks inviting you to *listen* closely within yourself:

1. Think of a song that holds great meaning to you. Who or what makes that song meaningful?

2. Describe the sound that dominates your surrounding at the moment.

3. Recall one of your conversations with a close friend and write about one of the things he/she said that made you sit up, take notice and become enlightened.

4. When was the last time you listened to someone with your heart?

5. Who is that person you can always rely on to listen to you? Write about how important it is that you have him/her ready to listen to you at all times.


Copyright 2004 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

Shery created WriteSparks! - a software that generates over 10 *million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks! Lite for fr*e - http://writesparks.com

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Will You Host an Exchange Student?

I know it's been a whole month since my last post. Sorry about that everyone. I'm still working on my novel and also still need to complete my workshop with James Patterson. I plan on doing that very soon and will share what I've learned about my writing during those sessions and just on my own.

I also will share about some of the books I've been reading. I've finished a few more over the past month; I just need to see if they fall under my 2016 reading challenge.

But on a whole different note, I'm on a mission. Yes, a mission to help bring exchange students to my area in Southern Utah...namely Washington County, Utah. This past school year I signed up to be a local coordinator, and I have enjoyed. My two students have taught me a lot, and I hope they have learned from me, their host families and new American friends. (I think they have.)

As this school year comes to an end, I find myself looking forward to the new school year (2016/17). I'm going to miss my students I currently have now when the school year ends. I, of course, also need to find new host families for my future students. March is one of those crazy months for me, but one I enjoy as I get to meet so many people, families, and students.

This upcoming year, I have three students coming who are from the following countries: Germany, Georgia, and Kazakhstan.

If you, or someone you know, would like to be one of the wonderful host families to take one of my students in, or if you would like to host a student and live somewhere else, please contact me through my email vgrenier@flag-intl.org

You can learn more about being a host family at https://www.flag-intl.org/host.html

Monday, February 8, 2016

What Keeps You from Writing? Is It Writer's Block? Or Is It Something Else?

In my most recent class with James Patterson, he addressed writer's block and the things keeping those who want to write from writing. I find I don't get writer's block, and even Patterson made the comment he is immune to it. Those who tend to get writer's block in my opinion (which isn't too far from Patterson's) focus on getting one thing completed and, therefore, find themselves stressing about what isn't happening instead of moving on to something else. For example: focusing on writing an individual chapter, scene, character sketch, blog post, book blurb.

The problem is most writers don't move on and come back to whatever it was holding them up. Instead, they stare at the black screen, page or whatever hoping the words will come. If you can't relax the mind, how can your muse honestly come forward? It can't. So move on. Write something else, go for a walk, get some chores done around the house, call a friend, get something to eat or drink. The point is you need to get your mind off what you are stressing over, so it is able to relax and free itself to be creative. Patterson almost said the same thing, and he should know.

After the lesson, Patterson challenged us to spend no more than 30 minutes writing everything we did the day before and then look it over to see what was keeping us from writing. I found this exercise interesting because as I said...I don't get writer's block, but I do get distracted...a lot.

Here is my list I wrote out. I'll let you decided why finding time to write isn't always easy in my daily life and why it lead to me writing not only this blog post but starting this blog to begin with.

1. Woke at 7am, started a load of laundry
2. Woke kids up to get ready for school, made breakfast
3. Helped get the kids ready and out the door for school, read the news
4. Get 5-year-old daughter breakfast and social media posting for WOI (8am)
5. Spend an hour doing school review with 5-year-old and work (9am)
6. Read take home book with 5-year-old daughter
7. Get daughter in bath and help get her get ready for kindergarten (10am)
8. Have lunch before school (11am)
9. check emails and reply
10. Get showered to take daughter to school (11:30am)
11. Walk daughter to kindergarten (12 noon)
12. Put laundry away and return calls
13. Post media release for WOI and clients (1pm)
14. Review DSU writing class presentation (2pm)
15. Eat something for lunch
16. Social media posts for WOI
17. check emails and reply
18. fill out paperwork for Foreign Links Around the Globe (student exchange support)
19. Pick up kids from school (3:15 - 3:30pm)
20. Spend time with kids
21. write (4pm)
22. Exercise (5pm)
23. eat dinner with family (6pm)
24. Finish workout cool down, shower
25. spend time with family (7pm)
26. Finish up work for clients (8pm)
27. Put kids to bed (9pm)
28. read
29. plan next day To Do list
30. spend time with hubby (10pm)
31. go to bed (11pm)
REPEAT!

I'm sure there were some little things I forgot or didn't add like using the restroom.

When I looked this list over, I thought was how can I really get more writing time in. Sure, I could let the housework go, but then I'd just stress about a messy house and get nothing done. I know that sounds funny, but my mood is dependent on how clean my house is. I'm nuts I know. I can't actually cut out time with my kids, family and hubby. I need to eat and workout to burn the calories from sitting and writing or whatever else I do while sitting at my desk. I have to work on my commitments so there you go; my day is full of busy work with little time for writing.

Patterson talked about waking up at 5am to get in those two hours to write every day before he was able to be home all day and write. And that my friends are the realities of being a writer. Until you can support yourself off your writing or your kids are in school full time, you have to learn how to carve out time to write. I use a timer for each thing I do so I make sure I get at least an hour a day to write.

Next year, I'll have more time as all my kids will be in school full time giving me six glorious hours to balance my writing with my life.

Okay, now it's your turn!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge: Week 4 - Finshed my 1st book on the list


I'm happy to say that I finally finished the one book holding me up from starting this challenge and "Honeymoon" by James Patterson as my first book from the list (suggested book to read by friends, spouse, etc).

Okay, so I guess I should give some feedback on the book I just finished reading...right? Well, this was an easy read, and if I had carved out some time one weekend, I might have been able to finish this novel in one day. It's a fast moving storyline and one I enjoyed reading not only as a reader but also with an author ear.

What do I mean by this? "Honeymoon" breaks the POV rule we are heard when it comes to writing as a first-time or even as a seasoned author. I was surprised to find both 1st person and 3rd person point of view alternately throughout the book. Kid you not. It was well done, and the transition between the two different POV's was smoothly done. A true master.

What I liked about the book was getting into the both the protagonist and antagonist's head. You felt for both characters and honestly felt they traded spots on who was evil and who was good throughout the story.

As always, Patterson delivers some twists and when you think you know how the book is going to end, he, of course, reverses direction and WHAM you get hit from the side with a totally different outcome.


Now, to pick my next book from the list. I'm going to choose a book I can read in one day. Not sure which one that will be yet, but I guess it will be in the middle grade or YA genre.

Leave a  comment and let me know how you are doing with your reading challenge.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Is Research Really Important in Fiction Writing?


In a lot of the writing groups and conferences I've been to the topic of research has come up from time to time. There are many different opinions on the subject, and many will tell you research is only necessary when you are writing about something you know very little to nothing about. But is this really the case and if it is, does your writing suffer from not doing research all the time?

After writing many short stories and picture books for young readers, my opinion on doing research might be very different from yours. I have always felt research is critical no matter how much I know or don't know about a certain subject. There is always something I learn each time, even on topics I know a lot about as things are always changing, and changing fast sometimes these days. However, I thought I was just one of the weird writers out there feeling this way until I took a research workshop with James Patterson, who had this to say about research.

"Research really helps your confidence." —James Patterson

He also talked about how it can enhance your writing, even on subjects you may know a lot about. I was surprised to find out Mr. Patterson never writes any of his books without doing research, long before sitting down to write, on everything from locations to types of characters (i.e. Police Officer, School Teacher, etc.)

I tend to do a lot of job shadows, character interviews and even have gone to high schools, shadowing the students and getting ideas of how my teen characters will behave. I find my characters are more authentic because I take the extra time to do this every time I set out to write a new story. Just doing research once with a police officer for one book doesn't mean you shouldn't interview an officer, sergeant or captain of a police department the next time. You should because interviewing a different person or someone who holds a different title will give you more insight to what you are writing about the second time around. Unless, you're writing book two of your series. In this case, you would want to interview the same perons again or get their feed back on what you are writing.

Research should also be done for locations as well. I"m working on a book currently based in my old hometown of AppleValley. I lived there for a number of years, but there are things I may not remember or may have changed since living there I might want to know about now for my book. Also, walking the streets and visiting old hang outs brings back memories and ideas I can use in my book, too.

The point is research is important no matter what you are writing about and should always be done before you start working on drafts of your manuscript if you want top notch writing. After leaving Jame Patterson's workshop I felt good about the path I was on as a writer and even better about now hving more imput and focus on how to keep moving in a postive way with my writing. Even though I was doing much of what he talked about, I also learned new ways or reevlauated how I was doing things. I feel my writing will benefit from his adavace and I find myself looking forward to sitting down and working on my book ideas with a better attitude and as he said with more confendance.

Still not sure you need to to research before you set out to write..then read this article http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/columns-and-blogs/soapbox/article/55152-what-i-learned-from-james-patterson.html