Monthly Archives: November 2013

Dreaming Up a Great Writing Prompt

Be a Star photo

Everyone dreams during their sleep cycles, whether they actively recall those dreams the next morning or not.

Some dreams are bizarre, taking us to places we would not otherwise imagine. If you’re like me, you have entire movies roll past your inner eyes. Sometimes you are the heroine, or the villain, and have a terrific adventure. At other times, you are the spectator, watching from the front row seat, popcorn in hand, soda at the ready.

I have dreamed entire, new episodes of a favorite TV series–I wish I could remember later all the details on those. Screenplays here I come would be my rallying cry. Also, new science fiction movies have graced my mental theater. I never remember all of those details, either.

Family members and old friends pop in for cameos or return engagements .

On occasion a dream will haunt me for days, lingering on the fringe of awareness as if to plan an ambush when I least expect it. That occurrence can foster frustration and anxiety if allowed.

The peculiar quality about dreams, though, is that they belong to us, exist as a part of our psyche in amorphous form. We created them while we weren’t in conscious control. Whether we want to or not, we must claim them as our own.

All of which brings us to the subject of writing prompts.

The profound and the banal, the inspired and the mundane, and the puzzling and the humorous each take up position in the wings of our mental theaters. And each is can act as a writing prompt.

This morning ushered in the puzzling prompt. It arrived in the form of a statement that my dream-self said to someone else in a dream I don’t remember. Why did I say it? That’s the puzzle.

Here’s the statement. “There is no such thing as a gentle carnivore.” 

I invite those writers out there, regardless of genre, to take this prompt and put together an answer as to the meaning of this line.

What could I have talked about to use this line? In what context would this have been true, or is there only one context where this would be true? I can think of dozens of questions about the “why” of it.

As a prompt, though, can you think of dozens of ways to use that line in a story, poem, essay, plot, etc.?

Drop a comment here. Tell me what comes to mind for you. Make suggestions for its use. Steal it for your own and tell me about it.

Above all have fun. And if you have a similar “dream line,” share it here so that everyone can play with it, too.

 

At Home: Music and Muse Writing Tip

Musical Notes

Many of my writer friends say that they must have silence to write. Noise distracts them, moves their focus out the window, both metaphorically and otherwise. I can understand that. Certain noises make it impossible for me to work.

Music, however, aids me in several ways.

  • Music can set up my attitude for a writing session.
  • I can use music to set a scene with the internal images that it invokes.
  • Listening to specific types and rhythms of music helps bring a character’s personality to life and light during the writing of a scene.
  • Sounds of shifting mood music can help me define the flow of a scene or section of writing.

Over the past few years, I’ve learned how to use music created by various artists, instruments, and regions of the world to help me create. Headphones have become a tool of the writing process. Rough drafts may not reflect the music’s influence, but its impact does show up in later drafts.

Examples:

  • If I’m writing pastoral poetry, I listen to soft, melodic strains that allow my mind to wander through meadows or along mountain trails.
  • If I have a party scene that needs life added, dance music pours out of my headphones.
  • Science fiction often takes experimental notes to give it that feel of other-worldliness.
  • Romantic interludes don’t happen often, but when they do, Donna Summers springs to mind and the speakers. (My early adulthood influences me here.)

Music re-enforces the strength of my Muse.

Take a moment. Let your mind wander on the idea of music. How often does hearing a particular song on the radio/stereo/etc. bring an entire memory into focus, full-blown and alive? How often do you listen to music while your mind creates a scene?

If you experience this, learn to use that capability for your writing. Allow your Muse to create the scenes you need. Allow her to color your settings with interesting shades and tones. Let her fill your words with tone and meaning. Give your characters something to hum as they go about their business.

Remember—music is another language. Muse could teach you to speak it. Why do you think they share the first three letters of their names?

NaNoWriMo—Almost Over

2013-Participant-Square-Button

This has been a month of firsts for me. My projects for NaNoWriMo this year don’t include a novel. The three that I chose to complete from neglected beginnings are still at various stages of completion.

The biggest project—taking a science fiction short story and expanding it to novella length is well underway. If I move quickly I can get a good rough draft finished and ready for a quick revision by Turkey Day. It’s gone in directions I hadn’t expected, but I like what it’s become.

My cookbook sits waiting for me. I have all of the content. All I need is three hours to knuckle down the formatting and get it submitted. Of course, that’s all I had left to do when the month started. <> So many distractions, computer glitches, time consumptive add-ons, and a few things that life handed over for review.

The third project is underway for completion before next week. The book of poetry will be revised and ready for submission to a competition on Monday. That’s a real relief. I’ve waited quite a while for that one to go out and find a new home somewhere. Keeping my fingers crossed that it will “stick” at that publishing venue.

Those are my three. Piled in the wings to go onstage are several others that are slated for completion during the first two weeks of December. I have three articles to go out, two short stories—both flash fiction, and a small collection of poetry that I’d like to get finalized for e-book release.

When I look at all of those things I need to get out and all of those ideas I want to begin, a tsunami of trepidation threatens to submerge me. Doubt creeps in on silent feet until they stand next to my mental ear, when they take a deep breath and scream negatives into my ears.

Thankfully, I have good and supportive friends. They have experienced the same phenomenon and who can shake me hard and those negative thoughts tumble from my head. I wish those kinds of friends on every creative person alive.

Truthfully, this has been, for all of its faults, a decent month. I’ve learned more during these past three weeks about subjects ranging from software to crafts, poems to restorationists, language to hypnosis techniques. The caveat is that I haven’t even taken a shovelful of knowledge that’s available. Too few hours to play at being a student.

Tell me. How has your November evolved? Have you zoomed down your highway of exploration and discovery? Have you come to grips with whatever problem you faced at month’s beginning? What measuring stick will you use to evaluate your performance or success for challenge period?

Don’t be shy. Spread the word about your accomplishments over the past three weeks. Leave a comment below. I’ll see you all in a few days with more on what’s happening At Home.

Claudette

At Home with Synchronicity and Daily Life

Memories of the Redwoods

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines synchronicity as “the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality.”

A random remark engenders a job offer. Curiosity about a specific, interesting plant leads to a small e-book of facts about it and other plants, which becomes a best-seller. To think about a specific person or relate an anecdote about an old friend and have that friend contacts you shortly thereafter.

All of these are examples of one of Jung’s favorite phenomena—synchronicity. They are related but not related.

We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives. This week has presented several instances to me.

I was favored with a consultation with Carla McNeil, owner and guiding force behind Butterfly Networking. Carla’s company is one of the leaders in the social media industry.

I must admit that I had yet to implement her tips and tricks to gain ground in the writing industry. My neglect had to do with writing all the time and not taking the time for necessary steps to make sure that my writing got to those who read it.

That lack of determination shifted with sudden sharpness this week.

Carla gives sound advice gained from experience that gives her clients the tools to self-direct their businesses through social media. I signed up for a chance to have a free half-hour consult with her via telephone.

Questions about direction, necessities, and a plan had swirled around my brain for months. Now was my chance and I grabbed it with both fists. Then, I got to talk to her, one-on-one.

The woman is a dynamo, who takes no prisoners when it comes to what a person needs to do in today’s electronically-driven marketplace. She asked what I was doing, how much I was selling, and what I planned to do about it.

Honesty—that best policy of all—flowed from my brain past my lips, leaving me sounding like a total idiot. At least, I felt that way. She was forthright and left me in no doubt as to my next moves.

She said, “The first thing you’re going to do is stop writing.”

WHAT?

I replied that she’s talking to a writer in the middle of the NaNo challenge.

She came back with a lively truth. She informed me that excuses don’t cut it to get your work in front of people who can appreciate it.

Okay, the woman was right. You can write all you want from now to forever. If you’re not submitting enough, not placing enough of your work in the market on a regular basis, what’s the point of writing for the masses?

This is where the bulldog that is Carla McNeil, the mentor, came into play. Her instructions were simple.

  • Do not write anything for the next week.
  • Redo your public social media profiles to fully reflect who you are now as a professional.
  • Get yourself onto Hootsuite asap and get it working for you.
  • Follow the instructions for Facebook and the other media that you already have and make them work for you.
  • Begin making use of those connections you already have to line up gigs to get your name and your brand out there in the marketplace.
  • Make different lists of contacts on each of your media sites and see where they take you.
  • Always follow through.
  • Email me in one week and tell me how things are going. At that time, we’ll talk about you getting a virtual assistant.

Now that you know my assignment, you will better understand why I’ve been absent for a few days. I’m now on Hootsuite, though I can’t tell you if it’s working as it needs to. I’m doing more on each of the media sites. I made a chance remark on one and lined up a gig, albeit a small one, but it counts and paves the way for more.

This new devotion to detail has consumed my work for the past few days. I’ll have something to show for my time, though, and when I talk to Carla at the end of this coming week, I’ll be able to point to a few pluses, a few items that continue to confuse me, and I’ll have more direction than before. I look forward to our next conversation. Her input is exactly what I needed.

A chance opportunity taken to advantage has come around to pay off on a need for resolution. Did randomness figure in to this week’s experience? Some might say, I suppose, that serendipity snatched up the wrong cloak before it knocked at my mental door during a common webinar and took control under the guise of synchronicity.

Wordsmith Studio Prompt Response

I haven’t had much spare time today for posting or reading. When I was reminded that Wordsmith Studio had a new prompt up for the week, I had something from a couple of years ago that worked perfectly.

I hope you all enjoy this small poem poster, which speaks to Autumn through an image of words.

Photo Courtesy of BJJones Photography

Photo Courtesy of BJJones Photography

Illusion as Art or Life

A quote leaped from the screen yesterday to flog me with reality and a cultural paradox. In retrospect, the enormity of the concept pushed all else to the side, making room for concentration on a simple, yet profound, idea.

The quote was from Helen Keller, a personal hero of mine. It speaks to our desire for constant protection in our lives and the falsity of that desire in the face of truth. It speaks to how we live our lives and how we interact with others.

I could have used many mediums to illustrate the quote and the concept revealed. I chose to use one which has favored me for a long while–a poster format.

Recall the events of these past few days and reflect on the thoughts generated by this blatant reminder of the transience of life.

DSCN0432 - Copy

NaNoWriMo–Coming Round the Bend

2013-Participant-Square-ButtonAnytime this writer deals with NaNo, I experience stress, angst, guilt, and a few other random emotions so fleeting they defy definition.

This past week was no different from the first, in some ways.

My first project for the month is perking right along, I’m glad to say. The first 26 of 38 pages are now completely rewritten and ready for more additions toward that novella I mentioned in my earlier post.

I have several big additions planned for the story, 500 words of which got added yesterday.

At the same time, I worked on a couple of articles, a small book for Kindle, added  a few more needed complications to my current novel’s outline, and posted to two blogs. I also attended several webinars for information gathering and did some intensive study.

I’ve been busy. Some would say too busy, perhaps, but that’s how I operate. I work like mad for a while and then crash and burn. Today is a day of rest for me. So where am I?

Here I am, posting again. I’ve felt this site was neglected  for the past week and I needed to atone. I also have some planning to do for the coming week on several projects that will be on the boards.

To all of those out there who’ve reached down into their inner recesses for strength to complete this month of challenges intact, you have my support and appreciation. This isn’t an easy month for writers around the world.

Take a deep breath, exhale fully, and begin again. You can do what you strive to do. Push toward your goal, and listen to your inner cheerleader. Above all, take at least 12 to 24 hours each week to totally decompress. Completing the challenge of NaNoWriMo or any other in November has little value if you exhaust yourself in the process.

Remember that each year Thanksgiving takes on a whole new meaning for those of us who write.  You’re going to need those reserves of strength and energy next month to deal with the bigger holiday season.

Enjoy a productive and sane week, my friends. I’ll be on the lines with you.

Claudette

At Home–Webinars and Walking Away

Magazine Stand

When to RSVP

Many of us who explore the internet get frequent invitations to attend webinars. In my case, subject matter varies from self-improvement to writing software and writing opportunities and financial processes to career studies.

I learned long ago that each of these tiny ‘classes’ ends with a sales pitch. That is, after all, the nature and purpose of most webinars. With that in mind, my attendance at a webinar takes on a single mission. With each invitation to attend, I ask myself two questions—is this subject of use to me now or can I glean at least one good piece of information from what’s presented to help move me further and faster toward a major annual goal?

If I can answer YES to either of those questions, I will attend—provided its scheduled time is convenient for me. Some calendar weeks have me sitting with headphones on to attend two-three webinars.

Have I ever been disappointed? Sure, but oddly enough, germs of information that I’ve taken away from other sessions have led to personal revelations or career assistance.

If I glean nothing but trends in the publishing business or information that I can use for an article, I’ve come away ahead. Tidbits may not seem like much of a take-away, but tidbits act as grains of sand when used to fill a hourglass with information. What might appear trivial at first has a habit of piling up when a person pays attention to the chatter outside one’s personal perspective.

Getting the most for the least

A good example of this habit of mine involves the National Association of Memoir Writers. This group pulls together writers interested in that genre, as well as the experts in the field. Weekly roundtable discussions on memoir writing stimulate the Muse. Training classes and frequent webinars innumerate the expectations, needs, and trends in the genre.

I’ve learned more about memoir in the past year through free sessions, about all aspects of memoir, than I’d ever anticipated when I signed up for the regular newsletter. I’ve learned about the publishers, the self-publishers, and how the writing is done. I’ve learned that not always does a memory make an effective, readable story.

Above all, I’ve come to understand that memoir can be one of the most fascinating and exciting challenges a writer can pursue.

Time spent gathering

Taking three hours a week to garner three useful bits of information for my work doesn’t seem excessive to me, especially when those bits can affect all aspects of my writing. I  write in multiple genres. I enjoy flexing mental muscles across the spectrum.

Science fiction or fantasy can benefit as much from learning about how short stories and novellas are surging in the marketplace as can memoir or women’s fiction. Print books and magazines no longer seem to dominate the industry. Mobile devices have created a demand for easier, mobile reading choices.

These new demands aren’t only creating new platforms, but also creating new formats for the material presented. An hour spent listening to these changes from those who market for a living, who watch industries for change, helps me plan for how I want/need to proceed with my writing goals. How I develop those goals depends solely on my understanding of the industry’s needs and trends.

I’m not wasting time by attending or listening. I’m learning to read a map of the future; a map built with grains of sand that shift rapidly under technology’s heel. I can learn now or regret later.

How many invitations for learning are you attending? If you’re not attending any, consider picking up a few newsletters from around the web for industry news.

NaNoWriMo Day 4 Progress

Blank Mind Map

Today’s writing proved interesting.

I’ve done the last rewrite on the first ten pages of my short story turned novelette/novella. Btw, the name of that story is “A Grain of Truth.” With those pages done, I have 28 more to complete and approximately 30 to write.

How can I possibly add that many pages of relevant material to an established story? I’m so glad you asked.

It all begins with the “What If” game and moves on from there.

  • What if the heroine puts up a real struggle when she’s scuttled?
  • What if her knowledge of the ship and its workings allows her to set up her own disappearance while on board, leaving her nemesis to explain where she is?
  • What if she’s spaced?
  • What if a hunt ensues and the villain can’t make his rendezvous?
  • What if the Guild Master orders the fleet out to look for her?

You see what I mean? A few of those types of complications are easily worth at least30 pages, if not more. It’s actually more efficient to add the complications now–at least for me. The ending is already clear to me. The characters and their possible responses are also obvious to me as the writer. Above all, this heroine has lived inside me for twenty years now. I’m accustomed to how her mind works.

I love science fiction. So much is possible with the genre. I have the option to make it as complex or as simple as my imagination is capable of producing.

Did I mention that I tend to dream entire sci-fi movies? No? Well, it does happen on a semi-regular basis. (She smiles with embarrassment and blushes.)

Aside from work on these two manuscripts, I’ve done a bit of studying today that will help me at the end of the month when some of my work needs to leave home for new digs. I also placed a potential writing challenge on next month’s editorial calendar. I predict a blast of fun for everyone, especially after NaNo. And I was taken out to lunch.

How good is that?

Tomorrow, I will probably be running behind. I have my writing work, but also a few webinars to deal with, which means a bit less writing time, but productivity still flows. I won’t sweat the small stuff this month. There’s too little spare time for that.

Well, that’s it for now. I have another hour or so to spend in space and get a few of those complications fleshed out and inserted in the text.

Here’s a whoot-whoot for all those who are working on NaNo or any projects today. Stand firm, word soldiers. Your relief will come when the job’s done.

Until I see you all again tomorrow, take care and happy writing.

Claudette