Play with Your Words Writing Prompt #31: Persuade Me

English is a living language that evolves through use. However, some phrases commonly used in speech have not yet made their way to acceptance in written form. Here’s two: “alot” and “suppose to.”

When writing the correct form for each is:

  • a lot
  • supposed to

Using these two terms correctly, write 1-3 paragraphs arguing for the way you think something should be done.

Remember when writing persuasively you don’t want to weaken your argument with squishy statements like: “I think,” “maybe,” or “I believe.” Be bold! State your thoughts.

And don’t forget to use the terms “supposed to” and “a lot.”

When done, share your writing with your writing partners or here on the blog. I’d love to see the interesting things you are willing to advocate for!

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Novel Beginnings: A Tale of Two Starts

Last night I allowed myself to abandon a novel I was reading after getting nearly one hundred pages in and began reading a new one that, by page 30, I know I will stick with until I finish the book. What made the difference?

I picked them both up from the library on the same day. The covers and back matter are of similar quality. They are the same genre, one of my favorites, fantasy.

The settings are similar—both medieval fantasy worlds. As a matter of fact, the setting of the abandoned book was one of my favorites, Arthurian Britain.

The writing itself was of nearly equal quality. Like in most fantasy novels there were a number of strange words and names to get used to, but I did not find it distracting in either book, because as stated above, I love fantasy.

The established plots were both intriguing.

The main characters were likable.

So, what was the problem?

It came down to point-of-view. The first book hopped, not within the chapter, but from chapter to chapter. I’d get to know and like a character, and pfwitt! He or she would disappear from the storyline and another one would appear. I got tired of waiting for someone I could consistently care about, and so I abandoned the book.

The book I began last night started with one character and stuck with him. He, too, is a likable guy, and he’s in a real pickle. I want to find out what happens to him, how his problems do or don’t get resolved, see how he will cope with this difficult situation I find him in. I’ll finish reading this book.

The funny thing is, as a writer and beginning work on a new novel, I had been wondering if I was being too simplistic starting out in limited third person, tight. After this last week’s reading, however, I think I’ll stick with it, until at least page 50 :-)

Reading Response Exercise #34: Recommended Reading

Sorry for the delay in this week’s post. The last few weeks have been crazy busy. However, here is your reading response exercise at last.

Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, think about what you have read.

Would you recommend this book to others? If so, why? If not, why are you still reading it?

Write your response or actually have the discussion with a friend. Maybe they will recommend something good for you to read.

Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #30 Nature Narrative

Write about a time you felt:

  • close to
  • inspired by
  • comforted by
  • awed by

or

  • renewed by

…nature.

Write the story of this experience. Where were you? When did this happen? Who went with you? What did you experience? What impact did this experience have on you? Feel free to use all the techniques of fiction. Establish the setting, flesh out the characters, describe the conflicts or issues involved in the experience, use dialogue and recount your thoughts.

Reading Logs for Writers

Aspiring authors are encouraged to “read like a writer.” As a Language Arts teacher, that was one of the concepts I was encouraged to instill in students. However, as a lover of reading, first, and as a teacher who wanted to promote a love of reading in her students, it is a concept I often resisted. When I read, I want to sit down and enjoy a book. It is my most beloved pastime, and I do not want to have to work in the little amount of time I have each day for leisure.

However, since starting my reading log, I have been inspired to use my logging process not just to celebrate my progress through the wonderful world of books, but to log like a writer. And so, I am expanding my logging process, not here in the blog, but in my writing office, to incorporate some of the practices of reading like a writer. My plan is this:

  • Read all acknowledgements, introductory material, and back matter.
  • Record the names of agents who represented any novels similar to mine.
  • Record the names of editors who have worked on novels similar to mine.
  • Update my publisher records with the title, author, and genre of the book.

I am presently in search of an agent to represent my two completed novels, and so making note of agents who have worked on similar projects can help me narrow down the pool of possibilities and submit to someone I know represents my type of writing.

Recording the names of editors and publishing houses will be useful in two ways:

  1. When I want to submit directly to those houses that will look at unsolicited material, I will have a name of someone interested in writing like mine.
  2. When I need to make a list of comparable titles for my queries, or cite a work an agent or editor worked on in crafting my query, I can have instant recall of authors and titles through my records.

As an added bonus, it makes me at least think about my reading like a writer after I have finished the book. As I make my various notations, I need to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the novel, pinpoint genre or genres, and determine if the book is truly of a caliber to which I would want my work compared.

So at last, I have graduated to the writing class! Through my logging I will practice reading like a writer, and my querying process will be supported by the foundation of targeted information I will build.

Reading Response #33: Theme/Thoughts on Life and Living

Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, think about what you have read.

What is the author is trying to say about life and living through this story so far? What evidence do you have for your thinking? Knowing what you already know about your reading, how do you think the author will bring the tale to its end?

Write or discuss your response.

For Pre-readers: Enjoy a story together. Ask your pre-reader what she thinks the main character might have learned through the story. Ask him how the character learned whatever was learned.

Play with Your Words Writing Prompt #29: Take a Seat

This week’s creative writing prompt will ask you to practice your characterization skills or to exercise your descriptive writing with a focus on setting.

Look at the picture below:

Chairs for Writing Prompt
Choose a chair for a setting or character-based writing exercise.

Choose one chair.

Describe the character (or critter) that would have that chair in his home or her office or its bedroom, or who might wish to own the chair. What does that chair say about that character’s personality? About her hopes and plans, his fears and challenges. Now create a scene in which this chair is featured. Reveal what you’ve learned about your character through his or her actions, speech, and thoughts.

OR

Describe a room in which this chair sits. What sits beside it? What other furnishings are in the room? Is it carpeted, slate floored, out-of-doors? What is the mood of the space? Time of day? Now, create a scene that takes place in this environment you have created. Bring in two or more characters and have them interact. Be sure your chair makes an appearance in the scene.

When done share your choice of chair and your writing with your writing partners. Compliment each other on the strengths you see in the writing. Ask questions concerning the things about which you would like to know more.

Have fun together!

For Preschoolers:   Show him the picture of the chairs. Ask her to pick a chair she likes. Talk about the chair a little bit. Ask him who the chair belongs to, what this character or critter is like, and what kind of things the character or critter who likes this chair would like. Write down the child’s response and leave room for her to draw her own picture of the person and the chair.

When done, read the child’s words back to him, pointing to each word as you say it (to reinforce the one-to-one relationship of spoken and written word). Display your child’s handiwork somewhere she can enjoy it and share it with others.

These chairs were featured in an ad for Furniture by Lee, in the November 2010 issue of Traditional Home magazine.

Creativity and the Nurture of the Soul

In The Horn Book Magazine’s July/August 2010 awards issue, Andrea Spooner describes  the childhood of  Jerry Pinkney  (who won the Caldecott Medal for The Lion and The Mouse). She writes:

Jerry Pinkney was born…a middle child in a family of six children. He shared a crowded bedroom with two brothers, and with no physical space to call his own, he created his own personal space with his drawing pad.

As a writer of fiction, folktales, and fantasy, the concept of creativity fascinates me, and what moved me in this little snippet from Jerry Pinkney’s life was the picture it created of how creative endeavor nurtures our spirits.

Once upon a time, I went through a crowded period in my own life when there was no room for the crafting of fiction. I was newly married, the mother of three active kids, and working through a ten-month program to earn both my teaching license and Masters Degree in Education. I was starved for time to create.

Graduation came at last. To my joy, my first folktale was published in Cricket Magazine, although I still had no time to write anything new. I threw myself into finding a teaching job yearning for students to love and a classroom to call my own. Finally I landed a job and the reality of being a brand new, full-time teacher set in. I threw myself into work I loved, yet found as the months passed, a deep well of sadness yawning within me.

After much searching, I finally connected with the source of that sadness. I was grieving my writing. Yes, I had family, friends, and people to love, books to read, and a career I was passionate about. Yet without the mental space to engage in my own writer’s craft, my life had lost its vibrancy and color.

Time for creativity is an important aspect of a life well-lived. For me, it ranks right up there with food to eat, the shelter of my home, clean air, sleep, work, and love. God, the ultimate creator, made humankind in his image. Think about it; we are made to create.

What creative activities feed your soul? What creative activities make a place for you to be who you were made to be?

Reading Response #32: What’s Important/Reading Comprehension Exercise

Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, think about what you have read then proceed to the following questions:

  • 1. If you had to pick only one word to describe what you read and if that word had to be an actual word used in the passage you read, what would it be? Why?
  • 2. What do you feel was the most important event, character, setting, feeling, or decision in the passage you read? Why?

Write down or discuss your responses with your reading friends.

For Pre-readers: Read a story together. When done, ask your child what he or she thought was the most important event in the story. Discuss it. After your preschooler has contributed her opinions, you can even contribute yours. Enjoy this conversation.

Play with Your Words Writing Prompt #28: Playing with Point of View

Have you ever showed up for a group activity—maybe a club meeting, athletic practice or competition, or a class—only to find your group’s leader was unable to be present and had sent an inexperienced substitute? The outcome of such an event  may have ranged from frustrating, to wonderful. No matter how it ended up, it’s likely things didn’t turn out the way you expected.

Now, put yourself in the shoes of that inexperienced leader.

Write a scene, either from memory or made up, from the point of view of an inexperienced, substitute leader.  Use first person point of view (that’s the poor sub telling the story using the terms I, me, my… to refer to self).

Your creations can adapt any tone you choose from humorous to heartbreaking. Just be sure to present them to us from the perspective of your hapless leader.

When done, share your scenes with your writing companions, or as a comment here on the blog. I’d love to see what the scenarios that played out in your situations. Enjoy exploring your life and experiences from inside someone else’s heart and head.