Novel Writing, Writer's Block, Writers on Writing

Writing the boring: How to write transitional material between novel chapters

I struggle to set up each new chapter in my novel. I want to jump right into the dialog and action and keep the story moving along. While writing the first installment of Valley of the Bees, I did just that. I wrote the story in the throes of momentum and didn’t slow down for anything as uninteresting as setting up my chapters properly. When all was said and done, my story came out to around 25,000 words and was in desperate need of transitional material between chapters. Imagine how I felt when I realized that I was going to have to sit down and write all of that boring stuff at once.

back to basics - writing with the five senses

Lesson learned. Continue reading “Writing the boring: How to write transitional material between novel chapters”

Writer's Block

I know why you’re procrastinating! Now, if I could only figure out how to stop it.

Don't shoot the dog by Karen Pryor
You should check this book out from the library and read it with me. (And no, the fact that I took a picture of a book titled, “Don’t Shoot the Dog” that is propped up on a cat tree is not at all lost on me.)

I am a strong believer in positive reinforcement. I have even talked about it here before in relation to writing. I have often wondered how I could use positive reinforcement to become a more productive writer. So, I just about jumped off the couch a few minutes ago when I stumbled upon a scientific explanation for writer’s procrastination in a book I’m reading titled, Don’t Shoot the Dog! The New Art of Teaching and Training, by Karen Pryor.

The following excerpt describes a “phenomenon that occurs on very long [reinforcement] schedules: slow starts.” According to Pryor, a subject “tends to “put off” starting for longer periods as the schedule of reinforcement gets longer.”

This is sometimes called delayed start of a long-duration behavior, and it’s a very familiar aspect of human life. On any long task, from doing the income taxes to cleaning out the garage, one can think of endless reasons for not starting now. Writing, even sometimes just the writing of a letter, is a long-duration behavior. Once it gets started, things usually roll along fairly well, but, oh! it’s so hard to make oneself sit down and begin.

In other words, the longer it takes to complete a given task and get to the reward at the end, the more likely you are to put off starting the task. And how many projects will you take on in your daily life that will take you longer to complete than writing a novel? Continue reading “I know why you’re procrastinating! Now, if I could only figure out how to stop it.”

Composition I, Essays, Writing Prompts

Tuesday writing prompt: Your proudest moment

Educational Resource:  "Writing process"
Educational Resource: “Writing process” (Photo credit: Ken Whytock)

This week in my Composition I class, we are continuing our journey through the steps of the writing process. Last week, we discussed prewriting and choosing a thesis. I asked my students to do a freewrite in which they considered whether pride is a virtue or a vice. Then we worked together to come up with a thesis statement for an essay they will write on the topic of pride.

Today we are moving on to the next two steps in the writing process, which are (according to our textbook) “Supporting the thesis with evidence” and “Organizing the evidence.” We will continue to generate raw material for our pride essay as we work through each step. So, this week’s (and probably next week’s as well) writing prompt will be a continuation of the prompt I gave you last week. Continue reading “Tuesday writing prompt: Your proudest moment”

Composition I, Essays

Tuesday writing prompt: Pride

Day 34 - Essay and Notes
It’s time to write an essay! And no, that’s not me in the picture. It’s just a generic Zemanta image of someone I don’t know. | Day 34 – Essay and Notes (Photo credit: Auntie P)

Hello, all. It’s week two of my Tuesday afternoon English Composition I course. I have promised my students that we would be doing a lot of writing in class this semester, which in turn means I need to come up with some writing prompts for them. Since I’ll be generating writing prompts each week anyway, I figured I may as well share these prompts with you!

Today we begin our discussion on the steps of the writing process by covering prewriting and thesis statements. The plan is to have my students write one essay, step-by-step, over the next couple of weeks while we learn about the steps of the writing process.

With that in mind, today’s writing prompt is designed to get them (and you!) to think about and generate raw material for an essay on the topic of pride. Continue reading “Tuesday writing prompt: Pride”

Education, Essays, Novel Writing

Make teaching and learning part of your writing process.

The Longman Writer: Rhetoric, Reader, Research Guide, and Handbook (8th Edition)
This semester, I am teaching out of The Longman Writer: Rhetoric, Reader, Research Guide, and Handbook (8th Edition.) You can buy a copy here.

This semester, I am teaching one section of English Composition I at my local technical college. This is not a course I particularly care to teach. The first semester I taught it was a disaster. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I definitely didn’t know the material well enough to teach it. It was a horrible experience for everyone involved. This semester, I finally feel like I kinda know what I am doing. And it’s having a positive impact on my writing.

Tuesday was our first day of class, and I killed it. I was well prepared, I knew what I was talking about and best of all, the students were engaged. I left class that afternoon thinking, “Where the hell did that come from?” Continue reading “Make teaching and learning part of your writing process.”

Blogging, Uncategorized

10 Day Writing Blogger Challenge: Day 1

Welcome to the 10 Day Writing Blogger Challenge.

I’ve been reading Vikki Thompson’s responses to Hunting Down Writing’s 10 Day Writing Blogger Challenge over on her blog, The View Outside and decided to partake in the challenge myself. So, without further ado, here is my response to the Day 1 Writing Prompt:

For this first post, I chose to use the alternative prompt, as I believe I have already shared a pitch of my current novel project.

Here’s the first prompt: Discuss whether writers should blog about writing.

And my answer: YES! I think writers should blog about writing for a variety of reasons. Continue reading “10 Day Writing Blogger Challenge: Day 1”

Novel Writing, Thesis

Facing the fiery hells of feedback

Example 1. Optical feedback
I am only sharing this picture because it is cool. | Example 1. Optical feedback (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Feedback is so depressing because it always means more work. It doesn’t matter who you are, or how good you are, every round of feedback will point out *something* that needs more work.

Unfortunately, I am not yet at the point where I can decide to call it finished and just be done with it. I have yet to finish my complete first draft, so there will be a lot more revisions to come before the work is done. Continue reading “Facing the fiery hells of feedback”

Novel Writing, Writers on Writing

You should write your novel this summer


Stephen King, American author best known for h...
I bet even the King of horror probably thinks his first drafts totally suck. | Stephen King, American author best known for his enormously popular horror novels. King was the 2003 recipient of The National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Taken at the 2007 New York Comicon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A cousin-friend recently sent me the first page of a novel she’s writing and asked me if I thought it was any good. She writes some beautiful prose, but I thought she was a little too worried about the “goodness” of her novel at this stage in the writing process. So, I gave her the following advice:

I’ll tell you what I recommend (and a lot of famous published authors seem to agree): Just sit down and mind-dump your story without thinking about whether it’s any good. Stephen King wrote a really great memoir on writing, where he talks about how you should never spend more than a season (3 months) writing a rough draft. Your rough draft will probably seem like garbage, but that’s how it is for everyone (even Stephen King). Once you have your story dumped out on the page, then you can go back and start revising it to make it “good.” Continue reading “You should write your novel this summer”

NaNoWriMo, Novel Writing

Who’s doing NaNoWriMo this year?

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to ...
Are you ready for NaNoWriMo? | (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

November is nigh. It’s time to decide. Are you jumping into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year?

Last year was my first shot at National Novel Writing Month. I didn’t get very far at 11,654 words, but I still found NaNo a valuable experience. As I mentioned in a previous post, last year’s NaNoWriMo really pushed me to look at my writing process and figure out this whole outlining of the novel business. Continue reading “Who’s doing NaNoWriMo this year?”

Essays, Novel Writing

Reading and writing a new project

Patrick Rothfuss is a sweetheart
“The Name of the Wind,” a novel by Patrick Rothfuss, helped put me in the right frame of mind to get started on my latest writing project.  (Photo credit: Rakka) 

I can’t seem to write without reading. And when I do read, I always end up writing in the same genre I’ve been reading. When I read a lot of poetry, I find myself writing a lot of poetry. If I’ve read a couple of good YA novels in a row, my brain wants to write a YA novel. So, it was no surprise that an idea for a fantasy novel popped into my head right as I was finishing Patrick RothfussThe Name of the Wind a couple of weeks ago.

I was out for my almost-daily walk one morning when a couple of interesting characters began to have a conversation in my head. Normally when this happens, I reach for a pen and paper (or my laptop) and rush to capture these conversations word-for-word. What I usually end up with is a small bit of compelling dialogue that goes absolutely nowhere. Continue reading “Reading and writing a new project”