Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, even to a writer

Increasing your Writing Skills is about writing, but no one says a picture can't spark that writing. The Old adage that a Picture is Worth A Thousand Words maybe be true even for writers. Give it some thought - can you take a picture and make it live for your readers? Look for a magazine or calendar picture that really grabs your attention. We call this an image driven story prompt.

Now, take that picture focus on it for a minute or longer. What do you see there. What message does it send to you? Write what it draws from you for about ten minutes. I know another ten minute thing, but seriously, it usually takes that long to get to the message - to clear the chaff and get to the wheat so to speak. Give it a shot, you may turn up with a great piece of writing, if not - ask yourself what failed to happen. Were your words too trite, did they fail to evoke the meaning the picture held for you? Why?

Try this; if there are people in the picture, what are they thinking about? What are they talking about? How did they get where they are? Who are they? Why are they there. Go the journalist route who, what, when, where, why, how?

If there are no people in this picture, someone had to take the picture. Who, and why did he/she take this particular picture? You will be surprised how much you can wring out of this picture when you ask deep questions.

Another trick is like the two year old who just found out about questions - keep asking why, until you run out of any possible thread to explore.
Hope you have fun with this exercise to increase your writing skills.
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Keep an eye out for Joyce Anthony, Author of Storm - guest blogger coming soon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Another Great Writing Tip 0r Trick to Grab the Writing Muse

Lists -- you make them every day - to do lists, grocery lists, birthday/event lists, writers can use them to their advantage. They can use them to spark their muse -- much like brainstorming or mind mapping - try this:
Make a list about something ordinary -- sorting laundry, garage sale, party games, grocery list--anything. Off the top of your head no pondering allowed = )
(I'll wait, go ahead and make your list..tum, da , dum, da dee, tum tum)
Okay you done? Good now take that list and take ten minutes or so (set your timer) Now read your list. Do you sense a rhythm to what you wrote down after a few lines?

Dark Blue - yeah you too
whites - pretty pinks work
undies - and a sundries
well okay that's stretching it but you see where I'm going-- What was your list about - was it about love and all the things you associate with it? Could you turn that into a poem? How about the argument you had, the anger you felt at the stupid driver who cut you off -- any topic is prime for a list and you never know what writing it could spark.

The Garage Sale list could include - a list of available items, the buyers you encountered, the seller, what the day was like - rainy, sunny, hot, cold, blustery--what of those items you haggled over--what history might they have had?

The imagination is a powerful tool, combine it with lists and you are on your way to opening new doors with your writing. Try it! You just might like it. Please let me know how you did - you can post a comment here or you can leave a comment at my web site I look forward to hearing your thoughts and your results.

More later. And don't forget to watch for our guest blogger - Joyce Anthony when she tells us about her writing career and her new release STORM that is taking the world by storm.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Words - my stock in trade- I love them

When you think of dictionary you may think of MSWord's dictionary that interupts your writing to inform you of a misspelled word or the Oxford English Dictionary Tome that takes up several spots on the library shelf, or just a small pocket dictionary you tote with you wherever you go cause you love words too.

How about how you can use it to enhance your writing skills? Here is an exercise for you to try. Open a dictionary - any one - doesn't matter thesarus or even synonyms or antonyms even if you don't have a dictionary handy [though I can't imagine anyone wouldn't have a dictionary beside them at all times = ) ] Choose a word and write about it for 10 minutes - [set a timer so you don't need to keep looking at the clock and just write] When the time is up choose another random word and write for another 10 minutes. One more time, when the time is up pick another word - don't be choosey just open the dictionary close your eyes and point to a word -- use it. Write for 10 minutes more.

Take a look at these three pieces. Even though you chose different words from various places in the dictionary, they may have a common thread running through them because your mind gravitated to a certain thought. See if you can find that thread. Today my writing reflected spring and the rain that is cleaning all the dust and decay from the roads and yards -- I expect when the sun shines next the grass will be greening. What did yours reflect?

If you can't find a thread to your three pieces, try connecting the three separate pieces of writing some how.

Writer's write - and if you aren't writing every day you will find it hard to get anyone to accept the fact that you are a writer. Besides feeling more like a writer, writing everyday increases your ability to write. You will see yourself grow as a writer. If you don't believe that haul out an old piece from several weeks or months ago - can you see your growth as a writer?

WRITE ON! Cherish those words they are your stock in trade, your investment in your future. You could hand some one a dictionary and say here is my story - just select the words you like and put it together yourself. Indeed that would be a story, but it wouldn't have your uniqueness in it, it wouldn't have your voice. So make your voice one that people will seek out and want to read. Practice, practice, practice and then practice some more. In your spare time - read, read, read that will also increase your ability.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Words - trite or true

"As a writer, teacher and former editor, I wince in horror. Spelling isn't "if it feels good, do it." Spelling is precise, and if it isn't, the writer comes across as incompetent, and the manuscript gets tossed into the reject pile more times than not."

There are as many views on this topic as their are colors in Crayola's biggest new box and more--blended, shaded and just plain interpreted in someone's native tongue...So what's the answer?

"I often use spellings that have some meaning to me. That is : I always use grey in describing a soft color as in grey velvet but when something is ominous like a darkening sky I use gray. To me blond is just a haircolor but blonde is a person with great beauty. We as writers have the option of using whatever spelling that conveys the meaning of our words.Go for it." says FoxLady, Dee Carey

So it sounds like we can't just use what we chose - but I'm all for using concise, precise words to say what I mean. I've been a blonde all my life - well until I got some grey (or is that gray?) mixed in there - I learned a gray squirrel is gray -- a cloud can be gray - or white and fluffy...but does that make me right? Only in the country where I use it -- USA - the Brits have a whole 'nuther point of view and spelling for a lot of words which are perfectly correct over there. So, who's to be the judge?

I guess, when it doubt check the latest issue of The Associated Press Stylebook, Chicago Manual of Style or some other source to be sure you are using correct spelling. If your editor says -- wrong word spelling choice -- you better believe you should go with her/him...if you want to be published by that particular publication or with that publisher that is.

But then again, that is just my humble opinion on a very broadly discussed topic. What do you think?

Friday, March 23, 2007

What's a Metaphor - not a meta tag but a metaphor

We are looking at ways to improve our writing skills. Here’s another. You’ve all heard of metaphors haven’t you? My dictionary describes them this way:
Metaphors: A figure of speech containing an implied comparison, in which a word or phrase ordinarily and primarily used as one thing is applied to another.

Try this: On the left side of a piece of paper list tangible nouns (touchable) like flood, cement block, fork, spoon, knife, ocean, steam engine, snow flake— you get the idea. Then on the right hand side list of the same sheet of paper list intangible nouns (things you can’t touch like ideas) such as silence, respect, hunger, tired, beauty, nice, cold,

Got them – I hope you added more than just what I have listed, but even if you didn’t try taking a tangible noun and combining it with an intangible noun to make a metaphor of you own.

How about this: Spoonful of respect, or Ocean of desire, steam engine of lust….okay your turn. Let’s see what you can create.

If you get some you like, why not share them in the comments below and we’ll have a creatively unique pool of ideas to use to spark our writing with new metaphors. Go ahead give it a whirl, you don’t have to be a poet to speak in metaphors.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

How to Tweak Your Writing Skills

I have a small writing group called Word Mage- we are all about writing, reading and enjoying both processes. Learning to write shouldn't be a daunting task that makes your muscles turn into charlie horses. You should have fun with it. One way we do that at Word Mage is daily writing prompts - writing is what teaches you how to write as does reading -- everything from cereal boxes to magazines, books, newspapers, advertisements...READ EVERYTHING.

Improving your writing skills is as easy as falling off a log. Sure it is - what you need to do is write, write, write. You say you can't think of anything to write? Or you have a stack of stuff you've written but can't seem to find a home for it? If you have nothing written, write a short piece about your day - how did it go, what did you do, what did you see, were you alone or with someone, do you like that person? So pick either a piece previously written or this piece and...
Let's try an experiment...

Take a mediocre, or horrible, or fabulous piece of your writing or the one just finished. It can be a short piece of a couple hundred words --or as long as you'd like it to be.

Now go through that piece and look for non-descript words -- words like wonderful, beautiful, horrible. Each person you know, or who reads your writing can conjure up an image that is nothing at all like you pictured when you think beautiful.

Think about that:
What is beautiful to you - a child, a kitten, a lake in winter, a mountain in summer? Perhaps I hate cats - whether they are kittens or full grown feline tigers [I really do love cats - but this works for an example] I wouldn't think that constitutes beautiful, but that may be exactly what you are describing.

So you see, I don't necessarily think a lake is beautiful either:
- maybe I'm a snowmobiler and my machine went through the ice on a lake and I almost died as a result OR
...Maybe I was in a log rolling contest on a lake at a Girl Scout Camp and got pinned under the log...Would that make a lake beautiful to me do you think?

Okay, you get my message.

Now, list the non-descript words you find as you go through your piece on a separate sheet of paper. Ask yourself what were these words actually supposed to be describing? what were you trying to get your reader to see?

A nice painting? is that Monet, or abstract art, or finger painting. Does the matting make it look nice to you - what emotion does it stir in you? Why? What exactly is the painting about -- is it the title that makes you think it *nice* or is it the color, the composition, what?

By these examples I have tried to show you that non-descript words rob your writing of what you really wanted to say, what makes it your UPV (your Unique Point of View) and thus robs you of an opportunity to bring your reader more fully into your story.

Visit us at Word Mage if you would like some help and encouragement with your writing at

Hope to see you there - and watch here for more writing tips and an interview with a well published author - with a unique perspective on life- Joyce Anthony - coming soon - her book STORM is taking the world by storm -and you'll get to hear how, why and when she wrote the book and her process for doing it, right here. Stay tuned.