Names With Meaning

I like this one because a name does become part of the person when someone is important to you. It would be a little difficult to turn someone you love or highly respect into a character that does not have those qualities.

From Build Creative Writing Ideas:

Write down three names of important people from your past. Start writing a story or scene between three characters with those names.

Keep Your Pants On

At some point everyone gets that dream where you are naked or wearing something skimpy (underwear or lingerie) or embarrassing (a clown suit maybe, you know best what would embarrass you) and find yourself in a crowd of people. Mine is usually walking down the halls of my high school to realize I came to school still wearing my pajamas.

Usually we wake up from that dream, happy to know it was just a dream. What if somehow it wasn’t?

It could happen. You drop the kids off at school still in your pajamas cause they were running late. One of your kids falls on the school steps so you rush out to make sure he is ok. Only to find yourself surrounded by kids and parents with not only your pajamas but that embarrassing hole you keep meaning to sew up.

Write about a situation where you could find yourself embarrassed, underdressed, in public.

Tips for Column Writers

The full article and all ten tips can be found at Oon Yeoh, New Media Practioner.

3. Understand opposing viewpoints: Be mindful of the opposing argument. Anticipate objections to your point of view and deal with them convincingly with sound reasoning. If you’re not familiar with the opposing view, you will not be able to argue your points well.

7. Do reporting. It’s possible to write columns without doing any reporting but the best columns typically involve some form of reporting. When you report, you get on the ground and you gain a better sense of what’s really happening. When you write from an ivory tower, it shows.

9. Be passionate: Generally, people don’t like to hear a soft or passive voice when they read a column. So be aggressive – even arrogant, to an extent. People want to see passion. They want to feel energized. If the issue doesn’t seem to excite you, the writer, it’s certainly not going to excite the reader.

A Writing Group for You?

I’m not especially a group person. Too much of a loner and I like to do things my own way which is not always conventional or sensible to everyone. Sometimes it only makes sense to me and sometimes I turn out to be wrong, really wrong even. But, that’s getting sidetracked. I’ve begun looking at writing groups for myself.

Generally they fall into two groups, those which are genre specific and those which are location specific. Chances are you won’t find a group which is in your geographic area and caters to your writing genre, in the same group. (Unless you live in a large city).  If you look for your genre it is likely to be an online group. This has good and bad points, of course. A local group will meet in person on a schedule but you may find little support and information for your genre. Don’t get discouraged, the main thing you are looking for in a group is support after all. If you can find that online or in person that is the best thing.

Do make sure the group has a set goal in mind and does keep to it. A group for coffee and conversation is nice but you need more than socializing. If you want a review/ critique of your work find out what the rules are for both writers and readers and beware of handing out your work and not getting it back or having it copied. What do they have set up and are you feeling ok to trust others with your work in progress?

Overall, stick to getting support and information. Whatever helps you to stick with your writing goals and make you feel you are on the right track. A writing group is especially good for those who don’t have support from family and friends.

To get you started, I used to maintain this Dmoz category with writing groups and organizations. I no longer maintain it but it is still a good start point.

Writer Heal Thyself

We all make little mistakes. It seems the longer and the more you write the more mistakes you make – and take for granted. I think we just get used to thinking we know what we are doing.

Being your own editor can only get you so far. Every now and then have someone else look over something you have written. Get them to spot check your grammar, your over use of any certain word(s), your punctuation and spelling.

Of course, pick a day when you are able to listen to their critique. You can’t ask for help and then argue with them or defend yourself as if you have just been personally attacked. When you ask for help accept it graciously. You can be sure you will need help again.

Make note of everything they tell you and keep it all in mind when you write again. You might notice how right they are once it has been pointed out to you.

Me and Yet Not Actually Me

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn.” – Gore Vidal

I like the quote but it contradicts that whole thing about knowing your audience.

Do you know your audience? Are you thinking of someone or some type of people each time you write? I used to think I was writing to future generations each time I wrote in my diary when I was a kid. Now I tend to think I am writing to myself and yet someone who is not actually me.

Thumbs Up!

Opposable thumbs are a good thing. Think of yours today and keep a list (at least a mental notepad) about how many times and different ways you use them.

Don’t get so wrapped up in everything that you forget to appreciate the everyday things we can’t live without.

Give a Good Critique

It isn’t easy to be a good critique partner. You have to be honest and yet stand fast when you hit a nerve and get blasted for it. It does happen.

Don’t forget to be encouraging as well as honest. Focus on the overall story and add spotlights about missed commas, over used words, dialogue, flow, spelling and grammar as an add-on (things they need to watch for). If you can write an overall impression and give not only constructive feedback but some real appreciation and compliments along the way you give the impression that it wasn’t all bad and that makes everyone happy. Well, at least they won’t be miserable.

Don’t dawdle and keep your writer in suspense or wondering if you are crtitiquing or copying. Give a prompt review and if you need more time be upfront about it. Or, don’t do the critique until you know you have the time for it.

Don’t be pressured into doing a critique if you really don’t want to. You can’t be fair if they’ve bullied you into it.

Don’t go overboard and make a book out of it. Don’t become fixated on detailing every least mistake. Set your mind on writing a paragraph or two and rather than trying to perfect them all at once.

Clean Out a Drawer

From the archives of  The Desk Drawer:

Clean out a drawer today. (A cabinet works, too, as does a box that’s been sitting in the corner for awhile.)What did you find? Medicines that expired twelve years ago? Signs that mice have lived there?

How much of the original contents did you dispose of in some way? (Trash, yard sale, etc.)

Tell us what you found, as if you were cleaning out someone else’s things. Make observations and decisions about what the owner must be like.

The Desk Drawer is an interactive, weekly, email writer’s workshop. Have a look at the wrting exercises posted to their archives and consider joining if you have time for, what they warn, is a busy list.