Thursday, December 31, 2009

And Now, for the Peer Review...

No, you're not reviewing a published book. You're reviewing a friend's book - and a friend is reviewing yours.

Welcome to peer review.

Scientists and researchers do it all the time: they hand their raw research articles to publishers and editors, and the publishers and editors hand the articles to the scientists' peers. These peers edit the work, sniff out possible frauds, and send in reviews to make the paper better (or send an order for it to be tossed out altogether).

In this review session, you and your friend will help each other achieve literary greatness. Your job is to pretend to be a mere reader to a writer friend's work. Review that person's work as though it were already out in the bookstore. You don't need to do any editing. Your job is to look through the work, review it, and suggest (VERY GENTLY) how it might be made better - in other words, this is just like any other review that you do, except that you know the author personally and the work isn't out on the bookshelves yet.

In the same vein, be ready to accept suggestions and criticism about your work. Be open to these suggestions because they may actually make your work logical, readable, and - who knows? - publishable!

What a way to end the year!

Good luck, happy reading, and happy reviewing!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reviewing Christmas Movies

Christmas movies are probably either syrupy enough to give ants diabetes, or sad enough to dehydrate the Pacific ocean. Now, it's time to review them, and you may either need to exercise your smile muscles to keep them from breaking, or keep a big box of tissues handy.

Use the same review tools that you would for all your other movies, but this time, try writing two different reviews. Review the Christmas movie as a movie: what are its cinematic merits? How is the acting? The cinematography? The direction? The shot framing? The music? Does everything come together into a coherent whole?

Next, review the Christmas movie as a CHRISTMAS movie. Does it have the spirit of the season that it portrays, or can you move the plot to any other season and still have it work? Does it use the Christmas season to its advantage, or does the movie end up sappy and look like it's trying its hardest best to warm your heart?

This exercise should help you see how your book can be reviewed, too: you can be reviewed in terms of your skill as a writer, and you can be reviewed in terms of your skill as a weaver of imaginary worlds. Both these reviews can exist in one review, but you need to be aware that you also have two major skill sets to develop. Recognize it in another art form, and you can get a greater grasp on how you can improve your craft.

Merry Christmas! Happy watching and happy reviewing!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

"Christmas is the keeping-place for memories of our innocence."

- Joan Mills

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Look Back on Your Year

2010 is coming fast - but don't let 2009 fall behind without looking back at what you've accomplished.

Today, your job is not to soak yourself in Christmas work; you don't need to read writing tips and tricks either. Your job is to look back on all that you've written and ask yourself: how far have I come, and where should I go?

How has my writing improved in 2009? What else should I do to improve my writing?

Are there bad writing habits that I still haven't shaken off? How will I shake them off? What good writing habits have I picked up this year? How will I keep these habits up, into 2010 and beyond?

Writing may be an art and a craft, but it's also a lot of work. See how much you've learned and plodded through in 2009, and you can get a good idea of how good 2010 will be for your writing life.

Happy Reading!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Triad for All the Shopping!

Do you have the time to write a 300-word story? All you need are the three elements that follow, all of which should figure in your work:

1. candy cane
2. candle
3. wreath

These three things should fit into your story, along with your own plot and characters. Another rule: DO NOT MAKE IT A CHRISTMAS-THEMED STORY. This exercise should help you craft your own story without being influenced by the hubbub and ruckus all around you.

When you are done, post your work in the Comments section, or provide a link to it. Good luck and happy writing!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unblock to Relax!

The holidays can truly be stressful, and you will want to escape the crowds and noise if only to find yourself again. You can get drowned out in the hubbub, but you don't have to; try an unblocker when you find a 15-minute window of spare time.

An unblocker is not only a good way to help you get your writing started. It can also relax you and make you feel that you still own something, that you are not being drawn away by an untamed tide.

Are you ready? Pick up a pencil/pen and paper, or open a blank document on your computer. Use the following sentence as your prompt, and then write on and on and on.

"I would like to get away from all this."

You don't have to turn the entire thing into a story. All you need a few thoughts, and you can simply write until your 15 minutes run out. Don't go back and edit, don't look at your grammar, and forget all the rules of punctuation and spelling. This is no publication quality work; this is an unblocker to help you get the day out of your hair.

Happy writing!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's the What If That You Might Want

December is the busiest time of the year, and it's not just about Christmas. People wrap up work, get ready for travel, close accounts, close books, and, in general, get into a lot of scrapes and messes. But what if it was calm?

What if the world went all quiet in December?

"All quiet" means so many things. It can mean that the malls close and no one can shop, or it can mean that people aren't rushing to get their work done. What it means is up to you. You can choose a plot and your characters, but you can't write anything beyond 1000 words. When you are done, post your short story in the Comments section, or provide a link to it.

Good luck and happy writing!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Complete It for the Holidays!

Here's a questionnaire that you can print out or fill out when you have that little pocket of spare time. Keeping your creative juices flowing can actually make your holiday more exciting. So don't balk at the prospect of working on your writing: you're just taking the humdrum out of your December!

Be as creative as possible when you fill out the blanks:

1. The best gift that I ever received was _____________ from ___________.
2. I think the best gift that I've ever given was the ______________ I gave to ___________.
3. ________ the ___________ with _________ of _________.
4. The ___________ on a __________ symbolize __________.
5. My favorite _________ movie is _____________ and I would love to watch it with _________.
6. If I had a Christmas tree, it would be colored ______________, filled with ___________, and with a __________ on top.
7. I want to get ___________ this ___________ because I can't ___________.
8. When I ___________ a __________, I like ____________.
9. One day, when I __________, I can ___________ as many times as I want.
10. It's fun to ___________ if you're not _____________.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A First Sentence on the Heels of Christmas

The holidays are upon us, and if you aren't careful, you could end up not writing anything and getting into Writing Muscle Atrophy. Make sure that you take time off from shopping and greeting card writing/sending to write just a little bit and keep your creative juices flowing.

You need to write a story now, and you don't have to go very far. In fact, you have only 200 words, and no more. You need to write something on the basis of this first sentence:

This December is going to be hot.

You need to write in first person, and you can have as many characters as you like to people your 200-word masterpiece. When you are done, post your work in the Comments section, or provide a link to it. Good luck and happy writing!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Bit of Holiday Goo!

The holidays are upon us! And they can squash your writing too!

Just before you head off and shop, here's some quick goo that will keep you on your writing toes. Below are three everyday objects, followed by three characteristics of any everyday object. Pair each of the objects with each of the characteristics (making nine total possible combinations). Use all these nine combinations in your very own advertising spree!

You have only 100 words at your disposal to share a story about your experiences with the object (with its assigned characteristic). It doesn't have to be a true story: but it has to be convincing enough to make a sale! This exercise should help you stay alert and still have a great sense of humor, no matter what time of the year.

Ready? Here's your goo!

mug blanket turkey
red warm cheap

When you are done, post your best story in the comments section, or provide a link to your work. Good luck and happy writing!