Saturday, June 28, 2008

Orchestrated Search #1

On this search, you will need the Internet and a printed, hard-copy dictionary next to you. Follow each step below, and don't forget to share your stories or essays as soon as they are done!

1. What is the first letter of your name? Open your dictionary to the section corresponding to this letter.

2. In what month were you born? Use your birth month's number in the calendar year for this step: that is, if you were born in June, use 6; if you were born in October, use 10. Now, use this number to get a page off the section of the dictionary corresponding to the letter you got in step #1.

For example, if you were born in June, and your name is Rachel, then go to the letter R section, and then to the 6th page of letter R. If you were born in December, and your name is Xerxes, but you cannot go beyond page 8 or 9 in your dictionary, go back to the first page of the letter X section in order to rotate numbers.

That is, if you are looking for page 12 of the letter X section, but your dictionary has only 8 pages of words beginning with X, then go back to the first page of the letter X section. This will be your page 9. Therefore, the 4th page of the letter X section will be your page 12.

3. Look at the first word that appears on the page that you selected. You will use this word in a Google Search.

4. Go to

5. Type in the word that you found in the dictionary. Then, click "I'm feeling lucky."

6. You will be redirected to a website that ranks #1 in the word that you put in. Look at the front page of the website. Go no further. Note what the website is for, and see how effective the website is.

7. Here is your writing exercise: in 500 words or less, write a story about how you think the website was born. Who thought of it first? Why did that creator think that this website was needed? Is there anything about the creator that you know that no one else does? Your writing exercise can take the form of a story or a creative essay.

Have fun searching and writing!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Relax – watch a movie!

Now, you must be thinking: I'm being told to read when I can't find the time to write, and now, I have to watch a movie, too?

Think about it: you might not be afraid of watching movies. After all, it's something that you can do every day. It's something that you can do without even batting an eyelash or using a brain cell! But that's the point: you don't always need to be brainless when watching a movie. You can turn your movie watching session into something productive: in fact, what you might be afraid of is a little bit of intellectual exercising while you're trying to relax.

No problem: these kinds of exercises won't come too often, and when they do, they're meant to relax your brain and make you have a bit of fun away from the writing. If watching movies isn't your thing, then go buy tickets to the nearest play or musical; or, if you really don't want to spend money, try your favorite TV show. If all else fails, watch people in the nearest cafe.

The key to these exercises is to step away from words and let your eyes do the thinking. You need to be visually stimulated, and you need new images that you can draw new stories from. You don't need to copy a movie's plot or make a spin-off of the next big show on Broadway. What you need is something to stimulate your mind and make you start seeing things in a new light.

Still bewildered? Wait for the next entry on reviewing movies and you might find yourself having a bit of fun!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The best writers are also readers

You must be thinking: I can't even find the time to write, so when am I ever going to get the time to read? The answer? YOU HAVE TO MAKE TIME.

Some writers think that they shouldn't read anything or they might “contaminate” their writing style. The contrary is often true: by reading a lot, you don't only expand your vocabulary; you can also expose yourself to different styles, genres, and plots that might influence you one day. The key word is “influence”: one day, you will find that you have your own voice, your own identity, and your own style. It wouldn't hurt to see who else is out there, right?

In this special set of exercises, you will have to force yourself to read. You will be given a set of questions that will allow you to read a book in depth – this way, you can explore a plot, look at the different layers of the story, and isolate characters from their current situation. You might see shortcomings in how authors mold their stories; you might also see strengths in how they write their work. More than all this, you might be made aware of your own shortcomings and strengths, and know how to make your next big work even bigger and greater than you can ever imagine.

So hit the books! Buy them or borrow them! It's time for some reading!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Triad #1:

Sorry for being away for so long. Vacation was calling: Mother Nature gave me a nudge out the door and kicked me down the garden path. Serves me right for reading and studying too much.

Anyway, here's your first writing exercise! Our aim: fiction. You can write a short story, two paragraphs of something that you want to develop later, a movie script, or even a novel! (Prepare for the grueling month of novel writing come November and you'll walk away triumphant on 11/30/08).

You will need to write fiction incorporating these three things/persons:

1. a gardener
2. a ballpoint pen with purple ink
3. a CD filled with sappy love songs

The aim is not to write the longest story or the shortest one, but to incorporate these three things/persons in the most creative way possible. You can write in any language you like, using any format, as long as you're writing fiction.

Do post your work (or links to them) when you're done!

Good luck and happy writing!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fill in a few _____

It's time to get to know yourself as a writer! Whether you base your characters on yourself or on your friends; whether your characters are people you actually know or people that just sprang out of your imagination, you need to know yourself as a writer. What do you do best? What are the things that need improvement?

Here are a few questions that may help you. You can pick up a piece of paper and write your answers down. You can answer the questions in your head. The key is to be truthful, creative (but not untruthful!), and to take note of the things that you say about yourself. This way, you know exactly what it is you like to do and where you should start learning more so that you can be a better writer.

1. My name is ________, and I am a writer. If my life were a novel, it would be entitled _________. This is because ________________.

2. I love writing ________ because ____________

3. Back in school, I wrote ______________. If I had written a novel when I was much younger, a critic would say that the novel was ___________.

4. I want to write a novel today, but I can't because _________. If I want to write a novel, I should ________.

5. I think my writing is _________. One step that I should take to improve my writing is __________.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

An introduction to completing something

Before you can learn to complete your novel, you need to learn how to complete smaller parts of it. How about a sentence? A paragraph? Sometimes, the most difficult thing to write is something short and sweet, something that means something to you without having it taking up an hour (or more) of your time.

Brevity is the soul of wit, indeed, Master Shakespeare says; so if you want to be a great novelist, you need to start off with something small and start building until you get higher up the ladder of Literary Greatness. Who knows? Maybe one of your smaller sentences could be the root of a big novel later on!

With this brand of exercises, you will be asked to fill in several blanks. You might be asked questions about yourself, or your friends, or even your characters. You can train yourself to know your characters better, as though they were real people. You might be asked to examine situations in your prospective novel in greater detail so that you can produce writing that is realistic, not something that looks like it was coughed out of the Bad Writing Cat's Hairball Collection.

Fill in those blanks and start writing! Happy Thinking!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Chew on This!

'A bad book is as much of a labour to write as a good one; it comes as sincerely from the author's soul.'

- Aldous Huxley in Point Counter Point

Monday, June 2, 2008

Be Original!

The world hasn't run out of ideas for you yet. You can write that next great novel, that next great short story, that great essay you've planning for decades - and you don't have to copy the idea from someone else. True, someone else's work might spark your interest in writing, and you might find yourself scouring the library shelves on your latest research spree after you put that historical fiction novel down. But you need original ideas, and you certainly can't copy someone else's work.

But how do you avoid plagiarism? The Writing Place at Northwestern University shows us how through their "Avoiding Plagiarism" page. The page begins by telling us about the pitfalls of plagiarism, and what writers can do to avoid it. These tips involve changing your wording so that you properly acknowledge your sources, as well as acceptable paraphrasing so that you say things in your own words.

If you are planning to write a report, or if you need to do essays for work or school, read this page. You can also consult the Purdue Online Writing Laboratory for more information on how to write formal reports, and how to format them according to different scholarly styles.

Plagiarism can be harder to deal with in the world of fiction. Lawsuits have been raised over stolen plots and copied characters. In your opinion, how might such trouble be avoided? Is it possible, at all, to be plagiarism-free in fiction?