Sunday, August 30, 2009

How to Not Write Weird

Sometimes, a comma or an apostrophe can make all the difference. You could also change the order of a few words until you’re sure you’ve gotten your point across without your readers first going, “Huh?”

Misplaced modifiers can turn your work inside out. If you say “the purple blouse buyer is here,” am I supposed to expect someone painted violet from head to toe? Look for more misplaced modifiers (and possible remedies) at By exposing yourself to discourse on common mistakes in writing, you could end up a better writer yourself.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Secret to Writing Well

Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret.

- Matthew Arnold

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It’s Time to Review a Documentary!

It’s time for you to look at something from real life, and something drawn from nature. There are many different documentaries for you to choose from. You can stick with nature documentaries and look at your world, from the mountains to the seas, from the smallest insects to the biggest whales. You can cling to your favorite biographies and look at how people live and who they truly are behind the public façade they show. There are many documentary types, so all you need to do is look for them online, rent them out, or wait for them on TV.

When you finally have the documentary on your hands, you can review it as you would a movie. There will be some changes, though, especially where acting is involved. You may want to rate the script that the narrator uses, or you may want to critique how the issue at hand is being handled in the documentary. You might also want to talk about how you could improve the documentary.

By widening your movie menu, you can expose yourself to more cultures. And by reviewing documentaries, you can increase your knowledge base and give yourself a greater bank from which to draw ideas for your novel. Happy watching, and happy learning!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Let’s Try Some Non-Fiction This Time

Non-fiction authors sometimes have an easier time selling their work to publishers. After all, they have a built in audience, and they need only worry about a little more marketing than the average novelist does. This doesn’t make them slackers, though: non-fiction is difficult to write without a great degree of research, and it can be difficult to word non-fiction books so that they appeal to as wide an audience as possible without cheapening or oversimplifying content.

What makes non-fiction books so special? Now is your chance to find out. You have your pick of histories, biographies, true-to-life accounts, inspirational books, and religious books. You cannot use cookbooks, travel guides, or books that do not have a narrative. The key is to review a narrative that is drawn from real life, or that employs little or no fiction.

Critiquing a non-fiction book will also entail asking questions about how well-researched the subject matter is, how logical the book’s flow is, how engaging it is, how much you have learned, the book’s high and low points, the book’s format, and the book’s style. Be sure to write a balanced review, and don’t forget to tell your readers a little bit about the book’s content before you dive headlong into criticizing it.

These are only a few things for you to watch out for when you get that non-fiction book for your review. So pick it up from the bookstore, get it from your library, pull it out of your bookshelf, or simply borrow it from a friend. By reviewing a non-fiction book, you also widen your reading base and add to your knowledge. With a bigger knowledge base, who knows? You might write a better novel in the future.

Good luck, happy writing, and happy reviewing!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Having Fun With Your Cover

People think that designing a book cover and a spine before or during your novel-writing process is putting the cart before the horse. However, I have also found that designing my cover is fun to do: it’s a good way to step away from the book for a moment and to relax; it’s also a good way to exercise other creative parts of my brain that don’t require me to use words or construct sentences.

If you’re feeling down and out, and if you’re getting that strange sensation of “I can’t write anymore!” then you might want to try, sit down, and think about your book cover. For one, it can inspire you to keep on going because you have a visualized goal ahead of you. Your book has a cover! Now all you need to do is write the content.

Second, it can be a test of how well you know your novel. A book cover should encapsulate the theme and content of your book, and summarizing your story visually could be a good exercise that will show you how well formed your novel already is.

There are several ways for you to design your cover. First, you can sketch it. Have colored pencils ready for a better novel-cover-design experience. You might want to browse the shelves of your local bookstore or library to see what cover designs are appropriate, especially for novels that have the same plots or are in the same genre as yours.

Second, you can use a graphics design program on your computer. This way, you can also add the summary text to the back of your book, design your book’s spine, and even cook up your own blurbs! You can write little reviews of your work! How’s that for encouragement from your imagination?

Don’t overdo the design process, though. Be sure that you have some time for fun with your cover, and a lot of time for your writing, too. Remember, you may have the best cover in the world, but your novel has to be written well so that people can go beyond the cover and truly remember you as the author.

Friday, August 21, 2009

It’s Time to Go Colorless!

Can you describe a scene without using a single word that refers to color? It’s time for you to exercise your ability to go without color in this photo exercise. You can use similes that refer to other things; you can talk about scenes in terms of smell and sound; but never, ever use color.

The objective of this activity is to strengthen your ability to use a wider variety of words to describe your surroundings. Remember: show, don’t tell. You should therefore be able to call up images of a scene by showing, not telling your audience what the trees look like. It will take a lot of skill, so take your time and be patient. If you like, you can have a thesaurus next to you to help you pick out your words.

You have only 500 words at your disposal to describe this scene:

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

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It’s Time to Google Your Plot!

Ever find yourself scrambling in the dark for a perfect plot? Try this orchestrated search through Google. All you need to do is be creative with whatever is thrown into your lap. Follow the steps below.

1.Go to Google Search

2.Type your first name

3.Search for it. Look at the first entry.

4.Write about how that entry came about. Who wrote it? When? Why? You have only 500 words at your disposal to write the history of the first entry. You can click through to the page to see what it contains so that you can write your story better.

5.Go back to the list of search results. Look at the second entry. Write how it is related to the first entry. Do the people who wrote or designed the web page know each other? Was the writer of the second entry inspired by the writer of the first entry? Think of a creative connection between the two entries. You have only 500 words to write the connection out.

When you are done, post the stories (along with links to the pages) in the Comments section; or provide a link to your work. Good luck and happy writing!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More Than One Novel in a Month?

One year was a double NaNoWriMo novel for me. I took on two novels in one month: I created another NaNo account, kept my two accounts active, and wrote the novels in tandem. Both novels went past 50,000 words.

My reasons were far from vain. I had two plots that I wanted to pursue: one was an Apocalyptic novel that had ghosts taking over the world; another was about my characters’ flight to her home country after a messy breakup with her fiancé. They couldn’t be tied in, and I was hungry to write both. So I wrote both; both are still unfinished; but both passed the required word count.

I’m not showing off. I’m sure there are other people who have done more than one novel for NaNoWriMo season, and for reasons that span the range of vanity and sheer excitement. All I’m saying is that it’s possible. If there are plots that you want to put down into writing and you can’t wait until the next November to do it, then by all means, try your hand at putting two novels to paper.

It’s double the fun (or double the torture, depending on who you ask); when November ends and you win for both your works, it’s also double the fulfillment.

There are a few things that you need to do, however. You need to truly plan both novels out if you are hoping to get them published in the future. The storm and speed of NaNoWriMo are already enough for you to forget who your characters are and what your setting is; don’t compound it by diving into your novels unguided and writing.

You may want to do some planning by sketching your settings, writing about your characters, and keeping a journal. Planning pays off, even in the short term. You won’t mix your characters up between your works and you will end up with strongly established plots for your novels as well.

Try your hand at it one November. Have two (or more) NaNoWriMo accounts, open two (or more) files on your computer, and try writing two (or more) novels for the month. Who knows? You could end up with two (or more) complete, ready for publishing novels when December 1 comes along.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Very Short Last Sentence

Here’s another challenge for you: you need to build your story up to fit a very short last sentence. You need to use only 10,000 words (or less) for your story. You have your choice of style, plots, characters, and points of view. You also need to use this as your last sentence:


This exercise should help you strengthen your ability to write a story that can lead up to a last sentence as short as the one provided. If you are creative enough with this exercise, you can make up your own endings (happy or otherwise) and work your way to the ending that you want.

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

Friday, August 14, 2009

It's One Word, but It's All You've Got

Today's first sentence is going to be a challenge for you. Here it is:


You have 10,000 words at your disposal, so don't go way above the 10,000 word mark as you tell the story that starts with one word. You have your pick of characters and plots. You can write in first person or in third person. Whatever you do, start with that single sentence.

When you are done, post your work in the Comments section, or if it's too long to see the light of blogging comments day, post it on your blog or site and provide links to it. Good luck, and happy writing!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Let’s Go to Dinner with Complete It

Complete it exercises are meant for you to distill your creativity to simple (and oftentimes, single) words. You need to make sense by filling in the blanks, and you need to find ways to fit your ideas in without making your sentence sound like it was coughed out by a chimp. In this exercise, you will complete the following sentences by filling in the blanks with any word you can imagine EXCEPT ANY WORD THAT HAS TO DO WITH FOOD, DRINK, OR ANYTHING EDIBLE.

Good luck!

1.For dinner, I would like to put _________ on my table.
2.I always enjoy _________ on the side of my ____________.
3.I like to cap my _____________ off with a glass of ____________.
4.If I go to a local restaurant, I will _________ the _________ on a ____________.
5.When I have more _________, I will buy __________ for ___________.
6.I don’t ever want to __________ a ________________.
7.I should take a friend to _________ with a ____________.
8.I want to ___________ and _________.
9.I know that I always want a good __________.
10.It wouldn’t hurt if I had more ________.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Isn’t “Preparing Your Novel” Wrongly Worded?

If you’ve noticed the tags on this site, you’ll see that anything that has to do with your novel-to-be is labeled “preparing your novel.” You might have thought, “Isn’t this wrongly worded? Shouldn’t I be preparing FOR MY novel?”

First of all, this isn’t a grammatical error on my part. When you say that you will prepare for your novel, you are assuming that you don’t have a novel yet, and that you need to pave the way for it. When I say that you will prepare your novel, I am assuming that you will have a novel soon, and with some preparation and practice, you will finally write your book.

You are preparing that book, not just prepping yourself up for it.

Second, your novel is not going to come at the very end of all this practice. You don’t practice, and then stop everything and just sit down and write. You will be practicing while writing your novel, and you will be editing your novel endlessly.

Your novel is going to be a living, breathing, changing thing. You prepare it because it will be like a long, drawn out recipe that has to be modified to taste great. You, too, will be changing as an author. Nothing will ever be static.

Writing is not going to be easy, and it’s not an isolated process that will be independent of everything else that you do in your life. It will take over your life if you don’t guard yourself; and your life can take over your writing if you don’t make time to write.

Despite all these difficulties, you need to find your balance between your novel and your life. Prepare that novel; don’t just prepare for it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Look to the Weather for Some Goo

It’s time for you to get some goo on your hands. To fix your little mess up, you need to be creative with your settings. You have four seasons and four weather set-ups, all of which are shown below.

summer winter fall spring
snow sun wind rain

You now need to pair each season with each weather set up, and answer the question: “What would my day be like if we got (WEATHER SET-UP) in (SEASON)?” So you can ask what would happen if you had sun in the winter, rain in the summer, snow in the spring, or wind in the fall.

You have only 100 words for each of the 16 combinations that you will come up with. You need only describe the setting, and you don’t really have to come up with a story (if you can, good for you!). This exercise will help you stretch your creative descriptive genius, no matter what weather you find yourself in.

When you are done, post your best writing in the Comments section, or give your readers a link so that they can see what you came up with. Good luck and happy writing!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Use Your Powers of Description II

For the second time, you are not going to write a story. You will need to describe flowers. With your powers of description, you should have a wider vocabulary and write creatively, so that you describe your tree without turning your audience off. Unlike many writers who neglect to add description to their work, you shall be different.

In this exercise, you need to describe flowers in five hundred words or less. You are provided with a photo to guide you. When you are done, post your work in the Comment section.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Is This Really a Word?

Is “texting” really a word? Or is it better to use SMS-ing? There are many words that you might encounter from day to day that will make you go, “Is this really a word?”

For more perspectives on new additions to the English language, as well as the different ways that words evolve and finally make it to the official lexicon, visit Whether the word was coined, appended to an existing one, or simply made up, you can be sure that tomorrow’s writing will be chock-full of words that we never even dreamed would exist.

You, writer, are master of language. Learn its origins as you seek to be the best in your field.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Something to Keep on Chewing On

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.”

-Richard Bach