Tag Archives: writing

31 Mar

Facing the Kickstarter Fears: Take a Risk

Guest post by Deb Lund

Most of you know me as the author of rollicking rhyming romps like my dinobooks, Dinosoaring, and Monsters on Machines, but preparing for a retreat with Darcy forced me to finally complete a first draft of an upper middle-grade historical fantasy. But kidlit isn’t where my writing started. My writing dreams began with wanting to write for adults, so I played with novels, short stories, and poetry. I’m getting back to trying an adult novel right now, but I’m jumping ahead here. Let me back up.

Deb Lund online.

Deb Lund online.

[DebWeb.jpg] Web site link for here and/or in bio below. http://www.deblund.com]

Years ago, I was an elementary teacher librarian who wanted a sabbatical, but my school district didn’t know what to do with me since I already had my master’s degree (which focused on teaching writing). The personnel director said I could plan out my sabbatical year and list activities that I would do, comparable to a master’s degree, and my list had to relate to my job. My first thought was, “But I wanted to work on my novel!” And then the light went on. *Kids’ books!*

These days I find myself teaching more adults than kids. I love presenting at conferences, providing continuing education courses for teachers, and offering writing classes when my schedule allows. I often say that once I figured out I could teach adults the same ways I taught kids, we all learned a lot more and had a lot more fun.

Fiction Magic Title

That’s how my 54-card deck and guidebook set Fiction Magic: Card Tricks and Tips for Writers got its start. You’ll find them on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter right now, but they won’t be there long. Why Kickstarter?

Kickstarter makes it possible for people with creative ideas to get the backing they need to pursue those creative ideas. I thought about sending the cards out to publishers, but since this project wasn’t the usual kidlit submission, I didn’t want to face another huge learning curve for this one unique project. In what genre would you place a writing-teaching card deck and book set? And with all the presentations and teaching I had done using my homemade deck, I already knew I had an audience, especially after all the requests I had from writers who saw what the prompts could do for their manuscripts.

Here’s how Kickstarter works: You design your project, come up with rewards for people who contribute to the project, explain your project in print and on a video, have it approved, set the date, tell everybody about it, and then try to reframe the ensuing anxiety as exhilaration and excitement.

Risk it All

Fears About Kickstarter

Failure. It was daunting to put myself out there like this. To be so public about the possible failure. But as a creativity coach, I know taking risks is an important part of the creative process. Failing is part of it, too. And so is picking yourself up after a fall. I’m no longer the person who had her first rejection years ago and didn’t submit anything again for 15 years.

Imposter. And then there’s the imposter syndrome. That’s how I felt today after seeing another big-name author back my cards. This one is not only getting the cards, but paying me to talk to her. I’m used to the imposter syndrome now and I don’t stay there for long any more.

This imposter business is where it’s good to have my own inner creativity coach to balance out my inner critic. Even though I’ve always prodded and been drawn to people who mentioned something they’ve “always wanted to do,” I have to admit that there were definitely selfish reasons for taking creativity coaching training, and even if I never worked with a client it would still have been worth it.


I coach myself pretty much daily. It’s not magic. You can be your own coach, too. I remind myself of my teaching and training. Of all the successes of my students and clients. Of the accomplished writers who seek me out when they hit blocks. I must have something to say. And if I do, you do, too.

Say it. Say that something that can help another find their way, see a new vision, take a risk. A risk like going on Kickstarter. A risk like joining a critique group. A risk like signing up for one of Darcy’s workshops. A risk like writing.

What risk can you take today? Not the big dream. Just one little step broken down as far as it can go. Take that step. Let us know how it went…

Deb Lund is an author, teacher, and creativity coach. She is proud to be on the Western Washington SCBWI Advisory Committee and to chair the original Inside Story. She babbles on her blogs and dabbles in the arts on Whidbey Island. See what Deb is up to at www.deblund.com.

From Darcy: Support Deb’s Kickstarter Project here. Only 6 Days to Go! The main goal has been reached, but the stretch goal is still looming! Read about it now! (“I want all my writers to have your cards.” Jen Rofe’, Agent)

18 Dec

Writing Out of Sequence

An odd thing is happening on my current WIP: I am writing the story out of order.

Here’s the process for this story–which will change, of course, for the next story.

  • Jot down rough ideas for the story. This project is book 3 in a series, so I knew the characters and setting. I just needed to sketch out the main conflict and how it fit into this world.
  • Check continuity issues. Of course, this mean that I had to check continuity issues. What was the name of the homeroom teacher and how is she described. In other words, I had to dip back into the previous stories and re-immerse myself in the milieu.
  • Expand the ideas. Next, I expanded the ideas to a paragraph or more for each of the ten chapters.
  • Check the narrative arc and strengthen. At this level, it’s easy to see flaws in plotting: not enough tension, not enough suspense, not enough at stake, etc. I worked with story line, actually struggling for about two weeks, trying to get all the elements to work together. The result was about ten pages, or one page per chapter. These consist of snippets of setting, dialogue, or character emotions. I know roughly what story beats will be involved, though each chapter needs expansion.
  • Creative Commons; no changes.

    Some sequences are easy to write out of order; some sequences must be written in order or the author gets confused.

  • Expand. With that foundation, I am now writing out of order. The narrative arc is strong, so I’m confident that the planned scenes will actually fit into the story about where I have them now. I am confident of the content that belongs in each chapter. I’m not worrying about fine-tuning each scene, I just want something down and I can turn to any chapter/scene that I want at this point.
  • Integrate. I have about six of the ten chapters written and already much has been revised. I reread the whole thing each day and find weak places to edit and continuity issued to address. This time, I mean continuity within this novel, not necessarily within the series. But I am also going back to Books 1 and 2 to change things for series continuity.
  • Repeat steps as needed. I am working all over the landscape of this short novel and it’s interesting to see it unfold and how connections are creeping into the draft, making it stronger.

Will I use this process again? I don’t know. Maybe for Book 4 of this series, but maybe not for another genre or other series. Usually, each project needs its own trajectory and working method. All I know is that this is moving me forward. For now.

18 Nov

I Don’t Want an Honest Critique

Take the Sting Out of Critques!


No, don’t tell me what’s wrong with this novel. I don’t want to hear it. Minor problems? OK, I’ll fix those. But major structural, plot or character problems? Don’t tell me.

Cynthia Ozick says, “Writing is essentially an act of courage.” When I get an honest critique, my courage fails me.

    I fear the revision needed: I won’t ever be able to “get it right.” Obviously, I thought that I had communicated my intentions well in the first draft, or I would have changed it before you read it. But you say that you don’t understand, or that I’m inconsistent, or that I’m unfocused. How could that be? I see it so clearly. And if my vision of my story is so skewed, then how will I ever get it right?

  • I fear that you’re right and I’m wrong. But how can I be sure? This is my story and it comes from my psychological leanings, my background, my research. How can you tell me what is right for my story? If the story doesn’t communicate what I want, then, yes, I need to revise. I repeat: Obviously, I thought it did communicate what I wanted, or I would have revised it before you saw it. Do you just have a different vision of the story because of your psychological leanings, your background? Are you trying to envision what I intended, or are you envisioning what you would have written? Where does your ego slam up against my ego? And where does your objective appraisal need to push my ego back into line with what it really wants to do anyway? Perspective is hard to achieve.
  • I fear that all my hard work, all the months spent thinking and rewriting, will be wasted.
    As a novelist, time haunts me. To write a novel isn’t the work of a week or a month. It takes many months, a year, a year and a half. More. It’s a long, long process. Your revision notes mean that the time is extended, and that without any guarantee of being finished even then. Meanwhile, that means that I’m a year older, that it’s a year in which I couldn’t write anything new (even if I could find the courage to begin again).
  • I fear your honesty; I need your approval (or someone’s approval; if not yours, then whose?). Will it crush me emotionally if you don’t “like” my story? I gloss over the approval part of critiques and agonize over the “needs work” assessment. Is there a way for you to only show approval, yet open my eyes, so that I recognize what needs work? I’d rather recognize it for myself than have it pointed out.
  • I fear that my standards are too lax. I want to be finished, I want to have this story out there. I want to have written, but in the throes of writing, I want the end of the process long before the story is really finished. Submission comes too early and then I get rejections. Then, it’s harder than ever to revise. But waiting is excruciating. Typical advice: Put the manuscript in a drawer for three months and then pull it out and read it with a fresh eye. What? Waste three more months? Never. It’s done and ready to send out. (Ok, maybe it isn’t, but I can’t stand looking at it one more time and in three months, my editor could read it and buy it. OK, maybe they won’t buy it until I revise, but three months? Isn’t there any other way?)

Critiques, especially honest and on-target critiques, are fearful things. I know that I need them; but they are painful, emotionally draining, and confidence shaking.

But I need them. OK, can you give me a minute? Let me find my mask of courage. There. I have it on. Now bring on your best critique!

More reading:

Other thoughts on critique of an artist and humility.
Art and Fear: One of my favorite books on the psychology of making art. It deals with fears about our unworthiness, fears of critiques, fears of displaying our art and much more.

Top 10 Ways to Stop the Sting of Critiques

Here are my slightly tongue-in-cheek Top 10 Ways to take the Sting out of Critiques!

Take the Sting Out of Critques!

Take the Sting Out of Critques!

  1. Avoidance: Have someone else read the critique for you and only highlight the good comments. Read only the highlighted comments.
  2. Revenge: Give the creep back an ever harsher critique than you just got.
  3. Denial: Write out the reasons why the critiquer is totally off base. Ignore all suggestions.
  4. Excitement: Fake excitement about the critique and tell everyone you know exactly what’s wrong with the story and how you plan to fix it.
  5. Suspicion: Read each comment with the suspicion that the critiquer is trying to get your manuscript out of the running, so their own manuscript will do well. Therefore, you can safely ignore any comments you want to.
  6. Surprise: Allow each comment to be a revelation at how far off base this critiquer is.
  7. Pride: Take pride in your ability to “take it” from the tough ones.
  8. Loneliness: Understand that you and you alone are in the situation of receiving harsh critiques; such things have never been written about any manuscript and will never be written again.
  9. Forgiveness: Realize that the critiquer has sinned by so harshly criticizing your story and at some point they will have to come and ask for forgiveness; be ready to give it gracefully.
  10. Hope: Find hope in the good things the critiquer noticed, and Hope in the process of revision.
18 Feb

What Next? 15 Questions to Help you Decide Your Next Writing Project

I was lucky enough to get an Advanced Reader Copy of Chip and Dan Heath’s new book, DECISIVE: How to make better choices in Life and Work. You may know the Heath brothers from their previous books, SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change is Hard and MADE TO STICK: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. They are adept at taking massive amounts of research on topics with widespread appeal and distilling the information into something that can be used in daily life. In DECISIVE, they discuss decision-making and make it practical. Here, I have applied many of their ideas in a simple checklist: What manuscript should you write next?

Courtesy of the Heath Brothers amazing insights into the applicability of much research, these are practical ideas to help you make the best decision possible. If you want to know more, DECISIVE will be released on March 26, available now for pre-order.

You just wrote, “The End.” And you hit the SEND button. The manuscript is off to the editor.

What now? How do you decide on the next project?

Build a Career

An agent once asked this question: What is the next logical book for you in terms of building an audience that will support your career?

Do you see the criteria embedded in that question:

  • Build an audience
  • Support your career

Is that what you want? A career with a growing audience? Then, you probably need to stick with the genre of your first book, and turn out a second book that will appeal to the same audience. If you wrote a mystery and it sold well, write another mystery—different, better, but definitely appealing to the same audience.

But it may not be that easy. Maybe several genres interest you and you want to try something new. But that might risk your career, because you aren’t building a consistent following. How do you sort out all your ideas and commit to the next project? Here are 15 questions to ask yourself.

15 What Next Questions

  1. Don’t Get Trapped in Too Small a Framework. The decision is rarely one like this: Should I do Mss A or not? Instead, try to look at a range of options. Here are ideas that I have, A, B, C, D, and E. Which of these would appeal to the same audience as my first success?
  2. What else you could write in the same time period. If it takes you six months to write a novel, what else could you get written in that time period? What project deserves that time commitment?
  3. What if you couldn’t write the Mss you had planned to write next? What would you write then? For example, if you were planning a picture book biography of Shirley Temple and one was just published to great acclaim, maybe it’s not the best time for this story. So, pretend something similar just happened to your pet idea. What would you do then?

  4. Could you write the openings of several different manuscripts and THEN decide which one excites you the most? Multi-tracking sometimes allows the cream to rise.
  5. Look at the career of someone you admire and want to emulate. At a similar point in his/her career what was the next book published? Or, look at a musician or actor/actress and find parallels in their careers. For example, Sean Connery could have gotten stuck in the 007 role and never found his way to new projects. Instead, he has regularly “reinvented” himself by taking risky roles that led to an expanded career. Is it time for you to write that “breakout” book you’ve been planning?

  6. Looking over all the possible manuscripts and ideas—what has you the most excited? Which one are you scared to write—and therefore, will push you to write your best?
  7. Ask the opposite question: if you have been writing mysteries, what if your next novel was a romance? Is this the time to make a switch or not? Can you carry any of your audience over to a new genre? Is there a way to work more romance into your next mystery, so the transition isn’t total, but pulls in readers from both genres?
  8. Could you test new waters with a short story or a short ebook? Is there a way to TRY something new, without doing damage to your current audience? Once you decide on a new mss, you’ll have to commit wholeheartedly to write the best possible. But maybe you can take a couple weeks and try out a new market.
  9. Are you too attached to the status-quo? Your publisher wants more and more of this one type story and you get paid. But somehow, you feel your passions are lessened. At what point do you need to shake up the status quo?
  10. What would you tell your best writer friend to do in this situation?
  11. What are you passionate about? What are your core values? Does Mss A or B or C or D allow you to express that passion better?
  12. If you write this book and a year from now it fails(either not published or published to poor reviews), can you think why it would have failed to reach your audience?
  13. If you write this book and it succeeds, can you discuss why it would make your readers excited about your work?
  14. Do you set goals for your books? If this mystery doesn’t sell 10,000 copies, then I’ll try a different genre for my next project. Would a goal like that help you make the next career move?
  15. Are there deadlines for this project, or can you create a deadline? You’ll devote six months to this fantasy story, and then, you must write your next mystery.

You have a choice to make and the choice will affect your future and your career as a writer. What will you write next? There are no right or wrong answers, only answers that please you. You’re in control. I know–that’s scary! But that’s another post.

Hey, Chip and Dan–What will YOU write next?

30 Nov

12 Perfect Gifts for Writers in 2012

For the holiday season, I am asking people what Writerly Things would you buy if someone gave you $1000. Here are my suggestions for some Writerly Things. I think you’ll still have some change left over for a cup of coffee!

  1. I recently attended the Arkansas Reading Association convention and met Newbery Honor winner (x 2) Gary Schmidt. He was talking about his new book, What Came From the Stars. But on the book table, I noticed he had another 2012 book out, Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer. An academic, Schmidt draws on the long history of Western Civilization’s literature to present prayers from writers. It is rare to find a book that talks about faith and writing in the same breath and this book is indeed a rare treat. Co-authored by Elizabeth Stickney, Schmidt’s wife, it is a gem. Whatever your faith tradition, this is highly recommended.

    Watch this book trailer as an example of what you’ll find in this book.

    If you can’t see this video, click here.

    And here is a 13:30 minute video interviewing Gary Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney.

    If you can’t see the video, click here.

  2. Yes, I think an iPad is a great tool for writers. It is an easy way to write. And if you get one, here are two apps that have helped.
  3. TapTyping – typing trainer – Flairify LLC. You don’t have to carry around a separate keyboard if you just use this refresher typing app to help you get accustomed to typing on the iPad keyboard. I find that I drift–my hands get off the Home Keys because there isn’t a little bump, the kinesthetic cue that tells me where the Home Keys lie. But the TapTyping app got me back on track.
  4. To write notes, with a stylus, your finger, or a smart stylus, I tried about these three apps: Moleskine Journal – Moleskine Srl, Paper by FiftyThree – FiftyThree, Inc., and Noteshelf – Ramki. These are the ultimate blank books, just waiting for you to fill them with your musings.
    The best? Noteshelf – Ramki. Reliable, versatile and fun.
  5. Bamboo Keyboard and Mouse. Tired of plastic and metal for your keyboard and mouse? Go Bamboo! This keyboard comes in walnut, mahagony, red and other finishes. Really cool looking!

  6. Moo Cards. I use Moo Cards and get more comments on the quality of the paper. One nice thing is that you can order a bunch with alternating reverse sides, which means you can use multiple book covers on the reverse without it getting really expensive. They’ll save your info, too, so you can come back in six or twelve months and just reorder. Fast, great quality. Love them.
  7. Gift certificate for full body massage. Or three gift cards for massages!

  8. Writer’s Market 2013 Help your Writer love one to sell something this year!

  9. For YouTube promotions, you need a portable video camera and the Kodak Zi8 Pocket video camera is the best! Why? Because it has an external jack for a microphone. When you are taping, the audio is crucial. Oddly enough, the visuals count less than the audio. Really. And you want an inexpensive lapel microphone (lavalier microphone) like this one.
  10. You can read my kindle-book, The Book Trailer Manaul if you don’t believe me. Buy now, during the holidays and practice on friends and family, so you can do a professional book trailer when you need to.
  11. The Career Novelist by Donald Maass. Free pdf download. This is an older book, but it still has a lot of wisdom in it.
  12. A subscription to Publishers Weekly – Exact Editions Ltd

Want to play Wish List?

09 Oct

Revision Disturbs our Emotional Core

Guest post by Carrie A. Pearson

To research this post, I Googled “revision in writing” which generated about 50,600,000 results in 0.36 seconds.

Really? 50,600,000 results on this topic in less than a second?

Why is everyone interested in revision?

I have an answer: because it is so darn hard.

But why? Is it because we believe we’ve already (painstakingly) chosen the best words that could possibly exist? Because we can’t imagine it differently? Because we don’t want to do the work? (I doubt that; writers are some of the most diligent people I know.)

One theory on why revision is difficult is really deep so hang in there with me. . .

Every piece we write is generated from the emotional core of who we are, what we feel, and how we operate in the world. The words come from the center of us. It’s a place we can’t touch but we can feel — a network that neuroscientists call our “emotional system.” My smarty-pants friend, Phyllis Stien, MS in psychiatric nursing and co-author of a recognized neuroscience textbook, says this about our emotional system and writing:

“Authors may not recognize that their emotional systems organize and direct their thinking. Who they really are at their core is reflected in their writing. That’s why there are emotional themes or connections in finished books the author may not know existed until the book is dissected.”

(Isn’t that cool?)

But when we are asked to change our writing, to revise, it is unsettling to our emotional system, to say the least. We feel a discord and because of this, we resist.

The problem is revision is a necessity for writers, and like teeth cleanings, we really should learn to appreciate it or at least not hate it.

What can we do to revise better?

Picture a puppy resisting a forward tug on a leash. Sometimes it takes reframing (or treats!) to change how we view the new direction. When I’m feeling off kilter and resistant, I go back to my intention for the piece and remind myself what I hoped to communicate. It wasn’t wrong the way it was originally – it just began from a different point in my emotional center. Stepping back in there allows me to reframe it and find my footing again — even if I have to take 50,600,000 tiny baby steps to get there.

More from Carrie A Pearson

Carrie is currently on a blog tour for her new book, A Warm Winter Tail. Make the rounds for her blog tour and comment on each blog–and you could be the lucky winner of an autographed book and plush animal.

Carrie A. Pearson is the author of A Warm Winter Tail, a lyrical picture book about animal adaptations illustrated by Christina Wald and published by Sylvan Dell Publishing debuting this fall. She recently completed a MG historical novel, Chasing Home, requiring a lot of revisions, which she is querying now. www.carriepearsonbooks.com

13 Aug

Where Did My Novel Go?

I blame it all on Stephen King, his literary shoulders are broad enough to bear the burden. Three weeks ago, I went to Bangor, Maine to visit my friend and talented writer, Terrie Whitten. A native of Bangor, she immediately drove me by Stephen King’s house, complete with a wrought iron gate with all sorts of creepy things in black. That’s it. I was jinxed.

Wrought Iron Gate in front of Stephen King's Bar Harbour, ME house.

I was fooled into thinking everything would be fine by a couple days of sightseeing: Penobscot Bay and a whale and puffin tour out of Bar Harbor and the rest of the day at Acadia National Park. But that night, I got sick and 24 hours later, I was in the ER with a severe, acute gall bladder problem, which resulted in surgery. Gee, thanks, Stephen King.

When I finally got home, we took another trip to Denver to see my daughter’s new house, where the bathroom was stripped to the studs and my husband helped rebuild it, while I sat in a corner and pretended to write. Instead, I took multiple naps and just fiddled around.

And today, I am back at the office, ready to go! But my novel seems to have slipped a bit in my mind. What was it I was writing? Who is that character?

I asked for advice on the Fiction Notes Facebook Group on how to get back into the story and you can read their great advice here. If you’re not a member, just ask to join and I’ll click you through!

Coming this fall: 30 Days to a More Vibrant Character and Random Acts of Publicity Week.

02 Jan

Details: Think Like a Writer

Have you signed up for 750words.com yet? Or will you try doing 750 words on paper? I’ve just completed my 36th day of doing 750 words!

If the first task of Think Like a Writer is to observe the world around you, the task of the fiction writer or the novelist, is to create, then observe the world of the story. The exercise is the same, but this time you draw upon imagination. What does your character see, hear, taste, touch, feel as s/he moves around in his/her world?

As a writer you can create this purely from imagination, or you can draw upon observations about places you’ve visited. For example, I spotted this praying mantis on the Great Wall of China.

Thinking like a writer means to notice the small things like this, because often, it is the smallest details that make a story come to life. Yes, I observed the usual things while climbing the Wall, but the praying mantis is one of the special things I remember.

Details of Your Story’s Setting

Today, think like a writer and create the sensory environment of your story. Like yesterday, write out what the characters See, Hear, Feel, Taste, and Touch. Then write a paragraph using those details; don’t feel like you have to use every detail you wrote, just select the ones that work; add anything else that occurs.

Does the story come alive better now?
What writing exercises or prompts do you use to make a setting fresher and more alive?

01 Jan

Think Like a Writer, Day 1

Yesterday, December 31, my friend Charlie Woods rode his bike 60 miles and finished his yearly goal of 10,000 miles. That’s an average of 27.8 miles per day and he’s been hitting that goal for over 3000 days. Yes, without fail. Rain or shine (he has a stationary bike for bad-weather days), sick or healthy, he never misses.

It makes me think about my commitment to writing. Do I write every day? Almost every day. But EVERY day? No.
And what does this say about how I think about my life? How does a writer think?
I want to strengthen my thinking as a writer, I want a deeper commitment to writing.

A new tool I’ve found to do this is the website www.750words.com.
It’s simple. You log on the write 750 words every day. That’s it. Simple and easy. As the website says, it started with the idea of “morning pages,” but Buster wanted to create something online to do this. The 750 words you write every day are “private, unfiltered, spontaneous, daily.”

I’ve done it now for 33 days and earned several “badges“. No, they aren’t Girl Scout badges and really, they don’t matter much, except to me.

  • Everyone starts out with an egg, a big fat zero.
  • Writing 3 days in a row gets you a Turkey
  • 5 days is a Penguin
  • 10 days is a Flamingo
  • 30 days is an Albatross
  • 100 days in a row is a Phoenix.

I’m working on my Phoenix now! 35 days down, 65 to go!

In addition, I’ve earned these badges

  • a Cheetah (fast typist)
  • a Hamster (typing without distractions–no pauses greater than 3 minutes)
  • The Early Rooster (because I type early in the morning) (There’s also a Night Bat, but I’ll NEVER win that one.)

It’s fun. I want that Phoenix.
For more information see the FAQ on 750words.com

Here’s my New Year’s Challenge to you! Join me in becoming an Albatross.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll post a daily prompt, which you can use, or you can do your own prompt, if you’d rather.

30 Days to Thinking Like a Writer Prompts

What I’m doing is using the 750 words as an exercise, like playing scales on a musical instrument. I want to sharpen my skills and the prompts will be something that encourages you to spend 30 days Thinking Like a Writer.

Day 1: Thinking Like a Writer

The basic exercise for writers is to observe the world around them and accurately reproduce it in their writing. As humans, we know the world around us by using our senses, what we see, hear, smell, touch and taste. For this exercise, just think about a place you’ve been recently. Maybe you’re sitting on a park bench, eating popcorn when a truck flies by.

Type, SEE. Then record specific observations. Specific is important. Not a truck. But a steel-blue Ford F-150 with mud streaks. The more specific you can be, the better.

Repeat for each sense; here’s an example.

  • SEE: Steel-blue Ford F-150 with mud streaks
  • HEAR: squealing tires, high-pitched, lasted 3 seconds
  • SMELL: burning rubber, contrasted with the smell of popcorn popping
  • TOUCH: chilly wind
  • TASTE: buttered, salted popcorn

Some senses will be harder than others depending on the situation. You may not have a smell or a taste. Think of TOUCH as temperature and texture. This isn’t emotional, such as “I felt scared.” It’s the actual physical sensation of touching something; it can also be the kinesthetic feel of moving through space. Also, search for great verbs for each sense: shivered in the chilly wind, tires squealed, dropped the slick popcorn bag, clapped greasy hands to my ears. For HEAR, try for Onomatopoeia, whenever you can.

Once you have the sensory information recorded (I call this a sensory details worksheet, the most important prewriting activity for a narrative, fictional or real), then use the information to write a paragraph or two. Add any information that occurs to you as you write and don’t feel compelled to use every detail. Just use what works.

A chill wind blew steadily and I hunched under my trench coat, crunching my popcorn, when suddenly, a steel-blue Ford F-150 sped down the road, just as the stop light turned yellow, then red. Wheeeeeeeee! The high-pitched squeal from the truck’s brakes blasted the quiet day. It stopped. Halfway through the intersection, but just short of a red Miata convertible, with a crazy driver who thought such a chilly day was a good day for driving around with the top down. No, the crazy driver was behind the wheel of the Ford.

Not great writing, maybe, but specific and detailed. That’s what you want when you do this exercise, practice your scales, write your 750 words.

Try it with me. Either on paper, computer or online at www.750words.com (it’s 3 typed double-spaced pages, if you do it offline). I’ll post prompts daily for 30 days as we Think Like a Writer and earn your first albatross!

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