Think Like a Writer, Day 1

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30Days-THINK
Here’s another creative writing prompt for your 750 words, a challenge to write 750 words each day to better Think Like a Writer. Read more here.

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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You want to write a novel, but you don’t know where to start. You have a great idea and–well, that’s all. This book explains the writing process of starting a novel in six winning steps.

Starting the Journey
Why Editors Focus on Page 1
STEP ONE: Clarify Your Idea
STEP TWO: Review Your Skills
STEP THREE: Plan the Opening Chapter
STEP FOUR: Plan the Opening Line
STEP FIVE: Now, Write!
STEP SIX: Revise

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5 Comments
  • Sherrie Lorance
    January 1, 2012

    Thanks for introducing your readers to the website http://www.750words.com! I like the concept, and I’ve already signed up and logged my first 750 words. I look forward to using the website as a daily tool.

  • Ann Finkelstein
    January 2, 2012

    This reminds me of my sons’ Taekwondo. When they started, the color belts were relatively easy to earn, and each accomplishment was rewarded.

  • Darcy Pattison
    January 2, 2012

    Yes! It was fun to get the early badges. But I’ll be working a long time for the phoenix, which is 100 days. But the reward is the work itself, as always.

    Darcy

  • Darcy Pattison
    January 2, 2012

    Hi, Sherrie! Hope you like the 750words.com. It’s been fun for me!

    Darcy

  • Krissy
    February 20, 2012

    I just finished day 204. 213,500 words logged so far. I also completed NaNoWriMo last year for the first time. Writing every day has been incredibly rewarding for me.

    Keep going!