Tag Archives: writing challenges

Dreams with Deadlines

“Goals are dreams with Deadlines” – Diana Scharf Hunt

Do you ever wonder what life would be without dreams or goals? Would we just float along aimlessly, with no real gumption to move forward in life? It sounds boring.

Goals can be mundane, for example, like planning to make it to a destination on time for once. Or they can be a major plotting point in your life, like becoming a successful author.

One of my major writing assignments, due today actually, for one of my classes was to write an essay on my Life Goals. This included a three year, five year, and a ten year goal that I had to set out for myself. These things could not be something like getting married (though, check), or having children (again, check), but more like goals that I could accomplish on my own by pushing myself to reach them and not relying on another individual to succeed.

This sounds easy enough, but it wasn’t. Writing is a big part of my future, and I share my goals for writing every time that I make it to a writer’s meeting. It was difficult for me to come up with three attainable but meaningful goals and then write a paper explaining how I plan on reaching these said goals.

Writing this paper was horrible, not because I couldn’t do it, but because it had me hanging my head in shame. I am so swamped with trying to keep my head afloat that I am not getting the one thing done needed to reach my ultimate goal. Write! I mean, I am writing, but I am not getting to really write the fun stuff right now. Oh, I write. Essay’s upon essay’s! (If I never have to analyze another topic again, I wont be saddened.)

I need to write for fun for any of this to be worth it. This being school, blogging, and meetings.

At the beginning of next month is the start of NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in 30 days), I know that Jesi and CJ are already signed up to do it and have been planning profusely. I keep telling myself that I don’t have the time, and I really don’t, but I need something fun to get me back in the swing of writing for pleasure and not just for a grade.

 I guess I just added another dream with a deadline to my list .

So what goals do you have set for yourself? How are you going to achieve them? Let us know down in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Till next time,
~AJP

A Juggling Act

**Disclaimer, this post has not been proofread for any grammatical or spelling errors, so please read any errors that you come across and pretend that they are not really there. **

Wednesday. Today is Wednesday. It is just a day in the middle of the week for a lot of people, or also known as hump day.

Wednesdays are also the day I have a class scheduled and get my youngest to soccer practice and my oldest to church for bible study, after I have put in 9 hours at the office, made dinner and… and… I am forgetting something…

Oh right. It is also the day that I post here at TW.

I have a juggling act going on right now and I might’ve let a few of the balls drop lately, including remembering that I post on Wednesdays. Well, I cannot say that I have completely forgotten. I do remember – right as I lay down for sleep and go through my “to do” list in my head. That’s when I go “crap!”

But why dwell on what cannot be undone. Let us move forward…

Last night was my first class in English. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, the professor hadn’t posted his semester syllabus nor had he sent any pre-class emails giving us a heads up. Yes, I know this can be the norm, but my other professors already had made contact and I have been a complete mess of nerves about going back to school, so I really wanted something.

In class he explained the reason for the lack of a syllabus, of course system issues – we’ve all been there right? – And gave us a break down of what our next 16 weeks will look like. At this point I was both relieved and back to being freaked out. It occurred to me in the middle of this room, with 20 other bodies, that I will now be graded on my writing.

GRADED!

Graded, as in scored for pass or fail. (What in the hell was I thinking?)

This week’s assignment, we watched a video and have to give a thesis on the debate of the “Homeless Homed” project. It is less for a grade and more to show the professor my writing style. We need to give the argument vs argument concept; the argument being the claim plus the justification in the situation.

Claim + Justification = Argument

Then how the use of the “Art of Persuasion” and how a person can use techniques to coerce their audience. It is an interesting concept. And something as writers we all try to do. We use our voice and techniques or the “Art of Persuasion” to show/coerce the reader into feeling for our characters even if/when they are flawed.

Hmm, wonder what I will come up with.

So my question for you, do you know your writing style? And if so, are you comfortable enough with it to be graded on? Let me know in the comments.

Till next time,
~AJP

It’s Elementary, and Only the Beginning

showing

Good morning. As we make it through Friday, a time when us weekend warrior writers look forward to letting loose and exercising our alleged talents – we know who we are – I want to follow up on Jesi’s posting from Monday about “showing” descriptions in our stories, as opposed to “telling.”

In writing fiction, in particular, the basic concept is rather elementary, yet I have found lately that a significant segment of emerging writers do not understand what it means or how it works. Of four writers I specifically have in mind, as I sit down to write this, three of are more mature – well into their 60s and 70s.

I was lucky, I suppose, having picked up the notion of “show, don’t tell” in high school English. Although, I do have to admit, it took a while before I understood even the basics. At first, I was frustrated because I could not get how writing, alone, could lead to creating some picture or visual setting.

But, when I finally caught on to what my teacher was talking about, it all seemed so magical. I felt like a new world had been opened and that I had been bestowed with a fantastic new power of insight. It truly became a new dimension of writing for me.

Jesi’s example of taking a few sentences of a description about a tree that reads more like “stage directions,” really hits the problem. You can see her example in her posting, as she shows the modified three sentences of dry description and, using the vehicle of a third-person perspective, brings it alive for the reader’s imagination. It makes all the difference between falling asleep out of boredom and having the curiosity and motivation to read on.

To me, using a rough description from one of my own stories, it is the difference between listing the attributes of a mountain valley with its green trees, small creek and tall mountains, as opposed to having the reader step into the picture to discover a creek with its overflowing winter’s runoff, meandering through the lush greenery of its aspens where a family of sparrows is playing. The birds get scared off by an approaching wolf and takeoff toward the heights of the sky-reaching snow-covered peaks.  Again, it is just a rough draft version, but hopefully it helps illustrate the point.

Sorry Jesi if I’m riding the coattails of your topic this week, but I think you have hit on a critical point of writing that I think is worth repeating, because some people are just a bit challenged, as I was, as they attempt to grasp the concept.

From there of course, the goal is to strive to perfect “show, don’t tell,” which is the lifetime challenge of the art. Personally, I’m always looking at fresh variations to try to experiment with, as I strive to draw the reader through the story. I know some writers have come close to perfecting the art, but so far, I have a long way from being one of them.

 

Rewrite, Rework and Lessons Learned

Rewrite

Several years ago, I began writing a story with a roundabout target of 50,000 words to 60,000 words. At this point, the plot and storyline don’t really matter, but the experience and its revealing lesson I think will be of tremendous help to me and perhaps other writers. In fact, this particular lesson is not over because it is going to still be quite a while until I will be ready to have my Twisted writing colleagues critique even the first few chapters.

I have, however, had a few people look at the first chapter or two of the original version – what I had thought was the final draft. Their consensus, though, was that the beginning was weak. So, I looked over the first couple of paragraphs, reworking them three or four times, but saw, at best, little to no improvement.

It tuned out that I had missed their point, which has caused some frustration, but I think it will be well worth it in the end.

Originally, I had liked the beginning as an intro to the protagonist and for creating the setting of the story. But, it was not until somewhat later when I realized it was not just the first couple of paragraphs that were the problem, but the whole beginning. Basically, that was when the learning experience started, as I had misunderstood what they were trying to convey.

As I look over the story now, these few years later and drawing from other critiques, the opening chapters, I realize, fail to spark any true interest and, like a car with a flat tire, it falls short of getting to the plot and pulling in the reader. Additionally, even though I had been generally satisfied with the background and character development, the plot, itself, was, indeed, rather weak.

Since then, I have liberated the story from my files and began to review it for a rewrite – to rework the beginning and strengthen the plot.   My thinking was to take the story and basically insert new sections, as a contractor would refurbish a building, and then shore up the links to ensure continuity.

That line of thinking, at least in this case, has not been working for me. So, I have decided on an alternate approach of coming from the opposite direction. I figure that by sticking with the same story idea, but adding some life to the plot, starting with a whole new beginning, I can write a much improved version, based on all the alleged wisdom I have gained since starting this story. Of course, I will still use much of what I have already written, like constructing a new building with some of the old walls. So, instead of writing between existing sections, as I first mentioned above, I will attempt to add as many of the original sections that will fit to the new version.

This rework is going to take some more time than originally conceived and I will have to discard at least a few of the sections, if not whole chapters, but I am already envisioning a much better and engaging draft. But then, who knows what other ideas I am destined to come up with and lessons I will learn toward improving this and future stories.

 

I Triple Dog Dare You

Yes, I’m late today, but at least I’m not as late as I was last Monday. Today I want to talk a little about writing challenges and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

There are a lot of writing challenges available for writers of all sorts to participate in on the web. Some take place annually, such as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo which I participated in). Some are weekly all year long, such as The Daily Post’s Tuesday challenges and Charli Mills 99-Word Flash Fiction weekly challenge over on her blog Carrot Ranch Communications (which our very own AJ takes part in). Really, just google “writing challenges” and take your pick.

So why are there all these challenges? Why should you elect to participate in one?

No one says you have to do anything you don’t want to do. But, how are you to know your limits if you don’t test yourself? That’s something a challenge will do for you. Challenges, by definition, are a sort of call to action. To take part in something, to question the truth or validity of a thing, to invite someone to engage in a contest. When you participate in a challenge, whether for writing or anything else, you are questioning your ability to accomplish a task. Can you do what needs to be done? Are you good enough?

The problem with challenges, or at least participating in them, is that we tend to doubt our own abilities. We can’t do it so we don’t even try. We’re comfortable writing what we’ve been writing and we don’t want to try anything else. And that’s when your writing gets old and stale, and you find yourself in a writing rut. Then you ask why isn’t anyone liking what you write.

If you don’t push yourself to write, if you don’t try something new, your writing becomes a dry, crusty piece of bread that no one wants to eat. It ends up in the trash or food for birds. Committing to a challenge isn’t even necessary. Just challenging yourself to write something, even just a grocery list, can be a challenge in itself. Try just sitting down once a week with a piece of notebook paper and a pen (no computers) and filling in the entire paper. It doesn’t matter what you write as long as you fill in the paper. The challenge can be just writing once a week or just actually sitting your butt in the chair to write (something a lot of writers have trouble doing). And no one ever has to know whether you succeed or not.

Get out there and look up challenges this week and just see if there might be anything that catches your eye. You might find yourself attempting to write out of your “normal” genre, or maybe attempting poetry. But no matter what you challenge yourself with, keep challenging yourself and pushing your limits.

Jesi

Better Late Than Never

Due to an unexpected train crash happening inside my head over the weekend, I have apparently forgotten my responsibilities. I apologize for neglecting to post an article today, and I assure you that I will not be forgetting again.

Rest assured all is (relatively) well though I am still recovering from the massive headache that hit unexpectedly. For now, I will leave you with a poem, one I wrote during April’s poetry challenge. We had to write an aubade. (Click on the word to see the description.)

The visual form of the poem was purposeful. It represents the beginning of the day leading to a mid-point and then fading into night, an echo of the feeling of the poem, or so I hope. Please enjoy.

Jesi

Evanesce

By Jessica Scott

 

So let it be,

This repetition of life.

Each day starts fresh and new

despite my futile attempts to hold it back,

to remain young and beautiful, to keep the day from aging

once more. Once more into the breach, dear friends, the breach of life continuing.

 

Why can’t the day stay young? Why can’t we stay frozen in perfect moments till we are ready

to move on? Why slowly vanish until we are nothing, till we disappear? Why,

cruel nature, keep us bound to you and remind us of our mortality

with the rising of each new morning? And I’m so weary

of wearing my chains, this burden I bear.

And still I fade, like the mist.

So, let it be.

So let it be.

 

Up to the Challenge?

Sometimes I need a nudge to get me writing.  Sometimes I need a push.  And sometimes I need a flat out dare.

There’s something about having a challenge laid out, a gauntlet thrown or any added incentive to force you out of a comfort zone.

I know I can’t be the only one. The success of popular writing challenges, NaNoWriMo being one of the most popular, shows that we writers like to challenge ourselves sometimes to get the words on the page.

This week Jesi and I are both doing the A to Z Blog Challenge, which is for all types of bloggers, not just writers, but is a fun way to challenge yourself.  During the month of April, we participants will be posting every day except Sundays following the A to Z through the end of the month. Most people choose a theme for their posts and many writing blogs use the daily post for flash fiction, poetry or even serialized short story or other work. On my blog, every day will be a quote or a few lines from a famous novel, short story or poem which can serve as a writing prompt. Some days I will post something new based on that writing prompt, but am not promising that for every day.  That is unless someone dares me and then, uh oh, well, who knows? 🙂 And this is probably where our resident instigator, I mean encourager (cough, cough) AJ, will cackle with joy and immediately issue a dare.

April is also National Poetry Writing Month so another popular writing challenge is NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) where participants are writing a poem a day for 30 days.  I did a similar challenge in October of last year (and may do again this year) called OctPoWriMo, where organizers posted a prompt and a suggested form to try for a daily post. I’m a newbie poet so it was a huge challenge for me, but it was a great way to push myself and stretch those old writing muscles.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) every November is hugely popular and for good reason.  The organizers offer a wealth of resources, lots of support and plenty of fellow challengers to help you along the way. I haven’t ever made the commitment to do NaNo since it requires a significant commitment and that time of year is crazy busy with my family, but I hope to give it a go at some point just to see if I can.

That’s one of the best things about the challenges, it’s a dare you make with yourself to see if you can do something new. It’s saying I will commit to giving this a try. It’s the start we sometimes need on a new writing path.

Sure, not everyone needs a challenge, and some just don’t like the organized ones.  Setting your own challenge or goal may work best for you. I gave myself a daily writing challenge last year. I had to write something every day. Sometimes it was a character sketch or just brainstorming for a scene.  Sometimes it was a poem. Sometimes though it was an entire scene or more. Having set the goal, the challenge, the dare for myself, I couldn’t let myself get by with just saying I wanted to write, I had to write.

So how about it? Are you up for a challenge? Look around, there are plenty! Or set one for yourself. It never hurts to have a little extra push (or a friendly kick in the pants) on occasion to get yourself moving forward.

Have you participated in a writing challenge you’d like to recommend? Tell me about it in the comments. Absolutely hate them and think they are a waste of time?  Feel free to share that as well. We always welcome your feedback.

Thanks & have a great week!

– CJS