Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron

Looking on Amazon for books on writing prompts, Jack Heffron's The Writer's Idea Book came up as a source of over 400 prompts and encouraging advice.  In the reviews, Heffron's readers dubbed the book "insurance against writer's block" for "writers of any genre."  Although almost all the reviews as of today are positive (19 of 22 readers gave it 5-Stars), one reader pointed out that the prompts tended to focus on finding inspiration from everyday objects rather than the wonderful or the unexpected.  Another reader - a poet - felt that Heffron's focus on fiction is very apparent.  She writes that the prompts tend to be helpful for narrative prose, but that there's a distinct lack of poetry exercises or the kind of inspiration that helps start a poem.

Writing Prompt: Express the Forgotten Senses

This next writing exercise is meant to help bring out some of the "forgotten senses" in writing.  Often, writers focus so exclusively on the sights and the sounds of an experience that they neglect the essential senses of taste, touch, and smell...

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Unthinkable - Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why by Amanda Ripley

Most fiction is really about the personal disasters of life. Conflict springs from impossible situations for which our protagonists are ill-equipped. In The Unthinkable, Amanda Ripley presents the reactions of people who have faced deadly situations ranging from September 11th to stampedes at Mecca.  Interspersed among the personal stories are reports of scientific studies which cast light on the human behaviors which lead to both panic and survival.  It's a fascinating read with great insights into cultural psychology.

Paragons - Master Science Fiction Writers Ply Their Craft

Few things are more rewarding than a book about writing written by a writer.  In Paragons, we get the best of two worlds: a collection of twelve short stories written by some of the best authors in the genre coupled with craft essays in which they discuss the source of their ideas and the art of getting them on the page.  Besides providing excellent tips for writing well, the book delivers a good dose of perspective.  It shows us that all writers - even established writers - must rely on the fundamentals of storytelling as they face their own doubts about writing.

Divided into six sections, Paragons devotes individual sections to plot, character, setting, theme, point of view, and style.

Michio Kaku and Physics of the Impossible

Science requires facts.  Fiction requires speculation.  To write science fiction, you need an elegant merger of the two.

Kaku's Physics of the Impossible provides exactly the kind of reference a science fiction writer needs.  In careful scientific detail, he lays out what we know about the universe and how we might eventually build the tools and weapons that litter science fiction like so many shiny toys...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Creating an Online Writing University

It isn't often that writers will admit to learning something from lawyers, but the Solo Practice University has developed an educational network for new lawyers that I would like to adopt for new writers.  In this framework, writers would seek out writing instructors who share similar interests.  Yet unlike the Solo Practice approach, I believe that a writing website could overcome the need for membership fees by placing the writers and instructors on equal footing...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Write the Reading Experience You've Always Wanted

Everyone, it seems, wants fame.  We want success.  And success, in writing, is measured by readership.  It's measured by exposure to the greater public.  It's measured in the connections we have to other writers and also to our publishers.  Yet the root of these connections is the work itself - the writing.
Maryland Writers' Association Homepage Review

The Maryland Writers’ Association is a locally based non-profit organization that focuses on the Maryland community of writers. They are dedicated to developing this community by offering writers opportunities to improve their skills, locate agents and editors, find representation, and discover the network of professional writers in Maryland the area.

Information on the organization is available on their website, http://www.marylandwriters.org/index.html. In addition, there are links available to the MWA projects.

Their schedule and information is available on their blog.

At the MWA critique groups, small, informal groups meet for constructive evaluation of creative work.

The Annual Writers’ Conference sponsored by the MWA and generally held in March in Hunt Valley, MD is an excellent means of networking with local writers, agents, and editors. Writers can schedule, for $30.00 each, short sessions to meet with agents and editors to discuss their work and potential publication. This is a great opportunity for any writers in the area. Though the deadline to register has passed for this year, the conference will most likely be held around the same time, next year.

The MWA hosts annual writing contests in the categories of novels and short works. Periodically, there are additional contests in areas including poetry, children’s writing, and play writing.

They are represented by chapters in Annapolis, Baltimore, Frederick, and Howard County and hold a monthly meeting in Towson.

Membership is $40.00 for one year of membership which extends from July 1 to June 30 of the following year.

The MWA is an excellent resource for anyone looking to become involved in the local community of writers, and for anyone interested in becoming aware of events and opportunities in the area.

1-2-Writing Workshops Online

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Try the 1-2-Writing Forums!

We're introducing a new forum to the site!  Visit www.12writingworkshopsonline.com/forums to connect with other writers.  Or, if you prefer an easier link to remember, go to forums.12writing.com to be redirected.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Write Memoir with Natalie Goldberg's Old Friend from Far Away

Natalie Goldberg writes that memoir "is taking personal experience and turning it inside out. We surrender our most precious understanding, so others can feel what we felt and be enlarged" (quoted from John Thorndike).  She sees writing as a Zen approach to expressing our deepest thoughts and developing a relationship with the mind.  Reading an interview with her (see below), I was struck by her dedication to writing as not only an art form, but as a way to deepen our inner connections.  Her latest book takes this approach to memoir, discussing how we can learn to trust our memories for the page.

Interview - Natalie Goldberg with Ascent Magazine

Natalie Goldberg Website - Workshops and Retreats

Writing Your Way to the Long Story

Writing the ten page Whole Story is, in a way, the culmination of the Introduction to Fiction and Poetry course I teach here at Hopkins.  At ten pages, we begin to cross the threshold from college essay into plot development, from simply writing a scene or revealing a character to developing the forward motion of the story.  To read about how you can write a ten page story (or start any longer work of fiction), take a look at my Writing the Whole Story article on the IFP Blog.

Choosing the Right Online Writing Workshop

A quick Google Search will quickly reveal dozens of online creative writing workshops - some free, some cheap, and some relatively expensive.  Deciding to take an online workshop can definitely help direct your writing, but it can also represent a major commitment of time and money.  Here are some aspects to consider before you sign up for a workshop.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fact vs Memoir: James Frey and A Million Little Pieces

As writers, we must ask ourselves whether we want to write about facts, or if instead we are aiming for a different level of truth.  We also have to ask which which aspects of writing we value.  Are we in this for the money?  To express our innermost thoughts?  Or simply to produce art?

I haven't read James Frey's book, but the scandal it generated was impressive.  As a writer, I am torn.  He duped millions before being exposed, but he wrote well enough to pull it off.  Do we call this impressive?  Or inexcusable?

Oprah's Response to Being Duped

The Smoking Gun Investigation: "A Million Little Lies"

Friday, April 16, 2010

Revise Your Fiction by Expanding the Details

Writers often tremble at the thought of revising a story, especially a long and complex work of fiction. But if you are working on a novel or a novella, you'll need to fill out your story with all the details and subplots necessary to present a rich experience for your readers. For advice on how to radically revise and expand a story, see "Expanding Your Fiction" on the IFP Blog.  For more examples on how to rewrite chapter openings, see "Maria Villanueva - Story Openings from Happy Ever After" or "Selonge Naita, The Martian Spy" on my Science Fiction Blog.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Interesting Idea Generators

Check out these awesome generators. They have things for names, characters, setting and more!


Sunday, April 11, 2010

April 11, 2010 Newsletter

Take a look at our Latest Creative Writing Newsletter.  In this issue, you can find tips on Writing Sonnets, writing a Symbol Piece, and using Tone with Specificity of Detail to hold the reader's interest.

Or, View All Our Newsletters on iContact.