Tag Archive | writing lessons

May 15 – birthday of L. Frank Baum

Today is National Chocolate Chip Day, Police Officer’s Memorial Day, and the birthday of L. Frank Baum, Katherine Anne Porter, Paul Zindel, Mary MontaguArthur SchnitzlerXavier HerbertMax FrischNancy GardenLaura Hillenbrand

Tip: Don’t add a main character or even at the end of the story that solves everyone’s problems – that’s cheating your reader and is bad form. Anyone who’s at the end should also be at the beginning. Especially if they’re important to the solution.

Thought: “Writing is conscience, scruple, and the farming of our ancestors.” – Edward Dahlberg

Teaser: Today is the birthday of L. Frank Baum. He was a prolific writer, but his most famous work is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Most people only know this story through the movie, but there is an entire series of works set in this fantastic world. If you were a character in an Oz book, who would you be? Why? What would you do? Create an Oz character and write a short scene with this character.

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May 11

Today is Eat What You Want Day, Twilight Zone Day, and the birthday of: Irving Berlin, Mari Sandoz, Stanley ElkinRose AuslanderCamilo Jose CelaFrancisco Umbral

Tip: Before stopping for the day, ask yourself a question about tomorrow’s scenes. (What is the character feeling at this point? How are they going to get out of this mess?) Write it down and sleep on it. You might be surprised what your brain comes up with overnight.

Thought: “If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading or do things worth the writing.” –  Benjamin Franklin

Teaser: You’ve gone to see a psychic who will answer your deepest question. What do you ask?

April 28 – Arbor Day

Today is Arbor Day, International Astronomy Day, Great Poetry Reading Day, Kiss Your Mate Day and the birthday of Harper Lee, Terry Pratchett, Charles Cotton, Karl Kraus, Rowland Evans, Carolyn Cassady, Lois Duncan,Roberto Bolano, Ian Rankin, Jennifer Rardin

Tip: Start a spreadsheet or ledger sheet, one for each manuscript you have, and track who it is sent to, when, how much it cost you to send, and what the response was.

Thought: “I write plays for people who wouldn’t be seen dead in the theatre.” –  Barrie Keeffe

Teaser: Your character is a workaholic but is being forced to take some time off. What does s/he do for “fun” or to “relax”? Does s/he go somewhere? Or stay home and keep working in secret? What drives him or her?

 

Note: A very long time ago, in a town far, far away, my husband and I owned five acres of farmland in the middle of nowhere. We were both in love with trees and this land had none. Not even bushes. So we bought saplings and planted some. 5000+ some. Mostly pines, firs, and other evergreens, but we also planted fruit trees for a small orchard. I went back there a few years ago just to see the old place and wow. We grew a forest and it is beautiful. As I think of what we did there, I also think of Dr. Zeuss’s book, The Lorax and the best line ever: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, things won’t get better. No they will not.” Do something good for the planet today.

April 27: Tell a Story Day

Today is Babe Ruth Day, National Prime Rib Day, Take Your Daughter to Work, Tell a Story Day and the birthday of Mary WollstonecraftJessie Redmon FausetJules LemaitreLudwig BemelmansRuth GlickDana Milbank
Tip: Collect motivational statements about writing and perseverance. Use them when you’re having a bad day to keep yourself going. You can do this. You really can.
Thought: “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” – Babe Ruth

Teaser: Finish this using sunshine, ice storm, valentine: The day I died…

 

Note: Today is “Tell a Story Day” – though I am a writer and a teller of stories, my dad was one of the best storytellers I ever knew. He could make you laugh, cry, wince… he made you feel like you were there. You were there during the wars he fought in – and though he always made the stories fun and interesting, you could tell from his face that not all memories were good. You were with him as he chipped stones as a ten year old to help make a road. You were there as he regaled you with stories of his life – a hard one – but he never complained, never stopped going. For me, my dad was the greatest storyteller ever. May you have someone like that in your life. They are priceless.

April 26 – National Pretzel Day

Today is Administrative Professionals Day,  Hug an Australian Day, National Pretzel Day, Richter Scale Day and the birthday of Bernard MalamudCharles Browne (Artemis Ward)Anita LoosVincente AleixandreMorris West

Tip: Create a writing schedule for the next month. Start with fifteen minutes and increase it by fifteen minutes each week until you have an hour a day.

Thought: “Fiction writing is a 24-hour a day occupation. It lives inside you. It resides and grows and comes alive in your mind.” – Terry Brooks

Teaser: Write a short piece using as many clichés, metaphors and similes as you can.

 

Recipe for Gluten Free Pretzels from King Arthur Flour

Pretzels
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 large egg, room temperature
2 tablespoons soft butter
Water bath
4 quarts water
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Topping
coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt, optional
Directions
Combine the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, xanthan gum, and baking powder. Add the water, egg, and butter and stir until a firm dough forms, about 4 minutes in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. If the dough seems dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water.
Knead the dough until smooth, then transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise until almost doubled, 45 to 90 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line them with parchment. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently deflate it, and divide it into 12 equal pieces.
Cover the pieces and, one at a time, roll them into 12″ to 14″ ropes. Shape the ropes into pretzels and place them on the prepared pans.
Add the baking soda and sugar to the boiling water and wait for the foam to subside.
Drop the pretzels one at a time into the water, and boil them for about 5 seconds; they should initially sink, then float to the surface in that time.
Return the pretzels to the pans and sprinkle them with the coarse salt of your choice, if desired.
Bake the pretzels until golden brown and finished to your liking, about 18 to 20 minutes for soft pretzels, 25 minutes for chewier pretzels, and 35 minutes for hard pretzels.
Allow the pretzels to cool on the pans for 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 12 pretzels.

April 25 – World Penguin Day

Today is World Penguin Day and the birthday of Walter de la Mare, Maud Hart LovelaceMort WeisingerJohnny CraigAlbert UderzoMelvin Burgess

Tip: Take pictures of scenery – not just pretty things, but odd things, old buildings, junk yards, streetlights at night – and use these to help create settings for your stories.

Thought: “The best kind of character is one who starts out in a minor role – sometimes without even having a name – and talks his way into the plot.” – Elmore Leonard

Teaser: Create an alter-ego. What is his/her name? Sex? Physical attributes? Be specific and detailed. Create a comic book for them.

Note: I find it interesting that in today’s birthdays, three of the people have something to do with comic books (Mort, Johnny, Albert).

April 24

Today is Pig in a Blanket Day and the birthday of Robert Penn Warren, Elizabeth Goudge, Carl Spitteler, William Sargant, Doris Burn, Sue Grafton, Christian Bobin, Anthony Trollope

Tip: Check the dialogue you write. Do you start a lot of it with “So…”? Most writers aren’t aware of doing this but I’ve seen it crop up in a lot of manuscripts of late. So… check for the word “so” at the beginning of your dialogues.

Thought: “You need not be famous to write something worth remembering, worth preserving, worth publishing.” – Charles Champlin

Teaser: Create a story about a lie you once told – or someone once told you. Why did you/they lie? What was it about? What were the consequences. Were you found out?

April 23 – Birthday of William Shakespeare

Today is Lover’s Day, National Zucchini Bread Day, Take a Chance Day, World Laboratory Day, and the birthday of Edwin Markham, JP Donleavy, Victoria Glendinning, Halldor LaxnessWilliam Shakespeare

Tip: Most readers identify with the first character they encounter. Make sure this is your main character.

Thought: “Rejections slips are living proof that I sent my work forth, that I am being read, that I am casting my lot. They help define me to my writing self.” – Shelly Lowenkopf

Teaser: After a long and eventful life, your character is dying. What does s/he leave behind? What advice does s/he have for others? Why? What does s/he most regret? What is s/he most proud of?

Recipe for Zucchini Bread:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups white sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions
Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

April 22 – Earth Day

Today is Earth Day (U.S.), Girl Scout Leader Day, National Jelly Bean Day, and the birthday of Immanuel Kant, Henry Fielding, James Norman Hall, Louise Gluck, Paula Fox, Ellen GlasgowVladimir NaokovJan de HartogJanet Evanovich

Tip: Collect odd and interesting news stories and use them as the basis for your stories.

Thought: “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one’s luck.” – Iris Murdoch

Teaser: You’ve been asked to create a character for your favorite TV show. What show is it? What kind of character would you create? Would s/he be a bad guy or a good guy? What would happen?

Personal note: Please, check out the link to Earth Day and do something positive for the environment – not just today, but every day. And yes, one person doing one thing can make a difference.

April 21 – birthday of Charlotte Bronte

Today is Kindergarten Day and the birthday of Charlotte Bronte, Barbara Park, Alistair MacLean, Elizabeth II, Queen of England

Tip: In the best stories, the main character has to not only overcome the external problem, but internal problems as well. She should change as a person, grow and become better. Make a character chart with internal and external conflicts.

Thought: “Writing is not about degrees or vocabulary or diagramming a sentence. It is simply about the desire to tell a story.” – Fannie Flagg

Teaser: Write a scene where your character is temporarily blinded. What happened? What does she do? What does s/he notice without sight?