Tag Archives: being a writer

15 Minute Monday

I think I explained a few weeks ago that I only want to spend 15 minutes working on the Monday post. That includes editing myself. I said that, right? Before I even started today I knew what I would write. So this is going to be easier than me looking at blank screen (like last week), sighing, and wondering why I’m a blog writer.

Guess what time of the summer it is? Marathon time!

We haven’t had a writing marathon at all this year, have we? And it was our goal to have one every quarter when we began this blog 100 years ago. So a Summer Writing Marathon. You know how this works. We’ll tell the days. (I don’t know yet.) And the length. (One day? Three days? Five?) You set you goal of words you expect to write. (I always way overshoot. Always.) And then we get together at some point to  eat and read a page from our WIP.

Wanna play?


We’ll let you know all the ins and outs by Friday.


PS– It’s way easier to write when you know what to write. That’s been part of my problem as of late. What can I say here you haven’t already heard? Or how can I say anything in a new way?

So how do you always know what to write when you’re working on a project? I’ve heard a couple of ideas and I’m going to make up a few, too.

1. Stop in the middle of a sentence.

2. Stop in the middle of an exciting scene.

3. Leave yourself so interested you WANT to keep going, but don’t let yourself.

4. Leave yourself a note saying what will happen next (a NOTE. Not the whole scene.)

5. Stop at a cliff hanger.

6. Put your character into a terrible situation.

7. Or a romantic kissy situation.

8. Or put the murder weapon in her hand.

I’m saying the same thing over and over. Keep the book interesting so you want to come back to it!

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Rice Pudding and Writing Exercises

Today this heaviness settled on me. It came from almost nowhere. Seeped in under the door and followed me around until it settled on my shoulders and head and neck and decided to take a nap. It’s not that things have been so hard lately. Other than my one year old pooping three times this morning and the boys sitting on each other and every drawer of the house feeling like a tornado, other than those things, it’s business as usual.

Writing Exercise: What makes your main character feel heavy? When does this heaviness happen? What do they do when it happens? Who knows about it? Does it affect their every day life?

I have class tomorrow, which I look forward to. I like hearing their stories, discussing ideas, talking about craft. Sometimes it’s a challenge but mostly I see hope. So much stretched in front of them. Possibilities of creating something and the joy of getting to read their creations. Writing and creating are places of renewal and discovery. I’m always surprised when I read a student or friend or family’s writing. So much is revealed by what words we choose, what characters we create, what worlds we build. And I’m not talking about fantasy. I’m talking about every kind of world that comes out of our fingertips when we decide to populate a page.

Writing Exercise: If your MC were to write a story, what would the story be about? Write a fast short piece composed by your main character. What would they write? Who would be their characters? Would it be happy? Sad? Heavy? Light? Funny? Weird? Boring? Disturbing?

I do believe there are lots of ways to approach things. There are lots of ways to go about doing what we want to be doing. Or rather, figuring out what we want first and then deciding how we can accomplish that thing and then being satisfied with the results.

Writing Exercise: What does your MC want? How does he/she know she wants it? Why is it more important than anything else? Why can’t he/she get it? What are their first steps to getting what they want?

Here are some questions I ask myself:  Why do I write? What do I want from it? What does it feel like? Why does it matter? How should I proceed? When should I stop? Why is rice pudding so delicious?

Writing Exercise: Ask yourself the same questions. Sit down and write the answers as fast as you can. Don’t think too hard about it. Just let yourself go.

I’ve been thinking about endings, like I said. What is the right ending? Happy? Open? Closed? True? Not true? Real? False? What about my own story? What about the story of my children, my family, my relationships, my home, my days, my weeks, my months? What does it look like? What does it feel like?

Writing Exercise: What is the right ending for you and your book? Write down a list of all the possibilities. What would each one do to the narrative? How do each change the nature of the book? The reading experience? What feeling do you want your reader to have when they close the back cover? What does the story of this character, of your person, look like? Feel like?

I am rambling.

I think that heaviness is okay because it makes me ramble. It makes me think. It makes me wonder. It makes me imagine.

I have not gathered the endings like I promised. I will. Soon.

There is one at the end of novel that haunted me, it says, “She smiled mysteriously.”

This sentence is loaded and weird and horrible and forgiving—a strange ending to a tragic in some ways hopeless book. She smiled mysteriously.

Any guesses which book?

Now I need to make sandwiches for my boys and clean my house and do my laundry and brush my hair and think about rice pudding. If you do any of these exercises and want to share or tell about your experience, please do.


Filed under Ann Dee, Character, Depression, Exercises, Family, Life, writing process

Where Does Your Writing Muse Work Best?

Lucky, lucky us. For next two months or so, Amy Finnegan will be our guest blogger. Woot woot! We’re happy about this because Amy know TONS about the writing world. And she also does lots of research for EACH blog. Here’s her little introduction: Amy Finnegan has been an event coordinator for Utah Children’s Writers and Illustrators. She was the first place winner in the children’s and young adult category of the 76th Annual Writer’s Digest Competition. She ate an entire bag of strawberry Twizzlers while writing this blog entry. Admitting that in third person POV makes her feel less guilty about it.

One Friday night a month, I stay overnight at a Hampton Inn that is less than ten minutes from where I live. I leave my husband and three kids at home, and instead take my laptop, food to last me 24 hours, a small overnight bag, and my two pillows that I can’t sleep without.

I check in at 10 AM on Friday, and get a 2 PM Saturday checkout. At some point, I sleep about 5-6 hours, but otherwise, I work, work, work.

I’m not sure why my writing muse is so comfortable in that environment, but I get more done in one day at this Hampton Inn than I do in a week or more writing elsewhere. It just works for me.

But I can’t be a truly productive writer if I only write one day a month. I need to find a way to be less distracted at home, clear my mind, and get into this same Hampton Inn zone at my own desk.

So I’m on a quest to learn what other writers do to be their most productive. Do they have a secluded office with classical/rock/reggae music playing? Inspirational books/quotes/posters around them? I’d like to find the best of the best ideas and mash them all together into an environment that helps me focus.

If you need that, too, I hope you can also learn something from the following authors who agreed to share a bit about their current workspace. I also asked what their “dream” writing environment would be like.

Jessica Day George said:
I work either sitting at the kitchen counter or at a table at the local library.  If I’m at the kitchen counter, then there are probably children running about and I’m only typing with half my concentration.  If I’m at the library, then there are probably children running about (although not my own) and I am only typing with half my concentration while I wonder when the public library became a daycare.  I would like to have my own room, with a comfy chair, and a desk for when I’m feeling tense and must sit up in a businesslike fashion.  There would be enormous bookcases full of my favorite books, and a sound system softly playing a Kennedy CD.

You can learn more about Jessica’s MG & YA novels at:

Ann Dee Ellis:
I write in bed. Always. I know this is weird and it’s even weirder when I try to write at the library or somewhere away from home and I realize I need to lay on the floor or on some couch to get into my groove. I also am terrible at writing consistently but when I do do it, it’s at night after the kids are asleep. My dream environment? I dream of waking up, having a nice breakfast. Maybe yoga or jogging. A long shower where I use a loofah or something like that. Then writing from nine to eleven. Maybe noon. I feel like I’d write beautiful things if I wrote from nine to noon. My head clear. My soul rejuvenated. The birds chirping. One day. Or not.

You can learn more about Ann Dee’s YA novels at:

Mette Ivie Harrison:
I moved recently into our “exercise room,” which includes a couch, treadmill, TV, stationary bike, lots of bookshelf space, my desk and computer, my filing cabinet, and a closet full of games and craft stuff.  I also have a window, albeit a basement one.  I suspect this is my ideal work space.  I love that it is quiet and cool, and that I have a heater to turn on to feel “cozy.”  I love that books are all around me, and that it is hard to find me, and that I can’t hear the doorbell when it rings.  The kids have to walk all the way downstairs to ask me if I want to talk to the salesperson at the door.  I don’t.  Also, there is usually plenty of chocolate there.  I write as soon as the kids are off to school, which is about 8:30.  I write for as long as I can, taking little breaks in between to break it up.  I play on the internet or get a snack and then back to the grindstone.  I take lunch at 11:30 most days, unless I’m in the zone.  Then I go back to work unless I have to do some real world stuff like shopping or appointments.  Or dishes and laundry.

You can learn more about Mette’s YA novels at:

Kristyn Crow:
My workspace is my laptop on the dining room table in the center of my house.  In other words, I don’t use an office.  There are several reasons for this.  a) From my vantage point in the dining room, I can monitor both the kitchen and the front door.  So I’m able, for example, to stop one or more of my seven kids from drinking straight from the milk carton, or from eating an enormous bowl of cereal five minutes before dinner, or from disappearing out the front door to some remote location.  You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.  b) The room I used to use as an office slowly morphed into a computer gaming zone, and I was competing against explosions, robots on the rampage, and bloodthirsty dinosaurs.  c) When I did use that room for an office, it got a little claustrophobic.  I love having a laptop because I can move around and change my scenery as I see fit.  Even if I don’t move around, the idea that I can if I want to is nice.   This year my youngest child started first grade, so I’m finally home during the day with time to write while all the children are gone. My dream writing environment would be sitting outside on a porch or balcony with a breathtaking view.  (As long as there weren’t any bugs. If there are bugs, give me the same view from a huge window in a roomy office.)

You can learn more about Kristyn’s Picture Books at:

Carol Lynch Williams:

At this moment my office is filled with boxes because we are moving in a week or two. Before that, though, it held my desk, a bookshelf, and our grand piano. I LOVE to write when my daughter (yes, our Kyra) practices her classical pieces. I do have a dream office in mind, though. It would be huge–large enough for all my girls to settle in with me. And there would be wall-space enough in the room to hold all my books. Finally, it would stay clean. And there would be a comfy chair for me to read in–though I’m not sure I would ever read there.

You could learn more about Carol’s books if she would ever update her website and make it look professional.

So, writers, what is your own workspace like? What would be your dream writing environment?

Tips I found online (some of the best are in the reader comment sections):






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Kyra: On Writing

My blog today isn’t gonna be great, so if you’d like you can just skim over it now.
It’s on something I’ve been thinking about a lot, tho.
Writing. {holy shocker!!!!}
Well, not just writing, but how HARD it is.

I’ve finally started my first YA story {can’t say novel because it’s hardly even there} and I never realized how. freaking. hard. writing is.
How do people like my mother {the best writer in the world} and Ann Dee {the second best writer in the world} put emotion on the page like they do?
My story is supposed to have a lot of emotion {whose isn’t, tho?} and I have no idea how to even do it! I’ve taken the classes and read hundreds of books, and yet I’m still having a hard time!!!

After you figure out the emotion, how do you make something fake seem real?
Courtney Summers, Jandy Nelson, Laurie Halse Anderson…They all write stories about kid’s I’ve known, kids I’ve met.
HOW? How do you people do it? How do you think up a person and make it seem real. Because when I try, it’s an absolute joke!

Then you have to build a place, and write the storyline and believe it.
YOU, the writer, has to believe it or no one will.
When I write, all I see is a bunch of fake stuff coming from my thoughts just written out on a page. IT’S INSANE!

So yes, this is a short post. But I just want to say to all you writers out there…
I never knew how hard it was to write!
I now know it’s even harder to make money writing than, like, working at any other job! No wonder you’re all drama queens! You can’t afford to comfort yourselves with chocolate or sappy romance movies. I think I’m going to fit in with you people . . . . 🙂
Writing is hard! But if we didn’t have writers, I wouldn’t have books. If I didn’t have books, I wouldn’t be who I am today! Neither would a million other people.

Sorry this blog had a ton of I’s and sounded very self-interested…I’m just speaking my mind. 🙂


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