Tag Archives: Flannery O’Connor

Free Friday!

Seven Writing Exercises

Let each of the following inform you as a writer.

1. Write your character’s horoscope. In fact, write two or three characters’ horoscopes. Have your MC get a fortune cookie with an odd fortune. What would it say? If each chapter heading was an odd fortune, what would they say?

2. Have your character write her own obituary.

3. Have your character write a letter for you, talking about herself and her situation and trying to convince your potential agent or editor to take this book on.

4. Imitating Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, take a look at religion and its importance in your work, even if it never shows up in your book. Write a scene where this belief system is shown. No preaching.

5. GROUP WORK. Each writer will need a completed novel and a detailed synopsis. Planning for several hours, go to the library with four of five other writers. If you want to hear from each person on your novel, divide time evenly. Each person gets one book to critique that is not her own. Read and critique. At the appointed time, switch novels AFTER the critiquer has written–in 25 words or less–what has happened up to  this point. When you pass off the books, the new critiquer reads the synopsis (not to edit but to inform her) and the 25 word note then continues critique where the previous reader stopped. Read until time is called. If you have five books and six hours, every person gets 72 minutes with each novel.

6. Getting to know the plot and subplots of your book, write each as news articles,  journal entries,  headlines, from the voice of a local newscaster, as an announcement over the intercom at school etc. Make them as detailed as needed.

7. Okay, this one isn’t that unusual, but going through your book cut every ‘ly’ adverb you can–cut every well, that, very, started, began you can–change every was-ing word into one word (I was running becomes I ran)–make sure every pronoun works and isn’t confusing–replace all weak verbs with strong verbs–get rid of as many adjectives as you can–and cut all cliches. Take one day to do this work (it will take at least that long). Don’t read for anything but these seven things. Set the book aside for a week. Now read again. How does it sound?


This, Friends, is gonna be fun.

Leave a comment

Filed under CLW

Three Things Thursday and The Day of Accountability

I am running these two spots together because Cait has arranged with a very good friend–for us to go on vacation!!!!

I haven’t been on a vacation in years. Like 5 or more years. And before that it was 10 years. Whenever I travel I am always working.

I’m a little scared.

And a lot floored.

What will I do with myself?


Thank you, Friend, who would trust us in her vacation home.


So Three Things Thursday

1. Using some world event, write the beginning of a dystopian novel.  Give yourself less than 20 minutes. In part of that time, sketch out the plot.

2. Spend some time this weekend reading a short story by Flannery O’Connor. Pick a story you are not familiar with. For those of you who have never read O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find is not a bad study. And that’s what I want you to do. Study what O’Connor does with language. With pacing. With the element of surprise. What can you learn from her writing?  Etc.

My first teachers were the men and women I read. I’ve mentioned this before. Want to be a strong writer? Read, read, read.

3. Find a writing partner that will play this game with you:

Start with an idea the two of you agree on. Give yourselves an end point– how long you will go before you finish (a short story–a picture book [write fewer words when you switch off–see below], a chapter book, a full-blown novel, etc)? Know this in advance.

One of you write the first 150 words. Clean it up. Make it strong.

Now send that 150 words on to your partner.

She should write 150 words. Good, strong, story-moving-forward words.

Go back and forth until your piece is done.

Well, what do you have?


Ann Dee keeps saying, “Send me the beginning of a novel, Carol, and I will write a book with you.”

Perhaps on my vacation I will come up with that idea!


The Day of Accountability

What did you get done this week?

Are you happy with your work?

Did you do the five exercises I started the week out with?

Will you be ready to share those next week?

What did you read this week?

How did it help you as a writer?

Are you treating your writing as your job?

Are you giving your writing the time you need to succeed?

Think about these questions this weekend.


And see you Monday afternoon or evening!




Filed under CLW, Exercises, three thing thursday

Three Things Thursday, Day Eleven!

1. I have the place for us to eat. Station 21 in downtown Provo. We’ll need a head count, so let me know if you  are coming. (22 W Center St, Ste 140)

I’ve chosen this place because they have a place where we can eat AND do our readings.

2. When? April 8, 2013. That’s the second Monday of April. (We can’t do it on April 1, because Kyra is in court. On April Fool’s Day! Scary.) As far as what time, we’ll decide on a late lunch or an early lunch. If you have a preference, let us know.

3. Be prepared with three pages of writing to read out loud. Depending on how many people there, depends on how much we get to read. There’s this old Hollywood saying (or, um, some saying) that goes, “Leave them wanting more.” Even if you want to read your whole novel to us, just choose 750 words.

Here is our quote. I quite love what Miss Flannery says here.

And I think she is dead right.

“People without hope not only don’t write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them.”

Leave a comment

Filed under three thing thursday, Writing Marathon

Day Five–Day of Accountability

How has the week felt to you?

I was teaching and grading papers for 7 hours yesterday and so unable to keep up with you all. However, I did get several hundred words written yesterday morning on my novel.

Today I do three things: write, pack and clean, go to lunch with a dear friend.

First–a quote, but I have to  back up and remind you of Ann Dee and her neighbor and the 4:30 am visitor. Remember that?

Okay, here’s the quote:

“The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.”

Yup, Miss Flannery O’Connor. Great, huh? I love it. I shall now stare with abandon because I am a writer and I need to stare. Plus, we’ve give permission.

Yesterday I got to the place in the novel where I knew I only have a little ways to go before I am finished with a draft.

I think I am maybe four chapters from the finish.

Yippee ti yi yo!

Here is one more quote. This is to help you with the excellent writing you are all doing and it’s from our buddy Mark Twain.

“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English—it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”

I’ll be back. And maybe Ann Dee, too. But she also might be up and moving around early in the morning and spying and unable to stop in later in the afternoon.

So off we go!

PS Don’t you think a hugely pregnant spy would be hilarious? I was feeling pretty clever thinking about Ann Dee as the main character in a funny spy novel when I remembered Fargo, which is a movie about as funny as a Flannery O’Connor short story (so funny until the end–and Fargo was funny except all those grisly murders). But, to the point, isn’t Marge Gunderson pregnant in that?

PMS I just got caught reading crazy good lines from Coen Brothers’ films.


Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, Voice, Writing Marathon, writing process