Tag Archives: writing exercise

A Book Sale and Scott!

My novel, “Never Said” is an ebook on sale for 99¢ on
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Never-Blink-Carol…/dp/B00UR7Z0EM…

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/never-said

Nook: https://m.barnesandnoble.com/…/never-said…/1120620566…

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/never-said/id977241760…

Thank you, Douglas, for tracking all this information down. And for talking to me.


((My friend Scott Rhoades has written a guest post for Throwing Up Words. Scott writes all day for a living and then, in the evenings, writes for kids and teens. Monthly, he visits a retirement home and teaches more than a dozen eager writers the rules of the craft.))


It doesn’t matter how many writing projects I’ve had. Whether stories, poems, or at my technical writing job, starting a new project is always the hardest part. I have a method, though, that helps me get over the getting started hump.

I make lists.

Before I start, I usually have a very bare-bones idea of something I want to do. It might be a character or a setting, or the beginnings of a plot. I take that seed of an idea and build on it with a list.

For example, I used to write songs with a friend in England, Francis Greene. One day, I really missed the ocean. Having grown up in California, the coast was always a very important place for me. So I started writing down some images from my cold, rocky Northern California beaches. Things like:

  • The water pulling the sand from under my feet
  • Seagulls
  • A foghorn near a lighthouse
  • Ocean spray
  • The pier
  • A ship on the horizon
  • Shells
  • Starfish
  • Hermit crabs

There were a lot more. Many of the items in my list didn’t make the final cut. This is often the case.

I didn’t list only items. I also thought of things I like to do at the beach:

  • Walk
  • Hunt for shells
  • Bark at the sea lions

Once I had my list, I rearranged the items. This is easy to do on a computer, and sometimes (especially if I’m listing plot points), the list becomes my outline. My favorite way to sort a list while brainstorming is to put each list item on a Post-It and stick them to my white board or wall, where I can move them around, group them, make connections, easily add to them, and whatever else comes to mind.

I’ll often use different colored Post-Its and different colored pens for different things so I can easily look at the board and see groupings. Like, maybe green notes are settings and blue notes are characters, and so on.

Once I start making a list, I have never been blocked. I find that as I write each list item, more thoughts and ideas jump into my head. Almost without effort, my brain builds associations between the things in my list, and story ideas and themes start to form.

My song, because I was missing the beach, took on a melancholy feel, even though that wasn’t the original intention. It became a song about loss and loneliness. Here are the final lyrics. See how many of my list items you can spot.

When You Were Here
(Rhoades/Greene, 1997)

The ocean breeze is blowing, fog is drifting in
It’s cool and damp, there’s no one here
The tide is pulling sand from underneath my feet
The sea lions play beneath the pier
Remember how we used to bark at them?
When you were here

Like that distant ship out there on the horizon
You sailed far away from me
You swore that it was nothing I had said or done, that
You just needed to be free

Across the rocks, a hermit crab scurries away
I find a starfish in the sand
The wind and sea, my wet hair clinging to my face
I always loved to hold your hand
Remember how we used to hunt for shells?
When you were here


I remember when I used to walk alone
But then we met and I walked with you
Loneliness was such a very special place
When we walked alone as two

The lighthouse beam, in vain it tries to pierce the fog
A foghorn warns the ships away
A gull is struggling, tries to fly against the wind
My tears disguised by ocean spray
Remember how we used to chase the waves?
When you were here



The ocean breeze is blowing, fog is drifting in
A foghorn warns the ships away
The tide is pulling sand from underneath my feet
My tears disguised by ocean spray
Remember how we used to love this place?
Wish you were here
Wish you were here
Wish you were here

You can listen to it, if you’d like, as performed by The Bicycle Riders (featuring Francis Greene). If you listen carefully, you can hear me being absolutely silent.

Exercise: Think of a place that’s important to your character. In Kidlit, this might be a bedroom or a classroom, for example. List key elements of that place. Include objects, but don’t forget to also include sensory things, such as smells and textures. Once you have your list, sort the items and make associations. Note any ideas that surface as you work with your list. Finally, write a scene in that setting. You don’t have to use every item in your list, but pay attention to how the items you don’t use affect your perception of that place.

Visit Scott here: http://scottrhoades.com/doggerybaw/?p=243

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To Ly Word or Not to Ly Word: Writing Real Good. I Mean It. (Part 2)

I’ve had the chance to listen to Lance Larsen  speak several times about writing jaw-dropping sentences. If you ever have a chance to hear Lance speak or read or speak and read, GO! You’ll not be disappointed.

Why do you read?

I read, not just for story, but for the way the sentences of a novel sound. I read to see the way an author puts words together. To see the way I am surprised–not just by plot–but by sentence structure or word choice.

Lance has several suggestions for jaw-dropping sentences and I’ll share one: turn the adjective on its ear. Here’s what I think he means. If every word must do work, then that includes adjectives. Lance suggests making adjectives work in new ways, in ways that paint pictures the reader isn’t expecting. Easy writing isn’t always the smartest, best, clearest, most beautiful etc. It tends to be filled with cliches and overwritten and weak. Good writing, of course, takes place in rewriting. BUT if you’re thinking as you write (some people do), you can put better words on the page the first time through and refine as you rewrite.

Exercise: Look at your first five pages. Trying not to love what you’ve written, start trimming. Adverbs. Adjectives. Weak verbs. Weak words. Cliches. Was-ing words. The words I put up on Monday. Description that’s stale. Etc.

What do you have left? If you’ve been honest, your story should be far thinner.

Exercise: Using these new five pages, write this beginning over in short, choppy lines. (If you need an example, look at my novel GLIMPSE. Or read any of Ann Dee Ellis’ novels.) This is just an exercise, so enjoy the line breaks and be intentional when you add or take away words. Make each stanza have hard-working words so you accomplish more with less.

Exercise: Look at your rewritten five pages (which should be far longer, page-wise). Is there sense of place? Strong dialog? Description that is fresh? Are your words working hard? Is there emotion?

Exercise: Lay this rewritten piece aside for a week. When you go back, see how to change it into regular prose. How do the five pages read now? Can you keep writing this way? Can you do the same thing with the next five pages and the next and the next?

Exercise: Read a book that is known to have strong writing. (I suggest The Road. Or at least part of it.) What do you learn from this author? How does s/he make sentence sparkle? How can you imitate her/him.

So, Writing Brothers and Sisters, have fun. Remember writing is hard work. Good writing is even harder. But there is joy in having written. There is excitement in finding a fresh way to say something. Enjoy the experience!


Filed under Life, Voice, writing process

Monday, Monday

Every time I start a new semester, I get behind. When you add behind to behind to behind what you get is me. Someone who can’t seem to catch up, no matter what.

Here is a writing exercise for you so you don’t get as far behind as me. You can take this experience of mine, find your own that is similar, and write an incident that can fit in your book.

My best friend’s shoes are in my closet. A pair of his jeans in a drawer. He’s been dead just over a year.

“Do you want me to take these?”I ask him. He’s in a hospital bed. He can’t speak. SO he nods. I gather the shoes, the pants. “I’ll take these until you’re better.”

And here’s this article from my dear friend Trent Reedy. what do you think?



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Three Thing Thursday


Write down ALL the ideas you have for books on 3X5 cards (or full sheets of paper). Hang them ALL where you can see them often. As you work on your current project, can you look up and see your 57 terrific ideas? If not, make it so.



I love this quote by Robert Frost. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”



We have our WIFYR faculty! Mark your calendar for June 11-15, 2018

Heather Flaherty (agent)

Alyson Heller (editor)

Jennifer Adams (editor)

Sharlee Glenn (picture book)

Courtney Alameda (advanced)

Trent Reedy (general)

Heidi Taylor (full novel)

J. Scott Savage (boot camp)

Claudia Mills (getting ready for the full novel)

Stephanie Black (general)

Christian Heidicker (three day)

Heather B Moore (two day)


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Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee Mans Three Things Thursday

It is Kyra.
I’ve never done the Three Things Thursday.
I’m not even sure I’ve fully read one.
Three Things in your writing eh.
1. I’ve started this new show on Netflix called Hemlock Grove. Believe it or not, it’s about Werewolves. Ask me why I watch it?
The director Eli Roth. That’s the reason. He does a lot of messed up movies that I can’t help but hate to love and love to hate.
There is also a very good looking {tall!} actor in it. Every time he talks I wanna kiss his hot face.
He might be a werewolf. But we aren’t sure yet.
Who in your book COULD be a werewolf? How will the reader find out? How will you find out?
2.I’m going on a Vegas trip for my birthday next Tuesday. For some reason, every dream I’ve had since I’ve planned the trip has been about me and my ex-love gambling at the casino and losing money at roulette, and then me and him walking back to the hotel holding hands and laughing.
Dreams piss me off. But Vegas is always a riot.
What dream do you have that pisses you off?
Incorporate it into your novel.
3. Ann Dee had a baby. I haven’t met him yet, but I am very much looking forward to it. I bet he’s a cutie face.
 Here’s an idea for your story! Your character gets pregnant and dreams that her baby is a werewolf.
And then . . .  and then what?
That would make a horrible Twilight spoof, wouldn’t it?
Or a good one.

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Filed under Ann Dee, Exercises, Kyra, three thing thursday


Today my six year old asked if he could catch a stroke.

My mom has had a few mini-strokes lately. At first I was panicked about it. Now I realize it’s part of the process.

The hardest part of end of life is helping my kids understand it. Actually maybe it isn’t the hardest part, but it’s the trickiest for me to negotiate. How do I explain strokes? How do I explain why my dad spoon feeds his wife? How do I explain when I am fine one moment, and overcome with tears and shaking the next?

What’s wrong? they’ll ask.

My mom is sick. I miss her.

Why do you miss her? She’s right there?

And she is. She’s right there. She’s at my dinner table, stirring her food around. She’s in the kitchen pouring dish soap into mugs. She’s in the family room, picking up quesadillas.

She is right here.

Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about how to tell them things, how to explain things. The way they interpet or rather see life is so much more pure. So much more simple. Like revelations that are right in front of me.

It’s a privilege to have kids. It’s a privilege to write for kids. It’s a privilege to be near kids.

Writing Exercise: Try to write a scene from a four year old’s point of view. Something big. Death, divorce, illness, heartbreak, abandonment, fear, etc. See if you can simplify it, see from their eyes. What do you discover? How does the world change? Is there new possibilities? Wonder? Hurt? Joy?

Recent conversation with my four year old:

He said, I really love you, Mom and I hope you never die.
I said, thank you. I love you too.
Then he said, I hope you always stay the same number so you can always do what you want to do and not get Alzheimer’s.

What if we could always stay the same number and always do what we want to do?


by | February 18, 2013 · 7:32 pm

Todays Post.

So last semester Amy Hackworth, a wonderful writer and person, came to my class to talk about being a ghost/co-writer for this book. She was hilarious and humble and great to listen to. She also mentioned that she had started reading THE ARTIST’S WAY and that it was kicking her butt.

Kicking her butt?

Why would anyone want a book that kicks their butt?

So then I bought it.

It’s going to kick my butt.

It’s about finding our inner artist, or, in the words of the author, “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.”

Not bad, eh?

I started reading and it was good. Pretty good. She’s helped a lot of people, yadda yadda yadda. if you really do what she says, you’ll be come the artist you always wanted to be, etc. etc. etc.

Then she said, people get good ideas in the showers.

She said that! And we all know that I wholeheartedly agree. I do! I said it last week!

So then I was sold.

Here is the passage . . . it’s about how it’s important to fill the well, so to speak:

“The artist’s language is a sensual one, a language of our felt experience. When we work at our art, we dip into the well of our experience and scoop out images. Because we do this, we need to learn how to put images back. How do we do this? . . . Any regular, repetitive action primes the well.

Writers have heard many woeful tales of the Bronte sisters and poor Jane Austen, forced to hide their stories under their needlework. A little experiment with mending can cast a whole new light on these activities. Needlework, by definition regular and repetitive, both soothes and stimulates the artist within. Whole plots can be stitched up while we sew. As artists, we can very literally reap what we sew.

‘Why do I get my best ideas in the shower?’ an exasperated Einstein [SEE? WE ARE JUST LIKE EINSTEIN] is said to have remarked. Brain research now tells us that this is because showering is an artist-brain activity.

Showering, swimming [EMILY], scrubbing, shaving, steering a car . . . all of these are regular, repetitive activities that may tip us over from our logic brain into our more creative artist brain. Solutions to sticky creative problems may bubble up through the dishwater, emerge on the freeway just as we are executing a tricky merge.

Learn which of these words best for you and use it.” pp 21-23

That was long. Sorry. But I think it’s so true. And it gives me motivation to go into my floor scrubbing with more anticipation (I just stepped on a quesadilla earlier today, btw). My house is going to be spotless and I am going to have thousands of fabulously creative ideas!


I think.

At the very least, I am going to look at mundane tasks as opportunities to think, to create, to work through writing problems.

I do this a lot anyway–thinking and creating during mundane tasks–but I don’t know that I utilize all this energy the right way. For example, after a school meeting the other night, I was walking in the dark to get to my car alone and instead of thinking about my WIP, I was thinking about how I was going to be attacked and why would they attack me? I’m fifty thousand years pregnant? And I imagined what I would say to them, how I would dissuade them (I came up with some good stuff) and if it didn’t work, I thought about how the chalk drawing would look on the school playground. That would be a difficult crime scene to maintain.  And then I thought about  how they would write it up in the morning papers and then I thought, no one ever reads the newspaper anymore and that’s kind of sad and then I thought, I am very disturbed.

I’m going to try to be less disturbed. That’s one goal I made after reading a little bit of this book. I’m going to use my quiet alone time to think about my fake characters kissing each other rather than being attacked in dark alleys.

Another thing that I’ve gotten from the book is that she makes you commit to writing three pages every morning. Long hand (I typed mine because I don’t follow rules). As fast as you can. No thinking. Whatever comes into your head. You don’t ever read the pages again, they aren’t supposed to be pretty or nice or well written. They are just BLAH all over the page. Whatever comes to you. It can be horrible thoughts, ramblings, things you have to do that day, a dream you had, your worries, ideas, whatever.

I tried it this morning. Again, I couldn’t believe how disturbed I am. Ha ha ha. But also, I couldn’t believe how fun it was. And how many things popped into my head and how refreshed and ready for the day I felt when I was done.

So a recap: Use your mundane, repetitive tasks to create AND write three pages as fast as you can every morning right when you wake up (she says you should get up a half hour early to do this–I’m not sure that is necessary).

Whoever wants to do this with me (even just for a week), I welcome your companionship.

And if any of you feel like getting the book, I do think it is worth it. A writing group could do it together–it’s a twelve week course. I’m making myself do it starting this week and when I’m done I expect to come out a completely enlightened spiritually creative person. I’ll let you know if it works.

The end.

p.s. ann tagged me too. I’ll do it. I promise. Someday.

p.p.s. saw this contest on John Cusick’s blog. This is a great opportunity!


Filed under Exercises, Life, Uncategorized, writing process