ATCs become Palm-sized Writing Prompts

ATCs Writing Prompts

ATCs Writing Prompts

I was asked to lead a writing group in a session of creative prompt-inspired writing. I am also an artist…..so…..I created a bunch of Artist Trading Cards (known as ATCs in the art world).

Attendees at the writers’ group will get to choose an ATC (or two or three) – or it will choose them – and write whatever the munchkin-sized, original pieces of art bring to mind. We’ll spend 30 minutes writing, then 30 minutes sharing what we wrote.

Writers may keep the ATCs if they want to.

Neat, huh?

“It’s Good” Isn’t Good Enough

Good critiques help writers improve

Good critiques help writers improve

Have you ever written something that you worked on for a while, then asked for feedback? And the reader said, “It’s good.” Period. That feedback, while pleasant, isn’t especially helpful to a writer who is hungry to make his or her writing shine.

Here is a Critique Form that will help generate useful critiques that lead to better writing.

Writers’ Critique Sheet

You don’t have to comment on every item, however the more feedback you provide, the more valuable your critique will be to your fellow writer and the more you’ll learn about good writing.

Be respectful. Be specific. Be helpful.

Author’s name: _______________________ Title of work: __________________

  • What (if anything) “hooked” you at the beginning?

 

  • How long did it take for you to figure out the setting?

 

  • Is progress/movement/change conveyed? Progress might have been a person literally moving from point A to B or an emotional shift or a new insight.

 

  • How smoothly are transitions between paragraphs handled?

 

  • Which senses does the piece stimulate? (sight, sound, smell, tactile, taste)

 

  • How is the pacing? Slow, varied, fast.

 

  • Were strong verbs used instead of weak verbs? (i.e. strutted, sidled, eased, tiptoed versus walked.)

 

  • How is the balance between showing and telling? (Showing: “Jay slammed his fist into the wall.” Telling: Jay was angry.)

 

  • Do facts and data support and elucidate or bog the piece down?

 

  • How satisfying is the end?

 

  • How does the piece make you feel?

 

  • What did you learn?

 

  • Where does it leave you wanting more? What are you curious about that is unexplained?

 

  • In hindsight, is the title appropriate?

 

  • Other comments:

 

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

Beth Fowler headshot

 

 

A Great Resource for Parents – Needs Professional Editing

Rhonda Cratty’s self-published Learning at home, (the author opted not to capitalize all words in titles), is chock-full of educational ideas and activities for parents, (and other adults) to do with their children.

In the acknowledgement, we gather that Cratty is or was an educator, though she didn’t include her credentials or experience. Even so, it’s apparent this book was written by a person with a formal education in and practical experience with childhood learning.

The 93-page eBook (126-page paperback) is organized into four chapters for each month. Chapter titles, while descriptive, aren’t particularly imaginative or inviting, as in “Encouraging Critical Thinking with reading and conversations” and “Home Activities to encourage a positive attitude toward mathematics.” Topics often tie into events and holidays, such as Poetry Month (April), Hobby Month (January), Columbus Day and so on. Had I been exposed to the concept of circumference when shopping for pumpkins, I would have a sunnier view of math today, I bet.

The author cautions against using “drill and kill” methods most of us experienced at some point in our educations. “If something is fun, children will turn to it even if it is difficult at first. Think of it like riding a bike.” Cratty’s book helps parents turn that statement from being yet another bromide into reality. With the book as a coach, parents can make adding and subtracting, and following directions (to cite two examples) fun for their children.

The author’s authentic care comes through…“Perfectionism gets in the way,” “Honor your child’s writing,” “Avoid yelling directions from another room.” In fact, being authentic is something Cratty mentions more than once.

This great resource for parents is in dire need of professional editing. (If you’re thinking of self publishing, hire an editor with a track record!) Readers who aren’t distracted by incorrect antecedent/pronoun pairings and fragments posing as sentences will be rewarded with a treasure trove of wise advice, practical tips, useful lists, engaging educational activities, pedagogic facts and even a few recipes.

One wonders why the author didn’t insert illustrations in spaces left unused due to the way the lists are formatted – and there are many lists.

Learning at home is a book that can be used by caring parents more than four times a month. Homeschoolers, teachers, grandparents and other adults of all socio-economic levels, who know that education is a priceless key to future contentment, will want to investigate the book’s offerings.

This resource will likely be passed from generation to generation by parents who cherish memories of their parents taking time to love them, take an interest in them, engage with them and encourage them while Learning at home.

***

Ken’s War by B.K. Fowler: Army brat Ken finds himself in Japan when his hot-headed dad is deployed to a remote post there. Culture clash is one of the many sucker punches that knocks Ken’s world upside down in this coming-of-age novel for teens and young adults.

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

Print and e-books at http://www.fireandiceya.com/authors/bkfowler/kenswar.html and other book sellers. Ken’s War is published by Melange Books. ISBN 1612358993

Contact Fowler at https://www.facebook.com/kenswar for review copies, writers’ workshops, presentations to your group and more.

School librarian and mother of boys recommends Ken's War for teen boys.

School librarian and mother of boys recommends Ken’s War for teen boys.

Oops! Avoid Career-Killing Writing Mistakes

error-101409_150  You’ve seen those inset boxes in publications that say, “Correction” or “Retraction” or “Oops, we goofed!” And you wonder, “How can I avoid a slipup like that?”

Correction notices diminish an author’s credibility and future job prospects.

While even the best writers occasionally misreport information, novice writers are more vulnerable to making unintentional mistakes. Sidestepping booby traps requires knowing where they’re hidden and doing the homework.

 The Becoming-a-Mouthpiece Trap

Example: A journalist writing a feature about a new medicine contacts the company that patented the drug. The company’s public relations weenie Fed Ex’s glossy brochures and factsheets sprinkled with Latin terms and charts highlighting the drug’s development and its manifold benefits to humankind. The journalist writes his article incorporating info from those documents.

Homework: Research multiple sources. The journalist must uncover facts the PR rep doesn’t want divulged to the public. (Every closet contains a skeleton or three, otherwise there’s no story.) In journalism this is “balance.”

Our journalist needs to check out Who has something at stake? (Stockholders, the drug company’s competition.) Whose experience or perspective might be different? (Lab employees, people who trialed the drug, natural therapy advocates.) Who has info, but wasn’t asked for it? (Medical writers, pharmacists, doctors, peer reviewers, government agencies.) Who parroted “party line” responses and can be probed with deeper questions? (The PR rep, the CEO.) Researching information from adversaries, skeptics, watchdogs, regulatory agencies and nitpickers leads to balance. Click http://cancerguide.org/research.html for “How to Research Medical Literature.”

The Ignoring-the-Moneybags Trap

Example: Researching material for an article about bread, I found this assertion, “Dr. Graeme McIntosh says, ‘We ought to be eating wholemeal or high-fiber breads with every meal, about four to five slices a day, besides our breakfast cereal.’ “Sound the alarms. Who funded Doc’s studies?

Homework: Further research revealed that the Grains Research and Development Corporation—surprise, surprise—provided dough for the studies. Published in Australia’s New Vegetarian and Natural Health Magazine, my “Bread: The Staff of Life?” quoted Dr. McIntosh, named his funding source and included support for opposing opinions that Western diets contain too much bread. Follow the money. Be wary of biased bucks.

The Repeating-What-Everybody-Knows Trap

Example: Everybody knows that Linda Eastman-McCartney was heiress to the Eastman-Kodak fortune just like everybody knows that the Great Wall of China is visible from outer space. Right?

Not quite. Rigorous checking reveals that Linda’s family isn’t related to the camera entrepreneur and images of The Great Wall of China were acquired by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) onboard the space shuttle Endeavor. That’s not peering out the spaceship porthole and seeing a wall down there. Visit http://www.urbanlegends.com for cock-and-bull stories caught parading in truth’s clothing.

Homework: “Errors are repeated in newspaper articles for months and years; cuttings are such a convenient source of information and deadlines can make checking less rigorous,” cautions Brendan Hennessy in Writing Feature Articles. Sidestep error hazards by researching info from the original source or as near to the horse’s mouth as you can get.

The Playing-Loose-with-Numbers Trap

Example: “Youth want William as next king,” declared a Reuters headline from London. The lead said, “Britain’s youth believe that dashing young Prince William should be the next king, a survey published yesterday showed.”

In the third paragraph, readers learn that 46 percent of the surveyed population thinks William should be next monarch. Hmm. Forty-six per cent is not a majority. The headline could’ve easily and more accurately declared, “Youth don’t want William as next king.”

Homework: Get the original data on which someone’s interpretations have been based. In the case of the future king, diligent researchers would find out how the survey questions were phrased, how many youths were surveyed and what ages constitute “youth.” For technical writing, find out how long trials were run, if double-blind controls were run, if previous trials were proved correct or false and other factors important to validating data. Even when numbers are correct, check for other facts and figures that put the numbers in context and might influence interpretation.

Check it One More Time

 

Check your final draft critically. Does researched info support the manuscript’s purpose? (Some awesome, hard-won facts mightn’t illuminate theme.) Do facts and data flow naturally within narrative? Did typos creep in? Did facts and data change between researching and finishing the piece? Did you avoid emotionally laden words?

Materials that organizations, agencies and institutes pass out can contain misspellings, grammatical errors and other bloopers. Verify. Correct.

List resources at the end of non-fiction work, and if appropriate, of fiction. Editors might want to re-check facts and you might need the same sources for other projects.

Make sure copyrights aren’t infringed upon. (Read up on copyright fair use at http://fairuse.stanford.edu. Generally, ideas and facts (like those in encyclopedias, dictionaries and reference books) aren’t copyrighted. Give sources for figures. Acknowledge sources from which you’ve borrowed heavily.

Check your homework. Gain credibility. Make sales.

And may you never be responsible for an “Oops!”

 

ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Housebreaking Pet Words

Every writer has pet words. Tabitha King’s pets in The Trap are hooked and hauled, as in “She hooked off her socks,” and “He hauled his boots on.” Strong verbs used in unconventional waysare refreshing until they’re overworked and become annoying to readers.

Pronouns, one breed of pets, are especially vague. “I hate and mistrust pronouns, every one of them as slippery as a fly-by-night personal-injury lawyer,” writes Stephen King in ­On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. And in The Book Alan Watts refers to the pronoun it is a spook, as in “It’s raining outside.” What exactly is it?

King, Watts and other successful authors use it when it’s unavoidable or natural sounding. Character dialogue, for example, sounds natural with a sprinkling of the neuter, singular pronoun.

Read the rest of this blog Housebreak Pet Words

http://www.dgdriver.com/write-and-rewrite

****

ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Writing from the Beginning to The End, by novelist Stan Hampton, Sr.

Hampton writing from beginning to the end

Hampton writing from beginning to the end

Writing is a craft that each person brings different strengths and weaknesses to. We can read and study all we want, and while knowledge and skill is good, ultimately do we know how to tell a story with believable characters? If we cannot, then all of the reading and studying and grammatical perfection will not do us any good.

Some writers can have an idea and run with it all the way to The End while others have to plot everything out from Beginning to The End. That is okay—there are as many ways to write as there are writers. So, I will share how I approach writing a story.

 

The Boy and Girl Story

Beginning

Boy meets Girl

Boy likes Girl

Girl likes Boy

Middle

Boy gets Girl

Etc., etc.

Boy is dumb

Boy loses Girl

End

Boy gets Girl back

 

In simplified form we have Beginning, Middle, End, and key points within each section. Each key point is made up of various elements that also help propel the story forward. Of course, once I start writing I sometimes find myself altering the outline because of new ideas, and there are a few times when the story simply takes off in a direction that I did not anticipate—stories sometimes do that, you know. In either case I amend the above outline so that I have some idea of what is happening and I can keep my eye on the goal—The End.

I mentioned telling a good story. A story is more than colorful, awe-inspiring paragraphs strung together from Beginning to End. A story is made up of paragraphs, each of which propels the story forward, whether about a used car salesman, a football player, or a volunteer teacher in a school. Each paragraph builds on the previous, becoming part of a whole that, when the reader is finished, they close the cover (or turn off the device) with regret, yet happy that they read a great story.

Once the outline is established it is time to write a few words about the characters, meaning names, physical description, and personality traits. Write your observations of the way people speak, not only their accent, but how they pronounce words differently from you. Even write down your observations of hand mannerisms, the way people walk, or stand.

If I am writing a novel, then the biography is more detailed. I believe we are a product of our environment, therefore knowing where the characters come from helps explain who they are and why they behave the way they do.

This is all important because there is nothing worse than an otherwise good story being populated with flat, stereotypical characters. Each person is unique, and each of your characters should be unique. Make use of the biography of your characters—as the story progresses your reader will begin to unconsciously develop an image of your character as well as their mannerisms. Your characters will become real to the reader, and that is critically important.

And do not forget the background, the environment that the story is taking place in. That too impacts the story. A city or farm environment will have a different impact on the characters that they in turn will respond to.

Of course, the amount and type of information associated with your outline will vary depending on whether you are writing a short story or a novel.

Though I save much of the research on my computer I also print a fair share of it too. The research, outline, and background information go into a manila folder.

So, in a nutshell that is how I approach writing a story or novel.

But remember, no matter how much research and background development you put into your writing, do not forget to tell a story with believable characters. It does not matter if you are writing about the Roman Empire, the Crusades, the Civil War, or even a traveling shoe salesman, never forget to tell a story with believable characters.

Good luck and happy writing!

Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.

His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.

In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint).

After 13 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.

As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran, though he is still struggling to get back on his feet.

SSHampton_GatesOfMoses 2

“The Gates of Moses.” Melange Books, August 2012.

ISBN: 978-1-61235-440-8

 

 

BLURB: An engineer dedicated to saving Venice from the rising seas, fails in his task. As a severe storm and high tides threaten to burst through the flood walls, he resolves to remain in Venice with a ghostly lover who claimed his heart years before. A woman from his staff who loves him, does not evacuate, but remains to battle his ghostly lover before he dies in a sinking Venice…

 

EXCERPT: The dull booms, like the measured beats of a primeval heart, echoed through the gray drizzling afternoon. Each boom was a countdown to a finely predicted cataclysm that man, through his mistaken notion that he could control nature, had finally admitted that he was powerless to hold back.

Dr. Gregorio Romano, tall, with dark brown hair and watchful hazel eyes, stood before the open tall narrow window of his corner office in the ornate, gilded Ducal Palace of the once La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia, the Most Serene Republic of Venice, and peered into the gray drizzle toward the unseen barrier islands. The almost submerged islands of Lido and Pellestrina, with their channels opening onto the Adriatic Sea, formed the southeastern perimeter of the timeless Venetian lagoon. He listened to the echoing booms of the rising, stormy Adriatic, and thought of a mythical, prehistoric mother who gave birth to an imaginative species that dreamed of the impossible and often made it happen. And now the mother was ready to take back one of the greatest dreams of her children, ready to clasp it deep within her bosom.

“Gregorio?”

“Yes,” he replied as he gazed at the gray choppy waters of the lagoon.

“Have you reconsidered? Are you ready to evacuate?”

“Not yet.” Gregorio tilted his head slightly as a sleek dark gondola glided effortlessly across frothy, white-capped waters and halted before the flooded wharf, the Riva degli Schiavoni, in front of the Palace.

Patrizia Celentano, the first and last female gondolier of Venice, looked up at him and gave a friendly wave. He raised a hand in return. Her gondola was a traditionally built and shaped boat, but rather than the traditional black as required by law, she painted it a dark wine color. Though she offered to erect a shelter to protect Gregorio from the elements, he always preferred to ride in the open.

“We can evacuate you by force if necessary.”

“You won’t,” Gregorio smiled as he turned to face his computer on the polished wooden desk. The broad, bearded face of his boss, Dr. Niccolo Ricci, nodded in agreement. “There’s no need, and a helicopter is scheduled to pick me up from the roof of my home tomorrow morning at 0600 hours.”

“The calculations might be incorrect. The gates could break tonight…”

 

http://www.melange-books.com/authors/sshampton/GatesofMoses.html

Hampton can be found at:

 

Melange Books

http://www.melange-books.com/authors/sshampton/index.html

 

Musa Publishing

http://www.musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=50

 

MuseItUp Publishing

https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/museitup/mainstream/better-than-a-rabbit-s-foot-detail

 

Amazon.com Author Page

http://www.amazon.com/SS-Hampton-Sr/e/B00BJ9EVKQ

 

Amazon.com. UK Author Page

http://www.amazon.co.uk/SS-Hampton-Sr/e/B00BJ9EVKQ

 

Goodreads Author Page

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6888342.S_S_Hampton_Sr_

 

Stop Barking! Tone and Facial Expressions by Mysti Parker

81Po2epTiXL._SL1500_By guest blogger & author Mysti Parker

Of the many things I learned from Deb Dixon’s “Goal, Motivation, Conflict” Workshop workshop, this quote stuck with me the most:

“You can do anything in writing, as long as you do it well.”

I struggle with describing how characters sound and their facial expressions. If I had a nickel for every time one of my critique partners said, “But how does (s)he sound when they say this?” and “What does his/her face look like right now?” I’d have enough money to buy a year’s supply of chocolate. But how often DO we need to describe facial expressions and tone of voice?

My conclusion: Not as much as you think.

As a critiquer, I notice wording and flow in a piece of writing more so than plots and character arcs and all that. More often than not, I see writers overusing things, whether it’s adverbs, passive voice, repetitive words, and yes, tone of voice and facial expressions.

Let’s see if I can show you what I mean with part of an impromptu flash fiction piece I wrote for Rebecca Postupak’s “Flash Friday”, not that this is a literary masterpiece in any shape or form, but here’s what I might do if I was TOO mindful of tone and expression:

Lana slid the crisp paper across the patio table. “Sign these,” she barked. “Why?” Joe whispered. His lips pursed as he stared down at the obnoxious logo: Burger, Smythe, and Villay, attorneys-at-law.

Her eyes became narrow slits and her voice sounded like two pots banging together. “All you want is your garden and your bush mistress.”

This is a snippet of dialogue, and I don’t know about you, but all those descriptions slow the pace for me. This couple is on the verge of divorce. The tension should move this along at a snappier pace. Take a look at how I really wrote it:

Lana slid the crisp paper across the patio table. “Just sign them.”

“You don’t want this.” Joe stared down at the obnoxious logo: Burger, Smythe, and Villay, attorneys-at-law.

“Why not? You left me a long time ago. All you want is that garden of yours and that silly bush of a mistress.”

Here we see no tone of voice and no facial expressions. What we do see is a different choice of wording to make the dialogue itself show us what these two might sound and look like as this little exchange is happening. In hindsight I think I could have also used stronger verbs to narrate their actions as well. Instead of “slid”, Lana might have “shoved” the papers toward him. Joe might have “glared” down at the logo and perhaps crumpled one side of the documents in his fist.

Readers will notice ANYTHING we use too often, so do your best to show what the characters look like and sound like by using strong, appropriate dialogue and action that fits the tone of the scene. Describe the tone of voice and facial expressions in moderation and also if they are important to what’s happening. For instance, if a character is lying, the tone of voice and facial expression could be tells that give them away.

Remember, the reason we read books as opposed to watching movies is so our imagination can join in and form the story in our own minds. If we feed the reader every single minute detail about how WE see the scene, their imaginations just sit there in the dugout and never get a chance to play.

Sitting_in_Dugout (1)For learning how to write tone of voice and facial expressions in fresh and new ways, I highly recommend Margie Lawson’s workshop or lecture notes on Writing Body Language & Dialogue Cues. She refers to some really good examples and includes some unique exercises to keep your descriptions from being blah and cliche.

Now go forth and write! ~Mysti Parker

31036_455754357815212_1296404459_nMysti Parker (pseudonym) is a full time wife, mother of three, and a writer. Her standalone Tallenmere fantasy romance series has been likened to Terry Goodkind’s ‘Sword of Truth’ series, but is probably closer to a spicy cross between Tolkien and Mercedes Lackey. Mysti’s other writings have appeared in the anthologies Hearts of Tomorrow, Christmas Lites, and Christmas Lites II. Her flash fiction has appeared on the online magazine EveryDayFiction. She serves as a class mentor in Writers Village University’s seven week online course, F2K. Currently, she’s working on her first historical romance and has two children’s books in the hands of a hard-working agent. When she’s not writing, Mysti reviews books for SQ Magazine, an online specfic publication, and is the proud owner of Unwritten, a blog voted #3 for eCollegeFinder’s Top Writing Blogs award. She resides in Buckner, KY with her husband and three children.

 

Links:

Subscribe to my blog, Unwritten 

LIKE my fan page on Facebook!

Follow me on Twitter @MystiParker

A Ranger’s Tale, Tallenmere #1 (Now FREE for Kindle!)

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Serenya’s Song, Tallenmere #2

Hearts in Exile, Tallenmere #3