Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 29 Creative Writing Challenge

Greetings! Welcome back for another creative writing challenge.  Some things to think about as you write: What inspires you? Do you write best after being in a quiet location or after an afternoon out with friends? Where do you write best? What do you do when you feel like you are stuck in a writing project with no direction? How do you handle writer’s block?

These are important questions to ask yourself if you are working on a paper or project that is challenging for you. Get to know your “writer” side. What conditions help you write freely? I write best to George Winston piano music playing on my computer as I write. Other writers prefer total silence. You have to find your own conditions that help you finish a writing project.

If you feel blocked, are you trying some writing exercises to help get the words flowing again? At times, you may need to walk away from writing for a moment to refresh your mind and regain your writing momentum. After that, if you still feel haunted by writer’s block, try free writing on your topic for 30 minutes or try a writing exercise not related to your topic. Also, don’t forget that just going outside and daydreaming can be useful. Creativity does not always mean you are producing something. Daydreaming about what you will produce can be a key part of the creative process.

Try at least one of these writing challenges for the week:

Challenge 1:

Write about the following situation using no more than 300 words: Your character buys a wooden chest at a garage sale. He/she wants to use it as a prop for a school play. When he/she gets home and opens it, he/she finds four surprise objects. Describe what your character finds using complete sentences.

Challenge 2:

Write a poem or story or scene for a book (no more than 250 words) that uses all of the following words: orange, potato, rabbit, cornfield, west, river, fair, and computer.

Challenge 3:

In 250 words or less, write about one of your favorite holidays from the perspective a child between the ages of two and six. Rewrite the same scene from the perspective of a person older than 70 years old.

Challenge 4:

If you are working on a longer writing project, write a letter from a person that you imagine has just read your finished published work. Using 100 to 150 words, what would you like a reader to say about your work? 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 22 Writing Challenge

Greetings! Hope you are beginning a wonderful week. This week I am borrowing some information from the Book Genome Project. According to their website (, this project “was created to identify, track, measure, and study the multitude of features that make up a book. Components such as language, character, and theme are mined and analyzed in order to sift, organize, categorize and ultimately separate one book from another in a crowded and complex ‘bookosphere.’” Basically, they research the content and make-up of books. Another website (, uses the information from the Book Genome Project to help connect readers with books the will enjoy.

I’m borrowing some of their research for you to see:

Many writers want to know how many words a publisher expects a book to be. This chart gives you an overview of the length of the average book in the Book Genome Project. The second chart on the page shows you the most common perspective (first or third person) for each book genre. Of course, you do not need to modify your style based on this information. This information can guide you, however, if you want to see what readers will expect from your book if you are writing in a particular genre.

Take a look at some of the books you are reading. Which genre do they fall into? Do the books seem to follow the average length of other books in the genre (of course, unless you look up the stats on the book somehow, you will have to guess at word count)? Do the books follow the most common perspective for the genre? This is just something fun to think about for readers and writers.

Here’s what writers have to think about when they know a word count expected of them: If you know that you need to write an article for a website or magazine that requires 600 to 850 words, can you write that many words (or that few words) about the topic or person you are considering? Some interviews or topics need more than that to be written about well. Some topics (or people interviewed) can’t fill that many words. Same thing for a novel--if you are considering a story line  can you carry it for at least 40,000 words as an average minimum for a book? Should you write a short story instead? What perspective should you write from? (By the way, we will talk more about interviewing in a future lesson.)

I have three projects for you to choose from this week:

Challenge one:

Write a 250-500 word story about two people traveling to a place new to both people. The travel can be for business or for a vacation. You can decide who the people are and where they are going. You can also decide if the characters are just in the planning stages of the trip, if they are at location, or if they both plan and travel in your story. All of the details are up to you. Write this story in third person (he, she, they). Then write the exact same story in first person (I, we, me, us). Tell me briefly which story you think is the strongest/best and why.

Challenge two:

If you want to try your hand at a novel or short story, write about the setting for your storyline. Where will the book take place? A fictional city or a real one? A rural or urban area? What time periods will the book cover? Have you researched this time period and this location? Give me at least 250 words that answer these questions.

Challenge three:

Write a book review (250 to 500 words) of a book you have read within the last three months that you enjoyed reading. Write this as if it will be published in a local paper or in an online newspaper.  This differs from an academic book report. I don’t want to know academic details about the imagery in the book, etc. I want you to tell other readers about this book. What did you like about it? Why should a reader want to read it? Who would like the book--teens, women, a particular religious group? Don’t retell the book (and never give away the ending). Do give a description and a critical analysis. What was the author’s goal (entertain, educate, inform, persuade)? Did the author achieve that goal? How did this book affect you? Do you recommend it?

Enjoy your challenges! Have a great week!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October 15 Writing Challenge

Greetings again, young writers! Hope you enjoyed writing your short stories or your thoughts for a novel. We are moving through this semester course quickly. Keep reviewing notes from what we have discussed in previews weeks. Remember--if you get stuck and hit that writer’s block where no words are coming, first step away for a bit. If you come back to your work and still have writer’s block, try some of the free writing exercises.

Let’s look this week at connecting feelings to your characters in short stories or future novels. Characters cannot be flat, emotionless creations. To have strong writings, your characters need depth--they need to feel and to think. When we begin as young writers, we often tell our audience exactly what our characters feel. We simply say things like, “He was sad when he heard of her death.” Consider how much stronger this statement is, however: “He wept uncontrollably as he ran from the house, feeling as if the walls were falling around him as the words of her death filled the room.” This statement draws the reader into the emotion and paints a picture of grief.

Your creative thoughts may be expressions of your own emotions. If you are celebrating a joy or struggling with a challenging emotion such as grief or anger, paint a picture of what you are feeling. You can turn your thoughts into a blog helpful to others experiencing similar thoughts or create a short story giving your emotions to a third-person character.

For now, let’s focus on expressing emotion for a character in your writings. First, get the emotion needed in the story down on paper. Is he feeling grief or anger? Is she experiencing joy? Second, ask yourself how deeply this character would experience this emotion. Is this a deep pain or joy? Is this a shallow, passing emotion? The answer to this question will give you clues to the language you need to choose to express the emotion. For example, a character would not run from the house in grief over the news of the death of a distant acquaintance. Your emotions expressed in a story need to be consistent with the characters and storyline. A rude, heartless employer would react differently than a loving new parent.

Once you get the first emotion on paper, then find ways to improve the presentation. Consider the overall picture you are painting for your audience. Improve your overall sentence structure and strengthen your imagery.

For the week, complete two of the following assignments:

Challenge 1:

Let’s work on getting some emotions down on paper. Write down three quick sentences that describe your feelings about each of the following phrases or words:

*fall leaves
*summer vacations
*burned dinner
*loose tooth
*brown sculpting clay in your hands

Challenge 2:

Now look back over what you wrote for Challenge 1. Do you think other people would share your thoughts on these common subjects? Could you incorporate these thoughts into a story if you improved your sentence structure and imagery? You may have expressed surprise or grief or joy or anger in connection with these words. Images trigger different responses based on personal experiences in life. Characters in a book may cry over fall leaves because it was the last image shared with a loved one. Other characters may delight in the beauty of the scene and walk through fall leaves to bring back memories of past joys.
Take one of your emotions shared above and write a scene (300 words or less) that describes a fictional character experiencing your emotion.

Challenge 3:

Write a poem expressing a strong emotion of any type (joy, grief, anger, etc…). You can choose the length and the style of poetry. Use strong imagery throughout your poem.

Challenge 4:

If you want to continue planning for a future novel, write a character sketch for two of your main characters. In this sketch, discuss how their emotions may run throughout the book. Will these characters express strong emotions throughout the book? Will the emotions change as the characters develop throughout the story? Will the characters hide their emotions from others or be overly emotional in a crowd?

Remember--to improve your creative writing skills, write something every day. Write in a journal, blog, write a poem, or just get some thoughts down on paper by using a variety of writing exercises. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

October 8 Writing Challenge

Many students will be relaxing for fall break this week, so we will have no assignment posted that you need to turn in. Look back over some of our past assignments and complete any parts you left undone in previous weeks. Also, take some time to journal this week if you don’t already do so. Journaling is an excellent way to get your thoughts down on paper. A journal can be a place to explore senses and emotions in depth. These emotions don’t even have to be your own. You can journal about the anger you saw in a driver on the street or the pain of someone you saw as you past a funeral.

Have you ever written a “sensory journal?” Twice a day (and this can be brief if you are busy), sit down and try to capture in words the sights, sounds, smells and tastes you have experienced since your last writing. You don’t have to explain the situation around each of the senses if you don’t want to, but write about the smells from the bakery you passed or the odor from the cat litter box or fumes from a bus. Write about the taste of the fresh apple from the market or the feel of the dirt from your garden.

A journal can also be a place to sketch out your hopes as an artist. What are your goals? What are you doing to prepare yourself to reach them? What blocks you from reaching them? The blank page on a journal can be a free space to explore many aspects of being a creative person.

Also, explore other forms of creativity. Buy or create some pottery, read a book or watch a live performance. Not only will you be supporting other artists when you do so, but you will be giving your own creativity some new forms of expression to explore.

Our thought for the week:

To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, if to have kept your soul alive. --Robert Louis Stevenson