Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 26 Writing Challenge

Welcome back! Today we want to look at a few things we can think about when editing our work. In my opinion, writers should never try to complete a perfect work on the first draft. Drafts are designed for getting thoughts down on paper. In our first (and even second or third) drafts, we need to get a general plot down on paper and have strong characters forming. As we edit, we need to clean up the details and focus on adding or deleting information as needed.

Sounds easy, right? Wrong! Editing can be quite challenging. How do you know what needs to be added or deleted? Here are a few tips:

What does the reader need to know that we might not have included? In our minds, we may know that the main character has a fear of heights. If we don’t tell the reader, however, a scene may not make sense when a character faces a challenge and backs down because it involves a tall ladder or a steep climb. Make sure you give readers enough information.

Does the order of the writing make sense? Can readers follow your timeline? It is fine to jump back and forth in time as long as the readers can follow your changes.

Have you used strong descriptive language? Have you used enough action verbs? What can you do to make your words come alive for the readers?

Can you take out bits of information that are unnecessary to the work? Do you have too much conversation or too many details in a scene? Don’t add words just to lengthen your story or poem. All words must strengthen the writing or be removed.

When you are editing, get readers to help you. Ask someone to read part of your work and give you feedback. Have someone read the work aloud to you so you can see how it sounds and flows.

Complete at least one challenge:

Challenge 1:

Write 350-450 words (poem or short story) about a Christmas card that was mailed but never received. When you are done, edit the piece so that it is only 300 words long.

Challenge 2:

Write a short story or poem from the point of view of a fish in a bowl on a desk. When you are done, edit the piece as needed.

Challenge 3:

Find an online article that you can cut and paste into a Word document. Edit the piece, making it half of the original length. Tell why you chose to cut what you took out.

Monday, November 12, 2012

November 12 Writing Challenge

Welcome back, writers! Hope you enjoy your weekly challenges. We have been working through projects that take you through the process of creative writing. These steps can also be applied to academic writing. We have looked at details to begin the writing process (brainstorming ideas). We have followed that with a few tools to help with writer’s block if you have trouble starting. We have also worked through assignments that help you add details such as descriptive scenes, consistent and strong characters and a setting right for the characters to develop. In academic writing you would include consistent details to support your ideas and strong descriptive language that adds a depth to your work.

Guidance can come to us a writer when we stop and listen. Can we hear our characters? Can you hear the author you are writing about for a language arts paper? We know what we believe and what our voice sounds like; but unless we are writing our autobiography, that voice is not enough. For example, in creative writing we may put a villain in our story--someone who attempts to stop the growth or progress of our main character. What motivates that villain? What motivates other support characters in your writing? What motivated Thoreau to write while living at Walden’s Pond? Can you hear their voices speaking to you as a writer? They have a voice that you are releasing through your own writing.

These challenges help us think through our listening skills--listening to ourselves and listening to our characters. Complete at least one of these challenges:

Challenge 1:

Everyone has wishes based on things we want, things we need, or things we think we need. Fill in these blanks five times, thinking about your own wishes:

If I had ______________, I could _____________________________.

Now fill in the blanks five times based on a fictional character you are writing or reading about.

Challenge 2:

Find a figurine or stuffed animal in your home. Bring this figurine or animal to life in 250 to 500 words. What would this character need? What would this character think about? What would this character do? Write this in first person from the perspective of the figurine or animal.

Challenge 3:

You get a strange letter in the mail. This letter is from an acquaintance that you knew many years ago. This person made horrible choices and is now in prison. This person writes to you to ask you for something that they think only you can provide. Write a letter from the perspective of the person in prison. What are they asking you for? Why did they choose you to send their request to? 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

November 5 Writing Challenge

Greetings! Welcome back to another week of writing challenges. Here are some questions to make you think: Are you setting aside time to write daily if you have big projects you are working on? Are you reading daily? Are you writing in a setting that works well for you? Are you willing to revise what you write?

Here’s a challenge for you to consider: Set aside one writing project you are working on for at least a full day. When you read through your writing after the day has passed, try to look at the piece with fresh eyes. Do you think your piece still flows well? Do you see edits that need to be made?

Now, back to other business…This week, let’s talk about secondary or minor characters in a book. All books start with main characters that readers can sympathize with or relate to. Books and stories also need the supporting cast, however. These can be friends or enemies of the main character. Consider allies, enemies and mentors to be the supporting characters in a story. Allies assist main characters in reaching their goal or overcoming challenges. Enemies or villains attempt to block characters from obtaining success or become obstacles to a goal. Mentors offer wisdom to characters along their journey.

Characters can move among the various roles. A secondary character in one scene can become a main character later in a story. A villain can have a change of heart.  A mentor can fail at times. Transitions like these, however, have to be believable to the readers. A mean villain needs to have an enlightening moment that the readers can follow if the villain is to become an ally.
Complete at least one of the following challenges:

Challenge 1:

Write a scene (250 to 500 words) in which an ally (a friend or close relative) talks a main character through a challenge. The characters are facing a “person versus nature” challenge (bad weather, earthquake, extreme heat or cold, etc.). You can use dialogue here as well as using strong descriptive language to set the scene. Write this in first person from the main character’s perspective.

Challenge 2:

Write the same scene (250 to 500 words) except have the main character in the same setting with a villain that is complicating the journey rather than helping him/her complete it. Again, you can use dialogue here as well as using strong descriptive language to set the scene. Write this in first person from the main character’s perspective.

Challenge 3:

Write a letter from a mentor to a young traveler. Have the mentor advise the young traveler about some upcoming obstacles he/she may face on the trip. Use your imagination. The details are up to you. Remember--use active verbs and descriptive language.

Just a note: Here's an interesting writing guide if you want to write your autobiography: You Are Next In Line: Everyone's Guide forWriting Your Autobiography by Armiger Jagoe. 

Other options for creative people: