Category Archives: Inspiration

Short and Long – #FlashFiction

The third exercise from Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft is called Short and Long. First, write a paragraph in sentences of 7 words or less, no fragments. Then, write a paragraph that is all one sentence. I decided to choose the same subject matter for both of the pieces of flash fiction that follow. Which do you think works better?


The red sky burned brighter than fire. Streaks of smoke filled the air. Screaming children ran through smoking fields. Orange embers drifted through the air. Dead grass swayed in the wind. Singed leaves floated down the river. Heat swelled beyond the fire’s edge. It burst forward, ever expanding. The front grew, gobbling up acres. The blaze swallowed farms whole. It spit out charred tree skeletons. Blackness trailed the flames. A small girl’s lungs constricted. Her breathing was slow and labored. Her wheezes were louder than the fire. Her steps slowed. Her energy waned. She stumbled, falling to her knees. Then, she grew silent.


The wind roared as fire crackled into the air, smoke rising up and up and up into the blood red sky, a sky more fierce and vibrant than flames, a sky filled with thick smoke, particles, sparks, and embers floating through the air, landing in blackened fields dotted with the skeletons of trees still steaming; children ran through these fields, fast as their little legs could carry them, screaming though their lungs burned–one young girl in particular, wheezing, coughing, sputtering as she stumbled, falling to her knees amid charred soil, energy waning as she gasped her last breaths while small feet pounded past her upturned face.

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Punctuation – #FlashFiction

The second exercise from Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft is all about punctuation. Write a paragraph without any punctuation at all. Is it readable? Does the subject matter fit the format? What follows is a short piece of flash fiction that I wrote for this exercise.


The line of people camped out around the electronics store building buzzed with anticipation at five minutes till opening on Black Friday when the clock struck seven am the buzz built into a roar as people packed up their tents and sleeping bags and foldable camp chairs some began to shove and push and shout and trip and fall and bruise and skin knees the click clack of keys in the door could only be heard from inside the store where an army of employees in blue shirts prepared for the onslaught of battle the doors burst open nearly shattering the shatterproof glass blue shirts shoved aside as the stampede flooded into the enormous room trampling over tidy displays knocking over cardboard cutouts advertising aspects of the sale battered blue shirts hunkered down behind counters and cash registers fingers ready to call in the police for backup if necessary chaos reigned a cacophony of yells and shouts customers breaking into fist fights over the last new game cartridge TVs flashing a variety of nature programs and music videos and action-packed movies as customers emptied the store of its contents the riot died down to embers individuals complaining demanding a rain check on the sale price of the item in question management pointing out the advertisement small print while supplies last

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Focus on Sound – #FlashFiction

The other day I was at the library browsing through the non-fiction section on the craft of writing, and I picked up Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft. I’m going through the exercises, which has been really fun so far, and I thought I’d share them with you over the coming weeks.

The first exercise is about focusing on sound (onomatopoeia, alliteration, repetition, rhythmic effects, etc., but NOT rhyme or meter). What follows is a short piece of flash fiction that I wrote for this exercise.


The seaweed sits on the beach, strung like a strand of pearls of varying size and imperfect shape. A glowing amber against pale sand, soft and gritty between my toes. A slimy sheen reflects the blinding white sky. Fanned feathers create circling shadows of relief from the sharp glare. The deafening crash and whoosh of waves assaults the sandy shore, leaving uneven trails of salty foam wiggling across the tide line. Damp footprints cast from bare skin lead up and down and in and out of the surf, disappearing, melting away, then forming again, first soft, then more defined. A toe dragged in the sand draws a line, a curve, a face at once playful and knowing. Paw prints dance a swirling samba circumnavigating driftwood, punctuating the damp beach next to trailing vines of kelp. The aftermath of a crashing wave laps cool, salty water over exposed toes and stings the freshly cut skin of my sole.

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Liebster Award

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First off, sorry for not posting anything last week! I strive to post at least once a week. I will post a poem and/or flash fiction piece later this week.

Now, on to the fun stuff! Raven Pierce nominated me for a Liebster Award. Thank you! I’ve never been nominated before. It made my day. =)

Here are the rules:
1. Each nominee must link back the person who nominated them. (Check!)
2. Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator. (See below)
3. Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award who have less than 200 followers. (I bent this rule–see below my 10 answers)
4. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer. (See below my nominations)
5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them. (Check!)

On to the questions for me to answer:
1. What is your favourite writing quote?

This isn’t exactly a writing quote, but it’s my favorite quote that a writing friend shared, and I think it’s great advice for any writer (non-writers too).

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
― Corrie ten Boom

My favorite quote that I came up with back in high school:

Today is the day of finding new tomorrows.

2. What music do you listen to when you write?

It depends on what I’m writing. I have a bunch of Pandora stations, and I pick one that matches the mood of the scene. Most often, it has some kind of driving beat that keeps me motivated (although intimate scenes require some R&B).

3. What do you want to tell us about your writing journey?

I think it’s going to be a long haul, but I’m all in.

4. What do you think is your most outstanding attribute?

I’m insanely detail-oriented, and I have a very visual memory. It helped me get through school, but it’s hard for me to see the big picture sometimes.

5. Describe one of your characters you wrote about. What do you love about him/her/it?

I like to write about characters stuck between two impulses or drives. One of the characters in the novel I’m currently writing is goal-oriented to a fault. I love her passion and vision. I’m really rooting for her to accomplish her goal, but she’s reckless in the manner she goes about trying to achieve it, so she does things I don’t agree with, which makes her interesting to write about.

6. Who is the person who inspired you to write?

My mom has always been very supportive and encouraging about my writing. My brother, too. But I wouldn’t have taken it up again without the support and vote of confidence from my husband.

7. Why do you write?

I have stories to tell. I love imagining variations on this world, worlds where science fiction and supernatural characters are authentic and relatable.

8. What food are you addicted on?

Chocolate. It’s hard for me to go a day without it in some form. Although, I do eat a lot of fuji apples these days, too.

9. What is your dream as a writer? (e.g. get published, self-publish, be published in a literary magazine, etc.)

My dream is for my writing to touch people, help stir their imaginations, inspire and intrigue.

10. What do you want to say to your beloved blog readers?

Thank you for reading! I deeply appreciate your support and constructive criticism! Keep it coming!

My nominations:
I’m not sure how to count blog followers, so I’ll just nominate the blogs I subscribe to (whose authors aren’t famous–yet). My life is enriched by reading these blogs.
1) Lauren Sapala – Her motivation and advice is just what I need. Great interviews, too! (@losapala)
2) John Wiswell – Funny, surreal flash fiction; I love it! (@Wiswell)
3) KatanaPen – She tells it like it is. (@katanapen)
4) The Eyrea – Excellent flash fiction and astute observations on the writer’s life. (@eyrea)
5) WhimsyGizmo – Inspiring poetry. (@dejackson)

My 10 Questions for Nominees:

  1. What is the soundtrack to a great writing day for you?
  2. Is there a song that embodies your favorite character (or poem) that you’ve written? If so, what is it?
  3. Do you know exactly what each of your characters looks like? Or do you just have some vague notion (or none at all)? Does your visual conception of characters change over time?
  4. Why do you write?
  5. How does your writing begin? With a visual, a concept, or something else entirely?
  6. When you write, where are you? What are you surrounded with/by?
  7. What author do you wish every writer you talk to had previously read?
  8. What are your writing goals this year?
  9. What advice would you like to share with your blog readers right now?
  10. What is the reaction you’re most hoping for from your readers? What reaction would put a giant grin on your face?
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3 Words

Trifecta has challenged us to come up with 3-word resolutions, inspired by Michael Hess’s “Just Be Nice.”

I have two:

1) Write, Edit, Publish.

2) Explore, Challenge, Grow.

Happy New Year!

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Time for Some Book Reviews

Books are a great place to find inspiration. It’s been a while since I’ve posted any book reviews, so here’s my backlog. I hope you find something worth reading!

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the way this book combined anthropology and science with urban fantasy. The descriptions of setting were very good, particularly the library and the vampire’s mother’s home. It was evident that the author did extensive research about the books, architecture, and setting involved. However, the pacing dragged in the repetitive detailed description of the books the main character researched, and in her repetitive daily routine. The romance also seemed too contrived. I did enjoy the aunt characters. I thought they were well-developed and refreshing. I also really enjoyed their house as a character, and all of the ancestral ghosts that inhabited it. I thought that was a nice touch. There were many things to enjoy in this book. However, I would have enjoyed it more had it been ~3/4 as long.

Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective ProseSin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose by Constance Hale

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is full of incredibly useful information on how to improve your prose. It includes sections on Words, Sentences, and Music. Each section includes the Bones (grammar lesson, with examples), Flesh (writing lesson, with examples), Cardinal Sins (errors with examples), and Carnal Pleasures (good examples). I dog-earred the book like crazy, underlining occasionally.

A new edition just came out, which I bought for my kindle so I can easily highlight and bookmark useful passages. The new edition is going to be great to read because it will have all new examples in it, so it will be a fresh opportunity to reinforce learning the material. I would recommend buying both editions to be able to go over the material twice (you can get an old edition super cheap on amazon). Your writing will be the better for it.

Note: I attended a book club where Hale lectured about this book and her other book on Verbs, her background, and her work. I found her engaging, funny, delightful, and educational. I would highly recommend attending any lecture or class with her if you are able.

Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of ViewRivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was definitely worth the $3 kindle price. It has excellent examples of how to deepen the POV of your characters, whether you are working with 3rd person or 1st person POV. The book has exercises in each chapter on how to change sentences that exemplify each way a POV can be shallow, so you can try to change them to deepen them, then check your answers with those given by the author on the following pages. I highly recommend it to anyone writing fiction or creative nonfiction. It’s a very quick read and a great reference.

Note: Rachel Russell recommended this book to me after she critiqued the first 50 pages of my novel. I think it will help me deepen the POV of my characters to make the novel more immediate and immerse the reader into the minds of the characters.

The Iron King (The Iron Fey, #1)The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a strange experience reading this book. In each moment, I felt like I could predict exactly what was going to happen next. But then, what actually happened, wasn’t what I expected in each case. It was weird. So, the book felt predictable. But it wasn’t. Also, the writing wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. It wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t good enough to make me lose myself. I love the concept of fae. I enjoyed the plot and the worldbuilding was excellent. The romance made me cringe sometimes. That subplot was very predictable. I really wanted to love this book, but I couldn’t. I don’t think I’m going to read the next one either. If Kagawa writes something for an older audience, I would be game for reading it. And I plan to read her vampire book (eventually), because it’s something different (supposedly darker).

Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones (Alcatraz, #2)Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as the first. The satire is funny, but the voice got to me at times. It could be the narrator, although I thought he did a great job in general (I listened to the audible version). The story was fun, and I really enjoyed the ending. I will always admire Sanderson’s ability to create a universe. I love all of the glass-related technology in this story.

Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastards, #2)Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First off, Lynch’s characters are so real. You fall in love with them (or you hate them). They are passionate, and they are flawed. And they swear a lot. I can picture the events of this book very clearly in my mind. I can still remember events from the first book as crystal clear images. This is unusual for me (my memories fade quickly in general). Lynch has a special talent of painting a picture, using all the senses.

I kept taking breaks between listening to this book (the narrator is excellent, btw), which I wouldn’t recommend. There is definitely a bit of a lull in the middle, somewhere maybe 1/3 in. I got a little bogged down by all the political intricacies. But when they got on the big ship, things really started to speed up. The last 1/4 or so, man, whoosh! Things were hopping. A fantastic ending. I look forward to the last book, and anything else Lynch writes.

Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They DoWhy We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do by Meredith Maran

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved reading this book. It gives great insight into the minds of 20 very different authors. They have very different stories to tell, but certain themes popped up over and over, and others popped up several times. It’s great to read in small bits, otherwise it can get repetitive. I found it inspiring to read one or two author interviews, then jump right into writing.

Here’s a summary of the advice that kept popping up:

1) Don’t write for money. Even famous authors barely (and often don’t) make enough to live off of. Jodi Picoult said, “Write because you can’t not write, or don’t write at all.”

2) You need to find the time and discipline to write often and consistently, even if you don’t feel like writing. You can’t edit a blank page.

3) Read a lot. It will give you new ideas and influence the way you write.

4) Write what you want to research and read, not what you think will be popular or what you think an agent/publisher will want. Trends change overnight and you need to be motivated from within.

5) If you can’t find a publisher, self-publish. Times are changing. (Only a few said this, but at least a few did.)

Note: If you purchase a copy of this book, the author will donate a portion of her royalties to 826 National, a nonprofit organization that ensures the success of its network of eight writing and tutoring centers, which each year assist nearly 30,000 young people.

View all my reviews

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Hot water and half-sleep

I always get the best ideas in the shower or in the middle of the night. There’s a certain sense of relaxation when hot water beats down on my back, or I’m drifting back to sleep, when my mind enters a place of maximum creativity. I want to be able to tap that creativity when I have a computer or pen and paper in hand. I hate rushing my relaxing shower, turning off the hot water, squeegeeing as fast as possible, jumping out of the shower, wrapping myself in a towel and running to the computer to jot down my thoughts before they float away. What I hate even more is waking myself back up when I’m almost asleep to get out of bed and write down that awesome new concept that I just plotted out in my head while trying to drift back to sleep.

The other day I was trying to think of a way to relax at my desk. What I came up with is this: maybe I’m listening to the wrong music when I write. I’ve been listening to upbeat, dance music; music with a fast beat, to keep me going, keep my energy up. I do listen to some slow R&B when writing certain (read: romantic) scenes, but most of the time, it’s boom, boom, boom, to keep me writing. Maybe I should try listening to something relaxing for a change, see if it pumps up the creativity. I think I’m going to try switching up my music every 20 minutes (so I don’t fall asleep) for the next few days, see where it takes me. It’ll be an experiment, but what do I have to lose? I’ll report back on the results next week. 😉

Where do you get your best ideas? Sometimes I get them while driving too… Any tips on entering the Creative Zone somewhere it’s easier to write things down?

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As for Rhiann’s question about collecting anything from nature that has special value to me, I might just have a rock collection (with some beach glass thrown in). My dad and I used to comb beaches on the Oregon coast for agates when I was a kid. When I visit the beach where we scattered his ashes, I can’t help but sift through the stones in search of some lost memory.

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Values

Lauren Sapala recently wrote a provocative blog post: “There’s Only One Way to Figure Out Your Value As a Writer“. In it, she discussed how you have to figure out your own values as an individual before you can truly achieve success as a writer.

Writing is all about creative self-expression, pouring your soul onto the page, and if you aren’t sure what’s inside, you can’t express yourself clearly.

She said she used Steve Pavlina’s list of values (over 400) to create her personal list of values. I think this is a great idea. He has a post on Living Your Values that you can use to narrow down your list (to 10-15) and figure out how your values can work for you (by prioritizing and reexamining them, perhaps consciously changing them).

You can also use Steve’s list of values as inspiration to create values for your characters (maybe once you’ve got yourself figured out). Each major character in your novel should have a fully-developed personality, including several values and flaws.

You can find worksheets in different books and places online (here’s one and here’s another – you can paste links to your favorites in the comments) that can help you flesh out a character’s personality. I have developed my own character questionnaire, based on several different sources. I have a longer one for main characters, and a shorter version for more minor players. Your characters can have a short list of current values, and one or two they want to change (consciously or unconsciously) throughout the story (or another character can want to manipulate them into changing their values). The possibilities are endless.

Motives are a great place to start with characters, and values create motives.

I hope you feel inspired to check out Steve’s list, either to examine your own values or to create values for a character or two.

Follow Lauren for great writerly advice on Twitter at @losapala.

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P.S. I finally got that furniture delivered yesterday! Now to just put it together…

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It was him!

Last weekend, I went out for dinner at a local restaurant with a friend. I was eating my meal, when out of the corner of one eye, a bright shirt caught my attention. Something in my facial expression changed.

“What?” my friend asked.

“Don’t look now, but,” I held up one hand and tried to conceal pointing with the other to the man who was now walking past my elbow. “It’s one of the characters from my book!” I hissed.

The man turned to order at the counter. My friend studied his profile. His jaw dropped. “It is!” he whispered.

My eyes bugged out of my skull. “I know, right?!” From the cut of his hair to his posture to the slightly baggy clothes to the color of his shirt. It was him, like he stepped right out of the page. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I wanted to jump out of my seat and ask him his name, what he did for a living. He even wore nerd-tastic glasses, which I had thought would be too cliche for my character, but now I’m totally adding them. OMG. I was so excited, I was bouncing in my seat, food forgotten. I hoped the man didn’t notice…

My point is, inspiration can strike anywhere–whether it’s a character that you already wrote springing off the page, or finding slices of inspiration in observing those around you to blend into new characters. Keep your eyes open. Open them wide and take a good look around.

Thursday’s Children are talking about firsts this week. It was definitely a first seeing a character I wrote leap out of the page into the flesh. It was a total shock.

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Something New: Thursday’s Children – Writing Inspiration

I’m trying something new this week. I’m joining Thursday’s Children, a writing inspiration blog hop.

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I just got back from a camping trip through the Olympic Peninsula and down the Oregon Coast through the National Forests and the Northern California Redwoods to Lake Mendocino. I’d like to share some inspirational photos today (post is image-heavy).

Tree Monster

Somehow, in the Redwoods, I kept seeing monsters in the trees.

Tree Face

Redwoods have such amazing texture:

Texture

Driftwood too:
Driftwood

Unfortunately, all I had with me was a camera phone, so the quality of some of my images is sub-par, but you can still see what’s there. I think this one was called “Big Tree.”

Big Tree

If you have a coastal scene, maybe this will inspire you:
Coast

Hidden Coast

Maybe the dunes are more your setting:
Dunes

One night we camped in the middle of a clear-cut. It was incredibly peaceful, but kind of sad. Easy to leave no trace, though.
Clearcut

Like sunsets?
Sunset

If you’d like to see the entire album of inspiring photos (all 133 of them), they can be found on google+ here.

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