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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thats All...for Now

Is it July 31 already? This day makes me a bit sad. Not only is summer fleeting, but we are at the end of 31 Days-31 Writing Prompts, July 2008 edition.


I have had a blast planning and writing these emails and I hope you have benefitted from them in some way. I have enjoyed hearing from some of you and appreciate your sharing of your writing habits and even some of the writing you've been doing. Keep it up!


Here are a few ideas to keep you going into August and onward:

  • Find a routine that works for you. Pinpoint the moments when you are at your best and take 3-4 days a week and dedicate some time to writing.
  • Don't always expect to be at your best. Some days you'll be a writing genius, others you just won't. Capitalize on the good days and write through the bad ones.
  • A few simple deadlines are great motivation.
  • Keep an eye out for contests or magazines or journals where you can publish your writing.
  • Find a writing buddy, someone to keep accountable and to share writing with.

Meanwhile, stay in touch. I can always be reached at dmcg@wordsworthdayton.com. Also, consider coming to meet other participants and to share about your writing experiences at the August 6 Quick Write. Details are below.


For the time being, I'm going to use this found time to work on my own writing projects...and who knows this campaign may be back sooner than you think!


Happy Writing,

Darren

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Other People's Problems

The August 2008 edition of the Writer magazine names "The One Essential Ingredient Every Story Needs." Can you guess what it is?


...think about it...


Give up?


It's conflict.


Think about all your classic stories: the feuding families in
Romeo and Juliet and the stress it put upon the young lovers, the Daisy, Tom, Gatsby triangle in The Great Gatsby, and the personal struggles of young Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye. Conflict was at the heart of each of these twisted, complex plots.


I've been dealing a lot with conflict lately, not personally thank you, but in a project I've been working on. In putting together the many parts of an outline of a young adult novel, I've had to decide on the conflicts I would use to serve as major plot points in the piece. My situation gets more complicated as I decide on the outcome of each of these conflicts and the impact they will have. Then there's the weighty problem of deciding just how all these conflicts will result in a fitting resolution.


A lot to think about, eh? How does one even start? The best approach is to take each conflict one at a time. I've had to jump around on my outline a lot just to learn about my character and who he is. For instance, I've had to take on a conflict that occurs near the end of the story in order to know how he will act in a situation in one of the opening scenes.  Luckily, I have the power of revision to fix any mistakes I might make along the way.


So go at it! Immerse yourself in somebody else's problems...it's a lot more fun than dealing with your own. 


Work it out,

Darren
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Enliven Your Creative Spirit

How engaged are you in seeking out creativity in your life?

 

It's often easy to go along taking in creative things as you happen upon them, appreciating what you see, and then going back to life. It takes a lot more effort to actually go out there, to seek out creative inspiration, and to find ways for it to motivate you in your own efforts.

 

Think about this: chances are that you'd probably create more when you are inspired to do so.

 

Below are a few suggestions I have to engage yourself in creativity in the coming weeks:

  • Visit an art museum, gallery, or festival. Buy something that you like or take your journal and sit down and write about a piece that catches your eye.
  • Read a good book lately? Go to the library and check out a classic that you've always wanted to read but never got the chance to.
  • Meet with other creative types. Make a dinner, go to a coffee shop, or plan a weekend outing. Catch up and also talk about your own recent efforts in your craft.
  • Try a new art form. Are you a writer? Try drawing on a few pages in your journal. Maybe you like creating visual arts...then try writing a page or two. Exercise your creative muscle with a new and exciting project.
  • Find a new place in which to create. Shake up your routine by seeking out a new venue in which to practice your skills--maybe a new room in the house, a new coffee shop, or even move your desk to the a different place in the room.

Have an approach to share on how you enliven your creative spirit? Share them with me at dmcg@wordsworthdayton.com I'd love to hear about what you do.

Finally, thanks Darrell for the inspiration to write today's article.

 

Get busy getting busy,

Darren

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Monday, July 28, 2008

...and Now a Word From Karen

One of my favorite parts of the last 28 days is hearing from other writers. It is encouraging to hear how others are using the time to write or to even see what others are writing.

 

I am going to dedicate the rest of this section to a writer named Karen who recently sent me an email about her writing over the past month. Thanks Karen, I appreciate your support and sharing your own writing experience. (If you wish to share about your own writing experience, drop me a line or few to dmcg@wordsworthdayton.com)

 

...and now a word from Karen:

 

Back on July 4 I began a piece using  the word list : "suitcase, vibrant, cackling, martyr, distant, brooding, roadkill"  that opened up an area of my biographical writing . Each day I have read the prompts and considered my developing piece from that particular angle. Today's led me to journal about a hypothetical conversation I would have with a sister--to learn her perspective on the person I am writing about; her memories. 

 

I'm not good at describing scenes, and I get frustrated at being able to visualize exquisite beauty in nature for example, but only finding flat, trite words when I write. I used another prompt--to create a scene connected to the bio piece--focusing on painfully small but provocative, powerful details in a very simple
scene with little action.    
   
I have also found it helpful to generate my own word lists specific to the biographical material. 
   
So as we are drawing near the end of "31 Prompts" I am printing them for a binder:)

So, what are you doing?

Darren

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Everyone's Doing It-Why Aren't You?

I spent most of the day with my family yesterday. It was a much-needed visit since I had not seen them for over a month. It was a great day and always too short, leaving me with a desire to return sooner than I will actually get the opportunity to.

 

When I was driving home last night I began to reminisce about my family and some of our stories, in between good songs on the radio and desires to pull over and buy caffeine. Those who know me well always encourage me to write some of those stories down. They enjoy the humor with which I look at myself and some of my friends and members of my family.

 

I have taken the occasion three or four times to write stories with myself as the main character and friends and family members as my supporting cast. I truly had fun reliving these moments through words. While I don't have any sense of what my memoir may look like yet, it's been a great endeavor to see my younger self act out in light of who I am now.

 

Look at the stacks of memoirs on the bookshelves these days, everyone is doing it. If you've not taken the chance yet to write your story, give it a try. If you are somewhere in the process, see it through to completion. Edit it, title it, and share it with your fans.

            

You've got a story-tell it,

Darren

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Bright Idea

I had the best idea for a story the other day, it happens to me occasionally. Then, somehow in the hustle and bustle of the day, I let it get away. I find it quite frustrating when this happens.

 

There is an easy fix for this, steal a few minutes to write it down. If you're in a rush, scribble it on a post-it note, receipt, or a napkin. Dedicate a page in your journal for an idea collection, for those times when ideas are hard to come by.

 

Write it Down,

Darren

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Take It Easy On Yourself

I've talked to many people over these past 25 days, or should I say 25 prompts, who have said they've not written a lot, but they have made some small attempts or have been thinking a lot about it. So what's wrong with that? Not a thing!

 

The writing process is so different for so many people. If you were expecting that you would get these daily emails, sit down and type furiously, and produce the next new bestseller, you're probably learning by now how wrong you were.

 

I heard from a writer/friend yesterday who shared that she had written some memories down for her daughter's birthday. Her struggle was in how to capture the memory realistically, while embellishing the piece with appropriate details. My advice to her: You took the first step, the memories are now written down on paper. Now walk away a bit, let the memory simmer, look at some photos, or talk to someone else who was a part of this moment in time (or make a list as yesterday's email discussed). Then, revisit your writing when time allows, and add those necessary details. Remember the details are your way to connect with the reader. Your tools to help them see the memory as you do.

 

Bottom line: the first step is to get the words onto paper or the computer screen. The next steps will follow naturally. There's even nothing wrong with staying at step one for a while. I fondly recall Annie Lamott's term for this part of the process (I'll give you the g-rated version): [Crappy] First Drafts. It is so true. If you're interested in writing and never read her gem, Bird by Bird, it might be worth investigating.

 

Wow...I'll step down from my soapbox for now. Thanks Mari Lou!

 

Take the First Step,

Darren

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hats Off!


A big YAHOO and YIPPEE goes out to Word's Worth Writer Chris Menart, a winner in the Dayton Daily News Poetry Contest. His poem, "Every Single Darn Day" was published in last Sunday's Life section.    


Let me tell you a bit about Chris: He is a disciplined writer, and is in the process of  finishing his third novel. He's written each book in a series during the last three summers (Not short stories folks, 100+ page works!). He has already been approaching publishers and building interest in his project. He has prepared query letters, plot outlines, and a synopsis of his work to share with interested parties. On top of all this, he is driven to build upon his writing experience by entering contests that challenge him to write poetry and short stories.


Oh, and I guess I should mention that Chris is a teenager. That's right, he's accomplished more by the age of 14 than most writers accomplish in their lifetime. I have a feeling that this young man is going to go somewhere.


Congratulations, Chris. And thanks for giving us older writers the kick in the behind that we need to get busy on our writing projects.   

You can view Chris' poem, and view the other winners, by clicking here. 

Chris has also started his own blog. You can check him out by clicking on this link.  


Way to Go,

Darren

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Very Own List


A couple of weeks ago I shared with you a list of books that I had read that were featured as some of the New Classics by a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly. This list made me think about a personal reading list of my own that I had made at a writer's retreat a while back. Our task: List ten book that we can't live without. On Sunday morning we shared our list with the group and were amazed by many of our common reads and were inspired by fellow writers to pick up a few books to see what we were missing.

Well, I ran across that list yesterday while going through my journal and wanted to put it out there to inspire and motivate you. What are books that you think everybody must read?

Ten Books Darren McGarvey Can't Live Without

(in no specific order) March 25, 2007

  •  A Prayer for Owen Meany-John Irving
  • On Writing-Stephen King
  • Grapes of Wrath-John Steinbeck
  • The Great Gatsby-F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Known World-Edward Jones
  • Naked-David Sedaris
  • Salem's Lot-Stephen King
  • Middlesex-Jeffery Eugenides
  • The Things They Carried-Tim O'Brien
  •  Where the Wild Things Are-Maurice Sendak

        [A huge shout-out to Jill, for executing this thought-provoking and beneficial interchange.]


Don't like my picks? Want to share a read of your own? Write an email to me at dmcg@wordsworthdayton.com


Now Get Busy,

Darren

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Building the Perfect Portfolio

I've been trying to put together a portfolio of some of my work. What a task! I'm slowly finding out how disorganized my organization system really is.

 

While undertaking this lofty feat, a few ideas have come to me:

  • When you complete a piece and feel "finished" (yeah, in the writing world that's a loose term) print a copy out for your portfolio. Put it in a safe place with other finished copies.
  • Speaking of that, find a nice three-ring binder with plastic sleeves and keep your finished work in it for safe keeping.
  • Collect clips as you go. I've had a few things out there in the past couple years that I'm just now tracking down. It's a harder process when you wait and aren't clipping as you go.
  • Keep a detailed record of publishing info, contacts, and conversations you have with others regarding your work. It makes finding material down the road a lot easier.
  • When you have something that's ready to go, send it! Don't sit on material that's ripe for a contest, query, or sharing with other readers. It's frustrating to run across items that you let "expire."

Overwhelmed by these suggestions? Then get busy putting your portfolio together. You never know when you might need it. If you don't feel portfolio-worthy, then take the first step. Complete one of your current writing projects and call it: Entry #1. 


Good Luck,

Darren

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

So There!

I've been wracking my brain all day trying to write this portion of the 31 Days-31 Writing Prompts email. Most days when I sit down to the do this part, the words come so easily, but today they just aren't coming at all.


My dilemma reminds me of one of my high school creative writing students. Let's call him Johnny, to protect his identity. Johnny usually doesn't finish his work on time, in fact, he rarely finishes it at all. His excuse--writer's block. Each time he attempts to use this excuse, I shut him down cold. My response, "There's no such thing as writer's block. I know you can sit down and write something. That's all I ask from you." Johnny doesn't believe me and most days he just settles for the zero on his assignment.


Well, Johnny, point proven (He's not a subscriber, so maybe I should send this to him). I did sit down and write something. And now as I look back over it, I'm thinking "Hey, that's kinda cool."

Writer's block, no. Writer's detour, maybe. Which will you choose? 


Happy Writing!

Darren

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Make the List

Evanovich, Patterson, Coulter, Steel, Meyer...I'm sure the first four names might sound a bit familiar to you, but how about the last? 

 

This list of names is the top 5 (in that order) from The New York Times Best Sellers list. Of course I look for my name every week and am always a little aghast that my name is nowhere to be found.  

 

I do owe a shout out to Meyer, Stephanie Meyer, that is for making the top 5. I am often bored with the other names, beach reads, genre-lit, though I have to admit I've never read a word of what they've written. Meyer's book, The Host, is the author's first foray into adult mainstream fiction after a more-than successful run in the young adult field with the Twilight trilogy. The kids in my classes just love her. In fact, Entertainment Weekly recently called her the next J.K. Rowling! (Fascinating article, by the way). All this from an almost unknown, housewife/mother from Arizona. You Go Girl!

 

What list are you aiming for? Find one and work toward it. I'm not giving up on seeing my name in the top 5 someday, I just have to write something worthy enough to make it there.

 

<sigh>...back to writing....

 

Go for It!

Darren

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Flow with the Go


I was talking to a writing friend of mine yesterday about the writing life. As we talked I was surprised that so much has changed about him and his routines. His usual writing spot at Starbucks has moved to his desk at home. The planned prologue to his novel-in-the-works has now become part of a chapter later in the book. The timeline on his current project has been moved up in light of a recent rejection.


As the topic turned to my writing, I was surprised to talk about change as well. The time I spend on professional pursuits is undergoing some major realignment. The deadline to get my current writing project finished by year's end has moved into 2009. My ability to write comfortably in the morning has crept into the early afternoon.


Things change, and we need to as well. No matter how badly we crave to work and exist in the same routine, reality always proves that stability doesn't last long, especially in the writing world. Stick to your goals, stay flexible, and always be ready with Plan B.


Happy Writing!

Darren

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

16 Prompts Down, 15 to Go


Day 16 of this campaign--It's a little hard to believe. July is half-over and summer if fleeting!

15 writing prompts have been sent and I've heard from a lot of you. Some have talked about the efforts they've made to write. One writer has been stuck on one of the prompts from earlier in the month and hasn't been able to move on. I've been told by a couple of folks that they're stock-piling the prompts for another day. I've also been told that it's just fun to read my daily musings.


I've been pleased with 31 Days-31 Writing Prompts movement as well. Not only have I enjoyed putting together the daily emails, but it's been helpful to take a look at myself and my own writing, and I've even been making progress of my own.


I'd love to hear from more of you. How is it going? Have you been writing? Are you still struggling to write? Have you written a piece, a paragraph, a sentence you'd like to share. Please let me know. Email me at
dmcg@wordsworthdayton.com.


Meanwhile, fasten your seat belts! There are still 15 prompts ahead...you're not finished yet.


Happy Writing!

Darren

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Email Treats

Do you feel like a slave to your email? I sure do, so I often try to stock my email with little treats, rewards you might say, for times when the in-box is full of replies to be made, bills to pay, or silly forwards from friends. A little something to read, be entertained by, or to ponder before getting down to business.

I've just discovered, and was pleased to add, another little find to my inbox.

I used to go to sleep every night right about the time that Garison Keilor's Writers Almanac played on a local NPR station. I loved to listen to the occasional writing/author factoid and was even more delighted to hear the poem he read for the day. Alas, those were back in the days when I had a daily schedule, now I sleep at crazy times and many times I sleep when I should be awake and vice-versa, so I'd lost touch with this little gem.

Somehow the fates were with me today and I caught the show in its entirety while getting ready for the day. I heard I poem that I absolutely loved and made a mental note to look up the poet when I got online. While doing my search I went ahead and Googled Writer's Almanac and found that this show had a site of its own. Not only that, it offered podcasts and sends out daily emails as well. Needless to say I signed up.

If you're a fan of this show or slightly interested in what I'm raving about, check out the site at http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/.

Happy Writing!
Darren


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Monday, July 14, 2008

Things to Do


Do you ever look at a new week as a clean slate? Each Monday I usually do an assessment of the days ahead and think of the things I'd like to get done. I am always fueled by knowing that there are things to do. Yeah, sometimes it's a little stressful, but oh, the feeling when I get to mark something off my imaginary list.

For example, this week I have a piece that I want to get submitted to a contest that has a deadline at the end of the month. So it's on my list--give it one more read, change one small part that's been bugging me, and get it sent. I also hope to get to a chapter in a novel that I've been working on.

Give it a try, set a deadline or two for yourself this week and see if it helps to life to your writing practices.

Happy Writing!

Darren

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Take It Easy on Yourself


Ahhh, the weekend...time to get caught up on everything--laundry, sprucing up the house a bit, phone calls, visiting a few friends, going through the TIVO, and other important things like that. Sometimes on the weekend there just isn't time to write. That's okay, isn't it?

Of course it is. It is great to get into a writing routine and important to stick to it as much as possible, especially when your writing goals includes deadlines, but a day off every now and then is good to clear the mind. Plus, hopefully the time away will make you desire to return to writing sooner.

So take it easy on yourself and go get something else done.  

Happy Writing!

Darren

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Hurry Up, Write!

One of my favorite writing contests is coming up in a couple of weeks. Writer's Weekly, an weekly freelance e-zine, sponsors a quarterly 24-Hour Short Story Contest. The Summer run of this event will be on Saturday, July 28th.
I've participated in this contest a few times and have thoroughly enjoyed it. It's always good to test your limits and face a worthy challenge. For one, I usually don't write a lot of flash fiction, so this contest made me work on narrowing my plot and forced me to be more selective in word choice. I am also not known to write a piece and turn it over to others so quickly, this was a really hard thing for me to do. In the end, I have two pieces of fiction that I am really proud of and hope to get published someday.
You can find out more information about this contest by clicking on the link below. It only costs $5...what do you have to lose? Good luck and....
Happy Writing!
Darren
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Little of This. A Lot of That.
I spent the afternoon at lunch catching up with a couple of very good friends of mine--sort of an idea session, how you doing, birthday celebration, talk about movies, tv, and books, laugh and have a good time kind of thing. We lasted way past lunch and if you can't already tell, it was a good time. No, it was a great time.

It's wonderful to have people in your life to keep you in check, not only to your goals, and dreams, but also to yourself. I always leave my time with these two gals feeling a little better about things and sometimes with some inspiration. Like this...

These Get Yourself Started articles will begin to appear on Words, Words, Words, the blog for Word's Worth Writing Center. I've been looking for ways to get my blog going and this was the perfect idea. To view the blog, click the link below. And if you ever want to write anything for it, email me @
dmcg@wordsworthdayton.com
Oh...and thanks, Andrea and Sarah. Love ya!
Happy Writing!
Darren
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