Writing Exercise: Write and Rewrite

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Write and rewrite were sitting in a tree, write fell down and who was left? REWRITE. Write and rewrite were sitting in a tree, write fell down and who was left? …

In April, during the A-to-Z my brain went stupid. I could no longer write good, but I could rewrite good. For over a week, when I have absolutely no extra time thanks to taxes, everything written had to be rewritten. Which is really obnoxious for flashes. The point of flashes is one and done. In this case, it was two and done – and all the rewrites ended up being three times as long as the original flash..

I had all the information the first pass, but it needed to be different. What had been produced was too passive. The dialog sucked or was non-existence, all the action was told instead of shown.

Anyway, the point of this Writing Exercise is to get over the innate bump of “I wrote it, why do I need to rewrite it?” If you know it isn’t good enough, rewrite it. Just bite the bullet and put the new, better words on paper.

This isn’t to say keep writing the same scene forever, but if you know how to fix it, FIX IT. Get that fix on paper instead of going “someday, maybe”.

WRITING EXERCISE: Find a scene, no more than 500 words, where you are unhappy with how things play out because it is missing a skill. Rewrite it.

My Attempt: Oopsie (11/8/2020). First version was 117 words – no dialog, no action, basically a news report of what already happened. But I needed to write it to get all the pieces in play. Second version was 525 words. Dialog, action, conflict, beginning-middle-end. Not even a scene in the first version, versus all the parts of a story in the second.

Writing Exercise: Theme

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I’m going to be honest with you. I really don’t understand “theme”. Theme is Big Literary Discussion, and I hated that part of high school English. I read to enjoy and escape, not figure out if the story was about the “futility of purpose” or “limitations of self-destruction.” To me, and my autistic-spectrum mind, the blue curtains were just blue. As an developmental editor, only once have I come back to an author and said “this is your theme” … and we needed that to pull together a story going off track. The writer hadn’t even known, but as soon as I said it (well, meandered through writing an email trying to nail the developmental issue until it hit me), he was like “exactly” … and hurried off our message-chat to fix the problem.

Sometimes my book club talks about themes, and I try to contribute. Mostly I restock my plate with the snacks everyone brought around that time.

Misty Massey wrote a Magical Words post on October 4, 2011 entitled “What Does It All Mean” discussing theme. Commentors included AJ Hartley and pea_faerie, both of whom are English college professors with doctorates – but they are also writers, so they know how to make discussion on theme interesting. (URL is: http://www.magicalwords.net/misty-massey/what-does-it-all-mean/)

For the most part for me, genre writing is about entertaining. To be entertaining, the reader needs to be engaged. Engagement happens when more than just balloons and explosions are happening, when there is meaning buried between the words even if the reader doesn’t see it, their hind-brain does. And that meaning often is a theme.

“People are equal.” “People are not equal.” “Be kind.” “Be forceful.” “Think of others first.” “Self-care before other care.” “Health is wasted on the youth.” “Old age makes one stagnant.”

All that wonderful jumbled mess that is life.

WRITING EXERCISE: Review you present work-in-progress (WIP) to see if you have any themes.

Writing Exercise: Every Ten Pages

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Faith Hunter, the writer of the amazing Jane Yellowrock series, talks about how her normal rule-of-thumb is being impacted by her long-running series (then at a measly eight books) in a Magical Words post from January 28, 2014.

“Something has to happen every ten pages.” is her go-to rule-of-thumb.

Only then is the reader pushed through the story with the “I can’t put this book down” feeling.

The URL is

She say for a mystery, that is how often the clues need to hit, for a romance, that is how often the romance needs to move forward.

Unlike most writers who dream of writing novels and moan about cutting down to short story length for special projects, I’m the opposite. My natural writing form is poetry. And not just any poetry: Tanka – five lines. I’ve managed to up it to flashes, and last year I had a break through in writing series of flashes. Now I’m aiming for short stories … or, bless my heart, novellas, which are actual sellable products.

The “every ten pages” is beginning to become a reality. Interesting enough, most chapters in genre fiction published works are around 10 pages – coincidence? 

WRITING EXERCISE: Look at your present WIP (work-in-progress) and see how often the major plot has a jump forward. Does it match the rule-of-thumb? Is there a slow part of the book? How many pages between plot-moving action is that?

READING EXERCISE: Find an author, one whose books you can’t put down. Not necessarily a favorite because deconstructing someone’s writing lets you see their formulas and that makes the reading less fun. Anyway, for this book, write the beats down – does something happen every ten pages?


Magical Words: Blind Trust

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On a starship, an engineer reports over the comm to the bridge. “Captain, we have a problem.” “What is it, Tools?” “I can’t describe, come down here.”

Really, what the ever-loving frig? The captain is on the bridge, that is where she should be, the center of command, gathering information from all parts of the ship. So she should drop everything and head to a DANGEROUS area by herself to eyewitness something the EXPERT in the matter cannot deal with? Every.sci-fi-TV.show.e.v.e.r.

Fantasy. Romance. Every single genre has the “no time to explain, just follow me.” Like parents telling children, “don’t ask questions, just do what I tell you.”

Misty Massey wrote a full blog (with the related responses from experienced published authors) on the subject for Magical Words on 10/18/2011 called “Blind Trust.”

I’m totally with her on this on how LAZY and UNREAL the lack of explanations is.  – the URL http://www.magicalwords.net/misty-massey/blind-trust/

G is for Give Your Characters Trouble

Meme created by Erin Penn

During several of the Craft of Writing courses at the SAGA Writer’s Conference (sagaconference.com next one scheduled for July 2024), the Faculty describe many things to give your characters: a solid background, emotions, friends and enemies, goals. But most of all, Trouble.

When things slow down, blow up their lives. Physical and emotional bombs – mix and match appropriately to genre. “I’m pregnant.” changes everything as much as a car explosion, especially when the character saying it is male. Explosions. Obstacles. A child who is sick at school and needs to be picked up ASAP, while the hero needs to stop a vampire coven before they wake at nightfall.

Every three chapters or so stop and brainstorm five to ten things of “What is the worst thing that can happen?” Pick one or two things from the list. And give your characters a gift that keeps on giving.

Below is a previous meme I made when I was offering advice to a young writer. Since all writing is in the author’s head, making problems can be difficult for young authors. It’s like they are attacking their alter egos. Until you can distant yourself from your characters, Giving Trouble can be challenging. But Giving Trouble is absolutely necessary.

Meme created by Erin Penn