Category Archives: writing exercies

Judging Writing Contests

Hello, Katy Lee here. First off, the winner of the Catherine Anderson Lucky Penny book goes to Gail Ingis! Woo-Hoo, Gail! Congrats! Catherine will be mailing the book off to you shortly. Enjoy! 

Now, I have just finished judging eight entries to CTRWA’s Write Stuff Contest. I always look forward to the many contests I participate in throughout the year. I love reading works-in-progress in all its various stages, but I really get excited to see a work ready for an editor’s eyes. If I reach the last page of the entry and am mad that I can’t continue, I stress my frustration to the writer. “Get this book on the shelves!”

I’ll be honest, though, typically those entries are few and far between. But that is okay, because writing contests are not just for the perfect entries. They are also a way for a new writer to put their baby in front of another pair of eyes. It is an opportunity for them to receive some helpful feedback before sending their work out to editors and agents. (Who typically don’t give anything other than the dreaded rejection letter.) There’s no shame in submitting a story in its beginning stages. If you are entering to win, that’s different, but if you are just looking for a quick critique of the direction of your work, I encourage you to send it in. It’s a learning opportunity to perfect your craft. And not only that, it’s a motivational tool to press on.

For me, as a judge, seeing the shiny finished pieces, knowing they, too, once fell into the “ugly baby” stage, is a testimony to never give up to all writers. They prove that with dedication and hard work there is hope for us in all our stages. I do my best to be kind and constructive when giving ideas or pointing out better words that could be used in certain places, but I know the writer may still misconstrue my feedback and take it personally.

And maybe they are right, but not in the sense they think.

I personally want to encourage all writers to keep at it. As a judge I see in front of me all the stages a piece goes through before it’s ready for the shelf. I know with hard work and dedication even the baby entries can be transformed into shelf worthy. So, enter your works and let the judge’s words motivate you, not discourage you. Keep at it until your baby is on the shelves, too.

The Unlocked Secret: It may be called judging, but I like to consider it more as cheerleading. Someone who has seen the beginning and end results and cheers writers on to their dream of publication. Go for it!

Question: If you have judged writing entries before, what have you learned from the process? Or, are you a writer who thinks their story isn’t ready for a contest?

Star Wars, the Flylady and Other Internet Tools

Star Wars, the Fly lady and Other Internet Tools

 Your focus determines your reality – Qui-Gon Jinn

Hope everyone had a great holiday and you’ve got some smoking hot New Year’s Eve plans.  It’s Jamie K. Schmidt, filling in for Wednesday’s Child Vivienne Ylang.  Today’s writing tip is about how to focus.  Last week, we talked about finding the time to write.  So now we’ve got our butts in the chair, fingers on the keyboard and are ready to work.

I have a hard time jumping into my project.  Sometimes, it helps to read over the last chapter.  Sometimes, it helps to edit the previous fifty pages.  Sometimes, it helps to read everything I’ve got.  Usually once that’s done, my writing time is up and I’m off to do other things.  Like video games for example.  Take that quote up there for instance . . .

Qui-Gon Jinn was a Jedi Master in George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise.  The Jedis and their enemies, the Sith are foremost in my mind because I got the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG), Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) for Christmas.  Basically, it’s a great big video game I can play on my computer with my husband and about 1 million of my friends. To get an idea of the game play you can check out this youtube video:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4iL5uUDf5I

This game is a lot of fun. . . . but it’s not getting my revisions done that I’ve got to turn into my agent in February so she can, in turn, give them to the requesting editor at the publishing house.  So I’ve got to focus.

I grab the timer and set it for fifteen minutes (a la the Fly Lady  . . . www.flylady.com.  It’s a great site for getting rid of clutter and cleaning your house . . . ahem. . . focus)

It gives me fifteen minutes to get in the mood, fart around, settle in, and get ready to write.  When that timer goes off, I start with the new work for today.  In this case, I have scrapped the prologue – which was OK because it wasn’t in my original manuscript.  Now I’ve got to rework the opening chapter.  I’m planning on hacking off the first half and starting in the middle of the chapter.  It’s hard to kill the darlings.   I created a new word document to keep them in so I can use them later, if needed.  But if I get stuck making new darlings, I need something to push me through the writer’s block.

Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die application http://writeordie.com/#pc is one way to get motivated.  You set a goal, a time and start typing.  If you stop typing before your time is up, the following can happen:   Annoying buzzers will sound; your computer screen will start acting crazy, and my personal favorite – your words can start deleting!!!!  Believe me, you become very focused on not being punished and getting those words done.

When I prefer the carrot over the stick, there are always kittens: http://writtenkitten.net/.  For every one hundred words you write, you get a kitten picture.

It’s important to note, that with both these applications you need to cut and paste the work you do on these websites into another word processing program, like Microsoft Word® or the equivalent.

When I’m in the zone, I can work for hours.  It’s getting there that’s part of the battle.  Then once I’m there, focusing only on the writing I’m supposed to do today is also hard.  Once the creativity opens up, ideas for other projects start jumping in.  I have to keep another word document open called “Ideas” and type them in there so I can go back to my Work in Progress (WIP).

I make bargains with myself.  Once this goal is done, you can do X.  In this case, once I get my daily word count or revision goal in, I can log on to SWOR and leave my WIP until tomorrow guilt free.

I opened with a Jedi and I’m going to close with the last Jedi Master.  Whenever I tell myself I’m going to try and write today, I hear the words of the little green Muppet:

There is no try.  Do or do not – Yoda

Let’s Get Physical

Now don’t get out of your seat, it’s just me, Katy Lee, and the kind of exercise I’m talking about lets you sit right where you are. You see, this exercise is one for your mind, particularly the part where your writing comes from.

Since the freak snow storm and week-long power outage, and now with the stressful holiday season upon us, my writing has come to a screeching halt. Lately, I find when I sit to write I end up making out my shopping lists instead. Anyone else going through this? Perhaps it is just the season and after I lose my yearly Thanksgiving weight gain all will be back to normal, but I’m not waiting to find out. Instead, I’m getting physical.

To do this, I needed some instruction. So, I signed up for an online creative writing exercise class. There’s a bunch to choose from, and having never taken one, I opted for a class on food, hence the weight gain. Anyway, I needed something to jump start my brain as aerobics jump starts my day, and after completing the first exercise, I knew it was just what the doctor ordered.

The class began with a simple first person narrative describing a food experience. Nothing to break a sweat over and totally unrelated to my WIP. (Work in Progress) And I got to eat. This was the best exercise ever!

It was a fun and low stress practice piece with nothing riding on it and no pressure to get it “right.” But something it did do is remind me of why I write. And that is because I am happiest when I am doing it. My kids tell me they can always tell when I am writing at my laptop. They can tell because I am smiling. And while writing this piece I could feel my smile getting stronger. Of course, it could have been the chocolate.

The next assignment called for using four descriptions from the first exercise in a scene with my main characters from my WIP. It was now my characters turn to partake in the food I had just eaten, and it was exactly what I needed to refresh my mind of who my characters were and their motivations. Would they like the food? Would it end in a food fight? Or would their meal bring them closer together?

I won’t go into all the assignments but with each one I was effectively brought back to the task of finishing the book. A writing exercise’s main purpose is to trigger your imagination and help you come up with great ideas for your stories, and they can also refocus your mind when it decides to block up. But wait, there’s more. A bonus just for you! Performing these exercises can also perfect your writing skills.

The Unlocked Secret: Don’t ever look at a writing exercise as a waste of time. They will help you with your metaphors, spelling, character profiles, plotting, and much, much more. Using writing exercises to help you refocus can only make you a stronger writer. And if you’re anything like me, your smile will prove that you’ve been working out.

Question: What kind of prompts or exercises have helped cure your writer’s block?