Tag Archives: writter

12 Nature-Inspired Creative Writing Prompts

Today’s post includes a selection of prompts from my book, 1200 Creative Writing Prompts. Enjoy!

Creative writing prompts are excellent tools for writers who are feeling uninspired or who simply want to tackle a new writing challenge. Today’s creative writing prompts focus on nature.

For centuries, writers have been composing poems that celebrate nature, stories that explore it, and essays that analyze it.

Nature is a huge source of inspiration for all creative people. You can find it heavily featured in film, television, art, and music.

Creative Writing Prompts

You can use these creative writing prompts in any way you choose. Sketch a scene, write a poem, draft a story, or compose an essay. The purpose of these prompts is to inspire you, so take the images they bring to your mind and run with them. And have fun!

  1. A young girl and her mother walk to the edge of a field, kneel down in the grass, and plant a tree.
  2. The protagonist wakes up in a seemingly endless field of wildflowers in full bloom with no idea how he or she got there.
  3. Write a piece using the following image: a smashed flower on the sidewalk.
  4. A family of five from a large, urban city decides to spend their one-week vacation camping.
  5. An elderly couple traveling through the desert spend an evening stargazing and sharing memories of their lives.
  6. A woman is working in her garden when she discovers an unusual egg.
  7. Write a piece using the following image: a clearing deep in the woods where sunlight filters through the overhead lattice of tree leaves.
  8. Some people are hiking in the woods when they are suddenly surrounded by hundreds of butterflies.
  9. A person who lives in a metropolitan apartment connects with nature through the birds that come to the window.
  10. Write a piece using the following image: an owl soaring through the night sky.
  11. A well-to-do family from the city that has lost all their wealth except an old, run-down farmhouse in the country. They are forced to move into it and learn to live humbly.
  12. Two adolescents, a sister and brother, are visiting their relatives’ farm and witness a sow giving birth.

Again, you can use these creative writing prompts to write anything at — poems, stories, songs, essays, blog posts, or just sit down and start freewriting.

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

Poetry: Making Music with Words

Most writers are primarily concerned with the meaning of the words they choose. Is the language precise and accurate? Do the words provide the best connotation for what the writer is trying to communicate? Does the language show, rather than tell?

But poets take language a step further and push it into the realm of music. Poets care about meaning, precision, and accuracy as well as connotation and imagery. But they also care about how words sound, because musicality is a fundamental feature of poetry.

Poets use various elements of music to compose a poem. But because the written word is read and not heard, some elements of music aren’t available, like pitch and timbre.

Spoken word and performance (or slam) poetry are exceptions, because these works are designed to be heard and can incorporate musical elements that aren’t available to authors who write to be read. But most poets rely on a variety of literary devices and techniques to bring music to their work. Foremost among these are meter, sound, rhyme, repetition, and structure.

Meter (Rhythm)

In poetry, meter is a syllabic pattern, which is determined by stressed and unstressed syllables. We’ll use bold to denote stressed syllables in the first line of “What Kind of Times Are These” by Adrienne Rich:

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill

Let’s see what happens when we strip away the language, so we can see the raw meter of the line:

da-da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-da DUM DUM da-DUM

As you can see, the meter gives the poem rhythm, an underlying drumbeat. This demonstration shows why it’s important to review the syllables in the lines of your poetry to check the meter.

Sound (Melody)

A song’s melody is determined by the sequence and length of notes played or sung by musicians. In poetry, melody is driven by the vowel and consonant sounds within the words of the poem. Consider this simple tune: la de-da, la de-da, la-la-la. 

Now compare it to this: doo-da, doo-da, doo-de-da.

We don’t know the exact notes or melody just from reading these sounds, but there is an implied tune when we read them aloud. We can bring a little rhythm to the sounds as well by placing stress on select syllables:

LA de-da, LA de-da, LA-LA-LA. 

DOO-da, DOO-da, DOO-de-DA.

So how do we put it all together? By choosing words that match the melody and meter that we’re aiming for:

LA de-da, LA de-da, LA-LA-LA. 
On the dock, six o’clock, stomp on rock

DOO-da, DOO-da, DOO-de-DA.
Stooping, drooping, boorish king

You’ll notice that in addition to rhythm and meter, we introduced some rhymes.

Rhyme

The most common rhymes are perfect end rhymes–words that appear at the end of lines in poetry and that rhyme perfectly. Here’s an example from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot
Nothing is going to get better, it’s not.

The words lot and not rhyme perfectly and are placed at the end of the first two lines, respectively. The placement of rhyme in a poem, coupled with its meter, can give the lines a sing-song quality. We can use different meters, sounds, and rhyme placements to pull different musical qualities into our poetry. Here’s an excerpt from “Spelling” by Margaret Atwood, which shows internal rhymes:

At the point where language falls away
from the hot bones, at the point
where the rock breaks open and darkness
flows out of it like blood, at
the melting point of granite

Try reading these lines aloud to hear the inherent music contained within. Notice that the lines do not use a metrical pattern, but the layered internal rhymes give it rhythm:

  • away and breaks
  • hot and rock
  • bones, open, and flows
  • The word point appears three times in these five lines, but the repetition of this word is barely noticeable.

It’s worth noting that some poems don’t rhyme at all. Rhyme is important in poetry, but it’s actually a subset of a broader and even more important poetic device that is essential in both poetry and music: repetition. After all, rhyme is just repetition of sounds.

Repetition

Repetition is the technique that really sums up how we make music out of words in poetry. All of the techniques mentioned above ultimately use repetition:

  • We create a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables — and a pattern is really just repetition.
  • We choose words and arrange them in such a way that they create a pseudo melody, which is achieved primarily by patterning (or repeating) certain sounds.
  • And we use rhyme — maybe end rhymes that ring like cymbals or internal rhymes that jingle like a tambourine. Rhymes are, by nature, repetition.

Layering the repetitions of these elements creates greater musical dynamics in a poem.

As you can see, a poem’s musicality really comes from the repetition of various elements within the lines and stanzas. And there are more elements that we can repeat. Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in close proximity: prickly pears. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in close proximity: hat rack.

Some poems even use repetition in their very structure.

Structure

A poem’s music also comes from its structure — the length of lines and stanzas, placement of line and stanza breaks, punctuation, and spacing. All of these elements contribute to the poem’s structural sounds and therefore contribute to its musicality.

In music, a rest is an interval of silence. In poetry, these intervals are indicated by line breaks, stanza breaks, punctuation, and spacing. Rests are similar to the concept of white space in art.

For example, punctuation provides indicators for pausing (or resting) with commas and periods or inflections for questions and exclamations.

Do You Make Music with Poetry?

Plenty of excellent works of poetry aren’t especially musical. But musicality is an important aspect of poetry.

How do you infuse your poetry with music?

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Kill Perfectionism With This One Practice

It can feel impossible to know where to start writing.

We can become paralyzed by fear, worrying our words will offend or bore readers, or worse, that we’ll never have any readers at all.

If we jump in, we might quickly find ourselves nose-deep in all the complications of story writing, tangled in plot, character development, and dialogue tags. Or a Google search might drown us in writing advice, suddenly flinging us into an identity crisis — who are we, why do we write? Are we plotters or pantsers? How can we even know the difference? *hides under desk*

This isn’t just a problem for newbies, either.

The Story of a Perfectionist Writer

Despite having been a published nonfiction writer for over a decade, when I wanted to branch into fiction writing, I had no idea where or how to start.

As a planner, it made sense to me to begin with an outline. I started there, but pretty soon I became bogged down in perfectionism, trying to think the whole story out before beginning to write it. The story screeched to a halt.

I’d heard many stories are character led, whatever that meant, so I created a character; a gruff, bristly cowboy, leaning up against a barn, with a cigarette smouldering between his thick fingers. Unfortunately for him, that was all the depth I could give him without the context of a story. Years later, when I’d think of him, he’d still be standing there, smoking that same cigarette, isolated and alone without a plot to live in. Poor guy.

My solitary efforts yielded nothing, so I read. And researched. And listened to podcasts and watched videos. (A perfectionist’s fancy way of procrastinating.) In the swirl of information, the identity crisis hit. Who was I? Why did I want to write fiction? Was the ability inborn, or could I learn it?

Pretty soon I was convinced fiction writing was too complicated for me.

The Advice That Transformed My Writing

Finally I invited my friend for coffee and to beg for advice. She’s an avid fiction author who pumps out at least one book a year and has thirty titles to her credit, so I knew she’d have some excellent insight.

“How on earth am I supposed to do this??” I asked her. “How does one create a story?” I leaned in, eager for the key to my fiction-writing success.

She shrugged. “You just write it.” She said it matter-of-factly, like it was as obvious. To me, it was obviously wrong. That’s what I’d been trying to do, and it wasn’t working.

“Just write it? I can’t do that. I need a plan.”

“No you don’t. I start most stories without a plan. As I write, the story comes.”

“What?! That’s insane!”

She shrugged again. “You might end up writing a whole lot of crap, but if you keep going, you find the good stuff.”

I didn’t buy it, but let the advice percolate. Writing was too difficult a task to risk “writing crap.” I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Then, in the book Outlining Your Novel, K.M. Weiland proposed two words that changed my life: “What if?” I realized finding the answer would necessitate a lot of dead-end scenarios. I would have to jot down a lot of crummy ideas and terrible plots before I came up with the best one. I would have to allow those incomplete, embryonic, never-to-see-the-light-of-day ideas out onto paper.

That’s when I realized my friend’s advice was true. I would have to “just write it.”

That morning, I sat to write a fiction piece. Anything. It didn’t matter. I was just going to make it up on the spot. Even if it was crap, I decided, it would at least blunt the perfectionism that had held me back.

Inspired by a painting, I wrote one line. Then another. I kept adding one after the other without knowing anything about who was in the story or why. It was a freeing exercise to “just write.” What resulted was a mediocre story that had a reasonable plot and semi-inspiring conclusion.

3 Lessons About Perfectionism From a Writer Who “Just Wrote”

The experience taught me three things:

1. Giving yourself permission to write total crap quiets perfectionism

Perfectionism isn’t necessarily bad. In its healthy state, it can drive us to achieve goals and feel a deep sense of satisfaction as a result. In its unhealthy state, though, it can freeze us with fear or cripple us with self-criticism. That’s the version we need to break free from.

It starts with giving ourselves permission to not be perfect — to write crap.

With that permission firmly in place, it becomes this decision to conduct an experiment, the results of which do not define us or our abilities.

This one, highly effective, low-risk decision can make an effective path through perfectionism. It sure did for me.

2. Permission to write crap unlocks creativity

Creativity is a cautious, tender creature. It hides from anything that might kill it — like the pressure we put on it to be something it isn’t.
However, with the decision to cast aside high-achievement and simply run an experiment, suddenly the pressure to write the next Harry Potter dissipates, and we’re free to let whatever we think of flow onto that blank page.

Permission to write crap unlocks creativity.

“It’s about getting that critic out of the way and immersing yourself in a flow of pure creativity. Do that, and you’re doing well.” Sean Platt, Write, Publish, Repeat

3. To grow in the craft of writing, one must write

Research, reading, thinking, or “letting it percolate” do not a book write. They’re necessary to the process of writing, but they are not the only elements.

Knowing and doing are two different things — it’s the difference between knowledge and experience. One can become knowledgeable about driving by reading books, interviewing the best drivers and car manufacturers, and studying related stats.

When they get in the car, though, the realities of the experience come to life. Hundreds of traffic signs, lights, pedestrians, and flashing ads all pull attention from what seemed like a simple task. Understanding is born.

Sometimes, perfectionism is just a cover for procrastination.

The Secret to Writing Success

Here it is: At some point, every single writer must finally follow these three steps: 1) Place butt on chair. 2) Place fingers on writing apparatus. 3) Write words.

Give yourself permission to do just that, and who knows what stories you’ll create?

What strategies do you use to overcome perfectionism in writing? Let us know in the comments.

Source: thewritepractice.com

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Can the Right Writing Tools Help You Write Better?

When I first started writing, it was just me, a ninety-nine cent pen, and a cheap spiral-bound notebook. Using those tools, I wrote dozens of poems, stories, and journal entries.

These days, I’m surrounded by far more sophisticated writing tools: fancy pens and journals, a computer with writing software, a library of writing resources, and the Internet.

My writing has come a long way since I was a thirteen-year-old curled up on the floor with a pen, a notebook, and my imagination. Certainly, experience and studying did a lot to help me write better, but did these newfangled tools also improve my writing?

Yes and no.

I think a few writing tools do help us write better, but for the most part, tools make writing easier or more comfortable. They don’t improve our writing, but they do improve our writing process.

For a closer look at the tools that are available to us, and their benefits, I’d like to present a few excerpts from my book, 10 Core Practices for Better Writing. These excerpts are from “Chapter 8: Tools and Resources.”

“It’s best to have your tools with you.” – Stephen King

Where would we writers be without our tools and resources? From cheap pens and notebooks to expensive word-processing software, from thick reference books to online databases packed with facts and information, our tools and resources are both bane and boon. Love them or hate them, one thing is certain: if you’re a writer, you need them.

When we are striving to improve our writing, the act of writing and all the skills that go into craftsmanship are just one piece of the puzzle. We need a place to write, tools to write with, writing references to consult, and research material to cite.

Every writer will develop personal preferences—a favorite writing spot, preferred writing instruments, and a host of trusty resources. These things might not directly improve your writing, but they will make your experience and your process more enjoyable and more efficient.

When you are fully equipped with the writing tools and resources you need to get your job done, you’ll do your job better.

Your Writing Tools

Writers’ tools may seem obvious: a pen, notebook, computer, and writing software like Microsoft Word are the basics.

But technology has opened up a wider range of tools that we can use, and not all of them are designed just for writing.

Lots of modern products cater to personal preferences. You might prefer a thick pen with a sturdy grip and steady ink flow, or maybe you’d rather work with disposable pens so you don’t have to worry about losing them. Maybe an expensive notebook with archival-quality paper forces you to put more thought into your writing, or perhaps you’re more comfortable with a cheap notebook so you don’t have to worry about making mistakes or messing up an expensive blank book.

Your preferences might be based on your budget or your personal taste. As with most things we do as writers, you have to find which writing tools work best for you.

Here are some basic tools that most writers use:

  • Pens: Choices include ball-point pens, fountain pens, pencils, highlighters, and markers. I like to keep a few red pens around for editing.
  • Notebooks: Blank books, journals, and notebooks come in various sizes and with a range of quality in the paper. You can also get hardcover or softcover, spiral or perfect bound, blank pages or lined pages.
  • Office supplies: You might need supplies to help you organize your writing notes and materials: binders, file folders, labels, tab dividers, staplers or paper clips, and binder clips (for securing large manuscripts) are just a few examples of office supplies that might come in handy.
  • Hardware: The typewriter gave way to the computer. Now we also use tablets, smart phones, and e-readers.
  • Software: Microsoft Word is the industry standard, but Scrivener is the writing software preferred by most of today’s authors. Other popular software includes Pages (by Apple), text programs (like TextEdit or Notepad) and online, cloud-based software such as Google Drive (formerly Google Docs).
  • Apps: There’s a huge range of apps for writers, including dictionaries, thesauri, encyclopedias, e-books, voice-to-text, and recording apps, plus apps for ideas and inspiration. One of my favorite apps is Scapple, a brainstorming app created by Literature and Latte, makers of Scrivener.

Whatever tools you use, if you’re writing electronically (and you probably are, otherwise you will eventually), make sure you have a backup system in place. An external hard drive is ideal for backups and there are online backup systems you can purchase as well. Ideally, you’ll store backups off-site (keep a backup at a friend’s house or store it online).

Be judicious when shopping for your tools. One great way to preview various writing tools is to shop online. You can read reviews by other customers and get a sense of the product’s features and flaws. It’s also easier to do price comparisons online.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself about collecting tools. Some people will use their lack of the proper tools as an excuse not to write (I can’t afford this expensive software right now, so I can’t start my novel). All you need to get started is a pen and notebook. You probably already have access to a computer. Remember that, ultimately, writing is about getting the words down. The tools we collect just make the process easier or more comfortable.

What are some of your favorite writing tools? Do the tools you use improve your writing or make your writing process easier? Do they help you write better?

By Melissa Donovan
Source: thewritepractice.com

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Christopher Hitchens Gives Writers Advice #FED_ebooks #writer #author #writing

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Christopher Hitchens Advice for Writers

British-American author and journalist Christopher Hitchens (13 April 13, 1949 – 15 December 15, 2011), often referred to as “Hitch”, contributed to New Statesman, The Nation, The Atlantic, The London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, Slate Magazine, and Vanity Fair. He authored twelve books and five collections of essays.

Here’s a brief video of Hitch giving advice to fledgling writers. Enjoy!

 

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