Tag Archives: #YALitChat

Unchartered waters


{photo: Paul Evans}

In order to discover new lands, one must be willing to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. ~ Andre Gide

Revising the beast of a novel I call “NaNo2008 experiment” has me weaving and bobbing on the sea of doubt.

I found a great article on the 7 steps of revising a novel, along with some helpful tips from my writer friend in Ireland. I implement them as best I can. Must.Try.Harder. I handwrite in a notebook, then merge with my chapter on screen. I print a hard copy, slash through rambling paragraphs, add dialogue, then revise dialogue to fit character’s voice. Then revise again to steer the story in the right direction.

I let the beast sleep. For an hour. A day. I journal about my progress. I wake up thinking about my characters. I run scenes through my head while I shower. I do this for all my writing, though.

What I’m doing differently this time is posting pages for critique on #yalitchat.com. What I like about the virtual discussions of my work is that it is all about the writing. There’s no body language to read like with my local writers group. There is no personal stuff to get in the way. No one has to “soften” their comments because they know my kid was up all night with the flu. E-feedback is about the writing and it is real. And I’m learning a lot so far.

What breakthroughs have you made in your writing by traveling through unchartered waters?


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Filed under Advice, NaNoWriMo, Novels

Teacher Tuesday: A Resource and Prompts

“Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young.”

Paul McCartney, Singer/Songwriter

I like this theory! Though, I’ll be the first to speak up on behalf of the “mature” sector of us, sometimes our imaginations need a little lift.

As a recommendation from a particular post on Teaching Authors blog, I ordered a book from my local indie shop: Unjournaling by Dawn DiPrince and Cheryl Miller Thurston (Cottonwood Press, Inc.) I thought it was a book of ideas for journal writing: thought-provoking questions to help a writer dive deep beneath the surface and pour out one’s soul.

I was pleasantly surprised! Not at all the soul-searching material I expected, but 200 writing prompts to flex the creative muscles, tickle the funny bone and awaken the mind. Each prompt is unique in the exercise and the lesson it provides.

Ever struggle to explain the “show, don’t tell” concept of writing? Here are some examples from this fabulous book:

“40.  Chris walks into a room. By describing only the reactions of  the others in the room, let us know something about him.”

“135.  In one sentence, describe something (not someone) that is very ugly. Create a vividly ugly image, with words.”


Here are a few prompts for the love of words and creative thinking/problem solving:

“39.  Write three different sentences, each using the word “crumpled.” Create an entirely different image with each sentence.”

“36.  Some people can’t smell. In one paragraph, make them understand “skunk.”

“70.  List ten words that use ph to make an f sound (Example: phrase.) Then use all ten words in a paragraph.”

“75.  Most people believe vomit is an ugly word. Write a paragraph that incorporates at least 10 words you believe are ugly.”


And some prompts are just silly:

“101. Unbeknownst to most people, the chicken had lots of reasons to cross the road. What were at least five of them?”

“103.  You know what an orfinbellydorper is. Mot people don’t. Explain to them what to do with one.”


I can’t wait to use some of these prompts at my next young writers group!

What books help you inspire creative writing in your class? Has anyone used A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You, by Ralph Fletcher?  I’m thinking of purchasing them in bulk for my Summer Writing Studio in August. Any reviews you can offer?

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Filed under Advice, books, teaching, Writing prompts, Young Adults