Tag Archives: writing exercise

Weekly Workout: Out of One’s Era

I like technology. I’m no techno whiz, but I can get a pretty good geek on. Sometimes, though, the pace of technological advancement astonishes me. It’s overwhelming. I keep joking that one of these days I’m just going to put my foot down and say, That’s it, no more, I’m staying here. Others have. I know people who refuse to text. I know people who won’t shop online. I know people who will never, ever, ever get rid of their stereos or watch TV online.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I mean, I plan on being the writer on the panel at some future convention who goes, “[insert new technology]? No, I don’t do that kind of thing.”

Who cares if I write speculative fiction? I’ve met plenty of science fiction authors who don’t use modern technology. Why would they need to? They live elsewhere, and I do most of the time, too.

I’m sure many people get impatient with the man holding up the line because he doesn’t have a cell phone to show his electronic ticket and what the heck is an electronic ticket anyway? But this could be a great character.

(UPDATED NOTE: I’m not speaking of a character who doesn’t have access to technology and would like to embrace it, but rather someone who has stopped in time while the world moves ahead without them.)

by Stefan Zsaitsits

by Stefan Zsaitsits

The exercise I came up with for today is just for the fun of it. You don’t need to be working on anything whatsoever right now, just jump on in.

In my writing group yesterday, one of our writers said, Just give me a line, I want to write something. Out of that line, she came up with a household of characters in five minutes. This inspired me to create an exercise where at least one new character was manifested.

And, btw, if you ever do use any of these exercises and want to share the results, feel free to add a link to it in the comment section.


The image I have is of a character out of his or her era. You know, they haven’t changed styles in 30 years. They get upset because they can’t get this item or that service they used to get 10 years ago (what do you mean I can’t buy film for my camera?). They might express anger when what they really are is afraid. Maybe they are afraid of becoming obsolete, afraid of falling behind, of becoming a victim, of losing themselves in the past, of being forgotten…

This could run from the realistic to the ridiculous – like someone stuck in the 1980’s or the 1800’s or someone in a futuristic society hundreds of years from now.  And it doesn’t have to be about technology, just the idea of staying put and being afraid.

1) SET YOUR TIMER for 7-10 minutes.

Start with the line: S/he just stood there, staring at it like …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

2) SET YOUR TIMER for 10-12 minutes.

Start with the line: Deep down s/he was afraid of …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 15-20 minutes.

Write a SCENE (action/dialogue – no description) in which your Out of Era character CONFRONTS his/her daughter, son, neighbour, store clerk, etc (someone younger than s/he is) and this fear emerges.

DO NOT LABEL THIS FEAR, HAVE YOUR CHARACTER ACT FROM THAT SPACE. (i.e. He does not say, “But I’m so afraid you’ll forget about me). Question, misdirect, accuse, or something else, just don’t come out and say it on the nose.

Start with the line: Character X throws the [object] down like a child and …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing

*     *     *

If you are a blogger who would like to post your own weekly workout exercise with me every Monday, please write to info (at) danikadinsmore.com


Filed under Character - Action, weekly workout, writing exercises

Weekly Workout: Did Someone Say Resolutions?

(Weekend Workout is now Weekly Workout and posted on Mondays. Skip to the bottom of the page to go straight to this week’s workout)

Currently Reading:
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stievater (I am digging this book more than I thought I would)

*     *     *

Yesterday, author Kelly Barnhill wrote a lovely post about making a list of intentions for the new year (rather than one of oppressive “resolutions”). Strangely, her intentions list was almost identical to mine – other than the no “erasing” documents, because I’m queen of saving versions of manuscripts. Oh, and the fact that I do intend to learn a new instrument (or rather, pick up an old one) this year. That’s a subset of my overall intention for the new year, which is: to have fun.

(What I also love are Barnhill’s non-intentions, which help you get clear about what you are not intending to do for the next 12 months.)

I jumped off the New Year’s Resolution band wagon years ago for many of the same reasons as others have, but after reading Barnhill’s post, I started to think that perhaps resolution is just getting a bad rap. It’s not the word “resolution” that is the problem, it’s more that we tend to make our promises to ourself unwinnable or out of our control (i.e. I can’t say with absolute authority, “I will get an agent this year” because I only have control over the sending-out-the-best-query-I-can part, the other part is up to an agent). Then I might give up hope, get depressed, and blame the poor four-syllable noun (curse you Resolution!).

If I said, I’m going to write one completely polished short story this year, I could win at that. I could feel great about myself and maybe even write a second one and feel even better. Holy cow, I’ve just done twice as much as I said I would! But no, something about my brain won’t let me do that. Something in my hardwiring says, Don’t be ridiculous, that’s a wimpy goal and you can do better. So, I often set my standards way too high and then beat myself up for not reaching some completely arbitrary goal.


by Stefan Zsaitsits

I do like the idea of intentions, or even just: this is what I’m looking forward to this year! On New Year’s Eve, everyone in my Tribe (even the kidlets) said ONE thing we each wanted to get out of the upcoming year. One Thing, and everything else can fall into that. As I stated above, I told everyone I wanted to have FUN this year.

Just for kicks I looked up the word “resolution” and yes, one of the definitions is of course a determined resolve, a firm decision to do or not to do something. But only 2 of the 5 dictionaries I looked it up in had it listed as the first definition. It’s also, of course, the act of finding an answer or solution to a problem or conflict. And as a writer, I find the RESOLUTION such a wonderful place to swim around in. I always feel like I’m bearing down on the finish line when I get to my resolution in whatever draft I’m working with. I can taste my resolution coming, its bittersweetness (my favourite kind of resolution).

Also resolution is from the Latin resolutio, from resolvere ‘loosen, release’

Ah, maybe we can use THAT definition at the beginning of the year from now on, and instead of RESOLVING firmly that we are going to DO this thing or NOT DO this thing, what if we released that which no longer served us (i.e. that which was creating conflict in our lives) and loosened ourselves up to new opportunities. Or perhaps it’s a way of looking at all the unfinished business of our lives and taking any next steps toward completing them.

No matter how you decide to take on the New Year, here’s to 2014.

*     *     *


1) SET YOUR TIMER for 7-10 minutes.

I was using my Antagonist for this exercise, but you can use your Protag or any other character who has an arc.

Start with the line:
My character’s “unfinished business” looks like…

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.


2) SET YOUR TIMER for 10-12 minutes.

Start with the line:

In order to resolve his/her inner conflict, my character must let go of …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 15-20 minutes.

Write a SCENE (action/dialogue – no description) in which another character CONFRONTS your character about his or her unfinished business. Have this character make accusatory statements. Volley denial, anger, resentment, etc, and in the end, try to come to a CONFESSION of some sort if you can.

This might not become an actual scene in your story, but hopefully it will deepen your understanding of your character and build motivation.

Start with the line: Character X turns to Character Y and says, “Why do you always do that?”

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.



Filed under weekly workout, writing exercises

Weekend Writing Workout ~ Really!

My friend Jennifer and I were walking in the park yesterday with her daughter, enjoying a crisp late afternoon under a canopy of bright leaves. When I grew thirsty, she offered me her tic tacs.

“Wow,” I said, “I haven’t had one of those in years.”

“Just put one in your mouth,” she said. “Trust me.”

I did as I was told and instantly had a memory of a shopping mall where my best friend and I bought treats on the way to school.

“It tastes like the 70’s,” I said, sucking on the tiny white thing. “And  bit medicinal.”

“I know, right!” she said, excited. “They’re really small, but so potent. You only need one, and, BAM, you’re transported back in time.”

She was right. There was something about that kick of taste that brought me back to my childhood.

What small, simple objects transport you back in time?

What small, simple objects transport your character back in time?

This weekend, write about a memory that strikes your character without notice. That hijacks their thoughts. That intrudes on their mood, their day, their conversation.


1) Pick one of your characters to use for this exercise.

SET YOUR TIMER for 7-10 minutes.

Start with the line:
She/he stopped in her tracks, for on the ground was a …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

2) SET YOUR TIMER for 10-12 minutes.

Start with the line:

“What’s that!” she/he exclaimed, pointing to the …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 15-20 minutes.

Now write a SCENE in which this object INTRUDES upon your character’s activity, be it a walk, a fight, a conversation, a meal. Have it invoke a memory, and a feeling along with that memory. Have it TAKE THE ACTION in a new direction.

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.


And have a great weekend!


Filed under weekend workout, writing exercises

Hellooooooo! Weekend Workout: We Got Talent

Wow. It’s been over a month since I’ve blogged. I’ve been trying to get back to it, but life kept happening. I won’t go into all the details, but let’s just say the circumnavigation included a computer death, a back injury (unrelated to the computer death), 3 elementary school visits (also unrelated to the back injury), a flashmob, a haircut, completing my latest rewrite on a new novel (yay), a dream about a roller coaster for executives. And this:

steaming jar of

The back injury happened while falling into a pile of logs trying to retrieve this one for my garden:

garden log

Okay, the part where I carried this by myself to the car may have exacerbated my back injury a bit. But lookie how cool my garden driftwood log is! And my free beach log only cost me $300 in massage and chiropractor expenses!

So, while I was grumbly and lying around recovering, I entertained myself by watching 2 seasons of The Killing – a really fantastic series (oh, but don’t tell my husband I watched season 2 without him) and inspirational youtube videos of X Factor auditions.

I’ve never watched X Factor, American Idol, The Voice, or any of these other singing shows, and I don’t think I’d watch a whole show or a whole season. But what I loved over and over again was when the person auditioning  took the judges by surprise. I loved when what they expected was turned on its head.

A few of my favourites included:

Jeffery Adam Gutt
Panda Ross
Tate Stevens
Luke Lucas
and from Britain’s Got Talent, Charlotte and Jonathan

The list goes on, really (I probably watched 100 videos). And it’s made me think both about expectation and inspiration. We can’t help but to judge people the moment we see them. It’s human nature. And I find it completely inspiring when my own expectations are blown out the door.


Literary agent Donald Maas, author of Writing the Breakout Novel, says that to make your characters universal, you have to make them unique, which sounds like an oxymoron. But, he explains, that our uniqueness is the universal thing about us.

What’s unique about us might be a talent – a small one or a large one or a quirky one. Remember in BREAKFAST CLUB when Claire (Molly Ringwald) placed her lipstick between her breasts and put it on without her hands, claiming it was her only talent? John Green’s protagonist in AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES  has a talent for making anagrams.

What is your character’s talent? Is it integral to the plot or a bonus character trait? Does your antagonist or villain have a talent as well?

1) Pick one of your characters to use for this exercise.

SET YOUR TIMER for 7-10 minutes.

Start with the line:
If my character had nothing to do all day, he’d occupy himself by…

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

2) SET YOUR TIMER for 10-12 minutes.

Start with the line: My character is most proud of the way he…

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 15-20 minutes.

Now write a SCENE in which another character comes upon your character doing this thing at which he or she is so talented.

Make the scene awkward for the character by either a) making the character ashamed of being caught, or b) making the person who catches him in the middle of this thing either critical or snide about it.

Start with the line: Character X walks into the room and laughs …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

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Filed under inspirational poop, truth and beauty, weekend workout, writing exercises, writing life

Weekend Writing Workout: Add a Little Magic

I’ve developed a course called Introduction to Speculative Fiction and there’s a particular brainstorming exercise where students do sub-genre mash-ups to generate stories.

Once when I was teaching the class there was a woman in the front row who spent most of the class scribbling in her journal. She was a contemporary fiction writer working on a semi-autobiographic story. I thought she wasn’t interested in the class and was off on her own adventure. Turns out she had been inspired by the exercise.

She told me later that she had been stuck in her writing and depressed about it. She had been having trouble letting go of parts of the story that weren’t serving it because they were “true.” Even though it was a work of fiction, she was attached to these “truths.”

After our genre exercise, just for the heck of it, she decided to add a magical realism element to her “real world” story. She said not only did  it make her story more interesting, it freed her from this need to stick to “reality.” She apologized after class for spending the whole time working on her story and I said, “by all means, it was a perfect use of the time!”

from Wikipedia:

As recently as 2008, magical realism in literature has been defined as “a kind of modern fiction in which fabulous and fantastical events are included in a narrative that otherwise maintains the ‘reliable’ tone of objective realistic report … fantastic attributes given to characters in such novels—levitation, flight, telepathy, telekinesis—are among the means that magic realism adopts in order to encompass the often phantasmagorical political realities of the 20th century.”


1) SET YOUR TIMER for 10 minutes.

Think about a moment in your life when you had to say good-bye to an inanimate object (a car, a dress, a book, a couch).

Start with the line:  It was time to say good-bye to …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

2) SET YOUR TIMER for 12-15 minutes.

Now make the object animate in some way. Give it a magical property. Have it visit you in your dreams. Give it some way to communicate with you.

Start with the line: The (object) looked at me and …

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 20 minutes.

And now write the SCENE between you and the object if you haven’t already.

Start with the line: In this scene …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

Have a great weekend!


Filed under weekend workout, workshops, writing exercises

Weekend Writing Workout: Invasion of Space

I’ve been reading an excellent book called SelfDesign about the life long educational philosophy of Brent Cameron. In it he states that in order to stay balanced within ourselves and our relationships we have to learn not to extend ourselves into other people’s domains, violating their boundaries. He theorizes that if we stay 2/3 in our own space and share a consensual space of 1/3 each, we can keep our relationships in balance.


Think about the over-bearing mother who smothers her child and is 3/4 in his personal space. He will definitely find ways to express his anger.

I haven’t tried this one yet, but I thought it made an interesting idea for an exercise about what transpires when characters invade each others’ space.

I think ideally this ends in writing a scene between two people who have “space” issues, but take it wherever it goes.

Your Workout

1) Set your timer for 5-7 minutes.

Start at the top of the page with the following startline:

The demon my character always keeps at bay looks like . . .

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

2) When the timer stops, Set your timer for 7-10 more minutes.

Start with the following line: 

My character’s personal space is violated by his (mother, sister, brother, uncle, etc) when  . . .

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

3) When the timer stops, Set your timer for 10-12 more minutes.

Start with the following line: 

To assert his personal space, my character…
My character’s inability to assert his personal space stems from…

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

4) NOW, set your timer for 10-15 more minutes.

WRITE THE SCENE in ACTION and DIALOGUE ONLY (to keep you moving forward – don’t get caught up in the minutia of description) in which this character is confronted with this invasion of space.

Use the start line:  Character B stepped closer to Character A and . . .

Even though you are writing a scene, just WRITE, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

Read your exercises and your scene, make notes, highlight what makes sense.

And have a fabulous, healthy weekend.

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Filed under weekend workout, writing exercises

Weekend Writing Workout: Seven Deadly Sins

I’ve been zonked with a nasty head/chest cold this week and am feeling a bit behind. But, since I feel behind most of the time, I’m not going to fret about that. I do wish I could breathe through my nose, though.

This week’s exercise was inspired by an interview with author Jack Remick. I believe it was the interview on the The Ashley Fontainne Show on Artist First Radio Network: http://www.artistfirst.com/ashleyfontainne.htm

(and even if it’s wasn’t, you should listen to the interview anyway, because Jack gives great interview)


Hieronymus Bosch’s Seven Deadly Sins

The interviewer brought up the idea of working with the seven deadly sins, which are: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. I’m sure each of us has experienced every one of these sins personally in some way, shape, or form. Perhaps we can relate to one of them more than the others. I’m not so much a wrathful person, but my pride has made me stubborn in the past, and hindered me from looking at something from someone else’s point of view. In the end, it was only a disservice to myself.

Which is how I want you to view these “sins” in terms of your characters. Which sin resembles the cause of each character’s misery? Is it envy that spikes her bitterness toward her sister? Is it pride that won’t allow him to forgive his best friend? Is it wrath that guards her heart?

If you’re not sure, try several of them on for size and see what fits. And try this out on multiple characters, not just your protagonist. Every character deserves a sin!


1) Set your timer for 5-7 minutes.

Start at the top of the page with the following startline:

My character is stifled by the sin of  . . .

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

2) When the timer stops, Set your timer for 7-10 more minutes.

Start with the following line: 

She/he must confront this sin when . . .

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

3) NOW, set your timer for 10-15 more minutes.

WRITE THE SCENE in ACTION and DIALOGUE ONLY (to keep you moving forward – don’t get caught up in the minutia of description) in which this character is confronted with her sin.

Use the start line:  In frustration, He/She picked up the . . .

Even though you are writing a scene, just WRITE, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

Read your exercises and your scene, make notes, highlight what makes sense.

And have a fabulous, healthy weekend.


Filed under weekend workout, writing exercises, writing life

Weekend Workout from FaerieCon West

Greetings from FaerieCon West, where I will be storytelling and causing mischief all weekend.

Danika and Spring Faerie

Before the workout, I have a few announcements:

First, today is the LAST day to enter the drawing to WIN a copy of the FUTUREDAZE anthology of YA science fiction. Co-editor Erin Underwood has generously donated a copy. (I’ll close comments at midnight PST)

Second, the 2013 Nebula Award nominations are in and Hydra House’s own Cat Rambo was nominated for her short story “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain” from her Near + Far collection.


The Nebula’s Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy nominees are:

Iron Hearted Violet, Kelly Barnhill (Little, Brown)
Black Heart, Holly Black (S&S/McElderry; Gollancz)
Above, Leah Bobet (Levine)
The Diviners, Libba Bray (Little, Brown; Atom)
Vessel, Sarah Beth Durst (S&S/McElderry)
Seraphina, Rachel Hartman (Random House; Doubleday UK)
Enchanted, Alethea Kontis (Harcourt)
Every Day, David Levithan (Alice A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Summer of the Mariposas, Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Tu Books)
Railsea, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Fair Coin, E.C. Myers (Pyr)
Above World, Jenn Reese (Candlewick)

CHECK OUT the entire list of nominees and congrats to all (I wouldn’t want to have to pick a winner from this lot).



This is a BRAND SPANKING NEW exercise that has nothing to do with character or plot or editing. I developed it for a recent writing workshop and had such a good time with it I wanted to share it here.

The workshop was for kids, so it’s broken down into small steps. Feel free to take whatever you’d like from it…


Create 5 columns across a sheet of paper and write:  Colour, Fruit or Vegetable, Instrument or type of Music, Location, Day of the Week. Then, below each, list something or place you’ve never really liked in this category. Something that doesn’t appeal to you and you’d never choose it voluntarily.

For instance, you do not like the colour brown, brussel sprouts, harmonicas, Los Angeles, or Tuesdays.


Next, under each category, write a sentence like this: “When I think of ______, it reminds me of ______.” Example:  When I think of brown it reminds me of camping in the rain with my Dad.


Choose one of the things that don’t appeal to you and write for 10 minutes straight using the start line:

I never picked you _____…

(without stopping, editing, or rereading – the more you write, the more material you will have)


From the 10 minute stream of consciousness writing, circle all the images, phrases, and lines that appeal to you and pull them out of the piece. Rewrite them on another piece of paper. When done, it might look like this:

orange reminds me of my softball jersey in 6th grade
we were the “losingest” team that year
I got in trouble for picking a bouquet of orange California poppies that year
orange is like a prison uniform
orange was never in my favour and i never had an “orange phase”
I had a “purple phase,” my bedroom was purple and pink with white curlies on the bedpost
I also had a “green phase” where everything I wore was green and I looked like a forest
I had a very brief “red phase,” I was trying it on for size
Even though sunsets and fire are orange, I still don’t like orange


Carve out your poem from these lines. There are many ways to do so: rearrange lines, leave out words, change words to create alliteration, add interesting space for breath, etc. Expand and change the language where necessary. Add more imagery.

never orange

I’ve never picked you orange
as a favour as a phase        my youth
spent through pinks and purples
stringing the edges of my bedroom
with the white curliness
of imagination

orange was never curly it was
twang and offense
a softball team jersey hoisted upon
the losingest team on the playground
where only once      for a moment
I thought I might find comfort in you
orange, the poppies, sprung about the hill
and me picking a bouquet only to be told
those are California poppies,
you can’t pick them
it’s illegal

orange, you betrayer, you
prison sentence
you were never the greens of my wardrobe
of my fern forest         nor were you
my brief liaison with red
when it offered a chance
a sports car
a mini-skirt
a swiss army knife

orange, I’ve never loved you
never let you under my skin
even in your soft sunrise I’ve taken you
for an imposter even in your flames

Have a Great Weekend! I’ll be HERE. 🙂


Filed under poetry, weekend workout, writing exercises

Weekend Workout: For the Sheer Pleasure of It

Sometimes when I’m working on the White Forest series I find myself worried, overwhelmed, and slightly stressed about it all. I feel a pressure to deliver each story as good, or preferably even better, than the last. Sometimes the romance of writing gets lost in the day-to-day nitty-gritty of having to produce.

Sometimes I have to remind myself of my more “innocent” days of writing. When there was no pressure but to write for the sheer pleasure of it.

Hence, lately, I’ve been blogging about those “secret projects,” the ones no one knows I’m working on, where I can experiment and play, try a new form, a new direction, a new genre for the sheer pleasure of it.


by Alison Woodward

This morning I started thinking about the “sheer pleasures” of my series protagonist, Brigitta. As the series continues, as she faces greater and greater dangers, she has much less time for daydreaming in the lyllium fields, languishing in the mist of Precipice Falls, or interpreting shadowfly dances. She has her own pressures and responsibilities (that’s also mistakenly called “growing up,” because really, we should not forget our sheer pleasures).

What do your characters do for the sheer pleasure of it? Not just your heroes and their allies, but the villains, antagonists, and monsters, too. Even Hitler loved art and was wild about the opera. That doesn’t detract from the monstrous things that he did. As a matter of fact, there was a curated art show a few years ago depicting Hitler as “a perverted artist” and theorizing about how his artistic aesthetic was echoed in his politics and Nazi pageantry.

I find it particularly sinister when an “evil” character has time to sit back and enjoy a piece of music and at the same time have no compassion for his victims. How could someone like Hannibal Lecter, for instance, recognize the beauty of a song and at the same time violently destroy a life? In the average person’s mind, the two cannot be squared.

How can you use a character’s “sheer pleasures” to demonstrate losing innocence (as Brigitta’s story does) or complement / contrast a character’s twisted nature?

Your Workout:

Set your timer for 5-7 minutes.
Start at the top of the page with the following startline:

1) My Protagonist/Antagonist/Villain has an uncanny talent for…

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

When the timer stops, Set your timer for 7-10 more minutes.
Start with the following line: 

2) My Protagonist/Antagonist/Villain sees great beauty in . . .

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

When the timer stops, Set your timer for 10-12 more minutes.
Start with the following line: 

3) My character’s appreciation for beauty becomes obsession/repression/twisted when …

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

Read your exercises, make notes, highlight what makes sense.

Happy Weekend!




Filed under truth and beauty, weekend workout, writing exercises

Tour Thanks and Weekend Workout

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a weekend workout. I knew that would happen, though, as I’ve come to the conclusion that writing and blogging do not get done while I’m on tour.

If you wanna just scroll down to get your workout and skip all the “thank you” stuff, there’s a visual marker below that says WEEKEND WORKOUT.

Before I get to the workout, I want to express my appreciation for all the people that made my tour a tour. I want to thank all the teachers, parents, principals, students, and especially the librarians at Regnart, Murdock-Portal, Blackford, Christa McAuliffe, and Gardner Bullis elementary schools, Gale Ranch Middle School, and Wingra School who all hosted me as a guest.

a 6th grader works on her imaginary world

I want to thank to Laurie, Bridget, and Christine at the Weekend With Your Novel Conference, Alison at the Wisconsin Book Festival, and all the citizens of Madison, WI for being fantastic human beings in general.

Sesame Street Birthday singalong at the capitol in Madison

I want to thank all the people at the indie bookstores who work so hard in their communities, sponsoring readings and launches, selling book at schools and festivals (and who now carry copies of Brigitta of the White Forest and The Ruins of Noe):

Kepler’s Books and Magazines (Menlo Park, CA)
Hicklebees (San Jose, CA)
Read Booksellers (Danville, CA)
Room of One’s Own (Madison, WI)

I want to thank my friends and family who treated me to coffee, lunch, dinner, drinks, and gasoline, let me sleep on their couches and in their guest rooms, and adopted me for Halloween.

And thanks Life in General for the numerous surprises that kept my tour interesting: getting to see/hear Michael Chabon interviewed at Kepler’s Books, getting to hang out with thousands of people at a Bruce Springsteen Barack Obama rally, discovering what a gem Wisconsin Icon Michael Perry is, and getting to drink beer and explore Madison’s Children’s Museum with hundreds of other 21+ children (once a month their Children’s Museum is Adults Only!).

It was a pleasure through and through! (okay, it was a little stressful, but over all a good time was had)

Oh, yeah.

I have friends who are at every stage of writing a novel right now. A few just started something brand spanking new. A few are in the middle of NaNoWriMo. A few are editing and a few doing total manuscript overhauls. And my rewrite is so off course I might as well call it a new book.

Whether I’m writing something new or rewriting, I’m constantly checking and rejigging my sequence and beat sheet (my version of an outline). Stories are organic, sometimes plots twist differently than I intend or characters appear where I had none planned. Like today…

I was trying to figure out a way to increase the stakes and tension in an escape sequence, so I decided to trap Brigitta and Jarlath between two search parties coming for them from either side. How would they escape? There was no way out. Unless there was a secret way that only one person knew about. Which meant, I now needed an ally to appear to show them the way. The ally who appeared was a complete surprise to me, but made perfect sense. And she wasn’t even a blip on my original outline. Adding her changed the direction of the sequence and a new adventure ensued.

I forget, sometimes, that one way of changing the scene’s dymamic is to introduce a 3rd character to that scene. It could be an ally, enemy, or stranger – each would cause the story to go in a different direction.

Your Workout

Pick a scene you’ve been working on or are about to work on that is a 2-person scene. At some point in the scene, have another character enter into the scene and see how it changes the action, the tone, the dynamics, the tension, etc. Try different scenarios! Drop an ally in, then a stranger, then an enemy. Write out the scene each time (or at least outline it) and see if it works BETTER than it did before.

Have a great weekend!

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Filed under Book Tour, novel adventures, Rewriting, weekend workout, writing exercises, writing life