Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Wind & Other Writing Prompts

Looking for a little inspiration? Pick a prompt and freewrite about whatever the prompt brings to mind. Write without stopping, and minimize your corrections. Just write!

--The wind blew so hard....
--Describe the last wedding you attended.
--"That hole's not nearly deep enough," said Terry. "It'll need to be a lot bigger for...."
--He was waiting at the corner....
--Do you like to go out, or would you describe yourself as a "home-body"?
--Combine paper clips, batteries, and tulips in a story or poem.
Image by Christian Ferrari -

Monday, March 29, 2010

Writers, Don't Be Boring

MovieLine recently published an article by Seth Abramovitch about a memo written by the well-known screenwriter (and director, among other things), David Mamet. "David Mamet's Master Class Memo to the Writers of The Unit" reproduces the entire memo, which is worth a read both because it's full of good writing points (regardless of the genre or medium in which you write) and beause it's funny. Abramovitch describes it this way: "Besides the fact that it’s written in all-caps, there’s nothing particularly ranty, pejorative or potty-mouthed about it. Rather, Mamet lays down an extremely sensible case for what makes good television, imploring them to avoid expository writing for what he characterizes as authentic 'drama.'"

Although writing for television or the screen is a very specialized form of writing, the basics of good writing remain the same. One of those basic points is that we must not bore our readers (or viewers, in this case). Mamet's memo to this a group of TV writers is very clear on this point:


How can you tell if you're boring your readers? If your mind starts to wander when you're reading your work, that's a clear sign you need to re-think what you've written. If you can't hold your own interest, you probably aren't captivating your readers, either.
Photo courtesy of Michael Lorenzo at

Friday, March 26, 2010

Writers & Blogs: Can You Be Your Own Editor?

In this digital age, writers have a self-publishing option unknown to any prior generation: blogs. Blogs give writers tremendous freedom, but like all forms of self-publishing, blogs require a writer to wear many hats: editor, proofreader, and publisher.

If you’ve seen the movie "How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days," you probably remember that Kate Hudson’s character, Andie, is a writer. She longs to write about politics and news, but she writes for a women’s magazine that wants articles on Botox, diets, and shoes. After tormenting Matthew McConaughey’s character, Andie writes an article that her editor loves. The editor tells Andie that she’s earned the green light to write about whatever she wants. “Wherever the winds blow you,” says her editor.

“Even politics?” Andie asks.

“Well, the wind’s not going to blow you there,” her editor responds.

Keeping blog posts on topic, in the right tone, and in line with readers' expectations can be tough. I know, from my own blog experiences, that even the most well-intentioned posts can fall flat, annoy people, and result in lost readers. In hindsight, if I'd been thinking like an editor instead of a writer, I might have known better. Think about it: if you were the editor of your blog, what would your guidelines be?

Who is your audience? What is the tone of your blog? Can you describe your blog's topic or goal in one sentence? If you want to attract readers, these are questions you must consider. Just as an editor rejects material that isn't a good fit for her publication, you should be critically looking at your own work in the same way. Unless, of course, you don't care about attracting readers, in which case you can let the wind blow you wherever you want.
Photo courtesy of Nic McPhee at: / CC BY-SA 2.0

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Running Away & Other Writing Prompts

It's Wednesday, which means it's time for a fresh batch of writing prompts, hot off the hard drive. Pick a prompt and write about anything it brings to mind. Write without stopping for ten minutes. Minimize crossing out words, and don't even think about using a dictionary. At the end of ten minutes, who knows what you might have?

--Eric decided to run away because....
--For dog lovers: do you prefer big dogs or small dogs? Why?
--The clock ticked....
--Betty was frustrated. She said, "It isn't funny, Ernest. How can you laugh about...."
-- The view from the top of the mountain....
-- Combine firewood, a wind chime, and a rat in a story or poem.
Photo courtesy of Brennan Paezold at