Tag Archives: Writing Exercises

Say it isn’t so :(

I’m a little bit in mourning, yesterday was the last day of my Refine Your Novel course. I am going to miss it so much, I enjoy looking forward to it and I enjoy the work while I’m there and I love the motivation in the days after it.

I’m also going to miss the tutor. I did this course with Toni Jordan 3 years ago so this is my second go around with her and she was just fantastic. This last day is possibly my favourite. In my favourite exercise she gives us an early draft of her debut novel, but a version very close to what she sent to her publishers, and then a photocopy of the printed book and she gets us to mark up the changes, of which there are many. This is incredibly brave of Toni and so helpful to us writers. It’s all well and good hearing about the things you need to do to a manuscript to whip it into shape, it’s another matter entirely to see and create a real life example.


That’s a lot of green pen!

While we work on this, Toni takes a sample of our manuscript and line edits it for us. Most of us provide our first 1500 words, 3 years ago she marked up the first page for me (of a different manuscript) this time she marked up three pages. It’s such a fantastic opportunity, to see where it is you need to concentrate, where you’re going right and where you’re missing the mark.

20150726_152903And in a bit of a fan girl moment I got my copy of her first novel signed.

There’s much to be done, so much…

When do you lie? What’s your greatest fear? Writing tips from Proust

In reviewing the manuscript I’m working on now I realised that my two main characters are a bit same same and are a tad one dimensional. I need to give them (and some of the events in the story) a serious boost.

I’ve come to the realisation that in order to make things seem real in fiction they really need to be exaggerated. If everything was just like in real life why would you bother reading it. I’m not talking about ludicrous coincidence and outrageous characters, just taking everything up a notch or three.

Now while I haven’t analysed my characters to any depth I think I could probably spend a valuable hour or so answering some of the questions posed to Marcel Proust. If I don’t think I can learn a thing or two from Proust, I have blindly marched far too past the line of humility.

The Write Practice had this post today listing 35 questions Proust was asked to answer personally when he was 14, but it’s a valuable list to answer for characters.

What is your idea of perfect


I don’t think I need to answer all of them, but it can only help to cement the character motivations and help build a richer image, right? Tell me I’m not just procrastinating, again.

To be honest I’m not a fan of analysing characters and ‘navel gazing’ so for me this will actually be a tough exercise, one I’ll have to be strict with myself about, but I’m pretty sure worth the effort. I’m sure as heck not getting into it on a personal level – bleccchhh! 🙂

Here is Proust’s Questionnaire (thanks to the Write Practice):

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
  2. What is your greatest fear?
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
  5. Which living person do you most admire?
  6. What is your greatest extravagance?
  7. What is your current state of mind?
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
  9. On what occasion do you lie?
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
  11. Which living person do you most despise?
  12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
  14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
  16. When and where were you happiest?
  17. Which talent would you most like to have?
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
  20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
  21. Where would you most like to live?
  22. What is your most treasured possession?
  23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
  24. What is your favourite occupation?
  25. What is your most marked characteristic?
  26. What do you most value in your friends?
  27. Who are your favourite writers?
  28. Who is your hero of fiction?
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
  30. Who are your heroes in real life?
  31. What are your favourite names?
  32. What is it that you most dislike?
  33. What is your greatest regret?
  34. How would you like to die?
  35. What is your motto?


Flash fiction – Next to Godliness

Recently I mentioned I have recently discovered podcasts. One in particular I have been enjoying is called Writing Excuses – short 15 minute discussions about a variety of writing tips and trends. At the end of each episode they feature a writing prompt – I wanted to list some here and thought I really should only do so if I have taken up the challenge myself.

So, the first prompt I chose is:

Develop a religion where people worship something that no one would ever worship (and it can’t be silly)

I’ll post the first few paras here, click on the link to the full version. I’d love to read if anyone else feels compelled to respond to the challenge.

Please enjoy: Next to Godliness

Kaylee wakes, instantly alert and active. Two years ago it was much harder to drag herself into wakefulness when her phone vibrated at 3am, her body would protest, reluctant to leave the warm cocoon of her blankets. But by now it’s easy, second nature.

About six months ago she started going to bed fully dressed, that had been Laura’s idea and it was a good one. Richard barely noticed her leaving anymore, she stilled her phone after less than a second, slid from under the covers and moved quickly out of the dark room. Her shoes and a warm jacket waited for her in the hall and she was in the car in less than four minutes.

road-at-night_2651004The streets are notably busier than when Kaylee started her daily pilgrimage. Two years ago the dark roads were deserted, traffic lights changing and directing non-existent cars at empty intersections. This morning she waits three minutes at the end of her street for a break in the stream of cars. She’s going to need to start getting up earlier or she’ll be too far from the gates to see anything. Read more

Must like bats – flash fiction

What does Batman do when Alfred gets a better offer and hands in his notice? He places a help wanted ad.

bat signalPosition Vacant – Personal assistant

A rare position has become available as a personal assistant to one of Gotham City’s elite. The role is dynamic and challenging, almost two roles in one. By day duties are consistent with a personal butler, maintaining a lively social calendar, discreetly managing a variety of acquaintances and intimates, hands on assistance in corporate and philanthropic work.

It is by night that this role really comes into its own. Evening duties will be allocated on an ad hoc basis and the applicant will need to be reactive and fast thinking in a wide range of situations.

A strong background in surveillance and developing technologies is a must, proficiency in the use of firearms and experimental weaponry would be an advantage.

The role may involve travel and definitely requires creative problem solving abilities. Applicants should not be prone to claustrophobia.

A broad mind is required as the personal assistant is likely to meet an eclectic assortment of associates from the fringes of society.

The successful applicant can expect board and lodging in a stately manor and above minimum wage. Must be endlessly flexible and discreet.

Please submit your application in a coded message, carefully hidden in plain sight. The client will respond if you are successful.

Must like bats.

Bovine Balladeers – flash fiction

It has been quite some time since I have done one of the hirsute Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenges.

His most recent challenge was a throw down to a Buzz Feed article ’21 Stock Photos That No One Will Ever Be Able To Use’ and there are some doozies!! He challenged us to use one of the photos as inspiration.

I random number generated number 9, I’d love to paste the image here but I haven’t paid for the image and don’t know the copyright, so you’ll have to link the article and check the cows standing in front of a microphone. The result ‘Bovine Balladeers’.

Enjoy the first few paragraphs here, link to the Flash Fiction page is below 🙂 – I wrote this on the train ride home this afternoon.

Bovine Balladeers

It was inevitable, at least that was what Rosie said. Rosie had been with the Family at the County Fair when the cows had won the ribbon. She had seen their big eyes light with a fire never before seen in a bovine, well perhaps a bull at a certain time of year, but certainly not in a cow. Rosie said she knew it was a sign of trouble to come. But of course no one listened to Rosie anymore, Prince was the one the farmyard turned to.



Prince had arrived at the farm only a year ago. The Family had high hopes for him, they were determined he would take the showjumping world by storm. Of all the animals on the farm, Prince spent the most time with the Family, that’s why the other animals respected him. Rosie knew this was a mistake also. Prince wasn’t smart at all, he had come from a horse breeder, not a farm, he didn’t know how farms worked or how farm animals worked. He didn’t know that the sheep really weren’t afraid of Dog, or that once the chickens were in their roost for the night they hated to be disturbed, and if by some disaster their sleep was disrupted, well they were just impossible to be around the next day.

No, Prince didn’t know anything about the farm. Rosie did. Read the rest of Bovine Balladeers here.

Don’t forget to scream

While it should not be a surprise to myself, it is amazing how I can sit down to write and manage to busily do anything but that, despite my best intentions. I know this has been a bit if recurring theme in the last few posts, but it’s been a significant problem lately, and I know it is for many of you too.

Exactly that has happened on a number of times recently. Today, determined to not fall into the same trap, I did fall into it for an hour or two, found myself and gave me a good talking to. I had started a writing exercise recently, just to dust off the cobwebs before heading into my manuscript, and 400-odd words in I was intrigued and thought that maybe this story could go somewhere. Today was the first chance I had to start building on it and see if it does have legs. So I dithered and stalled and cursed myself. Then I found the tools at Final Deadline – in particular a feature they have titled Scrawl. It’s essentially a textbox you type your story in, you set a time frame you want to write for and there’s a stick in the form of a scream that if you don’t type for a period of so many seconds, it will scream at you.

I haven’t heard the scream yet, I’ve been too afraid – I’m in the library after all! But I set myself 15 minutes as a first try, with a 15 second window of inactivity before the scream kicked in. In 15 minutes I wrote more than 400 words, I double my word count! Now those words needed probably 15 minutes tweaking and fiddling (just to fit into draft form), but in 30 minutes I had 400 extra words, 400 more than I’d written in the previous 30 minutes!

So I’m heading back over there now – I’ll let you know if I hear the scream 🙂


Holy crap! I hit the 15 seconds without realising it and, thankfully I had headphones in so I didn’t deafen the library users, but the noise! it was like traffic and sirens and honking and LOUD!!!  I jumped and raised my hands in defence – it was loud and shocking! The only way to stop it is to type. Whoa, my heart beat fast!! I’ve kept typing, there’s no way to stop the timer once started, it has to run down the entire 15 minutes, but man I’m nervous! The next time I think I’ll make the warning period 30 seconds, I know I have to keep typing, the timer itself and the increasing word count is an incentive, but man, the fear is perhaps a little contrary to productivity! It seriously shocked me – how funny!


Does time evaporate?

Illness side tracked me for a week or so, you’ll never know due to the magic of pre-saved and post-posted blogs. But it did stall me from writing for the duration. Not thinking, or planning, but words on screen = 0.

Back into it today (truly the first day I have felt well, pleased it coincided with a day I had free) and I am becoming aware I am not quite back into the routine of writing. I like what I am writing it’s just that I manage to fill a good few hours before hand with distraction, procrastination, junk.

I don’t know why, it’s pure self sabotage. I arrive at the library, excited, keen to get started, feeling lucky that I have the hours before me and then I Facebook, read the news online, I don’t even know what else, but bam, time is used up.

Finally I get into it, get into the flow and mindset but I only have 2 hours left! Arrrrgggg! Why do I do it?

I need to retrain myself. Perhaps a quick burst of unrelated writing within a half hour of sitting down might work. Warm up the writing muscles.

Maybe a timer of some sorts – there used to be something called Write or Die, a timer based web tool that you could set to a word count and time limit. If you missed your goal a hideous noise would result. Seems this is now a paid option, much improved with rewards as well as sticks. In looking (yes procrastinating) I have found an alternative called Scrawl

Credit - image for the online product Scrawl: http://www.finaldeadline.co.uk/scrawl.html

Credit – image for the online product Scrawl (link in the post)

which looks like a nice option – I’ll give it a try.

Any other advice besides suck it up princess and just type you woos?

Not this time around (yet) but the website Morph Thing is a fantastic procrastination time waster – you can choose pics of celebs (or upload your own) and morph them together into, usually, gorgeous results. I’ve attempted to make character sketches this way but they tend to come out too incredibly pretty to be real life people. But hey, it’s fun and uses up an inordinate amount of time – have a try!! Hayden-Panettiere-and-Hillary-DuffHere’s Hayden Panetierre and Hillary Duff (I don’t know, they are just two in the H category) – no one in the real world could look like this!


Current Nano side note for you – word count is not on target but solid, the nano story I’m writing is actually the ‘warm up’ piece I mentioned above.

‘Twas the night before

Pic by oskay via everystockphoto.com

Pic by oskay via everystockphoto.com

Take a deep breath, everything is going to be ok, I know I’ve given you a bit of a fright, it being Halloween and all and me being absent from this blog for a long time, but don’t be scared, come on over.

So today is Oct 31 – Halloween for many folks, Friday night for many others, but for us nutcase writerly types it is the eve of Nanowrimo.

No, not a disease or obscure pagan festival but National Novel Writing Month. This is an annual online event that has the sole aim of participants writing an entire 50,000 word manuscript Participant-2014-Square-Buttonin the month of November. I participated a number of years ago (wow I just looked it up and it was in Nov 2009! eep!) and wrote This is no holiday. Now writing 50k words in a months means 1667 words a day, every day That’s no mean feat, so no one is saying that they’re gonna be good words, however i was pretty pleased with my efforts last time. I fund it challenging but achievable, Bman may tell you a different story as he was the one who had to live with me.

So to November 2014 – I’m going to give it another shot, for a wide variety of reasons out family is looking at a pretty challenging end to this calendar year so I may be behind the 8 ball from the get go, but I have a (poorly planned and not at all fleshed out) concept and that’s all I had last time. So on to it!

I’ve stockpiled some blog posts over the last couple of weeks so I’ll program them and no doubt insert some current ones as to how I am progressing – apologies if it gets a little disjointed on here over the next month.

Welcome back if you are still here, wish me luck!

Dancing fingers

I’ve been a bit stuck lately, competing priorities but oh so gradually I’m getting the hang of balancing/juggling them all, so here I am, back again, thanks, nice to be here.

I’d heard fantastic things about The Writing Book by Kate Grenville for some time now, that it was a writing book for writers (as well as non writers), no nonsense and straight forward.

So I picked up a copy at my local library and have managed to storm my way through to the end of Chapter 1 (massive achievement of 10 pages, seriously – competing interests folks!). At the end of the chapter she has a group of exercises to try out, which I was determined to get to this afternoon (laundry be damned!).

So now I have a little vignette of a character that I want to use in my novel that includes cruise ships in the late 1930s. To be honest I don’t know if I actually met the brief of the exercise at all, but it was all about improvisations and this was certainly that.

Also I needed to shake out the cobwebs and this felt good. I set a timer on my phone and allowed myself 15 minutes (plus just a smidge) and edited a little as I went. It gives me some ideas, and I’ll hopefully move onto some of the other exercises with this in mind tonight (after family time with BMan and Little Man and the gym, and probably some laundry, and…)

Nevertheless click here to meet Joe, a 19 year old trumpet player on the cruise ship The Ocean Empress.

What if Mata Hari lived?

So you know I’m totally psyched about a new project, it’s a buzz!

But tonight I have a new Flash Fiction. Last week the fabulous Chuck Wendig posted his customary Friday Flash Fiction challenge and a link to a random title generator – I got one I liked, and then forgot it. And got busy. So this week I tried the generator again. One of the options was actually Little man’s name – Little Man’s boys. It might be held for the future…. But this time round I did get Mata Hari in the Silence. Whoa.

<<side note – feel free to participate, Chuck dictates 1000 words max, this story is shy of 700, I leave it up to you>>

So I Googled. As you do. Did you know Mata Hari, the Dutch exotic dancer in the early 1900s, ultimately executed as a spy, never had her body claimed by a relative. Her body was donated to science and her head (for a courtesan and one of the world’s foremost exotic dancers, possibly the least interesting bit about her) kept in the Museum of Anatomy in Paris, but in 2000, archivists discovered that the head had disappeared, possibly as early as 1954, when the museum had been relocated. Again, whoa.

the picture is from here: http://www.mata-hari.com/mata-hari-pictures.html how great is she? This pic is from 1910!! Visit the site.

the picture is from here: http://www.mata-hari.com/mata-hari-pictures.html
how great is she? This pic is from 1910!! Visit the site.

What if she didn’t die? What if she was relocated to Argentina as many WW2 Nazi’s were many years later?

So I give you ‘Mata Hari in Silence’.

The delicate wind chime tinkles, no that’s not right, its more melodic than that. It, well it chimes, I’m far too worn out to come up with something witty.

The breeze bumps the crystals against each other, shards of light scatter every which way, falling across my hand, darting across chest. I’m transported back to a time when my life was exotic and exceptional, when diamonds adorned my body, music followed me, underscoring my every waking moment.

I mesmerised, I hypnotised and I entranced. My dancing cost people their lives, thousands of lives. It changed the world. Honestly.

You wouldn’t think it now, no one would. Most days I don’t even bother to think about it.  

Read the rest here – you know you want to!