WFMAD Day 31 – celebration & reflection

We did it!!!

One entire month (a long one, too! August has 31 days! remind me to do WFMAD in February next year) of daily writing. For those of you who rose above your doubts and fears and met this challenge with daily success, I bow my head in respect and offer my congratulations.

This writing thing is a whole lot harder than it seems.

If you didn’t meet the challenge, please don’t waste any time beating yourself up. Life is too short for that kind of nonsense. Instead, use this as an opportunity to figure why you couldn’t find fifteen minutes a day to write. Were you able to find time each day for other habits? What about those other habits is more rewarding to you than writing?

I am not criticizing or judging. You are the person in charge of your life, not me.

This is the second year I’ve offered this challenge. I do it in response to the most common questions I receive about writing:

1. How can I become a writer?
2. I want to be a writer but I am too busy. How do I change that?

I believe that, at some level, we can all be writers, because we are all natural-born storytellers. I believe that if you have a passion for something, you have necessary seeds of talent. But if your goal is to have your work published, you have to nurture those seeds. Develop the craft. Commit to daily writing and make space in your life for it.


1. To be a writer, you must write.
2. Cut out the unnecessary things from your life.

I have a confession to make here. This has been the worst summer of my life. It came after one of the most challenging years of my life. At this point twelve months ago, I was gearing up for the publication of CHAINS. Then I went on book tour. Came home and started on the pre-publicity interviews and craziness for WINTERGIRLS. Then I went on book tour, again. Then I went to Peru. Finally, when I came home from the last roadtrip in May, my mother spun into her final illness. I spent weeks taking care of her and held her as she died. Then we took in a relative who needed a home. Then my father-in-law died.

We’re calling this our Summer of Sorrow. (Alternative title: Summer of Suck.)

Did I write every single day through all that craziness? Hell, no. I did get some scribbling in here and there. Worked on my next book between book tours. Journaled. Wrote emails. But I found it impossible to hold on to the daily discipline that is fundamental to keeping me healthy, not to mention it’s my job.

Orchestrating this challenge has helped me find my pathagain. I’m still kind of a mess, still mourning the deaths of our parents, still pretty damn tired. But I am writing again. Every day. Some days for ten hours or more.

That is one of many beautiful things about our Muse. She is patient and understanding. If life takes you away from the craft, She’ll be there when you get back. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall down; what matters is how many times you get up again.

So thank you for helping me pick myself up and dust myself off.

How has your writing been this month?


Today’s advice: "Don’t be a writer. Be writing." William Faulkner


Today’s prompt: Write about what worked for you this month and what didn’t work. Is your life too complicated to write every day? Why? If it is, how often can you stake out writing time? What needs to change in order for you to feel you have permission to write?

Scribble….Scribble…. Scribble…

WFMAD Day 30 – comfort

We spent a little time at the State Fair last night with Number One Son and his girlfriend. We had hoped to enjoy the Shinedown concert, but the sound was pretty bad and crowd not really chill enough for our tastes.

I did have a good time checking out the chickens, bunnies, and cows. Saw one rabbit that is larger than my pillow and had way better hair than me.

I had hoped to make up the rest of the pesto today, but writing comes first. 


Today’s advice: "I write for a couple of hours every day, even if I only get a couple sentences. I put in that time. You do that every day, and inspiration will come along. I don’t allow myself not to keep trying. It’s not fun, but if you wait until you want to write, you’ll never do it."  Dave Barry


Today’s prompt: Signs taken out of context are wonderful sparks for creativity. If you follow this blog regularly, you’ll see I often post photos of signs that strike me as funny, or intriguing, or as… yes, a sign about a larger experience than the physical, literal sign might imply at first glance.

On the way to the State Fair last night, I came across a sign that made me chuckle and is going to be the basis for my free-writing time today.

You can use my sign, too, or you can go for a walk or drive and find a sign of your own.

My sign?

Scroll down and all will be revealed…

The oracle is ready to speak…..

Can you feel the wind rise as She opens Her mouth?………

and whispers:……..

"Comfort window"

What would you see if you looked through YOUR comfort window?

Scribble….Scribble…. Scribble…

WFMAD Day 29 – the challenges of color

Yesterday was a low energy day for me, perfect for a day spent running errands and doing the tedious and necessary things in life one must do. Bah. Now they’re over with.

My reward was to make the best pesto I have ever made with basil from my garden and fresh garlic grown by a guy near the village. This is a lean month here in the Forest and the price of pine nuts was too hight, so I used finely chopped walnuts instead. If the writing goes well today, I will make up a massive batch of pesto and freeze it. (Last year’s frozen pesto was a little disappointing. But I have figured out what I did wrong. Don’t add the cheese to any pesto you are going to freeze; it messes up the consistency a bit when thawed. This year I’ll add the cheese to pesto once it is defrosted.)

The other reward from the garden last night was boiled potatoes. I sort of accidentally on purpose unearthed a bunch when checking on them. I’ve never grown potatoes before and am very excited by these. I think we’ll have enough to store… maybe enough to feed us through the winter. Stay tuned.


Today’s advice: "I think it’s bad to talk about one’s present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act.  It discharges the tension."  Norman Mailer


Today’s prompt: This is about perspective and age. Brace yourself for the scroll-down.

1. Write a list of ten objects you can see from where you are sitting right now.

2. Now write a list of ten more objects. The first ten items that drop into your mind.

now scroll down….

scrolling, scrolling, scrolling…..

::opens refrigerator:: did I mention how awesome this pesto is?

almost done scrolling!! ::wipes pesto off keyboard::

3. Describe the color of the objects you listed from the perspective of a five-year-old.

3a. Describe the color of the objects you listed from the perspective of a fifteen-year-old.

3b. Describe the color of the objects you listed from the perspective of an eighty-year-old.

Because they have different life experiences and cultural contexts, they will see (and probably experience) the colors differently.

Bonus points: Write a scene where two of these characters disagree about the name of the color of one of your objects.

Scribble….Scribble…. Scribble…

WFMAD Day 28 – bitchin

Bitch is the best name for a magazine ever.  Hands down.  Next time you see it on the newsstand, buy a copy. Next time you are puzzled about what to give someone who would love a "smart, snarky, hilarious, and feminist response to popular culture" you should buy them a subscription.

The Bitch blog has one of the best interviews with me. Thank you, Ellen Papazian, for asking awesome questions.

What do you think about it? Let them know in the comments section of their blog and/or here. They are also looking for suggestions about other YA novelists to interview? Whom do you think?


Today’s advice: "I am not a writer except when I write."  Juan Carlos Onetti 


Today’s prompt: Movement = story.

Today you are going to take a walk. Or a run. Or you are going to draw circles on a sidewalk and hop between them. If all else fails, you are going to close your eyes and rock back and forth.

The movement of your body will help move your story. I swear.

You have a mantra to repeat while you are moving your body through space and your mind through time. Here it is.

_________________ (insert name of character)  wants  __________________ (insert character’s desire), but  then ________   (something)  happens and ___________ (make up something)

You might want to write this mantra on your hand. On a piece of paper at the least.

Ideally? You are going to say this out loud. Over and over again.

Once you have filled in the blanks, repeat it, dreaming up another scene.
You might feel dumb, but who cares? You are creating art. Your are summoning ideas out of the ether. You are entitled to look and feel a little silly, if that’s what it takes.

Warning: be prepared to be flooded with ideas. If this happens, you have permission to stop moving and write them down. But start moving again the instant your mind starts to wander.

Scribble….Scribble…. Scribble…

WFMAD Day 27 – talking heads

I still feel pretty punky, but managed to make some headway on my novel yesterday, which makes up for a lot of internal ickiness. I also started a large map of the territory of the book. There are several scenes in which I’ve written (this is the craptascular first draft, remember): "MC goes from Point A to Point B. Insert interesting details of his path." I imagine my editor and reader are going to expect me to actually make that stuff up and insert it. I’ll work on that today.

Do you have a Creature With Fangs, like mine, who has an unseemly need to be adored by millions? Enter this contest.

I have hundreds of cherry tomatoes. Anyone have a good recipe?


Today’s advice: "Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability."


Today’s prompt: Elizabeth George (Write Away) has a wonderful technique to get rid of those pages of dialog that meander along until your reader fears she has accidentally picked up a screenplay.

George calls them THADs: Talking Head Avoidance Devices.

You are going to make up a bunch of them.

Think about your MC’s life, and where and when she has conversations. Brainstorm 50 different kinds of actions that might reasonably take place while she is talking.

Hint: setting often determines action. If you are not clear about the What The Heck Is She Doing in a scene, first insert more details of the setting. That should get you going.

Scribble….Scribble…. Scribble…