WFMAD Day 5 – Word geeking in community

The WFMAD 2009 Challenge is steaming ahead!

I am honored that this Challenge was featured in the NCTE Inbox Blog, along with a wonderful discussion about creating writing communities in the classroom. If you are a teacher, you definitely want to read this.

I’d like to send a shout-out, too, to the teachers who attended my speech at the SUNY Oswego Writing Institute on Monday. Welcome to the Forest!

This raises an interesting possibility for me. How many of you have online writing buddies? I’m not thinking of a critiquing partner, but someone who will help keep you honest about daily writing time. If you don’t have one, would you like one? Want me to help?

OK, now, to work!

I studied linguistics in college and am a very proud word geek. I ADORE the English language.  The language takes strength from the contributions of many languages, just like the US draws strength from the cultural diversity of our people.


Today’s advice:
Mix it up. Allow yourself to write things that are not part of your work in progress. All language play will strengthen your writing.


Today’s prompt: I’ve listed two obscure words below, along with some etymology and definition from the online Oxford English Dictionary. Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to write a riff on one or both words, or figure out a way to incorporate whatever you’re writing.

TO SHIVE: "[f. SHIVE n.1 Cf. ON. skífa.]  trans. To cut (bread) into slices.

1570 LEVINS Manip. 152/39 To shiue, dissecare. 1629 GAULE Holy Madn. 343 He shiues out his Bread by weight or measure.

DWALE: [In sense 1, a variant of DWELE n., = OE. *dwela, dweola, dwola, dwala, error, heresy, madness; in sense 2 app. aphetic for OE. {asg}edweola, -dwola, etc. error, heresy, madness, also heretic, deceiver; f. ablaut-series dwel-, dwal-, dwol-: see DWELL v. Cf. OE. dwol- in comb. ‘erring, heretical’, and Goth. dwals ‘foolish’.]


WFMAD Day 4 – It’s in the details

How’s it going? Have you written every day this month? Fallen off the wagon yet?

If you have, do not despair. All is forgiven as long as you write for fifteen minutes today.

Where are you writing? Is it the same place every day? Is is a spot where other things – besides writing – happen?

Check out the creative spaces of these fantasy and science fiction authors.


Today’s advice:
When you carve out a physical place for your writing or art, it validates the space you are trying to carve out in your mind. When you treat your work with respect, other people will, too.


Today’s prompt: Describe your writing space. Focus on the smallest details possible, not the big ones. Don’t say there is a chair in the room; give details about the wear patterns of the rug under the chair, or the paint chips, or the dog hair in the cushion. Go small to tell big.

If you don’t have a writing space yet, describe your dream space.


WFMAD Day 3 – Hungry Monday

I’m off to give a speech this morning… a speech about writing. To teachers. I’ll be telling them about this challenge, among other things, and trying to help them shift out of editor mode and into writer mode. I’m also going to explain why focusing on publication can create problems for young writers.

Focusing on publication can create problems for ALL writers, come to think about it.

People at the beginning of their writing journey often assume that getting published is the goal, the end of their road. I did. I was willing to put all of my energy into tracking trends and editors and networking with other writers and thinking about how to market my books if they were ever published.

That was a mistake.

Yes, you do need to put some energy into those things, but the most important thing is to develop your craft. The best thing any of us can do for our careers is not to network, not to attend workshops, not to go to writer’s group, or read a blog or enter a contest or work on a website.

The best thing we can do for our careers, and more importantly, our souls, is to sit down, every day, and write. Like you are going to do right now. Just fifteen minutes, buddy. You can do this.


Today’s advice:
Here’s a quote from author Sue Grafton: “Writing isn’t about the destination — writing is the journey that transforms the soul and gives meaning to all else."


Today’s prompt: Last night my husband made me an incredible dinner; the kind of meal that you make for someone you’re dating when you are ready for the relationship to go to the next level. (Is there anything as nice as being courted by your spouse? I don’t think so.)

Write about preparing that kind of meal. It can be from your POV or that of a character. It could be the meal you’d like your beloved to make for you. Focus on taste and smell and making your reader very, very hungry.


WFMAD Day 2 – rolling, rolling rolling

Wow! I’ve had incredible feedback already – thanks to everyone who checked in on Twitter, Facebook, LJ, MySpace and all the other landing zones for this blog.

Several people wrote in with suggestions for keeping those precious fifteen minutes uninterrupted. My favorite so far: "Let the dog out before you begin writing."

What are you doing to protect your WFMAD time?

(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read yesterday’s post.)

We had a Comfort Gathering for my father in the Forest yesterday. His oldest friends and family joined us to tell stories about my parents and share the joy of their presence. I had a big photo of my mother on the mantle; her senior picture from high school. That leads me to our prompt today.


Today’s advice:
Be clear with yourself about how much of your time is controlled by other people, and how much is really under your control.


Today’s prompt: Find a yearbook pic or school photo. It can be of you, your beloved, your kids or you can go here for inspiration (click on the image to make it larger). Choose a photo that evokes an emotional response – that gut feeling – even if you aren’t quite sure what that feeling is at first. Don’t think, just write the words that stream through your mind as you look at the photo. Write for fifteen minutes and have fun!


WFMAD Day 1 – I doubledog dare you!


::runs around like a madwoman and scares dog::

Got your writing tool of choice warmed up and ready? Have you told your family that the only time they can interrupt your WFMAD writing is in case of fire or arterial bleeding? Have you turned off all your phones?

Many of you participated last year. While you are limbering up your fingers and stretching your minds, allow me to review the rules for our first-timers.

The rules are simple. In fact, they aren’t even rules. They’re more like guidelines, the Pirate Code of Writing.

1. Commit to write for 15 minutes a day for the entire month of August.
2. Just do it.

Seriously. That’s all there is to it. You don’t have to sign up anywhere, or meet minimum word count goals or complete a whole freaking novel in 30 days.

Just. Write. Every Day. This. Month.
15 Minutes.

::TANGENT ALERT:: Why am I doing this? Because writing is hard. Because life is complicated. Because so many people want to write, but they allow the complications of life to get in the way because the thought of actually living the writing dreaming can be scary. Because I love projects like NaNoWriMo, but I know that the goal of writing a novel in a month is unrealistic for many people. Because I know that we all have fifteen minutes a day that we waste (with the possible exception of new parents and authors on deadline).

Because we are all connected and we are all facing the same struggles.

This is not the time for editing or outlining. Just keep your pen, pencil, crayon, or fingers on the keyboard moving for 15 minutes. You can use the entire time to write "I don’t know what to write and LHA is crazy" the whole time if you want.

I’ll give a prompt a day for anyone who is feeling stuck. But you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.

I would love it if you guys checked in with me by posting in the comments section (feel free to be anonymous if that’s more comfortable). Tell me where you wrote today or for how long, or what you were working on. Tell me what kind of resistance thoughts cropped up as you were writing, or trying to start writing. Tell me what it felt like when the 15 minutes were up.

(LEGAL STUFF: These prompts, like all my blog entries, are my material and, thus, under my copyright. You have permission to reproduce them for classroom use only. Yes, you may link to these posts.)

OK, that’s enough blathering.


Today’s reward: Of course you deserve a reward! Decide what it should be before you start writing, then give it to yourself as soon as you are done.

Today’s advice:
Don’t judge, criticize, or edit what you’re writing this month. Right now, we’re concentrating on getting the words down on the page. You can do this. You can absolutely do this.


Today’s prompt: Write down the last dream you had. Was it boring? Then write down the last memorable dream you had. Can’t remember your dreams? Then write down the last memorable dream that you heard about. Focus on feeling the emotional state of the dream. When you reach the end of the decription, keep writing, Make the dream come alive for fifteen minutes.