WFMAD Day 17 – Rocky writing

Not writing on a rocky shore.

Or rocky writing that is the despair of editors, or drives you to a vat of Rocky Road ice cream.

I’m thinking about my favorite Rocky. This guy.

I’m thinking of him a lot these days because I’ve stepped up my training. I’m now running three days a week and lifting weights three days a week and taking a ginormous nap on the seventh day. I’m hoping to squeeze in a couple half marathons this fall. When I get back from the book tour, the Big Countdown begins: I’m going to try to run in the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon.

What does this have to do with writing?


Our bodies were designed to move. A lot. They were not designed to sit in a chair for hours on end, particularly if the chair is a short trip from the refrigerator.

Many, many, many writers run. I am one of them. I am probably the slowest one, an accomplishment of which I am incredibly proud. (The race is not always to the swift you know.) My running feeds my writing which feeds my running which feeds…. you get the point.

If running does not sound like fun, you can swim or bike. Or walk. Dickens did. It sure worked for him. Exercise improves your ability to think clearly, learn, and remember, it combats stress, lessens depression. It won’t write the books for you, but I think it makes the writing easier and more fun.

We’ll close with a montage of Rocky Balboa’s training from the first Rocky movie. (Every time I run in Philadelphia, I make a point of running up those steps.)



“I belong to the Muse and She belongs to me.” singer Abby Lincoln in a 1993 interview

Set… shut everything off and go for a walk or run. Then you can write.

Today’s prompt: We often think of what our characters are capable of doing, instead of figuring out what they cannot do. Brainstorm a physical limitation for your character. It could be as simple as not being able to stand on one leg, or a limitation that has tremendous impact on her life. Or it could be a temporary limitation that furthers the plot, like Bethany cutting her foot and needing to use crutches in Twisted. OR write about one of your limitations. When did it start? How does it play out in unseen ways? Will it ever change? Do you want it to?


WFMAD Day 16 – In the Kitchen

NPR recently did a segment on the best meals shown on film.

If your book doesn’t have a scene of someone eating something, you might want to consider one. Most people eat at least three times a day – often more – and a meal can carry every imaginable kind of metaphorical weight. It’s a great way to show fault lines in relationships or to bring people closer.

It is also a wonderful way to avoid the dreaded “talking heads” chapters in which you need to have characters talking, but can’t figure out what they should be doing. The trick is to make the meal fit into the larger story arc naturally. Make sure it is motivated beforehand and that it triggers something later in the story.

Ready… “We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.” Ernest Hemingway, Movable Feast

Set…. You might want to eat a snack before this one.

Today’s prompt:

Do not write about a meal. (Ha! Got you!) Write a scene in which your characters prepare a meal OR write about a memory you have of a meal being prepared. Try to focus in on tiny details in the kitchen that will give clues about the the people in the scene. It is natural to have lots of smells and tastes in a scene like this – remember to add in sound.

Scribble… Scribble… Scribble!!!

WFMAD Day 15 – Better Late Than Never

I’m late. I know. I should probably hang my head in shame. But I’m not going to.

Our weekend was filled with camping with friends and then today we had some family stuff that took up most of the day, which was way longer than I thought it would.

I don’t regret one second.

There are some things that you probably don’t want to allow to interfere with your writing. Like game shows. Volunteering for things you don’t believe in. Hanging out at the mall because you’re bored.

But in my book, making time for family and friends is of the highest priority. And if you are fortunate enough to have great relationships with your family and friends, they’ll understand how important writing is to you and they’ll cut you a lot of slack when you need it.

Balance always sounds simpler than it is, I know, but it’s worth aiming for.

Housekeeping – We’ve made it halfway through the WFMAD Challenge (congratulations, btw!) and I imagine that a few of you have questions for me. Please post them in the Comments section and I will try to get to them in the next two weeks. Thank you!

Ready… “The writer must have a good imagination to begin with, but the imagination has to be muscular, which means it must be exercised in a disciplined way, day in and day out, by writing, failing, succeeding and revising.” Stephen King

Set… After you send me a question, you can turn off the Internet and phone

Today’s prompt:

1) Make a list of the five things that you or your character are most afraid of.

2) Circle the one that makes your heart race and palms sweat.

3) Write a scene in which you or your character has to confront the scary thing in a very public place – filled with people – so you (or the character) can’t freak out and run away screaming. You have to interact or avoid the scary thing, but in such a way that no one else will notice you are afraid.

4) Do all of the above without using the word “afraid,” “fear,” or “scared.” Show the emotion instead of telling the reader about it.


WFMAD Day 14 – Do You Dare?

Do you dare disturb the universe?

This question is what holds many of us back from writing, or from writing the things that we really want to. Because our lives are ordered and comfortable and to become creative just might mess all that up.


I’ve met so many people who want to write, who talk with tremendous passion about wanting to pour their hearts on the page, but they can’t…. quite… bring themselves to start. Or to scribble for more than a few days. Or to stop allowing unimportant things to sabotage their dream.

If you fit into that category, let me share a phrase occasionally heard in my house. It is used by my husband and me when trying to point out (with great love and tenderness) that the other partner needs to loosen up a bit and have some fun, or try something new, or get out of a rut.

The phrase? “You’re going to die.”

It’s inevitable; the one fact you can know for certain about your life. You will die. Sorry – you have no control over this.

You have total control, however, about the pursuit of your writing dream. If you don’t write, you will one day die. If you write, you’re still going to die, but you will have disturbed the universe in the best possible way. You will have explored your heart more fully. You will leave behind your stories. The ripples of your creativity will touch countless lives and butterflies will sing your praises.

OK, maybe not that last bit. But the rest is as true as you care to make it.


“Giving characters free will, instead of outlining them in detail before the writing begins, allows a story to flow naturally and allows the characters to become more real and more interesting than they could be if they had to act within a rigid profile created in advance of the actual writing….” Dean Koontz

Set…. Don’t turn off the Internet until you complete step one of the prompt below. Then turn it off. In fact, see if you can leave it off for the next 24 hours. I dare you.

Today’s prompt:

1. Pick a random name.

2. Write down the name and follow it with this “grabbed the car keys and closed the door quietly so no one would wake up.”

3. Next line write AND THEN

4. Next line write another action that your newly named character did. Don’t overthink this. Just move the story forward by one sentence that has action in it – no internal narrative, no dialog, no long-winded description.

5. Repeat Steps 3 & 4 until you have written 50 sentences of sequential action. The point is to exercise the pure storytelling muscle in your brain (hence the AND THEN) while allowing your imagination free rein.