Write 15 Minutes a Day Challenge (WFMAD) – Day Ten: Basil & Cherry Edition

I am deep in 18th-century research and writing again, but it’s summer, which means other things are calling my name.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Like basil.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic And cherries.

I’ve been getting up wicked early (5ish), working in the garden, and then sitting down at my desk by 6:30 am most days. I work until the late afternoon, then turn my attention to things like

Image and video hosting by TinyPic basil. This was my experiment with freezing basil. It was very simple; pick basil, trim stems,

Image and video hosting by TinyPic chop up with olive oil,

Image and video hosting by TinyPic and freeze. In a couple weeks, the late planting of the basil crop should give me enough leaves to make a big batch of pesto.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic And now the cherries are ripe, too.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic BH and I (that’s him on the ladder) picked 15 pounds of cherries late yesterday. There was an Amish family at the farm doing the same thing. They picked waaaaaaay more than we did. I’ll make a couple of batches of jam when it cools down tonight. By this time next year, I’d love to have a solar dehydrator – dried cherries are loverly.

On nights I’m not canning or gardening after dinner, I crawl back inside my book until bedtime.

Today’s goal: Write for 15 minutes.

Today’s mindset: yummy.

Today’s prompt: focus on taste; anticipating it, describing it, watching how it affects behavior. Write about a taste that represents love to you. If nothing comes to mind, write about a taste that represents anger. If that doesn’t work, freewrite about a breakfast in an exotic location.


Water & Write 15 Minutes a Day Challenge (WFMAD) – Day Nine

Yesterday someone wrote asking me to explain how it is we live without public water. That is a very good question.

According to the EPA, 15% of Americans get their water from private wells, like us. The town of Mexico, a couple miles down the road, has a public water system, but we don’t technically live in the town. The very rural town we do live in is beginning to develop a public water system, but we think it will be at least a decade before they get to our neck of the woods, if ever.

Our well, like all of our neighbors’ wells, is a hole dug into the ground (by experts!) until it reached an underground aquifer. Pipes were laid from the well to the house and pumps installed. In our basement, we have a fancy-pants German filtration system to make sure nothing nasty is hiding in the water. We have it tested periodically; it’s wonderfully clean and pure.

Our environment would be better off if more people used well water. For one thing, you are less inclined to throw chemicals on your lawn and garden when you know that you’ll be drinking them. Secondly, knowing that water is a finite resource makes people pay more attention to their consumption. It’s not that we walk around unbathed or anything, but we try really hard not to waste a drop. (That’s why there are rain barrels to help collect water for the garden.)

One more water note (I write this watching the sky, hoping the rain gets here soon.) When we lose electricity, we lose water access because the pump doesn’t work. This doesn’t happen often, but since I married a Boy Scout, we’re always prepared for it.

I do think that living out here in the country, heating our home with wood, snowshoeing when the driveway is blocked, getting by without electricity and water occasionally, not having air conditioning, plus growing and preserving our food has given me an insight into 18th century living conditions that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. (And I haven’t talked about our camp yet…. one word … outhouse!)

Enough about our plumbing. It’s time to write.

Today’s goal: Write for 15 minutes. If you have public water, push yourself and write for 16 minutes.

Today’s mindset: curious and open-minded

Today’s prompt: interview your character. Don’t overthink this. Just ask your character questions so you can get to know her/him better.

Hint: don’t accept generic answers. Push for details. For example, “pizza” is unacceptable as an answer to question #1. “Thick-crusted pizza with asiago cheese, fresh basil, and prosciutto, served with a glass of Beaujolais nouveau and eaten on the screen porch” is the level of detail you’re reaching for.

I’ll get you started with a few:
1. Favorite food
2. Secret crush in elementary school
3. Which relative do you loathe and why?
4. Favorite smell
5. What magazine do you buy when no one is watching?
6. What’s your best feature?
7. If you were given a paid day off and $500, what would you do with it?
8. What’s your biggest regret?
9. Favorite sound
10. What is hidden in the box at the back of your closet?


Write 15 Minutes a Day Challenge (WFMAD) – Day Eight

My Beloved Husband tells me I yelled at one of my characters in my sleep last night, really hollered at the guy for being a two-faced SOB. I was relieved to find out it was one of the bad guys in my new book, not my protagonist. While I don’t remember the yelling dream, I do remember the dream in which every single person I met was an eighth grade English teacher.

Woke up very early this morning to water the garden because we’re going to have a disgustingly hot day. I’ve been using the rainwater we collected in four big barrels. Dragging pails of water all over the place is a sure-fire way to make your arms strong. We’re not connected to public water out here; all of the water we drink and use comes from a well. In the summertime, we try to conserve water whenever we can, hence the rain barrels.

I’m hoping for rain tonight or tomorrow.

A couple of people have written to me asking if they are allowed to link to my blog from their blog. Absolutely! The more, the merrier!

We’re now starting Week 2 of the WFMAD Challenge. Thank you for sharing your comments and updates. I’m really enjoying this.

As always: today’s goal: Write for 15 minutes (minimum).

Today’s mindset: fists clenched, ready to do battle.

Today’s prompt: conflict. In the last decade, I’ve critiqued a lot of manuscripts at writers’ conferences. They usually had lovely imagery and interesting characters, but many were lacking a solid core conflict. This is usually an issue in the early drafts of my books, too. My characters wander around the pages thinking deep thoughts, but not doing much. Once I get a clear sense of who they are, I have to throw them to the lions and see what they’re made of.

Today I’d like you to brainstorm five situations that pit one character against another. Freewrite about the one that makes your stomach tight. Keep the stakes high, but remember to let the characters’ actions convey a lot of meaning; don’t let them fill in the backstory in dialog. Hint: use strong verbs today – shy away from adverbs.


Write 15 Minutes a Day Challenge (WFMAD) – Day Seven!

The first week is done! Have you been able to write every day? How did that feel?

If you fell short of the goal, why did that happen? (If you blew off the whole weekend, please read Saturday’s post.) What can you do to guarantee yourself fifteen minutes a day for the rest of the month?

Today’s non-writing activity: examine your July calendar and write down your writing time every day, in pen. If anyone in your household gives you a hard time because you’re writing, just point to the calender and say, “I have to.”

Today’s motivation: this is starting to feel good.

Today’s prompt: Take a noun (lunch box or ladder or bus stop or make up your own) and expand it with three other nouns. Write about a character interacting with these objects EXCEPT (here’s the tricky part) don’t use your usual Point of View. If you usually use the third person POV, write from the first today. If you normally write from the first, today try the third. Also – please have the character be opposite of your gender.

Think of this as yoga for the writer brain. Gentle stretching is good.


Endnote: a lawyer friend of mine poked me and told me I had to announce this: all of my blog posts are copyright Laurie Halse Anderson. Teachers may use these writing prompts and advice in classroom settings, but are asked to email me at laurie AT writerlady DOT com when they do so. Permission is not granted to anyone to reproduce these prompts and advice, repost them to the Internet, or otherwise distribute them without permission. Because lawyers are cranky like that.

Write 15 Minutes a Day Challenge (WFMAD) – Day Six

You’ve almost made it through the first week – congratulations!

I have lots to write today, plus hours of work in the garden, so I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Today’s goal: Write for 15 minutes (minimum).

Today’s mindset: writing without thinking.

And now you’re saying to yourself: “What the heck does that mean “writing without thinking?” How can I do that?

You know when you are in that country between sleep and wakefulness, how your thoughts drift from image to image without effort, sometimes making creative leaps of imagination? That’s the place you want to be in today. Even if you have a Work In Progress, take a little break from it for fiteen minutes and play with this exercise.

When you read the prompt (don’t peek at it yet!) I want you to write down a list of the first 20 nouns that the prompt brings to mind. Please note: NOUNS. Not adjectives or verbs.

From the 20 nouns, pick three or four that are the most vivid. Build on the image of those nouns and figure out which one provides you with the strongest picture in your mind. In the remaining time you have left (feel free to take more time if you want) write in exquisite detail about this image. Paint a picture with words. Your could craft a scene, or you could just describe what you see. But don’t overthink it. Let the image tumble through the magic of your mind.

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Today’s image prompt: Your mother in a pretty dress.