Showing posts from February, 2011

Plot vs. Spontaneity

While reading On Writing, Stephen King challenged my process of writing, “Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice.”Damn.Apparently, I've been writing pedantic stories.  Doesn't bode well for a successful career.
By nature, I am a control freak and prefer to plan everything out, albeit day trips, vacations or my novel. Back in November 2010, when I embarked on the insane NaNoWriMo challenge, I created an outline of my entire mystery novel.Being the first time I’d ever written anything so long, I felt safer with a plan.As I wrote, my story deviated from the plan.I listened to the story, letting it lead the way, but still knew what I wanted to happen in the story.
Of course you will find many writers split on this topic.Some contradictory advice I’ve read says writing without an outlined plot leads to bird-walk writing.Presenting you with the task of cutting large parts of your prose because it doesn't having anything to do with the story.

A Grey Day

Today.  The streets are wet, puddles lingering waiting for a tire to splash them away.  The wind is blowing through ripping off the last few remaining yellow leaves clinging on to the branches.  Determined little leaves having made it through the winter.  A slow day.  A day for refection.  A day for writing.  No words of wisdom from me. 

I leave you with the slow, whiskey soaked words of my favorite poem written by Langston Hughes.  You can feel the heat of the South.  The sweat sliding down your neck.  Smell the cigarette smoke swirling around your head.  Eyes closed, you sway back and forth, listening to the thick, raspy baritone of pain and sadness.   

The Weary Blues

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,  Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,  I heard a Negro play.  Down on Lenox Avenue the other night  By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light  He did a lazy sway ....  He did a lazy sway ....  To the tune o' those Weary Blues.  With his ebony hands on each ivory key  He mad…

Wanted: A Set of Balls

I found this anecdote in a tiny book filled with wisdom from Mister Rogers.
A young apprentice applied to a master carpenter for a job.  The older man asked him, “Do you know your trade?”
“Yes, sir!” the young man replied proudly. 
“Have you ever made a mistake?” the older man inquired.
“No, sir!” the young man answered, feeling certain he would get the job.
“Then there’s no way I’m going to hire you.” said the master carpenter, “because when you make one you won’t know how to fix it.”

Mistakes.  Everyone makes them.  I'm bogged down with them every day.   Mistakes are a given in a first draft. So, explain to me why I push my writing assignments off in fear of handing in something horrifying, embarrassing and badly written.  

The process starts off encouraging.  The minute the assignment is posted my mind begins creating characters, designing settings and plotting.  Then, the fear creeps up.  I wait and wait and wait until the very last minute to scribble everything down.  The fear is t…

"Playground Power Struggle": An Exercise with Status Play and Dialogue Tags

Two boys playing on my street inspired me to write this week's assignment, which required me to dive deeper into dialogue, experimenting with as few dialogue tags as possible.  The few tags employed act as anchors to inform the reader which character is speaking.  Any other attributes to inform the reader are through description of action. Enjoy.  Your feedback is always appreciated.  
Playground Power Struggle By Laura M. Campbell
School bus 81 pulled into Willow Hill Estates just before four o’clock.The weather unseasonably warm for a Friday in February filled all the children with hysterical energy after a long day of classes.Laughter and chatter floated out the cracked windows while they grabbed their book bags and lunch boxes preparing to get off the bus.Andy pressed his face against the window, scanning the crowd of parents for his mother’s red coat.His gaze moved over to the playground.Only a few young children were running around. His friend Chris leaned over his shoulder.“D…

NCF Tuesday: A Poetry Retrospective, Contests, The Hardy Boys Tips on Writing Success

Hooray, protesters make a difference
In England, authorities are rethinking the funding cuts to libraries which caused closures after the Feb. 5 countrywide protests.Talks with the impassioned public brought about reviews to find a way to keep the libraries open.The public outcry and donations saved a few, while many libraries remain in jeopardy.
Has your local library seen any changes lately?

Movie adaptation set to divide audiences
The movie adaptation of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged is due out April 15.The news is already a buzz with conflicting perspectives.Part 1 of the movie is expected to garner reviews split down the middle, mirroring the reviews of the novels debut in 1957.
Will you go see Atlas Shrugged: Part 1?
Looking back at poetry
February through April 2011, the National Book Foundation will examine the past 61 years of American Poetry through blog essays; a category the foundation eliminated for six years.The program allows for a look at how poetry has evolved and wher…

What Are You Reading?

Happy President's Day.  

I'm taking a bit of a break today from blogging to get some reading done.  My focus on writing keeps me so busy I've slacked on my reading list.  

Last week I visited Restless Spirit, J. M. Leotti's fantasy writing and art blog, where she listed a few novels she planned to read in the upcoming weeks.  Red Riding Hood stood out.  The novel is based on the screen play for the movie set to come out March 11, directed by Catherine Hardwicke and staring Amanda Seyfried.  Well, I love Amanda and after reading the synopsis on Amazon I couldn't help myself.

So, I ignored my over crowded shelves, set out for Barnes and Noble and bought myself a copy.  At first it was difficult to get into the novel.  I couldn't get my mind off my own writing, but I pushed through.   It tells the tale of first love, death, arranged marriages and the big bad wolf.  The setting really draws you in to the seclusion of Valerie and her home.The village priest just called…

Editing vs Critiquing

Is There a Difference Between Editing and Critiquing
As a member of two writing groups and a creative writing class, I am responsible for many critiques.I want to give my peers thoughtful and constructive feedback; help them improve their writing.What should I actually do while I’m reading?
Since the groups are focused on critiques, editing isn’t necessary.
What’s the difference?
First, the critique and editing process require you to read through the piece and decide what works and what doesn’t.  A critic brings attention to areas in need of improvement and offers solutions allowing the writer to make the changes.An editor provides a solution by making the change in the actual writing.
Edit An editor has the authority to actually make the changes. The writer accepts the changes with the understanding it’s the best solution.They must trust the editor to do what’s best for the writing.
Critique On the other hand, a critic provides the writer with their observation of the piece.They evaluate the…

Pen Pals of the Future

Pen pals.People you’ve never met in person.Living in different states and towns.You write back and forth sharing details of your life.I still have the picture and letters from my pen pal from elementary school.She lived in California.Her name has faded from memory and the pack of letters is hiding in a box somewhere, but the experience has stayed with me for 19 years.
While I was teaching middle school English, I realized my students didn’t have a clue about writing a letter.How could this be possible?Students were guided through the education system, graduating with less knowledge than I had when I was 11-years-old.  This could be a teachable moment.  Through a pen pal project my students would learn the proper letter format and conversational skills to keep their pal interested.
Then the light bulb turned on.Children—digital natives—have grown up immersed in technology.Text messages, Facebook status updates and Twitter’s 140-character limit has created short, condensed dialogue.There’…

"Punishment": A Status Play Exercise with Dialogue

My first assignment for 200 Proof Storytelling required me to write a scene predominantly dialogue to practice status play.  The character with high status is considered to be in control; the other one has low status.  The point of the assignment was to create more dynamic dialogue, whether funny or dramatic, by tossing the high status between the two characters.

The exercise provided an opportunity to better understand my characters in a short story I've been working on.  I'm struggling with the characters.  Their personality, motivation and how they handle situations is not fully developed.

The scene with the abusive husband and his wife precedes my story and will not be included.  Although the husband is the aggressor, I wanted the wife to exhibit the strength she'll need to runaway in the short story.

Disclaimer: The following scene contains: explicit violence and adult language.


It was a chilly Wednesday afternoon. Jenny watched the Cooper family smiling as…