Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday Tip #6: Simple Sillyness for the Sake of Skill Sharpening

I'm a big believer in feeding the brain with fun. And a great way to feed your writer brain is with alliteration, or, more specifically, to make up wacky alliterative phrases. For example: Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

This is especially useful for a writer who likes to write fun and goofy stuff for kids. It's also useful for a writer (or anyone, I guess) who just needs to loosen up a bit.

One reason this is such a useful thing for writers to mess with, besides the "goof factor," is that it forces you to dig for synonyms. It's always a good exercise for any writer to think up (or look up) alternate words and/or phrases for what they're trying to say.

Can you think of a funner way to do practice that skill?

Here's one just for fun:

Excited elephants eagerly erupt in ecstatic exultation. (I had to dig for exultation.)

Other uses for alliteration:

1. Character names (don't go crazy with this one, though)
2. Titles (I have a PB manuscript titled Fredrick the Fainthearted)
3. Jazz up poetry or lines in a picture book with an alliterative phrase or two.
4. Drive your kids crazy by using alliterative phrases in everyday speech.
5. Help kids learn their letter sounds!

Friday, December 26, 2008

JOPs (aka 5-minute free write) and laughs with friends

Corey suggested that I do an example of a JOP. Okay, I will. But I want one of my readers to give me the topic. Leave me a comment with your topic idea and I will do a five-minute free write about that topic. I'll do the first comment that shows up, so be quick about it.

Now for a laugh. Check out this post on my friend Angie's blog, for a humorous glimpse into our past.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday Tip # 5: Five-minute free writes

In my critique group, we call them JOPs (short for Junk On Paper). Someone puts out a topic, usually one word, and we give ourselves five minutes to write freely, non-stop, no editing.

Occasionally these little exercises will turn out something worthy of publication, like a short poem. Sometimes they end up being the start of something much bigger. Either way, they are a fun challenge, something to get your writer wheels turning.

Try it yourself and see what good it does for your writer brain!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday Tip # 4: Bedtime as a Guideline, not a LAW

I'm taking a break from writing tips today to offer some thoughts on parenting. Today's parenting tip: Take advantage of those bedtime "teachable" moments, bedtime be darned!

We have always had fairly strict bedtimes in our house. But even strict rules need to be flexible at times. Tonight was one of those nights. We had a busy night and by the time the kids were in bed and ready for their final kisses good night, it was after 9:00. Usually if it is after 9:00, my son gets a quick kiss and hug, a bedtime prayer and then lights out.

But today, my little guy (he's seven) had concerns on his mind. He's the kind of guy who will get something into his head and mull over and over it till it drives him crazy or gets him all worked up. Tonight he was telling me how he couldn't stop thinking about getting lost (he thought he almost lost us in the mall recently).

The bedtime rule went out the window, so to speak. I sat on his bed and we had a heart-to-heart. I reassured him that I would never leave a store without him and that I could never just walk off and forget about him. We talked about how sometimes we need to try to think of good things when we can't get a scary thought out of our head. We shared some more, had our bedtime prayers, kisses and hugs, and I left the room with David feeling more at peace.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Writing vs. Baking Cookies

I know I'm supposed to keep going on with my NaNo book this month, working steadily toward my goal of 50,000 words by December 31. But, it is at a stand-still. My novel has been sitting at 30,016 word for the past eleven days.

I blame the season. My novel-writing time has been set aside in favor of holiday baking, get-togethers, kids' music practice and concerts. The list goes on. But I love this time of year. I love the music, the fellowship, the fun, even the craziness to a point.

And I love baking and sharing my treats. Yesterday I made ginger snaps and fudge. This weekend maybe the kids and I will make some cut-out cookies or chocolate dipped pretzels. Or both!

Maybe I'll make time for working on my novel too. But, more important is sharing the joy of the Christmas season with my family. Sappy, I know. But true.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tuesday Writing Tip # 3: Write Everything Down

All writers know the importance of keeping a notebook and pen (or at least a pen and a napkin!) handy all the time. And if they don't know that, they'll learn it soon enough. But what types of things is the notebook for?


Maybe an unusual name that you hear on the news intrigues you. That would be a great character name! you think to yourself. Write it down! You never know when you will get to use that awesome name in a story. But if you don't write it down, there's a good chance it will feel neglected and sneak away from its spot in your brain, leaving you thinking Gosh, I wish I could remember that great name I thought of the other day!

Jot down simple plot ideas that occur to you out of nowhere. A really poetic line that comes to you as you're walking to your car. A random scene in a fantasy story. Questions you think of (or that someone asks you) that could possibly lead to stories. And don't forget about funny or odd things that occur around you. Like that hilarious thing your son, daughter, or some other kid said or did the other day.

So much that happens around us is food for our writer brain. So be like a squirrel and store up all those goodies to use when the time comes.

P.S. This is good advice for non-writers too, especially mothers. You know this if you've ever thought something like: What did he say the other day that made me laugh so hard?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tuesday Writing Tip: Be Childish (or is it childlike?)

I'm sorry this week's tip is one day late. Last week I was out of town and this week I just plain forgot! I guess I just gotta get into this weekly tip groove. Bear with me!

My writing tip for you this week is: Be childish!

I believe that our best writing stems from experiences, so if you are writing for children you need to write from your experiences as a child. I'm not just talking about childhood memories. We all have childhood memories--both good and bad--and we can get some good stuff from them. But to be a good children's writer, you need to allow your adult self to be a kid now and then.

As a children's writer, plenty of my poems and stories stem from my own childhood. But even more come from times spent being a kid (or as close to a kid as a responsible adult can get) with them.

So here are a few suggestions for you aspiring children's writers:

When you bring your kids to the park, don't just sit on the bench. Get out there and play, especially if there's something awesome like a tire swing. I never miss a chance on the swings!

Jump in the leaves!

Dress up for trick-or-treating (Oh, come on, at least put on a funny hat!).

Spend an afternoon building Lego houses or blanket tents (even better--spend the night in a blanket tent).

Play dress-up.

Tell scary stories in the dark.

Read kids' books and watch kids' movies.

Color, draw, paint with your kids.

Spend time with kids other than your own. Volunteer to teach Sunday School or help at your kids' school.

These are just a few suggestions, so get out there and have fun bein' a kid!