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Why Flash Fiction is my Cure for Brain Drain #authortoolboxbloghop

The Author Toolbox Blog Hop is “a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.” Want to jump into the writing tool box? Search #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join via blog, click here.

Thank you Raimey!

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This week, I’m preparing to teach a writing workshop to honors eighth grade English Language Arts students. I’ve been asked to talk about Flash Fiction. Thus, my purpose for today’s post and why I think it’s the best cure when you really need to refocus and shift your thoughts.

  1. It’s like real life when you stop to think about it.

No matter where I am, memories or flashes of my life slip into my thoughts and steal my focus for a brief period of time. I might be sitting at my desk working on the design of a new logo for a school, and suddenly I’m hearing the voice of my son from earlier that morning chattering about some funny story that made him laugh in school, or hear the sound of my daughter’s voice bellowing down the hallway to some book on cd or karaoke song she played and practiced in her room. There’s always a beginning, middle and end. It’s brief. It’s meaningful. It’s relief in the busyness of my day.

  1. The challenge to think of something new.

Ever tried to write with visual props?

When my writing partner introduced me to the idea of trying to write multiple pieces a week, I laughed. I thought, How in the world can I shift my focus so fast? Writing prompts are all that’s needed. When using them, I find it’s helpful to let your mind wander and then stop on something that makes you hold your breath. I combine quotes with visual faces, landscapes, animals, sparkly bubbles. Typically I write with two, sometimes three. Pinterest is my go-to tool. I have a board called writing prompts where I keep visually intriguing pins. What works best for me, is to limit myself with an amount of time to focus on one story. When I make up my mind, I usually commit myself to three pieces a week. I assign a deadline and set the clock. Usually these exercises take place during a lunch break and begin on Monday. When the hour is over I shift my focus again. I allow myself to reread the story later that night after the kids have gone to bed. I edit it. Then I share it with my writing partner. The next day at lunch, I might take another look, but by Wednesday, it’s time to move on to a new one.

  1. Low pressure to be perfect.

With Flash Fiction, I allow myself to shove every lengthy novel idea I have out of my head. The prompts are the perfect visual distraction. I free write and let my mind wander and don’t focus too deeply on the histories of my characters, because as I know about me, I go pretty deep into their stories. It’s also a major point of Flash Fiction mentioned in Writer’s Digest. You can read the full article here.

  1. Surprising outcomes.

In my practice with Flash Fiction, I came up with four very different stories from my usual topics of interest. It was surprisingly fresh and gave me a new view about how far I could push my brain.

 

  1. The pace is fast and complete with a beginning, middle and end.

I try to keep my Flash Fiction between 1,000 – 1,500 words max. It’s also great exercise to help focus on a point of conflict, the moment we define our theme and hold back our character’s most wanted thing in the whole world, and finally create a conclusion in a brief and satisfying period of time.

Question. What helps you create new and different story ideas?

Lastly, here’s my favorite quote about challenge and adventure:

Writing Characters Different from Ourselves #IWSG #Lostherofic

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[I wrote this post as a member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our worries and also offer support and encouragement to each other on the first Wednesday of every month. If you’re a writer like me and you’re looking for a bit of support, you can click the link and sign up here]

This month’s awesome hosts are, Tyrean Martinson, Tara Tyler, Raimey Gallant and Beverly Stowe McClure.

Thank you so much! And thank you founder Alex J. Cavanaugh!

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As a reader, character driven stories draw me instantly. Some of my favorite authors show me the person at a rapid and believable pace. As a writer, I spend my energy first on the character and all those characters who build her story. I mention her for a reason. Being a woman, I’ve narrowed my focus and choose females as my leading characters since it’s what I know very well. I never expected to write a successful story as a man.

This month’s IWSG questions asks: “Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?)

My answer is yes to both parts with “The Wheat Witch” in the Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life Anthology. Two things were different actually. First, I wrote the story as adult fiction/fantasy, and secondly, I choose a man as my hero.

I LOVE the Young Adult genre, especially fantasy. My initial brainstorm in “The Wheat Witch” involved two separate directions for the theme. One with a young teen boy going through the physical change of leaving the farm and losing the power, then the story quickly spiraled beyond the limits of 5,000 words. I came up with second premise about the older, retired gentleman reflecting on the damage he’d done to himself because of who he left behind transpired.

What helped shift my focus? What tips do I have to offer?

  1. Interview someone who could be a potential character in your book, your M.C.
    I Interviewed my father to gain insight into his life on my grandfather’s farm.
  2. What do you know about the topic? Brainstorm.
    I channeled my own memories of growing up in the summers with my grandparents for a couple of weeks, feeding a baby calf, harvesting the vegetables from the garden, running through the hay bales and spending hours in the fields, mostly building forts or tagging along with my grandma. Those moments are still alive in me from the feel of the sun, or the site of a moonless and star filled sky.
  3. Listen to dialogue and ask others who might be the experts, how they describe images.
    I paid careful attention to the words my father used as he talked. I spent a great deal of time discussing words and asking my partner to help come up with different ways to describe phrases.

Of course, I had a really great writing partner help me clean up a few scenes.

Did I write well like a man? I’d certainly like to think I did a decent job.  I’m not quite sure I’ll try it again, but that’s always been my style. When something scares you, you have to at least try it once so you can reflect and either swear it off, or quite possibly decide it was better than you believed it would ever be and you’ll consider taking the risk again.

How about you? What have you tried recently you never thought you would?

Celebrate the Small Things: Integrity and Respect Stems from the Inside #FridayFeeling

Fridays are all about celebrating the Small Things thanks to a weekly blog hop created by author Lexa Cain. Joint co-hosts this week are authors L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog The mission coincides with what I’m hoping to do with my own writing, inspire and focus on the light when those slippery shadows creep around our shoes. Want to sign up? Click Lexa Cain’s link to find out more.

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I am a believer in integrity.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve known I see the world in bright, justly colors. I’ve known I strive to find the truth in all things: from the littlest dandelion growing in the yard, defending a poor little slug which the neighbor kid tried to destroy with salt, to friends I’ve met along the way who struggled with the truth and couldn’t sing it as it should have been. I believe in the truth and I try to give people the benefit of the doubt in telling it. I’m not perfect. No one is. I’ve withheld it myself in fear from time to time, and then I’ve faced the consequences as bravely as I could have. I think the importance in truth, integrity and living an honest life, is knowing who we are on the inside. It’s believing in that, and surrounding ourselves with those who believe in us, too.

This week I’m celebrating integrity and the growth in facing it. I’m celebrating the state of mind we need to be in, in order to create a safe place to discuss the truth.

As a mother, I’ve been working to teach my kids this week the importance of following our hearts instead of being followers of the fun thing to do. With the first week of school down, challenges erupt in meeting new friends; friends who aren’t always like us. Ultimately, we all have our own truths. We all want respect. We certainly all love someone and we must respect this love and the uniqueness of each soul we meet along the way.

As a writer, I’m working on a character with strong integrity who will have it challenged every step of her journey. She’ll have to face two difficult truths and weigh the impact of each, eventually forced to pick one.

As myself, a woman who sees the world in bright, justly colors, I’m celebrating following my own heart. I’m proud of every small progressive footstep and will continue to embrace the thought that eventually hard honest work will pay off.

Ultimately, in teaching truth and respect the important thing I’ve learned is:

How about you? What are you celebrating this week?

Don’t Let Your Mind Derail Your Plot #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

The Author Toolbox Blog Hop is “a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.” Want to jump into the writing tool box? Search #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join via blog, click here.

Thank you Raimey!

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“I don’t focus on what I’m up against. I focus on my goals and I try to ignore the rest.”

~Venus Williams

Thoughts come and go. Topics often change like the wind. Depending on where we sit in any given moment, we might be completely focused on a task thinking about a scene and a character in this scene that has to get from A to B when before we know it, we get lost in the picture we’re seeing, the action we’re creating, or the back and forth dialogue unfolding as we type. We finish it. Maybe we reread and think, “Yes, this is it.” Maybe we have time to tackle another scene and we begin to … but a problem arises. The scene we just wrote didn’t happen like the plan. Suddenly the plot is derailed. The characters have shifted all out of whack. Now we have two different stories with thousands of words we’ve just written and we don’t want to cut them.

Ever been there?

Today, I’m sharing what I am doing to maximize my time with my new work in progress and stick to my goals. I’ve always been one to outline, but I’ve also been easily derailed by the shifting images in my head as I write.

  1. Note Cards. I started this technique this time with color coded tabs for each ACT. Each card has the Act and scene number at the top. A quick external or internal line is written on the front. On the back side I have listed the time, date and place, all the majors characters in play, and a two or three sentence plot summary. The last line on the card lists the impact whether I’m revealing a clue, leaving with a cliff hanger, or a question the protagonist must face. I can shift these cards. I can touch them. NEXT, I generate the digital outline.
  2. The Pages APP. Currently, I have retyped my outline from my note cards into this app. It gave me time to reprocess. I also came up with a few add-in scenes I missed the first go-round. I can also pull out my phone and take a peek on a lunch break or after work when my computer might not be handy.
  3. The 3-Ring Binder. This time, I’m printing my outline. I’m also printing off my character notes and keeping them handy right next to me as I write. I hope by keeping these pages in front of me and glancing at all the details before I start to write, I’ll eliminate distraction and focus on the end goal.
  4. Streamlining New Ideas. If a new idea happens to sneak in, I read about an APP to use: Remember the Milk. I came across it on an article on planning your novel. I’ve downloaded the app and I hope to use it and capture new ideas then compare them with what I currently have before I get lost in them. I’ll let you know next month how it pans out. 🙂

Question: Do you have any other great tidbits or ways to organize your writing that helps you stay on track? I’d love to hear them.

One last thought: