Forum Friday: Writing resolutions for 2014

Happy last Friday of 2013! Today’s Forum Friday comes with an announcement: Starting 2014, I will be writing this segment irregularly. That is, I’ll continue posting Forum Fridays when I have thoughtful, amusing, or otherwise meaningful prompts to share, but not every week. Maybe not even every other week. I started Forum Fridays close to a year and a half ago, back when I was a first-time novelist and had a lot of questions about writing books and how other authors handled various intricacies of the process and craft. Now I am both more experienced, and have exhausted what was once an extensive store of writing-related questions. Though I’m still very much a novice in the grand scheme of things, I do not wish to repeat questions I have already posed, questions that have been done to spontaneous combustion, or questions that have been answered well elsewhere.

However, in lieu of Forum Friday I plan to begin a new weekly segment to do with vocabulary. I am always writing down and looking up words, even making crib sheets for myself to print out and practice with, but I never manage to sit with the words as much as I’d like. I figure a weekly practice will help with that, and could result in prompts, illustrations, and sentence-crafting mischief for You, my fabulous readers. Haven’t worked out the details completely, but I plan to play with it and make it fun.

Until then, today’s prompt: What reading- and/or writing-related goals are you setting for 2014?

Forum Friday: Favorite books of 2013

What were your favorite books this year? They don’t have to be new as long as they were new to you!

Here are some of my favorites (not presented in rank– they were all 5 stars for me):


  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  2. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  4. Vicious by V.E. Schwab
  5. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  6. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  7. The Cider House Rules by John Irving
  8. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Forum Friday: What do you recommend for magical realism?

This one’s for the readers– and for me, because I love magical realism, and haven’t read nearly enough of it. Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate may be the only full-length novel I’ve read that employs it throughout (ex: tears gushing into floods, quail cooked with rose petals that ignite feelings of passion when eaten, souls represented as a lit match inside each person).

In brief, for anyone unfamiliar with it, magical realism is a style of writing that imbues ordinary, everyday things with something magic, fantastical, etc. Wikipedia offers an expanded definition.

What books or short stories would you recommend to someone looking for magical realism?

Forum Friday: What’s in your story cellar?

I keep notes in many scattered places on things– places, events, phenomenon, mythology, unsolved mysteries, diseases, science, etc.– that I think would make for a good story, or else that fascinate me and would therefore be interesting to use in a story.

Among them:

Since these things are “fermenting” in my subconscious (or perhaps more accurately, my hard drive) like grapes into the wine that is stories, I am calling the collective of such lists my story cellar.

What about you? What are some of the ingredients steeping in your story-crafting cellar?

Forum Friday: What has the Nano experience taught you?

Just one more day of November and the madness that is Nanowrimo!

Whether you’ve reached the magic 50,000 or not– whether it’s your first time doing Nano, your twenty-first, or you heard what Nanowrimo was and ran away screaming in terror– with every draft comes experiment, progress, and lessons.

So what did you learn? What has Nanowrimo taught you (this year, collectively, or otherwise)?

Forum Friday: Tricks for writing at a faster pace

This is the second year I’ve done Nanowrimo, and less than half way through the month I realize: hey. 1700 words a day is not anywhere near as hard as it used to be! I asked myself, What have I changed? and What am I doing right? and realized that this– tips for writing at a faster pace– would make an excellent subject to open up to other writers!

What do you do to keep the momentum? Large or small scale– what tricks and methods help you write at a faster pace?

A couple things that work me:

  • Large scale: outline. Sweet hippopotamus, OUTLINE. I had an outline last year, too, but it was woefully vague and required large amounts of cutting and rewrites all through the month of the November (which, as you might imagine, really slowed me down). This year I went into it with every chapter planned in bullet points: had the bones down, but left myself room for natural developments. It’s worked much better.
  • Small scale: placeholders. Whenever I get stuck on something– a bit of pacing here, a town or event name there– I’ve been either writing a generic term (i.e., “pacing” or “school dance” or “club”) and highlighting it to come back to, or I’ve written in whatever nonsense I came up with at the snap of the fingers. You can always go back and fix placeholders when the first draft is finished. (And who knows. You might even end up liking something. Muffin Wars.)

Bonus image:

Forum Friday: Post a recent line of dialogue.

Hey guys! So, I know it’s a bit later than usual (Nanowrimo strikes again), but in the spirit of keeping things quick and interesting I thought I’d throw you another prompt:

Post a line of dialogue you wrote recently, and tell us what it’s from.

Also, if you’re participating in Nanowrimo and feel your story starting to slow, you might be interested in some of last week’s plot ninjas people came up with! Or feel free to contribute your own.

Forum Friday: Plot Ninjas

Since today is the start of Nanowrimo, I thought I’d mix things up a little and rather than ask a question, prompt those of you reading this to provide a plot ninja.

What is a plot ninja?

A plot ninja is a random plot twist. “Protagonist finds a note taped to her refrigerator.” “Antagonist is mistaken for a celebrity.” “Portal to Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen opens up in the floor.”

These devices are great for keeping things interesting 10, 20, 30K into a work when either you start to lose steam or you reach a saggy middle section of the story. And the best plot ninjas are the ones that come from somebody else– because they are totally foreign to your story! An injection of fresh blood! Without sounding vampiric or like someone who takes the phrase ‘young blood’ literally.

Help other writers– post a plot ninja in the comments below!

Forum Friday: Do you write in sprints or marathons?

What I mean by that is, Do you power-write in quick bursts (say, 300-500 words in an hour) or are you more likely to stake a place in a café or library for the day and work at a slower but steadier pace?

I think this is an especially relevant topic as the ~1,700 word-a-day madness that is Nanowrimo approaches. Tell us what works best for you!