Thursday, October 30, 2008

A really really big fish

Retell yesterday epically. Exaggerate. Take everything to the extreme and beyond. Tell how you had to wrestle the hot dogs into the boiling water. Everything is important and large. Or use a current or favorite character.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Alphabet cereal

Come up with cereal names for each letter of the alphabet. They needn't be nutritiously acceptible names. Go ahead and have Super Sugar Candy Crunchies. ;-) Of course if you do want a challenge, you can try making healthful cereals sound just as exciting as commercial cereals. :-)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"I am a galley slave ..."

Encyclopedia Baracktannica

From Slate Magazine:

The Encyclopedia Baracktannica

Now with more words and definitions!

By Chris Wilson

It's hard to imagine that Barack Obama would be as big of a phenomenon if his name were, say, Tom Smith. As numerous fans, detractors, reporters, and bloggers have demonstrated, it's a name that lends itself to neologisms—everything from Barackstar to Obamania to Omentum.

We present the unabridged Encyclopedia Baracktannica, a list of words that have been Obamafied by Slate. This is a widget, so you're welcome to add it to your site. To do so, click the "Get & Share" link below and choose a service.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

National Novel Writing Month

It's coming! Midnight next Friday, is the beginning of National Novel Writing Month: November 1 to November 30.

What is it? It's a month when people all over the world set aside time to churn out bad novels ;-)

The goal is to have at least 50,000 words by midnight November 30. Since you must write fast -- 1667 words per day -- there isn't time for editing or perfecting or even worrying over whether it's good or not. And that's the whole point! One of the biggest obstacles to writing is running commentary from our internal editors on how bad something sounds and how trite it is.

For NaNoWriMo you send your internal editor on vacation. It's not allowed to contact you at all. While the editor is away you let the ideas flow out of your fingers. There will be a lot of bad ideas! But mixed in will be some good ideas, even great ideas that would have been blocked by the critical voice of the editor.

The novel doesn't need to be complete. (Most commercial fiction is between 75,000 and 100,000 words.) It doesn't need to flow. You can leave scenes that aren't working incomplete to move onto another scene that's trying to get out.

No one will read it. You'll upload your final document to the automated counting bots at NaNoWriMo and they will count your words. If you have 50,000 words or more, you win! Win what? Win the satisfaction of being one of the elite who has completed a novel :-) And a nifty downloadable certificate that says you won.

My daughter Kat (now 17) and I have done it four times. And while insane, it's also a lot of fun and rewarding too. How long does it take? Basically it depends how long you give it! Most people are doing this while holding jobs or going to school and can only write in the evening or on weekends. Kat and I give it all day and have found it consumes whatever amount of time you give it. ;-)

While you can't begin writing until November 1, you can plan as much as you want. I've done it 4 times without a plan. An idea comes to me the week before or sometimes the day before and I just let it take me where it will. Some like to know where they're headed. Some like the adventure to unfold. Which is better depends on what you find works for you :-)

Most areas (even in other countries) have local groups that meet occasionally throughout the month for writing and moral support. They're listed in the Regional Lounges section of the forums at the NaNoWriMo website:

There's also lots of online support in the forums, tricks and tips, word challenges, even places to ask obscure questions (like, for example, whether someone could carry $1 million in $1 bills.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The dog that barked in the night

"Conscience is a dog that does not stop us from passing but that we cannot prevent from barking." -Nicolas de Chamfort, writer (1741-1794)

Your character's conscience has become an entity that only he or she can see and hear (and perhaps smell and touch). It doesn't need to be a dog but it should be annoying ;-)

Spark plugs or fuel?

For the past three years I've been throwing out prompts as the sparks for writing, just assuming that was the only way to use them. I stumbled across a 15 minute fiction site (now defunct) that sent out weekly words as prompts but they suggested coming up with a scene first and then using the word as fuel. Odd how the obvious can be not so obvious :-)

Which works better depends on your needs at the moment. :-) But if you've been finding your ideas limited by a writing prompt, try coming up with the scene first and see where the prompt takes it. Maybe take a previous scene and see where it takes you.

In fact it's what you need to do for National Novel Writing Month if you want to incorporate the prompts into your novel. If you haven't heard about NaNoWriMo, it's coming up November 1st and I'll be posting more about it this Saturday :-)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Recipe for disaster

Write a recipe for a dastardly dish. Include newt and eye and bone and spider and frog. It can be a recipe for soup or cake , a spell, a beautifying concoction, a potion. Anything you want.

As an extra challenge, make it a poem. No it doesn't have to rhyme! But the lines of a recipe are already short so make the descriptions short too. Play around with the sound of the phrases. Does eye of newt roll off the tongue (figuratively) better newt's eyes? (Shakespeare thought so!) (Maybe they roll better literally too.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A peek inside

Your character has answered the following questions. Below each question is a word or words that appeared in their answer. Fill in the full answer.

You have a box of things stashed away that you won’t get rid of. What’s in that box?

You have an award on your shelf. What’s it for? Do you feel you deserve it?

What one person do you most wish you didn't have to put up with, but feel you have to?

Write about your worst birthday (or favorite holiday that went badly.)
ice and fire

Is there anyone you despise?

What is your secret dream?

List 3 things that could motivate you to kill.

Describe the nature and intensity of your religious feelings?

What 3 adjectives best describe your inner nature?

What 3 adjectives best describe your outer nature?

Who were your heroes as a child?

What was the biggest lie you ever told?

What is the ugliest thing you've ever seen?

Who refuses to speak to you and why?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Help, 've lst t mny vwels!"

A constrained writing prompt landed in my mail box today in Anu Garg's's Word A Day. And it's a contest too.

We've done lipograms where you're forbidden to use a letter or letters in each word and anti-lipograms where you must use a letter or letters. (Click Constrained writing over on the right for more.)

A univocalic is a piece of writing that uses only one of the vowels, an example for e is: "Help the peerless letter e perfect sentences."

CONTEST: Imagine you are a headline writer for a newspaper back in the days when metal type was used. You have run out of all but one of the vowels in the large type size that is used for the headline. What univocalic can you come up with?

If you get stumped for substitute words, try the thesaurus at The Free Dictionary.

Email your univocalic news headlines (real or made-up) to (words at Selected entries will be featured in the weekly compilation AWADmail and the best entry will win an autographed copy of Anu Garg's latest book The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-So-Common Words.

Deadline is Friday Oct 17.

"Most notably, [Christian Bök's] 2001 Eunoia , seven years in the making, became Canada's bestselling poetry book ever -- an incredible feat for such explicitly experimental writing. No comforting fluff here; in the main portion, each chapter employs but a single vowel (e.g., "Enfettered, these sentences repress free speech"), a univocalic constraint." -- Ed Park; Crystal Method; Village Voice (New York); Dec 16, 2003.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Horse of a feather

Use as many of the following in a writing piece as you can, keeping their literal meanings rather than the meanings of the idioms. Feel free to change word forms and use the meaning of the phrase rather than the exact words, eg, you might have a character who is working hard not to be kept away by the wild horses.
  • To eat like a horse. To work like a horse
  • Straight from the horse's mouth
  • Hold your horses
  • To flog a dead horse
  • A dead horse matter
  • Get on one's high horse
  • Horse sense
  • A dark horse
  • A horse of another colour
  • Lock the stable door after the horse has bolted
  • A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse
  • Put the cart before the horse
  • A willing horse
  • You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink
  • Change horses midstream
  • Horses for courses
  • If wishes were horses, beggars would ride
  • Wild horses couldn't keep me away
  • Horse feathers!
  • Horse Opera
  • Horse player
  • Horse trading
  • A one horse town
  • Red horse
  • The iron horse
  • As scarce as rocking horse 'manure'
  • A war horse
  • Horse around
If, after you're done, and some of the idioms are unfamiliar, click on the comments to see the meanings.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


What if your pet could suddenly talk to you? After you both get past the amazement, it seems your pet has a whole list of things he's been trying to tell you for years and you've been apparently clueless. What's on the list?

It can be a current pet, a past pet or someone else's pet you know well. Or, of course, be creative! What would be the demands of a human who had been kept as a pet by some alien family?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Free range chickens

Why did the chicken cross the road?

She's been doing it for a long time so she must have some mighty compelling reasons. What are they? Come up with as many as you can in the time you give yourself. You don't need to write punch lines (though you might end up with some!)