Friday, September 30, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – Been there, done that +11 Other Writing Prompts

Provocative Phrases for Friday, September 30, 2011:

Photo courtesy of Sam Javanrouh via Flickr

  • That was the perfect…
  • If you wanted…
  • I can do this thing…
  • The day you lied…
  • When you leave the office…
  • He asked.
  • Been there, done that…
  • He has it tattooed…
  • It’s ugly, but it works.
  • What’s wrong?
  • If he is proven guilty…
  • I told you, don’t…

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – The Decision Point Edition

Courtesy of Christine via Flickr
Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken  is a classic poem that makes you think about the most universal behavior for all human beings: the ability to make a choice.  Ever since the days of Adam and Eve, we make hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions every day. Most of them quite inconsequential: Should I have a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch or PB&J? Should I take the back roads to work, or the highway? A few of them can be life changing or life shattering: Should I have a baby or not? Should I drive away from the party after a few drinks? Should I cheat on my spouse? Unfortunately, many times we put as little thought into the life changing choices as we do the inconsequential ones.

So here are the topics surrounding decisions:
  • List the 10 most important decisions you have made in your life?
  • What was the best decision that you ever made? Why was it the best? Did you know this at the time you made it?
  • What was the worst decision that you ever made? Why was it the worst? Were there any clues that it was bad that you should have noticed?
  • How do you make important decisions? What is your process?
  • Do you “trust your gut instincts” when making a decision? Why or why not?
  • If you could go back and take a “road not taken” what would it be? How do you think your life would have changed as a result of it?
  • What major life decision have you been putting off? Why? What needs to happen for you to take action?
  • During the next 24 hours or so, keep track of all of the decisions that you make during that period and list as many of them as you can.
  • Has a decision that someone else made had a significant impact on you?  How did it impact that other person?
  • Choose Your Own Adventure (series of books) and now an interactive website.
  • Have you ever had a period of time where you “threw caution to the wind” and “let the cards fall where they may?”  What happened?
  • What would the world be like if all decisions were made for you?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – Take It to the Curb +11 Other Writing Prompts

Provocative Phrases for Friday, September 23, 2011:
Cat Fight!
Courtesy of LLewleyn Williams a.k.a. SCUD
  • I like it here.
  • Before you have killed…
  • I have faith.
  • Want to lie down in a quiet, dark room?
  • Fun things to do after you die…
  • Take it to the curb.
  • It’s true.
  • Since the day I started…
  • If you can say…
  • You win some…
  • What I’m doing…
  • He’s nice, but he won’t leave.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – Torn from the Magazine Edition

Well, not torn from the headlines, but pulled from the most recent issues of Time, The Atlantic and Wired magazines:
  • Latchkey Parents (Time)
  • U.S. Postal Service on the verge of bankruptcy (Time)
  • The Shame of College Sports (The Atlantic)
  • America’s Smartest Cities (The Atlantic)
  • Obsession with musical nostalgia is strangling pop music (The Atlantic)
  • Antibiotic resistant infections (The Atlantic)
  • Reverse Evolution (turning a chicken into a dinosaur) (Wired)
  • Inside Google+ (Wired)
  • Advanced prosthetics for animals (Wired)
  • Social Media improves memory (Wired)
  • Back from Beyond (Wired)
  • Scare Tactics (Wired)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – How many cars have you wrecked? +11 Other Writing Prompts

Courtesy of Omar Rodríguez Landeros via Flickr
Provocative Phrases for Friday, September 16, 2011:
  • Say, aren’t you…
  • When I was fifteen…
  • It is already tomorrow…
  • How many cars have you wrecked?
  • It’s dog eat dog.
  • I know of no one who is…
  • He has built…
  • I don’t know how many…
  • If you wait…
  • You watch the clock…
  • He wouldn’t talk to me.
  • Each time I try…

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – The Maintenance Edition

ToolboxI wrote an essay 20 years ago for my college non-fiction writing workshop about the subject of maintenance.  I don’t remember the specifics about it now, but what I do remember was the theme that focused on the importance of maintenance within every aspect of your life. If you don’t change the oil on your car regularly, the engine will blow.  If you fail to clean out the gutters on your house, the roof will start leaking. If you don’t maintain your friendships, your friends will drift away.

In this crazy, hyper-accelerated, over-scheduled lifestyle many of us lead, it is no surprise that issues of maintenance or simply maintaining something often is forgotten or delayed indefinitely, many times until it is too late.

Here are your topics surrounding the theme of maintenance:
  • What do you think about the word maintenance?
  • Are you a good maintenance man or woman? Why or why not?
  • Maintaining one aspect of your life well often comes at the expense of poor maintenance in another. What are your areas?
  • How are you at maintaining your relationships with family, friends and co-workers? What do you do to keep them connected and strong?
  • What does a life well-maintained look like?
  • When you see something with a feature of “maintenance proof,” what do you see or expect?
  • Is it possible to go through life without maintaining anything?
  • What was the last maintenance task you performed? Why was it important?
  • What was the worst thing that ever happened to you as the result of poor maintenance?
  • Every good maintenance man/woman has a toolkit.  What is in your life maintenance toolkit?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Musings – Soundtracks for Books?

An interesting article in the Atlantic  has gotten me thinking about the future of writing and books in general lately.

ipod and books. the music and the words :)The e-book is here to stay. With the release of the Kindle and the iPad, e-books have now reached critical mass and are a mighty force in the publishing world.

Technology has steadily changed the way we write over the last 10 years. Social networking, the ability to easily create a platform for your book and attract fans for your project, makes it easier than ever to publish and distribute your work.  But technology has also created some interesting new ways to market your work.  For example, the advent of the book trailer. On the surface, this seems to be, well, a dumb idea.  A video trailer for a book? It makes no sense. But many authors have done it and their sales figures support increased interest and sales as a result.

e-books are game changers. For non-fiction writers, you can now embed links to other resources mentioned within your book, incorporate videos of how-to perform a difficult task, list other resources that might be helpful to the reader, and don’t forget about inserting ads for the author’s other products or possibly the products of other writers or services.

The soundtrack is a natural extension of the reading experience.  Our generation grew up with every movie having a soundtrack, which often included songs written specifically for the movie (by the hottest flavor-of-the-month artist) along with the musical score for it.  Musical cliché’s have emerged as a result of this (check out TV for examples). Writers sometimes forget that books ARE a visual medium. Writers use words to paint a picture in the reader's head, so why not include a soundtrack to help evoke a certain mood or feeling?  I find writing with a musical score playing in the background helpful, and many other writers also swear by this technique.

Jodi Picoult included a CD with her latest book Sing You Home  this spring. She thought that a soundtrack was a good idea because it helped the reader get into the mindset of the character, Zoe, who happens to be a songwriter.

This is nothing new.  Some audio books have featured musical scores and sound effects in their works for years now. Works dramatized for radio have been around for decades.

So what does this mean for writers? Do we need to go back to college and get a Masters in Music Composition to reach the best seller list?  No.  You can add a soundtrack to a book, put together an incredible book trailer, add interesting and informative links to your e-book, but none of these will matter if the writing sucks. Period.  Fancy bread, gourmet mustard and rare spices cannot make a crap sandwich taste like anything but a crap sandwich.

Everyone has seen an incredible movie trailer that manages to amaze and fill you with slack-jawed awe. You shell out $10 for a movie ticket, another $12.50 for popcorn, candy and soft drink, only to discover that the trailer contained all of the best scenes in the 2 hour suck-fest. You tell everyone you know not to waste their time or money on it. The word spreads and the movie plummets down the top box-office movie listings to fade away to an obscure DVD release 4 months later.

In a world where another book is published every 10 seconds, you must write a good book.  Good books get noticed. Authors who care about quality by providing good content, clean, spell-checked, grammatically correct prose will find an audience in this new marketplace.  Those that embrace technology and collaborate with others to make the message stronger will be noticed even more.

Writing a book has always been a collaborative process. Writers, editors, publishers, marketers, agents, and even fans contribute to the process.  But now writing a book may involve a larger cast: a web-master, a video producer, a composer, a social media consultant, and who knows how many more people to bring tomorrow’s books to the audience.

Bottom line: Write good books, and stay informed on how the latest trends and technology impact the publishing business. But good writing always comes first.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – What she was made of +11 Other Writing Prompts

Provocative Phrases for Friday, September 9, 2011:
    finally summer
  • What she was made of…
  • I am a wild and crazy guy.
  • We hired spies.
  • I think I get on…
  • I don’t need it.
  • Do you still have family there?
  • He’s dead.
  • Have a drink.
  • I think I look like…
  • And if they weren’t…
  • Tell her to back off…
  • I’d like to, but…

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – The Futurist Edition

According to Wikipedia futurists are:

scientists and social scientists whose specialty is to attempt to systematically predict the future, whether that of human society in particular or of life on earth in general.
The future

I’ve been reading a lot of near-future science fiction lately and just finished watching Terminator: Salvation (yes, I’m very far behind on my movie watching…) Books like Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and fiction by Cory Doctorow paint an often bleak picture of the world where big business and government has controlled the path of humanity and not always for the better.

I remember watching the Jetsons as a child, and then Star Trek when I was older, and had a very positive outlook on the future. Just waiting for the day when flying cars, servant robots and problems such as warfare and hunger are eradicated.  We are a long way from these outcomes, but I’m hopeful that we’ll somehow find a way to deal with the problems that we create for ourselves, and learn from the past to make the future better. It is slow going, and hard to see at times, but we are slowly stumbling toward a better world.
  • What is your view of the future?
  • What will the world look like in 10 years? 25 years? 100 years?
  • Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future? Why?
  • What are the biggest problems that we need to solve as the human race?
  • What did you think the future would be like when you grew up as a child? How has that changed?
  • What is the role of technology in the future? Will it be something embedded in the culture? Or granted to a chosen few?
  • What are the greatest dangers we face as the human race?
  • What is the key to making ourselves better?
  • What will a child born in 2111 be like? What kind of childhood will they have? What kind of world will they be born into?
  • Write a letter to yourself of 15 years into the future. What do you want you to remember? What hopes do you have for… you?

Friday, September 02, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – Don't give up +11 Other Writing Prompts

IceCreamForTwoProvocative Phrases for Friday, September 2, 2011:
  • Who lives…
  • I park…
  • A little more time…
  • Nothing works…
  • You're going to get kicked…
  • Then all hell broke loose.
  • Sure, they're tough.
  • It's one in the morning…
  • Don't give up.
  • Of course he didn't…
  • I'm serious.
  • That was all I had.