Lit Candle

Lit Candle

I love this exercise. I was first introduced to this great meditative writing practice during an online course run by Ann Linquist. She asked us to light a candle and write one paragraph describing it, avoiding generic terms such as “dancing flame”. I found it a great descriptive exercise to hone my skills and to think outside of the box. It also had the added benefit of calming and focusing my thoughts, and providing a meditation like experience when staring into the lit candle.

The point is to show your readers what thoughts and feelings the burning candle evokes, not tell them. It is a tool to help you tap into your emotions when writing which helps to create a connection with your reader. This is the power of words aIMG_8680nd description. This is what will make your novel and writing stand out and leaves a long lasting impression on your readers.

Below is my very first attempt at this exercise. It is rough, however I have a strong attachment to it and have never been able to throw it away.

“Lighted memories.”

My candle was a gift from Secret Santa at work one year. It is in a thick glass holder, that could do someone serious damage if wielded as a weapon. It smells of Banksia and Bergamot. I stare into the flame for a while, and I start panicking as no ideas would come to me. So I take a deep breath, close my eyes and will my muscles to relax. Once I felt the tension drain away I open my eyes and stare into the flickering candle once more. Then they come to me. Faces skipping through my thoughts, like the twisting flame before me. The faces of my family; my parents, my nana and my siblings. Their features are cast by the orange glow of the campfires and candlelight of many happy memories flashing through my head, too many to describe in one small paragraph. Such strong memories and emotions to be evoked by the flickering of a fragile little flame. I am now very reluctant to blow the candle out, not wanting to lose the image of those smiling faces so far away from me over the Easter weekend. I think I will keep it burning for a bit longer. 

 I would love to see some descriptions of yours. Or if you have any other great exercises like this to help practice descriptive writing I would love to hear about them. I am always on the lookout for new writing tools, techniques and exercises.

Point of View

Point of View-2

One of the most important decisions you will make when planning your writing piece is what point of view you will write in. Your choices for point of view are many and powerful. It provides the means for how the readers enter your story and can change the depth and emotion of that story depending on how close the reader is to the action.

What is your point of view? Where are you standing when you write your sentence, your paragraph, and your story? Whose eyes are you looking out of? The characteristics of the person telling your story, and how close that teller is to the action can change your story completely. Consider the various points of view you can use carefully when planning your writing project in order to create the biggest impact.

These sites are a great resource for defining and explaining the different points of view available for your use when writing your project.

Literature – Exploring Point of View.

Understanding Point of View in Literature.

Different Types of Point of View – The Beginning Writer.

Consider their various advantages and disadvantages carefully when picking which point of view you would like to tell your story from.

First Person POV: This viewpoint is limited to your chosen narrator’s point of view. Your story is told from their perspective, therefore your written words must sound like them, what their character would think or feel or do. Typically the narrator writes using “I” when applying this point of view. The advantage of this viewpoint is the reader is close to the action, emotionally and physically. It will draw them in close to your narrator’s story and help build a solid rapport with the narrator. The disadvantage of this POV is you are limited to only what the narrator knows, senses and feels. You are stuck to one person’s perspective.

Third Person Limited POV: This viewpoint is similar to first person POV, however the character’s name, or third person pronouns such as he, she, they or them are used instead of I. The narrator is you, the writer. You tell the story from the characters POV. The advantages and disadvantages of this POV are the same for first person POV.

Third Person Multiple POV: This viewpoint allows you to write from several different characters points of view. The advantages of this is the reader will have knowledge of most aspects of the story, as opposed to being limited to only one person’s perspective, they will be able to see all parts of the story unfold. However, the disadvantage is it can create confusion in your readers if not handled carefully. You must ensure the transition from one character to another is distinct.

Omniscient POV: A “god-like” point of view. You write the story as if you are all-knowing and all-seeing. The advantages of this are the narrator knows the past, present, and future and can share with the reader at any time. The disadvantages of this are the reader is removed from the main character and may not be able to relate to the characters as well.

When you choose which point of view you would like to tell your story from, you typically need to stick to that viewpoint. If you chop and change it can be jarring and doesn’t make for nice reading. To keep your readers interested and invested in your story you must be consistent.

If you are finding it hard to choose there is a point of view exercise that can help you ascertain what viewpoint will be the best to tell your story from.

POINT OF VIEW EXERCISE

Free Writing Example

Free Writing Example

I set my timer to 5 minutes for this example and just let my thoughts and words loose!

 

5 minutes is on the clock to free write what ever thoughts flow through my head. No editing, correcting, formating or deleting as you go! Make sure you keep yout hands moving, moving, moving. Always moving. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write that over and over again until uanother thougt pops into your head. The point is to get your brain firing, to get the words flowing so ehwn you sit down to write or plan your current project your brain is firing all synapses. The words will flow and the creative process will be that much easier. I can smell spring in the air, fresh cut grass and flowers. THeres a warm breeze and the sun is shining. Its hard to believe just yesterday the city was bombarded with artic breezes and heavy rains. I remember when my hubby and I went away for a 6 week camping trip last year we went up to the blue mountaings I was so excited to hike them and see all the different rock formations. Its stormed the whole time we were there! The wind was so strong our tent kept bowing inwards. I had to get up and go to the toiket at about 3am, bedraggled people were cralwing out of collapsed tents and sheltering in their cars. IT was insane! We hope to go back at some point and visit when it isn’t such bad weather. IT did make for a very interesting camping trupthough! The mountains, from what we could see peaking under the heavy cloud vover were beautiful. Camping is not

The timer went off before I could finish that last sentence. I didn’t come up with any best-selling ideas, however it has definitely loosened my creative muscles so I am ready to tackle my next blog! I highly recommend using this warm-up exercise before sitting down to write your project. It is also useful if you are ever suffering from the dreaded writers block. Sit back, take a breath, and do some free writing! It really does help to get the words flowing again and to clear your mind so you can return to your project fresh and inspired.

Free Writing

Free Writing

Free writing is an essential tool to any writer. It is an important practice that helps to improve your ability to write, encourages you to listen to your thoughts and to write with more confidence. It is also a fantastic way to warm up before knuckling down to tackle your current project!

Joel Friedlander explains the concept of free writing in his article “Unleash Your Creativity Now: How to Freewrite” quite well. Free writing is a simple and effective tool to help warm up and stretch your creative muscle! It releases all those pent up ideas and stray thoughts in your head so you can approach your writing project with a clear mind and an easy flow of words.

How to “free-write”:

Like any pre-writing warm up it is important to set a time limit. 10 minutes is a good length of time; however if that seems too daunting to begin with then try 5 minutes.

Set your timer and start writing. Write non-stop until you run out of time. Do not stop to edit, plan or correct. Just keep your hand moving the whole time. Write whatever thoughts pass through your head. If you cannot think of anything to write, then just write that over and over again until something else pops into your head. Write poorly, it doesn’t matter. You don’t need to worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar, margins, paragraphs, word choice or messiness. Just keep your hand moving. There is no right or wrong, no good or bad. It is just a way to get the words flowing, to help you move pass any barriers in your mind and get your thoughts out.

FREE WRITING EXAMPLE

 

Directed Free-writing:

Another way of free writing is a more directed approach of picking a topic. You can utilize a word or topic from your word jar, or pick a topic such as a recent trip, a pet, a holiday, work, a photograph etc. Once you have picked your topic, set your timer and off you go! Once again, don’t let your hand stop; keep the words and thoughts flowing and let your inhibitions go.

DIRECTED FREE WRITING EXAMPLE

The Art of Journaling

 

The Art of Journaling

I had never been one to keep a journal, and the few times I attempted, the entries were spasmodic and few between. The closest I came to consistent journaling was a book my best friends and I kept back in high school of letters we wrote to each other. It was very cathartic and maybe one day some of those letters will form a bestseller! But I never thought of myself as the type of person who kept a journal.

Then I read some articles about how journaling can be a very useful tool for writers. The premise of the articles was that journaling is a great way to improve your writing, as well as a great warm-up activity that stimulates ideas and gets the creative juices flowing.

One article I found that inspired me to keep a journal “What is a Journal and Why Keep One?” on the Creative Writing Now website. The article also has some useful links to other pages about journaling, in particular how to keep a creative journal, and some great journal prompts.

Seeing as I have knuckled down and become serious about my writing I thought I should give it a try. What could it hurt? Since then I have been writing in a journal almost everyday. Despite my initial hesitation it has really helped to get all the chaos out of my head and onto paper. It may not make sense to anyone else, but no one else has to read it! It makes sense to me, and it has definitely helped to inspire and stimulate thoughts and ideas for current and future projects.

In my recent experience of journaling I have found that it is not only therapeutic but a great place to record all those snippets of scenes, or vague ideas for writing projects that seem to float through your mind at random times. I’m sure you know how frustrating it is when you are staring at a blank page, that great idea eluding you because you cannot fully remember it. If only you kept a journal, you could have jotted the idea down and come back to it when you had the time to bash out the details!

It is also great in the case of writers block. I read back over my entries and find inspiration. I have a colour code system where I highlight certain things in my journal so when I am flipping through for ideas to do with my writing projects I just look for that colour, as opposed to having to read every single entry. This may be a little nerdy and too much like a control-freak for you, but it works for me! And that’s the point of any writing exercise, to adapt and change it to suit your needs and style.

Your journal can be anything from a simple notepad to an app on your computer. It can be as dull or as fancy as you like. It doesn’t matter what or how you choose to journal, the point of it is to write everyday, or as often as you can. Try work it into part of your routine, whether it’s just before you sit down to work on your current project or just before you go to bed. Find what works best for you. I have a set time before bed each night where I will write in my journal. I use this time to reflect on the events of the day and how my writing is progressing. However my journal is never far from my side these days as I have learnt to jot down those fleeting thoughts and ideas as they enter my head. I know some people who scribble their ideas on scraps of paper or napkins (whatever is handy at the time) and later stick these into their journal. Once again, it is about finding the habit and technique that suits you.

IMG_8566

Coffee and Journal, the simple things in life!

 

Journal Ideas.

If the idea of keeping a “dear diary” journal doesn’t appeal to you, there are many other ways to journal that still achieve the same goal of establishing the healthy habit of writing every day. We all know that the more you write, the better your writing becomes. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. People watch. You can use people who are already in your life, or take your journal to a café, a bookshop, a hotel lobby, anywhere you go where there are people. Make notes about the people you see from their physical appearance, the sound of their voices and laughter, to their body language and the way they relate to people and the environment around them. Use your imagination to come up with their back-story. These character descriptions could very well kick-start your next story, provide a new character or even revamp a character in your current book.
  2. Listen to all the conversations happening around you. To family and friends, strangers on the train or in the café. Listen to the unique rhythms and cadence that make up their speech, the words they use, the pauses and the tones. This helps you learn how to capture different voices that will provide added depth to your writing. And you may even overhear an interesting conversation that will inspire your next story!
  3. Take a walk or an excursion. Take a walk outside and describe what you see. Not just the sites, but also the sounds, smell and feel of the walk. You can also take an excursion to a place you need to describe in your book, like a movie theatre or hospital. Write down the details, no matter how big or small that make up the place. And once again don’t just focus on what you can see but use all of your senses to help add depth and authenticity to your writing.
  4. Use real-life stories. Have you ever heard or read a story in the news and wondered what exactly lead to that event? Use that as inspiration in your journal. What is the story of the people involved, what led to the event; what where they thinking and feeling; what will happen next?
  5. Free-write. Set your timer, 5 minutes should be sufficient, and keep writing for that length of time. Don’t stop. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write that you can’t think of anything to write. You can keep writing the same thing over and over again until something else comes to mind. Do not stop to edit, judge or correct. The point is to warm your “creative muscle” up and get the words flowing, to limber your mind!
  6. Try different points of view. This could be describing the same scene from many different points of view (first person, third person, omniscient etc). Or you could describe the world around you from the point of view of a child, or animal, or object. For example, how would a cat describe your living room? How would a cat describe you in the living room? What parts of the room would attract the cat, or would they overlook?
  7. Collect words and expressions. If you hear a word or an expression that you liked jot it down in your journal. Research the meaning or story behind it; it can be quite an adventure. For example, the old saying “cat got your tongue”. This is used quite commonly and dates back to the middle ages when witches were feared. The story goes that if you spotted a witch her cat would steal your tongue to stop you from telling anyone.
  8. Collect creative writing ideas. This is just simply jotting down ideas that pop into your head for your creative projects. From names of characters, places, events, topics and themes.
  9. Dreams. Wake up in the morning and record what you remember of your dreams. It is surprising what your subconscious dredges up!

There’s so many more prompts out there you can use. There is another list of journal prompts I have compiled simply by googling and asking other writers I know who write in their journal everyday. Feel free to use it!

Journaling everyday helps to foster a healthy writing habit, and can inspire and limber up your mind. It can be as personal as you want, or simply utilizing one or more of the journal topics above. The point is to write whatever you want, as often as you can to keep your creative mind active.