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Carol’s Homework Assignment Post WIFYR 3

7456038The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes.

Prologue and first chapter were read: 19 pages. (We never discussed this, Carol, but I assume a prologue is not a legit chapter but a prelude and needs to be included.)

“Paul is dead!” What an opening line! (I’m showing my age, but I immediately saw the Abbey Road album cover. For those of you too young to understand, Google “Beatles Paul is dead.) Once I brought myself back to the present, it was still a killer first sentence (pun intended).

For me, it went somewhat downhill from there. It’s smoothly written, but the author pushed too much backstory, too much flashback, too much telling not showing. (Brenda is going to disagree with me on this.)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some strong storytelling here. What surprises me is how the author breaks every rule Carol presented in class. Okay, with the exception of the “Paul is dead!” opening line.

The point of scene is excellent. The story takes place on a small Caribbean island and the descriptions are as lush as the landscape.

Characters are aplenty. There was the main character, Esti, of course. Then we have: the police officer who questioned her; an old family friend (in flashback); Paul, the victim (in flashback); Lucia, a local who had seen Esti talking with Paul. That would be five in the first nine pages, the prologue.

The actual first chapter introduces us to Esti’s mother, Aurora. Then come the two uppity kids from the school who seem to be members of the elite crowd: Danielle and Greg. Their main purpose seems to be to instruct Esti (and, in the process, us, the readers) about local legends, history, idioms and island patois. Oh, and establish that Danielle is in direct competition with Esti for the role of Juliet in the school play. Apparently, she’s sizing up the opposition.

The chapter had too much going on. The locations were varied and moved rapidly: the school grounds, the theater, another area in the school grounds, a flashback to the cemetery in the States, and, finally, her house. Her house took up the first chapter. The others took place in the prologue, the first 9 pages.

Prologue moved fast, first chapter not so much. Too slow, too much backstory. The two schoolmates showing up didn’t fit with the flow, I didn’t think. It seemed out of place.

Bottom line, it’s a ghost story and a murder mystery. How can you go wrong? Besides, Brenda says I’ll love it.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I got much in the way of finding improvements for The Other Siders.



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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/28/15

Last year, with Christmas looming, Carol commented in “Throwing Up Words” that we should write a scene “from your character’s POV about their favorite holiday.” For years, my favorite was Christmas. Then I grew up. My mother passed away the day before Valentine’s Day, so that became a “favorite,” and a time to remember. I got a divorce — a second time — and Halloween became my favorite, where I had every opportunity to be “witchy” and no one judged me. What’s your favorite? Write a scene about your character’s favorite.

YES, I DID IT! I wrote about preparing for “All Saints Eve.” Managed to work in a little magic, a lot of superstition, and it was perfect for something in the neighborhood of the 16th Century. The atmosphere of the heath at that time of year, the various preparations of food, drink, the celebratory drinking and entertainment, the crowd atmosphere, superstitious antics, charms and curses are all becoming a colorful part of the story.

(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . . )


April 28 Minimum GOAL: 3 hours — only made 2 of them, but finished cutting “garbage” out of my WIP. Good thing I got 6 hours in the last 2 days when I only expected to do 1 hour each.

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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/26/15

When I was 10 years old, we moved away from Hawaii and returned to Utah. As we drove over the Pali on Oahu (you couldn’t drive THROUGH the Pali in those days ‑‑‑ the tunnel came much later), my mother said, “Brenda, look back, down the mountain. You may never see this again. You should remember it.”

“But why?” I said. “It’s just all green.”

Then Utah. Deserts. REALLY big mountains. Autumn leaves. Snow. That was some change! I guess I’ve never been big on “looking” at the real world. Would I rather read about it in a well‑written book?

So the Prompt for today is to take something of nature, be it what you can see right now out your window, or a scene remembered ‑‑‑ maybe as far back as childhood. How can you write that (for those of us who are less observant individuals) and bring it alive for a reader. What difference can it make to your manuscript, your story, your MC, the “bad guy”?

YES! I DID IT! I remembered a time, early morning, when the sky outside my bedroom window made the cream‑colored shutters glow in gold. I jumped out of bed, pulled on some clothes and went running outside to see what was going on.

A small excerpt of what I’ve written about that morning:

For days, the fog had made this December more dreary than ever — yet here it was, almost Christmas. Something new must be happening for this much gold to invade. Knowing “nothing gold can stay,” I rushed by the alcove, giving my favorite statue a tiny, finger‑tip kiss as I passed, pulled on my jacket, stuck my feet in the running shoes which lay by the door, raced down the hall and out the front.

The air itself was golden!

Fog and dew had frozen on the trees, which lifted their whitened limbs into the radiant air. From my front step, I could see only as far as the second house west on the circle. But, for a moment, the fog — not the dreary, depressing gray which had haunted us for so long — cocooned itself and everything else in a lustrous, golden mantle. . . .

I ran down as far as the corner, seeing one house, then another, slowly take form ahead of me in the shimmering air. Bushes, trees held out white‑tipped limbs and fronds, yet presented their stolid, black trunks and interiors as a sign of stability in this fantasia world. . . .

Now, tell us what you’ve seen and been able to slip into your writing.

(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . .


April 25 Minimum: 1 hr   2-3 hours’ worth of planning the new writing schedule – WooHoo!

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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/25/15

Well over a year ago, Cheryl wrote ” . . . take the risk. Try that story you’re afraid to waste time on. It might be stupid. It might be unoriginal. Or it might be the greatest story EVER.”

So today’s prompt is to take a risk. Go back to an idea that you gave up because it seemed stupid. Or crazy. Or too hard. Or too short. Or involved too much research. Or . . . whatever made you give it up. Give it your promise: “I will write something on this story for . . . ” Now you decide. All the words you can lay down for ten minutes? 15 minutes a day? A month? How much of your time are you willing to give that unborn idea?

YES! I WILL DO IT! I’ve decided to give my time to an idea born out of an old poem which resonated with me. I’m going to give the story (during the 11 days I have before flying to Alabama for 2 weeks) 2 hours on “clear” days, at least 1 hour on days with appointments (several for doctors, a few for prior commitments).

* * * = 16 hours


I am going to give it 3 HOURS EVERY DAY while I’m in Alabama (AND the two days I’m flying to and from). Some days ‑‑‑ many, I hope ‑‑‑ it will have one whole chunk in the morning. (My mornings often start at 5 or 6 am, sometimes even at 3:10 am, very occasionally even earlier. Those mornings will belong to my Poem Story.)

* * *    = 42 hours


When we get home two weeks later, I will take one day to recuperate: sleep, read, whatever I need; then I will give the Poem Story three, hopefully morning, hour chunks of time, barring appointments. (I know there will be at least one dental one ‑‑‑ but I’ll work around such interruptions to get the 3 hours in.) I will continue that three-hour routine until WIFYR in June.

* * * = 75 hours



* * * = 133 hours . . . WOW!


When WIFYR is over I will Market an essay I have all‑but-ready to go. And I’ll re‑evaluate (and hopefully revise) what’s been done from now through WIFYR


That’s my plan. Sorry, this blog can’t say “YES! I DID IT!” until June 19, but I will post updates on how that’s all working out. Just reporting in to YOU is going to keep my nose to the grindstone ‑‑‑ THANKS in advance!


(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . . )



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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/22/15

D’ja ever put someone’s blog in a folder somewhere on your computer to savor again? I do that all the time. I keep something from an author I admire, or something well said by a person I may not even know. I’m going back and re‑reading some of these now. Several years ago, Annette Lyon wrote a post headed “What’s the Point?” (Writing on the Wall from Precision Editing Group, Jan. 27, 2010) where she talked about sections in our writing that give meaningless details or discussions which, if deleted, weren’t even missed. That’s definitely still relevant today, and she offered six potential goals for a scene:

  1. Advance the plot
  2. Create or show conflict
  3. Set the setting
  4. Reveal character
  5. Show back story
  6. Lay groundwork for later plot

Today’s Prompt, should you choose to accept it, is to take 5 or 10 pages of your WIP (or new pages of something you’ve just begun). Identify which of the above goals are met in your story. Strengthen that asset in your story if you can. If none of the goals are met, cut the scene (or offending parts) and write a new one. (Warning: don’t overload by cramming too many of these goals, either, into one scene.)

YES! I DID IT! While the scene I chose to analyze did reveal some about the MC and gave a fair idea of setting, there was no back story or immediate conflict so the scene seemed flat. I need more PLOT, more Something Happening. I did one rewrite in first person, which kicked up the character a bit, but the same things were still missing. Back to the drawing board!

This isn’t a bad check, scene by scene, throughout the book. Try it on YOUR WIP and tell us what helped (or didn’t).

(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . . )

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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/20/15

When my husband first came back to Utah, he’d done some writing over the years, but said he couldn’t consider himself an “Author” ‑‑‑ maybe he was “just” a writer. So what constitutes an “author” in YOUR BOOK? Which is to say, do you call yourself an Author yet, when you first meet someone and s/he says, “And what do you do?”?

Herb and I had known each other for about 45 years when he returned. I took him to a lot of the things I like to go to. The first big one was LTUE. He was like a little kid, buying books and getting them signed by the “actual Author!” He went to League of Utah Writers with me, TKE to listen to presentations, a few theater things. (Maybe it wasn’t me at all, when he asked me to marry him C maybe he just didn’t want to lose the contact with theater folk and struggling “artistes” C the huge Utah community of people, including myself, who are trying to write). To publish. To call ourselves “Authors.” Here’s your prompt: Make a list of all the things you have written. How much of each project is finished? How many are nearly so? How many words have you put on pages or keyed into a computer since you started?

YES! I DID IT! It took a while, but I did it. And it feels great seeing that list. And I’m going to KEEP tracking it. How about you?

To date, I have 11 books in various stages of “Not Done” C a couple of them are very close. I also have a sheaf of nearly 50 articles, essays, various programs, and poems. My original plays and adaptations have been performed predominantly in Utah and Idaho C one of them about 250 times during one season by the BYU Repertory Company in several of the western states.

Next step as a budding author (Yes: this is another part of the PROMPT): Practice saying it aloud, in your room, your bathroom (the echo chamber will be good for you) wherever. Let us know when you finally acknowledge this amazing fact to a new acquaintance, or some of your friends. Put that practice at home to good use when you’re out and about.

Maybe it’s time. “Hi, my name is __________ (Brenda, or whatever). I’m an author. And what do YOU do?”



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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/19/15

As all‑but‑promised, I’m going to share what Rick Walton taught in his beginning picture book workshop some years ago ‑‑‑ still GREAT advice for today as well!

First take a look at the oldy, but goody, Goodnight Moon (and maybe all the current knock‑offs ‑‑‑ do they live up to the original?). The rhythms are almost hypnotic, like waves lapping against the shore. Soft words used within rhymes. Plenty of non‑threatening objects. Repetition is put to work saying goodnight to all the objects.

Be sure your first pages set the style: is this going to be verse? fantasy? Irregular rhythms or rhymes‑‑‑or entirely regular. Either way, will set up the expectation of more of the same In a sleepy time book like this, any humor will be somewhat muted, but repetition will be very important. Use what Rick referred to as “Morse Code Writing” with a VERY short story with VERY short words.

Other things that work well for children’s picture books:

  • A surprise or punch line at the end
  • Use the Rule of Three: 3 characters, 3 episodes, 3 trials, et.
  • Leave create space for illustrations (and CUT most of your description)
  • Use poetic and figurative language to good advantage
  • Most picture books have some kind of theme and are character based
  • Include foreshadowing as possible, and prediction
  • Write 13 to 27 “illustratable” scenes

When you’re NOT attempting to put the child to sleep, funny words will become important: Rick suggested wishy‑washy, and I had a favorite of my own: when my young grandchildren lived with us for a short time, I described a pair of slacks I had as “periwinkle” ‑‑‑ a slightly purplish light blue. All the grandkids that that was the world’s funniest word for weeks! Your Prompt: if you want to write a children’s book, use nephews, nieces, your own children or grandchildren. Try LOTS of words on them ‑‑‑ which ones do they find hilarious? Use several of them in a VERY short, possible, children’s ‑‑‑ in which you employ as many as possible of the “good” traits above.

YES! I DID IT! I wrote a children’s picture book about food. But all the food was in nature, like mounds of creamy cloud pudding, mountains of Jiggley Jello, etc. Give it a try! It was silly and fun!

(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . . )

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