Using Writing Prompts — and Susanna Hill’s Valentiny Writing Contest

WriterDo you ever get stuck while working on a writing project? I suspect the answer is yes, if you’re like anyone else who writes. How do you get your writing flowing again?

There are many things you can do.

Try taking a scene from your project and writing it a different way. How would it sound if it were in first person instead of third? What would happen if it were written from the perspective of a different character? Write the scene as if it were happening to you, right this minute. What would you be thinking? feeling? doing?

You can get up and go for a walk or take a shower — it’s amazing how your thought processes can clear while you’re in the shower. Check out this article on Mental Floss about the efficacy of showering for getting the brain relaxed and thinking creatively.

Jeff Goins has other suggestions, including reading, brainstorming, just letting loose and playing (he suggests creative, constructive play such as building something with Legos).

Another way to get your brain going again is to use writing prompts. There are books filled with them, or you can do an internet search and find a plethora of possibilities. Here are some from Writer’s Digest, for example.

OR you can find a writing prompt, a challenge, a community and a chance to win prizes all wrapped up in one. Author Susanna Leonard Hill is having another of her wonderful writing contests. While they’re chiefly intended for picture book writers, to hone their skills at writing concisely for kids, they’re a great exercise for any writer.

This one, the Valentiny contest, challenges entrants to write a story — a complete story with beginning, middle, and end — with Valentine’s day in mind, about someone who is grumpy. And the kicker is, you have 214 words in which to do this (Hence the “tiny” part of Valentiny).

You still have time to work on your entry and post it during the second week of February which is when the contest will run. Give it a try! Even if you’re not planning to enter the contest, do take a look at the entries and vote on your favorite when the time comes. You’ll be amazed at the variety that grows out of a simple writing prompt.

To get all the information about Susanna Leonard Hill’s First Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Contest, check it out here on her NEW website! Then get your pencils sharpened and get writing!

Have fun!

Beth in script for blog

Affect or effect? — a Grammar Owl post

The Grammar Owl is back with another word use quandary that baffles a lot of people. Affect vs Effect – which does one use, when?

The two words are annoyingly similar (although not as similar, the Owl reminds me, as the hoo, hoo, and hoo of his birth language. 😉 )

Let’s look at the separate meanings of the two words, then think about a way to remember which is which.

Affect means that something causes something to change, or to become different in some way.

Eating chocolate always affects Ray’s skin by giving him a rash.

Effect means the change that is wrought.

For Ray, the effect of eating chocolate is that he gets a rash.

Aha! Do you see what I see? Affect is a verb. Effect is a noun.

So one way to check which word should be used is to see what place it has in a sentence. Which part of speech is it?

Eating chocolate always has that _____. Would you put a noun or a verb in that blank? I hope you said noun, because there you’d use effect.

Chocolate _____ Ray’s skin in an uncomfortable way. Noun or verb? You’re right if you said verb and chose affect (well, in this case, to get the tense right, it needs to be affects).

But are there any exceptions? Is it really as simple as that?

Did you see the Grammar Owl shake his feathers in an expression of exasperation with the oddities of the English language? It seems there are always exceptions.

Fortunately, the exceptions don’t occur very often in regular speech or writing.

There is a use of affect in psychology that makes the word into a noun, but you’re not likely to have to use it that way.

There is also a case in which you’d use effect as a verb. This one is more likely to crop up in conversation or writing, particularly in formal situations.

The lunch committee wanted to effect changes to the lunch program that would provide alternatives to chocolate desserts.

In most instances, though, you can use the quick “noun or verb” test to decide which word to use.

I hope all this has had the effect of clarifying this word use for you!

If you would like to affect the question or quandary answered in the next Grammar Owl post, you can ask your question in the comments below, or send an email through the Owl’s contact form.

Thanks for reading!

Beth in script for blog