Are You Up for a Challenge? A Writing Challenge, That Is…

As we look ahead to 2017 and to a new year of writing, I want to recommend two excellent challenges to get your creative juices flowing and your pen flying over the paper (or your fingers flying over the computer keys).

If you write picture books, author Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 challenge is designed for you. Not only does it encourage participants to write a new picture book manuscript draft every month (thus the name — 12 drafts in 12 months) but there is a lively online community (both at a members-only Forum and a members-only Facebook Group), there are monthly blog posts and exclusive-to-members webinars with writers, editors and agents.

There are two levels of membership — the Shel SILVERstein level for newcomers and for those who won’t be seeking an agent during the year, and the Little GOLDen Book level (open only to members from the previous year) which provides an opportunity to submit to one agent per month and bypass the slush pile. Here is the link to find out about the two levels, as well as to see testimonial videos from current and former participants, and learn more about 12×12.

There is a cost involved, but the cost is more than compensated for by all that the challenge offers to participants.

Registration for 12×12 begins on January 10th and is only open in January and February each year. After the end of February, you have to wait until the following year. Check it out and see if it’s for you!

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The other challenge I want to be sure you know about is the upcoming StoryStorm!

Several years ago, author Tara Lazar started a challenge called PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) in which participants came up with a story idea each day for the month of the challenge. Until this year, the challenge took place in November, and focused on picture book ideas (hence the name, PIcture BOok IDea MOnth).

This year, Tara has broadened the challenge, and moved it to January, and will be for writers of all genres, not just picture books. So middle grade and YA novelists, get ready to join the newly named StoryStorm and enjoy not only the challenge of coming up with a plethora of new ideas, but also all the other things the challenge offers!

This challenge is FREE, and features daily blog posts from authors, illustrators, editors and agents. It is a fabulous way to learn, stretch your imagination, become part of an active, vital writing community, and get ready to start the new year WRITE!

Follow Tara’s blog for more details as they are released, about how to register, etc., and be sure to follow all the posts in January — even if you don’t “win” the challenge by coming up with an idea every day you will benefit greatly just from reading the posts.

Note that StoryStorm is entirely on the honor system. You are trusted to report your idea total truthfully at the end of the month. You don’t share the ideas publicly, they’re just for you and your imagination. Take a look at Tara’s website — even if you don’t participate in the challenge, there is a ton of information there for writers.

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The Flubs2Fixes blog, and my editing service, will be taking a break over the holiday season.

I’ll be back to editing as of Monday, January 2, 2017 and will be back to blogging on Friday, January 6.

I hope you have a joyous holiday season. Happy ManyDays to you! See you in the new year.

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

Where Do Writers’ Ideas Come From?

Doodles, CreativityThe question perhaps doesn’t have the caché of “where do babies come from” but sometimes the idea process seems as mystifying to a writer (and to others) as the baby process does to a small child.

My mother liked to quote from George MacDonald’s poem Baby: “Where did you come from, baby dear? Out of the everywhere into the here.”

It’s somewhat the same with writers’ ideas. Ideas can come from anywhere and everywhere. We need to be alert to them, and encourage them to appear.

Ideas can come when we ask “what if?” For example, “what if a boy acted up until he was sent to bed without supper?” In the right hands (and imagination) that boy might end up sailing away to Where the Wild Things Are.

For children’s writers, ideas can come when we are with kids, or when we remember something from our own childhood. They might sneak up on us as we’re reading a traditional fairy tale, and we ask “what if the little pigs were really Three Ninja Pigs?”

An amazing thing about ideas is that several writers can take the same idea and do entirely different things with it. That was illustrated vividly for me when I was in a writing workshop led by author Kate McMullan.

Kate gave our group a writing prompt and a set time to come up with a couple of paragraphs that could be the opening of a middle grade novel. Each of the eleven aspiring writers in that group came up with a totally different slant on the original prompt.

That isn’t to say we shouldn’t protect our ideas. We should. While ideas can’t be copyrighted, it’s a good practice for writers to keep their ideas close to themselves while they develop them. For example, it’s best not to post them on a blog, for everyone to see.

Still, there are times when we have to trust others to read our work and to respect our ownership of the idea and our way of fleshing it out. We need other people to read our manuscripts – critique groups, editors, eventually agents and publishers.

The feedback of those people is important in our development as writers, and we have to trust them. I want to stress that as an editor, I respect my clients’ ideas and writing. Your ideas are safe with me. I won’t share them, and I won’t use them. I have plenty of ideas of my own to work with!

Now — would you like to spend some time honing your story radar (Peter H. Reynolds’ term) and coming up with more ideas? There’s a great opportunity just around the corner for writers and illustrators of picture books: author Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo.

Every November, Tara hosts Picture Book Idea Month, a challenge to come up with 30 picture book ideas in the 30 days of November.

Each day there is a guest blog post written by a picture book author, illustrator, editor or agent. There is a wealth of knowledge contained in these posts.

There are prizes for those who are registered, and who complete the challenge with at least 30 ideas (Note: you never post your ideas anywhere – it’s done on the honor system, and each person’s idea privacy is respected.)

Take a look at the posts from this week’s Pre-PiBoIdMo, which has been going on all this week, and see if it might be right for you. Then tune up your story radar, and get ready for an idea-filled month!

Beth in script for blog