Saturday, December 28, 2013

Finding the Main Event

Recently on the ScriptNotes podcast entitled My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend’s Screenwriter, Mike Birbiglia, a writer, director, performer, and creator of "Sleepwalk With Me" shared a very good insight about creating a story. Often, in writing, the suggestion is to start with your ending so that you know where you are going.

Mike said: finding a main event that the whole film or play builds towards. And if that main event is interesting enough, all you have to do is build backwards to it so that secretly, as a writer, your little trick is that you know that no one has any idea that where you’re going is pretty fascinating.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

5 Ways to Increase Writing Productivity

Donna Gambale, Philadelphia-based YA writer, shares 5 opportunities to brainstorm on projects  to keep it fresh and allow you to progress more rapidly when you sit down to write.

  1. Driving
  2. Doing Chores
  3. Falling Asleep
  4. Cooking
  5. Waiting
The full list of opportunities is described in the Writer's Digest article 5 OPPORTUNITIES TO INCREASE YOUR WRITING PRODUCTIVITY (WITHOUT ACTUALLY WRITING)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Monday, November 4, 2013

Finding Story Goals

In setting out the plot, we need to think about the main character.
What does the character want? What is the character's goal, the long term goal?
The character is striving toward something. It should be a measurable goal, achievable goal, though difficult.
The character's goal is something that the character is passionate about.

So I started banging my head trying to find the story goal that I would use. It is hard to get it out. Then I started looking at these lists to pick one.
Story Goals vs Plot Goals: There's a difference between story goals and plot goals. Story goals are the larger thematic goals that usually describe the character growth or the idea behind the tale. They're more conceptual, and work as a guide in determining the types of plot goals your protagonist will encounter. Plot goals are the physical things your protagonist does to achieve those more lofty story goals.
Story goal: To find love again after a bad breakup. (this is what the story is about)
Plot goal: To go to the museum and talk to cute guys. (this is one thing the protagonist does during the story)
From Goal - Conflict - Stakes. Why You Need All Three 

Do you have more ways to find a story goal?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

4 Terrific Places to Share Writing and Critique Work

Here are some of the forums I have found to share writing and critique peer works.

What sites have you found for sharing your writing and offering critiques.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Writing Prompt: The Button Factory

I joined an online writing group.
The organizer gave a few writing prompts.

I chose this one:

The button factory had gone utterly silent. All eyes were on the birthday cake and it's 50 candles. Slowly, hesitantly, George...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Writer's Knowledge Base

Elizabeth Craig and Mike Fleming have come up with The Writer's Knowledge Base (WKB).

This is a searchable collection of articles that are highly relevant to writers. The articles are diverse and cover such topics as the craft of writing, getting published, promotion, etc.

One of the problems of trying to find industry-related information on your own in a lack of searchable database. Unless you go to an individual agent or editor blog and search on each of their sites, you’re going to get very spotty results on a Google search.

The WKB carries out Google-like searches against Elizabeth's hand-picked articles on writing. Because of this, all of the results are on topic and much more likely to be relevant to exactly what you're looking for.

It is better than Google at finding writing resources, since it presents you with random articles from the thousands of links in the repository, allowing you to find interesting articles "by accident."

You can find The Writer's Knowledge Base (WKB) at

Monday, October 14, 2013

8 Tips For Creating Great Stories

Recently Fast Create profiled the new book by Jeff VanderMeer  Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. The book is billed as an all-new definitive guide to writing imaginative fiction and takes a completely novel approach, fully exploiting the visual nature of fantasy through original drawings, maps, renderings, and exercises to create a spectacularly beautiful and inspiring object.

Fast Create highlighted 8 tips from top storytellers like George R.R. Martin, Junot Diaz, Lev Grossman, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Catherynne M. Valente, and Karen Joy Fowler, to name a few.
  1. Tell, Don't Show
  2. Name Wisely
  3. Build A Better Backstory
  4. Take Your Lumps
  5. Let It Bloom
  6. Finish The Thing
  7. Deform The Familiar
  8. Talk To Strangers
The article 8 Tips For Creating Great Stories From George R.R. Martin, Junot Diaz, And Other Top Storytellers can be found on Fast Create.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Alice Munro - Nobel Laureate of Short Stories

I stayed at home until noon. I was supposed to be doing housework, and I would also do my writing then. Later on, when I wasn’t working everyday in the store, I would write until everybody came home for lunch and then after they went back, probably till about two-thirty, and then I would have a quick cup of coffee and start doing the housework, trying to get it all done before late afternoon.
Today it was announced that Alice Munro, the renowned short-story writer, won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature.  Alice Munro has published many short stories.

Here are a number of her short stories available for reading online

A good guide to navigating the volume of prose produced by Munro was published in The Millions.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Neil Gaiman: You Have to Write When You’re Not “Inspired”

If you only write when you are inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet but you will never be a novelist.
Neil Gaiman

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Making the Ordinary to be Extraordinary

In this installment of Creation Stories, Ricky Gervais shares a doozy about an early, indelible writing lesson, telling a story about how he learned to write.

[Source: Fast Create]

Monday, September 2, 2013

Submitting and Writing Contests

Here are some recent places I came across to submit to:

  • Bare Fiction Magazine
    We do not charge a reading fee for submissions to the magazine.
    We read work in the English language all year round, therefore we aim to respond quickly (usually within 28 days). Though we do accept simultaneous submissions, please do keep in mind this time frame when submitting and ensure that you contact us immediately if your work is accepted elsewhere. 
  • Narrative Magazine
    WE WELCOME SUBMISSIONS of previously unpublished manuscripts of all lengths, ranging from short short stories to complete book-length works for serialization. Narrative regularly publishes fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, including stories, novels, novel excerpts, novellas, personal essays, humor, sketches, memoirs, literary biographies, commentary, reportage, interviews, and features of interest to readers who take pleasure in storytelling and imaginative prose. We look for quality and originality of language and content. 

A great piece of advice I heard is why not look at submitting to a literary magazine as a kind of contest and submit there. It is full of competition and the reward is great if you succeed at getting published.


For submitting to contests there is a bit of warning, that some contests (especially ones with an admission fee) are just looking to make money and not help writers at all. Read these warnings.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Locate Your Obsessions

I always tell students, when I teach writing, to locate their obsessions, and look to them when they’re searching for the story they should be telling. When a writer attaches her work to the engine of what she cares about most passionately (even irrationally, perhaps) the work will be infused with a similar passion, I believe. And come into being most organically.
Joyce Maynard

Friday, August 16, 2013

Testing Morning Pages

I recently came across the tool called Morning Pages. I have been struggling with getting myself to write, and to tap into a deeper, creative potential.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

8 Terrific Writer Forums

I like connecting with other like-minded writers to hear their experiences and get feedback on my work. Making the time to get to a writing group on a regular basis is hard to schedule, but tapping into online writing forums is a great alternative. Here are 8 terrific writer forums that I have compiled, and visit.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Free Write: Rowboat

I call this a faux mafia story. I saw a writing challenge recently to  make a script that's festival sized (5 to 12 pages), where the main prop accessible is this neat rowboat. So I started tossing around ideas for a story in a rowboat, and the image came into my mind of that scene at the end of Godfather II, where Freddy is taken out on the lake with the hitman to get his punishment. As I played around with that scene, I thought 'What if that scene played off differently?'

Friday, August 9, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

8 Cool Ways to Stoke Your Creative Juices

A great post over at nofilm school explores some traditional and less orthodox approaches to stir up your innate creative juices and get out great storytelling elements.

Check out this article 8 Somewhat Unusual Screenwriting Tips That May Help Kickstart and Maintain Your Creativity
  • Freewrite
  • Get a journal and make it your own
  • Take your characters to lunch
  • Talk to yourself
  • Do bizarre things that make you embarrassed of yourself
  • Become a voyeur
  • Be your characters
  • Take time to just marinate

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Funeral Talk

At a funeral recently and overheard an older woman talking before the funeral began.

"Say something nice about me at my funeral?" the woman said, "my kids don't have anything nice to say about now when I'm alive!"

As preparations continued, she explained to her friend about her philosophy on life. "When we're born, we're given a death sentence. Simple as that. There's no avoiding it. Death is waiting for us at one point or another."

People started to move, so the funeral was about to start. "But I tell you," she continued, "no matter how a person behaved in life, no matter what they did, I've never been to a funeral where they couldn't find something nice to say about them. Not just nice. Glowing! They can go on and on about what a golden person they were. So I don't know what to make of that, if it matters or not what you did in life."

Perhaps I am particularly partial to comments at funerals because I am currently listening to Neil Gaiman read The Graveyard Book.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Inspiration at 70

I was listening to the latest Moth podcast. It was a story presented by Cynthia Riggs called The Case of the Curious Codes. The story was edge of your seat enthralling and intriguing, with a romance woven in. I was inspired by her opening remarks, seeing at any age a person continues to reach out for their dreams.
My mother died at 99. After her death, I was kind of at loose ends and Bed and Breakfast guests suggested that I go back to school and get a degree in creative writing. So I filled out an application form. And they accepted me. And somebody told me that I ought to write murder mysteries. And two years later, my first murder mystery was published by St. Martin's Press. I've now had 10 published and I have the eleventh on Kindle and I'm working on the twelfth right now. Well now, my first book was published when I was 70.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Writing Insights from Josh Fialkov

On the recent Nerdist Writers Panel, Josh Fialkov shared some of his writing habits.
I essentially taught myself to write in the 3 hours of her napping. I've learned to kind of compartmentalize. I will run the story in my head non-stop, I am constantly chewing over the next thing I have to write. Then by the time I am actually in front of my computer. It's typing. It's just process at that point. 
I particularly liked how he carved out this time and focused his writing energies.

More of his work can be found on Amazon.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Meditative Writing

Something to try to help connect to the energy of the writer. There was a time when creativity was easy-when we were young, driven by an endless desire to create, and no fear, no judgment, and no internal censor whatsoever.

Meditative writing aims to return you to that time, when finding your voice as a writer was as easy as being yourself, and raw creativity flowed as effortlessly as inspiration.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mind Maps Tool - Text 2 Mind Map

Found this great online tool for mind maps. It is called Tex 2 Mind Map. It is very easy to use, intuitive and quickly puts your mind map up in a graphically convenient way.

Check it out at

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Training Your Body to Write

I was listening to the Nerdist Writer's Panel talk to Glen Weldon about his new book Superman: The Unauthorized Biography.
He talked about the work habits he had developed and applied to writing this book. I found this almost metaphysical state that he reached in his writing life quite inspiring.
"Book was written on nights and weekends, in close to nine months. I went to The Writer's Workshop and they teach you that what you want to do is get up at eight o'clock and sit down at nine o'clock and from nine o'clock to twelve o'clock and you just stay at your desk and you write. Then you get up have lunch and edit.
"I tried it. You have two years of uninterrupted time to do nothing but write. And let me tell you, it works. There is something that happens. It is like you are training your body to get into this state.
"What I would find is that your body starts to realize that at nine o'clock you're going to being sitting down, so for the first 3 or 4 months the first 20 minutes are just woolgathering or wasted time. But gradually as you train your body you get to this point where you sit down, you start. You're off to the races. Because all the subconscious woolgathering has been going on while you're taking a shower while you're making breakfast as you are preparing to sit down. This was a very useful tool that does not work when you have a day job. And does not work when you have to come home at night and sit down when you've spent the whole day writing. So it's just catch as catch can. Staying up late and trying to work out because that does help a little bit, and just sticking to it." 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Magic Box

This is a story by my oldest son, H. Perlin.

The Magic Box
I will put in the box a talking mouse.
A green sun.
A tasty piece of chocolate cake.

I will put in the box the sound of a bouncing ball,
a flying elephant,
a scream of a wolf.

I will put in the box the first smile of a baby,
a black sea, 
a lion giving a scream.

My box is made of half gold, half candy, and half silver.

The is story reminded me of a TED talk giving by JJ Abrams, called the Mystery Box. He described the role of boxes of unknown content in storytelling.

Although this story reveals its contents, these items are so odd and random, that it is still a mystery about the significance of the things found in the box.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Different Kind of How to Write a Book Book

I have started reading and more accurately using another book about writing, designed to help writers to write. However, this is not a book, as I have discovered about theme, plot and characters. Rather it is a book about developing the habits to get something accomplished. Kind of an Steven Covey type of exploration of The Habits of  Highly Effective People.

The book is called Write-A-Thon, and it was written by Rochelle Melander. I was inspired to get the book by the tagline on the cover: Write your book in 26 days (and live to tell about it). This sounded amazing, a real guide with an endpoint in sight for achieving something.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

More Writing Prompts

LitBridge is a space dedicated to the professionalization of contemporary writers. Each element of the site looks to aid poets, fiction writers, and essayists at every stage of their careers.

20 "First Lines" - 20 Creative Writing Prompts to Spark Your Creativity
Got Writer's Block? Don't Know How to Start Your Story? Find Your First Sentences Here

Free Creative Writing Prompts from the Heart, Part 1
Access something from your past

Free Creative Writing Prompts #3: Death
Thoughts on death majorly affect the way we live. Here are twenty free creative writing prompts that deal with death and the way you feel about it.

Free Creative Writing Prompts #6: Dark, Disturbing, and Weird
Write about the fantastical and otherworldly. Put pen to paper about the horror and joy that can come out of a downright strange situation.

7 writing prompts, a full week’s worth of writing exercises!

What If . . . ? 10 Creative Writing Prompts 
A selection of “What If…?” creative writing prompts to inspire you – let’s see what you can do with these!

Creative Writing Prompts Part One [1-50]
Great selection

Monday, June 10, 2013

Infographic: Should you Be Writing Right Now?

Should you be writing right now?

What is keeping you from writing?

Short Stories Prompts

I am trying to get my hands dirty with short story writing. I submitted one to the Triggerstreet site and got some reviews.
Some of the comments were:

  • ya MIGHT have something worth developing, but it needs a LOTTA work.
  • Overall, this story needs to be a bit clearer. 
  • The ending is actually quite clever.

I knew it wasn't the best piece, and I was ready to get kicked a bit, which is pushing me to look into improving this writing.

Here are some places I am going for tips:

I'll keep plugging away and keeping updates coming.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Finding Inspiration - Look at What's Out There

In fact, it is extremely possible that I have helped myself promiscuously but at present cannot remember from whose stories I have stolen.
Very sincerely, Rudyard Kipling
There is a lot of chatter about the discovery that Rudyard Kipling found inspiration for the Jungle Book in other works.

Which raises the age old question for writers and creative minds alike, where do we get our inspiration. As some talkback comments have called Kipling a thief, others explain the matter as having "executed a work on a similar subject under the same title to much greater effect in a different style."

Namely we can dip into the existing works for creative inspiration, where our project will be wholly unique, with a specific voice we call our own.

As I continue to develop my narrative style, I am looking into what others share about where they get their inspiration, and find the key to the creative voice and stories that we have locked inside.

Infographic: The Hero's Journey

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hero's Journey: Beat by Beat

Here is the underlyng structure to most narrative.

  1. Hero knows what he/she wants but not what he/she needs
  2. Embarrassing incident that brings a dangerous opportunity
  3. Hero commits and makes progress by doing it the easy way
  4. The easy way leads to a big disaster and loss of safety
  5. The hero tries the hard way, dealing with real consequences
  6. The hero faces a spiritual crisis as a result of those consequences
  7. The strengthened hero deals with the problem once and for all.

This is described in full by Matt Bird over at Cockeyed Caravan in the Hero Project.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


It isn't what your characters say; it's what they really mean. "Subtext"--what characters are saying between the lines. The subtext is all the underlying drives and meanings that are not apparent to the character, but that are apparent to the audience or reader.
Paraphrased from Subtext: The Delicate Art of Doublespeak

Subtext is a fascinating and intellectually stimulating tool in the prose arsenal. This raises the narrative from mere telling what happened, to asking the reader to think about what is being presented and look deeper into the meaning of the words and actions.

Here is a scene with subtext.

Subtext Dramatized
Man puts a log on the fire. His wife says that she wasn't cold, that there is no need to stoke the fire further. He responds that he puts a log on the fire every night, that the house will grow cold otherwise.
"Then put on a blanket," she shoots back, "or a sweater. Why do you need to fiddle with the fireplace."
"It's just a moment, the fire is already burning. Another log doesn't take any preparation."
"You've got to clean the fireplace. Don't you even think before you put on the log!"
"It's just a damn log. Fine I'll take it off, if that will make you happy."
The focus of the argument is about handling the fire in the fireplace, but the subtext is a deeper tension between the wife and her husband.

Story Triggers

This looks cool! 27 story triggers to get the creative juices flowing. No more writer's block. No more excuses.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

Brain Pickings: Raymond Chandler on Writing

From the Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler

To say little and convey much, to break the mood of the scene with some completely irrelevant wisecrack without entirely losing the mood — these small things for me stand in lieu of accomplishment. My theory of fiction writing … is that the objective method has hardly been scratched, that if you know how to use it you can tell more in a paragraph than the probing writers can tell in a chapter.

Friday, May 17, 2013

5 Resources for Creating Character Flaws

I am working on giving characters more depth, to create that hypnotic bind that pulls the reader into the story.

I am looking at adding more dimensions to characters, particularly flaws.

Here are some resources I turned up in looking into this.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

4 Things to Address in Your Character

  • Who is the character?
  • What does the character want?
  • What is standing in the character's way to getting what he wants?
  • What does he have to do to overcome the obstacle?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Getting a Story Started

Here are some great places to guide the inner voice to get a story going

  • Outline your Novel In 30 MinutesA quick exercise designed to sketch out the major events of a novel, only giving a map-- you have to make the drive yourself!
  • How to Make a Novel OutlineEasy novel outline techniques to plan a book step by step, along with worksheets for planning characters and scenes, and links to related pages on how to write a novel.
  • Outlining Your Novel: Why and HowOutlining is a matter of dispute among writers, but if you are just starting out – what is outlining, why should you do it and how do you do it.

And to help support the creative process here is a great parable:
Climbing Mt.Story: How to Survive the Creative Journey

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Some Ways to Getting a Novel Done

How to write the first draft of a novel in 30 days
Writing a novel can be daunting. But introducing structure to the process can help you maintain momentum over the course of a month without hampering creativity

First Draft Secrets: Five Simple Steps
No wonder we sometimes resist writing and finishing our first drafts!   It’s not always easy to split our attention between writing and “mind-management.” To write a useful, “flavorful” first draft, it helps to have a helpful mindset and a few tools to help us focus.

Monday, May 6, 2013

About Plot Points

Great article over at Script Shadow on plot points
  • The emergence of a goal (Indiana must go find the Ark).
  • A shocking twist (Cole tells Malcom he can “see dead people”).
  • An upping of the stakes (they realize in Inception that if they die in the dream, they could be stuck in it forever).
  • A mystery is presented (Why is there a naked Chinese man in their trunk in The Hangover?)
  • A key character is introduced (Sgt Powell – the cop – shows up to help McClane in Die Hard).
  • A key character is killed (spoiler – Schultz is killed in Django Unchained).
  • An unplanned interruption of the hero’s life (Neo gets an urgent phone call from Morpheus at work).
  • The emergence of a threat (after the plane crash, the wolves start stalking our characters in The Grey).

Friday, May 3, 2013

Respect Writers

This was a great video on how to pitch a story and...that writers deserve respect

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Save the Cat

They say this is the last site you need to visit for screenwriting

Save the Cat helps to develop motivation and flesh out characters in narrative writing. It's called Save the Cat because when you want the audience to identify with your main character you need to provide something  cute and cuddly that he saves so the audience connects. On the contrary, your villain is more fully fleshed out when he kills the cat.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Invisible Ink

Heard a great recommendation for the Invisible Ink book. It was written by Brian McDonald of the Invisible Ink blog. His book is available for purchase from Amazon or it can be read (legally) for free online. I am looking forward to reading his stuff.

About Brian McDonald

Acclaimed by successful screenwriters and authors, Invisible Ink is a helpful, accessible guide to the essential elements of the best storytelling.   Brian McDonald, an award winning screenwriter who has taught his craft at several major studios, supplies writers with tools to make their work more effective and provides readers and audiences a deeper understanding of the storyteller’s art.

When people think of a screenplay, they usually think about dialogue – the “visible ink” that is readily accessible to the listener, reader, or viewer. But a successful screenplay needs Invisible Ink as well, the craft below the surface of words. Invisible Ink lays out the essential elements of screenplay structure, using vivid examples from famous moments in popular movies as well as from one of his own popular scripts.  You will learn techniques for building a compelling story around a theme, making your writing engage audiences, creating appealing characters, and much more.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Social Networks for Writers

Recent article at Mashable  - 10 Inspiring Social Networks for Writers

3 Cool Places to Submit Short Stories


Engage your heartbrain, that is to say your whole, deepest self. By  tapping into your heartbrain, you'll be writing up a storm, hence the technique is called stormwriting. This is a results-driven tool that should be used time and again.

Stormwriting is essentially a heartbrainstorm, a process by which you open your heartbrain and provoke it to not merely dump stuff out, but generate new questions and ideas that lead you to more good stuff: The stuff that becomes building blocks for your book. How do you provoke it?

No matter what you come up with, no matter how much it's not what you're expecting, no matter how off the wall or even dumb, you don't resist it or ignore it. You run with it. You say, "Yes, and-" ... and the room begins to fill with the mutant ions from the forgotten medical waste facility next door!

You accept it and you go with it, and you build on it and you play off of it. The whole piece might stumble and change direction anytime, but you'll be in harmony with it.

This technique is outlined in Elizabeth Sims' book