Writing Tip of the Week:  Holidays as Writing Deadlines?

Every country has holidays, and most calendars have holidays printed on them.  And whether you celebrate them or not, these set-in-stone dates can be a valuable tool to help you set milestones and deadlines for your writing goals.  

While it’s easy to say, “I’ll finish my first draft in three months,” what if that date was tied to a holiday on the calendar?  So, if you set this goal on January 1, maybe you will have the first draft done by St. Patrick’s Day.  Now, you have a target date associated with a major holiday, and you have a built-in reason to celebrate your writing win!

If using holidays isn’t for you, maybe use birthdays or anniversaries of family and friends.  Now, you know that you’ll have a draft done on Aunt Trudy’s birthday or when your cousin celebrates their fifth wedding anniversary.  

If you want to get crazy, find a site that shows all the unofficial holidays and use one of those dates as a goal.  Maybe you National Donut Day, which is Friday, June 2, and grab yourself a donut in celebration of your creative accomplishment.

Here’s a list of unofficial holidays (it’s pretty extensive):  


I’m using official calendar holidays for writing milestones this year, and it’s allowed me to focus better since I know definitively when each writing project needs to be completed.  This year’s schedule is set like this:

•          April 7 (Good Friday) – Revised Draft of New Novel Completed

•          May 29 (Memorial Day) – Polished Draft of Screenplay #1

•          July 4 (Independence Day) – Revised Draft of Book #3 in YA Series

•          September 4 (Labor Day) – Polished Draft of Screenplay #2

This doesn’t mean these are 100% completed and ready to go out; by those dates, I’ll have a finished draft of each project that can be edited and worked on further.  It also means that, ideally, by Labor Day, four writing projects will be done, which is exciting!

Try it!  Set a holiday-based deadline for one of your writing goals this year and see if you can complete it by that date.  Make sure you give yourself time to work on it, so pick a holiday later in the year.  If you finish before then, great!  Keep writing and set a new goal.

Happy Goal Setting, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week:  Are You Afraid to Finish Your Story?

Have you stopped working on a writing project out of fear of finishing?  It’s an interesting question.  Most people are consumed with fear when they begin a project, but there are times when finishing to manuscript or script can cause just as much fear and anxiety.  Why?  

Let’s talk about it!

It’s All Over!

Writing can be an intensely creative and emotional process.  If you’ve thrown all your time, effort, thoughts, and energy into a story, coming to its inevitable conclusion can feel like the end of a relationship.  Think about all the time and dedication you’ve spent to get the story and its characters right.  The late nights, long weekends, and hours spent trying to fix an issue that you realized caused a plot hole later in the story.

And now, you’re headed toward the end of the story.  It can be both cathartic and anxiety-inducing.  How can you leave these characters and this setting?  They’re like family!

First, take a deep breath, exhale, and know that even if you write “The End,” you’re not done with the story yet.  Especially if you are still in the draft phase, you’ll have plenty of hours to edit and rewrite, so rest assured, even when the draft is done, there’s still work to do.

I understand the challenge of letting go if this is a polished draft.  To give it to someone else, to release it to the world.  That could be the reason for your anxiety.  It’s that pesky inner critic who’s subconsciously taunting you, causing you to fear completing the story, keeping you trapped with only a few chapters left to go.  

Ignore it.  Push through.  Get the project done.  While you may need time to mourn its end, know that you accomplished something great: you finished a writing project!  Go out and celebrate!  

What’s Next?

Another reason some writers fear finishing a project is the inevitable question that pops up when you tell someone you’re done: What’s next?  Often, we’ve labored over a project for so long, and we’re happy to see it done that the last thing we need to hear is inquiries about what we’re doing afterward.

So, if we’re always working on that novel or script, people stop asking.  It’s a safer place to be.  

I suggest having another project in mind, so you have an answer ready when the time comes.  “I’m working on a period drama next,” or “I have some funny ideas for a short film script.”  Keep it vague, but this will give you cover as you develop something new.  Don’t let the fear of being asked that question stop you from getting the work done.

Line ‘Em Up

Don’t allow yourself to have time to mourn the end of one project.  Have others in development and ready to jump to the next.  Now, you’re on to the next project, creativity flowing, ideas bouncing around, and you have the momentum from finishing the last project to keep you going.  

The fear of completing a project comes from the fear of the unknown.  If you don’t know what you’re doing next, it can create a creative vacuum once what you’ve been working on is finally done.

Mix it up, too.  If you just wrote a novel, write a screenplay next.  Wrote a book of poems?  Write a play.  Keep your creativity energized by changing the type of work you’re doing, and you’ll be so focused and ready to move on to the next project you won’t be sad when the current one ends.

Give yourself a reason to get your current project off your mind so you can move on to the next exciting thing.

What I’m Up To…

I’m writing two novels and two screenplays this year, but I’m alternating between them.  All are in different genres and styles, which give my brain new creative avenues to explore.  Even while I’m, nearing the end of my current novel project, my brain is tossing out ideas for the screenplay I’m working on in April.  

Creativity is a mysterious and awesome force, so it’s good to keep it active and work toward your writing goals as much as possible.

Final Thoughts

It can be sad for a project to end, so it’s important not to allow yourself to fear its completion.  Have other projects in mind, keep your creativity flowing, and don’t allow anxiety to overtake your creative impulses.  

Get in there and get to The End so you can bring other characters and worlds to life!

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Exercise of the Week: Examining Your Subplots

This week, we explored the characteristics of subplots and how they can be character- or story-driven.  If you are working on a writing project or outlining one, you probably have ideas for subplots bouncing around in your head.

As you develop or revise, take some time to ask yourself some questions that can help you make them stronger and more effective.

  • Does each subplot tie into the main story through related characters or events?
  • Do the subplots serve a purpose?
  • Do the subplots enhance the main story?
  • Does each subplot have its own story arc?
  • Does each subplot have a clear ending?
  • Which characters are central to each subplot?  Does one of the characters have some relationship to the main character or primary storyline?
  • Is each subplot vital?  Would it impact the main story if you removed one or two of them?
  • Is one or more of the subplots overtaking the main story in terms of being more interesting or compelling?  Could this subplot be its own story?

These are just a few questions to mull over as you delve into creating subplots for your story.  Making sure each subplot matters and helps move the main story along.  I also think it’s important that at least one subplot helps give us further insight into the main character’s development and growth as a person throughout the story.

I hope you enjoyed this look into subplots.  

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: Subplots – Part Two

Last time, we began to explore what a subplot is, its purpose, and how they can be used to enhance the main story.  Today, we’ll continue that discussion with examples from Jurassic Park.

Let’s keep going!

Subplots have ARCS

A subplot should be considered a mini-story within the main story, with its own beginning, middle, and end. Often, subplots might be introduced in a film, but they lack a conclusion for one reason or another.  Ensure that your subplots have an end-point and that their conclusion ties into the main story.

In Jurassic Park, Dr. Grant’s character-driven subplot has a definite arc.  From him making it clear at the dig site that he has no patience for kids and then not wanting anything to go in the same SUV as Lex and Tim when he first meets them.  

Grant becomes their savior and protector when things go to hell on the island, even telling a panicked Lex that he’s not gonna leave her and her brother.  He then becomes a father figure to them, educating them about the dinosaurs as they hike back to safety.  By the film’s end, Grant no longer seems to have any aversion to kids and seems rather comfortable around them.

With Nedry, his story-driven subplot arc is shorter but still impactful.  His greed leads him to steal the embryos from the island to give to Nedry.  His plans are complicated by a storm that hits the island, making it harder for him to get to the boat in time to get away.  He rigs the security, camera, and power systems to assist in his theft. 

Still, his actions result in dinosaurs getting loose.  As he escapes to the East Dock, he skids off the road, runs into a “playful” Dilophosaurus, and meets his fate; the embryos are lost under a pile of mud.   

Both subplots have a clear beginning, middle, and end.  If we never saw Nedry’s fate but found out about it in passing during The Lost World, that would not have been a satisfying conclusion to that subplot.  

Or, if Grant had left on a separate helicopter from Lex and Tim, we wouldn’t have been given a conclusion that indicates that his thoughts about kids have now changed for the better.

Subplots END

This seems logical, but sometimes if there are too many story threads, some can get lost, and their endings never happen.  The reader or viewer can be left with questions about what happened or even frustrated that a subplot was introduced and never finished.  

As you revise your manuscript or screenplay, please keep track of your subplots and make sure they conclude at some point.  Their endings should have some impact or meaning to the main story, and if they don’t, they aren’t necessary to include.

Can a subplot begin before or end after the main story?  Yes.  Grant’s subplot begins before he and Ellie are invited to the island and ends after they leave.  But a subplot shouldn’t drag on much longer past the ending of the main story.

Final Thoughts

A subplot’s purpose is to enhance the main plot by being character-driven or story-driven.  Subplots should have a definite arc, with a beginning, middle, and end, and a subplot must link to the main story.

What are some subplots in novels, TV shows, or movies that you’ve noticed lack connection to the main story or have no conclusion?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: Subplots – Part One

The subplot.  Most stories have at least one, and others have several.  Whether it’s known as a subplot or a B-story, these can help enhance your narrative, add depth to your characters, or give the reader a breather when things get too intense in the main story.

Let’s talk about subplots!

What is a Subplot?

A subplot is a secondary story connected to the main story, either directly or indirectly.  It can include the main character, or it can be related to a side character whose actions in the subplot will affect the main story at some point.  

As stated in the intro, there can be more than one, but all should wind up intersecting with the main story at some point.  Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm do this masterfully, weaving multiple storylines into the main one by the end of the episode.  

In Jurassic Park (which I will use for my examples in this post), we are introduced to two subplots early in the film: Dr. Grant’s dislike of children; and Dennis Nedry’s deal with Dodgson to steal the dinosaur embryos.

Let’s talk about the qualities of a subplot using these examples.

Subplots have PURPOSE

You ever watch a movie where a subplot is introduced that leads absolutely nowhere?  There doesn’t seem to be any reason for it to exist other than to eat up time.  A compelling subplot has a reason to exist.  It can be either character-driven or story-driven, but by the end, it’s clear why it was part of the story.

Dr. Grant’s dislike of children is a character-driven subplot.  We are shown this side of Grant early, so when he meets Lex and Tim on the island, we already know his opinions about kids, which gives us a baseline for character growth.

Nedry being paid to steal the embryos is a story-driven subplot.  His actions in getting the embryos – shutting off power and fences – lead to the T-Rex escape that catapults the plot of the film forward.  

Subplots ENHANCE

Subplots need to add something to the overall story.  They are only useful if they impact something happening in the main story.  A subplot needs to give us insight into who a character is, where the story might lead, or emphasize one of the story’s themes.

Dr. Grant’s character-driven subplot enhances his character as he’s placed in situations where he has to rescue Lex and Tim, save Tim’s life, and rely on Lex to reboot the park’s security system.  His views on kids evolve as the story unfolds through the film’s final moments, where Lex and Tim are asleep next to him in the helicopter.

Likewise, Nedry’s story-driven subplot enhances the narrative by causing the chaos that leads to dinosaurs escaping their paddocks and roaming free around the island.  Since Nedry has locked everyone out of the system, the only solution is for the power to be shut off entirely and the system rebooted, which then causes the Raptors to escape.  All of Nedry’s actions help to move the story forward.

But Wait, There’s More!

Next time, we’ll explore a couple more subplot characteristics.  See you then!

What’s your favorite subplot from a movie or TV show?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Writing Exercise of the Week:  What’s Going On Here?

Is it a picnic, and no one brought food? Or are they concerned the bird is headed for their clean cars?

As the old cliché states, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  For some reason, this statement popped into my head today and gave me an idea for today’s writing exercise.

Let’s get started!

Search the Classics

Use Google or Bing and search for “classic paintings.”  Feel free to add descriptors like “classic African American paintings” or “classic Latin American paintings.”  You’re looking for paintings that present a scene with people in a location doing things.

What Do You See?

Once you’ve found a painting to use, scrutinize it, asking yourself questions as you do:

•          What happened before this scene took place?  What led to these events?

•          Who are these people?  What are their relationships with each other?

•          Where are they?  Why are these people gathered in this location?

•          What is each person thinking about during the events depicted in the scene?

•          What is the significance of the events or actions displayed in the scene?

•          How do you think the scene ends based on what is shown in the painting?

•          Why are these events in the painting taking place?  Why are these people present?

All of the answers – and any responses to questions you come up with on your own – should be from your imagination.  Don’t research the painting or the artist or go down the rabbit hole of art historian interpretations.  This should be from your creative mindset and viewpoint.

Tell the Tale

Using your imaginative answers, write a 1,000-word story about the scene portrayed in the painting.  Utilize the visuals to describe clothing, characters, location, and other details.  You want to flesh out all the different story elements from your creativity.

You can make the tone funny, tragic, heroic, terrifying, mysterious, erotic, etc.  Whatever you decide, it’s all based on your personal creative interpretation of the painting.

Repeat the Process

Find another painting and do the exercise again.

You could also use the same painting and create a completely different story.  How might you interpret the images in a way that’s the opposite of what you initially came up with?

Why Am I Doing This?

Much like an artist uses paint to create vivid images and scenes, as authors, it’s our job to create them through words.  By utilizing the power of words to interpret a painting, we can elevate it further by adding a new creative context and additional meaning based on our own imagination and creativity.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Book Review of the Week: Be a Writing Machine by M.L. Ronn

What prevents us from writing more and writing faster?  Do we lack the time, the motivation, the energy?  Is writer’s block causing bouts of crippling creative anxiety that prevent you from tackling your next story?

Well, M.L. Ronn and his book Be a Writing Machine: Writer Faster and Smarter, Beat Writer’s Block, and Be Prolific is here to save the day!  And let me tell you when this guy says he loves to write, he means it!

Ronn gives you an inside look at his process and how he balances life, work, and writing 6-8 books a year (fiction and non-fiction).  And while some of his methodologies might seem a bit extreme to some, he makes it clear that these are tools and tips that will help you get more writing done.

The book is broken into four main parts that examine different aspects of writer’s block and strategies you can implement to slay this creativity killer.  

These sections include Writer’s Block Part 1: How to Beat It Every Time; Part 2: General Maintenance Strategies to Keep You Motivated; Part 3: Strategies to Combat Lack of Inspiration; and Part 4: Strategies to Combat Fear.  

Each of his strategies is worth testing to see which ones work best for you and your writing goals. 

Creativity issues can be resolved with the right mindset and time management skills.  Ronn delves into these aspects of a writer’s life and how you can improve upon these two areas to increase your writing output and give your mind the freedom to create more efficiently.

This was a great book; I have highlighted and marked up my copy for easy reference.  If you’re struggling with writer’s block, time management, or motivation, I highly recommend Be a Writing Machine by M.L. Ronn.

Check out his website here: https://www.michaellaronn.com

Have you read Be a Writing Machine?  Let me know what strategies from the book you’ve used below!  

Writing Tip of the Week:  Not All Writing Should Be Easy

Sometimes we can find ourselves at a creative dead end when it comes to writing a chapter. Luckily, there are some strategies you can use to help yourself achieve your writing goals.

While I think creative writing should be a fun process, that doesn’t always mean that the process is easy. We often find ourselves getting stuck on a chapter, trying to figure out how to move things forward, even if we have an outline to guide us. You may find it challenging to start the story, figure out creative ways to present story or character elements, or even struggle to craft a chapter with a major plot point.

These are perfectly normal issues and challenges you may face multiple times as a writer. But know this: All writers face challenges with their stories. From new writers to best-selling authors, each story delivers its own share of roadblocks that must be overcome for the story to work.  

Let’s discuss some ways to overcome these challenges and keep your story moving.

Ask Yourself Questions

You’ve hit a wall. Things were going great, and then you came upon a chapter that wasn’t working. It’s an important chapter in the story, one that can’t be cut.  

What to do? If you wrote an outline for your story, you know what the chapter’s content is supposed to be. Take some time and write down some questions related to the chapter. Questions like:

•          What is the point of this chapter?

•          Who’s present in the chapter and why?

•          What’s the main conflict in this chapter?

•          How does this chapter move the story forward?

•          What does the reader learn from this chapter?

•          What do the characters learn in this chapter that helps the story?

By getting the answers out in a more clinical than creative context, you can see what the chapter is meant to achieve and give yourself more material to work with once the creativity begins.

Just Write It

Sit down, turn off your inner critic, and write the chapter. Don’t think about it. Just write it out. It doesn’t matter if it’s too long or short, or missing elements. The key here is to get something down that can be reworked and edited later. It does you no good to have the ideas trapped in your mind. 

The best way to work through the challenges is to see them in front of you on the page so you can revise and edit later.

Outline the Chapter

Break the chapter down into bullet points. Really work through each piece of the chapter’s puzzle and determine what happens from start to finish. If dialogue pops into your head while you’re doing this, add it to the outline.  

Give yourself a clear and detailed roadmap to work from once you write out the chapter. That way, the guesswork is gone, and you can focus on the creative elements.

Take a Break

Walk away from the chapter. Skip over it and keep writing. Sleep on it. Go for a walk. Give your mind a chance to focus itself elsewhere. In doing so, your mind can subconsciously work out the problems the chapter has presented.  

Oddly enough, this works very well for me. I’ve hit snags in a chapter before, stopped, and done something else, then suddenly, the solution strikes, and I run to write down what my brain is coming up with. Sometimes the best solution really is doing nothing.

Final Thoughts

Writing should be a challenge at times. If it’s too easy, it can get boring. Too hard, and you’ll feel like quitting. It’s that middle-ground of creative writing that you want to achieve. A place where most of the time, the story flows, the characters speak through you, and your descriptions transport the reader to a new place and time. But you also want to have moments where you encounter story problems. These elements make you step back and think about the best strategy to overcome creative challenges.

By asking yourself questions, pushing yourself to write the chapter, writing a detailed outline, or taking a break, you can find the solutions you need to complete the chapter and overcome the issues it presents.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Exercise of the Week: A Matter of Perspective

A while back, I wrote a post about the different points of view that can be used in a story.  First-person.  Second-person.  Third-person.  Third-person limited.  Omniscient.  All have been used by writers for millennia.  Using one over another can alter how readers perceive the events presented in your narrative.

It’s easy to get comfortable using one POV, so I thought we’d have fun and mix things up a bit today.

Let’s get started!

The Scenario

Write a short story that takes place in one location and involves three characters:

Character One doesn’t like Character Three and wants to leave.  Character Two is trying to get Characters One and Three to resolve their differences, but also has to get somewhere in the next twenty minutes. Character Three believes they are turning into some mythical creature and needs Characters One and Two to be present as long as possible for the transformation to stick.

The Assignment

Using the above scenario, outline a short story between 1000 to 1500 words.  You can place them anywhere; give them names and any additional characteristics you like.  Make sure the story has a beginning, middle, and end.

Now the fun part…

Exercise #1

Write one version from the first-person POV of Character Two.  Why don’t they want to be there?  What’s their issue with Character Three?  How are they kept from leaving as soon as they arrive?  Do they resolve their issues with Character Three with the help of Character Two?  What happens if they don’t?  Give us their side of things and how they view the circumstances they find themselves in.

Exercise #2

Write this version from the third-person POV of Character Two.  What led them to attempt a resolution between Characters One and Three?  Are they hopeful their plan will work?  What other ideas or tactics have they tried in the past?  What is their relationship to the other two characters that has sparked this mediation? And where do they need to be in twenty minutes, and what happens if they don’t arrive on time?  How can you show this urgency to the reader without telling them?

Exercise #3

Write this version from the second-person POV of Character Three.  Just like the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books, put the reader in the driver’s seat.  Make the reader the person who believes they are turning into a mythical creature.  What are they feeling?  What do they believe must happen for the full transformation to occur?  Why do they feel this way?  What was their relationship with Character One, and what caused the fallout?  What mythical creature do they believe they’re turning into?

Exercise #4

It’s time to go Omniscient.  Give us the perspectives of all three characters as they traverse this conflict to its resolution.  Feel free to change things; there’s no need to stick with what you wrote in the previous versions.  

Bonus Exercise #5

Once you’ve picked a location, choose an inanimate object in the space and write the story from that object’s POV.  What does it see?  What does it think is going on?  What are its thoughts on the characters and their conversations?


Which POV did you enjoy writing in the most?  The least?  Was there a POV you feel you could become better in with practice?  Experimenting with POV within the same scenario is a fun way to see how a story’s trajectory changes when a different character controls what the reader is witnessing.  

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!