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!

Writing Tip of the Week: Writing the Ending First

Every story has an ending, a finale, or a denouement.  It’s the feeling that everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow, the threats defeated, and the main character has grown and learned from their trials and tribulations.  What the reader started with in Chapter One is a far cry from where we are as The End approaches.

Starting a story can be a challenge.  Ending one can be equally challenging, but it has the potential to be easier to write than the first chapter of a story.  So, what if you wrote the big finale first and worked backward?

Let’s talk about it!

The End is Inevitable

At some point, you will be writing the final chapters of your book.  If you are already in the drafting phase, you have an outline detailing or sketching how the narrative will go from start to finish.  You have the basics down, but you can’t get into the opening chapter even with the outline.

Give yourself permission to skip to the end.

Does the finale of your book excite you?  Can you envision how all the pieces of the story’s puzzle come together in those final chapters?  Good.  Then start there.  Pick a point toward the end of the story and write until you get to the last word.  

You’ve now laid out the foundation on which the rest of the story can build.

What happens before to lead to the finale?  And before that?  And before that? 

Does the finale alter the events, locations, characters, or choices you sketched in your outline?  

If so, go back through your outline and fine-tune things.  

Begin Again

Now you know where all roads are leading.  It’s time to examine the first chapter and determine where your main character begins their journey.  

You may have to change a few things, or you might have to gut the entire beginning and start over, which is sometimes part of the creative process.  Knowing your story’s direction and end is essential.  It lets you know what your main character is moving toward and whether or not they achieve or fail at their primary goal.


I enjoy writing the finale first, even in draft form.  I like to see where I take the characters and how the conflict is resolved.  It can give me insights into how the characters can grow and develop throughout the story and allows me to examine how their arc begins based on where it ends.

Writing Exercise: Look to the Movies

Find a few movies you’ve never seen and watch the final fifteen minutes.  Now, based on that information, write a quick paragraph about where you think the main character’s journey began and what may have happened to lead them to their current situation.  

Then, watch the movie and see if you were right, close, or way off in your assessment. 

Final Thoughts

The ending of a story is a key piece of the narrative puzzle.  If you’re having trouble developing a solid beginning, work on the finale and move backward to see how events led to the ending you wrote.

Doing this has helped me develop stronger character arcs and decide on better starting points for my characters in several scripts and stories I’ve written.

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

Writing Exercise of the Week: Describe the Weather

Weather.  It’s around us 24/7, and it can impact our lives positively and negatively.  It can also be a great topic to explore in creative writing.  What the weather is in your story can show us how your characters react to external forces interfering with their lives and give the reader insight into who they are.

Let’s get started!

Exercise #1

What’s the weather like where you are right now?  If you looked out the window or stepped outside, how would your five senses react to what you are witnessing?

Write a paragraph describing your current weather using your five senses.  Remember to show and not tell.

Exercise #2

As I said in the intro paragraph, the weather is an external force that can impact a character.  Think back to when a weather event impacted you positively or negatively, and write a 500-word short story about it.  

What led up to your encounter with this weather event?  Did your response to the weather make things better or worse?  How did you resolve any problems related to the weather event?  If it was a positive event – like perfect sunny weather while on vacation – how did the weather make for a perfect getaway?

Exercise #3

Take one of the fictional characters you’ve created and plunk them into a crazy weather event.  How will they react?  How will they describe the weather?  What conflict-driven issues could they have as they work to get out of the weather event you’ve placed them in?  

Write 500 words about it and have some fun with the weather and this particular character.  Did you learn more about your character by putting them through something like this?

Final Thoughts

The weather in a story is as important as the story’s location.  It’s important to not neglect the weather in your narrative and to find creative ways to show and not tell your reader what the weather is.

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

Writing Tip of the Week: The Power of Doing Nothing

A lot of us today feel the need to always be doing something.  Anything.  Whether reading, doom-scrolling on our phones, talking, exercising, or any number of activities, the lack of doing something can make us anxious or feel unproductive.  And while there is a case to be made that being productive is a good thing, there is also a strong argument about doing the exact opposite…


I know; it sounds like a crazy concept.  But author Neil Gaiman uses doing nothing as part of his creative tool kit, and it’s definitely something to consider using when you sit down to write.

So, let’s talk about it!

Why Do Nothing?

Giving your mind a chance to relax can help you focus on your creativity.  This is especially true when you are in the process of writing.  It’s a way to free your mind and create a safe space for ideas to flow and float to the surface of your consciousness. 

It can be a challenge to do this, but if you are already writing, taking a moment to stop and think instead of panicking about not having an idea or next sentence in mind can be a great way to give yourself permission to take a creative breath before moving forward.

The hard part will be not doing something else, but with practice, you can train yourself to decide when you sit down to write to either write or do nothing.

Would this Work If I Was Doing Something Else?

Short answer: Yes!  I often come up with ideas or new concepts for stories or chapters when I’m on a walk at work or working out, even when relaxing at the end of a long day.  Allowing yourself to be creative while not feeling pressured to create can help you develop ideas.

Just make sure you have a notepad or phone handy to jot any ideas down.

This is my personal view, and it works well for me.  It is important to find creative tactics that work best for you and stick with them.  

Neil Gaiman: In His Own Words

But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Here’s Neil Gaiman, in his own words, speaking about allowing himself to do “absolutely nothing, or write.”

Final Thoughts

While it’s easy for us to become overly distracted by everything in and outside our lives, giving yourself permission to do nothing can have great creative benefits.  Taking this concept into an activity that doesn’t require much thought can allow your brain to work out creative concepts.  

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

Reader Question of the Week:  What Are You Reading?

Late last year, I wrote a post about creating reading goals for 2023, and I wanted to check in with you and see what you decided and how it’s going.  I chose to read 30 books this year, and I also made the decision to only read books I currently own and not buy any new ones this year.  

And I know that will be harder to do as the year progresses.

Thirty Books?  That’s crazy!

It seems like a lot – more than two books a month – but I have created a strategy to ensure I can reach the goal and not spend all my free time with my nose in a book.

I started the year reading shorter books, and I also added in plays and screenplays to the mix that can be read in one or two reading sessions.  This allows for a buffer zone when I pick up a longer book and am reading that for an extended period.

If you have kids, any children’s book you read can also count toward your reading goals for the year.

There’s no reason to cause yourself unneeded anxiety over making a big reading goal for the year.  There are books of all sizes and page counts you can integrate into your schedule to help you reach your goal.

How many books are you planning to read in 2023, and how many have you read so far?

Do Audiobooks Count?

I say, absolutely.  If you can get through it faster by listening to it than by reading it, it counts as a book you read.  Some people obtain information better through listening than reading, so this is another great way to learn and increase your book reading total.

What audiobooks have you listened to this year?

Did You Pick a Reading Strategy?

As I mentioned above and in the post from last year, I have been switching between fiction and non-fiction with every other book.  This year, I added screenplays or plays between each book to break things up.  

I’m sticking with non-fiction about actors from The Golden Age of Hollywood for now, and once I’m done with those, I’ll move on to world history.  

Fiction-wise, I have the final two Game of Thrones books (until Martin finishes the final one), a stack of Stephen King, and a few other fiction titles I’ve wanted to get into.

It’s always good to have some plan and know what you will be reading next to keep your momentum going. 

Do you have a reading strategy in place?

Final Thoughts

I love reading.  It’s good to have a strategy in place that you can use that can help you know what to read next and keep you on track.  Adding smaller books or audiobooks can help you bridge the gaps when it comes time to read a longer book during the year.  

It’s also important to enjoy what you read and have fun learning or being entertained by what you’re reading.

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

Writing Question of the Week: What Are You Drinking?

I’m not a person who can eat when they write; the food can become a distraction and be messy.  The aftereffects of sleepiness can also cramp one’s ability to create.  I prefer to have something to drink instead.  Nothing complicated.  Just something there with me to keep me hydrated or caffeinated so I can stay focused and keep writing.

Let’s talk about some!


You can never go wrong with water at your side.  Whether bottled, filtered, or from the tap, water can keep you hydrated and prevent you from becoming distracted by thirst.  This should be a must-have beverage with you when you write, even if you have other drinks.

Coffee or Tea

A little caffeine never hurts – unless you have a sensitivity to it, then I would either skip it or use it in moderation – and coffee or tea can help give you an extra boost of energy for those long writing sessions.  Suppose you’re like me and like to write into the wee hours of the morning.  In that case, a little jolt of caffeine can help re-engage your mind after a long day at work and help you get into the creative mindset for your writing sessions.

From Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Tim Hortons, Dunkin, or store brands, there’s a wide range of coffees and teas to experiment with and find the one best suited for your writing needs.

Energy Drinks

While there is controversy surrounding the over-consumption of these, energy drinks can provide a quick boost of energy that can help you stay focused and keep writing.  It is essential, however, not to overdo it and drink more than one at a time.  

I always supplement drinking one with water, not mixed in, just on the side.  At least for me, this cuts down on the jitteriness that can often come with drinking an energy drink with a high caffeine content.  

If you have never had one, pace yourself when you do, or stick with coffee or tea for your beverage stimulant needs.


Another method to get caffeine and energy fast is drinking soda.  When writing, it can give you that extra push to write a little longer.  There are plenty of caffeine-based sodas on the market, so if you prefer to go this route instead of energy drinks, you can find one with the best amount of caffeine.

Final Thoughts

Yes, authors of the past drank booze when they wrote, but I want to encourage you to stay engaged and clear-headed when you write.  The key to using coffee or tea, energy drinks, or soda when you write is to help you stay focused, but make sure you don’t jump in head-first to try them if you haven’t before.  Always test small doses of caffeine first, and work your way up.

Water, however, should always be part of every writer’s tool kit.  Your body and mind need it, and you’ll feel better in the long run if you stay hydrated when you write.

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

What are some of your favorite drinks to consume when writing?  Leave a comment and let me know!