Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Here is a little trick that has helped me when writing longer prose pieces - wish I could remember where I picked it up! You'll like it because it's as simple as A B C D E.
A - Action (always a great beginning)
B - Background (who is your character, what has already happened that will help up understand what's going to happen?)
C - Conflict
D - Development (the heart of your book)
E - End (a.k.a. conflict resolution)
This is a great outline for those who don't believe in outlines. I hope it helps you as much as it's helped me!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


She wasn't talking about writing exactly, but when a girl she knew was considering quitting college, Katharine Hepburn in her growly voice gave this advice:

1. Never Quit.
2. Be Yourself.
3. Don't Put Too Much Flour in Your Brownies.

I think it applies, don't you? (Find this and other anecdotes in Liz Smith's book Dishing.)

Monday, November 28, 2005


I wish I could remember where I first heard this one so I could give credit, especially as it has become one of my favorite writing challenges. It goes something like this: Gather all of the members of your family of origin, put them in one place, and see what happens. The first time I did this, I wrote a poem entitled Year of the Jellyfish that had us all at Cape San Blas, Florida, where we spent many a summer night during my childhood. The trick with this exercise is to be honest and avoid sentimentality. Good luck!

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Ted Kooser, current US Poet Laureate, has written a helpful book entitled The Poetry Home Repair Manual. Even the title puts me at ease, and it also brings me to today's point: Kooser stresses the importance of keeping in mind who your audience is. Today, try to remember that your poem or story is at its most basic level a form of communication. Be clear and precise, and it helps to have a specific audience in mind.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


This one is for all you closet-writers out there: Writing just for yourself is wonderful and certainly the heart of it all, but do consider sharing your work. You are the only one with your stories, and we want to hear them! Today, pull those poems out of the drawer and let someone else read them. Or be very brave and send out to a journal or magazine! (see LINKS)

Friday, November 25, 2005


First, consider this poem:

A Writer and an Octopus

A writer and an octopus
Share more than you may think
Their reach sometimes exceeds their grasp
As they waste a lot of ink

- Sue Walker, Poet Laureate of Alabama

So, go ahead, waste some ink, because it's not waste at all; it's an investment in your writing future. The more you write, the better your writing will be.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


In her very wise book Writing Alone and With Others, Pat Schneider claims this as one of her favorite writing exercises. Ask yourself the following question: What matters? Then write down all the thoughts that come to mind in whatever form you desire. (Try it after you've stuffed yourself with turkey.) Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2005


I read in a newspaper article that writing skills in children improved when they were told lots of stories. Not read to, but told stories, as in, "Once upon of time your grandpa and me were fishing at the pond and..." It makes sense, doesn't it, for what is writing but telling a story? Today, think about stories you've been told or stories you like to tell and figure out a way to transfer them to the page. I am heading to Florida to spend time with my grandparents -- I'll be back with more tips Thanksgiving day. Happy and safe travels to all!!

Sunday, November 20, 2005


One of the most effective tools a poet has is the choice of word at the end of the line. This is the word that reverberates, this is the word that sticks. So choose those end words carefully! Make them powerful, pivotal, full of life. Break your lines with words that make readers want to go on to the next line, and the next. The suspense in a poem lives in the line endings. (In longer prose works, last sentences of chapters play the same role.)

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Too often writers allow the act of writing to fall off of the "Necessary" list that includes such things as Eat, Work, Sleep, Pay Bills, Play with Kids, etc. If this has happened to you, try today to carve out at least a few minutes in your daily schedule to speak with your Muse. Be a writer who writes.

Friday, November 18, 2005


Tonight the local high schools who have qualified will play in the quarter-finals of the state playoffs. What will the coaches say to the players before the game, at half-time, or after? Today, write something designed to inspire, persuade, or call people to action. And, Go, Oak Mountain Eagles!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2005


So says Ray Bradbury in his book Zen in the Art of Writing. And it's true: writing is a matter of doing, and the thing that clogs the artery of creative juices is getting uptight and self-conscious. Today, try to writing something just for yourself, with no thought of showing it to others. You'll be amazed by what pours forth.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Studies indicate that the sense most attached to memory recall is the sense of smell. Today, mine your mind for memories associated with smells - the smell of fresh rain, Grandma's apple pie, dirty socks, whatever. See what develops when you begin writing those memories down.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Nothing opens my mind so much as the open road. But what's to be done when a great line or character or story premise comes to you when you're cruising down the highway? I'll tell you: invest in one of those little dictaphone recording machines and keep it in the glove box. And when the monotonous miles send your brain working overtime, record those ideas without risking your life or losing travel time. Then later, write them down.

Monday, November 14, 2005


I confess: I love long titles. My current favorite is by the wonderful poet Bonnie Roberts -- "El Rancho Motel Cost us $28 a Night, the Air Conditioning Control was Labeled 'Off' and 'On,' There Were Holes in the Drapes, the Shower Sprayed Sideways, and, Though We Had Our First Awful Fight That Was the Beginning of the End, It Was the Best Love We Ever Made." Think of titles as a tool. Use them to inform your reader about time, place, subject so that your first lines can cut straight to the point.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Try this for a little variation on a list poem (works for poetry or prose): write a recipe for something today -- Recipe for a Happy Marriage (or an Unhappy one!), Recipe for Humble Pie, Recipe for a Good Poem,..... Just gather your list of ingredients and put them in whatever form works for you. (This exercise can also cook up "How To" pieces.)

Saturday, November 12, 2005


All the experts say it: aside from reading, the best thing you can do to capture the Muse is invest in a nice journal. And use it! The thing that has worked best for me in terms of journaling is to record favorite lines and passages from whatever fiction I'm currently reading. From Barbara Kingsolver's book Prodigal Summer, I got "All secrets are witnessed." I later used that as the epigraph for a poem titled "First Day of Winter" that was published by Birmingham Arts Journal and will be included in my next book. The key is to write it down. Otherwise you'll forget who said it, or how exactly it went, or that it even made an impression on you in the first place. Another tip: invest in some of those little sticky "book darts" for marking quotes as you read!

Friday, November 11, 2005


What must life look like to a toaster, the dishwasher, an iron? Choose an inanimate object you use on a daily basis and see if you can create a life for it. Who does it see, what does it like, how does it feel? (I once wrote a poem entitled "Ode to a Vacuum Cleaner.") Have fun with this one!!

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Poems and stories are everywhere, just waiting to be written. Today, pick up a newspaper or magazine and write about something you see there -- an article, a photograph, a caption.... You will find the heart of your poem or story when you stop to consider why that particular news-bit or photo jumped out at you. How does it speak to you? What does it remind you of? Why? The key is to make a connection between yourself and the material. That's what makes good writing good.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

X-Y-V (eXamine Your Verbs)

This is a tip I picked up at the Alabama Writers' Conclave this past July, at a workshop conducted by Sue Walker, current Poet Laureate of Alabama. Particularly when writing poetry, every word counts. So, one way to really improve a first draft is to go back and eXamine Your Verbs. Get rid of passive "to be" verbs, scratch out those verbs ending in "-ing." If "hot" appears in your draft, break out the thesaurus and consider synonyms and how they add nuance to your writing. Action is very important -- make sure your reader can feel it by choosing the best verbs possible.


Welcome to Daytips for Writers! The purpose of this site is to share writing tips, exercises, and resources to help jumpstart the Muse that lives within all of us. So, whether you are an accomplished writer or a closet-writer or even if you never thought of yourself as a writer at all, this blog is for you. Happy writing!