5/22/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #143: Three Things, Five Words 11

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#143
Three Things, Five Words 11
For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following three things, and these five individual words. The three things should be important to the piece, not just a throwaway reference used because it has to be. This is prompt time, baby! 

If you're not sure where to start, begin by finding a connection between two of the 'things'—whether that is a shared appearance, locale, one of the things might interact with another (or all three), some way that the two are likened or could be physically together. Use one of the things with two of the 'words' in the beginning of the piece and explore for a bit, knowing that you're aiming at the second ''thing' (where the two 'things' have their connection) about 1/3-1/2 of the way through what you imagine the length of the piece (which may be totally off). By then you should have a direction and it's off to the races, with that third 'thing' in your pathway to the finishing line.

'Three Things'
  1. A Large Statue of a Horse
  2. Pizza
  3. Spiderman
'Five Words' 
Include these five words in your piece: 
Hiss, Whirl, Cardinal, Narrow, Stamped.

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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Japanese Tea Ceremony" lofi playlist.

5/21/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #142: First Line Bonanza 10

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#142
First Line Bonanza 10

For today's writing exercise write a piece that begins with one of the following first lines.

1) Something very large was crunched above her head.
2) Clutched in the hand was a photograph and a necklace.
3) We don't coddle threats.
4) Longer than a mouse's tail, but shorter than a horse's.
5) By the end of the day pretty much all of the savagery had stopped.
6) Help surrounded her.
7) Shells crunched beneath my feet with every step.
8) Tiny granules of rock beneath toes.

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Bonus 'constraint': You must include a paragraph/stanza in which at least 3 of the sentences or lines begin with the letter "L" and the piece must include either a beach or a flashlight (or both).
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If you'd like some background music to write to, try "Boba stop" lofi playlist brought to you by our lofi buddies at The Jazz Hop Café.

2022 Writing Exercise Series #141: Erasing Roger Ebert 58 "Duck Soup" (Classic)

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#141
Erasing Roger Ebert 578 "Duck Soup" (Classic)

For today's exercise we have split paths for fiction and poetry, though I highly recommend that even fiction writers try the poetry exercise, because erasures can be a blast!

Poetry: For poetry do an erasure or black-out poem from the following:  Roger Ebert's review of the 1933 Marx Brothers film "Duck Soup" (Four Stars).

Roger Ebert has been the archetypal film critic for decades, and he's written thousands of reviews. Because of their nature, almost their own bit of ekphrastic art, this series of erasures will be lots of fun!

An Erasure/Blackout is really simple: you take the given text and remove many words to make it your own new piece. One way to go about the erasure that I like to do is to copy the text and paste it twice into your document before you start erasing or blacking out (in MS Word set the text background color to black), that way if you get further into the erasure and decide you want a somewhat different tone or direction, it's easy to go to the unaltered version and make the erasure/black-out piece smoother. Another tip is to look for recurring words, in this example 'bingo' occurs multiple times and could be a good touchstone for your piece.

Fiction or (poetry): If you insist on fiction (or just feel like writing a "Title Mania" piece), write a piece with one of these  titles taken from this section (bonus, because this 'classic' review is so long, there are double the average title mania suggestions—instead of 8 there are 16!):

  1. Other Comedians
  2. Indirect Comedies
  3. Marx Brothers-Inspired
  4. Slapstick and Screwball
  5. They Demanded the Mediocre
  6. Funny From Beginning to End
  7. Puns and Sneaky Double Entendres
  8. A Sustained Pantomime
  9. I don't mind a hatchet job
  10. Stock Footage Edited Together
  11. Looking for Loopholes
  12. "I have to go to the dentist before I go to France"
  13. The Reflection in an Error
  14. Just as Chaplin and Keaton
  15. Glued it Back
  16. Two Turkeys, One Goose, Four Cabbages, But No Duck

Erasure Selection:

Roger Ebert's review of "Duck Soup" 

My father loved the Marx Brothers above all other comedians or, indeed, all other movie stars. The first movie he ever took me to was "A Day at the Races." All I remember about that experience was the fact of my father's laughter. But there was something else, too, that I understood only much later: The sound of his voice as he described the brothers. He used the tone that people employ when they are talking about how someone got away with something.

That is the same tone I have heard, and used, in discussing such subjects as "Some Like It Hot," "The Producers," "Blazing Saddles," "Airplane!," Monty Python, Andy Kaufman, Saturday Night Live, "South Park," Howard Stern, "There's Something About Mary" and "Being John Malkovich" - -and even movies that are only indirectly comedies, like "Pulp Fiction." There is a kind of admiration for material that dares something against the rules and yet is obvious, irresistibly, funny. How much more anarchic the Marx Brothers must have seemed in their time than we can understand today. They were among the first to evoke that tone; you can see who the Marx Brothers inspired, but not who they were inspired by, except indirectly by the rich traditions of music hall, vaudeville and Yiddish comedy that nurtured them.

Movies gave them a mass audience, and they were the instrument that translated what was once essentially a Jewish style of humor into the dominant note of American comedy. Although they were not taken as seriously, they were as surrealist as Dali, as shocking as Stravinsky, as verbally outrageous as Gertrude Stein, as alienated as Kafka. Because they worked the genres of slapstick and screwball, they did not get the same kind of attention, but their effect on the popular mind was probably more influential. "As an absurdist essay on politics and warfare," wrote the British critic Patrick McCray, " `Duck Soup' can stand alongside (or even above) the works of Beckett and Ionesco."

The Marx Brothers created a body of work in which individual films are like slices from the whole, but "Duck Soup" (1933) is probably the best. It represents a turning point in their movie work; it was their last film for Paramount, and the last in which all of the scenes directly involved the brothers. When it was a box office disappointment, they moved over to MGM, where production chief Irving Thalberg ordered their plots to find room for conventional romantic couples, as if audiences could only take so much Marx before they demanded the mediocre (Buster Keaton's sound comedies for MGM suffered from the same meddling and dilution).

"A Night at the Opera" (1935) their first MGM film, contains some of their best work, yes, but in watching it I fast-forward over the sappy interludes involving Kitty Carlisle and Allan Jones. In "Duck Soup" there are no sequences I can skip; the movie is funny from beginning to end.

To describe the plot would be an exercise in futility, since a Marx Brothers movie exists in moments, bits, sequences, business and dialogue, not in comprehensible stories. Very briefly, "Duck Soup" stars Groucho as Rufus T. Firefly, who becomes dictator of Fredonia under the sponsorship of the rich Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont, the brothers' tireless and irreplaceable foil). Neighboring Sylvania and its Ambassador Trintino (Louis Calhern) have designs on the country, and Trintino hires Harpo and Chico as spies. This flimsy premise provides a clothesline for one inspired sequence after another, including sustained examples of Groucho's puns and sneaky double entendres. But it also supports a couple of wordless physical sequences that probably have their roots in the vaudeville acts the brothers performed and saw years earlier.

One is the three-hat routine involving Chico and Harpo and the straight man Edgar Kennedy (who started with Mack Sennett and Chaplin). Chico, as a spy, inexplicably adopts the cover of a peanut vendor, and Harpo is a passerby. Kennedy has the lemonade cart next to Chico's peanut cart, and the brothers make his life miserable in a routine that involves their three hats changing position as quickly as the cards in a monte game.

The other sequence is one of the gems of the first century of film. Harpo disguises himself as Groucho, and for reasons much too complicated to explain, sneaks into Mrs. Teasdale's, tries to break into a safe and shatters a mirror. Groucho himself comes downstairs to investigate. Harpo is standing inside the frame of the broken mirror, and tries to avoid detection by pretending to be Groucho's reflection. This leads to a sustained pantomime involving flawless timing, as Groucho tries to catch the reflection in an error, and Harpo matches every move. Finally, in a perfect escalation of zaniness, Chico blunders into the frame, also dressed as Groucho.

It is impossible to discuss Groucho's dialogue without quoting it, and pointless to quote it since Groucho's delivery is essential to the effect. He played an utterly irreverent character whose speech was at the mercy of puns, insults and bawdy insinuations that tiptoed just this side of the censors (as when Rufus T. Firefly tantalizes Mrs. Teasdale with visions of marriage and then confesses, "All I can offer you is a Rufus over your head"). Many gifted comedy writers, including S.J. Perelman, labored over the Marx Brothers movie scripts, but all their dialogue had its origins in Groucho's own speaking style, perfected over the years.

In 1972 I was able to spend some time with Groucho, for a profile for Esquire. He was then 81, and still unmistakably occupying the persona he had made famous. (Who he was in private remains a mystery to me; in public he was always onstage.) His first words to me could have been said in more or less the same way by Rufus T. Firefly: "Esquire isn't my favorite magazine, you know. Interviews are really murder. They keep asking you questions. I could be brought up on a rape charge. I don't mind a hatchet job, if it's truthful. Could you pin a rape charge on me? Could you try? I'd appreciate it. You don't do any dental work, do you? I have to go to the dentist before I go to France."

In two sessions separated by a couple of weeks, I heard him talk for hours at a time, always in the same way, circling his material looking for loopholes. I began to think of him as a soloist, and speech as his instrument. Like a good musician, he no longer had to think of the notes; he worked in terms of timing and the through-line, and questions did not inspire answers but improvisations.

Groucho as a comedian would have been impossible in the silent era, just as Chaplin and Keaton adapted only uncertainly to sound. And yet in appearance the three essential brothers (Zeppo seemed superfluous) were like caricatures from the silent era. Harpo of course was always silent anyway. Chico had the Italian persona, with the curly hair and Pinocchio hat. And Groucho was such an artificial creation, with his bold slash of a greasepaint mustache, his eyebrows and his cigar. His look was so bizarre it wasn't makeup so much as a mask; there are times during the mirror sequence in "Duck Soup" when we have to ask ourselves which one is the real Groucho.

Dated as "Duck Soup" inevitably is in some respects, it has moments that seem startlingly modern, as when Groucho calls for help during the closing battle sequence, and the response is stock footage edited together out of newsreel shots of fire engines, elephants, motorcycles, you name it. There is an odd moment when Harpo shows Groucho a doghouse tattooed on his stomach, and in a special effect a real dog emerges and barks at him. The brothers broke the classical structure of movie comedy and glued it back again haphazardly, and nothing was ever the same.

Note: Why the title? The critic Tim Dirks explains: "It is claimed that Groucho provided the following recipe: `Take two turkeys, one goose, four cabbages, but no duck, and mix them together. After one taste, you'll duck soup the rest of your life.' "

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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "The answer is in the stars" lofi playlist.

5/20/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #140: Six Word Cluster 11

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#140
Six Word Cluster 11
For today's writing exercise write a piece that includes the following set of 6 words. If you're writing free verse or fiction, don't front-load them all into the beginning of your piece, save at least one or two for somewhere to 'aim' your piece.

Remember sestinas have 6 different end-words, but don't let me tell you what to write. Just use all 6 words in a fashion that isn't throw-away. Don't put them in in a way that you'll definitely later edit them out because they don't add to the piece. Make them important. This might require a little brainstorming at first. Don't be afraid, you can do it!

Six Words: 
1) Purple
2) Toast
3) Knuckle
4) Balloon
5) Dull
6) Whipped

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Bonus Exercise: If that's not enough, also include 
1) at least three lines or sentences that begin with the word "More", 
2) at least one reference to a peninsula, 
3) at least three lines (or sentences) with three instances of the /A/ sound (like "They say great so fake" or "Waking to baked cake aroma").
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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Beyond the Horizon" playlist.

5/18/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #139: Three Things Together 13

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#139
Three Things Together 13


F
or today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following three things, Nice and simple.

  1. Chocolate Ice Cream
  2. Bumper Cars
  3. A Venn Diagram
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Optional Prompt: Include at least two descriptions that include non-primary colors (orange, seafoam, carnation etc), two sentences that are exactly three words long, and include at least one instance where we see something speeding away from us.

If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Fragment of the Past" lofi mix from friend of the blog Dreamhop Music.

5/17/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #138: Dueling Six Word Shootout 10

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#138
Dueling Six Word Shootout 10
For today's writing exercise write a piece that includes one or both of the following sets of 6 words. Don't front-load them all into the beginning of your piece, save at least one or two for somewhere to 'aim' your piece. Remember sestinas have 6 different end-words, but don't let me tell you what to write. Just use all 6 (or twelve) words in a fashion that isn't throw-away. Don't put them in in a way that you'll definitely later edit them out because they don't add to the piece. Make them important. This might require a little brainstorming at first. Don't be afraid, you can do it!

Set 1: 
1) Shoulder 
2) Grove
3) Gnaw
4) Odor 
5) Clove
6) Flaw 

Set 2:
7) Cold
8) Crow 
9) Claw 
10) Gold
11) Alcove
12) Draw

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Bonus Exercise: If that's not enough, also include the following three things: A Glass Bottle, A Fire Hydrant, and A Pier (or dock).
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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this lofi playist "Icarus" from lofi friend of the blog Dreamhop Music.

5/16/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #137: Ekphrastic Excellence 8

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#137
Ekphrastic Excellence 8

For today, we're providing one awesome image for you to be inspired by. Find a creative way to respond/react/interpret the image—be inspired, inspire your reader.

Image: "Portrait of Emmanuel Rio" (1866) (formerly known as "a gardener and horn player") by Austrian artist Albert Schindler 


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How will you translate this image into writing? The narrative of the painting's subject is pretty interesting and sad. Definitely lots to inspire a piece there, or you can go strictly from what you see here, the young person with a french horn sitting by a window with beautiful scenery, but they're staring forward, what has their attention there? There are dozens of ways you can go with this piece, make it your own.

You got this!
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If you'd like chill lofi background writing music, try this "Slowly Drifting" lofi playlist from the awesome Dreamhop Music.

5/15/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series 136: Micro 101 Episode 9 (with bonus)

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#136 Micro 101 Episode 9

For today's writing exercise you will write a few micro-poems or micro-fictions. These will be either poems under 20 lines or stories under 250 words.

For inspiration go read some micro or hint fiction in this Buzzfeed article, at Microfiction MondayAlbaMolecule50 Word Stories and Nanoism. Or also this Barnstorm blog post "How Microfiction Could Transform Social Media".

Check out all of the prompts and pick a couple to write. Once you've done that, focusing on one at a time, read the full prompt twice before you start writing because you're looking to keep it minimal, so have ideas. If your first draft is longer don't fret. Hone it down. And the piece will be what it is. I've started out with a goal of 100 words but hit on something and had to cull the end result from 1350 to 1200 for a contest because I loved the result. So each story will be its own beast, but we're ideally aiming for 20 lines or 100-250 words with these. And if they grow into something much larger, hey, you've got something longer!

BONUS PROMPT: Today if you complete all of the micro exercises, you'll have a special surprise at the end. It's worth it! But let yourself be surprised and don't click ahead.

Micro Exercise 1: Petting Zoo 1. Write a short piece in which a child is at a petting zoo and the pygmy goat they really are excited to pet, headbutts them.
Micro Exercise 2: Petting Zoo 2. Write a short piece in which an adult is having a terrible day and they find themselves outside of a petting zoo and on a whim they go in and petting one particular animal thinking about their terrible day they begin to feel a bit better.
Micro Exercise 3: Petting Zoo 3. Write a micro piece where we see the petting zookeeper (caretaker? employee?) is packing up the petting zoo for the night. Surprise us and give us at least one awfully cute moment (and don't be afraid to go dark or odd if you feel like it).
Micro Exercise 4:  Dream 1Write a surreal micro piece in which a person (who we never discover the gender of) thinks they're lucid dreaming (controlling their dreams using various techniques) and in their dream they begin climbing up into the blue sky on an invisible ladder. End the piece with the character looking around and seeing a beautiful small town below them and waving at a little kid that's waving at them way down on the ground, and trying to figure out if they should keep climbing up or climb back down.
Micro Exercise 5: Tower 1. Write a very short piece where a kid is watching a ladybug climb along the curved edge of an aspen leaf and then looks up to see a person quickly climbing a huge antenna tower across the street.
Micro Exercise 6: Dream 2. Write a very short piece where your narrator is having a dream where they are swimming through the sky and they wake up surprised to be very very high up on a huge antenna tower, take it from there.
Micro Exercise 7: Petting Zoo 4. Write a short piece in which a child is at a petting zoo and they're scared of the animals because the last time they were at the zoo they'd been headbutted by a goat. The parents are very distracted and even though the kid is really scared they're forced to face their fear, and this time they have a super sweet scene petting the pygmy goat, and subtly include the detail that as that scene's happening, in the background there are police/fire sirens approaching.

BONUS PROMPT SURPRISE: Now, ya know, it's supposed to be organic, so I'm putting the bonus prompt surprise below the background video. It'll be worth it though! Just be sure you've written all 7 micros first.


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If you'd like some background writing music, try this: "Ocean Blue" from background music friends of the blog, Dreamhop Music


BONUS PROMPT SURPRISE

You have a longer piece there almost organically! Put these pieces together into one long piece like this: start with Petting Zoo 1. Then transition (or do a 'break' to) Petting Zoo 2, but only to the point where the adult goes into the petting zoo. Then go to Dream 1. Then go to Tower 1 where the kid sees the person climbing and waves to them. Transition with the kids' parents seeing the 'sleeping' person climbing the tower and freaking out, because it seems clear they're either going to fall or jump off to their death, so that transitions to the second half of Petting Zoo 2 with the adult going into the petting zoo while having a terrible, no good day and about to start feeling better, including just the beginning of Petting Zoo 4. Then go to Tower 2 where the dreamer finds themselves on the tower, but had they wanted to go there all along? Were they not actually dreaming? Are they surprisingly tired from the climb up and worried they'll fall? You determine how that goes. But then end the piece with the rest of Petting Zoo 4 and do any connecting and reshaping you dm necessary. You can also potentially end with Petting Zoo 3 where the cleanup is happening after that crazy day. How crazy the day was, depending on what happens ultimately to that dreamer in your piece who's unstable over a hundred feet up on the tower antenna.


5/14/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #135: Erasing EAP "The Masque of the Red Death" 4

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#135
Erasing EAP "The Masque of the Red Death" 4

For today's exercise we have split paths for fiction and poetry, though I highly recommend that even fiction writers try the poetry exercise, because erasures can be a blast!

For poetry do an erasure or black-out poem from the following selection of Edgar Allen Poe's 1838 short story "The Masque of the Red Death".


Edgar Allen Poe is considered by some to be the writer that solidified the short story genre as, well, a genre. Not the first writer of short stories, or even popular short stories, but he wrote enough of them that with the stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens, Irving Washington and others, critics were finally like—fine. Short stories can be a thing.

An Erasure/Blackout is really simple: you take the given text and remove many words to make it your own new piece. One way to go about the erasure that I like to do is to copy the text and paste it twice into your document before you start erasing or blacking out (in MS Word set the text background color to black), that way if you get further into the erasure and decide you want a somewhat different tone or direction, it's easy to go to the unaltered version and make the erasure/black-out piece smoother. Another tip is to look for recurring words, or themes.

If you insist on fiction (or if one of these strikes you), write a piece with one of these titles taken from this section:

  1. An Assembly of Phantasms
  2. Out-Heroded
  3. The Habiliments of the Grave
  4. Dabbled in Blood
  5. To Be Convulsed
  6. With Rage
  7. A Bold and Robust Man
  8. Detecting the Cheat


Erasure Selection:

from "The Masque of the Red Death"


    In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted, it may well be supposed that no ordinary appearance could have excited such sensation. In truth the masquerade license of the night was nearly unlimited; but the figure in question had out-Heroded Herod, and gone beyond the bounds of even the prince's indefinite decorum. There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made. The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed. The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in blood -- and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror.

    When the eyes of Prince Prospero fell upon this spectral image (which with a slow and solemn movement, as if more fully to sustain its role, stalked to and fro among the waltzers) he was seen to be convulsed, in the first moment with a strong shudder either of terror or distaste; but, in the next, his brow reddened with rage.

    "Who dares?" he demanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him -- "who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and unmask him -- that we may know whom we have to hang at sunrise, from the battlements!"

    It was in the eastern or blue chamber in which stood the Prince Prospero as he uttered these words. They rang throughout the seven rooms loudly and clearly -- for the prince was a bold and robust man, and the music had become hushed at the waving of his hand.

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As your background music sommelier, I've chosen to again pair Vangelis with your "Erasing Edgar Allen Poe" series. For this sampling I've selected his 1984 album "Soil Festivities".  

5/13/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #134: Between a Fact and an Exact Place 7

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#134
Between a Fact and an Exact Place 7

For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following place (either as the setting, referenced or some aspect of it described) and the following fact in some way (its discovery, used as a metaphor, witnessed, explained, demonstrated, etc—anything but as a throwaway line).


As an additional assignment, should you choose to incorporate it, is as follows: Also include the words "Renewal" "Bones" "Duplex" "Enough" and "Chocolate".

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If you'd like some background music, try this "Sleepless Nights" lofi mix.

2022 Writing Exercise Series #133: Three Things, Five Words 10

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#133
Three Things, Five Words 10
For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following three things, and these five individual words. The three things should be important to the piece, not just a throwaway reference used because it has to be. This is prompt time, baby! 

If you're not sure where to start, begin by finding a connection between two of the 'things'—whether that is a shared appearance, locale, one of the things might interact with another (or all three), some way that the two are likened or could be physically together. Use one of the things with two of the 'words' in the beginning of the piece and explore for a bit, knowing that you're aiming at the second ''thing' (where the two 'things' have their connection) about 1/3-1/2 of the way through what you imagine the length of the piece (which may be totally off). By then you should have a direction and it's off to the races, with that third 'thing' in your pathway to the finishing line.

'Three Things'
  1. A Banana
  2. Lebanon
  3. A Saint Bernard (dog)
'Five Words' 
Include these five words in your piece: 
Plastic, Herbs, Misfire, Playful, Varnished.

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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Morning Coffee" lofi playlist from background music giant Lofi Girl.

5/12/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #132: How to... 11

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#132
How to... 11

For today's prompt we are focusing on imperative directional pieces. What does that mean? A "How to"! You don't have to title your piece "How to ..." (though you certainly can if you'd like to), you could write a prose piece that merely includes someone giving another directions or you could make it a step by step process like a recipe, however you want to interpret the prompt, the process that is the 'how to' should merely be described at some length during your piece, in some fashion. 

For a couple examples of "How to" pieces. "How to Get There" by Philip Levine, "How to tie a knot" by James Kimbrell, the villanelle "The Grammar Lesson" by Steve Kowit, Mónica de la Torre's wonderful "How to Look at Mexican Highways". and the awesome short story "How to Write a True War Story" by Tim O'Brien.

How toCelebrate the End of the World.

Extra Credit RequirementsYour piece must include at least one sentence that is exactly four words long, and your piece must include the words "Meeting" "Growth" "Frail" "Ecstatic" and "Loneliness".

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If you'd like some background music try this "Sleepless Night" lofi mix.

5/10/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #131: Beginning, Middle & End 11

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#131
Beginning, Middle & End 11

For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which begins with one image, scenario, line of dialog or place, includes another thing or event somewhere beyond the first and before the last stanza/paragraph, and ends with another required 'thing'.

Begin WithA thunderstorm.

Somewhere in the middle: A basketball bounces away from the people playing with it.

End WithA coral reef.

Extra Credit RequirementsYour title or first line/sentence must include the word "So", and you should include the following five words: HeartFlowingDragSpiderDice.

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If you'd like some background writing music try this lofi playlist "Campfire Crackling" from Chillhop Music.