Ninja Writer’s Academy: Keeping a Writer’s Notebook

Ninja Writer Academy is a weekly series. Every Saturday morning, I post a lesson here. You can do the work, then come share it on our Facebook group. I’ll be on Facebook on Sunday for Office Hours so we can discuss the lesson, or anything else writing related. If you’d like to join the Academy and get an email on Saturday with a link to the lesson, plus notification when Office Hours start, Click Here.

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The Capturing Ideas Assignment

Ninja Writer's Academy-The Capturing Ideas Assignment

I thought we’d talk about something a little different this week.

Do you keep a writer’s notebook?

Basically a writer’s notebook is just what it sounds like: a notebook that a writer carries. It’s a place for keeping the ideas that come at you, the little bits of dialogue you overhear, the character sketches that just can’t wait until you’re at a computer.

They’re also a good place for old-fashioned hand writing when you can fit in a couple of hundred words at a time when you’re not able to type.

I have a section of my notebook set up with three or four pages for each of ten or so story ideas that I have at different levels of development. When something hits me about one of them, I can jot down a note.

The problem I’ve always had is I don’t always want to carry a notebook around with me.

So, I also use a Hipster PDA, which is essentially a bundle of index cards held together with a binder clip. It fits in my back pocket and I always have it with me.

In addition to cards for things like my daily to-do list and my weekly schedule, I keep blank cards in my hPDA. I use them as a portable writer’s notebook.

My habit is to transfer my notes just before bed. Some of them get re-written in my notebook. Any handwriting I do is transcribed into my WIP.

It seems like extra work, and of course it is, but it forces me to evaluate the notes I’ve taken and the writing I’ve done that day and organize it.

Analog works for me. You might use Evernote on your smart phone or some other way of keeping electronic notes.

Here’s your assignment for this week. If you don’t already have a writer’s notebook system that works for you, spend some time getting one set up.

If you do have one, but you aren’t using it the way you’d like to, try to evaluate why and make some changes. Maybe share your struggle on Facebook and let us help you figure it out.

If you’ve got the perfect (for you) system up and running already, that’s awesome! Come over to Facebook and share it with us. Maybe you’ll inspire one of your fellow Ninjas!

I’d love to see a picture of your notebook or hPDA or whatever it is that you use.

Once you have a system set up, use it! Come share one of your notes or ideas or snippets of dialogue with us on Facebook.

My Turn

Here’s my hPDA.

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Here’s something that’s been kicking around my various writer’s notebooks for about twenty years. Someday, I’ll use it. Somewhere.

When my older kids were very little, I was on a city bus with them. We drove past a broken down muscle car–it was bright blue–on the side of the road with it’s hood popped up and steam or smoke pouring out from under it. It was summer in Las Vegas and intensely hot, well over 100 degrees. The car’s driver was kneeling on his bare knees on blacktop that must have been soft and sticky and excrutiatingly hot. Praying. Hands folded, face lifted to the sky, his mouth moving.

I only saw him for a few seconds as the bus rolled by, but he’s stuck with me all of this time. Eventually the perfect situation for him will come together and I’ll use him in a story.

Your Turn

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know. Ninja Writers are ALL about the big A word: Accountability. Post here that you’re going to be part of the Academy this week, then do it, Ninja.

Set up your writer’s notebook, if you don’t already have one. And either way, use it today.

Come by Facebook and share your writer’s notebook as well as something you wrote in it today. I’ll be there tomorrow at 5 p.m. PST for office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that. It’s totally free–when you sign up, I’ll send you a link every week to the Academy post and an invitation to my Sunday office hours.

If you want some extra accountability for your Academy work, check out the Ninja Writers Kick-in-the-Butt Crew. It’ll help you get it done.

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Hump Day Writing Prompt #8: Arguing with Authority

Hump Day Prompt #8: Arguing with Authority. This week, give your hero a chance to fight with their authority figure.

Every Wednesday, I post a writing prompt here. You write about it, if it tickles your creativity bone, and then come share what you wrote on Facebook to get some feedback and see what the other Ninjas have come up with. My goal with these prompts will to be to make them something that can move your current work-in-progress forward.

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Arguing with Authority

Let’s do some more work on what makes your hero tick this week.

Everyone–everyone–has SOMEONE in authority over them. Even a dictator has someone who can stop them in their tracks with a look. It might not be a traditional authority figure: a boss, a police officer, a teacher or principal, a judge, a parent. Maybe your hero has a sibling whose opinion matters more to them than anyone else’s. Or a mentor who holds strong sway over them. Even an antagonist who the hero feels strongly drawn to please in some way.

This week, I want you to think about who is in authority of your hero–and then have your hero argue with them. Think about the boiling point. That moment when your hero has had enough and has to choose their moral code or mission over what that person wants or needs.

My Turn

(My work in progress is a retelling of Robin Hood set in modern Las Vegas. In this scene, Rob is meeting John Little for the first time–a man who will become both an authority and a mentor. This is kind of long, but I think it illustrates the prompt perfectly.)

A tall man walked out of the left tunnel, the clean tunnel. The closer he got to them, the taller he got, until Rob realized he was at least six and a half feet tall and built like a mountain. He wore blue jeans and a black leather jacket and carried a motorcycle helmet under one arm.

Mattie relaxed as soon as she saw him and said, “Mr. Little, I’m not sure if you remember me—“

The man looked at Mattie, and recognition passed his face, then he looked at Rob. The helmet landed on the ground. John Little took two long-legged steps toward him and before Rob could react, he wrapped one huge hand around his neck.

Rob grabbed onto John’s wrist with both hands and heard Mattie scream. John kept coming forward, forcing Rob back until came up against the wall, hard enough for his skull to bounce off the concrete.

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“Rob Huntington?” John’s voice was low and dangerous. He used his free hand to push too-long dirty blonde hair off his forehead. “Are you Rob Huntington?”

Mattie reached up for his shoulder and pulled, putting her entire body weight into trying to pry him off of Rob. “Let go! Let go of him!”

John looked over his shoulder at her. She hadn’t managed to move him an inch. “Is this Rob Huntington?”

“Yes! Let him go!” Mattie kicked, aiming for the back of his knee. She hit her mark and his leg buckled. His hand moved from Rob’s neck to his chest, pinning him in place like a bug.

Robin gasped in a breath and struggled to get away. John had at least six inches on him, though, and he couldn’t reach him with his arms or legs. He attacked the only part he could reach, bringing his fist down on John’s forearm.

“You aren’t welcome here,” John said, grabbing Rob’s arm with his free hand.

Robin brought his other fist down again on John’s forearm, and this time was able to slip out from under his hand when the pressure let up slightly.

Mattie started to go to Robin, but before she could reach him, he launched himself at John, pushing hard against the wall of his chest and driving up his knee, catching him in the upper thigh.

“Stop! What are you doing?”

John let out a whoosh of air and stumbled back, caught by surprise. He reached for Robin, which was a mistake. The movement put him in position for Robin to drive his fist into John’s jaw.

John pushed with both hands and sent Robin flying several feet back. He landed hard, flat on his rear end. Mattie felt rooted to her spot, she couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t move. Her eyes darted to the tunnel, where several people had gathered and were coming toward them.

“Robin.” Her voice came out in a choked sob.

The people from the tunnel reached them at a dead run just as John pulled Robin up by his shirt again and returned the punch.

“Hey!” Much grabbed on to John’s arm, which was a lot braver than Mattie would have been. John started to throw her off of him, but looked down and stopped before he could hurt her. “This is the guy who helped me last night. His dad just died, you know?”

“This is the guy who wouldn’t talk to Vivienne this morning,” John pointed out. He looked back at Rob. “And now she’s missing. Did you know that, asshole?”

“That’s why we’re here,” Mattie said, trying to be as brave as Much, who was half her size. She went to Robin and stood next to him.

“You think you’d know that Vivienne is missing before I would?” John shook his head and stepped back from Robin. John looked to Mattie like he was in his thirties, although there was something older about his face. It was in his eyes. “I spoke to her this morning, after your friend here put her out.”

“I didn’t put her out,” Robin said.

“You didn’t listen to her.”

“I might have, if I’d ever heard of her before. Finding out that I’m going to be a brother at the reading of my dad’s will took me by surprise, you know?”

John snorted and lifted his chin, giving Robin that point. Another man, about John’s age, walked through the small crowd and said, “Let me see.”

He reached for John’s face, persisting even when John tried to brush him off. He tilted John’s chin toward the setting sun, then looked at Robin with raised eyebrows. “Not everyday someone gets a shot in at our John.”

John yanked away from the other man. “Shut up, Tuck.”

Tuck was a black man with chin length dreadlocks, dressed in army fatigue pants cut off at the knee and a plain white t-shirt that was pristinely clean, despite the fact that he just walked out of a storm drain. He didn’t seem bothered by John telling him to shut up. He smiled and said, “Let’s invite our guests in, instead of standing out here fighting for every tourist walking past that sign to see.”

Tuck lifted his chin toward the iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign that was visible from where Mattie stood, and the three or four people standing at the chain link fence above, looking down on them.

“They don’t need to come in,” John said.

Robin looked ready to agree, but Tuck said, “Don’t be stubborn.”

“We only have an hour,” Mattie said. When everyone turned to look at her, she did her best not to shrink back. “If you want the food from the Nott, anyway.”

John’s jaw tightened, and Mattie thought maybe he was going to say they didn’t want the food after all. Much spoke up though and said, “We want it.”

Mattie smiled at her, then looked up at Robin, who still looked ready for a fight. Maybe going inside wasn’t such a good idea after all. Robin was wound tight as a drum.

“You haven’t seen Vivienne Staunton today then?” Robin asked. “Her attorney thought she might be here.”

“She’s not here.”  A woman moved beside John and a look crossed his face that Mattie couldn’t quite place. Something like guilt she thought, but maybe not quite. “John spoke to her after she left the Nott. She had a doctor’s appointment today, but we think she missed it.”

“Can we help look for her?” Mattie asked.

John shook his head, and when the woman beside him put a hand on his arm, he lifted it around her shoulders. Mattie felt a jolt of compassion for her. She might be standing next to John, with his arm around her, but the man was clearly in love with Vivienne Staunton. “You’ve done enough.”

“What?” Robin asked. “What are you talking about?”

“Don’t lie to me,” John said. “Don’t pretend—“

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“The woman who you just learned was pregnant with another heir to your precious fortune just disappeared.” When Robin didn’t respond right away, John said, “Where is she? What have you done to her?”

“You’re out of your mind,” Mattie said. “Robin didn’t do anything to Vivienne.”

“Bullshit.”

“He doesn’t know,” Robin said, taking Mattie’s arm and pulling her back to him when she stepped forward.

“Know what?”

Robin shook his head. “My dad left me and Vivienne’s baby exactly the same thing—a trust fund worth three million dollars when we turn twenty-five.”

“What about the Nott?” John asked. “What about Locksley?”

“He left them both to Philip Mark.”

Your Turn

Are you writing this week’s prompt? Leave a comment and let me know!

Come on over to the Ninja Writers Facebook group and share your work. Get some feedback, leave some feedback–get involved in the community. I can’t wait to read what you come up with!

Also, if you’d like to get a PDF of this post and every Hump Day Writing Prompt, head here and sign up for the Ninja Writers Binder Club. Every month I send out a newsletter that includes those links.

Help spread the Ninja Writer word! Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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Ninja Writers Academy: Putting Your Reader There

Ninja Writers Academy: Putting Your Reader There. This week we're talking about how setting description draws your reader into your story.

Ninja Writer Academy is a weekly series. Every Saturday morning, I post a lesson here. You can do the work, then come share it on our Facebook group. I’ll be on Facebook on Sunday for Office Hours so we can discuss the lesson, or anything else writing related. If you’d like to join the Academy and get an email on Saturday with a link to the lesson, plus notification when Office Hours start, Click Here.

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The Passport Stamp Assignment

Ninja Writers Academy: The Passport Stamp Assignment. This week we're talking about using description to make setting real for your reader.

Setting is so important in a story. A city can become like a character. A building, a room, a country, it doesn’t matter how big or small the space is — learning how to describe setting in a way that puts the reader there is a key to becoming a good writer.

Here’s why: it’s the landscape of the narrative dream.

The narrative dream is the state a reader finds themselves in when the real world falls away and they are completely immersed in their story. With setting, you set the scene for the reader. This is your opportunity to help them stamp the passport in their heads and hearts with the places you’re taking them.

What stamps does your reading passport have? Narnia? Oz? Wonderland? Reading Truman Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s gave me a stamp from New York City. Nancy Farmer’s book The House of the Scorpion gave me a stamp from a little made-up country between the US and Mexico called Opium.

Here’s a little side assignment for today: I’d like for you to make a list in your notebook of the places you feel like you’ve visited through books.

And then I’d like you to work on a setting description from your own Work-in-Progress. The key to description is that it’s both sensory and emotional. Let your reader see why a place is important to the character and they’ll feel that through them. Go beyond the five senses to something more visceral. What is it about the place that you’re writing about that matters so much to the character? What about it will stick with the reader and make them feel as if they’ve spent time there themselves?

My Turn

My WIP is a retelling of Robin Hood set in modern-day Las Vegas. It’s important to me, in this story, to share Las Vegas from the point-of-view of a native. Even the Strip is different when you’re not a tourist. Here’s a description of the MC, Rob’s, father’s office and of Rob’s emotional connection to the casino his father owned, The Nott.

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Until today, he would have gone to his father to tell him that Guy had over-reached his position and put the Nott at risk. Jack would have talked to Philip, who would have chastised Guy.

Now, Rob would have to talk to Philip about Guy himself. Rob had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach that he wouldn’t be telling Philip anything he didn’t already know. He’d raised his nephew after all.

Rob reached Jack’s office and opened the door, inhaling deeply as he did. Trying to take his dad into his lungs. He flipped a wall switch and lights came up as the curtains on the far wall automatically opened.

Nothing had changed. Not the 50s memorabilia that had been his great-grandfather’s. Not the neat row of black binders on a shelf above his dad’s desk. Not the framed newspaper clippings or the old-school furniture. Not the smell of cigars and paper. Not the spectacular view of the Strip, lit up and glittering.

That view was why the lights felt like home. He’d spent hours playing in front of that window with Mattie when they were kids. There were no stars over The Strip, but the lights were as startlingly beautiful to Rob. And far more rare. Everyone had access to the stars.

He sat in his father’s chair and closed his eyes. He couldn’t make himself believe Jack was gone. It didn’t seem possible. “How can there be The Nott without you?”

“The Nott was bigger than him.”

Rob sat up, too quickly. The chair tipped back and he had to flail to keep from falling over. “Jesus, Philip, you scared me.”

“You should be downstairs.” Philip came in and sat in the chair across Jack’s desk from Rob.

“I know.” Rob’s face burned. He picked up a pen from his dad’s desk and spun it around his fingers. “I’m sorry.”

“It looks bad that you’re not there.”

Rob put the pen down. It was his responsibility to speak to his dad’s employees. To be the face of The Nott today. “I’ll go back now, but you need to speak to Guy.”

“About?”

“I found him beating on a kid when I came up here.”

Philip stood up and straightened his suit coat. “We have a zero tolerance policy against theft at The Nott.”

So Guy had already told him. Maybe that’s who he’d been on the phone with in the elevator. “Guy can’t go around physically assaulting children.”

“You let me worry about Guy.”

“My father fed that kid,” Rob said, turning his face back toward the view of The Strip. “That was his legacy.”

“You don’t need to worry about these things.” Philip hesitated, looking at Robin for an uncomfortably long moment, then nodding as if he’d come to some decision. “In fact, you don’t have to worry about The Nott at all.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I was going to wait to talk to you about it until later.”

“About what?”

“I want to buy out your share of The Nott.”

It took a second for Rob to understand what Philip was talking about. “I can’t sell The Nott.”

“Let me take care of your legacy for you. You go back to school, get an education, and take on the world in your own way. You’ll have the funds to do whatever you want to.”

Rob looked out the window again. He’d never even thought of doing anything except take over The Nott when it was his time. He couldn’t take the idea of not being part of The Nott seriously now. Still, he felt a stab of curiosity. “What kind of funds?”

“I’ve set up a meeting with legal tomorrow. We can talk about the details then.”

Rob turned to Philip. “You can’t give me an idea of what kind of money you’re talking about?”

“Not without looking at the numbers. I’m not trying to take The Nott out from under you, Robert. Zero tolerance for stealing, remember?”

Rob shook his head once, hard. The Nott was his father. Even the idea of selling it was ridiculous. “I really don’t think I can–”

Philip put a hand out to stop him. “There’s time to talk about it later. I just want you to think about it. Jack wanted something different for you, Robert.”

Rob’s eyes travelled over his father’s office walls. He’d known most of his life that this would have been his office someday. Someday, he realized with a sharp stab to his heart, was today. He was the majority shareholder of Nottingham, Inc. He wasn’t sure what it meant that he was still a minor, but The Nott was his. He didn’t believe that his father wanted anything else for him.

“No, he didn’t.” He stood and reached for the framed clipping of his parents on their wedding day. They looked so in love. Huntington takes an Exotic Bride. “I belong here.”

Philip sighed. “Don’t base your decision on emotion, Rob. That was your father’s problem.”

“My father didn’t have a problem. He loved this place.”

Philip buttoned his jacket. “And it killed him.”

Your Turn

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know. Ninja Writers are ALL about the big A word: Accountability. Post here that you’re going to be part of the Academy this week, then do it, Ninja.

Work on a section of your WIP that describes setting. Use your senses and include some emotional detail.

Bonus assignment: Make a list of stamps in your reading passport.

Come by Facebook and share your description. You can share your list, too–that’ll be fun to see! I’ll be there tomorrow at noon PST for office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that. It’s totally free–when you sign up, I’ll send you a link every week to the Academy post and an invitation to my Sunday office hours.

If you want some extra accountability for your Academy work, check out the Ninja Writers Kick-in-the-Butt Crew. It’ll help you get it done.

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Hump Day Post #7: Nobody’s Perfect

Hump Day Post #7: Nobody's Perfect

Every Wednesday, I post a writing prompt here. You write about it, if it tickles your creativity bone, and then come share what you wrote on Facebook to get some feedback and see what the other Ninjas have come up with. My goal with these prompts will to be to make them something that can move your current work-in-progress forward.

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Nobody’s Perfect

Let’s turn things around on our heroes this week.

Write about an instance where your hero truly hurt your antagonist. Maybe it was unintentional, a comment that hit too close to home or some slight that the hero didn’t mean to make. Maybe your hero lashed out in frustration and meant to cut the antagonist to the bone.

My Turn

(My story is a Robin Hood retelling, set in modern day Las Vegas. This little scene is backstory that probably won’t show up in the finished manuscript.)

Guy was seventeen-years-old. He’d graduate from high school in a few months. It galled him that he was following a couple of fifth graders around like a puppy dog. It only made it worse that they didn’t want anything to do with him.

Rob and Mattie lived in their own little world, population two, and nothing he did would ever make them let him in.

He wanted not to care. They were just kids. Still, he sat in a chair and watched them swim. He’d volunteered to make sure they didn’t drown. They didn’t invite him in. Ever.

Mattie whispered something in Rob’s ear. He laughed and shot a sideways glance at Guy.

“What?” Guy stood up. “What’s so funny?”

Mattie pushed wet hair off her cheeks and leaned forward to whisper to Rob again. The two of them looked at each other, nodded, then looked up at Guy and shouted in unison.

“Go away, Guy!” They splashed, throwing water at him. When they hit him, drenching him from his head to his feet, they laughed again. “Go away, Guy! Go away, Guy!”

They chanted and splashed and to his horror, Guy felt hot tears fill his eyes.

Your Turn

Are you writing this week’s prompt? Leave a comment and let me know!

Come on over to the Ninja Writers Facebook group and share your work. Get some feedback, leave some feedback–get involved in the community. I can’t wait to read what you come up with!

Also, if you’d like to get a PDF of this post and every Hump Day Writing Prompt, head here and sign up for the Ninja Writers Binder Club. Every month I send out a newsletter that includes those links.

Help spread the Ninja Writer word! Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

 

 

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Ninja Writers Academy: Your Writing Space

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Ninja Writer Academy is a weekly series. Every Saturday morning, I post a lesson here. You can do the work, then come share it on our Facebook group. I’ll be on Facebook on Sunday for Office Hours for an hour so we can discuss the lesson, or anything else writing related. If you’d like to join the Academy and get an email on Saturday with a link to the lesson, plus notification when Office Hours start, Click Here.

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The Where You Work Assignment

Ninja Writers Academy: The Where You Work Assignment

This week I want you to think about where you do your work.

I really think this is more important than we tend to make it. On one hand, I strongly, strongly advise against being so tied to your environment that you can’t work at all if you aren’t there. But on the other, I think that having an official space for your work is a key to taking yourself seriously as a writer.

That space can be a corner of your sofa or your dining room table. At one point a few years ago we were living in a teeny tiny apartment and my work space was sitting in my bed with a lap desk. For a couple of months, before my parents-in-law moved into our basement apartment, I had a whole room all to myself and that was glorious.

When I’m done with my day job in June, I’m seriously considering joining a collaborative work space–you pay a little bit of money and can show up with your laptop anytime. Lots of people work at Starbucks or another coffee shop. This particular assignment, though, is about setting up space at home for your work. Even if you often work somewhere else, I think this matters.

There are a few reasons why it’s so important to have a space for you to work at home is necessary.

Unless you’re a full-time writer with an office you go to like it’s a 9-to-5, you probably write from home at least some of the time.

It’s hard enough to convince yourself that writing is a real job. In my experience, it’s nearly impossible to convince other people. Like your kid who wants you to make them a PB+J or your husband who doesn’t see a problem with asking you to run an errand for him smack in the middle of your writing time.

Your brain will respond to your environment. Having a space that signals to your brain that it’s writing time will help with productivity.

So here’s what I’d love for you to do this weekend. Take a minute to write down what works and what doesn’t work about where you write at home. What do you do to let your brain know it’s work time? Then list the things that you could do to improve that space. Finally, take a picture of your writing space and share it with us on Facebook.

My Turn

I do best, when I’m working at home, when I’m slightly removed from the chaos going on around me, but not completely shut away from it. So, I wouldn’t like having my office in the basement, for instance. I’d spend too much time thinking about what was happening upstairs. I also wouldn’t do well working in the living room.

My desk at the moment is a folding table. I’d love an actual desk with drawers. Right now my space is in the little den off the dining room. There’s no TV in this area of the house, which is a good thing. Ideally, I’d love to have my own room again, but that isn’t going to happen in this house. We’re bursting at the seams. I also wish I had more wall space. Instead I have a big window with a gorgeous view, though, so that’s okay.

Overall, though, I’ve got a good set up. I’ve been doing this a long, long time. It took me years to find a set up that works for me.

The one little ritual I have when I’m writing at home is lighting a candle. I know it probably sounds a little silly, but I use the candle to welcome my muse. When I blow it out, I thank her for hanging out with me.

I need notebooks and good pens on my desk. I love having something to look at, so a desk facing a wall would be tough for me. I can’t have TV or radio though, or I’d struggle to get anything done. I always try to have my desk face a window. When I worked in my bedroom, I faced out into the room and that was okay.

Here’s my writing space:

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Your Turn

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know. Ninja Writers are ALL about the big A word: Accountability. Post here that you’re going to be part of the Academy this week, then do it, Ninja.

Spend sometime thinking about your work space. Is it working for you? What can you do this weekend to make it better?

Come by Facebook and share your work space. I’ll be there tomorrow at 5 p.m. PST for office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that. It’s totally free–when you sign up, I’ll send you a link every week to the Academy post and an invitation to my Sunday office hours.

If you want some extra accountability for your Academy work, check out the Ninja Writers Kick-in-the-Butt Crew. It’ll help you get it done.

Continue Reading

Hump Day Prompt #6: Give Your Hero a Grand

Hump Day Post #6: Give Your Hero a Grand

Every Wednesday, I post a writing prompt here. You write about it, if it tickles your creativity bone, and then come share what you wrote on Facebook to get some feedback and see what the other Ninjas have come up with. My goal with these prompts will to be to make them something that can move your current work-in-progress forward.

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Give Your Hero a Grand

Okay, Ninja Writers. This week let’s do something fun.

If your hero was handed $1000 dollars, what would they spend it on?

You can either just do a character sketch with this prompt, or go all out and write a scene.

My Turn

My story is a Robin Hood retelling, set in modern day Las Vegas.

Rob Huntington starts out as an aristocrat–or as close as you can get to that in the US. He’s the prince of Las Vegas. The whole city knows him, they’ve watched him grow up as the son of a popular, flamboyant casino owner. He wouldn’t bat an eye at $1000. It would mean almost nothing to him.

As the story goes on, though, things change for Rob. Drastically. For the first time in his life he’s poor. Not poor relative to his prior aristocracy, but really poor. Homeless-level deep poverty. He’d spend $1000 on his crew. He’d feed them. He’d maybe try to make some kind of plan to turn that money into a way to get them out of their situation. If someone needed something–medical care, maybe–or if the group needed something, he’d spend it on that. He feels responsible for these people in a way that he’s never felt for anyone else, including himself, before.

Your Turn

Are you writing this week’s prompt? Leave a comment and let me know!

Come on over to the Ninja Writers Facebook group and share your work. Get some feedback, leave some feedback–get involved in the community. I can’t wait to read what you come up with!

Also, if you’d like to get a PDF of this post and every Hump Day Writing Prompt, head here and sign up for the Ninja Writers Binder Club. Every month I send out a newsletter that includes those links.

Help spread the Ninja Writer word! Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Enrollment in A Novel Idea (a year long novel writing ADVENTURE!) ends tomorrow night (5/12/16.) Click here for more info and to get signed up.

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“Old Gods” by Shawny Jeann

Ninja Writer Reads: "Old Gods" by Shawny Jeann

(Editor’s note: Shawny has such a lyrical, beautiful voice. This story is raw and exciting and I know you’re going to love it. Fair warning: it’s not particularly safe, for work or anywhere else. Let’s show Shawny some Ninja love. Leave her feedback in the comments and share her story on Facebook and Twitter.)

“Old Gods”

By Shawny Jeann

With him, it is fever and it is ice. With him, I burn and he leaves me frozen in place at the same time.  We come together with the pace of glaciers and the force of oceans. It is everything I said I would never be and everything I wanted to become. I am helpless to be anything but his, while my body and my blood scream to take back even the smallest amount of what I have given up.

This is entirely my doing; he has never asked for nor taken anything from me. He has been a benevolent guide, the north star in the night sky, who let me turn in his orbit until he had become so intrinsic to my universe that I couldn’t remember when and where we started. The vastness that surrounds us lets in no light, no sound from beyond the world that he has made. With no path behind me, there is no path forward and out. There is only the path that he chooses for us, and I have become a willing apostle to his teachings. I will sit at his feet, or at his right hand, keep myself close to catch even the smallest truth from his lips.

He gives only as it suits him and I am grateful because when he gives I am blinded with the intensity of it. His fingers play my ribs like strings on a harp, pulling notes from my lungs that sing hymns of ancient pleasure. His breath on my neck as he stands behind me makes tiny hairs dance with the exaltation of angels whose king has finally come.

Our sacrifices are few, and at bedtime, more often than not I am left alone, a tangled mess of want in cold sheets. I can warm them on my own with little coaxing, clever fingers knowing how to tease small tremors from my thighs and quiet sighs from my lips. It is not enough, cannot ever fill the need that he has never named. The craving is a beast, trapped in a maze of desire with the only way free through him.

“What do you want?” he whispers into my mouth, as his long man’s fingers trace curves in search of what I will give him.

The weight of him on me, the heat of skin on skin has melted my thoughts and I cannot say the thing I want most. I arch and he presses against me, holding me in place, but I feel him, his humanity betrayed, hard and already leaking, and this time I know it is really happening. He will bless me tonight and I will be grateful for every moment.

“What do you want?” he says again.

His cheek rasps against my skin. His lips are on my nipple, sucking pleasure from pain and I would tell him what I want if I had not already given all my want to him.

I want what he wants, whatever he will give or take, demand or offer. I want to see his control shatter and crash, a ship on the rocks, contrasting so much with the way I have offered myself up, crumb by crumb, leaving me naked and open with no voice but the one that moans his name as he touches needy heat.

“What do you want?” he asks as fingers stroke through my desire.

My only possible answer is to roll my hips up and my head back, to show him where to touch when I have no way to tell him.

I feel breath on my skin, puffed out over his low laugh as he continues to forge his own trail. He takes his pleasure in mine and I lack the words to say that I am the same. Our pleasure is shared, although he seems so big, and I have made myself so small. We are the same animal, because he has made me that way. Carved me out and molded me against him until my edges are soft again.

“What do you want?” he asks as tongue and fingers invade at the same time, pushing into me, searching for my response to fire his own.

He rocks against me in the old dance, two partners spinning together and away, accompanied only by the music of our breath. He seeks entrance, but will not ask for it. He will wait until I am high and spent and then take it, because I gave him my silent permission so many ages before.

“What do you want?”

His fingers leave me, empty, slide forward, find the spot. His voice purrs encouragement in my ear, a commanding litany, as I roll into him, helpless against the pull of his tide. Like a moon, he circles without getting nearer. If I had voice I would weep at the need that trembles low in my belly as his fingers stray from their course to brush closer. The trembling spreads as the tension creeps forward. I bite my lip to keep silent as he continues to work my pleasure up to meet his. Muscles tighten, try to curl in on themselves, even while stretching to reach for his warmth and weight at the same time.

“What do you want?” he asks one more time, knowing in his voice.

He knows I am lost again, I have followed him down his path once more. I would tell him not to stop, but my teeth are fastened to his shoulder; they will leave a small mark to show my passing. When the trap springs inside me, even then I do not expect it, and the blaze that follows is a fire in the forest that consumes me. It leaves me stripped and bare for him to finally take and use as he wants, to build up again in his own image, which is all I have wanted from the very beginning.

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Shawny Jeann is a romance writer from Toronto Canada. She lives with her very patient husband and her very needy cat. She came to romance reading and writing in the usual way, through vampires, cowboys, and emotionally tormented Navy SEALS. Find her at her blog or on Twitter @shawnyjeann.

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Ninja Writers Academy: Story Flow

Ninja Writers Academy: The One Way to Skin a Cat Assignment. Use this lesson to figure out one way to get through your story.

Ninja Writer Academy is a weekly series. Every Saturday morning, I post a lesson here. You can do the work, then come share it on our Facebook group. I’ll be on Facebook on Sunday for Office Hours for an hour so we can discuss the lesson, or anything else writing related. If you’d like to join the Academy and get an email on Saturday with a link to the lesson, plus notification when Office Hours start, Click Here.

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The One Way to Skin a Cat Assignment

Ninja Writers Academy: The One Way to Skin a Cat Assignment. Use this lesson to figure out one way to get through your story.
*Ninja Writers NEVER skin cats! Yikes.

Where in the world did ‘there is more than one way to skin a cat’ come from anyway? What a morbid way to say that there is more than one way to get what you want.

Anyway, weird and horrible idioms aside, this weeks assignment is all about finding one possible way to get from the beginning to the end of your story.

It doesn’t really matter if you actually follow the flow we’re about to lay out when you’re writing. All I want you to do is get a feel for how your story could go. And to see how pacing works.

If you’ve taken How to Develop + Test a Story Idea, then you know that this is how I test my ideas to make sure they’ll support a whole novel. It’s also a good way to give yourself a frame work for the pacing of your story.

You’re going for waves here. Your story starts in the ordinary world, something happens to pull the protagonist into the world of the story, they struggle, something good happens, they struggle, then something really terrible happens, and then something happens to turn things around, and your protagonist emerges into a new ordinary world.

There are five key plot points. You can read more about them here, at Script Lab. Today I want you to take some time and come up with one way to get your protagonist through them.

Inciting Incident

I like to think of the inciting incident as a question: do you want to come into the world of this story? It can be asked by another person. It can be an act of God. It can be something very interior for the protagonist. The inciting incident is usually the first truly unusual thing that happens in the story.

Lock-in

If the Inciting Incident is a question, the Lock-in is the answer. Of course, if you’re going to have a story, the answer has to be yes. Eventually. Even if your hero gets there kicking and screaming, they have to get there. The Lock-in is the thing that happens that makes them go all in.

Mid-point Climax

This is the second biggest moment of your whole story. If you’re writing anything other than a true tragedy, this will be a big win for your hero. The Mid-point Climax should mirror the tone of the end of your story. So if you are writing a tragedy, this is going to be a huge defeat for your hero.

Main Climax

The Main Climax is sometimes called the Dark Night of the Soul. It’s the biggest moment, and if you’re not writing a tragedy, the darkest for your hero. All seems lost. The reader is turning pages like a crazy person trying to figure out how this character is going to pull through. This is the trench your hero will have to climb out of, somehow.  If you are writing a tragedy, then this is going to be a huge win for your character–the height that you’ll drop them from.

Third-act Twist

The Third-act Twist is the thing that happens to turn your story around from the Main Climax to the resolution. How does your hero pull themselves out of the trench–or alternatively, what happens to push your hero off the cliff into their tragic ending.

Your assignment is to write a paragraph or two detailing the Five Key Plot Points for your story.

My Turn

 

My work in progress is a Robin Hood retelling set in modern Las Vegas.

Inciting Incident: Rob Huntington’s father has died. When he goes to the reading of the will, he expects to become the new owner of The Nottingham–the casino his grandfather built. Instead, he learns that his father has left the Nott to his business partner.

Lock-in: After Rob visits his father’s office and finds a document that contradicts what he’s been told by the business partner, he decides to investigate.

Mid-Point Climax: Rob has earned the trust of his ‘Merry Men.’ They have a plan to steal back what’s been stolen, and they have their first success.

Main Climax: Their plan is thwarted–and one of Rob’s biggest allies is killed.

Third-Act Twist: A shift in focus changes everything. Instead of working toward getting back what was stolen, the Crew is suddenly focused on finding justice for their dead friend.

Your Turn

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know. Ninja Writers are ALL about the big A word: Accountability. Post here that you’re going to be part of the Academy this week, then do it, Ninja.

Spend sometime working on your five key plot points. Don’t worry about perfection or getting anything right. This is just one possible way for your story to go. It’s totally fine if you make changes as you plan or write your book.

Come by Facebook and share your work today. I’ll be there tomorrow at noon PST for office hours.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that. It’s totally free–when you sign up, I’ll send you a link every week to the Academy post and an invitation to my Sunday office hours.

If you want some extra accountability for your Academy work, check out the Ninja Writers Kick-in-the-Butt Crew. It’ll help you get it done.

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Hump Day Prompt #5: What’s Behind the Door

Hump Day Prompt #5:: What's Behind the Door? Use imagery to get deeper into one of your characters.

Every Wednesday, I post a writing prompt here. You write about it, if it tickles your creativity bone, and then come share what you wrote on Facebook to get some feedback and see what the other Ninjas have come up with. My goal with these prompts will to be to make them something that can move your current work-in-progress forward.

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What’s Behind the Door

Let’s try some imagery this week.

Imagine your character–it can be any character from your work-in-progress-standing in front of a door.

What do they see?

In fact, use all of their senses.

What does the door feel like when they touch it?

What do they smell as they contemplate the door?

What can they taste on the air?

What do they hear?

And finally–think about what’s on the other side. Do they open the door? If they do, what do they see? If they don’t, why not?

My Turn

My work in progress is a Robin Hood retelling set in modern day Las Vegas.

I decided to work on this prompt from the point of view of my hero’s main antagonist, Guy Gisborne.

Guy’s standing at the front door of an Old Vegas mansion. The door is just a door. It’s a little taller than most. A little sturdier. The wood is a little higher quality. The knob is a little shinier. But it’s just a door. That’s what Guy tells himself as he wraps his palm around the knob.

It’s like taking Celeste Huntington by the hand. He has a strong memory of Rob’s mother standing here like this, looking back at the garden, calling Rob and Mattie in for lunch. Guy’s there, too, but he’s not included. They never included him. He can see seven-year-old Rob and Mattie running across the lawn, holding hands. Mattie’s hair falls in perfect blonde waves to her waist, her cheeks flushed. The memory of the two of them rushes past him, as if he isn’t there.

Guy turns the knob and pushes open the door. A rush of stale, dusty air washes over him. The door is his. Locksley is his. Mattie is his, even if she doesn’t know it yet. It’s Rob’s turn to have nothing.

Your Turn

Are you writing a prompt this week? Leave a comment and let me know!

Come on over to the Ninja Writers Facebook group and share your work. Get some feedback, leave some feedback–get involved in the community. I can’t wait to read what you come up with!

Also, if you’d like to get a PDF of this post and every Hump Day Writing Prompt, head here and sign up for the Ninja Writers Binder Club. Every month I send out a newsletter that includes those links.

Help spread the Ninja Writer word! Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

 

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“Static” by David Fox

Ninja Writer Reads: "Static" by David Fox

(Editor’s Note: I fell in love with the poetic rhythm of David’s story. I think you will, too. Let’s show this Ninja Writer some love and leave him comments and share the link to his story around the webs. –S.)

“Static”

By David Fox

Just before you die the blood stops pumping to your brain. The last few seconds are like static from an old radio.

The afternoon is getting on, now. The sunset receding a little into the background. Any respite at all, I suppose. My skin cools. Not searing like before. I can rest easier in my seat. The needles fade…

I have been trying in vain to find something good on the radio.

The first one was modern R&B. You know. They pull some random jailbait from the school cafeteria and tell her she’ll be famous if she moans over a cheap drum machine. Mum won’t have to work two jobs. She’s really going for it too. Probably figuring if she fit enough notes in one single banshee wail they’d throw in some food as a bonus. Live the dream, right?

Next. Talk radio, the worst. Angry, conservative loudhailer. Takes calls from middle-class housewives who fall in love with the dulcet tones of his voice. Reminds them of Daddy. Talking about society going down the drain, whatever happened to real role models, the liberal media are in control and oh, I know! I know! It’s awful! Venting their frustration to their surrogate radio Dad, carefully ashing their cigarettes into their expensive glassware ashtrays. All of them dying all the same.

Another station. It’s glitzy pop music. Razor blades pushing into my brain.

There. Found the tail end of a Neil Young song. That will do. Horrible reception, suddenly. All static. I turn the radio off with the last drop of strength in my left arm. A surge of pain reminds me moving it is a bad idea. Arm falls to my side, motionless. Numb. The needles come back.

A nice little street behind me. One or two cheery little bars. Must have been packed. No one was outside.

Crisps, steak, sour cream, limes, salt, tequila, beer. Pool. Weather-beaten faces. Laughing, eating, drinking, forgetting. Cigarettes, melting into ghosts. Maybe a real guitar and a good amp. Maybe a jukebox. I would kill to get back there. Tell a joke; knock down a shot or three. Recede into the furniture, blissful. The needles are almost gone.

Orange rays moving right past me, or right through me, into the shuttered windows of the street outside, breaking into little beams, illuminating the dust that had been hovering out of sight. Thin slices of dust and light. Tangible enough that small children would try and hold them.

Boy playing on the beach. Six, seven? Not sure. Beautiful. Completely oblivious. Rolled up overalls, grubby shirt, no shoes, sand up to the knees. Unruly mop of yellow hair. Running around, hyperactive, plastic shovel and bucket in tow. Asymmetrical sandcastle, too close to the water. No one else around.

He sees me.

I can barely move my legs.

He dawdles up the beach, to the car park, to the car.

Hi there, I say. I try to sound cheerful.

“Hi.”

Where are your parents?

He raises his finger vaguely towards one of the bars. Good job, kid. Jesus Christ. If I could lift a gun I’d shoot them where they stand, I swear.

They left you out here?

“I dunno.” A shrug. Does he care? He keeps looking straight at me.

I like your sandcastle.

“It’s a house.”

Oh, well then, I like your house.

He doesn’t reply.

You built it too close to the water. It’ll get washed away.

“The other sand is too dry.”

He’s got me there. I keep hoping he’ll stop looking at me. I keep hoping he’ll get bored and walk away. But…I don’t want him to leave.

“What happened?” he finally asks.

What do you mean?

The boy lowers his gaze from my eyes to my blood soaked left arm, still clutching my balled-up coat to the hole in my chest. By now the lower half of my t-shirt and my jeans are stained crimson.

“What happened to you?”

I was in – well it doesn’t matter now. It’s grown-up stuff.

“Do you need help?”

No. Please. Don’t tell anyone.

He shuffles awkwardly. “Are you OK?”

A weak smile. It’s fine. I’ll be fine.

The boy, seemingly confused, runs back to the water. Fuck. I don’t want it to end this way. Please God, not like this, scaring some little kid half to death.

A small eternity passes.

He pulls something from the sand and runs back to the car. All smiles and excitement. Hands cupped shut.

“Here,” he says. He opens his hands to show me a seashell. I have to laugh.

That for me?

He nods. I gingerly release my coat. No use now. I take the shell from his palm.

“I found lots. You can have this one.”

I rest the shell on my eye and grimace.

Yarrr! What do you think? Do I look like a pirate?

He laughs. I wrench my watch from my wrist with my teeth and hand it to him.

Here you go. Fair trade.

He looks surprised, even suspicious. He slides it around his tiny wrist. “It’s too big.”

Just keep it in your pocket for now. Your hands will get bigger.

He shoves it in his pocket. Gestures towards his sand house.

“Do you wanna help?”

Another weak smile. I think I’m gonna rest her for a bit, pal. I’ll just watch you.

He half-smiles and runs back towards his pet project for the day. With considerable effort I pull the lever of my seat and recline back as far as possible. Needles are gone. Cold feeling now. Spreading through me like a spilled glass of cold water.

Still got the seashell on my face. The kid down there, Dennis the Menace, still digging and laughing away. I close my eyes. I listen. Fading like a dying radio, I faintly hear the sound of waves crashing, lapping towards me, away from the sun, reaching for a boy and his house.

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David is a UK-based freelance writer who writes about anything and everything including movies, television, sport and politics. You can find his contact details, and work for various sites compiled on his website David Fox Writing or reach out to @davefox990 on Twitter.

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If you have a story you’d like to share with Ninja Writer Reads, click here for submission guidelines.

If you’d like a printable PDF version of every Ninja Writer Reads story, make sure to sign up for the Writer Binder Club.

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