The Caption Challenge Returns!

We’re back for another Caption Challenge! I was so pleased with how the last one went, and I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with for this one.

Remember, your entry in the comments can be a six-word story or flash fiction (50 words or less) based on the picture. No more than two entries, please.

This round is going to run for TWO weeks instead of one, so winners will be announced on August 14th.

And now . . . the picture.

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Image from Pinterest

Have fun and get creative! 🙂

The Jolly Genre Jubilee Tag

I stole this tag from Chelsea because it looked so fun. So without further ado . . .

What is your favorite genre of fiction to write?
Fantasy. (Just get used to me saying fantasy a lot.) It’s my all-time favorite genre.

What genre would you NEVER get caught writing? . . .EVER.
Horror. Like, if you ever see me publish anything under the horror umbrella, assume it was my evil twin and send a fire-breathing dragon to incinerate it.

Yup.

What fictional genre feels most like home to you?
Um, fantasy? No, definitely fantasy. It’s my comfort zone. A safe place to create worlds, characters, and address issues I never would in any other genre.

If you could transform your real life into any genre of your choosing, which would it be?
Okay, I’m going to be more specific with this one. Portal fantasy. Like, seriously, send me to a different time in history (or Narnia. I’m okay with that) and I’ll be quite happy.

What genre does your real life most resemble at the moment?
Yikes. Hmm . . . some crossover between paranormal (think, mythical canine creatures taking over all life) and epic quest fantasy (don’t ask).

What’s a genre you’re interested in writing, even though you’ve never written it before?
Just one?

Historical fiction, historical fantasy, sci-fi, urban fantasy, paranormal, dark fantasy, Arthurian fantasy . . . Need I go on?

What genre is your most recent plot bunny, and where did it come from?
Oh, glad you asked. 😉

I have this idea that is a total plot bunny in, like, a contemporary mystery genre . . . or supernatural, or something like that. The idea came from the TV series The Chosen and it started with a question (which is unusual for this die-hard character-first writer): “How much would you sacrifice to see God?”

We shall see if that goes anywhere . . .

How many genres have you written thus far in your writing journey?
I feel called out . . .

Portal fantasy, other fantasy, other other fantasy, some contemporary short stories, one attempt at an EMP thriller (actually finished it, but we won’t go there).

I’m a little stuck on the whole fantasy deal. 😉

Your turn! Answer a couple of these in the comments or steal the tag for yourself.

The Caption Challenge Winner is . . .

Folks, we have a winner for last week’s Caption Challenge!

The picture was:

Drop, Splash, Impact, Ripples, Water, Ripple Effect

You all submitted some terrific six-word stories and flash fiction pieces. And I’m pleased to say we have a winner in EACH category!

The six-word story winner is:

Excavatia

At twilight, the water nymphs danced.

Six-word story

And the flash-fiction winner is:

Laura G.

Abundant water in a dry and weary land, refreshment for our souls.

Hope for the dying heart.

Wellsprings of life that never cease.

How blessed are we who shall never thirst.

Flash fiction

Well done to all and congrats to the winners! I’ve decided to run this contest on Saturdays instead of Sundays, so our next Caption Challenge will be announced next weekend. Stay tuned. 🙂

If At First You Don’t Succeed

Well . . . we ran our first ever Caption Contest last week, and I said I would announce the winner today . . .

But that presents a problem, you see. It seems that I cannot announce a winner, because . . .

Well, there were no entries. 🤷‍♀️

But I’m determined to keep this series going, so we’re just going to go ahead and start our new contest for this week. A quick reminder of the rules:

  1. No more than TWO entries per person.
  2. Keep your entries clean and language-free.
  3. Your entry must be clearly tied into the image, so keep the genre in mind.
  4. Enter the contest by COMMENTING on THIS POST.
  5. Contest runs for seven days; winner(s) announced and featured on the blog.

Look at the picture on this page and come up with either a six-word story or a bit of flash fiction (no longer than fifty words) to go with it.

And now . . . the picture of the week.

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Drop, Splash, Impact, Ripples, Water, Ripple Effect

Let your imagination have fun with that one. 😉

Comment with your entry for this cool image! I can’t wait to see what you all come up with.

Dream Small.

Reminder: You only have TWO more days to enter the Caption Contest! Don’t miss out – let your imagination have fun.

Dream big. The world tells us to dream big. Imagine how far you could go, how much you could achieve. This mantra comes as something of a problem when you realize the dream that lives inside your heart is, well . . . small.

As a senior in high school, I was sucked into the pressure of pursuing a “normal” career. In fact, I was just days away from committing to a college education. So, what stopped me?

Well, a lot of things, actually. One of which was the fact that God was slowly drawing me back to something I had left behind years ago – a different dream, one I was never meant to give up on.

But . . . it was a small dream. So much smaller than attending college, becoming somebody. And even though the desires I had for life after college were merely produced to supplant what I used to want out of life, the emotional pressure was still very real. When I closed the door to “normal”, there were repercussions.

I became hyper-aware of what people thought of me. Whether I was right or wrong, I don’t know, but I began to be very self-conscious of my “small” dream, and convinced that people thought less of me because I’d chosen that path. To be fair, I’d always been lonely in a crowd and often ignored by my peers, but the self-awareness that my new plan had stirred up in me made it seem all the worse – as though everyone’s opinion of me had changed, negatively.

The Chosen The Chosen Tv Series GIF - TheChosen TheChosenTvSeries  SimonPeter - Discover & Share GIFs

I thought I was proud of my new direction, but . . . Is it possible to feel apologetic for something you’re actually proud of?  🤷‍♀️ #psychologyquestion #ireallywanttoknow Anyway, my life post-high school consisted of innumerable explanations of why I wasn’t going to college (not even kidding, people I didn’t even know were asking me) and trying to fit into my youth group again when everyone else was moving on (that totally failed). I resented new social settings with people my own age because . . . well, I’d have to explain. And people always think my dream is small.

I had to mourn the loss of college. This really sounds strange to say, now that I’m way on the other side and ETERNALLY grateful I’m not in college. 🤦‍♀️ But yes, I did have to go through a grieving process in which I gradually (very, very gradually) let go. But in the letting go, I also had to reclaim that former dream, that small dream, that dream which God gave back to me and it slowly took root in my heart. It was a gradual rebirth, one that took over a year for its completion.

merlin gifs Page 42 | WiffleGif

But from the process, there was victory. From the pain, there emerged beauty. I was never meant to go to college. I was never meant to “fit in”. God had a different path for me – one that was infinitely better than the plan I had for myself. But our society’s message to fit in, be normal, and dream big, was initially overpowering. I had to give myself permission to dream small.

Maybe today, you need to do the same. ❤

And watch out, world, ’cause you need to get used to different.

The Chosen Get Used To Different GIF - TheChosen GetUsedToDifferent GetUsedToIt GIFs

Credit to The Chosen TV series for that now-iconic line. 😉

Welcome to the Caption Contest!

I want to try something new on the blog today. I’m going to show you all an image, and you’re going to come up with a caption to accompany it. Now, by caption I mean one of two things: A six-word story that uses the picture as a guideline, or a bit of flash fiction no longer than fifty words. If I receive enough entries, then next week (the contest will run for seven days) I’ll feature two winners, one from each category.

Quick ground rules:

  1. No more than TWO entries per person.
  2. Keep your entries clean and language-free.
  3. Your entry must be clearly tied into the image, so keep the genre in mind.
  4. Enter the contest by COMMENTING on THIS POST.
  5. Contest runs for seven days; winner(s) announced and featured on the blog.

Okay, we ready?

The picture for our new Caption Contest is . . .

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All right – now let your imagination go wild! Comment your six-word story or your flash fiction below. 🙂 Good luck!

How to Safeguard Your Creativity (when life gets busy)

Being a writer means accepting certain life distractions that can interfere with the creative process. But when life gets especially busy, it can get harder and harder to stay creative.

This time of year, for me, is crazy busy – the goats, the garden, the dogs . . . Yeah. Busy. At the same time, I’m currently editing the first draft of Fate of a Prince, writing the first draft of the sequel, writing grant proposals for the farm, editing videos . . . Aanndd the list goes on.

So I’m learning how to balance all of this with a healthy creative routine while still *cough* trying *cough* to get everything done in a timely manner. I should mention, I’m not on a specific deadline with anything but the grant proposals and video editing, so I’m free to work out a schedule (spoken like I actually have a schedule). 😉

If you struggle to balance life and writing, maybe a few of these tips can help!

  1. Assess your deadline and prioritize.
    Figure out what needs to be done and WHEN, and plan accordingly. This may also be influenced by inspiration that strikes for a particular project, which could alter your schedule. Having said that . . .
  2. Push through writer’s block.
    Easier said than done, I know. But IF you are on a deadline, you have to push through writer’s block. Remember, if it’s junk, you can fix it later. If you’re super stuck, try getting feedback from somebody else.
  3. Find your autopilot.
    I have an autopilot. It doesn’t always kick in when I want it to, but when it does, it is bliss! So find your autopilot and ride it to the finish.
  4. Take a break.
    This might be the most important tip. If I’m not writing on a deadline, I will take breaks. Especially if I’m in any kind of creative drought or I find that the work is draining me. When working on a deadline, I don’t have this luxury, so I take advantage of it when I can.

Remember, safeguarding your creativity is so important to the long haul of writing. So pace yourself. Take breaks. And, if you can help it, don’t get pulled down into the undertow of stress. Give yourself permission to stop and breathe. ❤

What tips do you have for staying creative and safeguarding your work? Let’s chat!

The Quandary of Your Book’s Ending

If you know me, you know that ending a book is . . . well, not easy. For me, anyway. I didn’t have a problem with the ending for the first draft of Fate of a Prince, but Promised Land? One Light Shining (unpublished)? Oh yeah.

The reason the ending of Fate was easy to figure out is because I knew right from the start what the climax would look like, and the climax came at the end. The whole book built up to that point. But when I was writing Promised Land, I kept working and reworking the last several chapters. (I didn’t outline that book nearly as well as I outlined Fate.)

If you struggle with writing endings as well, here are a few tidbits I’ve learned from the trenches of writing endings. 😉

  1. Outline, outline, outline.
    I’m a major planner – never more so than when I started Fate of a Prince. Even WITH all that outlining, I still struggled with some of the chapters that led up to the climax. But without the outlining . . . yeah, that wouldn’t have been pretty.
  2. Experiment!
    Try different things. You’re only writing the first draft. Write five different endings. See how they work. Get ideas from other people. You could write as many different endings as you want to try them out, but ultimately, you only get one shot. (After the first draft, major things like the ending are hard to change – mentally, anyway.)
  3. Bounce ideas off of others.
    Whether you’ve written one ending, ten, or you’re just outlining the ending, bounce it off of some trusted friends. They may have some ideas you never even thought of!
  4. Pinterest?
    Do you use Pinterest for storyboarding? Use it to garner inspiration! It can help.
  5. Watch The Man Who Invented Christmas.
    Not even joking. It will make you feel better about writers’ block. 😂

Let me know how YOU work out endings for your book. Do they come naturally or do you spend hours staring at a blank screen? #thestruggleisreal

Let’s chat!

4 Tips on How to Improve Your Story’s Beginning (GUEST POST)

I’m so happy to welcome Lily Keith to the blog today with this great guest post. Make sure to check out her blog at the end.   

One day, I started editing the first draft of my WIP.  Something didn’t feel right, but I wasn’t sure why.  So my alpha reader read the first several chapters.  Later on, she said, ‘It’s well-written.  But it’s boring.’

        What happened?  The beginning failed to hook the reader.

        So today, I want to share a few tips I learned since then on where and how to start your story.

        First off, don’t worry about your first draft.  Give yourself permission to be terrible and messy!  You just need to get that story out on paper (or on screen).  Afterward, you can focus on fine-tuning your story.

        Tip #1: Make a ‘Late’ Entrance

        The problem with my first WIP was that I started too early in the story.  For example, I wrote about what happened to my main character three weeks before the real action and conflict began.  The opening chapters had no purpose; anything important beforehand could be summed up in a paragraph of backstory.

        Many readers have a short-attention span.  And they won’t stick around to read irrelevant details that don’t move the plot forward (like what my MC was eating yesterday morning.)  But if you begin your story in the middle of the action (or at least, very close to the main conflict), then readers are more likely to keep reading.

        For example, The False Prince, by Jennifer Nielsen, hits the ground running in just the opening paragraph:

        If I had to do it all over again, I would have not chosen this life.  Then again, I’m not sure I ever had a choice.

        These were my thoughts as I raced away from the market, with a stolen roast tucked under my arm.

        Is there a way to thrust your protagonist into the main conflict sooner?

        Tip #2: Try Starting When Things Go Wrong

        My writing teachers suggested starting a story on the day when things go wrong for your characters (or at least when things start changing).  This is where foreshadowing can come into play.  You can hint at the potential danger and build up to the main conflict (just don’t string out the suspense unnecessarily!)

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis is a great example of how a story starts on the day everything is different for the main character.

Here we go again.  We were all standing in line waiting for breakfast when one of the caseworkers came in and tap-tap-tapped down the line.  Uh-oh, this meant bad news, either they’d found a foster home for somebody or somebody was about to get paddled.

…. “Boys, good news!  Now that the school year has ended, you both have been accepted in new temporary-care homes starting this afternoon!”

Can you pinpoint the scene in your story where the character’s world starts changing (or something goes terribly wrong for them?)  What happens if you start your story there?

        Tip #3: Expect the Unexpected Line

        Has a story’s opening line ever startled you?  I’ve come across a few that’ve surprised me!

        The first line is the bait.  Readers look at it and then make the decision to either keep reading, or keep browsing.  A strong opening sentence piques the reader’s interest.  Now’s the time to make a good impression on the reader.

Consider this opening line from The Hero’s Guide To Saving Your Kingdom, by Christopher Healy:

Prince Charming is afraid of old ladies.  Didn’t know that, did you?

No, actually I didn’t.  Why is he afraid of old ladies?  What else don’t I know about him?  Now I want to know!  And so will the reader.

As you look over your WIP, ask yourself if there’s a way you can grab readers with a strong line, unusual statement, or intriguing question.  Will it align with your story’s tone, your MC’s personality, and your overall plot?  If not, don’t worry!  It’s best not to force an unusual opening line if it doesn’t fit.

Tip #4: Study Other Books

Studying the opening paragraphs of my favorite books has been super helpful for me (as openings aren’t my strong suit).  I usually write them down in a notebook and then compare them.

How did your favorite authors start their story?  Each genre has a different style and tone.  How do mystery writers open their stories?  Fantasy authors?  Sci-fi thrillers?  Do they use one or all of the tips above?  By studying other writers, we can sharpen our own skills and improve our stories.

Wrap Up

So, as you’re preparing to edit your story’s beginning, consider how you could introduce your character and their problem, either by starting out in the middle of the action; beginning on the day everything changes for your main character; or settling for a strong opening  line.  Or you could combine these different tips if it works for your story.  It’s up to you!

Beginnings aren’t easy.  And they take a lot of work.  But I believe you can do it!  Pray for strength and perseverance.  A solid beginning will draw in readers and keep them turning pages; it’s definitely worth the effort.

Happy Writing!

Lily Keith never grew out of her love for children’s literature.  She has been telling stories all her life, first to her dolls and then to her family, and hopefully to more kids in the future.  Aside from writing, you’ll often find her feeding wild rabbits, arguing with spell check on Google Docs, or talking with her imaginary frie- *ahem* story characters.  You can connect with her via her children’s blog (well, technically she co-owns it with her sister!) at: https://thepencilsisters.com

Accepting Guest Post Submissions!

Do you have something you want to share with the blogging world? Do you have writing tips or experience? Something inspirational? A book review? (I’m open to suggestions.)

I am currently accepting guest post submissions for my blog. They are not paid, but they do provide a unique opportunity to generate more traffic to your blog.

Guidelines:

  • Posts must be between 350-850 words.
  • At least one picture is recommended.
  • Author bio and image required; bio written in third person. (Links to personal blog and/or social media encouraged)
  • Submit your post via Google Docs file attached in an email or by copying and pasting into email.
  • Posts that are formatted incorrectly or contain a considerable amount of errors are unlikely to be accepted.
  • Your post may be edited for grammar.
  • Submissions must be original and not published anywhere else.
  • If submitting a book review, please be as objective as possible and include pertinent details (author name, etc.) and links to purchase.

Have questions? Ready to submit? Just use the contact form! Looking forward to reading your post.