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Monthly Archives: February 2010

To-Do List (Technical Writing Exercise)

One of the rules of good technical writing goes, “Always include a paragraph of normal body text after every heading.” We’re going to get that practice this week with a good old-fashioned To-Do List. Make a list of all the projects you’re working on right now, all the stuff you need to get done, but spend some time formatting it and packing in information to make it useful to a reader other than you.

Courtney’s Work-in-Progress Update

For my Work-in-Progress Update, I decided to take the list from my last update and…um…update it. Yeah.

The Big Event (Creative Writing Exercise)

The big event. Something happens, something bold and dramatic, to derail your protagonist’s life. That’s the impetus of every story, and it’s usually a lot of fun.

I’ve been haranguing you to get to your big events early. First page, I’m always saying, and first paragraph if you can manage it. So let’s practice. This week’s writing assignment is one to three pages (300-900 words), and in that space I want you to start a story. Give us a character, give us a glimpse — the barest hint — of what his or her life is like beforehand, and then mess it all up.


At some point, we’ve got to move the discussion from, “How do you make a really great sentence?” to “How do you make a really great story?” There’s lots of milestones along that path — descriptions of setting, descriptions of events, compelling dialogs, scenes, chapters, acts, it goes on and on. But before you can really make much progress on any of those intermediate things, you’ve got to understand your ultimate goal — you have to understand exactly what a story is.

A Matter of Voice

Weak verb forms will have been murdered by this blog post.

What I Learned about Writing this Week…from Laundry

That’s right. You heard me. Laundry. Did you know laundry has lessons to teach about writing? I didn’t–until a particular inconvenience of apartment life thrust my preconceived laundry notions into tumble-dry-high. You like that apropos imagery? Yea verily, I thought so.

Strong Sentences and 3D Storytelling

Tweet I’ve mentioned this before, but my dad is (among many other things) a speech professor and an accomplished storyteller. I was talking with him last week about some difficulties he’s had in his creative writing, though, trying to achieve the sort of impact and effect he can get effortlessly with the spoken word. The […]

Editorial Post (Technical Writing Exercise)

I’ve talked about which conclusions work best for essays, for arguments, or for short stories. Today you’re going to work on a document type that combines them all.

Your assignment this week is to write an editorial. Write an opinion piece concerning something of interest to you.

Blog Story (Creative Writing Exercise)

Tell a story.

Work that weird alchemy I waxed poetic about yesterday, and turn the events of your life into a true tale. Think about something that happened yesterday, or this week, and make a story out of it. Don’t just tell us what happened, craft it.

Why You Should Keep a Blog (Part 2)

You’ve heard it before, in any writing class you’ve ever taken. You’ve heard it from Nathan Bransford and Writer’s Digest and from me. You know it, you’ve always known it, but you’ve never really been able to follow through. Still, the fact remains: if you want to get better at writing, you need to practice writing every day.