Saturday, September 21, 2013

Napolean Dynamite Inspiration "Yes!"

#writetip #napoleon #dynamite

Several years ago, I watched the comical Napoleon Dynamite movie. Maybe I loved it for all the wrong reasons--like the zillion eighties references: caboodles, side pony tails, moon boots etc. The other night I re-watched the classic movie for some laughs. I got more than laughs. I got inspired. Here are four life lessons we can learn from Napoleon:

1. Everyone loves an underdog. Are you feeling lousy as a writer or a person? Do you have your own personal underdog story? Maybe you're currently feeling like someone threw you under the bus. Napoleon is someone to root for. He's the lonely kid, the physically awkward kid, the poor kid, the socially awkward kid. But he makes a friend, Pedro, and things change. Try joining a writing group or a critique group. Napoleon is a pretty self motivated kid, too. When he's down, he doesn't stay down for long.

2. Get a job. Napoleon's jealousy of his brother Kip (ha!) forced him to find a job. Kip and Uncle Rico were making some serious money. Cut to the farm scene when Napoleon asks the old farmer, "Do they have huge talons?" (Why is that so funny?!) I want to gag when Napoleon drinks the OJ punch mixed with raw eggs. And when the old farmer points, does anyone know what he's saying??  Of course, the last scene is my favorite: Napoleon counts his money (all in change) and says, "Six bucks. That's like a dollar an hour!" OK, on to my point. Yes, get a job even if it's not writing based. You gotta pay the bills or you'll be living like Uncle Rico.

3. You are not "too good" for the Goodwill. When Napoleon and Pedro visit the Goodwill and stop, star struck, in front of the creepy mannequin wearing a pumpkin-colored seventies suit, I died laughing, on the spot, on the floor, rolling around. "That's a pretty sweet suit." Bahahaha! Be thrifty. You don't have to spend a fortune being a writer. You don't have to buy every writing book under the sun or join every book society and coffee club. There are lots of freebies out there. Noah Lukeman offers his book How to Write a Great Query Letter free on his website. Other authors post advice and answer questions on their blogs while writing websites share invaluable articles all the time.

4. Be spontaneous. At the end of the movie, Napoleon got creative. He went out of his comfort zone and faced the music. He even thought of someone else--Pedro. Helping a struggling writer friend find connections and sharing writing articles can help take your mind off of you for awhile (hence my blog). You might have to throw caution to the wind and try new things. You could join Twitter like I did...but that's for another blog post. Unafraid of rejection, Napoleon mastered those moon boots.

Maybe you've gotten a few cynical laughs along the way. Someday, someone will stand up and applaud you, even if it's not Summer Wheatley. OK, remember to get your own tots and vote for Pedro.
(If you haven't seen the movie, you must watch it tonight!)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mark Twain: An Unforgettable Beginning

Hannibal, MO-Mississippi River

"A strong beginning can define an entire journey." -Noah Lukeman

I've been working on the beginning of my second novel. Beginnings fascinate me. I love to read opening lines, paragraphs and chapters of great authors. Writers spend countless hours, striving to craft unforgettable beginnings. 

The beginning of literary legend Mark Twain's life was quite memorable. Living in Hannibal, Missouri, I have the privilege to walk in Samuel Clemens' footsteps. I thought by now that I would tire of his boyhood town. Instead, I've grown quite fond of this place and the writer's witty humor.

In the year 1839, Twain began his journey to this scenic town located along the Mississippi River. After the family's belongings were packed and loaded onto a wagon, they proceeded to Hannibal. Later in the day, a lone rider galloped over to their former residence in Florida, Missouri (Twain's birthplace). He jumped off his horse, checked the house, to make sure they didn't forget anything, and scoured the outside property. I'm sure he chuckled to himself when he spotted the little boy out back making a mess of mud pies. He picked up the young boy, mounted his horse and returned Mark Twain to his family.

"Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." Mark Twain

I'm sure Twain loved re-telling the story of his beginning. Maybe his mishap helped him embrace the humorous side of things. We should follow Twain's example and look at the lighter side of life. Work on those beginnings and make them unforgettable.

"There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy's life that he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure." -Mark Twain

#Mark #Twain #amwriting #beginnings #MondayBlogs #writetip


Photos: Courtesy of the writer of this blog.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mark Twain's Lifelong Dream...To Be or Not to Be a Writer?

On the banks of the #Mississippi, a young boy skipped stones across the #river while he waited for the passing of a steam ship. He longed for the day when he could fulfill his destiny. Mark Twain's greatest dream was not to become a writer. More than anything else in the world, he wanted to become a riverboat captain.

#Mark #Twain arrived in #Hannibal, #Missouri at the age of four-years-old. Can you imagine how many times he told his parents, when I grow up, I want to be a steamboat pilot? With a first rate view from the upper floor of his home, Twain could dream all night long of the boats on the big river. He could walk out his front door and dream all day long of the sun kissed waters. He passed by the river on his way to school, on his way to play, on his way to everything.

The dreams of our childhood linger long in our memories, reminding us of the one thing we wanted to be when we grew up. Those innocent desires shaped us, captured our imaginations, and guided us along the way to adulthood. For Twain, the fulfillment of his lifelong dream came when he reached twenty-two years of age. His four-year riverboat experience enabled him to later write novels filled with youthful characters chasing their big dreams.

Samuel Clemens sported quite the imagination when he thought up a few pen names for himself. I giggle every time I read the names, Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass and W. Epaminondas Adrastus Blab. If you are a literary fan or just a fan of Clemens, you might already know how he came up with his most famous pen name. While working aboard the steamships, he heard the words "mark twain" often. The words literally meant "measure" and "two" or about twelve feet deep. One of the greatest writers of the nineteenth century used a pen name associated with the love of his life--the Mississippi River.

"When I grow up, I want to be a...fireman, ballerina, CEO of Microsoft?" I think back to my childhood. I told everyone I wanted to be an archaeologist. Don't ask me why. I didn't even know what an archaeologist was, but the impressive word sounded important. Deep down inside I always wanted to be a writer. I did share my dream with my grandmother. "That's nice, dear," she responded, patted my head and handed me another pencil and a piece of paper.

For more information on the life of Samuel Clemens aka: Mark Twain visit:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

For the Love of the Game

 Found this little cutie in the grocery store!

Baseball season is in full swing. Pardon my pun. Living in Missouri doesn't make me a Cardinals fan (I've only lived here for five years). If I stood on top of my house, I could view Illinois just across the Big River, but that doesn't make me a Cubs fan either. Although I've been to both stadiums, I've remained loyal to my team since childhood. (You can scroll down to the end to see a pennant of my favorite team.)

A visit to Wrigley Field on one of my Chicago trips
My father loved sports. Basketball, running and baseball were among his favorites. He wanted boys but ended up with two girls instead. My sister and I played many different sports. We were on the swim team, played volleyball and softball to name a few. Every Sunday afternoon our dad would drag us to the park to play a little baseball. He taught us to hit, catch, field and throw. Before long, we grew to love the game. It was hard work, but it paid off in the long run. We got better at the sport, made the team and even the starting line-up.

I think back to when I named my blog, The Writing Game. The word game implies a challenge. The word game also implies having a strategy. Do you have a plan? Do you know the end from the beginning? Here's a challenge from Noah Lukeman: summarize your entire novel using only three sentences. Then try using only two sentences. By the way, this exercise will help you master the perfect query. What about using only one sentence? Now, that's a challenge!

And because I'm new to all of this, I've learned to never use your character's name in a query. If you don't kiss his name goodbye (at least, for the query), you can kiss your chances of getting published goodbye. Save his name for your one-page synopsis. Besides, editors will be reading all about him in your 100,000+ word novel. (Don't worry, my novels aren't that long!) And even then, you should use his name sparingly and his full name only once or twice.

Your protagonist's journey will more than likely take him several different places or directions before he arrives at his destination. Yes, your hero may need to stop that volcano (is that even possible?) or he may need to rescue the fair maiden from alien assassins, but the bigger challenge is adding subplots throughout your novel. Keep those subplots twisting and turning with secrets and surprises around every corner. Remember it's the journey not the destination. What else is going on in your novel? Is he angry at his father about something? Unresolved conflict. Is he getting up the nerve to ask a girl out on a date? Fear of rejection. Is he seeking information about his past? Fear of the unknown.

The word game also implies fun. I thought once I started a writing career, it would be a leisurely experience, like sipping green tea on the shores of my own private island. Seriously, though, I'm in love with the ocean, the sea, the gulf of anywhere. Writing should be fun, but deadlines and editing and more revising can suck the fun out of writing. Always get back to the fun side of the island. Aside from the grueling pre-dawn writing hours, the neglected laundry pile, and the deep-voices of teenage sons in your house asking for more food, writing should remain a fun yet challenging game.

Go Brewers!

May #IWSG: Mayday!

         Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the w...