Tag Archives: “T. P. Jagger”

Dreams & Beans

The dream I chase is known as BeAnAD [bean-add]. And no, I’m not counting beans. BeAnAD stands for “Being an Author Dude,” and this pursuit has consumed way too many hours of my life to keep track of.



More reading.

More writing.

A quick break for writer’s cramp.

Then still more writing. And reading.

City of Ember As the years zip by like a Crisco-coated monkey on a Slip-and-Slide,   I perpetually catch myself “reading like a writer.” I’ll stop to admire an   original simile such as this one from Jeanne Duprau’s The City of Ember:

She pressed a finger against the side of Granny’s throat to feel for her pulse, as the doctor had shown her. It was fluttery, like a moth that has hurt itself and is flapping in crooked circles.


Or I’ll pluck that tidbit of setting that effectively paints the mood of a scene such as this excerpt from Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars:

I walked home under gray clouds whose undersides had been shredded. They hung in tatters, and a cold mist leaked out of them.

And lately, I’ve given myself some official homework as I study the craft of other writers. I’ve been reading through a variety of children’s books, recording three things for each chapter:

1)      The word-for-word START of the chapter.

2)      A few sentence SUMMARY of the chapter.

3)      The word-for-word END of the chapter.

The Wednesday Wars

For example, I’m currently going through this start-summary-end process with Ivy and Bean, a chapter book by Annie Barrows. My notes look like this:

 Ivy and Bean Chapter One: No Thanks

START: “Before Bean met Ivy, she didn’t like her.”

SUMMARY: Bean’s mom encourages Bean to go play with Ivy, the new girl across the street. Bean doesn’t want to because she’s convinced Ivy is boring.

END: “So for weeks and weeks, Bean didn’t play with Ivy. But one day something happened that changed her mind.”

Chapter Two: Bean Hatches a Plan

START: “It all began because Bean was playing a trick on her older sister.”

. . .

This start-summary-end look at each chapter helps me create a basic outline for the flow of a story and consider how my own writing might be improved. How does the start of a chapter draw me in and make me want to read on? What sort of conflict and/or action (either major or minor) moves the chapter forward? How does the author use the chapter ending to propel me into the next?

So . . . are you looking for a way to give your writing a boost? Read a children’s book with a pad of paper and a pencil in hand, recording a start-summary-end outline as you go. When you’re done, study it. Consider it. Then create a chapter-by-chapter, start-summary-end outline for your own manuscript, looking for opportunities to strengthen your creation.

My BeAnAD dream may not be worth a hill of beans at this point. But hopefully, that will change one day. And when it does, I may have to stop and thank Ivy and Bean for their help along the way.

Top 10 Reasons to Visit MUF’s “For Writers” Page

A couple months ago I wrote a brilliant humble post entitled “Top 10 Deep (& Stolen) Thoughts about Writing,” and when I realized I now needed to announce the latest update to MUF’s “For Writers” page, I thought: Hey, that top-10 format sure made for an easy post! made an effective way to provide our loyal readers with a convenient, efficient way to gain a lot of information. So, since I’m really lazy always striving to serve MUF’s followers and provide positive returns on the time they invest in reading our blog, I now present the . . .




10. The “For Writers” page is quite extroverted. It gets lonely and depressed without visitors.

9. If you need a pointer on THE CRAFT of writing—characterization, plot, voice, or something else—“For Writers” has it.

8. I’ll give you chocolate. Well, kind of. At least the next time I use my laptop I’ll hold an m&m up to the webcam and see what happens.

7. If you’re struggling through a first draft or manuscript revision or querying, consider all THE PROCESS has to offer.

6. If you’re wondering where others turn for ideas and inspiration, peek at THE WRITING LIFE.

5. Whether it’s THE CRAFT or THE PROCESS or THE WRITING LIFE, you’ll find plenty of new links.

4. I’m getting really tired of embedding links to “For Writers” into this post.

3. Um, wait a minute and let me think. . . . I’m having a hard time coming up with ten reasons, so I need you to do something for me. Please rock your head slowly back and forth and stare at the spiral image below. Keep rocking. . . .


You’re getting sleepy. Verrrrry sleeeeepy. That’s it. Relax. Now click over to the “For Writers” page and read no further in this list. . . .

Wow, this is great! Having hypnotized everyone, I know they’ve already clicked away from my post. I can write whatever I want! I can ramble and type gibberish! Include sentence fragments with reckless abandon! Overuse exclamation points!!! No one will even notice, but I’ll still have a list with ten items.

2. Who cares what number two is? You’re not reading this! Sometimes I can’t help but bask in my own brilliance. . . .

1. Wartless pickles stumble into underground snow clouds when dogs mow books at midnight.

WHAT!?!? You’re still here? Jeez, you were supposed to be gone fourteen sentences ago! Come on. Go over to the “For Writers” page. Get inspired. Glean wisdom. And please don’t tell anyone about the wartless pickles.

Top 10 Deep (& Stolen) Thoughts about Writing

Thank God for group blogs. Otherwise, I’d have to act like I had some deep and insightful thing to write about way more than just once every three months. Of course, the problem is that eventually my three month reprieve ends, and my quandary returns:

What the heck should my new MUF post be about?…

This time around, I considered writing a post about creating effective settings, which is something I’ve been working on in my own writing lately. But then I decided that was way too much work because I am officially not an expert on creating effective settings. Dang.

Then I considered flaunting my sagacity by discussing “objective correlative,” which is a literary device fellow-MUFer Jennifer Duddy Gill brought to my attention about a week ago. Then I realized that would be even more work than writing about setting because I don’t know squat about objective correlative except that Jennifer said I’m good at it even if I don’t know what it means. Double dang.

That left me with nothing to say. And not having anything to say really sucks when you’re supposed to say something. So I decided to not really say anything at all. Instead, I’ll let other, much wiser folks have their say. Thus, I offer you the following TOP 10 DEEP (& STOLEN) THOUGHTS ABOUT WRITING:

  1. “The sinister thing about writing is that it starts off seeming so easy and ends up being so hard.” –L. Rust Hills
  1. “The challenge for a writer is to find ‘not the way to say it.’” –Milan Kundera
  1. “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” –E.L. Doctorow
  1. “You do not have a story until something goes wrong.” –Steven James (“Story Trumps Structure,” Writer’s Digest, February 2011, p. 37)
  1. “Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. . . . It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head—even if in the end you conclude that someone else’s head is not a place you’d really like to be.” –Malcolm Gladwell (What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures, p. xv)
  1. “The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying on the road.” –Richard Price (quoted in What a Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher, p. 49)
  1. “It is an intriguing fact that in order to make readers care about a character, however bad, however depraved, it is only necessary to make him love someone or even something. A dog will do, even a hamster will do.” –Ruth Rendell (“What to Pack in Your Fiction Tool Kit,” Writer’s Digest, December 2010,p. 21)
  1. “All of fiction is a practical joke—making people care, laugh, cry, or be nauseated or whatever by something which absolutely is not going on at all. It’s like saying, ‘Hey, your pants are on fire.’” –Kurt Vonnegut
  1. “It’s important to write every day. Just logging hours writing will make you a better writer. Or it will make you insane. Which sometimes makes you a better writer. It’s win-win.” –Justin Halpern (as interviewed in Writer’s Digest, September 2011)
  1. “Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.”–Raymond Chandler

There. Done. The MUF’s laziest most inspirational blog post ever is now complete. Laud my perspicacity. Revel in my insight. Bask in my writerly wisdom. Then feel free to share a favorite writing quote of your own while simultaneously resisting the urge to tell me to work harder on my posts.