Blank Page Blues: Writing Prompts for When You Just Can’t

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We’ve all been there. (Jeez, I’m there now.) When creativity epically fails. When the words vanish like a glimmering ring down a hellish garbage disposal. (And if horror movies have taught us ANYTHING, we know we sure aren’t sticking our digits anywhere near those blades.) Instead, we do the smart thing, the adult thing. We call a professional.

Or, to salvage my sleep-deprived metaphor, we ask for help and try to break the roadblock by truly, simply, purely getting the words a movin’.

Without further ado, I give you hyperlinks:

  1. For those who like leaving it up to fate
  1. For the young
  1. For the witty
  1. For those who are still listening to Christmas music
  1. For the thorough

Good luck and happy writing!

Writing Woes: Nonlinear Storytelling


There are two primary ways to tell a story: linear and nonlinear.

While a linear, or chronological, narrative is certainly the most common way readers (or watchers and listeners) experience a story, nonlinear is certainly essential to certain stories, films, and TV shows throughout history and even pop culture. For example, Wuthering Heights, All the Light We Cannot See, Station Eleven, Pulp Fiction, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, How I Met Your Mother, and Arrested Development all rallied around a nonlinear structure, which further enhanced the story and plot.

I’m currently reading a nonlinear young adult novel. While I believe the author is very talented, I think this story structure is confusing at best. She alternates not only timeframes—differentiated with simple “then” and “now” subheadings at the beginning of each chapter—but she also alternates between two narrators.

This poses particular problems for me, as both timelines are ambiguous with minor narrative clues as to how much time has passed. Each chapter is comprised of multiple smaller scenes that may also jump days or weeks. Additionally, some chapters are simply retold from the perspective of the other character, which only adds to the confusion.

If your story poses complex narrative structure, I recommend the following for your consideration:

  1. Clearly label your narrative, and if necessary, use dates. While tedious at times, dates at the beginning of a chapter can certainly clue the reader in as to when they’re entering a narrative. I recommend using dates especially if significant periods of time are passing, and/or if timelines are in anyway overlapping. The Night Circus is a great example of a novel that successfully moved around time and used dates to ground the reader.
  2. One timeline should always be linear. Yes, I’m sure there are exceptions, but as general rule, if two or more storylines are moving throughout time, one story line should always move linearly to help guide and ground the audience. Once Upon a Time is a great example of this. As a TV show that consistently features two narratives, their present, “Storybrooke” timeline always moves forward, linearly in time, while their flashbacks move around in the past, throughout lands and decades.
  3. There must be a reason for including a nonlinear narrative. This storytelling method must be used as a hook, to reveal pieces of important information, create suspense, or foreshadow events. Gone Girl wouldn’t have been nearly as impactful without Flynn’s structured twists. Keeping it spoiler free, while the story itself moves forward chronologically, by revealing Amy’s narrative when she did, Flynn was able to not only create suspense, but also lead the readers through a journey of faith and doubt in Nick’s character and therefore, Amy’s mind.

Happy writing and Happy New Year! See you in 2017.

Writing Goals: The Gilmore Way

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“Oy, with the poodles already!”

It was the cry heard round the world. The fast-paced, quick-witted genius that was Gilmore Girls dialogue.

At that very phrase, millions of writers turn green with envy.

To write like Lorelei and Rory spoke.

I know what you’re thinking: “Yes! A how-to on dialogue worthy of Amy Sherman-Palladino.” Whelp. Sorry to disappoint, but if I knew how to write like Amy, I’d be a gazillionaire and wouldn’t be sharing my ticket to writing immortality with you all.

This, instead, is a tribute of sorts, a general musing of why a television show’s dialogue was revolutionary, and why—years later—it’s still known for it’s ground-breaking tendencies.


1. Laughter

It’s no secret the Gilmores were funny, nay—comical, hysterical, uproarious! Their wit knew no bounds! Yet—while Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel certainly played their parts stupendously—their humor was born behind a computer screen, created by a human brain a couple of neurons.

One strength the Gilmore writers used was to build humor around their character’s personalities. Lorelei used her love of bad movies and obscure musicians, Rory her love books and Stars Hallow translations, Lane her passion for rock and roll, and Emily for disdain of all things that didn’t come from Bergdorf’s.

Note that the writers didn’t feed Luke lines about Jane Austin or Sookie jokes on scotch. (At least, none that I can remember.) Their humor fit their experiences and interests.

2. Popular Culture

I once read an article that listed every single movie ever referenced in the seven seasons of Gilmore. Want to know how many are on that list? 463. Four-hundred-sixty-three! You could watch one a night and it would still take you a year-and-a-half to see them all!

So why bring up 463 movies? Why bring up pop culture at all? Pop culture certainly isn’t necessary, or even appropriate, in all books, but I think it does help your readers connect to your characters. Think of it this way—it’s something to further bond your readers with your characters. Example: “Lorelai loves Purple Rain and I love Purple Rain! I knew she was cool.” (True story.)

3. Pacing

If talking were an Olympic sport, the Gilmores would have gold. Apparently, one page of a script is approximately one minute of screen time. On Gilmore, one page of dialogue lasted 20-25 seconds. While this tidbit is very specific to scripts, I think it’s worth noting that fans noticed the fast-paced culture of the show that eventually became a trademark.

While this looks different in novels, I’ve often found I connect most with characters when I get caught up in scenes ripe with rapid banter. It’s in those scenes that they feel human and portray real response to real life situations.


So, now that you’re pumped about dialogue, you have two tasks to accomplish in this very particular order: Watch the Gilmore Girls revival on Friday and write till your heart’s content.

Oh, and pie! Eat some pie.

Vulnerability & Art









A year ago, I wrote a poem on my experience with loneliness. I read that poem at an event surrounded by friends, family, and strangers. It was difficult and intimidating to be so open about something so personal. Yet, the response I received from that experience, from a single reading, garnered more impact than any other piece I’ve ever written.

And their gracious responses were not because my poem was in any way literary genius. I believe they responded because I allowed my art to be vulnerable.

This goes against most—and certainly, my—human nature. We tend to protect ourselves, guard the things we care about for fear of pain, rejections, and embarrassment. But there’s something innately beautiful that can happen when we decide to allow depth in our art: we invite others into our vulnerability.

I believe we each have something good to offer the world. For me, this can mean putting words to emotions or situations that others feel but may not be able to describe or name. I desire to bridge art with a pure, human story, and through that, to something true, something found.

So, why am I talking about vulnerability? If I may be so bold, I want to encourage you to add vulnerability to your art, your stories. Perhaps even adding pieces of yourself, your story, your challenges, losses, or fears to your characters or themes. I’m by no means saying our characters have to be exactly like us; that would significantly defeat the purpose of exploring worlds and perspectives outside our own. Yet, don’t let the pendulum swing so far that you feel your character can’t have your strength, your grace, or your loneliness. All are beautiful and human and your experience to share, a part of your greater story.

So, if this idea makes you anxious or uncomfortable, I encourage you to jump. Try vulnerable. And see what truth, what light, may come.