15 Aug

FREE stuff for Writers!

Posted in Conferences, Writing

OK, today’s post is going to be a short one, but I wanted to share some awesome free things that are available for writers for this week only.  Yes, that’s right.  FREE.  As in, it costs you $0.00!  How awesome is that?

So, for free awesome thing #1, we’ve got WriteOnCon.com which is an online conference for writers of children’s literature.  This includes everything from picture books to middle grade, to YA.  Does that mean that non-children’s book writers may not attend the conference?  Of course not!  As I understand it, the more the merrier.  The only caveat is that the speakers and agents presenting at the conference are all in the kidlit world, so writers of adult fiction wouldn’t necessarily find agents to query at this event.  But there’s still tons we can all learn about publishing and writing, even if kidlit isn’t your genre.  The dates for the conference are August 16-18 and all you have to do is go to the website.  To see the schedule of events, click the link.

Free awesome thing #2 (I know, could it get any more awesome than a free conference?) is free books!  Writer’s Digest is doing a Back To School sale and they’re giving away a bunch of writing eBooks for free.  All the books look fascinating but the two that I had to snap up for myself were The Portable MFA in Creative Writing and Robert’s Rules of Writing.  This sale only lasts this week, so click right over and grab some free books.

I’m sure you know of other writers who like free stuff. (Who doesn’t, right?) So share the wealth and spread the word!


10 Aug

The Rule of 3: The Flint Heart by Katherine and John Paterson

Posted in Book Reviews, Craft, Kid Lit, Writing

by Katherine and John Paterson, illustrated by John Rocco

“A man, a woman and an emu walk into a bar…”  We’ve all heard that joke before, or at least something along those lines.  They’re always told the same way, with two parts building up to a third that is the punchline.  The Rule of 3.

We hear this pattern in songs too.  “Here an oink, there an oink, everywhere an oink oink.”  But I’m not just talking about children’s songs either; jazz and blues are filled with the Rule of 3.

The best way to illustrate the Rule of 3 in the blues would be to quote the lyrics of the hilarious parody Poppa’s Blues from the musical Starlight Express:



The first line of the blues is always sung a second time.
The first line of the blues is always sung a second time.
So by the time you get to the third line, you’ve had time to think of a rhyme.

The Rule of 3.

Finally, we also see this pattern in stories.  The perfect example, of course, is “I’ll huff, and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!”  Not to mention that there were three little pigs, one with a house of straw, one with a house of sticks and one with a house of bricks.  The Rule of 3.

This rule is alive and well in Katherine and John Paterson’s gorgeous book, The Flint Heart, where the evil Flint Heart causes trouble for the woodland community not once, not twice, but a full three times.  This beautifully illustrated novel proves that even today, this age-old technique of grouping things in threes is still quite effective.

So, how does the Rule of 3 work, exactly?  Doesn’t the reader see the punchline coming?  Why is it that even though it’s been around for what seems like forever, the Rule of 3 still holds that element of surprise and satisfaction?  Here’s why:

1) There’s always three.  Not two.  Not four.  Three.  Why three? Because it’s enough to set up a pattern in the reader’s mind, but not so much that the reader gets bored.  If you repeat something only once, it’s not enough for the reader to notice the effect, but if you do it three times, then you’ve got the reader’s attention.

2) There’s a build-up.  Part of the reason why the Rule of 3 is so effective is that when writers use it, they build each piece on the previous one.  The Flint Heart is a perfect example.  The first time the flint heart causes trouble, it is only within the context of one human family.  Next it causes problems within the fairy kingdom.  Finally, the flint heart creates trouble for the entire woodland community, affecting humans, fairies and all the creatures of the forest.  Each iteration is more intense and has higher stakes than the last.

3) Third time’s the variation.  Finally, the Rule of 3 works because the third time is never exactly the same as the first or second.  Think of the three little pigs.  The first two houses get blown to smithereens but the third house of bricks is what does in the Big Bad Wolf.  Think of jokes, where the punchline comes at the end of a chain of three.  Think of the Blues, where the first two lines are often the same, with a variation coming in the third and final line.  Using the first two iterations to establish a pattern, you can then add a variation or twist with the third.  That catches the readers attention and leads to that element of surprise and satisfaction.

Have you used the Rule of 3 in your writing?  How?


01 Aug

Imagination Sparks Blogfest – Famous Last Words

Posted in Word Games, Writing, Writing Exercises

Today’s post is part of the Imagination Sparks Blogfest over at Charmaine Clancy’s blog Wagging Tales.  The idea of this blogfest is for everyone to share their favorite writing prompt or exercise, then visit other blogs and try out new and different exercises.  Well, as you already know, here at iggi&gabi we have no shortage of writing prompts and exercises, but today I’ll share with you one of my favorites called Famous Last Words.

I originally introduced this exercise in this post.  This exercise is of my own creation (with the help of the writers who provide the last words, of course) and I love it because it makes you think about your story in a new way.  Most writing prompts start you off at the beginning of a story and you have to write from there.  In this exercise, you get the last line (usually a last line of a famous novel or story), and you have to write to it, ending with that line.  Here are some Famous Last Words to help you spark your story.

Instructions: Choose one of these lines and write a story or scene in which that line comes at the very end.

  • No one has claimed them yet.
  • “Let me tell you about it.”
  • Everything must go.
  • “Make me pretty.”
  • …and it was still hot.
  • It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.  [She] was both.

Extra credit: Can you guess which novels I took these lines from?  Bonus points to anyone who can!  Here’s a hint: they’re all from books I love to read (so either children’s or teen literature).

For more awesome exercises, visit Charmaine’s blog and check out some of the other people doing the blogfest.  And most importantly, have fun!


04 Jul

5 Writing Lessons from the 4th of July

Posted in Process, Tips, Writing

In light of today’s holiday, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the 4th of July means.  In doing all this thinking, I realized that there’s a lot we writers can learn from the 4th of July and the founding fathers.  Here are a few things I learned this weekend.

1) Don’t be afraid to state the obvious. We hold these truths to be self-evident… What the founding fathers were really saying when they wrote that was: “What we’re about to say is brutally obvious, but it bears repeating anyway, so listen up.”  They weren’t afraid to state the obvious, and we shouldn’t be afraid either.  Remember, while you may know the world of your story inside and out, your readers aren’t privy to all those details unless you tell them.  Don’t be afraid to give your readers all the details they need to get immersed in your world.

2) Keep it short and sweet. At the same time, don’t go overboard with the mundane details.  Remember the Declaration of Independence is a one-page document.  OK, so it’s a big page, but still it’s not a tome the size of a dictionary.  The founding fathers knew to keep their writing short and to the point.  If a detail is not important to your story, take it out!  Who was it that said “Kill your darlings?”  Well, pull that revolver down from the mantlepiece and start shooting.

3) Put it in writing. The founding fathers didn’t just sit around talking about freedom and independence and all that good stuff; they made decisions and wrote them down.  The same is true with our own writing.  Sure, we can get together with writer friends and chat about craft or talk about our stories, but sooner or later we have to shut up and write.  Remember, you can fix just about about anything in revision, but you can’t revise a blank page.

4) Give it room to grow. Even our beloved Constitution wasn’t perfect the first time it was written out.  (Um, that’s why we have amendments, right?  The founding fathers didn’t get it right the first time so they tried again.  And again.)  If the Constitution had been drafted as a perfect, flawless document, it would be static, stuck in time and not open to interpretation.  As we have it, the founding fathers implemented a way to make changes and gave the Constitution room to grow and evolve.  Give your own writing that same gift.  Sure, it might seem nice in theory to draft a perfect novel on the first try, but if you give it room to breathe, you’ll discover something truly wonderful that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

5) Celebrate with fireworks. At the end of the day, writing is hard work and when you hit a milestone (the end of a chapter, the end of a section, the end of a draft) you have to celebrate.  When all is said and done, light some fireworks (metaphorical ones, of course… I don’t want anyone messing up their writing hands) and celebrate!


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