Thursday, December 15, 2011


I am busy celebrating with my family,
and I'm eating lots of these -->
so there will be no new posts for
a few weeks.

In the meantime, make one of my cookies come to life in a story!
If you need a lead, use mine:
Cam the snowman didn't want to be green.

WIT will return January 5th.
Get those pencils sharpened and be ready to WRITE.

: )

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I'm Interrupting Your Regularly Scheduled WIT...

Hey there,
I just want to take a minute to wish you a safe and very happy holiday season.
I also want to let you know I'm giving away books!

Dear Elementary School

It's time for Nancy Viau's ROCKIN' NEW YEAR'S DAY GIVEAWAY!

To enter, send me an email via my WEBSITE. ( Tell me who you are, where you're from, and why you'd like to win.
Open to teachers, principals, and librarians/media specialists in the USA.
Giveaway winners announced January 1, 2012.


Aliens have Landed!

YOU are a newspaper reporter, and you are sent to write a feature about an alien who has landed on the school's playground.
YOU have to create an exciting lead (see last week's post) that offers up a summary of the story right away and immediately captures interest.
Tough to do? Yup.
GIVE-AWAY Leads or SUMMARY Leads--the kind reporters use--tell us up front what has happened. No guesswork, like in other leads. But Summary Leads can make your reader curious and dying for the details.

Try this:
*Answer the old Who, What, Where, When, and How questions. It's a way to involve your reader and get out important (alien) info briefly. Yes, briefly. WRITE TIGHT, as we writers like to say.

*Ditch all the extra stuff that doesn't matter in a news story. We don't need to know if Mrs. Fartsky gave out homework that day or Principal Purplelips yelled at a student.

*Delete or rewrite sentences that offer up your opinion, like:
I think...
I wonder if...
I bet he'd like...
Maybe he came from...

* Delete or rewrite sentences with personal pronouns ("we" or "he", etc.)

* Tell the whole story.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

One Thing Leads to the Next

You've got a great idea for a story, but...
1. how can you capture a reader's interest and
2. how can you KEEP that reader reading?
You need good leads, or what I call GREAT Killer Hooks!

A great Killer Hook...

  1. Gives the reader a hint about what kind of story follows. (Is it funny fiction, an essay, a historical novel, science fiction, fantasy?)
  2. Doesn’t tell the reader too much at once.
  3. Leads the reader to what comes next.
  4. Suggests what’s to come. 
  5. Keeps the reader wondering.
  6.  Surprises the reader.
  7. Appears at the beginning, end, or in the middle.

It turns out I do have a talent—a talent for getting even. Tomorrow night That Kid will be very sorry he was mean to me.

Where’s Papa going with that ax?
CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E. B. White/novel

I love being fancy.
FANCY NANCY by Jane O’Connor/picture book

Now, it's your turn. Really, really, reallllllly think about the sentences you are writing. Can you change a few words in those sentences to make them leads?

Thursday, November 24, 2011


In honor of Turkey Day, I bring you trouble... TURKEY TROUBLE!

TURKEY TROUBLE is a funny book by Wendi Silvano, illustrated by Lee Harper. Read it today and think about how hard it was for Wendi to come up with an original turkey story and for Lee to draw those silly turkeys!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Understanding Language

It's quiz time and this one is short, but tricky in places.

It's called Put on Your Thinking Cap.
My mother used to say this to me all the time. For years, I thought it was a special hat. ; )

Try the quiz HERE.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hello New Words

It's getting harder and harder to keep up with new words that are being added to the dictionary.
Test yourself! Here are a few that have been added in recent years. Have you heard of these, and do you know what they mean? If you do, start using them in your writing!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Last Week's Post Inspired This Week's Post

Decide if the pairs of words are both correct or only one is correct. If you aren't absolutely sure, Google the word to find out what's acceptable and what's correct, or you can use this amazing thing called...


Never underestimate the value of an up-to-date dictionary!

Dialog or Dialogue

Catalog or Catalogue

Cancelled or Canceled

Already or All Ready

A While or Awhile

Traveling or Traveling

Grey or Gray

Theatre or Theater

Sometimes the English language is enough to make you crazy.

Agree or Disagree?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Let's talk about dialogue," she said.

This is a Back-to-Basics kind of post. I could call it One of Nancy's-Pet-Peeves post, but that doesn't sound nice. ; )

I remember a day in second (or was it third?) grade when Mrs. Meyers marked up my perfectly wonderful story. Perfectly wonderful story was filled with action and had lots of interesting characters doing interesting things. (*cough* Well, sort of.) Ted talked, then Judy talked, then the dog and cat talked. In that same paragraph, Mom yelled, and Dad said he was going to mow the lawn. It went something like this:

"I want to play kickball in our yard," Ted said. "Me, too," Judy said. "Let's get a team together." Judy said. Mom called to us from the porch. "NOT today," Mom said. "Dad is planning to mow the lawn." "WHAT? Dad's mowing the lawn?" Rover chimed in. "I just got comfortable." "You're always comfortable," Kitty meowed. "You're lazy." "Oh, kids!" Dad called from the shed. "Clean up the sports equipment. I'm mowing the lawn in ten minutes. And you can sweep." Ted stomped his foot. "I'd rather play kickball," Ted said. Rover yawned. "I'd rather nap," he said.

What's wrong with that paragraph? I'll give you a minute to think it over...

The problem is that a new paragraph was not formed when a new speaker took over the conversation. New paragraphs make the story flow better, and you don't need so many he said or she said tags.

Rewrite my paragraph, giving each speaker his/her own paragraph. They deserve to be heard! While you're at it, ditch a bunch of said words and see if it still makes sense. It may or it may not, and you'll have to decide where to clarify who is saying what.

HERE's a cool story from Ellen Garvey, an English professor at New Jersey University. It stars Tarzan and Jane, and is pretty darn clever.

"Dialog or dialogue?" she asked.
"BOTH are correct!" Yahoo answered.
"Later," she said.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Inspiration Station

Color photograph of Jon Scieszka National Ambassador for Young People's LiteratureThis week I had the opportunity to attend a fabulous writer's conference where I heard Jon Scieszka speak. You know of Mr. Scieszka, don't you? Let me remind you who he is. In 2008, Jon Scieszka (rhymes with Fresca) was appointed to a two-year term as the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature in the United States. I saw the pics of him with President Bush and First Lady Laura. It happened. Believe it. Soooo awesome, yes? You may know him better as the author of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Knucklehead, The Stinky Cheese Man, and more.

Anyway, Jon talked about his life and growing up with his brothers. HILARIOUS STUFF! I can so relate because I remember nuggets of things that happened to me as a kid that ended up (or will end up) in my stories. I also look back at the childhood years of my own kids and the silly situations they went through. More HILARIOUS STUFF!

Well, WIT-ty people, young and old, like or not, things will happen to you. They may be funny, serious, upsetting, dramatic, sad, or happy, and guess what? It is all fodder for a book. Think about it.
: )

Guys, be sure to check out Guys Read, a site started by Mr. Scieszka to encourage guys to read.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Character Education

Oh, no! Not the character education talks you may get in school.

Fooled ya!
Some schools have character education lessons and these involve learning how to get along with others, working on self-control, sharing, behavior, being patient, and more. But that's not what's going on here today because we have those things mastered, right? RIGHT? You do, right? RIGHT?!! (Ok, so we can work on that character ed stuff. Always.)


Today it's all about creating interesting characters in your stories. Take a minute and reread what I posted about character on May 12, 2011, then pop back over here. I'll wait...hum dee dum dee dum...

In a recent workshop, we chatted about character, and I realized there is so much more that can be done to develop a great protagonist, a great main character. The University of Missouri ethemes site is actually a resource for teachers, but the first two activities can easily be done by kids in 3rd-6th grade, and they will help you get your brain in gear. The first is a list of cool adjectives; the second is a character wheel that you can make. These things will be especially helpful at the start of a story when you aren't sure what character traits your boy, girl, troll, butterfly, monster, bully, or whatever will have.

Now get started and build a terrific character!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

More Moodiness

Remember last week when I had you think about similes? Similes are one way to add mood to your story, but here are two more ways:

1. Fast, clipped sentences are great when you want to show fear, panic, anxiety, and anger.
She needed to leave now!

Repeating a word adds to that.
Now! She needed to leave now! Right now!

2. On the flip side, longer sentences filled with adjective and adverbs are best when you want to describe happiness, contentment, or even loneliness or sadness.

When the coach handed me the golden trophy, I felt as though my heart would burst.

His brown eyes gazed down at the messy spill on the cafeteria floor, and he desperately wished he could make himself invisible.

You can do this with dialogue, too.
"I can't leave now!"

"Leave now? I can't leave now!"

"Getting this shiny, golden trophy has meant the world to me. I've never thought I'd be this excited to get a mini statue of a soccer player."

"I cannot believe I spilled my lunch," Jake said. "Everybody is staring at me like I'm a loser."

Your turn. Dig out a piece of writing and edit, edit, EDIT!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Give Your Story Some Attitude

Now, hold up a sec. When I mean give your story some attitude, I don't necessarily mean that I want your story to have a BAD attitude. However, it does need somewhat of a mood. The mood lets your reader make an emotional connection, otherwise your story is kind of BLAH.
: (
One quick way to set the mood (sometimes called tone) is to use similes. Similes use "like" or "as" to compare two things.

Let's try to make up some using this picture.

First, let me hear you go, "Awwww." This is my bunny and yes, he is adorable.

Back to similes...
I'll start.
That bunny is as soft as a pillow.
The girl thinks the bunny is like a cuddly toy.
The bunny stood at attention like a soldier when Annie came to his cage.
The bunny acted as if he were a prisoner longing for freedom.

What similes come to your mind?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tongue-Twister Time

Sally sells seashells down by the seashore.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

I bet you can tell me what makes these tongue-twisters so fun!
Repetition of the same beginning sound in a phrase or sentence is called ________________.


I use alliteration in poetry more than anywhere else, but I do pay attention to how much I use it. Too much alliteration can be a bad thing. With just the right amount, I can create a smooth transition between words. I want those words to easily roll out of a reader's mouth. In my picture book about a storm, I rely on alliteration for impact:
When that book gets released, it'll be a great resource for teachers who teach alliteration, that's for sure.

Here's a really cool quiz that's challenging because you have to count the sounds and complete the quiz within 60 seconds. It's designed for 9th graders, but I bet you can do it! Try it HERE.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Welcome Back!


I hope everybody had a fun summer. I know I did!

Today, I was thinking about those days long ago when I jumped on the bus and strolled into my elementary school classroom for the first time. I loved, loved, loved school, and looked forward to the end of summer, so I could get back there. I also had (and still have) a fondness for new school supplies, and I couldn't wait to break out those shiny pens, pencils, and notebooks.

After we got settled into our seats, we were always asked to write about our summer vacation. I wrote pages and pages about playing with Barbie dolls under a willow tree, walking across the cornfield to a friend's farm, picking berries, playing kickball, camping, visits to the seashore, and more. Years later, I realized that this was my teacher's sneaky way of learning a couple of things, like, what were my interests and how well did I put my thoughts into words. Was she really interested in what I did over the summer, or was she looking at my misspelled words, weak adjectives, and not-so-perfect cursive handwriting?

Well, I am interested in getting YOU back into writing, so let's get started. But instead of writing about what you did over the summer, I'd like you to write about your fantasy summer. If you could have done anything, what would you have done? If you could have gone anywhere, where would you have gone? And/Or if you had the opportunity to hang out with a certain person from the past, present, or future, who would it be?

IF you are feeling brave, send those one-page stories to me at I will read them, I promise.

Check in next Thursday for a new WIT post. Until then...


Friday, July 8, 2011

And Now For An Important Announcement

Hi Everyone,

Sorry to interrupt your WIT-free summer, but if by chance you're checking in here, I wanted you to be the first to hear my good news.

DRUM ROLL, please...

Marshall Cavendish, a spectacular publisher, has agreed to buy my second picture book! (As you may recall, my first picture book is titled I CAN DO IT! and that one has not been scheduled for publication yet. My novel, SAMANTHA HANSEN HAS ROCKS IN HER HEAD is out now.) Anyway, this new picture book is called STORM SONG, and it is a rhyming story about children who experience the sights, sounds, and delights of an autumn thunderstorm from inside their cozy home. I can't wait to see how an illustrator portrays this because even though WE know storms can be scary, we don't want anyone reading my book to be frightened, right?

You may continue on with your regularly scheduled summertime activities. Rest your brains and look for more writing tips beginning in September!

: )

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I'm Back!

But I'm back only for a second. The sun is hot; the breeze is cool, and it's a perfect day to play outside.

Anyway, I found THIS terrific resource for students and teachers! It's a list of publications that accept work from young writers. It's from NoodleTools/Basic Language Literacy, a respected site.

Kids, if you're serious about seeing your work in print or online, send in a submission or two. Let me know how it goes, ok?

: )

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Favorite Vocab Word

It's time to expand our vocabulary!

HIATUS defines HIATUS like this:
Noun: A pause or gap in a sequence, series, or process.
And that's precisely what will be happening with this blog. It will be on HIATUS until mid-September.
Now, GO OUT AND PLAY! Come back in September will fresh ideas and experiences that will make your writing shine.
BYE for now!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

IS a picture worth a thousand words?
Do you NEED a thousand words to describe an incredible picture?
Probably NOT.

Look at the picture below.

You have 50 words to work with and that's all! Make each one count and


Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Fondness for the Comma

Ok, this one is a no-brainer for me. I LOVE the serial comma.
And nope, the serial comma is not a series of commas, like this: , , , , , , , , , , ,
The serial comma is a comma that comes before the final conjunction in a list.

For example:
Nancy likes candy, apples, and grapefruit. (OK, I don't really like grapefruit, but that's beside the point.)

With the comma, it means I like 1. candy, 2. apples, and 3. grapefruit.

But...check this out:
Nancy likes candy apples and grapefruit.

Without the serial comma, this sentences means that I like candy (or candied) apples and also grapefruit. If that's what I mean to say, the above sentence is correct.

Commas are powerful little buggers. They can change the meaning of a sentence.
Where would you like the commas to go in these sentences?

Jim wants to run walk and swim.
Nellie has a cat bird and a dog.
Horace wants to eat chocolate chips and pretzels.
Will Lindsey Ann or Kelly read one two or three books this summer?

Did you trick anyone with your creative comma usage?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Chatty Characters

I know how much you love to add exciting dialogue to your stories. It's fun to write about your characters chatting away, isn't it? Here are some quick tips to help you get better at writing dialogue.

Read! The best dialogue should come naturally, but force yourself to study it as you read.

Start a dialogue diary. Yep, that's right, the D word--diary. Practice writing dialogue in it. Each entry doesn't have to go along with the one before it. You're not writing a story; you're only writing down what someone is saying.

Eavesdrop. Carry a pen or pencil and paper everywhere. (I need to work on this!) The best dialogue may hit you at an unexpected time, like in the dentist's office, on the playground, or while you're waiting in line after recess time.

And since we're on the subject of eavesdropping, I thought you'd enjoy this article I wrote. It was published online in 2005, and is still one of my favorites. In it you'll find a method for saving dialog and story ideas.

Gathering Seeds

By Nancy Viau


I plop on a swing and watch my kids take off for their favorite piece of playground equipment. Minutes later, a little girl zooms by and cries, “My eyes have ladybugs crawling on them!”

I can’t help but giggle at her choice of words. They’re perfect! Every parent within earshot knows this kid’s allergies are acting up and her red, itchy eyes are driving her crazy. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I simply must record her outburst for use in a future story or poem. I grab my purse and search for a pen and paper. Although I can probably make a decent snack out of what’s lurking in its folds, my purse lacks anything that resembles a writing instrument let alone a piece of paper. And I call myself a writer.

I jog to the car and find a partially melted green crayon. Bingo! Lucky for me, glued to it is an old map. I tear off a piece of California and scribble the girl’s words near San Francisco.

I’ve learned it’s best to make note of terrific comments (and any worthwhile thoughts) the moment I come in contact with them for if I rely on my aging memory, this good “stuff” gets lost forever. The outspoken little girl, a stranger on a playground, has clicked my writer’s brain into overdrive. I settle on a park bench and jot down a few observations and character traits on Napa Valley. Every detail, from the way she uses her hands to talk to the way she stomps her grubby pink sneakers in the dirt, gets recorded in my own peculiar style of shorthand.

When I return home, I’ll add my map notes to my file. I’ll tuck them in among tidbits penned on restaurant napkins, homework assignments, junk mail, post-it notes, and yes, even ordinary lined paper. My file bursts at its seams. The last time I peeked, I discovered bilingual dialog, complaints by skateboarders, thoughts on seashells and shaggy dogs, my daughter’s opinion about morning breath (it apparently smells like low tide), and a blip about the pros and cons of a peanut butter, raisin, and mayonnaise sandwich. There were also nine newspaper articles, seven photographs, three class work papers (complete with high school slang and doodles), and one gum wrapper. (Not sure why I put that sticky thing in there.)

My overstuffed file is labeled SEEDS. Some “seeds” have matured into published children’s pieces. Others have sprouted as columns for newspapers, magazines, and E-zines. One is going through a lengthy cultivation process. When it’s fully developed, I hope it’ll be a novel. Not all “seeds” will find their way into print. Some may stay tucked inside the file for years waiting to break into bloom in a suitable genre.

Playground time is ending. I smile at a mother who has rocked her baby to sleep. Minutes later, a toddler skips over hooting and howling like a jungle animal. The mother reprimands him for waking his sister. He puts fingers to his lips and whispers, “I’m only pretending to be quiet.”

What a great line! Where’s my crayon? Is that smashed blob of green wax next to my shoe what’s left of my only writing instrument? Darn! I beg the man two sliding boards over for his felt pen. There’s not an inch of space left on my map, so I pick up a slightly used gum wrapper and write the toddler’s phrase on the non-slippery side.

And walking to the car, I make a mental note to check that other wrapper—the gummy one in my SEEDS file. It probably has a dynamite story starter on the flip side.

Start Your Own Seeds File

1. Label a folder with the word SEEDS. Store it on the main floor of your home. (“Seeds” will scatter to the wind, disappear in pockets, or be thrown in the trash if not filed instantly.)

2. Keep a notebook handy. (Believe me, gum wrappers are not that great.) Carry a decent pen. (Things written in crayon are often mistaken for kids’ artwork.)

3. Observe and record interesting details. Write them down immediately. (Wait until later and the only thoughts left in your head will be: I had some great ideas. What were they?)

4. If you have time, expand on a “seed” while the feeling is fresh. Create a conversation from bits of dialogue, make an outline, begin a story, or write several lines of poetry.

5. If you cannot expand, file the “seed” anyway. Let it germinate.

6. Soon you’ll have an entire collection of interesting tidbits. Pick one, water it with your creativity, and watch it grow.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sentences Are a Blast!

It's quiz time.
Are your palms sweaty?
Does your head hurt?
Are you nervous?

You know that these quizzes are quick and fun, and you get points instead of grades, don't you?


This quiz is on sentences. Give it a go and have a blast!

Grammar Blast

Start HERE.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


What's your POV? Your Point of View?

Nope, I'm not asking what you think about Justin Bieber, Johnny Depp, or Miley Cyrus. I'm not wondering what your opinion is concerning war and peace, and I'm not thinking about your point of view on the latest hit comedy show on TV.

What POV have you chosen in your latest piece of writing?

Want choices? I've got 'em!

First Person point of view is in use when a character narrates the story. Your narrator will use I-me-my-mine in his or her speech. This is one of my favorite POVs because I get to hear the thoughts of the star of the story, and get to see how he/she views the world.

Example (taken from my book SAMANTHA HANSEN HAS ROCKS IN HER HEAD):  A few yawns later, I climb out of bed. To tell the truth, I don't mind going to school. Mrs. Montemore is my fourth-grade teacher at Centertown Elementary, and so far, I like her a lot. In first grade, I had old Mrs. Milkens. Everybody had to shout out answers because if Mrs. Milkens didn't hear you, you got a red check in the grade book. I never had much trouble with the shouting thing, but a couple of quiet, shy kids almost ended up repeating first grade.


With Second Person point of view, the writer uses you and your. This is a pretty rare POV. It's like having the writer speak directly to the reader. It can be sort of annoying and big time editors (and some teachers) aren't too fond of it.

Example: Carissa is the name of the dog that lives next door. You like this name, right? I bet you would name your cute dog Carissa, if you were allowed.


Third Person point of view means that someone is like an outsider looking in on the action. Third Person Omniscent means that you get to write about the thoughts of every character. Third Person Limited means you must choose to write the thoughts of only one character.

Example (taken from "Spend or Save," a story I wrote that appears in the July 2010 issue of Highlights Magazine): Jeremy was rich! His grandparents had given him twenty dollars for his birthday. He couldn't wait to get a Skater Rex video game. Mom took him to the toy store.


Nancy's big tip:
Pick a POV and stick with it!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Break!

It's FINALLY here...drum roll, please...

Flowers are in bloom, trees have buds and teeny leaves, the air smells great, the sun is shining, warm breezes are blowing, people are sneezing...It's all good.

My tip for this week involves two choices on your part.

1. Think about that first day when you noticed a change in the season.
     Did you see the scrawny hedge that separated your house from your neighbor's house suddenly burst into yellow? What about that very green grass that wasn't there yesterday? (spring)
     Did you hear the seagulls screech like crazy outside the bedroom of the seashore cottage your parents rented? How about the creak and roar of amusement park rides? (summer)
     Did you smell the earthy, sweet smells of harvest time? Or perhaps, take in the scent of mud on the soccer field? (fall)
     Did you feel your nose get chilly, even though the first snow is weeks away? Can you breathe in and feel the cold in your lungs? (winter)


2. Think about your first day of vacation, whether it's spring break, winter break, or summer vacation.
     What are you excited about?
     What are your plans?
     How will you be different when your break is over?

Write a paragraph or two about your feelings as you see your world change.

For a challenge, rewrite those paragraphs from the point of view of a bird.

C H I R P!
HURRAY For Spring!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Nitty Gritty on Numbers

He has five homework assignments due tomorrow.
He has 5 homework assignments due tomorrow.

Which one? HELP! - The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation - Jane StrausWriting numbers can be confusing. I found this terrific resource: I love the way Jane Straus, author of THE BLUE BOOK OF GRAMMAR AND PUNCTUATION, breaks down writing numbers into 16 easy rules.Thanks, Ms. Straus!

Rule 5 is my favorite. I see this rule broken a thousand times!

Review the rules posted under the link above, then take this quick test:
My four dogs ate with their 13 cats. RIGHT OR WRONG?
Recess will be at 3:00. RIGHT OR WRONG?
Two thirds of the class received twenty two candy bars. (HA! You wish!) RIGHT OR WRONG?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ten Tips to Avoid Getting Bogged Down

I found this definition online. It's perfect for what I wanted to talk about today.
bog - verb. To get stuck while doing something; to be hindered in movement; to be prevented from making progress

Thinking about words, spelling, sentences, grammar, setting, plot, characters, and everything else is enough to bog down even the best writer. If something is getting in the way of your writing, try this:
1. Cut pictures out of magazines. Is there a picture of your main character? Is there a setting you'd like to describe? Could someone's expression give you an idea about plot?
2. Draw a tree. On the trunk, put the title of your story. On the branches, list all the possible things that could happen in your story.
3. Talk about your story to a friend.
4. Record your thoughts, even if they are random and don't seem to make sense.
5. Sketch a picture of an idea.
6. Watch TV. (I did NOT say that, did I?) Well, guess what? There are great story ideas stuck inside TV dramas, comedies, and yes...even cartoons.
7. Brainstorm. Even if your idea sounds dumb or isn't formed into complete sentences, put it down on paper. On that list may be something brilliant.
8. Sing. Singing always makes me feel better, and when I'm in a good mood, I eventually sit down and write.
9. Try a new experience. Ever been camping in your living room? Ever sleep with your head at the bottom of your bed instead of the top? Ever eaten breakfast for dinner or dinner for breakfast? You'd be surprised at how your brain wakes up when you mix things up.
10. Get a good night's sleep, but keep a notebook by your bed. I get my best ideas at 4 AM.
Write On!
Peace out.
: )

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Do More Than SEE the Scene

I have two sticky notes stuck to my monitor. Can you read what's on them?
The yellow one says:
Take out 4 action scenes and replace with one emotional one.
The pink one says:
Must do a better job setting up each scene. 5 senses!

I keep these right smack in front of my face because setting the scene is soooo important, and I confess...I sometimes rush my characters into action too soon.

When I feel this happening, I take a step back and really think about the scene I want to write. I need to put more on paper than just a sequence of events. I need the reader to get emotionally involved!

When you're writing (and revising), look at your sentences. Are they merely statements of what's going on? Thing One did this. Thing Two did that. In CAT IN THE HAT, we find out how those Things made the children feel as they're bumping, hopping, and jumping along. "They should not be here when your mother is not!" Now, that's emotion! And really, if you think about it, we don't know exactly where the Things are at that precise moment. Doesn't matter. What matters is that the scene drips with emotion.

Another way to set the scene is to make sure you involve all the senses. It's easy to describe things by simply using sight, but what in your scene is smelled, felt, heard, and yep...even tasted?

Pick a photograph below and set the scene!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Adjectives Are Not for Wimps!

If you're going to describe a person, place or thing, think about it first and use the perfect adjective.

Instead of pretty, say beautiful or gorgeous.
Instead of red, say scarlet or rose.
Instead of smart, say intelligent or brilliant.
Instead of funny, say hilarious or silly.
Instead of purple, say lavender or violet.

To explore adjectives, click on
Type your BORING adjective into the blank box.
In the box to the right, click on the down arrow to get to the drop down menu.
Click on Find Synonyms.
Click on Go Get It.
Look at all those excellent, amazing, tremendous, fantastic, extraordinary, marvelous, wondrous, terrific adjectives! Pretty cool, huh?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What If?


What is that, you ask?

That's me tapping my fingers on my desk, thinking. I'm thinking of what comes next in a story and


When this happens, I often ask WHAT IF? I daydream about taking my characters on a mini journey to see if their adventures could become part of my story. These adventures may change the storyline completely, or simply give me an idea for a scene that will take up a few paragraphs.

Take a look at the WHAT IF questions below, then make a list of your own the next time you're stuck.

WHAT IF Alisha decided to become an ice skater instead of a ballerina?
WHAT IF Mom found a time machine in her laundry room?
WHAT IF Theo broke two legs instead of one?
WHAT IF Benjamin took the shortcut home through the dark alley?
WHAT IF Fluffy, the dog, MEOWED?
WHAT IF Oscar ran away?
WHAT IF Mrs. Lee suddenly disappeared in the middle of a Math problem?
WHAT IF Karla found a boogie on the lunch table?

WHAT IF Nancy Viau turned off her computer and...

See ya later!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Want to Know What I'm Doing Right Now?

There are very few books I've read more than twice and STARGIRL is one of them. I'm mentioning this Spinelli book in my Work-in-Progress, so I dug it out and dug in. STILL love it. What can I say? Jerry Spinelli has a way with words.

In the copy I have, there is an interview with The Jerr. Authors are often asked the question below--even I'VE been asked this question. I love Jerry's answer. It's simple and wonderful.

THE QUESTION: What advice do you have for young writers?
SPINELLI'S SPIN: "For me, there are many little rules, all superseded by one Golden Rule: Write what you care about."

Thanks, Jerry. That's just what I needed today.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Don't Lean on Crutches!

I have them. You have them. Even famous writers have them.
It's these:

Well, not exactly these.

Crutches are unneccessary words that spill out of a writer's brain. Sometimes the writer is not aware that these words can be deleted until a friend, critique partner or teacher points them out.

See if you can spot the crutches in this sentence:

Trust that only about a little tells us some (not all) of just exactly what it is that you really think is very important.

Ok, that was way over the top, but you see my point, right?

Here's my personal list of crutches that I lean on regularly. My delete button gets quite a workout when it's time for me to revise a story.


Make a list of your crutches and keep it in your writing journal.

Then rewrite my weird sentence, please!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Action! Action!

Things need to happen in your story or your reader ( your case, this may be your teacher) may lose interest.

Practice ramping up the action by changing the underlined verbs in the sentences below.
Here's an example:

Spiderman walked to the store.
Spiderman jumped (or skipped, jogged, biked, swam, flew) to the store.
Now it's your turn. You can make the sentence longer, too, if you want, like this:
Spideman felt nauseous and threw up on his way to the store.

Mario was sad.

Superman found the bad guys.

Cinderella talked to her fairy godmother.

When the characters in Toy Story 3 were first taken to the preschool, they smiled.

Shaun White stepped on his skateboard, and he went down the street.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Take a look at both pictures. Both photographers took a shot of a road. In the first one, there are no people, and in the second, we see two people walking.

Decide the focus of your story much like a photographer decides to focus on something in his photo.

Ask yourself:
What is important to you in this picture?
What is important to a reader?
Is it easier to write a story based on the first photo or the second?
What freedom does the first photo give you that the second does not?
Are the people in the second photo characters in your story? What are their names?
Does the black and white photo inspire you to write or does the color one?
Does the color affect the mood of the story you're writing?

Heavy, writerly stuff, eh?

Now....focus, focus, FOCUS!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Spelling Counts

We talked about
and how these words, and others, are often misspelled. (See earlier blog post.)

Here are a few more words that constantly confuse writers. It's your job to look at them and decide which is the correct spelling. Can you do it? I'm trying very hard to trick you!

Febuary or February
library or libary
piece or peice
fourty or forty
ninety or ninty
nickel or nickle
rythm or rhythm
sincerely or sincerly
tommorrow or tomorrow
wierd or weird
stradegy or strategy
surprise or suprise
throughly or thoroughly
lightning or lightning

When the creative juices are flowing and you are in the middle of writing a first draft, don't let the spelling drag you down. If you aren't sure of a word, underline or highlight it, then go back to it. I do this all the time!

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Today, I have some notes on quotes," Nancy says.

Uh, oh, look below. I forgot to add quotation marks in the following eight sentences. HELP! Where do they belong?

Please put in quotation marks, Nancy requests.

When adding a dialogue tag, don't make it too ridiculous, pleads Nancy.

You want to get your point across, yet keep it simple, Nancy suggests.

Don't forget the commas, Nancy screams, waving her hands wildly in the air.

Punctuation goes inside the quotation marks, Nancy instructs, reaching for her big, red pen.

You can wipe that smile off your face, Nancy laughs. This is really important.

Now, Nancy continues, replace requests, pleads, suggests, screams, and instructs, with the word: says.

That goes for the purple one, too, Nancy says. You can't laugh a statement or a question. Gotcha! Hahahaha!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thoughts on a Tuesday

Hey there! Are you writing today?
I am, so I'll keep this short.
A very smart (and wealthy) man once told me, "Do what you love and the money will come." Well, I'm not sure about that, but I do know this: Write what you love and the words will come.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

This is a Test of the Emergency Grammar System

No, it's not really a test, but it is pretty cool. Go to the link below to view a quick grammar quiz created by a university student. Read each sentence and answer CORRECT or INCORRECT.
EASY, PEASY. Give it a try.


Keep Your Plot Alive with Nancy's Fab Five

Where would a story be without plot? Plot is the story's organization. Sure, you know that a good plot starts with an exciting character, but it's what you make your character do that really makes your story soar!

1.  Choose a character and give him/her interesting character traits.
2.  Create a basic problem--the conflict.
3.  Add some mini problems to that problem. Think of the basic plot as snowflakes that just begin to coat the ground. There's not enough snow to be fun yet, is there? But once the layers build up, you're never bored. So, add to your basic problem, and give it those layers. Make the conflict difficult enough so that it's not solved easily. Have the plot nag your reader so your reader MUST find out what happens next.
4.  Climax. Keep adding layers to the problem until something big happens that changes everything for your character.
5.  Resolution. The problem is solved. HURRAY! The character has changed because of all he/she has gone through and the story comes to an end. PEACE OUT.