Friday, 14 December 2018

Traditions — From My House To Around The World


I'm gearing up for a weekend of annual traditions—cookie decorating, our yearly "Whoville" party, wrapping gifts, a tour of the lights... It's going to be a busy couple of days. PLUS, we're going to decorate our Grinch gingerbread house.

But the truth is, this is just the beginning. My entire Christmas holiday is filled with family traditions.

Even the way we decorate our tree is traditional. Dad always strings the lights, Mom always puts the star on the top, and my sister and I put up specific decorations. All while listening to holiday music and drinking hot chocolate with peppermint sprinkles.

Family traditions are important. So, I thought it might be fun to check out some different Christmas traditions from around the world. Boy, did I learn a lot!

Like, did you know that in Ireland, kids leave mince pies instead of cookies for Santa? Or that in Russia and Ukraine, Christmas is celebrated on January 7, not December 25th?

The people of Netherlands, who celebrate Christmas on December 6th, await the arrival of SinterKlaas and his sidekick, Black Pete. SinterKlaas leaves candy and nuts for boys and girls who have their shoes filled with hay and sugar for his horse.

I’m a BIG fan of turkey, but in Japan, traditional Christmas dinner is Kentucky Fried Chicken. Can you imagine? In fact, you’d have to make a reservation to eat at a KFC on Christmas in the country!

And you all know how much I love Halloween, so of course I’m all about the Austrian folklore that jolly Saint Nick makes his rounds with a sidekick in tow—creepy Krampus. He takes care of the kids on Santa’s NAUGHTY list, and trust me, his “punishment” is worse than a lump of coal. Er…not that I would know first-hand of course.

What are some of your family traditions? I’d love to learn more about them!

Gotta jet! Have a great weekend.

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Friday, 7 December 2018

Random Acts of Holiday Kindness


Sometimes it's easy to forget "kindness" when you're jostling for position in a long line, trudging through snow or slipping across ice, or when you're scrounging for quarters to pay for that last Christmas present you almost forgot to buy. The season famous for holiday lights, hot chocolate, and family gathered around the table can also be very stressful.

So this year—again—I'm making a list...of ways I can spread KINDNESS this season. Little things *I* can do to make it easier on someone else—my family, my friends, even strangers. The world needs kindness. And we can all do our part.

Here are a few ideas I had:

  • Bake cookies (with Grandma) and drop a batch off at the local senior's home—or maybe the police station, fire station, or hospital. Retailers aren't the only ones working extra hard over the holiday season. 
  • Shovel the neighbour's walk—or for someone else on my street. 
  • Buy hot chocolate for the person behind me in the coffee shop line. 
  • Take my sister ice skating. (If you saw how she skates, you'd know how kind of me this is!)
  • Help my neighbour put up his Christmas lights. Obviously I won't be climbing on the roof or any ladders, but I can arrange the light-up snowmen and deer on the lawn!
  • Smile! It sounds simple, but you'd be surprised what a genuine smile can do during this stressful time of year. 
  • Volunteer to wrap presents for local seniors or maybe the children's wing at the hospital. 
  • Leave a Christmas card for the mailman in the mail box. 
  • Pick up trash at a park and throw it in the garbage.
  • Donate some of extra toys, books, or clothes. 

That's not a bad list. Have things to add? Great—we can all brainstorm together and come up with the BEST list. Share your Random Acts of Holiday Kindness in the comments so we can keep the ideas coming.

Gotta Jet! I’m going to start on this list this weekend. See you next Friday!

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Friday, 30 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 30: The End!


I did it.

I. Did. It!

5,000 words in 30 days—my second successful NaNoWriMo challenge. My story has a beginning, a middle, and an END. The end.

Oh I know that NaNoWriMo is technically about completing 50,000 words in 30 days (and when I get older, I'm totally going to try that), but 5,000 words is a BIG deal. You can look back at my journey this month starting here, but what really matters is that I finished.

And now, the real work begins.

I'm going to take a few days to celebrate my personal victory. I'll buy a couple of books and a new notebook. And then, I'm going to start revisions on my story. It's not official, but I'm making December MY month to make this story shine...because in the New Year, I plan to publish. Somehow.

Even if you didn't hit your word count goal, congratulations—every word you wrote is more than you had before you started. Don't stop now. I don't plan to, and you shouldn't either. The only way to get better at writing—or anything—is to keep practicing.

I'll be back to my regular weekly blogs starting next week...but today? Today I'm going celebrate.

Gotta jet! May the words be with you today...and always.

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Thursday, 29 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 29: Finding Balance


This is it, writers! Tomorrow is the last day of NaNoWriMo 2018, and with just 50 words to go, I'm more confident than ever that I'm going to hit my goal. 

I'm excited, for sure, but also a little sad—because while my story isn't perfect, the NaNoWriMo challenge does exactly what it's supposed to do...force me to write almost every day. Something that I don't do throughout the rest of the year. 

For some reason, when there's a challenge, I carve out that writing time—like practicing for a track event when I know there's a race coming up. But I struggle to find time for my hobbies and passions throughout the year, and as a result, my life is a bit unbalanced. 

So, I spent some time last night digging up tips to help you keep writing throughout the year—without the NaNoWriMo challenge pushing you forward. (Or, without the stress of having to write a set amount of words a day!)

The truth is, you don't have to write every day to be a writer. But if you're planning to keep up some kind of schedule—and I definitely am—then here are some tips for you:

1. Make a time map. Sounds complicated, I know, but essentially you use a calendar—print or virtual—to slot in the non-negotiable. Like school, homework, family outings, sporting events, etc. Then you find time in-between to slot in some writing. It could be 15 minutes while you're waiting for your sister to get ready for school (heh) or maybe half hour before you go to bed. Maybe you write during your lunch hour. 

2. Minimize social media. I know, Facebook and Instagram and even blogging are fun ways to communicate with people, but sometimes social media can be like a black hole...luring you into endless clicking and scrolling. Limit your time on social media and use it for writing. 

3. Take care of yourself. Sounds simple, but sometimes when we try and take on too much, we end up neglecting ourselves—and that doesn't make you more creative. In fact, the opposite happens. So if you wake up uninspired to write, don't be too hard on yourself. Go for a walk instead—or, in my case, a run. It might clear your head!

Pretty easy list, right? Feel free to add your ideas in the comments. 

Okay, I've gotta jet, but I'll see you tomorrow for THE END of NaNoWriMo! 

May your (final) words be with you.

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 28: To Write, You Must Read


Good morning, fellow scribes!

With just a two days left in this year's NaNoWriMo challenge—2 days!—I'm starting to reflect on some of the things I didn't do while I was scrambling to hit my word counts every day. Turns out, I didn't do a lot of reading.

Oh sure, I flipped through my Superman comics, and read a Goosebumps book (after seeing the movie last month, I had to!)—but I try to read at least two novels a month, and that just didn't happen. There's only so much time in the day.

But to be a good writer, you have to read. And not just because Stephen King says so, though if there was ever an authority to listen to, he'd be it.

The truth is, when we read, we absorb writing craft—the perfect way to phrase sentences or convey themes, how to describe characters, the best way to write dialogue, weave in backstory, or even assess pacing. You're still reading for pleasure—if the book is good enough, you can't help it—but your subconscious mind picks up on tips and tricks you can apply to your own writing.

It's easy to forget that when you're busy writing.

Tomorrow on the blog, I'll be talking about balance—how to fit in writing daily when you're not doing a challenge like NaNoWriMo—but I think today I'm going to carve out a half hour or so to read. I miss it.

What books will you dive into once the challenge is over? Share the name of the novel—or comic—you're most excited about in the comments and you could WIN a complete set of the Superman Duffy graphic novels. There's 16 of them!

Gotta jet! Happy writing...or reading.

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 27: Gearing Up For The End


Eep! I am 150 words from THE END of my story—and I still have THREE days to finish it.

It's not a perfect story. It has flaws. It will need a lot—a lot!—of work. But I am so excited about the finish line that I got up EXTRA early to try and tackle some of those words. Can you imagine if I'm done EARLY?

How will I celebrate? GOOD QUESTION!

Throughout the month, I've celebrated each major accomplishment. I bought myself a new Spiderman comic. I spent an entire day reading when I should have been writing or running. And when I hit the 4,000-word mark, I indulged in a pumpkin spice hot chocolate.

So what will I do when I hit "The End?"

GO TO THE BOOK STORE, of course! As a way of congratulating myself for completing my second NaNoWriMo challenge, I am going to buy myself a new novel. Maybe two. And, I'm getting a new notebook.

And as if that wasn't enough, my mom says Grandma is making me my own MONSTER COOKIES. Obviously I'll share, but it's just really cool that she thought of it!

What will you do to celebrate? Hey, if you want to share your story with me, I'll enter you in a draw to win a classroom (or personal) set of the Superman Duffy educational graphic novels.

Gotta jet! Good luck with those final words...

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Monday, 26 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 26: Envisioning the Revision


With just four days left of this year's NaNoWriMo writing challenge, it's hard to not get excited about the end—even if there are words to write, and of course, revisions to tackle...in December.

I've still got a few hundred words to go to meet my 5,000-word goal on this short story, but I plan to carve out those last few paragraphs in the next day or so, so that when December 1 hits, I'm ready to start revising.

But what does that mean?

Basically, it means start to "see" or story again—with fresh eyes, a fresh perspective. Most importantly, with no looming deadline. (Unless of course you're publishing your story somewhere and someone has given you a deadline...)

In this process, you pick apart the story. Analyze the dialogue—are the characters speaking in original voices? Does what they are saying make sense? Feel "true" to their character? Take a look at your descriptions—are they succinct? Do they include sensory details? Have you said enough about the setting so that it comes to life for the reader? Could you be more specific in the details?

How about your characters? Do they have a true "arc"—a place where they started, and then ended differently? Do they move the plot forward? Are they original and well-developed? (There's nothing worse than cardboard cut-outs!)

And how about that plot? Does it flow? Make sense? Drag? Are there any major gaps? How's the pacing? Does each sentence, every paragraph and page beg you to read more?

I know, it's a lot to consider. Don't worry if you're not quite there yet, or if you miss some things on your first revision pass. Some stories take many revisions. Dawn Ius, the author of the Superman Duffy graphic novels says her young adult book Anne & Henry went through five revisions...on the first chapter alone

To be honest, I'm kind of excited to start revising my novel. Someone famous once said, "Manuscripts are written on the first draft—stories are written in revisions." Something to think about as I power through the first draft of this story.

Gotta jet! Happy Monday, and may the words be with you.

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Sunday, 25 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 25: Getting Revved Up Again


I admit, the Christmas season is fast approaching and that means I'm not quite as focussed as I should be. I limped toward my word count goal yesterday, in-between watching Christmas movies, and helping my parents set up a few decorations around the house.

If you're like me and are struggling to get motivated, don't worry, I've got you covered.  I dug up some quick writing assignments that are guaranteed to fire up your creativity. Don't spend too long on them, though, because obviously, you should be writing your NaNoWriMo stories, but here are a few ideas for warm up:

Imagine you are living in the time of the dinosaurs and a pterodactyl is trying to dive-bomb you. Look out! Describe the scene in a short paragraph using lots of adjectives (words that describe nouns.)

OR

You are cordially invited to write your own fairy tale invitation. Maybe it's to Cinderella, inviting her to the ball. Or maybe, you're inviting the Big Bad Wolf to a dinner party. Remember to write the date, time and place of the event—and give a quick description of what invitees can expect.

OR

Take a break from writing and get out those crayons. Sketch one of the characters from your story, and then colour in the details—green hair? Excellent. Describe how his or her hair got that colour. Maybe he fell into a vat of paint, or she gobbled up too much broccoli.

What do you think? Any of these ideas spark your imagination? I'm going to write up an invitation for my ghost to attend dinner with the boy in my story—I can already think of the challenges! Like, what does a ghost eat?!

Gotta jet! If you're in the groove, I wish you ALL THE WORDS. And for those of you that took a break, may you be inspired to keep going. See you tomorrow as we kick off the LAST week!

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Saturday, 24 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 24: What Happens After NaNoWriMo?


Good Saturday morning!

I know there's still 6 days left until the end of NaNoWriMo, but I'm already starting to think about what happens when I type "The End."

Of course I know my story will need to go through revisions. Probably a few of them, and not just for spelling and grammar mistakes. I'll be looking for character development, and whether the story has a clear beginning, middle, and end. I'll check my description and sentence structure. A major overhaul is probably required.

But once I do ALL OF THAT...then what?

I've been doing some research on publishing options for kids, and I came up with a few ideas I thought I'd share to keep you motivated. It's impressive—amazing!—even to finish a story, whether it's 5,000 or 50,000 words—but how cool would it be to publish that story? (Check out this list of published books that were written during NaNoWriMo—you've probably seen some of them at the book store or library!)

If you're entering this contest from CBC books, you won't have much time for editing (you won't have time for FINISHING)—though, you only have to worry about the first page for now. Deadline is November 29. There are probably other contests you can enter too. Try doing a Google search and see what comes up. Often, these contests have cash prizes, and who couldn't do with a little extra money—especially at this time of year?

Self publishing is also an option. For me, that might mean publishing my story on this blog. (Hey! If you want to publish YOUR short story on the blog, send it to me via email and I might run it here...maybe your whole class wrote a story together? That would be cool!) Plus, I'll send you a full set of the Superman Duffy graphics.

You could also Google "publishing options for young people" or something similar. When I did, I found this list of magazines that take short stories from kids. There are probably many more.

I know, it's a little too soon to start thinking about publishing when your first draft isn't even finished. But for me, the idea that I could get published is what's powering me through the last 500 words or so. What is motivating you?

Gotta jet! May the words be with you!

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Friday, 23 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 23: One Week To Go!


This. Is. It. The home stretch.

You have just seven days left to complete the National Novel Writing Month challenge—5,000 words in 30 days. (Unless you tried for the 50,000, in which case, I am in AWE of you!)

It’s tempting to give up. I mean, Christmas is around the corner and between holiday baking, putting up decorations, doing fun crafts with my sister, and—cough cough—drafting my annual wish list for Santa, it’s a BUSY time of year.

I won't give up though. I'm determined to do this.

So, how do you keep your butt in the chair to keep writing? A few ideas from authors who would know:

Don’t edit! It’s tempting to look back at your words and want to perfect them—it’s a form of procrastination, especially when you read it back. But remember, the goal is not to write 5,000 perfect words—just get the words down.

Eat a good breakfast. Sounds silly, but if your brain isn’t fueled, you’ll find other things to do than write. No time to make a big meal? Don’t worry—a smoothie is perfect. (Add a teaspoon of canola oil for the healthy fat your brain needs!)

Stop being afraid. Look, I understand self-doubt. Most of the time, I think my words suck. But they don’t suck. And even if they did, who cares? Forget that fear of “what if it isn’t good?”—just…yeah you guessed it…write.

If you’ve stuck with me through November so far, GREAT! And even better if you’ve been writing. Want to share your story? Email it to me. If I publish it on my blog you could win the entire set of Superman Duffy educational graphic novels—what a great way to end the year!

Gotta jet! May the words be with you on the home stretch.

~ Chase Superman Duffy 

Thursday, 22 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 22: Hooking The Reader From Page 1


I don't know about you, but I'm revved up and ready for the home stretch of this year's NaNoWriMo challenge. I even wrote more than my required words yesterday—which means I have a good chance of heading into the weekend with some extra time on my hands.

Time I plan to use writing. And reading.

But I'm looking for a new novel—and every time I go into a bookstore or library, I’m in awe of how many books are on the shelves—thousands of thousands of them. And that’s not even a fraction of the number of books published every year.

So, how do you choose which book to read?


My tactic is always to read the first page. If the author makes me want keep going, there’s a good chance I’ll buy the book or take it out from the library.

I know what I don’t like in the first few paragraphs—too much dialogue, too many characters, too much description and too much information. So what does make me turn the page? It got me thinking about my NaNoWriMo story, and so I did some research.

Here are three writing tips for HOOKING THE READER from the very first page:

Introduce with an intriguing character.
No matter what genre you’re writing—fantasy, science fiction, mystery, etc.—your story should begin with the character. Tell who he/she is in the first line, if you can, but for sure, by the end of the first page. Readers want to know whom they are investing time in.

Begin at a pivotal moment.
Start your story with something your character wants, whether it’s a glass of water or to cross a crumbling bridge. The situation should be unusual. After finishing the first page, your reader should wonder what happens next.

Create an interesting picture.
Describe the setting—but not too much. Your reader should get a sense of place, even by the end of the first page. Don’t just say the character is in “Alberta” — give one or two sentences that show where in Alberta. (Like on my grandpa's canola farm!)

Think about some of your favourite books. What is the first line? What was the last line of the first page? Why did you keep reading? Do you have a great first page for your NaNoWriMo story?

Gotta jet!

~ Chase Superman Duffy 

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 21: Picture Perfect


We're down to the single digits, fellow scribes. Only nine days left in the 2018 NaNoWriMo challenge, and I have to admit, I'm feeling pretty confident. Enough that I'm going to spend at least some of my non-writing time today doing something fun.

I'm going to create a "picture aesthetic" for my story. What's that? So glad you asked!

Basically, you scroll the internet or magazines in search of images that remind you of your story—the setting, the characters, key plot points. This is what I did last year. Cool, right? It's one of those fun non-writing things that bring your story to life...an inspiration board, except on the computer.

I use Pinterest, but you can create a collage using other software, such as Photoshop. A lot of people do this at the beginning of their writing process and use the images to help with description. But since I'm fast drafting, I'll use my "aesthetic" to help me in the revision process, so I can flesh out the details.

By the way, while you're on my Pinterest, why not give me a follow? Throughout the year, I post pictures of everything from story starters and writing tips, to cool science experiments and craft (and food) ideas for the holidays.

But be careful—Pinterest can be a rabbit hole of distraction, and if you're like me, you've still got some writing to do!

Gotta jet! Have a great day of writing!

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 20: The Muddy Middle


Can you believe it? Just TEN days until the end of NaNoWriMo, and you know what? I'm going to cross the finish line again this year. Five thousands words. Not perfect words, mind you, but that isn't the goal.

Speaking of not perfect, I can't help but notice that the middle of my story—the last 1,500 words or so—has felt a little "blah." I've been using great description, my characters are developed, and there is plenty of conflict throughout the story...but it still just kind of sags. And it's like quicksand, dragging my motivation down too.

I bet you think I'm going to dole out a bunch of tips and tricks for tackling that "muddy middle"—but the truth is, you (and by you, I mean me) probably just need a break. I definitely shouldn't be reading that section, not with the end in sight. But it's okay to step away from your journal or laptop for the day and spend some time thinking about how you're going to complete your story.

Don't focus on the middle. Focus on writing THE END.

Your entire project is going to need editing. Probably a rewrite of mass proportions. And that's okay...the object is to write a 5,000 (or 50,000) word story in a month. And guess what? You're ALMOST there.

So, back away from your work in progress for a few minutes, hours, even the whole day. And when you get back at it, don't even look at that "muddy middle." Power through to the end.

Gotta jet! May the words be with you!

~ Chase Superman Duffy 

Monday, 19 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 19: Monday Motivation


If you follow my blog, you know I am posting this very late. I haven't given up on NaNoWriMo (not at all), but I admit that my motivation is a little...Monday-ish...today. I got up late, barely got to school on time, and then...well...I'm still feeling a bit sluggish.

But there are 11 days left to NaNoWriMo and I'm committed to crossing the finish line. But how do you do that when you're feeling a bit brain sluggish?

You just do.

I know that sounds too simple, but the truth is, I can't possibly come THIS far and give up. Not with less than 2000 words to go. Not with an ending that's begging to be written. And milestones to be celebrated. And especially, a NaNoWriMo "I finished" badge to collect.

You can't give up either.

I love this quote from author William Faulkner.


For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a writer—but throughout November, I have been writing. In less than two weeks, I'll have a finished a short story. I will have written.

That might just be the motivation I need to carry me through to the end. What about you?

Gotta jet! May the words be with you! (Even if you're off to a late start today...)

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Sunday, 18 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 18: The Importance Of Thick Skin


Art is subjective.

Whether someone likes a painting, a poem, or even a sculpture is based on their personal opinion—and the most important thing I’ve learned is that you don't have to like everything, and you’re never going to make everyone happy with your art. Take my short story, for example.

I read it to my sister last night, and she gripped the side of the couch at the scary parts, gasped when I thought she would, and even cried—and I'm not even done yet. But then I read the same story to my friend Sophie, and she wasn't quite as excited about it. She said it wasn't scary enough, and when I teared up reading it out loud, she said she didn't feel like crying at all.

At first, I was kind of upset. I've been working on this story for 17 days and of course I want everyone to love it. But of course, not everyone will. In fact, I remember what one author once told me when she came to our school for a talk—when you start sharing your work with the public, you need to develop a thick skin.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to have people read and edit your writing if you want to get better, but as long as the criticism is constructive (and not mean), then take advantage of the feedback to learn how you can improve.

Still, I know it’s hard seeing all of those “red edits” all over your writing. When I’m asked to give feedback on some writing, I use a green pen — green for growth. It looks a lot less harsh! Maybe give that a try?

Gotta jet! May the words be in your favour this Sunday.

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Saturday, 17 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 17: Writing To The Beat


The temperature dropped last night and it is COLD out.

It's supposed to warm up a little tomorrow, but I plan to spend today inside—reading, writing, and probably doing a little Christmas decorating. (I know it's early, but it makes my mom happy.)

Yesterday while shovelling the snow we got the night before, I was listening to my iPod and realized that I haven't made a writing playlist yet. Some of the songs I listened to just kept me moving—shovelling is hard work!—but a few actually made me think about my story.

And that's what a writing playlist SHOULD do—inspire you to write. Whether it's the lyrics, the beat, or just the sound of noise to break up the quiet spots in your mind. Sometimes writing can be a bit immersive, you know?

For this story, I'll be on the look-out for a few haunting songs—like Zombie by the Cranberries. (Fun fact: that song is also on my running playlist...)

I'm going to ask my parents—and even my sister—for more song suggestions, but if you have ideas, drop them in the comments below.

Gotta jet! However you're keeping warm today, I hope you have fun—and good luck with those NaNoWriMo goals. We're on the home stretch now!

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Friday, 16 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 16: Keep It Simple


The writing process can seem very complicated. Creating characters, outlining a story, figuring out how it ends—it’s a lot of work! Even when you're working with just 5,000 words, like my story for NaNoWriMo.

But when it comes to writing, at least when you’re just starting out, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is this: KEEP IT SIMPLE.

It sounds easy, but believe me, sometimes “simple” is anything but! You want to be able to get right to the point, which means you don’t need excessive adjectives and adverbs. The description, the action, and the plot should all “move the story forward.”

Here are three “Keep It Simple” hints:

Keep your list of characters short. Too many characters can be hard to keep track of. Last night, I cut back on one of mine because I couldn't fit him in the story without things getting complicated.

Keep your story to one plot. Too many side plots can confuse readers. This is especially true with  short stories!

Keep your personal goals manageable. Trying to write too much, too soon can be overwhelming. Promise yourself you will write “a little” every day, even if it’s just one sentence. Sure, your aim is for 167-ish words a day if you're doing NaNoWriMo, but after the challenge, don't stop—even if it is a few sentences at a time.

Gotta jet! YOU...get writing!

~ Chase Superman Duffy 

Thursday, 15 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 15: Meet Ya At The Halfway


Good morning!

Today officially marks the half-way part of the month, which means my word count should officially hit 2,500—and I think it will by the end of the day if I stick to my plan.

But what if you're not there? What if you haven't written a single word? Is it time to panic?

Not at all!

There are thousands of writers who have completed NaNoWriMo, even though they didn't start until the half way point of the challenge. And even if you don't meet word count goal, you can still kickstart a writing routine, which is the main goal.

Still looking for an idea? I've got you covered.

Did you know that there is an archive of writing prompts saved on this blog? No? You can check them out here. I found this link, which has 10 cute writing prompts that might inspire you. My Pinterest page with writing tips has a few story sparks you might want to take a look at. Or, you can re-read Gotta Jet, the second book in the Superman Duffy series of graphic novels, which ends in a cliffhanger—leaving the "rest of the story" up to your imagination. (Hey, if you write an alternate ending, send it to me! I'd love to publish it on my blog.)

You can also scroll through your family photograph albums (would one of your relatives make for a great character?), have a chat with your grandparents (I know mine love to tell tales), or flip through your cell phone or Instagram pics for inspiration.

What have I missed? Gotta jet—but I hope that even if you're just starting NaNoWriMo that I've given you food for thought. May the words be with you!

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 14: The Art Of Description


It's true that I'm mostly focussing on getting the words down this month, but because I've been writing every day, and I'm pretty much on track (hit my word count yesterday!), I've also been trying to pay a little attention to my "craft"—the art of writing, so to speak.

Yesterday, I wrote some pretty good description—which isn't always the easiest to do. Struggling? Don't worry, that's natural.

I researched a couple of tips to help you out. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to describe everything. You just want to paint a picture of the scene using a few key words. There are a couple of tricks to this.

DETAIL: Try and be specific, where possible. That’s what will bring the scene to life. Don’t just say the ground was littered with garbage. Tell the reader what the garbage is. For example: Crumpled paper, faded candy wrappers, and rusted tin cans littered the ground. I bet you get a good sense of what the scene looks like just from that, right?

USE THE FIVE SENSES. Taste, smell, touch, sound, and sight—they're all important. You don’t have to use ALL of them in one scene, but it’s a good idea to use at least two. Don’t always rely on sight, though. That one’s easy.

Here's an example:

Chase and Amelia crept through the dark forest behind the house. Their feet crackled on the dry leaves, noisy as fire crackers in the otherwise quiet. Amelia rubbed her arms and shivered, but she couldn’t decide if it was from the cool breeze that blew through the trees or the fear lodged in her throat.

What senses did I use? Can you pick out the specific details that make the paragraph come to life? Don't worry, you've got this!

Gotta jet! May the words be with you today as we close in on the halfway mark!

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 13: Choose Kindness


Good morning!

We're almost at the halfway mark of NaNoWriMo—can you believe it?—and since today is World Kindness Day, I thought it an appropriate time to remind you (and me) to...be kind. To everyone else around you, yes, but also to yourself.

Writing isn't easy, and working to deadline—any deadline—can be stressful. I realized yesterday, as I was stretching for those last 20 words to meet my word count goals, that my palms started to sweat. My heart was beating faster (and it wasn't even a scary part) and no matter how fast I typed, the words just wouldn't come...

I realized, I wasn't being kind to myself.

So I took a deep breath, stepped away from the computer, and gave myself a pep talk. I reminded myself that if I don't meet my word count for the day, the week, or even the challenge, I am not a failure. I am writing—every day. And if my words aren't perfect, that's okay. They're not meant to be. That's not what this is about.

After taking a break to be kind to myself, I was able to settle back into routine. Twenty words might not sound like much, but when you're not being kind to yourself, it was daunting. Most things are if you're putting too much pressure on yourself.

So today, and everyday, be kind...not just to those around you. But to yourself, too.

Gotta jet! May the words be with you.

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Monday, 12 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 11: Celebrate The Milestones


Good morning, fellow scribes!

How was your weekend? I broke 2,000 words yesterday, which puts me right on track to hit my 5,000-word goal by the end of the month. To maybe "win" NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row. That alone worth celebrating.

But so is this: I didn't give up.

Writing doesn't come naturally to me. Telling stories does, but sometimes getting the words from my brain to the page is a...challenge. So yesterday, when I stuck it out to write almost 250 words (even though I had so many fun things I wanted to be doing), I breathed a sigh of relief.

And then, I celebrated. How? Well, I'll get to that in a minute...but let me start with WHY.

Sure, NaNoWriMo is a challenge accepted by hundreds of thousands of writers across North America (and maybe the world!) but the only person I'm truly accountable to is myself. And yesterday, I hit a major milestone—2,000 words on the same day as last year's milestone. That's important to me because I'm showing progress.

So yes, I celebrated. By watching football with my dad. The Edmonton Eskimos aren't in the CFL playoffs this year, but we cheered for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (who won) and the Saskatchewan Roughriders (who didn't win), while eating potato chips and popcorn, and drinking cream soda, my favourite pop.

It was the perfect way to spend the day after working hard to not only meet my word count goal, but exceed it.

Celebrating milestones is important, whether you're doing a NaNoWriMo challenge, or simply pushing yourself to do something different, something out of your comfort zone. How have you celebrated lately?

Gotta jet! I've got more writing to do. If that's how you're spending some of your day, may the words be in your favour...

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Sunday, 11 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 11: Pausing To Remember


I'm sure you'll all take a moment today to remember the soldiers who fought for Canada's freedoms. I certainly will—my great grandfather was among those brave men, and even though I never met him, I'm grateful for his sacrifice.

My mom always takes out pictures of him on this day, and shares some of her memories. I love listening to her tell stories about her grandfather. I guess he was a bit of a joker, someone who laughed at silly jokes. I've heard some of those jokes before, and they're kind of cheesy...but I still laugh every time.

Going back to those memories got me thinking about my NaNoWriMo project. In a previous post,  I talked about creating characters—and if you used my template, you may have discovered something new about the stars of your story. But one thing that's missing from that template is a place to record some of your character's memories.

Things that happen in our past are what make us who we are today. They don't define us—I do believe that everyone can change—but they remain a part of us. Those memories, good or bad, happened...and I think it's important to capture a few to really bring our characters to life.

I'm settling in to write some words today—before Dad and I settle in with some popcorn to watch football!—but I'm also going back to my character sheet to fill in a couple of memories for my two main characters.

Gotta jet! May the words be in your favour today.

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Saturday, 10 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 10: To Cliche, Or Not To Cliche


Okay, that’s not actually a serious question.

In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time on this NaNoWriMo story—and all of my stories!—being sure to avoid cliches altogether. You know, those familiar phrases that are used over and over and…

They’re the bane of every writer’s existence.

So today, I thought I’d give you a Top 10 list of the clichés you should avoid like the plague. (ha! See what I did there?) Just in case you're taking a break this chilly Saturday morning to review the words you've written so far...

How many of these clichés have you used in your manuscript?

  1. Dead as a door nail
  2. Low hanging fruit
  3. Faster than a speeding bullet
  4. The pot calling the kettle black
  5. Think outside the box
  6. Thick as thieves
  7. Plenty of fish in the sea
  8. Like a kid in a candy store
  9. Fish out of water
  10. Take a tiger by the tail

I've definitely used #1, #6, and #3... What’s your least favourite cliché? (Or favourite, if you prefer.) Comment below—I’m waiting on pins and needles to hear your answer. (Ha!)

Gotta jet! It's back to the writing cave for me! Happy scribing, fellow scribes!

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Friday, 9 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 9: Prepare To Get Inspired!


Happy Friday, fellow scribes!

Since it's the last school day of the week, and I'm settling in this long weekend to crank out a bunch of words on my NaNoWriMo story, I thought we could all use a bit of inspiration.

So who better to give advice than some of the best writers in the world? Scroll down for one enlightening words of wisdom. Who knows, some of these pictures might be worth printing off and pinning above your desk!






Which piece of advice resonates most with you? No surprise here, but I like what Stephen King has to say! In fact, I plan to do a little reading and writing this week.

Gotta jet! Stay warm and happy—and may the words be ever in your favour!

~ Chase Superman Duffy 

Thursday, 8 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 8: Let There Be Conflict!



So...how is NaNoWriMo going for you? Getting those words in?

After spending time fleshing out my characters yesterday, I carved out 230 words, getting me back on track—but it wasn't easy. I couldn't figure out WHAT was going to happen next, even though this story is quite well plotted out. Then I realized what it was missing: conflict.

Conflict, conflict, conflict. That's the crux of any story, regardless if it's 5,000 words, 50,000 words, or yes, even 5. (Hey, don't laugh, a very famous story by Ernest Hemingway was written using just 6 words!)

Conflict is the story's problem. It's what prevents—or delays—the character from reaching his or her goal. And the more conflict in the story, the more exciting it is for the reader. (And, if I'm being honest, the more exciting it is for the writer, too.)

But what kind of conflict? Turns out, there are a couple of types:

Person-versus-person: This is the most popular, because conflicts between people are most fascinating to readers. For example, Superman versus Lex Luther. Or, in the case of my story, my protagonist versus the zombie.

Person-versus-himself: This is when a character has internal strengths and weaknesses, or a fight within themselves over good and bad. The Grinch from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is a good example of this—he hates Christmas, but he's not evil at heart. He's like that because someone hurt him. (Hey, anyone else excited to go see this new Grinch movie coming out this week???)

Person-versus-nature: This usually involves natural disasters or survival skills, like in Lord of The Flies or Jurassic Park. In my story, I'm thinking about introducing a spooky graveyard, which would put some obstacles in the way of my character's survival (not for real, of course, but it will seem that way at first.)

You can absolutely combine conflict types—such as I'm doing in my story now. But just remember, you want to include obstacles, but you should also understand how the conflict will be resolved. Conflict resolution...hmmm, maybe I should do a post about that?

Do you have enough conflict in your story? Gotta jet—but keep writing. See you tomorrow!

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 7: Building Character (s)


Hey, everyone! *waves*

It's the middle of the week, which means two days until the weekend, and ALL of the writing time. As long as I can bust through this block.

I crashed a little on my word count yesterday, but in my sleep, I figured out what the issue is—I don't really know my characters yet. I have the basics, but I haven't been able to "go deep" and so when I start writing about them, I don't quite know what to do with them—what they'll say, how they're react, how things make them feel.

Stuff I probably should have been thinking about BEFORE NaNoWriMo started...but it's not too late.
And I thought maybe some of you are struggling with character descriptions too—so for today's post, I'm sharing my character template.

Here are the questions I have to answer for each main (and some supporting) characters:

Name: Nickname and how he/she got it: For example, my nickname is Superman because I run fast—especially around the canola field on my grandparents' farm.

Family: Here, I include names of parents, as well as names and ages of any siblings.

Where does my character live? Remember, your character doesn't have to live in your city, country, or even your planet. In the Superman Duffy graphic novel IT'S A BLAST, Chase (aka: cartoon me) meets some alien farmers from three different planets.

Describe character in one sentence: You can include a physical description here (i.e.: colour of hair, height, etc) but you can also talk about your character's personality. Like, for my sister Amelia, I might say: Amelia is a precocious 6-year-old girl with a weird fascination with insects—she thinks she's an entomologist.

What is my character's favourite word? Catch phrases can tell a lot about a character. For my current story, one of my character's favourite words is BOOm! (He's a ghost and his expression BOOm! comes out when he thinks he's made a point. Ie: And just like that, I've proven that ghosts aren't scary. BOOm!

What makes my character happy? Take Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Chewing gum makes her happy...well, until it doesn't. <grin>

What makes my character special or unique? This is an important one, and where you should spend the most amount of thought. It's the reason your character will stand out. Why will your character stand out? Casper the friendly ghost, for instance, is unique because he is a friendly ghost.

What super power would my character wish for and how would he/she use it? Obviously, I'd wish for super speed—so I could beat my arch nemesis on the track in every race. I bet Gordon "Lightning" Smith would wish for the same.

What was my character doing before the story started? You don't have to spend too much time here, but I find that taking the character back to the day, week, or even hour before the story starts helps you to understand WHERE the story starts—and what the catalyst for the story is.

Obviously I'm just scratching the surface here, but the questions are meant to spark your imagination. Remember, characters should be unique, have both strengths and weaknesses, and be three dimensional—no cardboard cut-outs!

Gotta jet!

~ Chase Superman Duffy 

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 6: Fun (Mostly Famous) Author Facts!


Writing is HARD work. That's the one lesson that I learn each time I sit down with my pen and paper. Getting that work published is hard too—even with all of the different publishing methods out there. But the key, as with everything in life, is to practice...and never give up.

Even though I hit my word count goal yesterday, I started questioning everything about my story—does it make sense? Are the characters interesting? Will the reader turn the page? It's the kind of self doubt that can give someone writer's block.

So instead of giving in (or up), I went on the hunt for inspiring stories about writers who didn't get blocked. Authors who kept on writing even when it was hard or scary or their lives got too busy. You won't believe what I dug up!

Did you know that Stephen King was a high school janitor before he became one of the most well-known writers of all time?

John Grisham, whose legal thrillers line my dad's bookshelf, was a PLUMBER before he made it as a bestseller. And Charles Dickens—author of books like Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol—worked at a shoe polish factory when he was just 12 years old.

Margaret Atwood, one of Canada's best known authors, had a job behind the counter at a coffee shop before she penned The Handmaid's Tale, T.S. Eliot was a banker, and Arthur Conan Doyle—creator of Sherlock Holmes!—was a surgeon. And Dawn Ius, the author of the Superman Duffy educational graphic novels about "cartoon me" and three young adult novels with Simon & Schuster, used to be a journalist before she turned to creative writing. (Actually, she's still a journalist...)

All of these writers worked on their books while holding down jobs or going to school, like S.E. Hinton, who wrote the classic young adult novel (which was made into one of my favourite movies) The Outsiders at just 16 years old! Which means, *I* should be able to write 167 words a day for the next three weeks, even if I have homework, or the holidays are creeping up. Time to get back it.

Gotta jet! I hope my list inspired you too. If you're writing today, may the words be with you.

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Monday, 5 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 5: Say What? Dialogue Tips!


Usually, I wait until the end of writing my story to read it back to myself—the temptation to fix things instead of moving forward with my word count (the goal of NaNoWriMo, of course) is too big. It can lead to serious procrastination, and that's the opposite of what I need if I'm going to "win" this year.

But with Daylight Savings this weekend, I found myself with an extra hour (sort of) and so I spent some time reading the words I've written—and yep, it's still there: my biggest weakness is writing dialogue. It never sounds natural. Like, at all.

So, I thought I would share some tips on writing dialogue I've learned over the years, in case it's a weakness for you too. Here are the top three things I've learned:

CUT THE BORING STUFF. Get rid of conversation that doesn't enhance the plot or provide insight into your character. Everyday stuff like hello, how are you, and goodbye should go. Eliminate repetitive phrases.

KEEP IT SHORT. I have a tendency to ramble...which means I'm including a lot of boring stuff (see above) but also, most people don't talk that way. (Except Grandpa when he's going on and on about his canola crop.) Keep your dialogue brief and to the point.

MAKE THE VOICES DIFFERENT. Your characters shouldn't sound the same. Create a cheat sheet that allows you to see at a glance their favourite (and different) words, catch phrases, and how their characteristics are drawn out in what they're saying. A shy person might spit out the occasional um, for instance.

Of course, I'm not suggesting you go back and FIX your dialogue—that would be counterproductive to meeting your word count goals (especially since it might mean CUTTING some words), but something to keep in mind as you move forward with your story.

Gotta jet! Have a great Monday and...may the words be in your favour!

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Sunday, 4 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day 4: As Easy As A-B-C?


Happy Sunday, my fellow scribes!

How are you doing on your word count? Yesterday, I hit my word count, and then some extra, which means I'm kicking off today right on track. I'm trying not to get too excited—I generally fall apart in the second half of the month.

That's right, this isn't my first time doing NaNoWriMo. In fact, I started it in 2015, where I got in about 3,000 words before the holiday season swept me up in all things "Christmas." This year, I'm resisting the pull of the twinkling lights and committing myself to finishing—and finishing strong. (Like last year, when I nailed it!)

Although I didn't finish that "talking animal" story in 2015, something great did come out of the experience—26 blog posts about writing. I researched and wrote articles about writing craft, story starters, terms you should be familiar with, and much more! You can see those posts starting here.

If you're stuck, looking for inspiration, or just need a break, just scroll through my A to Z of Writing to get you back on track.

Gotta jet! Today, I'm hoping to write a few extra words so I stay ahead of the game. Good luck with YOUR work in progress—and may the words be with you!

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Saturday, 3 November 2018

NaNoWroMo Day 3: It's Snowing Ideas!


As I was struggling to meet my word count last night (got it, but barely), I realized that while writing prompts are one way to kickstart a new story (you did read my post last yesterday, right?), there are other ways too—and if you're heading into the rest of the weekend wanting to write but without an idea, this is the post for you! Plus, it's cold and icy out there...what else are you going to do?

I present...

FOUR GREAT WAYS TO INSPIRE YOUR CREATIVITY


Read the newspaper or flip through magazines. Sometimes a headline or an interesting fact can spark an idea. Did you know that the inspiration for the Superman Duffy graphic novel It’s a Blast came from an article the author read about Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk taking 200,000 canola seeds up into space?

Watch movies! Yep, you guessed it, those action scenes can get your creative juices flowing. AMELIA “XERCES” DUFFY, the Superman Duffy graphic novel featuring my sister was apparently inspired by the (old) movie, Honey I Shrunk The Kids.

Play with play dough. It sounds silly, but creating something from scratch—like a character—and then justifying the decisions you made (such as why you chose a specific hair colour) can be just the physical inspiration you need to create a whole back story for that character—and eventually, the plot to a new adventure!

Do something active. Seriously. Sometimes you just need to clear your head. If the weather warms up a little, you can go for a walk—or maybe hit up your local gym. One day. I went mall walking with my grandma—which she calls power shopping. I pretty much had to run to keep up with her.

Did that help? Hopefully you find something to head into your weekend—being behind a couple of days during NaNoWriMo is one thing, but catching up after a week? A lot harder!

Gotta jet! I'm settling in for some hardcore writing this weekend. How about you?

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Friday, 2 November 2018

NaNoWriMo Day #2: What To Write


Hey, everyone! *waves*

Did you hit your word count goal yesterday? I did—but just barely. But it occurs to me that while *I* went into NaNoWriMo with a bunch of story ideas...some of you may still be stuck on what to write. Don't worry! Even if you didn't start yesterday, it's not too late...you have the whole month to play catch up.

So, I conjured up a few creative writing prompts that will hopefully get your fingers itching to write (or type). Scroll down to see if anything ignites your imagination:

  1. Write a story about a young boy or girl who wants to change one thing about the world. What would that thing be, and how would he or she change it? With super powers (I'd totally love to be invisible) or through collaboration (it takes a village!), or....? 
  2. What's the weirdest fashion trend you've ever seen? (Shorts over pants, anyone?) Create a character with terrible fashion sense and then write a story about a day in his or her life. Maybe his or her clothing choices aren't so bad after all....
  3. Christmas is coming (53 sleeps!)—what's the best gift you've ever received? What if it had magical powers? Write a tale about what powers that present might have, and how you would use them. 
  4. Create a folktale about why the racoon wears a mask. (Whoa, that could actually be pretty cool...if I hadn't already started writing my ghost story I'd consider this one for sure!) 
  5. Have you ever wished for something, only to regret it later? There's something to that saying "Be careful what you wish for." In the Superman Duffy graphic novel AS YOU WISH, Chase (aka: me) makes a pretty ridiculous wish. What would be YOUR wish, and how could it possibly go wrong? 

Anything on that list worth writing about?

If you've already started your work in progress, but you have other ideas, share them in the comments—you might help a fellow writer get unstuck!

Plus, I'll send you a copy of AS YOU WISH. Leave a comment and then email me your address.

Gotta jet! Good luck on today's word count.

~ Chase Superman Duffy

Thursday, 1 November 2018

NaNoWriMo 2018 ~ Let's Do This!


Last month, I counted down the days to Halloween. Today, I start counting up—this time, tracking the days until the end of National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo.

Throughout November, I'll post writing tips, story starts, and motivational posts to help you hit your goal of....50,000 words? Yikes! That's a bit ambitious for me, so I've set my goal at 5,000 words in 30 days. 

That means writing 167 words a day, which doesn't seem like a lot, but with school and homework and all of the other things in my life, it will still take dedication and commitment.

Which is why I'm kicking off my NaNoWriMo posts with 5 Tips For Success. Here we go:

  1. Prepare. Create character profiles and carve out some daily writing time. For me, that's going to be an hour after dinner or if I can swing an early morning start, an hour BEFORE school. Gulp. 
  2. Create an outline. It doesn't have to be detailed, but you should have a general idea of where your story starts and ends, with a couple of key things that happen in the middle. I created my poster board the other day, and I'll be adding post-it notes to capture all of my ideas. Do you have a system you use? 
  3. Keep a journal. There is nothing worse than walking to school and having the best idea, and then forgetting it as soon as you get home. Carry a journal and jot down those ideas! (If you're like me, this will be easy peasy...I always carry a notebook.) 
  4. Plan motivators. Give yourself simple rewards for every milestone. For me, I'm going to dig into that Halloween candy only after I hit each daily word count goal. Well, and maybe some extra reading time...or watching a movie. But ONLY after I'm done. 
  5. Limit distractions. Find a quiet place to write and turn off your social media. I like to write at the kitchen table, but even with headphones, my sister talks to much. I think I'll hang out in my room. 

What did I miss? Are you doing NaNoWriMo on your own or with your class? Tell me about your story! Let's motivate each other to get writing.

Gotta jet! See you tomorrow—with at least 167 words written, amiright?

~ Chase Superman Duffy