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Adapting your Stage Play into a Novella or Storybook

Many of my stage plays have ended up being the story outline (or more) in creating a children’s story book, or a short story, or a novella, or the bones of a novel.  I thought that I would share, with my readers and fellow playwrights my process in converting these plays/stories. 
The demand really began with my friends and fans insisting on more of the story they’d read or seen in a play. It wasn’t enough. Satisfyingly, they wanted to know what happened after the play ended, or they wanted to know how my characters got to where they were in the play’s timeframe. 
Currently I am adapting my latest children’s play in to a story book. A  chapter book with colored illustrations. 

First I pull up the full script. I re-read it in sections to get immerse, once more, in the story. The blocking will be my guide on describing the ‘action’. I will be certain to describe each character as they appear in the story. Something you can’t do writing a stage play. After I read this section of the play, I begin to describe the characters, the environment, the emotions within the scene. Remember, playwrights, you are now free to write as much description as you want. (But don’t be redundant or boring, please.)  I copy and paste the section of the play script into my new manuscript. Then I write above the scene in the play. I am able to use almost all of the dialogue that I have created in the play. After I have written the new work I delete the play script and go on to the next.  Here’s a sample:

Chapter 1 ©

Agnes and Annie, sister Aardvarks, stepped off the path into the forest clearing. Except for the occasional rustle in the underbrush and bird song it was a quiet, sun-filled idyllic setting. The smells of forest; tree sap, damp moss, rotting tree trunks, and hidden flowers filled their busy noses. It was worlds away from the dusty deserts in their homeland of Africa. They both looked around fearfully. The fanciful hats atop their heads bobbled in the breeze.
“I think we’re lost, dear sister.” Agnes moaned.
“This doesn’t look anything like the pictures of Australia in our book.”
“Oh, dear, I’m quite afraid,” Annie whispered.
“Whooo?” Something said from high atop a tree.
Annie rushed closer to her sister, “Ekk. What was that?”
Annie had always been the shy Aardvark. Her sister, Agnes had always been the bold one, leading the way and protecting her younger sister.
“Who?” Came the cry again.
“What?” Agnes demanded, looking up into the tree where she thought the sound was coming from. “There are so many trees, all mashed together, I can’t tell where the creature is, Annie.”
“Who?”
“That.” Annie cried.
“What?” Agnes demanded.
“I can’t see anything.” Annie said. “What do you suppose it is?”
“Not certain,” Agnes replied. “But keep a look out anyway.”
“I don’t like this place, Agnes.”

ACT I ©   (The section we are adapting.)
Scene 1

At Rise: Morning in the fabled forest. Pale sunlight filters through the trees.

(ANNIE and AGNES enter. THEY cross into a clearing, looking all around. THEY are wearing ridiculous hats and are carrying suitcases and a book entitled Australia. The WOODLAND CREATURES scatter into the underbrush.)

AGNES
(Gazing up into the trees, HER nose switching as fast as possible.)
I think we’re lost, dear sister. This doesn’t look anything like the pictures of Australia in our book.
ANNIE
(Frowning.)
Oh, dear, I’m quite afraid.

STARE

Whooo?
ANNIE
(ANNIE runs over to AGNES.)

Ekk. What was that?

STARE
Who?

AGNES
What?

STARE

Who?

ANNIE
That.

AGNES

Not certain. But keep a look out anyway.

ANNIE
I don’t like this place, Agnes.

AGNES

You’re such a scaredy-cat, Annie. It’s a simple forest, much like the jungles of home.

(DONALD, a fairie, enters whistling a merry tune. HE sees the Aardvarks. AGNES and ANNIE turn to run.)

DONALD

Don’t go. I mean you no harm.

STARE
Who? Who?

PATSY
(Knitting her web very fast.)

Eye–eee! Por favor, who are these ugly newcomers? Dios mío, ¿se comerán mis insectos? The bugs are for me and me alone!

You have your character list to refer to so you don’t forget or leave out a character from your play. In the story books, I always use an illustrator to bring the story alive with their wonderful color drawings based upon the scene I chosen.  I try, as much as possible, to give the artist full rein; hoping that they will be inspired by the writing. That approach has been very successful for me.  Here’s another sample of adapting a section of my play:

 

©   A couple of days had passed since Emma had visited the clearing in the forest. She and Donald had still not solved the problem of helping Annie and Agnes on their journey to Australia. There suddenly came some rustling of the undergrowth and Stare, the owl began to hoot.
“Who? Who? Who?”
“What’s wrong, Stare?” Emma peered up through the leaves and branches trying to see the owl.
“Whooo?”
From the path a man stumbled into the clearing. He wore work clothes, suspenders and a bow tie. A tool belt hung from his waist. He carried a large tool box. He walked to the middle of the clearing and made a courtly bow.
“Greetings from the Royal Court.”
“Oh my.” Emma murmured.
Donald stepped forward a couple of paces. “Greetings to you. Who are you, sir?”
“Who?” Asked Stare.
“Who might you be, young sir?”
“I’m Donald, a fairie of this realm.”
Taking his half-glasses off his nose he polished them with a clean, white handkerchief, “Blimey. Don’t think I’ve ever seen one before.”
“And you, sir?”
“Who?”
“Not now Stare.” Donald glanced up.
“Allow me to formally introduce myself. I’m Sir Fergus, the royal engineer. I’ve been sent here by the⸺”
Emma sighed, “The Queen.”
“Our Queen.”
“Who?” Stare asked.
“Who?” Annie asked.
“What’s a queen?” Agnes asked.
Cheets began running around the clearing, “The Queen! The Queen! The Queen Cometh!”
Sir Fergus looked around, “No. I don’t think so. It’s just me with my toolbox.”
“Why have you been sent to us, Mr. Fergus?”
“The name’s just Fergus, Miss. Or at court, Sir Fergus.”
“And you’re here because⸺?” Donald inquired.
“To repair your portal⸺time machine⸺of course. It is broken, isn’t it?”
“Our portal?”
“We have a portal? Cheets whispered in awe but having no idea what a portal was. “What is a portal, exactly?”
“And the Queen knew ours is broken?” Emma asked.
“Yes. Yes. Indubitably.” Fergus became impatient to see it, “If you’ll just show me the way, I’ll begin my work.”
“I’m afraid we have no idea where it might be in the forest.” Emma explained. “Until the sisters arrived we didn’t know anything about a portal. They arrived from Africa.”

ACT I ©
Scene 5

At Rise: The clearing in the forest.

(FERGUS, the royal engineer enters from the forest path. HE wears formal clothes but with a large bow-tie and a pocket protector in his shirt pocket. HE carries a large toolbox.)

FERGUS
(Sets down toolbox and bows.)
Greetings from the Royal Court.
EMMA
Oh my.
DONALD
Greetings to you. Who are you?
STARE
Who?
FERGUS
Who might you be?
STARE
Whooo?
DONALD
I’m Donald, a fairie of this realm.
FERGUS
(Takes his half-glasses off and polishes them.)
Blimey. Don’t think I’ve ever seen one before.
DONALD
And who are you, sir?
STARE
Who?
FERGUS
Allow me to formally introduce myself. I’m Fergus, the royal engineer. I’ve been sent here by the⸺
EMMA
(Sighing.)
The Queen.
DONALD
Our Queen.
STARE
Who?

AGNES
Who?
ANNIE
What’s a queen?
CHEETS
(Jumping up and down.)

The Queen! The Queen! The Queen Cometh!

FERGUS
(Looking around.)
No. I don’t think so. It’s just me and my toolbox.
EMMA
Why have you been sent to us, Mr. Fergus?
FERGUS
It’s just Fergus, Miss. Or in more formal settings, Sir Fergus.
DONALD
And you’re here because⸺?
FERGUS
To repair your portal⸺time machine⸺of course. It is broken, isn’t it?

Your play script can grow into something much more ambitious than a novella or children’s story. I have written three full length novels using my stage play as the story outline.
Please leave your comments if you found this informative and helpful. 
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Revise, Edit and Re-publish

My first novel was written in 2011. Being known as a playwright, I was urged by friends and fans to expound on the play by the same title. They were left unsatisfied by the play (even though it was a thumbnail of the story and quite successful on the stage.) They wanted more. What happened to the three women in the story? 

Writing a play is child’s play (pun intended) for someone like me. After all I’ve read thousands of play scripts and portrayed hundreds of characters from other plays, not my own.  One hundred pages is a walk in the park. But 300+ pages of a work of fiction. A Novel. I still remember the day I sat at my keyboard and faced the blank page 1. I was scared out of my mind.  Thank the stars I had a story plot and the stage play to refer to. 

Now, eight years later I brought it out and dusted it off. (Remember I’ve written about this before.) The first thing I do is check for my personal idiosyncrasies when writing: those words we all use too much. Mine are ‘just‘ and ‘that‘.  So I checked the first one. 264 ‘Justs‘ and I only needed about 28 of them. So I went through the manuscript and deleted a couple hundred. Ugh. 
Now, let’s see about the second word. ‘That’. 723. Oh dear!

Several years ago I was reading one of my favorite authors (when I’m not writing, I’m reading) and something was irritating me in the back of my consciousness, a little niggle. 

Then I realized the author repeatedly used the word ‘snickered’ or‘ snicker‘ when describing the tone of the dialogue. (Let the dialogue set the tone.) I doubt the author was even aware of it. ‘Snickered’ was exactly the same as my ‘that’. There’s a whole slew of synonyms for ‘snicker’ (she could have mixed it up) Scorned, scoffed, mocked, derided, sneered, snorted, etc. Once I discovered the culprit of my irritation, I couldn’t unsee the word and it spoiled the story for me. I put the book away, unread.

Technical Note: For those of you who don’t know how to find a word used to excess: Use the keys ‘Control F’; a box will open. type in the word that you might have used too much. It will tell you how many times it was used in the ms. And the word will be highlighted in yellow so you can easily edited them. 

So whenever you edit, clean up and revise an older work you will get a better story out it. You will achieve better writing. You may even find a new chapter or two.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’Tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” ― Mark Twain
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Improve Your Creative Writing Skills

Adam Durnham shares his article on improving creative writing skills with us. 

How to Improve Your Creative Writing Skills
by Contributing Writer, Adam Durnham

Creative pieces are usually meant to entertain, but since readers often want more than mere entertainment, they expect literary pieces to challenge the mind and tickle the imagination. For some, writing or reading literary pieces could also be a form of art therapy.
Though these standards are quite simple, they may put more pressure on writers. The more advanced readers are, the higher the standards they set for the authors’ literary pieces.

Here are four tips that can help people improve their creative writing skills:

Do not underestimate your readers’ ability to understand and imagine

Leave room for your readers to imagine the backstory, the motivation of the characters, and the exposition (the elements that explain the story). You don’t have to reveal all of these in graphic detail all at once. You can give clues or foreshadow some events in the story, but be careful about revealing every element at the start of the piece. Let your readers use their imaginations and formulate theories.

Identify the key points of your story, specifically taking note of the following:

i. What is the main goal of your protagonist? Try to create a protagonist who is interesting or unique in some way.

ii. What are the relevant actions your protagonist takes towards the completion of his or her goal? The protagonist of the story could make conscious decisions that drive and direct the entirety of the story.
iii. What are some unexpected outcomes of the protagonist’s decision(s)?
iv. What are some details related to the literary piece’s setting, tone, and dialogue that can help you reveal the story to the readers?
v. What is the climax of the story?
vi. Will readers find any morals from the story?
vii. How will the story end?
Pay attention to character development
To create realistic, multifaceted characters, it is important to understand and describe characters. To help you develop your characters, consider examining one or more of the following details:
● Name
● Age
● Appearance
● Family and relationships
● Ethnicity
● Drinking habits
● Likes and dislikes
● Strengths and faults
● Illnesses
● Hobbies
● Pets
● Phobias
● Religion
● Job
● Residence
● Sleep patterns
● Nervous gestures
● Secrets
● Memories
● Temperament

Including such details can make it easier to define your characters. They can help you mold your characters, build storylines, and create dialogue. You might want to consider

● Appearance: Create a visual understanding for your readers so that they can vividly imagine what the characters look like.
● Action: Instead of simply listing adjectives to define characters, describe the characters’ actions to tell your readers what the characters do and what they’re like.
● Speech: Don’t kill the story’s momentum by explaining the plot in great detail. Instead, try to reveal the plot through your characters and their dialogue.
● Thought: Show your readers how your characters think. Show them the characters’ hopes, fears, and memories.
Create a great plot
A story plot tells us what happens in the story. Writers establish situations, identify the story’s turning points, and determine the fate of each character.
Plots are the sequence of events arranged by the writer that reveal the story’s emotional, thematic, and dramatic significance. To create a great plot, it is important to understand the following elements of the story:
● Hook: The stirring or gripping problem or event that catches readers’ attention.
● Conflict: A clash between characters and their internal selves, or between different characters, or even between characters and external forces.
● Exposition: The backstory or background information about the characters and how this background information relates to the rest of the story.
● Complication: A problem or set of challenges that the characters face that make it difficult to accomplish their goals.
● Transition: Dialogue, symbols, or images that link one part of the story to another.
● Flashback: Something that occurs in the past, before the current events of the story.
● Climax: The peak of the story.
● Denouement: The story’s falling action or the release of the action that occurs after the climax.
● Resolution: The solution of the external or internal conflict.

Writing can be challenging if you don’t know the techniques. It can be a form of art or art therapy if you come to master it. Techniques and tips can help you build the literary skill you need. Practicing them can give you the experience to produce creative, well-crafted work.

Did you miss my post on how to Format a Novel?
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Motivational Moments…for Writers! #33

Lillian Hellman

 Lillian Hellman said, ‘If you hope to be any good, nothing you write will ever come out as you first hoped.’     It is true and if you are truly lucky it will happen to you.

For example: In the play script version of Women Outside the Walls, the story ends with Joe dying on a cold prison floor.  And later,  this was where I had planned for the  novel to end too. IF I had not been working closely with a woman who had ‘stood by her man’ for 15 years while he was in prison. Shortly after he was paroled, 

Women Outside the Wallsher son received 13 years for manslaughter.  She had been there, done that… times two!  After SK (the woman outside the real prison walls) read the last pages, she looked up and asked: “What happened to Charlie?  To Alma?”

‘Huh?’ I replied. Did someone actually care about these two antagonists? As it turns out, yes they did. Charlie and Alma, in spite of their wrong doings, their narrow beliefs, and their ignorance were endearing and readers really cared. 

I’ve said it before, be open as a writer. 

 


“Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction.

It’s not a grand enough job for you.” ~~ Flannery O’Connor 

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” ~~ Pablo Picasso

“Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little.” ~~ Holley Gerth
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                                         Check out more Motivational Moments…for Writers!

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How to Write a Novel….the writing Process!

writing, blog, authors, create

……is there a wrong way??

NO!  There is no ‘wrong’ process when writing your story….but, as I and other authors (I’ve interviewed here on my blog) have stressed….be certain that you HAVE a process.

1.  Write about what you know.  If you are a beginner…and we all were at one time…write a story about something you know or have had first hand experience with.

2.  If the idea of writing a novel  (75,000+ words)  is way too daunting,  write a short story (3,000 words) or a series of short stories.  Write a novella. (16-25,000 words).   After writing three full length novels, I decided that my mystery series The World of Murder would be short novels.  I didn’t run out of story,  I just believe that there is a market for short novels (24–35,000 words).

3.  If your subject is something that you know nothing or very little about the Internet is a powerful tool.  Let me give you some examples:  My aunt ran away to Alaska in the 1920’s to homestead.  I knew her story but I knew very little about Alaska at the turn of the last century.  What did Fairbanks look like then?  It was little more than a trading post.  How many acres did you get when you homesteaded?  80. What tribe of native Alaskans were in my story-area and what language did they speak?  Were there hunting ‘tags’ or seasons for hunting in those days?

Another example are my murder mysteries that are heavy  on police procedures and crime scene investigation.  I know a lot but certainly don’t know everything.  Between the Internet, local law enforcement and the Medical examiners,  I have pretty much everything I need in the way of research.  Book #4, The Angel of Murder is about the Catholic religion and confession.  I am not a Catholic so I called my friend’s priest, Father Gabe, and he was incredibly kind and helpful.  DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP!  I asked a private detective and a priest, BOTH STRANGERS, and they gave willingly of their time and knowledge.

4. What if my writing process is wrong?  NO!  There is no wrong process. Just be certain that you have a writing process.  Whether it’s with meticulous outlines and story notes or just writing from your gut. My personal process is this:  An idea forms and begins writing itself in my mind.   I joke about ‘slamming  my story down first’It’s more than an outline (which I don’t use) and less than the finished product.  I type 80 words a minute so when I say I slam it down, I mean I slam it down.  I frequently write out of sequence.  Sometimes the Epilogue is written before the end of the story.  Sometimes the prologue is written after the first few chapters. That’s WEIRD’, you say?   No, not really,  the story such as it is at that point is feeding me.  Right now, AA.Cover.bridgeofmurderas I am writing Book #6, The Bridge of Murder, some chapters are un-numbered as I’m not certain where they fit, only that they are part of the story.

5.  Have people you trust read your manuscript.  They aren’t standing as close to it as you are.  But, be certain that they can look at the work and give a constructive critique.  When I say trust, I’m not talking about them stealing your work,  I’m talking about trusting that they will be honest with you.  I have two such people in my circle;  one in particular.  He is honest and wants the very best for me and out of me.

6. Poor Man’s Copyright:  I’ve done this for years.  When I have four or five pages of a manuscript completed, I make up a title page, date it and then mail it to myself.  When you get it back in the mail, be certain you DON’T open it.  Just tuck it away in a safe place.  Courts (if it ever came to that) will honor the post marked and unopened envelope.  Of course you have saved the date of the saved draft of the first time you worked on it in your computer.

7.  Re-write, re-write, then re-write some more!   Read your work over and over.  You don’t have to read it from start to finish….that will make your eyes cross and make you want to give up.  Read sections,  edit, re-write, make it as good as you possibly can.

Want to learn more about developing rich and interesting characters?  Want to try writing a little poetry or a Haiku?  Want to learn more about that all important ‘first sentence’ of your story?  Check out my Creative Writer’s Journals.  There are six ‘how to’ sections and 275 pages of lined, blank pages for your writing.

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Be my Valentine!

be my valentiineLooking for that unique, thoughtful gift for your valentine?

Has your loved one always wanted to write but didn’t know how to begin? Does he/she write in a journal? Write poetry? Write short stories?  These journals include ‘how to’ sections, inspiring quotes from other writers and lots of blank pages for your own creative writing.

This ‘Creative Writer’s Journal is the perfect gift.

Journal for Creative Writers

for HER!

Order here!

Neon.RMWO_cover_spine_REV84_copy

for HIM!

 

 

The Reviews are in …Creative Writer’s Journal/Handbook

Reviews are in for my series of Journals/Handbooks for men, women, and students who WRITE!

       ‘I just got my copy and my first thought (after I need to start using this) is; What a great gift this would make for anyone who is a writer or who shows an inclination in that direction.

Trisha Sugarek gives you “permission” to scribble down ideas and not have to write the great American novel every time you put pen to paper. In the first couple of pages, she gets you going with examples and encouragement and she makes you realize that while writing is work, it’s not impossible work…in fact, it can even be fun work.

With tips for lots of different writing types and encouragement from writers across time and genres nestled in the margins, this journal encourages you to get those words down on paper.
Sure, you’ll use a computer for the final heads down working sessions to get a finished work done, but for day-to-day fun “I can do this” writing, this journal and handbook is a great motivator.’  ~~D. Johnson

and this from Midwest Book Review!

Creative Writer’s Journal and Handbook begins where so many writer’s guides should: with the basics of how to pursue a dream job as a writer. The problem with most writers’ guides is that they assume some prior degree of excellence or experience; but this handbook poses something different: the opportunity to begin with no prior skill level or experience. All that’s needed is the desire and passion to be a writer, and everything flows from there.
So if you ‘scribble’, if you like words, if your stories ‘find’ you, and if you aspire to be something more (say, a published blogger); then here’s the next step in the process. From how ideas begin to how they are nurtured and written down, there to be refined until they see the light of day (i.e. other readers), this journal offers support, insight, and ideas for jump-starting the creative process and linking it to action.

White, lined journal pages offer a workbook approach that augments white space with inspirational quotes on the process from other, successful writers. So while you’re staring at the usual journal blank pages, inspiration can spark from others’ experiences and insights.

This isn’t just about prose, either: Sugarek includes sections on different formats, from Haiku Poetry to writing a stage play. Each section offers inspirational insights into format, structure, and writing challenges – then uses the journal/quote format to encourage readers to put something down on paper.   So if it’s nuggets of information spiced with the encouragement of fresh lined, white space that is needed, Creative Writer’s Journal and Handbook offers a success formula beginners can easily absorb, all packaged in a survey that assumes no prior familiarity with writing.  ~~D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer for Midwest Book Review

and…….

‘….Before meeting and working with you, I had a very skewed view of what being a writer was. I thought you had to be independently wealthy, or somehow hypnotize the publishers into giving you a huge advance, or be a teenager still living at home, or do it on the “5pm to midnight shift” (meaning you get home from work and have no personal life).

But seeing your work, and seeing how you adapted to the web format and allowed that to become part your professional presence was a revelation. It allowed me to imagine a way where my writing would not just be for fun or some cool party trick that set me apart from the usual anti-social geeks at work, but the core of what I had to offer.

And if not for YOU, that wouldn’t have happened…’~~Leon Adato

‘This is a beautiful and sturdy book with some of the best quotes out there to motivate you to dream bigger and write better. It would make a great gift for your female friends and family. ‘ C.Strain

Purchase   

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Attention! All Writers Out There!

There’s a BLOG out there that is dedicated to the art of writing and honing your craft. Yep!  I’m talking about mine and this is a shameless promo.  You won’t be disappointed.

For three years now I have published my posts twice a week and it’s always something about being a better writer.  Once a month I interview best selling authors such as Dean Koontz, Sue Grafton, Jeffery Deaver, Sherryl Woods, Anne Gracie, CW.CoverRaymond Benson, Lee Goldberg, Charles Bukowski and dozens more.   My goal is to inspire other writers to write more, tell their stories, try writing a play, or maybe some poetry.

Sign up on my home page  and receive an email with each day’s post.  Delete it if it doesn’t interest you.  It’s that simple.  Recently I have developed a series of ‘creative writing’ journals with ‘How To’ tips and famous quotes to inspire my fellow writers.  https://www.writeratplay.com/category/a-writers-take/ more »

CREATIVE WRITER’S Journal and Handbook Now Available!

1.Creative.Write.BookCoverImage  Actor, director, playwright, author, Trisha Sugarek has created 305 pages of ‘How To’, Tips, Quotes, and  275 blank, lined pages for your writing.  ‘I have created this journal for writers of all genres.  Taken from my personal experience in the writing process, I hope it kick starts new writers to begin and more experience writers to continue.’

~~This spirited journal is designed to help writers open their hearts and minds. Much more than a journal for your creative writing, this handbook provides the writer with the ‘how to’s’ of writing. Tips, instructions and prompts to help you to hone your writing skill. Each blank, lined page has writing tips and quotes from other famous authors.~~

Available at www.amazon.com    

A writer is only a writer when he or she is writing. Thinking isn’t writing, research isn’t writing, doing anything other than writing isn’t writing. 

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Available NOW!! ‘The Creative Writer’s Journal & Handbook’

CW.CoverNOW ON SALE!!!  This new, innovative Journal and Handbook.

This spirited journal is designed to help writers open their hearts and minds to their own creative possibilities, while honing their craft. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced writer, you will find this journal will quickly become your constant companion.

Much more than a journal for your creative writing, this handbook provides the writer with the ‘how to’s’ of writing. Over 275 of blank, lined pages for your creative writing that includes more tips and insightful quotes from famous authors.

What’s Inside:
“How Do I Begin?”
“How to Develop Exciting Characters”
“How to Write Fiction”
“How to Write a Stage Play”
“How to Write Poetry”
“How to Write Haiku Poetry”

You can order this Journal  here in my book store or go to Amazon.com

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