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Monica M. Clark: Author, Bbp Participant
Member since August 13, 2013

Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).


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Stumped for Story Ideas? Try This One Tip

In a recent episode of Jane the Virgin, the main character, Jane, is stumped for story ideas. She already published one book, but that was inspired by her dramatic telenovela-like life. She’s convinced that she has no other story to tell.

When she shares her dilemma with her fellow writing-class students, they assure her that what she described is not a problem at all. Why?

Mar 19
How to Write a Good Villain: 4 Dangerous Tips From Black Panther

A couple of weeks ago, I saw the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther. I’m not a big superhero movie person, but I hear that that they generally involve a hero who saves the world. So imagine my surprise when I left the theater still thinking about Erik Killmonger — the villain.

I was sad for the villain. I was moved by the villain. I wasn’t rooting for him, but could understand why someone might want to. It got me thinking — what made Killmonger such a good villain, and how can that be translated to writing?

Mar 5
Writing Prompts: Celebrate President’s Day With These Supreme Writing Prompts

It’s President’s Day! I have the day off and will be celebrating by going to brunch and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, which has the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House. I am also celebrating by drafting some President’s Day-inspired writing prompts.

Feb 19
2 Good Reasons to Break Writing Rules

I have a friend who is both a writer and a visual artist. One day she entered a painting contest and won third place! All of the award-winning entries were put on display. And then, during the exhibition, she overheard some people talking about her piece, unaware that she was the artist.

They said she hadn’t followed all the rules.

And I’d argue that’s actually a good thing, because sometimes, rules are made to be broken.

Feb 5
The Writer’s Studio: 3 Artistic Truths Writers Can Find in a Miami Museum

Recently I visited a free exhibition in Miami called “The Everywhere Studio,” which is on display at the brand new Institute of Contemporary Art. During my visit, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own writer’s journey, The Write Practice, and all of you. Here’s why.

Jan 8
Writer Gifts: 12 Creative Ways Writers Can Give This Holiday Season

It’s the holidays, and that means we’re in the spirit of giving. For some, that means gifts for family members. For others, the holidays inspires them to serve their communities. Either way, giving is a great way to raise not just the receiver’s spirits, but your own (check out the documentary Happy). And as a writer, you have the skills to give writer gifts that will be uniquely special to the receivers.

Whether you’re caught up in the holiday spirit or in a writing slump, using your unique skills to offer writer gifts that benefit others is just what you need.

Dec 11
How to Finish a Novel in Three Days

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) ends on Thursday. That means you have to figure out how to finish a novel . . . in three days.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first—you might not make it.

The good news is that it’s not impossible. With the right strategy and enough determination, you can finish writing your book and win NaNoWriMo.

Nov 27
Twitter Story: Tell a Story in 280 Characters

You’ve heard of stories in 140 characters. But now that Twitter has increased their character limit, we’re faced with a new challenge: stories in 280 characters.

What concise tales will you tell in this newly expanded space?

Nov 13
3 Brilliant Writing Tips I Learned From a Genius

Currently I’m reading a collection of essays by the National Book Award winner and genius grant recipient Ta-Nehisi Coates. Many people view Coates, a writer for The Atlantic, as political, but I’ve heard him speak, and he repeatedly emphasizes that he is a writer above all else. He is an observer and he shares his observations with the world, and we can draw valuable writing tips from his work.

Coates’s book We Were Eight Years in Power consists of articles he wrote during the Obama years, each of which are preceded by Coates’s retrospective reflections on those essays. As a fellow writer, I was enthralled by those reflections. Here was an anointed “genius” expressing his doubts and self-critiques. There’s something fascinating about watching a successful writer still cringe at the very works that gave him that success.

Given all that, I had to share some of my takeaways, writing tips drawn from Coates’s self-reflections.

Oct 30
5 Writing Tips from Colson Whitehead

A couple weeks ago, I attended an author talk with Colson Whitehead at Politics & Prose in D.C.

The author has been writing novels for 18 years, but recently he’s been getting a lot of attention because his new book, The Underground Railroad, was inducted into Oprah’s coveted Book Club. The book is about the escape from slavery to freedom in the antebellum south, but it also has fantastical elements—a literal underground railroad that exposes the protagonist to different worlds at each station.

Here are five tips I gleaned from his talk.

Oct 16
Fall Back Into Writing With These 5 Fall Writing Prompts

It’s fall! Students are back at school, football is on, and if you’re a Northeasterner like me, the weather is perfectly cool and sunny.

I don’t know about you, but I love this season. It feels like a writer’s season. It’s time bring a blanket and computer to your balcony, porch, or favorite coffee shop and just write. Recharge. Begin a new and productive period.

As always, at The Write Practice, we love to give you opportunities to jump into writing again. Use the fall-inspired writing prompts to get you going.

Oct 2
Show Don’t Tell: How to “Tell” When You Can’t “Show”

The standard rule is this: “show, don’t tell.” Instead of telling your reader that Jane is “sad,” show the reader by describing Jane’s demeanor, her tears, etc. You’re supposed to allow the reader to experience Jane’s sadness with her.

But in a 80,000 word manuscript, chances are you’ll do at least some telling. The temptation to “tell” usually arises when you need to share background information, summarize events, or provide context for what’s happening.

Sept 18
Writing Prompt: Total Solar Eclipse

Will you be chasing it?

Today is the first time in nearly 40 years that a total solar eclipse will be visible from mainland United States.   In other words, the moon will briefly block the sun in the middle of the day and Americans may actually be able to see it (with special glasses).

Aug 21
Photo Writing Prompt: Find Your Story in a Painting

Have you heard of Girl With a Pearl Earring?

It’s a painting by a 17th Century Dutch painter named Johannes Vermeer. Author Tracy Chevalier first saw it when she was 19 and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Who was the girl in the painting? How did she get there?

Aug 7
7 Inspiring Writing Tips From On Writing Well

I’ve had the book On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser on my shelf since my pre-law school journalism days. That is, I’ve had it on my shelf for a while. I don’t remember who gave it to me, but I do remember how it made me feel.

It made me feel like I could be a better writer.

Jul 24
How to Describe Food Like a Food Network Star

Did you see the first season of Top Chef? It was hosted by someone widely criticized for not bringing insight to food. That person was quickly replaced by renowned chef Padma Lakshmi. What about Food Network Star? Where contestants compete for their own show judge equally on their cooking and presentation skills?

The host change in Top Chef and the emphasis on descriptive skills on Food Network Star demonstrate how vital it is for these shows to be able to not just make food, but describe it.

Jul 10
Can You Tell a Story in 140 Characters?

All Twitter posts must consist of 140 characters or less. And a “story” is defined as “an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment” or “an account of past events in someone’s life or in the evolution of something.”

Let’s fill Twitter with stories!

Jun 26
How to Start Writing Your Book Again After a Long Break

There are many reasons you may have taken a break from your future novel: You’re waiting to hear back from prospective agents. You’re transitioning after a major life event. You were simply too in the weeds and needed to take a step back.

But once you step away, it can be hard to figure out how to start writing your book . . . again.

Jun 12
Public Speaking Tips for Writers: 7 Keys for a Great Speech

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writers, it’s that we hate public speaking. Sure, public speaking tips are helpful—but we’d rather not have to give a speech in the first place.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about publishing, it’s that you’d better be able to speak publicly. It’s essential for pitching your book, sitting on panels, leading author talks, and more. One of my journalist friends was even asked to give an actual commencement speech to our high school!

May 15
5 Tips for Surviving Criticism of Your Writing

A while back I attended a novel-writing workshop. Each week we read thirty pages from two students and spoke about them in depth during class, offering helpful feedback and criticism of their writing. After the second or third week, it became customary to ask whoever had been up for a critique “are you OK?” after class. Sometimes I saw tears. I myself felt overwhelmed by the amount of work I still had to do and my classmates’ brutal honesty.

We all know workshops and editing are crucial to the writing process. Writing criticism is essential. But man, that feedback can be hard to hear. Here five survival tips.

Apr 17