WRITER’S WORKSHOP I, Week 1, The Fastball


Something to think about:

My stepfather, a custom home builder, taught me the basics of carpentry: “measure twice, cut once.” Sounds simple enough, but it takes discipline and an investment in time to slow down and repeat the measurement, and the power saw can be unforgiving. Many are the boards wasted by a few mismarked millimeters. The lesson stuck with me, and I think about the concept often in other areas of my life, including my writing and editing.

For this prompt, I encourage you to slow down and measure twice. We are writers. We have stories to create. That creation requires an investment in ourselves, a belief in our ideas, a commitment to the hard work of writing so that we may communicate our creative babies effectively to others. In the words of Henry Miller, “open up…discover what is already there.”

Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there. Henry Miller, “Why Don’t You Try to Write?”, Henry Miller on Writing.

Writer’s Workshop I prompt:

Use the prompt “measure twice, cut once” to inspire a short story, 150-300 words long, fiction (any genre) or nonfiction allowed. Your response should be in first/second draft form. Don’t worry about putting that final polish on it. We will be working on it throughout the month.

Have fun! Feel free to share thoughts, questions, or even a few words about your writing process or approach to the prompt in the comments below. Be sure to share your prompt response. I will link to all responses in my post for Week 2, but I won’t grab them until Friday.

Hint: Next week’s challenge will play off your response to this prompt and address the concept of “cutting once.”

©2020 Tanya Cliff


75 thoughts on “WRITER’S WORKSHOP I, Week 1, The Fastball

  1. Reblogged this on and commented:

    The Writer’s Workshop is live with our first prompt! Come sharpen your pencils and your prose at the godoggocafe.com. Share your thoughts and prompt responses in the comment section, and I will grab all the responses on Friday to link in next week’s post. Have a great weekend, everyone!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Pingback: WRITER’S WORKSHOP I, Week 1, The Fastball | Fullbeard Lit

    • This from Jane Tims:

      I am a poet, so poetry flowed forth. I have been thinking about our province’s covered bridges for some time. In the late 1800s we had 400; we now have 58. I thought about the precise carpentry that went into these bridges and how some have been lost because people don’t ‘measure twice’ i.e. aren’t careful at all. The poem is very rough, just the ideas I want to include really. Not much editing done. Needs all sorts of work.

      ‘measure twice, cut once’

      the slogan of careful men
the men who raised these bridges.
beams and posts
shaped and joined and finished.
      Carpenters and labourers
Every rafter cut
To fit, position precise
A job to do
      Laid out on the ground,
Marked and reassembled
to cross the river
      Three timbers marked
laid precisely
side by side
      Chords, struts, braces and posts
Howe truss configured
Light timbers, metal tension bars
      braces and counter braces
making ‘m’s and ‘w’s and diamonds
Built in, a camber, to take the downward weight
of the bridge as it settles
      Bridge done, and
and a herd of cattle driven through
to test sturdiness, vibration,
      Then, careless, someone fails
to read a sign

      The French Village Covered Bridge (Hammond River Covered Bridge #2) was built in 1912 and removed in 2017 after a 13-tonne excavator dropped through the decking of the bridge in October 2016. The excavator, loaded with 3.7 tonnes of wood, exceeded the 12 tonne maximum posted for the bridge.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My response: (I forgot to turn off the comments on my reblog. My bad. Grateful to have Jane here!)❤️⚾️

        I love this, Jane, and poetry is certainly welcome. It is really effective to start the piece with all the careful measurements and painstaking work and then end with a twist of careless behavior. I am glad you included the footnote. It gave some context to the careless person in the poem. Poor bridge!
        I also love the interpretation of the prompt as a slogan. Thank you so much for sharing. I can’t wait to watch this evolve through the edits.


      • Version Two

        With this version, I have made the punctuation consistent (I usually use very little punctuation in my poems), eliminated some repeated words (for example, ‘men’ in the first stanza), written some ideas to be more clear (I think the idea of XXVI beside XXVI is clearer), and created some regularity in the stanzas (now in the pattern 5,3,5,3,5,3,5,3 etc.).

        measure twice, cut once

        slogan of careful men
        who raised these covered bridges
        posts and beams
        shaped and joined
        and finished

        carpenters and labourers
        cut every rafter
        to fit, position precise

        laid on the ground
        marked XXVI
        and so on
        over the river

        laid as prescribed
        side by side, XXVI beside XXVI
        chords, struts, braces and posts

        Howe truss braces
        and counter braces
        making ‘m’s and ‘w’s
        and diamonds, timbers
        and metal tension bars

        built with a camber
        to take the downward weight
        of the bridge as it settles

        bridge done, and a herd
        of cattle
        driven through
        to test sturdiness

        then, careless
        someone fails
        to read a sign


        The French Village Covered Bridge (Hammond River Covered Bridge #2) was built in 1912 and removed in 2017 after a13-tonne excavator dropped through the decking of the bridge in October 2016. The excavator, loaded with 3.7 tonnes of wood, exceeded the 12 tonne maximum posted for the bridge.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I love this, Jane! I think your fine-tuning makes the piece sharp, clear and effective. It is a privilege to read first drafts and rewrites! Thank you so much for sharing. ❤️ I’ll have a fun challenge for you next week!

        Do you mind if I copy and paste this into the comment feed for this week’s post?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Tanya, WOW! this is such a great workshop for me to go deep into my own writing process. I appreciate the time and effort you have put and will continue with this project’s content. I was thinking of looking up an older piece of writing with about 150-300 words and without editing see if it fits your requirements here. In that way I want a fresh slate of fresh piece to follow your guide. Problem now is selecting which piece I am confident to analyse and scrutinise! wishing you a lovely weekend. blessings.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I can’t wait to read your response, Gina! I am excited to get working on one too. We have so much to learn from watching each other work through our writing processes. Have a wonderful weekend! ⚾️🥰

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Unassorted stories and commented:
    I’ve never joined a writer’s workshop before, but why not?

    The GoDogGoCafe is a friendly and supportive online space. The workshop is free to join, and it will be fun! It’s been a while since I wrote a story, so I’m eager to find out what the workshop will bring me.

    The first assignment is 150-300 words, so that’s manageable!

    Liked by 4 people

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  6. Pingback: Writer’s Workshop I: – Stine Writing

  7. Pingback: Measure twice, cut once | Unassorted stories

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  10. Pingback: “Cut Me, Mick, Cut Me!” The One Where I Take the Writing Workshop Challenge and Conjure Up a Measure Twice, Cut Once Scene from Rocky, not-poetry, fan-fiction by Stephen | Go Dog Go Café

    • Stephen, your vivid writing brought me right into the ring with Rocky! I love that you pull your descriptions from a mix of senses, including smell. That is effective!
      The message at the end of this piece of fan fiction makes it worth a reread. Excited to see where you take it! ⚾️😘

      “He knew the meaning of all the meat he had punched…”

      Excellent. And, you inspired this reminder to all the writers here:

      “Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.” Rocky Balboa


    • Liyona, I love how you took famous characters’ names and spun them into something fresh and unexpected. You captured the awkwardness of youthful exchange beautifully (nothing says I like you quite like that enthusiastic bumping into each other at the bottom of the steps. 😂) I am excited to read what you do with this next. ⚾️🥰

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Measure twice, cut once. | Fmme writes poems

    • This is quite wonderful! I love how you paint this dreamy picture with words then slap a big, dark twist on the canvass toward the end. That is masterful storytelling! Your protagonist’s solution is brilliant. I can’t wait to see how you craft this through the editing challenges. ❤️⚾️


    • Also, I wanted to draw attention to your opening line:

      “Even if I was blindfolded, I could tell what fabric I’m cutting from the sound it makes.”

      It creates a beautiful contrast, a tension of ideas. “Blindfolded” is an unexpected concept to introduce a seamstress.


    • This is wonderful, Ian! I am so happy you decided to step out of your comfort zone. I love your use of the dog, Elvis, as a thread in the story. It humanized Lyn and gave a solid foundation to her decision to take a risk on Nathan. Her trust of the dog’s intuition and how that intuition pays off are powerful themes. I can’t wait to watch this story evolve!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: WRITER’S WORKSHOP I, Week 1, The Fastball — Go Dog Go Café – The world according to RedCat

  13. Pingback: The Seamstress – The world according to RedCat

    • Wonderful! You pick vivid phrases that bring life in the Nine Villages to life. I felt the protagonist’s affection for her mother and wanted to join her at the Harvest Moon celebration! I also felt a wonderful mix of excitement for her upcoming journey and sadness at all the rich life she is leaving behind. That is a lot to accomplish in a small space of words! I can’t wait to see what you do with this in the next part of our challenge.


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