Friday, March 7, 2014
Finish the book. The world is full of first chapters. Julia Quinn, author of Historical Romance novels said it. A writer friend posted the quote on facebook this morning. I fully agree with the quote, enough so to make it today's subject.
It's good advice for all writers, not just for those who write novels. We begin an essay or a short story and reach a sticky spot and set it aside. Sometimes we go back to it but all too often, we do not. I keep a folder labeled In Works. Every now and then, I leaf through the pages tucked inside and sometimes I have the urge to work on one of the pieces of writing that I'd hidden away for whatever reason.
We're not alone here. Women who sew or quilt start a project, get halfway through and set it aside. Sometimes they go back and finish that glorious quilt or a sweater they were knitting, but too often it lays untouched for months or even years. Men who enjoy working with wood probably have many unfinished projects, too. Creative people don't always create in a perfect beginning to end fashion.
What do you do with unfinished writing? I hope you save it somewhere. Please don't just delete it and move on. If the beginning idea came to you alright, then surely you can find a way to finish it. Maybe there will be major changes or perhaps you'll get beyond that trouble spot that made you give up and move on right from where you left off. It's even possible that the unfinished piece will give you a completely new idea.
Sometime this next week, look back at the unfinished projects you have put aside. Look at each one with an objective eye, if possible. Make a list of the various ways you might finish each one. Then start working on them again. You might be glad you did.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Have you ever made a list of the months in the order in which you like them? Number 12 on my list would be March. Why? We're tired of winter but March isn't really springlike other than a day here and there. March is often gloomy. It can be cold and windy here in Kansas and was much the same in my growing-up years in Chicago. For some reason, the March wind feels sharper and more penetrating. The rain we get is cold rain. The only thing I really like about March is St. Patrick's Day and the fun and frivolity it brings with it.
If you live in a warmer climate, March may be a wonderful month for you. If you live in the far northern states, you're still in the throes of winter with little sign of spring.
Here are a few writing triggers for you. Try one or more and see what you come up with. Some of you might end up with a story to put in your Family Memories Book. Others might have the beginning of a fiction piece. Someone might use the trigger to launch a poem. Keep the month of March in mind for this exercise.
1. March winds.....
2. In March, my mother....
3. At school, we....
4. A March garden is....
5. On St. Patrick's Day, we....
6. March kites fly...
7. The only flowers in March...
8. My mother baked....
9. My father told me...
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
A writer friend who lives in sunny South Africa shared this poster on facebook today. I found only one thing wrong with it. The man is smiling while he's deleting precious words he'd written in his first draft. Why, oh, why do you think he'd smile about this? He must have a loose screw somewhere, and I don't mean in his computer.
Writing a first draft is hard work. All you have to start with is an idea--totally abstract. Putting words on the screen or paper makes it concrete. It's there. You put all those words together to form a sensible (hopefully) piece of writing, be it an essay, fiction story, memoir or a poem. You let it simmer awhile and then go back to read it. You might find you've gone over the maximum number of words for the market you're aiming at. Or you see that much of what you've written is repetitious or doesn't fit with the theme at all. Time to cut.
When we are newbie writers, cutting anything we've written is absolutely painful. How can I destroy something I've created? It's well worth dumping those redundant, overflowery, off the subject parts of what you've written. We all tend to overwrite in our first draft of a new project. I wonder sometimes if too much enthusiasm for a new piece of writing is partly responsible. We get excited when beginning a new project. We're happy. We're filled with satisfaction. We are ready to plunge ahead in a hurry.
Offering your first draft to a critique group or a trusted writer friend often results in the writer hearing that a great deal of what he/she has written must be deleted. Scratched. Cut out. Destroyed. Doesn't matter what word you use, it must be done if the writer wants a publishable story. Once we accept that doing so is necessary, then we can slash words without any pain whatsoever.
In the early days of my writing life, I could have worn a crown as The Queen of Unnecessary Words. I thank my first online critique group for admonishing me over and over to get rid of those words that added nothing to the story or were redundant or those adjectives that were too many in number. They taught me to put nothing into a story that didn't move the story along, they encouraged dumping long descriptions that made no difference to the story plot. I learned that if I cut all those unnecessary words, my finished product felt exactly that--finished. It was tighter writing, it was stronger, it was more likely to be published.
Maybe I'm wrong in wondering why the man in the poster is smiling as he slashes his way through a first draft. Maybe he is delighted with the end result. Yep, that must be it. He has made his peace with cutting parts of his first effort. So why not smile?
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
I subscribe to a blog that Christian writer, Donna Clark Goodrich writes weekly. The blog title is A Step in the Write Direction. In this week's edition, Donna wrote something that had been inspired by the Sunday sermon she heard at her church. She used parts of what she heard to apply to the writing world. I liked it so well that I asked her if I might use it in my own blog. She graciously gave me permission to do so. You can take a look at Donna's website and blog here.
This is what she featured in her blog. These are three reasons that many writers become discouraged with an answer to all three at the end. Certainly, we have all had some negative thoughts like these at one time or another in our writing life. Any one of the things in this list could end a writing life. But then, look at the solution at the end. Time and again, I have read quotes by authors who say they are called to write, compelled to write, or have a need to write. Others call it a passion. It doesn't matter what word you use, it matters that you feel it, that you follow it and that you persevere no matter how many negatives pop up along your writing journey.
· I don’t have a college education; nevertheless, I will keep on writing…because—
· I don’t get any support from my family and friends; nevertheless, I will keep on writing…because—.
· All I get are rejections without even a personal note or a reason; nevertheless, I will keep on writing…because—
I am called to write!!
Monday, March 3, 2014
My good news for today is that my story Off the Hook made it into a brand new Not Your Mother's Book... This one is filled with stories about being a mom. 64 stories that will make you smile, laugh out loud and nod your head in agreement--if you're a mom, or even if you had a mom.
The release date for this newest volume in the anthology series is April 8, 2014.
You can submit stories for other titles in the works and some yet to come. Read the submissions page carefully. You'll find book titles on the lefthand column. Take some time to click on each one to find some suggestions for the kind of stories the publisher is seeking.
Off The Hook is a story about my son. When he was about 11, something happened one morning that made me realize he was growing up, that he was taking notice of girls, that maybe it was time to have The Talk with him. And that brought back memories of how I learned how babies came to be--not from my mother or father--but from a classmate whose dad happened to be a doctor. Who was going to have this conversation with my son? Me or his dad? One guess as to who would do it.
I know I'm in good company with the authors of the other 63 stories in this soon-to-be-released anthology.
Friday, February 28, 2014
I've written a few times about the Not Your Mother's Book on.... anthology series published by Ken and Dahlynn McKowen. So far, I've had a story in their book on Travel and have hopes of being in others as I've submitted several stories to them.
The McKowens also publish a monthly newsletter called The Wow Principles. The e-newsletter for February marks a milestone for them--100 newsletters in 100 months. The newsletter offers tips for writers, calls for submissions, articles on the craft of writing and more.
The February issue highlights comments from readers about lessons learned from reading the monthly issues. The comments begin on page 2 and if you check carefully, you may find a comment from yours truly. It's the second one listed. Reading all the comments should make you want to subscribe.
Read the February issue of The Wow Principles. Next take a look at the website. Scroll down the page and check the right hand side to find the place where you can sign up as a subscriber to the monthly newsletter. There's a lot of other information on the website about The Publishing Syndicate for writers.
Here are a few book covers from the anthology series.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
The perfect wall art for the memoir writer. And who are the memoir writers? Anyone who writes family stories could be considered as a part of this group. I like the phrase in this quote that says to taste life twice. When we write memoir stories, or family stories, that's exactly what we do. But why?
Those memories that stay with us as we move through the adult stages of life remain because, in some way, the experience or the person impressed us greatly. That impression could be filled with the joy of the moment you're remembering or still give you the heebie jeebies because that moment was so terrible. Whichever it may be, these long ago happenings leave a visible mark upon us and it's beneficial to revisit the experience.
We savor those good memories and are happy to taste them twice but what about the sad, or even tragic, ones? Why do we want to relive them? I think that it helps us to understand the event, and the people involved, better when we can look at it from a completely different age. Our own further life experiences help us see whatever happened in a new light. Maybe reliving a difficult time is opening the door to forgiveness. If forgiveness is not possible, then maybe understanding can help soften the sharp edges of that particular memory. I doubt there is one of us that has nothing but happy memories. If so, then it's likely he/she blocked out the ones that hurt because they aren't ready to think about them yet.
I once went to a movie expecting only to be entertained, and I was until the final scenes which were so emotional, so tragic that it triggered something long buried in my memory bank. I sat in the dark theater with tears streaming but not from what I observed on the big screen. My anguish stemmed from a love/hate relationship with a close family member. I drove home from the theater and grabbed a pad of paper and a pen, then poured out my feelings about this person in a free verse poem. More tears but also a peacefulness that I can only attribute to bringing these memories to the surface, writing about them and recognizing that they were a part of what makes me who I am. Forgiveness was not there. Not then but it did come at a much, much later time.
Besides leaving a history for your family now and those in future generations, another reason to write memoir is to allow readers a glimpse into your life, to let them compare their own lives to yours, to help them see that maybe their experiences are similar. We humans are a curious lot and we like to learn about the lives of others, espeically famous people. It's why there are so many biographies (and autobiographies) written as well as memoirs. It's also a delight to history buffs who are able to learn about a different era.
Even writers of fiction, poetry, essays, educational articles and children's stories can also write memoir pieces. A memoir does not have to be booklength. Many anthologies, like Chicken Soup, publish many a memoir story of 1200 words or less. My own annual state writers club contest has a category for Memoir of 2000 words or less. Don't feel overwhelmed at the thought of writing an entire book. Take it one story at a time and one day, you'll have enough material for an actual book.