Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Write About September

I haven't turned the page on my calendars yet, but it's here. A brand new month. September! For a writing exercise today, delve back into your memory bank and write about Septembers of the past and September today. I once had a short essay published called Summer Then and Summer Now. You can do the same thing with this glorious month that brings an end to summer and propels us right into autumn. 

To help you, here is a list of things that we think about in September. Maybe some of them will trigger memories for you, both good and not so hot. Write about both.

  • Back to school
  • First day of school
  • Favorite teachers
  • Labor Day activities
  • End of summer 
  • Grandparents' Day
  • First day of Autumn 
  • Changes in scenery
  • Family birthdays
  • 9/11
  • Household changes 
  • Clothing changes
  • Foods
  • Weather
  • Yardwork
  • Flowers
  • Songs

Monday, August 31, 2015

Write With Heart and Soul

Heart and Soul! Two key ingredients for a writer. When we write using both, we can create emotion in a reader. As a reader, don't you love reading something that makes you weep a bit, shiver in fear and anticipation, or laugh out loud? The person whose writing brought those emotions to the surface most likely wrote with heart and soul. 

The first line of the quote above reminded me that I had written an essay called I Write From The Heart a few years ago for a contest. It didn't win but writing the essay taught me something. I learned that most of the time, I do write from my heart. And also that my writing that comes from the heart I consider some of my best work. I guess that takes in the soul cited in the second line, too. 

The heart and soul comes through in the writing of someone who cares. Yes, you have to care about the stories you write. If you don't, then you cannot expect your readers to give a twit either. Anyone can put words on paper (or screen) but they don't mean much if the person doesn't care. If your attitude is that you're writing something to be published and reap the monetary benefits and that's all, then your heart and soul has taken wings and disappeared. 

Yes, I know that writing is a business for many but if it's all business and nothing else, eventually that's going to be evident and pretty soon the publishing/moneymaking well will run dry. 

Consider, also, that people come to know you through what you write. Do you want them to meet the all-business you or the one who digs deep and writes with heart and soul. Do you want them to consider you as a person who cares? 

Don't be afraid to bare your heart and soul to your readers. One of your goals is to give your readers something they will remember. If you hold back and write only surface things, you'll cheat your readers and maybe yourself, as well. It's not always easy to let your readers into your innermost thoughts and feelings. Learn to do it and you'll be a better writer.

The last three lines of today's quote give all writers more good advice. Make the best of your talent. You'll need to dig deep to be able to do that. Sometimes writers only skim the surface of their talent. To make the best of what you are able to do in the writing world, you have to work at it on a daily basis. The more you write, the better writer you can become. With continuous writing, you may end up surprising yourself.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Do You Have Favorite Books?

Looks like Snoopy is a big reader as well as a writer. I can relate to that double joy. I became a lover of books long before I started writing. Reading has served me well in my writing journey. I've read so many books and of many genres. 

I don't read sci-fi and I don't read horror novels. Neither one appeals to me. Give me historical fiction over sci-fi any day. And the horror stuff doesn't do much for me either. Add erotica to my forget it list, too. I don't mind a little sex in a book but don't need a blow by blow description from cover to cover. The movies in the 40's and 50's had scenes that ended with a smoldering kiss and the viewer was left to imagine the rest. It lent a bit of mystery to the romance. Not so today--bare it all. But I am getting away from my topic.

As the poster indicates, books feed our soul. They are the nutrition of the mind. They're the recipe for a good life. We are offered a variety of books and each of us leans to certain genres. We may have different tastes in genres but we have a common love of good books.

Do you have a list of your all-time favorite books? Most people do. Here are just a few of the ones that hold a cherished place in my memory bank. They are in no particular order. Find them at your local library or on Amazon.

1. The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

2. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (first in a series)

3. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

4. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

5. A Time To Kill by John Grisham

6. A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford

7.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

You'll see that I read fiction, much of it fiction aimed at women. I do read other kinds of books, too, but these seem to be the ones that I remember loving. Some, I've read a second time. 

Leave your own list in the comments box. We all like recommendations. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Pep Talk For Writers

Most of you have probably seen this delightful comic strip of our favorite writer. Snoopy has no qualms in letting the editor know just what he thinks. Note how polite he is in his letter of complaint. No ranting or raving, just a gentle reminder to the editor that he must have misunderstood Snoopy's intention.

We chuckle when reading Snoopy's letter but step back a minute and take note of the really important part of what this tells us. Snoopy has a positive attitude.

I've written many times about the importance of a writer maintaining a positive attitude. Writers live in a whirlpool of rejection so it's not all that easy to keep a happy face. Round and round we go with more rejections than acceptances. Someone remarked that writers all have a masochistic streak; they must like being told NO over and over. I can assure you that it's a rare writer who enjoys rejection.

With more rejections than successes, frustration sets in and often swells. We're disappointed. We're sometimes angry. We're hurt.

But when an editor contacts us with an offer to publish our submission, we change our attitude in a hurry. What a great feeling. We can push away all those rejection emotions for awhile. We ride on a cloud as we savor the moment. Even if the editor isn't offering us $50,000 as Snoopy hoped for.

Then the inevitable happens. The rejections begin to roll in again. It's the natural rhythm of the writers' world. When you're up, then down, and repeating the same all the time, it's not easy to keep that positive attitude.

The thing I feel is most important is to believe in yourself. Believe in your ability as a writer. If you don't believe in yourself, you can't expect others to do so. You're the one who must lead the way. Don't let the whirlpool suck you down farther and farther. Swim out of it with a positive attitude.

I know that it's easier for me to tell you this than for you to accomplish it. I've been there many times myself. I know that you don't find a positive attitude once and that's it for life. Uh-uh! It would be nice but it's not the way it works. We must keep finding and refinding that positive attitude. Once you have done it, you'll find it easier each time you're feeling down and out because your writing life isn't going the way you planned.

You're still going to get rejections for some of your submissions--maybe for the majority--but if you've worked on your attitude, you will probably handle them better. You'll step back and look at the submission with an objective eye, then revise it and try again.

A key to all of this attitude business is to continue to believe in yourself as a writer. If any of what I've said today resonates with you, please share it with other writers you know.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Rich Vocabulary Is Vital For A Writer

A couple days ago, I critiqued a short piece on vocabulary. It made me think about how important it is for writers to have a rich vocabulary.  

I must confess that mine is not where I'd like it to be. We should increase our vocabulary on a progressive basis but it's one of those things that we intend to do, but....

Years ago, the Reader's Digest included a vocabulary list in every issue. Those who made the effort to read and learn those words were smart cookies. Way ahead of me. I usually bypassed that page to get on to the 'good stuff.' Looking back, I wish I'd spent a few minutes perusing that page and committing some of those words to memory.

You can read a pdf version of a word book that Reader's Digest has online here. It takes a little while to load so be patient. Spend some time working with the word exercises offered.

Some people set a goal for themselves to learn one new word each day. A worthy self-challenge. There are plenty of websites where you can find words and their meanings to help you with reaching your goal. Try this one. If it does not meet your needs, google to find others. There are lots of of sites to help us all learn new words. 

We shouldn't only look at a word and its meaning or try to commit it to memory. We also need to use the word. Write a few sentences or a paragraph that includes whatever your new word of the day might be. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Change Is A Part Of Life

Change is a part of life. You and I are not the same people today we were ten or twenty years ago. We've all lived through myriad experiences, ones that make a difference in who we are. Fifty-one years ago, I was a happy, carefree new bride looking forward to a lifetime of love with my new husband.

I had no idea then of the several places we'd live, of children we would have or of the children we would lose. I didn't know how the deaths of our parents woud affect us. I wasn't aware of how I would have to get accustomed to our empty nest when our children became independent adults. I had not even a hint of the writer I would be. I didn't know how my attitude would alter toward so many issues in life.

You've all experienced many changes in your own lives. Some were physical while others were emotional. You may have changed from a person who had little empathy for others to one that related strongly to problems your friends or family had. Perhaps you once had little tolerance for people who didn't try to help themselves. Then, some experience you had changed that attitude.

Change is what the characters you write about must achieve. The protagonist in your short story or novel must go through situations that bring about the change in the person they were originally. Otherwise, you aren't going to have much of a story. Sometimes those changes we see in the people in stories are subtle. Or they could happen as the result of one major event. It's you, the author, who must steer your character through the ups and downs of life so that the change takes place by the end of the story.

It's the same for those who write stories for children. The chld who is the protagonist must show definite change from who he/she is at the beginning of the story. You, the writer, must dream up a situation that brings about the change.

Next time you're in a group of people, look at each of them and know that they all have stories; they all have experienced changes in their lives that have made them the person they are today. You may know some of the people well enough to be aware of what some of those changes were--how and why they occurred.

Yes, change is a part of life. As a writer, you make the changes in your characters. You transform them as your story progresses. You create whatever it might be that brings about the change in your character. Doing that is challenging but often great fun.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Four Icelandic Sayings To Help Writers

Inch Worm
How fast does the inchworm move?

You will reach your destination even though you travel slowly.

I saw the quote above in a newsletter a cardiologist at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, MO publishes a few times each year. He always has articles of interest. The feature article in this latest issue revolved around a trip he'd made to Iceland. He included "Notable Icelandic Sayings." Dr. O'Keefe learned that Icelanders live long lives. One thing he attributes the long lifespan to is the Icelandic habit of using saunas. 

If you look at all the Icelandic sayings the doctor shared, you might get a good idea of what other things they adhere to add to a long and healthy life in this country far to our north. Besides the one above, the other three are:

God is with those who persevere.

A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will.

There seldom is a single wave. Good luck or bad luck is often followed by more of the same.

Have you figured out where I'm going with this? Yes, I am going to ask you to apply each of the four sayings to your writing life. Read through them again, one at a time. Then take some time to ponder and consider how it figures into your writing life.

You might feel that the last one is a bit defeating, but perhaps not. If you are concerned about the bad luck part---bad luck following bad luck, consider this. It's possible that is true does but it's also possible that you can make it change by adhering to the other three sayings. Of course, if it's good luck following on good luck, do nothing more than rejoice!