Friday, September 30, 2011

Writing Short

Writers love words, but lots of magazines publish short pieces in-between full-length articles. A couple months ago, I found a call for submissions from Thriving Family magazine, which is part of the Focus On The Family Group. They are a Christian based publication geared to family life.

They were looking for short (200-200 words) lessons on how a parent succeeded in teaching their child something. It's been a good many years since I was raising children--my baby is turning 40 this year! But I suddenly remembered how frustrated I was when trying to teach our oldest how to tie his shoes. It was a requirement for kindergarten. I finally hit on a solution, and Kirk accomplished shoe-tying the night before the first day of school.

I wrote the short piece, sent it to my crit group for comments and suggestions, cut and revised it, and sent it in on August 15th. Yesterday, I received notice from the editor that he wanted to buy the piece. Not only was it a sale, but it happened in about 6 weeks time. I sent him the information about me that he needed for the contract. My short piece will be published in the January 2012 issue.

Thriving Family magazine has a full page of guidelines which are clear and detailed. Now, that I've gotten my foot in the door, I may try sending them a longer article/essay. For those, they pay 25 cents per word.

Writing short is not easy. A lot has to be said in a very few words. It's also to your benefit to try getting into a magazine through this venue. Once they've accepted your short submission. the editorial staff will be more likely to consider other longer pieces you send. Take a look at Thriving Family to learn what type of magazine it is. Then decide if it is one you can write for.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Embrace Change

My granddaughter, Jordan, decided to stuff her littte brother into a box and mail him far away. Cole doesn't look too upset by it. How they've changed in the last few years. They've both grown from infants to toddlers to school kids. And they'll keep right on changing, too.

We expect and welcome change in our children and grandchildren. It's delightful to see them move from stage to stage, to see what physical and emotional changes come about. So, why is it so hard for us to face other changes in life?

We tend to resist other kinds of change. When computers landed and young people learned to use them, older people shied away. Comments I heard in those early days and even later included I don't need that. I have enough in my life. I have no interest in computers. I'm too old to learn something new. I want no part of that world. 

As for me, I knew that if I wanted to compete in the writing world, I'd have to learn to use a computer. And I did! I learned by trial and error. I must admit the darned thing terrified me in the beginning. I was so afraid I'd hit the wrong thing and ruin everything, but then I learned that it's OK, you can usuallly retrieve what you lost or move on without major damage. I listened to others who had been usuing a computer longer than I, and I read the techie columns in the newspaper. Little by little, I acquired more information and expertise. And I found I loved the internet. It took me all over the world while I sat at home in my jammies. It made sending my work to editors a breeze.

That all seems so long ago. I'm on my third computer and I've seen a lot of other changes in my writing world, as well. At one time, self-publishing was frowned upon. It was a last resort for writers who had pedaled a manuscript to multiple houses and had no luck. But all that has changed. This is definitely a change for the better. Epublishing is hot right now. Some argue that quality may be lost if anyone and everyone can publish their work themself, but I think epublishing is here to stay. I've only touched the surface of how to do it, but I hope to start looking into it more seriously soon.

Cellphones have changed, too. Look at all you can do with one now. Yes, you do have to learn how to do specific tasks, but if twenty-somethings can do it, I guarantee that you can, too. Might take a bit longer, but you CAN learn. 

Accepting change and learning new ways depends on one thing. Attitude! Have the right kind and you'll move along with this twenty-first century. Have a poor attitude, and you'll be stuck in the twentieth century. Embrace changes--they'll help you grow, no matter how old you are.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

There's A Reason For Revision

I had a simple little writing project to do this week. It was merely a letter to the editor of our local newspaper to highlight a new Partner City Flag Plaza that was dedicated and celebrated one evening last week after two years of planning and raising private funds by a dedicated committee. Sounds like a simple project for a writer, doesn't it?

I wrote it last night and put it in a file. Read it this morning and was absolutely disgusted with the whole thing. It gave more information than anyone needed, and it left questions to be answered, as well. People reading a newspaper are not going to read long, rambling pieces on the Op-Ed page. A writer should say it, keep it short, make it interesting, hook the reader by using a good title. And most of all, have the purpose of the letter be evident. So, it's back to square one with this one.

This is the reason for revision. Don't ever fool yourself that the first draft of anything you write is polished enough to be sent to an editor immediately. It might look that way the moment you finish it. Maybe it's the satisfaction of having actually completed it that fools us. Let it sit overnight, or even longer, and read it again. There will be red flags waving all over your precious words.

That's the time to make some revisions. You might even let it sit another day and go over it one more time before calling it complete and ready to go. Be careful not to repeat your revising too many times. There comes a time when you have to call it done. For writers who are perfectionists, that's not easy.
I'm not a perfectionist but I do want to send my best work.

Sending a first draft seldom results in publicaton. That's the reason for revision.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Make A List

My friend, Annette Gendler talked about her list of things to do in the fall in today's post on her blog. We all have things we like to do in the various seasons. We may make a mental list but Annette has actually written hers down.

It made me think of a mental list I've been making and adding to. There have been several recent calls for submissions that have sparked my interest. When sine have arrived and I go through the wants and guidelines, I've thought that it is definitely something I'd like to submit to. So I leave it in my Inbox and move on. There have been quite a few lately, and my mental list has gotten longer and has also been fading fast. Life and all it throws at us can make that happen.

Last night, I was looking through the list of messages in my Inbox, searching for a particular one. As I scrolled down the list, I noticed a few of those calls that I wanted to go back to. Some I'd completely forgotten. It's obvsious that I need to make an actual list, not try to keep it in my crowded brain, which has been working hard for a good many years.

One of my tasks today is to go back through those messages and single out the ones I want to remember. I'll make a list on paper, in black and white. It's one I will be able to refer to more easily, and needed to keep submission deadlines in mind. It's so easy to get busy with other things and completely miss a deadline.

So, make your list of writing projects. Make a list of calls for submissions that appeal to you. Make a list of books about writing that you'd like to read. Don't try to stuff it all into a little compartment in your mind that might get hidden behind other things in your life. Make a list and keep it nearby so you can be reminded.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Dream Or A Disappointment?

There's a new kid on the Anthology block. Dream Of Things has published one book in a proposed series. The first book is titled Saying Goodbye, and like other anthologies, the stories in it are meant to make you laugh, cry, or sigh. The stories are true and considered creative nonficiton.

I've looked at the website this publisher has a number of times. The books fit the type of stories I often write, but something kept holding me back from submitting. Actaully, two somethings.

First, the publishing date was floating in space somewhere. The editor/publisher stated that each book would be published whenever there were enough quality stories to fill it. That bothered me, mainly because the date of publication could be anywhere from next month to the next decade. Do I want to tie up a story for who knows how long while they wait for the right time to publish the book?

The other thing is the payment process. The story authors of each book will receive royalties from the sale of the book and also two free copies. There is a different percentage of royalty for hardcover, paperback, and ebook editions. The royalty will be pro-rated for all the authors in each book. So, if there are 25 authors and the book earns 10% of the cover price, then that amount must be split 25 ways. If the paperback edition runs in the neighborhood of $15, the royalty on each book would be $1.50. Divide that by 25 and you get---very little.

You can read about the payment process here If the books take off like gangbusters, you might come out alright, but you also take a risk that salses might be very limited and you end up with peanuts for your story. Look at the people who took a risk when Walmart began. They're sitting pretty today. And how about the Chicken Soup people--their books have made millions. It's up to the indivdual whether to take the chance or not.

That said, I received a notice today that Dream Of Things is hoping to publishe the next book in the anthology series by the end of this year. This one will be filled with travel stories. The skeptical part of me wonders about a call for submissions in September for a book to be pulilished in three months. The practical part of me likes it, and I think I'll submit a story or two from my files. And yes, they do take already-published stories as long as you still hold the copyright.

Go to the website and read every page before you make a decison to submit. It could end up being a wonderful dream come true or a disappointment. You won't know, however, unless you take a chance.

I'd love to hear your comments about anthologies that pay royalties versus those that pay a flat rate.

Dream of Things 
Dream of Things pays a royalty of 10% of the cover price on trade paperback books, and 30% of the net receipts on electronic books. If a hardcover edition is published, Dream of Things pays a royalty ohe cover price of the hardcover book. For anthologies, Dream of Things purchases one-time rights. Royalties are paid twice per year. Each author’s share of the royalties is prorated. (Example: If you contribute a story to an anthology that includes a total of 25 stories, you would receive 4% of the royalties for that book.) Authors also receive two free copies upon publication, and a 50% discount on additional copies. For all other books, payment terms and rights are negotiable.
pays a royalty of 10% of the cover price on trade paperback books, and 30% of the net receipts on electronic books. If a hardcover edition is published, Dream of Things pays a royalty of 15% of the cover price of the hardcover book. For anthologies, Dream of Things purchases one-time rights. Royalties are paid twice per year. Each author’s share of the royalties is prorated. (Example: If you contribute a story to an anthology that includes a total of 25 stories, you would receive 4% of the royalties for that book.) Authors also receive two free copies upon publication, and a 50% discount on additional copies. For all other books, payment terms and rights are negotiable.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I Saw A Story Last Night

I saw a story last night. Yes, that's right. I didn't see a movie, I saw a story.

I've been on a committee to plan and raise funds for a flag plaza for my town's Partner City in the Czech Republic. Last night, all the planning and hard work a dedicated group had done came to fruition. We had a dedication ceremony at the plaza in the city park followed by a reception in a large indoor pavilion in the city park. It would link Manhattan, Kansas and Dobrichovice in the Czech Republic forever.

A five piece band from the Czech Republic had traveled across the Atlantic to be here for the frestivitiies along with a former mayor of our Partner City, his wife and two university students. The band played throughout the reception while people ate Czech foods, drank Czech beer, and American coffee and tea, and visited the display tables we'd set up. Several people on the committee have been to Prague and other parts of the Czech Republic. They brought a variety of items from their travels which we set out for people to enjoy.

I happened to be at one of the tables partway through the evening, and that's when I saw a story. A small, older woman was bent over a book. She studied a two page photo of Prague, and her finger traced the buildings. A younger woman leaned close. I took them to be mother and daughter. The younger one said, "She is from there."

I watched as the older woman slowly and carefully traced the many buildings in the photo, and I heard her whisper, "Yes, it is here." The corners of her eyes gleamed with a few tears, as she continued to gaze at the picture. Then, she straightened up and smiled at me. "Thank you," she said so softly I had to lean close to hear her.

The two women went back to watch a few people doiong the polka to the lively music the band played.

I wished I might spend time with the woman to learn her story, for I felt sure she had one to tell. But it appeared she kept her story locked deep inside. Perhaps even the younger woman had never heard her full story. Had she been there during WWII, I wondered. Did she witness the Russian takeover after the war? Had she fled then? Or had she come to America even earlier than that?

I'll never know her story, but I do know that the picture in the book brought many memories back for her. I had the feeling that some were good and others were not. Yes, I saw a story last night. I only wish I knew what it was.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Do You Ramble?

I've learned so many by being in a critique group. Being privy to the writing efforts of a couple dozen people on a regular basis is a treasure trove of little bits and pieces about the way others write.

One of the greatest problems I've observed in some writers is that they choose a subject and then they ramble about it and six other things, as well. I think it comes from the way our minds take us. One thought leads to another, but readers aren't going to have the patience to wade through your ramblings.

Once I read what I thought was a promising piece of nonfiction, at least at the beginning. The writer let me know in the opening paragraph what the subject was, but by the time I'd gotten to the end (which took an amazing amount of words and my time), I had no idea what her theme and/or thesis actually was. She'd rambled on and on at the beginning, then switched to an entirely different subject and ramble on and on about it, and then on to yet another. By the time I'd finished reading, my head was whirling with wonder. Wondering what the whole piece was about!

When you proofread your work, an important part of your checklist should be to ask yourself if you have stayed true to the subject matter. Did you stay on track, or did you take an entirely different set of paths through the whole piece? It may be OK to ramble on in your own thought process, but stick to the subject in your writing.

Fiction writers need to be wary of this, too. Let your characters do only what is improtant to the story line. I've read novels where I've thought to myself, Get on with the story! Enough of all this extrra drivel.

How many times have you read in a writer's reference book that you should "Write tight?" Maybe they should add "Don't ramble." Might be a bit redundant for they both come down to the same thing, but it could make a few writers open their eyes to what they need to do to writer marketable nonfiction and fiction.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

No Time? Yes There Is

How many times have you used this line? I'd write more but I just don't have time/" I bet all of us have said that at least once, and probably lots of writers have said it myriad times.

People lead very busy lives today. We have to multi-task more than we'd like to. If you're a hobbyist writer or a part time freelancer, or perhaps a full time career person who has a goal of writing a novel on the side, you know how hard it is to fit your writing into an already full schedule. I bet you're shaking your head in agreement. Time is the enemy, isn't it?

Well, guess what? Lots of us waste time. We allow other frivolous  things to move in on our writing time. Do you really need to watch Dancing With The Stars? How important is it to look through your entire recipe box when seeking only one? Is it necessary to sit on the patio with two cups of coffee trying to get up the energy to begin your day's work? Stop and think about some things you do that are time wasters. We all have them. I'm as guilty as the next guy.

There are definitely times in our lives when we truly do not have time for writing. A family tragedy or illness, a child who needs us to get through a difficult time, or a workload at your regular job that is stressing you to the hilt. But there are also many wasted moments in our lives.

If we can identify them and work on reducing them, we might gain some writing time. Think about it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Euphoria! Bliss! Joy!

A writer friend in my online critique group sent exciting news this morning. She has signed with an agent who is sending her book manuscript to 12 editors. It happened just like we all dream about. Carla shopped around looking for an agent. She sent her completed manuscript to one of the agents on her list.

An email arrived saying the woman was leaving on a trip so not to worry if she didn't hear soon. She'd get back to her in a few weeks.  In a week, the agent wrote that she loved the book! She started reading and couldn't put it down. She wanted to represent my friend. The manuscript, she said, needed a few small tuneups and then it was ready to go.

I know this sounds like the writer fairy we talked about yesterday visited Carla's house, but she didn't. Carla did it all through hard work. Very hard work. She wrote her novel bit by bit, passed it through our crit group a chapter at a time, had a friend go through it from beginning to end, then revised and polished until she was ready to send it to an agent.

Landing an gent is only step one in having a novel published. But it's an important step. It gets the proverbial foot in the door. Carla wrote to our group that "...if this is a dream, I don't want to wake up." Euphoria, bliss or joy--I'm not sure which word  best describes Carla's message to our group today. Soon after she sent it, the return messages of congratulations began pouring in. We could all feel her excitement and responded in kind.

Hard work pays off sooner or later. For Carla, it happened sooner rather than later. Even if it takes a long time and contacting several agents, it's still one of the most exciting parts of a writing life when you meet with success.

I hope to be able to let you know when Carla's book is published and for sale. Meanwhile, I'm feeling very happy for her.

Monday, September 19, 2011

There Is No Writer Fairy

The Writer Fairy visited my house yesterday. She waved her wand over the rough draft of a story I'd just written. Her wings fluttered and her emerald eyes sparkled as her wand skipped lightly over my prose. It was an exciting moment. I sat with my hands in my lap as she worked her magic. My story would be a masterpiece and editors would fight to publish it.

If you believe that, you're either a cock-eyed optimist or pretty gullible. But wouldn't it be nice if we had help like this? The sad news is that there is no writer fairy. There's only one person who can work any kind of magic on your stories. You!

The point of all this is to make it totally clear that , as writers, we are the one responsible for the work we produce. It's up to us to write that first draft, then let it sit for a few days and edit and revise. Then do it again. Do it until you can read the piece and feel a sense of satisfaction. That's when it's ready to send to an editor. It still doesn't guarantee publication, but you'll know you gave it your best shot.

If you belong to a critique group, run your final piece through the group and see what further revisions they might suggest. I've seen a few things come through my group when ciritiquers have said, "This is ready to go." But it's only been a very few. Almost all the submissions can be made better. The group can help, but it's still you who must put it into the final, all ready to go, stage.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Book Recommendation

I've been reading How To BE An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway this week. I looked forward to having some free moments to spend with this debut novel by a woman who is the daughter of an American father and Japanese mother. Her novel is based on stories she'd heard all her life.

The reviews at Amazon, both editorial and customer written, were filled with words like enchanting, engrossing, delightful . I would agree.

The story is told by Shoko in the first section of the book. She was a child in WWII Japan and a young girl during the American occupation. She marries an American to better her life, but over many years of her marriage, she comes to love Charlie. She raises her two children, Mike and Suiko, with a mixture of her Japanese background and the new ways she's learned in America. Some things she has read in a book that is meant to teach Japanese war brides the way to be a good wife. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from this book, and many seem laughable these many decades later. At the time, they were serious business.

Shoko has a secret, kept for over fifty years, and she has a rift to mend with a brother still in Japan. She plans to go see him, but illness cancels that thought. Instead, she talks her daughter, Suiko, whom the family calls Sue, into going for her. "Deliver this letter for me to Taro," she asks. Sue and her 12 year old daughter make the journey to Japan and find more than just a few relatives.

The story is about war brides but more than that, it is a story of relationships and identity. It's about mothers and daughters and husbands and wives. Shoko's tale is filled with humor and sadness at the same time.

This is a book I plan to recommend to my book club, when my turn to select the book rolls around next spring. There is a lot in the book that is thought provoking and plenty for discussion questions.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Accepting Constructive Criticism

My mother scolded and taught in one fell swoop. In my growing-up years, she often said to me, "Just a bit of constructive criticism. You shouldn't....." With that first statement, I knew I was in for it. I'd done something either wrong or stupid again. It's a kid thing and one way we learn. We do something dumb, we're told about it, and hopefully, we learn and remember the right way.

Mom's way of teaching me was to preface her scolding with the comment about constructive criticism. It softened the blow. I knew instinctively that she wasn't really angry but trying to show me the right way to do something. Did I accept it with great joy, grateful that I was learning something? Of course not! I was a kid! But, subconsciously, it all sank in, and I did learn a lot of things without being overly resentful.

So, now I'm all grown up and then some, but I am still open to constructive criticism from my critique group and editors. I may have much the same reaction as I did long ago--Oh-oh, what did I do wrong now? Over the years, I've learned to accept criticism of my writing for one simple reason. It serves to make me a better writer.

You're probably thinking--But, it hurts my feelings! or Why are they picking on me? Those hurt feelings and thoughts of being singled out for critcism are one of the biggest hurdles to overcome, espeically for new writers. Once you get past that, you opportunity to growi into a good writer is excellent. Take the words of 'constructive criticsim' and use them to your advantage.

If there is one area of your writing that receives criticsim again and again, step back and take a serious look. Push the irritation and anger away, and work on the problem. Learning to accept what others have to say about your writing is not easy, but if you can do it, you come out the winner.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writing For Kids Is Not A Piece of Cake!

Knowonder! ezine has published another of my children's stories. "Where's Pete?" is the story for Day 13 of the story-a-day website for kids. This is a story that I wrote quite some time ago. It won an award in our state authors contest, but it has never been published until now. There's a bit of a mystery involved with clues to figure out.

Knowonder! needs 30 to 31 stories per month, so this is a good market for those who write children's stories. It's a no-pay, but it would be a nice clip,  and they do award $100 to the story that the Readers select as best of the month. There's also a $100 award for the Editor's ?Choice, so you do have a possibility of some cash.

If you've never written a story for kids, why not give it a try? There are plenty of writing books that discuss this category of writing as well as many articles online. If nothing else, you'll gain an appreciation of those who are fulltime writers of kid's stories. It's not easy to write a full story in the short word count usually asked for. You write, then cut, and go back and cut some more.

You need to be careful not to preach to kids, not to write 'down' to them from you lofty perch as an adult. You need to try to reach back into your own childhood and put yourself in a child's world. But you can't only rely on things that were a big deal in your growing-up years. You need to be current, to write about things in a child's world in this decade.

Vocabulary is a factor to consider, too. You don't want to use nothing but very simple words. Toss in a few big words now and then. Kids pick up the meaning from the context of the story. There are vocabulary lists for different age levels that children's wirters might want to use as a reference tool. Google vocabulary lists for childrren's writer for a wealth of information.

Go to Knowonder! and read the stories for September. See if you can find some common qualities in the stories. Which ones do you like best? Why? Do the authors a favor and leave a comment at the end of the story. One comment equals one vote for Reader's Choice.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Special Treat

In the picture above, our two youngest grandchildren are making delectable fresh strawberries even better by dipping them into melted chocolate. Cole loves strawberries, but he adores them coated in chocolate. He and Jordan did a good job on this special treat that we all enjoyed.

You might consider making something you've written even more special--coat it in delightful chocolate prose. Make good writing better by adding more to it. 

I've said it before and I'll say it here and probably again in a couple of weeks--let your finished work sit idle for a few days. Read it again and you may realize it's not so finished, after all. Your perception changes when you haven't been working with the piece for a few days. 

Look for places where you can add something more, something that will make your story or essay better than the first time around. What can you add to create a special treat for readers? Make a checklist with things like flow, adjectives, sensory detail, sentence structure and anything else you can think of. Do you meet your standards for each one? Can you enhance the ones that you thought were OK? If you feel OK about a story, maybe that's how an editor will also feel, but if you are truly proud of your work, it may have a better chance of being accepted for publication. 

Strawberries are good, but chocolate dipped strawberries are even better for she who loves chocolate like I do. Make your writing the same kind of treat.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chicken Soup Call

It kind of amazes me that the Chcken Soup for the Soul publishers keep coming up with new book titles. The last several had to do with various health aspects. Now, there is another one that surprised me a bit.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven
101 Miraculous Stories of Signs from Beyond, Amazing Connections, and Love that Doesn't Die

They're looking for stories that deal with loved ones we've lost and the connection we may still have with them. It might be seeing or hearing them, dreaming of them, or a sign of some sort that all ties have not been lost. 

You can go to the Chicken Soup website to read more about this call and also several others. It pays to check back occasionally to see what the newest calls are.

I was pleased to see the call for Messages From Heaven as I have a story I think would fit in this book. I'll polish it up a bit today and submit it. And then begins the long wait. If you have a story for this or any other of the possible books listed at the website, give it an edit and/or some revision and submit it on the submission form page soon.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Take A Break

We're going to spend the week-end at a lake with our daughter and her family. The temperatures have moderated nicely from the blistering heat we experienced all summer, so it should be a great time to be on the water. Our two youngest grandchildren are definitely lake kids after being there nearly every week-end since last spring. At 5 and 8, they're deep into swimming, fishing and boating.

I've got a long list of writing projects that I should be working on, but just like housework, they will still be there when I get home in a couple days. The one pressing job--a minor editing of a manuscript for an editor--I managed to get done. The rest will wait while I take a break from my writing world.

Taking a little time away from your writing world serves more than one purpose. It's good to have a change in your daily routine, good to have a bit of a rest and some enjoyment. But best of all, I've found that when I return home, I'm more than ready to tackle the list of writing chores. In fact, I can hardly wait to get goin

Take a little break from your writing world, even if you do nothing more than stay home and do everything BUT writing. It just may inspire you to unknown heights when you start writing again.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Books On Writing

Yesterday, I promised to tell you about some of the writing books I like.

One that has been a longtime favorite, and is not outdated, is by Nancy Kress. The title says it all--Beginning, Middles, and Endings. I don't have the book in my personal library, but I check it out every now and then and read it, so  again.

Write Away by Elizabeth George, the mystery writer, is one I picked up in England. It, too, is well worth reading to hone your fiction skills.

The Power of Memoir byLinda Joy Meyers is one of the newest I have in my library. It's an invaluable tool for memoir writers. One chapter on memory triggers is worth the price of the book.

Creative Nonfiction by Phillip Gerard is a good reference for those who write for anthologies like Chicken :Soup for the Soul. It, too, is a relatively new book.

I have a brand new book to read that is also by Nancy Kress. It's titled Characters, Emotion and Viewpooint, a self-explanatory title if there ever was one. Ms. Kress is an award winning novelist, writes a fiction column for Writers Digest magazine and has penned a number of writing skills books for Writers Digest. You can't go wrong with any of her books.

Writing and Publishing Personal Essays by Sheila Bender is another excellent source for those who write creative nonfiction for magazines and anthologies.

Spend some time in a bookstore browsing the shelves that hold books on writing to see what appeals to you. Go to and read summaries and reviews of some of the titles you're interested in.
Then begin adding to your own personal writers library.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Writer's Library

The other day, I was searching for something in my office. I'm by nature an orderly, organized person married to a clutterer. I fear that forty-seven years living with him has rubbed off. But only in my office! As so often happens, I found far more in my search than the one item I sought.

I have a small bookcase that holds photo albums, file folders and my writing library. Through the years, I've managed to collect a sizable number of books that focus on writing skills. It occurred to me that maybe some of them are outdated, so I started combing through them.

Outdated is an understatement. I began stacking those next to the bookcase, returning others to the shelf. Most of what I kept are newer ones, published within the last three to five years, a few even older. Several deal with writing personal essays and memoir, since that is the main thrust of my writing at this point in my life. I remembered that I had some more books on writing in a bookcase in our lower level family room. So off I went to weed out the ones that are now passe.

By the time I finished, I had quite a stack of books I no longer needed or wanted. Our state authors convention provides a table for books like this that anyone may take for free or they can leave a donation which goes to the state organization. And that's where these books will go. Perhaps someone else can find some useful information in them.

But now, I have some extra space on my bookshelves, which means I can go shopping for new books to help me sharpen my writing skills. There is a plethora of books about writing in the bookstores and on books selling websites. Many are written by top name authors while others are by those who teach writing classes.

Do you have a writer's library of your own? Do you read books about writing? If you answered yes to both questions, pat yourself on the back. If you said no, then you'd better get started reading and building a library soon. We never stop learning. There's always room for a little more knowledge in our field. Our writing world changes like a kaleidoscope--so quickly that it is sometimes hard to keep up. Treat yourself to a new book about writing today.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you about a few of my favorites.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sentence Structure Matters

Content takes center stage in our writing, but sentence structure counts, too.. The kinds of sentences you use matter in what we might call 'readability.'  Let's take a look at a few kinds.

1. Overly long I once knew a man who was a fabulous writer, but his sentence length had no rival. One sentence could go on and on and.... If he read his own work aloud, he would immediately see the problem.  He'd run out of breath long before he ran out of sentence!

2.  Short and choppy In the other extreme is the sentemce that appears to be missing something. The main idea is there, but it leaves no room for lyrical moments. Some writers use a lot of this type of sentence and when they do, there appears to be little flow to the writing. It feels harsh.

3.  Too many adjectives We're always being told to use descriptive words, add adjectives to nouns to bring them to life for a reader. Good advice, but some writers, especially beginners, can carry it to extremes. A long sentence loaded with adjectives, or one noun with three adjectives is over the top. In this case, less is better. Often less becomes stronger writing.

4.  Try a blend  Instead of all short sentences or lots of very long ones, use some of each. A short sentence in-between two long ones helps create a balance.

When you're ready to look at a story with revision in mind, look at your sentence structure as well as the content. Read it aloud. It's the best way to catch problems of various kinds, but particularly sentence structure.

If you want some detailed help, google 'sentence structure' and you'll find enough to keep you busy into next Tuesday!

Monday, September 5, 2011

There's A Dragon In The Library

Happy Labor Day! A holiday for many and the day we usually consider a book-end to summer, with Memorial Day being the matching book-end to say summer is beginning.

Just a short post on this holiday. A children's story I wrote some time ago has been publsihed at Knowonder! ezine. I wrote about the assistant editor contacting me last week about the story, which I'd submitted to them over two years ago. The ezine/magazine--they had both an online and print edition--had gone out of business. Then, additional funding made it possible for them to get going again. The online ezine offers children a story per day.

Readers are invited to vote for the one they like best each month. The story receiving the most votes gets $100.It's the only monetary compensation. As much as I think all writing should be compensated, I make an exception for children's ezines like this one that encourages reading.

A comment left at the end of the story counts as a vote. So, if anyone would like to read "There's A Dragon In The LIbrary" at Knowonder! and leave a comment, I'd be most appreciative.

If you write children's stories, check out the submission process at and send your best story in. With a story per day, they are looking for stories. It's a great opportunity for those who write for kids.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Time For Some Football!

A website called Our Echo has as its slogan--Everyone has a story. What's yours? I have lots of stories in my life. One of them is my love for the Kansas State University Wildcats. Football season begins here tomorrow evening. Our mascot, Willie the Eildcat, pictured above, will be whipping the fans into a frenzy before the first kickoff occurs.

When you live in a college town, you get caught up in the sports world pretty fast. It happened to us when we moved here more than 36 years ago. K-State football was so terrible then, but people still supported the team, counting down the time until basketball season would begin. That's where the Wildcats took center stage. The football program jumped by leaps and bounds when Bill Snyder took over as coach, went down again during the three years he was retired, and now is moving back up under his guidance. He's a man who would have a whole lot of stories to tell, but he's far too busy.

We'll drive the three to four minutes to the stadium where we'll tailgate with old friends. The 52,000 seat stadium is sold out, so the parking lot will be filled with fans cooking, eating, drinking something cold and satisfying, and kids tossing footballs around. Purple flags will be flying throughout the parking lots and music blaring. Cheerleaders, the K-State Band and other students selling things will be mingling amongs the fans. We;'ll all be wearing purple, sunscreen and sunglasses. High for tomorrow will be 94, which is better than yesterday's 109. Still gonna be hot.

Shortly before game time, we;'ll head to the Bill--that's what the students call The Bill Snyder ?Family Stadium. The minute we walk through the gate, our excitement builds waiting for that moment when the pre-game activities are over and the football is kicked high into the air for the first time in 2011. I can hardly wiat.

I've writen several stories about things that have happened at games or my thoughts on football. Whateve you enjoy in your own life can be the baiss for something you write. Whether it's a sport or quilting or playing pool. There are stories everywhere. Pick one and start writing.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hear This--Another Longshot Worked!

I think one of the reasons I like my writing life is the many surprises that come my way. Yesterday, I urged writers to take a chance and send in a story. Your odds of winning acceptance are better than when you buys a lottery ticket.

This morning, a message arrived from an assistant editor of a children's magazine. I'd had a story published in Knowonder! a couple of years ago. "The Boy Who Wanted A Tail" was one I'd written some years before but had never found a home for it. I was really pleased with the quality of the magazine when my issue arrived. So, I sent them another story, also written some years ago. "There's A Dragon In The Library" won a contest but it had never been published.

Soon after I sent the story, word arrived that the magazine would cease publishing. I was sorry to see it go but with the cost of publishing in today's world, it happens to many new magazines. A month of so ago, I received a message that Knowonder! was back in business again.

This morning, I learned that the assistant editor liked "There's ?A Dragon In The Library" and wanted to recommend it to the editor for acceptance. I'd actually forgotten that I'd even sent them the story, so this came as a real surprise. She wants to discuss some editing of the story with me and suggested we do it via a phone call. I think this is the first time I've been asked to discuss a story via phone. So, I'll set up a time to talk things over and hopefully, this old story, one that I've always liked, will soon find a home.

At the risk of sounding boringly repetitious, I'm going to say this one more time--Send your work to an editor. Even if nothing happens right away, you may get a nice surprise later on just as I did.