Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Take Writing Goals A Little At A Time

Wouldn't we all love to be consoled with chocolate and a lot of money? Even the hug might be of big help when our writing life doesn't go according to plan. 

We talk a lot about setting goals and achieving them. It's good to have goals, something to reach out and hold onto. The hard work comes when attempting to achieve our goals. Making the list is easy. We know what we want and where we would like to go on this journey. Next comes working at each goal a little at a time.

That's what it takes--a little at a time. To quote an old cliche Rome wasn' t built in a day. Anything worth having is worth working for. But when we take those small steps, one at a time, we can get tired of waiting for results. Discouragement becomes a close companion.

As an example, if you set a goal of being published in a high paying magazine even though you've yet to be published anywhere, back up and start small. Try a website or a small local magazine when you submit your first stories. When you've found some success with those, move on to the next level and keep moving until you reach your goal level of publication. It may not happen in a year or even five, but if you keep working toward that goal, you might very well achieve it. 

When we don't reach our goals in a short time, we feel bad, as if we've failed. Then we need that hug and the chocolate. And, oh yes, that 6  million dollars. You haven't failed; you're taking it a little at a time to eventually reach your goal. Make a chart with your goal at the top and your status now at the bottom. Draw a line toward the top every time you get published. You want that line to move steadily. Sometimes it will and others it may stay at the same point for an achingly long time. Keep that end goal in mind--it's the gold ring on the carousel; it's the piece of birthday cake with the flower on it; it's the handsomest guy in school asking you to the prom. 

When your get bogged down with the way your writing journey moves, commiserate with another writer. They can relate better than anyone. Then, get back to work on your current writing project or start a new one. Keep your goals in mind but don't let achieving them be the most important part of your writing journey. The thing that is of prime importance is to write and keep writing. Edit and keep editing. Submit and keep submitting. Do that, and the goals will happen. A little at a time!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Quotes From Writers

Today's post is filled with good advice from noted writers. I don't think I need to add anything to these words of wisdom from those who have achieved recognition in the writing world. Read and enjoy the quotes, then ask yourself how they might apply to your own writing life. 

Quotable - Bruce Taylor - Writers Write Creative Blog:

"Writers end up writing about their obsessions. Things that haunt them; things they can't forget; stories they carry in their bodies waiting to be released." - Natalie Goldberg. True. #quotes #writing:

An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this. - Stephen King:

Quotes About Writing: Has to say something.:

Freewriting - writing prompts for teens - iTeenWrite

Find out more about the author here:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Memories of Food Make Good Stories

If you're looking for new story ideas, consider family recipes or favorite family foods. We all seem to have stories that revolve around the things we eat. Some are warm and joyful stories while others describe a disaster of some sort.

You can incorporate food stories into a section of a memoir. Or write a specific memoir piece about a special cake your mother always made for birthdays in your family. Maybe your dad had a specialty item he fixed on the grill with a lot of pomp and circumstance along with it. How about the Christmas candy your grandmother always made? Or the popcorn your Grandfather drowned in butter for you? 

You can base a short story on some of the recipes or food items from your childhood. Use that as a base and enlarge upon it for your story making it more fiction than fact. One of my favorite stories from way back was about a boy named Homer Price and the disaster he had with a doughnut machine that wouldn't stop making doughnuts. It was a funny story but maybe it was based on something the author, Robert McCloskey, had witnessed as a kid. Then again, it may have come from his own vivid imagination. Either way, food stories always seem to be a hit with kids or grown-ups. We can all relate to food in some way.

Another idea is to write for a food magazine, using one of your family recipes that has a story attached to it. There are many possibilities in this field but you need to check the markets and their guidelines. 

Our Kansas City newspaper features a local person's recipe one day each week. There is nearly always a family story that goes along with the recipe. Some are especially interesting. 

I've written a few stories about foods we ate in my family. One is titled Love On A Plate. It's about some marvelous date muffins my grandmother baked when she visited us. She would make them for lunch and that would be all we ate, one still warm and luscious muffin after another, smothered in real butter and downed with a glass of milk. We waited for a Muffin Day whenever Grandma came to see us in Chicago after she'd moved to Phoenix. You can read the story here.

Another food story I wrote that has been popular was featured in a Chicken Soup for the Soul that used chocolate as its theme. My story about my mom's fudge has been featured other places, too. I was in third grade and volunteered to bring fudge for the school Christmas party. I had no idea that other people did not eat fudge with spoons like we did at my house. No one ever told me that my mother couldn't make fudge that hardened no matter how much she beat it. Not ever! What happened that fateful Christmastime is a story we still laugh about today. After several batches of fudge that was way too soft, my mother sent me to school with the gooey candy and 21 spoons. The kids loved it! 

Delve back into your memory or maybe your mom's old recipe box to see what you can find to use for a new story. Whether it is fiction based on your factual story or a creative fiction piece highlighting the true story of many years ago, see what you can come up with. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

No Problem, No Story

When you're writing fiction, your protagonist has to have a problem of some sort that must be solved by the end of your story. If there is no problem, there is no story. It's just a lot of la-de-da sentences strung together and it will not keep a reader interested enough to keep reading.

When we start reading a short story or a novel, we are soon introduced to the problem. We turn the pages to see how the hero or heroine tackles the problem and triumphs. At least, we hope he/she triumphs. We want to cheer him/her on. We want to experience the fear or anger or joy right along with the character.

The bad decisions mentioned can create the problem and also help to keep it alive. Your character can make a lot of bad decisions which will make his/her life almost unbearable. If Goldilocks had not decided to go into the woods, she'd have never stopped at the home of the three bears. Hansel and Gretel shouldn't have gone into the dark forest looking for their father. If they'd stayed home, there would have been no meeting with the wicked witch. And how about Sleeping Beauty? She never should have taken a bite of the poison apple, but she did. Look what happened to her? These old fairy tales all ended well but the characters all made a bad decision which got them into trouble. And it created a good story for readers.

If you're writing a novel, your character is probably going to need to make several bad decisions and then work like crazy to get out of trouble. You, the writer, has to make those bad decisions believable and, at times, that can be a difficult task. You'll need to play the what if....? game with every situation to figure out if the bad decision and the solution are realistic enough for your readers to accept. 

If you're writing memoir, some of your own bad decisions and how you worked your way out of it will appeal to readers. 

Make a list of the bad decisions you've made in your life. I've made plenty of them and I'm sure most of you have, too. Then, make another column in your list and add a way to make that bad decision be a problem that is solved in some way. What you end up with is the bones of a story to write as fiction or to be included in your memoir.

Other peoples' bad decisions end up being good for writers!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Writers Who Share With Other Writers

 Remember when your parents taught you to share with others? They weren't the only ones who instilled this trait in us. Grandparents, preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, Sunday School teachers are a few of the others. 

We heard things like Don't be selfish. Share your toys. Give your friend one of your cookies. The lesson was learned and we tucked it away to be used or shunned in later life. What is all this leading up to? Sharing in our writing world.

Do you share market tips with other writers? Do you let writer friends know about a terrific new writing exercise you discovered? Do you share some of the great info you got at a conference? Do you recommend an editor who has been good to you to your writing crowd? Do you tell your writing group about a new writing reference book?

Or do you keep all these things to yourself? Are you averse to sharing with writing friends? Some of you will be shaking your heads and thinking that no one would do that. Don't be too sure. 

Consider that, if you share a hot new market, you might be allowing someone else to move in line ahead of you.Maybe their story will be accepted and yours won't. If you hadn't told her/him about the market, you'd be steps ahead. Now consider this--if your story is the better one, you'll move to the head of the line. If your friend has the better piece of writing, she/he will be number one. For the sake of friendship, tell your friend about the new market. If she/he comes out ahead, so be it. Don't be selfish. Share your toys. Give your friend one of your cookies. Bring Mom's lesson back.

One of the great aspects of a writing group is that the members do share tips and give recommendations with one another. Each member should be willing to help the others in any way they can. If you decide not to tell the others about a new anthology title looking for submissions, it's not going to catapult your story ahead. The others will no doubt find the call for submissions on their own or from some other writer who believes in sharing information.

I share submission calls, good articles or books, or information that might benefit with the members of my online group. My thought is two-fold--they are people I care about and want to see achieve success and if I help them, they are going to do the same for me someday. 

There definitely is a competition among writers. We are all trying to be the one whose work is accepted and published. I love competition like this for it spurs me on, makes me want to send in the best writing I can. There should also be a type of camaraderie among writers that makes us want to share and help the others. Think back once again to what Mom said. Don't be selfish. Share your toys. Give your friend one of your cookies. Then hope your writing friend's mom taught her/him the same. 

All this is not to point a finger at any one person. It's just to make us all think about the benefit of sharing what we can with other writers. Good deeds like that bring good things back to us. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Writers--Don't Put Off That New Project!

How often have you had a story idea swriling in your head but can't ever seem to get started writing it? How many of you keep a Story Idea list but let it gather dust on your desk? Which of you sees something that would make a great story when you're out and about, then promptly forget it before you get home?

Have you ever said, or thought, I want to write a series of articles for a writing magazine--or something similar? We have great ideas, big goals or giant plans for a novel. What happens if we fail to begin the project?

You know what happens--we think about it longer and longer and put off the hardest part. And what is the hardest part? The beginning, of course. Putting bottom in chair and fingers on keyboard is step 1. Step 2 is to write that first sentence. And then another, and another.

Sometimes that first sentence has come to you before you ever sit at your desk. I've had first lines of a poem pop into my head at the strangest times. Some of them absolutely startle me. Where did that come from? I often wonder. Our subconscious mind harbors many hidden gems.

If a first line comes to you, stop what you're doing and jot it down somewhere. Anywhere! On a napkin or in a notebook you carry with you, or at the bottom of your grocery list. If you don't write it as soon as you think of it, you might lose it. That wonderful first line can float away like a feather on a summer breeze.

When you begin your project with that first line, you will keep going. Getting that first sentence in print is motivating in itself. Your mind will pluck another line and another to follow. Will they all be brilliant? Of course not. This is a first draft with changes to come. That special first line you thought of may eventually end up as your conclusion or deep into the middle of your project. Even so, it's what you use to begin the entire story, or whatever you're writing.

As the poster says, we must simply begin. Nothing is accomplished if we don't. Those good ideas will just keep swirling in your mind, going nowhere.

If you've had an idea for a new writing project, why not begin it today? Once begun, you're nearly done. Well, not really but you are on your way. Set a goal to begin something new this week. Sit down and write that first line.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Thoughts From Three Published Writers

On many occasions, I have encouraged readers of this blog to do the Random Word exericse. It's one that my online writing group offers on a weekly basis. Whoever selects the word does it through different methods. One of the easiest is to open a book, close your eyes and plop your finger on the page. Whatever word you hit is "it."

We've had some wonderful results from this exercise. Some, who write the specified ten minutes, writing as fast as possible, no stopping, just letting the words come, have found when finished that they have the bones for an essay or a short story. Writing this way brings a lot from our subconscious. I've sometimes read my ten minutes' worth and wondered Where in the world did that come from?

Three of the members of my writersandcritters group have agreed to let me share their feelings about doing the Random Word exercise. Each of these women are fine writers and have been published many times. Let me introduce you to them.

Jane Banning lives and writes in the northern part of Wisconsin. She is a novelist and a poet. When I asked her how she felt about the Random Word exercise, she said:
     Yes, I find that the RW exercise is good for me. When writing “long” (as in a novel or, for me, even a short story) feels like less joy and more work than I’d like, the RW is a little spark of light. It’s a window, not a door. It feels accessible and possible. I’ve had several RW’s published because I think they can be so well-focused and circumscribed.

Toni Somers writes wonderful poetry and creative nonfiction from Springfield, MO. Toni gave me a quote about doing the Random Word exercise and she topped it off by writing a haiku poem to accompany it. She said:
    Writing on a random word is a real antidote for writer’s block. Any word, whether provided by a friend or picked from a dictionary, can set me free. I can write and not worry about making each word perfect, or using lush language, or even making sense. I’m simply free! It’s wonderfully liberating to turn words in my mind loose and let them fall on the page in the order they choose. If as a child you enjoyed being a bit rebellious and “breaking rules”, try random word writing. It will give you the same sense of freedom and joy.

Haiku on The Random Word
Random words set free
unfettered, unleashed on page
liberate the soul.

Joan Lambert Bailey is an American writer who lives in Japan. She writes for Japanese publications as well as American ones. She says:
    As usual, this random word took a turn I didn't expect. I always start out thinking I have nothing to say, and then it bursts forth. It is amazing, although I can't say that of the writing! I do love these exercises, though.

These three writers are not beginners but they still value the benefit of doing the Random Word exercise. How about joining them by doing a Random Word exercise of your own today. You might be happily surprised at what results you get. One note, however--sometimes the exercise produces nothing but gibberish. That's quite alright. Even then, the ten minutes spent writing gets the creative juices flowing and you're ready to move on to the next project of the day. 

Try the exercise with one of the words below: 

1.  time
2.  rainbow
3.  stop
4.  senior
5.  tense