Friday, January 20, 2017

Point of View--Bits and Pieces

Image result for free clipart or image of using first, second or third person in writing

I've been reading a novel called The Royal Nanny which was published in 2016. The story is fiction, based on real people and situations we know in history books. We are given an inside view of life with British royalty in the late 19th and early 20th century through the eyes of the 'royal nanny' who cared for 6 royal children. The book is written in first person so we see the story through the eyes of Charlotte Bill. I have enjoyed the book and, last night, it occurred to me that I particularly like books, or stories, written in first person--using those 'I' and 'we' words many a time.

When we write a story, or a full novel, one of the big decisions we must make is what viewpoint the story will be told from--or perhaps it is better to say seen from.  There are pluses and minuses to any of the three viewpoints.

First Person:  As stated, this is a form that appeals to me when reading and also when writing fiction, even though I don't use it that often. It allows the reader to see and live the story through the eyes of one person. The reader sometimes feels the emotions of the narrator, if the writer is skillful. Using first person tells the reader right away that This is my story and I'm inviting you to live it with me. One of the limits of this type of narration is that the person telling the story must be in every scene. I can't tell you what happened ten miles away if I'm not there. I have read a few (very few) where there are two people, writing in first person, who tell us the story, skipping back and forth. It takes a good writer to make this work.

Second Person:  Here, we see the word 'you' used multiple times. I find it irritating to read a story from this viewpoint. The writer attempts to put you, the reader, right into the action. This is probably the least used method to narrate a story. Books get published that utilize second person narration so someone must like them. I have never tried it but I would think it difficult to write this way.

Third Person:  Here, a narrator tells us the story. The omniscient narrator is one who knows all people and all parts of the story. This narrator knows what every person is thinking. It's like the storyteller of old with a crowd gathered round while he tells the story from beginning to end. The third person limited allows the narrator to know the thoughts and feelings of only one character but is still telling us the story. The narrator allows us to see what happens to this particular character. Read this good article for a more in-depth explanation.

Beginning writers sometimes mix the point of view in one story, or book. Don't do it. Stay with one of these three methods.

Which of these three viewpoints do you like best when you write? How about when you read? Can you pinpoint why?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Adjectives--A Writing Exercise

It's a gloomy day here in Kansas, drizzly and light fog. I like to spend time writing on days like this. It's harder to keep glued to the chair when the sun is shining and beckoning me to come out and play outdoors.

Here's a writing exercise for you to try today. We all know that an adjective is a word that describes a noun. Fine. Many writers tend to overuse the handy adjective by using three, or even (gasp) four of them in front of one little noun. It tends to overpower the noun and can even lose it somewhere. Keep it to one or two at the most.

Adjectives enhance the sentence. They tell us a bit more about that person, place or thing--the noun. We want our readers to know more than the word building so we use adjectives to help paint the image for the reader. What do you want your readers to see? Here are a few examples:

A.  The decrepit building stood out among the rest of the renovated area.
B.  The sun-lit building shimmered late in the afternoon.
C.  The faded, dingy building was the last to be razed.
D.  The new office building attracted visitors by the thousands.

Each of these sentences tell you more about the building. Each sentence brings a building of a different kind to mind. Read each sentence without the adjective(s). It's still a perfectly good sentence but the image in your mind is not as clear.

Exercise:  Find two adjectives to go with each noun listed below. Then, create a full sentence. Read it with and without the adjectives. Which do you like best?

  • Example:  boat--battered  tug   The battered tug boat moved slowly toward the harbor for the final time.
  • babies
  • bear
  • house
  • grandfather
  • windmill
  • tank
  • envelope
  • tree
  • roses

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

When Is A Piece of Writing Finished?

Image result for free image or clipart of person putting a lid on
The Writing Pot

Do you know when to put the lid on your writing? It's a difficult task for many people. Maybe just one more edit. This piece could probably be better if I keep working on it. It's not perfect yet.

No one taps us on the shoulder as we finish edit number three and tells us we're done, that we should now find a market and submit. Oh, if only it could happen that way!
We know, without a doubt, that editing and revising is going to help us create a better piece of writing. That process can take more time than we'd like because we need to step away after each editing process for a few days. Then go back and see if you are satisfied that you're ready to call it ready to go.

Some writers have a real problem with doing that. We strive for good, better and best as we revise and edit. How do we know when we've hit that 'best' point? We probably don't but we do have to come to a decision on when to stop editing and start submitting. If you wait awhile after the last edit job, then read what you've written and feel some measure of satisfaction, call it ready. It's a rare writer who can label something they've written as perfect!

I have often made that decision to end the editing process and submit the writing, only to come up with a brilliant (maybe) way to end my essay after it is sent. I might come up with a different
ending than hat I sent the editor. Or I might suddenly remember a situation that would have made a great illustration of the point I was trying to make. Well, too bad! The submission has gone and I cannot change what I sent and resend at that moment.

One possibility is, that if the editor accepts your story or essay as you sent it, you can still ask if they would consider a change you have in mind. Some will be agreeable and others will say they want it as is. All you can do is ask. And if the worst happens, and your piece is rejected, then you have a chance to add or change before submitting again.

It is often difficult for the writer to look at what they've written with completely objective eyes. So much of what we write is very personal to us. That is why I love having my online writing group look at my writing. They'll let me know if it is finished or needs more work.

Put a lid on the Writing Pot when you feel reasonably satisfied. I rarely feel 100% satisfied with what I've written but there are times when I feel a lot better than others. When I am bothered by a few things, I know it's not the time to submit yet. But, I won't edit and edit and edit right away. I find it's best to put in a file and forget about it for a few weeks, or even longer. Look at it with fresh eyes later and you'll be surprised at how much easier it is to come to satisfaction.

The freelance writer trying to make a living doesn't always have the gift of time like some of the rest of us do. They often write on deadlines but they also learn to edit a couple of times and call it done.

Work on learning when to call your writing finished. Overdoing doesn't always benefit us in the end.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Anyone Can Write Family Stories

Writing Your Own Legacy| This process is known as memoir writing or legacy writing. You are putting down in as close to the primary source (yourself or the living relative) as possible those small or large events that helped shape your existence.   Here are Seven jump start ideas for you to write about. Again you don’t have to do a full life story, just a few of these major events would be a good start. #familystories #family #familytree #genealogy #memoir #legacy:

This quote by author, Sue Monk Kidd, gives us one very important reason for writing our family history, our family stories. I would add--not only told but written.

I received an email message yesterday from a person I have not met nor even heard of. While doing some internet browsing looking for bits and pieces of her family members, she ran across a personal essay I'd written about a man who happened to be her father's cousin. She was able to find me through a comments link and profile that went with the story.

She told me that she is writing the family history and family stories to create a book for her grandchildren, who are quite young now. She wanted to do more than just 'tell' them stories about the family. If she wrote things, they would have the information forever. She told me that she had printed my story and is including it in the book as it details the life of her father's cousin quite well.

It pleased me that one of my stories will be a part of the book she is assembling for her grandchildren. It also made me aware of how much easier it is in today's technological world for people to do the research and to find links to others who might be of help in uncovering information about relatives. Sure, it takes some time and effort but it's far easier than having to travel the globe searching for people who might help with information about your family.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I urge people to write their family stories and assemble them in a book for children, grandchildren and future generations. Doing this can be an interesting project and even lots of fun. Believe me, other family members will appreciate your effort for years to come. And yes, it does take some effort but, for something this important, it is well worth doing.

A few things to include in your Family Stories book:
  • Dates, even if they are only estimates
  • Marriages, Births and Deaths
  • Photos (or copies of photos) with dates, if possible
  • Full names--not just Aunt Lois but Aunt Lois (Morgan) Larson--mother's sister
  • Interviews with family members--definitely interview those still living; their memories will add to your own
  • Places--use both town and state or country
  • Jobs or businesses family member had
  • Awards or recognition any family members had
  • What life was like when you grew up--schools, churches, towns, sports etc
  • Any pertinent maps
  • Individual stories that have something to do with your family--write these, not just as a report, but with love and humor or sympathy woven through the story
  • Add whether you were there when the story happened or it was told to you
You're probably thinking that this book could get pretty big. You're right! You might consider assembling one book about your immediate family and another including the extended family with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, great-grandparents etc.

We don't want to let our family stories die so it's up to us to see that they are saved for and savored by our family members. Remember this--you do not have to be a professional writer to tackle this project.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Keywords For Writing Projects

It's the middle of January and, hopefully, you've cleaned up your desk and your files, assessed your production of last year and even set a few goals for this year. So what's left?

It's simply this--begin a new writing project. Surely there's been something flitting back and forth in the back of your mind that you've been wanting to pursue. Or you've seen a call for submissions and an idea popped up but you haven't had, or taken, time to start working on it.

New years cry for beginnings, or so it seems to me. The year is brand new, so why not go with the flow and start a new writing project? You might even pull an unfinished piece from your files and put in some time and effort to finish it. The story is not going to get done unless you begin to work on it once again.

Note the word simply in the poster. I think that too often we try to make things overly involved or complicated. Remember that old KISS advice--Keep It Simple Stupid? No, I'm not calling any of you stupid. I know better than that but the keep it simple part is good advice.

It's a new year and today is the start of a new week. Mondays are great days to begin a new story or poem or essay. My goal for today is to write the first draft of an essay that has been swirling in my head for a couple of weeks now. I want to get it done so today's the day to put fingers to the keyboard and see what the first draft looks like.

Today's keywords--begin and done are so simple that they might get overlooked when we're setting goals and getting ready to write a new piece. Don't take these two short words for granted. They hold good advice in the few letters each one is made of. How about it? What will you begin today? What will you get done? It's up to you.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Goals For Writers

I've put off talking about setting your writing goals for 2017 but today's the day to address that important topic. I looked for, and found, an unbelievable number of quotes about setting goals. That should be an indication of the importance of goal setting. I selected a few to illustrate a few things I believe about goals.

If we make a list of goals we want to achieve, we're more likely to produce than if we thumb our nose at making that list. One might think that if I have no goals this year, I will have no failures. Not a very good attitude, even if it appears a safe bet. Believing you can achieve your goals is motivation in itself.

Keep in mind that the goals we set for ourselves are often not  reached for quite some time. Anyone who has been a writer for more than a year knows that we achieve step by step, not by leaps and bounds. As the poster says, ...STRIVING can be more important than ARRIVING.

Image result for pinterest quotes setting goals

I believe in writing down our goals but I hadn't ever given much thought to the second part of this quote. It makes sense, though, that if you tell a friend, you're more likely to work harder at achieving your goal(s). Someone else is aware of what you hope to do this year and you don't want to disappoint them, do you? Consider sharing your goals with another writer. Ask that he/she do the same with you. It might be a personal writer friend or your writing group. If the statistic above is anywhere close to correct, it would behoove us all to do this.

Image result for pinterest quotes setting goals

If we have no goals, we might have a problem knowing where to begin. We might flounder. We might become confused as to where in the world to start.  If we have a list of goals, we know where to take that first step, especially if we put them in order of importance to us.

When setting and working on your goals, keep these things in mind:
  • Put them in writing; don't just have a few thoughts in your head.
  • Keep that list somewhere visible to you every day.
  • Make them realistic; ones that you can achieve.
  • Don't make your list too long; it can be overwhelming.
  • Set smaller goals rather than huge ones.
  • Put a check mark (and maybe a smiley face) next to the ones you achieve.
  • Don't beat yourself up over ones you don't achieve this year; no one ever said you will get every single one accomplished.
  • Try telling someone else what they are; see if this helps you.

Some of you may have other suggestions to add. Please use the Comments section to share with the rest of us.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Choosing A Book To Read

If you're a reader, and all writers should be, you can easily get lost in a book like the little girl in the poster. We're whisked away to another time, another land, another situation every time we open a book and begin to read.

We have an ice storm predicted for our area, possibly over a four day period. Most people immediately think they should get to the grocery store before the shelves are wiped clean after shoppers get enough of the necessities for the duration of a storm. But me--I headed to the library yesterday afternoon to make sure I had enough reading material if this storm materializes and is as bad as they are telling us. Even if the power goes out, I can still read during the daytime. And, by the way, I did go to the grocery store when I finished at the library.

At the library, I headed to the New Book section first to see what appealed to me. It occurred to me that I select books to look at based on three things--title, author and genre. I do the same when visiting a bookstore.

There are titles that intrigue me enough to make me pull the book from the shelf and check out the frontispiece to see what the story is about and to read the short review quotes which often appear on the back cover. There are also titles that I skip by. Why? Mostly because there is nothing in them to pique my interest. This is why choosing a title for the book you've written is so very important. Titles are also important for short stories, essays, articles, poetry--just about anything you write. When you spend lots of time on the full piece of writing, don't grab a title out of the air and go with it. Take your time finding the best one.  I've written an article on titles that might be worth reading.

I often choose a book because of an author whose work I have read and liked earlier. Or that author might be one that has been reviewed in the newspaper or Book Page and I've wanted to read something by him/her. I don't just grab the book and go. I look at it in the same way as stated in the paragraph above.

Genre is important to me, and to most readers. I do not read Sci-Fi or Horror or Fantasy or Erotica. When the library sticker on the bottom of the book's spine tells me it is one of these, I move right on the next book. No reason to pull it off the shelf and look into it any further. Most readers have certain kinds of books that they will never read, as well as ones that they are drawn to immediately.

I brought four books home with me and I intend to get lost in at least one, maybe more, during our stormy week-end.