Friday, June 22, 2018

As Writers, We Sometimes Fail

Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit.

Today's quote is one that you might want to read several times. I did and found that the message came through a little stronger each time. 

As writers, we have fallen into the I failed! category more than once. It' likely that we have felt like failures more than we'd care to admit. Every time a submission flies back with a rejection, the old I failed! button lights up. The big problem comes when we allow those small failures to grow into bigger ones. The tragedy is if a writer ends up quitting.

We sometimes forget that we are in control of our attitudes. If it makes you feel better to beat yourself up over a failed writing project, that's your choice. But, does it truly soothe your hurt feelings to dig the hole deeper? I doubt it. Groom the attitude that it didn't work in one place but it might elsewhere; then move on. 

What if you have been working weeks, months, even years on a big writing project when you finally realize that it is not going to turn out as you'd hoped? I failed! Is that what you will yell as you run your hands through your hair and stamp your feet? What if you turned back to that project and tried to learn why it didn't work? Figure out the why and you might have a new how for either a new project or to rework the old one. 

If you write a personal essay that turns out to be nothing more than an anecdote and appears to be a real dud when you read and reread it, don't hit the delete button or rip up the paper. There are ways to salvage pieces like this. Personal essays are about things that have happened to us or others but they should also teach us something or enforce a universal truth. Bring that part out within your essay and readers will have an 'aha!' moment ranging in size from very small to gigantic. If you forgot that one essential ingredient for a personal essay, you didn't fail. You just didn't finish! Go back and add to what you've already written. 

No one ever told you that the writing journey is simple and satisfying with no bumps in the path. They didn't say that because it would be a big, fat lie. Every successful writer has dealt with failures on the rocky road from newbie writer to one that is published. The ones who go on to publishing success are those who don't quit and who learn from their failures. 

I'm going to repeat that last sentence because it is important. The ones who go on to publishing success are those who don't quit and who learn from their failures. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Do You Ever Write For Free? Or Pay Only?

Save, Piggy Bank, Teamwork, Together, Money, Finance

One of the women in my online writing group won Honorable Mention in a writing contest recently. The contest/website owners would like to publish her piece but are offering no pay for it. They are asking for first serial rights for 90 days. After that, she is free to market it elsewhere. She was in a quandary as to what to do. 

Writing for free or writing only for pay is an old debate in our writing world. Some are adamant about never giving away anything they have written. Others will do so without hesitation. Still others waver in-between.

Let's look at both sides and that middle ground.

The 'I do not give my work away'  group:

  • Many of the writers in this group are often professionals attempting to make a living by selling what they write.
  • They believe that hard work deserves to be paid.
  • Some say that, if you give your work away, you're degrading yourself.
  • Many here feel you lose your professionalism if you write for free.
  • Some will write for free under special circumstances.
  • Some will never, ever write for no pay.
The 'I will write for free' group:
  • Beginning writers often write for free to be able to say they are published.
  • They are looking for clips and freebies are good ways to get them.
  • Some writers give their work to groups who donate profits to charities.
  • Writers who are not attempting to earn a living with their writing feel freer to give their work to websites and journals who cannot afford to pay.
  • Some feel that, even though there is no remuneration, it's a clip and exposure.
  • Hobbyist writers are more likely to write for free; it's the writing, not the pay, that they like.
  • Many writers do a guest blog post for free; sometimes it's to help a blogger friend.
  • These writers much prefer writing for pay but are willing to do it for no pay on occasion.
The 'I write for pay and for free' group:
  • These writers see the benefit of both sides.
  • They are not rigid in their thinking on the question.
  • They probably prefer getting paid but are willing to donate some of their writing.
  • They are probably not trying to make a living from what they write.
  • They are people who like to help charitable groups by writing for free for them.
  • They might write for free but are selective about who they choose.
  • They don't write exclusively for free; much prefer paid venues.
I don't think that there is any doubt that we all like to be paid for the work we put into our writing. I get nothing monetary by writing this blog 5 days a week. I could if I agreed to have advertising on the blog. I never considered it because I think it is annoying to readers. What I hoped for with the blog was to get exposure for myself as a writer, to let others know about what I have published and to provide some tips and encouragement to other writers. In the nine years I have been writing here, I have made many new writer friends, continued to learn about writing in general and have felt satisfied that I have been of some benefit to other writers.

How about you? Which side of the Write for free--sometimes or never? question? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

You Are In Charge of Conversation

Bulle Gauche clip art

What's this little guy going to say? That's up to you, the writer. You are going to decide on the words he'll utter within this bubble. We might see the bubble, or cloud, in a comic strip but in a short story or novel, the dialogue is written to stand alone.

Some writers agonize over writing dialogue while others write it effortlessly. Dialogue is meant to do several things:

1.  Good dialogue will move your story along.

2.  It will aid in showing rather than narrative telling.

3.  It's a way to get information to the reader.

4.  It's part of character development.

5.  It shows relationships between characters

6.  It breaks up long spates of pure narrattion

A few things to keep in mind when writing dialogue:

Contractions:  People seldom speak in everyday conversation without using contractions. If that's the way conversation goes in real life, shouldn't your characters in a novel or short story speak in the same way? When I read a novel that has dialogue written in a formal way, in other words, no contractions, I can almost see the character standing straight as a toy soldier, arms at his sides and no expression on his face. The character begins to feel wooden, stilted, unemotional to me. One way to counteract that is to use contractions. Next time you're in a coffee shop or a waiting room where you're privy to other people's conversations, listen and learn. Do you hear formal speech in these everyday chats?

Actions within dialogue: Another way to keep from having toy soldier characters is to sprinkle actions into your dialogue. Let the character say something, follow with an action, or precede what is said with an action. It allows the reader to visualize the scene along with the conversation. It also breaks up lengthy amounts of dialogue which can bog down the person reading it.

    "Look at this, Tom. Do you know what I'm going to do with it?" Fred raised the paint-spattered hammer and waved it back and forth like a flag.

     Fred picked up the paint-spattered hammer. "Do you see this, Tom? Do you know what I'm going to do with it?"

Tags:  Lose the adverbs when writing tags in dialogue. We don't need to be told that Sally said something grumpily or nastily or hurriedly. he said or she said are quite sufficient. Use an action before or after if you want to convey an emotion in the speaker. She said, "Look at what we're doing, John." She slammed her book onto the kitchen table. Using more than he said, she said tags distracts from what is actually being said. Remember that you do not need to have a tag after every sentence in dialogue. If it's a back and forth conversation, use the tags sparingly, the reader can generally figure out who is saying what. Give them that guidance in the opening lines, then carry on without them. Maybe sprinkle the tags in if it's a particularly long section of dialogue.

Complete sentences: It's not necessary to always use complete sentences in dialogue. Don't worry, your old English teacher will not appear out of nowhere and smack your hand. Once again, in normal conversation, we often speak with phrases rather than complete sentences. Of course, you will have complete sentences for a great deal of your dialogue but toss in those phrases now and then. It will result in a more natural conversation.

There's more to writing good dialogue than these few things that I've touched on today. Google the topic or find a book about writing dialogue. Read it, digest and apply to your own writing. Have fun making your characters speak to one another. I started doing it long ago when my friends and I played with paper dolls and made up stories about them along with lengthy conversations between the paper doll each of us held. Little did I know I was a writer in training!

(This is a post from past but still pertinent today for fiction writers and creative nonfiction writers)


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My Newest Anthology Stories and a Tip For Writers

I received a new anthology in yesterday's mail.  Yvonne Lehman compiled and edited the book, which is another one that donates all royalties to The Samaritan's Purse. This International disaster and relief organization helps worldwide. Right now, they are aiding the victims of the volcano eruption in Guatemala. 

Samaritan's Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization. They have a page in the book thanking the publisher for the continued donation of royalties from this book and nine previous anthologies. Yvonne Lehman is the woman responsible for this book and several previous ones. 

I submitted two stories for this fun little book and both of them were accepted. Turkey in the Raw is a story about a turkey disaster I had one Thanksgiving when I was trying to be a good hostess to my husband's family. Love On A Plate is a memoir piece about Muffin Days when my grandmother came to visit. It includes the recipe for these much-loved goodies I still make today. 

You can purchase the book at Amazon for $12.99.  If you enjoy cooking, you'll want to read the good, bad and humorous stories in this book. Might be a fun addition to a bridal shower gift or other gift-giving occasions. 

There is no pay for the authors in the anthologies that Ms. Lehman compiles and edits. For her, it's a labor of love and a way to help a worthy organization. Each author receives one copy of the book. 

Anthologies became popular years ago and the trend has continued with more and more of them for readers but also for writers to submit to. Check your favorite search engine for calls for submissions. I found one source that listed a great many looking for both fiction and nonfiction in several categories. Check this one out. Then keep looking on your own. Note that there is more than one page and you can click to go to the next one. 

Cup of Comfort was one of the first along with Chicken Soup for the Soul. The first one lasted only a few years but the second is going strong and still has calls out for stories for several upcoming books. Do check their submissions page regularly.  Remember that the more popular the anthology is, the more competitive for writers. Try for some of the lesser known ones first to give you better odds. Start small and work your way up. Or go for the big one and hope for the best. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Now is the Time To Write Stories About Dads

Image result for free clipart or image of writing family stories

I noticed a lot of tributes and family stories told on facebook this past weekend as we in the USA honored our fathers. Both Mother's Day and Father's Day serve as great inspiration for telling or writing a family story. 

Author, Sue Monk Kidd, is a little dramatic in this quote but it hits home for lots of us, nevertheless. 
She says stories have to be 'told' but I will go one step farther and say they must also be 'written.' If only verbal, the stories will eventually become lost. You don't want that to happen.

My mother told the story of her elopement during the Depression years. It's a wonderful story involving a Justice of the Peace who stopped the ceremony to take a phone call and plan a fishing trip, a red linen dress the bride wore, my dad having only enough coins in his pocket to buy one plate of spaghetti when they went to dinner after the ceremony, the bride and groom each going to their separate residences on their wedding night, and my grandmother confronting Mom about being married a full six weeks later. Not only was it a good story to tell but one I loved writing

I was relating the story to a friend one day when it hit me that I needed to be sure to write it so that my children and grandchildren and on down the line will know what happened, what the times were like then and more. It was the next day that I made some time and wrote the story. I have it in my Family Stories section of the book of hard copies of everything I've written. I might consider submitting it to the editor of a magazine like Reminisce or Good Old Days.

This past weekend honoring our fathers and grandfathers probably brought back some memories for you. Bringing the memory to the forefront of your mind is fine but not enough. While it is still fresh, write the first draft of that great tale about a place you and your dad went for special times together or the time you fooled your dad and didn't get in trouble because all he could do was laugh. How about the first time any of you women danced with your dad as a young girl? I sold the story to Good Old Days about doing exactly that several years ago and also have it posted at Our Echo.

You can benefit in two ways if you take the time to write your family stories. They will be preserved for your family and you might even be able to sell some of them to magazines. Memoir stories and memories never seem to go out of style. The trend remains strong. Have you jumped on the bandwagon yet? Maybe now is the time to do so. Write a story about your dad--not a tribute--but a story that has a beginning, a middle and an end. Be sure it's true but write it using fiction techniques to bring it to life. If you've never tried it, this could be your first piece of creative nonfiction.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Seven Ways To Sell Yourself To Readers

Number, 123, Pay, Digit, Birthday, 7
This is an article I wrote for a writing ezine some time ago. I ran across it in my files recently and felt the information is still pertinent so am sharing today. 

Writers know that the first person in line that we need to impress is an editor. Without him/her, our work never sees the light of day. But selling what you've written is only one step in becoming a successful writer. You also need to see yourself to readers. They're the ones who will come back for a second helping if they like what they see the first time.

It’s not easy to constantly promote yourself, especially if you don’t have a balloon-like ego. Quiet, introverted writers find it difficult to sing their own praises but it’s almost a necessity if you want to make it in the writing world. Even social extroverts aren’t always aware of what they can do to make readers seek them out nor are they completely comfortable in doing so.

Maybe you’re a writer who prefers solitary confinement, spending your time doing what you do best—writing. There comes a time when you need to raise your head and make a concerted effort to promote yourself. You’ll see results, although they may not be immediate. So, what can you do to sell yourself as a writer?

  1. Share Your Published Work
When you have an article or story published, don’t hesitate to send it to all your friends and family. They, in turn, will probably share it with others and your work and your name spread to untold places around the globe. I had a hard time doing this in the early days of my writing life. I feared that people who meant something to me would look at me as a braggart but I’ve learned that it is a benefit to me and truly liked by many of those recipients. I try to add an out for them by saying they should hit the delete button if they have no interest. That makes it guilt-free for any who aren’t interested.

  1. Submit to Ezines As Well As Print Publications
There are benefits when you submit your work to ezines, better described as online magazines. They can reach many thousands of people while a print magazine may only have a circulation of 5 or 6,000. There’s value in keeping your name in the cyberspace of the writing world regularly, as readers begin to recognize your name.  Print magazines are normally published in one country but ezines reach across the seven seas to multiple countries.

  1. Capitalize On the Electronic World
What better way to plug your work than on Facebook and Twitter? I have a Facebook account which I use for social networking but also to let others know when I’ve had something published or when I have a blog posting that might be of interest to writers and also non-writers. I post the same information on my state authors’ organization Facebook page and other Facebook pages that are for writers. Consider a personal website. You may need to hire someone to help you design and set it up, but it’s probably money well spent. Like all things, you can start with something basic or go for the Cadillac right away.  Leave comments on other websites and blogs with your website/blog address. Curious readers click on links.

  1. Join Local, State and National Writers’ Groups
Become active in writers’ groups, the face to face kind. I’ve entered my state authors club contest ever since becoming a member years ago and I’ve placed many times. More than once, when I’ve introduced myself at a state convention, someone will say, “Oh, I’ve seen your name before.” It works in small groups or large. Make your work visible in every way you can and your name becomes recognizable. If the group has a newsletter with writer news, make sure you send in your publishing successes. Let your name appear as often as possible.

  1. Accept Speaking Engagements
If you have an opportunity to speak to a small group at your church or a civic organization, accept it. It can be nerve-wracking at first but it gets easier each time and more people in your community will label you a writer whenever they see you. One
appearance may lead to more invitations to share your work. And again, your name becomes familiar. People in your community and surrounding area will soon know that you write great science fiction stories or that your travel articles contain insight and humor. They’ll remember you when seeking a program for some other organization. It’s not necessary to wait until asked either. There’s nothing wrong in letting groups know you would be willing to speak. Don’t do it meekly either. Tell them you would love to speak at one of the meetings, that you have a couple terrific programs that would be informative and entertaining. Sell yourself to get your foot in that first door.

  1. Be A Blogger
Another way to sell yourself is to become a blogger. Starting a blog connected to your writing is not enough. You need to let people know about your blog. Leave comments at other blogs and sign with your blog address. Use your blog address as a set signature on all your e-mails. Advertise your blog on Facebook and Twitter. Add as many labels at the bottom of your blog as possible. The more keywords you have, the better your chances of a search engine zeroing in on your blog. Take time to study all the gadgets and stat tracking that your blog host offers. The more extras you use, the more visible you’ll become.

  1. Take Advantage of Publisher’s Press Releases
Publishers often send press releases to TV and radio stations in your area, also newspapers. I’ve appeared on an afternoon TV show several times because of press releases sent by the Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers.  I’ll admit the initial appearance gave me butterflies in my stomach all day long but the host of the show put me at ease once we were on the air as he interviewed me and discussed the process of getting a story into an anthology. I’ve read several of my stories from other Chicken Soup books on this same show, and now I enjoy doing so. No more butterflies. I’m helping the publishers but I’m also selling myself. If you receive an invitation to do something similar, remember that it’s up to you to accept and it’s a terrific way to become known to the reading public. Don’t pass up a golden opportunity like this.

At this point, you may be thinking that selling yourself amounts to bragging. You might remember your mother teaching you to be humble, to not blow your own horn. That’s still true in some instances, but when your writing career is the subject, it’s more than okay. Go right ahead and inform the world about you and your writing. No one can do it better than you. Believe in yourself and go for it!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Beginnings Of A Writer

The urge just keeps gnawing at you until you sit down and just write. A thought, a poem, a song, maybe a whole book if the urge is strong enough. Writing takes away the longing but only for awhile, then we must write again.
From laughloveliveitall.wordpress

Yes, 'real writers' have a constant itch to be writing something. Even when they experience writer's block, that itch is there. The problem then is that they can't seem to be able to scratch it!

Do you remember when you first wanted to write or when you took step one to becoming a writer?
For some of you, those days were a very long time ago but others may be in initial days of their writing journey here and now.

Do we get hit like lightning with a thought that we should try writing? Does the desire to write come on gradually? Do we act on our first thoughts about writing? Or do we wait an interminably long time before taking step one? I imagine there would be yes answers to each of those questions if we polled a group of writers. 

I wanted to become a writer for many years before I actually tried. When I had to deal with a double tragedy in my early married life, one of my first thoughts was that I needed to write about the experience to help others. That's as far as it went--a thought. It took 30 more years of living for me to be able to write about that time in my life. Maybe that's alright. Who knows for sure? Perhaps I wasn't ready to share until all those years had passed. 

I do know that I could have (should have) started my writing journey much sooner than I did. Even though the desire to write burned within, I made excuses for not acting on my feelings. I couldn't be a writer while raising children or doing lots of volunteer work in our community. There was not enough time, or so I told myself. That was a pretty poor reason since there are many writers who hold down full-time jobs and run a household but still find time to put words on paper. Obviously, their passion is greater than mine was. 

I also know now that the excuses we make for not having time to write or a life where writing doesn't fit are exactly that--excuses! It's a big part of that self-doubt problem many of us have, especially in the early days of being a writer. Fear is a monster that seems to grow if we cower in the corner instead of facing it head-on. The longer we wait, the bigger he becomes.

Do I wish I'd started to write earlier than I did? Absolutely! My writing path has never been one that leads to supporting myself with writing. I am a hobbyist writer who has also had the great joy of being published many times. Besides that, the old teacher in me wanted to start a blog about writing to help other writers with tips and encouragement. It's why this blog was birthed and why I continue with it. 

How about you?
  •  When did you begin writing?
  •  How long did you wait from the time you wanted to write until you actually did it? 
  • What kept you from starting sooner? 
  • If you had it to do over again, would you follow the same path or a different one?
  • What advice would you give someone who expresses the desire to write?
  • Do you depend on writing income?
  • Are you a hobbyist writer or a professional?
I do know one thing. I have no regrets in putting my foot on the path to the writing world, even if it was later than I wanted it to happen. The passion-for-writing embers grew into full flame once I put words together to create a piece of writing. I can now say I am a real writer who, like today's poster says, has to write.