Saturday, September 22, 2018

Writer Granny's World On Short Vacation

We're taking a vacation the week of September 24-28. Next post will be on October 1. 

Keep on writing!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Writers Make Lots of Decisions

Today's quote is true in about every part or phase of our life. It works the same in our writing life. 

As writers, we make many small decisions during the actual writing. We must decide what a character will look like or act like. The little things we choose to add to that character could make a good story even better. Small but important details. Will it change your life? Most likely not but it will bring you the status of being a 'better writer.'

We have to make up our mind whether the outcome of the story will be sad or glad. Isn't it great that we, as writers, have the power to make the story end any way we want it to? Susie Q next door isn't going to make that little decision. Monty, the mailman, isn't going to choose the ending. You are!

A piece of dialogue might give you problems. Changing it just the tiniest bit can make all the difference. A flat line becomes strong with a small change. Don't be afraid to make the change. 

What if you receive a critique on a story you've written and there are multiple spots that the critiquer has marked that could use changing in some way. Maybe you've used far too many passive, weak verbs. Making the small decision to change all of them could let you end up with a far stronger story. Yes, it's a small thing--to follow what the critiquer suggested but you could end up reaping big benefits.

How about the stories you wanted to submit to a paying publication but were afraid they weren't good enough? Making that little decision to do so could result in selling your story. Maybe not ever time but now and then. If you are too hesitant to submit, nothing will get published. We, as writers, must make that effort or everything we write will gather dust in files. 

There are many writers, many people actually, who have trouble making decisions. They cringe at the thought, think of every little thing that might go wrong and back down completely. Not making a decision is worse than making a bad decision. If you don't try, you'll never know what might have happened. Start with the little decisions and move on up the ladder to the bigger ones. Maybe you'll see results and maybe not but that's alright. Life isn't perfect.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Remember Those New Year's Goals?

This guy is a goalie and his goal is to keep that ball away so no points are scored by the opposing team. We writers have goals, too. We talk about our goals. We write lists of our goals, especially when we are celebrating the New Year. We occasionally think about our goals.

The question is Do we actively pursue our goals? And What percentage of our goals do we achieve each year?

Did you make a list around the first of January 2018? My post for December 31st of 2010 mentioned making goals instead of resolutions. Read it here.

We all have the best intentions in working toward our goals on a consistent basis. Then Life steps in and we push the thoughts of those goals aside to address things that appear to be more important at the time. I'm not pointing fingers because we all do this, myself included.

Every once in a while, one of the goals I made pops up in my mind and I have to ask myself what have I done to meet that goal. I don't always like the answer. Then, it's pretty easy to push it back into oblivion again.

I copied two paragraphs in the 2010 post mentioned above because I think it is still good advice today. Good for you and for me. This is what I wrote:

You don't need to make a list of 25 goals for this year. Try one or two or even three, but keep the number achievable. Anyone who creates a lengthy list of goals is going to feel overwhelmed before they even begin. Whether the goals are about your personal world or your writing world, you won't want to make the goals so difficult to reach that you feel defeated before you get started. There are many steps in every stairway. Take your goals as you do the steps--one at a time.

When the first of each new month arrives, make a quick assessment of those goals. What did you do the previous month toward each one? Then ask yourself what you would like to do, or need to do, in the new month. It's better to do this monthly than wait until next December 31st and ask yourself if your goal(s) was achieved.

The suggestion that I liked best is to try looking at your list of goals, whether it is an actual list or tucked away in your mind, on a monthly basis instead of once a year.  

Creating goals is great. Achieving them is even better. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Three Autumn Exercises For Writers

Autumn  Glory

Saturday is the first day of fall, or autumn, in the northern hemisphere. Summer temps may still be with us but it won't be long until all the parts of fall that so many adore will be evident. A great number of people would name fall as their favorite season. Or they might say 'autumn' instead. 

I am posting three exercises today. Choose any one or try all of them. They're not difficult and won't take a lot of time but they will get you in the mood for what is nearly here and might inspire a story or poem with a fall theme.

Exercise #1
For writers, this upcoming season offers a lot in sensory details. For an exercise, write a phrase or two to answer each of the following questions using something that is reminiscent of the fall season. 

  1. What sights can you see?
  2. What smells remind you of fall?
  3. What do you hear during this third season of the year?
  4. Are your taste buds ready for fall foods? Which ones?
  5. What can you touch in fall that you cannot during summer?
Exercise #2
I have read several quotes from famous people about the fall season. I'll post a few below. 

"And all at once, summer collapsed into fall."  Oscar Wilde

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."  F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Autumn, the year's loveliest smile." William Cullen Bryant

Now, get creative and come up with a quote of your own about fall. 

Exercise #3
Make a list of words that remind you of the season, ones you could incorporate into your writing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Egg On The Floor and More

My morning did not start out too well. My husband, Ken, was getting ready to play golf and had eaten early. I decided I'd like a fried egg and toast for my breakfast. I used a small fry pan for the one egg and it turned out perfectly, no broken yolk Instead of using a pancake turner to lift the egg onto a plate, I decided to just flip it out of the pan.

The plate was near the edge of the counter so it was a short move from stovetop to the plate. I turned the pan upside down and the egg slid neatly out of the pan but missed the plate. Actually, it hit the edge of the plate, then the counter and plopped onto the floor right in front of my feet. Egg yolk had dripped down the cabinet as the egg made its way to the floor.

There I stood, pan in hand and muttering a few choice words which I shall not repeat here. Bless Ken, for he came to the rescue. After my hip replacement earlier this summer, cleaning up messes on the floor is not in my bag of tricks. I wiped the egg yolk off the cabinet door while Ken scooped up the egg and washed the floor. It will be a long time before I forget this small disaster.

In the overall scheme of things, what happened really is a small problem but at the time, it seemed gargantuan. Even now, a few hours later, it still looms large.

It's the same when we have a disaster in our writing life. What if you lost several chapters of a book you're writing? Sometimes, computers tend to devour things we thought were saved. Or, what if a submission you made was rejected when you were absolutely certain it would be accepted? How about reaching the halfway mark of a big writing project and you are stuck? Stuck like your feet were mired in mud with no way to raise either of them and make your way to a dry area. (That happened to a friend just recently.)

There are eventual solutions to all those problems but my point today is that, as the poster above tells us, nothing in a writer's life is wasted. My fried egg event could be used in a short story someday. Losing all those chapters to a hungry computer can certainly be part of a character's life in your novel.

If you're ever in an auto accident, you remember it well and can eventually use what happened in a story. What about the poor people in the Carolinas who have been inundated with flood waters from Hurricane Florence? A writer could put that experience to good use.

When a minor or major disaster occurs, make a few notes afterward and pluck one of those happenings to slip into your stories. Yep, nothing in a writer's life is wasted. Except maybe my egg that landed on the floor!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Creating A Family Recipe Book

When it comes to Family Stories, there is one category that is of great importance but often gets overlooked. Family recipes figure big in our memories of going to Grandma's or Great Aunt Hazel's for dinner and having one of their specialties. 

What better way to preserve some of your family's history than to create a cookbook of the family recipes? There are presses that give you a lot of guidance and do the printing for you. One of them is Morris Press Cookbooks. There are others that you can find via a search engine. 

It's not necessary to use a publisher/press to create a Family Recipes Cookbook. You can do it on your own and have it printed and put into a booklet at a place like Staples or wherever there is a copy center. I have found the clerks in copy centers to be very helpful.

If you come from a family of immigrants, the recipes the older generations brought with them from their former country are treasures you want to keep, ones to pass down through the generations. Lately, I have been posting my blogs on a facebook page for Volga Germans to give a little help to those with this ancestry in writing their family stories. Because they have a double ethnic background, the recipes were based on both German and Russian cooking. If you have never heard of this group of immigrants who settled in Kansas and Nebraska and even Canada, take some time to read about them. 

Your family background may have roots in the European countries, Asian or Central American or African. Whatever it happens to be, what you eat was influenced by your ancestors and may still figure prominently in your recipe collection today.

One problem with the recipes that have lived through generations of a family is that the directions are not very detailed. My own grandmother, who was Irish, wrote things on her recipe cards like Add flour until it feels right. Or 2 eggs and 2 eggshells of water. There are different sizes of eggs but I suppose she just kept adding flour until the noodle dought 'felt' right. You can write the recipe as it was originally and then make notations for today's cooks. 

Because married couples are from two different families, you might want to make two cookbooks--one for each side of the family. 

After obtaining copies of the recipes to include, you need to put them in categories. For a Family Cookbook, you might arrange them according to the recipes you got from individuals. There might be a section for Aunt Jane, another for Great-Grandma Jones, and another for Cousin Lila. Or, you could put all the main dishes together, all the cookies, all the salads etc but be sure to credit the name of the person whose recipe you are using. As well as the recipes, you want to preserve the names of the people who made them and dates, if you are lucky enough to have them.

Just as in your Family Stories Book, you can arrange the cookbook any way you want to. Ask a child or teen to draw a picture to divide the categories. That makes it very personal and keeps with your family theme. Be sure to give them credit. There are endless possibilities. 

It's a big job to collect and assemble all the recipes but the result may be one that becomes another legacy within your family. Maybe two or three people can work on the book together. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Writing--Difficult Or Easy?

Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic and essay writer. His quote above might first leave the reader scratching his/her head. Read it a few times and some sense comes of it. 

The question is why writing is more difficult for the 'writer.' I came up with a few reasons:
  • Writers know what can go wrong 
  • Writers see with more critical eyes
  • Writers strive for perfection
  • Writers want to write right!
A writer puts his/her work on display for readers and editors. In some ways, it feels like we are leaving ourselves open for criticism but there is also hoped-for praise. Thus, we want to write our very best to curtail the criticism and foster the praise. 

Writers are more aware of what tools of their craft are helpful and which ones are not. We know that an ending that falls flat can deflate an entire story. We're cognizant of the importance of those opening lines. We know that cliches are the sign of a lazy writer.

A writer's eyes are more critical than a reader. A writer who is editing his/her work will find many places that need revising. Back to square one for some areas. If we could write a first draft that sings, we would find writing quite easy. It seldom happens. We write and rewrite and do it again until we reach a piece that satisfies us. 

Yes, writers do want to write right. We know that, to achieve that state, we must use the knowledge and skill we have acquired over time. So, yes, writing is more difficult for writers than for others. 

What if you belong to that second category--other people--and suddenly have a desire to write your family history or a series of family stories? Does the quote mean that it will be apple pie easy for you? Probably not. It does stand to reason that you would not be as self-critical as someone who writes for publication. In that respect, your writing will be easier. 

Give some thought to Thomas Mann's quote. How does it apply to you? Or does it?