Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A New Writing Project

Christmas in Prague

We have visited Prague several times but never at Christmas, always in the summer. I love this picture of the city known as The Jewel of Europe dressed in snowy white. How lovely the Charles Bridge must look covered in snow with the river gliding underneath. Prague Castle must take on an even lovelier demeanor than usual in the winter scenes. 

Think about favorite places you have visited. Most of us do our traveling in almost any season but winter. What do you think Sweden is like in December? Or Paris? New York? San Francisco? Or your summer lakeside cabin? A national park where you camped? All of these places seem different in the chilled winter days.

What a perfect topic for an essay. Choose a spot and compare a summer visit to a winter one. What would change? What would stay the same? Would the people behave differently in summer and winter? What might you see in the shops in each season? How does each season affect you?

It's also a good start for a fiction story. Your hero meets a girl on a sunlit summer day and falls for her. What has changed by the time winter arrives and the city is lit up with holiday charm? Can he find her again in the darkness of the late winter afternoons or in a concert hall warmed by the music being played? 

Think about a favorite place and create a story, essay or poem describing it in winter. When I say 'think.' I don't mean to let it flit through your mind. Ponder on the whole idea for a day, or two, or more. The more you muse over it, the better you'll be able to write. 

Write about the feel of the air, the crunch of snow beneath your feet, the taste of the warm liquids people love in winter. What smells might there be from an outdoor Christmas market? What about the sound of sleigh bells? Or children playing? There are riches galore if you take the time to bring them to life in your mind. 

What is one of your favorite places to visit? Have you ever been there in the winter? Did you like it better than in the warm summertime? Keep thinking, then start writing. Nothing like a new writing project to kindle inspiration.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lighten The Journey In Busy Times

This seemed like a good reminder at this extremely busy time of year. Simplify. A one word piece of advice we might all heed.

In December, many people, writers included, move into double speed mode. We want to do all the usual routine things as well as get ready for the holidays--whichever one you celebrate. If it's Christmas, there are cards to send, shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, more church services than usual, parties to attend or give. Wow! That's a lot, isn't it? How are you going to do all that and get some writing done, too?

Simplify. Maybe you don't have to decorate the entire house this year. Perhaps a little less baking would be alright. There are ways to cut back on all that you do for the holidays. It's our choice as to whether we go for it all or simplify. No matter how much or how little you do connected to whatever holiday you celebrate, it is still going to happen. I've found that if I miss doing a few things I normally do, no one realizes it but me. So no big deal!

How about our writing journey? Can we simplify that, as well? Of course we can. It's our choice whether we pour ourself wholeheartedly into the writing business or choose to do the basics. It's up to us if we want to submit a dozen pieces of writing per month or one.

We can cut down on the amount of reading about our craft that we do for this month. You can catch up in January or February. Maybe you don't need to read all the writer's newsletters you subscribe to the moment they appear in your inbox. Save them for a calmer time. You'll enjoy them and get more out of them when you're not so rushed.

If we give serious consideration to simplifying, there are a number of ways we can achieve it. Do a bit less but do it with gusto. Sift and sort to decide what parts of your writing life are most important to you. Stay with the top ones and set the rest aside to be addressed later, if and when you have time.

There are times when we are our own worst enemy. Keep in mind that you are in control of what you do in this life. Do as much or as little that makes you feel comfortable. No one is going to judge you but you alone. Go ahead and simplify.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Do You Overwrite?

One of the problems writers have is telling the readers too much. They overwrite wanting to make sure the reader understands clearly what the writer is trying to convey. 

We've all read books, short stories or essays where the point is made in a paragraph and then the very same point is made all over again in the next one or two paragraphs down the page. Yes, I know what you're thinking  It doesn't matter because they obviously got published. Lots of of writing gets published despite blips like this but that doesn't mean it's alright to continue disrespecting your reader.

Disrespect? Yes, in a way it is exactly that. Writers want to make sure the reader gets what he/she is trying to say. They treat the adult reader as though he/she is a child and needs to be reminded repeatedly in order to learn. 

Readers are a whole lot smarter than writers think they are. We don't need to repeat and repeat for them to get the point. The majority will understand and those who don't are probably going to pick it up somewhere later in the story. 

There's another reason writers occasionally repeat a point, only using different words. It can be because they've run out of additional things to say about their subject. So, hey, why not just repeat what was already said but maybe using different words? That is not the fault of the reader. It falls to the writer to admit that guilt. 

I've seen this situation in some of the critiques at my online writer's group. The critiquer will write you already stated this in paragraph 10 above or something similar to that. If the critiquer sees it, then most likely the reader will, too. 

When you edit your work, check to see if you have overstated a point, repeated more than is necessary. When writing that first draft, we are probably not aware of doing so. That's why we don't ever submit our first draft to an editor. Catch those little errors that need cutting or polishing to bring the diamond to light. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

A Winter Scene Photo Prompt


I have two photos for you today, both of winter scenes. I selected the winter theme because we had our first dose of it today. No snow but really cold. Time for heavy jackets, hats and gloves! 

One reason to use photos as writing prompts is to give us an opportunity to do two things:  create a story and write descriptively. 

It's up to you whether you want to write a full story or a slice of life or merely a descriptive paragraph. If you have the time, you might try one of each. 

Choose the photo that appeals to you the most. Study it and then begin writing. Freewrite--write without stopping--and see what comes from your inner self. 

These photo prompt exercises can turn into a full story or essay that you can submit somewhere after you've edited and revised it a time or two. Maybe three! 

Some writers turn up their nose at the thought of doing one of these writing exercises. Big mistake. They have lots of benefits if you let yourself get into the process. Go for it!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Writers--Believe in Yourself

This poster made me think of my writer friend who subbed one personal essay seventeen times before it was published. I wrote about her a couple days ago. If you missed that post, read it here.

I emailed her after the post was published and she was pleased that I'd used her experience as a blog post. She said that I had gotten it right, that the reason she persevered for so long and subbed so many times was that she believed in what she'd written. Undoubtedly, she had faith in herself as a writer and in the essay she'd worked on for so long.

I'd label her a strong, determined woman. Were you to meet her in person, you might not realize the inner strength she has. Outwardly, she is small, and kind, and a lovely person. Inside, there is steel and I learned that through her long submission process and the fact that she never gave up. I have liked her a lot but now, I also admire her greatly.

Will you try subbing a rejected piece again? You will if you are convinced it is a good piece of writing and if you 'believe in yourself' as a writer. No one can make you believe in yourself. Each of us has to do that on our own. We're a committee of one when it comes to that/

One way to come to believing in yourself as a writer is to continually consider your successes. If you were published once or a hundred times, doesn't that say something about your worth as a writer? Sure it does.

When you finish a writing project and you feel satisfied with the end result, shouldn't you think you're a worthwhile writer?

Too often, we tend to tear ourself down instead of building ourself up. How about that old song, words and music by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer that gives us all good advice. The refrain goes:
   Accentuate the positive,
   eliminate the negative,
   and latch on to the affirmative
   and don't mess with Mr. In-between

Good advice to help us believe in ourself as a writer. Try it!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Emotion Enhances Writing

Maya Angelou's quote above can be summed up in one word--Emotion! But she's a poet and words were her specialty, both in poems and prose. Her quote is far more eloquent than me telling you to write with emotion. 

Even so, whether you prefer the word or the quote, it's a very important point in what we write, whether it is fiction, a personal essay or poetry. We want our reader to react with emotion when they read what we've written. 

One good way to accomplish that is to write with emotion. If it's not there in your writing, the reader is not going to feel it. It sounds so easy to advise a writer to use emotion. In their mind, they accept it and even agree wholeheartedly but that does not always connect with the actual words they write.

Why? We're human and we can have a difficult time exposing our own emotions to others, even when that is one of the tools of writing that we need. If we pour it all out onto paper or the screen, our subconscious wonders what people will think. They'll know the real me, not the public figure I want to show others. They might also know what a fine writer you are.

There's nothing wrong with being able to expose our feelings. It's a form of release and it lets people know who we are as writers. Maya Angelou's poetry is loved and one of the reasons is that she could transfer her own emotions into the words of a poem. She could reach out and touch the reader. 

Next comes the way you should put emotion into your writing. If you tell the reader that someone is heartbroken, it's not gonna work. If you show that person feeling heartbroken, the reader could very well feel it, as well. I cannot tell you the number of times I have cried in a book,usually in the final chapter when something a character has done touches me deeply. It could be a loss or a great achievement but some authors are skilled in making the reader feel what the character is feeling. 

In summary:
  • Allow your own emotions to come through your writing
  • Don't lock your own emotions inside 
  • Show emotions in what you write
  • Don't tell the reader what emotion you're writing about

Maya Angelou knew how to laugh and cry and more and she knew how to make her readers do the same.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Submitted 17 Times and Then....

Perseverance! It's one of my two keywords for finding success as a writer. The other one is Patience. 
Another oft-repeated phrase at this blog is "Believe in yourself." 

I have a writer friend who has shown all three of these traits with one personal essay that she wrote some time ago. Like all of us, she created the first draft, edited it, revised it and then began submitting the piece. After ten unsuccessful tries, she sent it to her writing group. Maybe they could see something missing that had not come to her. They read, they critiqued--she edited and revised some more and sent it to seven more publications.

That's seventeen tries with the essay. On the seventeenth submission, a journal accepted and published her work. Ecstatic? You bet she was. And rightly so. She lives on another continent but I can almost see her smiling from here. I admire her for staying with the essay and continuing to submit until it found a home. 

This true short story about a writer who practiced patience and perseverance and who believed in herself can be a good lesson for all of us who write. 

Think about work that you have submitted once, twice, three times and been rejected each time. What did you do next? Did you give up? Revise and resub? Turn to a writing group or writer friend for help? Would you have submitted the same piece seventeen times? 

I feel certain my friend felt depressed when rejection after rejection assailed her. Who wouldn't? She obviously did believe in herself and her essay enough to continue to submit. She was tenacious in her quest for getting the piece published. 

How about digging out some of those rejected pieces that are perishing slowly in your files? Approach submitting again, after a new edit and revision, with patience and perseverance. Most of all, believe in yourself but keep learning and refining your skill as a writer. 

Use the comments section to share any thoughts you have about the number of times you will submit your work.