Monday, May 7, 2018

A Medical Leave For A Short Time

Image result for free clipart dr in operating room

What does this cartoon have to do with writing? Not much unless it is a daily journal kept by a patient. 

The patient this time is me! I've been putting off having a total hip replacement for too long, so tomorrow is the big day. I've spent the past month getting ready for the surgery--exercises and buying, also borrowing, this and that to have on hand. 

Yesterday, Ken and I went grocery shopping for things to put in the freezer, ones he can fix easily. He can cook but doesn't do much more than grilling anymore. He's going to be in charge of several tasks while I recover. I think I might get him to do everything but dusting. 

Hoping the recovery is not too long. I am having the surgery done 'the newer way' which, the doctor says, should make for a faster recovery. Exactly what that means is anybody's guess. 

I will return with the Monday to Friday posts as soon as possible. Meanwhile, keep writing and do check the Chicken Soup for the Soul page to see the 9 books for which they need stories. Read the guidelines carefully before submitting. Yes, that number is 9! 

The more I think about it, the better I like the idea of keeping a patient journal. Going to start one today.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Simplicity in Writing

Several years ago some creative mind came up with the KISS theory--Keep It Simple Stupid. The photo above offers the same message but in a more gentile way. KISS has no golden flower or breathtaking butterfly, nor does it use soft and kind words. Even so, both convey a message we should heed. 

Some writers tend to overdo everything. If one adjective is good, they think two or three are better. If they make a point once, two times will truly get the point across to the reader. Others sprinkle unnecessary words throughout a good story which often takes away from a good read. 

What about word count? Some writers go on and on and on. Then they wonder what is wrong when they can't find a market that will accept the huge number of words they have in the submission. If we learn to write with simplicity, we can shorten our essays, stories and even poems. 

Consider the overdone story, essay or poem. Compare to a woman who overdoes it when dressing for a special occasion. If she adorns herself with too many frills, frou-fous, jewelry, ribbons and lace she is lost in a sea of fashion that merely detracts from the person herself. Take away all those extras and let the woman shine instead. 

Less is more applies here. Simplify your writing and your words can become more powerful. Does that mean to toss our sensory details, descriptive adjectives and emotions? Of course not. Use all those tools we have learned but use them wisely and sparingly. Too much of anything detracts from the main idea.

A writer who writes a short story cannot use a large number of characters as a novelist would. The short story writer has to be more concise, use fewer characters, have a plot but not a lot of subplots and keep to fewer words. He/she lightens the journey by simplifying. 

So, whether you adhere to the KISS principle or the softer Simplify--lighten your journey, you can make your life easier and create more powerful writing along the way. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Writers Are Responsible For Choices

This poster offers good advice for all people but let's look at how it pertains to our writing journey. 

The last line and word following it, is one we should read on a regular basis. Deep down, we know it but sometimes we find it easier to blame anything and everything for the problems in our writing life. Look at the powerful words:

You and only you are responsible for every decision and choice you make. Period.

How have the decisions you've made affected your publishing history, your satisfaction with what you have produced and your growth as a writer? 

  • Did you submit your work to as many editors as it took before one accepted? 
  • Did you choose to leave a rejected piece sit and gather dust?
  • Did you read books on your craft to learn more?
  • Did you attend any conferences to help you grow as a writer?
  • Did you allot enough time to write?
  • Did you do a fast proofread and then submit your work?
  • Did you do more than one edit before submitting?
  • Did you join a writing group of some kind to continue growing as a writer?
  • Did you do a rewrite on pieces that didn't really satisfy you?
  • Did you ever turn down a social invitation so that you could write?
  • Did you ever take a short break from writing to find inspiration again?
  • Did you ever take the advice of an editor and resubmit?
  • Did you learn that patience and perseverance are keywords in the writing world? 
There are others, to be sure, but each of the points above depended on you being responsible for a choice. 

I include myself here, as well. Some readers might think that I am the writer who does it all perfectly. Rest assured that I have to learn, too. Part of the reason I continue this blog is to remind myself of many parts of the writing journey that I am on. We're all in this together. Some of us are farther along than others. 

Someone once asked if there is any end to this journey we started long ago? I plan to keep walking the path until I lose my mental capability or pass on. My personal journey will be over but I hope that what I've written over the years will still be read, or remembered, by others. That's one of the glorious parts of being a writer. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Writers Should Pay Attention To Little Things

Book, Font, Old Book, Still Life, Flowering Twig

This photo has nothing to do with today's topic. I used it because I liked it and I could not find one that was appropriate for today's post. So enjoy the image above and read on. 

Many of you know that I belong to an online writing group. We submit our writing and critique the writing of other members. When reading another writer's work, the little errors jump out. If we are editing our own writing, we tend to skip right over small mechanical things. 

One of the problems I note in so many of the pieces I critique is the repetition of words. A big deal? No. It's a small matter but fixing the problem will make the piece read more smoothly and will subconsciously please the reader. If a writer repeats words too often, the reader can become annoyed. Sounds ridiculous but I find myself irritated by reading the same words over again, especially if they are in the same sentence or same paragraph. My mind clicks into You already used that word,; find another. 

Writers don't set out to see how often they can use a word in a 1200 word essay. Most aren't even aware they've done it until a critiquer points it out. Yes, we who critique are probably more conscious of it. I'd like to see all writers make themselves aware and search for repetition of words in their own writing. 

Problem: Jerry liked some fruits but not all of them. He liked some vegetables. He liked some meat but not every one. 

Better:Jerry liked some fruits but not all of them. He enjoyed a few vegetables. He savored several meats but not every one.

One of the reasons we write using repetitive words is laziness. We need to think a little harder to come up with alternatives. We also consider words like the two samples not important to the point we are trying to make, so we gloss over them. 

What can you do to find and correct this type of mechanical error? 
  1. Read your work out loud.  Some writers think this is rather stupid. Trust me, it is not. If you read your work out loud on a regular basis, the mistakes that pop out will surprise you. 
  2. Train yourself to look for repeated words. The more you look for the problem, the easier it will be to note when it occurs. Because I've critiqued other writers' work for a long time, seeing this error comes more easily to me now than it did years ago.
  3. Let your work sit before you edit. If you try to read and find errors soon after you finish the story or essay, you slide right by many little problems. Let your work simmer a few days at least, then read it. Most writers will be surprised by what they find then.
  4. Try to cut the use of filler words. If you add words like usually, actually, really, just to your work, it tends to become a habit and those words fill too many spots in your writing. Some writers use them to make a point or to emphasize. It's alright to utilize these words but do so sparingly. Don't rely on them time and again.
  5. When using a name, alternate with pronouns. When writing about a person, say Mr. Ames, you don't want to constantly repeat his name. Use it once, then use he or his. A paragraph or two later, use his name again merely as a reminder to the reader who this is that you're talking about. 
  6. Make use of your thesaurus: If it's difficult to come up with an alternative for an over-used word, pull out your trusty friend, the thesaurus.
  7. Be careful when using very long sentences. When we write lengthy sentences, we tend to repeat words. There is another reason not to use extremely long sentences. They easily become rife with mechanical errors.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Musing On May Day

May Day "Baskets"
May Day Basket

It's May Day! What do the photos above trigger in your memory bank?   When I turned the page on my calendars today, I remembered what fun my children had making May baskets, filling with flowers and/or candies and delivering to the neighbors. The idea, of course, was to tippy-toe to the door, attach the basket, cone, or whatever container they had, ring the doorbell and run away. The giver's identity was to be kept a secret. 

When I was teaching 3rd and 4th graders, I had the children make a paper cone as a May Basket. They loved putting something on their cone that made it different from the others. Creativity came into use here. I always hoped they would get the flowers from their own gardens, not snitch some on the way home from school! I did provide candies for them to add to the May Day gift. 

Maypole DIY - Oh Happy Day!  Who remembers doing this in school. I don't think they do this anymore.
A Traditional May Pole

We didn't have a May Pole when I was a child but something close to it. Our playground had High Flyers which was a tall, straight pole in the middle with several chained pieces hanging from it. There were wooden bars toward the bottom, two on each one, and this is what kids held onto as they ran round and round making the chained pieces move out enough so their feet would leave the ground as they spun around the pole. I do remember one year that someone had decorated the High Flyer with ribbons for May Day. 

When our children were growing up, I would greet them on May 1st with "Happy May Day" and their dad, who had a law degree, always countered with "Happy Law Day." Personally, I like May Day much better and I am pretty sure our kids did, too. 

May offers opportunities to write memories for your Family Stories book. We celebrate May Day, Mother's Day, and Memorial Day this month. Ponder on the memories of each of these special days. Inspiration to write often results from these musings about days of long ago. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Looking For Inspiration To Write?

breathtaking, calm, color

Do you ever feel like you don't know what to write about? That writing is getting to be a drag? That you have no new project in mind and you really don't care? Every writer experiences these feelings occasionally. We hope it's only once in awhile, not on a regular basis. We all need some inspiration at that point. 

This past week, Ken and I attended a farewell concert on our university campus. A renowned music professor, leader of the Gold Orchestra conducted his final concert at Kansas State University. Being there, seeing a man honored for his long career and hearing the young people in the orchestra sounding like professional musicians inspired me. When each senior was introduced, their major cited and what future plans they had, I felt even more enthused. Very few were music majors. Their study field ranged from Engineering to Education and more. They were in the orchestra because they also loved music and the instrument each played. I left with my heart uplifted.

We spent the week-end in Kansas City, 2 hours east of us. We did a bit of shopping and attended a 50th anniversary dinner for a charity group we support. Seeing all the good this group has done in the world was emotional and inspiring. On Sunday, we attended a church service and then had a sumptuous lunch at The Cheesecake Factory, using two gift cards received at Christmas. On the drive home, I felt inspired by so many parts of the week-end. As we drove through the Flint Hills of Kansas, I started planning a piece I'd like to write for a new Chicken Soup for the Soul book. The rolling prairie served as inspiration, too.

Taking a break from the writing process and attending concerts, plays, or a quick week-end trip can do wonders to give you the urge to write something new or get on with one of those big projects you sometimes wonder why you ever started. Take a drive through the prettiest place you know in the area where you live. The scene in the photo above would make me want to paint a picture--or write a story, even a description of this place. 

Even a long walk can give you a needed break from writing and, if you use your writer's eye, you can see much along the way to inspire you. Don't walk with head down, hands in your pockets and a gloomy look on your face. Look around you. There is so much to be seen, so many things that can lift your heart. Inspiration is there. All you have to do is let it settle over you like a warm comforter.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Perception In Our Writing Life

Yesterday's post addressed The Ugly Three--fear, doubt and beating up on yourself.  There are definitely times in our lives where circumstances do affect our outlook and open the door to let The Ugly Three move right into our house. 

Not easy to fight all three at one time. The advice from this pretty little bird is one way to combat the problem. Consider the possibility that the way you perceive things makes a difference in the way you deal with The Ugly Three.

If rejections have increased those fears and doubts, it's up to you to sweep those feelings away and dwell on the good things. Rejections are not all bad. They allow us to find our problem areas. Some writers have great things to say but use all passive verbs and no adjectives to write their piece or they constantly repeat words. Instead of the worthy parts coming across to the reader, what you've written becomes boring. When you receive a rejection, pull out the story, essay or article and read it carefully. What do you see in the mechanics that might have turned the editor off in a hurry? Do another thorough edit of your own. 

Cut repetitious information; fix those other mechanical errors. Do a slice and save. Save all the good parts and rewrite what is needed. Then, submit again to a different editor. You'll reap benefits in doing this instead of beating up on yourself. 

At the risk of looking like Pollyanna, I urge all writers to use as many positives in their writing journey as they can. Sure, there are bumps along your path but your attitude toward and perception of same make a big difference in the outcome. Positives boost your spirits while negatives drag you down. 

Did you ever consider that negative remarks about your writing (made by you) could be excuses? You might be looking for a way to get out of rewriting, more editing, or even starting from scratch. It's a lot easier to sit in your chair and grouse than it is to do a rewrite. 

Sometimes we cannot change what is occurring to us or around us. If a situation in your writing life appears to be affecting your ability to write, or your desire to write, step back and consider the perception factor. How we see things can be bigger than we sometimes realize.