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.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sometimes It's Alright To Be A Quitter

If you've been looking over what you did, or didn't do, in your writing world this past year, you might be feeling a little bit down.

Some questions you are asking yourself could be:  Why the heck didn't more of my stuff sell? Why is my rejection pile so much higher than the acceptance stack? Why don't I have more readers for my blog? Why do my contest submissions seldom place? Why do I continue writing?

Instead of giving up, let's take a look at today's poster, one by one. The poster urges us to quit these five things. And to do it 'right now!'

1.  Trying to please everyone:  Our hearts want to please all but our heads know this is an impossibility. There is no way we can reach all people in a completely positive way. Writers have opinions and they come through in our stories, essays and poems. Not all people are going to agree with you opinion. So be it. Of course, there are those who do not agree and are completely rude about it. Feel sorry for them, then move on. Instead of pleasing all readers, make sure what you write pleases you.

2.  Fearing change:  It's a human failing to fear change. It's so much easier to stay in our comfort zone. It's a warm, cozy nest of our own making and we like it. Make an effort to try something different, to change your method of some phase of your writing. You could be surprised that it is actually an okay thing, that you've learned something new. We grow as writers when we make some changes and try new things.

3.  Living in the past:  Older writers are probably the guilty ones here. I have done it this way for decades and it works for me. Maybe so, but perhaps you can also learn new ways to please new and younger readers. The past is comfortable, the future (or changing your ways) is rather scary at times. We've been in the 21st century for a full sixteen years now. Make sure you're in it.

4.  Putting yourself down:  Of all people, writers are ones who must build themselves up, not put themselves down. A writer has to sell him/herself to editors and to readers. Toot your own horn; don't tell others why you are not such a good writer. The more you put yourself down to others, the more you've going to believe it yourself. We try to encourage our writer friends and that's fine. Now, it's time to encourage yourself. Give yourself a pep talk every day.

5.  Overthinking:  Maybe we spend too much time doing this when we should go with our gut feeling or first thoughts. Especially on a first draft. Let the words flow and do the thinking part when you start revising and editing what you've written. We can dig ourselves into a hole if we 'overthink' a simple situation.

These five things cannot be changed overnight. Work on them a little at a time. Maybe choose one of the five and work on it for a month, then try another. Trying to do it all at once can be pretty overwhelming and then we might throw up our hands and use that awful word again--quit!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Neighborhood Kids--A Writing Exercise

Now that you've gotten your desk and files all spiffed up, let's consider a writing exercise today. I'm still not quite ready to tackle my list of goals for this coming year.

When you read the poster above, did mental images of kids you grew up with flash before you? I could see the ones I had fun with and the ones I wanted to avoid whenever possible. Think about the boys and the girls who lived in your neighborhood; they were the ones who were part of your free time spent outdoors or inside playing board games or walking to school together.

I grew up in a large apartment building so there were lots of kids around, although the ones whose apartments backed up to the courtyard on the east side of the building tended to stay in that are while those on the west side kept to themselves in their own concrete courtyard. We even played with the kids in the house next to the alley that passed by our building. Even now, decades beyond my growing-up years, I could rattle off their names. I would also be able to describe each one--both physically and what kind of person they were.

For today's exercise, think back to the neighborhood kids you knew. Maybe you lived in several places so have different groups of kids to consider. Work with the ones that come to mind first as they are the ones who impressed you in some way.

Use the following to guide you
  • Choose one, then describe him/her physical characteristics.
  • Next, write a paragraph about the kind of person he/she was.
  • Write another paragraph about how he/she affected you.
  • Then write about how the adults in the neighborhood considered this kid.
  • Describe how he/she dressed--in a specific way or just like all the other kids?
  • If you can, write about how he/she reacted or interacted with the other kids.
  • What kinds of activities did you pursue together?
  • Write another paragraph about what you think he/she might be like as an adult
  • Conclude with a paragraph about how the person affected your life, then and now, if applicable. Also, what did you learn about life from this person?
When you've finished this exercise, you've created a personal essay, or at least the bones for developing it further. Remember that the personal essay should have some universal truth or some bit of learning for the reader.

You can do this exercise multiple times using those many neighborhood kids who have stayed in your mind.