Friday, March 23, 2018

I Blog, You Blog, She Blogs, He Blogs

I played Bridge yesterday afternoon with a woman whom I have met a handful of times. I knew more about her husband and son, both well-known football people in our state, than I did about her. The one thing I did know was that I had liked her the first time I met her and hoped to get to know her better as time went on. Yesterday, I did get to know her a lot better.

I had brought a copy of the newly released Chicken Sout for the Soul: My Amazing Mom book to give to my partner. That led to questions and answers from the other three. I learned that one of the women had started a blog on women and aging (my ears perked up--my group of folks!). She said that she had dived heard first into it without knowing a whole lot about what she was doing. I had done the same a good number of years ago. Long story short, we agreed to get together so that I could help her learn a few things about blogging. We're meeting the middle of next week at my house. A good incentive to clean up the office! 

Our conversation got me thinking about blogging. Some of the questions that came to mind were:
  • Who can blog?
  • Should all writers have a blog?
  • What does having a blog do for a writer?
  • Why should writers bother with adding one more item on their To-Do List?
  • What should writers know about blogging before they begin?
  • What helps draw readers to a blog? 
  • How often do I need to post on my blog?
  • Who will be the most successful at blogging?
Who can blog?  Anybody. If you wanted  to start a blog about pulling weeds on your property, that would be fine. There is no need to be a professional, or even hobbyist, writer. You're in charge; you pick the topic and a lot of other things.

Should all writers have a blog? I would encourage anyone who writes to try blogging. We hear the term build your platform in our writing world over and over. A blog is only one step in doing that. It gives you a place to promote your writing. I have done that here by making this blog about my writing world and giving tips and encouragement to writers. It allows me to help others and to promote my own writing.

What does having a blog do for a writer?  As stated above, it helps get your name out among writers and readers. It can help draw readers to your writing, be it books, short stories, essays or poetry. It creates a regular time to write--you know how I am always preaching to write something every day. What better writing exercise than to write a blog post on a regular basis?

Why should writers bother with adding one more item on their To-Do List? It will reap benefits in the long run. You may not see them immediately but over time, you will. When I attend my state authors convention, a lot of people there identify me as 'a writer, a blogger, and a workshop instructor.'  All those things add to my platform. I will also add that I have learned a lot about my own writing methods, attitudes and more because of what I post. 

What should writers know about blogging before they begin? Google keywords like 'learning to blog,' 'how to blog,' and more. So many articles will pop up that you'll be overwhelmed. Don't attempt to read more than a few at first. Pay attention when a suggestion is repeated in several articles. There are people who dive into the deep end of the pool with eyes shut. I did way back at the beginning but I learned to read about what I was doing and to use the information.

What helps draw readers to a blog?  I could write an entire post on this question. Instead, I'll give you a list of words:  conciseness, photos, good writing, appealing topics, social media. These are only a few of many.

How often do I need to post on my blog?  The more the better! The important thing is to be consistent. Post daily, 5 days a week, weekly, monthly or twice a year but have a schedule that readers will know about. Post 3 times in April and then not again til one day in June and you are going to lose a lot of readers. Figure out a schedule that works for you, but make it regular. I chose 5 days a week because I am more likely to retain my readers and it also pushed me to write something on an almost-daily basis.

Who will be the most successful at blogging? The person who puts the most into their blog is most likely to gain the most readers. She/he who stays to one theme (like writing) will usually be more successful. I occasionally veer off the path but try to have something to do with writing in every post. 

These are all short answers to questions for those who either do blog or have aspirations to do so. It occurs to me that I could write a full post on each one of the questions. Someday, I may do that. Meanwhile, give blogging some thought but do a little research and reading first. One of the big negatives I see is that myriad bloggers lose interest and quit. Those who persevere will be alright. Oh look--one of my keywords for writers works for bloggers, too. Persevere!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Writers Are Sometimes Their Own Obstacle

Wise words in our poster today. How many of us, myself included, have waited and waited to get a new writing project underway? See all those stars in the photo--each one might represent a writer who had an idea for a writing project--big or small--but never acted on it. 

We're wont to say that time is our enemy, that we let life get in the way, that circumstances weren't quite right for plunging into the new project. Excuses! I know many of you have used them. I have been guilty of spouting some of those words myself. 

I think what really holds us back comes down to the fact that we become our own obstacle. We have the idea but before we can write paragraph one, fear and doubt creep into the back of our mind. Thoughts like Can I do justice to this idea? Am I a good enough writer to tackle this monumental idea? What if I spend weeks, months, years on it and no one wants to publish the book? What if....?  Why does...? Round and round the thoughts go like the carnival carousel. Somehow, it seems easier to sit on that gaily painted carousel horse and keep going in circles rather than jump off and get to writing. 

I have a dear writer friend who has started many fine stories and books but she doesn't seem to reach the end. She quits and moves on to start something new. Why? I have asked myself that question several times. Is she afraid to finish because then she needs to market the project and there's a certain amount of fear involved? Does she prefer beginnings to endings? Something holds her back. She's a good writer with fine ideas and I've tried to encourage her but perhaps we all need to come to the solution on our own. 

Face the fact that the longer we wait, the older we get, the less time there is to finish and start the publishing process. Push fear aside and take steady steps to tackle those great ideas. Give yourself a pep talk if you must. Hey, there is nothing wrong with doing that. I've done it more than once. It's alright to remind yourself of your strengths and push the doubts aside. 

I have a folder in my files with stories, poems, novels and more that are partially finished. Occasionally, I look at them. One of the reasons I slide them right back in the folder is that I've hit a snag and I don't know how to tackle it. Which is easier? To put the project out of sight or to brainstorm with yourself (and maybe others) to get past the trouble spot? You and I know which is easiest but why not try the one that will be more productive? 

You might also have another folder labeled "Story Ideas" that goes through much the same process as those that are unfinished. Waiting buys you nothing. Don't be your own obstacle. Meet those unfinished projects/ideas head-on. Write the first draft. Then, revise and edit. Keep moving. The rolling stone gathers no moss. That's an old proverb that could apply to waiting too long to work on a story idea. Besides that, waiting does only make you older!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Poetry--Pretty Words and More

A visual image by Carl Sandburg

 I'm not able to bypass Word Poetry Day 2018. OK, I hear groans from those who think they don't like poetry. Stop groaning and keep reading. I've heard naysayers utter things like Ahhh, poetry is a bunch of pretty words that mean nothing.

The first part of that statement is true but I take exception to the rest. 'Pretty words' is a succinct description but, most often, those words do mean something. The poet may find more meaning in his/her words than the reader. After all, the poet has lived the situation, seen the beauty, or experienced the soul-wrenching event. A good poet can make his/her reader find the same meaning. 

My friend, Ronda Miller, made me 'feel' her poem Moonstain (title poem in book of same title) so well that I sat with book in hand, stunned and saddened for this child's deep hurt when she finds a stillborn calf not long after the death of her own mother.She runs back to the farmhouse under the light of the blood moon where she cries. Pretty words? Yes, lovely phrases throughout but her poem did mean something and so do many others.

As readers, we need to give poetry a chance. As writers, we should try our hand at writing some. We all wrote those cutesy little poems when we were kids. You know the ones--they began with the lines
       Roses are red,
       Violets are blue,
Then we added two more lines trying to rhyme with the word 'blue'  Some were nice, some were funny, some were ridiculing. These little poems were often our introduction to writing poetry. We also copied other poems in the autograph books young girls passed around the classroom in grade school. One I remember clearly is
        "2-lips in the garden;
         2-lips in the park.
         But the 2-lips I like best, 
        are the 2-lips in the dark!" 

As we grew older, teachers made us memorize poems and that began to turn a good many students away from poetry. Others were drawn to it. It seems there was no middle ground. You enjoyed poems or you didn't. For some, it was a matter of never being able to understand the metaphors or the underlying sentiments of the poet. 

If you were one of those students, do yourself a favor and give reading poetry a try once again. Not one poem but several, or a book of collected poems. I'm not saying a miracle will occur and you are going to suddenly fall in love with poetry but you might begin to enjoy it more than you did years ago. 

One mistake readers make when reading poetry is that they read through once and then think What the heck was that all about? Never read a poem just once. Read it several times. You'll find more in it with each reading. Did you ever see a movie twice or a third time and saw many more little things in it than you did the first time? Same thing. The more we read, the more we see. 

If you're a prose writer, you owe it to yourself to give writing poetry a try. Your first efforts may be laughable. You might even think it 'stinks' but so was the first piece of prose you ever wrote, most likely. We learn as we go, whether it is writing poetry or prose. I've never had any formal training in writing poetry but I do enjoy writing a poem occasionally. Some have been pretty awful but a few others have had merit, have been published, have won a contest. I guarantee that, if I can do it, so can you.

On this World Poetry Day 2018, take a few minutes to look up a book of poetry on your shelf, or one online and read a few poems. Enjoy the 'pretty words' and then try writing a few of your own. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spring Inspires Writers

Famous Happy Spring Quotes

Since today is the first day of 'spring, 2018, I am sharing some lovely spring photos and quotes that will hopefully inspire you to write something. After the drabness of winter, the delicate beauty and uplifting colors should make us want to sing, dance and, yes, to write. A beautiful spring day is good for the soul.

Spring offers writers opportunities to use similes, metaphors, write heartfelt poems, and memorable descriptive phrases. As an exercise today, go through these photos and freewrite after each one. What will the words, the colors, the beauty of the flowers and more bring to mind? You won't know until you give it a try. 

Why bother to do this exercise? One could end up as a paragraph in a work in progress. Another might be the first draft of a poem. 

You see the beauty in each of these photos, but don't forget to add the soft sounds of spring, the scents and the touch of that dandelion under you chin to see if you like butter. (A childhood memory for me. How about you?) Don't forget the emotional possibilities, too.

Cool Spring Quotes

Cute Spring Quotes with Images

Best Spring Quotes with Picutres

Cute Short Spring Quotes

Spring is in the air...

Spring Time



Monday, March 19, 2018

Memory Moments Are Monumental

When we look back on the years of our lives, the special moments seem to stand out more than the big events. It's those clear moments that we should write about. The snippets of time that stayed with us reveal much about us, the kind of person we are, the parts of life that are important to us. 

I could write about my college graduation with facts and figures, the beastly hot day etc. No big deal. But if I write a personal essay about the way my dad's chest puffed out more than usual and the glow in his eyes let me know how proud he was of me as I left the stage with my degree in hand. He, who had only gone as far as having 4 months of high school now had a daughter who was a college grad. That's a moment I'll never forget. I imagine he kept it in a safe spot in his memory bank, too, pulling it out now and then to relive the moment.

I could write about the life event of a first grandchild being born but I would prefer writing about one emotional moment when I picked up my less-than-one-day-old granddaughter, looked into her blue eyes and experienced the most overwhelming emotion in my life. My thought at that split second was This is the child of my child. It was just a flash but has stayed with me. An entire personal essay could be written about that tiny slice of time.

When those special 'memory moments' come back to you, do more than smile and enjoy them. Pounce on them! You can base a story, a poem, a memoir piece or an essay on each one. Show your readers the lesson you learned in that moment. Help them feel the emotion you felt. Trigger moments of your readers' memories with your own story. 

Don't neglect the big things in life but please pay very close attention to the little memory moments that define who you are. When one of those moments pops up in your mind, don't just enjoy it. Jot a few notes for a possible piece to write, then go back later and bring the moment to life. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Reading Books--Happiness

Writers are also readers. Readers aren't necessarily writers. We who are both  feel like we've caught the gold ring as we ride by on the carousel horse. Reading a book is one of the greatest treasures on earth. We can do it as often as we like even if we must steal moments from other parts of our lives. 

Reading is relaxing, peaceful, calms the soul and is sheer delight at times. For today's post, I am sharing several posters that speak to readers. Look at them, save the ones you like, and then go find a book to read. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Great Big Piece of The Writing Puzzle

Image result for free poster on opening hooks in writing

"Your opening should surprise. It should contain the best sentences of your piece, the ones with the most energy and the ones that take the reader right into your world." 
The quote is from Jessica Smock who is an editor at herstories, a site for women in mid-life that write personal essays. She listed numerous things of importance when submitting your work for publication. Then, she stated emphatically that there was one more important than all the others. What is it? The opening hook.

Nearly every book on writing will tell you that you must pull in your reader immediately or you might lose them. True? Yes, I think so. Years ago, people assumed that an English author was going to march you around the mulberry bush a hundred times before getting into the meat of the story. Same with English movies. I don't think that is the usual case any longer. English writers have also learned the importance of hooking their readers/viewers. 

What do some writers do instead of grabbing the reader's attention immediately? They open  with background information or an introduction which eventually leads to the actual topic. They might use paragraphs and paragraphs. In today's world, time is our enemy and no one is going to spend that precious time reading something that is boring. Opening with a bunch of facts and figures or a this is what I am going to write about farther down the page is kind of a 'who cares?' thing. When we say to grab the reader, we mean 'grab them and then hold on.' 

Jessica reads myriad essays submitted for the website. You are going to have to grab her attention (or any other editor) before your piece even has a chance to hook your eventual reader. She's like the barking dog at the gate--placate it with a choice morsel and it will welcome you. 

The poster we have today gives you suggestions for a good opening. We want to have an opening that makes the reader sit up and pay attention whether we are writing fiction, personal essays or ever a poem. Let's take a look at these 5.
  1. Ask a question: That can pique curiosity, especially if the reader does not know the answer already.
  2. State an interesting fact:  Note the WOW afterward. That tells us that the fact should be very interesting, something to make us open our eyes wider and read on.
  3. Imagine...: Pull the reader in by putting him/her into a situation or place immediately. Make them think about what it would be like and they're likely to read on.
  4. Use action or onomatopoeia:  If you open with a man being chased through dark alleys, the reader immediately wants to know why he is being chased and who is doing the chasing. They will definitely keep reading. The onomatopoeia suggestion doesn't do much for me but you can use words that sound like what they are--cuckoo, meow, honk for instance. That alone will not grab and hold the reader, however. I'd go with the action first.
  5. Use a quote or dialogue:  A quote by a well-known name will be a draw/ You might even use the quote and a question.  Do you know what blind and deaf Helen Keller thought about life? She said......
Do all the things that are important before submitting your work to an editor but pay special attention to your opening.