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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

When Nothing Goes Right

Ever felt like the woman in the photo? When our computer doesn't function as it should, we can easily feel like smashing it to pieces or tossing it through the nearest window. I've been there more than once.

Maybe the woman's computer is working just fine but her writing project is not. Haven't we all been in that situation? The idea in our head sounds so good and we're excited about transferring it to words on the screen. We start and then something happens. We get stuck. What we're writing sounds like a lot of drivel. The idea is not coming across. The emotion isn't there. It's worthless!

That's how we feel but maybe that project is not as worthless as you think. Go ahead and finish the first draft. Then put it away for a few days. You want to be calmer when you read through it. You should be able to see it more objectively later.

In a few days, read through the draft slowly. Jot down notes on a pad regarding things that you want to change or fix. If you don't make those notes, you'll forget many of the little things you want to do. What's your overall feeling about what you've written? Is the kernel of the original idea still there? Do you think it's worth a revision and editing?

The second time you go through the original draft, start making those changes. Wipe out whole paragraphs if you think they add nothing. Move paragraph 3 to the opening paragraph if it makes a better opening. Add sensory details that you may have skipped in the first writing. Same with description which gives more for your reader to relate to. Change passive verbs to active ones.

When you finish this first edit and revision, you'll know if you want to pursue the project farther. If you're still undecided, ask another writer to look at what you have. Request an honest opinion as to whether it's worth continuing. There are times when you think you've written gobbeldy-gook but another person see something of merit.

We all want a chance to succeed. Give your writing project, be it an essay, short story, article or poem, a chance. You won't rescue each and every one. Occasionally, we decide that our time would be better used on another project. But don't hit the trash button. Instead, put the poor puppy in a file to be looked at again in months, maybe a year or two. It might still be salvageable.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Image result for free image of a comfortable person
Doesn't this man look comfortable? He's sitting in his favorite armchair, reading his paper and smoking his pipe. He's safe and relaxed and feeling good. Nothing is going to shake him out of this contentment as long as he stays right where he is.

If he folds the paper, empties his pipe and leaves the chair, life could become more difficult, even complicated. Maybe he should just stay in the chair so nothing will upset his world. We all know that would not be good for him or for his family. It wouldn't let him move forth in his career, friendships, family life or his place in the community. Nope--he'd better leave that wonderful spot and move on. The good thing is that he can always come back to his happy place.

What about you, the writer? Have you found a comfortable spot? Did you figure out that writing short stories was your strong point? Or perhaps poetry is where you feel the happiest. Some of you like writing for kids and nothing more. You feel good; you've had success in that field so why try something different?

We need to try another kind of writing once in awhile. Move out of that safe place and venture into the dark world of the unknown. You may have strength in more than one type of writing but you'll never know if you don't try.

I've noticed that Flash Fiction becomes a bigger and bigger field. I suppose it is partly because, in our hurried world, we can read a whole story in a very short time. Yesterday, I decided to try my hand at Flash, using what I'd written some time ago as the opening to a short story. Originally, I'd planned on the story being well over 1000 words. So, how in the world was I going to do this? I read the three  paragraphs I'd written earlier, started using my imagination and came up with paragraph four to finish the story. It had a grand total of 272 words. Yes, it leaves the reader with a few questions but it also told a complete story.

Wondering if it had any merit, I subbed it to my online writing group. So far, I have had only one critique but it was very encouraging. Wow! Maybe I can write Flash Fiction. That's what I thought after reading through the crit twice. Was my story perfect? No, for the critique had a couple of suggestions which is exactly what I was looking for. Maybe it will be published someday, or perhaps not, but I stepped out of my comfort zone. I tried to write something entirely different from what I usually write.

Guess what? It felt good. 

How about trying a completely different kind of writing than you usually produce? I'm not saying you'll be totally successful but it's beneficial to you as a writer to try something new. If the first thing you write bombs, try another area until you find a place that you like, a place you can add to your usual writing comfort zone. Or, if that first effort is pathetic, keep going in the same vein until you come up with a piece that gives you some satisfaction. Nothing horrible will happen if you try something new and it is not a wham-bang success. You have little to lose and lots to gain.  If it doesn't work, you can always come back to your comfort zone.

Friday, January 27, 2017

7 Chicken Soup Books Need Stories

Chicken Soup for the Soul is accepting stories for four new titles--one actually has been in the works for awhile but the deadline for stories has been extended. Let's take a look at the kind of stories they are seeking.

1.  Christmas and Holiday Collection--2018   Stories about holidays that fall between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day will be included in this book. Winter holidays. They're looking for the humorous, heartwarming, even emotional stories that revolve around a winter holiday. Christmas will be the theme of the majority so if you have a Thanksgiving or New Year's Eve or Hanukkah story, it would have a good chance of getting into the book. October 31st deadline

Dreams, Premonitions and The Unexplainable  This is the second book which includes stories of strange happenings in our lives. The book cover above is the first one that covered dreams and premonitions. Note that they have now added unexplainable to this new title. This is not a new call for submission but the deadline has been extended to January 31, 2017. That's coming up in a hurry so check your files and see if you have a story you might submit for this one.

3.  My Crazy Family  Haven't we all heard people make a comment about their crazy family? Most of it meant in a loving way, but then there are others who...well, you fill in the blank. This should be a book meant for humorous and loving types of stories. Deadline is June 30, 2017.

4.  Positively Happy!  The editors are looking for both serious and humorous stories about how you found happiness. What did you do to achieve that state? Happiness, they tell us, is a state of mind. Did something happen in your life to help you get there? Deadline is May 31, 2017.

5.  Stories About Cats  This book will focus on stories about rescued cats who were adopted and found a loving home. So, don't send just any cat story. Make sure it fits the theme. This is why we must read guidelines carefully. I'm betting they receive many stories that are just 'cat stories' rather than about rescued cats. January 31, 2017 deadline--so hurry!

6.  Stories About Dogs  Pretty much the same as the cat stories book. They want stories about rescued dogs--not just any dog. Another one to hurry on as deadline is January 31, 2017 (Note: both the cat and dog stories books have been on the call for submissions page for some time now)

Stories of Redemption   This new title needs stories of how you turned the negative in your life into something good. Lots of paths to take here for the August 31, 2017 deadline

Go to the Possible Books page for more detailed information. Be sure to also check the Guidelines page before you submit. When ready, submit through the form on this page.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Why Do You Write?

Have you ever been asked Why do you write? Most writers probably have that question tossed toward them at least once if not many times. What do you answer? Do you give a flip, offhand remark or do you dig deep within before you answer?

There are myriad quotes to be found giving an answer as to why we write. I've posted just a few of them today. What are your thoughts about the quotes? Which one do you like the best? the least?

The bigger question is this one: Why do you write? Put your answer in the comments section of today's post. My answer is at the bottom of this post.

Image result for Reasons to Write

Image result for Reasons to Write

Image result for Why I Write

Image result for Why I Write

Image result for Why I Write

As for me, I write for several reasons. Here are a few of them:

  • I enjoy creating something new
  • I want to leave a record of family history and stories
  • I have a need to tell a story, write a poem or an article
  • I want to leave something behind when I am no longer here
  • I want to give something to others
  • I write because I can
  • I just plain love it

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Writers Are Artists

Quotes About Writing | ... , celebrity, quotes, sayings, positive, wisdom, writing on favimages:

You're an artist! Did you know that? No brushes, no canvas, no sculptor's clay in your hands but you use words to paint a picture. I've shared a short piece I wrote on painting with words which I won't repeat today. You can read it here, if you like.

One of best ways to paint that picture for your readers is to use sensory details. If you can let your readers taste, smell, see, hear or feel the touch of what you're writing about, you've accomplished something big. All those little details draw the reader into the scene. He/she can relate from their own previous experiences. You will paint the picture for them.

Sensory details are important but so is showing the reader those details. Do not just tell them that the birds were singing. Show your character stopping to listen to the chirping. Show the character experiencing the sickening smell of days old garbage. Show it and your reader will feel it.

The Arts World includes more than the paintings and sculptures. Theater, dance, and literary works are all a part of it, as well. Yet, we hear the word 'art' and we sometimes fail to remember that we, as writers, are a part of the Art World. If you write, you are an artist, too.

I wrote a poem about writers being artists and have shared it here in the past but perhaps today is another day to share it once more with you, the writer artists.

Artists All

Painting with oils,
watercolors brushed across canvas,
clay molded by loving hands,
marble chiseled to exquisite form

Artists ply their trade,
by the golden light of day
and velvet depths of night,
with passion and verve.

One more artist joins the rank.
The writer brushes words over paper,
molds a story bit by glittering bit,
chisels a novel to survive the ages.

The writer gathers life’s stories
from country roads to city streets,
written from the depths of a heart
bursting with intensity and rapture.

Artists all, masters of creation,
be they painters, sculptors or writers,
leaving footprints on canvas, marble and paper--

heartfelt tributes embraced by mankind.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Look Back At Beginnings

Those who read this blog are in various stages of their writing life. I know people like John Grisham do not read my bits and pieces here at Writer Granny's World, but there are many beginners and intermediate level writers who do.

Think back to the very beginning of your writing days. Were you like the little guy in the poster--looking out at that big baseball stadium and field, clutching you writing tools and dreaming about making it big one day? We all have big dreams when we start down a new path. We play the What if...? game and see an image of our picture above an interview on the literary page of our Sunday newspaper. Or being interviewed on a TV show after our first novel broke sales records and received outstanding reviews.

We all have hopes and dreams of where this writing world will take us. Go back to those beginning days again and ask yourself these questions:
  • What goals did you set?
  • How many did you achieve?
  • How long did it take?
  • Where were you published first?
  • Was it for pay or a freebie?
  • Has your writing improved since the early days?
  • In what way is your writing better now?
  • Have you regressed or made progress?
  • Are you as passionate about your writing now as then?
  • Did you work at educating yourself as a writer?
  • Have you attended conferences to spend time with other writers?
  • Do you submit to higher-paying markets now?
All of us cannot claim being an expert in the writing field but, hopefully, we can say that we are a much better writer now than when we first started. Even so, we still feel a little depressed when we aren't farther along than in our plan. Writers don't always progress in leaps and bounds. It's more often done in small steps, sometimes so small that we don't realize that we are moving upward. That's why it would be worth your time today to look back at those beginning days and see where you're at now.

Whenever I run across something I wrote years ago, I read it and mentally edit as I go. I know now that it could have been so much better but I wrote whatever it was at a time when I was feeling my way and learning on the go. I know that I am a better writer today and I hope that, five years from now, I'll be beyond where I am now. Grow as you go might be a good motto.

And yes--experts in anything were all beginners at one time, just like you and me.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

The poster for today is a bit cynical but the advice is not all that bad. Think about it in relation to where you are as a writer.

Sometimes, we reach a comfort zone. I know this editor will accept my submissions, so I'll just stay with her. That's great. We'd all like to have an editor who is our cheerleader and likes just about everything we send in. But it's not the case for the majority of writers. It's safe if we stay under the tree that we know best.

We have to continue to submit to our old markets but also find new ones. Years ago, writers had to go to the library to research markets in guides like the Writer's Digest published annually. Or purchase one each year. Today, we are so fortunate that we have the same kind of information online. Besides it being there, it takes very little effort on our part to pursue it. Just begin!

If you're like me, once you begin, you'll keep moving forward. It's kind of amazing the number of markets there are. Of course, we can eliminate many of them immediately as they publish genres we know nothing about. There is no way I could submit any of my work to a sci-fi magazine nor could I write a story in that field that would be worthy of being published, I know that, so I don't even try.

I also know the genres that I can write in and I stay with those. A Horror story writer is probably never going to get accepted by Chicken Soup for the Soul. Nor will a western short story writer find success sending work to a woman's fashion magazine.

I don't want to stay in one place and I doubt you do either, no matter how comfortable you think it is. We should aim for growth as a writer. Staying in one spot, like that tree, is not going to foster growth in any way. Step away from the sheltering branches of said tree. You might have to walk in the rain at times or you could move right into sunshine and roses. A bit of rain never hurt any of us, so don't be concerned what lies outside the comfort of the tree.

The key here is that it is up to you, nobody else, to make that first step away from your comfort zone. Last January, I took a deep breath and submitted to a high circulation magazine. I had serious doubts as to whether my writing was good enough for this highly-rated publication. Even so, I stepped away from my comfort tree and sent the story. Imagine the thrill I experienced when I received an acceptance a few weeks later. What if I'd never tried? It might have turned out that I received a rejection but at least I would have known that they read my work and sent me a letter.

You're not stuck in the ground in one spot. You can move in any direction you choose even if it is one step at a time.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Point of View--Bits and Pieces

Image result for free clipart or image of using first, second or third person in writing

I've been reading a novel called The Royal Nanny which was published in 2016. The story is fiction, based on real people and situations we know in history books. We are given an inside view of life with British royalty in the late 19th and early 20th century through the eyes of the 'royal nanny' who cared for 6 royal children. The book is written in first person so we see the story through the eyes of Charlotte Bill. I have enjoyed the book and, last night, it occurred to me that I particularly like books, or stories, written in first person--using those 'I' and 'we' words many a time.

When we write a story, or a full novel, one of the big decisions we must make is what viewpoint the story will be told from--or perhaps it is better to say seen from.  There are pluses and minuses to any of the three viewpoints.

First Person:  As stated, this is a form that appeals to me when reading and also when writing fiction, even though I don't use it that often. It allows the reader to see and live the story through the eyes of one person. The reader sometimes feels the emotions of the narrator, if the writer is skillful. Using first person tells the reader right away that This is my story and I'm inviting you to live it with me. One of the limits of this type of narration is that the person telling the story must be in every scene. I can't tell you what happened ten miles away if I'm not there. I have read a few (very few) where there are two people, writing in first person, who tell us the story, skipping back and forth. It takes a good writer to make this work.

Second Person:  Here, we see the word 'you' used multiple times. I find it irritating to read a story from this viewpoint. The writer attempts to put you, the reader, right into the action. This is probably the least used method to narrate a story. Books get published that utilize second person narration so someone must like them. I have never tried it but I would think it difficult to write this way.

Third Person:  Here, a narrator tells us the story. The omniscient narrator is one who knows all people and all parts of the story. This narrator knows what every person is thinking. It's like the storyteller of old with a crowd gathered round while he tells the story from beginning to end. The third person limited allows the narrator to know the thoughts and feelings of only one character but is still telling us the story. The narrator allows us to see what happens to this particular character. Read this good article for a more in-depth explanation.

Beginning writers sometimes mix the point of view in one story, or book. Don't do it. Stay with one of these three methods.

Which of these three viewpoints do you like best when you write? How about when you read? Can you pinpoint why?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Adjectives--A Writing Exercise

It's a gloomy day here in Kansas, drizzly and light fog. I like to spend time writing on days like this. It's harder to keep glued to the chair when the sun is shining and beckoning me to come out and play outdoors.

Here's a writing exercise for you to try today. We all know that an adjective is a word that describes a noun. Fine. Many writers tend to overuse the handy adjective by using three, or even (gasp) four of them in front of one little noun. It tends to overpower the noun and can even lose it somewhere. Keep it to one or two at the most.

Adjectives enhance the sentence. They tell us a bit more about that person, place or thing--the noun. We want our readers to know more than the word building so we use adjectives to help paint the image for the reader. What do you want your readers to see? Here are a few examples:

A.  The decrepit building stood out among the rest of the renovated area.
B.  The sun-lit building shimmered late in the afternoon.
C.  The faded, dingy building was the last to be razed.
D.  The new office building attracted visitors by the thousands.

Each of these sentences tell you more about the building. Each sentence brings a building of a different kind to mind. Read each sentence without the adjective(s). It's still a perfectly good sentence but the image in your mind is not as clear.

Exercise:  Find two adjectives to go with each noun listed below. Then, create a full sentence. Read it with and without the adjectives. Which do you like best?

  • Example:  boat--battered  tug   The battered tug boat moved slowly toward the harbor for the final time.
  • babies
  • bear
  • house
  • grandfather
  • windmill
  • tank
  • envelope
  • tree
  • roses

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.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Clean It, Organize It and Enjoy!

I said early last week that I was not going to tell you to work on your writing goals for 2017, at least not right away. And today, I'm still not going to suggest that you spend your time thinking about goals. I didn't know until I wrote this post that today is National Clean Off Your Desk Day.

So, before you do anything else this January, consider giving your writing workspace a good cleaning. Not just with a broom and a dust cloth and sorting the papers on your desk, although that is a good place to begin. It's your writer's life that you want to get organized and cleaned. The woman above could start with those sticky notes decorating the edges of her monitor. They all must be telling her to do something or reminding her of an important task.

Here's a checklist for what you should consider in your cleaning and organizing:
  • Make a list of the items on those sticky notes and post it where you can still be reminded.
  • Clean off your computer desk or whatever place where you write--go through those bits and pieces of paper that tend to pile up; throw away the ones that have no meaning any longer and put away the ones that you feel you need to keep.
  • Look at the wall behind or to the sides of your workspace. Is there something pleasing on it? If not, put up a poster or picture that pleases you. It will help your mood tremendously. I have a framed picture of a place where we had a marvelous vacation in Cornwall, UK a few years ago. Fill the walls with artwork done by children or grandchildren; that should make you happy.
  • Do you have the pens, pencils, notepads etc that you might need close by? You don't want to waste time searching for them when you reach out and find nothing.
  • Check your writing records for 2016--your submissions, acceptances, rejections and what you earned. You need this information for tax purposes if you earned enough but you also need it to assess your writing for last year. If you haven't kept a chart like this, start doing so this year.
  • Check the file where you save your documents. Make a list of the unfinished ones so that you have a good place to begin writing in this new year. Make another list of already published pieces that you can market as reprints.
  • If you don't already have one, start an Idea folder. Jot a few notes for each idea and add more as the year progresses.
  • Look in My Documents. If you're like me, there will be quite a few things you no longer need and can delete. 'Stuff' piles up and we always mean to get rid of this or that but somehow never get to it. Now is a good time. Keep only those things you think you might need or use again. Definitely get rid of duplicates. I try to keep the most current version.
  • Go through that long list of messages in your email inbox. If you're like me, you don't always get rid of the ones that are no longer of any importance. Delete those and save others in a folder. Keep the ones that need your attention now or soon.
  •  Make a list of projects you'd like to work on this year. Put an asterisk * besides those of most importance. This sounds like a goal but I considerate it more of an organization tool.
If you do all the above and give your area a thorough dusting and sweeping, you will be ready to start on your list of goals for this year. More on that later.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Unfinished Writing Projects

One of the questions I had in my list of seventeen questions in a post earlier this week was How many unfinished projects do I have? When I saw the poster above, it made me smile. How nice to let whoever that 'Karma guy' is to pop by my house and gather all my unfinished projects in a bag. Then he'd take them home and return them in perfect submission condition.

We all know that karma is not a person but a philosophy in the Hindu or Buddhist religion. So, I guess we are going to have to finish those half-done pieces of writing on our own. But how?

  1. Identify:  Make a list of all the unfinished writing in your files. Are you shocked at the number or do you think that it's not so bad?
  2. Sort:  Rearrange your list so that your first priority projects are at the top and the rest to follow in order of importance. Some of you will put the easiest first and others will begin with the one they know will be most difficult. There are pluses to both ways. Get the worst one out of the way first and the rest will seem easy. Or, do the easy ones and work up to the one that has bugged you for a long time. Your choice!
  3. Read thoroughly:  Once you've selected a piece to begin your Finishing Project, read it slowly and carefully. Read it from your writer's viewpoint. Now read it again. This time, read it from the reader's side. How do they see it differently than you do? What things will they see the same? Read it two or three more times, still slowly. Did any ideas for revising or finishing jump out? Sometimes, that will happen and others not.
  4. Revise and Edit:  When we talk about 'unfinished projects,' there are two kinds. Some are completed first drafts of essays or short stories, poems, articles, even a chapter of a book but we consider them as not completed because we know they should be written better. Other first drafts might be only half-finished. I have one in my files that is only one sentence! This step is where the hard work comes in.
  5. Simmer slowly:  After you've completed #4, put the draft back in your files for a few days. This is a step too many writers skip. They are in a hurry to get something finished and ready to submit. It's well worth taking this step, however, because you'll see from a different perspective when you read it later.
  6. Final Edit:  Make your final edit. It's probably not going to take long, if you are relatively satisfied with what you've written. There will be minor word changes, spelling corrections, deleting a few words--usually the mechanical things that need polishing.
  7. Seek a market:  All this time that you've been finishing your piece, you have probably been considering a market that would be a good spot to submit to. Start checking guidelines and look for as many markets as you can that would be appropriate for whatever you've written.
  8. Ready to submit:  After you've done all of the above, send that finished piece to an editor.
  9. Go back to the list:  You've gotten one down and are ready to tackle #2 on your list. Whittle that list down one by one.
What if you still aren't satisfied with what you've come up with? What if the piece needs such a major overhaul that you are ready to dump it totally? That will happen now and then. We all have written something with three great beginning paragraphs and then there is nowhere else to go. And it's not a finished piece. It's just thoughts from your head to the printed word. It's OK. There is no Writer's Rule that says every single piece we start must be finished. Should you delete it, wipe it clean off your To-Do List? Maybe you should still save it in your files. Perhaps, two years from now, a fabulous way to continue will come to you. Or maybe it won't but it does no harm to keep that unfinished piece in your files. You might start a folder of the ones that need your attention later.

One good piece of advice in today's poster is the part that says Keep calm... Your finishing up project will go more smoothly if you do.