When I Forget the Words

Have you seen instances on television of celebrities, football players, and even olympians who don’t know the correct words to the Star Spangled Banner? Or, perhaps witnessed an interview of a person who got tongue-tied, searching frantically for just that right word?

Writers can write and rewrite on our computers until we get the words to flow just the way we want them. We can use a thesaurus and a dictionary to help us choose words and check on meanings. 

The Describer’s Dictionary by David Grambs is very useful. For example, say you want to describe the color black. The book gives these words: ebony, ebon, sable, jet, onyx, ink black, coal black, anthracite.  The book is divided into words for various Shapes, Patterns and Edges, Surfaces and Textures, Light and Colors, etc.

The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi includes all emotions in an easy-to-use alphabetical format that is further broken down into Physical Signals, Internal Sensations, Mental Responses, Cues of Acute or Long Term experiences of an emotion, emotions that specific examples May Escalate To, and Cues of Suppressed emotions. I especially like the Writer’s Tip which is provided at the bottom of each listed emotion.

If you know of any other resources that writers might find useful, please let me know. One I’d find extremely useful would be substitutions for adverbs. If there isn’t one out there, already, maybe this would be a project you’d be interested in taking on!

Which Voice Should I Listen To?

Will people like it? Is it a “page turner”? Are the characters believable?

My mother would answer “People will love it. I could hardly put it down!”  I could ask any number of family members and they’d answer the same.  Families.

If I’d pose the same question to my friends, maybe for a few who read A LOT would make comments about point-of-view, unique voice, and so on.

However, when my critique group is asked for their honest opinions, I will get suggestions for improvement. They may point out issues with spelling, grammar, syntax, and verb tense. 

If I enter a writing contest, based on reading my synopsis and 10-15 pages, judges will use a rubric to assess such things as a good “hook”, marketability, professional impact, and pacing. They may even respond by asking to see the entire manuscript.

From those comments—some from very prejudiced persons—I base my decision as to whether or not my book is ready to send to an editor, a publisher, or whether it is in need of extensive revision. 

Three groups of people, each with a unique connection to this writer, each with a different focus, each possessing varying degrees of expertise.

So, which group, if any, should my professional-writing self listen to? The one with the most expertise? The group of avid readers? Professional judges?

And should I act on their advice? Base my future actions on what they have to say?

How much weight do I give their comments over my inner voice—the one that desires to move forward and get my novel published?

Lots of opinions. Lots of questions. I’m not sure I have the answers—yet.

So, I make a decision to read yet another “how to” book, attend just one more professional conference, sign up for an additional writing course.  

Then, with added confidence, I  decide to trust

the voice inside my head, 

my gut, 

my common sense, 

what I know to be true.

Simple Changes To Give You That Spark

I write in my home office. But there are many places to write that are relaxing, inspirational, and energizing. Sometimes a simple change of scenery might be just what a writer needs to kick-start their writing day.

There are endless possibilities: on a lounge chair in the backyard under a leafy tree; in the comfy reading chair in the bedroom; at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee; floating on a raft in the swimming pool; on a park bench; in a gazebo; by a fish pond; in a coffee house; on a porch swing; in a flower garden; near a waterfall; in the corner of a bookstore.

Do you love to travel? Compile a writing bucket list: sitting near Niagara Falls; overlooking the ocean; in a warm cabin with snow falling outside; on a deserted island; on a sailboat; in the rainforest; at the top of Mount Everest; at the base of the Statue of Liberty; in an art museum; on an airplane; in a hot air balloon; on the porch of the Grand Hotel on Macinaw Island.

You can also change when to write: at sunset; at dawn; during a blizzard; in the middle of the night; after a good meal; on a spring morning.

When’s the best time for you to write, emotionally? Choose an intensely emotional time: when extremely happy; sad; feeling ‘blue’; lonely; angry; frustrated…. 

Changes in the where and when can be used to give authors that spark—that edge.

Have Fun!

“Write, write, write. It seems like that’s all you do, anymore. You should let yourself have a little fun, now and then!” A friend of mine commented. 

Yes, it IS hard work—and yes, it CAN feel like solitary confinement at times, but it really IS what I want to be doing. Because it IS fun!

I could be cleaning house, exercising, paying bills, doing laundry, shopping, reading, people watching, decorating…

But I like writing! It’s the act of digging deeper into myself, asking more and more of myself while creating characters that are exciting, whimsical, hilarious, endearing, and even scary at times. It is the telling of their stories—their hopes, disappointments, dreams, accomplishments— that is so compelling. 

The voices of my characters call to me. I see their faces. Feel their impatience.

So, I set aside my laundry, put something on the counter to defrost for dinner, and hope there will be enough time at the end of the day for a walk around the block. 

I warm my cup of coffee in the microwave and head for my home office, satisfied that I’ve made the right choice for my day. 

Fantastical Fantasy

I write Fiction; not Fantasy.

However, I thought I’d try my hand at it. Throw caution to the wind and let myself create. No rules. Simply write with abandon.

Or so I thought.

But I found that creating new imagined worlds can be daunting.

In the course of just one afternoon, here are three things I learned:

  1. The new world in a fantasy can be done most easily by thinking of our present world and changing just one thing. How about a world where one can speak things into existence?

2. Build your characters’ stories around behaviors that will make your imagined world captivating and believable.

When readers allow themselves to live within an imaginary world, improbable events can seem probable.

3. Be consistent within your story. If your character can speak things into being, don’t have him cower in the shadows when faced with an enemy. Why not have him create a powerful weapon just by speaking?

Please share something you’ve learned about writing Fantasy.

   

Say It With Heart

Recently, I’ve read quite a few articles on when and how often to write. Authors are giving advice on # of words to write per day and # of days to write per week. They give opinions on where to sit while writing, how often to get up and take a walk, optimal lighting, inspiring music, and so on.

Nike says “Just Do It”. IMAX offers: “Think Big”. Sony uses the slogan: “Make Believe.” Energizer’s is: “Keeps going and going and going.” Kodak: “Share moments. Share Life.”; Taco Bell: “Think Outside the Bun;” Pizza Hut: “Make it great.” 

My personal writing motto: always write what you will be proud to reread some 20+ years from now. Write the truth, without prejudice or malice; write from the heart; write words that honor God and others.

Keep plugging along. Don’t give up. Push forward. See it through. Move ahead.

Don’t click on “publish” until you are sure it is spelled right, it looks right, it sounds right. And when mistakes come, extend yourself the grace to forgive your own humanness and imperfections.

Then, get yourself back to the keyboard. It’s a brand new day. See it from a fresh perspective. Write from your soul. Say it with heart. 

Endless Possibilities!

You’re halfway through your first book and you come up for air. You read an article on self-promotion: getting your name out there and becoming recognizable in the world of the written word. The fact that you actually have to turn to the social media machine that you have been avoiding (because it potentially could suck up all of your writing time) hits you like a ton of bricks. Panic wells up inside you.

You read a few articles, hoping against hope that you have misunderstood. But, nope. The message is loud and clear. What to do, now?

Should you run, bury your head in the sand, pack it up, give up the dream? Could you even do that? 

Of course not. That world that offers you solace and a creative outlet. It challenges you to look deep within and inspires you to become more than you ever thought possible.

So, you begin building a platform. Putting your ego aside. Inviting criticism through your door. Fighting your insecurities. Finding a voice. Calming those fears of rejection and perhaps being misunderstood at times.

But I promise, you’ll wake up one day in the not-too-distant future and put your name into your computer’s search bar and it will pop up. You’ll get a few emails from followers—some, even, in other countries! You’ll read positive comments to your posts. You’ll get encouragement from friends and family.

You are suddenly on the brink of a whole new life, filled with endless possibilities.

All because you dare to write. To challenge yourself. To share all of who you are about. What you’ve got going. What you bring to the table that no one else does in quite the same way.

We’re writers—and life doesn’t get any better than that!

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I recently took a trip down memory lane. I reread some of my blogs from five and six years ago.

I have learned some things since then. One of which is to shorten my writing to a few paragraphs instead of several pages.

In the age of texting and Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, we have all become accustomed to short snippets of information. So, for the next few weeks, I am going to take my early blogs (which you may not have read because they were sooooooo long) and shorten them into concise bits of knowledge.

Rewritten, I hope they will be more useful, with the ultimate goal of encouraging you to keep on writing.

Even in isolation, amid Covid and natural disasters, writers can still write and take solace in the fact that your words can mean all the difference to readers worldwide.

Make Your Writing Relatable

Will readers like your book?

What is the deciding factor?

I often ask avid readers to fill in the blank:   “I like books that are _________.”

Some common answers are:

Funny

Have lots of action.

Have zany characters.

Romantic.

Easy to read.

Are “clean.”

Are about animals and their masters.

It all boils down to this:  Readers like books that are relatable.

There has to be a connection between the character and story for the reader.

In-Laws and All: A Survival Guide may appeal to those adjusting to the initial years of marriage.

A few years ago, third and fourth Graders couldn’t wait to get their hands on Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

Fifty Shades of Grey readers might share with you what they were hoping for while they were in the check-out line at Barnes and Noble…

Those going through painful divorces may be compelled to read An American Marriage.

Christians snapped up copies of the Left Behind series a decade ago.

Would-be soccer stars may find Soccer Shootout inspiring.

When you use your style, your unique twist, your distinctive point-of-view to make your writing relatable for your readers, they will be able to say, “Yes. That’s the kind of book I like.”

Do Prologues Require Epilogues?

No. Books with prologues don’t require epilogues. And vice versa. 

In fact, neither is required. It’s up to you to decide once you’ve written your story. 

Ask yourself if they improve your story.

Don’t write either one if you are just using them to dump a bunch of information on the reader. You might as well begin or end the actual story in a chapter instead. 

The only time I would really encourage the use of prologues and epilogues is when writing a series. They are especially helpful to readers as they move forward from one book to another or for readers who may jump in to read in the middle of a series, not aware of what has gone on in past books.

One last thing to consider. Research says only about 40 percent of readers actually read them. So, are they wasted effort?

Personally, I like writing them because they seem to “ground” me to my writing and get me psychologically “into” my story.

The good thing is that it seems there is no “write” or “wrong” answer to this question of whether or not to use prologues or epilogues.