Read Your Reviews

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Do you ever feel like quitting?

Quitting writing, that is.

Do you ever say to yourself, “Who am I kidding? My readers wouldn’t miss me.”

Do you ever play the mind game in which you list all the things you could be doing, if you didn’t write?

Sports, movies, television, exercise, shopping, art, camping, travel, crafts, learning a second language, volunteering …

Last week, I had a few moments where I thought about the “what-ifs” in my own life.

That’s when I read my book reviews on Amazon. An hour later, in tears, I thanked God for my readers. What beautiful and encouraging things they had shared about how my books had touched their hearts … changed their lives.

I was overwhelmed as I read their comments, recalling that the very reason I write was summed up in their remarks.

I felt humbled, energized, and encouraged.

I am thankful and grateful for the opportunity to do what I love to do and have such a profound effect on lives.

How could I possibly quit when I have so much more to say? So many more readers to challenge, comfort, offer hope … 

So, when the days of doubt come, give yourself a shot in the arm. 

Jump on Amazon and read your book reviews.

 

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Drafting Can Be Rough

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Drafting is the next step in the writing process. Whether you use a computer or a steno pad, whether you write with a pencil or pen, call it a “sloppy copy” or use another form of reference, you cannot escape this step in the writing process.

Using what you’ve accomplished so far in the prewriting process, drafting is the actual writing, chapter by chapter, of your book.

With a few tweaks here and there, all writers vary this stage of writing to end up with what works for them. Whether it is a program, such as Scrivener, or your own version of something else you’ve seen out there, now’s the time to get the old creative juices going. You can use a combination of approaches. After five books, I am still changing mine. 

What I am going to share, now, is how I approach the drafting stage of writing. If it is helpful as a whole, or only in part, use what makes sense according to your writing style, your organizational methods, and so on.

I use my computer at home almost 100% of the time. I found, early on, that using Mac’s “Pages” wasn’t the universally accepted format. You’ll need WORD. You can purchase WORD for Mac from the internet or Apple store, if you, too, own a MAC.

After closing my office door to insure quiet, I consult what I accomplished in my prewriting. I used to use giant Post-it’s of about 18” by 30” or so to keep my timeline,  characters and their descriptions straight. I have recently found it just as effective to use a spiral notebook and list these important details chapter by chapter. Clutter on my walls tended to make me nervous, whereas a simple notebook can be closed and stored in the closet for the next writing day.

Next I write … and write … and write …

I may finish and entire chapter or not, depending on the amount of time I have allotted. But, here is where I differ from most writers. After taking a short break for lunch or even overnight, I re-read my chapter, doing a quick edit of anything that stands out to me. These may be typos, mistakes in point-of-view, changes in scene order, or even sometimes deleting entire sections. These pre-edits serve two purposes: 1) Reading through the chapter gets my head back into the story so that I can continue my writing and 2) Just like the Post-its that previously cluttered my walls, it is a way of reducing what isn’t needed and getting down to story basics. 

(Most writers will tell you to keep writing all the way to the end of the book before going back to tackle any kind of editing. That would be ideal, if I could do it, but I just cannot…sorry, my mind just won’t get going unless everything else is cleared up, first).

Although I might do a little revising in the drafting stage, I find that it is wise to wait to do anything major until I have finished the entire book. Too many things can happen in the course of writing that might seem wise to revise early on; however, lots of difficulties will work themselves out in the course of writing. Save yourself a lot to time and work by sticking to your outline closely. Let your story “simmer” for awhile.

Before closing, I want to mention that I give my book, chapter by chapter, to my critique group. I rely on their comments heavily when editing. If there is something that these other writers do not understand (or like), then I am certain that my readers will not, either.

Next week- revising.

Love Me, Love Me Not

 

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I remember as a child, plucking petals from daisies and saying, “He loves me. He loves me not” until the stem was bare.

Today, I plucked petals from a sunflower. I repeated,  “Shopping. Writing. Shopping. Writing.” 

Do you sometimes need motivation to get down to work?

Even if writing is your passion, like it is mine, do you still find there are times we need to give ourselves a little nudge?

For instance, “If I write for two hours, I can watch my favorite television show, or if I write today, I will let myself go out for coffee with a friend this evening.” And so on.

Are we losing our interest in—or desire to—write? Are we abandoning our dream…our goal?

The holidays are busy with decorating, shopping and celebrating. It’s only natural that there is less time for writing, laundry, and cleaning. 

This season, I’m giving myself permission to spend time with family and friends. I may even go to a holiday movie.

 I’m not going to make myself feel guilty if I don’t get much writing accomplished. 

The computer will still be there when the holidays are over. And, who knows? When I reread what I last wrote, I may see it with a fresh set of eyes. My edits may come faster and easier.

I may end up with a better finished product.

I remember that when I was a teacher, I did my best teaching after Christmas break. I was refreshed and ready to tackle the second semester.

What will you do? Motivate yourself by plucking petals off a rose? Or call a friend and suggest you meet at the mall?

Two Sides of the Same Coin

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When you teach someone else how to do something, you learn a lot yourself.

Teaching has a way of cementing ideas, facts, procedures—all kinds of information—in our brains through the visual and auditory senses, as well as the writing (of the lesson plan, main points on charts or power point and so on).

So, I am going to suggest something you might think is crazy: I’d like you to consider mentoring a beginning writer. 

You may consider yourself a beginner and question just how much help you could be to someone else. But, even if you only stay a step ahead of them, the experience will be invaluable—as you learn TOGETHER.

I remember, as a first year teacher. being assigned to teach two periods of sewing in Home Economics. I had no experience. I didn’t know any of the terms, parts of the machine, not even how to read a pattern.

Each night, I would go home and teach myself what I needed to know in order to get through class the following day. This went on for the entire semester. I stayed, literally, one step ahead of my students. But, by the last day of class, I found myself actually looking forward to the next group of students. I felt increased competence and confidence 

So, the point is: whether you know a lot about the craft of writing, or you consider yourself a beginner, the experience you will gain by mentoring someone else will be invaluable.

It will be time well spent…because learning and teaching are two sides of the same coin.

Terrific Tuesdays

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Some years back, my sister and I used to meet up once a week for a day of shopping, with breakfast and lunch sandwiched in-between. Those “Terrific Tuesdays” were great.

We maintained the habit over the course of several years. However, our lives got busy with jobs, families, and masters’ programs, so we changed our ritual to once a month. It wasn’t long until it became two or three times a year and then, finally, we abandoned any hope of maintaining a regular schedule.

I know you can relate.

I should have hung onto those days like gold. We should have found a way…

So, just how does that relate to writing?

Well, let’s say that I have my writing calendar all filled out, appropriating 4-6 hours of writing  to each day of the week.

But, then the holidays come along and I’m torn between writing and meeting a friend for coffee and catching up on old times. Or, on a trip to visit Grandma for Christmas, I feel compelled to sneak up to the guest room and hammer out the plot for my next book while my kids remain downstairs helping to decorate the tree.

The truth is, there’s just no other way to create memories unless you’ve been there in the first place.

In the long run, whether our book comes out in March or May will not really matter. But, our interactions with others—our relationships—will grow, or they will die on the vine, depending on how much we cultivate them.

Take time to nurture yourself and others without guilt over meeting your writing goals.

I know there are very talented authors who will tell you to write everyday no matter what. I used to believe that. And, it led to a lot of heartache.

This year, I’m giving myself permission to take part in the celebration of the season, to laugh, to foster relationships, to turn off my computer and shut my office door.

No, this year I won’t be writing during the week of Christmas.

Instead, I will be making memories that will last a lifetime.

Christmas Letter

 

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On my “To-Do” list this week, is writing my yearly Christmas letter to friends and family. I am making a list of trips, health updates, and accomplishments I’d like to include.

That got me to thinking about YOU and what I’d like to share as the Christmas season fast approaches.

First of all, I’d like you to know how much I appreciate your encouragement and support by reading/commenting on my blogs each week. I hope they have been both helpful and encouraging to you as we walk this “writing road” together.

To catch you up on what I am doing, currently, I can say that my Beta Readers are doing their work right now, critiquing Simon Says. I look forward to hearing from them over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, I am busy writing back cover copy, revising my “About the Author” page, looking at a myriad possibilities for the front cover, and jotting down ideas for the second book in the series.

Finally, I am finishing up the manuscript for my second interactive Alzheimer’s book, I Remember Bible Stories,” as well as interviewing illustrators.

On a more personal level, I continue to be more involved in my parents’ lives at their care center and am taking on some of my mother’s previous roles, such as the big family gathering on Christmas Day. I am fortunate to live near a Honey Baked Ham store, as I am planning the meal around a nice spiral-cut ham.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years as you move ahead toward both your personal and writing goals.

Brenda

Fiction Writers, Do Your Research

 

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I struck up a conversation with a gentleman in a hospital waiting room last week. I shared a little about my writing and he responded with a comment that made me think.

He made an observation that, to him, writing fiction was quicker and easier than writing non-fiction because it did not require research.

At first thought, I agreed with him. But, later that evening, I put pen to paper and contemplated whether or not that was actually as true as it appeared on the surface.

Here is a list of just some of the research necessary for every fiction writer to complete in order to write an authentic book:

a) Learn about the setting of your book, such as the state/country, the type of weather, the topography, terrain, type of government, and so on.

b)  What type of people live there? Is their speech distinctive?  In what type of industries might they be employed?

c)  In what year/time period does your story take place? What is going on in the world at that time? What hair and dress styles are prevalent? What music is popular?

d) Do any of your characters experience an illness or disability?  If so, you will need to know how it affects his life, treatments he might experience, etc. How will he interact with others?

e) Do your characters meet with a disaster? You may have to learn about floods, earthquakes, fires, and so on.

f) How old are your characters? What kind of music, games, activities are appropriate?

A good editor will catch some of these things, such as when mine caught it when I wrote  about something that would not have even been invented yet!!

But, don’t count on someone else to do it. You’ve got to do your homework and make your book as authentic as possible.

Some say a book is successful when it is so real that the reader actually feels he/she is experiencing the action right along with the characters.

Part of making this happen is doing the hard work ahead of time.

It’s called: research.