Sunday, December 16, 2018

But it doesn't work for me!

More on 129 Tips…

Tip #36 just doesn’t work for me. Never has. Probably never will. It’s journaling.

Now, I keep a lot of notes related to stories I want to write someday. I tuck them away carefully in those wonderful little notebooks from Dollar Tree. (I can’t go into that store without buying several.)
But journaling…

I’ve tried, believe me. Tried and failed more than once. It’s just not for me, and I can’t come up with a good reason except I’m not consistent. It’s like a have-to rather than a want-to, and I’m at the age when the latter trumps the former.

Besides that, I prefer keeping my private thoughts private. If they’re written down, there’s always the chance someone else could get hold of if I get trampled by a herd of elephants or end up mummified in some cavern somewhere. Nope. I’ll think my thoughts, not write them down.

Journaling isn’t a bad idea. I’m sure it works for a lot of people, not just writers. If it works for you, go for it, and don’t look back.

It’s like being a plotter instead of a pantser. There’s no one-size-fits-all in writing. I mostly pant instead of plot. I mostly rely on notes rather than consistent journal entries.

Whatever works—finding that out and following through wins the race for the rabbit and the turtle.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Brilliant, schmilliant...

Here’s a tip I’ve wrestled with: Write brilliant headlines.

You are talking to someone who can’t successfully write
  • the title of a book
  • the title of a blog
  • labels for said blog
  • captions on pictures/graphics
without someone else weighing in.

So how does someone like me write brilliant headlines?

I’m not sure they (I) do. We press on. We try. We write and rewrite. We give up and post something mundane with no hook.

I’m willing to learn, but I suspect such profundity (get your thesaurus out!) is more of a natural talent than a learned art.

Occasionally I write something I consider a total triumph. More often, I write something I lament is a total failure. There’s no in-between.

Anyone else out there have the same problem? Anyone have a solution? Anyone want to share?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

And another word for...

Continuing to think about the 129 Writing Tips, here’s a keeper:  Use a thesaurus.

Anyone out there under 50 may not know what one is—or at least, the value of keeping one handy. Yes, yes, I know there are dictionaries and thesauruses online, but nothing beats the promise of a heavy volume in your hands!
Teaching my granddaughters to use both in summer “Mimi School” is priority, especially after I realized neither one knew how to look up a word in the dictionary using the guide words at the top of the page. Now we do it daily. But I digress.
Why use a thesaurus? Because, no matter how magnificent your vocabulary is, it can always improve. Synonyms, antonyms, related words...they’re all there. Obviously you don’t want your writing—e.g. dialogue and descriptive passages—to sound like they’ve come out of a thesaurus, but using the same words over and over can become boring to reader and writer alike.
Need another word for magnificent? Try splendid, superb, sublime, grand, glorious, extraordinary, wonderful, fine, elegant, exquisite, noble, majestic, exalted, imposing, commanding, impressive, stately, august, transcendent, brilliant, resplendent.
Having said that...there’s nothing more to say! Get thee to a used bookstore (or a new one if your budget allows) and purchase Roget’s Desk Thesaurus or something similar. It’ll be your go-to tome (book, volume, written work, bound, opus, treatise, publication)--I promise you!

And, I hope all you writers out there have checked out Aspiring Quill

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Speaking of writing challenges...

Speaking of writing challenges (see Friday’s blog), here’s a bit more on NaNoWriMo. I took the challenge the first time in 2007, the year I retired. Unfortunately, a family tragedy finally brought my fingers to a halt. I’d lost heart and wasn’t going to regain it. But the next year...the next year I pressed forward and won!

Click the link and look at the right side of the page to

  • Read about it
  • See how it works
  • Read press releases
  • Get participant testimonials (besides mine)

You can

  • Set up your own page
  • Find writing buddies
  • Find a region and participate in online and on-site activities such as write-ins
  • Get badges for your page
  • Keep track of your word count
  • Order NaNoWriMo products (t-shirts, mugs, etc.)
  • And much, much more!

Or-you can

make it a solitary pursuit, just so long as you get your approximately 1,667 words per day, which is what it takes to make that magic 50K word count between November 1 and November 30.

As I wrote on Friday, nobody is going to track you down and hang you at dawn if you don’t finish. It’s the challenge—the discipline—the feeling of community all over the world (or not) that counts.

There’s also

Camp NaNoWriMo every July where you complete our own writing project in 30 days. This year I decided to write 20 short stories—which meant I had a ten-day grace period to get it all done. I finished early, actually, and now I have a folder of stories ready for polishing. In fact, I’ve already polished two, had a beta reader vet one, and plan to submit both to different venues this month. One pays, one doesn’t but would be a “clip”, something all serious writers need to accumulate.

Give NaNoWriMo some thought over the next eleven months. Think about that project you’ve been waiting to begin. You’ve got almost an entire year to get it ready! Then DO IT! Even if you pack it in half-way through, you’ll have worked 15 days and be that much ahead.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Today's Tip

More from...

129 Tips to Make You an Unstoppable Writer…

Start by subscribing to the blog Aspiring Quill which published this article back on March 26. Believe me, there is much, much more valuable information (and inspiration) at this site! I have a shortcut on my desktop.

Today’s tip…

is to take up story challenges, which I do on a regular basis.
Of course, the first and probably most grueling is NaNoWriMo aka National Novel Writing Month where you are challenged to write 50K words in 30 days. You aren’t hunted down and hung at dawn if you don’t finish—but there’s a real satisfaction in getting it done. And, of course, you have a rough draft of a complete or almost complete novel to work with the other eleven months of the year!

Another challenge I’ve enjoyed is StoryaDay which provides short story prompts at least twice a year, usually in May and September, and other prompts throughout the rest of the year. You’re encouraged to track your progress and share with other community members.

Recently I discovered a 30-day challenge complete with prompts here. It was to being on November 12, but since I was deep into NaNoWriMo, I just printed off the prompts and decided to begin in January when I plan to take a few days “writing retreat” away from home, cats, grandchildren, and other (loved) distractions.

What’s good about writing challenges?

Just that—challenge! I’ve found myself with folders full of short stories which are available for submission. In fact, I’m editing two for specific markets right now. One is paying, while the other will just make a nice “clip”. Contests and submission opportunities pop up all the time, so what could be better than to have a stable full of stories ready to go?

And, I like the discipline of knowing I have to complete a story a day to keep on schedule—and the freedom of being able to “catch up” later if real life throws me a curve.

One more thing…or maybe two or three…

It’s free, except for the investment of your time.
It keeps your writer’s mind sharp.
It’s fun...because, remember what I said in the previous blog: Writers write!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Making a list...checking it twice...and a freebie for YOU

So much to read, so little time…

A while back I printed out what I was sure would be a terrific list from a blog on Aspiring Quill: 129 Tips to Make You an Unstoppable Writer. I wasn’t disappointed. Yesterday I took myself off to great new Scholtsky’s here in Hot Springs and treated myself to a smoked turkey on sourdough and a leisurely perusal of those 129 tips.

Checking it out and off…

I checked off 40 tips which are already part of my routine. Okay, so some got a check-minus because I’m not always consistent. As I read through the list, I vowed to get better.

The one that resonated…

Well, there were more than one tip I really identified with, but this one—logged in as #80—should move to the top of any writer’s list:

Believe you’re a writer.

When I retired and decided it was put up or shut up—that is, write, try for publication, or quit—I frequently heard/read

If you write, you’re a writer.

Tis true. If you cook, you’re a cook—maybe not a 5-star chef—but a cook nonetheless. If you run, you’re a runner, whether or not you make it to the Olympics and bring home the Gold.

And so in summation...

Writing makes you a writer. Practicing your writing craft makes you a better writer. Enjoying what you do without delusions of grandeur makes you a happy writer. I’ll take that any day.
  • Have I gotten better? Yes.
  • Could I improve more? Yes.
  • Am I enjoying myself? Yes.

Not to forget my Christmas gift to you, my readers…

Tomorrow and Friday get A Very Kate Christmas from Amazon for Kindle ABSOLUTELY FREE! If you want to gift me with a review (good, bad, or indifferent), that’s awesome.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

NaNoWriMo and Pantsing


Having started this month with no pre-planned blogging calendar, I’m flying by the seat of my pants. “Pantsing”, as understood by writers, is just sitting down and letting the story go where it will. I do that with short stories, but a little forethought goes into book-length works—and some serious planning with blogs! Maybe next week…

Pantsing with NaNoWriMo

Meanwhile, here’s a sample of what I did while preparing to rewrite (yet again!) The Legacy of Diamond Springs.

1.      Genealogies of the major characters since these figure into the historical aspects of the story.
2.      A timeline of major events past and present
3.      Research notes to be incorporated—remember all those books I read about antebellum homes and the families who built them?
4.      A series of character sketches with pictures gleaned from Fotolia—I like to be able to “see” my characters as they act and speak.

A few interesting characters…

Mitchell “Mitch” Whitney, age 35
top investigative reporter for Behind the Story Magazine
never married, several relationships, one broken engagement
closed to widowed mother
father died in freak accident when Mitch was 10—he witnessed it
graduate of Yale
cynical, impatient with people who don’t take charge of their own lives
thorough with research, vetting the truth of his stories, has won many awards
in line for editor of magazine someday
will fight for the underdog and expose the bad guy
doesn’t deal in “tabloid” trash
always takes everything he hears with a grain of salt until it’s verified
doesn’t like to get involved on a personal level

Cordelia Pendleton Wainwright, age 60
Ph.D. foods and nutritions
year at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris
editor/publisher of Timeless Cuisine
Barrett Ainsleigh’s only love for his lifetime and hers
widow of John Wainwright, wealthy businessman, who left her everything
raised Jewel since age of 4
protective of Jewel and Barrett
doesn’t part easily with personal information

Geoffrey Ainsleigh, age 32
cruel, ne’er-do-well, black sheep of family
spying on family for Senator Clanton
has tormented Jewel all her life
never married
brief fling with uncle’s wife
never finished college or held a job for more than 6 months, relies on scams
always bailed out by father for sake of the family name

Maybe I’ll introduce you to more next week…

 Pictures purchased from Fotolia