Thursday, May 28, 2009

My New Writing Job

It's official. Late last night, I received an email announcing that my reviews passed the preliminary test and I made it on the TOS CrewMember list, which means, that I will become very busy for the next year reviewing curriculum, books and other various things from educational companies . To make it even more exciting, I will be able to use their products for free in my home school program for our children and perhaps even those in a CO-OP. (See my Leaders in Learning blog for info on TOS-The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.)
As I sit awaiting details on the rules and responsibilities, I am making a mental wish list so that when the guidelines arrive, I will have a head start in looking for my favored things.
Meanwhile, I finished my home school piece for the column in the Lake Family Magazine, considering what to write for various contest entries and writing a story on how I healed from Systemic Lupus. I'm hoping that a letter, which is being written for some friends with similar health symptoms as my former diagnosis, will be used to help other people who desire to be healthy and whole the natural way.
Soon, I may also work on a rebuttal article to an opinion piece, published in the Orlando Sentinel on Monday, that sent waves of outrage in the surrounding communities of home educators.
Last, but not least, I am working on my novel, Calling Him Lord, which I hope to have another chapter written in before next week.
At the library today, I signed myself up for "free college courses" by taking out several writing magazines on loan. There is a wealth of knowledge out there for free, if you take the time to find it.
All in the day of an aspiring writer, are writable, teachable moments that I will grasp with eager hands and clutch to my heart with deep admiration.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Communication Skills

Being a writer is about so much more than writing. Writers desire to communicate a message, to teach a lesson, to inspire others to write, to vent their own thoughts and feelings or for a multitude of other reasons. No matter what the reason for writing, communication is in process.
Over the years, I've been introduced to a myriad of people who aspire to the "high call" of being a published writer. (Every person is called to do something. To me, writing is a high call of which I am unworthy and yet, by the grace of God, I am called to undertake.) In the meeting places where writers comiserate and critique, a common thread seems to come up in discussion.
"I'm good at writing but terrible at other forms of communication." I've heard this statement from the amateur as well as the successfully published author.
A few years ago, a Christian Writer's Group that I ran hosted a Florida writer (who now lives elsewhere), named Bryan Davis for a writing workshop. It was he who alerted me to the importance of learning to communicate and "sell" yourself. After hundreds of rejections, this author published a successful youth fantasy fiction series and continues to be a hit on the Christian market. His books are now in public schools and libraries as well. But it only happened after he demonstrated how sold he was on the book he was writing. His communication skills included continuing to query after multiple rejection letters, attending writing conferences, approaching editors of publishing houses and selling them on his stories. Now he has a couple of published series and might I add, you should order them for your children!
Self-promotion was a challenging communication skill and a hurdle which he overcame.
Most of us who write find that aspect of the trade horrifying and wish to avoid it at all costs. Why do we feel this way? Is it due to a lack of belief in the ideas we originate? Or is is easier to communicate on paper than in person? Why do we feel uncomfortable and what can we do about it?
I've been blessed to "meet" some very talented people, who are qualified to offer advice on this very issue. A lady I met this week offers training that will benefit not only my writing friends but anyone who desires to be successful. The person to whom I refer is JoJo Tabares, a well-known author and speaker at conferences across the United States.
When I first saw her book in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, I wanted to read it but thought I might not need it as much as I needed some of the other resources. With budget constraints, I've been holding back on purchasing anything, let alone my favorite friends called "books". I went for some other freebies. (Then again, her Wee-book on the TOS website is available for only pennies so I plan to purchase it and others soon.)
Being a writer with a few things published, one might think that my communications skills are good enough but think again. It's so much easier for me to communicate in writing and much more awkward in person.
On JoJo's webpage, The Art of Eloquence, there is a nifty little test to assess the effectiveness of one's communication skills. I took it and became surprised how that even though I am quite chatty with collegues and those close to me, I have a great deal to learn yet about clarity in communication.
The test only takes a few minutes and is well worth your time. Visit her site and try it for yourself. It's very enlightening.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Spoonerisms in Writing

When I first met my husband, he loved to provoke the curiosity of a tot by reciting a poem about the "Pee Little Thrigs" or "Rindercella who slopped her dripper."
The first response to this was always a blank stare while a puzzled child would try to decipher the code. Next, came what sounded like a giggle stick and then, chuckles gave way to snorts.
After a few minutes, my husband, encircled by a growing audience, began his cartoon voice impressions, mimicking every character from Yogi Bear to Yacky Doodle to Snagglepuss. Adults and children stood holding their sides while laughing so hard they could cough.
While the comedic effect worked well in person, humor can be risky in writing if not used with wisdom.
I recently critiqued a sobering tale that was chock full of obnoxious spoonerisms. It was apparent that the author was quite entertained by them but this reader found them offensive. If the man was writing a comic book or memoir, I could possibly find it in my heart to cut him a little slack but in a murder mystery, the puns were way off-base.
So how do you know what word plays and wacky wisdom to use and when?
1. Make sure you are really feeling the mood of your story
2. Think long and hard before using jokes that don't fit that mood.
3. Make sure your critiquing colleagues are not afraid to be brutally honest with you.
4. Be willing to extract things from your text that you really love but to which your readers may not be able to relate.
While it is a great idea to entertain your reader, using cute phrases is a bit like playing cards while holding crossed fingers behind your back. "You've got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Eating My Words

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to catch your own typos in a chat program or online community such as Facebook or AIM? Did you ever write something, hit send and then wish you could take it back only to find it was too late? There sit your words on the screen in front of you, staring at you like bugs eyeing a piece of meat.
You might search in vain for a delete button and then look for a chair to crawl under. At least in the electronic format, you are not face to face (right away, anyway) with the recipient. Regardless, you are making an impression.
Thanks to a really nice new friend, I am sold on hiring a professional editor for my latest work in progress, that is, after my writing collegues take a chop or two at it. I've played the role of a fool in some ways.
Shall I talk more of the three Re's that make you feel ridiculous? Re-read, Re-treat and Re-write. Make that four! Re-cover. Yes, I am re-hashing the last post and eating some of my words.
Yesterday was profitable for me in the writing department. I managed over 3, 000 words in a couple of hours. Prior to then, writer's block had hit me on head and left me numb when it came to working on my novel. I was able to write small things, articles, blogs, short story content and the like but whenever I opened my novel file, I became stuck like a fly on tar paper. Then, I experienced a breakthrough as I re-read a chapter of "Calling Him Lord" that I had written ages ago. Boy, were there typos, incongruent ideas and lots of run-ons that were somehow missed in the first edit. I ate more words. Delete! Good bye to about 1000 words.
Next came the revelation, a whole new line of action. My characters went their ways-ways they had not previously taken, but ways that brought them to a better intersection with the plot. Such fun! But, just as I missed things in the first edit, so I shall likely in the second or third.
If I have to sell my right arm to do it, I shall hire an editor!
What's on tonight's menu? I don't know. Maybe more humble pie.
P.S. If you read my previous blog called "Ghosts of Manuscripts Past", you might like this website which helps you find repetitious words and phrases in your text. I tried it. It's fascinating. You feed your words into the little text box and it spits out an itemization of over-used words and phrases.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Write Connections For Editing

Networking is vital to a writer. It's not only what you know but who you know. Who you know and what you know determine what you publish.
There are many opinions on whether or not to hire a professional editor. It's not my desire to debate the in's and out's of either choice. Editing is a necessary "evil". The method that you, as a writer, choose to accomplish that is your choice.
I've found that bartering with others can help defray editing costs somewhat. There are many accomplished professional or polished amateurs in writing groups. I suppose someday I will be wealthy enough from my published work to hire a professional editor, but maybe at that point I won't need one anymore. Of course, my perfectionist brain excels at being critical of my work so much that it often impedes the creative process enough to prevent the completion of the final product at a good speed. On the other hand, I have much to learn about self-editing as well.
Many of you are able to allow creativity to flow and leave the editing to the pro's. As I said, the choice is yours.
Last night, I had the opportunity to join Palm Group in Sorrento, a writing group of which I was a long-time member. Relocation of both the group and me had prevented my attendance for quite a while but another move back into the general area has enabled my re-acquaintance with the group. It was great to see the old gang along with newer members I had not met. The Oldies are still the Goodies - as talented and friendly as I remember.The Newbies are promising as well. I look forward to another visit next month.
One of the things I enjoyed about Palm Group was their ability to dissect work by other writers/authors and point out areas for improvement and deletion. (My, are they good at it!)
But submission to the table is not for the faint of heart. My first visit was four years ago when the former leader introduced them to me as, "The Carnivores". What an accurate description it was!
While no member feels belittled or unappreciated, one sure does find the need to be on his or her toes. The critics don't miss a trick but give it to you with both tough and tender morsels of advice and praise. Needless to say, I will polish my work with much self-editing before I submit anything. I think I will just sit back and learn from the others for a while as I am rusty in the art of being heavily critiqued and swallowing it.
Not that I have all raving reviews by those who read and critique my work currently but that Palm Group has a reputation for raking it with a fine toothed comb. This is exactly what I soon as I am ready again.
For now, I shall trade services with a few select trusted members of the other writing group in which I hold membership, the Clermont Christian Writer's Group, the group that is strong on encouragement. That way I will experience the best of both worlds.
On the flip side of the coin, I also have recently "met" someone who runs an editing company. You can find information about her services at:
Regardless of your selection of the venue, editing is a must. You must have connections with other writers who can edit your work and you never know ahead of time where those connections could lead.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Amidst other free-lance work, I'm writing a novel. It's both invigorating and intimidating.
With all the tools we have today, writing is so much easier now than it used to be. The market, however, is much more difficult. In the old days, if you were adept at grammar and chose an interesting topic, you were likely to be published in just about any genre. Nowadays, it's much tougher, even if you can write fairly well.
The competition has increased. Information and technology have reached the MAX Q of all time. Writers and writer wanna-be's are a "dime a dozen" and self-publishing has become a stronger marketing venue.
To top that, the general public is just not entertained with mere reading as in days of old. With the invention of satellite television, video games and wireless Internet, people are looking for cutting-edge material to read. The joy of plain reading has been replaced by reality TV shows and adrenaline-rushed activities . Stories must now be twice as entertaining, more concise, in keeping with fast-moving trends but not too colloquial. These facts can leave the aspiring writer feeling inadequate.
Despite this, those who love writing will always find a way to pen ( should I say 'text' or 'key in'?) the stories that are on their hearts. True writers do it for the sheer love of writing. Publication is merely the icing on the cake.
Cake minus the icing is dry so it is important that writers do take the time to adjust some of what they write to suit the market. They need to learn ways to improve in their genre and /or branch out of their comfort zones to other genres they may have never considered prior.
There are a myriad of great tools for pros and amateurs alike. Writing formulas are important and every publisher has guidelines. Excellent writers utilize resources without compromising their own ideas and goals. They follow the guidelines and formulas for genres and look for the one thing that will make them stand out, perhaps "breaking the rules" without actually breaking the rules. They find unique ways to improve their craft.
As an aspiring writer, I am taking my own advice about stepping up the pace. Re-writing a novel which I had begun years ago, I bought a writing program to insert the manuscript text into in hopes that it will help me to make the novel even better. The editing and re-writing are an effort to come to the place where I am really pleased with the product I wish to publish. I don't want my novel to sound like it was written by a computer program but I do want to follow the formula of the genre for which I am writing. Not everyone can afford a degree in English but everyone can find free or inexpensive tools to help them improve their skills.
Being somewhat of a right-brainer, I have found the program, "My Novel" to be an interesting purchase. It helps to analyze and organize information, scenes, chapters, as well as to keep track of characters and timeline issues. I think this will help with continuity. It's like having a mini-editor, in a sense.
Recently, my husband was reading a series of Young Adult Christian fiction books to pre-screen it for our children. It really bothered him that the writer, who has had many, many series published apparently did not have continuity in the books. The author needed a continuity editor.
I can see how "My Novel" could help me as a writer with this potential problem. With all the edits and re-edits, it would be easy to miss something.
As I continue to use the program, I'll remember to keep you posted on how well it works and the things I like or don't like about it.
How about you? Do you have any programs or writing tools that you use to help you organize your writing ideas? Or do you have any favorite tricks for generating ideas for writing?
Let me know.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ghosts Of Manuscripts Past

When you read several books by the same author or many articles by the same columnist, you tend to notice themes and word usages that sound all too familiar. To a point, this is desirable. An author's voice shining though becomes his or her signature. But how does one keep his or her manucripts from sounding like the "Department of Redundancy Department" or SOSO (same old, same old)? Or how does one come up with enough original work so as not to lead the reader to feel visited by ghosts of manuscripts past?
I was reading through some of my old pieces a day or so ago and noticed several words that I had used repeatedly which I had not seen on first edit. Removing myself from the closeness of my own creation for a time gave me a much more objective viewpoint for analysis.
Aditionally, expanding word usage helps to break up the monotony. Taking advantage of a thesaurus, magazines, "word finds" and cross word puzzles are other ways I have worked on curing this subconscious tendency to use the same phrases over and over again.
How do you deal with this issue in your own writing? Share with us your tricks for editing out repetition without hurting your continuity.