IWSG-October

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge
Here we are at the first Wednesday of the Month where many of us bloggers write about our hopes and fears in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Please visit either site for more info and a list of participating bloggers, to join, or offer encouragement.

This month’s question is “When do you know your story is ready?”

My only relevant experience with determining whether something is “ready” is with submissions to anthologies. As a member of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild, I have been submitting short pieces (the limit for the first three years was 1,500 words; this year’s was increased to 2,500 words) since I joined in 2013. In each case, I decided my story was ready when the deadline for submission was upon me. This year I took the additional step of having one of my read-and-critique groups review it with me as part of the revision process. The result was a much stronger story.

Read-and-critique groups are great!

At the same time, however, I have been struggling to determine just when to ignore the well-intentioned advice from my read-and-critique groups with my larger project. Ignore is not the right word, but I can’t come up with a more precise one. What I mean is that I realized recently that I have been adjusting my goal (an admittedly amorphous goal never committed to paper) as I have received feedback. For example, my original vision of my memoir was a single book packed full of stories of the many adventures I encountered while living in 11 foreign countries over a 30-year period. I had an elevator pitch to describe my project: My journey from seeking adventure to finding a mission. And I had lots of first drafts of the subplots and vignettes. I just needed to find the right order for them. At least, that’s what I thought.

After trying out a number of read-and-critique groups, I found two I felt fit me. I read with one group and then take the feedback to revise the pieces to read with the second group. That way both groups hear the whole piece. The feedback has been fabulous, except for one thing: I allowed the enthusiasm of the participants to make me think I should break up my story into separate books for each country.

And that’s when I got stuck. I don’t have a whole story for each country. And while I perhaps could squeeze out enough from my memories for a whole book on the first country, I don’t feel that wouldn’t make a very satisfying story. At least not for me. Because the story of my experiences in my first country is a story of failure.

I allowed myself to be lured down a path I hadn’t intended to go. But this does not mean I should have ignored the feedback. I needed the feedback to make me realize that I hadn’t done the groundwork to define my whole story. I thought the route would become clear once I began writing. Instead, I should have spent the time drawing the map so that I wouldn’t be tempted down another road.

So I’m backing up. I’m re-reading Marnie Freedman’s 7 Essential Writing Tools: That Will Absolutely Make Your Writing Better (And Enliven Your Soul) (I told her I would never finish it because there is so much in it worth another look) to help me draw my map first. Then I’ll get back to writing the story.

In the end, I hope I will know that story is ready when it fits the map I have not yet completed.

 

 

 

IWSG-September

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge
Here we are at the first Wednesday of the Month where many of us bloggers write about our hopes and fears in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Please visit either site for more info and a list of participating bloggers, to join, or offer encouragement.

This month’s question for IWSG Wednesday is “How do you find the time to write in your busy day?”

A better question for me would be “How do you fill your day while you procrastinate on your writing?” And that’s easy for me to answer. I read. I read some more. I watch another episode of Midsomer Murders on Netflix. When I have seen all of them, I’ll find another multiple episode series. I check my three e-mail accounts, plus the account of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild, to be sure I haven’t missed anything important. Then I check out Facebook, including my personal account, the Guild’s page, my Toastmasters club’s page, all of which I manage. And for good measure, I’ll check out the Meetup group pages for the multiple groups I administer.

Oh, and then there are meals to prepare. My husband eats meat and I rarely do, so that’s two different meals to prepare for lunch and dinner. He takes care of breakfast on his own.

And I have to find time to wash clothes at least once a week.

Oh, and I need to get in 10,000 steps each day.

And there’s that new 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle that I just have to finish. Putting the pieces together helps clear away mental cobwebs I am convinced are blocking my neural pathways to better writing.

These are the activities I have filled my days with recently because I’ve reached the point where I have to decide whether to include some of the tough stuff in my memoir: events I’d rather forget than include or events I’m not sure my colleagues at that time will forgive me for mentioning. Including such subplots might add the tension all my writing instructors insist must be included, but my life has been more marked with incredibly good luck (nothing bad happens while I’m in town, though revolutions may be brewing in the background) so I feel including them as (minor) “inciting events” into the arc of my memoir is manipulative.

The question I know I need to answer at this point is just what message do I want readers to take away from what I write. I should have answered that question long ago, but I’ve been dragging it around with me for the past year as I write, edit, read for critique, and then rewrite.

Here’s what I’m going to do before October’s IWSG Wednesday: I’m going to reread Marni Freedman’s 7 Essential Writing Tools: That Will Absolutely Make Your Writing Better (And Enliven Your Soul) to focus attention on the planning steps I’ve been avoiding while I’ve been balancing my checkbook and entering all my receipts and expenditures into Quicken Essentials. Then I’ll apply the seat of my pants to the seat of my chair and get back to writing.

Eight-Week Challenge: Week Seven Results

Week 7

One week left! Each week one of my goals takes a back seat to something. This week the goal I was short on was writing.

As a reminder, here are my remaining goals for the eight-week challenge:

  • eat more nutritious food with fewer empty calories and
  • write at least 750 words per day for at least five days each week.

Healthy Eating

I continue to try out new vegetarian recipes–or more often just try putting vegetables together in new ways. This week I found organic strawberries and rediscovered what strawberries are supposed to taste like–so much better than the commercially grown and chemically treated bits that taste more like styrofoam than fruit.

Writing

WWIndexingEvent

My goal to write at least 750 words at least five days a week took a hit this week. Earlier in the week, the cause was too many other things on my plate–a common occurrence, according to my husband. And he’s right.

But the last three days the cause was my participation in the Family Search Worldwide Indexing Event for 2016. For those three days I reviewed scanned versions of draft records, death certificates, and lots and lots of Kentucky marriage records going back to the 1850s. Nearly every record I indexed suggested story. There were the cases of much older men marrying young women, very young barely-older-than-juvenile boys and girls marrying, even one case of a note being filed to request that a marriage license not be issued to a teenage boy and an older woman.

So many of the records of marriages in the early 1940s listed the occupation of the groom as US military. No surprise there.

All in all, I felt it was a good trade. Perhaps I’ll be able to marry up the experience with my writing goals in the future.

 

IWSG-July

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge
Once again, the first Wednesday of the Month has arrived, the date on which many of us bloggers write about our hopes and fears in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Please visit either site for more info and a list of participating bloggers, to join, or offer encouragement.

For the past five weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of catch-up reading; not novels or memoirs or anything else with a hard cover. I’ve been reading back issues of magazines that have been piling up on a cabinet next to the sofa. The result has been both inspiring and anxiety producing. The range of topics inspire, as does the excellent writing. But that also explains the anxiety. Following are some examples:

Most occupants of my complex, as far as I could tell, had a mental disability or illness. Meghan’s speech and mannerisms suggested that she was no exception. . .she didn’t seem to fit in with the group, standing off to the side, looking miserable and rolling her eyes at their immature wisecracks. . . .

Wearing her usual frayed blue sweat suit and graying sneakers, Meghan plowed past me, head down, swinging her free arm, dragging that leg, and ignoring me for all she was worth. Though we had encountered each other six or seven times in the hall, she had not greeted me once, as if she were angry about something I’d said or done.

Poe Ballantine, “Even Music and Gold,” The Sun, November 2014

I love this description of Meghan though not a word about her height, weight, hair color, body shape, face shape, or eye color appears. I can see her, though I know I have supplied all those usual descriptions missing from Ballantine’s description. These sentences inspire me to describe one or more of my characters using behavior and actions in place of the usual.

One evening Cole invited me to his house. I didn’t want to go, but I had no strong sense of self, nothing to steer by. I had no way to say no. . . .My deepest fear wasn’t death at the hands of Cole, although I did fear that. I was more afraid of being like him.

. . .I’d thought college would be like the library table in high school, but instead of skipping school, we’d stay at the table and turn into smart people. . . .I knew more trees than people.

. . .I felt I was making a mistake. But, then, I always felt I was making a mistake: walking into a classroom, going on a date, eating dinner with a friend. Everything I did felt wrong, wrong, wrong. . . .I simultaneously wanted to protect Cole and to pretend not to know him.

. . .But I hadn’t discovered a bold, brave part of myself. It was nothing like that. What I’d discovered was that I could pretend to be someone I was not, and that people could be fooled by this, and that this could save my life.

Heather Sellers, “I’ll Never Bother You Again,” The Sun, February 2015

Much of the above feels very familiar. But that would probably be true for nearly any woman who survived her teenage years. In addition to their familiarity, these passages are frank and brave for their self-revelation (a note on the article indicates names were changed to protect privacy, indicating the piece is not fiction). I hope I can become as brave in my memoir writing. I suspect what I have been hiding of myself in my work may make the difference between a series of sometimes humorous vignettes and a story worth sharing.

Eight-Week Challenge: Week Four Results

Week 4

How Am I Doing?

There is a lot less green for this, the fourth, week of the challenge. But I knew that would happen. We were out of town for most of the week which means my walking routine was shot and I didn’t have time to write anything. But I did read, making a sizable dent in that magazine backlog.

As a reminder, here are my goals for the eight-week challenge:

  • eat more nutritious food with fewer empty calories,
  • spend one day a week reading the backlog of magazines sitting on the end table (changed to read an average of five magazines each week from the backlog), and
  • write at least 500 words per day for at least five days each week.

Healthy Eating

The first goal was the biggest challenge since I wasn’t in the kitchen to prepare my own meals. I stuck to salads without dressing for most of the restaurant meals. Eating at the homes of family members challenged me more, though this is the season for fruit everywhere. I made the best food choices I could and watched the size of portions. By the time we got home, I had regained two pounds, but my overall weight is still well within my desired range. And now that we’re back home, I am back to walking first thing each day. Next week I should be almost back into the green for the walking column, too.

Clearing Up the Backlog

I began the challenge with a backlog of 34 magazines that included a couple of issues of The Sun from 2013. I now have only three magazines left to read. I read three magazines on the way to our destination, two while we were there, and three more on the way home. So at the half-way point in the eight-week challenge, I have almost knocked off the backlog.

But not only is the backlog almost gone, I also have met some amazing people through the interviews in The Sun in the process. People like The Rev. Lynice Pinkard, former pastor of First Congregational Church of Oakland and founder of Share First Oakland, a food-aid organization; singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco; Francis Weller, author of The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief; Daniel E. Lieberman, author of The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease; Linda Kreger Silverman, an outspoken advocate for the gifted; David Mason, the past poet laureate of the state of Colorado; sociologist Dalton Conley who asks questions about why some people get ahead and others fall behind; David Hinton, whose interest in ancient Chinese poetry grew from a youthful fascination with ecology, Eastern religion, and the American landscape poets of the West coast; and writer and herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner whose 1999 book Herbal Antibiotics deals with how plant medicines can be used to treat bacteria that have become resistant to pharmaceuticals; among others. Each of the interviews has inspired me to read more non-fiction. And by following the links within this paragraph, you, too, can be inspired.

Writing Each Day

Once the backlog is gone–maybe even by the end of week five–I will increase my daily writing target. This week I plan simply to get back on track with at least 500 words at least five days each week. This post, with its 558 words, makes today a green day.

 

 

Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #10

And here’s #10 in Larry’s David Letterman Top Ten format: Contractions & Homonymic Convergence. I like big words; don’t you?

Polishing Your Prose

From the Editor’s Eye
The 10 Most Common Errors Made by Writers
(And How to Fix Them)

The first of a ten-part series.

#10. They’re, Their Now: Contractions & Homonymic Convergence

Our ears (and eyes) play dirty tricks on us when it comes to contractions and the words that sound like them. The process can cause us great anxiety as we think back to our eighth-grade English class and try to recall the rules Ms. Bitterlip laid out for us.

I encounter these examples most often:

  • They’re, Their, There, There’re
    • they’re = a contraction of they are:
      They’re going to the concert.
    • their = a pronoun relating to two or more people, especially in the sense of possession, ownership, or belonging to them:
      That is their house.
    • there = a place: He is standing over there.
      or a point in a process: There is where I disagree with…

View original post 459 more words

Sell Your Books To Non-Bookstores?

Getting your books into non-bookstores–an unconventional sales and marketing scheme. Keep thinking outside the box when marketing your books.

KRISTINA STANLEY

Dollar Store D$AFollowing my own advice, I’ve restocked two stores in the small town near me with DESCENT and BLAZE.

This happened in two ways.

As per the advice I give in the guide, I went by one of the stores and noticed they were down to 2 copies of Descent and none of Blaze. I called and asked if I could bring more. The store bought 6 or each and agreed to buy 10 of AVALANCHE as soon as I receive the print editions.

The other store send me a message asking for more books. I didn’t even have to go there to check on the stock.

We are heading into summer, hence tourist season and that’s when the books tend to sell well in our town. The timing couldn’t have been better.BLAZE and DESCENT LAmbert

My books are now selling in Lambert’s Pharmacy, The Dollar and General Store, and Sobeys. They get…

View original post 96 more words