Tis the Season

Everyone is busy rushing here and there.

All for a day that comes but once a year.

In a society consumed with competition instead of brotherly love.

Remember to stop and give thanks to the one above.

 

During this season, daily writing is worth it in the long run.

Even if it is next year before your manuscript is done.

 

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart – William Wordsworth

You are a better writer today than you were yesterday – unknown

 

My Writing Journey – A Hobby, A Passion, A New Career

A good friend recently told me not to dwell on yet another rejection of my current manuscript.  She said “It is only a hobby. Not your career.”

If I would have kept a journal of my writing path, it would read something like this:

I am invited to a creative writing class by a close friend.  Thinking I might like this as I always considered myself creative, I agreed.  Remembering how many years ago (before children) I had sent a few manuscripts to several publishing agencies and received good feedback.

The instructor’s first assignment write a short story.

I will write my “Caroleisms” as I like to call them (quotes on life I love to refer to with friends and family)  My favorite – “Don’t be a mashed potato.  Stand up and be a French fry.”

Instead I wrote about my cats.

At the time I did not know the instructor was a cat lover.  This grew a mutual bond.  She and the class loved my story and I loved my newfound aspiration to write and see my name in print.

She introduced me to a wonderful new editor and she and the editor critiqued my work.

The long learning process began.

I read, researched and discovered the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers) and through them found a wonderful children’s critique group from which I have previously spoke of.  I have been told that it takes seven long years on average to break into the world of published writer.  It has been a little over three years and I am at awe by the immense amount of knowledge I have obtained and the wonderful guidance and support I receive.

So, to answer my friends statement – When does your hobby become your passion or your new career.  I don’t know, but I do know this –

When one hour of writing, researching and reading becomes four or five hours or every free minute  – when you cannot get enough information on writing, revising and publishing – you are hooked and it is definitely more than a hobby.

I would love to hear feedback of your writing journey.

Happy Writing.

My Free Time

In every effort to become a better writer, I spend a good deal of my free time writing.    To make the most of this time, I have implemented several recent changes –

I have devoted a room strictly for writing and like a daily job, have a set schedule.

While writing, I do not deviate from the task at hand to check social media, answer the phone, or take a break to talk to family members.

I have reorganized my stockpile of indispensable materials and keep items that are used every day within easy reach.

I have also learned that to improve my craft I need to spend some free time doing other things I love.  By doing this, I have found that my stories and characters grow and become richer.  Others thoughts and ideas help to reinvent both myself and my stories.

In my free time, I enjoy reading, exercise, attending the theatre (plays) and spending time with family and friends.

How do you spend your free time?

Happy Writing!

The importance of a GREAT critique group

I am very fortunate to have found a wonderful group of writers who share their stories with me on a biweekly basis.

I have learned many things from these people.

Below are my thoughts on what to look for in a critique group whether it be a group that meets regularly or an online critique group or partner.

Look for people who are not only complementary and voice your strengths in writing, but question you on the purpose of your story, the genre you are writing for and the arcs in your story.  They question your characters and their motivation.

A great writing group motivates you.  They support, gently guide and encourage you.  Their networking sources and experiences (good or bad) are invaluable.

How to critique others is something that is also an invaluable lesson.

Don’t critique unless you are invited to do so

Start with strengths – be objective on weaknesses

Invite questions from them – what do they feel is weak and confusing

Don’t refer to “you” – refer to the piece

Be specific, not vague

Avoid strong negative language – this might be more compelling if. . .

Point out effective words/ill-chosen words, the strongest points/weakest points

Learning to critique takes time – but time is what we all need to become better writers

Happy writing!

Villanelle

vil·la·nelle
noun: villanelle; plural noun: villanelles
a nineteen-line poem with two rhymes throughout, consisting of five tercets and a quatrain, with the first and third lines of the opening tercet recurring alternately at the end of the other tercets and with both repeated at the close of the concluding quatrain.
Line 1 repeats as line 6, 12 and 18.  Line 3 repeats as line 9, 15 and 19.
I am not a poet, but what a fun way to learn poetry.  Below are my attempts at writing villanelles.

Nine long months till we meet you.
A quiet house, an empty room.
Should we paint pink or blue?
Please give us a clue.
What you will want we can’t assume.
Nine long months till we meet you.
In preparation we bought a crib and cradle too.
We framed the first picture, you in the womb.
Should we paint pink or blue?
Restful nights there will be few.
Will your voice fill the house with singing or shouts of kaboom?
Nine long months till we meet you.
We purchased a blanket for peek – a – boo.
Until you arrive our lives cannot resume.
Should we paint pink or blue?
There is so much to do.
As we wait, my stomach continues to bloom.
Nine long months till we meet you.
Should we paint pink or blue?

Can I borrow the old car?
Please Mom – What do you think Dad?
I promise I won’t drive far.
I know you have a spare key in the antique cookie jar.
Letting me drive isn’t that bad.
Can I borrow the old car?
But I thought I was your shining star.
I am no longer a young lad.
I promise I won’t drive far.
No, I won’t drive it like a sports car.
You won’t have to take out a missing person ad.
Can I borrow the old car?
I’m too young to go to the bar.
I soon will be a high school grad.
I promise I won’t drive far.
Why would you think I will return in a squad car?
I promise to never again make you mad.
Can I borrow the old car?
I promise I won’t drive far.

Another  version :

Can I borrow the old car?
Can I please have the key?
I promise I won’t drive far.
Don’t you trust me?
I want to roll down the windows and be free.
Can I borrow the old car?
But I thought I was your shining star.
I thought I was your pride and fill your heart with glee.
I promise I won’t drive far.
No, I won’t drive it like a sports car.
I won’t pick up a friend or two or three.
Can I borrow the old car?
I’m too young to go to the bar.
I won’t end up before the judge entering a plea.
I promise I won’t drive far.
Why would you think I will return in a squad car?
A safe driver I will be.
Can I borrow the old car?
I promise I won’t drive far.

Why didn’t I listen when you were here?
I go through daily choices, tasks and deeds alone.
Your wisdom I now hold dear.
I pray my choices would make you cheer.
If only I would have known.
Why didn’t I listen when you were here?
You made it right, you made it clear.
The love and lessons you had sown.
Your wisdom I now hold dear.
Your reassurance and strength not near.
I would never choose to go it on my own.
Why didn’t I listen when you were here?
What to do without you, my biggest fear.
I would give anything to hear you answer the phone.
Your wisdom I now hold dear.
As I grow older, I see you in my own mirror.
You would be amazed at how the kids have grown.
Why didn’t I listen when you were here?
Your wisdom I now hold dear.


Raindrops flowing freely from the skies.
I chose you to give my soul.
Teardrops flowing freely from my eyes.
Our love riddled with so many lies.
You broke my heart, my love you stole.
Raindrops flowing freely from the skies.
Romance filled with heartfelt tries.
You ripped my heart and left a gaping hole.
Teardrops flowing freely from my eyes.
I could have fallen for many other guys.
Us together made my life whole.
Raindrops flowing freely from the skies.
My heart longs to be wise.
You will never know the importance of your role.
Teardrops flowing freely from my eyes.
The memory of our love as it dies.
I would love to again take your hand and stroll.
Raindrops flowing freely from the skies.
Teardrops flowing freely from my eyes.


If you decide to try writing villanelles, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Pittsburgh’s frozen rivers

I normally blog about writing, but I had to share these wonderful pictures of my favorite city with the world.  Hats off to Pittsburgh Magazine and your wonderful photographer (Dave Dicello) for taking such breathtaking shots.

http://www.pittsburghmagazine.com/Best-of-the-Burgh-Blogs/The-412/February-2015/12-Incredible-Photos-of-Pittsburghs-Icy-Rivers/

A Necessary Task, Revisions

The threat of another winter northeastern storm looms upon us this evening.  After spending the day outside for a dose of the brief sunshine, albeit the temperature showed a balmy 23 degrees, I came inside and resolved to clean my kitchen junk utensil drawer.  The sun giving me the needed boost of encouragement to do necessary but not enjoyable tasks.  The dreaded drawer filled with measuring cups, assorted spatulas, pizza cutters, ice thongs, etc.  The one everyone who has been cooking for 20 plus years can relate to.  Each year I go through this drawer eliminating the unnecessary items.  I am amazed at the items that clutter its ease of use.

This task, like revisions in writing is necessary.

After cleaning the drawer, I pulled out a manuscript I started two years ago. I am revising it because I love my protagonist and know that this story is marketable.

As I revise, I wish to share below my beginning tips.  I would love to hear your additions.

The words matter in your manuscript.  You know that your idea is wonderful, you have a compelling plot, you have set your scene, developed your characters, but take the time to make your writing stronger.  Attend a critique group.   Read your story to your critique group.  If you don’t attend a group, find one.  Another set of ears pick up on things you miss.

Secondly, eliminate or at least consider a different word to make your writing powerful – below are the words I find troublesome:

all, am, are, big, every, feel, got, have got, important, is, just, never, often, seem, small, stuff, things, very, was, went

How many of these words were in my first draft – too many to admit.

How many in my polished revised draft – like the kitchen drawer, I am working on it.

Unreliable Narrator

I recently started delving into a new genre of writing – adult/new adult fiction. When writing my recent manuscript, I decided to use an unreliable narrator. Thought I would pass on websites that provided definitions/examples I found helpful. Thank you Writer’s Digest and Education Portal. Happy writing!

Text from Writer’s Digest article:
When we select the first person we’re tempted to write as we speak. This can lead to undisciplined writing, potentially yielding rambling or flat, one-dimensional prose.

The tradeoff, though, can be authenticity. “There is no such thing as a third-person viewpoint in life,” Morrell explains. Which means you might say first person POV is the most true-to-life perspective from which to tell a story.

First-person narrators can be unreliable narrators (and often the best ones are), leaving what happened open to interpretation—and, in the hands of a skilled writer, this can add amazing depth to a story, as evidenced so expertly in the best known works of Mark Twain and J.D. Salinger. Stories like theirs demand to be told in first person—in fact, Morrell points out they could not be effectively told in any other way.

His key takeaway? Write in first-person only if you have a compelling reason to.
http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/understand-the-ins-and-outs-of-first-person-pov

Education Portal definition/example:
Unreliable narrators are a type of first-person-driven narratives that give the audience the opportunity to make their own interpretations of a story.
First-person narrators are characters within the story telling the events of the plot from their perspective. Sometimes these characters deviate from the truth or have mental conditions that limit their abilities to tell the story accurately. We call these characters unreliable narrators.
Definition
An unreliable narrator is a character whose telling of the story is not completely accurate or credible due to problems with the character’s mental state or maturity. Some literary critics argue that there is no such thing as a reliable first-person narrator since every character is affected by his or her past experiences in the telling of a story, but most first-person narrators attempt to give the most accurate version of events. An unreliable narrator, however, holds a distorted view of the events, which leads to an inaccurate telling of the story, but this can give readers/viewers a chance to offer their own interpretations.
The term ‘unreliable narrator’ was first used by Wayne C. Booth in 1961 in The Rhetoric of Fiction. Since then, many authors and filmmakers use the technique to create interest and suspense in their narration. Some indicators that a narrator is unreliable include contradicting stories, incomplete explanations of events, illogical information, and even questions of the narrator’s sanity.
Modern Novel Examples:
Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl actually uses two unreliable narrators. The book is told through alternating accounts of Nick Dunne and the diary entries of his wife, Amy Dunne. Since their version of events in their struggling marriage conflict, the reader is unsure of which character to trust. It is later revealed that both characters lie, which makes both of them unreliable.
The above text/definitions/examples were taken from http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/unreliable-narrator-definition-examples.html#lesson

Personal Essay

The purpose of today’s blog is to repost an article that helped me as I wrote a personal essay.  I feel this article reaches beyond personal essays and applies to all writing.  Thank you once again Writer’s Digest for the great article and your inspiration.

http/www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/how-to-write-a-reader-friendly-essay

Inciting Incident

Inciting incident is the spring board that drives the story forward – causes your protagonist to act.

This week in my writing critique group we had a great discussion about inciting incidents, where they should occur in the story and can you have more than one.

Below is a great article I found regarding inciting incidents from The Editor’s Blog.
Please see the link to the Editor’s Blog an always useful source of information.
http://theeditorsblog.net/2013/06/16/making-something-happen-in-story/

Not only is this a great article, but the responses are also very thought provoking.

Hope this blog helps all the aspiring writers out there. I would love to hear your comments on inciting incidents.

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