Friday, June 23, 2017

First Day of Class

Wednesday night was the first meeting of "YOUR Story Matters."  I was amazed at the turnout. There were three elderly men among those who had signed up. Some younger women, some close to my age and some elderly ones as well.  I guess they all feel old enough to have memoir inside them 🙂

Among other things, the instructor had us introduce ourselves and say who some of our favorite authors are. I mentioned reading Prozac Nation and being inspired by it (BTW, I ordered a copy of the reissue  with the new afterword and should be receiving in the next week). I also mentioned reading Wallace Stegner, whom the instructor did not know about.  I was amazed at some of the stuff the others had to share.

first day of class

The class is being held in a classroom I never knew existed.  I'd been a regular student at the college years ago, but did not know about this classroom, at one corner of the library building. I though I had to enter through the library's main entrance, but saw that the entrance closed at 4pm for the college summer session.  I then tried looking a the campus map, but still could not see where this room is located. So I walked around the library building and found the room where the case is being held.

Our assignment is to write a mini-memoir of 750 words, the first draft of which is due by Sunday, to be emailed to the instructor. Only two days and I haven't begun yet.  But it shouldn't be too hard. I guess I can use some of what I've already written,  reworking it a little.  I just need to do my best. At the next meeting, the teacher will return the drafts with her written feedback.

I'm still deciding whether to try one of the online writing classes, and will be looking for any in-person classes on writing offered through the college's community education.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Words For Wednesday

 




I missed it last week, but am back for this week. But there are no words this week--only pictures. Pictures are a good source of writing inspiration. 


There was an abandoned shack out in the foothills with a broken fence around it. Very little was inside the shack.  No one dared go inside. 

When someone touring the area for the first time, he saw the shack and added to walk inside.  All he could find inside were cobwebs and dust on the dirt floor and shards of undeterminable materials.  He could see a broken-down sofa with springs and stuffing sticking out.  A dilapidated rocking chair sat in one corner. An old sewing machine was in another corner.  

The man observed all that he'd seen inside the shack and wondered who could have once lived here. Was it an old seamstress? Any old family? Someone was living in this neck of the woods? This was such mystery.

He soon became so scared that he decided to leave.  And he would never return. Very few others dared go inside. Therefore, the mystery remained unsolved.


_________________________________________________________________________




One morning, Josh looked out his window and everything seemed blue.  Was the world trying to tell him something? What did blue signify? Was it bad or good? 

"Does this mean I've got the blues?" Josh asked himself. "And just what are the blues?"

If the blues means sadness, then why does a bluebird mean happiness? Some things are so confusing. 

But by the end of the day, Josh no longer felt blue. It was as if the bluebird of happiness had in fact visited him. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Happy First Day of Summer!




Though today is officially the first day of summer, it has already been feeling like summer in my neck of the woods. Temperatures have been in the 90s and this is expected to continue for most of this week. How has it been for you?


















Monday, June 19, 2017

YOUR Story Matters







As I continue on my journey of rewriting my memoir and trying to decide when I think it's finished enough to find an editor, I will be taking a community education class on memoir writing. It is titled "YOUR Story Matters: Memoir Writing--Beginning."  I'm not sure whether to classify myself as beginner still, but I can hardly call myself an expert just yet.  But everyone I knew who saw this in the schedule of community education classes at the local community college immediately thought of me when they saw this.  I need as much advice on writing memoirs as I can get, and I think this will be helpful.

The class starts this Wednesday night and will run for three weeks.  It's done in-class at the college library.  The college also offers several online writing class for different types of writing. Among the topics are writing for kids, keys to effective editing, mystery writing, and travel writing. I'm trying to decide if I want to take any of these or one of the others offered.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

What Every Writer Needs


What Every Writer Needs - Writer's Life.org





Writing can be exciting, joyful, difficult, miserable, inspiring, lonely, elating, magical and a million other things in between.
Whether you are first setting out on your writing journey, or have been writing for years, there are some things that every writer needs to help them not only write better but enjoy the process more as well.
Writing can be a tough job at times, but by preparing yourself for what’s ahead and arming yourself with a virtual toolkit of all these things, you’ll find it so much easier to make the most of your writing time and truly find pleasure and satisfaction in it too.
So what is it that every writer needs? Let’s take a look!

A support network
Writing can be isolating at times, it doesn’t really require much teamwork, especially in the early stages where it’s just you, your computer and the unnervingly blank page that seems to be boring a hole into your soul. Because of this writers need a good support network. A good support network consists of a variety of people. Great family and friends who are patient and understanding are naturally essential, but also a group of fellow writers who you can share work with, be inspired by and moan to when things aren’t going very well!

A quiet space to work
It’s rare to find a writer who doesn’t need peace and quiet to think and work. Creating your own little writing zone can be one of the best things you can do as a writer. Think about what you need and what you’d like to inspire you. Whether that’s quotes from famous authors around your walls, or a kettle nearby so you don’t have to keep getting up for tea breaks - use your imagination and create the perfect writing space for you.

A biggest fan
Every writer needs a biggest fan. It might start off as your partner, your mum, your best friend, but as you continue to put your work out there it’s so exciting to find new fans and readers that love your work. You biggest fan will read everything you write, will always leave you five-star reviews and will be happy to share and big you up in whichever which way they can!

A good notebook
An essential piece of kit for any writer is a good notebook. It doesn’t have to be fancy but it has to be something you remember to carry around with you, fill with your notes, inspirations and observations - for you never know when an amazing idea might strike!

A bad review
All writers need to get their first bad review under their belt. It’s a milestone, a coming of age moment, where you realise you’re a real writer. Remember not everyone can like your work, but at least they are reading it!

A writing schedule
A writing schedule is a helpful way to make sure you stay on track, keep focused and never stop writing. For some, writing comes naturally, but for most, we need a little self-imposed discipline! A writing schedule you know you’ll stick to will give you just that.

An honest critique
We all need someone we can trust to give us honest feedback on our work. Without them, we run the risk of being like one of those X Factor contestants that’s been brought up to believe they have the voice of an angel, where, in reality, they sound like a bag of screeching cats. Find someone you can trust to give you honest, helpful, and fair feedback, your work will be so much better as a result.

A good editor
Where would we be without our editors eh? A good editor can turn your words into works of art! They are there to help you improve, to make sure your manuscript is flawless and give you the best chance of success with your book - a good editor is priceless!
So there you have it, the essential tools of any writer’s toolkit - what would you add?

I'm still lacking in most of these things! Mostly because I'm still not at the point when I need to get an editor.  Even so, thinking about this one is making me apprehensive.  And obviously since I have not been published, I have not received any reviews, good or bad.  And I have not been able to get anyone to read my latest revision. A year ago, I sent out my preliminary story for everyone I know to see. 
Trying t set a schedule hasn't been on my mind though recently I have been trying to get some writing done, no matter how much, each day.  I do find myself wanting to take a break, but I guess that is normal.I now have to revise my epilogue (in my latest round of revisions) and now I have some stuff I may want to add but am not sure where to insert in into what I have already written. So I may write this down on a separate pice of paper, then decide whether to include it and decide where it should be inserted. 
I've bene wanting to try getting out more and take a notebook with me for inspiration. But the hot weather recently has it made it hard just to go the store! It's been too hot for a walk or anything.
My bedroom at my computer is as quiet as I can get. But I sometimes need to out on the TV if I'm bored while writing.



 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

How to End Your Chapters Well





Every writer knows that ending your chapters well is crucial. You want to bring that particular scene or a piece of action to an end, while also leaving everything on a mini cliffhanger so your readers can’t wait to pick up your book again and find out what happens next!
The art of breaking your book up into chapters is something that authors should pay attention to. Understanding appropriate points to have a chapter break will create suspense, and keep your readers reading.
Only you will know when it feels right to end a chapter and begin a new one - it is a personal, creative decision. You may wish to keep your chapters all roughly the same length, for example, or mix them up. You may wish to give each chapter an enticing title, you may wish to make each chapter switch to a different character's point of view.
Whatever you decide to do, there are some simple techniques for chaptering that every writer should employ, regardless of the type of book they are writing.

Write first, do your chaptering later
While many authors find writing chapter outlines very useful, if you are determined to stick to these no matter what, this could end up being detrimental to your story. As you write you'll find that it becomes easy to end and begin chapters where there are natural breaks in the story. Even if these don’t stick to your original plan, it’s better to go with your instincts then fight against them for the sake of it. This way your chapters will end organically rather than seeming forced. When you have finished your book you can go through each chapter individually and shift your beginnings and endings if you feel that they aren’t in the right place.

Think about what each chapter should contain
Every chapter should be a mini story all of its own. It should have a beginning, middle and an end. At the end of each chapter, the reader should feel as though the story has advanced and that they know a little bit more than they did before. Each chapter should have its own dramatic action, should reveal more about your characters, and, of course, end in such a way that the reader doesn’t want to put your book down.

Use chapters to direct your reader
End a chapter when your story requires a change, a shift in pace or a turning point. Chapters can be used to help the readers follow the characters on their journey, but also to draw attention to things. An unexpectedly short chapter that is packed with revelations or dramatic action will capture the reader's attention. Similarly, one that is full of mystery will signify to your readers that they should take note of the details and will stick with them in their minds until the big reveal.
Ending your chapters well will always leave the readers wanting more. We all want our books to be those ones readers describe as ‘unputdownable’, and paying attention to your chaptering will help make your book just that!

I must confess I did follow the "do your chaptering later" advice. But then, I was not aware of that until now. I did end up making each chapter seem like a mini story, since I did not attempt to follow a timeline for the entire story as a whole. Some of these chapters could have been even longer.  I now think I could have written an entire memoir (or at least one of novella length) of what happened to me in the year 2001 in the months and days leading up to 9/11. The year started with my 30th birthday in January.   And in one chapter, I tell about a particular year of what I felt was a personal trauma. Again, this one might have been a memoir book of its own, or at least a novella-length one.  One family friend who read my preliminary story written last year and sent as a PDF by email called me on the lack of a timeline. But I felt I had worked so hard and did not wish to change it to follow a timeline. I had been thinking of things in terms of subject and felt it worked better this way. To try to rework the entire story into a chronological timeline would mean even more rewriting that what I have already done. But although writing does involve rewriting over and over, this would have meant major writing reconstruction, and major rethinking.  I felt it works well the way it is indwell do my best with it that way. 
I'm also amazed at how short it was when I sent it out by email more than year ago this month and how much longer it is at present.  Some of the chapters started out very short (one was a little less than three printed pages) but I have managed to make each of them even longer, enough to make the whole story seem like it's long enough for a book.  One friend said the original seemed to short for a book, but I was sure I could make it longer. And that's what I have been doing.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Crafting Lessons to Improve Your Book

From Writerlife.org:

As writers, we know that constantly striving to learn and improve is key to our writing success and satisfaction. There is always more to learn, new techniques to try and methods to experiment with. That’s one of the joys of writing - and the knowledge that we can keep on getting better and better if we put the work in is strangely pleasing too.
When it comes to novel writing, crafting your story well is crucial. Once you have the story down, it’s a good idea to take the time to stop and reflect, to read your story and to begin to tweak, edit, add and cut to make it the very best it can be.
Here are some great crafting lessons which every writer should use as a guide to improve their book.

Pay attention to your settings
Your settings are where the action takes place, and are hugely important. Your settings shouldn’t just be descriptions of places, they should be so much more than this. Instead of just describing the way things are, try to get across how the character feels towards the place. What emotions does it evoke for them and why? Settings can be used to build tension, to create excitement, and to immerse the reader in the story. They should be vivid, imaginative and burst with exciting descriptions, make the senses stand to attention and be full of arresting and unusual details.

Get deep with your characters
By the end of your novel, your readers should feel as though they know the characters intimately. It is the way the author conveys their thoughts and feelings in any given situation that builds a deep and detailed picture of what that character is like. You can use their outward appearance to cleverly give insight into what’s going on inside too, and any quirks or oddities will only make your characters richer and more memorable.

Make sure the pacing is right
The pace at which your story unfolds is so important. Make sure that there is never a dull moment! Of course, there will be times where the action is fast paced and thrilling, and times where it slows down and rolls along at a more gentle pace - but it’s important never to let your reader get bored. Building suspense is a good way of doing this, your readers should always be kept slightly on edge, always have an appetite for more. They should always be excited to read what’s coming next. If your book is paced well and is full of exciting action, there will never be a good time to put it down!


Use dialogue effectively
Dialogue creates immediacy, it reveals more about your characters and can be used effectively to create humour as well as tension and conflict too. Pay attention to the way your characters speak, make sure they all sound different, give them their own particular phrases or speaking styles to help your readers clearly differentiate between them. Always make dialogue smart and necessary and use it to help drive your story forwards.


Pay attention to your sentence structure
Short, smart, impactful sentences are key. It’s been proven that readers get distracted or confused if sentences are consistently too long. Try to keep your sentences short, but also powerful. Use strong images, descriptive language and clever observations to keep the reader hooked.
These crafting lessons can help authors make a real difference when it comes to writing and editing their books. So next time you sit down to write, keep these in mind and see how applying them can improve your book.



Right now, I'm in the process of revising each chapter one at time, typing them out to check for errors and anything I want to change. Though I glanced at what I had printed so far and food some spelling errors and missing words I didn't catch the first time (though I knew I'd probably made some), meaning there will still be more rewriting and revising to be done thereafter. Proofing is always part of the process.  I've gotten up to Chapter 14 in my current round of revisions and now have to work on revising Ch. 15 and the epilogue.  I'm trying to decide  if I need or want to include an introduction and an afterword. and I'm already wondering who to acknowledge, since most of the people I want to mention in this part have been disguised in the text, and should I use their real names in the acknowledgements.  

My use of dialogue has been a little sparse, since trying to remember exact quotes is a bit hard. Some may have been exaggerated so that I can have some dialog in the story. I have read some memoirs that have only so much dialogue. 

Does pacing mean following a timeline? I've said before on my blog that I did not describe incidents a timeline, but rather by subject.  For example, one chapter is devoted to the year 2001, how I was fired from a job in the days leading up to 9/11. Another chronicles things I wanted to do but were never able to. This one has occurred so many times in my life I felt a need to lump them together into a single chapter.  

I have been watching how I have written my sentences, trying to keep them from being too long and containing too many commas. When this is the case, I try to break them into two or more sentences. I've also ben trying to break long paragraphs down into more than one, if possible.