Monthly Archives: March 2020

A Blank Canvas

By Ruth Wellens

It’s nearly spring so I was beginning to clean out the corner of my basement that has accumulated the mess of year’s past. My son is going to graduate from college this May but left behind numerous notebooks from his elementary and high school years. Somehow between us, we have gone through the notebooks and ripped out the instructive pages, but I just have a difficult time putting perfectly good notebook paper into the garbage which ends up in landfills. So – I end up with a lot of half-filled notebooks with crazy adolescent writing on the covers. 

Good news: I also ended up with ideas yet to be realized. Procuring all of the notebooks and paper together, I suddenly became inspired to write! Sure, as writers we have ideas rambling around our brains all the time, but this paper was tangible. Each piece meant my ideas could turn into reality with strokes from a pen.  Sure, I use my computer most of the time, but there is a visceral pleasure in putting pen to paper when writing.  Even if it is an outline or bullet points for your writing, it is visual proof of that idea when put on paper.

My broken down half notebooks are now stacked in my make-shift office, ready and waiting to turn into a story board, a story, a novel, an editorial, or maybe just random thoughts to be expounded on another day. The excitement is there. It feels like New Year’s Eve rife with resolutions! The first day of spring with all the promise of colorful flowers, warm sun and brilliant hues of green. The potential adventure of travelling to a new place! All of the paper ready and willing to serve my ideas.

I have heard some writers carry paper with them at all times in case an idea comes to them. With the advent of cell phones, some writers use the verbal choice of talking into them to retain their ideas until they can sit and think about them more. Yes, some of us get our best ideas in the shower, which, unfortunately, is not paper’s best friend. As for me, I have my half notebooks with lots and lots of blank pages to write on!  

Bogged Down by Minutiae

By Rhonda Strehlow

Writers have a love/hate relationship with word count. Am I writing a novel? Short story? Flash fiction?

What’s my genre? Mystery. Romance. Action. Suspense. Poetry. Memoir.

Where do I fit?

We get stymied by unimportant details.

More important than word count or genre is making your words count. Lately useless words have been irritating me. Some. Almost. About. Filler words. Check them out when you read your next book. Notice that they don’t add anything to the story. They are a distraction. Eliminate them from your writing. Or, at least use them purposefully.

Write like we’re in this together.

Use words that evoke strong emotions. Cringed with fear. Bubbled with excitement. Cried until he collapsed.

Use imaginative action words. Walked is boring. Raced. Stumbled. Hobbled. Skipped. Danced. All better words.

Some of your words should stretch the comfort zone of your readers.  One reader told me she had to look up two words in one of my books. I challenged her to use them the next time we met.

Make your descriptions memorable. Not, “She picked a flower.” Instead, “She reached for the most stunning hydrangea on the bush of a hundred beautiful flowers.”

End each chapter with images so powerful the reader stops to process what he’s just read.

Challenge your readers. If readers don’t come away even a bit changed, a little more educated, after reading our books, have we done our jobs?

I’m disappointed when I read a book and think, that was a nice book. And, then promptly forget it. (I’m old. I don’t have time for nice.)  I’d rather my reaction be, ‘Tell me there’s a sequel!’

Start Your Story in the Middle

By Rhonda Strehlow

We’ve been taught to be logical and chronological.  Starting your book in the middle is counter-intuitive. When your start a book it’s tempting to dump the whole backstory into the first few pages. If you’re like me, you just want to get on to the ‘real’ story.

However, that is not what readers are looking for. Readers want to get drawn into the story early on. They want to learn the specifics as they develop throughout the story.

Let me share why you should re-think your opening pages. Many readers will stop reading a book after two or three pages. If they’re not drawn in by then, they haven’t connected to the story line.

How do you make an immediate connection to your reader?  Surprise. Scare. Amaze. Intrigue. Draw in.

If you don’t lure him or her in immediately, they will make snap judgements about your book. Tedious. Boring. Repetitive. Ordinary. You are given surprisingly little time to prove yourself. There are billions of books available to readers, they don’t want to be bored for even a few minutes. Think instant gratification.

Dole out that backstory information throughout the book. Perhaps your protagonist is an introvert with limited social skills. Throughout the story you might drop hints that she is an only child. She was bullied in grade school. Her mother was a stay at home mom. Let your reader make associations. Slow unveiling draws the reader into your story. Let your reader share in those ‘aha’ moments.

What you want the reader to ask when she finishes your book is, “Where can I find other books by this author?”

What Do I Write About?

By Terry C. Misfeldt

If you have ever wanted to write but ask yourself: What do I write about?, here are eight tips:

  1. Write about what’s going on in your life. You may think your life is boring but other people may find what you do fascinating and of interest to them.
  2. Write about your area of expertise. You may be adept at crochet or solving crossword puzzles. Share your skills by writing about the steps you take to accomplish perfection.
  3. Write a book review. There are places on the web that offer you the opportunity to comment and share your thoughts about books you’ve read, like Good Reads. Writing reviews is a good place to start writing.
  4. Write about your family’s genealogy. You can write about your parents and what they went through when they were growing up. They can share storied about your grandparents, and maybe even your great grandparents if you ask. Don’t wait, though. You’ll regret avoiding those conversations if you wait too long.
  5. Write a poem about someone you love. It doesn’t matter if it rhymes or even makes sense; you’re writing to share your feelings with that special someone…and they’ll love it because it came from you.
  6. Write about a topic of interest to you, whether it’s hunting, the weather, science, gardening, tree planting, chemistry, or television programs. The idea is to write.
  7. Write about your childhood. Who were some of your friends when you were growing up, and what did you do that was memorable? Where did you play? What music did you listen to? What was your favorite TV program? Who did you admire?
  8. Keep a journal. Write down what happens in your life on a daily basis. What may seem mundane to you could prove to be the foundation of an interesting story.

Once you start writing, the ink bug will get you and you’ll want to put more words on paper or save them in a storage device. My, how times have changed from the days of pen and paper as our main method of communication. Yes, sending a letter to a relative, friend or loved one is another option for what to write. Think paper, envelope, and a First Class stamp. What?