Category Archives: Inspiration

Winter Isolation & Writing

By Terry C. Misfeldt

What do you do when a blizzard hits and you are isolated from the rest of the world?

When a recent snowstorm dumped more than one foot of snow on our community, I could not get my front door open. Sure, I had other means of egress but the first thing that came of mind–after removing the snow, of course–was that it was a perfect time to do more writing.

Winter in Wisconsin has a tendency to isolate us. It’s either too cold to go out or the snow and ice makes driving hazardous. And there’s only so much television you can watch before going stir crazy!

Whether you grab a pen and spiral notebook to make notes or plop yourself at the keyboard and type away at breakneck speed, winter is a great time to write. Personally, I have set a goal of once again writing 1,000 words a day during 2024. Just keeping a daily journal piles up that many words on average.

Working on a draft of a novel or jotting down memories for a memoir, writing can give you a sense of purpose during the long winter months. It’s also a time to organize files, go through your library and get your affairs in order. Once warmer weather comes back, your mind and body will tell you it’s time to get outside again.

Weather, while seclusion can be productive for writing, should not keep you from getting outdoors and enjoying the cleansing nature of snow or the briskness of chill winds. Exercise is good for writers despite the adage about seats in seats.

Wrapping this up, I just noticed something about the first word in each of these paragraphs. What word works with winter weather? Did you get the clue?

Frog Wisdom #3

Playing With Words

Frog Wisdom

By Dorothy Seehausen

“The horse raced past the barn fell.” Sound familiar? This is a classic example of what’s known as a garden path sentence, in which the initial interpretation of the sentence’s meaning is wrong because it contains syntactic ambiguity in the first half of the sentence, creating syntactic inconsistency with the rest of the sentence. Thus, multiple possible interpretations. “The horse that raced past the barn fell.” Better?

          Garden path sentences often pop up in our first drafts. Not very many writers can coordinate the right brain’s creativity with the left brain’s editing tasks at the same time. Wouldn’t that be sweet – your first draft would come out completely edited, putting thousands of professional editors out of work!

          In the real world, our goal as writers is to get the story from inside our head to inside the reader’s head. Being able to recognize your own garden path sentences is an excellent editing tool when you’re down into the weeds of line editing.

          Here are some more examples from Effectiviology, which is actually a website about psychology and philosophy:

          The old man the boat.

          The girl told the story cried.

          The complex houses married and single soldiers and their families.

          We painted the wall with cracks.

Happy Writing from the Frog!

Check out my latest short story “Trace” in the October issue of The Mantelpiece Magazine at themantelpiece.org.

Writing Resolutions

By Terry C. Misfeldt

As 2022 kicks into high gear, writers often think about and consider establishing resolutions regarding their writing for the year ahead. Here are a few worth taking a look at setting for yourself.

  1. I commit to writing 500 words a day.
  2. I sustain the ability to write 1,000 words every day.
  3. I complete my novel by August 1st.
  4. I compile my memoir and publish it by September 15th.
  5. I develop a character arc for my novel by April 10th.
  6. I edit my work within 60 days of “completing” whatever I write.
  7. I send 10 query letters to publishers every week.
  8. I set aside two hours to write every other day.

You will notice in each of these suggested goals for your writing that three are no “can” or “will” or “might” words. There are, however, action verbs since action is a major element of establishing any resolution.

The second element of resolutions is will power. If you set a goal and fail to act on it, or do not follow through on the commitment you made to yourself, learn from that and apply corrective behavior. You can do it!

Be realistic. Avoid resolutions you know in your heart you lack the fortitude to stick to. Yes, goals are a good thing but they require honesty and commitment. Saying you “want to” quit smoking does not commit you to quitting. Quitting does.

Think about what you need to accomplish as a writer. Be honest and then apply yourself to you. Write that goal down and post it where you can see it. After sticking to it for seven or more days, you have it made.

When my father told me how I could quit smoking, his advice was that if I could make it one day, I could make it two days. If I could make two days, I could make it four days. If I could make it four days, I could make it a week. If I could make one week, I could make two weeks…and so on. I followed his advice and more than 46 years later am still making it!

Do it!

Writing Time

By Terry C. Misfeldt

When is your best opportunity for writing time? Do you need peace and quiet to think and write? Can you squeeze in a few minutes during your lunch break? Do the kids all have to be in bed before you can sit down at the keyboard?

Knowing your best writing time is an essential element of becoming a professional writer. Let’s consider options. An important aspect of these options is determining how many words you intend to craft in one sitting and how long it takes you to generate that many words. When I gave myself the challenge of writing 1,000 words per day, I learned I could achieve that goal in 40 to 45 minutes…depending on whether my brain was functioning at 25 words per minute.

  1. Pouring and sipping that first cup of coffee in the early morning hours gets some writers started. If you work at 9:00 a.m. and need an hour and one half for feeding and grooming yourself before getting dressed and commuting, you should consider how much you are willing to forego sleep to get in writing time. Could you write 500 words in half an hour? If you can and want to rise with the sun to do that, go for it.
  2. Finding time during the day to write can be a challenge if you are working full-time or in an office environment. More than likely you already spend time in front of the computer screen, but could you sneak in 15 minutes to crank out 400 words? The challenge here is to avoid using the company cloud to save your work…unless you own the company and then it does not matter. Suggestion: Use a flash drive to store your work.
  3. After work, dinner time with the family, and relaxation time can be productive writing time. Many writers work late into the evening or early morning crafting their novel or writing their memoirs because that is when they are inspired to write. Just remember there are also times when your brain is fried by then and what you write may look like rubbish when you read it the next day.
  4. In short, the best time to write is when you are motivated, inspired, and can concentrate on your project. Writing time may also be best devoted to research and making notes. Writing time is your time!

Promotional Outlets

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Finding promotional outlets enables you to market your novel or other writing to specific markets at little to no cost. What is required is taking the time to think things through. What organizations do you belong to, or have a relationship with?

Clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Zonta, Lions, and others are often looking for speakers. If you get invited, have a copy of your book as a door prize and bring more copies along to sell after the meeting and your presentation. It is a promotional outlet requiring some of your time in return for potential sales and for visibility with potential buyers.

One member of the Guild, H.G. Watts, wrote about a character related to another religious figure. She was interviewed about the story on WFRV-TV in Green Bay and recently appeared in a feature article about the book in The Compass which is a publication of the DIocese of Green Bay.

Alumni associations–either high school or college–offer publications which may afford a promotional outlet to tout your work. Craft a media release (so it looks official) and forward it to the editor for consideration. Fraternities and sororities offer another avenue for free publicity. If you have books at a book store or cafe, offer them a book signing to help bring customers in and promote sales of your book…and others.

Also, think about your favorite magazines and read about what news they consider. Again, the media release is an excellent way to make your plea look professional. Every chance to gain promotional credibility also builds your reputation as an author.

On Media Releases

Think teaser when you put together a media release. It contains enough information to tell the editor that your submission is news worthy…and teases them to want more details. At the least, it can be printed verbatim in the newspaper, magazine, newsletter, or journal.

Create a catchy headline, centered near the top of the page and in bold. Releases should be one page. At top left goes date, when it can be released, and contact information (name and phone number).

The first paragraph gives the who, what, where, why, and when with a variant being a teaser comment from a respected individual or someone who has read your book and gave you a good quote (perhaps one you wrote for them). Get the rest of the information out there in double-spaced format and end with -30- at the bottom.

These tips make your media release look professional, and gain credibility.

Getting Noticed

By Jean Baxter

Someone asked the question on our writer’s Facebook page if anyone has tried donating their book to one of the neighborhood “Free Libraries”?

I hadn’t, but I have gone to several of those little libraries and put my bookmarks in the books already there. I also put my bookmark in every book I check out at the public library—I don’t know if they just throw them away, but it’s worth a try. And I have donated my book to two of the public libraries and also to two high school libraries.

Has any of this done any good? I don’t know.

So, today when I went on my daily walk, I brought along one of my books. I put a note on the inside cover stating I was a local author and would appreciate it if my book could be circulated around the neighborhood.

I mentioned this book and the others I have written are set in northeast Wisconsin. And, of course, the plea for a review if they read it.

As I approached my targeted neighborhood free library, I saw a man shoveling the driveway right near the box. As I went to add my book to the collection, he said, “It’s getting so full I’m going to have to sort through and throw some out.”

“Oh, please don’t throw this one out,” I pleaded, “I wrote it!” He came right over and took it from me. “My wife and I are always looking for something to read, I’ll bring it right in!” We chatted a little more and I left feeling really good.

Who knows, maybe I will get a review out of it yet!

Jean Baxter Author of: Salvageable & Unfathomable & That Forgiveness Thing

Writing Exercises and Prompts

By Lawrence Wilson

Whenever I experience a lack of motivation, ideas, or energy (which sometimes occurs daily), I look over my collection of exercises and prompts to help get started.

Going back to my high school typing class, I did manage to type 40 or so words a minute without looking at the keys. Using this tool as a writing exercise, I sit quietly for a few minutes and then begin to type. Eyes closed. Letting any and everything that fires through the neurons wind up on paper.

If I don’t lose my place on the keyboard, it usually ends with a jumble of words and phrases that may or may not resemble a theme. It really doesn’t matter. It’s spontaneous, gets the mind and fingers working in synch. Most of the time, it gets deleted afterward. 

Another exercise is the six-word memoir. One of the more famous of these, “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” (Ernest Hemingway). My own: “Hearing the call, afraid to answer.” Or “I married up, she did not.”

Word prompts are much the same kind of mental exercise for writing. These can either be timed or have a defined word count. I try to make it to 500 words.

 I have just perused through some old prompts and found some that are rather good and could be developed.

‘Pitching a Frog’, for example. I don’t even remember what the prompt was, but it has the makings of an excellent short story. Another I found, ‘The Secrete Planet’. I called it “Orangetang”, a collection of all the citrus fruit drinks the astronauts couldn’t stomach and thus, jettisoned them so NASA wouldn’t find out. All prompts do not a story make.

Others have made it into the collection of my book, ‘Catching Chickens’. ‘The Door’, ‘Friends’ (the prompt was something about seeing a man on a ledge).

There are many sources of prompts and exercises available on the Web. Here are just a couple of them.

  • ‘The Author’s Publish Compendium of Writer’s Prompts’, http://www.authorspublish.com/writing-prompts-compendium/
  • Writer’s Digest Magazine has many links to prompts. In one contest, they provide the photo, and you write the first storyline.  The winners are published in the next issue.
  • As with anything else writing, all you must do is enter the keywords, “writer prompts,” and AI will find more than you ever wanted to know.

Keeping a Journal

By Terry C. Misfeldt

When we were younger it was thought of as keeping a diary. As we have gotten older, that diary is now considered a journal. With age, keeping a journal is one of the best ways to keep track of the special occasions and life moments you experience.

Like my grandmother who started her journal when she was 10 years old and kept it up until 10 days before her passing, i have consciously kept a journal for most of my life. The exception was 2019 when I chose to intentionally skip keeping track of minutiae and just live my life!

The Corona virus pandemic of 2020 has proven to be an excellent reason for keeping a journal. The panic of being close to someone who might be infected. The anxiety of being quarantined. Waiting for test results. Listening to information and wondering whether it is accurate or manufactured. Doubt. Emotions provide insight to what you have gone through it you have shared them in a journal.

You are not obligated to share your journal with anyone. It is your personal property. It can also be a legacy to your loved ones when you leave this existence for the other side. I am fortunate to have some of my grandmother’s journals and the secrets they have divulged about growing up in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Being able to decode her symbols, I was able to determine when my father was conceived.

My fifth grandchild recently joined our family and, in my journal, I have shared my emotions and feelings about my third grandson. Being able to go back and review dates and events enables me to reminisce about his birth when I am older and grayer with a mind less likely to remember details that are fresh now.

If you travel, journal about it. A friend of mine who has been a professional photographer during his entire career has traveled extensively. When he shared images with me about his trips, i encouraged him to create journal entries and share them with his followers. It created a permanent memory of his exploits for himself, his family, and those of us who have always admired his work.

If you consider yourself a writer and wonder what to write, journal. Keeping a journal provides inspiration for that great American novel.

COVID Motivation

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Writers I converse with regularly seem to lack motivation to write as a result of COVID-19. They are isolated from other writers, family members, and friends, so it is hard to write about anything without human interaction. So here are my thoughts for writers who lack COVID motivation.

  1. Dedicate time each day to writing. Just write! It matters not what you type into your document or scribble on a note pad. Write about your day’s experiences if nothing else. What is essential is that you are writing, whether it’s at 7:00 in the morning or 11:00 at night. Write!
  2. Find something to write about. Your favorite food and why you relish that delicacy. Your best friend and how you get along with that person, even if your best friend is yourself. Write about your favorite time of year or the season that inspires you, such as the colors of autumn.
  3. Correspond with someone you care about. Find a blank note card and send a friend who lives far away a message about why you miss them or what you treasure most about your relationship and your hopes of rekindling it when you can get back together again. Open your heart to them.
  4. Find a writing contest and enter it. There are many magazines and writing groups solicting entries in their writing contests. If you find one you feel qualified to enter, study the rules and write that winning entry. It may cost you a few bucks to enter, but the satisfaction of competing…and winning…can be motivating. And last…
  5. Set a daily goal and write your novel. If you want to write a 90,000 word novel, you can do it in 90 days if you set a goal of writing 1,000 words every day. Perhaps you write 500 words in the morning and another 500 after dinner or all of them at once. The key is to set a goal and keep working at it. It can be your motivation.

Character Descriptions

By Terry C. Misfeldt

How you craft descriptions of your characters is an important element in gaining and maintaining reader interest in your story. Character descriptions vary from quick sketches to detailed revelations that can include emotional states.

An example of a quick sketch would be describing a female character wearing a sleeveless top with colorful tattoo sleeves from shoulder to wrist on both arms. Main character? Perhaps, but more appropriate for a passing stranger in some scene.

The more detailed character description might be something like this: “The plump four-year-old towhead with sparkling blue eyes and out-turned feet plodded barefoot through the mud with his tossled hair clinging to the back of his sweaty neck. His bleeding hand was wrapped in his blood-soaked t-shirt that he held tight to his chest with his belly hanging over the waistband of his too-tight shorts.”

The point of the examples is writers need to create believable characters with precise descriptions. The scene in the second example is used more to describe what might be going on in the towhead’s brief existence, but you learn he is blond with blue eyes and is overweight for a 4-year-old.

Beware: You can divulge too much information about a character in a single description or scenario. This may force you to repeat traits or descriptions at other points in your story that could potentially conflict with your original picture of them.

Suggestion: Identify your characters and write character descriptions on each of them before you dig too deeply into writing the story. This enables you to sprinkle some of their traits throughout the story at appropriate times rather than all at once.

Observe people who may model the type of character you want to create. Take notes about how they move, what they wear, and, of course, what they look like. Writers call it research.