Category Archives: Writing

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!’

The Journey of Writing

By Ruth Granger-Wellens

I just arrived home from a journey of a lifetime – driving to Alaska from Wisconsin! Well, my husband drove. In fact, he planned the whole trip – each route, each hotel reservation, each small tour we took to see glaciers and wildlife and – I rode along.   He read, studied, and talked to people who had done a similar trip. In the months and weeks leading up to our departure date, I tried very hard to read about where we were going.  But I just couldn’t get a picture in my head. When we started out, and as I rode along – waiting, wondering, anticipating – I realized that this trip was a lot like the journey of writing. 

 First there is the idea – like going to Alaska. As we traveled the roads, I didn’t know what was around any corner or beyond the hill or in the next town. I trusted that my husband was going in the right direction. I did some reading about the area we were in or going to while in the car, and, of course, I did a lot of observing and thinking.  I was never disappointed.

When we write, we first come up with the idea.  This is true whether writing a short story, nonfiction, a blog or a book. Then we begin the journey of writing. We have a direction to go in, hopefully with a sense of what the outcome will be, but we don’t know with absolute certainty how we will get there.  What will the characters do?  Where will the plot go?  What words will make the most sense so the meaning is as clear as it can be?  Our writing will take turns and detours, go up and down roads, see exquisite pictures, hit road blocks, and be rewritten many times before it arrives at its conclusion. 

Alaska was amazing; with hard work and good editing, our writing can also be amazing.      

Adding Tension to a Scene

By Terry Misfeldt

A young writer asked me about adding tension to a scene and how you do it. The simple response is to create stressful situations.

Of course, you have to understand what causes stress. Things like divorce, danger, disaster, and diagnosis of life-threatening diseases such as cancer are on the list.

Think about the television shows you’ve seen where two characters are driving in a car when there’s a sudden, violent collision…and the scene ends! You’re left wondering whether they survived, were severely injured, were intentionally rammed by an evil character, or merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When that happened in the Nashville series, the female lead was killed in the crash. It is a dramatic twist that, in some cases, can devastate the future of a program.

In a recent episode of The Rookie, Officer Nolan is under duress because his girlfriend thinks she’s pregnant and he’s not ready to be a parent again. He already has an older son. They break up when he tells her he doesn’t want more children yet.

Dangerous situations or impending peril add tension. Arguments in dialogue add stress. Think about things that make you tense and craft them into your scene.

An example for adding stress is if you create a scene where a woman is walking alone on a deserted street at night and suddenly hears footsteps behind her after she hears a car stop and the van’s sliding door creak open. Take it from there.

Reading, Writing & Arithmetic

By Terry C. Misfeldt

This is about what is commonly known as the Three R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic but we’re not going to spend much time writing about Reading. We will cover how Writing can be improved with Arithmetic. It’s adapted from a Get Motivated Workshop presentation by Amy Jones.

One of my take-aways from the presentation was Amy’s comment that we all have 86,400 seconds in every day. There’s no excuse for anyone who complains they don’t have enough time in the day. It’s how you spend it that matters.

So let’s start with SUBTRACTION. Success as a writer is enhanced when you can subtract stuff from your life. Stuff like events, hindrances, and worry. Is it essential you attend a fundraising luncheon for a charity you’ve only a passing interest in supporting? There are things that may appear obvious for subtraction from your schedule–such as watching every baseball game of your favorite team on television–while others may be more subliminal like scrubbing the bathroom floor every day. Subtraction adds time to your writing itinerary.

Next is ADDITION. You may already have these in your regimen, but consider adding them if you don’t. Add things like Planning, Purpose, Passion, and Play. Yes, P words. Add some time for planning your projects…and your time for writing, re-writing, editing, marketing, and the business side of writing. Add more passion for what you’re working on because that gives you more purpose to accomplish your objectives. Add time for some recreation, too.

MULTIPLICATION. Multiply your expectations. If you can easily write 500 words a day, could you multiply that to reach 1,000 or 1,500 words with a bit more dedication to the keyboard?

DIVISION is important, too. You must be able to divide your writing time with your work, personal and family commitments. Relationships may falter if you lock yourself in your ivory writing tower 14 hours a day and neglect to feed the dog or spend time with your children.

Yes, writing involves arithmetic.

Writing for Comfort

By Debbie Delvaux

Writing for comfort.

When I was a young girl, I never had the opportunity to really be one of the gang as I was always feeling left behind. Being the second of two daughters and very shy at times.

I would try to keep up with my sister and her friends. You know like the story goes of the second left behind or the tag along. Sigh!!

Well anyway, when I would be finding myself alone and no one to play with, I would either swing and drift to another world or walk the neighborhood and imagine myself as a member of their family.

The older daughter or just a secret agent disguised as one of their own members.
So many lives to pretend to be and yet so little time to be them when you would hear your mother call to supper and then to bed.

But as a day would go on, I would still try to live that life and be off somewhere when the television got too boring or the weekend too long with nothing to do.

To this day I can see myself in one of those many secret lives and that has given me the chance to now sit at my laptop, make that life come true and with no interruptions except when the telephone rings or one of the cats grabs my leg for attention.

Many of the lives spent elsewhere have given me comfort when I had hard times, bad times, or even silly times to say I will try that in a story someday.

So in retrospect, I have been given a gift of imaginary lives and way to live my own life the way I wanted it to be.

How Do You Know When You’re Finished?

By Gail Blohowiak

I recently listened to Walter Mosley on Wisconsin Public Radio in an interview on writing. Mosley is an acclaimed American mystery writer best known for his Easy Rawlins character. He answered this question for the interviewer.

This was Mosley’s final answer (which I paraphrase) ‘When I don’t find any reason to rewrite again, I’m finished.’ In the interview, he said he rewrites up to twenty-six drafts. That’s a lot of drafts. That’s a lot of rewriting.

I thought I was rewriting too much. I’ve switched my work from first person to third, or present tense to past tense. I played around with the format. I’ve reworked my word choices. I’ve written a scene as quickly as I can and later gone back later to fill in the details.

I enlisted alpha and beta readers for feedback. I’ve joined a critique group. I write and rewrite. I learn. I listen. Then, I write and rewrite.

I thought something was wrong with me! Not according to Mr. Mosley. My manuscript is progressing. I’m only on my sixth or seventh draft which means I have a long way to go.

Now, if I count the drafts from my first play (I am writing a novel from my three SPAM plays), I’m up to thirteen rewrites. I’m on my way, but still ‘not finished’.

So, I’ll go to my favorite writing spot and read, reread, write, and rewrite – maybe not the whole piece at one time, but surely certain parts.

I’m aiming for twenty-six rewrites now. Thanks Walter. Then, hopefully, I’ll be finished.

How about you? When are you finished?

 (I rewrote this piece in only eight drafts. (Make that nine drafts now.) It’s a short piece. I’m finished.)

She Came Sneaking In

By Rhonda Strehlow

She came sneaking into our lives on little cat feet.

We’d left the back door open because we were cleaning the garage.

We first learned of our invader when our dog, Buddy, started barking fiercely in the kitchen. Initially I thought one of those darn little chipmunks had sneaked in—that had happened before. But when I entered the kitchen, the first thing I saw was a tiny ball of fluff eating out of Buddy’s food dish. When Buddy approached to voice his complaint, she whacked him on the nose with a paw the size of a nickel. He backed off. She continued eating. When she was full, she decided to explore. We followed her from room to room. She ignored us.

“What should we do?” I asked my husband.

“Keep her?” He suggested.

“Did we want a cat?” I asked. Rescue dog, Buddy, was a handful. Abused by former owners, he was alternately scared or aggressive. We were still engaging the services of a dog whisperer to help him relax. Did we want to take on another potential problem?

Then I made the mistake of picking her up. She snuggled and promptly fell asleep.

“Please run to the store to get food and dishes and a bed.” I whispered.

“So, we’re keeping her?” My husband whispered back.

“It looks like it,” I said as she snuggled closer.

Rescue cat enjoys comfort of home

We live in the country. She had a long walk to get to our house. We checked with our neighbors, no one was missing a kitten.

When I took her to the veterinarian the next day and discovered she weighed exactly what my premature granddaughter weighed at birth, I knew it was a sign that we’d made the right decision. When the vet asked her name, I looked at her white paws and blurted out, “Boots.” That was a mistake. We should have named her Queen or Your Majesty since my husband, Buddy and I have become her loyal servants.

How I Started Writing – from a Newbie

By Laura E. Aronis

I didn’t think I could write! Me? I couldn’t imagine having enough imagination for something as enormous as a whole book! Characters? Plots? Climax? Resolution? No way! I was content to read other amazing works of fiction, often rereading them over and over again, (which I didn’t realize was setting me up for being a writer.) 

I might have an idea come to me on occasion, or I might daydream about some scenario taking place around me, but I NEVER thought of putting pen to paper and writing it out! That would just be too embarrassing! No one would want to read something that came out of my head, that’s just silly! Until one day… The day that the idea was just too good, the scenario too exciting and the characters too interesting for me to keep them inside and risk them leaving me as I slowly thought of new adventures and stories. 

I didn’t know how to begin, so I started with something that looked a bit like this:

Jack: Let’s go up the hill.

Jill: I do need a pail of water.

Narrator: Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. 

Jill: Jack! There’s a boat– (Wait, that’s a different story) Watch out!

Narrator: Jack sees a large boulder coming straight at him and tries to run but…

Jack: Ahhhh!

Narrator: Jack yells as he falls down the hill. There’s silence as his crown (head) breaks.

Jill: (gasps)

Narrator: And that’s the end of Jack. But wait! What’s this? Jill is tumbling after!

The End

Obviously, I knew that wasn’t the way to do it, but I had to start somewhere. I took what I had written and started over, thinking about how other writers had done it and began:

Jack was bored. Nothing interesting ever happened in Kilmersdon, the town where he and his wife, Jill lived. He watched his wife knitting tiny little socks and could take it no longer. “Let’s go up the hill,” he said. Jill finished counting the stitches in the row she was working on and smiled at her husband.

“I do need a pail of water,” she said. Jack took Jill’s hand and they walked out the door. Jill grabbed the wooden bucket that always sat just inside the door of their thatched stone cottage. They walked side by side down the lane that led to the small school, as that’s where the well was located.

They enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine and each other’s company as Jack chased Jill along the old stone wall and up the steep hill that the neighborhood children had to climb every day. 

Suddenly Jack slipped on some loose stones on the path and tried to catch himself by grabbing the top of the wall, but the large stone he managed to grab was loose and came off in his hand. It landed on top of his head, crushing his skull.

“Ahhh,” he said as he started to roll down the hill, much to Jill’s horror. As she tried to run after him, her foot got caught in her skirts and she came tumbling down the hill after her husband. 

The End

So, it doesn’t matter how you start; if you have an idea, just start. You may end up with a morbid nursery rhyme that parents will sing to their babies long after everyone involved is dead and gone.

Writing Perspective – Day 31 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 31 – Marketing

It’s the final day and the final tip, which is good because I can’t think of any more. I need this one as much as anyone. Today’s topic—Marketing.

Your novel is finished and available. How do you market your work?

Set up your author page on Facebook. I’ve done that. Let people know when your book will be available, if you’re still writing, or where they can get a copy if it’s available. Post your book on Goodreads. Announce it on social media—not only Facebook but Twitter and LinkedIn and other sites that will help with getting the word out.

Have book signings. Get your business cards from Vista Print. You can also get postcards made and send them in the mail. Hand out your business cards to everyone you talk to. I’ve been doing that. Have books on hand to sell when people show interest. I have a few in my car, so they are always handy. Visit your bookstores to let them know you have books available. You might get them interested in putting them on their shelves.

If you’ve self-published, it’s difficult, but I’ve heard of people getting it done. They might even allow a book signing at the store.

Inform your television and radio stations you have a book coming out or available.

These are all the marketing tips I’ve heard about and/or tried. Good luck marketing your book. If you have any other marketing tips, please share.

Thanks for reading.