What can I say…I’ve been away, working like a mad dog, and been a bit lazy, too. So here’s a great tip on marketing your work. Hope it helps!
It’s Memorial Weekend and am actually off today…so a bit of relaxing and writing is in order. I watched a movie while eating lunch, instead of sitting in my kitchen staring out the window. I watched the remake of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” with Ben Stiller. Cute movie. And a reminder of something I’ve written about before – a life on the road – or at least some adventures peppered with some bad decisions.
What caught my eye was at the end of the movie where Walter is re-writing his resume, since he’s lost his job at LIFE magazine. Instead of the usual humdrum skills checklist and god-awful BORING summary (Professional with a strong work ethic and multiple years of interaction with people in various work settings…yes, this is mine…), he listed his adventures (jet boarding down some road in Iceland, jumped from helicopter into the sea, etc.). It got me to thinking..if we are to get out of that conformist corporate box of a day-to-day J-O-B and move into our lives, how would a resume like that go over?
As a writer, I often dream (like Walter Mitty) of writing and traveling and earning enough to live on. Competition is stiff in most fields these days, so thinking out-of-the-box is essential to succeed, especially as a writer. I’ve got that looping tape in my head of my mother telling me to “just get a job.” It’s been there for over forty years and I’ve yet to figure out how to erase it. The movie reminded me that when we’re busy living our lives we don’t have time for daydreaming, because we’re actually living our dreams. So I’m going to re-think how I present myself to the world, because I have had some great adventures (including some based on bad decisions) and I need to give myself more credit for them.
As a writer, I know I’ll never be a New York Times bestselling novelist. I’m okay with knowing that I’m a mediocre writer – what’s so wrong with average anyway? I may have a smaller audience but they’re an audience nonetheless. The fact that there are folks (like you) out there, listening and hopefully gleaning something from my work, is what’s important to me now. I no longer strive to reach or grab the brass ring. I have dreamed for years of becoming a writer, only to finally admit that I AM a writer – with or without the audience or brass ring.
Lesson: Dream your dreams. Take a chance every now and then to live one out, just to see where it takes you. Then you can write all about it.
I didn’t make a notation at the bottom of this list, so I don’t remember where I got the information. Sorry. I’ve also added advice (Note) and links based on personal experience.
So you have written a book and had it published. Congratulations. Now you face the challenge of what to do next. Many authors think that marketing is a job for the publisher so they sit back and wait for the royalties to roll in. You might have a very long wait. The market for books is extremely crowded and most books do not sell well. However, there are a number of actions the author can take to move from writing to marketing:
- Send review copies to all the journals and magazines that review books in your genre. This is something that most publishers do for you but if you’re self-published (like me), this is all on you. Don’t forget the many online sites that review books. (Note: might want to ask them first, see if they accept review copies, as there might be a fee involved or a very long wait list.)
- Get friends, colleagues, clients or anyone who likes your book to place reviews on Amazon and other online book stores. Amazon is highly influential and the reviews matter, so encourage anyone who says they enjoyed your book to place a review.
- Offer yourself for interviews on radio stations. Most radio stations/podcasts are looking for interesting interviews and the author of a newly published book has a good chance of getting on air. (Note: I’ve done some good interviews via Radio Guest List. They have a HUGE database of a variety of podcast shows – in other words, something for everyone, and are always looking for guests. The audience size varies, so check the websites of the podcasts where you want to be a guest for guest criteria.)
- Create a web page for the book. Ideally you should have a separate website with an address that features the book title. Now you can exchange links and drive traffic to the site with comments, blogs, quotes and extracts. Be sure to show people how they can buy the book. Encourage user feedback, comments and reviews.
- Offer sample chapters as free downloads. Take a couple of your best chapters and turn them into pdf files. Let people download them for free. Think of this as the equivalent of letting people browse through your book at a bookstore. (Note: With self-publishing sites like Lulu, this is offered with each published item.)
- Use material from the book in your blog. Start a blog and quote from the book. Lift sections and acknowledge the book as the source. Build a community of interest around the topics in the book.
- Review other books in this field. Become a reviewer on Amazon. Use your own name accompanied by ‘author of the book……’. Review other books and when people read your reviews some will click through to your book.
- Start an email newsletter. Encourage people to subscribe on the website and then send out an occasional newsletter with interesting new material in this book’s field. But you cannot just plug your book – you have to add value with new information and comment.
- Give away copies to the right people. Use the book as your calling card. Give copies to potential and existing clients. Encourage them to read it and pass it on.
- Offer books as prizes. Local radio shows, magazines or societies will often be interested in running competitions and will give you valuable publicity if you give them a few books to give away as prizes. (Note: I did this on Goodreads – they offer the opportunity to do ‘giveaways’ and it’s good publicity.)
Some authors do book signings in local bookstores but unless you are well-known (or have a good relationship with the store owner), this activity is unlikely to produce worthwhile results. Finally, you could consider using the book as a platform for launching your speaking career. You will need a different set of skills to succeed here but the book can make an excellent starting point and every talk will help sell more books. (Note: I teach my nutrition book as a seminar/workshop in local community colleges and adult learning programs.)
This week’s blog was inspired by a t-shirt worn by a man who strolled by me the other day. It read: Bad Choices Make Good Stories. I laughed to myself as I fondly remembered some instances where that was most certainly true in my life. Like the time I “hijacked” a limo with a friend…that one always gets a good laugh and a “I can’t believe you weren’t arrested!” response. We were young (and very drunk) and, many of you would agree, almost obligated to make bad decisions at that age (the ripe ol’ age of 23). Or the time the police paddy wagon showed up at our overly-raucous beach house party, headlights beaming on the idiot standing in the driveway with a bottle of Stoli’s in her hand (yep, that was me; and no, I wasn’t arrested that time, either, cuz I ran like a jackrabbit).
Artists paint/draw from painful experiences, as do poets and writers in general. We draw upon those bad choices and negative experiences that life throws our way. In other words, as writers/artists, when we’re given lemons, we make lemonade. The badder the choice, it seems, the saucier the story (probably why I made so many; keeps the stories interesting). Those bad choices add color to our lives, not to mention bragging rights with the grandkids and anyone else who’ll listen.
My point is this: don’t be afraid to make bad choices. They make life more interesting, create the tall tales of adventure and hi-jinks, and carry us into old age with a certain wisdom and appreciation – which can only be gained by making those bad choices – preferably in our youth. (Although I admit I still like a little naughty in my life. At my age, it keeps the blood circulating!)
I have to admit I’ve been a bit down-in-the-dumps as of late, which is why I haven’t been consistent with my blog. Gotta love menopause and the emotional roller-coaster ride it takes women my age on…like I hadn’t had enough wild, roller-coaster style adventures in my youth…only this one takes me to dark places instead of exciting ones (that and I’ve got to bite the bullet and get wifi in my new home, so I don’t have to pack up and go elsewhere to work).
It finally hit me one day last week, while I struggled to just get out of my pajamas on a day off, that as one trained and licensed in Chinese medicine I should know how to resolve this problem. Instead of running through a list of signs and symptoms in my head (the traditional intake and diagnosis approach), I simply fixed a cup of herbal tea containing four gentle but powerful herbs (hence the name of the tea – Four Pillars) that pretty much resolves emotional roller-coaster situations.
Why? Because these herbs move Qi/energy in the digestive system (stomach/spleen/pancreas region), where food and thoughts (in Chinese medicine, this is the emotional aspect of our digestion) become stuck, leaving one feeling tired and listless, with poor focus and little motivation (in spite of the desire to act) to do much of anything. I fixed a cup of that tea for three nights in a row, after dinner, as a carminative to help digest my meals and get things moving down there. Wow. Since last week, I’ve been bursting with energy, inspiration, and motivation to write, including creating some new additions to my nutrition book, which I will (notice I didn’t write plan to, a less confident choice of words) re-publish as an expanded, second edition some time later this year. Wahoo! Inspiration Explosion!
And that inspiration has led me to think more about making my own herb teas and tinctures (I am a medical herbalist, after all, and feel I should try to use at least some of my medical skills in creating an independent lifestyle). I also unpacked a few more small containers left unopened since I moved into my new place in February, and now my jewelry/accessories are nicely displayed and organized. Amazing what one can accomplish with just a little “boost” – which has carried me into this week!
So if you find yourself feeling “stuck” in your life or your writing and need a little help “moving” in a forward direction, make a cup of this tea and you’ll be amazed…
Four Pillars Tea
2 teaspoons fresh dried peppermint
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon dried orange peel
(you can find this in spice sections at the market)
1 teaspoon fresh dried ginger
(or about 3 fresh slices ginger root, bruised)
Put all herbs in an empty tea bag, add boiling water, and steep for five to seven minutes. No sugar or sweetener needed (and shouldn’t be added as it is congesting), the tea will be sweet enough on its own.
Sit back, sip, wait for the fog to clear, and the inspiration explosion to arrive!
(generic herbal tea)
Hi all, I’ve been out of touch the past couple weeks – no excuse, really, just no desire to sit and write another blog on writing. I mean, how many topics can there actually be? Yet here I am, with another blog…
So I’m going to cheat a little and let Sandra Beckwith, owner of Build Book Buzz, share some neat tidbits on how we can all learn from negative or not-all-that-nice reviews of our work. I’ve been lucky so far; all my reviews are 5-star – then again, I only have THREE of them for my fiction novel. I’ve asked people to say something nice when they finish reading the book, but they do seem to forget or get distracted elsewhere.
I’ve never written a negative review; if I can’t say something constructive, why bother? Then again, perhaps some positive critiquing is necessary from time to time, as we often can’t see the weak spots in our work as easily as the reader. So don’t take it personally. Use it to your advantage, as an opportunity learn where you may have missed something – with characters, dialog, or scenes/chapters – and go back to the original work with fresh eyes.
Authors, prepare yourself for the inevitable one-star review. In the publishing industry, one-star reviews are practically a rite of passage.
And no one is immune. Whether you’ve got 10 best-sellers to your credit or it’s your first book, you can expect at least a single one-star review.
There are the one-star Amazon reviews that make you roll your eyes.
“If possible, I’d give this pile of garbage zero stars.”
“Not really of much use for me. Seems like just a lot of useless information to fill up a book.”
“The best part of this book is the cover photo.”
I don’t how many of you are familiar with the principles of Feng Shui (fung-shway), but I have found it to be an eye-opening experience in how positive energy flow can affect every aspect of your life – including your writing. One of my favorite feng shui sites is www.fengshuiforreallife.com, by Carol Olmstead. I have followed her newsletter for years and have gained much insight into the practical everyday use of energy flow. As a writer, it’s important to set the tone of one’s working space; how well you organize and arrange your home office (or wherever you write) is vital to the writing process and outcome. By making a few adjustments (some more so than others, depending on your needs), you may get to experience the shifts in energy flow that can occur relatively quickly (I’m talking within a week).
Here are some suggestions from one of Carol’s articles on how to arrange your desk/office for greater success:
If you work from home, the first Feng Shui consideration is which room or area of your home to use. If at all possible, avoid locating your office in the kitchen, where it could symbolically interfere your health, or in the bedroom, which could interfere with your love and relationships.
Here are five quick fixes you can make in your workspace to give your office a Feng Shui makeover.
Problem #1: Your desk is in the wrong location.
Quick Fix: The most auspicious location for a desk is positioned diagonally across from the door. The worst place is with your back to the door. When you sit with your back to the entrance of a room you can’t see what’s going on behind you, making you vulnerable to being “caught off guard” by your competitors, clients, or colleagues.
Things literally and figuratively go on “behind your back.” If you can’t relocate your desk, hang a mirror in front of you or place a reflective object on your desk so you can see behind you.
Problem #2: Your desk is the wrong size.
Quick Fix: A desk that is too small for the work to be done makes you feel that your ambitions and aspirations are restricted. On the other hand, a desk that is too large makes you feel that you are not up to the challenge of the work. Choose the appropriate size work surface for the job you have to do. And make sure you have enough room to spread out, create, and expand in your career.
Problem #3: There are sharp corners pointed at you.
Quick Fix: In Feng Shui, the edges of walls pointing at you are called “poison arrows.” These sharp edges send harsh energy toward you, making you feel uncomfortable, threatened, or insecure. The best way to cure or fix this problem is to place something between you and the sharp edge to block its negative energy. Good things to use include furniture, a healthy plant, soft fabric draped over the edge of the wall, or molding.
Problem #4: You are surrounded by overhead fluorescent lights.
Quick Fix: Fluorescent lights represent the Metal Element that can be too hard and cutting when it comes at you from overhead. Plus this kind of lighting can cause headaches, eyestrain, and a whole lot of stress. Whenever you can, turn off overhead fluorescent lights and take advantage of natural daylight, or use desk and floor lamps. If you can’t turn off overhead fluorescents, try to have them replaced with full spectrum light bulbs. These simulate daylight and make you feel more comfortable.
Problem #5: Your office is cluttered.
Quick Fix: In Feng Shui, clutter represents postponed decisions and the inability to move forward. When you have so many files and piles of papers that can’t even see your desktop, it’s hard to concentrate on your work. Clear as much as you can off your desk, then use colorful folders and wicker baskets to contain the rest of your paperwork. Here is one way to jump start your office clutter clearing — Set a timer for 10 minutes, take a large plastic bag, and thrown 27 thing into the bag – things you don’t use, don’t want, and don’t need in your office. You’ll be amazed as how much more space you have opened up in your office to allow new opportunities for success to reach you.
Is grammar dead? Read any number of internet articles, including those written by journalists and professional writers, and you just might think so. In a previous article, I criticized the overuse of the word thing. It is supplemented far too often as a noun where a more respectable and appropriate noun would do. Grammar clarifies both our writing and our thinking. They are forever joined together; the more clear and precise our thinking, the more clear and precise our writing. Hence, a better story or article is the result of that positive relationship. The lazier our thinking is, logic dictates, then the more muddled our writing is. As writers, we want to inform and/or entertain our readers, so doesn’t it make sense to keep our words as precise and concise as possible?
I was (un)fortunate enough to have been sent to a private Catholic grammar school for eight (long) years. I have vivid memories of nuns with their rulers and clackers, kept at the ready for any expression of unacceptable behavior, including mistakes in grammar when called upon to read (yes, out loud) or conjugate (yes, out loud). The following is an excerpt from a funny and informative grammar book, Who’s (…Oops!) Whose Grammar Book Is This Anyway? by C. Edward Good. The scene is eerily familiar to me (my comments are in parentheses):
“Up front, under the watchful eye of Miss Hamrick – our no-nonsense English teacher – Billy Wombie tries to diagram a sentence on the chalkboard. Momentarily uncertain where to put the prepositional phrase, he regains his composure and finishes with a flourish, smirking at Damron, the troublemaker in back taking aim with spit was in cafeteria straw.
Miss Hamrick spots him. “Up front with you, Damron. On your feet. In front of the class.” (I have similar embarrassing memories.)
“All right, Damron. Now perhaps you can help the class with verb conjugation.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Damron dutifully responds.
“Good. Now conjugate the verb to ride in the third person.” (How many of you have done this or can do this now?)
“Third person?” Damron groans. He knows what will come. (I’m groaning, too, I’ve been here.)
“Third person. That’s right, Damron. No go ahead.”
“He rides, he rode, he will ride…”
“Damron, be fair. Include all third persons.” (Still following?)
“No, Damron. Don’t forget to include it.” (Sheesh. You getting this?)
Beads of sweat forming on his troubled brow, Damron begins, “He/she/it rides, he/she/it rode….”
The class erupts, delighting in Damron’s pronunciational discomfort.
“He/she/it rides, he/she/it rode, he/she/it will ride, he/she/it has ridden, he/she/it had ridden, he/she/it will have ridden.” (I still don’t know how to use all but the first three; better read more of the book.)
“Very good, Damron. Now the progressive tenses.” (Huh? Don’t remember those…)
“He/she/it is riding, he/she/it was riding, he/she/it will be riding, he/she/it has been riding, he/she/it had been riding, he/she/it will have been riding.” (I give up.)
Grammar, a forgotten relic of the past? Nowadays, schools aren’t offering it in their English classes. Why not? As you can see above, it’s vital to understand the tenses and which one to use. I, for one, will be reading more of this delightful book so I can be more like Miss Hamrick. Sheesh.
As I continue to unpack my life in my new home (hey, the older we get, the longer the process takes, wink wink), I discovered some long-forgotten gems I’d packed away. A friend is bringing by a TV with stand later today, so I had to make room. There were still two containers, one packed with Christmas decorations and the other marked “Memorabilia” that I needed to either put away or go through and discard unwanted items. I stored the Christmas box in the storage closet then set about rifling through the box packed with memories of my past.
That container walked me through parts of my life I’d long forgotten, including many of the papers I’d written while earning my Psych degree back in the late 90s. I chuckled and snorted my way through the papers – Philosophy (the life of Socrates), English 202, and several of my clinical psych papers on serial killers (yep, that was my specialty – their psychopathology and crime scenes). At the bottom, tucked in an old scrapbook, I discovered some poems and short stories I’d written as a teenager. Seems I’ve been writing for longer than I remember. I stacked those papers in a neat pile to scan into my computer at some point. I enjoyed reading them again, to see how much I have (and have not, in some ways) changed over the decades.
Strong memories flooded my mind; in particular, of my favorite professor, the late Dr. Eugene Policelli. This man was not only a brilliant professor and writer; I clearly remember he was also fluent in Italian and, of all languages, Latin. We’re talking old school here. But his exuberance, kindness, generosity, and gentle guidance were what I remember most of him and his writing assignments. Because of him, I wrote some damned good stories. One of which he liked so much that he told me to “tighten it up” (I wasn’t sure what he meant by that at the time) so he could have it printed in our local paper (he had a friend who worked as an editor or something there). I remember it was a Christmas story of my family. Then I came across handouts he’d given us on the writing process and I share one with you here. Take notes.
I also discovered a booklet printed upon my graduation from high school and, there among the poets, was one of my very own poems. I’d completely forgotten about that booklet, and even about writing the poem. I realized some of my emotions and perceptions have remain unchanged by time.
We take many turns along the road of life but in looking back we can see patterns emerge that shape who we are or will be at any moment in time. I realized this morning that I have been a writer for most of my life and the need to express myself is part of who I am, memories and all.
Hello All, I’m baaaaccckkk…
I know, I went missing for a bit there…that’s because I was busy packing up my life and moving to new digs while breaking in a new day job. The older I get, the longer it takes for me to unpack and get the rhythm of my life in order, including my writing (this blog, my novels, etc.). Here in NorCal we’ve been hit with a deluge of rain over the past six weeks (I’ve actually lost count as to how long this has been going on) and I am showing signs of wear. This much rain reminds me of Seattle; I lived near there for about five months many years ago but left because the weather was depressing and so was I from a lack of vitamin D. I don’t know about you, readers, but weather – especially consistent torrents of rain – quashes my ability to express myself in any uplifting way. That, coupled with the fact that I’ve yet to get internet in my new home, has made for the only dry season around here. So I am in both an emotional and technological desert, brought on by relocation and mood-deflating weather. What’s a writer to do?
Tomorrow is a day off from work and a state holiday. Since most businesses are closed, I plan to work on my novel (the sequel to Rescue on White Thunder), see if I can get any closer to resolving the main issue: the darn thing is too short. I’ve got to stretch it out, perhaps a sub-story, to make it at least as long as the first novel. I’ve had writer’s block on that subject for over a year. The upside is that the weather is supposed to be pretty stormy, meaning I’m staying in for the day. I have some movies to watch (no cable at the moment either, but I do have my DVD player); hopefully I’ll spend the morning and part of the afternoon writing before vegging in front of the movie screen.
I have to admit I haven’t missed the internet all that much. Nice to come home and not worry about checking emails (which I can do from my phone), updating the new residential address, or checking in with the latest round of idiocy from our new Il Presidente. My home is definitely more quiet and I admit I’m in no hurry to busy it up again. Except with some good writing…which I will endeavor to accomplish, in spite of the mood, weather, and technology issues.
I’m reading an interesting book titled “This is Where You Belong” by Melody Warnick. The title of the book struck me one day as I walked past a New Selections stand at my local library. She writes about loving where you live (and how to learn to, if you don’t). It’s as if she wrote the first chapter just for me. I know I’ve blogged about all the moving around this country I’ve done, in search of a connection, of a place to call home. She presents an enormous amount of research in a readable (and often humorous) way and includes checklists at the end of every chapter so you too can go out and learn to love where you live. (Many of which are quite doable and actually sound like fun.)
While still new to the area (13 months ago), I went to a reputable psychic reader for some guidance. One of the first things she said to me was, “you know California’s not your home, right?” I felt like someone had punched me in the chest and knocked the air out of my lungs. Did I seriously just spend 11 days on yet another (my fourth and hopefully final) cross country road trip, to end up in a place where I don’t belong? Story of my life, it seems. Perhaps she was wrong (since our futures are not written in stone and we change directions on a whim), and I can learn to fit in here instead of always trying to find the “right” place for me. Perhaps I’ve had it wrong all this time and I need to fit in before a place can fit me.
Moving offered absolution for whatever failures I’d amassed in my present town: the disappointing friendships, the inescapable, guilt-inducing commitments, the taunting list of unfinished home renovation projects. Each time the moving truck pulled away from the curb, these petty vexations and regrets vanished. Thus freed and forgiven, I’d relish the prospect of beginning again in the next city. Things would definitely be better this time. I would be better in Blacksburg. I believed so thoroughly in the healing power of geography that I didn’t bother to make plans for how these changes would occur. By stirring up the better angels of my nature, the right place would simply complete me.
A new city presses the reset button, forcing you to at least temporarily abandon old patterns of thought and environmental triggers. The Melody I was in Virginia would not, fingers crossed, turn out to be the Melody I was in Texas.
Ouch. Sound familiar to you? Certainly does to me. The right place would simply complete me has been my reigning affirmation – up until now. I have to participate in loving where I live? Who’d a thunk it!
Does where you live affect or inspire your writing? Think about it: the conversations overhead at the local cafe, in line at your bank (if you ever bother to go there in person), or when passing people on the street. I find myself listening to the conversations and watching the behaviors of people around me here, perhaps in an attempt to connect to the (my) community. And sometimes what I witness makes it into one of my stories, whether it be a conversation or a particular way someone dressed. But by reading this book I have realized that no one place can complete me. No, I must learn to love where I live, let it in and allow that love to filter through my fingers and into my stories. Because my stories are an expression of me and my life experiences – and they are what complete me, giving me a sense of place within myself and in my community.
I finally got some writing “juice” this past week and worked on a fiction novel that’s been sitting untouched on my computer for some time. While adding pages to the second chapter, I realized that certain pieces of information were beyond my grasp until I did some research on the subject at hand. Then I stopped writing.
Research – it’s a lurking monster for me, since I tend to procrastinate until the end of the book to begin the necessary research, filling in the many [bracketed words/phrases/ideas] peppered throughout the story. It’s where pertinent pieces of information need to be inserted – like details on the type of plane used in an aerial shooting, embezzling schemes and how they work (or fall apart), or researching the appropriate lingo used to describe a fire scene. The brackets are notes to myself to go back and finish that thought, get more information on that process, or add a character description. I complete an idea or part of the story best I can, add some brackets where more information/detail is needed, and move on. Most of the time.
Granted, the Internet makes research much easier and more accessible, on most topics. There are, however, still some areas of expertise best shared by experts in that field (for example, the type of plane used in an aerial shooting scene, how it flies, the gears, size of the engine, etc.). This is where I get lazy and it’s probably why some parts of my fiction works could use a little “lift” from more detailed descriptions.
How do you approach research? Do you research as you write? Do you begin your research before you start the story? Do you hire an intern? (Nice to be able to afford that option!) Let us know!
Part of it is I have a bad habit of convincing myself that the experts won’t talk to me, because my work hasn’t made it to the NY Times Bestseller List. I have to get out of my own way and learn to approach the research with as much gusto as I do the rest of the story.
After all, the devil is in the details, eh?
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Yogi Berra
Now that the holidays are (finally) over, we writers can get back to work (or at least I can, since I seem to have taken too long a holiday from it). As a result of busily working two jobs for the last several months, my writing outside of this blog has all but disappeared and I madly desire to get back on track. My imagination craves an outlet for the myriad scenarios running amok in my mind. But first I need to whittle it all down to a doable list of projects.
That new nutrition book, for example; you know, the one with the first few chapters already completed? Probably going to make its way to the Recycle Bin on my laptop; it was one of the works I referenced in Lay Your Past to Rest. I’ve decided there are already some excellent books out on that very topic, so why try to compete with them? They’re written by successful colleagues with more than twenty-five years of practice under each of their belts (I have less than twelve). What could I possibly say that they haven’t? What would you do?
I’m even re-vamping my workshop. I decided a fresh approach is needed to draw more people in for the all-day class. What’s my inspiration? Boredom, mostly, with the “same-old, same-old”. Time to breathe new life into a stagnant one. Throw out the old, bring in the new, right?
Has your writing become a bit stale as of late? With a whole new year upon us, perhaps it’s time to take a writing inventory to decide what’s still working and what’s not. I like writing nonfiction, but I realized I prefer fiction – more freedom of expression, which to me, is far better (and more fun).
“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” ~ Confucius
Where to find inspiration for our writing this new year? With a new presidency almost upon us, I feel we will not be lacking for parody material…it’s as if the situation demands it. There’s a lot going on out there in our big world. How can we be heard? How can we stand out? As always, we must create in a way that is best for each of us, not in a way that someone else thinks is right. Which is why I’m cutting back on following various groups on LinkedIn (and other sites) – it’s information overload. In this new year I wish to simplify my life a bit more. Avoiding frivolous junk news will surely increase the amount (and quality) of work I produce, simply because there will be less interference from trivial events that have no bearing on my life.
Perhaps in this new year we writers can decide to live more simply to create more fully. With less interruptions, we can better focus on what’s important: telling our stories.
“Writing is an escape from a world that crowds me. I like being alone in a room. It’s almost a form of meditation- an investigation of my own life. It has nothing to do with – I’ve got to get another play.” ~ Neil Simon
As writers, we are artists whose canvass is the mind of the reader; our brushes are the words we use to create the story. Some paint a broad picture while others paint a smaller, more narrow picture. I prefer to read stories with some (but not too much) well-placed descriptives (adjectives and other modifiers), as they lead me through a maze of landscapes, cityscapes, and textures I knew not of, with characters carved as from real life.
Has writing fiction nowadays changed the way we paint our broad brushes? The evolution of language has certainly modified our written expression to a great extent, especially in the last two centuries. What if someone wrote in the frenetic way Van Gogh painted? What if someone wrote as Pablo Picasso painted during his Cubist period, or his Blue period, or during his early years when his work was more realistic? An interesting thought to ponder, comparing their art to ours.
One shining example of just-the-right-amount of descriptive words (in my opinion, anyway) is the book The Long Knives are Crying, by Joseph Marshall III. As a result of his writing savvy and storytelling prowess, he paints a broad but exceptionally detailed picture of life on the Plains in the late 18th century, during a time of war and strife between Lakota and the U.S. government. Throughout the whole book, I was carried along by his choice of descriptive words. I swear I can find my way across that part of the country based solely on his knack for painting a picture of the landscape down to the tiniest detail:
“High above the frozen river, the Lakota sentry hidden inside a tangle of deadfall gazed intently at the horse and rider below him on a wide plateau. His expression changed little as he noted that the buckskin horse was following the game trail along the north bank of the meandering ribbon of snow-covered ice, moving in a westerly direction.”
The following is a portion of a bad example of descriptive writing I found online; it’s too long and wordy for this blog, so I’ll share only a portion:
“Chocolate. Three different types and three different distinct flavors, each of which has its own unique benefits. Because, you know, chocolate is sooooo healthy. It has no sugar in it whatsoever, and has tons of vitamins and minerals (she wrote sarcastically) Chocolate may not have health benefits, but its unique and rich flavor has been influencing human actions since the time of the Aztecs, who used cocoa beans. Historians estimate that chocolate has been consumed for OVER 2000 years!!! That means that chocolate has been around since the fall of the Egyptian empire. When most people think chocolate, they think of a yummy delicious substance that can be eaten, but what about a substance that people can drink? Not hot chocolate, but actual normal chocolate that you can drink?” (source: https://sites.google.com/a/g.coppellisd.com/expository-writing–carrie-erin-katie-aparna-stephanie/descriptive/bad-examples)
I love to learn how to better include descriptive words in my own writing by reading other shining examples. With the explosion of self-publishing sites, many more writers are taking a turn at telling their stories. But are they of good quality? Do they dare to take us for that imaginative ride so many crave from good fiction? I dare say, with the Digital Age upon us, I am concerned that our ability to express ourselves with language will continue to devolve, as our dependence on computers that think for us grows. Bad grammar abounds and I find myself craving the classics, for the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, and Robert Luis Stevenson. They were writers that painted with their words as beautifully as any Picasso or Van Gogh painting.
I’ve had this poem on my laptop(s) for years. I can’t remember where I found it or even who wrote it, but it’s my favorite way to tell family and friends what they mean to me. My apology to the author for not properly crediting him/her. If anyone knows who wrote this, please let me know. In the meantime, feel free to share this with your family and friends. I like to print it out on slips of paper and tuck it into Xmas cards. This year I simply emailed it to everyone to ensure timely receipt. (I love to send cards as they’re more personal, but the past several months have been a difficult time for me and I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget anyone.)
Merry Wishes for a Bright and Loving Holiday Season