Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Anxious for Spring? Thirteen Signs It’s Close

The Vernal Equinox, the day where sunlight and darkness are approximately the same length for the whole Earth was March Twentieth—it’s supposedly a sign of spring, yet there’s freezing rain and snow in the forecast where I live. I’m back to wearing my wool sweater in the house. Spring seems far away, so to booster my spirits I’ve decided to list other signs of spring.

1. Sunlight hours increase. It’s now light when I drive to work and when I return home.
2. Robins appear. I’ve seen several so far.
3. Buds swell. My roses and my raspberries have these!
4. Birds start singing. I’ve awoken to bird song the past week or so.
5. Days get windy. Check.
6. Green stalks from bulbs rise through the dirt. Yep.
7. Crocuses bloom. Here’s a picture of some from my garden.

8. Worms appear on the sidewalk. I haven’t seen this yet.
9. People stop wearing their winter coats. Unfortunately, in my area, we’re back to coats, gloves and boots.
10. Easter candies appear in stores. I like the chocolate bunnies.
11.  Grocery stores display white lilies and bunches of tulips. Check.
12, Eggs, vinegar and food coloring ads appear. And check.
13. The grass turns green. Hmm. Sort of.
What’s the weather like where you live? Can you think of any other signs of spring we should look for?


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Thirteen Quotes to Celebrate March

It’s March already and in celebration I’d like to share these quotes.

1. It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens
2. Reading is a possession, a march toward a possession. ~Italo Calvino
3. In March the soft rains continued, and each storm waited courteously until its predecessor sunk beneath the ground.  ~John Steinbeck
4.  The march of invention has clothed mankind with powers of which a century ago the boldest imagination could not have dreamt. ~Henry George
5.  By March, the worst of the winter would be over. The snow would thaw, the rivers begin to run and the world would wake into itself again.
Not that year. Winter hung in there, like an invalid refusing to die. Day after grey day the ice stayed hard; the world remained unfriendly and cold. ~Neil Gaiman
6.  Don't ever become a pessimist... a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events. ~Robert A. Heinlein
7.  March came in that winter like the meekest and mildest of lambs, bringing days that were crisp and golden and tingling, each followed by a frosty pink twilight which gradually lost itself in an elfland of moonshine. ~L.M. Montgomery
8.  My favorite literary heroine is Jo March. It is hard to overstate what she meant to a small, plain girl called Jo, who had a hot temper and a burning ambition to be a writer. ~J. K. Rowling
9.  One Christmas my father kept our tree up till March. He hated to see it go. I loved that. ~Mo Rocca
10.  When you become part of something, in some way you count. It could be a march; it could be a rally, even a brief one. You're part of something, and you suddenly realize you count. To count is very important. ~Studs Terkel
11.  Sometimes I get depressed about my age. In March I’ll be 26. If man weren’t measured in numbers, but rather letters, I’d be turning Z. And then I’d be dead. ~Jarod Kintz
12.   March on. Don't look in the rearview, just the windshield. ~Josh Bowman
13.  I don't take success and failure seriously. The only thing I do seriously is the march forward. If I fall, I get up and march again. ~Kareena Kapoor Khan


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Beginning Your Book...

A good opening will help make your characters and your conflict clear.

          These steps will guide your way to a better beginning, the chance to make your story un-put-down-able!  

1.    First, you need the hook to jump start your story.
2.    Then, you introduce trouble into the protagonist’s life.
3.    A call to arms – giving the protagonist a chance to fix what’s wrong.
4.    The protagonist refuses, which leads to …
5.    More trouble or worsening trouble that should have been fixed when the protagonist had his/her first chance.

We’ve talked about that first hook – you’ve made your reader wonder what’s next.  Here’s where you set the mood, introduce the character and make us want to read on.  This is where you determine the theme of the book – is it about love conquering all, good and evil, hope?  Try this site - - to help you find your theme.

Now, tell us about the conflict – or trouble – the protagonist will face.  During this, you’ll tell us the character’s desire and their hidden need.  The protagonist may not understand the problem or realize there is one at this point, but the reader should realize it immediately.

Then give the protagonist a call to arms, the offer of a chance to fix the problem or make it go away.  Here’s where you place the ticking clock that will carry you through the end of the book.  What is the urgency?  What will happen if it is not addressed?

The protagonist should not yet be ready to change – or doesn’t realize the need immediately.  The call to arms may be something they don’t want to do, or it may conflict with what they believe their desire or need is.  Because of this, they don’t take the call to arms.

Which causes trouble – more trouble than the protagonist originally started out with.  Here’s where we find out what the protagonist stands to lose, what the antagonist stands to gain, and how the protagonist becomes aware of the need to change or face the trouble/problem up front, whether the protagonist wants to or not.

By the time you’ve reached this spot in your story, your reader should be rooting for your protagonist, disliking your antagonist and hoping things don’t overcome the protagonist before he/she achieves their goal/desire/need.  It’s a lot to do – but you can do it.  


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Self-editing and how to do it.

Hi, all ...
I'm sorry I've been MIA for quite some time.  I lost my husband very unexpectedly, and it's been a long road back. Hopefully I can start posting again here more regularly - although Sunday is supposed to be my chosen day.  But I decided to get my feet wet ... I hope you don't mind.   I've been doing a lot of editing lately and wanted to share some thoughts.

Some people think editing is just proofreading.  It’s a lot more, because you’re not only looking for typos, misspellings and random punctuation, you’re looking to see if your writing is publishable, are you too wordy, will someone care about your characters, and lots of other things.  No matter what you’re writing, you can always use some editing to make your writing shine.

I wanted to share with you some tricks and tips to help you do better editing on your current project.  Editing and tightening to make it concise and interesting and keep your reader on their toes.  That’s our goal – first, to make an editor NEED to read on, and then to make your readers care what happens in your stories and keep coming back for more.

One of my best tips to writers is find a writing group, whether an in-person one or online or however it works for you, and ask for help with your manuscript.  Fresh eyes are a wonderful thing – sometimes you get so close to your writing, you can’t see when things are not working.  If you’re an RWA member, there are critique groups in many of the chapters.  Most national writing associations have one.  If you’re kind of out there on your own, find people who love to read.  Try the library or bookstores – employees are great.  Many of them work there because they love to read.  Also, chains like Barnes and Noble now have book clubs, so you’ve got lots of options to have someone look at your work.  Not all of them are going to be “professional” editors like myself, but having someone read it and say “this part didn’t work for me” will help keep you on track. 

Here is a short list of things I watch for when editing.

Editing Checklist 

1. Did you start with a compelling hook?  What can you do to make it more exciting?

2. Is as least one of your main characters AND the conflict introduced on the first page of your story?  If it’s not, you’re probably not in the right place – begin where there is change.

3. Is there a good flow of action, dialogue and narrative?  And do you have enough dialogue tags and actions to show your reader who is talking when?

4. Is every page moving the story along without excessive description, character dialogue that says and means nothing or characters moving around a stage without moving the story forward?  Take out anything not needed to keep the story going.

5. Are the characters acting consistent with the way you’ve introduced them?  I’ve seen characters who one minute hate something – like pancakes – and two chapters later are having pancakes for breakfast.  That’s not the greatest example, but you see what I’m getting at.  Keep your characters in character – be consistent with their likes, dislikes, faults and features – don’t confuse the reader or you’ll lose them.

6. Have you identified your plot weaknesses and fixed them?  Does your story hang together, and can you explain it clearly to someone when you’re pitching?  This is very important, because at some point or another in your career, people will say, “Tell me about your story.”  If you’re not clear on it, they won’t be either. 

7. Are you using the five senses to build your characters, setting and situations?  Can you smell fear?  Maybe not, but a lot of people equate certain smells with places, people or even emotions, like hot chocolate when you come in from the snow or chicken soup when you’re sick.

8. Do your characters resonate with the readers?  You want them to want these people to succeed in what they’re trying to do, to overcome problems and to win in the end.  Make sure you give them an emotionally satisfying ride!