Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Slipping The Summer Slump

At the conclusion of every school year and amid the transition from spring to summer, I find myself in a slump. Routines are shot. Consistency has relinquished its place to complacency and habits shed their dying foliage for lighter, prettier flowers of procrastination. Maybe its just summertime? Maybe its just moms who write? Maybe its just an excuse to take a break from the discipline and forget self control.
Whatever happens...I lose my way for a few days, a week, or more. Returning to my routine usually starts with putting my kids, my chores and my writing back into a construct or program with boundaries that are clearly defined. relocating these boundaries and programs is the hard part. Where do I begin?
According to best-selling, accomplished, and successful writers...there isn't one way.
Super helpful, right? They don't all use the same tools to accomplish their good habits, but they all have one thing in common...They do it everyday.
From interviews with E.B. White, Maya Angelou, Henry Miller, Kurt Vonnigut, Jody Piccolt and many others, I've found some solid threads on which to build a list of ways to slip my summer slump.
#1-Pick a time of day and devote it to writing. Some of these authors write first thing in the morning. Some write late at night, after breakfast, before sunrise, after dawn and before noon. In different places, with different background noise and at different hours, but they all have a part of their daily routine that is devoted, every day to writing. Figure out when that is for you and let nothing else get in the way.
#2-Write according to your program not according to mood. Your 'program' is your project. Your novel, your short story, your poem or your article. It isn't when you feel like it. When your bored with other projects. When the internet isn't holding your attention, or when a great story inspires you. Those can be opportunities to take, but no matter how you 'feel', you work.
#3-Enjoy writing badly. You won't find an author who says they sat down and whipped out their best-selling novel in a couple of hours without revision or re-writing. Because none of them do it. Jody Piccolt wrote her last nine novels, all best sellers by the way, after throwing away the first hundred pages until she found her first page. Forgive yourself for writing less-than-stellar work. Just write. Write using poor grammar. Write a lame, overused storyline. Write bad poetry. Write babble. Don't invest your hopes and dreams into every word, invest in the purification of your talents, abilities and willingness to work. Write badly and do it with passion, zeal, and abandon.
#4-Disconnect. Some writers say disconnect from the internet so outside influences don't interrupt. Some say to disconnect from reality and let your imagination free. Some say disconnect from your every day life and become your characters. The common thread though is to disconnect. Immerse yourself in words. Swim in the sentences., Bask in the images your words create. Splash your whole soul in the beauty of language and 'be one' with your words. Even if they're bad, or something that won't be published. Listen to their cadence. March to their rhythm, and watch new worlds open up to you.
#5- Exercise.  In order to drive yourself intellectually, you must push your physical boundaries. Sedentary thoughts begin with sedentary bodies. Every author talked about setting aside some time everyday to do some kind of physical exercise. Whether it was Maya Angelou's time in her garden or Kurt Vonnegut's push-ups and sit-ups. When the words settle and the mind rests, the body can regenerate and rejuvenate the mind with adrenaline, endorphins or pure sweat. Exercise brings your senses alive and sends your mind spinning. For a writer exercise can be a stimulant for the imagination.
Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone. One or two might make sense to you while the others are just unsolicited advice. It doesn't matter. If it makes you think, even if you think-"I can write better than her." Than the writer did her job. If none of this helps you then what does? What do you do to keep yourself writing everyday?
Repetition and routine are boring in their own definitions, doing the same thing over and over again. Developing the discipline to be like E.B. White or Maya Angelou just might be worth it though. In the meantime keep writing! 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stuffing, Padding, or Enhancing Your Package?

No one in the 6th or 7  grade thinks they are attractive. Those early teen years are awkward at best and frightening if your body is caught between a child's body  and a fully formed package.
As writers, we go through this same awkward, ugly stage.
Some overcome it and flourish into real beauty with stories like..."I dreamed the whole story. Wrote it in six months and have four best selling novels, and million dollar movies to my name."
Most of us, keep working, learning, and finding tricks and tips along the way.
Today's tip takes us back to the first time you felt like a mutant compared to the curvy, sexy, well built members of your class. You decided some toilet paper stuffed in the right places would make the difference.
Except today its your writing. Whew!
Word count is like a bra size. Either you've got too much or not enough.
In either case, words that work as nothing but enhancement take away from the clean lines of your story, pad your word count, and steal valuable space where the story can expand into stronger plot lines, better characters, or deeper emotions.
Words that pad and fluff are easy to find and eliminate once you know what you're looking for.
Here's two examples. One with extra padding and one without.
"Just as Sawyer leaned over the metal railing on the bridge, a very small drop of water splashed the ground below. Instinct jerked her back under the wooden trellis, Even when the dark cloud over head drifted past. Sawyer still huddled beneath the very dry wooden structure."
Not a great example but hears the difference.
"Sawyer leaned over the metal railing of the bridge as a drop of water splashed the ground. Instinct  jerked her head beneath the covered bridges wooden trellis. She remained there, dry, while the dark cloud drifted past."
The first has a word count of 47, the second, 37. A huge difference if you're writing for a short story competition and you only have 1500 words. If your manuscript is 90 k and your beta readers complain that they want to see more interaction between your hero and heroine, or, the dialogue is too wordy, or worse there's not enough of it. Eliminating certain words can open up new worlds for both you and your characters.
The golden question? What are these words?
here's a short list. Find and replace in your tool bar on office word or on whatever word processing program you use.
Just, Even, Very, Still, Only. Directions are often redundant and unnecessary as well. back, up,below, overhead down.
I searched and replaced these words in one of my pieces and out of 48 k words, I eliminated over 400. That's a savings of nearly 10 %.
If I can make my novel 10% better, more developed and more widely read. I'll do it.
The secret to removing your padding words is to find them and then read the sentence without the word. If it still makes sense or just needs a little re-working, toss your toilet paper word.
Your sexy, sultry, curvaceous manuscript will shine instead of having its stuffing sticking out.
In the meantime, keep reading and writing!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Paper Jems with Arnold Rudnick

Arnold Rudnick has a gift for creating fascinating stories to challenge children toward self-improvement and self esteem. In LITTLE GREEN he introduces
a little green frog (beautifully realized by illustrator Marcelo Goreman) who has big dreams to be special.
There is a special magic that is present in a really good children's book. You can hear it in the dialogue, see it in the illustrations and feel it when the children apply it to their own lives. Little Green
ISBN: 0981587976

Publisher Paraphrase, LLC  is just such a book. Because of my blindness, I need my 10-yr.-old to look at the illustrations and read the books with me. When we read Rudnick's book my son turned to me and told me how the book showed him how to be the best soccer player he could be, no matter what anyone else thought.
While I enjoyed the fun rhymes, cute plot, and playful nature of this story, it was not until my son applied it to his life that I felt that power. I hope to read more of Rudnick's work and speak with him next week in an interview. You can find more about him at or on where his book is available.
ARNOLD RUDNICK has written for many television shows, including THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR, STAR TREK: VOYAGER and THE NEW ADDAMS FAMILY.
Also, look for his Middle Grade Book,ESPete. E.S. Pete: Sixth Grade Sense is about the perils of a paranormal preteen.

Pete knew there would be a lot more homework in Sixth Grade, but he didn't plan on the reading list including the minds of his teachers and classmates.
Knowing what they think can be helpful sometimes, but it also gets complicated -- ESPecially when Pete thinks the substitute teacher is planning a big

ISBN: 0981587909

Publisher: Paraphrase, LLC

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

De-fragging Your Manuscript

Notice the time on this post? I try not to blog this late in the afternoon because it makes the posts more difficult to find. Unfortunately...I'm de-fragging my desk top computer and its taking 3 days. Hopefully my writing skills are not as full of garbage as my computer is. But there's my point.
No matter how talented you are as a writer, there is fragments of trash hidden, or obvious, in your manuscript. Its the hardest part of an edit to figure out what garbage you're leaving in because you think its important and what should be tossed out.
Thanks to some great advice from Writers Digestand other helpful writing sites,, Here's what I learned.
1. do a find for words like: was, walk, ran, saw, heard, felt, and knew. Tell your reader what the character felt, heard, saw, etc. instead of telling the reader the character did it.
2. Any sentence with more than one adjective or adverb needs to be trimmed down to the most powerful single descriptor.
3. Change verbs to action verbs; there's a difference--walk: strode, stalked, stomped...
-run: jog, speed, race...
-cried: sobbed, choked, screamed...Here's an example-
With Fragments:  " Lilian walked into her small, yellow kitchen with the gray tile and white countertops. The lump in her throat felt like it was made from glass. She sat at the round, wooden table and cried her eyes out."
De-fragged-  "Lilian stomped into her tiny kitchen. The yellow wall paper did nothing to soften the jagged lump in her throat, or hold back her brimming tears. Her hands pressed into the cool marble countertops until her knuckles matched the white stone. Sinking into a creaking chair, she dropped her head onto the rough surface of the table and sobbed."
It uses more words, sometimes good and sometimes bad, but effective. It makes the action more powerful. It keeps the movement flowing. The little fragments sneak in when we're writing rough drafts or working on WIP's but if you can program yourself to catch the fragments in your everyday writing...the De-fragging won't take three days instead of three hours.
In the meantime, keep writing and reading and de-frag every chance you get.