Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year's Writer's Goals

Well, the year is just about over. Each year seems to go by faster than the last one. Time to set new goals as a writer. Looking over the soon-to-be-over-2010 list, I seem to have the same goals for the coming one: write and read more in different genres, polish unfinished manuscripts, submit them to publishers on a regular basis, journal, nurture myself as a writer, attend at least one writer’s conference or workshop, value my writer friends, keep the hope up, never give up. Of course, I don’t always get to do everything on the list, but I try.

 My shelves are full of writer’s books, which I really find helpful. One of my favorites, which I plan to read again is The Writer’s Book of Hope by Ralph Keyes. It’s uplifting and inspirational. I want to start the year off right by rereading this one.

Some sentences I highlighted: “Some aspiring writers give the impression that they’re looking for a ‘key,’ some wisdom known only to insiders on how to write and get published. There is none. The only key is persistence and knowing what you’re about.” Another one: “The struggle is part of the process.” And another: “Good writers think nothing of revising a manuscript dozens of times, if necessary.”

A writer friend emailed me that one of her New Year’s resolutions is to not get on the Internet or check emails until late in the afternoon. She’s reserving the morning for writing only. That is discipline. Carve out time for writing and stick to it. I read somewhere that if a writer writes one page per day, she/he will have written a novel by the end of the year. Some of us don’t have the time with our busy lives, but we can still devote at least 15-30 minutes a day to writing. A very good habit to form is to set up a schedule for the week and abide by it.

So for 2011, I shall be persistent in my writing and never give up hope. What are your goals?

Wishing you great writing days and a Happy New Year!

“I am still encouraged to go on. I wouldn’t know where else to go.” – E.B. White

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas stories

Like I do every year around this time, I like to read Christmas stories from two books that my writer friends (who contributed to stories in the books) gave me a couple of years ago. Some stories are nostalgic, some are humorous, others are a little sad but with hope at the end. Always with hope at the end. The stories are uplifting and inspirational. Every morning I read at least two stories from each book.

Maybe you have a story or two that you’ve been meaning to send to publishers who publish anthologies. That is a great way for a writer to break into the business and get a byline. Not only will readers enjoy reading your story, but you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing your name in print. Make it a goal next year to submit your manuscripts to magazines, book anthologies, newspaper articles, as well as to book publishers. I might just be reading your story next Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Writing Slow

Waiting for an appointment today, I continued reading the book, Chapter after Chapter, by Heather Sellers. The page I was on seemed to be just what I needed to read. You see, during a critique of my latest manuscript, some feedback was that the last few chapters seemed “rushed.” Hmm… After rereading, I had to agree. How did this happen? Well, according to Sellers’ fifth chapter, “Slow is Fearless,” she points out that sometimes when we’re anxious or nervous about deadlines, the amount of time it’s taking to write a book, or the fear that we have nothing to say, we tend to “speed up.” These are just a few of the reasons. She brings up several others.

But “… writing too fast, wanting too much too soon, is writing scared,” she writes. “Writing books is, and should be, really slow. The great books are still around – just like the great recipes, the great songs, the great trees – because they took a long time to develop.”

I think the word “develop” is the key here. It took me a long time to develop my skill in sewing. In the beginning, I ripped out seams, time and again, because I knew they were not right. But I stuck with it because I loved it. I took it slow, started to enjoy it, and finally became proficient in sewing. “Time-soaked writing is good writing,” Sellers writes. “Slow is good for the alchemy – the rise — of words and ideas and imagination and emotion.”

My cookies for Cookie Exchange Party
So I need to go back and take my time with those chapters that seemed “rushed.” Take a deep breath, take it slow, enjoy the process, and it will all come together.

Cookie Spread - Yum! Yum!

Wishing you a Joyous Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Writers' Retreat

I was reflecting on a trip I took several years ago to a writers’ retreat in Pennsylvania. It was around this time of year that I spent a week secluded in a cabin surrounded by hundreds of trees and a nearby creek. It was cold when I arrived and some snow was on the ground. There were about a dozen other cabins for the other writers attending. We met each morning in the “big” house down the pathway where we had scrumptious breakfasts and settled down in the cozy living room to start our day.

Cabins in the woods
There were eight of us plus three faculty and for the next six days, we immersed ourselves in writing, making new friends, reflecting, experiencing great conversation at dinner every night, and joining in critique sessions. We came from all over the country and wrote in different genres. The faculty members gave us excellent guidance in the writing process. It was a writer's dream. I kept a journal while there. Here is an excerpt from the first day.

My Cabin
It’s cold here but the sun is out and remnants of powdered snow still blanket the ground. Glad I brought my boots. My one-room cabin is nestled in a wooded area. The window in the cabin faces hundreds of huge trees. They stand firm and tall letting the sun filter through. A few orange leaves still cling stubbornly to some trees as if not wanting to yield to the coming winter cold. The small cabin creaks as the wind hits the walls. I like that the cabin has a tiny porch and a rocking chair where I can sit and take in the beautiful scenery. The radio is playing Christmas carols, but the reception is coming in with a lot of static. We’re out in the boonies; no cell phone service here. A few yards away are the other writers’ cabins. Can hardly wait for tomorrow to start the writers’ workshop.

My porch and rocking chair
After that week was over, I was more focused on where my story was going. I had a clearer map of the storyline. I listened and I learned. I had been experiencing doubts about my writing, but after that week, I felt validated. It was great being among experienced faculty and writers passionate about their work. If you ever get a chance to attend such a retreat, do so. We need to nurture ourselves as writers when we get the opportunity. For me, it was an inspirational experience I remember to this day.

"The most important thing you can bring with you to a writers' conference (workshop) is an open and alert mind, ready and willing to listen and learn. Take advantage of every opportunity the conference/workshop offers." --  Writer's Digest Weekly Planner

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Writer's Inspiration

In between wrapping Christmas presents and getting ready for the holidays, I’m trying to squeeze in some reading whenever I get a chance. The other day while at the dentist, I reread a few pages from the book, Chapter after Chapter, by Heather Sellers. I remember reading it a while back and really getting inspired to write. The second time around, I felt the same way. Not only does the author offer writing tips but she offers inspiration along the journey of writing a book.

In her introduction, she notes: “… Creating a book-length work is a whole thing unto itself, with quirks and lessons and challenges not found in any other endeavor. This book hopes to light the path, at least a little, so you can see what’s up ahead and prepare accordingly.”

Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange Party
Another form of inspiration for me are images and photos. I’ve gotten some ideas for stories from pictures and newspaper articles. In fact, my latest book, The Battle of the Snow Cones, was inspired by a photo in the local paper. If you’re always taking pictures like I am as you can see by my blog, here’s an interesting article, “Writers, Keep Your Camera Ready,” by Christine Collier, on how to make those photos work for you as a writer. Scan your local paper for ideas. I’ll bet there’s a ton of stories out there.

“A relaxed mind is an open mind, and an open mind is prepared to accept new and creative ideas. Remind yourself to enjoy the craft.” – Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner