Monday, April 24, 2017

Miscellaneous Monday



Time to share a few links - hopefully something will strike your fancy. :) Have a great week!

We can all use a reminder of the basics sometimes, right? Writer's Digest's 5 Writing Rules Everyone Should Know provides a fun graphic offering just that.

Is it just me, or is finding a remedy for passive voice challenging sometimes? Jerry Jenkins offers solutions in this post, How to Fix Passive Voice.

Need help with Twitter? The Writing Life's Terry Whalin has been active there since 2008 and has it down to a science. He shares his insight in Twitter Tips: Who to Follow and Who to Block.

Your learning style can help direct you to the right writing course. How? Pen and Prosper's Jennifer Brown Banks explains in How to Match Your Learning Style to the Right Writer's Training.

Speaking of courses, the Coffeehouse for Writers offers year round writing classes. From Basic Boot Camp and Blogging for Profit or Pleasure to Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul and E-publishing and more, they have something for everyone.

Are you a fiction writer who has difficulty infusing humor into your stories? C. S. Lakin at Live Write Thrive highlights her take on the topic in 4 Ways to Use Humor in Your Fiction.


Have any good resources to share? What are you working on this week?

Happy writing,
Karen 


Photo credit: Karen Lange's iPhone :)

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Importance of Mentors & a Book Review





What is a mentor?  

Merriam-Webster defines it as a trusted counselor or guide, tutor, or coach. 

To take it one step further, I'd say that a writing mentor is a writer and/or author who has experience beyond one's own abilities and expertise. Would you agree? 

I think there are several kinds of mentors. There are those that we have a long term relationship with and others where we gain counsel over short periods of time. Formal or informal, a mentor can offer many benefits, such as:


  • Sound advice - Whether for a specific question, genre, or the writer's life in general, they've "been there, done that" and can share time tested counsel and illustrations, lending insight and guidance.
  • A good example - They are someone worth emulating, one who possesses credibility and has set a standard worth following.
  • An objective opinion - Often we're too close to our own work; a neutral stance offers valuable perspective and feedback.
  • Encouragement - Since they've tread where we hope to, they can offer the boost needed to stay the course. This can enhance confidence and productivity.
  • A listening ear - Sometimes we just need to talk, no matter where we are on the journey, and a non judgmental ear can help sort things out.


If someone is looking for a writing mentor, where might they find one? 


Other avenues include: 

  • Writing groups - Great local and online options are available for all levels.
  • Workshops/conferences - Find regional, national, or online webinars in every genre.
  • Social media - Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, etc. 
  • Writing courses - The right course can be a great source of info and counsel.
  • Coaching - Coaches offer customized, one on one interaction.

While having a writing mentor is not a requirement, it can be a great benefit on our journey.  These points illustrate something we probably already know, too. As writing friends, we mentor each other in some way on occasion. So whether we adopt the official title of mentor or not, large or small, our contributions impact others. I think that's a very good thing. :) Thank you all for your part in my writing journey!


My Mentor Story

I met MaryAnn Diorio about 16 years ago through a New Jersey writing group. This lovely and talented author was kind enough to help me get over many "newbie writer" hurdles, lending wisdom, encouragement, and wonderful advice. During this time, I participated in a coaching session she offered by phone, but she graciously answered my questions prior to and after that, and still does to this day.  

Early on she said, "Call yourself a writer." That little piece of advice impacted me greatly. It lent the confidence and vision to move forward into what I felt led to do. MaryAnn was also one of my first editors, signing me on as a contributor to one of her popular newsletters. I am forever grateful that she took time to invest in my life.

Just in case you didn't know, MaryAnn holds a Ph.D. and MFA, and in addition to coaching, she is a teacher, blogger, and author who's written fiction and non fiction books. I recently had the privilege of reading one of her novels and thought I'd share my review here. If you haven't yet read any of her work, I encourage you to do so. :)


Book Review - The Madonna of Pisano by MaryAnn Diorio


Maria Landro harbors a horrible secret, one she dare not share with anyone. Shunned by friends and the community, she works to support her son and help her mother save the family farm. Local priest Don Franco has secrets of his own. Terrified that these secrets will come to light, he builds a complicated web of pride and deceit. Luca Tonneta knows heartache and shame, but also knows the freedom of God’s redeeming power.


As these three Pisano residents’ lives intersect, they learn much about themselves and God’s amazing love and power to heal hearts. From realistic characters to a plot full of heartbreak and secrets, this book offers surprises and a good dose of grace. MaryAnn Diorio capably shares a difficult and intricate story that illustrates challenges that most of us can relate to on some level. This story of forgiveness and redemption held my attention from beginning to end. Two thumbs up!

Do you think mentors are necessary? Has anyone mentored you on your writing journey? Have you mentored anyone? What are you reading this week?

Happy writing,
Karen


Photo credit: Free Images: Benjamin Earwicker

Monday, April 10, 2017

Good Writing Books?



"What writing books do you recommend?"


I've been asked this question several times, but perhaps the most memorable instance was on a Sunday morning. In church. Right before the service was about to begin.

Since the timing was not conducive for this kind of discussion, it caught me off guard. As I scrambled to deliver a brief answer, I pictured the shelf on my desk where I keep important resources and considered, What books do I use most?


It's not a bad question, just a broad one, like when someone asks how to get started as a writer. (For more details on answering that question, check out this recent post.)

My mind stretched for an educated answer. I am a writer, after all, and am supposed to be able to communicate in an articulate manner. What seems like a simple question has many answers, depending on what you're looking for.

I felt a little tongue tied. Here I was, a dedicated scribe who's having trouble thinking of good writing books. But I figured I could use the setting and timing as an excuse, right?  

The first book that came to mind was The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Other books popped up in regard to blogging, freelancing, and fiction writing, such as L. Diane Wolfe's How to Publish and Promote Your Book Now, Smart Branding for Busy Bloggers by Jennifer Brown Banks, The Emotion Thesaurus series by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress, and Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. More titles crowded in, like Roget's Super Thesaurus, Barron's Essentials of English, and Edit Yourself  - all helpful for tutoring my teen writing students.

My final answer? The Elements of Style. Figured you couldn't go wrong with this classic, right?

After this incident, I thought about what my "non spur of the moment" answers would be. Pretty much the same, I'm thinking, but I'd probably narrow the field by asking questions like:

  • Are you looking for general writing and grammar info? 
  • Do you plan to write for children, young adults, or adults?
  • Will you write fiction or non fiction? 
  • Do you want additional info on writing for magazines, writing the novel, or about self publishing?

Once that's established, I'd suggest using this list of considerations to assist:  
  
  • Applicable Genre - A no brainer, yes, but if you're new to this it helps to narrow the search.
  • Good, down to earth content - If it isn't reader friendly, seems too technical or complex, it might be good to pass, at least for the beginning writer.
  • Reviews from readers - What's the general consensus among the reviews? Take applicable cues from them. 
  • Recommendations from writer friends - This is often the best way to find good books.
  • Endorsements from reputable writers - Does your favorite author or other respected writer endorse it? This can offer helpful clues too.

While these points might seem obvious, with so many resources now available it's easy to get overwhelmed. And let's face it, unless you're independently wealthy, there's a budget to respect as well. These items might help steer someone in the right direction.

Did I miss anything? What would you add to the list?

Has anyone asked you a similar question at an unexpected or not-so convenient moment? What are your go-to writing books and resources?

Happy writing,

Karen  


Photo credit: Free Images

Monday, March 13, 2017

The End - Is It Really Finished?






"The End."

Every writer faces it. Whether a novel, article, blog post, or other project, there's that time when we're finished and we hit publish or submit to an editor.

When approaching this finish line, I often think of a cartoon I saw on Facebook years ago. Here's the general idea to illustrate: 

An editor stood to the left side of the office. 

Writer #1 stood to the middle right, and had just handed the editor a submission. 

Writer #2, at far right, clutched writer #1 around the waist in an effort to keep writer #1 from grabbing the submission back from the editor. 

Writer #1 said, "But wait, I want to look at it one more time!"

The cartoon made me laugh. Been there. Done that. I know the feeling. I'm sure you know it too - that urge to tweak your content. One. More. Time.

It can be a challenge, right? Especially for the perfectionist or hyper insecure writer. While we strive for excellence, we know there's a balance too. We could edit forever, but that's just not practical. Or healthy. 


So what's the solution? While I still wrestle with a final draft sometimes, I follow these guidelines. They're simple but necessary reminders when I'm tempted to over-edit or linger too long on a project. 
 
  • Let it rest - Time is an asset. Even a short break helps us return with fresh eyes before hitting the send button.
  • Get outside input - Whether from writing friends or a paid editor, another perspective offers insight for optimum polish.
  • Deadlines - There's nothing that motivates like a good old fashioned deadline. I often impose my own to stay on track. 
  • Practice - As skills improve, so does our confidence. Moving on gets easier. 
  • Acknowledge that it's finished - Insecurities and perfectionism may urge us to adjust the words forever. But forever is a long time. Give it your best and move forward.
  • We are not alone - All writers face these or similar challenges.

What do you think? Did I miss anything?


Can it Be? 8 Years!

March 2017 marks my 8th Blogoversary here at Write Now. The time has gone quickly, and it's been a great experience. What would I do without you all? I've learned a lot and made wonderful friends. You all make it worthwhile, and I cannot begin to express my gratitude. You've blessed me in so many ways. You're the best!

I've decided the best way to celebrate this year is to take a break. Frankly, I'm a bit tired. Not of writing, but of keeping up with all the perceived demands that can accompany it. It's been a busy bunch of years, with projects, new freelance work, and fun family happenings.

There are a few changes on the horizon for my husband and me, too. All good ones, but a bit of time to refresh would be welcome and helpful. I also plan to do all those other things us bloggers do when we take a break, like spelunking, scuba diving, bungee jumping, and...okay, not those particular activities. But I will hang out with my grandsons and organize the office. Not at the same time, of course. :)  I'll return on April 10.

I invite you to celebrate my milestone of 8 years by indulging in something fun, like a little chocolate or your favorite dessert. While you're at it, why not curl up with a good book too? I'll be thinking of you all!


Do you fight temptation to endlessly tweak or second guess your work? How do you work through these challenges? What do you have planned for the rest of this month? 

Thanks for being faithful friends! :)

Much love,
Karen 



Photo credit: Free Images Suzanne Smith