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,

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,

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,


Photo credit: Free Images