Writing In Retirement Blog

Computer Woes in Cartoons

Sometimes my frustration with technology gets to the point that my head feels like it will explode if my computer signals one more time Not Responding. In the past week, I have spent too much time twiddling my thumbs as I waited for my computer to do something – anything at all.  This resulted in me not being able to research and write this blog.  The depths of my ability to remain composed throughout this week tested me to the extreme. So dear friends I apologize for not having anything ‘writerly’ to add to this blog today, but perhaps you will enjoy these cartoons instead?

Please do anything! Buffer even …..

NOt Responding

 

Maybe if I click this ‘X’ something will work, or at least I can restart the dang thing….

computer clicks

Sigh, this is what happened…

cat No

 

It took all my fortitude not to do this.

 

crash computer

 

It all  made me yearn for these …

Typewriter 1

What about you? Have you ever wished for a hammer to slug your computer? Does anyone out there use a typewriter? Comments welcome!

Word Building for Writers: Five Tips

Words Scrabble

When writing I find it necessary to consider the words I use to develop my stories; both the meaning of the words and the descriptive power they display.  Considering the power of the meaning of words acts to relay a more exacting word picture to your reader.  The use of words that are vibrant gives your stories the punch needed to grab your readers and keep them interested. Here are some ways to build up your use of such words in your writing.

 

  1. Listing words that give more punch to your writing. Develop lists of power words divided into verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. You can even be more specific and list words to replace more mundane words, i.e., words to use instead of ‘nice,’ or ‘look.’
  2. Look up definitions. To make sure you are getting the best shade of meaning for a word, look up the definition. You may be surprised that there is an inference that you do not intend to give using a particular word. Example: Using the word ‘cackle’ instead of ‘laugh’ – do you honestly want to infer a shrill noise vs. something that is more gentle like a ‘giggle’ or ‘titter’?
  3. Use a thesaurus. I find using a thesaurus helps me when I am stuck finding a more powerful word or one which will make my meaning clearer. It helps me to find words which I wouldn’t necessarily use otherwise.
  4. Pay attention to word ‘roots.’ I studied Latin the during my school days, and it has been very helpful to me to understand and properly use words. Knowing things like the difference between ‘pre’ and ‘per’ – one means ‘beforehand’ as in preschool, the other means ‘thoroughly’ as in perfect.
  5. Be careful not to overuse. Try not to depend on a handful of powerful words, instead keep adding to your list of power words to build your vocabulary and make your writing fresh.

 

I hope this has been helpful to you in your writing. Comments are always welcome.

Dead End or Fixer Upper? What to do when your short story doesn’t work.

Deadend                  OR                          fixup

There comes a time when you are working on a story, and you realize that it just isn’t working. What to do? Is it time to just stop and put it in the drawer, or should you try to fix it up? Before you delete it or tear it up, it’s time to look closely at the story. First, identify what is working in the story, then evaluate what isn’t working. Here are some problems you may encounter and what you can do to fix them.  

The story gets stuck. Fix this by brainstorming ten to twenty possible ‘What next? scenarios’. Be as ridiculous or brilliant in these possibilities. Pick one and write from there.

The main character or setting isn’t working. The fix of choice is to jazz up the character or setting with something quirky. If your story’s setting is an ordinary store, slip your characters into an antique shop, or creepy mansion. What would Harry Potter’s story be like if he had gone to an all boys school instead of a school for wizards? If your main character isn’t very interesting, give them an obsession or odd characteristic. After all, would Scrooge have been such a memorable character had he not been obsessed with money?

The story drags. Fix the slowness by tightening up your sentences. Make the sentences shorter and more dynamic. By varying the length of your sentences, you can build tension and keep your reader engaged in the action.

The story is too wordy, or you need a lower word count. Is the problem you are telling and not showing? Fix this by editing out those adjectives and adverbs – replace them with strong nouns and verbs. Challenge yourself to edit out one word from each sentence, and you can decrease you word count significantly.

An information dump grinds the action to a halt. A great fix for this problem is to work that information into the dialogue. Having two or more characters discuss the backstory makes the information more interesting, and you can add shading as to what the characters think about the information at the same time.

The ending is too serene or trite. Again, to fix this problem brainstorming is your friend. Consider several possible endings. Adding some romance or violence to the ending might create a satisfactory resolution. Also, it isn’t necessary to resolve all the threads of the story. Leaving some threads open-ended can allow your readers to conjure their own possibilities, or allow you to leave them waiting for your next story.

So the next time you are having a difficult time with a story try these fixes and see if you can salvage it.

 

I’m always open to responding to comments.

Funny Bones for Writers: Six Cartoons to Make You Smile

Today I would like to share with you some funnies about writing. I imagine that most of us can see ourselves in these laughable cartoons!

 After my last blog post on the Perfect Word, this Snoopy cartoon makes me blush!

Right word

How did this cartoonist know this about me?

mewriting cartoon

Can we all dream of being as honest as Snoopy?

SnoopyREjectionletter

This one speaks for itself.

mymuse

 This has to be the writer’s curse.

sleeepless muse

I dare say, is this the furure of writing?

texting-writing-skills-cartoon

I hope you all had a laugh over these. Any comments would be appreciated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Word

Mark Twain“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter.”

Mark Twain

 

If you have been writing a while, that quote from Mark Twain makes plenty of sense. You are writing along and come to a point where you need a strong word – a word that will be descriptive, powerful, or set the mood for the story. You scratch your head and try to think of just the right word that will convey what you want to say. You try out a few words, delete them, and try again. Finally, you resort to your thesaurus or dictionary – searching for a word that makes your sentence rock. You may even decide on a word and then in the editing process realize that is not what you meant after all. Thus starting the process all over again to insert a word or phrase that fits just right.

Combining just the right words to fit the context of what you are writing about is a learned process. It isn’t necessarily how big your vocabulary is that makes the difference, but how you combine words to make your sentences effective.

Here are some tips to think about when searching for the perfect word;

Know your audience.  Highfaluting words can be an impasse for some readers. If writing for middle-grade readers, you will have a whole different vocabulary than for adults looking for literary fiction. Sometimes simple, straightforward words are best.

Use strong, powerful verbs. Using a powerful verb helps to eliminate the need for descriptive adverbs that clutter sentences. They also set the emotional mood for the piece. Example: A man doesn’t just walk into the room. Does he saunter? Slink? March? Etc. Each of these verbs gives a different visual picture to your reader and provides a different mood for the rest of the piece.

Check for what the word means. English often throws curves at all of us! It isn’t unusual to confuse word meanings. Example; confusing word meaning between such words as childlike and childish: where one means naïve and the other immature.

Descriptive words should add gusto to the sentence. You want these words to help the reader visualize what you are imagining. Often descriptive words describe the sensations of what is going on in the scene; they describe what you are thinking, hearing, seeing, smelling, and feeling with your body.

Don’t clutter or be wordy. Look through your sentences and decide if you can take out words that make your sentences awkward or too wordy. If the sentence makes sense without those words – take them out! Example: Wordy The car went very fast down a big hill, and Bill felt like he should hit the brakes. Better  The car careened down a huge hill. Bill hit the brakes.

To have better word choices in sentences, ask yourself these questions:

Is this really what I mean?

Will a reader understand this?

Does it sound good?

Happy Writing!

Comments are welcome.

Building Blocks: How to Build a Sentence

I was contemplating what I would write about today and the thought came to me, that I had not talked about the smallest building block of writing – the sentence. Thus I put together a simple primer on building sentences. Please forgive the silliness of it.

long sentence

                                                   How to Build a Sentence

Put on your hard hat.

Get out the hammer and nails.

Enough with the chitchat.

Let’s build a sentence with details.

 

Start with a subject

Throw in a verb

End with an object

And now you have verve.

 

Subject – a person, place or thing.

The verb carries the action

To the object’s wellspring.

Now your sentence has traction!

 

Sprinkle with modifiers,

Clauses and conjunctions.

Correct your qualifiers,

Don’t forget the punctuations!

 

A sentence expresses thoughts,

That come in streams.

All those forget-me-nots

Our ideas and deepest dreams.

 

So get out your two-by-fours

Drywall and level

Open your mind’s doors

And build a sentence or several.

 

Then tell me a tale

Full of sentences fair,

Nonfiction or fairytales.

Words forever given to air.

 

           By Marie Staight

 

Comments are welcome!

Twenty Years of Harry Potter: Seven Things I Learned About Writing From J.K. Rowling

JKR2

 

I was aghast this last Thursday when I saw an article in USA Today, saying it has been twenty years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in the United States. Twenty years? It’s hard to believe that the book that started it all has been around for twenty years. I was pushing fifty when as a pediatric physical therapist, I convinced myself I must read this book so that I could keep up with the kids I was around every day. However, I was hooked as soon as I realized these books were not just any childish fad but great writing with unusual themes and lessons about life.

Soon I was immersed in the Harry Potter fandom and found my way to The Leaky Cauldron, an online website for fans. There, besides the news about new books, I found a niche in the Lily & Stag Reading Group, where we dissected every word to try and find out where the story was going. Before I knew what was happening, I was invited to be on the staff. So began the adventure that would take me on a winding path to falling in love again with writing.

I learned plenty of things about writing from reading the Harry Potter series and taking part in that reading group. Here are seven of the gems I picked up.

  1. A good story has structure. From J.K. Rowling I found out about a myriad of ways to structure writing. The scaffold of her novels – was it ring style? Was it based on the seven steps of Alchemy? Was it the Hero’s journey? Was it all of those things? She planned the whole series carefully with a complicated structure before even starting the first book.
  2. Write from inspiration: Allow it to become your passion. Ms. Rowling had a singular inspiration about a boy with a scar on his forehead that found out he was going to a wizard school. From that snippet, she designed a whole world which she boldly allowed her imagination to create. She knew everything there was to know about the characters that lived in that world. The characters were varied and had specific charges to carry out in the story.
  3. Rewriting was important. Ms. Rowling rewrote the story several times and had to restart several times because of plot holes. She planned, and planned, and planned some more.
  4. The theme of good vs. evil and that of good overcoming evil remained throughout the entire series. J.K.Rowling had an overall theme to each story, and to the series itself, from which she never wavered.
  5. The dialog was a wonderful way to advance the story. As an author, Ms. Rowling used dialog to give important information. As a reader, we soon found out that if she repeated things three times, you knew that was important.
  6. Red herrings were used throughout the story to keep the reader engaged and guessing. She threw in red herrings to lead the reader down the wrong path while showing plainly where the real path lay.
  7. K. Rowling never stopped believing in the story. She persisted.

 

I’m sure there are many other lessons learned by writers from J.K.Rowling’s books, but these are the ones that were outstanding for me. Do you have anything to add? Feel free to add your comments.