Notable Quotes

Habit is the bed of creativity. Tuck yourself in. ~Stephen King

Have a goal – die trying. ~Karl Marx

Inspiration is everywhere – carry a notebook. ~Victor Hugo

Follow your zen. ~Herman Melville

The is no ideal environment to work in. ~William Faulkner

Finish. ~James Joyce

seasonsoflife

Writing good dialog – updated

In 2012 I wrote about what makes good dialog. It’s such a critical part of a story that I thought I’d update it.

Good dialog sounds “real.” By that I mean, it sounds like what your character would say and not words you’ve put in their mouth – that may not quite fit. How do you know when dialog sounds real? Read it aloud. Read it to a critique partner or writing buddy. And don’t forget to “LISTEN” to hear what is being said, not what you meant to say.

kid with a megaphone

I took a Playwriting class several years ago and one of our first assignments was on writing dialog. Face it, theater is mostly spoken and there are no narratives to explain the character or situation. What happens is spoken and physically dramatized. Back to the lesson: our professor said for each of us to go to a public place and eavesdrop. Write the dialog we hear, verbatim. (How cool is getting a grade for eavesdropping? Mother would be appalled.)

The coffee shop listening session was very enlightening. Two high school aged ladies were talking about a recent Friday night frightening date night and looking at fashion magazines. They appeared to be very good friends and spoke in incomplete sentences. One or the other often responded before the speaker finished, assuming they knew exactly what was going to come out of their friends mouth. What I heard were fragmented sentences, as well as thought hopping.bummed_face

SO, I used what I heard in a scene where two teen siblings were arguing and bating one another. You can really speed up the story by clipping sentences off, and interrupting is a fabulous way to show emotion.

The key is “listening” wherever you go. How do mom’s talk to their toddlers? How do couples in love speak and act? How do old married couples converse? It’s amazing what you will observe. USE IT! You are experiencing real day-to-day dialog. Recreate it in your story.

Have you noticed that most people don’t speak grammatically. They often speak in a kind of short hand, punctuating it with body language or a physical act. Here’s an example, teenage Darrin is slouched on the couch with ear buds in his ears, an X-box controller in his hands, eyes glued to the television, feet on the coffee table that is littered with an array of food and drink remains. Mom’s mad. Her hands are on her hips, the dish washing sponge is in her hand and she yells, “Darrin Michael Smith…” splatting his head with the flying sponge. He drops his feet to the floor along side the controller, yanks off one ear bud and says, “WHAT!” Mom grits her teeth and says,”Clean up this mess.”easylistening

Do you see what I mean? Clipped sentences. Body language. Incomplete thoughts. You will seldom hear mom say, “Darrin, get your feet off of the table, put down the remote, pull out your ear buds, and clean up the mess.” He only hears “Darrin” and “mess” anyway, everything in the middle is noise.

Think about it. Try eavesdropping. Try writing a short scene like this and read it aloud. Does it sound realistic? It’s worth a try. Enjoy the writing journey, my friends.

The mother of my heart

A close friend of mine died yesterday and I’ll miss her. I’ve known her for over forty years and she’s been Mom Finch to me for most all of them. She taught me so much, both little and big. How to make chocolate chip cookies, make sloppy joes, how to crochet. Many firsts in my life were experienced in the family kitchen: homemade ice cream, big – loud family dinners, quiet patience and giving. She sewed my prom dress in the same style as my best friend, her daughter and my forever friend, Maxine. She taught me how to make things stretch like money and food, to reuse what still had life in it, just like my grandmother did. She gave me so much.

She called me her “adopted daughter” and when her memory was starting to go she seemed to recognize me still. Perhaps not my name, but hopefully my smile and the love I felt for her. She lived a long life and right now I can’t remember if she was 93 or 94, but numbers have never been my strong suit. Suffice it to say she was a lovely nurturing woman and I am so glad she has been a part of my life.

She was as proud of my writing accomplishments as those of her own children. Mom Finch was the subject of one of my first articles for Active Aging, because I admired her so much. She was an ordinary woman with an extraordinary heart, and she took this lost girl in. She raised four wonderful women, one son, and me. They are blessed with her creativity and generous spirit. I’ve been blessed to be accepted as part of the family. Mom Finch is the mother of my heart and will always be my hero. I will never forget her.

forget me nots

What’s in a writer’s tool kit?

working_on_keyboard

My tool kit contains:

  • Computer (for writing, researching, and wasting time)
  • Pen & Paper (for times when I’m stuck and need to switch things around)
  • Dictionary (mostly the on-line kind, but the paper kind is close at hand)
  • Thesaurus (this is a well used item, because sometimes writer’s use one word way too many times)
  • Music (optional, of course, depending on if it becomes a distraction – no lyrics, please)
  • Comfortable chair (OH YES, a total must)
  • Lots of terrific books to read (paper, electronic, library books, used, loaned or purchased – because when you’re not writing, you should be reading!)
  • Writing friends (they understand me – excellent for bouncing ideas around, support, tissues, chocolate, sympathy, celebration partners, critiques…)
  • Imagination, Faith, Patience, and Tenacity
  • Libraries & Bookstores (great resources & you meet the best people!)
  • Doo-Dads (the toys on your desk that can stimulate humor, inspiration, focus or distraction – I have MINIONS, but they aren’t real)

What’s in your tool kit?

dancing_minions

 

 

 

 

How do you keep organized?

keysI always thought of myself as a pretty organized person, making lists of things to do and crossing them off when they’re done. Using a electronic Calendar to manage meetings and due dates is an awesome tool. Keeping physical things in a folder, or specific drawer helps, too, but who wants all that paper? Putting my car keys and cell phone in the same pocket of my purse, helps prevent panic and loss.

What kinds of things do you do to keep organized?

We are creatures of habit. And if that habit includes putting things down randomly it makes it almost impossible to remember where those things end up. So, I try to always put certain things in certain places and it helps. Every time I deviate, like leaving my shoes by the chair in the living room instead of in my closet, by the next morning I’ve forgotten where I put them.

finger_string_memoryRemember Uncle Billy in “It’s a Wonderful Life”? He always had a string around his finger to remember something. How did he remember what all those strings were for? Give me a list anyday!

They say memory is the first thing to go.

I suppose that’s true, but there are reasons. We pack more and more information into our brains and once we file it we can forget it, hopefully. There’s just too much stuff cluttering the gray matter to remember every detail. I sometimes remember things by picturing them in my mind, but they aren’t quite as clear as they were a couple of decades ago.

How do you spark a memory?

 

Powerful Positive Thinking

Do you remember Norman Vincent Peale and “The Power of Positive Thinking”? I do. And I think it’s time for some of us to read it again. Negative thinking just pops in unannounced, without an invitation, and it’s contageous.

sad_girlIf we’re not careful, we’ll believe all the negative messages we think or hear. Anger. Blame. Always & Never thinking. Mind reading (and we really can’t read someone else’s mind). Guilt. Labeling. And one of my personal favorites (NOT) – predicting the worst. (ACK)

We have to remember that our thoughts have POWER. The power to make us happy, sad and even sick. They have the power to ruin our relationships, whether at work or at home. Negative thoughts attack our brain and the limbic system that controls our emotions and feelings. Positive thoughts can make us feel better, honest!

Remember how it felt when you got your first “A” paper? OMG. You were lighter. You felt smart. You wanted everyone to know!

How about first love? All you see is light and rainbows. Everything is beautiful. You feel like you can fly.

child_w_puppyThese are the feelings we need to capture each day. We need to find the beauty and positive in everything we can. Especially the little things. Nature never ceases to surprise me and make me smile. Flowers. Birds. Sunrise. Sunset. Dogs. Cats. And babies! OMG. They are such a joy.

So, let’s practice positive thinking, folks. Let’s find the good stuff. Let’s take personal responsibility for our thoughts and feelings and make them count (on the positive scale). Train your brain to recognize a negative thought, question it, and if possible chuck it or change it to a positive. It’s hard – I know. But it’s worth it. I’m positive!

Hurry up and Wait

You’ve heard this before, no doubt many times: “Hurry up and wait.” It’s a true statement that our fast paced society has to deal with every day in most every aspect of our lives.

traffic_jamWe are rushing off to work and there’s an accident or construction on the freeway. We’re impatient to get to work on time, but traffic is completely stopped. There’s nothing we can do, but wait and hurry on when the opportunity presents itself. Or in this case, when traffic clears. (This is when I find a handy book is a wonderful way to spend the time waiting.)

The doctor’s office gives us an appointment, usually in 15 minute increments. We are compelled to be on time in order to avoid a long wait. But things happen. Not every patient takes only their alloted 15 minutes, so we wait. (I always take a book here, too.) They try really hard to efficiently schedule the doctor’s time and life intervenes.

skaterThe company I work for during the day is global. I work with countries all over the world. But the main office is in France. That is 7 hours later than I am here in the middle of the US. So, my mornings are filled with conference calls and requests for assistance or approval going to and from Europe. It’s packed and rushed and there is always something that has to wait until tomorrow because of the time difference. (Can’t have a book here, folks, but there’s always something to be done, so I fill the time with work.)

man_headphones_happyI suppose if we didn’t live in a hurry, hurry, hurry, wait, wait, world it would be boring. The pace would be a monotone in our lives, with no lovely high notes or challenging low notes. The extreme waves are the most beautiful and frightening, aren’t they?

Writers learn every day that no matter how quickly we complete a story and send it out there is a long waiting period. But, the agents and/or publishers on the receiving end are hurrying to see all the wonderful (or not so much) stories we send. So, it’s the way it is, folks. Enjoy the waits and be careful while you’re hurrying not to miss anything!

Reminder: Never Give Up on your dreams

We writers have to be reminded sometimes, to “never give up”. I’ve heard stories about writers who wrote their novel during NaNoWriMo (a month) and others took years to write their book. I’m more in the latter category. I lead a very busy life. There’s lots of things I want to do, learn, experience, see and share with my family and friends.

skaterI work full-time during the day and I do freelance writing as well as novel writing. Sound a bit like your schedule? Don’t worry, the dust isn’t going anywhere. You will get the bills paid on time (hopefully), and hubby will take care of dinner if there is no alternative. I also try to read a book every week or two, because writers really need to be readers, too.

So, what am I rambling on about? Not giving up.

working_on_keyboardNo matter what gets in the way, make time for your writing. Doing a little bit as often as possible adds up, “cross my heart, it does!” And once your manuscript is done and been edited, edited and edited, well, then it’s time for the next phase.

Do you want to publish it? Do the research and decide which method is your choice (i.e. self-publishing, traditional print publishing, e-publishing, etc.). Do you want an agent or do you want to go with a small publisher who doesn’t require one? (so many questions, but the answers are out there.) Try Writer’s Market, Publishers Weekly, Writer’s Digest, for example.

From the time I conceived the idea of Feisty Family Values (working title, Feisty Fossils) in 2000 it was ten years before it was in hardback on the bookshelves. (Thank you Five Star Books!) Obviously, writing is a test of patience, but if you want it, then you have to work for it and not give up. There is a lot of rejection and that hurts. And critiquing isn’t always easy to swallow (what do you mean my baby is ugly?).

My second novel Patchwork Family is a follow on to Feisty and has a new publishing home with Belle Books. It comes out March of 2014. So, you see, waiting pays off. When you’re a new writer each book is like starting over. And it’s a long process between querying and signing a contract, signing a contract and book on the shelves. But it is “oh so nice” to see that book in the bookstores. Most authors dream of not only being published, but being able to make it a financially viable career. That’s a big DREAM!

writing_oceanIf being an author is what you want, then do not stop writing, or learning about the craft or industry. Be a sponge and squeeze that story onto the page, using all the feelings of joy and sorrow you’ll experience in this business.  It’s a huge wave of a journey and worth every dip and rise.

(Eighteen months ago I wrote about “never giving up” and this was BEFORE my second novel found a home. See, it can happen IF you Never Give Up!)

It’s the little things in life that matter.

We’ve all heard that “it’s the little things in life that matter.” They are usually normal things we see every day and sometimes forget to notice when we’re rushing to a meeting or the car breaks down.

Nature is a big one, especially if you live in the city. Flowers, bhoneysuckleirds, trees, sunsets, cool breezes and the smells. Green smells so good! Have you ever noticed the smell of honeysuckle when it blooms? Ride through Tennessee sometime with your windows down in the summer, you’ll smell it for miles.

Common courtesy. The woman who let the elderly lady go ahead of her in the lottery line, ended up allowing her to win the lottery. Winning is no small thing, but the elderly woman can now afford a decent home. The small gift of courtesy reaped a huge gift for the recipient, and I have no doubt blessings will befall the woman who showed it.

songbirdOn the weekends I turn off the alarm and let the sound of the birds wake me. It’s a joyous way to emerge from sleep and gives promise to a wonderful day. It certainly beats the bleeting of the alarm, or blaring rock ‘n roll.

 

Providing a helping hand. It not only feels good for the giver, but also the receiver. Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the time when you can give a hand. Don’t hesitate. It’s a little thing for you, but could be huge for them.

A smile is such a little thing. It doesn’t cost anything, but a few muscle movements. It can brighten your day, or someone elses. It’s such a tiny gift and so easy to give. My favorites are the genuine smiles of babies and children. smiling_baby(And I don’t believe it’s gas when a baby smiles!) My son commented once when he was little that he liked his adult cousin’s smile. “She smiled with her whole face, just like Mom.”

Speaking of moms. Mine brought us some blueberries today, for no reason other than we liked them and they were on sale. Sweet!

Pay attention to the little things. They make a difference.

Writer’s ramblings…

cloudsI’m on vacation. With my laptop, of course. I’m sitting in a sunny dining area with sky lights looking at the ever greens and winter trees. There are small wisps of white floating across the blue expanse, but no wind seems to penetrate the trees that surround me. It’s a little bit chilly, but the sunshine warms my skin. The silence in the house is only disrupted by the refrigerator noise and the snoring dogs. I can’t even hear the cars pass on the street out front.

Usually I would’ve had at least one or two conference calls by now and have a page or two of “things” that need to get done at work. Not here. My work notebook is dark, with only a tiny green battery light to show it still lives and it is totally out of reach.

I promised myself I would write. I am writing. I dreamed I had 80 pages done on my new manuscript “Close to You.” There are only 25 pages so far. Maybe by the end of the week there will be 100. Wish me luck.

I’m not used to having time off. Even when I’m off there are chores – laundry or cooking. But there is no time pressure here. Now. It’ll get done when everything I brought is dirty and my stomach tells me it needs food. Interesting, this lack of stress. Feels good. I’ve been up since 4:44 AM. Maybe I’ll nap later. That is a novel concept. Is this what retirement might feel like? Sweet. Will I get bored? Maybe, but it’s an experience I seldom have – so what the heck.

The kids walked my legs off yesterday shopping. It was fun, but my feet are tired. Maybe my son is right and I am getting old. I’m certainly not getting any younger. But, that’s okay. I wouldn’t like being a teen again. Too much drama. Thirties were fun, I could go there if I had the chance, but even then there were stressers beyond today. Look at my kids. Things in their lives move SO fast. Slower is nice.

I finished a book yesterday. Am ready to read another. Care to join me?glasses_paper_keyboard

Have a good you’all. Enjoy the journey. I hope it takes you someplace quiet and interesting.