Thursday, April 28, 2011


Some people are now saying blogs do not create business or increase sales. There are just too many of them out there. Unless you get thousands of hits a month, the blog doesn't help the professional. Speaking of which, many are less than professional.

That said, if a person can be a guest blogger on a popular blog, he/she probably gets more notice than from their own blogging efforts.

I'm taking a break for a while since my readership has dropped off. I'll research the reasons why, see what I can do to create more interest, and begin again later in the year. Our travel schedule also prevents my following through for the summer. 

Thanks so much for reading in the past. I'll hope to see you again at a later date.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Marketing and promotion go on forever.

I mentioned before that my publicist sent a message about the Children's Authors Show. Don McCauley of Free Publicity Focus Group interviews authors for a web radio show. My interview will air for 24 hours April 27/28. He suggests putting a copy on my website but I'm not sure an audience would pay attention unless it were video rather than audio only.

Don's Free Publicity Focus Group provides a free strategy analysis to increase your website visibility. I had one done and although it doesn't give the step-by-step instructions I hoped for, it gave me plenty to consider and think about. For a fee, Don will do more work such as keyword analysis/strategy, branding, website design, media releases, email marketing lists, teleseminars, and more. He sent along several examples of good websites which use great keywords to get noticed. I'll consider more later.

Everyone says authors should belong to Twitter. I finally broke down and joined although I'm not sure I really understand how to utilize this form of social media. I've read recently that social media isn't the mecca for promotion that most people think it is. I can, however, say one person turned up for a book signing and purchased two books because he saw my post on Facebook.

While checking Google analytics I saw one person visited my website or blog from Facebook. Which brings to mind another subject - knowing your audience or target market.

I'm told I can find out lots of information in analytics about my audience. I have yet to find many specifics along those lines. I'll keep searching.

In the meantime, if you have any technical advice to pass on, please comment. 


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter Egg Hunt Game

I'm early in case someone wants to take advantage of a new kind of Easter Egg hunt.

Last year my son did a progressive hunt. The first direction led to another direction and so on until the end where a nice prize awaited for the granddaughters - a $25 gift card to Barnes and Noble. They love to read.

I'm having Easter this year. We are celebrating Easter and two birthdays. The twin grandsons will be 2 on April 27 and the twin granddaughters, from another family, will be 13 on May 1st. For the boys, we'll just hide some plastic Easter eggs that hold mostly balls I bought at the dollar store and a couple of marshmallow treats.

However, the girls are another matter. I bought the little favors again at the dollar store. Too old for a traditional egg hunt, I wrote rhyming (I'll admit, not good rhyme because I was in a hurry) directions to lead them to their birthday gifts. The first egg has marshmallow treats and directions. Each girl follows her own path. The second egg is actually an egg shaped puzzle they have to figure out how to open to get the directions. The third egg holds directions inside and sits atop a chocolate cross. The fourth egg and directions sit on a Rubic type puzzle. The fifth egg holds one of the girls' birthday gifts either inside with the directions or sits on top of a package. The last egg sits on their second birthday gift.

They enjoyed the game last year so I'll hope they appreciate it again this year.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


After a week's break, I've discovered the blogs must be boring as reading has dropped off. I think I'll change my strategy. I'll talk about whatever comes to mind. Today I'll concentrate more on Promotion.

While writing a proposal for the Douglas Country Writer's Conference, I've discovered more on promotion. Try to be a guest blogger on popular blogs. Also search out interview opportunities. After hearing Dom Testa speak at AuthorU, I have a different outlook on interviewing.

He says your subject should be broad. If not, there will be no interest by media to do an interview. Suppose you've written on the life cycle of frogs. Who cares? Who wants to know about frogs? However, if you choose a subject such as his that says "Smart is Cool" to teens, you can land an interview.

In my case, Charles Russell appeals to a wide variety of people. How to look at art appeals to a large percentage of people although they don't realize it until they read my book. As one person posted on Facebook, "I'll never look at art in the same way again." Another woman made the same comment after attending my author visit at Evergreen Country Day School. That is my goal.

I tell a story on my website ( about an incident I experienced during the Moscow Treasures and Traditions exhibit during the 1990 World Games in Seattle, WA. Check it out. 

I did land an interview on The Children's Authors Show. It will air April 27/28. You can fill out the form on the site to request an author interview. My Pelican publicist forwarded the information to me.

She also forwarded the information for a guest blog on Imagination Soup. The host hasn't informed me when the article will be posted.

Promotion is a never ending but necessary evil whether you publish with a publishing house or self-publish. Thank goodness I've received lots of help from the publicist and by word of mouth.

Tomorrow I mail the final submission as requested by Pelican after a contract was signed for the Frederic Remington's Art, the second book in the How the West Was Drawn series. Hopefully the book will be released in Spring, 2012. In the meantime, I'm concentrating on doing author visits at retirement communities during the summer. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Writer's Journey - Ordinary World

I am a little late today. I did a web radio interview for The Authors Show which will air in the near future. It was an interesting experience. The directors edit the telephone conversation then post the edited version on the show for listening. He says some people receive good results, while others receive none. I hope mine falls in the first category.

Now that the archetypes have been somewhat covered, I'll delve deeper into the 12 elements of a story according to The Writer's Journey. Each post will be followed the next time with Questioning the Journey. At times it may take two posts to cover the material. Let's begin at the beginning - Ordinary World.

As you previously learned, the Hero lives in his Ordinary World until something happens to disrupt it. We all know the opening must "hook the reader, set the tone of the story, suggest where it is going and get across a lot of information without slowing the pace."

Think how your audience will first encounter the book - title, first paragraph, first dialogue, where in the character's lives the story fits, an introduction or prologue. Even though many people wait to come up with a title, you still need to be considering it from the beginning. The beginning comes from a few symbols or metaphors that put the audience in the right mood for the journey.

Take The Godfather as an example. The title suggests the main character is both god and father. Yet we see in movie trailers, posters and the logo that there is a puppeteer working the strings of an unknown marionette. Is the main character the puppeteer or the puppet of a higher force. The title and imagery presents a metaphor with many interpretations.

A prologue can introduce the main characters, their world, cue the audience as the the kind of story it is, start with a bang, introduce the villain or story threat, and fill in necessary backstory.  Most children's books do not have a prologue. Backstory is woven throughout the book. 

Many books simply begin by placing the Hero in his Ordinary World before any problem arises. It is necessary to contrast it to the Special World the Hero will be thrown in later. It might provide some backstory. We discovered from the The Wizard of Oz how the Ordinary contrasts to the Special World by using black and white for the Ordinary World and color for the Special World. Even though the world may seem boring we might get some foreshadowing of what is to come. Dorothy clashes with the ornery neighbor and is rescued by three farmhands. This beginning foreshadows the problems to come and with whom. 

The Ordinary World offers a glimpse into what the Hero wants and raises some questions. Will the hero win the game, get the gold, and beat the villains?

Next post will cover some other Ordinary World points. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Two months after the release

I'd like to take a break from The Writer's Journey for this post and catch you up on the first two months after the release of my book. Previous posts talked about the process of getting published, fulfilling all the publisher's requirements, and a little about promotion planning. Now I'll finish the story or, rather, continue it.

I wanted to "hit the road running." The first thing I did was ask my Pelican publicist exactly what she does so I would not step on anyone's toes. She responded with quite a few things. Actually, I feel I have three publicists at Pelican. The two others are the School Sales Manager, who sets up school visits, and the Western Sales Manager who sets up book signings. All have done their jobs. I've also worked at each endeavor.

Recently the publicist lined me up for a blog interview at DM Speaks on the Dabbling Mum. That interview required I fill out questions which the host posted online. Unfortunately, I thought it was step one rather than the final step. I might have responded with longer answers had I known.

In addition, she contacted me about The Authors Show, a web radio broadcast. I know the three steps for this show. I filled out the first set of questions. He returned more questions designed from the first set. I have answers outlined so I can't read them in the interview. He will call this week. Then, they edit the interview to 11-15 minutes, and let me know when it will air.

The publicist sent another contact for Imagination Soup. I wrote that blog post and sent it yesterday. I'm not sure when it will appear.

I lined up several book signings on my own and learned of a couple from Colorado Author's League of which I am a member. Of the four signings, one turned out great; another was mediocre; two were not so great. I have two more at the Fort Collins Barnes & Noble, one in conjunction with a school book fair and another with two 5th grade classes for each of two schools. They will learn about the book store business from the community relations person and about writing and my book from me.

I presented to a Newcomer's Coffee, networked through Small Business Development Center, sold books at my crafts group potluck, and a political luncheon. I mentored junior high writers, did two classroom author visits, attended a writer's conference and sold books at a retirees' luncheon.

Patricia Stoltey asked me to guest blog for her. I wrote on promotion. Recently I attended an Author U talk by Dom Testa and summarized it for my writers group. The Northern Colorado Writer's director asked if she could post it on The Writing Bug. It appeared last Wednesday.

During this two month period, I contacted local school media personnel and have more author visits lined up for April 12, 13, & 14.  I'll visit another school but the date hasn't been set as yet.

I am applying to teach a workshop at a writer's conference. I forgot, I taught a writer's workshop at the Northern Colorado Writer's studio.

For two months, I put into practice the title of my conference workshop, Your Book is Released: Don't sit down, your work has just begun. 

Of the first order of 250 books, I haven't enough to cover the three scheduled visits, so I ordered 250 more. They arrive tomorrow; the bill follows in a month. Thank goodness my husband is willing to float me until the books sell. Wish me luck. I hope they sell before the year is up! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Trickster - the last Archetype

     The Trickster character offers comic relief in a story. He may be a personality trait of the Hero or other characters. He presents us with mischief and a desire for change. He may cut a few egos down and bring Heroes and audiences down earth.
     Some people consider a good story “Makes‘em cry a lot; lets’em laugh a little.” Others think the opposite yields a good story. I think a balance of both creates the best reading.
     Sometimes the Trickster serves as the Hero - Bugs Bunny, the Roadrunner, Daffy Duck, Speedy Gonzales, Tweety Bird, Woody Woodpecker to name a few. The Hare in the Tortoise and the Hare shows that a Trickster Hero can turn the tables and actually fail.
     Native Americans present Tricksters such as Coyote and Raven. The clown Kachina of the Southwest teaches as well as gives great power and comic relief.
     Once in a while the Trickster changes others but not himself such as Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop. At other times, the Trickster’s job makes us laugh at ourselves.
     Now that we have all the character archetypes in a story, authors should be able to add psychological depth and variety to keep from creating stereotypical characters.Remember, archetypes may not be individual characters put traits of various characters.
     Next we delve deeper into the Stages of the Journey and see how the archetypes fit in.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Achetypes con't

The next archetype is the Shadow. He represents the energy of the dark side, in other words, the villain, antagonist or enemy. He hopes to see the Hero fail. In some cases, the Shadow may be the shady part of ourselves that keeps us from succeeding, wrestles with bad habits, and old fears. The Shadow can also be the Shapeshifter in the form of vampires or werewolves.

The Shadow's dramatic side challenges the Hero. Some say a story is only as good as its villain, or Shadow.

The Shadow's mask hides any of the story characters. He may appear as Mentor while hiding the Shadow side of his personality. The Shadow may start out as a love interest in a romance novel who shifts to become the one who attempts to destroy the Hero. He can perform as a Trickster or Herald who lures the Hero into danger, or, a villain who experiences a change of heart like the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast."

A touch of goodness humanizes the Shadow. Disney cartoons are good examples of humanized Shadows - Captain Hook in "Peter Pan," the demon in "Fantasia", the wicked queen in "Snow White,"
the glamorous fair in "The Sleeping Beauty," Cruelle in "One Hundred and One Dalmatians." Because of their qualities, they were made to seem even more sinister. The Shadow does not always perceive himself as a villain.

There is more to a Shadow but space prevents my expounding. Borrow the book from a library and read all these archetypes for yourself.

There is only one Archetype left, Trickster, in Book One of Vogler's "Writer's Journey," called Mapping the Journey. Then we'll cover Book Two: Stages of the Journey, where we go deeper into the 12 story elements we discussed in the beginning of this series. You might consider outlining the 12 elements leaving space for notes as well as the Archetypes, for easy reference.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Archetype, con't

The Shapeshifter is probably the hardest of the archetypes to explain. Remember that I am paraphrasing the book and there is a lot of information I'm leaving out. To better understand the explanations I've given thus far, you might want to read the book on your own. Vogler's The Writer's Journey can be found in most bookstores and online book retailers.

Highlights for Children offers a class on the process. Their classes are a bit pricey but well worth the money if you can afford it. They also offer scholarships for some classes, especially the Foundations Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. I attended the week long workshop in 2004 and thoroughly enjoyed it in addition to learning a lot and meeting wonderful people.

Back to Shapeshifter. These characters change mood, appearance, and are difficult for the Hero and audience to "pin down". They may take the Hero in a wrong direction and keep her guessing. Their loyalty and sincerity is in question. A good example is the mood changes a woman faces during pregnancy. So, the Shapeshifter projects the hidden opposite sides of ourselves.

Their dramatic function is to bring doubt and suspense into the story. In a romance novel, he causes the Hero to ask, "Is he faithful; will he betray me; does he truly love me; is he an ally or enemy." The Shapeshifter's change of appearance may be as small as style in hair or clothing. Heros must sometimes face Shapeshifters either male or female, who assume disguises and tell lies to confuse them.

(My italics button won't allow what I'm trying to do, so I'll put titles in quotations)

In "An Officer and a Gentleman" the Hero, Richard Gere, puts on airs and tells lies to attract a woman. In "Sister Act", Whoopi Goldberg disguises herself as a nun to keep from being killed. "Villians or their allies may wear the Shapeshifter mask to seduce or confuse the Hero." Look at the wicked witch in "Snow White" who becomes an old woman and tricks the Hero into eating an apple.

Shapeshifters are "found most often in male-female relationships, but may also be useful in other situations to portray characters whose appearance or behavior changes to meet the needs of the story."

In children's writing, I find it hard to discover the Shapeshifters. However, I'll keep reading in my search for this particular character. If you discover one, let us know. I am hoping all this becomes more clear further in the reading of "The Writer's Journey."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Archetypes con't

None of these archetypes have to be one person each. They may be a person who acts in several of these capacities. The Mentor might also be a Herald.

A Herald issues challenges and announces the coming of important changes. Think of the Heralds in medieval times. They knew the lineages and coats of arms. They identified people, relationships in battle, tournaments and, perhaps, weddings.

In a story, the Hero has succeeded up to this point. Suddenly, he faces a challenge that changes his way of life. His life will never be the same again. He has been called to an adventure, oftentimes by the guise of a Herald. It can be a dream, a person or a new idea. In Field of Dreams a voice tells the Hero "If you build it, they will come." He faced a change.

Our story must face a change also. The Herald gives the character motivation, a challenge and starts the real story. In Earthquake, earth tremors act as Herald. A stock market crash may hold the name of Herald. In High Noon, the Herald is a clerk with a telegraph message. A map and a telephone call herald change to a character in Romancing the Stone.

Heralds represent positive, negative or neutral people. Darth Vader causes the audience to realize something is not quite right.

A Herald may appear through a Mentor, Trickster, or Threshold Guardian character. The Mentor is usually a positive for the Hero. The Trickster and Threshold Guardian act as neutrals.

Usually the Herald appears in Act One although he may appear at any time in the story. However, he is a necessity in every story.

If your story is in progress, try to determine who plays the part of each archetype we've discussed thus far.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Threshold Guardian

A Threshold Guardian seldom represents the villain. Rather, they are obstacles to thwart the entrance to a New or Special World. They may be overcome, bypassed or turned into allies. Occasionally they are secret helpers who test the Hero's willingness and skill. He warns the villain of approaching danger in some cases.

Vogler uses the example of a fox resting at the entrance to a cave where a bear is sleeping. The bear tolerates the fox. The fox warns the bear of danger. In the same way, villains use doorkeepers, bouncers, bodyguards, sentries, gunslingers or mercenaries to protect and warn the villain the Hero approaches.

They have a psychological function. We may not recognize Guardians under the above names but they play the same roles. Their titles change to the obstacles we face in everyday life - bad weather, bad luck, prejudice, oppression or hostile people. They become the inner neuroses  we carry like emotional scars, vices, dependencies, and self-limitations - those things that keep us from growing.

They dramatically test whether we are up to challenges and changes. Each time the hero faces a plot point or black moment, he either passes or fails the test. The hero chooses how to solve each problem as he comes in contact with the Guardian. He may even "get into the skin of the opponent." Indians wore the skin of a buffalo to disguise themselves in order to get close enough for a kill. When Dorothy is held captive in the Witch's castle, her friends overcome soldiers, dress in their clothing and become the enemy for a short period in order the rescue her.

When in real life you confront an obstacle which causes you to change, your friends who offer advice (good or bad) become Guardians. They put you through the tests to see if you are up to the new challenge. The same goes for your stories. Someone puts the hero through the tests.

In Japan, demon statues often decorate entrances. One hand raises like a policeman to cause you to halt. If you look closer, the other hand invites you in. Authors need to look past appearances and into the reality of the entrance. Learning to deal with Threshold Guardians is one of the major tests of the Hero's Journey.

Next we discuss the Herald.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Archetypes con't

Mentor - Wise Old Man or Woman

The Mentor is one of the most entertaining sources in literature or film. In the Wizard of Oz, we find Glenda, the good witch. In Cinderella it is the Fairy Godmother; Merlin in King Arthur. The Mentor could be the best of Self or our conscience. He may be a hero to the main character, a parent, aunt, grandmother/grandfather or someone to whom the hero looks to for advice.

The Mentor can serve many functions - teacher, gift-giver, inventor, or, as I said before, conscience.
They motivate, plant information, and offer love. However, a dark mentor may mislead, misguide the audience as well as the hero. Sometimes the Mentor seems to stand in the way and the hero must overcome or outgrow the energy of her best teachers.

Other Mentors have fallen. Take Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own. He faces his own road to redemption while trying to Mentor his team. The audience roots for him to succeed on his own road to recover from his past.

Sometimes a Mentor continues into a sequel such as the Chief in Get Smart or the grandparents on the Waltons, who continually show up in episode after episode. Or multiple Mentors help the hero, like 007 in the Bond movies. He has three Mentors in the form of the spymaster "M", "Q" who is the weapons and gadget maker, and Miss Moneypenny.

Comic, shaman, and inner Mentors appear with a definite purpose in a story. Each or several mentors show up at different times. Not always is the Mentor introduced in Act I but may be needed later as someone who can show the ropes to the hero. Mentors provide motivation, inspiration, guidance, training, gifts for the journey, yet, do not solve the hero's problem.

I have something scheduled for every day this week which includes three days of driving into Denver. Bear with me if I miss the Thursday post and post it on Friday. Thanks for following. If you have comments, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Vogler's Archetypes

Wrote this Wed. and forgot to post it on Thursday before I headed to Denver for two days. Sorry!

If an author knows the purpose or function of characters in a story, she can discover if the character is pulling her weight. The archetypes do not have to all be real persons. Some can be personality traits of one character. For instance, a Mentor is not necessarily a rigid character role but can be a function of one character. A character may have many masks he wears temporarily. The hero may even pick up the character traits of everyone she meets to make herself a whole person.

As Vogler does, we'll discuss each archetype one at a time but not as thoroughly as the book. The most common archetypes are:
Threshold Guardian

A Hero is male or female, the protagonist of the story. She is willing to sacrifice for others to gain her goal. Ego makes up the Hero and teaches her to become a complete person. In the process she faces internal guardians, monsters and helpers. She finds teachers, guides, demons, gods, mates, servants, scapegoats, masters, seducers, betrayers and allies. Even the villains, tricksters, lovers, friends and foes can be found within ourselves as Hero.

The Hero has dramatic purpose. A story expects the audience to identify with the Hero. Her desires are understood by the audience - "to be loved and understood, to succeed, survive, be free, get revenge, right wrongs or seek self-expression." To make the Hero interesting, she needs to be like each member of the audience in some way. She needs to grow, do something, sacrifice something, deal with death metaphorically, and have flaws. She can't always be perfect. The audience needs to see her make some dumb choices. She must be active rather than passive.

There are Group Heroes (those who get separated from the group but usually return),  Loner Heroes, (like Shane, John Wayne's character in  The Searchers, or the Lone Ranger) who are invited to return to the world of relationships or society, and Catalyst Heroes, those who transform others but change little themselves (like Eddie Murphy's character in Beverly Hills Cop).

This discussion barely touches the surface of a Hero. Take time to study the Heroes in your favorite stories and determine how they change, how they change others or if they return to the Ordinary World. Next we discuss the Mentor.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Writing Journey - Act 3

Now that the hero in Writer's Journey has Seized the Sword, she must head back to the Ordinary World. Her trials are not over. Let's look at the last three of the 12 elements to a successful story according to this book.

Element 10 - The Road Back
Although the hero has what she wanted, her trip back to the Ordinary World becomes harried because she must leave this special world of seeking her goal through more temptations, tests and dangers. Leaving this world in movies often brings about the best chase scenes. Take for instance, ET when he  and Elliott go on a moonlight bicycle ride.

Element 11 - Resurrection
The hero faces similar incidents of danger and complications as in the Ordeal. She must be cleansed of all the past before she can return to the Ordinary World. She is tested one last time to prove she learned the lessons of the Ordeal.

Element 12 - Return with the Elixir
The hero cannot return to the Ordinary World empty-handed. She must bring a treasure or lesson, the Elixir, back with her. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy learned she is loved at home. In fact, she states in the movie, "There's no place like home."

Remember that the elements listed here are a framework, not to be necessarily followed precisely. Each story may change the order, leave out some elements or add to them without losing any of the power. In writing the story the elements should blend so that no one recognizes them. The elements fit well into modern stories as well. The mentor may not be a fairy, wizard, or shaman, but a teacher, parent, or any helping person instead.

"The Hero's Journey is infinitely flexible, capable of endless variation without sacrificing any of its magic, and will outlive us all." page 27.

Now that you have a map to a successful story, Thursday we'll discuss the characters who fill the story's pages - Archetypes.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Writer's Journey Second Act

I'll be visiting my twin grandsons tomorrow so I'm posting this early.

In act one we left off with Crossing the First Threshold, the fifth element of a good fiction story from The Writer's Journey. It is the first turning point that leads to a new world of problems for the hero. How the hero handles and faces the problems takes up Act 2, made up of four elements of the original 12 in the three-act premise of the book. 

Element 6: Tests, Allies and Enemies

The first turning point of Crossing the First Threshold leads to new challenges - tests. The hero makes both allies and enemies. She encounters the problems of the new world. In adult books, bars and saloons offer good settings but not in all books. For instance, The Wizard of Oz takes  Dorothy down the Yellow Brick Road where she makes friends and then comes across enemies. She also faces many tests - snow and oiling of tin man, the lion and his fear, and rescuing the scarecrow.

Element 7: Approach to the Inmost Cave

Next the hero comes to the inmost cave - a dangerous place unknown to the hero. She may pause at the gate to plan how to outwit the villain. She approaches but hesitates. She eventually enters and that becomes the next turning point - entering the cave and dealing with whatever is inside. The cave is a name for the hero's problem. Dorothy is kidnapped and placed in the Wicked Witch's castle.

Element 8: The Ordeal

The Ordeal is a "black moment" for the reader in which it seems there is no return. Suspense and tension add to the story of the hero's plight. When Dorothy's friends try to rescue her, matters get worse and it seems there is no way out. We can compare the ordeal to the old clique of "boy meets girl (Act I) and boy loses girl (Act 2)" The boy gets girl is the third act. The hero's fate seems to be established. Will she come out of it unscathed? Analogy goes like this. You get on a roller coaster ride. At the top of the hill, you drop into what feels like instant death only to recover and do it again on the next hill. We want the reader to feel this way in Act 2 when the hero faces the horrors of not accomplishing her goals.

Element 9: The Reward (Seizing the Sword)

If we stick to the analogy of the roller coaster, the reward comes at the end when we know we survived the ride. Sometimes the reward is knowledge and "reconciliation with hostile forces." Dorothy escapes from the Wicked Witch. She has the witch's broomstick and the Ruby slippers. But, she still has the problem of how does she get home? Will the evil forces return or is she in a safe place? Here ends Act 2.

We'll discuss the last three elements which conclude the story and end Act 3 on Monday afternoon. Later posts will delve deeper into each element.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Writer's Journey, con't

Mondays get a slow writing start since I have a Bible study class first thing in the morning. But, here goes with the second installment on the Writer's Journey.

This book is based on the movie premise of three acts. If a book, screenplay or story is 120 pages, one-fourth, or 30 pages, makes up the first act, 60 pages the second act and 30 pages the third act, approximately. The last post dealt with the Original World, first of a story's 12 elements. Once that world is established, the character faces several other elements in the first act.

Element 2. The Call to Adventure - is where the hero encounters a problem, challenge or adventure. The hero is forced to leave the ordinary world and enter a new world where the problem, etc., exists. We now know the hero's goal. In the Wizard of Oz Dorothy wants to return home.

Element 3. Refusal of the Call (Reluctant Hero) - The hero may not accept the call to adventure at this point. She may not commit completely to the journey yet. Her fear escalates, circumstances may change, the problem worsens or she needs a push from someone or something to send her into the journey (adventure).

Element 4. Mentor (The Wise old Man or Woman) - Some stories introduce someone who can urge the hero to accept the journey. A mentor "stands for the bond between child and parent, teacher and student, doctor and patient, god and man." The mentor prepares the hero for the journey. In the Wizard of Oz, the mentor is the good witch who advises Dorothy and gives her ruby slippers which eventually help Dorothy return home.

Element 5. Crossing the First Threshold - At last the hero commits to the journey, accepts the call to adventure, and faces the consequences of the problem. Dorothy takes off on the Yellow Brick Road.

Crossing the first threshold ends act one as the first turning point.

The 12 elements outline the three-act premise of a story. After we see them all, I'll explain the archetypes of a story and explain in more detail the 12 elements. 

On Friday morning I received the Pelican contract for the second in the HOW THE WEST WAS DRAWN series - Frederic Remington's Art. Now I must update all my information, send everything to Pelican, and wait for the return of a signed contract. Then I order permissions/rights. I'm not sure what the publication date is but, most likely, it will be next spring. YAHOO!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Writer's Journey

I am a book junky. I buy all kinds of writing books but never read them completely. I use them to research writing techniques/tips, etc. My goal is to finish The Writer's Journey. If I post about what I read there, perhaps I'll reach my goal. The book presents a sure-fire way of writing good stories.

Highlights for Children offers a class on the Hero's Journey. Unfortunately, I've never had the chance to attend. Once after seeing the write up, I purchased The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. The author believes every good story is based on the mythic structure of the Hero's Journey which he discovered when he crossed paths with the mythologist Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero of a Thousand Faces. Google his name for more information on Campbell. After discovering Campbell's pattern for story, Vogler began to compare the pattern to popular movies.

Another follower of the principle is John Truby, a screenwriter, director, and screenwriter teacher. I found out about him through the Writers Store. On that link you'll find articles by John Truby. There are other classes and books based on the idea of screenwriting as a tool for story/novel writing. They teach the three-act form of writing. It works.

Let's begin with an overview. "Book One, Mapping the Journey, is a quick survey of the territory," says Vogler. He tell you to consider the book as a journey map through story. Book Two, details the 12 elements of the Hero's Journey. "An Epilogue, Looking Back on the Journey, deals with the special adventure...... and some pitfalls to avoid on the road."

Element 1 - The Ordinary World

Most stories take the hero from the ordinary, everyday world into a new, unfamiliar world. He is like a "fish out of water." Before you can place him in the unfamiliar, the reader needs to know the familiar world. Then, the reader sees a real contrast in the two worlds in which the hero lives. Take for instance, The Wizard of Oz. When possible, I'll use this movie as an example. A lot of time is spent showing the drab world in which Dorothy lives. Of course, shooting the scenes in black and white contribute to portraying that drab life. Once she arrives in Oz, color shines. The reader definitely realizes the difference.

Monday we will discuss a few more of the 12 elements.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

SCBWI - Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators gives an award each year to the best book of the previous year - in this case 2010. Members vote for books in their region. The top five, I believe, go to national. Receiving the Crystal Kite award marks a plateau in publishing for children.

As a member and voter, I choose to only vote if I've read the book. (I know some people possibly vote for the person rather than the book.) I checked out as many of the titles as I could find at my local library. The nominee list can be found on the SCBWI websites. Although the Rocky Mountain Region website states it encompasses Colorado and Wyoming, a Utah author appeared on the list. I realize I'll never be able to finish the 20 or so books I checked out before the voting deadline.

However, I will at least have read new releases of the past year. Not a bad thing. Which books received publication? Is there a new trend? Are fantasy books fading? How many are non-fiction vs fiction? All the answers to these questions help in determining what or how I write. Yet, I still stick to my interests and what I believe is a good subject for children. I also become acquainted with local authors' names and watch for their releases.

But, how to choose? The choices vary. I learned about the Candy Bomber of the Berlin Airlift. I read about a girl whose mother changes location every year. I gathered information about other countries that served as settings. Since many of the books are YA, I wonder if the categories could be tightened. The list included YA to young reader picture books. After reading the local nominees, I'll watch closely for the winners and read those for comparison.

If you write for children, be sure to join SCBWI. But, most of all, READ, read children's books. Not only the new releases but the classics as well.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Words and How We Use Them

We often place unnecessary words in sentences. Words like "There are," "It is," and "In order to." There are other phrases we include just as useless. Check these examples from Kathleen Phillips How to Write a Story.

"There are five things that are important to remember." Besides the opening's useless words, the verb is passive and the word "that" is often not necessary. Change the sentence to "Five things are important to remember." The "that" disappeared but the verb does nothing. We could say "Remember these five important things." Sounds a little more emphasized. Depending on where the sentence falls, "things" might need to be named.

At other times we repeat ourselves with words. We say the same thing twice.

"First began" - the words mean the same. The sentence could read "First, . . . . " and then state the rest.

"Free gift." Isn't a gift always free?

"Small trifle" - the words mean the same.

"Final conclusion" A conclusion is final.

"Consensus of opinion" - leave out "of opinion." Consensus is an opinion.

"Carry out the implementation" - either "carry out" or "implement."

Another pet peeve of mine concerns adverbs, most of which are "ly" words. Usually they can replace the inactive verb rather than work as an adverb. Check these examples.

"walked slowly" - I checked my Flip Dictionary (a user friendly Thesaurus) and found these words for stroll - amble, mosey, ramble, roam, rove, saunter, wander.

"walked slowly and tiredly" - trudge - lumber, plod, slog, toil, traipse, tramp. Plodded - drag, grind, labor, schlepp, struggle, toil.

"walked unsteadily" - staggered, limped, hobbled. Stagger - lurch, careen, reel, rock, hobble, stump, sway, totter, waver, weave.

If I check each verb listed above, I find more word choices. Yes, it takes time! But when every word must count, the time is well spent.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dangling Phrases and Clauses

When we write, we know what we mean but don't always express it. Take for instance, dangling phrases and clauses. If you reread your manuscript after a few days, you may discover them or you may still overlook them. A critique group usually finds them. Then you feel really silly for having made such an obvious mistake.

What is a dangling phrase or clause? Phrases (a sequence of two or more words acting as a unit in a sentence) and clauses (which have a subject and verb and could be a sentence on its own) appear in different places within a sentence and refer to a noun or pronoun. If placed incorrectly, they refer to the wrong noun, pronoun, or to nothing. Let's look at some examples Kathleen Phillips used in her book How to Wrtie a Story.

1. "We saw the flowers walking in the garden." Who is walking, the flowers or we? To correct the sentence we can begin with a phrase. "While walking in the garden, we saw the flowers." Now who saw the flowers and who is walking?

2. Sometimes we leave out a subject or verb and forget what we are talking about. "When still a puppy, I taught Fido to shake hands." Who or what was the puppy? If we change the phrase to a clause with a subject and verb, we understand. "When he was still a puppy, I taught Fido to shake hands." Or we can take "I" out. "When still a puppy, Fido learned to shake hands."

3. Danglers may appear anywhere in a sentence. "A dog almost bit me when I was riding my bicycle." If we change the order of the sentence, it becomes clearer. "When I was riding my bicycle, a dog almost bit me."

4. Orphaned pronouns cause misunderstanding in a sentence. "The dog bit my tire and then it sprang a leak."
Although the pronoun "it" is closer to tire, it still seems to refer to the dog because of the word "then."
Rearranging the sentence solves the problem. "My tire sprang a leak when the dog bit it."

5. If a modifier rests too far from the word it modifies, the meaning can be confusing, amusing and/or distracting. "Later I saw the dog with a girl on a long leash." What did the author mean for the phrase to modify? If we place the phrase closer to dog, we correct the meaning. "Later, I saw a girl with the dog on a long leash."

Dangling phrases and clauses provide humor and relaxes any tension within a critique group. However, I'm not saying to add them to your writing for humor sake. What if they aren't caught?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Get It Down, Then Get It Right

Babysitting 22 month-old twin grandsons sort of prevented me from posting yesterday. A classroom presentation got in the way of posting earlier today. But, except for distractions of preparing dinner and folding the laundry, I'm ready to give some thoughts on today's subject - revising.

Hemingway said there are two processes for writing. First you get it down, then you go back and work on getting it right. It is not a matter of polishing the manuscript by correcting misspelled words, eliminating adjectives and adverbs or tinkering with flow. Instead, consider it as creating and refining thoughts. Many authors spend countless hours, days and years perfecting a manuscript. James Joyce spent 20,000 hours writing Ulysses and 17 years on Finnegans Wake. No wonder they are classics.

Another author answered a question about how much he rewrites with "Writing is rewriting."

Rewriting is more than crossing out the adjectives and adverbs. You replace them with nouns and verbs that that better express your meaning. You catch mistakes. You punch the prose. While you correct the small things, keep your mind tuned to possible radical improvements. Toss the first paragraph, page, chapter if it doesn't truly begin the story. Perhaps the middle drags. Punch it up by thinking of new directions, conflicts, or characters reactions.

Look at revision as re-vision. Go in new directions or change the structure. Sometimes it takes hiding the manuscript under the bed, in a drawer or the trash can. Starting over combines your original idea with more momentum, new directions, new perspectives, and a higher quality of writing. That first draft acts as the foundation on which you build a better product. It reminds me of looking for a lost object. I may overlook the thing several times before I find it right in plain sight.

During the rewriting process, take yourself away from the manuscript for a hour, a day, or a month - whatever it takes to look at it with new eyes. Your new vision surprises you with easy fixes.

When does rewriting end? Sometimes you'll find it hard to cut your beautiful words. However, will you remember what you cut in a few days? Make sure everything fits with the story. Take out those "show-off phrases" you love. Listen to reader feedback. You are not obligated to change all to please your critique readers. However, take their suggestions to heart, consider if they make a manuscript better or just become their writing voice.

An author discovers she/he can always tweak their work. It never seems perfect. Realize at one point you must print the document, cut the apron strings and let the baby go.

You may find a guest post I did for Patricia Stoltey's blog, interesting. Named "Publication and Promotion: They Go Together," the post sums up my publishing path for HOW THE WEST WAS DRAWN and some promotion tips I've covered in this blog.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Show vs Tell

We hear "Show don't Tell" over and over but what does it mean? Here is a good example from You Don't Have to be Famous: How to Write Your Life Story.

"Ginny was elated when she won the tournament. It was very emotional."

First of all, the two sentences have passive forms of "to be" verbs. The verbs don't do anything. Elated describes many different actions. Compare that to this paragraph of showing.

When Ginny won the tournament by sinking the three-foot putt, a roar went up from the crowd. She hurled her putter into the air, dropped to her knees, covered her eyes and sobbed.

I've changed the quote a bit to include active verbs rather than "ing" words the author used. A warning: don't think everything has to be shown. Some events, etc., require telling. All showing gets boring, too. Mix them for the best effect.

Remember that "the weakest tools for descriptive writing are adjectives and adverbs." Most times a noun or verb can take their place. I eliminate every "ly" word I see. "A noun is much better off alone than with a predictable or inadequate modifier.

Take for instance: She was stepping into snow above her knees. Instead, take away "was" and replace it with a form of the "ing" word. She stepped into snow above her knees. Better yet is "She sunk into snow above her knees."

Try painting a word picture. Here are two examples from a recent chick novel I read by Kristin Hannah.

"She led the girl across the necklace of stepping stones that meandered through the garden." Here, too, I changed a couple of words. I think I cut a few words.

Another example from the same book is "The rain softened the world into the muted blues and greens of a Monet painting." Both of these examples paint a word picture you, the reader, can see.

Go through your manuscript. Circle all the verbs. Are they active or passive? Change them to active. Then underline all the adjectives and adverbs. How can you replace them and keep your meaning and at the same time paint a word picture? It isn't easy. Try it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Story Middles

Middles answer "What is the problem and how does it get solved?" The middle adds complications, unexpected happenings and seemingly insurmountable problems. In another word, CONFLICT. After the five "Ws" of writing, who, what, where, when, why, comes how. The how happens suspense. Not like a mystery, but suspense that builds to solve whatever problem the writing entails. Action and tension contribute to suspense.

Action may go up, dip a little and head up again until it reaches a point of no return, a breaking point, the darkest moment. For every action there is a reaction.

Now some basics for writing the story.

Who is your audience? To get across an idea, pretend you are talking to one member of that audience. What does that person need to know about the story you are telling them? Where might they ask a question? Answer the questions before they have a chance to interrupt and ask.

As you write, be sure to have a dictionary or Flip Dictionary/Thesaurus handy. A Flip Dictionary is a form of Thesaurus. It lists words similar to ones you use in your story and helps eliminate "echo" words (often repeated words). These resources allow you to be specific in your writing.

In being specific, you'll need to replace “it” with the name of something. Be aware that new writers, as well as experienced, sometimes place "it" to refer to the wrong noun. If you substitute the name of something for "it", the message will be clear.

Say what you mean. Adjectives and adverbs can be misleading. For instance: "Our first cruise was incredible." What does incredible mean? Good or bad? Actually, we looked out the back of the ship at blue skies filled with fluffy white clouds, unlike the sky out the front – black. During the night, waves swelled to 48 feet and continued throughout the day. We rode the crests of Hurricane Gordon. Yes, the trip was incredible, but a better word to describe the trip adds the proper meaning. Be specific.

Next blog will talk about the often used term "Show don't tell."

Monday, January 31, 2011

Hectic times

I thought once the Holidays ended, I'd have more time. Wrong!! Last week was one of those weeks when I hardly had time to breath. Unfortunately, this week will be no different.

So, I'll pass on some writing tips I used in my "Passing On Your Personal Stories" class. These are basic tips to get started in writing.

Beginnings catch the reader's attention and make the reader want to know more. Gives a hint to the problem.

Middles add complications, unexpected happenings, seemingly insurmountable problems, and builds suspense.

Ends resolve everything in a satisfactory way.

Beginnings form the second chance to attract the reader. What is the first? A good title. However, many writers use a working title before they choose that special grabber of a title. Check the titles on your book shelves. Do they hook you to look into the book?

The opening sentence should hook the reader. Starting in the middle of an action creates that hook. Otherwise, begin with one or a combination of action, character, dialogue, situation, setting and mood or Story theme or philosophical idea.

According to Kathleen Phillips in How to Write a Story, some authors think "action and character openings, especially when combined with dialogue are the strongest and best attention getters." She lists on pages 84-85 these examples: Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, E.B. White's Stuart Little, Lloyd Alexander's The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man, Mary Peace's Fireflies, George Orwell's 1984, Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol, and Clive Barker's Dread, to name a few.

I suggest you look at books on your shelves or go to a library, randomly choose titles, and read the first lines. Be aware, that not all first lines represent good examples. You make the decision if the line hooks the reader.

After you've hooked the reader, the next few paragraphs should determine the who, what, when, where and why of the story as soon as possible. The "how" details fill in the middle. Let the reader know something about the story.

The next blog will discuss some specifics about middles.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Russell Book

I discovered is already shipping the pre-orders for HOW THE WEST WAS DRAWN: COWBOY CHARLIE'S ART. Guess they received their copies as early as I. If you order from them, once you receive your copy, post a review. I hope you'll be favorable!!! Share the information with your friends. Thanks.

In the meantime, think about ways to use the book with your children or grandchildren, which depends on their age. Toddlers and preschoolers need only look at the pictures and answer one of the questions. As they age, ask another question and finally read a little information in the text. Lower middle graders can tour the art on their own or with a little guidance. Upper middle graders are certainly able to read and answer on their own or with a friend. All might even look at my picture and pretend I am talking to them.

Next, take the children to a museum - the size of the museum is not important. Looking at any pictures will do, not just art masterpieces. Use some of the activities in the Introduction, especially the language arts, to expand a child's looking techniques. On each museum visit play another game, or, repeat those you've already practiced. In a gallery, assign a project, let them choose which object to use, you participate too,  then meet and discuss.

Another game to play is a treasure hunt. In a gallery, choose one object. Describe it with three clues such as the color, shape, medium, something in the painting or whatever you determine serves as a clue. Then, have the child guess which object you've chosen. However, don't let them guess until they have given you three clues back which can be answered with a yes or no. For example: Is there a soldier on a horse?  Does one man wear a red sash? Are there words around the picture? Which picture from the book did I use? The letter.

Next have the child choose an object.

Many more games or ideas are on my website, Check them out.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More Promotion

As a first book novice, I ask probably some dumb questions of my publisher. Friends, new acquaintances and professionals offer kinds of promotion suggestions. For instance, retired school personnel attended my memoir class on Saturday. Other students relayed information on museums unknown to me. All wanted to help me promote. Isn't that kind and considerate?

Librarians peruse book jobbers lists, especially Baker and Taylor. I wrote my contacts at Pelican to see if they list with that particular book jobber and they do. Librarians also depend on School Library Journal for reviews of books. Pelican sends review copies to them. I learned more about my publisher and how they promote. The goal remains to contact every possible entity which might speak in the author's favor.

Some class members drove from Cheyenne and suggested museum names to contact which were unknown to me. Now I have a lot of work to do.  

On Friday I discovered the 255 pounds (10 boxes)  of books I ordered fit nicely stacked in my office draped with a table cloth to give the appearance of a piece of furniture. Thank goodness the box sizes are small compared to what I imagined! Two stacks of unboxed books on top remind me to keep promoting.

One last note - don't forget to thank people. I spent Saturday writing notes of thanks to all my contacts at Pelican commending them for a job well done. The book looks fantastic and I am honored to have worked with Pelican Publishing. Now my job begins. Check my website for upcoming events.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Promotion continued

I discovered a little late how to contact schools about presentations. I emailed each school principal in Cheyenne before I learned.

If you want presentations advertised to schools, write the Media Director. Individual schools have one and there is a Media Director for each school district. I've heard from both. But, beware!

I offered local districts, or those not too far away, free presentations for the remainder of the school year. In checking with some local authors, I found they did the same for a short period - 6 mos. to a year. However, after that, they determined a set rate for visits.

Authors stick together on pricing or at least charging for their services. Two reasons: 1. If there is no charge, people think that is what you are worth - nothing. 2. Authors want a consistency, not in what is charged but that there is a charge in the first place.

Author's services have a value. I'm talking to myself now because I find it hard to charge schools when budgets are tight, or even charge period! My publisher, Pelican, gives schools a 40% discount. Then the school can charge the retail price and literally pay for the author visit. Course, they have to do some promotion to get parents to buy the books. I remember one author agreeing to visit for free, but, instead, required each child buy a book.

Because I have only one published book and no known reputation as yet, I charge $100 per classroom. If I visit one class, my book costs the school about $10.50 each and can be sold for the retail price of about $17 - a profit of $6.50. Let's estimate the profit at $6. That times 20 children equals $120 or $20 over the cost of my visit. Any other books sold are pure profit.

That said, I received a couple of emails wanting me to either extend the free offer into next year or send a free book to the school. All my advisors said a loud "NO." We'll see how many jobs I received.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Release Date/Quotation Punctuation

WOW! I learned this weekend that the release date on my book has been moved up from February 15th to February 1st on Pelican said they could have the books as early as Monday (yesterday) but I imagine she forgot it was a mail holiday. Not sure how books are shipped to a publisher but today might be the earliest date.

Sorry this blog is a day late. However, I'd like to give some writing tips on grammar. Helen Wilkie still sends out her twice weekly tips even though she said she needs some more ideas.

I discovered I've misused punctuation marks inside and outside quotations. I believed punctuation marks at the end of a sentence always went inside the quotation marks. Wrong, not always. In dialogue, yes, always. These examples are from my Essentials of English book:

"Periods and commas are always placed inside the closing quotation marks."

"I wanted," he said, "to go home."

"Colons and semicolons are always placed outside end quotation marks."
Example: He called his friend "old dog"; he didn't mean it as an insult.

He took the advice given in the article "How to Study": sit rather than lie in bed.  

"Other marks are placed where they logically belong-within the quotation if they punctuate the quotation, outside the quotation if they punctuate the sentence of which the quotation is a part."

How can I tell that "Whatever is, is right"?
He might ask: "What is right?"

Some examples might seldom be used in your writing, but, at least you now know the proper usage.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"I" or "Me"

One of my pet peeves is the use of "me" when it should be "I" or vice versa. TV commentators, newsmen (or women), politicians, movie stars, sports heros, and every day Joe's misuse the two constantly. From educated to uneducated and CEOs to mail clerks.

I corrected my sons on their grammar through their high school years. Then, one day, I said something and my oldest son corrected me. I was thrilled he'd learned the lessons I'd taught.

So, let's learn the true use of "I" and "me."

In Helen Wilkie's tip for today she explains it this way -  the simplest definition I've ever seen:

"People often confuse the use of "I" and "me" in sentences. The grammatical principle is that "I" is a subject pronoun and "me" is an object pronoun. Here's how that looks in practice:

I will ask John to guide Nancy and me through the process.
Nancy and I will work through the process together.

The simple way to choose the correct form is to remove the other subject from the picture altogether. For example, if Nancy wasn't in the sentence, would you say, "I will ask John to guide I through the process"? No, I didn't think so! You would use "me" in that case, and the fact that you added another subject doesn't change anything.

If you take Nancy out of the second sentence, would you say, "Me will work through the process"? Again, you wouldn't. You would use "I", and you still use "I" when you add another subject."

The same principle applies to other object/subject pronouns like who/whom. I hope I haven't broken any rules in pasting her solution here. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Better Late Than Never!

Today was filled. First I attended my Bible study lecture only and skipped the homework small group discussion. Didn't think I could leave my husband who is recovering from knee surgery for too long by himself. Actually he wasn't alone. Our cleaning lady came and I arrive home in time to feed her lunch as I usually do. Then it was time for his rehap. We were 30 minutes earlier than his appointment because neither of us checked the calendar. So, I spent an hour and a half reading and napping! Then, we were home again just in time to fix and serve dinner. Now, I am ready to post. A little late, but better late than never.

Writers often have little confidence. I received an email written in 2008 for two publications. Unfortunately I couldn't find a link on either website - Institute of Children's Literature or Kid Magazine Writers. In it the author gave reasons authors/writers should not lose confidence.

The title,  "The Big Acceptance," mislead the readers to think about article/story/book acceptance. Instead, the article addressed the acceptance of ourselves as writers. Writers need to know their genres which suit their interests and writing. Some know exactly where they fit. Good. Others are less aware of their strong points.

Many of us know where we don't fit. That is a plus. No time wasted submitting where we know we have weaknesses. Stick to those places where we feel confidence and receive acceptance. Trying something new is good. It helps to get out of our comfortable box. But, don't stress over rejections from those areas. Tweak the writing and send it where you know you fit.

If dissatisfaction rules, do something constructive to improve - take a writing course, read writer magazines, and attend a conference to get re-energized. When your acceptances occur, realize you are contributing with a wonderful gift for writing, not matter the publication.

Remember that even if no one comments on our writing, enjoy the successes that come. Accept ourselves as unique and special writers.

Give yourselves a star. You deserve it.

I understand that some people have had a hard time or haven't been able to comment on this blog. I'm working on the problem. In the meantime, send me an email and I'll review your comments in the posts.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

One Word Resolutions

Although I missed my weekly critique meeting on Wednesday night, I heard about one of the things they did. While reporting their writing progress for the holidays each person gave a one word resolution for their personal and professional life. Words varied and more could certainly be added. Subtitles might focus closer to what people think of as resolutions. Think about these words in your life.

Connect - with friends, relatives, writers, editors and anyone who means something to you. Two members lost various people in their lives over the holidays. They want to remember what or who is important in life and connect with them.

Dream - whether professionally or personally. Dreams could include book publication or simply selling that first article/story.

Finish - Everyone in the group goes through periods of dropping projects and leaving them unfinished. Some have their fingers in several pies and feel they need to focus and complete one at a time.

Try - to do better both professionally and personally. Try new projects, i.e. leave their comfortable box.

Promote - Had I been present, I'd have suggested promote. I need to venture out of my shell and network and promote my book and myself.

Improve - self. Most everyone could stand improvement in some aspect of their lives whether it be in writing or living every day.

A few other words to think about:

Study - by attending workshops, conferences, writer's luncheons and reading.

Exercise - both physically and mentally. Exercise your mind. Get out of your chair and move around to get the mind working.

Network - every chance you get. Pass out bookmarks, business cards, flyers, etc. Talk about your publications. Meet those editors at conferences rather than standing back and watching others network.

If you have other one word resolutions, tell us about them.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

HAPPY NEW YEAR,Writers. May your year be filled with publications, signings, writing and all of your desires.

When planning your writer's New Year's resolutions, be reasonable. Remember that you want to have some success with your goals. Set them high, but not too high. For instance, last year I set a goal of submitting something every week. I may not have succeeded at every week but I did make 52 submissions. That may not sound like many in the light of the fact some writers have that many submissions circulating at all times! Actually, I exceeded that number by 10. Of course, not all were accepted - in fact, only 37 acceptances and most of those were for free. I write an every-other-week column for the Lyons Recorder in exchange for the editor's husband developing and maintaining my website and personal domain email.

My acceptances did include one book contract, which, as I've said many times before, comes out February 15th. So this year my resolutions will concern promotions for the book as well as writing.

Some resolution suggestions:
1. Write every day
2. Submit a reasonable number of articles, stories or books
3. Build a better writing portfolio
4. Add to or develop a platform
5. Keep better records
6. Promote better

Good luck. If you have resolution suggestions, make a comment.