My Top Ten Writerly Things I’m Thankful For

Things can get pretty discouraging as a writer. And when Thanksgiving rolls, especially for those of you doing NaNoWriMo, it can feel pretty thankless. Lots of hours of writing may not bring about the financial reward we hoped. The deer in the headlight look we get from people when we confess we are writers. We need to reflect on what started us on this journey and all those have encouraged us along the way. Looking over the decades I have been crafting words, some years more dabbling then serious I recall those things that bring a smile to my face and a warm glow in my heart.

  1. My mother who read to me at an early age and gave me a love for books. Her constant willingness to take me to the library often allowed me to visit wonderful story worlds. Her encouraging words continuing reminder that I could do anything I put my mind too. She recently gave me the scrapbook of articles from long ago that she saved. She is one of my biggest fans.
  1. My eighth grade English teacher who encouraged me to enter my short story in a contest. I didn’t win but a match was struck. While on the newspaper staff in high school and writing scripts for my drama club and church youth group I found my calling. Even though it would be years before I took it to a deeper level.
  1. I am always blessed by those willing to perform my scripts. My church family, homeschool groups and women’s retreat participants. They helped me feel my words were blessing others.
  1. My sisters read the first rough draft of my first novel and their praise warmed me at a time when I was very discouraged.
  1. My hubby who proofreads for grammar errors, gives honest feedback on my work (some of which is not pleasant to hear.) He listens when I talk about my characters as if they were real people. Offering suggestions and helping me expand my thought processes.
  1. My critique group, Word Weavers, who points out the best and worse in my words. Without them I would not have grown in my skills.
  1. My editor, Molly Jo, who believes in my book and helps me shape it.
  1. My Acquisition Editor, Rowena, who kept telling me to never give up. She kept me coming back with another draft of the first page and always gave gracious feedback.
  1. The Christian Writer’s Guild’s writing courses where I learned many new skills to hone my writing craft. The one on one mentoring was priceless. The guild directed me to my first writer’s conference which shaped my thinking about the writer I could become.
  1. My heart overflows with gratitude to God, who blessed me with the gift of and desire for writing.

While you settle in to enjoy your Thanksgiving feast. Take a moment to write a writer’s thankful list. Refer to it when things seem hopeless. When you wonder if you’ll ever get published or when you feel like giving up.

Share in the comments what writerly things you are thankful for.

 

 

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Unexpected Surprises and Well-written Standards

Recently, I was watching NCIS. And within the first five minutes I pointed at a character and said “He did it.” If you watch TV dramas the villain is usually easy to detect. Unless the producers takes one of its beloved characters and turns them evil. I love it when I’m wrong. That unexpected twisted that reveals a more subtle character as the villain. Even if I know who done it I love to see how the clues unravel.

I read books the same way. If I can figure out the mystery too soon it can still hold my interest if the unraveled clues are well done. That can be the hardest part of writing a novel. Any genre of novel. The unexpected. I was reading Moment of Truth by Sandra Bicker recently. And I was deliciously surprised when Ragan was enjoying time at a book fair with her new boyfriend talking about their surrounding when she looks up and sees her ex. I did not see that coming. Loved all the emotion that exploded off the page. Emotions not even spoken of earlier. Wow! Great stuff!

The Unexpected

A key to great writing is to reveal the unexpected and catch the reader off guard. I love to read the comment “I didn’t see that coming” in the margins of my manuscript from my editor. If she didn’t see it coming I know my readers will love it.

Tension in Romance

When romance is involved whether in a mystery, thriller or a typical romance there is a formula. The typical love story has boy meets girl, boy and girl have issues, they draw close, wall comes up and then there is truth revealed. We know they are going to get together in the end but the sudden twists in their relationship make it a fun read. It doesn’t have to be earthshattering just unexpected. Being taken for granted. Too friendly with someone form the opposite sex. Or an old flame appearing on the scene. Even taking over a project from the heroine or taking her enemy’s side in an argument.

Excellent writing is the key to holding your audience

As long as the word craft carries us to the end with a satisfied sigh or an air fist bump the writer has achieved his goal. The next time you watch your favorite TV Drama or read a novel from your favorite author try to discover when the unexpected occurs.

What surprises have made a story you’ve read especially enjoyable?

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Bloody Detail Errors

What do you know about blood? Free Stock Photo

What do you know about blood?
Free Stock Photo

I saw two interesting but inaccurate things on two of my favorite TV dramas this week. I work as a receptionist at a blood center. I’ve been there for over a decade, and although I have no contact with the blood or drawing it, the company works hard to educate all of us about blood, blood products and procedures. I have learned more about blood than I even thought was possible to know, and there is still much, much more I don’t.

Blood collection requires specific skills.

Blood collection requires specific skills.

Detecting details through the eyes of experience

I share my background so you understand my comments. When my family watches TV shows, we notice details. Details from our own experience. My son, former army, will mention the military equipment for a foreign army in a battle scene is really US army issue. His experience makes him aware of inaccuracies.

My years working at a blood center makes me painfully aware of portrayals of blood banks on TV, in movies, and even in commercials. In a recent episode of one of my favorite shows I couldn’t help picking apart a scene where thugs rushed into a blood bank and stole rare blood. So many things were wrong with the scene. 1) Rare blood is not stored at your local blood collection center. All blood collected at small centers are shipped to their main office where the labs prepare it, and it is stored for hospital use. 2) Very rare blood types may be frozen and are usually not in large supplies.

Unrealistic settings and procedures

The scriptwriter did have a few things right. The donor was taken to a private room to go over his questions. It is not however referred to as an exam room, but a screening room. I’ve seen shows where the characters sit in the waiting room and discuss their answers to the questions. Never allowed to happen in real life. However, in this show the HEPA privacy issues were handled appropriately.

Another unrealistic issue: security. As I said, the rare blood would be stored at the main office. It would be tricky to steal the blood because we have lots of security protocols. And the blood is coded and refrigerated so it wouldn’t be easy for a laymen to choose the right blood bags.

Most viewers don’t know this and for the sake of the overall story line I can overlook their faux pas.

There is more to blood than O,A,B and Rh factors. But how that information is used in a scene is crucial to accuracy.

There is more to blood than O,A,B, AB and Rh factors. But how that information is used in a scene is crucial to accuracy.

Rare Blood type error

Last year all employees were taken on an extended tour of our labs and distribution center, carefully explaining the process of preparing blood. Additionally they shared lots of factors about rare blood types. One particular piece of information stuck out in my mind. There is an extremely rare blood type called Bombay. It is so rare that you would have to search a national database to see who has some frozen on hand. Bombay is unique to India. These individuals are not good candidates for type 0 negative—the universal donor. It could be fatal. Because it was identified among residents of Bombay, it is only reasonable to assume only people of Indian descent would have that blood type. Yet, the second drama I watched this past week had a white youth with this rare blood type getting a heart that gets stolen by a white criminal with the same blood type.

Again, very few people would know this. So, no one is going to call the producers of the show and complain. I, once again, overlooked this detail for the sake of the I-did-not-see-that-coming plot twist.

Sprinkle in the details along with the plot twists

If I were writing a scene in a blood center I would be more aware of the correct details. It would be a question of which details to share without boring the reader. As you research details for your novels and short stories decide how much detail to share and get it right. Readers can be taken out of the story if they catch your details lacking accuracy.

If you watch a favorite movie often enough, you catch weird details. My sister watched Tombstone often. She started counting the shots fired from the six-shooters in the OK Corral gunfight. One gun shot fourteen bullets. But in the minutes it takes to film the scene, the extra bullets are necessary to intensify the drama. The same is true of rare blood types and criminals. It ramps up the drama.

As you write your dramatic scenes and plot twists, sprinkle it with just enough disbelief to make it fun. Be careful not to deviate too far from actual facts; otherwise your readers may scoff and close the book. Or worse, give you a bad review because of it.

What inaccurate details have you found in a movie, TV show or book? How did it impact your enjoyment?