Merry Christmas!

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Take time from your writing to enjoy the wonders of our Blessed Lord and the joy of family gatherings.

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Add Persistence to Your Writing Toolbox

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.

~Octavia Butler

 

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No matter what persist at your writing task. Do what is necessary to reach your goals.

 

 

After running across this quote I looked up the word persist online.  Webster’s definition is powerful.

Persist:  to go on resolutely or stubbornly despite opposition, importunity, or warning

 2: obsolete:  to remain unchanged or fixed in a specified character, condition, or position

3:  to be insistent in the repetition or pressing of an utterance (as a question or an opinion)

4:  to continue to exist especially past a usual, expected, or normal time.

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What a great tool to have in our writer’s toolbox. The definition reminds me of the inventor Charles Goodyear. A self-taught chemist, who used up all his financial resources, spent every waking moment and sacrificed his family in order to create vulcanized rubber. After years of failed experiments, he found the right formula when his concoction overheated and boiled over. The rubber that spilled on the top pf the stove is the basis for modern rubber used in tires, rain boots, watertight seals and hundreds of other products.

I am not advocating abandoning family in pursuit of publication. But his persistence is a measuring stick to encourage us all to keep pressing in.

Persistence is an attribute every successful author has. I know of none who wrote their first draft, published it and made millions. Even debut authors who hit the best-seller list took years writing. Not to mention, rewriting and shoveling out piles of disgusting prose to reshape their words into the masterpiece the public reads.

Our first draft is our babies. They can’t stand on their own. Too many adjectives, weak verbs and head hopping to make smooth transitions from scene to scene.

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Be persistent in maturing your newborn novel for publication.

 

Even final drafts, whether that is three or thirty go through rewrites based on the publisher’s requests. Persistence helps us read that manuscript one more time and find a creative way to satisfy the publisher.

As 2016 winds down and 2017 is just days away I think persistence is going to be my go-to attitude in every aspect of my writing life. Persistent in my time-management. Persistent in meeting deadlines. Persistent in continuing to learn the craft and in paying it forward as I promote other authors. Persevering in my marketing and finding opportunities to promote my work. (Not my strong suit.)

How about you? Is persistence something you’ve embraced or are you still working on it?

A Traditional Holiday Treat for My Readers

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As a gift to my readers and in keeping with the Holiday Season I thought I’d repost an article I wrote for examiner.com a few years ago about my family’s favorite homemade Christmas treat.  Traditional treats are part of every Christmas celebration around the world. Even in our make-believe ones.  Perhaps one of your characters might want to prepare this delicious candy. 🙂

Looking for an easy candy treat that looks and taste decadent to add to your Christmas sweets. I offer you a recipe that has been in my husband’s family for 50 plus years.  He introduced this treat to me our first Christmas. Over the years all of our children have helped make this candy, and it just isn’t Christmas without it. We have given it as gifts, and it’s the centerpiece of Holiday parties.  This recipe has been modified for the modern cook. Rather than shelling pounds of pecans and mixing paraffin with chocolate chips, buy chopped pecans and almond bark or other dipping chocolate reducing the preparation time to minutes instead of hours.

This coconut ball recipe is easy enough that little hands can help. There is also the additional option of dipping the coconut balls after a few hours for a creamy texture or let them dry overnight for a firmer center.

Coconut Balls

2 pounds powdered sugar

1 can Eagle Brand Milk

1 large package (14 ounces) Angel Flake Coconut

1 pound chopped pecans

½ cup margarine

1 tsp vanilla

First, melt the margarine and remove from heat, then add Eagle Brand Milk, vanilla, powdered sugar, coconut, and pecans in that order. (If mixture gets stiff you can reheat slightly.) Roll mixture into one inch balls and place on wax paper to dry. You can either let dry a few hours or leave overnight before dipping in chocolate. Be sure they are completely cooled.

Prepare Dipping chocolate or Almond Bark according to package directions.  Melting almond bark in the microwave works great and is less messy that a double boiler. Melt 1 ½ pounds of almond bark or dipping chocolate. Dip each coconut ball in chocolate and place on wax paper.

(The original recipe called for 1 pound package chocolate chips and ¼ pound of paraffin melted in a double boiler. You have to make sure the water is hot enough and keep stirring. Too much paraffin and it tastes waxy, not enough and the chocolate doesn’t coat well.)

 

What’s your family’s traditional holiday treat? Share it in the comments. Maybe my characters would love to make it. 🙂

 

 

Be like Bull in Developing Your Characters

bull-posterThere’s a new show on CBS that parallels the writing life. Bull stars Michael Weatherly (NCIS) as a psychologist who specializes in trial science. The science of getting in the heads of jurors to help present a case you can win. Bull and his team take on cases of innocent people (of course I suppose trial science can be used to help the guilty get off.) and analyzes what is needed for those individuals to be found not guilty when the media and initial evidence points to their guilt.

Dr. Bull preps the defense counsel on what questions to ask during jury selection to find jurors who will be sympathetic to his client. After the jury is selected he hires people to be a mirror jury. Each juror’s personality, convictions, and worldview are matched to the real jurors to create a fake replica jury. Bull’s team have mock trails to discover what the outcome would be based on various scenarios.  What is in the background or character makeup of each real juror that could influence the verdict and how can they present the case and the client to these twelve to gain their confidence for a not guilty verdict. Fascinating stuff.

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As a writer, we create characters we want our readers to sympathize with. Otherwise, they won’t read to the end. We need to dig deep as we create our characters and find out what is their underlying motivation. They must be more than one-dimensional. If your heroine had an FB page what would she post? How are your hero’s finances and do your characters love their jobs? We need to get into their heads. Did the protagonist have a wonderful childhood or is there a family secret that taints his view of the world.

Bulls team digs into the background of each juror and based on that information creates a profile on how they would probably respond to various pieces of evidence and information shared during the trial. A recent episode was a malpractice trial. The doctor was a brilliant physician but an egotistical jerk. The patient was suing because a lifesaving hysterectomy prevented her from ever having children. She felt it could have been avoided. The sympathy of the jury squarely with the patient.

Challenge of winning over the reader

Of course, Bull’s team discovered the special machine used to do the surgery was the culprit that caused the excess bleeding that led to the doctor’s decision. The challenge was to get the jury to look beyond the doctor’s arrogance to be open to the idea the manufacturers of the surgical equipment were at fault. The doctor had to allow himself to be vulnerable on the stand. The dramatic scene with the doctor admitting he only has one talent—being  a surgeon—but he lacks people skills in every area of his life. It wins the jury to his side.

Our characters must win over our readers. The cranky old guy should reveal how much he misses his son who died in the war. The addicted mother needs to share with her daughter what pushed her over the edge. The fiancé admits his fear of being a father because his dad was abusive.

Keep up with social media and current events to create believable characters

Research into each juror helps Bull craft questions for the lawyer to bring the desired result. We writer’s need to know what our readers want. What questions are we seeing on TV and social media? What is trending? Those are the things that make for fresh plots. Things that address real or perceived needs. Settings and situations that make the reader curious. A friend of mine has her character building a tiny house. Another author explored negative mothering that left the heroine struggling with self-worth.  Reality shows are all the rage and those settings can make for interesting plot twists whether romance or murder. Again, the types of characters populating these settings draw the reader to follow your story to the end.

Each episode of Bull ends on a high note for the client and a takeaway lesson. Our novels need the same sort of conclusion. And if our characters are relatable to our reader the conclusion will meet the felt need. And just as I look forward to the next episode of Bull, your readers will anxiously await your next novel.

How do your characters mirror life?

How do you build character’s your readers relate too?

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Let’s Talk Dialogue

Monday is not my normal blog day. But I just had to reblog Linda Yezak’s excellent post on dialogue.

Linda W. Yezak

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Ever since our vocabulary extended beyond “Mama” and “Dada,” most of us have been engaged in verbal communication, although true communication is rarely limited to voice alone. Human dialogue, human interaction, is a complex series of mechanisms that dictate how information is communicated and received. It isn’t as simple as one person talking and another listening. Communication embodies the entirety of each person involved in the conversation:

  • Personal Background and Experiences
  • Personal Influencers–family, friends, workmates, casual companions
  • Attitude
  • Biases
  • General Emotional Framework

Information is presented by the speaker from the basis of who he is, but it’s not limited to what he says. Other factors either clarify his words or confuse the listener:

  • Tone of Voice
  • Body Language/Physical Stance
  • Facial Expressions
  • Gestures
  • Current Environment/Situation

During conversation, the speaker can gauge whether his message is being received as intended by regarding the listener’s body language/physical stance and facial expression–two elements of…

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No Guilt Over Missed Writing Goals

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Up until a few months ago, I’ve been consistent on my blog posts. Twice a week was my goal this year. A few weeks I only posted once and a few others it was three because I reblogged a great post I found. Then my father fell at the nursing home, spent time in the hospital then died. Before I could begin the grieving process, my parent’s home sold and we had to move my mom to Assisted Living. Two months later, after my dad’s memorial, the house closing, and my mom securely relocated; I’m beginning to breathe normally again. During this time, I did write. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t bring myself to post anything. I wrote two blogs which will be appearing the next few days.  The normalcy of posting a blog was just too hard. Finding things to inspire fellow writers when my heart was heavy just wasn’t happening.

The weird thing, I created a new storyline for a novella and submitted the proposal. It didn’t come to anything but it soothed my writing soul. It took me weeks to come up with the right words to honor my father at his memorial. Both projects were out of my comfort zone at that time.

Now, at last, I feel I can blog again. No guilt or condemnation. The feeling of inadequacy has passed. Now I begin again. I love the Lucy Maude Montgomery quote from Anne of Green Gables: “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.”

I make no apologies to my readers. I know you all understand. We all fall when bumps in the road of life rise and send us flying. But in due time we begin again. We pick up our pen or put our fingers to the keyboard and let the words flow. We even edit, tweak and rewrite and finally submit our words.

As I have mentioned in the past. I rarely share about personal things on my blog. But grief is something we all will face and I want to encourage all of you. Don’t receive the guilt. Don’t lay down with the disappointment of missing your goal at a time like this. Let God set the course for you to beginning afresh. Allow him to take you to the next open door in your writing in his time. He knows when you are ready.