Visual Inspiration for the Writer’s life

 

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The custom framing was worth the price to remind me I need to continue this writing journey.

 

The writer’s life is a rollercoaster of emotions. We are on a high when our book gets published. A low when our sales are down, or we get a one-star review. We worry our next book won’t be as good as our last. We fear rejects and being a one hit wonder. Anxiety overwhelms us with marketing and putting ourselves out there.

Reminders

We all need to wrap ourselves in positive reminders. For me, it was custom framing my Serious Writer 1st place for Fiction Award. It’s not the Selah, Carol or Christy but I’m still pleased with it and it’s reminder, I am a writer. I’ll look at it and be encouraged. I’ve framed other award certificates as reminders. But I need to hang them on the wall.  Yes, I’ll admit it, they aren’t hanging in my office. (Sliding them in a drawer or a folder because they aren’t 1st place or have no trophy or medal connect with them is pointless.)  All of these awards need a place of visual prominence.  As a group they’ll inspire me to go for the gold in the future.

Atta girls

I love seeing 5-star reviews. I don’t read the 1-star reviews because they only instill doubt. Atta girls and compliments on my social media from fans and fellow-writers are so appreciated. Often I see them when my heart is in a dark place and words aren’t coming.

When people respond in the comment section on my blog, it’s encouraging. I need to know the time it takes to write these posts has value to my readers.

It’s human nature

I believe most writers feel the same.  If they say they don’t need accolades and don’t care what other think about their writing then they must do it for a hobby or they are lying. It’s human nature to want praise.

Praise is not a daily thing. Neither are 5-star reviews or awards. But having proof of my accomplishments in a place to view when my heart feels heavy over some aspect of my writing career helps. I’m reminded I can do this.

I lift my heart

For me the reminder causes me to take another step to bring me out of a negative place. I thank God for the gift of words he’s given me. I pray for his peace and confidence and seek his direction for my next project. And I thank him for the lovely encouragement he bestowed on me through these awards.

What visual aid keeps you focused on your goal to complete your next writing project?

 

 

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A Show of Hands

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I recently read a post on FB where writers were debating whether men put their hands on their hips. Some were adamant that they don’t, and others like myself knew they do based on my own male relatives and contacts. That conversation lead me to think about hands in general. How we describe them in our writing and when they become the center focus of a scene.

From a clean romance writer perspective, hands are often part of the romantic tension. How many ways can a couple hold hands?

Some examples:

  • Hands cupped together is less intimate than fingers entwined.
  • His thumb rubbing over her fingers, or her fingers feather light over the top of his hand are also intimate gestures.
  • His fingers tracing a pattern in her palm or her fingers roaming between his fingers as they sit and chat.

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    Clasped fingers are another romantic gesture.

 Hands play a big part in building romantic tension

A hand on the small of the back to guide a woman was considered good manners for centuries in America. But how much pressure is applied or the length it remains there can speak volumes. Is it a rough push or a gentle open palmed caress? The palm lingering long enough for the lady to notice can be either perceived as lecherous or loving.

In days gone by a man didn’t touch a woman’s ungloved hand. Women danced with gloves on.  Even the kissing of the hand was usually an air kiss or on the gloved hand. Bare skin touching was sensual.

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Hand squeezes

The amount of pressure on the hand can speak love, jealousy, anger or fear. All of the John Wayne/ Maureen O’Hara movies have the same an iconic scene repeated in each. Near the end of the movie John grabs Maureen’s hand and drags her home.  They make up and love blooms full.  Pretty sure in a modern story it wouldn’t be too believable.

  • A finger can stroke a wrist in a sensual fashion or put enough pressure on it to bruise.
  • A man whose wrestling with anger might fist his hands at his sides or dig his nails into his palms.
  • She can slap his face, scratch him or dig her nails into his palm while he holds her against her will.
  • He can apply a lot of pressure in a handshake to relay a message to his rival. Either: she’s mine, I’m the better man or even watch your back.

Hands aid tension

  • Arms and hands at the character’s side in surrender or as an act of defiance
  • In front of the face to cover a horrible sight or a laugh
  • Running through his hair in frustration
  • Fingers in his/her hair as part of a passionate kiss
  • She twists her hair between her fingers when thinking or worried
  • Moving a tendril of hair either their own or their love interests can attract attention or stir desire.
  • The position of a weapon in the hands of a character can tell the reader if they are frightened, determined or inexperienced.
  • An apparent calm character can reveal his fear with shaking hands.
  • Hanging by finger tips (we get what that indicates)
  • Hands on hips (female or male) usually relay aggravation or determination.
  • Hands grasping the arms as they’re crossed across the body can indicate both anger and fear.
  • Fingers trace objects to learn things like texture, density and temperature.
  • Those same fingers tracing skin can be looking for wounds, affection or a creepy outcome.

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Hands are essential in description.

Sometimes hands are implied. He raised the rifle. We know he didn’t use his toes.  He reached for her. Unless he is an amputee we know he used his hands and arms to reach.

Hands and fingers can help layer the tension romantically, help solve a mystery or aid in murder.

Can you add to my list?

 

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Let’s Get Sticky

I am in love with my very special guest and have been for over 45 years. Charles Huff is not only my wonderful husband, he’s a writer as well. His blog, Boosterclub, focuses on insights from the Scripture and his own life lessons. He has a book shelf dedicated to biographies of famous and infamous people.  Today, I’ve asked him to share some writing insights from the life of Winston Churchill.

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Sticky Statements

Have you heard of sticky sentences? That’s cardiac arrest for our masterpieces, right? Those are the sentences that drag your readers to a stop. I am betting you’ve heard the instruction to be ruthless in self-editing as you strive to eliminate many reader distractions. So, why am I calling us to get sticky? Because I recently learned about sticky statements (not to be confused with those pesky sticky sentences). Sticky statements are those words you want to stick to your audience long after they have read your article or book or listened to your speech. They should move, motivate or be memorable—whether in non-fiction or fiction.

I think sometimes they happen by accident. I remember some classic lines from movies we’ve been told were delivered by an actor off-script. Many months ago, my critique partners pulled out a line I had written rather off the cuff. They held it up as the most powerful line in the story. So, why work so hard at it? Well, because of a surprise history lesson I received.

Darkest Hour

My wife gave me a copy of the book Darkest Hour by Anthony McCarten after we had seen the movie. Intentional or not, McCarten gave us writers this crafting lesson about sticky statements from Winston Churchill. (The movie doesn’t express it, so read the book!

In the beginning we are introduced to a young Churchill. He’s a bit introverted and insecure. His insecurity grew as his leadership opportunities ended in disaster for England. He appeared to be the worst choice to hold any leadership position in government. When his name rose to the top consideration for Prime Minister, members of Parliament cringed at the thought. The king opposed him. But, they could not find anyone else. They seriously considered paying Hitler off through surrendering territories to him. They wanted to avoid war on their soil.

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Winston Churchill

 

Words hold tremendous power

How did such a man end up being a world hero? One of Churchill’s qualities and practices stands out as a primary reason. He ruthlessly self-edited, striving for sticky statements. McCarten explains that at age 22 Churchill immersed himself in the classics, reading Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. At age 23, he wrote an essay he called “The Scaffolding of Rhetoric.” He was convinced words held tremendous power when handled carefully. His own ruthless editing gave rise to the reputation that he spent one hour of preparation for each minute of a speech.

He seeded his speeches with tension, let anticipation rise, gave small payoffs only to create new tension. He kept his audiences engrossed through each rise and fall until he knew they were ready to jump to their feet. His conclusions were sharpened and driven home with his audiences through his word choice. They must be words that carried emotion. They had to be in the right order. He practiced in his room, pacing, pausing, gesticulating. Churchill often dropped them into conversations with others to gage the reactions and then change his speech accordingly.

History declares how well it paid off. Great Britain prepared to buckle before the military might of Hitler’s Germany until May 13, 1940. Churchill stood before the House of Commons (and in truth before the nation) and spoke the words that changed the heart of each of his countrymen. “I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

He ended with defining his aim: “I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

 

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Churchill inspired a nation. Every available boat was manned and  crossed the English Channel to rescue 340,000 soldiers.

 

He used his skills to convince the King of France not to surrender. He spoke with field commanders facing impossible odds to continue to the last man so the evacuation of Dunkirk would succeed. His carefully chosen words breathed courage and determination into men facing certain death. But for one man laboring over ruthless editing and sticky statements, the world would be a different place today.

We may never write anything that would have a world-changing impact. But we have the power to impact someone’s world. Sometimes you need to get sticky.

About Mr. Wonderful

See more of Charles Huff’s writings at www.chashuff.wordpress.com where he offers encouragement toward the abundant life Jesus promised. He is part of two anthologies: James Stuart Bell’s Gifts from Heaven: True Stories of Miraculous Answers to Prayer and Susan King’s Short and Sweet, Too. He has devotionals published at www.christiandevotions.us and The Upper Room. He and his wife are charter members of Word Weavers International of Aurora, Illinois.

What words from a book, movie or speech have inspired you? What is your process to create powerful words?

 

 

 

 

Writing When Your World is Out of Control

 

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Photo courtesy of morguefile

 

I had a dream that my writing time was uninterrupted. No family drama or emergency took me away from my words. I stayed on task. All the items on my checklist from blogs, to edits to marketing were completed. Then the alarm went off and I woke to reality. And I’m not alone in the real world of writing during crisis. Several writer friends requested prayer or shared their own struggles with meeting deadlines while family tragedies formed around them.

 

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Photo courtesy of morguefile

 

Some are dealing with aging parents and Alzheimer, illness, or tough things with their adult children. Others, it’s teens in rebellion, little ones with special needs, spouses in the hospital and the list goes on.

We will have trials

We don’t get to quit our day jobs to deal with most of this stuff, and our writing is just as important. But we can adjust. One author writes only hundreds of words daily rather than thousands as she waits by the bedside of her ailing mother.

Taking the laptop to the library to distance oneself from family drama for a few hours a day is one way we writers cope.  Unfortunate circumstances beyond our control amplify the adage, “there is no perfect time to start writing.”

Jesus reminds us that in this world we will have trials. And as a Christian the second half of the verse rings true for me. He says, “I have overcome the world”. Praying and seeking His peace and clarity is so crucial during family drama.

Keep a journal

No, this is not the time to write about the trial.  You’re too close and your emotions too raw. Keep a journal or open a file on your computer and dump all your emotions there. Someday in the distant future all that angst will be fodder for a novel, article, or how-to-endure-family-drama book.

Keep moving forward

For now, you just put one foot in front of the other. Decide what things you need to let go while you deal with the emotional, physical or legal things associated with your trial. I hired a lawyer to deal with all the paperwork for my aging parents. After my father passed, my mother is happy in her assisted living facility. My son’s family lives with us at present and there are times we are responsible for the granddaughters. Drama at work can drain my energy reducing the number of writerly things I get done at the end of the day.  Individually, these are only mild hiccups, but when they all come at you like a flood it can send your writing schedule out to sea. And you find yourself struggling to catch a breath and regroup.

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Once I established a way to deal with the small stuff the large chaotic surprises have a basic pattern to follow.

  • A few hundred words a day is better than none.
  • Go to the library or a café for a few hours to work
  • Turn off your cell phone if possible
  • Don’t accept a large project during a family drama
  • Have someone double check your work before submitting because your focus may be skewed now.
  • Ask for extensions but keep writing as if you don’t have one.
  • Reach out to family and friends for help. Don’t be a super hero. Not only will your writing suffer, but also those you care about most.

Anyone care to add to this list? I’d love to hear how you cope with big and small potholes along your writing journey.

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