Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Finish with a Bang!

I am a list making, goal setting, day planner kind of girl. I am. I love mapping out a course of action to get everything on my list completed. It dawned on me that next week I will post the first blog entry for the month of October. I am only three months away from my one year anniversary as a blogger.

Time to make a list. Time to set some goals. Time to open up the calendar and map out the last three months of 2013. As a result, I have decided to share with you my goals as a writer for the next three months.  It’s a risky proposition. Making my objectives public makes me even more accountable to get the job done.

Why write these now?
Somehow, I think drafting goals now is even more important and productive than making a set of resolutions at the beginning of the year. The time frame is short. I am more likely to hang in there and finish what I start. Also, without a plan, it would be easy to get caught up in Fall activities, Thanksgiving preparation, and everything Christmas.

With all of that said, I present to you…(insert the drumroll in your head here) my end of the year writing goals! Ta-Da!


·      Finish edits and revisions for Breathing on Her Own
·      Draft two short stories related to my characters in Breathing on Her Own
·      Finish and submit two stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul “Living with Alzheimers and Other Dementias” (Due October 15)
·      Revise Livvie’s Cuppa Joe using everything I’ve learned through Breathing on Her Own
·      Keep up my blog


·      Draft two more short stories related to my characters in Breathing on Her Own
·      Finish and submit two short stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul “Home Sweet Home” (Due November 30)
·      Revise and edit the two children’s books I have drafted
·      Research conferences aimed at writing for children
·      Read blogs by writers of picture books
·      Keep up my blog


·      Draft two more short stories related to my characters in Breathing on Her Own
·      Draft two stories for Chicken Soup for the Soul “The Dog Did What?” (Due Jan 5, 2014)
·      Work with my critique group to polish my picture books
·      Outline my third novel—my writing project for 2014
·      Keep up my blog

A Closer Look
 As you can see, I have a lot of process words like “research,” “draft”, “edit,” and “revise.” Writing is a process. And while you may easily understand most of my list, I want to highlight a few of the items you see there and explain my thinking.

Short Stories Related to My Characters in Breathing on Her Own
 As you know, I have a contract for my first novel. I am working with my editor to ready it for publication. I must say it is a lot of work but still pretty exciting stuff. My publisher has given me a projected release date of March 2014.

I want to write a series of short stories featuring the characters in my book. I want to publish the stories on a blog site so readers can begin to get to know my characters. I have already started writing the stories. I am planning for one a week for eight weeks prior to the release of my book. A real benefit of this for me is that it  is keeping me grounded in the story as I edit. What do you think? Would you like to meet Molly and Travis?

Chicken Soup for the Soul
I have listed two Chicken Soup for the Soul submissions for each month. I have been using their topics list to practice my writing. I can’t always write about everything they put out there, but I try to think of real stories from my life to write at least one or two entries a month. Do they get published? Actually yes. And no. I have had two stories accepted. That’s great, but not the point. I take the each topic as an assignment with a deadline. When I think I’ve hit on a good story, I submit it. The regular exercise keeps my writing muscle in shape. The other benefit is that I get to write about real life situations I have experienced. Not just the fictional ones I create for the characters in my novels.

Would you like to give it a try? Click on the link below to see if you have a story to meet their needs.

Children’s Books

Ahh…children’s books. No, that did not come out of nowhere. I worked in the field of education for…well…let’s just say a long time. I have three daughters and seven grandchildren. I love picture books. I always thought I would write books for children when I retired from education. God had a different plan. I am not ready to give up writing the novels I believe He wants me to write, but I have two stories I believe need to be completed.

Oh, and the goal about keeping up my blog? That one is easy. I look forward to it.

What goals do you have to finish out 2013?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Four Letter Word I Must Avoid in My Writing

I hope I didn’t shock you with the title. Then again, maybe a little shock treatment is in order.

Since I started writing this blog, I have spent considerable time each week studying and learning my craft. It’s a process.

Writing is a Learning Process 

I read blogs about writing. I take notes from my critique group. I listen carefully to my editor. During the course of the year, I have encountered at least six blogs and had at least three discussions with my fellow writers about words and phrases authors use that weaken their writing. I have researched the topic and read several good articles on strengthening my writing.

I never professed to be a quick learner.

A week or so ago, my editor made a note along the side of my manuscript. It read, in effect, never use the word “just.” Avoid it.


I knew that.

I knew it, I just didn’t put it into practice.

Just is a four letter word (literally) that serves only to weaken your writing. I took the lesson to heart and applied those words of wisdom not only to my first novel, but also to my current Work In Progress (WIP): Livvie’s Cuppa Joe.

I typed the word “just” into the window allowing me to “Search in Document.” Want to take a guess at how many times I employed the offensive word? Ninety-six times. That means there are ninety-six sentences in my story where my writing is not as strong as I like it.

A few I’ll keep. I’ll keep the word if it is absolutely necessary to carry the meaning of the sentence. I may keep one or two in dialogue.  I’ll delete most of them and some of them I’ll change, finding a new word that enhances the meaning of the text and drives the story forward. 

Would you like to sit in on the edits?

Here are a few examples. in each I show the original (old) and my revised version (new):

#1 For this passage, I deleted the word. The meaning remains intact. The writing is stronger for it.

 “No dinner. No food. They just sold plain old coffee, but had a great business doing it. My dad says I should just keep things status quo for a while,”Sonja told her friend. (old)

 “No dinner. No food. They sold plain old coffee, but had a great business doing it. My dad says I should keep things status quo for a while,” Sonja told her friend. (new)

#2 In this example, I deleted the word, but also split the sentence.

At the Pavilion, some of her aunt friends were playing cards and others were just sitting around tables talking. (old)

At the Pavilion, some of her aunt’s friends were playing cards. Others were sitting around the tables talking. (new)

# 3 Try these next three on your own. What would you do? Do you need the word “just” to make the sentence work?

Sonja wasn’t sure about the fourth building. It appeared to be just a house. There was no sign out front, only a white picket fence.

Cassie arrived on the doorstep of the coffee shop promptly at four o’clock just as Joan had predicted.

“So what did Joe do for baked goods last summer?” Sonja began wrapping the tea sets in newspaper and carefully placing it in a box that had just this morning contained Sonja’s collection of sweaters.

“Just” seems to be a word I hold dear. I’m learning to let go.

Below, I’ve listed a couple of sites you may find helpful in identifying words and phrases that weaken your own writing. The first offers replacements.

Jeff Goins+ examines five words that should be avoided in your writing.

Hold your current WIP up to the magnifying glass and see what words and phrases keep cropping up for you.

Then scroll down to the comment section and share those problem words you use and abuse. It should be fun to see the list we create.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Over Writers Anonymous

Author Mark Twain
“A successful book is not made of what is in it,
but what is left out of it.” --Mark Twain

I’ve been working with my editor to ready my first novel for publication. Most of my chapters have been around nine or ten pages long. I didn’t really notice chapter length until my editor pointed it out.

Then I hit Chapter 11 –no, not financial bankruptcy. If you read my blog last week you may have guessed I am speaking of running out of words. Nope, not that either. This had to do with surplus. This week it was a surplus of words. The overuse of meaningless description.

Thirty-three pages of discourse crammed into one chapter.

I decided I suffer from a disorder prominent among emergent writers.

My name is Rebecca and I am an Over Writer.

I can see everything about the story in my mind’s eye and I want to include it all. If my character goes to the store, I feel compelled to tell my reader why she went, how she got there, what she is going to buy and who is taking care of the children while she is away. I wind up describing the store, the winters in Ohio, the date written on the calendar. Everything.  I take two pages to say, in essence:

Leaving the children behind with her frail grandmother, Becky made her way to the store over the icy roads. Her small car slid into the parking lot and came to a stop near the door of the nearly deserted supermarket. Becky prayed the shelves would not be void of the milk and medicine she needed for her family.

I am learning a new lesson in trusting my readers to read between the lines. I don’t have to tell them ever little detail. Sometimes those bits of information are necessary. Sometimes they interfere with keeping the story moving.  

Who cares if it is February 16? Do you really need to know her full grocery list? How many cars are in the parking lot? That it is 8:00AM or 8:00PM? The reader doesn’t need to be bogged down with meaningless details, only those elements that serve to move the story along.

Learn About Writing Through Reading

I am currently reading a novel based on a true story. It is a sweet account of a budding romance between a young couple a few weeks before Pearl Harbor is bombed and their brief marriage before he goes off to war and ultimately dies on the battlefield.

I appreciate some of the details the author has included to inform me about life during that era. However, I find myself skimming those details not essential to the story. I don’t need to know the layout of the stores in town. I don’t need to know the names of roads unless they hold meaning to the story. Those details may be interesting to someone who lived in that area at that time, but not to most readers.

Lesson learned. I do not want my readers tuning out. Skimming.

The Task at Hand

I returned to Chapter 11 of my book and started cutting, tightening, moving, reorganizing, and rewriting. The reworking of this chapter led to reworking Chapters 12 and 13 as well.

I am taking this lesson to my current work. I am going through my story set in Door County and trying to clean it up. I cannot guarantee I will not over write again. It is in my DNA.

I do know this: I am not alone. Maybe I need to form a support group for over writers. Over Writers Anonymous. But there really isn’t a need for that. Writing critique groups, writing coaches, and editors can help keep me in line as I continue to learn through this process of writing.

Where do you find your support?