Blume On Writing

I haven’t read a book by Judy Blume in ages, but in the course of researching an upcoming writing post, I stumbled upon her website. Actually, ‘stumbled upon’ is not the right phrase because although it seemed like an accidental discovery, I believe it was God’s way of encouraging me.

As I work on my novel, I worry that I’m not doing it the right way, even though I know there is no right or wrong way. Sometimes I wish I had a detailed outline of the entire book instead of a loose sketch of ideas. Sometimes I wonder if there’s any hope for a novel that begins without a solid ending.

Imagine my joy upon reading Judy’s writing tip on style –

I know where I’m starting and where I’m going but I never know what’s going to happen in the middle or if the ending will be what I imagined on the day I began to write. It’s the surprise that makes writing exciting for me.

These two simple sentences made my day. Knowing my writing method is just like Judy Blume’s erases all my anxieties about how I’m writing my novel. Hearing from a writer I’ve admired for years that there is no wrong or right way to approach writing a novel gives me complete assurance in my process.

Here is a list of other tips from Judy:

  • Keep a notebook and fill it with ideas for your story – dialogue, descriptions, details, and more details. (I’ve been doing this and I love it!)
  • “The best books come from someplace deep inside.”
  • Rewriting can be fun.
  • Read your work aloud.
  • Judy didn’t have an agent until she had already published three books. Her advice on finding an agent is to simply pick a name that appeals to you and send samples of your work.
  • Get used to rejection and criticism. Don’t let it discourage you. (Easier said than done right? But surprisingly, the more it happens, the less it hurts.)

After visiting her website, I had a few realizations of my own:

  • All authors should have a blog. As a reader I love getting a glimpse into the personal life of a writer I admire. Any tips or thoughts on writing that they share are golden nuggets of wisdom I take to heart. As I said at the beginning of this post, I haven’t read a Judy Blume book in years, but after reading her personal diary of the May 1998 book tour for Summer Sisters, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!
  • It’s okay to share personal things on a blog. As a reader, personal tidbits help me relate to the writer. The more connected I feel to the writer, the more I’m going to visit the blog.
  • Writing a novel takes time. It requires patience, discipline and determination. While I’m short on patience, running keeps me disciplined and determined. I’ve got what it takes to stick with it.
  • Writing is not something I ‘want’ to do; it’s something I’m compelled to do.

Do you know of other well-known authors with websites? Do they share tips and thoughts on writing? Share the link in a comment!

Just when I thought I had blogging figured out…

I realize I still don’t have a clue!

It still bothers me every day that I don’t have a single focus for this blog. Edited: Thanks to Alana of writercize I’ve come up with a blogging schedule to give it more focus. Check the schedule out in the sidebar or click on the link at the top of my blog.

Following a blog does not necessarily mean reading a blog. Arlee Bird has a post about following and I learned a lot from the post and the comments – Tossing It Out

Adventuroo has a great post about types of comments and I wanted to pass it along to my readers who are also newbie bloggers.

A blog MUST be reader friendly. What is reader friendly?

  • No white text on black backgrounds. Oops! My background is brown with a grey text. I do not find it hard to read or hard on the eyes; however do you? Seriously, I want to know. Edited: I changed it to black text on white background because of the overwhelming consensus in the blogging world that it’s better.
  • A header that tells your reader what your blog is about. I think I’ve accomplished this; what do you think? Edited: I will probably be changing my header shortly as I don’t like it as much on a white background.
  • Fast loading. My blog loads within the 4 second rule on my computer; what about yours?
  • No Cluttered sidebars. I removed my weather widget. While I liked it, I realized my readers do not care what the weather is like in my neck of the woods. Sidebar content should help the reader navigate your site and find content.
  • Do you have word verification on your comments? Turn it off! Most agree that this limits your feedback. I installed a plugin to catch spam comments and I’ve read that Blogger has automatic spam detection so you don’t need word verification to prevent spam comments.

I learned a lot from Mel @ Adventuroo
Thanks to her I’ve added some features that I believe will benefit readers, especially if they comment. For instance, when you comment (Edited: and check the box marked comment luv), a link to your latest blog post should appear (I say should because this post is actually a test to see if it works). Readers should also be able to leave their Twitter address.

I would sincerely appreciate any suggestions on how to improve the readability of my blog. I can take criticism so don’t be shy.

Fun Character Exercise

On her blog The Write Soil Dawn discussed the importance of naming your character – What’s in a Name . This post really got me thinking about my deepest, darkest, secret -my book. That’s right; I’ve written an entire book -in my head. I’ve been too afraid to actually put the words down on paper or type them on the computer screen. But no more! It’s time I got over my fear and set my story free!

 

Like Dawn said, “character names are very important for stories”. I think I have the perfect name for my character; I think I’m on the right track, but perhaps I haven’t done enough homework on the matter. Enter one of my favorite ‘how to write’ books – How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof. If you aren’t familiar with Janet Evanovich, she writes a mystery series featuring main character Stephanie Plum, and the novels are beyond entertaining with characters you can’t help but love and humor that makes you laugh out loud!

 

Here are some of the tips on creating great characters from Janet Evanovich’s book:

 

  • It’s critical to have memorable characters.
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  • Go beyond describing physical attributes, what he/she does or and where he/she goes.
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  • Bring your character to life by motivating them and giving them personalities that set them apart from any other character.
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  • Tell your reader everything about your character – where he/she’s been; where he/she’s headed, what he/she’s all about.
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  • Do this through your character’s actions, decisions, and choices.
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  • Never be ambivalent about your character – make your reader feel something for your character.
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  • Study the people around you for inspiration.
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  • The main character must want something.
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  • Someone or something must stand in the way of getting what they want.
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  • The choices that characters make in their efforts to overcome obstacles and ultimately get what they want define who they are.
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  • For believable characters, pay close attention to the details you use to describe them. Make sure these details are relevant and appropriate to your story.
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  • Make the characters’ dialogue and actions unique to them.
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  • It’s okay to exaggerate your character’s actions to make him/her a little bit bigger than life, or funnier, or scarier.
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  • Early in the book show the following for each main character : physical characteristics, background or history, and ethics and morals.
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I’ve gotten to know my main character very well over the past few years; after all, she’s been constantly lurking around my mind, practically begging to be released. However, it never hurts to try and learn more about her. Enter Alison Pearce Stevens and Super Snooper Blogfest This took place yesterday, but better late than never and I hope Dawn will join me in this exercise!

 

Instructions: Describe a setting that tells us something about your character’s personality. Characters can be of any age, living in any time or place. But don’t tell us about the character, tell us about his or her stuff. We’ll get to know the character from what you write.

 

My setting:

 

Beads from every color of the rainbow hang from the dresser mirror that reflects the room’s chaos. The purple suitcase lay open on the unmade bed. It is filled to overflowing with jeans, graphic t-shirts, hoodies, and pajama pants in a multitude of patterns: polka dots, plaid, monkeys, cats in ballerina tutus. Hanging on the closet door are a purple dress with ruffles, a pink and orange striped sun dress and a hunter-green polyester jumper. Lined up in a row by the side of the twin bed are an array of flip-flops in vibrant colors, a pair of sneakers decorated with peace signs, a pair of sneakers decorated with hearts, a plain brown pair of sandals, a pair of shiny, never-been-worn black slip-ons and a sad pair of worn-out bunny slippers.

 

Any guesses on what my character is like?

 

I’m blogging; now what?

Once I created a blog, decided on a layout and made a few posts, I wondered if anyone would ever stumble upon my blog and read it! There are millions of blogs out there! Since I started this blog at the same time other women in a writing group I belong to started their blogs, I knew at least two people were reading! What did I need to do to get a larger audience? Blogs have made it so easy to ‘publish’ , but it’s not as easy to get people to read what I’ve written!

 

I asked my husband what I needed to do, and he answered with ‘keywords’ and ‘site indexes’. I didn’t really follow, but to question him further would have risked his put-upon sigh and ‘the look’ – the one he always gives me when I prove to be an idiot in his eyes.

 

So I did what I always do these days when I have a question, I googled. Boy! What a tremendous amount of information on this subject! I read various articles and kept notes.

 

Here is a summary of what I learned:

 

  • Determine a focus for your blog.
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  • Write for an audience, even though it may take a year or more to build an audience.
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  • Write content that is useful to readers and well-written.
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  • Write in your own style – dare to be different and interesting.
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  • Provide context in your posts so that if they are read a year from now, the reader can still follow along.
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  • Give background information and source information when appropriate, but don’t overwhelm your post with links.
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  • Edit your posts. Everything you ever learned about good writing applies to blog writing as well.
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  • Include block-quotes, indentation, bullet points, pictures, and/or illustrations to make your posts visually appealing and easy to read.
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  • Stick to one topic per post and keep posts within a reasonable length – not too long and not too short.
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  • The title of your post should accurately describe what your post is about – be catchy but not outrageous.
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  • Post often. Blogging is a long term investment. Don’t give up. An active blog has better chance of being noticed.
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  • Use lists.
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  • Use keywords throughout a post, especially in the introduction.
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  • Tag your posts with keywords.
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  • Follow other blogs with a similar focus.
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  • Follow other well-written blogs on any subject.
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  • Comment on blogs in your field.
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  • Reply to comments on your blog.
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  • Exchange link backs with fellow bloggers, which means mention a post by another blogger and provide a link. Ideally, in turn, the other blogger will mention your post and provide a link.
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  • Get your blog linked on blogrolls.
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  • Submit your blog’s url to major search engines like Google and Yahoo: Try this link http://weblogs.about.com/od/marketingablog/qt/SearchEngineSub.htm
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  • Remember it could take weeks for a search engine to index your blog and you might not make the first page of results when you search a keyword from your blog.
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  • Thechristianwoman.com has a list of blogs by Christian women, and at one point you could submit your blog for the list, but it’s closed now. Maybe there’s an active list of blogs by Christian women out there somewhere. I haven’t found it yet. If you know of one, I’d love the link.
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  • Activate the RSS feed on your blog, which can be done from the administration page for your blog.
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  • I believe what my husband was talking about was SEO, which means Search Engine Optimization; however, I don’t have a handle on this yet! I’ll keep trying to figure it out.
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I created this list for my own reference, but perhaps it will be helpful to other members of my writing group.

 

Do you have any ideas I can add to this list?

7 Tips to deal with seasonal depression

In my earlier post, http://pocketfulofplaydough.pageek.com/wordpress/?p=13 I explained how God used running to help me overcome the depression that has always plagued me during the wintertime. Since then I’ve come up with some additional tips to beat the winter blues and blahs.

  1. Pray!
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  3. Remember there is a reason for this season. Without the winter, we wouldn’t get the beauties or joys of the spring, summer and fall seasons. Read Ecclesiastes 3:1 ‘There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens…’
    I think everyone knows this verse thanks to Pete Seeger’s song. Do you have another verse in mind? I’d love it if you shared it!
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  5. Get outside! If running isn’t an option, what about a walk? How about wrapping up in a cozy blanket or quilt and taking a hot mug of steaming cocoa, coffee or tea out onto the porch? Sit down, lift your face to the sun and breathe in the crisp cool air. Look around at your surroundings and make a point to find something beautiful.
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  7. In the spring and summer I enjoy strolling through the yard, admiring the plants and flowers I’ve managed to grow. This winter I decided to continue strolling. I have 8 delicate Hybrid Tea Roses who need a lot of care and attention. This year I’m going to try speaking to my flowers. So I’ve started giving my roses an early pep talk. While I’m at it, I take a moment to clear out any debris from the flowerbeds saving myself some work later on, but only taking a few minutes of my time now.
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  9. Three things: roaring fire, grilled-cheese, tomato soup!
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  11. *If it’s a particularly cold, bitter day with freezing rain, sleet and wind, take advantage of the opportunity to snuggle in bed and take a nice nap. Nature needs wintertime to rejuvenate; so do we.
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  13. Writing can lift sagging spirits. For example, when I’m actively writing and working on a piece to submit for possible publication, I look at everything differently, trying to think of new descriptions, new words to paint a fresh picture for the reader. In the process, my perspective changes. Suddenly the naked tree limbs aren’t like skeleton limbs; instead they are like jungle-gyms for squirrels.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list and what works for some people doesn’t always work for others, but these are ways God has helped me and I wanted to share them. Do you have any tips on how to beat the winter blues? I’d love to hear them.