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By Sharon Stevens

 

How do you write cute on a blank page?

I’m not talking about cuddly, kitty-cat cute, but the kind of cute that translates to Super Bowl cute! You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? How can anyone write the kind of cuteness that inspires someone else to create a thirty-second televised spot that is worth $4,000,000.00? What makes a normal human being able to turn a thought into something that can be further created into a mega-commercial? What makes moments, which can eventually be watched by many millions all over the world, the universe, for the millennium? And not only for just this one Sunday in particular, but for as long as cyberspace exists, bouncing all the way back and forth from every satellite in a Star Wars outer space.

What elevates a word so far up the media ladder it becomes an icon discussed and hashed, twittered, and treasured by anyone who has technology at their fingertips?

I can’t do it!

Oh sure, I can print the word C U T E. But when I write it, it’s just that, a word. And all the while someone else sets it to paper or gives it tangible meaning, well, it just doesn’t come out the same.

I know this, and so does everyone else who reads anything I write. I cannot take a single word and condense it down and make it come out “write.” Of course, I can’t take a million words and try to say the same things either.

How do they do it? What do they have that I don’t have? Of course they probably have a salary that gives them the freedom to do whatever they want, and a staff (how many staff?), and an unlimited budget. Incentives, how many incentives do you think they encounter in the run of a day. What cutesy offices do they have to keep the creative juices flowing? Do their secretaries hold all calls when the team is in the inspirational mode? Oh wait. That is so last century. What do they set their cell phones, I Pad, Blackberry’s, laptops, Mac’s or what have you to get them on the right track? Do they have windows to watch the skyline, or do they go out and watch a movie and munch popcorn to get them into the mood? I just can’t fathom! What’s the secret?

Someone has to write the scripts, the words, and the print. Someone has to dream the graphics, the colors, see the patterns in their heart and soul. And someone has to hear the music, not only the notes themselves, but how the lyrics combine together with the message. People spend their whole lives preparing for thirty seconds on air SEEN around the planet. And I’m not even talking half-time. Why couldn’t that be me?

I have my grandfather’s diary from World War I in France, and on January 28, 1919 he writes that he “Went down to the “Y”(YMCA) for entertainment first there was a good fine real picture and then a party of four Frenchmen: two men and two women entertained us with some high class singing. Some kind of a show that they charge $1.50 to $5.00 in some of the cities.”

Grandfather was a young man, and for the first and last time in his entire life he was millions of miles away from the family farm in East Texas. When he describes “high class singing” you can bet he meant HIGH CLASS so much more than what he wrote in his little notebook that he kept tucked into the pocket of his uniform. If they charged $1.50 to $5.00 a show, then you knew he recognized what a treat that was for not only him, but all the patriots in his unit that were in service to Uncle Sam ninety five years ago.

Because I have his diary and read the entries from the time he enlisted till the time he was discharged, I can read in between the lines and ascertain what kind of man he was, and what his interests were so many years ago.

With the Super Bowl commercials being so brief, someone has to know the audience and gauge the reaction of the world way before anything ever hits the airways. So what if four million dollars are spent on thirty seconds…how many millions are collected in the making of that one spot? What research is done within walls and outside the box from the years before all the while looking into the future, with focus groups that determine cuteness from ugly with a flicker of their eyelids, or a nod of their head, or a text on their hand held devices.

Cute just takes on a whole new meaning!

Oh how I wish I had that kind of talent! Sure I’d like to make a million dollars profit off of thirty seconds, but just as importantly (yea right), I would like to have millions look at my word “cute” and know what it meant and share my “cute” to friends, families, and neighbors, in every “Nook” and cranny all around the world and back. If just for once the majority could understand what I was trying to say and “share” accordingly.

And maybe then MY “cute” could become marketable. After all, there’s only room for ONE cute for every Super Bowl. Isn’t that write?

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Do You Remember


Outtakes 79

 Do You Remember

By Cait Collins

 

My older sister lives in Wichita Falls, Texas, and the other five of us are in Amarillo. Last Friday Beverly, Karan, and I went to visit and celebrate Marilyn’s birthday. I told the girls I am working on a series of short stories about growing up as a baby boomer. I needed their help. I remember being a kid, but I wanted their perspective. Their their recollections would add dimension to my short stories. I began asking questions about the different schools we attended, the kids who were part of our circle, family, and how Marilyn murdered my pet snake.

I scribbled notes as we talked and laughed. I did not write much as the key words and names triggered so many memories. Fishing with Dad, picking wild blueberries; Mom making pies and muffins, the crab apple fight, “Hello Mother, Hello Father,” Amarillo High School, Charlie, Donnie, penny candy, the dining room table, and more filled the pages. I can write so much from just a few notes.

Do you remember your first Whopper at Burger King and McDonald’s golden arches? What about RC cola and moon pies? Did you go to Saturday matinees? Did you cry when Old Yeller died? Where were you when you heard President Kennedy had been assassinated? Who was your first date? We all have memories of growing up. Some are funny, some sad, and a number of them make us shake our heads and wonder how we survived. The events, the people, the laughter, and the tears made us who we are today. They provide a history of our times. While our names may never find their way in to the history books, they are recorded in school records, business documents, and newspaper reports. Each of us should celebrate who we are and from where we came. Take the time to share memories with those you love. Ask, “do you remember?” Write the events, or record them. Your children and their children will thank you.

Stories from A Third World Country


Stories from A Third World Country

By Rory C. Keel

During a missionary trip to Nigeria, I observed a stark contrast in two different cultures.

On a street corner in the city of Aba, two young boys wrestled in the heat of battle. Each one flailed their arms, wielding tightened fists in order to land the most decisive and final blow. Words spewed from their lips with the intent to damage the mind and weaken the heart of the opponent. Each one kicked wildly, trying to topple the other in order to gain the advantage. An elderly gentleman slowly hobbled his way through the crowd that formed a circled arena around the two fighters. His Silver hair framed a face wrinkled by the frustrations of life and time. Bent at the shoulders, he steadied his feeble stride with a cane whittled from a branch that had fallen from a tree.

Raising the stick, he jabbed both boys to gain their attention as he yelled above the crowd, “Stop it! Stop this nonsense!”

At that moment, I became afraid for the old man.

In the American culture, this is the point where the cell phone videos of the old man poking the boys would be put on trial in the media. Newscasters on the hour, every hour, would instruct their listeners on what to believe about the situation. The parents of the boys, not knowing or uncaring about the location and activities of their children, would suddenly become violently concerned about an old man harming their sweet innocent children. Lawyers seeking riches or fame would immediately volunteer to file lawsuits on behalf of the boys. In America it would be the moment when the crowd would turn to heckle, mock and torment the one who had interrupted their gladiators. The two combatants would join forces, cursing with vile phrases to humiliate a new common enemy. They would claim self-defense and laugh as they struck him down in his feebleness.

I stood in this third world country located northeast of the Cameroon Mountains on the African continent, and watched with amazement as this event unfolded. The crowd immediately grew silent and stared at the two boys, who now glared directly into the eyes of the frail elder and said, “Yes, sir!”

And we want to Americanize everyone else!

Write interactions

What contrasts do you see in those around you? Take time to watch how people interact. Go to a mall, restaurant or park and observe different people, then write what you see and hear.

These differences will add depth to your characters.

Heart vs. Brain: the Business of Writing


Heart vs. Brain: the Business of Writing

by Natalie Bright

At a community book fair, I shared a table with a energetic lady who self-published a lovely book about her life-time passion of quilting. As it goes at these events with other authors, the conversation always tends to be about writing. Her questions shocked me: “What’s an agent?” “How can I sign-up for social media?”

There seems to be a change occurring within publishing that troubles me. I’ve seen a mother re-arrange the event stage and podium for her writer-daughter, authors texting and ignoring readers at their table, hateful comments to event planners, unapproachable attitudes towards the general public, and misinformed authors who demand that book store owners  “make my book a bestseller”.

I do know of an author who was dropped by Amazon because of the posted book reviews, and this author is extremely bitter and disheartened as you can well imagine. And yet the comments were about bad grammar, senseless plot, and numerous typos.

The opportunities for writers are HUGE, but people are jumping in with both feet before even learning about the industry. After pouring heart and soul into a novel, which is years in the making, it’s devastating when faced with rejection, but it seems some authors sabotage their own work by their lack of understanding and their attitude. What happened to friendly professionalism? The best advice; put your heart into the writing and use your brain to be successful.

A Questionnaire for Your Brain

Do I have a well-written manuscript that is the best that it can be?

Does it exhibit a general understanding of genre structure and story craft?

Is it grammatically correct?

Do I want only eBook versions, or print copies as well?

Do I have the budget to ensure my work is a professional, finished product?

Am I clear about my target market; who will buy my book?

How can I reach my target market; social media, speaking, emails?

Do I have the time to successfully promote my book?

Am I willing to act in a professional manner to do all I can to ensure success for my book?

If I don’t understand all that I need to know, am I willing to learn or pay someone who can help me be successful?

Agent: Yes or No?

Read about agents, editors, publicists, and publishers, if you don’t know the difference.

My manuscript is complete; should I consider an agent?

Does my book have a universal theme which would appeal to a major publishing house?

Is my theme more specific with a limited target market?

Should I consider small, regional or university presses where I can submit directly without an agent?

Can I Have it All?

You may have a vision of what you want, but it may not be a practical vision. Talk to other authors and learn from their mistakes and successes. Join a professional writer’s group, attend the meetings, and ask questions. Learn all you can about story craft and the publishing industry. I have talked to too many people who’ve paid good money resulting in no book in hand. Be receptive to other people’s ideas and then make a decision that best suits your situation. Today, I think that YES, writers can have it all.  You might have one story suitable for an eBook and you might have one story suitable for a regional press.

As in my case, I self-published a nonfiction day-job-related book that has done extremely well based on word of mouth throughout the industry. I had a platform for promotion. However, I’m working with an agent for my children’s historical fiction because I wanted a whole team of publishing professionals behind me. The characters seem larger than life (heart talking), and my brain wants to reach the highest potential of seeing these books in a school library some day.

Go ahead and dream big. Write the book of your heart, make it the best that it can be, and then take your personal feelings out of the equation. As a professional, use your brain to achieve your dreams.

I’m excited for you and can’t wait to read your story, and mostly, I hope your publishing experience is a positive one.

Thanks for following WordsmithSix!

www.nataliebright.com

Humorous-Fort Scott, Kansas – 1981


 A Pinch of Rodeo

By Joe R. Nichols

Humorous-Fort Scott, Kansas – 1981

Jim and Ted drove from Goodwell, OK to the college rodeo at Fort Scott. The long drive provided plenty of time for conversation. Ted had never been to a JC Rodeo production, and Jim was excited to tell him all about the stock contractor’s bucking bulls.

“Wait to you see these bulls, Ted. They’re good. Every one of ’em turns back right in the gate and gets it. The kind you love to get on. All except this one big char-bray bull. I can’t remember his name or number, but you don’t want on this son-of-a-gun. He’s dirty rank.”

Jim continued in detail about all of JC’s bulls, giving their name, fire brand number, physical description, and their bucking pattern. “I wish I could remember what they call that big white bull. “I’m tellin’ ya Ted, you don’t want to draw him.”

The whole way across two states, about every fifty miles, Jim would try to recall the identity of the bull. “Man, I should know that bulls number. You can’t believe how bad he is.”

Upon arriving at the rodeo grounds, they parked and went inside to the office. The day sheet was posted on the wall. Jim ran his finger down the list of bulls in that night’s performance. “26! Bad Whiskey! That’s the one I’ve been tellin’ you about! Wait till you see this monster, Ted. He’s the scariest, rankest bull I think I’ve ever seen. Let’s see who’s got him.” His finger followed the line straight over to Ted’s name.

Ted took on the color and demeanor of a cadaver. His eyes dimmed, knees buckled. His jaw hung limp at the level of his bellybutton. He looked like he might puke.

Seeing the distress of his partner, Jim made an effort to rescue him. “Aw hell Ted, he’s alright. He’s just a good one to have, really.”

“Jim, I just spent nine hours in the pick-up with you telling me how bad this son-of-a-gun is, and now he’s just a good one?”

The only thing Jim could do at that point was laugh, which he did.

My name was also beside #26 for the next day. I was very familiar with Bad Whiskey, and he sure wasn’t my first pick. Ted approached me when he found out I also had the bull. “What about this 26? Is he as bad as everyone says?”

“Well Ted,” I replied, “He’s all bull, that’s for sure.”

Bucking bulls are often loosely described as weighing a ton, and most don’t. But this guy would smash the scales at 2200lbs.

He had an easy trip with Ted. Kind of scooted out there about three jumps and turned back to the right. Not much kick. Ted made a Godzilla move with his free arm, much more than the ride required. He was in ultra aggressive mode because of the bull’s reputation, but the over reaction put him on tilt to the inside of the spin. The bull simply jumped away from him, and Ted slid off. He fell so softly, he wouldn’t have broke an egg had he landed on it. He was disgusted.

“Hell Joe, you can ride that bull. He ain’t that bad. Just don’t over ride him. That’s what I did, I over rode him.”

The next day, Ted was there to help me get on. “Now Joe, don’t over ride him.” Again as he pulled my rope, “Don’t over ride him, Joe. Don’t over ride him. When I eased up to my rope and prepared to nod for the gate, I heard his words again. “Don’t over ride him. Don’t over ride him.”

I actually thought I was going to stay on this bull. I made an ugly face and called for him, convinced I could ride him. With every ounce of try in my soul, I lifted on my rope, mashed with my knees and feet, and reached out over him. This determination did not impress Bad Whiskey one bit. I’ve never felt so insignificant in my life. His initial move from the chute had my riding arm straight and my chin up. By the end of the second jump, my left ear was wall-papered to his hip, legs straight, toes pointing up. The sides of my boots were in the flats of his shoulder. I had a hold of nothing, except the bull rope. I then developed a severe case of rigor mortis. But I still believed.

I have no idea which direction he turned back. My fist clenched to the rope long enough to aim all the torque of momentum at the ground. The back of my head crashed the earth, and a fraction of an instant later, my kneecaps nearly peeled my ears off. I unfolded from the pile I was in with not one molecule of oxygen in my whole body. The shame of it all gave me the will to crawl from the arena. I was only a few feet from the walk through gate at the end of the bucking chutes, and I remained on my hands and knees trying to get some air.

Ted’s eyes were big as saucers when he bent down to ask me, “My God, Joe. Are you alright?” With still no air to breathe, I squeaked out the words that caused Ted to join me on his hands and knees, slapping the ground in hysterics.

I turned my head to look up at him and whispered, “I don’t think I over rode him.”

Will There Be Blood


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Will There Be Blood

By Nandy Ekle

Intense labor. Sweat pours out of my skin. My fingers fly as my character talks to me. A lot of work goes into writing a story.

Sometimes the work is putting my hands on the keyboard. Sometimes the work is typing it all before the story leaves. Sometimes the work is holding the idea while I get to a good writing place.

Today the idea that has been rolling in my head for two months grew legs and walked onto the page. I opened the computer, put my fingers on the keys and the character appeared on the screen. She spoke and told me her story and I wrote it exactly as she said it.

When I finish the story, more work waits for me. The proofreading, editing and polishing will begin. This is where the blood comes in. Cutting the unnecessary words from the manuscript is like surgery.

And yes, there will be blood.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

MIRACULOUS


MIRACULOUS

By Sharon Stevens

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MIRACLE

I had heard on the news about the anniversary of E.B. White’s, “Charlotte’s Web” and read the interview in Vice Magazine centered on Bryan Garner. In the article by Jesse Pearson, Garner mentioned how much he loved this book, but also touched on another book by White which is considered a bible for writers as “Strunk & White’s, Elements of Style.”

I dropped by the Canyon Public Library to pick up a copy of this beloved book, and visited with one of the librarians. She had several copies there of the “web” and asked me to choose which one. I chose the Collector’s Edition in larger print. The illustrations by Garth Williams were vivid and striking. After I got home I opened the book, and touched each of the pages in turn, reading every word and treasuring each picture. I came across the story of when Mrs. Arable went to visit Dr. Dorian on behalf of Fern. She was so worried about her daughter spending all her time in the cellar barn with Wilbur, the pig. The mother asked if the doctor understood how there could be any writing in a spider’s web.

“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”

Charlotte’s Web” brought up the most wonderful memories for me, and my husband, and our trip to Chicago in 2011 to the Follett Corporation. We needed to update the software for our business, the Buffalo Bookstore. We encountered so many wonderful treasures along our journey there, with each person and the life they shared. Southwest Airlines was our chariot there and back, but, every life held an open book of their family and home and community. To me THIS was truly the MIRACLE!

My blog today takes the words that Charlotte wove into her web to try to save Wilbur’s life, and connect them to everything wondrous we encountered.

HUMBLE

Bill Long, our Follett book salesman, picked us up at the airport and then took us to Maggiano’s for lunch. What a tremendous experience! Our server noticed the logo on Bill’s shirt, and mentioned she had gone to college, and bought the major bulk of her textbooks from a Follett bookstore. I explained that we were from Canyon Texas, and represented the off-campus, small local home-town business for our community, and that of our college, WTAMU.

I asked her what her degree was in and she told me that it was in business marketing, but that she had a family to support with small children, and this job worked better for her. I assured her she was using her degree every moment she served the public, and also for the business she represented. Her kindness and efficient attention to her customer’s needs meant so much to those of us she served, whether refilling our glasses or taking away our empty plates. We were travelers from miles away, petrified visiting the big city, on an adventure that would impact how WE would do future business. It only took a few moments for her to make us feel comfortable, to put us at ease. We found the same community we cherished at home, right then and there in Chicago! What a MIRACLE!

Bill then dropped us at our home for the week, the Hilton Garden Inn at Oakbrook Terrace at Drury Lane, next to the Drury Lane Theatre. Inside our room, I found in the drawer, a copy of the Bible placed there by the Gideon’s, but also of Conrad Hilton’s book, “Be My Guest” of his life building the Hilton hotel empire.

The whole time we were there I found an extension of all that community represented. Everyone worked hard to see our needs were met, but more than that, they greeted us with smiles, and truly cared that we stayed at their hotel and in their city. What a MIRACLE!

SOME PIG

Follett took us on a tour of their facilities and we got a behind-the-scene view of how our books came from the warehouse to our store and the process to make it all possible. We even got to meet the people (so many wonderful people dedicated to their passion and vision) The whole week my husband attended the training along with people from several other small colleges across the country. Carolyn Recker was one of the instructors and to this day will answer questions and help us with any concerns. We even witnessed the way trashed boxes were being recycled with turning them into packing materials to protect our books until we opened our boxes here at home in our store.

On that day while my husband was attending his final course I scouted out “RIF, Reading is Fundamental” which is housed in the same building. My daughters participated in RIF when they were in grade school and we have always cherished READING. What a true MIRACLE!!

I met the most amazing kids involved with this endeavor, as Follett is where it all began. They shared with me where their program reaches, and showed me the posters and thank you board they received from all over the country. RIF goes to ALL the schools, but also impacts the prisons, and juvenile centers. They gave me books printed down through the years that had been compiled by the students themselves filled with poetry and stories from the heart. This reminded me of Mark Williams and his North Heights students right here in Amarillo, and the books they have written and published, and the apps they did for tourism for the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce. The student-produced books “Voices of the Heights” and “Paintings on the Wall” are available for download on iBooks, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The photo above is of the two kids who were so kind in sharing their passion and that of the Follett Corporation and Higher Education. I wished I remembered where I put their names. They gave me so much more than books, so much more than from the past of the kids they represented. They centered my heart and reminded me of the MIRACLES that will always be books.

They presented me with a pocket-sized copy of Dr. Suess and I gave them a Buffalo Bookstore bag filled with Amarillo magazines, Canyon News, Jodi Thomas books, and pamphlets from around the panhandle area. But the true treasure I gave to them was a copy of “Every Buffalo Will Shine” written by Dr. Marty Kuhlman representing the 100 year history and heritage of our college, WTAMU.  I could think of no better gift to give them.

TERRIFIC

One of the most terrific experiences I treasured from this trip happened to connect closer to home. When we checked into our room I noticed the big sign advertising the performances for the Drury Theatre next to hotel. “Aida” was in the evenings, and ‘Charlotte’s Web” for the school kids. one morning after my husband left for his daily course I looked over at the theatre across the way. School buses had pulled up to the entrance and the kids were unloading. I knew what this meant! This was just like here at home when the school kids were going on a field trip to a show at the Varsity Theatre down the block, or over at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum for a tour, or in the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Theatre on campus at WTAMU for a student performance of a children’s play, or at Mary Moody Hall for a musical extravaganza. This was meant for me!

I walked right next door and asked if I could purchase a ticket for the live theatre performance. They looked at me quizzically, but didn’t question. Oh, to be in such a wondrous theatre!! Instantly I was immersed within. I listened to the kids and the parents surrounding me. After being involved in musicals and plays at Canyon schools for so many years and also our area being the home of the musical drama “TEXAS” I knew what it was to bring a performance to life. I witnessed the costumes, the sets, the music, the lights, the seats, the colors…I saw it all. I even heard the outbursts of a group of kids at the back of the theatre that must have been the special kids that had come to see the show. Since our daughter, Andrea Keller, teaches special kids I recognized what a wonderful treat this was. (She had also attended Follett’s Higher Education ISTE this past year. What an experience that was for her!)

I settled into my seat in this wonderful theatre and immersed myself from the first notes of the overture to the last bow of the cast and crew. My tears were near to the surface throughout it all but were spilled when I saw the image of the windmill projected on the backdrop of the farm. Oh, this so reminded me of home.

My blog probably sounds more like a travel log and a review for the hotels, and restaurants etc., but nothing could be any further from the truth. Think of how many books have been placed in our hands as well as our hearts that have come alive within our soul. Our imaginations have become tangible with inspiration and encouragement from books. I have no idea of the future of college textbooks or even books for that matter, but I know I will treasure the written word in any form until they are gone or I am transformed from this earth. You can’t tell me that God doesn’t have some sort of library in the Heavens above.

My 1890 Webster’s Dictionary gives the definition of a MIRACLE as, “to wonder, to marvel, to hold.” I consider each and every precious word as a true MIRACLE in itself. No one can convince me that it will ever be anything else.

“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

THE END

Gotta Love Electronics


Outtakes 78

Gotta Love Electronics

By Cait Collins

 

Have you ever had one of those days when it seemed as if every piece of electronic equipment you touched hated you? The computer was slow. The fax machine chewed your master. Only half of your documents printed. The copy machine jammed. And last but definitely not least, one of your primary computer programs crashed. Okay only half of that happened today, but this war has been ongoing for the last week and a half.

I love the convenience of computers. The ability to type a document, save it, and edit later is wonderful. I remember the good old-days when I’d spend hours typing a research paper on my trusty manual typewriter. I tried to check every page for errors before ripping the sheet out of the typewriter. I always missed something, and I never mastered the art of inserting the page and realigning the paper to make corrections. I lost count of the number of times I had to retype every page from the point of the error forward because the correction forced the text onto the next page. I recall author/screenwriter Larry McMurtry bragging about writing all of his manuscripts and screenplays on a typewriter. I cannot imagine doing that. A 20-page research paper was intimidating enough.

While computers provide convenience, they do have a drawback. Programs crash. I had such an experience today at work. I had my proof file built for a letter I was preparing for a client. When I tried to save it, the program flashed an error message and my file disappeared into cyberspace. None of my quick fixes restored the program. And so I sat waiting for IT to come fix the problem. My hands were tied. I could not prepare correspondence, I could not research. I did not have very nice things to say about my computer at this point. Most of my muttering involved rather sexist remarks about the origin and nature of computers. Sorry, gentlemen, but you are to blame for the problem.

While electronics frustrate me at times, I admit I could not function without them. I still prefer grabbing a book to research a subject, but when in a bind, the internet is a life saver. I no longer rush to the library to look up missing information. Locating a book title, author, or event is a simple matter of typing key words. Working on multiple projects is easy. I have folders and files set up for each project on my systems. Paper files are no longer required. My external hard drive automatically backs up my files. Flash drives allow me to copy pages of a work in progress from my main system to my Netbook. The Netbook is light weight and easy to carry; therefore, I can spend my lunch hour working on my novel or short story. When I need multiple copies, I print them. No messy carbon paper or time wasted standing at the copy machine is necessary.

I will never be as computer savvy as my younger associates. They had the advantage of growing up with word processing, spreadsheets, and electronic media. I continue to learn more about the capabilities of my laptop and Netbook as I truly appreciate their advantages. That doesn’t mean I will refrain from referring to my misbehaving electronics in sexist terms.

Writers Need Readers


Writers Need Readers

By Rory C. Keel

As an Author, I need readers. Whether I’m writing a novel, short story or an article for publication, the written word needs an audience.

Two things must merge at this point, your work and the reader. The question is how to get your writing and the reader together in order to achieve success?

Here are three things that will help to tie your read to your writing.

Something to write about

What interests you? Is it a major news event, an evil deed done by societies misfits or a heroic action? Research your target audience and then draw ideas from current events to create a plot or story line.

Good Title

While the title is not the story, a good story may never be read because of a bad title.

The title must be a calling card to your writing. When choosing a title, think about what would cause you to read this particular piece. Is the title colorful and exciting? Does it promise something without revealing the answer? Does it strike an emotional nerve?

Ending

Write an ending that moves people. As the reader struggles through each conflict of your story along with your characters, the reader needs relief. The main character may die at the end, but if the reader receives meaning from the end of your story,  you have written a successful ending.

Tracking Your Progress


Middle Grade Mondays

Tracking Your Progress

by Natalie Bright

Some people are more visual than others. Actually ‘seeing’ the results of your work may inspire you to keep writing. I’ve asked several writer friends about how they track their progress and how they keep themselves motivated.

Visualizing

An author of 30 novels uses dry eraser boards to track deadlines and list goals for each month. Her novel in progress is posted on another board with character traits, pictures of houses where her characters live, and a timeline. All there readily available while she’s writing. Authors are utilizing Pinterest in much the same way. Whatever might inspire you about that work in progress is close at hand as you write.

I adapted this idea for my freelancing. A dry eraser board lists my WIP article ideas and titles along with contest deadline dates and possible markets for each article.

I hung a second board for my middle grade novel listing main plot line notes for four novels featuring the same character. If anything comes to mind concerning this character, I scribble a note on the board. As I dig deeper and deeper into the development of my characters, I discovered a sense of having a bigger picture of their world. As I develop and learn more about their history, the people they interact with, the time period, and the setting, my mind is constantly thinking about possible scenes and adventures. I don’t want to forget anything that might become a story element.

Now I’m working on two more novel ideas, both in completely different time periods so I’m wondering if I should have a separate board for each one or one gigantic board covering an entire wall.  I’ll let you know how that works.

The Year at a Glance

Another friend uses a yearly wall calendar to mark productivity. Different colored markers can be used for specific things. For example, a red pen for submissions would be title, name of publication, and editor on the date submitted.  Follow-up is noted in blue. If published, I highlight the entry in yellow.  Rejections are noted next to the submission with the response date. I usually write a “No” with an X over the entry. Daily words counts are listed in bright neon pink.

One of my critique group members suggested I turn the letter O in every “no”  into a smiley face.  Seeing lots of colored entries gives me a visual that I’m moving forward. Even the smileys makes me feel productive. At lease I’m getting my work out there.

Social Media Tracking

For another friend, the wall calendar seemed cumbersome to her.  She tracks her word count, submissions, and responses on a spreadsheet, which she keeps in a brightly colored folder.

The spreadsheet idea was just what I needed to track social media posts. When I switched gears from WIP to blogs, I could never remember which ones were polished and ready, which ones were to be posted on my own website as an article, or which ones I’d forwarded to the WordsmithSix blog administrator. Plus I needed to tweet and Facebook links to the articles and I didn’t want to bombard followers with the same information over and over. A spreadsheet seemed to be the answer.

For consistency, our group assigned specific days to each member of the WordsmithSix writers. I blog every Monday, and I decided to post articles on my website on Fridays. My spreadsheet is printed on legal paper and covers about three months of Mondays and Fridays.

Date

Twitter

Author Page

Facebook

Nat’s Site

WordsmithSix

To Admin

Fri Jan. 4    “title”
Mon Jan 7         “Title”       12/20

The twitter and facebook columns are for recording the dates and times of links that have been tweeted. I like using Hootsuite which allows me to pre-schedule and cover all of the social media outlets I’m participating in. Based on the interests of my followers, I can choose whichever groups to link to. For example, an article about writing would probably not be of interest to my cousins and friends on my personal Facebook. Target markets are important to keep in mind.

Word Count

It’s all about the word count. If you keep cranking out those words, then you know you’re making progress. Even if that piece holds a future rejection, you’re still learning about story craft while you write.

How do you stay organized?

There are so many ways to stay organized. I hope this article inspires you to take control. Happy writing!

www.nataliebright.com