Making a Transition


Making a Transition

Have you ever felt the need to write every minute detail in order to transition between a situation, image or scene? You know, the insignificant information that ends up getting cut during rewrites? The words that took so much of your precious time, because you felt you had to “fill in the gap” to get to the next idea?

Too much filler can diminish the impact of the previous idea, or bog the reader down so they lose interest going into the next scene.

Here are a few simple fixes that can help.

First, you could start a new Chapter.

Secondly, Skip a line and start a new paragraph. The extra space indicates the start of a new scene. Simply leave the filler out.

Thirdly, use a transitional word or phrase, such as “Meanwhile…” or “the next day…” or even “when he opened his eyes, everything had changed…”

Fourthly, Use common traits in two different objects, for example, “The frost on the window reminded him of the ice that ran through her veins. She was cold, but not because of the weather.”

Remember, transitions should be simple, direct and crisp advancing the reader to the next scene or idea.

Rory C. Keel

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Writing Cons: What to Expect


Writing Cons: What to Expect

by Natalie Bright

 

Writing conferences are no doubt a huge commitment in money, not to mention the time away from family and home. I’ve often heard more than one writer say that their efforts can be better spent at their desk. No doubt about that. Who needs another distraction?

Yet every writers’ conference I’ve attended teaches me something new. And no matter how much I dread the packing and the traveling, or how many times I wonder what in the heck I was thinking, I always feel motivated and thankful after taking part in the event. For example, there’s the recent Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators spring conference, which I attended in Tulsa, Oklahoma several weeks ago. In case you’ve ever wondered what’s the take-away from a writing conference for children’s authors, I’ll review some of the topics covered.

Cheering on Your Cause

Regional Director, Anna Myers, welcomed the group by reminding us that we are all a group of believers: “believers in stories and believers in each other”. Sitting in a room of over one hundred creatives left little room for doubt that there was magic in the air. You can’t help but feel inspired.

Insight

The first presentation was by an Associate Art Director who gave an informative power point on the illustrating process. From selecting the artist, to initial sketches, decisions on word placement, and selection of the final cover based on multiple samples by an illustrator and narrowing down the final look with author input. The creative process is a mystery to most of us after it leaves the writers hands. The insight into this procedure was enthralling.

A typical editor’s day is always interesting, which was the topic of the next session. Writers tend to disappear into our world of every day life and our fictional stories, so its good to be reminded that there’s a whole world of business to this business. I realized that publishing takes a team of professionals who believe in the same vision. A writers’ manuscript is where it begins and a book, that everyone is proud of is, the end result.

Story Craft

The process of creating early chapter books was presented by a Scholastic editor.  This detailed review included the finer points of what makes early chapter books so appealing to beginning readers, and so difficult to craft for writers.

Picture books were the main focus of a talk by an editor with HarperCollins.  The differences between the specific genres in children’s literature always leaves me much to think about. It is a complex process as writers try to determine where to go with that spark. Picture book, or maybe an early chapter book, or can this manuscript be expanded into a middle reader?  The possibilities are endless, yet all are so very unique. There’s no one better to explain the differences than an acquiring editor.

Inspiration

A literary agent closed out the day by reminding us to keep going, chase our dreams, never give up. Despite the rejection and rewrites and the distractions of life, I was reminded that successful authors keep pushing themselves to write, to learn story craft.

In between sessions, I talked to other writers about finding agents, working with editors, and all things related to this crazy business. I heard about the struggles, the sparks, the successes, and I came away inspired to keep writing and to believe in a dream. I also came away with a ton of hope that these writers will keep going, because I can hardly wait to read their stories. So many great ideas in one place is contagious!

To find a group for children’s writers near you, check out the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators website at www.scbwi.org.

www.nataliebright.com

A Pinch of Rodeo -Taking Criticism


A Pinch of Rodeo

By Joe R. Nichols

 

Taking Criticism

In my days of amateur rodeo, I traveled with cowboys that competed in other events besides Saddle Bronc Riding. I went a lot of miles with my best friend from home that roped calves. Doug and I often found ourselves in trouble, but we got ourselves out of most of it.

We pulled for each other, and believed in each other.

Doug and I, and a bull rider, made a run of three rodeos in Nebraska. After one of my rides, Doug told me about something that caught his attention. “It looks to me like you’re leaning forward too much. Just seems like you’d get along better if you leaned back a little.”

Now, I was by no means offended, but my internal thought was, how could a calf roper know anything about riding broncs? I discounted his information, and never really considered it to be valid.

A month or so later, a top bronc rider that I respected, gave me some helpful advice. He said, “You need to try and get your shoulders behind your hips. That will help you get under your rein and make it easier to reach up and set your feet.”

It made perfect sense to me, and I planned to implement this technique right away. Then it came over me, that’s the exact thing that Doug told me a month ago. I was humbled. Doug didn’t know the whys and fors, and he didn’t say it in bronc rider lingo, but he saw it. And he was right.

The lesson? You can get all kinds of bad advice, but sometimes people on the outside looking in, can see more than we want to admit. From then on, I have always carefully considered all criticism, no matter who it came from.

Negative Spaces


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Negative Spaces

By Nandy Ekle

Negative space is a compositional tool used in both two- and three-dimensional work. The simplest way to describe it is as: “space where other things are not present.”

A famous picture that uses negative space effectively is the famous Rubin’s Vase. This is the vase that could also be two faces. The focus of the picture is the vase, but the space around it becomes its own picture.

Writing also has negative spaces. If you write a story about a certain subject, you might actually be writing about several things, simply by the words you don’t use. Suppose I tell you a story about two soldiers in a war who are in the middle of hot combat. On the surface you might see a story of action, courage and stamina. However, what you might not see right away is the story of their families back home, how the man in the red uniform has a wife, three kids, and two parents waiting for him to return.  On the other side of the vase is the other man’s story of an empty car, empty head, empty home.

Read some stories and see if you can find the negative in yours.

PUDDING


PUDDING

By Sharon Stevens

My husband was preparing supper on the stove. He does it all the time and I, for one, am so very proud that he does. But this is not what my blog is about this week.

I decided that I wanted to have a little sweetness after the meal and found packages of JELLO pudding up in the cabinet. After choosing “cheesecake”, my favorite, and reading the directions I gathered everything together and began to mix. One problem became apparent though. The instructions said to mix for two minutes. Well my husband was at the stove and the timer was on the microwave aboveYou may think this was no big deal. “Tell him to punch in the time” you say. “Yea right”, I say. By the time he turned from the stove to ask how many minutes, and then by the time he turned back around to set the timer, and then by the time he asked me again, “how many minutes?” the whole shebang would be over. I know this from past experience. Of course there is no way you can ever ruin JELLO pudding. They give so much leeway when you purchase the product. The directions are just guidelines not set in stone. The company just wants you to mix until everything is mixed together and a little more.

You see I can’t even bake bread, or a decent cake, or brownies. Just because the recipe says to cook in a 350-degree oven for thirty minutes this doesn’t mean MY oven or MY temperature or even MY minutes. And when they say cook until the surface springs back, or that a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, well then Heaven help us! This just doesn’t apply to me.

So many times we have the same problem in our writing. How can we ever know it is done? We keep mixing and adding until the most basic recipe is lost in translation. Sometimes we step back to let it preheat or to stew just a little bit thinking this will fix it. Oftentimes the results are far worse. If I stirred the pudding mix for 1.35 minutes or 3.24 minutes I really don’t think it will ruin the final dish. What destroys the original is the distress we insert as we go. We may be mad or angry and our spoons become our weapon. We may be happy or sad and the same utensils we laid out in the very beginning become a symbol for our tears of joy or pain. Under mix or over mix, you just never know.

After we ate the “sloppy Joe’s” my husband made for supper, he dished himself up a bowl of desert. I didn’t tell him he was in the way so I couldn’t set the timer. I NEVER want to discourage his time at the stove. I hope when he tasted my contribution that he couldn’t tell that I didn’t mix it for the exact amount of time the instructions on the box called for.

My sweet husband told me he liked it and that’s all that matters.

Must be that the proof was in the pudding.

Should I?


Outtakes 91

Should I?

By Cait Collins

 

I have learned there are some things a woman my age should not do. Like buy a pair of 4-inch heels. I’ve worn high heels since I was in high school, but they were two, maybe two-and-a-half inches. Maybe heels do make your legs look sexier and add inches of height to those of us who are vertically challenged, but they also mess with your balance, put stress on your back, and kill your feet. Sorry, but there’s only so much I will do in the name of beauty. However, I have new respect for the ladies that can pull it off.

By the same token, there are some things a writer should seriously consider before taking the plunge. Recent events, politics, religion, and social changes have spawned massive email and social media campaigns that are offensive and degrading. I believe in freedom of speech, but should I risk my professional image as a writer by posting negative comments about political parties, religions, or special interest groups? I don’t think so.

Have you listened to an actor, sports figure, or an author accuse a group or individual of being racist, behind the times, or people haters. Has your faith or your choice to take no stance on religion been disparaged? How have you responded? Have their words so enraged you that you refused to buy tickets to the person’s movies or sporting events? Have you quit buying books by certain authors? I know I have made those choices. I’ve blocked Facebook posts and emails because I was hurt and disappointed by careless comments from someone I had admired and respected.

We all have strong opinions and positions on various subjects. That’s right and good. The error comes in airing those views in such a way that we offend others. It is unprofessional to use our author pages and websites for such negative postings. Professional sites should be used to promote our work, not alienate the audience.

Find a Penny


Find a Penny

By Rory C. Keel

Last week, in the parking lot of a local grocery store, I stood at my car door and looked down at the pavement. I noticed a tarnished penny and Abraham Lincoln staring at me. At that moment I had a decision to make, do I stoop over and pick it up?

What’s a Penny Worth?

There’s a lot of people that feel one red cent is not worth a plug nickel, and it must be true, I seem to find more pennies everyday.

I remember a time when gum-ball machines were a penny; today the cheapest gum machine is a quarter.

In the sixties I saved every cent. I didn’t think twice about picking one up then. I dug them out of the cracks in the sidewalk, street gutters and even work for what seemed like hours to get one out of the asphalt of a parking lot. After a thorough cleaning, I counted ten pennies and grouped them into ten stacks to make one dollar. I did this until I had accumulated three dollars, enough to purchase a new Banana seat for my bicycle.

I don’t know what the manager of the Wacker’s five and dime store thought about me that day, but he grinned and acted as if he appreciated that I came to his store when I poured all three hundred pennies onto the counter.

Pick It Up!

As I slid the key into my car door, I bent over and picked the penny up.

Now those in-the-know say that the exertion one expends to pick up a penny verses the return in earnings makes the effort futile. Basically, it’s not worth the time to pick up the coin. This thought ran through my mind until I remembered how much people pay to go to the gym and sit at a machine in order to exert energy and bend over. I got paid to exercise.

As is my habit, I looked at the date on this coin; it had the year 1977 inscribed to the right of Honest Abe. I dropped the copper into my pocket and my mind raced back to my Grandmother who died that year, high school, my brown 1973 Chevy Vega and my Oh-So-Hot girlfriend.

Picking up that tarnished penny dated 1977 was worth every CENT!

So where do YOU get stories?

Find a penny and pick it up…!

Motivation #4


Motivation #4

By N. Bright

Story Beginnings

Glorious words and unique descriptions inspire me to work harder on my own stories. Next time you’re out enjoying a latte, wander into your favorite section of the bookstore and read the first two paragraphs only of randomly selected novels. Great story beginnings can be very inspirational. If you come across a few that blow you away, jot one or two first sentences down in your idea notebook (You do have pen and paper in your pocket or purse, right? I use the notepad on my iPhone a lot too.)

Finding Inspiration in Beginnings

Since I write for children, here are a few of my favorite beginnings in books for kids.

humor (+ element of sound effects)

“On the morning of the best day of her life, Maud Flynn was locked in the outhouse, singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz

interesting fact

“The road that led to Treegap had been trod out long before by a herd of cows who were, to say the least, relaxed. It wandered along in curves and easy angles, swayed off and up in a pleasant tangent to the top of a small hill, ambled down again, between fringes of bee-hung clover, and then cut sidewise across a meadow.”

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

surprise

“Princess Quinn of the underground Kingdom of Mandria steadied herself as she balanced upon a footstool in the circle of light directly below the wishing pool.”

Princess Nevermore by Dian Curtis Regan

“Phut Phat knew, at an early age, that humans were an inferior breed. They were unable to see in the dark. They ate and drank unthinkable concoctions.”

Phut Phat Concentrates by Lilian Jackson Braun

unusual idea

“In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark. The only light came from great flood lamps mounted on the buildings and at the tops of poles in the middle of the square.”

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

personal vignette

“Gramps says that I am a country girl at heart, and that is true.”

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

in the middle of things

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.” (+ element of dialogue)

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

What motives you to keep writing and submitting, despite the rejection and bad reviews? We’d love to hear from you, too.

Thanks for joining us at WordsmithSix!

www.nataliebright.com

A Pinch of Rodeo – Las Vegas Moment


A Pinch of Rodeo

By Joe R. Nichols

 

Las Vegas Moment 

It was Sunday before the last performance of the National Finals Rodeo. I won’t pretend to remember what year. I have a terrible memory.

We were there early and it was a nice warm day. Sunshine, music, and friends, kept us outside the Thomas and Mack until performance time. I happened to start up a conversation with a fellow from Los Angeles. I think he was about my age, and I believe he was a dentist. He showed me an autographed picture of Billy Etbauer. It was a great shot of Billy from the previous NFR on a paint horse called Rio Bravo, which set the arena record score. He held that picture like it was an ancient heirloom worth millions of dollars.

The story he told about getting it autographed is worth repeating. Billy and a few other cowboys were at the autograph table in the trade show. This man stood in line for 45 minutes, but ran out of time because of previous plans for dinner with friends. He was so disappointed. This was a planned goal of his before he left home, not something he decided to do after he got there.

He knew that sometimes the cowboys would come up to a certain section of the corridor after their event. He brought the picture with him to the rodeo. Sure enough, there was Billy, but there were friends all around him and he looked to be busy visiting. Not wanting to impose or interrupt, the dentist stood back, and held the picture up facing Billy. It took a while, but Billy happened to see the picture and recognized it. He immediately walked over to him. “Would you like me to sign that?” he asked.

I can’t tell you how much that meant to this guy. He was so impressed that Billy would leave his friends to sign a picture for a complete stranger, and take time to visit with him.

I wasn’t the least bit surprised, I just wish I could remember to tell Billy this story.

Let’s Talk


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Let’s Talk

By Nandy Ekle

“Hi. My name is Main Character.” He raised his hand in a wave.

“Hi, Main Character. My name is Nemesis.” He nodded toward Main Character.

Main Character smiled. “It’s good to meet you.”

“Thank you. It’s good to meet you too.”

Main Character looked past Nemesis’ shoulder and Nemesis looked down at the floor. The clock ticked an awkward moment.

Main Character jerked his face back to Nemesis’ face as a flash of thought passed through his mind. “We’re supposed to inspire writers to write a believable dialogue.”

A light snapped on in Nemesis’ eyes. “Oh. Do you mean, like, actually sounding like two people having a conversation instead of sounding like two sides of the same person?”

“Yes. That’s right.” Main Character smiled while his head moved up and down.

“I see.  How do you think a good writer does that?”

Shrugging his shoulders, Main Character said, “Well, I think they have to just almost actually hear two different people speaking and write what they say exactly the way it’s said.”

Nemesis’ eyes darken slightly. “Ya’ know, Mainy, I do b’lieve you jes’ hit da nail rat own its big ol’ head.”

“Yes. And that means the writer needs to know his characters very well.” He took a coupe of steps backward.

“Yore galdern rat ‘bout dat dar rule.” Nemesis took a couple of steps forward toward Main Character.

Main Character turned his head and looked over his shoulder for the door behind him, then he looked back at Nemesis. His brow was lined with worry. “So, do you have any advice to add to that?”

Nemesis stopped moving and lookd up into space as if an idea would appear like a light bulb. “Well . . . yeah. They prolly need to make shore dem readers know who’s tawkin’ when. ‘Cause, like us? We ain’t just standing still flappin’ our gums. We’re acchully doing’ sumpin’”

“That’s right,” Main Character said.

Nemesis grinned a dark toothy grin. Yeah.” He turned to look at the person reading their dialogue. “Got that, reader? Now.” He paused and leaned forward until his nose nearly touched the reader’s nose. The dark light came back to his eyes. “Go do it!”

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