Tag Archives: Creative writing

Baby steps toward CHANGE

2016, my year of change.

I’ve stated it publicly. I am determined to achieve it. I am committed to accepting it.  (Thanks, Darlene, for that last point.)

For me, change means stepping beyond myself, my comfort zone, my place of safety.  Even if that step is only a baby step, it is a step forward to my goal.

I am not saying I want to change everything about myself, or that I want to make drastic changes in my life. What I mean is I am working on my attitude and beliefs about my God-given abilities, talents, gifts, creativity. And fear – I am making baby steps away from the fear and toward the reality of who I am as a creative and what I am capable of doing.

“The key to change … is to let go of fear.”  – Rosanne Cash

 

My goal, which I’m sure you all know by now, is to write children’s books for publication. The changes have begun for me to achieve this:

  1. I have my own writing coach as of September 2015;
  2. I’m ending my publishing of a newsletter I (very sadly) haven’t had the focus and leading to do anymore; after many years it’s hard to let go. I have the final issue to complete and loose ends to tidy up;
  3. my publishing room will become my writing room, my creative space, which I’m excited to prepare;
  4. I’ve continued with Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo each November, keeping the ideas coming. To take those ideas further, Friday I signed on for a year of *12×12, making that huge (for me) leap in commitment when I’m not sure how I’m going to manage the challenge. Having said that, I signed on because I need what is being offered through it in order to reach my goal. (I did 12×12 in 2012, Julie Hedlund’s first year offering 12×12; now it’s much advanced from those beginnings.)

The biggest change for me is my private outlook, my self-talk, what I believe about myself. Change in those will bring about the most change in me and how I approach my writing.

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” – Steve Maraboli

Yes, 2016 is my year of CHANGE, the follow-up to and continuation of POSITIVITY – my word in 2015.

I am determined.     I will need reminders. And energy. And focus and refocus. (That’s not a negative already, I know how it’s been and I’m needing to not go there.)

My life as caregiver will continue as it has been, with the change being in me, in how I use my other time. There’s no progress in wishing things were different.

“Life has no remote. Get up and change it yourself.” – Thegoodvibe.co

This could be an exciting year, a challenging year, a surprising year.

2016.

My year of change.

* If YOU are interested in writing children’s books, it is not too late to sign up for 12×12. Just follow the link I provided above in my point #4.

Can you relate to the struggle of staying the course? What are your goals and determinations that you know will make a remarkable change for you? (Or put that in past tense, what were your goals … and how did you manage to meet them?)

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

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PiBoIdMo has ended – my update

Today is the first day of December … already!! Where did the time go? Yikes! And I love that it’s snowing on my blog. 🙂  (Thanks, Word Press!)

Soon it will be Christmas Day; I have a lot to do at home and at Dad’s to even feel ready for this special time of year, but I have begun – with help. I appreciate the beauty of this season (not the intense cold that comes with it) and especially the true meaning of Christmas.

The writerly news is …

PiBoIdMo ended at midnight November 30 …

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Just at the last moment I came up with the cutest title which has me thinking of a story to go with it. The great news is I completed PiBoIdMo with a win. The goal was to have 30 ideas, be they ever so small or detailed, and I got almost 50. YAY!

vinvogel_piboldmo_winnerPicture Book Idea Month is truly helpful when one is pursuing creative writing goals. Now Tara Lazar has begun a week of Post-PiBo posts which are a fantastic way to end this month-long event. She is genius in her contribution to the world of writing for children, and I’ve been very encouraged along the way – thanks to her.

The next fun part is after all this ends Tara has the task of giving out prizes to those of us who completed the challenge. Of course, with so many of us signed on not everyone will win a prize, but we are all winners if we participated in this event and took in what all the authors, illustrators and agents shared with us. It’s been an especially good PiBoIdMo for me at a time when I really needed to put my mind on creative things.

Did you take part in PiBoIdMo; if so how did you do? OR … Do you have any other successes to share, or goals you wish to achieve?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 13: Where are you?

Welcome back! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month thirteen:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 13: Where are you?

Magicians and novelists have something in common. They must learn “sleight of hand.”  You know, the old smoke-and-mirrors deal. Magicians pull rabbits out of hats. Novelists pull their readers into landscapes and time periods.

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If we’re out in the audience, we probably don’t have a clue how that rabbit got into the magician’s hat, and, in a really well-written book, we don’t quite understand how the author so successfully plants us into a time and a place. For magicians the secret is often roomy sleeves and quick hands. For novelists, the twin secrets are subtlety and visualization.

Let’s take a look into a novel that does a great job of transporting us into time and place. That novel is FALL OF GIANTS by Ken Follett. In the hardcover edition (page 31) Follett describes a gray house. He doesn’t come right out and say, “The house was gray.” That’s too easy, and more importantly it doesn’t touch a reader’s soul. Instead he tells us that the house is named “Ty Gwyn.” He says that Ty Gwyn is Welsh for White House (aha! we’re in Wales), but he then tells his readers that the name is ironic, because the house is covered with coal dust. It’s so dirty that it discolors the long skirts of women (time period hint) who brush too closely as they walk by.

Follett knows his readers well. They’re the folks who love big fat thick historical novels packed full of story and facts. In this paragraph, those readers receive a visual image of a dirty gray house, but they also see women in long, full skirts, they learn two words in Welsh, and they discover that this particular house is located in Welsh coal country. Now that’s the way to write setting.

So  we’ve seen the fantastic finished product, but I still haven’t addressed the how-to angle. Here’s a few ways that I help myself write settings.

1. I watch a video or a movie set in the area I’m writing about.

2. If possible, I visit the location.

3. I talk to/interview people who live there or who have visited the area.

4. I read travel books and magazine articles about that particular location.

5. I look up statistics on Wikipedia or in my handy old-fashioned set of Encyclopedia Britannica.

6. I purchase maps and study them ardently.

7. I pinpoint the location on a globe. My globe has raised areas where mountains and highlands are located. I love the tactile aspect of exploring my setting with my fingertips.

All of those ideas will help you, but here’s the best-kept secret about performing the magic trick of producing an effective setting — or any visual image — via words. Before you write it, see it in your mind. Close your eyes and imagine that place until you feel as if you were there. If you the writer have a fuzzy image in your head, then it will also appear “fuzzy” to your reader. I don’t know why it works that way, but it does. (I told you it was all about smoke-and-mirrors!)

Once you have succeeded in placing that image in your mind, then you are ready to write it for your readers.

How do you help yourself visualize settings for your stories or novels?

Strength to your pen!

Sue

(Photograph Copyright 2012, Krystal Harrison)

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you come back March 27, 2014, for part 14.

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 12: Whose Eyes?

Welcome back! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twelve:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 12: Whose Eyes?

Here’s what I love about reading novels. They give me the opportunity to see the world through another person’s eyes. For a novelist to provide that great joy to his readers, he has to develop full and believable characters and then choose how to convey the thoughts and ideas of those characters on the written page. That choice is all about point of view (POV).

 

In determining POV, every writer has two main options, first person or third person. We’ll talk about variations, like second person,  in a later blog post, but today let’s keep it simple.

 

First Person POV: I went for a nice walk, and I saw a pretty flower.

 

Third Person POV: She went for a nice walk, and she saw a pretty flower.

 

I know, I know, the two sentences above deserve trashing for multiple reasons, but let’s not complicate matters. Two choices. That seems pretty straight forward. So how do you decide which is best for your novel? Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you how I decide which POV is best for my novels.

 

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I consider these four things:

 

1. The usual POV in which my genre is presented.

 

2. My preference.

 

3. The strengths and weaknesses of each POV.

 

4. The unique characters in my novel.

 

So let’s talk about #1 – the usual POVs for some common genres. In my next “Writing the Third Dimension,” I’ll discuss numbers 2 through 4.

 

Historical fiction is usually presented in third person POV. That’s because historical fiction often paints on a wide canvas, and most authors prefer to open the minds of many characters to their readers. Multiple third person POVs are less awkward and, to most readers, more “believable” than multiple first person POVs.

 

Mysteries and Who-Done-Its boast a wide variety of sub-genres. Because of the differing requirements in each of these sub-genres, readers will find some novels presented in first person POV and others in third person. If the novelist wants the main character to be as stumped by the mystery as the reader, she will often choose first person POV. If the writer wants to present what happened from multiple viewpoints, he will often choose third person POV.

 

Romance novels are built on a foundation of strong emotions. They are often presented in first person POV, which is able to convey emotions at a very intense level.

 

Young Adult novels are often told from first person POV because of that same strong emotional bond the writer is trying to forge between a main character and the reader.

 

Action-Adventure is another genre that is split between both POVs, but if the novel has only one main character, authors often choose first person POV.

 

Children’s novels, those first chapter books, are also usually written in first person POV, and that is done to help young children bond more easily with the main character.

 

Feel free to add to our genre list. Do you have a reading preference for POV?

 

Enjoy the Journey!

 

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

 

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you come back February 27, 2014 for part 13.

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 11: Break Dance!

Welcome! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month eleven:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 11: Break Dance!
I don’t hear much about one of the major rules for novelists. SCHEDULE BREAK TIMES!

Yes, you DO need to schedule definite writing times. Once a week or three times a week or every day, whatever works for you. Maybe you write for an hour or three hours or eight. (Don’t burn yourself out, by the way!) Some of my writer friends give themselves a goal of words written rather than time spent writing. The important thing is to establish a definite writing schedule. Maybe a dentist appointment will intrude but definitely not laziness or the dreaded “I’d Rather Not” Syndrome. That’s a novel killer for sure.

However, writers do need breaks.

If you’re reading the “Writing the Third Dimension” posts as I write them, that means that we’re closing in on the December holiday season.

PC240246 (This is a photo of my daughter, granddaughter, and my mom!)

I usually don’t write the last two weeks of December. During the rest of the year, I also break for Sundays, vacation trips, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Thanksgiving weekend, and a few other odds and ends along the way, including a week between finishing one book and starting the next.  The important thing is that these are SCHEDULED  BREAKS. I’m not cheating on my writing time. Once you begin to cheat on your writing time, it’s very difficult to get back into a disciplined routine.

Novelists function like marathon runners. Sustained discipline is often the only difference between success and failure. For the novelist, failure doesn’t have anything to do with publication or lack thereof. Failure is failing to finish when you suspect the book you’re writing is good enough to merit completion. (And I’m assuming here that your life situation and your health remains stable.)

In honor of the holiday season, and with Lynn’s agreement, I’m taking a December break from “Writing the Third Dimension” and will dedicate most of my December time to preparing for the holidays: sewing dresses for my granddaughter’s dolls, baking, cleaning, practicing songs for Christmas performances, wrapping gifts, writing holiday cards, having a houseful of guests and, and, and…

Meanwhile to all of you, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year! I’m looking forward to connecting with all of you again on January 23rd. Holidays are fun but it’s always great to get back to writing!

What breaks do you schedule in your writing time?

Happy Writing and Many Blessings!

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you come back January 23, 2014, for part 12.

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 10: The Writer as Actor

Welcome! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month ten:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 10: The Writer as Actor

In my first three Alaska novels, my characters do not sit on chairs. They don’t even sit cross-legged on the ground; they squat on their haunches. This is a very typical pose for people who live without furniture, but the problem is, other than on a few camping trips, I’ve lived with furniture all my life. So to write about my ancient Aleut people, I had to learn how to sit on my haunches. It wasn’t easy, but, by learning, I avoided having my characters do something that would not work physically.  In effect, I became an actor and acted out the “sitting on haunches” portions of the novel. Since then, when I’m writing a scene, I often get up from my chair and act it out right in my office. It’s amazing how much more convincing and realistic your words will be if you back your scenes with a healthy dose of “acting out.”

Janet_Marie_Chvatal_'Sissi'

Here are a few acting tips that might help you as you write your novel:

1. If you are writing fight scenes and have no experience in that particular arena of life, take a self-defense class. It sure helped me write more realistic and gritty fight scenes.

2. Don’t be afraid to take up a new hobby. If your main character sews quilts, buy a book, take a class, do a little quilting.

3. Use your mirror. Imagine yourself angry and look at your face in the mirror. What are you doing with your eyes? Your mouth? Your eyebrows? Don’t get overly descriptive. A word or two will do.

4. Enlist your DVD player. Watch a good movie and check out how the actors express their emotions. Replay scenes that catch your heart and keep a pad handy to jot down the first words that come to mind as you watch the actors laugh, cry, express anger, fear, dread, etc.

5. Watch babies and young children. They haven’t yet learned to guard their feelings by masking facial expressions. They are the exaggerated versions of adult facial behavior.

6. Read articles or even a book about body language.  My husband, a high school principal, had a training session in how to tell if people are lying. He shared the information with me, and since then it’s appeared in subtle ways in my short stories and my novels.  The Internet abounds with resources. Take an hour or so  and have fun learning how people express emotions with body language.

7. Pay attention to hands and feet. A person might have a good poker face, but his/her hands and fingers, feet and toes are “saying” what s/he really feels.

The next time you sit down to write, remember, you’re not only a writer; you’re an actor. Stride boldly onto the stage and become your characters!

Have fun! Any questions?

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back November 28, 2013, for part 11.

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 9: Sing out!

Welcome! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month nine:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 9: Sing Out!

Few things convey a writer’s skill more dramatically than Voice.  For something that is so important, Voice is difficult to define, but let me give it a try.  (You knew I would, right?) Voice is the “person” you hear talking in your head as you read a book.  I know that sounds rather strange, but that’s what Voice is to me – the narrator/storyteller/magic genie/ Pooh Bear/ crocodile who speaks to me from the pages. (Crocodile? Sorry. This was the best photo of a mouth that I could find…)

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When a reader begins reading your novel, or agents or editors are taking that first look at your unpublished manuscript, a strong Voice will keep them reading past the first paragraph.

Here are a few quotes from authors who are gifted with strong Voices:

1.  “When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden. (A tongue-in-cheek sentence that foreshadows both the serious and the humorous sides of this classic children’s book. The lack of a comma after the word uncle carries a subtle message that this book and its characters don’t always obey the rules.)

2.   “Awake! For Morning in the Bowl of Night Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight: And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light.” The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, translated by Edward Fitzgerald. (The meter and rhymes support the exotic, visual, and poetic nature of this work.)

3.  “Marley was dead, to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that.  The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner.”  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. (Short to-the-point sentences and short phrases separated by commas tell the reader that the life portrayed in this novel is harsh, and that the writer is an honest man about to relate important facts and truths of life.)

So, how do we get there (writing with a strong Voice) from here (no Voice yet established)?

First, and most importantly, we need to decide what aura we hope to convey. Let’s consider the possibilities. Where is the novel set?  What type of speech will that location suggest to our readers? Do we want our readers to hear an accent in the narrator’s words?  Is the theme of the novel something soft or harsh? What is the genre? (Genres generally have a general type of voice. Detective novels often use a quick, to-the-point voice. Romances may have more flowery and flowing voices. However, exceptions sometimes make a novel noteworthy.)

Second, we should search out published books with a similar theme or setting or in the same genre. Then the fun part: read, read, read. Their words in our heads combined with our natural writing “personality” will help us choose the best devices to use as we develop our novel’s Voice.

Here’s a list of devices.  Long phrases or short phrases.  Lots of commas or a dearth of commas.  Long and short sentences and combinations thereof.  Alliteration of words; the rhythm of our sentences; creative punctuation. Fancy words, short words, old-fashioned sounding words, modern words, made-up words.  Short or long paragraphs. Following all the rules of grammar religiously, or breaking a few rules here and there. Contractions (casual) or no contractions (formal). I’m sure you can think of more.

With my first novel Mother Earth Father Sky, I spent a month working on the Voice and used my studies of Native American languages to help me establish a general rhythm (short, short, long — a poet would say “anapestic”) that follows Native speech patterns.

Then I wrote one page. I rewrote it until I liked it, and then I read that page out loud.  And rewrote again. And read it out loud again. For days, I worked on that one page until I knew that my narrator was “speaking” my novel with a distinct Voice that conveyed my theme, my setting, and my point-of-view characters’ mindsets. Then I printed out that page and kept it handy. Each time I sat down to write, I skimmed the page and settled that Voice back into my head. That’s what worked for me. Maybe it will work for you!

Any questions or comments? How do you develop a Voice for your work?

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you come back October 24, 2013, for part 10.