Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Writers: Tips on Writing Humor, Part One

Lots of Humor in Waddles the Duck: Hey, Wait for Me!
                                  Linda Wilson's latest picture book, illustrated by Nancy Batra

By Linda Wilson @LinWilsonauthor

In articles about writing funny, some authors say if you can write well, you can also be funny. That sounded reasonable. Others say humor writing is "tricky." Getting warm. Note: mustn't mistake for hot flashes. I didn't even let Frank Gannon discourage me when he said, If you want to write humor "you obviously have something wrong with you, and that is the one single quality that all humorists must have. You have something wrong with you, but you don't want anyone to notice what it is. Therefore, you try to make them laugh." What a relief. Finally, someone has the guts to tell me what's wrong with me--I want to write humor!

Jokes aside, the truth is most say humorous writing is hard work. I say, we writers work hard at everything else. Why not humor, too? Here are three reasons to try:

People love to laugh; laughter is good for us.

Humor is an effective communication tool that can humanize our work and even make the act of writing more enjoyable. Also, it boosts creativity by challenging us to approach our craft in new ways. From: How to Write Better Using Humor, by Leigh Anne Jasheway.  

Toss in the bottom line and there you have it, every reason to give humor a go: "Humor is the one thing that I've never seen an editor say they have too much of . . . period. They all say they'd like to see more." Jan Fields, Author, Instructor and Web Editor of the Institute of Children's Literature.

Ways to Ease into your Funny Bone

Make your humor lighthearted: Try poking fun at human nature. Funny things happen around you every day. Everything you do has potential for humor. The keys are to remember to be gentle, be consistent throughout the book; and as stated below in the Tips, your humorous parts must move the story forward and/or relate to the story's theme (just like everything else, or out it goes).

An unexpected turn in Bruce Coville's book, The Skull of Truth, made me laugh out loud when the main character, Charlie, ate dinner with his family. Charlie had somewhat of a problem: he was a liar. Throughout the book the theme of "Don't lie" came out loud and clear. The dinner table discussion offers a seamless example of combining humor with the book's theme: "Andy Simmons ate a bug today," put in Charlie's youngest sister, Mimi, who was in kindergarten . . . "Then he spit it out. It was gross." She looked very pleased with herself. "Charlie wondered if the story had any truth to it. He still hadn't figured out how to tell when Mimi was fibbing."

Jack Gantos' book, Dead End in Norvelt, the 2012 Newbery prize winner, is replete with good ole, new-fashioned edgy humor. If the first sentence about Jack's mother ruining his summer vacation doesn't grab you, the excruciatingly long second sentence will: "I was holding a pair of camouflage Japanese WWII binoculars to my eyes and focusing across her newly planted vegetable garden, and her cornfield, and over ancient Miss Volker's roof, and then up the Novelt road, and past the brick bell tower on my school, and beyond the Community Center, and the tall silver whistle on top of the volunteer fire department to the most distant dark blue hill, which is where the screen for the Viking drive-in movie theater had recently been erected." Talk about getting hooked by an introduction. I was already smiling, which made absorbing the opening facts effortless.

Exaggerate: Author Connie Willis wrote that Mark Twain called exaggerations "stretchers." Stretching the truth is funny, just don't go too far.

Later in the Norvelt story, it would be hard to top how Jack saved a deer his dad had in his sights when they went deer hunting together. At the most intense moment when his dad was about to pull the trigger, Jack was squatting high up in a tree house in the freezing cold   . . . when . . . "a gut desire to save the deer gave me just enough oomph, and I let out a thin stream of gas which sounded roughly like the slow opening of a creaky coffin lid that had been closed for a thousand rusty years .  . .'Good timing.' [his dad] said sarcastically without even looking at me." (I urge you to read this exhilarating, hilarious yet touching book because this example is far too brief and covers only a slight part of that scene; like so much else in the book it is hilarious while at the same time pulls the heart strings.)

For Children

Bathroom humor: Describe situations where someone breaks wind, something smells, mention underpants, make up words and names

Slapstick comedy: Exaggerate physical clumsiness, such as slipping on a banana peel

Tell Jokes

David Lubar, author of Hidden Talents, an ALA Best book for Young Adults, voted onto over twenty state lists by thousands of kids and educators; the sequel True Talents, and short collections including, In the Land of the Lawn Weenies on writing funny:

Overstatement: Comic exaggeration or overstatement is especially easy with first-person narration. In "Get Out of Gym for Free:" "I figured the gym teacher would be tough, but he looked like he was about to bite off someone's head and spit it on to the floor. Maybe after sucking out the eyeballs."

Understatement: In "At the Wrist:" "I'd lost Dad's hand. This was not good."

Death, and taboos: In general, can be funny as long as it isn't personal. Lubar wrote a whole series about a dead kid that is a hoot.

Relief: We laugh at pitfalls because we're relieved that they've happened to someone else.

Surprise: The joy of figuring out the unseen connection or seeing the unexpected solution. Humor arises when the reader figures out the unstated connection. In "Cat Got Your Nose?": "Emily liked visiting Miss Reaker. She made wonderful cookies, as long as you didn't mind a bit of cat hair among the chocolate chips, and the occasional little crunchy thing that was better left unidentified." Seeing the connection between two objects is funny, too: "Even with his face wrapped in black cloth, I had no trouble identifying Jimmy, thanks to a unibrow that could have been mistaken for a climbing rope." From: Seven Stages of Humor, by David Lubar.

Ideas from Susie Brown's blog

Use Funny Words:  For "destroy, " say "pulverize;" for "impractical," say "dorky."

Timing: Construct an artificial lull by starting a new paragraph before something funny happens; gives the reader time to think about what came before and brace themselves.

Tell a dumb joke, then make fun of it.

Say the punch line in a foreign language.

Make fun of yourself: Keep self-ridicule light; don't be afraid to call yourself a dimwit, but if you do, do it proudly. The key to self-ridicule is confidence. From: Write Funny--You'll Make More Money. by Susie Brown

Additional sources: How to Write Funny, by John Kachuba, Chapter 6, "The More and Less of Writing Humorous Fiction," by Connie Willis; and Chapter 12, "Writing 'Funny Bits' for Kids," by Patricia Case; "Writing Humor--But Seriously, Folks," by Esther Blumenfeld and Lynne Alper, Writer's Digest, January 1982; "How to Write Funny," by Lynn Coulter, from an undated SCBWI newsletter; "Funny Business," by Frank Gannon, Writer's Digest, December, 1993.

Next month: Part Two of "Tips on Writing Humor" takes a peek at how farce and sarcasm are used in fiction.


Linda Wilson lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a classical pianist and loves to go to the gym. But what Linda loves most is to make up stories and connect with her readers. Visit Linda at https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com. Sign up for Linda’s quarterly giveaways. Choose your prize! 

Find Linda’s books at https://www.amazon.com/author/lindawilsonchildrensauthor.





Saturday, June 25, 2022

An Interview with Children's Author Lisa Harkrader

by Suzanne Lieurance


It’s always fun to learn how other writers work, so recently I interviewed children’s author Lisa Harkrader.

 

Lisa has written all sorts of materials for the children’s market, but she loves to focus mainly on middle grade fiction. 


Her middle grade novels include:

 

CROAKED!—sequel to CRUMBLED! available now
THE ADVENTURES OF BEANBOY, starred review—School Library Journal, William Allen White Award nominee

AIRBALL: MY LIFE IN BRIEFS, William Allen White Award winner

 

Here are the questions I asked Lisa, and her answers.

 

Q: Lisa, please tell us a little bit about yourself as an author. How did you get started? What is your most recent published book.  


Lisa: I've wanted to be a writer since third grade, when it suddenly dawned on me that somebody had to write all those books I love to read. 

 

When I began pursuing a writing career as an adult, I started with short stories. I had young children at the time, and a short story was something I could hold in my head all at once and work on in short snippets of time. 

 

My first book was a nonfiction travel books for kids—Kidding Around Kansas City, co-written with writer and writing coach extraordinaire Suzanne Lieurance! 

 

I also ghostwrote three books in the then-madly-popular Animorphs series, which was great practice for writing my own first novel, Airball: My Life in Briefs.

 

Q: Do you have an agent? If so, what do you think are the advantages of having an agent?  Are there any reasons not to have an agent? 


Lisa: I do have an agent, Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency. 

 

For me, the advantages of having an agent include having someone on your side who knows the business end of publishing much better than I ever will, someone who knows editors personally, knows their tastes and what they're looking for, who can call them, nudge them, ask them questions, someone who knows all the minutiae of a publishing contract and can negotiate to get the best terms for my books, and who can take all the drudgery of sending and tracking submissions off my shoulders. (An example: For my latest books, a series of fairy tale detective novels called The Misadventures of Nobbin Swill, I had written the first book and had ideas for several more. My publisher initially offered a two-book contract, but my agent negotiated it to three books with a higher advance.) 

 

Plus, once upon a time, writers could send manuscripts to book editors directly, but in today's market, it's very difficult to get editors to read unagented work. 

 

The main reasons I can think for not having an agent would be if you are focusing on magazine pieces, nonfiction books for the school and library market, educational publishing (e.g., classroom materials, assessment passages and items, etc.), or you plan to self-publish.

Q: How do you get your ideas for stories and books? Do you keep a notebook with you at all times, so you can jot down ideas as they come to you, for example?

 

Lisa: I know this is not going to sound very helpful, but when someone asks how I get story ideas, my first thought is, "How could I NOT get story ideas? They're everywhere." 

 

I got the idea for my first published short story from trying to park my car on a residential street and noticing a sprinkler on the curb, but instead of sprinkling into the yard, it was sprinkling into the street. 

 

I kept wondering why it was aimed that way—and yes, I did write it down; I've always got paper and pencil handy—until I ended up writing a story about a woman who put a sprinkler out to keep people from parking in front of her house and the neighborhood kids who turned the sprinkler into a car wash. 

 

I get ideas every day, more than I will ever be able to turn into stories or books. 

 

I've also written a lot of work-for-hire stories (such as reading passages for educational publishers), and for those, I've had to come up with story ideas that  fit specific parameters in a very short time period, such as an hour or two! 

 

I've found that even when my mind is totally blank, if I set a timer for 15 minutes and tell myself I must come up with 10 story ideas, no matter how terrible, by idea 5 or 6, I've come up with something I'm excited about writing.

 

Q: What is the most difficult part of writing for you?


Lisa: Oh, gosh, first drafts are excruciating for me. 

 

I love, love, love editing. 

 

I love when I have a finished draft before me, like a lump of clay that I can mold and form into something so much better than my initial output. 

 

But starting out, especially in the first few chapters, when I haven't built up any steam, is hard. 

 

To get over the hump, I usually do sprints of 15 or 20 minutes each, just to get words on the page. 

 

I also participate in Zoom write-ins with a few other authors, where we get together, chat for a few minutes, then mute ourselves and write for 25 minutes before coming back to discuss our progress. 

 

I find that very helpful.

 

Q: What do you think are your greatest strengths as a writer?


Lisa: That's a tough question because I'm always trying to grow. 

 

I try to take something I think is a weakness and turn it into a strength. 

 

When I first began writing, I noticed that I hardly described anything, probably because, as a reader, I tend to skip long passages of description. 

 

So I made it a mission to conquer description, and I think I'm pretty good at it now because I sort of make it stealth description, weaving it into the action, with my characters experiencing sights, sounds, smells (I love describing smells), tastes, feels, as they go about their business. 

 

But for my greatest strength as a children's writer, I think it's that I'm still pretty much a twelve-year-old kid on the inside, so it's not that difficult for me to see things from a middle-grade character's point of view.

 

Q: Who are your favorite middle grade authors? What do you like about their books/writing style, etc.?  

 

Lisa: There are so many great middle grade authors and books that I know I'm going to leave some out. 

 

I love fellow Kansas authors Clare Vanderpool (whose Moon Over Manifest won the Newbery Medal) and Elizabeth Bunce (Edgar Award winnder for her mystery series starring middle-grade Victorian sleuth Myrtle Hardcastle). 

 

I love Vivian Vande Velde, who writes everything from mystery to fantasy to science fiction. 

 

I think I'm drawn to books that, in addition to being a delightful journey with characters I love, are works I can learn from. 

 

Clare's Moon Over Manifest is a historical novel set in two different time periods, and I love studying the way she seemlessly moved back and forth in time and wove the two stories together. 

 

In Elizabeth's Myrtle books, I love seeing how she weaves forensic science, which was just starting to be an actual thing in that time period, and other historical details into a rip-roaring mystery adventure.


Q: When you are going to write a book, how much planning do you do ahead of time? For example, do you make a complete outline of the book? Do you interview your characters or create character profiles to get to know them better?  


Lisa: I plan. A lot. 

 

I do interviews with my main characters. 

 

I make outlines. 

 

Sometimes I start writing before I have completely finished outlining to the end, but I always have a good idea how the book will end so I know what to write toward. 

 

In my two latest books, Croaked! and Clocked! (books 2 and 3 in The Misadventures of Nobbin Swill series), I had to write a detailed outline of each to send to my editor, and having that much detail all the way to the end made writing the actual book so much faster and so much less stressful. 

 

It doesn't mean I stick strictly to the outline or that I have no room for creativity, but it does mean I have a path for a solid story, and I can just let go and write. 


Q: Voice is very important in middle grade stories. Do you have any tips for creating strong character voices?  


Lisa: I have to actually be able to hear my characters' voices in my head before I can start writing. 

 

I work on fleshing out my characters before I begin the actual manuscript, and when I can hear their voices—especially the main character's voice—clearly and authentically in my head, that's when I know I can start writing. 

 

And I think the key word there is "authentically." 

 

I think a strong voice is always the voice that is authentic to that specific character.

 

Q: What are you working on right now?


Lisa: Right now I'm working on a middle grade novel about a girl who accidentally orders a fairy godmother on the internet, and when she shows up—as a lunch lady at my main character's new school—she's the worst fairy godmother in godmother history.


Q: What is your biggest tip for beginning writers who hope to get published?  


Lisa: My biggest tip is the old tried and true READ. 

 

Read the kinds of books you want to write. 

 

Read the books that truly speak to you and try to figure out why. 

 

Make a note of which publishers publish the books you love, and do an internet search to see if you can find out which editors edited them and which agents represented them.




For more author interviews and tips and resources for writers, visit writebythesea.com.


Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 40 published books and a writing coach.

 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Why I’m Still Blogging (and You Should too)


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

“As an acquisitions editor, you should not be blogging,” one of my long-term writer friends told me in 2008. I worked inside a well-known publisher and she believed a blog was a complete waste of my time.  I was an early adapter to the blogging trend.  I ignored her advice and I’m still blogging for many different reasons. Isn’t blogging out of step? Many writers are still blogging regularly including my long-term friend, Jerry B. Jenkins, who has been on the New York Times list 21 times. We talk about blogging some in this Master Class interview (follow the link). In this article I will help you understand why you should be blogging too.

Pick Your Audience and Focus for Every Entry

Before you post your first blog article, you need to determine your audience or readers. Just like no book is for everyone, no blog is for every reader. You can’t be all things to all readers and the focus of your blog will be critical to drawing returning readers. For example, my blog is called The Writing Life because each entry (now over 1,600 of them) are focused on various aspects of my life in publishing. I tell personal stories, point out resources and things that I’m learning. It is not just books but magazine and other aspects of the publishing business. My focus is broad enough to allow a great deal of variety. It never grows old to me (so I abandon my blog—which many people do) and I have an endless supply of material. These aspects are foundational and critical when you start blogging. Also determine how frequently you can post. If you post once a month, that pace is too infrequent for drawing readers. If you post daily, the pace may be too consuming—and you will possibly give up. I decided to blog once a week and I post on the same day every week.  Throughout each week, I have numerous ideas and I keep track of these ideas (develop your own system to capture them) and they become articles.

Some people organize a team of contributors on a topic and rotate article. Others (like me) post my own blog articles. 

Multiple Reasons to Blog 

From my view, there are multiple reasons to regularly blog:

Consistency. Blogging is an easy way to build a consistent writing habit. You can also mentor and help many others with your blog entries.

Platform and influence. Literary agents and publishers are looking for writers (despite their form rejection letters). Your blog is part of your platform, a way to show your writing skills and influence others.

A place to store your various ideas. Articles for my blog are made quickly and random topics. A number of years ago, I took those random entries and organized them into a book. Within publishing we call this process a Blook. My Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams originally started as blog entries.

A place to repurpose my ideas. When I need a blog article for someone else, I often turn to my blog with a wealth of material. In a short amount of time I can repurpose and rewrite a blog entry for these needs.

A way to make money. It’s not my first reason to blog but I make money from my blog. Through blogging, I’ve found authors that publish through Morgan James. I’ve made affiliate income from my blog and much more. I’ve even got a risk-free eBook called The 31 Day Guide to Blogging for Bucks (follow the link) for more insights on this topic.

Practical Lessons for Your Blog

Here are several practical lessons I’ve learned for your blog

--Get a header or look to your blog which people will recognize when they go to it. It doesn’t have to be complicated but should be distinctly your look. You can use a template or get help from someone at Fiverr.com but do invest this energy into the appearance.

--Add a search tool into your blog. I picked up mine from google but look for a simple HTML addition that you can add to help your readers. For The Writing Life, my search tool is in the right hand column (scroll down to find it). I use this search tool often when I’m looking for something among my many entries.

--Always include a royalty-free image with each blog entry. You can’t use just any image you find but should get it from a royalty-free source (check this link for some resources). The image gives others an easy way to pass on your articles and give you additional readers.

--Add a subscription tool to your blog. I use Feedblitz and have about 500 people who receive any update to my blog through their email. Use this link to subscribe to my blog.

--Add a ClickToTweet for every entry. There are other tools but I use ClickToTweet and from monitoring my social media, I know a number of people use this tool. Follow this link to learn how to install it.  Make it easy for people to share your articles.

A key part of the writing life is a word I don’t really like but actively do: discipline or the discipline of consistently writing. A blog is an important part of this process for me.

Tweetable:  

Are blogs still relevant? This prolific writer and editor tells why he is stillblogging (and you should too). Get the details here. (ClickToTweet)

________________________________________

W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get Terry’s newest book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.com. Connect with Terry on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Write True Stories

 


Write True Stories and Make Them Lyrical by Deborah Lyn Stanley

A grand way to practice flourishing your stories and word choices is to write true stories. People connect with stories they can relate to. Use your life and your experiences and build the theme of your story around them.

Consider writing about a grade school, junior high and high school or college event; including conflicts and successes. Our earliest memories are a great place to start. Your life gives a plethora of source material! Grandma’s favorite times are worth repeating. Was there a town square decorated for a gathering every holiday? Did you grow up in the city or the country? Where did you travel for vacations? What was your favorite part?

Last night my husband read aloud “Grandmother’s Porch Swing” by Mary A. Morman, a delightful family story of several generations. It has a hometown feel of the early 1900s; a friendly neighborhood willing to sit-a-while and share a glass of lemonade. After he finished the story, the lyrical nature of Mary’s writing struck me, and I decided she must have played a musical instrument. The rhythm, pace, and flow of her descriptions and the setting were refreshing! So much so, that I’ve included some comments here.

As I mentioned last time, writers need to build-up a strong descriptive vocabulary to handle the many aspects of storytelling and article writing. To enhance your next story, give it the sound test, read it out-loud. Does it flow? Does the sound of your words conflict with what you want to convey;  is it confusing? Read classical authors. Read poetry that you relate to, and write scenes from your story’s era. Also, consider how you might write or revise your piece for a more lyrical feel.

Lyrical writing tips:
1.    Patterns of rhythm or meter, cadence, and sentence length of words and strong memorable images,
2.    Alternating short and long sentences,
3.    Its sound when read out-loud—Does it flow? Can you picture what’s read?
4.    Use metaphors related to nature, for example–scent of the wind blowing strong,

Goal Tip for Today: Create a Doable Writing Schedule
The 5 of 7 rule by Debra Eckerling

https://www.writersonthemove.com/2022/06/featured-productivity-tool-5-of-7-rule.html


More:
Imagery Speaks to Your Readers by Karen Cioffi
https://www.writersonthemove.com/2022/06/imagery-speaks-to-your-readers.html

Five tips for crafting richer prose
https://www.nownovel.com/blog/lyrical-writing-richer-prose/

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her My Writer’s Life website at: https://deborahlynwriter.com/   
Visit her caregiver’s website: https://deborahlyncaregiver.com/

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available:
https://www.amazon.com/Deborah-Lyn-Stanley/
& https://books2read.com/b/valuestories




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Monday, June 13, 2022

Imagery Speaks to Your Readers

 


By Karen Cioffi

Probably one of the most difficult aspects of writing is providing content that your reader can turn into pictures or imagery. 

You may know exactly what you’re trying to convey, the image you want your reader to see, but does your content translate into effective imagery for your reader?

Stephen King discusses this topic in an informative article in the August 2010 Writer magazine. Obviously, any advice from this author is valuable, but I especially like his views on imagery. A key tip that struck me is: “Imagery does not occur on the writer’s page; it occurs in the reader’s mind.

The question that follows is: how does a writer transfer what’s in her mind into the mind of the reader?

The answer is through description.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. What many writers may tend to do is offer too many details that aren’t necessary and may weigh the story down.

According to Mr. King, you need to pick and choose the most important details and descriptions that will allow the reader to understand what you’re conveying, but also provide enough room for the reader to create his own unique image.

To accomplish this task Mr. King says to “Leave in details that impress you the most strongly: leave in the details you see the most clearly; leave everything else out.”

The strategy in this is to look carefully at what you want to convey.  

Picture an image in your mind and focus on the key aspects, the aspects that give you a clear picture of what it is. Then, write what you see. Again, this may not be easy to do, but Mr. King suggests that there is another vision tool to use, which he calls “a third eye” of imagination and memory.

What we see is translated to our brain. Once there we need to interpret that image and transcribe it into content that will provide the reader with a strong gist of what it is, but also allow the reader to fill in her own details. And, those details should convey what you’re targeting.

For example: The house stood dark and dreary.

While this simple sentence provides imagery that should enable the reader to create a picture, there are probably not enough details for the basic image you might be going for. What color is the house? Is it in disrepair? Is it a new or old house, big or small?

A possible alternative to the above example that adds a little more detail, but not too much is: Cracked shingles hung on the dingy grey house.

To further emphasis its disrepair, you might add: Chipped paint and missing caulking on the windows gave the house an eerie feeling.

Another example of imagery is from my children’s middle grade fantasy book, Walking Through Walls:

“Wang bound the last bunch of wheat stalks as the sun beat down on the field. Sweat poured from the back of his neck drenching the cotton shirt he wore.”

The two sentences provide sufficient imagery for the reader to understand the situation, while not giving too many details. If you notice, the content doesn’t mention the color of his shirt, or if Wang knelled on the ground or hunched over the bundle. It’s also missing a number of other details that aren’t necessary and would weigh the story down.

Interestingly, along with concise details, your characters’ names might also add imagery to your story. When you read my character’s name, Wang, what image comes to mind?

You might think of your story’s imagery as an outline or sketch, rather than a colored and finely detailed painting. The basic idea is there for your reader to enhance with her own imagination and memory.

This article was first published at:  Imagery and Your Story
https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2015/02/22/imagery-and-your-story/

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, a successful children’s ghostwriter with 300+ satisfied clients worldwide, and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For children’s writing tips, or if you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com

You can check out Karen’s books at:
https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/

 

 MORE ON WRITING

Self-Publishing a Children's Book - 4 Realities

Sell Your Books Face-to-Face
 
Why It's Called the The Slush Pile



 


Thursday, June 9, 2022

Featured Productivity Tool: The 5 of 7 Rule


A lot of productivity experts say, "Don't break the chain. Work on your projects every day. 

I say: Think about your projects every day. And only schedule time you can commit to for working on them. Granted, if all you are doing is thinking, that's cheating, so you do need to put in some time. The goal is to set you and your projects up for success. 

My 5 of 7 Rule serves to help you take the pressure off yourself, as you work toward achieving your goals, while continuing to juggle everything else going on in your life. As a result, you will be less stressed and more productive. 

The 5 of 7 Rule is exactly how it sounds: 
• Work toward your goals 5 out of every 7 days each week. (Or however many days you can commit to.)  
 • This enables you to keep your objective top-of-mind, while giving you ample downtime. 
• It eliminates the fluster you feel when life happens and you need to skip a day or two.
 

For Example

Let’s say you’re going to work 15 minutes a day on your project, which is a reasonable amount of time. 

If you miss a day, you decide to do 30 minutes the next day. You miss that one too, and you’re up to 45. Well, if you can’t manage 15 minutes, you’ll really have challenges finding 30 or 45. 

My point is this: If you miss a day, just skip it and do 15 minutes the following day. 

Final Thoughts 

Don’t get me wrong. If working toward your goals every day is feasible, go right ahead. However, when you really need it, allow yourself a day or two off, guilt-free.  

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For more inspiration and motivation, follow @TheDEBMethod on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin! 

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What's your favorite productivity tip or tool? Please share in the comments. 

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Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A goal-strategist, corporate consultant, and project catalyst, Debra offers personal and professional planning, event strategy, and team building for individuals, businesses, and teams. She is also the author of Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; Vice President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Women's National Book Association; host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat, #GoalChatLive on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.


Sunday, June 5, 2022

What George Orwell Has to Say About Words

 


What George Orwell Has To Say About It

Freedom of the Press and Words Count
 
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
 
You may know me as “The Frugal Book Promoter”…or novelist. . .or poet. But because this year is shaping up to be an especially difficult year worldwide, maybe you won’t mind if I stray a bit from my usual topics to talk to you about topics that that have been in the news recently—namely freedom of the press and the importance of words?
 
Not long in the past during the height of the Covid pandemic, the White House issued a list of words the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shouldn’t use. That was unprecedented. It bothered me then and it bothers me even more now that Covid keeps reoccurring but some of the other major problems we face have exacerbated. We are lucky that as writers it has been relatively easy to isolate ourselves. That has made me even more appreciative of the importance of words in my life and, I hope, has done the same for you..
 
The LA Times (Tuesday, Jan 16, 2020 page B2) used this as a lead for the story on this repression of words, all the more surprising because the United States is known for its respect for words, both spoken and written:
 
“’It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.’ George Orwell writes
in the fifth chapter of his dystopian novel, 1985.”
 
I love the novel the Times chose to quote, but I have always been too optimistic to give its dystopian theme much credence. But here we are with four public health experts from Emory University in Atlanta saying that if the CDC actually obeys the White House order to avoid certain words and phrases and that by doing so, it “squanders [the agency’s] limited resources.” Other agencies were also “forbidden” to use words like “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science based.” In some cases, the administration’s budget office suggested alternative terms which is a subtle way of saying they are not only telling them what words to avoid, but telling us what words they would like to them to use. I can only hope that this administration will return to honor the constitution’s freedom of speech and press intentions.
 
Then in a recent Sierra Club magazine (sources do count for us writers!), I learn that the US climate office was told not to use the terms “climate change,” “emissions reduction,” or “Paris agreement.” Seems someone was trying to control what we write about, maybe trying to control how we think.
 
Times also reported that in addition to our concepts of free speech and free press, gagging like this violates The Plain Writing Act of 2010 that requires all federal agencies “improve the effectiveness and accountability to the public by promoting clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.”
 
We writers should be thankful for that “plain writing” encouragement! But as writers, we should all be worried—even on the lookout—for anything that limits our use of words.
 
As an example, we’ve been encouraged to use only Merry Christmas as a holiday greeting for decades. I’d hate to lose alternative greetings. As a courtesy, I’ve always reserved Merry Christmas for people I know to be Christian, Happy Hanukkah for those I know to be Jewish. Have a great Kwanza for the black people I know celebrate it but not those for whom I am unsure. Ramadan? Well, I’ve never had occasion to use it (sorry!), but if I did I would be equally careful to abide by the traditions of the person involved.
 
There are others, but generally, “Happy holidays,” is a polite way to be inclusive when we don’t know the situations or do know that in a diverse population I may be addressing a few people who are members of each group with a few atheists to boot. That is a very small example of how important words are, and how important it is we have access to all the ones we find in a dictionary (and some we don’t). For clarity. So that we can. . . ahem, obey the Plain Writing Act. Now there’s a government proclamation I can get my teeth, molars, and incisors into!
 
Before I assure that I don’t get too blasé, I occasionally revisit the date that it was written. 2010! Perhaps we need a reminder of the importance of clarity in our communication more often than we think we should. Is it time again? And can we write clearly if words—precious words that came about presumably because they served a purpose—are denied us? And do we pay no attention when other entities use words to color the way we think. That will always be with us. It is part of the price we pay for free speech issues. We can refuse to be taken in by it. Always on the lookout.

 

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally books for writers including USA Book News’ winner The Frugal Book Promoter now in its third edition from Victor Volkman’s Modern History Press and The Frugal Editor scheduled for release in its third edition in 2022. An instructor for UCLA Extension's renowned Writers Program for nearly a decade, she believes in entering (and shouting out!) contests and anthologies as an excellent way to separate our writing from the hundreds of thousands of books that get published each year. Two of her favorite awards are Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment given by members of the California Legislature and “Women Who Make Life Happen,” given by the Pasadena Weekly newspaper. She is also an award-winning poet and novelist and she loves passing along the tricks of the trade she learned from marketing those so-called hard-to-promote genres. She recommends Dr. Frank Lutz’s Words that Work to her writing friends and those who want to understand more about the power of words-both the positives and negatives. Learn more and find tons of free resources on her website at https://HowToDoItFrugally.com.

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