Monday, June 18, 2018

Note to Self: How to Write Gooder



I belong to a writers’ critique group that meets once a week. I’ve been at it now for seven years, but the group has been around for twenty. Amazing, isn’t it?
We swap pages and give each other feedback on our writing.  Some of us are published, but all of us are writers. I have learned more from being a member of this group than from any class I have ever taken on the subject of being a published writer.
Here is what I have learned (the hard way) that might help other aspiring writers.
1.    Get into the practice of formatting your manuscript pages in a professional manner. Type it in Times New Roman, 12-point font, and double space it with a one-inch margin all around. Indent your paragraphs. Learn to type in a header with your name and the title of the manuscript, and number your pages.

2.     Study how to use all punctuation correctly, especially the use of the semicolon and the quotation marks. Become an expert at it (or as near an expert as you can be.)

3.    Learn to discern the different points of view (first, second, third), and if you move from one to the other, how to do it correctly.

4.    Learn to discern the use of verb tense (past and present, for example), and if you jump from one to the other, how to do it effectively.

5.    Study sentence boundaries. Look at where each sentence starts and where it ends, and be able to identify independent clauses, dependent clauses, run-ons, comma splices, etc. Learn how to punctuate them and use them well.

6.    Make sure objects (including characters) do not appear suddenly when they were not there in the previous paragraph or scene.  A knife should not show in a character’s hand suddenly, or a character should not be standing when he was kneeling a moment ago, unless you go back and write the action or the prop into the story previously.
7.    Go back and search for passive verbs and rewrite the sentences so you remove most of them.

8.    Read through for adverbs and rewrite the passage with descriptive verbs or phrases instead of limiting it to an adverb.

9.    Learn to describe emotions with physical characteristics or actions instead of using adjectives.

10. The most important tip of all is to learn how to keep the exciting promise you offered your reader. Each scene, each chapter, must move the story forward. If it doesn’t, then it is not necessary, and you will lose your reader.  Each scene or chapter must keep the reader engaged, and if it doesn’t, then it needs to be removed or rewritten so that it does.  

Monday, June 11, 2018

Big Daddy Dreams



          While driving my grandson home from kindergarten the other day, he announced he will one day be a daddy.
          Snarky is a proud genetic trait in my family, so I didn’t rein it back. “Shouldn’t you learn how to do addition, make your bed, and finish high school first?’
          “Don’t you want me to be happy?”  He snapped. 
          (Obviously the snarky gene has not skipped a generation.)
          He was buckled into his car seat in the back so we had to look at each other through the rear-view mirror.  “Well, of course, I do. I’m just saying you’re very, very young to be thinking of marriage.”
          “I want to get married to a woman one day and have lots and lots of kids.”
          I suppressed the need to tell him that “lots and lots” might not be something to mention to “a woman” on their first date. Instead I said, “Well, I am very happy for you, but what brought this on?”
          “I want to grow up and be the best daddy in the whole wide world, just like my dad.”
          Who can argue with that?
          “And,” he said, “I’m going to let you babysit them.  You’ll have more grandchildren to love.”
          I shot him a look through the rear-view mirror.
          I’m his grandmother.  I subscribe to AARP and get Medicare. I’m that old.  
This is where the knowledge of learning to add and finishing high school might come in handy to a little man who I love with all my heart, a little man buckled into his car seat dreaming big, daddy dreams.
         

Monday, June 4, 2018

Leaving the Nest: Life After the High School Graduation Announcement


          It’s that time of year when my mailbox is full of graduation announcements.  All those grads have plans: off to college, the military service, or the workforce.
          Even those who aren’t doing any of those things, have plans of their own. They plan on living rent-free off Mom and Dad while they take a year off to “breathe” and explore their options.  They have “creative talent” and need room to develop it further.  They were “flooded” with options but felt rushed and needed time to choose from among the multitude.
          I understand.
          Not everyone has a clear view of what comes next after high school, not even those packing for college, the military, or the new apartment.  They too have their share of doubts.
          I’ve seen some college students speed through their classes, anxious to get the degree and start their careers.  I have also seen some meander their way, semester after semester, including summers, taking courses with dubious titles that have nothing to do with a tangible degree until the parents demand an outcome to their investment.
          The steps one takes learning to fly after high school graduation are both formidable and freeing.  I can see why life after high school isn’t for the fledgling. 
          It takes courage to soar and survive on one’s own.