Saturday, November 20, 2010

Crop Where You Stop

I'm often asked how I find time to write. My usual response is, "I don't find time, I make time." I've done local and national workshops on the topic of "finding time," but this YouTube video by Jan, one of my favorite papercrafters, shows the dedication to "finding time" in action.

Jan's husband is recovering from a serious illness. During his hospital stay, Jan has managed to keep on top of crafting--something that she's passionate about. I connected with Jan's experience because it reminded me that when my mother was in a hospice facility, she would kick me out of her room after about an hour. So, I would go to the lobby of the facility and give my mom the space she wanted by writing on my word processor for a while. Then I would go back in to my mom's room and stay until she kicked me out again. I did this over and over. After the experience, it proved to me that the time we want is there . . . if we really want it.

People come up with reasons (read excuses) for not writing . But maybe, there really aren't that many.

Thanks, Jan for the inspiration!

Writing with Style

When you need the answer to a grammar question, you can type your question into an internet browser and if you’re lucky, you’ll wade through enough sites until you eventually find one that offers the right guidance for you. Perhaps you have a few reputable sites bookmarked specifically for that purpose.

I’m old school. I keep style manuals on hand. Style manuals provide me with grammar and usage guidelines, rules, explanations, and examples. If I ever have questions on capitalization or where the commas go in a compound sentence, I can find the answers easily in one of my books.

Here are the style manuals I use:

Prentice Hall

For quick reference of general situations, this is easy to use.

FranklinCovey Style Guide

This is an expanded reference with more entries and explanations than Prentice Hall. The best thing is many of the examples and explanations are in color, and the guide comes with a CD!

The Gregg Reference Manual

For me, this is the grammar and usage holy grail! It provides examples of any type of grammar situation imaginable. If you have a question about grammar, style, punctuation, and usage . . . the answer is in this book. It’s one of my must haves.

Unless I’m writing a research paper for a class, I avoid MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), and The Chicago Manual of Style. Those things give me flashbacks of all-night typing sessions (and I do mean typing as in: typing on a typewriter), NoDoz, and bad coffee.

If you have a favorite style manual or website, please share it.

“A writer without good grammar is like a cook confused about how to use pots and pans.”
--Kim Louise

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Go With The Flizo

My favorite place to write is in a coffee shop not far from my house. I think I’ve written eight books there. I go there tonight fully expecting to get my Nano 1,666 words on, and when I open the door I notice the place is packed. Not only that, there’s a scraggily guy with a ball cap and a guitar singing just near the front door. Selfishly, I was not happy.

Who are these people invading my creative spot? Since when did my coffee place turn into a nightclub? And the fact that there was nowhere to sit near an outlet ticked me off. I walked up to the counter and the barista says, “The usual?” I told her it depended on whether I could find a place to sit. Just when I was ready to leave, one of the regulars buys my latte. Grateful for his generosity, I decided to stick around and at least take a listen to what interrupted my date with dedication.

Turns out, I liked the music. Very new age meets folk with a splash of grunge. It was standing room only in the front, so I stood with my backpack and latte nodding my head to this guy’s adult alternative beat.

Finally, I saw a couple leave from the back and I took a seat, plugged in my laptop and thought about what to write. What came out was an unplanned scene with my main character going to his favorite bar only to find a band there. He hates the band . . . at first until he realizes that the band was in a way “warming up” the women and that it would be easier for him to find a date for the evening.

Okay, I write all that to explore the significance of going with the flow when we write. Of being flexible. The older I get, the easier it is for me to be rigid about things. I don’t want anything to disturb my groove once I get in it. But I wrote a great scene tonight. I took in my surroundings and dumped them right into my story. I was open to something new. I heard some great music. I typed to it. I was inspired by this singer’s ambition to tour and promote himself, and I was challenged to deviate from my plan and create anyway.

That’s what successful writers do . . . they write anyway. Tonight was a surprising success.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Every year, thousands of writers from around the world participate in National Novel Writing Month. The goal is 50,000 words in 30 days. There are forums on the site where writers keep each other encouraged, motivated, and help brainstorm and share ideas to help fellow writers create the best work of fiction possible.

I participate every year. I've only gotten to 50,000 words once or twice. The other times, it was still worthwhile. I get a whole lot of writing done in a short period of time.