Spelling Test

Joe’s Post #164

I know I’m not the best speller in the world. I’m usually not even the best speller in a room filled with 2 year-olds. But I do know that spelling is important. So, I’m going to reblog a post from some weirdo I usually read. Spoiler alert, it’s me.

Spelling Test

Spelling maters

Spelling maters

Oh, the joy of spelling.

To be honest, I’m not the best speller in the world. This will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me. It’s why I think that the greatest invention in the world was the spell-checker.

But The-Youngest doesn’t have the luxury of using that, yet. He has to learn to spell the old-fashioned way.

No, ‘not sound it out’ – whoever gave that advice has not read or listened to the English language… spell knight. Sound it out. Nite. No one would ever guess it has a silent k and let’s not even get started on the whole ‘gh’ complexities. Instead, he has to memorize. The REAL old-fashioned way.

But, after getting a 13/18, I decided it was time for me to help out. Kind of like how Hitler helped out Poland, but whatever, I was fully engaged in helping him learn to spell.

Here are the words we had. Amazingly enough, he didn’t actually have to know what they mean. At least he said he didn’t (but then he said the teacher allowed them to eat all the candy they wanted.) So I also decided to use them in a sentence, to, you know, help him understand the words better.

Also. You also have to know how to spell lots of words after also. A-l-s-o.

Him: “I don’t like where this is going.”

Bought. I bought a new game and no one can play it but me. B-o-u-g-h-t.

Him“What? What game? That’s not fair!”

Cough. You have a bad cough, but that doesn’t mean you get to stay home and play video games all day long. C-o-u-g-h.

Him: “I have a cough now, can I miss the spelling test?

Me: “No.”

Almost. You almost had me fooled when you said you ate all your lunch, but you left the apple behind as evidence that you did not. A-l-m-o-s-t.

Him: “Doh.”

False – True or false, you like girls now? F-a-l-s-e.

Him: “False, Joe, False!!!!”

Officer – Officer, I wasn’t speeding, I was checking to see if my speedometer worked past 140kph. O-f-f-i-c-e-r.

Him: “What’s a speedometer?”

I can't drive 65!

I can’t drive 65!

Speedometer. Used to measure speed, but it’s not on the spelling test.

Soft – You hate your eggs when they are soft and runny. S-o-f-t.

Him: “True.”

Stalk – You once ate a stalk of broccoli and threw up on the dog. S-t-a-l-k.

Him: “No I didn’t! It was squash!”

Halt – Before you walk into traffic, halt and have a look around or your mom will never, ever let you walk to school by yourself. H-a-l-t.

Him:“ Joe!!!”

Faucet – Joe, turn off the faucet for the love of God, we don’t want to waste water. F-a-u-c-e-t.

Him: “I hear that a lot, Joe.”

Me: “I know.”

I want to believe

I want to believe

Saucer – Look up in the sky, Mulder, it’s a flying saucer. S-a-u-c-e-r.

Him: “Who’s Mulder?”

Me: OMG!

Caution – You better use caution when you think it may be a good idea to eat your weight in candy. C-a-u-t-i-o-n.

Him: “Hmmm. Joe, could I actually eat my weight in candy?” 

Lawyer – Remember to always ask for a lawyer when you’re arrested. L-a-w-y-e-r.

Him: “Will I ever need a lawyer?”

Me: “You’ll have one on speed dial.”

Him: “Joe!!!!!”

Awesome – It’ll be awesome when you get 18/18 on the spelling test. A-w-e-s-o-m-e.

Him: Joe, did you know I AM pretty awesome most of the time?”

Me: “Yes. Yes, I did.”

Stall – When you park in a handicap stall without a handicap sticker, you’re a douche-bag. S-t-a-l-l.

Him: “Joe, did you just use a bad word?”

Me: “Handicap is not a bad word.”

Him: “That’s not the one I’m talking about.”

Crawl – When you’re too drunk to walk, you can always crawl upstairs to bed. C-r-a-w-l.

Him: “Joe, is this something you’ve done?”

Me: “Uhm, err, no.”

Awful – That dirt you ate because someone dared you to tasted awful, didn’t it? A-w-f-u-l.

Him: “Dirt does taste awful.”

Is stinky bad?

Is stinky bad?

Me: “Thus speaketh the voice of experience.”

Because – Take a shower just because you’re stinky. B-e-c-a-u-s-e.

Him: “Hey!!!”

After we reviewed the words, it was time to practice for realzies. We took out a bag of M&Ms. We emptied them on the table. For every one he got right, he got one. For every one he got wrong, I got one.

After the first run through, I had eaten 8.

Yum!

This could be the best game ever!

After the 2nd try, I had 4. For me, this was not going in a good direction, but at least he was beginning to nail the word ‘caution’.

The hardest word turned out to be faucet. I mean, look at cough. Why not spell it ghousit? I got to eat about 10 more candies before he finally got that last one consistently right .

But he was ready for the test.

And, on Friday, he got 18/18.

Awesome. A-W-E-S-O-M-E. Awesome.

He got to eat a whole bag of M&Ms by himself.

******

For me amazing insights into the world of parenting, please check out my other blog.

And thanks for taking time to read our blogs!

The magic of fear in writing

Karalee’s Post #132

fearI was musing the other day, thinking about all the emotions and sensations people go through during their lives. Most of us at some point have felt excitement, joy, peace, terror, pain, sadness, ecstasy, fear, happiness, contentment, anxiety, cold, hot, restless, panicked, relaxed, blissful, etc.

Then, in my writer’s way, I wondered  what underlies all the bad feelings and what can change all the good ones into bad ones. I realized that the common denominator is FEAR.

The definition of fear is:  an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

The magic of this definition for writers is the word belief.

Think about that. We can make our characters believe anything we want. We create their lives from inception to death, building their belief system through their experiences, and those experiences can trigger reactions and behaviors throughout their lives.

Why is fear so magical? Fear is a great motivator for action to get away from the danger that is likely to cause pain or threaten the character. The fear can be up front and physical like getting run over by a truck, or a swarm of bees heading your way. Fear can also be perceived in one’s mind. Now that’s magical. It’s also endless in the scenarios that can be conjured by the hand of a writer. Inside one’s mind is where psychological manifestations blossom, where beliefs flourish whether they are true or false.

For example, if a character was bitten by a dog when he was a child, he may panic when he hears a dog bark even if the dog is locked inside and can’t harm him. Even more powerful, the character could panic at the mere thought of a dog being close by even if there is no dog at all. The truth here is that there is no danger at all, but the character can still be in a state of fear.

Fear is a great tension builder. It’s the monster under the bed, the darkness hiding all the bad things in the night, it’s one’s imagination running terrifyingly free in one’s mind. Its a veritable treasure chest for a writer to pull from.

Does happiness or excitement compel characters to flee, or murder, or do other criminal acts? Or is it the fear of losing someone you love that causes you to murder the lover? It certainly isn’t in the moment of happiness that characters do bad things.

I can’t think of another emotion that’s as strong and compelling as fear to make characters engage in extreme actions to get away from danger or the threat of danger whether it’s real or perceived.

Can you?

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Perspective Photos:

cypress snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bird in snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy writing!

Feel your own emotions

Karalee’s Post #131

fear quote

I’m one of those non-resolution type of people, telling myself that most people don’t follow through and I don’t want to be one of “those.”

Goals though, are another breed. They are the GPS to success, the voice from the black box guiding you along your chosen path to the end point to where “you have arrived.” Truth told, goals are the fraternal twin to resolutions.

So what do resolution avoidance and goal setting have to do with feeling my emotions? Both push me outside of my comfort zone where suddenly the unknown creeps in. What if this happens? or that? or I don’t get it done on schedule? or at all?

The above quote from Steven King says it all.

I realize that my emotions around goal setting tend to be negative rather than positive. They are fear based. Why? Goals should be something I want to achieve, right? They should excite me and push me to do things I don’t normally do to get what I haven’t yet gotten.

Ha! Does this sound like what writers try to get their characters to do?

With this in mind, I stopped and let myself feel the fear behind the goals that I’ve set for myself this year. I’ve never consciously done this before and it’s an interesting experience you may want to try as well. I believe it could help us writers be more in tune with what’s behind our character’s emotions. We could do this with other reactions we have too, and unravel the life experiences that give rise to the way we react whether happy, sad, angry, feeling vulnerable or distrusting, loving, hateful, etc.

For now though, I’m looking at where my fears may be coming from.

  1. Fear of success. This sounds odd to me, but it comes from being put down in childhood for liking school and excelling at it. Country kids are “supposed” to hate school.
  2. Fear of failure. This is a dichotomy when I fear success and failure! To me failure is more self-imposed, like I could have, should have, but didn’t. This is true when I don’t tell anyone my goals, then the only one that knows is me. If I do tell others and fail, then it evokes shame which means I am concerned about how others perceive me. Intellectually I know that what others think shouldn’t matter, but again, one’s past experiences builds these reactions.
  3. Fear of certain activities, like answering the phone and opening mail. Now that’s bizarre when I let that one sink in. These are frequent activities I have to do for my work and I do have an aversion to them, but I have never really let the reasons come to light. When I do, I know I react like this because of the number of times that bad news has come to me through these avenues. It leaves me dreading the “call” instead of dancing to the phone when it rings (or my cell phone) in anticipation of winning the lottery or simply talking to a friend.
  4. Fear of “NO.” In direct sales this is a biggy since 80% of people say no! As children, parent’s ‘no’s” far exceed their “yes’s” and “no” has a direct connection to not being able to do what you want to do. I’ve worked hard this year to not take no’s personally, and the difference it’s made in my life in general has given me freedom to relax and be myself. Letting my experience of no’s be emotionally neutral rather than negative has given me more peace than I ever imagine.

Going through this exercise and really paying attention to why I react and feel deep-seated emotions in certain situations has opened my awareness to also do this with characters in my stories. Backstories are huge in developing characters and to feel the why behind how we make our characters react emotionally will help create more authentic characters.

Giving opposite reactions to what one would expect can also be done this way when you understand the why’s in the character’s history.

Have fun with it!

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Productivity: I’ve heard back from one of the short story contests. I got a very nice standard rejection letter. Keep at it is one of my goals.

Motivation: My goals include taking courses with well-known people in the industry to learn how to follow-through and time-manage, etc. On my list are: Jack Canfield,  Eric Worre, Kim Klaver and Harv Eker and Sonia Stringer

Happy Moments:

  • holiday time spent with family and friends
  • snowshoeing on the local mountains with my husband, David.
  • continuing self-development and loving it!

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Perspective Photos:

frost

 

 

 

 

 

 

bird in hand

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Writing!

 

 

5 More overlooked emotions

skateboard-man

Silk’s Post #147 — I just got a like and a share on a post I wrote two years ago, which is a bit like sticking your hand in the pocket of a jacket that’s been hanging in your closet forever and finding a $10 bill. (Thanks Kelsie and Shannon).

So I went back and read it. And like any long-suffering, praise-starved, unpublished writer, my first thought was: Wow, this is better than anything I’ve written recently. Followed, of course, by a flutter of panic, pangs of angst, and a dash of hopelessness.

If you’ve been reading some of our 5writers posts recently, you’ve probably picked up on our collective struggles to put butts in chairs, get words on paper and keep enthusiasm high as we approach our self-imposed February 5th deadline for finishing our first drafts in the second 5writers5novels5months challenge. Last week I blogged about The art of course correcting as a strategy for giving ourselves the gift of more time, pulling ourselves out of our writing hole, and rehabilitating our 5/5/5 spirit.

After a probably unhealthy amount of introspection (and a couple glasses of wine), I concluded that there’s a life-imitating-art parallel between the arc of writing a book and the arc of becoming a writer.

At the beginning it’s pure excitement, ideas and enthusiasm and confidence bubbling up like one of those science project volcanoes. Then comes the interminable muddled middle, the all-work-and-no-play slog when you wonder what in the hell you were thinking when you embarked on this shapeless plot and whether you’re really cut out for the writing life. It’s all you can do to keep the faith long enough to reach The End, when you finally catch fire again, tie up all the threads, and bask in the glow of accomplishment. You need to really enjoy that glow, because it has to carry you through the next phase of rewrites and queries – a process that can be so demoralizing it will drive you either to start a new book so you can enjoy that beginning rush again, or quit writing and take up something easier, like rocket science.

Well, right now, I’m deep in the mushy middle – both of my book and of my second-career learning curve to become a writer of novels. The original excitement of the starting writer is long past, and the hoped-for success of the accomplished writer is still far, far ahead.

So it was almost shocking to revisit my writing self of two years ago and read the enthusiasm and engagement in my words. What happened to my writing joy? My competency? My confidence? Will I ever get it back?

Then, something unexpected happened.

My mood lifted. And I started getting excited again, because I remembered: I can do this. The proof was right there on the page.

As an hommage to that two-year-old post, The top 10 most overlooked emotions, I’ll work on getting my groove back by adding another 5 under-appreciated emotions to the list for consideration when you’re trying to add nuance and dimension to your characters. This time I’m focusing not on reactive, situational emotions, but instead on underlying emotions that shape a character’s personality and attitude. My preamble to that post still fits here:

In the service of the writer’s twin holy grails – TENSION and CONFLICT – we cram in the obvious basic feelings like LOVE, HATE, FEAR, HOPE, ANGER, HAPPINESS, IMPATIENCE, RESENTMENT, DOUBT, and EXCITEMENT. 

But it’s the subtler shades of emotion that help elevate characters from bland and predictable to spicy and complex. Without these grace notes, emotions can come across as cartoon-like as emoticons. Here are some more to consider …

1.  WELTSCHMERZ – I wish the English language had equivalents for some of the German words that pack a whole suitcase full of emotional complexity into just a few (admittedly chewy) letters. Just saying the word Weltschmerz seems to dredge up a whole gutful of deep, organic feeling. Weltschmerz, Weltschmerz, Weltschmerz. I just can’t say it enough.

Germans love to craft words that are collisions of two or more thoughts, and Weltschmerz, said to be coined by author and humorist Jean Paul (Johann Paul Friedrich Richter, 1763-1825) translates roughly as world-pain or world-weariness. Wikipedia defines it as “the kind of feeling experienced by someone who believes that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind … anxiety caused by the ills of the world.”

This below-the-surface emotion – a favourite of authors in the Romantic era like Byron, Hesse, and Heine – has added depth to memorable characters in modern novels by writers such as John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut and Henry Miller. It’s having a new vogue among today’s essayists, as they attempt to put a name to our collective unease at the world’s present dysfunction. And it even has its own built-in mission: to strive, even against hope, to make things right.

Do you want your action-oriented protagonist to be haunted by a certain sense of deep longing … the pain of a failed idealist that has not hardened into cynicism … a kind of hole in the soul that can never be patched? Give him a dose of Weltschmerz.

2.  PLAYFULNESS – This important emotion is too often dismissed as frivolous. Well, it’s not. Maybe it makes you think of puppies and kittens. I believe that a sense of playfulness is the bright face of curiosity (the dark face of curiosity is usually termed “morbid”).

Curiosity is all about “inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation and learning … [and is] heavily associated with all aspects of human development,” Wikipedia informs us. Thomas Hobbes wrote, “Curiosity is the lust of the mind,” and Edmund Burke called it “the first and simplest emotion which we discover.”

There’s all kinds of serious brain science behind this passion for understanding, but it starts in childhood in the pure form of play. Although psychological research into adult playfulness is apparently in its infancy (“probably because it wasn’t deemed worthy enough,” bemoans University of Zurich psychologist René Proyer), it has been highly correlated to academic performance, active lifestyles, good coping skills, creativity, and attractiveness to members of the opposite sex.

People like playful people. (Wouldn’t you like to meet the guy with the skateboard on his head?) So if you want to make readers love your character a little more, let him be playful. Maybe some of it will rub off on you!

3.  GRAVITAS – If you’ve Weltschmertzed your character successfully, you may already be on your way to achieving gravitas. But is it an emotion? Well, not exactly. But it certainly is the product of a cluster of emotions – or perhaps I should say of a person’s way of managing those emotions.

Gravitas was identified as one of the primary Roman virtues, alongside other qualities like dignitas and veritas. In short, it’s an attribute of people who take things seriously, and are taken seriously – and trusted – by others. People with gravitas are the “adults in the room”: responsible, earnest, dignified, substantial. People who have depth of personality. People not given to playing fast and loose with their emotions.

If you think about the traits of the spectrum of politicians currently in the headlines, for instance, you can quickly pick out those who have it, those who don’t but wish they did, and those who you might suspect are wearing a mask of gravitas that hides who they really are. See how much fun this is? How gravitas makes a great protagonist (think Strider)? And how much more interesting an antagonist who’s faking gravitas could be than a standard cardboard bad guy?

4.  GRATITUDE – The emotion of gratitude is getting a lot of attention lately, as it deserves. People now talk about “practicing” gratitude, as opposed to just naturally feeling it. According to some current thinking, “people aren’t hardwired to be grateful … and, like any skill worth having, gratitude requires practice.” (Really?)

Psychologist Robert Emmons, for instance, wrote a 2008 self-help book called Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You HappierIt doesn’t take a professional, though, to know that gratitude will make you more popular – people love an ingrate the way they love a person who kicks dogs.

Gratitude can be seen in an immediate emotional reaction to a stimulus, but it can also be present as a general attitude closely related to humility. A fictional character who exhibits gratitude will win the empathy of many readers … and could be a terrific opposing foil for a bad actor who makes readers want to choke him to death with a big piece of humble pie.

5.  INSECURITY – Ah, the writer’s companion. Definition: anxiety about oneself, lack of confidence, self-doubt, diffidence, nervousness, inhibition, sense of vulnerability or inferiority. Who has never, ever felt like this, even for a moment? Any hands? I thought not.

When it comes to characters, an insecure protagonist is usually a horrible idea unless you have some plan to rehabilitate her pretty quickly. It isn’t easy to relate to a clingy victim – or, on the other end of the spectrum, a bombastic over-compensator – as the main POV character. Insecure people are needy and often make others uncomfortable, as anyone who’s been closely shadowed by one at a party will attest. They can try your patience and suck your emotional energy. So, as main characters, they usually don’t cut the mustard.

But that makes Nervous Nellies or Bobby Blowhards perfect in some secondary roles. For instance, as the sidekick whose insecurity hides her brilliant mind, or big heart. This gives your protagonist an opportunity to exhibit sterling characteristics like empathy and loyalty. And sets up a satisfying surprise when the inhibited sidekick has to rise to the occasion and find her courage just when the protagonist needs her.


5/5/5 challenge scorecard for the week:

Since we’ve done our 5/5/5 course correction in the name of sanity and mutual support, I’m now aiming to complete my first draft by April 5th. But I don’t want to float off completely into the ether of unaccountability, so I’m re-starting my blog post scorecards.

New pages written:  Since when? Oh, yeah – well let me just take a look, um. Right, uhhh … let’s see. What was the question again? Hold on – is that the phone? Sorry, I have to take this. I’ll, um, get back to you on that.

Word count:  Still 9,320

Rewrites:  None

Blog posts written:  2 this week (and this one’s early … a first!)

Research done:  A little tiny bit

Other accomplishments:  Figured out my ending, my villain and a main character’s motivation to take the action that sets the whole plot rolling. Hallelujah!

Best new thing:  My sciatica went away.

Holiday progress:  Christmas letter done. Decorations out from under the stairwell. Cards in progress. Gifts to be mailed away bought and being wrapped in … 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 minute. Bye now until next week!

Why I write

Karalee’s Post #129

lake reflectionMy writing productivity has gone up and down with my life’s rhythm. I don’t consider myself one of those born with a pen in hand, although my mother tells me that I was an insatiable talker from the moment I could form words. From that perspective, I’ve always had the need to express myself.

I was good in English at school and truly enjoyed reading and writing stories. I never thought of it as a passion or my life’s calling since my absolute goal after high school was to go to university and move out of the small town I grew up in. The big city excitement was an irresistible magnet and an expression of my independence.

Becoming a writer or storyteller didn’t suit those early expectations of mine. I enrolled in the science faculty which later lead to the medical faculty and a degree in Rehabilitation Medicine. I started my own physiotherapy practice and worked myself into exhaustion in the service industry.

It took a decade and I was burnt out.

Fortunately my husband and I were in a financial position that I could sell and take care of our three children. It was once the weight of being self-employed was lifted along with all the responsibilities it entailed that I took a deep breath. Almost instantly I knew it was time for me to write.

Where did that come from?

It didn’t surprise me in the least. It simply felt right.

So I set out to explore this new internal drive that seemed to be seeking me out. With the luxury of my children all in school I felt like I was in HEAVEN! Words tumbled out and my inner editor could hardly keep pace.

It was the closest I’d ever felt to euphoria.

Then that same year my husband, David, sold his software business. It sent my new and exciting routine into a completely unexpected direction as we decided to go on a family adventure on a sailboat in the Mediterranean. We planned to be away for one year.

One slid into two. The Mediterranean is a huge place with amazing history and people. Why rush back to Canada?

Did I continue to write?

Not at first.

ferry and windThe first year home schooling and traveling on our sailboat took every waking hour and many sleeping ones too as we made overnight passages. On a smallish scale map the Mediterranean can be covered by a mere thumb. On a sailboat it takes more than 24 hours to travel from the boot of Italy to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Three hour shifts while crossing the Adriatic Sea were more grueling and disrupting than midnight and early morning feedings with my three children when they were newborns. Falling asleep breastfeeding on a recliner didn’t have the same repercussions as falling asleep while under sail on a sea riddled with freighters and fishing boats.

At this time writing was not on my books so-to-speak.

Storms at sea followed by finding food on land to feed our family took all of our energy and was often overwhelming. Add in daily home-schooling and the thought of writing didn’t come to light for many months.

Don’t get me wrong, the experience was amazing for the family and we still reap the benefits of getting along and working together today. Although I had no energy to put words down, stories and my imagine were working away. Thank goodness for all the books on board as they were my sanity check and I read in short spurts before conking out at night.

The first year David taught Grade 5 and 7 to our two older children while I taught Grade 1 to our youngest. The second year we decided to share the responsibilities with me teaching one week and David the next.

On my “off” week the activity I craved to do was write. The calling was strong again and I had all day to write without any interruptions.

Pure bliss with bursts of euphoria again when I got deep in the zone with my characters and story.

That is why I write.

My productivity has been up and down with life interventions and sometimes I berate myself for not doing as much as I “should.” That’s when it’s a good time to reflect on how much I have achieved. I have spent hours learning the craft, taking courses, reading, going to conventions, learning about stuff I want to write about (aka research) and always without fail I return to put fingers to my keyboard and create a story from my imagination.

I have written three novels and a couple of handfuls of short stories.

I am proud of that.

Best of all, being in the zone when I write is where I love being. It is what keeps me coming back to writing like a junkie to drugs. Imaginations don’t age like our bodies and I will be able to continue writing as long as my brain and fingers allow. The process is like magic.

How lucky I am to have found a passion that is always there for me.

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Productivity: I have a third of my third story down on “paper.” It’s an emotional subject and I know it will pull me into the zone when I get writing this week.

Motivation:  I’m following The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. Great book to put into perspective what productive people do to get and stay in rhythm.

Happy Moments: 

  • My family was together to celebrate my birthday.
  • Unconditional love from my dogs greet me every day as I come and go from the house
  • feeling safe in my community in this chaotic world.

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Perspective Photos:

tree shadow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

rope on post

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy writing!

What is a short short story?

Karalee’s Post #126

My fellow 5’ers have stated in their blogs that they think that writing 5 short stories in 5 months may be as or more difficult than a novel. To put things in word perspective, I came across this table in Wikipedia:

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In fiction
Classification Word count
Novel over 40,000 words
Novella 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novelette 7,500 to 17,500 words
Short story under 7,500 words

Word count – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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So in effect if I write say, 7,000 words for each short story it would be 35,000 words. That’s close to a short novel, but about 30% of the length of a typical novel.
I’ve found that it’s common for many short story contests to set the word count somewhere between 3,000 to 5,000 words. If I did this then I would write somewhere between 15,000 to 25,000 words.
Then there’s the short short story. What in the heck is that?
short short story
Apparently a short short story is under 1,500 words. Not an easy task.
Writing a short story or a short short story sounds like it should be a whole lot, I mean a WHOLE lot easier and certainly faster than writing a complete novel.
And, truth told, in the end (pun intended) it is, in my opinion.
Certain challenges are the same. There needs to be a beginning, middle and an end. There needs to be a story to tell, some conflict, some changes, and an ending to make it all work and make sense. What makes a short story easier and faster to write is the confines that the length of the story dictates. The “shortness” doesn’t allow a whole lot of character development with growth and changes. Heck, it doesn’t allow a whole lot of characters period. There aren’t enough words to give many to a sub-plot or to introduce more than one or two conflicts. Long descriptions take too many precious words that are needed to keep the story moving.
What a short story does command are strong characters, conflict up front, concise descriptions and quick flow of story.
In a short story the end comes quick. Make sure the story ends in time too. That’s the hard part.
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5/5/5 challenge this week:

Short story word count:   Story 1 –  still at 1000 words. Maybe I will have to do a couple short short stories…

Candy eaten:  All I can say is that it’s a bad idea to buy Halloween candy before the aforesaid event.

Gratitude for:  Connecting with my daughter that lives across town with her husband. I always appreciate when she calls for a check-in chat. With social media these days, it is refreshing to hear her voice.

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Perspective Photos:
mist in park
bee on flower
Happy writing!

Always be learning

Joe’s Post #154

IMG_2269 (800x599)As a writer, as a human being, as a full-on weirdo, there’s one thing I should always be doing.

ABL. Always. Be. Learning.

Like the famous speech in Glengarry, Glen Ross. (Parental discretion advised.)

But not, you know, always be closing. Always be learning.

So even when I’m writing on my novel or fixing it or staring at the words I’ve written and wondering what the hell made me think this was a good idea, I continue to try to learn something new that will help me be a better writer, a better blogger or just a more annoying history buff.

This week, I looked at three things I wanted to share.

First, the Writer’s Digest Platform Challenge for October. Check it out. I have a link. Lots of good stuff if you’re just starting out a blog, but also some interesting exercises if you have one up and running.

Here are a few examples. Day 8. Find and share a helpful article. We do this on our blog (or at least share links) but it’s a good reminder to connect with the community at large. It’s something I need to work on with my own blog.

Day 9. Call to Action. I have to confess, this one has me baffled. We’ve not gotten a lot of comments on our blog and when I read other blogs, I see they often do. I’m not sure what we’re doing wrong. Any suggestions? (this is my call to action.)

Day 18. Interview an Expert. Oh, I like this one. Paula talked to an ex-sheriff, but I’m going to task that for next week. Stay tuned. I’m agonna find someone who knows something about something.

sniper 3. Apparently i'm in there somewhere.

Sniper 3. Apparently I’m in there somewhere.

Day 20. Search yourself. Hmmm. Seems Joe Cummings writes travel books. Seems Joe Cummings had a stranger living in his apartment. Seems there’s a Canadian poet named Joe Cummings. So not me. Seems Joe Cummings is an actor in Sniper.

So, yeah, seems I’m a lot of things, but none of them me.

Try justjoebc as a search and see what you find. I dominate that one. Oh, yeah, baby. Yeah.

I think I’ll go back and do up a plan for next week. I should be able to do 2 a day and catch up a bit.

Anyone else willing to give this a try?

Second thing learned.

Black Soldiers in WW1

Black Soldiers in WW1

Watched 8 hours of WW1 footage for my novel. Pretty interesting stuff. I’m going to steal all sorts of facts for my character’s background. After all, that war defined him. But the most interesting thing I learned is that while the US refused to integrate its army into the French army (for good reason), they did integrate their colored regiments, who were treated quite differently in that army than in their own.

Last thing.

I re-learned how important it is to have a support group, a critique group, or just a few writing friends who’ll be there to help you when you need it.

Holland WW2

Holland WW2

See, something was wrong with my first 60 pages. I dunno what the hell it was, but something was nagging at me. Nagging bad. But after spending time with one friend (and Friday, another), I should have it all sorted out.

Funny what a new set of eyes can see that you can’t.

So, if you’re ever stuck, go phone a friend. It’s advice from Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.

At that’s it from me for this week.

******

Page count:  90ish (but see that thing about having to redo some of it)

5/5/5 Word count. I dunno. 22,000

Words that will get thrown out: Probably 21,000

Blogs written: 1 (but a burst of 5 starts tomorrow on Just A Stepdad.)

Exercise days: 0 – sick as a dog for most of last week

Movies Seen: Fury Road (with the boys). The Martian (maybe it was that time of month for me, but I teared up a lot). San Andreas (with the youngest boy, a movie that proves if you go by a formula, you’ll suck. Even with the Rock.)

Book I’m Reading: Something From The Nightside by Simon R. Green (a book akin to the one I wrote for the Tor open call).

 

 

 

Commit to finish

Karalee’s Post #122

Well, Paula threw down the gauntlet to challenge her group and the world at large to write a first draft in five months starting September 5th. The date was chosen three years ago to signify the five of us in our writing group with September being the month for new beginnings. For many of us September coincides with the end of summer holidays and the beginning of a new school year when we were children. As adults, September is often the beginning of new projects or a new set point after holidays.

September is for renewal.

A new commitment makes sense and is imperative really. So why not choose something you love to do? It doesn’t have to be painful like needles and a full sleeve tattoo, or piercing parts that were never meant to be pierced. Or running up hills or spinning in spin class until you throw up all in the name of getting into shape.

Choose something challenging and satisfying. Then do it!

That’s the reason I’ve titled my blog post ‘Commit to finish’ as opposed to ‘Commit to start.’

Why?

I find that myself and many of us in the western world are good to go at the starting gate. Take New Year’s Resolutions and the thousands of people that start in the gym and go whole hog for a couple of weeks only to peter off. The same can be said for diets, or keeping the house clean, gardening, sorting old photographs, purging your closets, and on and on.

And of course, writing the book you always said you would.

I can bet that most of us have many starts to many books. We have an idea of what happens in the middle and maybe a good feel for what will happen at the end or what needs to happen. The beginning though, is my nemesis.

All of my stories have taken an extraordinary amount of time to perfect the start. My beginnings have sucked up too much energy, causing an overload of angst, cursing, emotional highs and lows, and so many rewrites that it seems impossible to even get to the muddled middle, not to mention nowhere near the exciting slide to the finish.

My beginning often takes away from my end.

It can be extraordinarily difficult to reach the finish gate, so if you are like me, put blinders on and get past the first two to three chapters. Accept they are far from perfect. In all likelihood, you aren’t even starting at the right point anyway, so don’t waste time on it. Keep going.

Keep going ……… and going ……. and going ….. until ……… the …….. VERY …… end.

Siwash RockI refuse to get stuck at the beginning, so like my fellow 5Writers, I’m throwing in my gauntlet too and making a commitment to write. I’m choosing differently though. That is, I’m choosing a story type that I can manage with my new business where much of my energy is focused at the moment. I’m choosing to write short stories.

Five short stories in five months! 1writer5shortstories5months

 

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Perspective Photos

Siwash Rock

The Nest UBC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Writing!

Same story, different characters: adult vs child

Karalee’s Post #121

This has been a summer to remember, to savor, and to step back and embrace. I’ve been blessed to have experiences far from my regular day-to-day routine. Oh, I have a lovely daily “box” in the beautiful city of Vancouver, Canada. My routine is diverse and I make it a habit to take alternate routes doing errands and having conversations with all the young people coming and going in my house – all in the name of enjoyment and Alzheimer’s prevention! 🙂

Still, nothing beats experiencing the world from a completely new perspective. Check out http://alisonanddon.com/ and see how they’ve chosen a lifestyle of selling up everything in order to become permanent travelers in their retirement! Their blog is amazing.

I know that my writing will be influenced by my summer’s experiences. This thought takes me back to grade school and the teacher assigning the task to “write a story about what you did for the summer holidays.”

Memories of that writing task has spawned my blog today.  Wouldn’t it be fun to write the same experience from two POV’s? One as the adult and the other as a ten year old?

I’ve had two major experiences this summer. One is my daughter’s wedding that I wrote about last week. The other was an amazing trip to Haida Gwaii with women that I used to dragon boat with. That will be my story here.

Day One in Haida Gwaii:

Adult story:

Our guide loaded boxes of food and supplies and our eight dry bags onto the zodiac before helping us aboard. Dressed in thick dark green wet weather gear held tight to my torso by my life-jacket, I laughed as I rolled across the inflatable like a seal into the boat and took a seat at the back.

Haida Gwaii Zodiac and womenOnce the other seven ladies had rolled aboard and found seats, our guide took off at 25 knots with the wind and rain blasting against the faces of the two in the front row. I was wondering how we would fare with four days of traveling in this weather.

The zodiac zoomed along the remote coastline of Moresby Island for a few minutes before our guide from Moresby Explorers stopped at a sight where an old pier jutted from shore. He told us about local logging practices and how Sitka Spruce trees had been taken down to help build Mosquito airplanes in WWII.

We kept going and the sun came out and the skies cleared. Within another hour of our guide drove the boat ashore in a bay and helped us out onto the beach. He led us into the forest on a trail through an abandoned logging site where logger’s leather boots, metal machine parts and tires were strewn about and overgrown with moss. A decidedly ghostly air surrounded our group of eight ladies as we walked along, and when the trail took us through a First Nation’s burial site we were eerily quiet.

I was glad to pop out into the light of day and onto the beach where lunch magically appeared from a cooler and a log became our table and chairs. We ate chicken sandwiches and quinoa salad in a silence, and it wasn’t only because of the ghosts of past loggers lurking in the trees a few feet away.

Hunger. It silences the best of talkers for a short time.

The sky darkened again and rain broke loose from the threatening clouds forcing us to hunker down in the zodiac as we flew along again. Even with two layers of clothes under my rain gear I was chilled. Moresby Island is remote and we drove for a couple of hours without seeing another boat or building, not even a whale. When we turned a corner of land near the end of the day’s light, I was very happy to see the floating lodge through the rain. It was a beacon of light representing warmth and safety.

Steam rose from us as we entered the heated indoors and stripped off our wet clothes. Squash soup never smelled so good. A glass of wine never tasted so good.

Child’s story:

I had to put on these plastic pants and coat and big boots before I could go in the boat. The man got me a life jacket too. The boat went so fast it was hard to breathe and the rain hurt my face. It was fun.

Haida Gwaii pierThe man stopped and talked about history stuff. One place had logs still sticking up from the ocean where fighter planes were made for the second world war.

We drove a long way and the man drove the boat right onto the beach. I jumped out and the water almost came into my boots. I took off all the gear and we went for a walk in the trees. That was fun. There were old boots all over the place like people just left them. Maybe they left them for someone else to use and they had bare feet. Lots of old machinery was sticking out of the ground too with moss on everything. It looked spooky.

Mosquitoes kept biting me and I was mad. Then I saw these crosses and stone graves. The man said it was a graveyard for the First Nations people and we were to be quiet and not touch anything. It was spooky too.

After we came out at the beach and I threw some rocks in the ocean and found some tiny, tiny crabs under the rocks. That was fun.

I ate a sandwich on a log then we went for a long, long, long boat ride. I got cold and there wasn’t anything to see. It was raining. I wanted to get inside.

 

 

 

The lodge was hot inside. I had soup and hot chocolate and other stuff for dinner.

There was no TV or video games. It was boring and I went to bed.

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Achievements:

  • I had great fun writing these two perspectives. It has shown me that taking the time to do this is can change the perspective I choose to use in a story since each character will see his world in a unique way.
  • Getting back into routine after such a long hiatus. House, garden, working, writing…. It is difficult to balance, especially with 5 young adults living in the house over the summer too.
  • Staying positive! Life is great.

Keeping balance in my life: 

  • Continuing to work on self-development and mindfulness.
  • Start mapping out my day so I can fit in what I need to.
  • Staying in touch with fellow 5Writers every week. Love email!
  • Back to daily exercising. I’m exhausted, but that goes with the territory.

Perspective Photos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mexico garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy writing!

James Scott Bell on 7 Things That Will Doom Your Novel

JSBJoe’s Post #147 (though it shouldn’t count as a Joe’s Post) — Every so often, I take a few moments to read some of my most favourite inspirational writers. My mentors, if you like. Yesterday, I re-read something that really struck me by James Scott Bell (via Writer’s Digest.) Please check out his entire article as he tends not to be all blah-blah-blah preachy, but does what all good writers do. He entertains us. Plus, you can pick up a free download on how to write a novel). So, without further boring-Joe commentary, here’s James Scott Bell’s 7 things not to do, and my thoughts. Enjoy.

7 Things That Will Doom Your Novel (and How to Avoid Them)

By: | June 5, 2012 – Writer’s Digest

inspirationOh, my goodness, this is a hard one for me not to do. I honestly think it’s the difference between pro writers and wannabes. Pros get it done, day in and day out. Like taking fish oil every day. Or eating kale.

Simply put, they make inspiration happen by sheer force of will. Or they will find a way to get inspired. For me, that way is often by reading, but I need to readjust my thinking on the whole ‘waiting for inspiration’ thing.

2. Look over your shoulder.

Bell writes about the inner critic here and that inner critic is born from fear. Of all the things I have to overcome, this one is the most difficult. I love writing, but hate rejection. It’s like a hockey goalie loving to be a goalie but hating to get pucks in the face.

To be a writer these days, we need to be like the old school goalies, like Gump Worsley one_worsley03who never wore a mask and took a lot of pucks in the face for something he loved to do.

Insane? Maybe. But aren’t writers, by definition, insane?

So you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to put up his picture and look at it every time I get all ‘fraidy cat about sending out a query. I mean, he took pucks in the face and his mom had named him Gump.

3. Ignore the craft.

I don’t do this. It’s not one of my issues. I read about it, have a critique group and constantly look at other writers to see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

4. Keep a chip on your shoulder.

voodooEver have one of those friends who call you on your bullsh*t? You kinda hate it at the time. You may even get mad at them and threaten to pee on their petunias or make a voodoo doll of them and stick that doll with a million needles, then light it on fire, then toss it in a tub of acid while screaming at it, “I hate you, I hate you.”

Everyone does that, right?

But Bell’s right. I have to let go of the chip on my shoulder. So what if agents don’t get back to me? Why should that stop me from getting another query out? (Hint – the answer is this is really masking fear, again.)

5. Write for the market only

I’ve only done this once. And I did it this year. For an open call from TOR. Otherwise, I’m like an anti-market writer. I don’t write to the latest trend. I’m not even sure what that would be, to be honest. I write what I write.

But Bell also talks about voice and that’s something I’ve worked hard on. But here’s the odd thing. I think I have several voices.

Ok, stop looking at me like that. We all hear different voices in our heads, right? Right?

I love my noir voice that I used for my Lou Rains novel and my WW2 mystery set in the Netherlands. I love my goofy-Joe voice that I use for blogs. I even love my YA voice, but I seem to be the only one who does.

See, for me, voice comes a lot from character and genre. Part of the fun is playing around with voices, seeing what I can do. Like trying on a different style of underwear to see what fits. Bikini briefs, not so much. Boxy boxers, nah. But a nice pair of boxer-briefs, yah, I don’t put those back after trying them on.

But of all of all my voices, the goofy-Joe blog voice may very well be my most authentic.

6. Take as many shortcuts as possible.

This really applies to self-publishing, a route we 5/5/5 may be taking soon. Read up on what Bell says. It’s gold.

7. Quit

never quitAlthough some days, the days I look at my stack of rejections and think, hey, maybe I just don’t have the skill to be a writer, I admit, I do think about quitting.

But I don’t. I’m really not sure why. Overwhelming evidence seems to suggest that I’ll never be able to make a career at this. So why continue?

I write because I need to write. It’s a part of me. Like Gump needed to be a goalie and probably would have been happy to play even if he was never picked up by the NHL. So, if I continue to write, continue to persevere, continue to improve and combat all the how-not-to-succeed things inside my head, maybe one day I’ll make it.

*****

megan foxAnyway, that’s it from me, today. Going to take down that picture of Megan Fox fixing her car and put up Gumpers. Going to finish off my 30 pages for submission to my writing group. Going to get in the headspace of a successful writer and write me some writing.

For anyone interested, here are a few awesome links to writing guru’s you should check out. Other than Mr. Bell.

Donald Maass (on character)

Hallie Ephron (supporting characters)

Nancy Kress (writing flashbacks)

These are all short, fun articles. Easy to digest. But you can also follow-up on those writers a bit more and see what other bits of advice they have to offer.

Also, if anyone would like to post their comments on what JSB had to say, let me know.

Hugs.