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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Finding Some Time

Finding the time to write is a challenge for almost every writer I know. Most of us don’t have the luxury of doing it on a full time basis. It takes some resourcefulness but if you put your mind to it, you can usually pick out a few times during the day that you can squeeze in a little creativity. This may mean sitting down to type, jotting down some ideas in a notebook or even just taking advantage of a few moments to mull some ideas over in your mind.

Always keep a pen and paper handy so you will be prepared when an opportunity presents itself. It may be while you’re waiting at an appointment, in the pick-up line at school or during soccer practice. While it might seem that the only spare minute you have in a day is while sitting at a red light, I don’t encourage utilizing this time for writing or daydreaming.

There are other less obvious possibilities too.  For example, you could have your child write with you. Keep them busy by setting them up with paper and colored pencils to explore their own creative side.

I’ve even heard of writers that plot ideas out with a dry erase marker while in the shower. Now that’s ingenuity.

Also, don’t be afraid to say no. Treat your writing time like you would any other job. Set aside time for it and make it a priority. It’s not easy but with a little perseverance and schedule tweaking it can be done. It helps to remind yourself often of how good it feels when you’ve taken the time to write. Every little bit helps you move closer to the ultimate goal of finishing that book.

Where do you squeeze in some writing time?

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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Idaho

 

Doesn’t Everybody Know About Freezer Jam?

The raspberries are ripe! This is a big thing around our house. We finally have a big enough crop to make freezer jam without buying any extra. I’m a raspberry lover, and I tell you, it’s every bit as hard to find fresh raspberries as it is to find great tomatoes.

jam 013

I picked the bushes clean the last few days, had some on ice cream, yum, and set about gathering what I needed for jam. Of course, I didn’t have enough sugar. Which made me think, could one ever have too much sugar? Sorry, my mind wandered there for just a bit.

It’s been a couple of years since the last time I made jam, so I decided to check the internet and see if there were any new recipes. I found that the recipes had changed slightly since I’d made it last and it’s even easier that before. One website I found was Tastes Better From Scratch http://buff.ly/15H3hng, and something caught my eye.

In the comments, a number of people said they’d never heard of freezer jam. Yeah, it surprised me too. I grew up thinking everyone had a mother or grandmother who made freezer jam from strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or any other fruit you can imagine. I’m going to try the grapefruit next.

So for those of you who haven’t enjoyed the heaven that is raspberry freezer jam on your morning toast or dinner biscuits, there is a simple way to make it with no canning allowed.

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After extensive research, I found that the best recipe is the one in the box of fruit pectin. I used Sure-Gel, but any kind will do. They make regular and low sugar, and I made both to see which one is best. We like the low sugar, but even in that one, there is a lot of sugar. Don’t use less as it prevents spoilage.

The instructions are simple. First mash the fruit and measure out the sugar. Each type of pectin has a slightly different recipe, but in all of them it is important to measure exactly, otherwise your jam will come out runny.

Make sure you stir until the sugar is dissolved and no granules are left. This usually takes me longer than the recipe suggests. When all the ingredients are mixed, spoon them into small glass or plastic containers and let them sit for twenty-four hours on your counter. Don’t worry, they won’t spoil. Then freeze up to a year.

Since I have never learned to can, this way we can have great homemade jam all winter.  Time to enjoy the jam yourself or put it in cute jars and give as a gift.

Were you raised with freezer jam? What is your favorite flavor?

 
14 Comments

Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Idaho

 

September Meal Rescue

It’s September. School has been in session for almost three weeks. As usual, I’m overloaded, behind, and exhausted. I manage to get some writing done on the weekends, not much, but at least some.

I’m underwater and struggling to reach the surface. During this crazy time, cooking has taken a backseat. Squeezing in everything I’ve got to do is hard enough. I can’t deal with cooking dinner as well.

Truth time. I gave up cooking a few years ago. I occasionally dabble. By dabble, I mean once every few weeks I throw a meal together. I have an easy receipt that is delicious, easy to make, and will allow you time to get a few words onto the page.

Steph’s White Chili Chicken (Tonya Jeppson shared this receipt)
3 chicken breasts (frozen)
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups (1 can) chicken broth
1 cup water
2 cans diced green chilies
Add sautéed onions and peppers
Fresh Cilantro
2 Tablespoons oregano
Salt
Pepper
Lawry’s (optional)
6-8 bread bowls or just rolls

Saute onions and red or green peppers in butter. Then dump everything into the crockpot. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 6 hours. Serve in a bread bowl. You can throw in frozen chicken the night before and cook on low till dinner. It’s so easy.
I like to add another can of cream of chicken soup along with an additional cup of water.

Writers get hungry and want a meal. Do you have a simple receipt to share?

 
14 Comments

Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Idaho

 

Note to Self: The Scenic Route is Slow

My daughter and I are on a road trip to the Oregon coast this week. I grew up in mountains and rivers, so I’m not one of those people who yearns for the coast. But I confess, it is a delightful escape from temperatures in the high 90s and fiery smoke-filled air in Boise.

We took a route getting to our favorite coastal spot that we haven’t taken before. So we had no idea what to expect. One road we took looked shorter on the map, but when we turned onto it, the sign indicated it was a “Scenic Byway.” Now, I’ve been around the bend enough times to know that translates as “Slow. Enter only if you time.” Fortunately, we did.

It occurred to me that this is a good metaphor for the way I write. Mostly slowly. Taking lots of time. Enjoying the view. I know others who proceed in a very methodical, planned way, but I tend to turn onto a road and see what it’s like.

My writing process usually looks something like this:

First, the idea hits. I avoid the urge (mostly out of the wisdom of having spent years jumping on each new idea only to have it go nowhere) to start writing. If an idea sticks with me for several months, I know it’s a keeper. I let the idea percolate in my mind, letting details and characters develop, almost as if in utero. Slowly.

Once I am ready to write, I don’t create and outline or a plan. That’s not my style. I often have an idea of the overall arc of the story I’m looking at, which is one reason I let it go through the percolating process. I jump in and start my first draft, following my main character wherever he/she leads me. Sometimes we take detours that don’t really add to the plot, but that I maybe needed to write in order to know something I need to know. I write the first draft all the way through without revising. I know people who revise as they go, but I like to keep my momentum going forward.

Once I have a first draft, I begin showing the manuscript to other readers, such as my trusted and fantastic critique group. (Note: all authors should have a critique group, or at least a few trusted readers who will give you a thorough critique.) I make notes as they critique and they usually write comments on the manuscript. Plus, I generally have a lot of my own changes I want to make. It might take me up to a year to go through a revision. Slowly. I let the story live in my head again, pondering moments that don’t seem to work until a solution comes to me. I write a lot of new scenes, expand scenes that I rushed through in the first draft, and delete a LOT of scenes, or even entire chapters. Sometimes entire characters. To me, one of the most important revision tools is the willingness to cut stuff out. Or “kill your darllings,” as we often hear at writing workshops.

I am not a fast writer. Which isn’t a problem for me. I’m not in a hurry to get to a final destination. I have that luxury at the moment. Several of my published friends live by deadlines and frequently feel pressured to the point of ineptitude. I don’t mind writing to deadlines for short pieces, but I think (ask me later if I still feel this way) the blessing of being “pre-published” in the book industry is that I can take all the time I need. I have several manuscripts that I have done this way, and I’ve noticed the process gets more efficient all the time. What used to take years I can now do in months. I can see more readily what needs to be changed.

This didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t learn it all at one weekend workshop. I have learned my style and my craft through long, slow years of trying, failing, trying again. Learning each step of the way. There is always something around the next bend, but you have to drive slowly enough to see it.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in readers, Revising, writing, writing craft, writing slow

 

Anticipation

Today, my husband and I will be attending the last of the Shakespeare Festival’s summer plays. I’ve looked forward to this for weeks. If you’ve never attended one of these outdoor events, it’s a wonderful evening of theater preceded by a picnic with wine, cheese, and bread or whatever you choose to bring.

 As I was trying to think of a subject for the blog, the word anticipation popped into my head. And, naturally, because it’s a blog with writers, I thought of how important anticipation is in any story. Many of my writer friends have gone from writing romance or women’s fiction to writing erotica. In talking to one of the more successful erotica writers, she told me, for her books, it isn’t about the actual acts but about anticipation.

Roller Coaster

 My books for children don’t take on the same subjects, of course, but anticipation is a big part of the stories I write for them (at least that’s what I’m aiming for). Why? Because anticipation builds tension and tension moves the reader forward. Sounds easy, huh? It isn’t.

In a class I took, the theme was building tension through each scene. I’m a pantser, so classes like this are agony for me. But if I force myself to try and think of my story in scenes instead of flowing moments, I sometimes see how I can build a better story.

What do you do to make a better, faster moving story?

 
10 Comments

Posted by on September 12, 2013 in Idaho

 

#annoying

hashtagI am not against change. I try to keep up with our language and how it evolves. One of the beauties of language is how it is ever-changing.

However, some trends are run into the ground and just plain annoying, IMO. The ubiquitous use of the “hashtag” has gotten out of control.  I hear it on TV, see it in print newspapers, on Twitter, movies, radio, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, etc. The list goes on.

Hashtags date back as early as 2007, but they have exploded as a means of communicating in the last couple of years. According to Wikipedia, it is a form of metadata. “This kind of metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching. Tags are generally chosen informally and personally by the item’s creator or by its viewer, depending on the system.”

And herein, lies what I object to in using hashtags. The informal creation of ridiculously-named hashtags to voice opinions. #idontlikehashtagssodontusethembecausetheyarestupid would be a hashtag I create. Not elegant enough for me, I guess.

I googled “hashtag abuse” and came up with a lot of links! One article, in particular, states, “When anyone uses a hashtag (simply a way for people to search for tweets that have a common topic and to begin a conversation) on a website, text message, or anything that does not pertain to Twitter. This is quite annoying considering hashtagging only works on Twitter.”

Here’s an article from Chris Messina, an engineer generally considered the creator of hashtags, talking about abusers.

And here’s where 7 Hashtag Abusers are listed. I love the verbal hashtagger because I’ve heard so many celebrities do this.

Let me have it with both barrels. Do you use hashtags? Do you like them as a useful search tool?

 
13 Comments

Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Idaho, twitter

 

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Self Publishing 3

This summer I had the opportunity to read several books. Some of the e-books I chose to read were free on Kindle, by long published authors and new authors taking advantage of the self publishing boom.

I have an eye for spotting errors in what I read, probably because I have practiced editing and proofreading my manuscripts for many years. I’ve gotten so that I can spot an error in anyone’s book, at least one error, ninety-five percent of the time. I am okay with, or can tolerate, up to four errors per book, but after that I am annoyed and most psychology books will say that being annoyed leads to anger.

Yes, I became angry with a new author, who could write, but had errors in her book. It wasn’t misspelled words that got my attention, but words that didn’t belong in the sentence, like someone used auto correct. Another common error in this book was leaving out a word in a sentence. Writers can leave out a word and miss it in the editing process because our minds know what we meant to say and so we think it’s there. It happens to the best of us, that’s why we need another set of eyes on our manuscript. Actually, more than one pair.

Today the trend is to hire a professional editor to go over a book before self publishing. An editor is someone who prepares the final version of the manuscript, helping the writer determine the length and the order of events and scenes, character development, etc. Yet, I believe the author mentioned above needed a professional proofreader more than an editor. A proofreader goes line by line and marks corrections in grammar, spelling, omitted words, etc.

Presently, some of the best marketing opportunities are asking for books with four and five star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. They want proven books, reviewed by average folks, not your author buddies. So, basically, the writer needs a proofreader and an editor, whether you hire someone or not. Don’t trust your eye as the only proofreader you need because it is quite likely you will miss something. The goal is to present your best work to the world, so don’t be in a hurry and get the help you need.

 

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