Saturday, April 22, 2017

How To Write About Your Life


How To Write About Your Life - Writer's

'Write what you know' is age-old writing advice that has been given to us writers time and time again. While we can decide how to interpret this, writing about your own life and your own experiences is that path that many writers choose to take.
Even in highly fictionalised work, we can’t help but be influenced by what we have experienced in our own lives, the people we’ve met, the places we’ve been, the conversations we’ve overheard. Times of joy, of loss, of anger - the way we feel, what we have endured - all these things come out in our stories, whether we consciously decide to include them or not.
Harnessing what happens in your life and using that to influence your stories, whether a memoir or a piece of fiction can be an incredibly powerful tool for a writer. But how do we do it? Here are some helpful tips:
Keep a notebook with you at all times
Keeping a notebook handy wherever you go is a sage piece of advice for any writer. You never know when a thought might strike you that you want to use in your story. You also never know when you might overhear a conversation or have an experience that you want to remember in exacting detail. A notebook allows you to capture everything you are thinking, feeling and experiencing at that moment so no detail will be lost later.

I haven't been doing this one, but now I think I should. I'm sure I can find one that's small enough to carry in my purse. 

Get in touch with your emotions
Being able to capture and express emotions is hugely important when it comes to writing. We need our readers to be able to engage with our story, and the characters within it, on an emotional level. Whenever you feel an emotion strongly try to write about it, what caused it? How do you physically feel? If it involved another person, how did they react? What thoughts went through your mind? Being able to really capture the details of our emotions will make them all the more real, raw and beautiful when we express them on the page.

Before I decided on a memoir, I'd also considered the possibility of a novel, but when I began taking notes, it began sounding more like memoir.  Either way, it would have been based on my life experiences with depression and beginning on Prozac. 

Decide what you are comfortable with
Of course, when you choose to write about your life you have to decide how much you want to expose. If you are writing a memoir readers will expect you to get down to the nitty-gritty, to share personal secrets, to expose your flaws. If you are using your life experiences in a work of fiction you need to decide how far you will stray from the truth, and which experiences you are comfortable retelling and sharing with the world.

Say yes to things outside of your comfort zone
The more our lives are full and interesting, the more we will be inspired to use them in our work. Get out there and live the most exciting life you can. A good story is full of unexpected events and by going outside of our comfort zone and saying yes to things we perhaps wouldn’t usually, we often find ourselves in situations which are simply too good/ scary/ funny/ bizarre not to share with our readers!

For both of these, I decided to say what I felt mattered to the focus of the memoir.  Though it's a true story, I did exaggerate some details, but kept them as close to the truth as possible.  

Engage with others
Talk to people. Everyone you can. The most interesting stories have a range of characters and perspectives and to write them well, you must have experience with a range of people in the outside world! Even engaging with people you don’t like can be helpful for that villainous character - the evil doctor, the controlling husband, the mean boss. The more you talk to people the more they will open up and share their stories with you too.

This is one I haven't done much of, almost none at all. I have told many people I know about my memoir, since I have mentioned it on Facebook. I now am trying to think who I wold possibly need to talk to about this. I now wonder if I should explain more about why and how I was diagnosed as dysthymic.  I've also considered writing an afterword to my story, explaining some things mentioned such as SSRIs, my hometown and other things mentioned that readers may not readily know about.

Use your senses
Try to pause in your life, and really zone in on what you are feeling, seeing, smelling touching, tasting and so on. Often it is easy to go days without really concentrating on our senses. Next time you are out walking really listen, really look, really smell and note down what occurs to you. If you are in a bustling city pay attention to what is happening, the noises, the people. Observant details that ring true help readers immerse themselves in a story, so even everyday experiences can be used to help make our writing better.
We often feel differently about things that have happened after time has passed. Memories change, emotions settle, we move on. Reflect on things that have happened to you in your past - how do you feel about them now, what would you have done differently, if anything at all? Writing about our pasts and how time has changed us can also be powerful fuel for any story.
I've tried my best to recall what incidents contributed to my feelings of depression and describe them as accurately as possible.  Not everything can be exact, but I've described them as best as I can, again possibly exaggerating some details.  

Writing about your life is a great way to reach out to readers and connect with them. Whatever kind of story we are writing, we can use our lives to help make it richer, more interesting and more real.
I'd have to say this is basically what I have been doing.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

Reading Out Loud

Royalty Free Clipart Image of a Little Girl Reading to Her Stuffed Animals

Today at her blog  Discarded Darlings, Jean Davis writes about reading your work out loud while in the process of editing. I was immediately reminded of something that I recalled in my memoir.

In general, I've had trouble reading anything out loud. Others have said that I read too fast and that they can't hear what I am saying.  I'm guessing this comes from the fact that I'm normally the quiet, reserved kind of person. This sort of people can get nervous when it comes to doing speeches in class--something I dealt with in with high school and college, since speech was required both times.

"Does reading out loud help you remember things better?" asks this blogpost.   From the post:

Reading Out Loud and Memory

The Production Effect

When we read, we are using our visual pathways to form memory links. We remember the material because it was something we saw. People who have photographic memory are extraordinarily good at making these kinds of memory connections. For the rest of us, relying only on visual memory may leave us with many gaps, and so we have to find other ways to remember things. When reading out loud, we form auditory links in our memory pathways. We remember ourselves saying it out loud, and so not only form visual but also auditory links.
Art Markman, Ph.D. writes in his blog in Psychology Today about the production effect, which explains exactly why reading out loud causes us to remember better. Specifically referring to a study in which learners were given a list and asked to read half of it out loud and half of it silently, the learners were able to remember the part of the list they read out loud a lot better than the part of the list they read silently. He adds that while there are memory pathways of visually seeing the words and also the auditory pathways of hearing the words, there is also a memory link to the actual production of the word, hence the production effect. Especially if the word or content is different, it makes it easier to remember.

Connecting to What You Read

However, what you should remember is that simply reading your entire textbook before an exam will most probably do nothing for you. Why is this? It’s because simply reading without categorizing, asking questions, and making connections does not do anything to organize the material in your mind. If you do not make connections, you do not have anything to anchor what you have read into your memory. Besides, wouldn’t you rather understand what you are reading rather than simply needing it for an exam and then forgetting it later?
Reading out loud while studying can be annoying, as it not only takes a longer time, but also has the possibility to make you look slightly deranged if you are muttering quietly to yourself in a library. However, it is another very effective strategy for remembering things. It’s worth the risk of looking like a lunatic so that you can remember better.
Another great way to learn better is to use Brainscape’s smart, adaptive-learning flashcards, which can help you learn a huge variety of subjects, from foreign languages to science, mathematics, and more. Check out all the Brainscape flashcard sets here.

I kind of agree with the part reading out loud when studying. Though sometimes it did come in handy when learning to pronounce foreign-language words or science terms derived form Latin or Greek. But it certainly was annoying and time-consuming when studying for that boring history exam. 
In my memoir, I recalled that having trouble speaking up is no doubt something that has been brought on my anxiety tendencies.  I'm now seeing trouble reading even one part of my memoir out loud!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

3 Good Reasons to Keep Your Book Shorter than 80,000 Words

In the midst of editing and feeling frustrated on how long a memoir should be, I came across this article from the Huffington Post:
Kill your darlings. It’s a phrase you’ve all heard, but how many of you have been brave enough to be truly ruthless with your own writing, to cut in a big and bold ways when needed? How many of you have written a too-long manuscript and allowed an editor to go in and hack huge swaths of work that represented weeks, maybe months, of effort and tenacity to get on the page? Courageous writers do, but so do writers who understand the business of writing, and why too-long books are more difficult to sell. There are in fact readership, publisher, and cost considerations that factor into why the industry standard for the length of a book is 80,000 words, and I would argue that in today’s publishing climate, less is more. Here’s why:

short attention span

1. Attention spans are shorter. People are reading more than ever, but there’s more competition than ever for those readers’ attention—and not just with other books. As an author you’re competing against online content like blogs and news sites, and against anything readers read. If you can, aim for under 80,000 words. I’ve been working with novelists and memoirists who are writing 60,000-word books, something I would have discouraged ten years ago. Writers will argue with me on this point, I know, reminding me of crazy-long bestsellers (Goldfinch, anyone?) and pointing to authors’ success with long books (J.K. Rowling, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Ken Follett), but these authors are the exception, and most readers simply don’t have the attention span for long narratives. So if you’re just starting, aim short; if you’re running long and are pre-publication (and you can stomach it), work with an editor to cut cut cut.
(The image above is from another article on writing for short attention spans.)
 I'm not sure if I really have a shirt-attention span, but I seem to read faster than many people I know (I honestly hate to brag!)  But the longer the book is, the more days it takes me to read.

2. Overly long books are a red flag to agents and editors. While there will always be space in the literary landscape for authors’ magnum opuses, you shouldn’t feel that your first book needs to be one. In fact, you’re better off if it’s not. Putting yourself on the map with something more modest and reasonable is a good strategy. Long books are a big risk, and they’re difficult to sell because of agents’ and editors’ bandwidth. Publishers, for the most part, do not want to grapple with the higher costs of publishing a long book (see point 3), and most authors could use an aggressive edit. Someone recently told me that she thought Jodi Picoult’s editor was getting a little soft. I thought this was an interesting observation, but it led me to think about the fact that most editors probably err toward being soft because they’re not given the mandate to be aggressive. It’s easy to get very precious about your work, and much more difficult to trust that an objective eye (coupled with your hard follow-up work) may be just what your baby needs to truly thrive in the world. 

Not everyone has the desire or ability to write a book as long as War and Peace or Outlander.  I certainly don't think I will be writing a book of such a length. I still keep finding stuff I want to add or revise. I'm just trying not to be frustrated over the word count.  

3. The longer the book, the more expensive it is to produce. Most writers aren’t thinking about the length of their book and its correlation to various expenses, but it’s all publishers are thinking about. And if you’re self-publishing, or footing your own production or printing bill, you need to be thinking about it too. The longer the book, the more expensive the copyedit, design, and printing. If you have a 400-page book, you’re cutting into your profits to keep your price point low. And yet you want to keep the price point competitive to, well, compete. You’ll discover if you end up printing your book print on demand (the way of the future) that a single book is expensive, and it behooves you to keep your page count low. The difference in cost between a 60,000- and 100,000-word edit is about 20 hours of work, and about $1.50/unit on printing. So it’s a big deal—no matter who’s footing the bill.
Printing costs is definitely something that should be taken into consideration.

I'm still confused on how long it really should be. But many have said it's the effort you put in that matters and that it matters that you tell the story you want to tell. I want to believe all this and I'm trying to do so. I'm definitely telling what I want to tell and then some.  I now think that is what I need to be doing. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Still Trying to Find Support

How To Support Your Fellow Writers

How To Support Your Fellow Writers - Writer's

Being a writer is no walk in the park. If you are trying to make writing your career you have to put in a huge amount of effort, as well as get used to the idea that there will be many bumps in the road, and days where you don’t think you can do it. Days where you want to give up, where you get another rejection, where you aren’t taken seriously, where you wonder how you are going to pay your rent this month and so on!
That’s why it is so important that writer’s stick together. We know better than anyone how tough it is out there, and how lonely and isolating our work can often feel. Trying to help one another, encourage one another and support one another is crucial. We shouldn’t look upon one another as competition but instead see how we can learn from one another, and how we can help teach one another too.
So what are the ways you can support your fellow writers? Let’s take a look:
It’s very easy to only want to talk about your own work. To discuss in detail your story, your characters, what projects you’re working on. You're excited about them and passionate about them after all - and that’s great. However, it is important to remember to step back from time to time and make room for your fellow writers to talk about themselves too. Taking time to listen and acknowledge and appreciate what other writers have to say is important - it builds relationships and actually might help you learn something, or look at your own work in a new way too.
Getting constructive criticism on our work is so helpful. Being able to critique each other's work and offer feedback that we know will be impartial and helpful is extremely useful. Obviously critiquing fellow writers work is a difficult job, and needs to be done with sensitivity. Always find positive things to say alongside the more constructive bits of criticism you want to share. The more open you are to doing this the more likely you are to get other writers to critique your own work too.
Join groups
Joining writing groups whether physical or virtual is a great way to feel part of the writing community, to build friendships with fellow writers, to share your experiences, fears, and successes and generally support one another in all aspects of the writing process. Writers groups are great for anything such as seeing what the other members think of your new book cover design, or just asking for some friendly advice when you are feeling creatively blocked.
Write reviews
If you want to support your fellow writers then read their books! Reading one another books and leaving reviews is a great way to help boost one another’s profiles. Think about the last time you got a positive book review from someone - it feels pretty amazing right? So the more we can do this for one another the better.
Follow one another on social media
Being active on social media has become increasingly important for writers over the past few years. But it can be difficult to get a good following. Seek out other writers and follow them on social media, sign up for their newsletters, and follow their blogs. Doing this for one another shows your support, strengthens the writing community and could open up doors for you too.
Supporting your fellow writers is a mutually beneficial relationship. You’ll feel great knowing you are supporting one another and helping to realise each other’s dreams, but in doing so you’ll also learn a lot, and hopefully build some amazing lifelong friendships too!

I know I'm said this before, but I'm still trying to find some writing groups for support.  But that's been nearly impossible in the small town I'm from.  I've tried asking on Facebook in groups devoted to our town and county, but to no avail.  I don't want to have to drive too far for a group, especially if it meets at night on weeknights.  I've followed numerous other writers on Blogger and some of Facebook and Twitter, so I've got that last one covered 🙂   But I'd really love to see other people's writing in progress.  And I'd like them see to see mine. I just don't seem to have the motivation to start a group, but now maybe I should, but I don't want to pay $20 a month on  There must be another way. 
What have you done for support in person?

Monday, April 17, 2017

My Skeletons and Closet

As I said yesterday, I will be leading the art class this week for assemblage projects, art made of found, often unrelated objects arranged in a scene or an abstract sculpture. And mine will be "Skeletons in the Closet."

I found a plastic dinosaur skeleton at a local thrift store that I will be using, as well as some printable skeleton images to be mounted on foam or cardboard and made to look as if they are popping out. 

This is the plastic dinosaur skeleton. It came unassembled in a plastic container from the thrift store.  And sorry for no pictures of the printable. I'd have to search through images to try to find the exact ones I printed.  The first one is a little blurry, I apologize for that, but this was the best I could do this early in the morning ;)

And below is a wooden hinged box box that will be the closet.

These and the objects mentioned in yesterday's post are just the bare bones (no pun intended!) of the project.  When it's done,  I plan to post some pictures.  Meanwhile, in case you missed it, in this blog post I posted pictures of my previous attempt at assemblage.   I'd been proposing this idea for our class since last December and kept postponing when I would be doing it, but decided to do it the week (our coordinator posts an events calendar for each month).  I'd been asked to do a physical example after showing others some images I'd printed from the Internet. 

I can't wait to see what everyone does this week, staring today. Some have already said what they are doing, but others have been keeping their ideas/themes under wraps.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Seek And Ye Shall Find

Remember the old doll clothes, shoes, accessories and clothes hangers, how they were packaged on cards like those pictured below?  I remembered about these when I decided on an assemblage idea for the class at work. Finally we will be doing it, starting on Monday.  This will be my first time leading the art class (I've led the cooking several times since the mentor who originally led both those classes moved out of the county).  

Anyhow, my chosen theme for the class  project was Skeletons in the Closet (everyone will be doing their own theme) and I wanted to hang some clothes in the closet. (More on the rest of what I am using for the project later). Upon deciding this, it occurred to me that I never seem to see the old-fashioned doll clothes on cards or the little boxes of shoes or clothes hangers.  It's been so long since I've had to look for these things, but I knew they are scarce these days.

So I searched for where I might be able to find these things. Unfortunately, I had not begun my search early enough to order from Amazon in time for beginning my assemblage.  I did, however, discover how to make Barbie-like doll clothes hangers from paper clips using pliers.   I already had plenty of paper clips at home, so this was the best solution for this.  So one part of my problem was solved.

DIY Paper Clip Barbie Hangers
Photo from on DIY Barbie doll clothes hangers (above),
and those made by me (below).

One day after discovering this pattern, I bought this generic Barbie Doll knockoff from Dollar Tree to use in the assemblage.  The dress pictured at her side her is actually the outfit she came with. More on this is in a minute.

Then last week, I decided to go to Gilroy to see if I could possibly and some Barbie-size doll clothes, shoes and other accessories. The day before  at Kmart, I had seen a Barbie doll that comes with shoes and other accessories. I didn't want spend $16 or $17 dollars for this set, and besides I'd already found a cheap doll.  Someone from the center had said to look at Michaels, so I went to the nearest one in Gilroy last Thursday. Before going to Michaels, however, I went to the 99 Cents or Less Store to see if they had what I was trying to find. No luck at either store, so I was then off to Walmart. I'd pondered going to the Toys R Us outlet, even though it would be more expensive there. I would only do this if I was not successful at finding what I need elsewhere for cheaper.  At Walmart, in the toys section I discovered this line: Funville Sparkle Girlz.  There were several outfit sets packaged on cards.  I decided these were perfect and they were only $1.97 each. There were so many there that I liked, it was hard to choose. I ended up buying four of the outfit sets, which came with either a purse or a pair of shoes. 

A while earlier, one of the girls at the center said she went to the Gilroy  Dollar Tree to get supplies for her upcoming project, and that the store in Gilroy has more stuff than the one in Hollister. So while Gilroy, I went to Dollar Tree and I saw she was right. While there discovered some cheap doll clothes for 11.5 inch fashion dolls. I nearly panicked, wishing I'd gone to the Dollar Tree first. But then I thought, why not one more? So I bought the outfit pictured on the doll.  It too came with shoes and a purse. (I liked how looked so I left it on her).

Here are the clothes I got from Walmart and the shoes and purses. I don't remember which accessories came with which clothes, except that the pink purse came with  the outfit on the doll in the photo above.  The clothes are hung on the paper-clip hangers. I sewed the clothes to the hangers so they will not fall off. I made several of the hangers so I can hang some empty hangers in the closet.

Here is an image of the Sparkle Girlz clothes from Walmart's site:

Funville Sparkle Girlz Fashion Outfit with Accessories

I was glad my plan worked out. I had some back up plans in mind, such as paying more at Toys R Us, or getting more of the generic Dollar Tree dolls and removing their outfits (though I wasn't certain what to do with the dolls once they were unclothed!)

Friday, April 14, 2017

How Long Does It Take To Write A Book?


How Long Does It Take To Write A Book? - Writer's
Many writers who are thinking about starting their first novel wonder how long it will take them to complete it. Of course, this question does not have one definitive answer and can depend on many different factors. However, understanding them will help writers gain a better insight into how long it might take them to complete a book. Let’s take a look at some of them:
How much time have you got?
Not many of us are in the privileged position to make novel writing our full-time job. However, before you begin it is worth considering how much time you can realistically dedicate to writing your novel. If you work full time you are likely to be doing the majority of your writing on the weekends. Think about setting yourself weekly goals. Remember getting up an hour earlier each morning and dedicating some of your downtime in the evening to novel writing can make all the difference.
This is something I am trying to do more of. I must admit I haven't worked on it much in days, but have skimmed over the copy stored on my computer. I've started writing something else as well and want to work on that one as well. 

How quickly can you write?
Be honest with yourself. Are you one of those writers who sits down to write and everything just pours out, or do you prefer to write slowly and deliberately and think about every, sentence, every word? All writers are different and have techniques that work best for them - there is no one correct way to do it. Saying that, it's good advice to get the first draft of your story down as quickly as possible. The faster you write your first draft the more likely you are to keep the momentum going, so try not to censor yourself too much.
I'd have to say I'm the kind who writes slowly and thinks about most sentences and words. I don't know if I'd use deliberately to describe how I do it. But I get it done when I can, as quickly as I can.

What kind of book are you writing?
The genre of your book will play a part when determining how long your novel will be. Typically readers expect fantasy novels, for example, to be longer than general fiction. There are no hard and fast rules about it but a guideline for some of the most common genres suggests:
YA fiction - 45k to 80k
Romance - 85k to 100k
Horror - 80k to 100k
Mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction 90k to 120k
Science fiction & fantasy 100k - 150k
This post is all about fiction. As you all have seen on my blog, I've been working on a memoir and have been a bit worried about the word count, but have been told not to do so. I'm trying hard not to. And I'm not even thinking about the word count on my new piece of writing just yet, since I haven't made as much progress on that one.

Don’t forget about the editing stage!
It’s important to remember that finishing your book is only the first stage. If you are hoping to get published or even to self-publish your book there is still plenty of work to be done. Let’s face it, first drafts are usually pretty bad so we need to go back and rework them to make them better. Then, of course, there is proof-reading, book cover design, approaching agents and publishers, writing letters, creating a marketing plan and so on. The editing stage can take just as long (or longer) than writing your book in the first place, so this is worth considering if you are hoping to sell your book once you have finished it.
Still working on the editing and when I do, it's hard not to keep wanting change or add something.

Asking how long it takes to write a book is akin to asking how long is a piece of string?! Every author has their own way of writing, their own roadblocks and hurdles to manoeuvre around and get over. Getting to the end of your novel is just as much about dedication and determination to persevere as it is finding the time to do it. If you truly believe in yourself and in your story, you’ll get there in the end!
Agreed.   Asking how long it took someone (after the fact), well that is something to which the can give a definitive answer. Or an estimated one--many, if not all, people likely have to estimate how long the process actually took them. I'm determined to finish my story, no matter long it takes. I just want to still be alive if and when it sees the light of day!