Writing Tip — Writing Gifts

christmasw-1785510_1280If you are considering giving someone a piece of your writing as a gift, now is the time to begin working on it. You want to have plenty of time to polish and refine whatever piece, poetry or prose, you want to give.

In my posts for giving gifts at Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I offered suggestions and tips for different styles of writing. Last Christmas, I described writing down holiday disasters for posterity.

This Christmas, if you are feeling ambitious, I recommend keeping a journal of all the holiday related activities you do. If your journal is messy, like mine, polish your entries and transfer them into a form you can give away. If you have children, and their grandparents live far away, this gift is an especially meaningful gift.

If you feel extraordinarily ambitious, and like to have very long-term goals, you can keep a journal of what your kids do each Christmas, and then give them a compilation of these  journals when they are old enough to appreciate it.

But as I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, no matter what writing you do

Edit it!

You only want to give your best efforts.

Have you ever given a gift of writing to someone? If so, what was it?

Writing Tip — Time Management

work-managementw-907669_1280Over a month ago, I wrote a post about how I was struggling to create a doable writing schedule. Click here for that post.

Since that time, I’ve been working hard to establish a schedule and thought I’d share what I had learned.

  1. Analyze your time constraints. I examined the tasks I must do and how much time these take. I can’t alter the school run in the morning. It takes me over two hours to get the kids to school, and that’s all there is to it. When the kids get home, I have to oversee homework. I can’t write and help them with homework at the same time, so the evenings on the weekdays are out.
  2. Figure out the best time to write. This is easier for me than some people because my kids are in school during the weekdays. When I’d completed all the necessary, unchangeable tasks, I found I had four hours during the weekdays to write. Problem was, during those four hours, I still had shopping, cleaning, and other work to do.
  3. Choose a reasonable schedule. If you aren’t finding any time to write now, don’t set a goal of an hour a day. Try ten minutes. With my four hours, I decided to devote two hours to writing, which includes my blog, responding to comments on my blog, my novel, and any other kind of writing.
  4. Once you set a schedule, stick to it. At the Ohio Christian Writer’s Conference, Edie Melson said if you don’t fiercely guard your schedule, no one will take your writing seriously. Give any new writing schedule two months to see if it will work for you.

It hasn’t been easy trying to get in two hours each weekday, and sometimes, with appointments and other one-time demands, I can’t. But now that I have the goal in mind, I can focus my writing efforts, and I don’t get frustrated trying to shoehorn writing in between grocery shopping and school dismissal.

What have you learned about establishing a writing schedule?

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts

dinosaurw-1564323_1280So why is a dinosaur appearing in this side view mirror? Yet another trip to Jurassic Park gone wrong? Maybe it’s simply a dinosaur statue, like those at Dinosaur World near Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, the last view of a happy family vacation. Or maybe it’s a evidence of a tear in the time-space continuum.

Share if inspired!

Writing Tip — Speculative Fiction

robotw-2256814_1280A few weeks ago, I posted an article about the different genres of crime fiction and suspense fiction. When I found this post, I thought it would helpful for those just beginning to write in the field of speculative fiction.

I learned from author Edie Melson at the Ohio Christian Writers Conference that the term “speculative fiction” is used more in the Christian fiction market, while “science fiction and fantasy” is used in the general market.

No matter what umbrella term you use, any writer needs to know what genre his work fits in best. As the author states at the end of the post, a writer should select one sub-genre so as not confuse readers. Not only will it make it easier to explain your work to agents and editors, it will help you keep focus during your editing so you will remember what’s most important to your story.

Writing Tip — Favorite Stories

turkey-1299176_1280As a former children’s librarian, I like books for children and love recommending my favorites. So if you are looking for Thanksgiving books for your kids, or you can still appreciate a great picture book, check out the list below.

s-l225Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin. This is the first in a delightful series about Maggie and her grandmother who live in New England next to a cranberry bog. Maggie’s best friend is Mr. Whiskers, an old sea captain who Grandmother is convinced is trying to steal her secret recipe for cranberry bread. By the end of the story Grandmother discovers who is her real threat.

My kids and I love these books. Maybe it’s because it takes place in a small town, where everyone knows everyone, like where we live. These are also longer picture books so you get more story as well as wonderful illustrations.

Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey. A field trip turns into a rescue mission when the school kids find out the destinies of the turkeys on the turkey farm.

The riff on the Christmas poem is great fun and the way the kids help the turkeys escape is accompanied by illustrations that always make my kids laugh.


A Plump and Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman. A town desperate to find a turkey for their Thanksgiving feast set about trying to con one. But Pete the turkey proves “a plump and perky turkey can be pretty doggone clever.”

This story, told in rhyme, has detailed illustrations that kids can study and an unusually imaginative plot about how Pete turns the tables on the townsfolk.


Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts

ThanksgivingThe memory that stands out in my mind about Thanksgiving is the double dinners.

When I was a kid both my grandparents lived within thirty minutes of our house. Late Thanksgiving morning, my parents, my three sisters, and I would pile into our car and head to my mom’s parents for Thanksgiving lunch.

Thanksgiving lunch was, of course, a full-blown Thanksgiving feast, and we kids would gorge ourselves. Then around four o’clock, we’d pile back into the car, which didn’t seem as roomy as before, and head to my dad’s parents.

Thanksgiving supper at my paternal grandparents’ house was a full-blown Thanksgiving feast. My sisters and I did our best to gorge ourselves again, but we just didn’t have the stomach space.

Over the weekend, we would return to my mom’s parents to eat leftovers. Or, as my grandpa said, “Just put on my tombstone: ‘The leftovers did me in’.”

What are your favorite memories of Thanksgiving?

Writing Tip — Writing With Senses

jellyfish wordsCyle Young at Hartline Literary Agency has a wonderful post on using the sense of touch in writing.

This sense is often underused because we are such sight-dependent beings. Unless you have a character who is blind, is in a dark setting, or is an animal or imaginary creature whose main sense is touch, this sense gets crowded out by sight and touch.

Reviewing my own book, I see I used the sense of touch to convey the humidity of its summer setting. Humidity forces me to explore the sense of touch because it is the only way to experience it.

When my main character works on a roof all through a humid July day, he says, “I felt like I’d gone swimming in tomato soup.” He describes a mist as “clinging to my skin like a fungus.”

When my main character is sneaking around his property in the West Virginia mountains in the dead of night, I will try to include some description of touch, Right now, I only mention the wind whipping around him and sweating.

Writing Exercise

If you want to practice your writing with touch, write a comment to Mr. Young’s post. Or use the above photo. What’s interesting about using this photo as a writing exercise is that there are at least two people touching the jellyfish and possibly three. Each character can experience the feel of the jellyfish in a unique way, and that way tells something about him or her.

For example, the hand coming from the left looks like a child’s and he can be thrilled with touching a live jellyfish while the hand hovering behind can belong to an adult who touched the creature and was revolted. (I might share that reaction).

How would you use the sense of touch in the photo above?

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts

ThankfulTo get ready for Thanksgiving, I thought a prompt about thankfulness would be appropriate.

Even though I am grateful for all the major events and people in my life, like my family and graduating from college, I want to focus on little things I’m thankful for

Driving to pick up my oldest at school, I passed a harvested field of corn. A large bird of prey rose out of the field. Its tail was white above and below so I couldn’t identify the species. I stopped my car, so the huge, roaring machine wouldn’t scare it. The bird turned and flew across the road in front of me. It was a bald eagle. I had never been so close to a wild one before.

Driving on, I felt my whole body lift and lighten. I hadn’t been having a bad day, and yet the sight of that bird made the whole day better. Maybe it was the surprise of the sighting. Or the brush with wild nature. But I thanked God for the experience.

A psychiatrist I knew said often it’s the little, positive memories that carry us through a dark time.

So what little thing are you thankful for?

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