Scripture Saturdays — Lent

fastw-78493_1280If you are thinking of giving up something for Lent, I recommend giving up worry.

This will be the third year I have tried to give up worrying for Lent.  I worry about everything.  And I do mean everything.  If I’m depressed I can always find a dark cloud in the biggest silver lining.  The first year I gave up worry was the most rewarding Lent I have ever had, spiritually, mentally, even physically. Last year, I had much more trouble giving it up. That’s why I want to try again this year.

If you are like me, and worrying is so much a part of your life that you think it is normal, here are some actions I took to help me give it up.

Pray every day.  I couldn’t give up worrying without God.  I pray when I walk, so every day, I would review my vow, thank God for the worries I gave up the day before, look at what I was currently worrying about, and rededicate my efforts to give them up.  I needed to check in with the Coach before plunging into the day’s “game”.

Become objective.  I worry so naturally I had to step out of myself mentally so I could observe my symptoms of worrying.  If I had racing, repetitive thoughts, or a sick stomach, or shortness of breath, I knew those were signs of worry.  I would look at my thoughts, sort out the worries, and kick them out.  As I became more aware of my symptoms, I could catch the worries sooner.

Take it day by day.  If you tell God on Ash Wednesday that you will not worry again until Easter, you will fail.  Don’t look further ahead than one day.  Pray and then work through the day to run the worries out of your head.  Even if you have to do it fifty or a hundred, or five hundred times a day at first, you have not failed.  Every day you work at it, you are fulfilling your vow.

If feel moved to give up worry for Lent, let me know how you are doing.

Writing Tip — Writer’s Block

laptopw-3087585_1280Recently, as part of an anthology my writing groups is putting together, I had to write a short story of at least 2,000 words. I decided to make it crime fiction. The characters came to easily, but the plot … I had a problem with the plot.

Over the past few years, the only original writing I’ve done were blog posts and a few poems. Most of my fiction writing time has been consumed with editing my YA novel. Working out a logical plot for my short story was nothing less than painful, and I mean that literally. My stomach hurt of a week as I puzzled over the plot. It was almost impossible for me to focus on anything else.

When I finally found a resolution, I learned a few things about breaking my writer’s block for the plot.

  1. Beginning + End = Middle

I started writing my short story without an ending in mind, and that is a big problem for me. I had concocted an intriguing beginning, but once I wrote that down, I had no clue where I was heading. I must have a goal to work for. Whether it is a story or just a chapter, before I sit down to write, I need to know how I will begin and end. Without an ending, I stalled.

2. Find a Deeper Meaning

Once I put down the bare bones of my story, I found it empty. Just solving the crime wasn’t enough. I needed some deeper, more universal truth, something that went beyond the conventions of crime fiction.

3. Know Your Characters Like Your Best Friends

I am a character writer. I start a story because I discover characters I can’t wait to throw into dramatic situations.

For my short story, I was working with characters I had only known a few days, instead of years. This made me uncomfortable. But the longer I worked with them, gaining an understanding of their personalities, the more plot ideas sprang up. Through exploring my characters, I unearthed the deeper meaning my story needed.

What do you do to break writer’s block?

Writing Tip — Imagery

chalkboardw-2495162_1280The lesson I learned from P.G. Wodehouse is that a vivid description, especially a humorous one, not only makes the subject come alive but also makes it memorable.

Mr. Wodehouse was a master at creating with imagery that crystallizes a character or a situation. Here are some of my favorites:

He “looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say ‘When!’”

“Jeeves and the Impending Doom”

To describe someone completely taken by surprise, he wrote “Aunt Agatha, whose demeanour was now rather like that of one who, picking daisies on the railway, has just caught the down-express in the small of the back.”

“Aunt Agatha Takes the Count”

Describing an angry school teacher who thinks a guest is about to tell her students an inappropriate story, he writes that the teacher cut off her guest, “rising like an iceberg.”

“Bertie Changes His Mind”

“As a rule, you see, I’m not lugged into Family Rows. On the occasions when Aunt is calling Aunt like mastodons bellowing across primeval swamps …”

The Inimitable Jeeves

“The Duke of Dunstable had one-way pockets. He would walk ten miles in the snow to chisel a starving orphan out of tuppence.”

“In moments of excitement she had that extraordinary habit of squeaking like a basketful of puppies”

“He resembled a frog that had been looking on the dark side since it was a slip of tadpole/”

compiled in Plum Sauce by Richard Usborne

I especially like the one comparing feuding aunts to mastodons. All these images are funny and memorable, and half the fun of reading Wodehouse is finding nuggets like these.

In My Own Writing

My novel is crime fiction and not humorous, but I gave my main character a sense of humor, so some of his descriptions can be funny. Because he lives in the West Virginia mountains and loves nature, he describes people in terms of animals, “like a toad ready to pop” or someone is “grinning like a grizzly.”

Even when humor isn’t appropriate for a scene or story, I still try to follow Mr. Wodehouse’s style, summing up a person in a brief but vivid way, what my writer friend Michelle L. Lavigne calls “a handle”.

In a short story I wrote recently, I needed a way for my teenage main character to describe two people he had seen for the first time. He call one man in his twenties “Mr. Smooth” because of his slicked hair, clean-shaven, pretty face, and fashionable clothes. He calls a well-dressed woman “Fashion Model”.

What are your favorite kinds of imagery? How do you use them in your writing?


Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts

framew-3106116_1280Here is my acrostic poem or the holiday on Wednesday:


Cute little guy flying

Up and down and all around

Piercing hearts with his arrows

In an effort to bring mortals love. Or is it to

Drive them crazy?


If you write a Valentine acrostic, please share in the comments below.

Writing Tip — Favorite Authors — P.G. Wodehouse

conciergew-1184853_1920Whenever I want the literary equivalent of comfort food, I turn to the works of P.G. Wodehouse. He created a comic world unique in literature, as much as a fantasy world as Middle-earth and Narnia.

In the 1990’s, when the BBC produced a series about two of Mr. Wodehouse’s most famous characters, Bertie Wooster and his gentleman’s gentleman, Jeeves, the stories were set in a kind of alternative universe which looked a lot like the 1920’s but operated with it own rules. In Plum Sauce, a great book for readers just discovering the wacky land of Wodehouse or ones who are dedicated fans, author Richard Usborne outlines some of the rules of this world:

  1. “It is always hay-harvest weather in England: for 54 holes of golf a day, or for a swim before breakfast in the lake, morning in the hammock under the cedars, tea on the lawn, coffee on the terrace after dinner.”
  2. “Money is something you should inherit, get monthly as an allowance from an uncle, win at the races, or borrow” from a friend.
  3. “Country pubs are open all day long and their home-brew ale is very potent.”
  4. “All decent-sized country houses have cellars, coal-sheds and potting sheds for locking people up in.”
  5. “Most handsome men have feet of clay.”
  6. “Men and girls in love think only of marriage.”
  7. “No decent man may cancel, or even refuse, an engagement to a girl.”
  8. “A country J.P. can call the local policeman and have anybody arrested and held in a cell on suspicion of anything.”
  9. The night you go to a nightclub is the night it gets raided by the police.”

I prefer Mr. Wodehouse’s short stories to his novels, and my favorite ones are about Bertie Wooster, the idle rich young man who always gets himself into trouble because he’s not too bright and his friends take advantage of him, and his servant Jeeves, who always comes to the rescue. Bertie is the narrator of his stories and he’s such a likable character that it’s easy to be carried along on his escapades.

My other set of favorite characters is the vast Threepwood clan. Most of those stories concern Clarence, Lord Emsworth, Earl of Blandings, and his many relatives. Lord Emsworth is a widower in his sixties who would like nothing better than to hang out in his castle, smell his roses, and raise his prize-winning pig, the Empress of Blandings. But his troop of strong-minded sisters wants him to behave like a respectable member of the aristocracy. Not being the sharpest knife in the drawer and lacking a spine, Lord Emsworth is often at his sisters’ mercy, but his younger brother Galahad can be counted on to come to the rescue.

Because Mr. Wodehouse made his living at writing, he wrote A LOT. So you don’t have to wade through mediocre stories to find the gems, here are my recommendations:

From Wodehouse on Crime:

  1. “Strychnine int the Soup”
  2. “The Crime Wave at Blandings”. This may be my absolute favorite Wodehouse short story.
  3. “The Smile That Wins”
  4. “Without the Option”. A Wooster and Jeeves story.
  5. “Aunt Agatha Takes the Count”. Another Wooster and Jeeves story.

From Blandings Castle: The first six stories all concern the escapades at Blandings Castle. Two of my favorites are ” PIG-HOO-O-O-O-EY!” and “The Go-Getter”, but read them all because it makes the last one “Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend” that much sweeter. For once, Lord Emsworth finds his courage.

From The Best of Wodehouse:

  1. “Honeysuckle Cottage”. This story is a hoot for writers.
  2. “Jeeves and the Impending Doom”

Over Seventy is Mr. Wodehouse’s autobiography and may be the funniest thing he ever wrote.

On Thursday, I will write about what I learned from reading P.G. Wodehouse.

Continue reading “Writing Tip — Favorite Authors — P.G. Wodehouse”

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