Friday, July 31, 2015

Screen Time

Hi everyone! It’s Kelsey again. I hope you’ve been having a great summer. I’ve taken a big long break from Word Painters because I was traveling and working on some other projects.

This summer, I’ve been a participating author in Homeschooled Author’s Read-to-Win program (Sarah Holman has done great work there!), and part of the authors’ job was to make short videos of themselves answering specific questions. At first I was stymied—aren’t authors known for their writing, rather than their speaking? But I soon realized it required no special oratory skills, that the best videos were the simplest and friendliest, and that I could actually do this.

Why might you, as an author or blogger, want to post videos of yourself? Consider how close you feel to someone when you can see their face and hear their voice, as opposed to just reading their emails or letters. Seeing a video of someone stands in for that real-life interaction, better acquainting you with that person. The closer readers feel to an author, the more devoted they become as fans. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to discover what your favorite author or blogger, or any person you know only online, speaks and acts like. Why not give that to your readers?

What should you talk about? Authorly things are ideal—introducing yourself and what you write, giving an update on your WIP, making special announcements, explaining how you write, or giving writing advice. You could also wax lyrical on your favorite books or some other passion that you want readers to know about. It’s a fun way to start a discussion—you can ask a question at the end that readers can answer in the comments section. Make these videos personal to you! 


How do you video yourself? Preferably as high-quality as you can, but any normal camera can make a decent video. Any less-than-stellar incident (an unexpected noise, a mispoken word) in your filming might actually endear you to your listeners—you’re human and you’re accessible (that’s my philosophy, at least—others might suggest nothing but the best quality). I would recommend not memorizing a speech … for my first videos, I memorized something and sounded stiff as a mannequin. Speaking from your heart can be intimidating; I can’t completely do it yet, but when I do have something written down to say, I consciously try to make it sound as though I don’t. In my mind, the key to a successful video is to sound friendly and conversational—as though you are speaking directly to the listener, not reading a book to them.

Where do you post these videos? Upload them onto Youtube (make an account first) and from there it’s easy to post them on your blog. (Blogger, at least, doesn’t have room for videos more than 100MB in size.) When people find out about your book or blog, they’ll be thrilled to discover they can get to know you better!

Obviously not everyone will be comfortable doing this, but have you ever videoed yourself and posted it online? Would you want to? Do you have any tips you can share?

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog

Monday, July 27, 2015

Where I am? A Challenge


Good Evening, Everyone!

I hope the month of July brought the blessings of Summer to you all in unique and wonderful ways!!  How many of you have cameras/phones full  of pictures commemorating the Summer so far?   I know I do, and I hardly done anything.
In my last blog, I talked a bit about the reality in our works, and I shared some of my secrets on getting past a piece that gets bogged down by separating the necessary reality from the unnecessary, and then making the work your own.   Today, I want to add some fun to the work process.  It is one way that I use to separate and organize the reality of a piece.   I’m going to describe a scene for you from my Summer, then issue a challenge. 

The air was heavy; not from smoke or smog.  In 100 degree temperatures, the mists coming from the puddles and the lawns was a mucky steam.  It carried the smell of mildew, fresh animal tracks, and disintegrating blossoms. 
Walking through the yard was more like a first lesson in ice skating, as I tried to reach the car before a crackling tree branch gave way to the frantic squirrels racing up and down it.  The car needs moved before the roof is crushed by branch and trapped squirrels. 
The wind has come up within the past five minutes, and this is not a good sign for the end of this oppressive day.  It will take the hand of God to protect us from the storm that is brewing. 
I made it to the car, and got it moved.  Just as I put it into park again, the first pellets hit the hood.  Squirrels have quit dashing in frantic warning to the other yard critters, and are now riding out the winds in their nest, while the birds have sought sanctuary in the bracings of the patio awning.  The lawn has bowed to oncoming ice pebbles beginning to fall, giving way before getting beat down.  
The siren sounds; a loud piercing wail, causing the dogs to howl pleadings to come inside with me.  As we go into the house, the grey that was is now blackness with white stones of icy destruction falling from the clouds we can no longer see.   It is 3:00 in the afternoon, in the middle of July.   
As we hunker in the basement; the dogs and I; I think to myself:  “What have I gotten us into?  Why did we come here?  Is this what the future holds?”

Based  upon this description of a weather change during a basic Summer day:  Tell me:  Where am I?  (Hint:  It is not safe to assume I am describing a typical Summer day in my home state.  I have been many places where this is a realistic afternoon.)
So what’s the trick to describing a scene in one given time frame and one specific place so well? 
Taking pictures!  Yes, a writer should be prone to committing detail to memory.  However, an active writer is going to be in hyper thought mode sometimes, and we often get trapped into the words more than being freed by the images we want to create.   So, I cheat.  I take pictures: in my phone, in my kids’ phones, on a little digital that hangs off my wrist 85% of the time, in disposables that need developed, and in the Canon professional grade digital.  And we can’t forget the video cam.  
Now you’re asking:  What does taking pictures of everything have to do with writing?  AAAHH! Thank you for asking.   Now, we get to the challenge. 
I’m pretty sure that everyone has a series of pictures in your cell phones, or your own cameras, that were collected over the events of a 24 hour period of time. this Summer   Go through those pictures.  Pick out a selection of those that occurred over 1 to 3 hours of any day.  Try to find the ones that were all taken with the same location  where you enjoyed the day the most. 
Make a slide show of those photos.  Watch the slide show all the way through one time.Then repeat it. As you watch it through the second time, try to write three descriptive phrases of the scenery in each slide. 
Repeat the show, while writing down two phrases of the smells you remember experiencing while being there.  You might not get phrases for each slide for the smells; and that’s ok.
Repeat the slide show one more time; writing down emotions you experienced on this adventure, in this location; include the physical sensations that came with those emotions.  (Just remember to keep it innocent and clean.)  
Set the slide show aside and give yourself 20 minutes with your collection of phrases; to write an enticing, or frightening description of that one place.
Once your piece is written out, make it available to those who went with you that day, or someone you know who might have been in the area at any other time.  Have them read your description.  Ask them to tell you where you were writing about.   After they guess, show them your slideshow and have them evaluate the accuracy of your description. 
This challenge will help you hone those descriptive skills like none other.  And you don’t have to use it for just scenery and landscape descriptions.  It works really well for people you want to use as a basis for characters, but you want to change their features some as you go.  
One key to writing well is to understand that talent is your foundation.  Skills and disciplines are the framework of your piece.  Imagination and creativity pull and hold the structure together.  That doesn’t mean that sharpening the skills and practicing the disciplines have to be boring or hard.  I hope that sharing some of my techniques will help demonstrate that.  And that the challenges I issue prove my point by encouraging you to make the “work” of your current or next project just a little more fun. 

Until next time…

Monday, July 20, 2015

Fast Food and Slow Scenes





We live in a society of quick everything.

Sports cars. 0.02 second Google results. Two-minute noodles. Fast food. Instant coffee.

Technology has helped us to fit a lot more into our days than we could in the past, and this means we can make time for family, friends, and other pursuits. Like reading, right?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t read nearly as much as I should. Goodreads even sent me an email in an effort to encourage me to stick with this year’s reading goal. Right now, I’m working through a 1,500-page classic (Les Miserables). At times, the plot runs along with the reader breathless to catch up; at other times, chapters drag by and nothing happens. While those history-lesson chapters may be useful and may contain clever phrases if you’re willing to mine for them, the book clearly wasn’t written for modern audiences.


Modern audiences might have thirty minutes on public transport, an hour before bed, and (maybe) an afternoon on the weekend in which to delve into a story. Predictably, modern audiences can have shorter attention spans. After all, they’re reading for enjoyment rather than work.

Dickens and Hugo didn’t write for modern audiences.

Do you?
We know those scenes in our stories that don't go anywhere. Reams of dialogue that have no payoff, descriptions that overwhelm, subplots that confuse the main issues—these are the things that can give us a niggle of doubt.

Ask yourself: does this scene either bring the main character closer to his end goal or contribute an obstacle to achieving it? If a scene's sole purpose is to add a layer of detail to a character, ask yourself if there’s a way to get the same effect while he’s doing something toward his goal. And if you're stuck in the middle of a scene, unable to move forward, try figure out if there is a direction it's supposed to be taking. You may be struggling because it doesn't contribute much to the overall structure—and besides, a scene you don't enjoy writing is probably not going to be anyone's favorite.

Are you worried about deleting something that could end up being useful? Consider creating a new document for pasting these sections so you don't lose anything valuable.

What do you think? Can you recall one part of an old classic that left you bored to tears, though you may have enjoyed the rest of the book? Do you feel differences in scene length, pacing, and information levels when reading old books? What makes you enjoy / not enjoy them?
 
  
Caitlin R. Hedgcock is a Christian author who aspires to use storytelling for God’s glory. She lives with her family in England's picturesque county of Hertfordshire. Visit her website or Facebook page to find out more.



Two images courtesy of WikiCommons users Tom Wolf and BenAveling respectively.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

[LINK] How to Write 10,000 Words a Day

Greetings all, John J. Horn here.

I came across this blog post and found it too interesting to not share.

How I Went from Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day by Rachel Aaron.

Writing is a totally creative process, right? Sit down and let the juices flow? Doesn't have anything to do with (ugly word coming): data?

Not necessarily.

I track nearly every minute of my work day to the client/project I'm working on, so I can totally relate to the idea of analyzing the time you spend on a novel and optimizing your schedule/habits. I may very well track my time writing my next book to find areas that I can improve.

If you want an easy way to track your day without spending half your day tracking the other half, try Harvest.

John J. Horn is a Christian author from San Antonio, Texas. Learn more about John and his Men of Grit series and sign up for his newsletter at johnjhornbooks.com.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Reality of It!


Good day, dear readers.

The past few weeks, I have been reading a great deal of “press releases” on Facebook and other media pages online.  
As citizens, it is our responsibility to check these things out: read the articles, then look for the grain of truth that might have given birth to the whole story, and study it out to find out the facts of the matter that caught our interest.   As writers, we need to study these things to see how others are doing what we want to do:  Draw our readers into our story; help them become a part of it.  

After over three decades of writing, my goals are now toward Journalistic accuracy, achieving the most solid curriculum possible in my study guides, and making my fiction almost believable; and so these satirical sites really bother me, while they inspire me.  And I have used them to an advantage in developing some of my more fictional works.  Each site has a different style of presentation worth evaluating, and I’ve used them to sharpen some of my techniques.   The greatest discovery in each article is that they all have some basis of fact around which the satire develops into extreme fictional propaganda.   This is very similar to developing a fictional short story or novel.

The key point to remember:  Even the greatest fiction tale started with at least one point of fact.

Are you struggling with getting your story to work? There are a few simple steps to get past what so many people like to call “writer’s block”.

1)     Stop struggling with it.  Walk away from the story for a little while.  There is no specific time line to clear your head of the static that has begun to interfere with the story.  Once you feel comfortable with it, return to the work, but not immediately to the work already done.

2)       Evaluate the story line.  Outline your current thoughts on the story.

3)      Match the new outline to the work already done. 

4)      What is the reality in your story?  How many points of reality have you attempted to include, but disguise?  Is there too much reality?  What needs dropped or added?

5)      Decide which point of reality is most important to the story.

6)      Write down new ideas as they come to mind, in a notebook meant just for your story. 

7)      Now, with thoughts all sorted, and being organized as they come up:  Clean up the work already done; adding what you need, deleting what doesn’t belong, moving those little things that seem out of place. 

8)      Move on.  With a good cup of coffee [or soda, water, etc...], and your favorite write time munchie, all your notes organized, and a clear path to move forward; set about finishing your work.

A second thing to remember:  Fiction is generally an embellishment of that fact you started with.  As a writer, you are the one who molds the story.  So do not be afraid to embellish! 

Have you ever sat down to read a book that had the famous disclaimer in the front cover that the book was a work of fiction and that any resemblance to specific persons, events, and/or locations is not intended?   {The publishers put that there to protect themselves and the writers from a reader that might recognize their local church through the description that sets you in the middle of Sunday morning worship. }  As you read the description of the hero, he reminds you of someone you went to school with, and the description of main street at Christmas time makes you think you’ve been in that town. 

These descriptions are effective because there was a little town in the writer’s life that decorated main street in the way they tell of it.  This is the reality in their story.  Maybe the writer knew the fellow you went to school with, and that’s how he can bring him to mind as he talks about the way the hero took over the room when he entered.   That’s ok.  This is the reality in the story.

Do not be afraid to use points of reality to craft your work of fiction.  I was once told, “The greatest writers write what they know.  It doesn’t matter how much truth you put into your story, if you call it Fiction no one is going to look for the facts.  But if you write Fiction, let your imagination make what you know dance on the paper in a frenzy of fun embellishment. Only give them [readers]  a sampling of your reality, so that they keep coming back for more.”  {Mrs. Francis Gillespie; Sterling High School Creative Writing Club 1984-1987}

I’ve been writing for 35 years now, and every now and again, writer’s block attempts to prevent a poem or short story from coming together.  The eight steps I’ve given you have been the most effective help for me.   Two more things can help immensely:  Bounce your ideas of trusted family and friends; and feed a sample to strangers. 

The reality of the story is your reality.  Telling a sampling of the story to a few people will not hurt.  Even if someone decides to try to steal your story, they only know what you have told them, so no one will ever be able to tell the story as well as you will tell it.  They might put out an idea and a story, but it will only be different than yours, not better; because no one can steal, or improve on, your reality.

Writer’s block should be viewed as a welcome break.  It occurs when the ideas are not clear or coherent.  Take advantage of the challenge to define the reality of your story and refine the work.  It can be a tool to achieve excellence, handled well.

Until next time; Keep reading, and Enjoy your reality!

Monday, July 6, 2015

July's Word Out - It's going to be painful!


It’s a fine moist Monday in Denver, Colorado today. 

How is the weather in your neck of the woods? 

How was your holiday weekend?

Mine was interesting.  I’m still working on a side effect from it: I got attacked by something all over both of my hands on the fourth, and I’ve been working with home remedies to take care of the aftermath.  I believe it was a bunch of baby spiders that I disturbed when their nest came loose from one of the fishing chairs, as I cleaned them up for the park.  The experience has inspired the idea for this month’s Word Out. 

We are going to design words that will state the following feelings in one word: PAIN, burning, itching, swelling, frustration, and fear. 

I know, those words are all negative.  The goal for this month’s Word Out is to build a word that  does not offend the ear/eye, but that conveys those negative feelings (both physical and emotional), to the listener/reader.  The word must impart to your reader a complete mental image of your pain.  It does not need to be long, nor complicated, just strong and descriptive.

My word for this description was burrachewelling.   Pronunciation:  burr – ache- well- ing.  Translation: burning ache that is swelling and frightening.

As we write, we often encounter that terrible dilemma of tone versus word usage.  When we have to write about something negative, some of us decide to white wash the idea with a choice of soft words, rather than words that will make the point as strongly as we should make the point.  Others of us allow our emotions of the situation to get the best of us, and our word choices are not so good.  Then we make our point to strongly; and instead, of achieving our goal, we cause a new issue or cause offense to the readers. 

That is why the Word Out game is helpful as we write.  If we take a minute to make up a word, throw it into the work, then define it for the reader; we’ve accomplished our task in a controlled manner and diminished the chances of offending by use stronger words than we need to.  We also improve our chances of making an important point in an appropriate way; without losing the power we need to keep in our statements. 

Scripture:  Colossians 4:6 {KJV}  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. 

Final thought:  In this era, the idea of saying what is on our minds, however we want to say it, has taken prominence over saying things in an appropriate way.   It is nothing to hear horrible swear words in casual conversation; even in the court room or the church building.  The opposite side of that coin is the soft-soaping of our message, known as political correctness.  People are losing the middle ground of direct politeness/polite directness. 

These theories of super blunt or politically correct make it difficult for writers to make their point appropriately to their entire audience.   So while half your readers like to be spoken to boldly and the other half need the soft touch; you can find middle ground be creating your own situation appropriate words; even for something negative. 

Until next time…

Friday, July 3, 2015

When Writing Takes a Backseat ...

Hey everyone! I just wanted to let you know why I am dropping out of sight for a while. Last Friday was supposed to be my time for posting an article, but I was at a Bible conference Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so despite my best intentions, I had no article. I thought I might have one this week, or maybe next … but again, life will not allow it, because I’m blessed to be setting out on a wonderful two-week trip starting this Saturday. I’m looking forward to being back when I have an opportunity to write again. (Whatever time I do have now is going toward my WIP and a couple other time-pressed projects.)

But that’s okay! When you are drawn away from word-producing for a while, just remember that living life is what makes us able to write.

Be blessed! Happy writing!

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog.