On Perfectionism

This week’s updates are complete. I chose an excerpt from Lori Colbo’s piece, Mary’s Song: The First Christmas Carol, for this week’s excerpt. It’s a very powerful write. Be sure to check it out in its entirity by following the link on the Excerpt page.

The new question has also been posted as well.

Just thought some of you might find this amusing. Yep! That’s a double shot of me in a different lifetime – lol

Now on to something to think about – perfection. Years ago, I was a guitarist in a rock-n-roll band. I loved music (and still do), but as a musician, every note had to be right on. If I made one mistake during a show, it would haunt me over and over again. Let me tell you, I made many more than one mistake during a night’s performance. Perfection drove me crazy. I was never satisfied, and I lived as if there was an egg shell under each foot.

We, in the creative arts, of which writing is, have a natural tendency toward perfectionism. You may think that’s a good thing, but it is not good for creativity. It may have a constructive use when it comes to the final edit, but it crushes creativity.

Perfectionism will not help you:
– come up with ideas
– bring the story to life
– develop your imagination

These things may help when dealing with perfection. Although we long for it, realize we’ll never achieve it. Try setting a regular writing schedule for yourself. Consistency goes a long way. Just write. Be sloppy. You can always go back later and fix it. But don’t go back too soon. I have heard it said that even six months later may not be too long to wait.

But the most imporatant thing is to have fun. One of the things I learned from my band days is, I’ll never get it right all the time, and neither will you. Just write and savor the moment. Another thing I learned was, I may not do it perfectly, but satisfaction comes from doing the best job I possibly can. To sum it up, don’t strive for perfection. Stirve to be the best you can be.

Well, that’s it for another Monday. See you next week!


I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know some of you don’t like snow, but on a gloomy, rainy, Pennsylvania Monday, I’m looking forward to the mountains turning a shimmering white on December 25. As little J. P. would say in Angels in the Outfield, “It could happen!” Even if you don’t care for snow, you have to admit, there’s a certain beauty about it that you don’t find in spring, summer, or fall. Anyway . . .

Be sure to check out the updated Featured Excerpt. This week it’s from Lawrence Hebb’s series, Spaceship Earth. He has some good thoughts, and as always, good writing. The new question is up, and I’m witing for answers, too.

How about some thoughts on overused words. These ideas were expressed on ProWritingAid.com, and I found them very useful. There are so many bad habits we can fall into. Or maybe, at times, we don’t even realize they’re bad. So here’s my two cents for this week –

#1: Words with indefinite meanings can be overused with no real purpose.

Words like “could”, “might” and “maybe” are indefinite in their meaning. If your writing contains a lot of these indecisive words, it will feel flimsy.

#2: If you’ve been writing for more than six months, then you know to show, not tell, but often we overuse words that only tell, not show.

Words like “knew”, “felt” and “saw” are examples of “telling” rather than “showing.” Writing should be evocative, so if you’re using too many “telling” words your work will be less strong.

#3: Depending On Intensifiers can cause an overuse of words. And they add little to your writing.

Intensifiers like “very”, “so” and “really” add little to your reader’s understanding. Instead, replace your weak words with a word strong enough that you don’t need an intensifier.

#4: Nonspecific Words

If someone tells you a book is “interesting”, that tells you almost nothing about the content of the book. When possible, choose words that have precise meanings and talk about specifics.

I think your writing will be cleaner and more consise. The problem is being aware of what makes good writing good when you’re writing – try that three times fast. As we grow, eventually these things will become habit and you can move on to another step to improve your writing – just some things to think about.

Well, here’s hoping you all get a ton of snow for Christmas! See you next week.


Finally – Cadeyrn's Tale is Published! – And Adverbs

Well, Cadeyrn’s Tale is finally complete. For a shorter book, it seemed as if it would never be finished. You can get it here on the website or from Amazon. Of course, by ordering it here, you get free shipping.

That being said, Central PA is once again coated with white. The storm that hit the nation left us pretty much alone, but there is a sprinkling of snow over the countryside – very pretty!

Now, for something practical. Let’s talk about those nasty adverbs that we tend to overuse. We certainly want our writing to be descriptive. We want it to be expressive. Adverbs are most often used to strengthen or prop up weak verbs. If we choose to use strong, descriptive verbs, the need for adverbs will be lessened.

All things considered, there will be times when an adverb will be your best choice of words. But adverbs can cause us to be lazy writers. To be honest, I’m an adverb abuser, but we live and learn.

Take the above sentence from the third paragraph, We certainly want our writing to be descriptive. The adverb certainly adds strength to the sentence. It emphasizes our desire for good writing. But could the sentence be stronger if we used a little thought and creativity? What if we chose a stronger word for the verb want? What if we eliminated the adverb and replaced the weak verb with the word crave? We crave for our writing to be descriptive. Is there a difference?

Take the next sentence – We want it to be expressive. We have removed the the adverb, but a weak verb (want) still exists. We don’t care to repeat the verb crave, especially in back-to-back sentences. Maybe we could substitute desire or long for. We desire it to be expressive. We long for it to be expressive.

Okay. So I think you get the idea, and that’s my two cents for another Monday. See you next week!


Snowy Days and Mondays

So Central PA got its first blanket of the white stuff. What’s the big deal? I hear a lot of complaining about the weather this time of year – usually from the same people that say it’s too hot in July. I hope you’re not one of them. Life is too short to grumble.

I hope you get a chance to think about this week’s question and check out the updated Featurd Excerpt, but right now we have more important things to discuss.

How many words does it take to create a novel? I hear so many different numbers floating around. I don’t know if there really is a correct answer. I’ve heard everything from 50,000 to 100,000 words. Take your pick.

But how do you develop a small idea into a full-fledged novel? It’s no easy trick. These ideas are not all-inclusive, but hopefully, it will give you some things to think about.

Once you get that idea that just won’t stay out of your head, write down every possible idea you can think of that relates to it. A thought may come to you while at the mall. Or maybe while you’re out for a Sunday drive. Use some real-life situations that have impacted your life. Whatever it is, write it down. If you’re like me, you won’t remember these things ten minutes later. You’re probably not like me, but it’s still a good idea to write them down.

Some people like to have the whole story planned out complete with outline and notations. I do believe it’s good to have a plan and at least a direction and goal in mind for your protagonist, but I still like to see where my story goes. In other words, I’ve found that often a story takes an unexpected turn, even for me, the author. If I plan too much, that option is taken away.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been using Freewriter. It allows me to fully develop my thoughts into organized ideas which eventually become organized words on a page. There are character blocks where I can develop my characters as much as I choose. There are scene blocks that allow me to go deep into description of the scenes I’m writing. But the ultimate question is – will it be a novel?

Remember, I’m looking for a minimum of 50,000 words (80,000 is even better). Once I have a pretty good idea where I’m going with the story, I need to come up with a word count for each chapter. If I have 20 chapters with 2,000 words each, I’m going to fall short of novel length. I have a choice. I can either add more chapters, or make the chapters longers. If I add an extra 1,000 words to each chapter (making a total of 3,000 words per chapter), I now have 60,000 words. You can decide if you want to call that a novel.

If I need 3,000 words for a chapter, and I have three scenes in the chapter, I need to spend roughly 1,000 words on each scene. That makes for more crafting to fit the word count.

Now, after saying all of that, I just write. The story itself will determine the word count. I’d rather have a good, short story than a bland novel. Writing a novel is a challenge, though. Stay at it. Let the creative juices flow. The end is in sight.

Rainy Days and Mondays

It’s raining in Central PA, and it’s Monday. But let’s not let that get us down. Rain can be beautiful. It gives moisture to the land and water to drink. It feeds the streams and rivers. Monday gives us a fresh start to a new week, a place we’ve never been before. So let’s embrace it. Let’s live it to its fullest.

This week the Featured Excerpt is from Lawrence Hebb’s article, Spaceship Earth, Our Moon, Why Are We Going Back? Be sure to give it a read. Lawrence has also just released a new book, Safe Haven. You may want to check it out on Amazon.

Don’t forget to add your thoughts to this week’s question, too.

Someone had asked a question about revising our work before it is submitted for publication. Revision can be difficult and time consuming, but it must be done. As important as revision is, editing is also important, and in many ways it overlaps revision. I want to give you six steps to help with your editing and revision. Here goes.

  1. Give it some time. Before you begin your revisions, just walk away for a bit. Give it a few days, maybe a few weeks. Then go back and read it with fresh eyes. While you’re waiting, work on developing a summary of the finished story. You can use this to guide you as you do your editing and revisions.
  2. Get rid of the excess. Think about your summary. Think about the overall big picture of what you want to accomplish. Look for inconsistencies and anything that doesn’t advance the plot. Get rid of it.
  3. Read your manuscript in a new format. Print it out using a different font, maybe a different size. Make it bold. You might be surprised how many mistakes you might catch.
  4. This may sound trite, but read your work out loud. Use the changed font you printed out for this. When reading silently, it’s too easy for our brain to gloss over words and wording. Reading out loud will help you pick up awkward wording and inconsistencies that may remain.
  5. See it from a different perspective. Be hard on yourself. Consider every line. Are you saying what you want to communicate? Read the manuscript as if you are reading it through someone else’s eyes. It may not be easy to do, but look at your work as your worst enemy might see it. He’s probably not going to say anything good. Consider your words. Don’t just read them. Are your words clear? Are they concise? Do they flow? You’re the author. You can write anything you want, but your writing will be judged by the reader – maybe your worst enemy.
  6. Use editing tools. I’ll list three here, and you can do your own research to see what works best for you. Grammarly, Hemingway Editor, and FreeWriter. All are user friendly, and all have a free download.

That does it for this rainy Monday. Keep on writing!!!


Monday Has Arrived!

. . . And so has November. The holidays are upon us, and soon 2019 will be history. I thank you for joining me on this happy, November Monday. The winds are much colder; the sun a little more absent. The white stuff that appeared over the weekend has disappeared, but I know more is coming. That sounds like a good recipe for writing. Cozy up by the fire with a cup of whatever and your keyboard, and get to it!

This week’s Featured Excerpt is taken from Ruby Jean Richert’s A Day Alone Sitting On A Park Bench Proves To Be Enlightening. Drop her a comment and let her know what you think. Grab your thinking cap and help me think through This Week’s Question??? as well.

As I continue to explore the whys and how tos of writing I occasionally come across something I think is worth sharing. I’ve always been one of those writers that flies by the seat of his pants. I don’t use outlines. I usually begin with a beginning and ending thought and fill in the blank pages in between as I go.

But I’m trying something different with my new project, The Marisol Deception. I came across a writing program called Freewriter. It’s similar to Scrivener, but as the name suggests, it’s free.

I thought I’d try it on my new novel, and it has worked beautifully and really has helped in the development of the story. The suite contains a browser – no more switching tabs when i want to do research. There is a spellchecker (but not as effective as Grammarly which I usually use), a thesaurus and dictionary, productivity goals and wordcounts, just to name a few.

The thought canvas is what has really been helpful for me. It allows me to post virtual stickies with future thoughts, index cards as potential outlines, and allows it all to be seen in a separate screen as I write. I can map out my characters with more clarity, keep track of scenes even if I won’t be using them for several chapters, and develop settings in detail. On top of that, it’s even kind of fun.

How much it will keep me from flying by the seat of pants, I don’t know, but it does seem like it has made the writing process easier and more flowing. Here’s a link for you to tryhttp://www.freewritersoftware.com/. Check it out and let me know what you think. It may not be for everybody. I’m not even sure it’s for me every time, but for now, it seems to be working. If you need more information, let me know, but it’s certainly worth checking out.

Until next Monday . . .


It’s November

It gets no better than Pennsylvania in the fall.

The first Monday of November and there’s much to discuss, so let’s get started.

November brings many things including this year’s peak season for fall foliage. It’sw absolutely beautiful , and I love this time of year. November also brings the start of the holiday season with Thanksgiving. It’s a wonderful time, but shouldn’t be the only time we focus on the blessings and gifts that God has given us.

It also brings us to the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as it’s oftern called. NaNoWriMo was started by freelancer Chris Baty in San Fransisco in 1999 with 21 participants. The numbers have grown over the years to more than 200,000. You can learn more by going to the site.

November is also the month I started my new novel The Marisol Deception, (although it won’t be entered in NaNoWriMO). Cadeyrn’s Tale is now off to the editor for the final touches.

The Marisol Deception is purely fictional but is based on the apacolyptic events in the Bible book of Revelation. I’ve set my deadline is for April, 2020. You can read Part 1 of the rough draft here.

A tip for this week – I’ll make it short as I’ve already gone on too long. Surround yourself with good writers that can give you both positive and negative feedback. In our social media age, people are too kind. On HubPages I have to ask for constructive critcism, and even then, I don’t always get it. Positive is good, but unless you’re willing to face the good, the bad, and the ugly, very little progress will ever be made.

So I’m asking you to go back and read Part 1 of the HP rough draft and honestly let me know how I can improve. You can leave your thoughts on the Comments section of HubPages or just add them below in the MVOWC Comments section. I’m willing to do the same for you.

Well, next Monday will be here soon enough, so I’ll leave you for now. See you then!


Moving Ahead

Cover photo from Cadeyrn’s Tale

Is it really Monday already? Yep, I guess it is! The next few months will be filled with busyness as the holidays approach. I love this time of year. The fall colors and gentle breezes speak of the storms of winter on the horizon. That’s okay. Spring follows.

Be sure to check out the excerpt and this week’s question and leave some comments. I always like hearing from you.

The rough draft of Cadeyrn’s Tale is finished. Now, the real work begins. Hopefully, it will be completed and available for your bookshelf by the end of November.

It was fun to write. It’s set in 5th-century Ireland – a time period I love. During my research for the story I discovered that there is some evidence that leprechauns and fairies really existed. There are supposedly forests and fields where the wee folk rule even today. Do I really believe that? No. But then again, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility.

Something else that I discovered, and I do believe this to be fact. Snakes have never inhabited Ireland. The legend says that St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland, but apparently there were never any snakes to be driven out. I wish the forests of Pennsylvania were more like that. I love to hike the back-country and well . . . I wish St. Patrick was here.

My next project is entitled, The Marisol Deception. It’s in infant form at this stage, but you’ll soon be able to catch the rough draft on HubPages. I’ll let you know more about both Cadeyrn’s Tale and The Marisol Deception as time goes on.

I am also editing my wife’s newest poetry book, Sweetest Jesus: Volume Two. Hopefully, that will be ready to go soon. She has a lot of new poetry worth reading. No doubt, I will be featuring some on the Excerpt page from time to time.

Next week, we’ll get back to some writing tips for you. Until then – Keep on writing.

Home, Sweet Home!

After taking a brief vacation, celebraing 39 years of marriage, It’s good to be back home.

Welcome to my Monday – which, by the way, is your Monday, too. I think it’s wonderful how our paths cross. You’re a part of my life while at the same time, I’m a part of yours, and I thank you for that privilege.

First, just let me say that the new new question for the week is up along with the new excerpt, My Shepherd’s Love, written by my wife. Check them out.

Now, let me ask you a question. When you choose a setting for your story, what do you consider? How much research do you do in building the setting? How realistic do you try to make it. Hopefully, your answer is, very realistic.

Even though you may be involved in writing a fiction story, to make it a believable story, you must include certain facts – at least if your story takes place in a realistic place. Of course, if you’re writing fantasy, you’re free to build your own land and suroundings.

Over the past several books, I’ve noticed different ways I’ve developed the settings. Let me know what you think works the best in the comments below.

Winch-Hunt – The setting is a fictiouse town, Sandy Hill, Maine. The story is built around a lighthouse on Lake Erie that I’ve had the pleasure of exp;oring, but it’s placed in Sandy Hill. Sandy Hill does not exist as a town, but to make the story more believable, I had to research the Maine coast since I have never had the opportunity to visit Maine. Totally fictional, although I had to add research to make it seem real.

The Voice – Again, the town of Lafayette was, in a sense, fictional. I chose the name Lafayette because it seems that just about every state has a Lafayette. I deliberately kept the details vague, which allowed the reader to imagine the Lafayett they may most likely be familair with.

Dear Ellie – This was different for me. The story takes place in three different locations. One, my hometown, of which I am very familiar. Two, another location was in a neighborhood where my cousin lived many years ago. The third location, Brownsville, had to be researched and is based on an actual location that I have never seen. The first two needed little to no research. The third needed much research as a real location, known by real people, was used.

Manchan’s Tale and Cadeyrn’s Tale – Both are set in 4th century Ireland. You better believe more time was given to research, especially Manchan’s Tale, than any other. The Celts ruled Ireland at this time and were heavily involved in magic. That allowed for magical things to happen, but the setting still had to be as accurate as possible.

Jacob’s Ladder and Stage (f)Right – My first two books were largely built around my own life, something that is quite common with new authors. It’s what I know best so it’s the easiest to write about. Jacob’s Ladder began as a journal. Most of the beginning is built around facts, but later the setting shifts to Colorado – neve been there, So it called for research. I might add, don’t we as authors quite frequently interject our own personalities into our characters?

Okay, so just some different ways to think about setting. How do you develop the setting for your stories?

It’s All in the Past

An Irish Moor. If  you look close, you just might see Cadeyrn.

Monday! Monday! Yes, it’s that time again. The rain is pouring and the cooler fall weather is here – my favorite time of the year. I have some more writing thoughts for you, but first, let me mention the site updates. Eric Dierker’s excerpt is up. If you want to be blessed, be sure to read it. Leave a comment as well. I’m sure he’d love to hear from you. The new questions are up, too. Give them some thought.

Next week, I will be away with my honey as we celebrate 39 years of marriage. She will have my full attention so you won’t be hearing from me until the following week. But never fear – I’ll be back. Now, let’s move on.

My newest project, Cadeyrn’s Tale, is set in the 4th century AD in Ireland. That qualifies it for historical fiction. Have you ever written or tried to write historical fiction? I’m no expert, but let me give you ou some tips.

Research is Necessary

The mere fact that you are writing a fiction story says that your work is not true and factual. Still, if it is to be believable, there must be a realistic sense to your piece. That calls for research. How did people live? What were their occupations? How did they eat, sleep? In what kind of entertainment did they indulge? The list goes on. As best as you can, you must be accurate in representing the period of time you are visiting. That takes time. That takes discipline, but it must be done.

Watch the Fun Facts

You no doubt will come across many tidbits of information as you research your topic. It’s okay to note these tidbits, but don’t overdo it. Stay with the main facts. To overload your readers with a lot of unnecessary detail will only facilitate boredom. Remember, you’re writing a story, not a fun facts book. Make sure the detail you use is needed to move the plot and your characters forward. And above all, show – don’t tell.

Make Sure You Tell a Story

It’s way too easy to get absorbed in the facts, the culture of the period you are writing, the nuances of the day. And it’s way too easy to just lay down facts with no solid story. Your protagnoist needs to be able to carry the entire piece from beginning to end amid conflicts and problems to keep your readers entertained to the end.