Research Done!

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This idea has been rolling around in my brain for quite some time and I’ve decided to just do it! First step is planning. This will be a full length novel, I hope, with ten chapters and fifty thousand words. Whoa, that sounds daunting so how about I break it down to three hundred twenty or four hundred twenty pages. That’s a bit easier to handle. Breaking that number down even further each chapter of my book should be three to five pages. Hmm, I don’t think I’ll number the chapters.

Next I have to describe each chapter in two sentences. Don’t write down the details! For example, write Chapter One – introduce main characters – set the scene. Do not get bogged down in the particulars; quoting the old TV detective Joe Friday “Just the facts ma’am”. No embellishment is necessary at this point, you are just writing for yourself and this exercise helps get your storyline straight and firms up your main characters.in your mind. I’m amazed at how difficult it is to be disciplined in this phase. Really I just want to dive in and start writing but I truly believe that sticking to this format will help me succeed.

Once all my chapters are finished this way, I will start adding a few more sentences to each segment. But  I must still keep the sentences thin and easy to read with minimal descriptions. Basically at this point I have my main character’s name, her occupation and now I’ll expand by writing about her frame of mind and where she is at the moment. And don’t forget I have outlined all my chapters so am growing each one in turn.

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Starting with Chapter One, I can now focus on getting a feel for my novel. Are there any plot holes that need filling or chapters that feel like nothing is happening? Is my ending rushed? And most importantly, does my story excite me? If the answer to any of these questions is negative, then I have to go back and fix it.

It’s really okay if there are plot holes or slower spots. I’m giving myself permission to rearrange chapters and make plot edits right now. This is where I will fix problems that I found previously. Remember this is still my outline and shifting sentences around is relatively easy at this time.

Warning – this part is downright scary. Have someone read your outline like it’s a novel. Listen to their questions and comments. Don’t answer them right away but do answer them when you actually write the chapters. I think this is one of the hardest things to do. Trusting someone with my thoughts and ideas just makes me sweat. So many things are running through my mind, who do I choose, how do I choose? Oh boy! But this is necessary because I really want people to read my novel and I need the feedback.

Finally I’m going to edit my outline with any feedback provided. When the tweaking is done, I’ll send it back to be read again and edit some more if necessary. If I’m happy with the overall structure I’ll know I’m ready for the final step. I’m ready to WRITE THE DAMN STORY!!!

Who are They?

Whatever you’re writing about in your first novel, the characters in the story have to be believable. Personalities must come out early in the story so readers can relate to them and whatever is influencing them. This is, for me, the first step in creating my book. I am writing a romance so of course I have two main characters and a few additional ones who will also play a part in the mystery of the whole tale.

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Some teachers of writing advise you to develop a long background of detail about each character. This will help the writer know the character and how she will react under stress, happiness, anger or threat. As a writer, I’m not going to describe the family dynamics of each character, but I have to understand their motivations and therefore I have to know their culture, upbringing and family dynamics myself. I have to know how she will react to a situation, to authority, to a fellow worker. So I am now developing my characters and their personalities.

My characters therefore are no longer just a cast but are now thought of as people with personalities. It isn’t easy to develop these people and it is a good idea to write down all the little facets that make up the whole. So not only is my five foot nine inch, red haired heroine a strong minded woman with a bit of a temper, she is also determined to rise through the ranks and advance her career. Even though my readers don’t need more than a few details of why she thinks that way, I ought to have that knowledge because I know it will help me tell her story.

I already know what my characters look like but now I have to delve into their psyche. I need to know how my people think. What are her interests and passions? And what about his? The male characteristics need to be defined as well. Speech is another feature to decide. My female lead doesn’t speak in flowery language, she is a strong, young woman and I need to make her speech show that she is energetic and decisive. I also need to convey her softer side, because she does have one.

Her love interest, I did say this is a romance, is also a strong character and I have to figure out the dynamic between the two. Again it will be important to subtly point out their differences and similarities. After all how will the readers know about their attraction to each other if I don’t tell them through the many small ways people communicate, verbally and non-verbally?

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Next on the list of character development is the motivation for my characters. First on the list is Basic. This one involves survival, failure, curiosity, guilt, desire, and instability. So far none of these really describe my characters reason for being in the situation in which they find themselves although a couple of the qualities are certainly in the story.

Now I have Noble. Love, loyalty, humour, obedience, vengeance, inequality, and dissatisfaction are in this list and my people do have a few of these traits and feelings. Actually all of these words describe certain aspects of the personalities I am crafting.

Going on to Evil. Described as hatred, dishonour, pride, greed, revenge, lust, and jealousy. These traits will be used for a couple of my secondary characters though the two stars aren’t always sweetness and light and will definitely have some sense of a bad feeling.

Finally we have Fear. This has death, humiliation, pain, rejection, loss, regret and shame. These are pretty intense emotions but to some degree all characters will experience them. Every person will, at some point in a story, experience at least one of these.

I hope this helps you understand the work an author has to do to make the characters in any novel come to life. It isn’t an easy job and every writer starts the same way, with a basic storyline and the question who are they, these folks who want me to tell their story.

 

 

 

Camera Ready!

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photo by Christian Mackie on Unsplash

A few years ago, when I first started this blog, I was told that adding pictures to my blog would catch interest and make it easier to read by giving the eyes some relief. Okay but how the heck do I do that? I found that WordPress was pretty good at telling me how to add pictures but my pictures were sure not worthy. I’m not a photographer. I’m one of those people who knows what I like but there was no way I could replicate any type of visual art. So the hunt was on!

As I’ve said in a previous blog, Google is my friend, and I set off on the hunt for sites that had pictures I could use. There are thousands of photographs, called stock photos,  available to anyone, but there are some things to watch for. First, many sites will charge you for the use of a photo, so beware. Many free sites aren’t really free but do put out a few free photos each week. You can use these without charge, but the sites usually ask for your information. Of course it’s your decision whether or not to give it out but is really not necessary. Watch out for copyright infringement.

I’ve found two that are very user friendly. They don’t ask for personal information and there are many photos and graphics, sorted into categories, available to download. It’s fun sorting through for just the right shot and I confess I sometimes get distracted and spend a little too much time on the hunt. My two favourites are Pexel and Unsplash. Both sites have a “donate” button; it’s optional but they ask too that you give credit to the photographer who owns the picture. Often a credit comes up at the bottom of your photo when posted, but if not your blog site help tab can show you how to add a credit. Now I try to make sure that credit is given where it’s due and if you don’t see that caption on a picture on my blog, that means I took it myself!

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Photo by Omar Houchamil on Pexel

Yes, I am going to take pictures myself! I have already done a few; actually on a previous blog, Writing on Writing, the two pictures used there were my idea and taken by my husband. Neither of us are artistically minded but we try hard to follow the rules of photography. So what are those rules that I’m trying hard to follow?

  •      Take your camera everywhere. You can’t take pictures without it! Those pics you don’t like can be easily deleted.
  •      Get closer to your subject. You might think it’s good but a few feet closer can make it even better.
  •      Practice every day.
  •      If you photograph people, ask their permission before using their photos.
  •      Read your camera manual. It really has some good information.
  •      Beware of backgrounds. Or things to one side, like garbage cans. They just don’t look quite right.

And there you have it. I believe that pictures do make a lovely addition to everyone’s blog.

Loving Language & Words

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Language and words, two of my favourite things. As I told you in a previous blog post, I love to write and now I will tell you that I really love to read as well. What first attracted me to writing was likely the passion I had for reading. If a book could spark my imagination and pull me into the story, I would read until I had finished the whole thing. It was truly the use of language and words that hooked me. So much that, at the age of thirteen, I started writing stories myself. At that time I was really enamoured with poetry and spent a lot of time creating ballads. Still, I did well, according to my eighth grade teacher. Did anything really spur your interest in writing and reading?

But this blog isn’t about my love of reading and writing but more about using the right words and language. One thing that always frustrates me is the use of words to try and prove “I” am better than you. I once had a manager who would use all the so-called big words she knew when talking to us. It didn’t work well as she often didn’t pronounce the words correctly or use them in the right context. So many professionals deliberately use difficult language when they really do not need to do so. What springs to mind? Lawyers, insurance brokers and doctors are all guilty. I’m a nurse and many, many times I’ve had to translate into simpler language for the patient’s understanding. My point here is – use words that everyone can understand. Don’t be condescending, just be natural. Sometimes I’m accused of being too simplistic but when I speak in public I really want people to understand my presentation, not struggle to understand the words I use.

Onto the WORDS! The English language is really great. I can find synonyms for any word I want to use. For example the synonym for “synonym” is equivalent. Why do we use synonyms? To keep our speech and writing from being repetitive. Plain and simple, if for example, you want to describe something as very pretty, you can use beautiful, attractive, cute, appealing. The choices are many. If a word doesn’t seem quite right, if it doesn’t say what I think it should, I head to my thesaurus and I find the synonym. And I don’t need to own a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus, everything you need to know is now online.

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And then there are some of my favourite words, homonyms. These are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have totally different meanings. Most of us are familiar with the three homonyms there, their, and they’re. These are, I believe, the most misused words I see. Is their misuse caused by a decline in the teaching of English grammar? Maybe. I remember my son coming home from school one day so happy he got an A on an English assignment. He did it well but the word choices and spelling were atrocious. So I asked his teacher why she gave him such a good mark. Her answer was, she was looking for concepts and expression, the spelling or word choice didn’t really matter. Grrr!  Thirty years later, his spelling is much improved, largely due to his mother’s influence I’m sure.

I’m not perfect but I am proud to spell properly and use good sentence structure. But I believe the downgrade in our language and spelling, which seems to have happened over a short period of time, can be directly attributed to the increase of social media communication. In trying to text quickly or fit everything you want to say into the two hundred eighty character allowance on Twitter, people are using short forms and acronyms for many commonly used words and phrases. For your it’s ur, for please it’s pls, If I can’t fit a word into the space I need on twitter, I’ll rephrase the whole sentence. I just can’t really get comfortable not using my words.

So I will remain a fan of language arts and words and continue to try to use them appropriately.

 

 

 

International Women’s Day

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Friday, March 8 is International Women’s Day. The history of this day goes back to the early 1900’s with women from around the world marching and striking for peace, food and their right to vote. Now the day is still celebrated world wide, some countries have a national holiday, some totally ignore it and some just pay lip service. Here in Canada the day is acknowledged and women may march for a cause and some introduce a project that is close to their hearts like the shoebox project.

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I describe myself as a woman, wife, mother, grandmother, and feminist. I firmly believe that women are equal in all ways. We are not superior to others but equal. I was fortunate to be raised in a female household. Dad died when I was nine and my mother remarried a couple of years later to a man who was in the navy so he was gone six or more months of the year. So myself, two sisters, my nana and my mum were all together in one house. My mother was totally female, petite, always in full make up and well dressed. But she could handle a hammer or screwdriver and built our TV stand herself and then built and replaced our wooden garage doors. We were taught we could do anything and encouraged to try many projects. I was athletic, excelled in English and history and did well in some sciences. The world was just waiting for me. I truly believe I was very fortunate to have the upbringing I did. We don’t need to tear down other women to achieve our goals but we do need to hold out a helping hand, ready and willing to lead the way. Because our goal is equality, we shouldn’t try to tear down men either just to achieve our goal of equality. Men and women must learn to treat each other with respect, each recognizing the other’s unique talents.

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This year, in Canada, our theme for International Women’s Day is Innovate for Change. There is a strong emphasis on STEM. Girls are being encouraged to study science, technology, engineering, and math. The female brain is equally able to learn these subjects and,  if their interest is there, study them and do well. Previously, women were discouraged from these studies, now they really are being encouraged. Women are being empowered. That’s not a catchphrase, it’s a truth. Our daughters, nieces, sisters are achieving empowerment when they are able to achieve a place in the decision making process, the ability to access opportunities available to them without limitations and restrictions. To achieve this we must celebrate the contributions of women and renew our efforts in achieving gender equality.

In high school, I was told I could become a nurse, teacher, secretary or housewife. I chose nursing and had a pretty good career. I mentored many new nurses, I stood up to the bullying system on behalf of myself and others, I taught a bit and I helped make my workplace, and others, safer. Secretly I wanted to study journalism and write, but for whatever reason I just didn’t have the drive to do it when I was that young. I believed nursing was my path and I was damn good at it. But I would have been a fantastic journalist. So to any and all who are reading this, encourage those girls and women to do the work that they know they can. Do the work they really want to do. Be FANTASTIC!!

Why Does It Take Me So Long?

Here I am, finally writing on my blog again. I always say I’m going to do this routinely but never seem to accomplish my writing goals. I know It’s a matter of discipline and routine, neither of which I am not good at. Last year I made it a resolution. Broke that one quickly. This year I didn’t  make a resolution which was just as well because I would have broken that one too. Why can’t I figure out a way to just write? Is it that my life and experiences just aren’t very interesting? Nonsense! Everyone has a story! I’m just a lazy writer and have to get to it!

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Because I wasn’t elected in the municipal election, I had to spend some time afterward cleaning out my office and saying goodbye. The experience wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it might be although I do miss the staff I worked with and I’ll pop in every so often to say “hi”.  After the office clean out, the hubby and I took a trip to visit his mother in Cape Breton. She’ll be ninety-four soon and is still mostly independent and is just a joy to visit. We’ll likely go back in the spring too, after all we know we won’t have her forever and want to visit as often as possible.

When we got back in mid-November, the Christmas rush was upon us. I had done some shopping, but had to finish and wrap everything, plan a gathering for Boxing Day and before I knew it we were into a new year! The hubby and I joined a service club, since I now had more time, and that has been a bit of a whirlwind too. I’m not one to sit back and let others do the work, so I got involved in gathering and organizing all the paperwork so the club can move forward when they are ready for new projects. I am enjoying this time to do some valued work and to help contribute to the charities that support those less fortunate in my community.

And so those are my pile of excuses for taking so long to get back to writing, something I really do enjoy. I’ve also gone back to writing in a different format and some day maybe I’ll publish a novel or a short story. Such a great way to express oneself.

Here I Go Again

 

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For the last eighteen months, I have been serving my city as a local councillor. Yes I am retired from my career as a registered nurse, but still keeping busy. My hubby and I had just sold our Florida mobile home when I got a phone call asking if I would be interested in serving as a councillor. I had lost the 2014 election, love my city and enjoy the give and take of politics, so of course I said yes. I really enjoyed that stint and decided to run in the election of 2018. Sadly I did not win this one either, so I am grateful for the experience of the last year and a half.

Now I am in the process of cleaning out my office in city hall, it amazes me how much paper and paraphernalia I have accumulated, but I have just three file drawers to do and I’m clear. I will continue to go into the office until the end of the month when the new council is sworn in, there are still questions to answer and residents to help. I do believe I have done a good job during my tenure but now it’s time to look forward.

So I ask myself what will I do now? I believe its important to keep our brains active as well as our bodies, so I am writing again. Starting with this blog and maybe, one day, a novel. I’ll try the crafty thing again, though I’m not very good at it. I’d like to have a little home business that doesn’t involve booking parties or selling to my friends and family. We have just moved to a rather large home with our two sons and for half of every month, two grandchildren are here. This will be interesting.

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One benefit is that we are opening boxes we’ve stored for four years. I’ve already sold a couple of things on the local buy and sell site. Hmm maybe this is a business in the making. It won’t make a ton of money but it could be fun and turn a wee profit. I guess that’s one thing to do and judging from the number of boxes, it’ll keep me busy this winter. I discovered some sterling silver pieces that came from my mother and grandmothers, that are quite tarnished. It will take a few days to clean those up and see what they are and if they are worth keeping. We’ve already asked our boys and their wives if they want any of our stuff and got the predicted “no thanks” so I’ll see if I want anything.

I’m going to volunteer with the local Crime Stoppers group and have started knitting scarves for the needy program here. I already have a day trip planned with a friend for next week. If we enjoy ourselves, I’ll write about it. Heck, I’ll write about it even if we don’t enjoy ourselves. And of course we have the Christmas prepping starting soon. I think my days will be pretty busy.

As the saying goes, “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.

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