The Royal Bank of Time

by Deborah Owen

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For once, I have a little extra time and I want to use it wisely. I feel like a kid with a penny going into the penny candy store, but I’m spending time instead of money.

There must be a time bank. I’m going to call it the Royal Bank of Time. Every person who lives a full day can withdraw minutes or seconds according to their discretion without even leaving their house. Of course, what they do with it is their business. They can drink it or drug it away, watch soaps or work. How about you? What do you do with your time?

Barring an unforeseen accident or tragedy, your 1,440 minutes are already in the Royal Bank of Time for tomorrow. You DO balance your checking account, but do you track your withdrawals from the Royal Bank of Time? This would be a grand opportunity to jot down how you spend those valuable seconds.

Tomorrow you must withdraw another 1,440 minutes – and that time will also come off your lifeline. You cannot choose to not withdraw it. You cannot choose to save it. You must spend it. All of it. And you cannot spend it early or late, so your choices can be earth-moving.

You MAY, however, budget your 1,440 minutes any way you like. You may visit a loved one, go on vacation, exercise, play games, argue, write, help someone else, sleep, eat, shop for clothes or food, clean your house, car or gun, worship, teach, learn, dispute politics, visit on social media, be with your family, or go hiking where no one can find you.

But then you must decide how much time you will schedule per item. Do you want to spend minutes? Hours? Or days on it? Look at your list again. If you were dying and you knew it, you would undoubtedly change your list – but that’s the crazy part. You ARE dying every minute of every day and you don’t realize it. I think the ones who know they have measured time left are the lucky ones. The hands on their clocks don’t run forward as do yours and mine. The hands on their clocks run backward, counting down to the zero hour and minute, but because you and I don’t know how much time is on deposit in the Royal Bank of Time, we fritter it away. It’s like playing Russian Roulette – only with time – hoping we can get everything worked into that unknown quantity of ticking seconds and hours.

If you really, truly, and honestly realized you are dying every minute of every day, you would make different choices. You would ask yourself if the time you invest in _________ is well spent. You would ask yourself if the time you spend with some people is a worthwhile investment.

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At some point, you will reason things out and change your values because we humans are fickle people. What attracts us today will not necessarily call as loudly tomorrow. Therefore, the value of everything we like, wait for, invite, seduce and request will fluctuate.

At which point is time most important? If you are smart enough to chart or journal your thoughts and achievements, whether they be minutes or dollars or experiences, you will learn from your mistakes and do better in the future. If there is a future. See? That’s the thing. You don’t know that. But one thing is sure – the longer your flame of life burns, the more secure you become secure in the artificial atmosphere that more remains. Surely there is more. Much more!

But maybe there isn’t. Sorry. No refunds. No do overs. No returns. All time withdrawals are final. All spent time is extremely final.

So here I am, preparing to withdraw one more day from my meager account in the Royal Bank of Time, and thinking how I will spend it. I have learned that time well-spent will come back to me in triplicate because what comes around goes around. That won’t give me any more time, but I will know I spent my time wisely. Giving back to my Creator is the most rewarding of all.

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When you meet someone – a prospective friend or love interest, let’s say – do they complete you? Or do they drain you dry? When you leave, are you pumped up? Or torn down? Do they make you feel worthwhile – or browbeat you until you can’t wait to escape? Are they worthy of the time they devour with cunning? Will the love you freely give them come back multiplied, satisfied, and worth your efforts?

I leave you with this thought. My mother is no longer among the living, but when she was, I knew what she would say before I went in her apartment. As soon as she opened the door, she would say something like, “That skirt makes your butt look too big and you should pull some bangs down on your forehead like this (tearing up hairdo). Your forehead’s too high. You look like a skinned onion.”

I thought I got used to her jabs and insults, but – not really. Every word was like a searing coal in an open eye. We took her out to eat every Friday and spent the entire day with her, getting her hair done, shopping for groceries, etc. On one such day, we sat in a restaurant. My sweet husband made a comment about my being a writer and Mom let out a belly-laugh that could be heard three tables away, and said: “Who? Her? She’s no writer!” The sarcasm was scathing, and I felt an inch tall.

Never mind that I had fantastic credentials, founded a writing school and taught writing for a living. To her, it was all a game. My husband almost went through the ceiling.

After that, I re-evaluated my friends and family, how I spent my time and how they affected my mental health, and I made the hardest decision of my life. I limited my time with Mother. I limited our phone calls. I limited our time alone. She was not at all neglected since my husband was in on the plan and filled in the gaps, but I felt relief for the first time in my life. No – I didn’t tell her. I didn’t fuss at her or stress her. I just lived my life a little differently. I wondered if I would regret it when she was gone. She died four years later at age 97.  And no, I didn’t regret a minute of it. She was lovingly cared for… and so was I. I only regret that I had to do it.

Mom once said, “Do you know why we hurt the ones we love the most? Because they are the only ones who will forgive us.”

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No one can slice you and dice you and utterly destroy you like a loved one, and you may have to cut that person out of your life (or at least limit them) for your own good. Evaluate the situation clearly. Discuss it with those you can trust and do what you must – because your account at the Royal Bank of Time is less now than it was before you started reading this article.

Spend your time wisely. When you spend it on others – be sure they are worthy of it – and save some of that most precious commodity of time for what you love most – writing.

Do loved ones make your time hell on earth? Comment below. Thanks for stopping by.

 

Secret Writing Techniques #3 Polysyndeton

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Last week we talked about asyndeton – a method of listing items without using a conjunction for the purpose of showing more by saying less – and the week before was onomotoepia.

Today we will study polysyndeton, which is diametrically opposed to asyndeton. Polysyndeton is the repeated use of conjunctions for the purpose of intensifying the scene, building the excitement and indicating (like asyndeton) an endless and innumerable list.

Our thanks to Word Magic for Writers by Cindy Rogers for this example. This quote comes from Charlotte’s Web where a rat is telling Wilbur the pig, in no uncertain terms, what he expects.

“Struggle if you must,” said Templeton, “but kindly remember that I’m hiding down here in this crate and I don’t want to be stepped on, or kicked in the face, or pummeled, or crushed in any way, or squashed, or buffeted about, or bruised, or lacerated or scarred, or biffed.”

Do you think Templeton made himself clear? And how did he do that? He drove the point home by using the repetitious ‘or.’ You will find a lot of this in children’s books. If you will listen to children talk, they use a lot of polysndeton when they talk:

“Mommy, I want ice cream, and chocolate, and nuts, and whipped cream.”

Do you see how these examples build the scene by intensifying repetition? This is a simple technique, but don’t discount its importance.

P.S. Did you notice this example uses antiquated language? Writing styles are always morphing and wise is the writer who morphs with them. Today’s writer would have written “Templeton said” instead of “said Templeton.”

Assignment:

Write three sentences using ASYNDETON and three more sentences using POLYSYNDETON. Send them to DeborahOwen@CWinst.com. Memorize these words and know what they mean.

See http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com for all your writing needs. Sign up for our newsletter, The Writer’s Choice, on the front page, top right corner.

Four Sure-fire ways to Reach your Social Media Prospects

Four Sure-fire ways to Reach Social Media Prospects

Art work and Article by Sola Johnson

Are you using the right techniques to convert “likes” to solid leads? Effective social media can be downright frustrating for beginners. Try these key strategies to give you an edge in marketing.

Good Communication: Most brands fail to define the purpose of social media. Don’t be too professional or too novice. Avoid flowery statements. Be brief AND persuasive in every post. Tell your Twitter prospects why they will enjoy your product in 100 characters or less. Give faithful fans the leftover 40 characters to engage and promote your tweets. Quality sells faster than quantity.

Post Frequently: What is your peak time to display engaging posts? Study Linda Ikeji’s blog to see how important it is to post frequently. Notice the placement of pictures and ads. Placing your brand in the public eye shows dependability. Top artists like Davido, Ariana Grande and other entertainers use Instagram to show what they do on their days off. If you are an up and coming entertainer, posting frequently will spur growth, especially when your contact details are open. All social media is good. Young Bieber uses YouTube. What do you use?

Regular posting will keep you on your customer’s mind, but posting too often can backfire and brand you an aggressive marketer. Some years back, studies showed weekly branding failed to engage prospects, but marketing twice a day overstretched their limits. So… how often should you post updates? Experiment to find the answer. Constant changes in social algorithms demand research, tests, and repeated tests until you really know your market.

Be Human: If you are going to use platforms like Buffer and Hootesuite to auto-post daily, do so carefully. Buffer lets you connect social accounts on its platform, but don’t ignore user experiences and customer interactions. According to an in-depth research by Convince & Convert, 42% of Twitter’s customers expect answers to a support request within 60 minutes.

Here’s a tip: Be prepared to hit the pause button. Automated troubleshooting is a bad idea. No one, not even the writer, can stomach conversing with bots and if a prospect sees carelessness in your marketing, you will be saying goodbye to them.

Pictures: A good picture is worth a thousand words, but use some text, too. Inserting a picture in a post is an awesome trick that will exceed the word limits of some social platforms. Imagine a Coca Cola text advertisement on a billboard that doesn’t showcase a picture of the product. Odd, right?  Billboard advertisements hinge on appealing to on-the-move clients, so share this emphasis when dealing with online prospects. Insert pictures to whet your customer’s appetite.

A photo of your employees relaxing, laughing, or doing some community work is a sure-fire way to humanize your brand by piquing interest and engaging minds. Eye-catching quotes and tips are excellent ways to boost online presence. What’s more, you don’t have to be a Photoshop guru to create good graphics. Digital marketers and social media experts use quick, fun tools like Picmonkey, Quotescover and Canva to achieve this task.

Follow @Epjohnson01 on Twitter for more tips.

Learn more about marketing your work at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com where every student receives a private tutor. Sign up for our newsletter!

How to Win a Writing Contest

Secrets to Winning a Creative Writing Contest

by Deborah Owen, CEO of Creative Writing Institute

Contests are like cars. There are a lot of them and no two are the same, but this is an overview of how Creative Writing Institute judges their annual writing contest. This year, it runs from July 15 – September 1, 2015.

First, the judges do a quick sorting. They place stories that might have a chance to win in one pile and stories that have no chance of winning in another. Needless to say, those in the latter pile hit file 13. Your first question should be, on that first sorting, what are the judges looking for? Among other things:

a. Very poor grammar
b. Very poor punctuation
c. Long, drawn out discourses that make no point
d. DEAD and DULL FIRST PARAGRAPHS
e. NOT FOLLOWING the STATED RULES
f. Not using the theme line, word for word!

The judges’ first scanning is not an in-depth reading. It simply sorts the big pile into a smaller one. There will be at least four full readings of each story by each judge.

You will win or lose a judge’s interest in the first paragraph, so be sure that first paragraph begins in the middle of an ACTION scene. Don’t lead up to the action. You don’t have time for that in a short story. Jump in with both feet. Next, develop that action until it reaches the climax about 2/3 of the way through and use the last 1/3 to form a conclusion and tie up loose ends.

Do all judges look for the same things? No. Each judge is as different as a snowflake. They may look alike on the writerly surface, but their thoughts and interests are as different as night and day, and that is what makes a good judging panel.

Here’s a clue. Our judges are not into romance. Does that mean you can’t enter a tactful romance story? No. Does it mean a romance story can’t or won’t win? NO. It was just a hint.  🙂

Another clue: the head judge would like to see some mystery stories this year. Does that mean the winning entry will BE a mystery story? No, but clever writers will certainly think twice before submitting to another genre (For newbies, genre means division – such as drama, fantasy, crime, etc.). But then again, some judges would prefer fantasy! In the end, the best, most captivating story will win, no matter what the genre.

Creative Writing Institute likes to run “themed contests” where the story centers around a certain phrase. This year’s theme sentence is, “I got more than I bargained for!” (You may choose your own punctuation, but those exact words must be in the story, in that order.) This is a fun theme!

The number one reason for disqualification is NOT FOLLOWING the RULES. Last year we had a winning entry that used one swear word. The judges were so into the story that none of them caught it, but I did and the instructions clearly said, “no swear words.” We even published a brief list of what we considered swear words (much to my chagrin) AND the address of the head judge in case anyone had a question.

Why do we have a “list” of swear words? Because we are an international organization that is based in the USA and even Americans hold heated debates on which words are or are not considered swearing. Why don’t we include swear words from other nations? Because it would be impossible to make a list of every country’s swearing slang.

The next question might be, “Why don’t you allow swear words?” One reason is… swear words are a form of telling instead of showing. (Note to beginners: a technique called Show, Don’t Tell means you should always show an emotion with action instead of description. For example, instead of saying, “Jarod was angry at the little boy and pushed him into a bush,” you could show his anger by saying, “Jarod drop-kicked the little runt into the shrub.”)

Another reason we don’t want swearing is because our anthologies are suitable family material. Believe it or not, not everyone swears!

We have already mentioned following the rules, which you would think would be a no-brainer, but to be sure you have conformed to the guidelines, read every single rule one more time before you submit. If we call for a limit of 2,000 words and you send 2,005, guess what? No matter what the quality of the story, it will hit file 13.

The quickest way to win is to write an original story totally based around I got more than I bargained for. The quickest way to lose (and embarrass yourself) is to pull a pre-written story out of mothballs, insert the theme line where it fits best and submit it.

I speak from experience. I tried this little number on a writing teacher years ago when she told me to write a story and insert a certain theme line. It seemed like a silly exercise to me and I was pushed for time, so I pulled an old story out, dropped the line in and submitted it. (*blushes… in my defense, this was the only time I ever did anything deliberately dishonest.)  I thought I was so slick and so smart, until I got her comment which read, “It almost looks like you used an old story and just dropped that line in. Rewrite it and make it blend.” Well… *duh, our judges are smart enough to figure that out, too!

On rounds 2 and 3, our judges usually grade each story from 1-10 and then they total the points for each story. It takes a terrific story to make it to 8, 9, and 10. By the time the judges get to round 4, bloodshot eyes are crossing, every person answers to any name, none are sure which way is up and the coffee has long ago run out so sometimes the head judge changes the method of tallying to, “This time we will deduct points for ________.”

All entries will be judged on originality, creativity, style and technique.

Originality

Plain and simple – how original your ideas are. There are no new stories, but there are always new angles. Day dream a little bit to find something spicy. Keep asking yourself, “What if… ?” That will open dozens of unique ideas.

Creativity

Creativity is how you express yourself. You might use similes, metaphors, emotives, or all of the above plus a whole lot more.

Style

Your writing style will reveal who you are, how you think, how you express yourself and what voice you use. (Hint: stories written in past tense, third person [using he, she and it] sell the quickest… and win the most contests.)

Technique

Writing technique includes the point of view, visualization of scenes and people, style of dialogue, how you write flashbacks (or if you use them at all), red herrings, foreshadowing, etc. It can also refer to the more technical aspects of rhythm, harmony, assonance, alliteration, personification and the like. All of these things equal your technique and the voice that is peculiar to you.

Seldom do we have a clear winner. We have ties more often than rabbits nibble carrots and when that happens, we pass the smelling salts and deodorant around and see how it goes. Under the careful scrutiny of our head judge, Ms. Jo Popek, judges may politely “argue” why “their pick” should win. By the time they emerge with a list of winners, it’s a wonder they are still friends, and an even greater wonder that they will return to the judging panel again next year!

Once you get contesting in your blood, you will have to enter at least two a year. Writing for a contest is one of the greatest, quickest ways to learn from your own writing.

Above all, enjoy the writing experience… and support our nonprofit charity by purchasing our anthology in December.

May the best author win!

SEE CONTEST RULES AT http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

I Haven’t Been Writing Because ________

You’re probably wondering what happened to my blog since we posted regularly for years and then suddenly vanished for months. I’s been one very sick puppy.  😦    After four surgeries and two bouts with bronchitis, I’m rearing to go, so this blog is aimed at the procrastinator in all of us.

I Haven’t Been Writing Because ________

by Deborah Owen

CEO, Creative Writing Institute

Do you feel unfulfilled? Like you’re barely surviving life, and not really living it? Like things “are getting done,” but you aren’t enjoying the journey of life? When a writer doesn’t let the words out, life gets very sour.

Are you ready to face the truth? Seriously. Are you ready? No lie? I can’t tell which way your head is bobbing. You’re really sure? Okay. If you insist. You haven’t been writing because you don’t make writing a priority. You don’t look impressed.

If you want to state it in kick-butt style, you might say: “Writing was less important to me in the past _____ weeks than everything else.”  *ouch 

Life is too short to coast from one week’s heart attack to the next, to the next, to the… before long, your kids will be gone and you’ll be studying dandelion roots from the south end. For however long your body stays in the grave, you’ll stare at the tombstone that should have read, “Here lies the greatest wannabe writer ever born,” but your loved ones will be too kind to write that.

Writing is a learned skill. No one is born knowing how to write, but there are varying grades of writing aptitude. If you don’t commit to at least three writing courses to learn the basics, how will you know if you could have succeeded?

It’s time to quit playing games and get serious.

Where to Begin

  1. Organize your life. For instance, my list might look like this:

Worship, family, job, WRITING, clean underwear, food, sleep… see? Put the unnecessary things last.  🙂

  1. Establish the best time of day to write. Maybe you can only write 15 minutes on your lunch hour. Fine! Do what you can. At least you’re trying.

3. Commit to a writing education so you’ll know what you’re doing.

I Confess…

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, yours truly had the attitude that she didn’t need writing courses so she wasted ten years writing a heart-wrenching novel. There I was with a finished manuscript in my hand, thinking, “Where do I sell it? How do I pitch it? Where do I even find an address to send it? Well, maybe I should take just one course.” [You would think these things would have crossed my mind earlier, but no one can teach a know-it-all anything.]

So I plunged into advanced marketing on my first course! No lie. And by the end of that course, I learned I didn’t know diddly-squat about marketing, writing or even how to break into the writing industry. Today I have a copy of that unprinted novel in every room of my house to remind me how a beginning writer thinks.

Are you ready to get serious about this craft? If not, I promise, you will regret every day you procrastinate.

Choosing the Right Course

Begin with nonfiction writing, even if you hate the very thought of it. Next, take Creative Writing 101, followed by Short Story. At Creative Writing Institute, real people will really care about you. Our courses are written by published professionals and you will have your own private tutor.

Sign up today and start tomorrow. Make your writing dreams come true at Creative Writing Institute, a nonprofit charity that sponsors cancer patients in writing courses.

Resolutions for the New Year

Re-ignite your writing passion

by Fahreen Gani

New Year means resolutions for most of us. Finishing a novel might be yours, but how many will achieve that goal? Take this survey to find out.

Do you leave stories unfinished?

Does every story have to be perfect before you submit it?

Do you shred your work (and confidence) every time you edit?

Do you fail to write two or more days per week?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are suffering from Bad Writer’s Habits Syndrome (BWHS). Studies show it can develop into a serious case of writer’s block, which  if left untreated, can culminate in psychological writer’s death, evidenced by lack of ideas.

If that triggered a little panic, great. It means the writer within is still alive and your story can be salvaged.

To see how advanced your BWHS is, you need to do a passion scan. Ask yourself this: has your passion for writing cooled due to frustration, rejections, and plot paralysis? After assessing the why and what is causing the lack of excitement, take a deep breath. Here’s how you can reignite your passion.

Delve into your mind, heart and soul. Ask yourself why you want to be a writer. Focus on those answers to stir your passion.

To keep your Bad Writer’s Habits Syndrome in check, take the following steps when necessary.

Keep a bottle of ideas handy. Although they are everywhere, keep your notes updated.

  1. Don’t wait too long to use them and don’t churn them out too quickly. Be patient,      and allow them to take on a life and grow.
  1. Do regular writing checkups. Do you use repetitive words? Do your grammar skills need work? Find your weaknesses and strengthen them.
  1.  Borrow a cup of encouragement from a friend.
  1. Supplement with doses of Self-Motivation.
  1. Take a shot of Constructive Criticism from a peer.
  1. For a speedy recovery and booster, take a writing course.
  1. Participate in a contest.
  1. Research your setting.
  1. Conduct interviews with your characters.
  1. Figure out what’s wrong with an old story.
  1. Use active voice instead of passive.
  1. Do writing exercises. Flex those writing muscles every day.
  1. Working on novels and stories gets exhausting. Take frequent breaks to preserve your sanity and keep your piece fresh.
  1. Distractions can be injurious. Avoid them. When the perfect word eludes you, don’t give in. Highlight the area and go back to it later.
  1. Read! It produces antibodies (new ideas) to fight writer’s block.
  1. Discipline will bring success. Enjoy your writing.

Make these your new year’s resolutions. Flaunt your writing masterpieces. Enter contests this year and we will applaud you for overcoming bad habits.

Go to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to find out about our creative writing courses

How to Target a Market

by Ariel Pakizer

Pick your audience before you start writing.   or even plan, an article. Waving in western culture is a friendly gesture, but an open palm is the equivalent to “flipping the bird” in some Hispanic cultures. Writing without knowing your market is like waving in Spain, you’re saying hello, they’re seeing a curse word, and everyone is confused.

Selecting a market is tricky. “High Fantasy fans” is too large, but “twenty-year-old white men” is too small, so target a market in between the two. Choose an age range and a topic. Focusing on one interest is wise, since art students and sports scholarships typically aren’t interested in same type of article.

You have the idea, now where does it fit best? Decide what focus (if it’s a story, or angle if it’s an article) your piece should take and target your particular market from there. If you don’t know what your audience wants, you need to do more than targeting a market.

If you’re a thirty-year-old woman targeting men going through a midlife crisis, you’ve got some research to do. If you’re willing to plan, research, and edit your article, you can spare a few hours for researching your market.

Once you understand your market, tailor your story to it. Write what your chosen audience wants to read. Every market has a tone and length they enjoy, so try keeping your article to the appropriate word count. If you’re writing a short story, write the characters with strengths they’ll admire and not quirks they will find annoying.

Writing for an audience isn’t easy and only practice will make you better. Learn to blend your writing with what others want to read. Write a few pieces for a specific audience, and then try selling them.

You can aim for a local magazine, newspaper, or reach out to an online journal. Why not find an internet magazine, learn about its target audience, and write a short story specifically for it?

Work on a piece for a few weeks, but set a deadline. It will turn a project into a goal, and the finished work into an accomplishment. So, go for it, write and sell a piece to a target audience by March 31st. Don’t sit and think, “I couldn’t do that!” because you can’t know that’s true until you try.

Sponsored by http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com, YOUR place to find writing fulfillment with a private tutor. No need to wait. Sign up today and start tonight!