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.

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The Power of “3”

by Pam Zollman

When you write a short story or picture book, think in terms of “3.”  This makes planning and writing your story so much easier. Your story will be divided into three parts: beginning, middle and end. Your hero will need three obstacles to overcome. Your story will be approximately three pages long double-spaced, which equals about 750 words, just right for most children’s magazines and picture books.

Page one is the beginning. This is where you introduce the main character, set the scene, state the goal, and set up the conflict.

Page two (or more, depending on story length) is the middle. Your main character is presented with three obstacles he must overcome to reach his goal.

Page three (or so depending on story length) is the end. The climax of the story makes the hero choose a resolution, which may be hard and self-sacrificing, but will ultimately be the best one. The hero reaches his goal and all loose ends are tied up.

Be creative with how your character solves his problem. Make it something that will cause the reader to think, something that the reader might be able to apply to his own life. No obvious morals or lessons are allowed. Fiction is read for pleasure; all lessons should be implied. The reader can figure it out. The happy ending can also be implied, that if things stay on course all will work out okay.

This is a very simplified way of writing a fiction story for a magazine. Use it as a guide, a suggestion only, not as a rule. It’s not the only way to write a story, but it’s one that has worked for me.

Pam Zollman has published over 40 books for children, as well as numerous magazine stories. She has also been an editor and contest judge for Highlights for Children magazine.

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Five Ways to Succeed as a Middle Grade Writer

by Angela Gunn

More of a market than a genre, Middle Grade (MG) readers love a great book. As they struggle to figure out their place in the world, this age group (8–12) wants stories they can identify with, which also explain and open up a whole new way of seeing the world. If you want to write meaningful stories for voracious readers, here are five ways to succeed as an MG writer:

1. Read Middle Grade books

Familiarize yourself with published and successful MG books to help you figure out what is age appropriate for this market. A solid understanding of your intended reader is the key to your succesThey might be kids, but they aren’t stupid

2. While Middle Graders are not yet young adults, they’re no longer little children either. Forget writing in a complicated style. Keep your readers interested with age appropriate sentence structure and a smattering of new vocabulary to keep them learning.

3. No romance, sex or swear words.

Don’t forget that MG books tend to be purchased by parents, schools and libraries. This is not the ideal audience for your latest romantic novel. The same applies for stories with sex, swear words, graphic violence or hopeless endings.

4. Write for Middle Grade boys

While no editor will turn down a brilliant story for MG girls, there is currently a gap to fill with stories for MG boys. If you’ve got one, get writing!

5. Don’t rely on fads or gimmicks to sell your books

If you want to write the kind of MG book that adults still tell their friends about, stories that focus on universal truths will fare better over the years than books based on current fads or gimmicks. Do your homework well and you can find success with the Middle Grade market, and in the process, you might even find an audience that will never forget the day they picked up your book. Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

Writing Tips

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1. If you don’t take your writing time seriously, don’t expect anyone else to.
2. Analyze other writings and learn to endorse them into your own style. Reading is an absolute must if you want your writing to grow.
3. Professional writers have the skin of a rhinoceros. There is no place for thin-skinned and timorous writers. Accept all constructive feedback and don’t it personally. Treat all critiques like gold. Put a big note near your computer – CRITICISM = OPPORTUNITY.
4. Educate yourself with writing courses, seminars, writer’s workshops, networking, and conferences. The actual writing is only a small part of the big picture.
5. Know today’s market, timing and submissions – that’s what it’s all about.
6. Submit something every week. When one item reaps a rejection slip, have the next market all picked out and submit it again the very next day. Remember one thing – persistence, persistence, persistence.

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What is “Voice” and How Do You Use it?

Using Voice Effectively
by Deborah Owen

What do writers mean by “voice”? The voice, or point of view (POV), is the angle from which a story is viewed; every story and article has one. There are three types of POV and, while some are more preferred, no particular one is right or wrong.

* First person POV pronouns are: I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, and ours. New authors usually write in first person because they feel focused and closer to the story. First person draws the reader in, but it’s a limiting POV and is not the editor’s favorite.

There are two problems with first person POV. First, the constant use of “I” becomes trite. Second, the story’s character only knows what the writer knows, and cannot see from a different POV.

For example, if John says, “Susan is going to meet me at seven o’clock,” and in the meantime, Susan falls, breaks a leg, and lies helplessly on the floor, John will not know what happened to her until someone tells him. First person POV is better reserved for memoirs, journal entries, and specific stories.

* Second person POV pronouns are: you, (singular), you (plural), your, and yours. Example: “You must come with me to the Christmas play. You and I will have popcorn and lots of fun. Did you know your hat is on backwards?” As you can see, this point of view is even more limiting and never used.

* Third person POV pronouns are: he, his, she, hers, it, its, they, their, and theirs. There are two kinds of third person writing, omniscient, and limited. In third person omniscient, the readers are like flies on the wall and they can see into characters’ minds. This POV limits the suspense since the reader is left with few unanswered questions – but it’s easy to write because authors don’t have to work at “showing” the scene.

* Third person limited doesn’t show internal dialogue (thoughts) so the characters can’t foreknow anything. Like first person, the readers can see through the character’s eyes, but unlike first person, they can also see through the eyes of others.

In third person limited, the suspense builds as the writer shows the scene instead of telling it. The reader lives the story as the character lives it. Here is an example from Deborah Owen’s The Perfect Crime:

“Harrison slumped against the car, collapsed, and rolled in agony as he clutched his chest. Vision blurred, and then his eyes rolled back until they relaxed in a wide, empty stare.”

The sample doesn’t say the man had a heart attack and died, but you know it, don’t you? As you can see, even showing may have a little ‘telling’ in it.

Editors buy more third person limited than first person. Let your readers feel your characters instead of seeing them. Play with the various points of view until you’re comfortable writing all of them.

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Journalism Changes

by Josephine Kihiu

Journalism is a practice dating back hundreds of years. Frankly, it stems from humans needing to be know-it-alls. When reading became a luxury no longer reserved for the rich, disseminating news to a broad public proved profitable and generally beneficial. You’ve all heard the horror stories of late: journalism, especially in the print media subset, is a dying industry, clinging hopelessly to its marginal profits. Sure, the industry saw some major cuts recently. However, the reality is this – journalism is not dying. It’s just changing.

People are embracing a digital lifestyle, and so is the media. Journalists still roam unexplored niches and probe prominent minds for columns to sell, but those columns may end up online or in the journalist’s personal blog, as well as in print.

Digital journalism is an immediate response to the ever-increasing presence of the Internet via smart devices. Want a run-down of the State of the Union’s main points? Need to check your movie listings? Want to know the weather? Answer all questions using the omnipotent Internet.

Cognizant of the new shift in how the modern person acquires information, journalistic publications respond by posting pieces online. They also create apps allowing those with smart phones to roam their websites more conveniently.

Online journalism also serves expansion of journalistic expression. Unlike Harry Potter, your newspaper probably doesn’t support moving pictures on the cover, but journalists who embrace the digital shift can post videos, tweet, and blog about their findings in addition to the traditional static article. This increases potential audiences and diversifies the demographic reach (more college students pick up their iPhones than a newspaper).

But fear not, traditional readers. If you’re anything like me, you enjoy flipping broad pages and the feel of paper in your fingers. It’s familiar, like catching up with an old friend by letter or receiving news from a loved one by snail mail. Large newspapers still understand the importance of retaining the traditional, usually older, market, so don’t panic. News giants such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, remain consistent sources of accurate, interesting news, faithfully delivering to your door as a reminder that all things change… yet stay the same.

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