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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Writing Duo – Father and Son

by Karen Johnson-Waugh

Father’s Day is a good time to reflect on the life of C.S. Lewis, one of the greatest writers in the past 50 years. More than two decades after his death, his writing continues to inspire millions with science fiction, allegorical children’s books, and philosophical books about the Christian faith.

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Ireland in 1898 to parents Albert J. Lewis and Florence “Flora” Augusta. When C.S. was four years old, his dog, Jackie, died in an accident. From that day forth, little C.S. demanded to be called Jack.

Lewis knew Latin and Greek by the age of ten. When his father wrote poems and read them to his sons, “Jack’s” hazel eyes lit up. The family moved to the outskirts of Belfast in 1905 and he was fascinated with the town. He and his brother David created a fantasy world they named Boxen. Fictional animals ruled their land, which helped them cope with their mother’s death in 1908.

C.S. attended boarding schools and colleges, studied mythology, and became a professor at Oxford University from 1925-1954 where he became lifelong friends with a fellow professor, the famous J.R.R. Tolkien.

In 1949, the New York Times published an article by Chad Walsh called C.S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptics. Mr. Walsh encouraged his poet friend, Helen Gresham, to become better acquainted with Lewis. They wrote to one another until Helen eventually divorced her husband, took her two sons to England, and married C. S. in 1956. Four years later, she died of cancer.

Lewis’ work was rejected over 800 times before he sold more than 100 million copies of The Screwtape Letters (1942), The Chronicles of Narnia (1956), and The Space Trilogy (1938-1945). Lewis died of a heart attack a week before his 66th birthday on November 23, 1963.

His stepson, Douglas Gresham, wrote an autobiography entitled Lenten Lands. Douglas and his wife, Merri, adopted five Korean children. They live in Ireland where Douglas handles the C.S. Lewis literacy estate. His brother, David, lives in India with his son.

Do you want to pass writing skills down to your heirs? Today is the day to begin. Believe in yourself. Invest in yourself. Take a writing course at Creative Writing Institute. Sign up today and start tonight with your own personal tutor.

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Microsoft Word Tips

By Brent Middleton

Microsoft Word is massive. These are some of the lesser-known Word functions. Since computers vary to a large degree, these instructions are basic.

Page Breaks

Microsoft Word automatically inserts a page break at the end of the page, but you can also insert manual page breaks. A page break is the point in the document where the text goes onto the next page. To insert a break manually, click where you want the page to be broken, then go to the Insert tab (at the top), and look under Pages. There you’ll see the Page Break button. If you’d prefer a shortcut to perform a hard page break (one that immediately starts the next page of the document), it’s CTRL+ENTER.

Section Breaks

You can configure automatic page breaks where you want. To do this, highlight the paragraph(s) that you want to work with. Go to the Page Layout tab, click the little icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the Paragraph subcategory, and a dialogue box should pop up. Click on the Line and Page Breaks tab, and from there you can manage your automatic page break settings.

For more in-depth instructions on page breaks, check out the official Microsoft site: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/insert-a-page-break-HA010368779.aspx

There are other kinds of breaks, too, such as Next Page, Continuous, Even Page, and Odd Page. If you want to learn more about them, there’s a handy description of each right next to each one in Word.

The Ruler

One of the most underutilized features of Word is undoubtedly the ruler. Word includes both horizontal and vertical rulers, and they can be useful for aligning different elements of your document, such as text, tables, graphics, etc.

To view both rulers, click the little button in the top right-hand corner above the “move-the-page-up” arrow. If for some reason your vertical ruler doesn’t appear (in which case it’s turned off), you can turn it back on by going to File, then Options, which is just before Exit. Once in the Options menu, click Advanced, and then scroll down to the Display section. There you’ll find a series of check boxes, and one will say “Show vertical ruler in Print Layout view.” Select that one and you’re good to go.

Were these Microsoft Word tips helpful? Please let us know and feel free to suggest other topics that you might want us to cover.

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Time Management in Seven Easy Tips

by Zena Shapter

Time management is easy when you know these tips and tricks to find focus, and stay there!

1. Time management begins with thinking about what you’re going to write before you actually start.  Thinking is free and you can do it anywhere. I’m always thinking about what I’m going to say/write in my next story, work project, emails or blogs. When I sit down to write, it just pours out.

2. When standing at the bus stop, waiting for water to boil, during advertisement breaks on the TV… hop onto your iPhone (or similar) and quickly check your social media, emails, and any blog posts you bookmarked for ‘later.’ Making use of extra pockets of time will help keep you updated. When you sit down to write, you won’t be lured by Facebook or Twitter. In fact, when writing, try to write far away from the internet and its dark distractions.

3. Find hidden opportunities to write. For example, while you’re in transit. I don’t drive (yes, yes – I know – there’s no need to roll your eyes!), so I catch a lot of buses, trains and ferries. That’s where my iPhone really comes in handy. I also take my laptop with me if I’m going to be on the bus for more than an hour (highly likely in Sydney). I’ve even been known to edit while cooking the kids dinner!

4. Take notes. It will help keep your mind clear. What’s the point in having a brilliant idea if you forget it later? I make notes on my iPhone. That way, when I start writing, I don’t spend valuable time working up ideas.

5. Pick your favorite social media forums for promoting your writing and stay most up-to-date on those, ie., daily checking. On the rest, stay generally up-to-date, ie., check every 2-3 days. For the rest of your social media, just check in weekly. My absolute favorites are my blog and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ZenaShapter). Close behind is Twitter & Google+. I’m also on StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Goodreads and more. Did I mention that I’m part-cyber?

6. Plan ahead. If you want to write a story by December, you need to send that story to beta readers by October. Set goals and meet them each day.

7. Approach all of your writing as if it’s work (even though most of being a writer is unpaid). It will help you stay professional and not slack off.

Follow these tips and you can master time management, too! Thanks for having me, Deb… it’s been fun!!

About Zena Shapter:  Hi! I’m a British-Australian fiction writer and published author. I’ve won six national writing competitions, have written novels, am published in various anthologies and magazines, and am represented in Australia by literary agent Alex Adsett. I also run the widely attended Northern Beaches Writers’ Group (based in Sydney), and give regular talks/tutorials on creative writing and social media. Visit me at www.zenashapter.com.

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Rules for Creative Writers

by Terri Forehand

The rules for creative writing can be overwhelming. From grammar, formatting rules, and creating characters, plotting, and following guidelines a beginning writer can give up before a creative story every makes publication. Don’t give up. Here are some basic yet simple rules to include when writing from your heart and putting words on the page.

Characterization

Creative writers have many characters swirling around in their brains at any given time. To make those characters realistic and bring them alive on the page, the creative writer must identify those characteristics for the reader in words, actions, descriptions or dialog. To know the characters well enough to do this, the creative writer should make a character list for each of the characters in the story. Every character must bear their own baggage; have their own physical identities including hair color, freckles, and warts. Each character has personal emotional hoopla and psychological concoctions that make them unique to the story and to the plot.

Creative writers know the birthdates of each of their characters, what they wear, how they talk, who they like and who they don’t, and what they eat. They know their family history, any abuse they have suffered, their sexual preferences, their hopes and their dreams. All of what the writer knows about each character does not show up on the page. However, a character can not come alive on the page until the author has a full scope of understanding about each character they place in a story.

Pacing

Creative writers must learn the skill of pacing their stories. The action must be spread out over the beginning and middle to come to a satisfying end to the conflict within the story at the end. The ending for the most part is a very few pages. Learning the skill of pacing helps you to build tension in your story as it goes along to that final few pages at the end.

Arcing

Along with understanding pacing of a story, the creative writer will learn about arcing. Arcing is the gradual increase in momentum of your plot. The actions of your characters, the conflict in the story, and the pacing will follow an arc that builds interest in your story from the beginning. The middle reaches a fever pitch and then declines into the resolutions of the story conflicts for the main characters. The ending must them be constructed cleverly to satisfy the reader and tie all the loose ends of the plot into a believable resolution. The reader doesn’t have to like what happens, the main character may die, go to jail, etc. But the ending must be believable and the natural consequence of the actions of the character throughout the story.

Timeline

Creative writers must develop a timeline for the scenes in the story. Are the scenes in order? Does your flashback convey the reader back and forth in a way that is understandable and not frustrating for the reader? While some authors may dwell on the same scene for a whole chapter, others will skip years in a single sentence. Make timelines clear to your reader and to do that, they must be clear to you before you write.

This is a simple explanation for some of the basic rules for writing the creative story. Practice by taking notes on your story, building character descriptions, and trying different story arcs for the story you want to tell. Balancing your story arc with your timeline will make your story flow and keep your reader engaged.

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Demand Your Writing Time!

by Deborah Owen

We live in a busy world. In spite of push-button washers and dryers, dishwashers, microwaves, convection ovens, and the latest in transportation and telecommunications, we are busier now than ever before.

Hobby writing gets pushed to the bottom of a very long list of priorities, but perhaps your desire is still there and that’s why you’re reading this article.

Tell your family and friends you won’t be answering the phone because this is your time to write. Tell your husband, wife, or children not to interrupt you unless there is a critical emergency. Tell them how important your writing is to you.

Go to a separate room with a pen and paper or a computer, and begin writing. You may not think of anything to say at first. You may even wonder where all the ideas went. Fear not, they will return.

To get started trywriting a biography, or write about your mate or friends, family, parents, childhood, pets, children or how pillows are madewrite about anything at all. It doesn’t matter what you write, just take the time and write. Try to do it at the same time every day and within a week or two your Muse will begin to visit you.

The Muse is what every writer lives for. It makes words fly to your head so fast that you can’t type fast enough to get it all on paper. The Muse will often visit at night, so keep a pen, paper, and small flashlight by your bed.

Inform your body that writing is a priority. Some people go to a special room to write. Some write in the basement or attic. Some find their Muse in a cabin or by the sea. It doesn’t matter where you go as long as you are comfortable.

Just as a child needs nurturing, so does your Muse. If you don’t feed it, it will die and you will be sure to regret it. Jump in with both feet. Be bold! Be brave!

Take charge of your life, and enjoy writing. It’s like any other gift– use it or lose it!

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Creative Writing Institute Launches First Annual Poetry Contest

It’s FREE! It’s International! Ages 13 and up!

Read ALL the rules!

· Any form of poetry, rhyming or non-rhyming

· Must be about love, nature, or a pet

· Maximum of 15 lines

· Entry must be G-rated according to American standards

First prize: $20 Amazon Gift Card and publication on CWI’s website and blog.

Second prize: $15 Amazon Gift Card and publication as mentioned above.

Third prize: $10 and publication as mentioned above.

Joe Massingham, tutor of Fundamentals of Poetry, will judge the contest, which runs from March 1 – March 31, 2014, midnight EST.

Submit to CWIpoetry@yahoo.com. Questions? Direct queries to the same address.

By entering this contest, you are saying your entry is your original work and it has not been previously published. Winners must agree to minor editing rights for publication and grant first non-exclusive electronic rights to Creative Writing Institute.

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Creative Writers and New Year’s Resolutions

by Deborah Owen

Creative writers, have you already broken your new year’s resolution? Did you want to take a writing class this year? Did you intend to write more often? Finish that story? Try poetry? Whatever your resolution, breaking it is only natural.

Life is busy, and it waits for no one. Don’t be cross with yourself for “failing.” No one really fails. They just procrastinate, always thinking tomorrow will be different. It happens with diets. It happens with smoking. It happens with writing, too. The main thing is to pick yourself up now and start over again. And should you fail this effort, too, renew your vows over and over again. As long as you have new days, you have an opportunity for new beginnings.

Daily resolutions are the only kind that really accomplish anything, so now is the time to make them.  Here are a few ideas to help you refocus.

  • Break your writing time into small chunks that you can work into any day. Fifteen minutes is a good choice. That gives you five minutes to clear your mind and ten minutes to get into the groove. You’d be surprised what you can write in fifteen minutes. True story: An unpublished woman wrote and finished a book by writing fifteen minutes a day on her lunch hour. She sent it to an editor. He bought it, and she got it published. Writers, you make your own chances in life. Get going!
  • When you sit down to write, if you don’t find inspiration, don’t let that concern you. You can write about your work, your boss, a rude clerk in the store, a nice person you met, your mate, how you want to remodel the house, or about your dreams. What matters is that you string your words together in proper English, proper punctuation, and good thought patterns. Everything you write has meaning. It shows your attitude, your interest, your opinion, your intentions, your psychological status, and it develops your writing talents.
  • Write at the same time every day, if possible. That is the key to wanting to write. If you write at the same time every day for a week, you will begin to feel the “muse” – the urge to write. When you resist that urge because you choose to do something else, the muse will be less the next day. Place writing at the top of your priorities.

If you haven’t met the muse, you’ll know it when it hits. Inspiration will strike and you won’t be able to type as fast as your mind can think. You won’t want to stop. You won’t want to be disturbed. You won’t want to do anything but write. Love the muse. Cherish it. Obey it. Don’t interrupt it. The muse is to a writer what a car is to a driver. It is the vehicle that transports you from one place to another.

Don’t talk. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t stop to eat. Cancel restroom breaks. Cater to the muse. Writing at the same time every day will encourage it to come in a timely manner.

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Motifs vs. Symbols. What are they and how do you use them?

by Denise A. Coleman

By the time you finish reading this article, motifs and symbols will be new tools in your toolbox.

The purpose of motifs. A motif can appear as an object, word, or sound. Repeat it in various ways to build on an underlying image. The key to a motif is that it reappears throughout the piece and strengthens the story line or theme.

Example #1: Let’s use the word “broken” as a motif in the story of a broken love affair. As Brad meets with Heather to break off their relationship, motifs could impose the image of broken things in the reader’s mind, thus fortifying the underlying theme. For example, as Brad avoids a broken step, maybe a child throws a ball through the neighbor’s window. A little later, Heather breaks a fingernail or Brad breaks a shoelace. Practice will help you learn how to weave motifs seamlessly.

Or, you could symbolize the break-up this way: “When Brad said, ‘I don’t love you any more,’ Heather dropped the tray of fine crystal.” Do you see the difference in these two examples? Motifs are repetitive, whereas a symbol might occur once with great emphasis.

Example #2: You could write a story about USA’s Independence Day repeating the words “American flag” as a motif and make that the underlying theme, or you could use a climactic scene where a wounded soldier crawls through mortar fire and plants the American Flag as he draws his last breath.

While the difference between motifs and symbolism may seem minor, understanding them and using them properly is of the utmost importance. Choose your device at the onset of your story and maintain it throughout.

Archetype motifs. There is another kind of motif called archetype. Archetype motifs have appeared in literature that dates back centuries. Archetype motifs can represent heroes, villains, and sidekicks, to name a few. For instance, the Lone Ranger’s mask does more than hide his identity. It strengthens the theme that goodness does not look for recognition. Notice how subtle that archetype motif is.

There are four definitive differences between motifs and symbolism:

1. A motif supports or develops a theme while a symbol represents something.

2. Motifs are repeated continually while symbols are mentioned once or twice.

3. Motifs help define an underlying theme while symbols identify an idea.

4. Motifs depend on usage within the story while symbols rely on history and purpose.

Now you understand motifs and symbols. Practice these two techniques to perfect them.

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Struggles of New Writers

by Dr. Helen Tucker, CWI Counselor

I remember those early days as a new writer; desperate to express all those thoughts and feelings on paper but terrified that no one would want to hear what I had to say. There was also the fear of not knowing where to begin, not being creative enough, and the huge fear of failure.

I decided to take a writing course as a confidence booster. We covered a section on basic grammar and punctuation. The most useful learning point was to write something every day no matter what. I began to carry a notebook and pen. When travelling on public transport, I wrote snippets of conversation I overheard and observed people as unobtrusively as possible. Based on what I saw, I made up stories and before long; I had written a short book.

The next big step was submitting. The thought of it made my blood run cold. It took me days to send it and all I could think about afterwards was all the mistakes I had made. I was thrilled when I received a complimentary letter from the editor telling me my article would be published but even now, the waiting and wondering is stressful.

Have you heard of NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. Those who want to write a book are challenged to write 50,000 words during November, which is an average of 1,666 words a day. Perhaps you would like to participate next November. It’s something exciting to look forward to every year, and a great way to help you write daily.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

*Feel free to write to Dr. Helen at dr.helen@cwinst.com.

ImageSplit Infinitives

by Karen Johnson Waugh

You want the reader to have a clear meaning of your writing. The article you write should flow with four-star rhythms on every page.

The use of the split infinitive rearranges a phrase by placing the word “to” followed by the root of the infinitive. Actively treat your infinitive as one entity by avoiding a separation between the preposition and the verb. Your reader should recognize the “to” as merely a pre-positional marker.

The typical English infinitive is nearly the same as the Latin present infinitive. It is always one word. By splitting the infinitive with the one word modifier, you create a sentence that is less awkward in print.  The split infinitive is the basic form of a verb and it is a distinguished writing tool.

There are no split infinitives found in the King James Bible. Early use of the tool dates back to the 1300s when it was first constructed in poetry. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) only used the tool one time in all of his written works. In lines 12 and 13 of Sonnet CXLTI, he writes, “Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows thy pity may deserve to pitied be.”

These lines clearly demonstrate the split infinitive is effective in meter and rhyme.

In archaic times, English infinitives were more Germanic in form. Writers used a single word with a specific ending to denote a verb. As time progressed, the verbs took on the “to” form.

As of today, the Spanish, Portuguese, and other non-English Languages, verbs are still recognized by their ending.  In English, the word “to” is recognized as part of the infinitive, whereas in German and French, “a/de” and “Zu” are not.

It is noteworthy to consider history’s great writers that used the split infinitive. Authors Willa  Cather(1873-1947), John Donne (1572-1631), George Elliot (1923-1936), Daniel DeFoe (1661-1731), Benjamin Franklin (1831-1917), and Samuel Jackson (1651-1712) do not complete the list. Many authors of the present and past compliment the split infinitive.

In the Star Trek movies, you hear the phrase, “To boldly go where no one has gone before.” It is a creative use of the split infinitive. Researchers indicates the phrase originated from the 1958 published White House book titled ‘The Introduction to Outer Space.”

Using the split infinitive in your article will enhance the creativity of your writing. It is a writing tool that makes your sentences more elegant and clear.

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‘Must Have’ Tools for Every Writer

by Lily E. Wong

Every writer needs tools. These include pen, paper, a computer and, surprise – books. Reading is as essential as writing. Being well read will help you to write well.

For writers certain books catapult our work into the forefront. The following five books will help hone your craft. How can anyone claim to be a writer if his/her work is not easy to understand? The goal is for all writers to own, read and refer to these books multiple times throughout their career.

1. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White

First published in 1979, this book covers use of the English language. There are many books on grammar but few have stood the test of time. In essence, the book is a great example of good writing. Clear and concise, it’s a quick reference on grammar.

2. On Writing Well by William Zinsser

The subtitle of this book is “The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction.” The book, divided into four parts, covers principles, methods, forms, and attitudes. Each section contains chapters that will enhance any writing. Zinsser provides examples from authors to teach and remind writers to keep their readers in mind.

3. On Writing by Stephen King

King calls it, “A Memoir of the Craft,” and delivers that and more. He tells a great story of a writer’s life, with himself as the focal point. Creativity and inspiration is his message.

4. A dictionary and thesaurus combination

This is invaluable to everyone because we all read and write. A dictionary enhances our vocabulary when we come across an unfamiliar word. On the other hand, a word repeatedly used can numb the reader. This is where the thesaurus comes in handy. The combination of both a dictionary and thesaurus is the ultimate necessity in a writer’s arsenal.

5. Your favorite book

This can be any book, fiction or nonfiction. Choose an anthology, a novel or any piece of literature. If you enjoyed reading this book, the writer did his job. Let this book be your inspiration, the goal you want to achieve.

As a writer, you want to do your best. You have talent but get some tools. Tools are a means to bring this talent forth for all to enjoy.

If these books aren’t yet in your library, borrow them, try them, buy them. But like all professional craftsmen, make sure any tool is worth its weight in gold before adding it to your collection.

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Using the Spellchecker

by Karen Johnson-Waugh

Microsoft Word has accumulated thirty years of features to assist us in writing. One beneficial feature to the writer is spell check. It will highlight the error and open a dropdown menu. The best word option on the list will be highlighted. This is an indispensable tool.

It also checks spelling and homonyms with new dictionaries. It will correct grammar errors, too, but it won’t enhance the readability of your style.

The spellchecker also runs a quick diagnostic feature known as the “Flesh-Kincaid Reading Ease.” The test will grade your article and score it. Reading ease should be around 55. The grade level can be as low as seven.

The spellchecker will tell you if your article is too wordy or hard to understand. It will also indicate the amount of passive sentences. Passive voice is most effective in a scientific paper or instruction manual, but in stories, it diverts the attention away from the speaker and highlights the facts. Active voice is the key to prize writing. Keep your writing relative and tight and aim for less than 3% passive voice.

Spell check doesn’t always recognize the meaning of words. It isn’t a proofreader. Try reading your article backwards to catch errors. Another trick is to change the font size to shift paragraphs around on the page and gain a new perspective.

Spell check won’t write your story, but it will give you a lot of help.

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Science Says Writing Improves Health

It’s a Fact!

by Carol Celeste

Improving health by writing sounds too easy, doesn’t it? The physical act may seem simple, but the mental part can be hard, especially if you practice expressive writing, also called therapeutic or reflective writing. While all writing expresses something, “expressive writing” describes the difficult events of your life.

Improving your health by honestly writing about feelings may pose a challenge if you’d rather not face them. If that describes you, you might want to reconsider because hundreds of clinical trials attest to the healing power of expressive writing.

Scientists say the mental exercise of writing contributes to physical well-being as well as emotional venting. Dr. James Pennebaker, who pioneered expressive writing research, along with other researchers who followed his model, found that emotions, the immune system, and endocrine activity are connected.

During the writing process, brain wave patterns and skin conductivity levels change. After writing, blood pressure and cortisol measurements lower and immune system function improves. Those signs indicate that exploring the depths of mind and emotions reduces stress. Writers also tend to view events with logic and reach solutions that elude them when emotions rule. After an expressive writing session, writers may feel bad for a while, but when those feelings subside, the benefits kick in.

Most writing studies are based on writing for periods of 15 to 20 minutes for four consecutive days. Health continues to show improvement from four to six months after the writing episode when monitoring stopped.

Numerous clinical trials report reduced symptoms for people battling HIV/Aids, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, smoking cessation, asthma, cancer, drug dependency, hypertension, depression, physical pain, grief, and many more conditions. Cancer seems to be the most studied disease and many cancer clinics use expressive writing to improve health.

Some studies show that the control groups, those who wrote about mundane topics, also showed health benefits. There seems to be something about the act of writing that calms nerves and boosts immune system function. So, whether you tackle those misery-making events in your life, or relive a fun time, expressive writing offers a low-cost way to improve and maintain health.

You may think it sounds too good to be true. While expressive writing practice may not cure disease, it has resulted in reduced symptoms for many people who write honestly about their feelings. No one else will see what you write unless you want to share. Try writing to improve your health and see for yourself.

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© 2013 Carol Celeste

www.writingtoheal.com

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