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Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

This Blog has Moved!

Jumping to a new space

Jumping to a new space

From now on, I’ll be blogging on my own server at has been great,and I’ve learned a great deal, but now that I’ve hit the edges of what I can do here, I’m moving into my own back yard.


One class down

I posted grades today, and what a relief. I hate grading bad papers.  Grading good ones is bad enough.

How can I motivate college students to work together on their final grammar test? It’s open book. They are allowed to use the results of the quizzes they took online, and they are allowed to take the quizzes as many times as they wish to get all the answers right. (They could anyway if they thought about it for 45 seconds. ) They are allowed to ask their teammates for help. And still, over half the class made below 70 on a 50-question test,  some of it multiple-guess, and some sentence revision. Even if you hate grammar, there’s  a way to work around doing it.  Algebra is not my favorite subject, but I managed to make an A in it a few years back. I even teach folks how to do simple math when I teach Excel.

The 98% rule works for students as much as anyone. But the good news is that I don’t have any more papers to grade until April. I missed an opportunity to start a class last week because I didn’t check my school email over the weekend, and while the money would have been nice, I am glad not to have the aggravation.  I still have enough to do with my work for the Southeastern Writers Association and for my internship.

I am taking a break from producing my first product. The DVD won’t burn, so I am troubleshooting back to the video capture. You don’t know what you don’t know until you try to apply it.  Maybe I’ll try backing something else up to the DVD to see if it’s the drive instead of me. Women do tend to think that any techie problem is their fault, and that’s not always the case.

But I refuse to give up. If I have to re-record the thing, I will do it. It’s a good idea, and I think it will help some folks. So, back to the flashing green light. Have a happy Sunday afternoon.

My 2 Minutes of Instant Fame

Look over on the side bar and you’ll see my little video of reading a story embellished and condensed from a story told to me by Bruce Cannon some years back. Is it True? What is truth? But it does describe a life-changing experience, and fiction is allowed in the rules of the Simpleology Best Selling Blueprint contest at

I want to acknowledge the use of a portion of  “Say Old Man Can You Play that Fiddle” performed by  EJ Ouellette & Crazy Maggy as the background music,  available at  Fiddle rock jam is a perfect description and it was perfect for the story, most of which was left out for time.

Maybe I’ll post the rest of it here one day, but Idon’t want to squander my best source of narrative all in one day.

Don’t have a Niche? Get a Life!

In reading about how to target a niche audience, I realized that I don’t have a life.

I don’t have hobbies, unless you count blogging. I don’t watch TV, unless you count a DVD once a week or so. I don’t hang out except with my adult daughter, and then we are working on brainstorming for her artwork and writing or mine. I don’t even surf the net, play games or chat.

I do write two blogs for myself, and one for work. I teach online for U. of Phoenix, which means reading the 300 or so posts every week from the class, and grading their papers. I am studying how to use the internet to make money, so I can have a life. I am writing on the sequel to my novel, ( a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakout Novel contest), and I maintain several websites in addition to my own. The internet is my first life, not my second.

That’s some kind of catch-42* I suppose. Can’t find a niche until you have a life, and you can’t have a life because you are looking for a niche. Get a life? Isn’t that what we are all working for, to be able to enjoy life?

Here’s a solution. Stop looking for a niche.

Go for the big nickel. You have something to say, and you say it to the world. Keep saying it. Say it in as many places as you can: your blog, your website, your articles, your podcast, you book, your videos, on the phone, everywhere. Say it until you are blue in the face. Say it until you are sick of it, and then see what else you have to say.

Someone out there needs to hear what you are saying. Give it away until you find the value of it. Then give most of it and charge for the rest. Or you could charge for it first and hype it up all over the place until someone finally hears you over the hype.

Someone will hear you. The more you put it out there, casting your words out like bread on the waters, the more chances the words will come back to you, maybe bringing the goose that lays golden eggs. That’s the plan.

What am I saying? Get a life. Live the one you have. Go and do what you do. Sing your song. Dance your dance. Praise ALL THAT IS that you woke up this morning. If you are stuck, move something. Change something. Discover the Zen of housework.

*42 being the answer to the eternal question,  according to Douglas Adams

Novel Structure and a Hook

This simple structure comes from Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method of plotting a story:

sentence one: introductory sentence.
sentence two: disaster #1
sentence three: disaster #2, caused by consequences of actions taken because of disaster #1.
sentence four: disaster #3, caused by consequences of actions taken because of disaster #2,
sentence five: resolution and closing

It’s the basis of all screenplay writing and other how-to-plot materials. The introductory sentence is the statement of who and where the protagonist is now. Disaster #1 is the inciting incident, coming no more than five pages into the story, after the perfect world is set in motion. It’s called the Initiation in the Hero’s Journey. Disaster #2 is what happens when the protag responds to Disaster #2–a.k.a. the Road of Trials. This leads to Disaster #3, The Dark Night of the Soul where the protag either reaches within to find the strenght in the Shadow or we have a tragedy. The resolution plays out the results and brings the story back to where it started, the Return.

James N Frey suggests that in addition to this structure, the author needs a premise, a point that is illustrated by the story (NOT a moral tacked on to the end.) The premise gives the plot and the disasters a thread of logic and meaning–that is, if you want to write a DAMN GOOD NOVEL. Don’t we all?

So here’s my stab at this process. I have a premise, and lucky for me, the preliminary scribblings I have done do fit this premise: Gratitude is the only way out of the prison of guilt.

In this case, the imprisonment has to do with the feeling of being stuck because one is grabbing too much to try to have security–like the money with his fist caught in the jar of nuts. He won’t let go enough to let his fist out of the jar. The characters work from a sense of guilt and try to atone through magic or through controlling the magic of others.

All my characters have some guilt (or at least resentment, which is a component of guilt). this is a second novel in the series, so there is lots of baggage from the first. Set in the dimension of Faery, where the Fairy Godmother Superior manages the wishes and in some cases, the lives of the populace.

Sentence One:

The number of wishes to be granted in Faery have grown to an unmanageable proportion, so Maven is sent to recruit missing fairy godmothers to help with the overflow.

Disaster #1:

When Maven finds the first FGM on her list, she is captured and threatened with being drained of her magic, and possibly her life.

Disaster #2:

Along with the normal folk who want wishes granted, monstrous creatures–trolls, ogres, and other beasties are seeking Maven to grant their wishes, thus sucking up more magic from the realm of Faery and threatening its very structure.

Disaster #3:

d’Book, alter ego of a secondary character whose magical ability is to take magic from others captures Maven, threatening all of Faery in his bid to rule the magical world, and thereby to destroy it.

Sentence Five:

Hwo does she get out of this? Probably by not doing magic at all. Could be interesting since she’s not a ninja, or sorceress or even a halfling with a disappearing pig trick.

More later. Meanwhile, Check out Randy Ingermanson’s fiction courses!

Goals and Actions

Check out Randy Ingermanson’s Advanced Ficiton writing blog for entertaining and practical advice about being productive as a writer: organization + writing + marketing. He gives specific examples about how to set the big goal, and then how to break that down to tasks for today.   His products, like the free Snowflake process is very helpful for brainstorming through your novel before you write it, and his paid procducts about how to get organized and set goals are very reasonable and well presented.

Looking for a Writer’s Conference this summer?

Let me reccommend the 33rd annual Southeastern Writers Conference, held at Epworth by the Sea in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. The setting is quiet, the instructors and agent are accessible, and you can network with other writers in a sea island paradise.  Cash prize contests, free manuscript evaluations, and one-on-one feedback from instructors.

Earlybird tuition and manuscript deadline is April 1, 2008.

This year’s instructors include:

  • Dennis Hensley (inspirational writing)
  • Emily Carmain (editor)
  • Joyce Hart (agent) from the Hartline Agency
  • Bobbie Christmas (editing and marketing)
  • Brian Jay Corrigan (novel)
  • Marjory Wentworth (SC poet laureate)
  • Cappy Hall Rearick (Southern humor)
  • Dorothy Fletcher (non-fiction)
  • Harry Rubin (limericks)
  • me (blogging for writers)
  • Plus a special intensive worskshop with Vicki Hinze and Marge Smith (extra fee, 6 spots left.)

Do yourself and your writing a favor. Sign up today.

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