Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Plot Thickens

Now that you’ve worked on an outline of your characters, the high points, conflicts and climax, you’ll see your plot developing. Not all writers start with a plot in mind. A plot can be as flimsy as man meets woman, woman is on the run from the law, man falls in love, woman doesn’t feel the same, they both rob a bank together, fall in love just as they get nabbed by the police.

The plot is the reason behind things. Why does the man fall in love, why doesn’t the woman fall for him, why on earth do they rob a bank? Why does the woman suddenly fall in love? What happens to their lives while on the run before getting nabbed?

As we discussed in the outline, you’ll need a beginning, middle and an end. Without these elements in a story whether a novel or short story, your words will float aimlessly onto the page, never being understood by your reader, and more than likely being rejected by publishers.

A lot of times as you’re writing, the plot changes. Maybe you had in mind the above scenario of man meets woman, but then he finds that she has a child that she’s been hiding from her estranged ex- husband. They no longer want to rob a bank, they want to both see the child safely across the border into another country.

You see? The plot isn’t a set of rules that you play by. Sure someone can say "plan your plot THEN write the story," but as a writer (and as a human being) I find that plans never go the way they are intended. Unintentionally, they go somewhere you hadn’t planned at all. This is where the creative writer expands his/her imagination and delves into the unknown.

Breeding familiarity is not a place for your plot. Your story needs to be UNIQUE, something that ISN’T out there on the shelf right now. A lot of writers try the backward method. And that is writing the last scene first and backtracking to the beginning. Seeing it from this angle, you’re in the midst of creating a plot.

In essence the plot is the WHY your story is taking place (character’s etc.) You character is what’s going to shape your plot. Create a good character, give him/her their own profile, (what color eyes, hair, faults, vices, benefits etc.) With each part of the character’s development, the plot will surface. Always ask WHY and the next paragraph will form itself (in your mind’s eye.) Write your heart out without even thinking of a plot.

Allow the plot to become a mirage way off down the road, the closer you get to it, the clearer the whole picture becomes.

I hope this helps. Now write!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

To Outline Or Not to Outline?

The outline usually begins with an idea that you have. You write it down then the thought flourishes as more and more is added to the idea. Outlining enhances the creative juices within you.

Outlining is just another term used for organizing. Through outlining you can see what you need to put where. If writing a story, you’ll need the basic idea, but as the story begins to flow, you’ll need to remember things about the character(s), home, place or year. With the outline you can logically place the facts, have them on hand as you do your research, then go about fleshing out your story.

All stories are created from one main source, your mind. A writer creates with words so it is vital to write those words down. If a story comes out of just one word, start jotting down the ideas so you can understand them better.

As in all writing, whether a story, article, essay or novel, you will have a beginning middle and end. With the outline you may want to take notes as to what you will have in the beginning, this is the ‘draw the reader in’ phase. You’ll set up the problem that will eventually be resolved. This is the foreplay.

Your middle will have what is keeping your reader reading, all the juicy surprises, arising conflicts, and climaxes. The outline will be a time-line of actions for you to remember.

The end will near and as you head back down the slope you will give the reader a resolution, the happyily (or not so happy) ever after.

With an outline you will be able to visually see what happens in Chapters 1-5 because you will note the high points and use them as guides. It will also help with consistency. You can have Bill die in chapter four, but you might accidentally mention him as being alive in chapter ten. The outline helps you in your consistency checks.

So what are we going to do writers? Are we going to free-write an entire novel and get lost and confused in the revision stages? Maybe, but it is much wiser to have an outline to lead you down the journey of completion.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Do Your Research!

Research ~ Research ~ Research

Research is what you are going to do when you stumble upon something of interest in your story. By interest I mean something disputable.

Let’s say your character is a doctor. You will need to do research in the field of medicine if you plan on using any of the terminology that doctor’s use. Maybe your character is a florist, you may want to look up the different species of flowers so you can name them in your work like a pro.

This is the basis of doing research. You’ll sound (read) educated in the field or at least your character will come off as a wonder of knowledge. If you’re a car repair person and your character is a chef, he can not test the throttle of his whipped up eggs. He is going to have to speak like a real chef so that your character comes alive to the reader.

Now research is not only used in the creation or broadening of a character, research may be used in eras. To write about the eighteenth century you will need to delve into the world of pioneers. Travel on horseback and always use the right lighting and tools for that era. Technological terms will not be found in this piece of writing.

Maybe it’s music that you need to research. If you plan on using songs from a certain period of time research the music and make sure you have the copyright laws researched before using ANY works.

I sometimes even research what styles of houses in cities and suburbs have, all the way down to names of counties that are in the area. Stephen King likes to make fictional towns around his home state of Maine. With a fictional town you get the freedom of naming streets and having anyone inhabit the land that you deem fit.

As I write this blog, I’m always seeking information to give you as I dig into this "info highway." There is an infinite amount of material to sift through here on the web. When I can’t find it here on the net, I go to the library and dig through books or micro-film.

Research can be as much work as writing itself. But rest assured it pays off in the end because your work comes off as polished and well structured. And we thought our homework days were over? Think again! If you’re a writer, your homework has only just begun.

Now keep in mind that you’re NOT writing a research paper, you are digging for authenticity. If your writing comes off as TOO MUCH research and not enough fiction, you will wind up with a piece of work that reads like a Kleenex left out in the rain. Wet, soggy, and very loosely based.

As much as I like to tell fellow writer’s to Write! Write! Write! It is just as important to

Research! Research! Research!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Poetry Sunday


Oh how I want to feel the sun's... warm rays

To grace, my face.

drizzle me with its fingertips.

Dance along my body

until I am invigorated.

Trickling down, like rain, they fall.

Beads of sweat wash the pain.

The beams of light,bronze my skin.

I am now under the spell

of the blazing sun,

as it penetrates my body into a

perplexing pause of air…

I don't breathe…I sigh…

For it has taken me places in the mind.

Kissed me with its sweet caress…

I do confess...

the sun's kiss is all I need...

to refresh,

my soul to bless.

copyright © joni zipp

Friday, July 25, 2008

Not your cup of tea? (a cliche)

The over-used cliché...

A cliché is "a phrase, expression, or idea that has been overused to the point of losing its intended force or novelty, especially when at some time it was considered distinctively forceful or novel. The term is most likely to be used in a negative context." from wikipedia.

The cliché hangs over your words like a wet paper towel. It drags your work down making it all soggy sounding. Writer’s have a tendency to over-use them but I know that with the millions of writer’s out in the world today penning millions of books there has to be a way to invent your own.

This is where the creativity in you will come alive. Often used unconsciously in everday speech, we need to be aware of the tried and true uses and misuses of the worn out little phrases.
I don’t want to say that if you use them, as a writer it seems like a laid back easy way out and lack of original thought. But as writers we need to avoid using the cliché. When we say the cliché out loud, we understand what is meant by "It is a tried and true method", when written it looks as though I can’t find anything new to say.

That takes me back to square one, maybe I’ll give you a taste of your own medicine. (I threw that in there to see if you recognized it as a cliche.) As writers we need to be aware of what we’re writing. Recognizing the old sayings for what they are, old sayings. Be creative, think new, spicy, living sayings that will carry onto the next generation where the kids of the future will be saying, "Oh, I’ve heard that one." Yes sir, it will be YOURS!

Is this post just what the doctor ordered? Did I hit the nail on the head? Do you bite off more than you can chew in your writing? Whatever the case may be, leave cliché’s for the street talk, the long telephone conversations, the gossip in the halls, not for novel and short story writing. I bet even publishers of Newspapers are tired of the old cliches.

But here’s the tricky part. New and "in the moment" words, "like" and "that’s fab" just don’t ring true to form either when writing. I remember a day when everything was "cool" and when I left a party I’d say "peace" holding up two fingers for a peace sign. The kids today still use the word "cool" which makes me a cool mom with my son, but I would never say, "Peace out".

Language can be fun to play with, but when read it can read better when it sounds like its own version of coffee grinds. (that’s mine) lol What I’m saying is be creative with your words, if you stumble over your work seeing a cliché in the mix, remove it promptly and think of something that YOU, the creative writer, has thought up all by yourself!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Creating a Sacred Space

It is essential as a writer to have a sacred place to write. When you’re writing with pen and paper, do you always find a calming place that relaxes you? Do you find yourself carrying your laptop to the park or out in the backyard so you can drink in all of the beauty surrounding you?

Maybe your husband loves you so much that he has went to work on building you a little writing niche. Whether it is a room set aside for your computer printer, paper and stuff, or a nice corner tucked away from the hubbub surrounding your family atmosphere.

Your sacred place to write should be inspiring. Encircling you should be the images that conjure creativity. Like a brew of culture, what surrounds you is the very thing that is going to feed your muse. If you have a bland room with no inspiration, get yourself to a thrift shop. There you can find the eccentric little picture, the bizarre statue, the curious painting.

Sometimes placing your desk beside a window is helpful as you can gaze out, whether over a parking lot or into an expansive meadow, or peering into your ample garden. Whatever your circumstance, you can make your writing space your sacred place.

The mindset of a writer takes you beyond the congested parking lot. Look over the cars, look towards the sky and embrace the white fluffy cotton-like clouds. Look for the one object that will inspire you to write. Maybe it’s a bird pecking at a tree trunk, or a plane soaring through the wispy clouds.

Whatever surrounds you is wrapping you in a warm embrace. Remember that it is YOU who can control what encompasses you and gives your brain a tight squeeze, inspiring you to write.

Why not gird yourself in a meditative mode? Place in your environment candles of different shapes, flowers of many fragrances, plants of various symmetry and sizes. Often times we don’t live in a wondrous palace where we can be outside with nature, that is when we need to bring nature on the inside to our world to enliven our mind to become a force of creativity.

To balance out your workspace with a small tabletop water fountain, (there are some great affordable ones out there) would complete the serenity you seek when writing. The trickle of mesmerizing water, the flicker of dancing candle’s, the sweet scent of flora and fauna will all spring you into the writing frenzy that you desire.

So what are you waiting for? Make your writing space your sacred place!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Get some Sense!

Creating a world that is richly laced with the senses is what your reader wants. Have you ever read a story with none of the senses used? I bet it was a pretty boring story, eh? Senses bring your story to life in ways generic writing never will.

When we talk, we use our senses don’t we? When we communicate what we saw today, or heard on the radio, or ate for lunch etc. etc., we use our senses also. So why when you write wouldn't you want to leave the reader with a rich frothy taste in his mouth and weave your images into his mind like a finely crocheted afghan?

The best lesson I learned in writing was making use of the senses. It livened up my work like a fourth of July fireworks display and made my words dance to their own lively tune. This is what I want YOU to accomplish in YOUR writing.

When I was young, I remember my mother telling me to, "Act like you have some sense." If she only knew, I write like I have some sense, six of them to be exact.

Senses ~ Sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, and the unknown.

Sight ~ The light shone through the window. The rays danced on the floor. The mountains basked in the glory of the dappling sunshine.

Sound ~ The drumming of my heart was enough to keep me awake. The shrieking car peeled out of the parking lot. The church bells played a somber tune.

Smell ~ Ahh the fresh aroma of newly cut grass. The scent of grandma’s apple pie wafting through the open window has me wanting some. The tang of vinegar tickled my nose.

Touch ~ The hairbrush was rough on my scalp. The stucco wall left dimples in my hands when I fell into it. The cars hood was scorching hot!

Taste ~ The dill pickle was bitter after eating pretzels. The lemonade was sweet to my tongue’s palette. Grandma’s apple pie tasted delicious after it finally cooled down.

The Unknown ~ I wonder if the sun always does a pirouette across the waves? I’m wondering if Grandma is thinking about me up there in heaven.

The unknown is the tricky sense that we use to bring home our thoughts. The unknown can be as exciting as the rest of the senses if used wisely. Use it in your writing so the reader can touch base with you, the narrator. It gives the reader a glimpse into your thoughts.

Can you see what is in front of you right now? On your desk?

Can you smell the pans that you left on the stove from tonight’s dinner? Old coffee sitting in the coffeepot?

Can you taste the leftover spaghetti in your throat? A lit match might leave a sulfuric taste.

Can you hear your computer humming? A fire engine racing by?

Can you feel the stiffness of your chair and how it is making your butt hurt?

Do you ever wonder what it would be like if you won a million dollars? Can you imagine what life is like on other planets?

Bring it home for me. Take advantage of the six senses in your writing. Make your writing jump out and speak to me. Go ahead, I know you can do it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


"Like the winding stream, writers need to know where to take the reader, down the consistent path." ~joni
Consistency is another attribute necessary to pulling off a story. We need to be consistent throughout our work so the reader doesn’t get confused. This isn’t the same as staying focused (although that helps a lot.) Consistency is where fact meets fact.

Say you’re writing a period piece of the roaring twenties. You will need to make sure that your scenes fit that era, and don’t accidentally toss in that, "She sat tapping on the keyboard all day." It is things like this that will have your reader doing a double take and say, "I thought this was 1925?"

You should never have cause to make your reader double back searching for birthdays and ages, and times of day. With consistency they will already know the time of the day that she had her first kiss, or the time his dad bought the young boy his first car.

These things might seem minor to you, but to your reader it is giving them a solid foundation of your character to hold onto. Flashbacks help a story, but if you miss the consistency check, you are certainly in trouble.

You need to be consistent in your language, consistent in terms, consistent in style. You can’t write short and to the point one-minute then lapse into a prose style the next. You can’t shift tenses or points of view; instead you need to be consistent throughout the piece.

Now long time published authors, I have witnessed, play with the tenses just to fool you, but they are masters at their trade. It is wise if you are new to the publishing world to write consistently so that your followers know your style, follow it compulsively, and look forward to the next installation of your work.

People have a tendency to like the ordinary and expecting you to write one way in one book and the same in the next and the next. They will become your followers and the ones that will promote you to "The most published author’s" list. Sure they expect the unexpected to happen in your spiritual novel or horror story, but they’ve come to love your consistent writing. That is what is going to carry you from one novel to the next.

When you read Stephen King and Dean Koontz, you know their style (although both are different, they are both extremely good at what they do.) They know what you want as writers. They feed off of knowing you, the reader, better than you know yourselves sometimes. They give you a tiny taste of what you can expect in the very first chapter and what happens, you pig out on the entire meal, over-indulge yourself into some hefty reading and wind up reading the whole book! (This is true of all novelists also, although I am a die hard King and Koontz fan.)

Know the reader; give them what they crave. Remember it is consistency that put the above authors where they are today. Without consistency they would have been shelved (pun intended) years ago.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Focus, Focus, Focus

Writer’s need focus. As much as we need all of the other elements in writing, focus is of major importance as we strive to become a better writer. Focus means to maintain a central idea throughout your work.

We also need to remain focused on what the idea is that we are trying to bring across to our reader. In an article, the focus needs to stay on the subject matter or your writing will become weakened and loose, appearing unstructured.

If your short story is about dogs, then there is no reason to go off topic and talk about the boarding of horses, or cat kennels. Veering off track loses your reader no matter how well you’ve portrayed your dog.

Within each paragraph there should be a beginning, a middle and an end. Focus on making a point. The end of the story or article will tie paragraphs together like a ball of yarn. The entire piece will be rolled up into a neat little ball and your readers will understand what you’ve said, without doubling back to see if they missed something.

Not only do we need focus in our writing of words, sentences, paragraphs and stories we need to focus as writers in general. Once you’ve begun writing a story it is so easy to become sidetracked and begin another tale without ever finishing the one that you started.

I’ve found myself on occasion starting a story, and one word can trigger in my mind another story. Off I go like a horse at the starting line and I begin another story. What have I learned to do? I have found that writing that one word down helps me remember what I was thinking about. And whgat idea I had in mind.

I return to my work knowing the one word is tucked neatly away on it’s own little document ready to inspire me again when I get the chance to go back to it. I go to my WIP and focus on bringing the intended story to the reader’s eyes.

While this doesn’t always work, it is my tried and true method to help me persist in staying focused with what I’m working on at the time. Staying focused also helps in other areas of your writing career. While we focus on writing, that means we’ve spent time moving our creative juices, we have an inspired plan and can now focus on one particular story instead of trying to write ten different stories at a time.

I know some of you can handle writing many different stories and remain focused, but for the beginner, I think it is more important to focus on one story so that each word that forms a sentence becomes a plausible paragraph. As the paragraph shapes itself, like a fine wine it can only get better as it ages. (not ages as in months or years, but letting it rest for days before struggling with revisions.

Then you can focus on other parts of your life like keeping yourself healthy and fit. Writers need to be of healthy mind, body and soul. If you’re aligned, you become balanced, if you’re balanced, your writing will follow you like a puppy and all will fall neatly into place. (Did I just veer off topic?) So much for MY focus! ;-)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Poetry Sunday

Welcome once again to poetry Sunday. This is where I take a break and post my poetry from the Soul. Part of my Soul Storm WIP.

Within The Ethereal Night

Somber still is the ethereal night,

a sheltered home for inner flight.

Darkness embedding mystical light.

A flurry of bouncing spheres.

Cascading over inclement beams,

caressing colorful starlight seams.

Clustered into radiant teams.

Behold the glorious sky.

Beguiled by blistering thundering sound,

blatantly causing my heart to pound.

Cautiously savoring what I have found.

Transcending the sublime.

Whispering winds wash over me.

Whisking wisely to eternity.

I'm bathed amid the endless sea.

I touch the other realm.

Flawlessly floating back to earth.

Feasting on fruits of heaven’s birth.

Finding favor of my self worth.

I grasp the truth within.

Copyright ©joni zipp

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Now that we’ve had our dose of inspiration to get us writing our fingers off, I think we need to put our writing into high gear and give a swift kick in the rear to DETERMINATION.

Determination (ie: fixed direction or tendency toward some object or end)
is another way of persevering. Perseverance means the steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

Did you read that? In spite of difficulties; in spite of obstacles or discouragement you need to show the teeth of determination. You have been given a purpose, you’ve found your direction and now you need to jump full throttle into action to see your dream realized.

I know some writer’s who give up. Sometimes life throws a hardball at them, they have kids, and everything gets lost in the vortex of living. But writing isn’t about, leaving and coming back to it again. Maybe today I’ll write kind of attitude. Writing is about determination in seeing the dream that began as a seed inside, flourish. Don’t allow someone or something to discourage you!

When you wake up, live and breathe writing, you know you’re a writer. Sure there is time for walks, jogs, swims, dog playing and child rearing, but interlaced in the day has got to be a determination of allowing yourself to bloom. Writing, whether it is journaling or story telling, article writing or novel writing, if you are not determined to bring your words to life then the dream withers, the bud dies. All water will be drained from the dream and no persistence will carry you through this stage.

I say wake up, have that cup of coffee, tell the world your coming and drink in the sunshine as you tap on the keys. Be determined to succeed. Tell yourself you can do it, envision the picture, paint the picture and display it for the entire world to see.

If you can see the road ahead that you want to take, don’t allow the heat to cause a wavering mirage so that you lose sight of the road. Keep the picture of what you want to become clearly in focus, tell yourself over and over that YOU ARE A WRITER, be determined in seeing your words spill onto the page like liquefied dew.

Once you have a point A clearly in view, point B will follow with determination and perseverance. Whatever you do, don’t give up! Even if you write 100 words a day, keep at it, keep positive thoughts always front and center. Save the revisions for another time. Right now it is important for you to bring this dream to life and allow it to take hold of your being.

My son sees me write so much that he is now writing. He has three stories in the works and for some reason he is determined to be a published author. I keep telling him to keep at it. He is only twelve years old and new ideas spring in his head all the time. I try to explain that he needs to finish the ones he started before he can leap into another one, but at least he is writing the ideas down and getting them out if his system.

Maybe being a home school mom wasn’t such a bad idea. Everyone told me that he would never adjust to the world and here he is with the determination of a tiger hunting prey! That’s my boy! :-D

Be peristent! Be determined! Make your dream happen!

Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

Friday, July 18, 2008


Creativity is the bud within you waiting for water so it can bloom into a beautiful bouquet. It is in the far reaches of your imagination and it needs to be tapped in order for you to bring a story to fruition. The words you paint will come alive. The sentences you form will rupture into a full-blown story. The artist will be creative when he explodes on the scene.

Sometimes I can just see a picture of something and from there it spurns my imagination and as I look into the depths of my brain (albeit a small brain) I can write. There are times when one word can trigger my creativity. A lot of writing exercises uses this technique, and I know a popular blog that uses pictures to feed the muse. (Pumping Your Muse Prompts— link to the left)

Whatever you use to get the muses flowing, I mean juices, you can write a spellbinding piece of art. You need to craft a piece of writing that engages the reader, holds his/her interest, and entrances for the long haul.

You become the one-man band that everyone has come to see. You need many skills to perform this duty and you wouldn’t go on stage without the knowledge of how to play now would you? Of course not, you’d study long and hard to be the best you can be.

What is it that sets your creative juices aflutter? Is it the rushing sounds of a waterfall? The whispering wind as it blows through the trees? Is it the trickling rain that slaps into the puddle that makes your creativity take a stance?

Generating new ideas can be quite difficult if you’re not accustomed to feeding the flames. If you had a fire brewing in the fireplace what steps would you take to stoke the fire so that it stays lit for the entire evening to create a warm and cozy atmosphere? Keep adding wood to the flame. Or if you’re a writer, you will keep adding knowledge to learn a skill to feed the desire to fan the flame of creativity.

You my friend are an original piece of art, formed from creativity and there is no one else like you so from you should spew forth originality. Open up your senses, if you can see the trees blowing, smell the fire, taste the soil, hear the strumming of a guitar, feel the changing of the tides, all the bells and whistles in your brain ring out in-sync forcing you to create.

Read other writer’s, whether good or bad you will learn from them, study the craft intensely, fill the mind with fruitful knowledge as you embark on a wondrous journey. The journey of a lifetime will carry you into the world of creativity.

Writers are never in the world of five senses. We live in a world where six and seven senses peek out at us asking us to embrace what we’re shown. Through creativity, we bring you what the rest of the hurried world has hidden from them. Though we are many, we are few. As we seek, we more than likely find. We are the creative writer’s of the world whose work, if we’re lucky, will be carried into the next millenium.

Join the journey…embrace the art… live life creatively…become One with the One.

Creativity ~~~
"If we fail to nourish our souls, they wither, and without soul, life ceases to have meaning. The creative process shrivels in the absence of continual dialogue with the soul. And creativity is what makes life worth living." -- Marion Woodman
"Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun." -- Mary Lou Cook
"In order to have a real relationship with our creativity, we must take the time and care to cultivate it." -- Julia Cameron

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Let the Sun Shine in...

Showing vs. Telling!

Joni’s going to write a blog.

Joni sits at her desk, pencils, paper, stapler and paper clips surrounding her. A deep sigh leaves her mouth as she sits contemplating, ready to tap on the keys preparing to write today’s blog.

Aha! I think I’ll write about SHOW vs. Tell! In the first sentence I told you what Joni was going to do. In the second sentence I SHOWED you.

Showing is more specific in terms as it lays out the picture for you. General terms are good when you need to tell when something is happening that is brief in the story. Whereas showing moves the story from point A to point B.

To tell a story one only needs to say, Mary went to the store. To help in getting the picture across to your reader you need to learn how to write and SHOW them the story.

Mary grabbed her purse, hurried out the front door to walk down to the corner store. The screen door slammed as her mother called from behind, "Don’t forget the bread."

Think of yourself reading a book. You don’t start at the end, you begin at the first page. You take it slowly and read one page at a time so you can grasp the entire picture.

Taken out of context, you can speed read a page here and there but do you fulfill your journey of enjoyment? Showing and telling can give you the same information. But with the showing the reader gets to savor each and every morsel.

Creating a mental picture for the reader is important if you care for them to read to the end. Children love fairy tales where they don’t need a lot of the baggage that comes with imagery, they get picture books. But novels or short stories need to tap into the mental cinema of the reader’s mind.

Telling is fine for trivial things like it was a stormy day. If the storm is essential to moving the story along or part of the immediate scene then showing should be done. Don’t over do it with the imagery so no one says you’re padding your work. Showing should come as a natural flow to you.

I was sad when my dog died.
This is me telling you how I felt.

I was miserable when my dog died. It hurt so much I could just spit. I never expected him to die and now he’s left me alone and lonely for companionship.
This is me padding the telling.

Today I was distracted when the puppies in the park were playing frisbee, it reminded me of my Skippy. My friend for life or so I thought, until he contracted a deadly virus that took him from me. No longer do I look at his bowl the same way as it still sits on the floor near the door.
This statement gives more specific details, without telling how I "felt". You can read in my words that I miss him.

The point of "showing" is not to drown the reader in a sea of details. Instead, you should pick out only those details that matter.

Give your reader something to hold onto.Let the sun shine down on your work and give them a tale of beauty. Save the telling for the hairdresser.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling

In a recent blog tour I had the pleasure of asking the author of The President’s Parasite, Jim Musgrave if there were any "secrets" that the newcomer to writing should know. "Learn your basics first, meaning grammar, punctuation and spelling." he offered.

And the second best kept secret, which I’m sure isn’t a secret to my fellow writing friends because I’ve said this over and over again, get a good manual of "technique". His suggestion? Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block. Great advice!

I’ve given you blogs on Style, Theme, Ego, Inspiration, and even a blog titled Writer’s block. Today’s blog, I’d like to offer up to you the importance of Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling.

Many of us have learned our grammar techniques in grade school and more than likely we’ve become rusty over the years. Do you really remember was a present participle is? Did you ever think that later in life you would NEED to know?
The definition of the word grammar is interesting:
a. The study of how words and their component parts combine to form sentences.
The study of structural relationships in language or in a language, sometimes including pronunciation, meaning, and linguistic history.
The system of inflections, syntax, and word formation of a language.
The system of rules implicit in a language, viewed as a mechanism for generating all sentences possible in that language.
a. A normative or prescriptive set of rules setting forth the current standard of usage for pedagogical or reference purposes.
b. Writing or speech judged with regard to such a set of rules.

This ties in the punctuation and spelling because we can not have one without the other. Notice how simple letters form words, we write our words and they are going to form sentences (hopefully logical ones.) We’ll need to add the proper punctuation and to finish it off we need to proofread what we’ve written to see if we have any typographical errors.

I know a lot of people depend on their MS Word for a spell check but it being a program and not human, the robotic nature will not pick up the differences in there and their. It will not discern by from buy. It will give you a red squiggly line for incorrect spellings and your eyes may be drawn to THAT. In the process you may miss an error and let it slip through your eyes. MS Word will not find errors in punctuation for you either. YOU need to do the work to make it comprehensible and legible to your reader.

The best thing to do as a writer is to get in the habit of proofreading your work BEFORE you click that little word, SEND. Know the rules, know the proper etiquette and by all means STUDY what you don’t know.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Setting a Scene


When I think of a scene I always think of a play. But not unlike the scene in a play our writing needs scenes to fill a novel or short story. A scene takes place with uninterrupted action.

Take for example two people in a restaurant. The scene calls for the pair to be intertwined in conversation. To set the scene you’ll need what it looks like, maybe add some clinking sounds from the table, kitchen and around the room. Aroma’s etc. can add to the scene. Why not give them a taste of pickle so they can scrunch their noses at the sour taste? Or bitter wine? Or maybe the woman tosses a glass of wine into the gentleman’s face and storms out of the restaurant.

The scene changes and new sights and sounds arrive to give the setting. It is possible for the character to change the view of her mind through a flashback, where she’ll set the scene of a past event.

The scene is going to set the stage for your plot (a separate blog.) Maybe it is a period piece and the cars have antiquity as they pass along the street. Maybe a horse and buggy is going to be the vehicle of choice. Whatever the case may be, your scenes and settings will carry your story as much as the plot will.

Brilliant scenes can have a lasting impression on your reader. When something significant happens, you know your are in the midst of building a great scene. A scene isn’t having a man walk to his car. Is that significant? No. The scene should advance the character or theme along. This is when you know you’ve made a powerful scene in your work.

When telling a story every element serves a specific purpose. The scene is going to set the stage for action to take place. It must be action that is pertinent to the story. Redundancy is unnecessary if you’ve made a scene strong enough in the reader’s mind.
You don’t need to take a scene of Mary tossing the wine in her man’s face and keep repeating her tendencies towards anger. Making a strong enough point the first time, the reader can clearly see an angry streak.

Make your scenes have a purpose. Have a functionality of the sbeautiful vista so it can carry the weight of the words, have room for your metaphors (sparingly) and like a spiders web the story will intricately be spun into a tale of the times.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Words in Time

Metaphorically speaking…

Metaphors are wrapped into our writing like a blanket of snow covering the front lawn. Brightly lit, soft-spoken and subtle the metaphor is going to be the hidden aspect of a well-written piece of work.

Your lips are as sweet as a rose bud on a rainy day. Do we really know how a rosebud would taste on a rainy day?

Metaphors are used as symbolism throughout our works of art. An artist graphically paints an image in his mind, brushes it onto the canvas and you perceive something that has burst forth for you with entirely different meaning. The intention grabbed you, the thought provoked you and the image made you cognizant of something deeper.

Metaphors are the colors to our words. They leap off the page at the reader and the reader realizes that he’s read something enlightening. Writers use metaphor’s to paint images in the reader’s mind. The poem below has lots of metaphorical colors added to it. How many times have you seen a "dancing dandelion running in a field?" or "lilting lilies leap from the earth?"

This is metaphoric play from a poet’s mind. I’ve read some engrossing work with metaphors playing in the football field of the page, they are all over the place basking in all the right places. But I have also been a witness to the over abundance of metaphoric use ruin an otherwise perfect piece of writing. Keeping them in the context of the piece you are writing will also keep you safe from over-indulging.

As a writer I want to convey the image I have in my mind and the only way to make that crystal clear is by giving them something they can see with the eyes of their mind. They need to hold a picture of my words front and center. A metaphor can do that for me and for any writer.

To emphasize what you are feeling, a metaphor will come in handy as well as a Kleenex when you sneeze. An important note, while metaphors can sound like "clichés" it is strongly advisable to be original and sparingly in their use.

Color your work with the spacious glow of metaphors as the light shines so bright that your work is illuminated in splendid originality. That is probably one of the hardest things to do as a writer is to come up with new and brilliant original metaphors that haven’t already been spun into the web of literature.

Give the reader clarity of images taken into his mind and he’ll reward you with continuing to the end of the story.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Poetry Sunday

I thought maybe I'd make Sundays for sharing my poetry.

The Secret Garden

Bellflower bluebells bask in the meadow.

Thorny thistles lie in the ghetto.

Dancing dandelions run in the field.

Wilting wallflower sanity's shield.

Irreverent iris' play in the soil.

Wacky weeds burst without toil.

Victorious violets vie for attention.

Wanton will weakens perception.

Lilting lilies leap from the earth.

Doting daisies demand rebirth.

Panicky pansies parallel pleasure.

Lust is lost amid the treasure.

Rambling roses the trellis awaits.

A graceful gardenia gallantly gaits.

Towering tulips taunt the path.

Inner search sweltering wrath.

Ornate orchids ogle the sun.

Perpetual petunias pause for fun.

Dainty daffodils dally in the garden.

Fallacy feigns my heart to harden.

Lovely lotus lavishly stands.

Brilliantly born of my own hands.

Intricately intimate my mind can create.

Bellowing blossoms in a garden of hate.

Behold the beauty of which I told.

Hidden meaning the garden does hold.

For every drop of rain that pours.

Poison purity; the choice is yours.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Take my ego, please!

Let go of my egg-o or better yet let go of your EGO.

Our ears are always at attention and our noses twitch at the slightest hint of a story. Ideas bloom like weeds and we nibble at the slightest scent of a scoop.

Writer’s are humble creatures settled in their ways. We have a style that uniquely sings to us. We bedazzle with words and who wouldn’t love our art; we’re writers. The thing is, some people can’t take criticism they let their ego get in the way.

That is the difference in a hobby writer and a talented writer, seeking to learn a craft. A hobby writer shares his/her work with family, friend’s co- workers, etc.; they love it, adore it, and tell all their friends about you. Your head begins to swell like it was filled with helium. But a serious writer of the craft diligently works at creating a masterpiece to be displayed to the world, no helium involved, just the person the pen and paper.

The ego begins to come into play during feedback time. I had one lady in a class who could not handle critical feedback. I, being gentle in my comments, pointed out what I saw as right and what could use a little more assistance in bringing home the point that I’m certain she was trying to make.

If she could have climbed through the computer, the lady would have sawed my head off, serving it on a dinner platter to her dog. I believe she had a bruised ego and was unable to handle honest criticism of her work. She had always heard how good her words flowed, and how eloquent her speech had become and how she should pursue a writing career. She was great and wanted me to know it.

I asked her, "How long have you been writing?" In a hasty response she said, "Well, all my life it’s been my hobby."

We can all honestly say we’ve been writing since we can remember.

"But how long have you been studying the craft of writing?"

"This is the first time anyone from outside of my family has had the pleasure of reading my words."

Here is her ego speaking, not the knowledgeable writer within. She had no foraml education in the writing craft.

I went on, "But there is structure, and form that writer’s use that we need to adhere to if we’re going to be serious writer’s."

"Are you saying I’m not a serious writer?"

I never saw her again. I wasn’t saying that she wasn’t a serious writer, I felt she could learn a lot about the craft before demanding me to accept her one-sentence paragraphs.

The problem was, she let her ego carry her like the wind carries pollen. She imagined her writing to be perfect with no qualms whatsoever. I’m sorry but when I see good writing, I point it out. When I see someone making mistakes slight or not, I make them aware. Never harsh and brutal, always gentle in my critiques. Critique and feedback is the writer’s best friend. Without it, we will never learn to be our best. (And even the best appreciate feedback. Just ask Mr. King.)

We writers have a thick skin. True writers can take the criticism as the ego sits outside the door, panting waiting for a time of good use. I say, leave it out there, let it go potty on the lawn. As a matter of fact, let it run away from home.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Losing Weight~The Write Way

Losing Weight ~ the Write Way.
"Branch out and expand your horizons. Write right and fly with the angels." ~joni

Even writers need to lose weight, and I’m not talking about the extra pounds that calories put on, I’m talking about too many words.

Have you ever looked at artist’s paintings and said, "That line doesn’t belong there?" No? Why? Why do you suppose that the artist took his time and made his picture perfect for the eye to behold? The same goes for the writer. He should do his best to omit unnecessary words that drag his sentences down.

A writer must work diligently to make his work concise and to the point like the new age airlines, lightweight and no excess baggage. The excess baggage will cost you at some point.

A writer needs to make every word count in his/her writing. Writing a 2500 word story can more than likely be cut to 2000 words, with a mere elimination of the ANDS, BUTS and OR’s. Putting your writing on a diet takes skill, time, and discipline.

When you submit your work, do you not think that an editor sees all the excess flubber hanging around your sentences like a slab of bacon? He sees every single standout word like a red light that is screaming to him AMATEUR.

Avoid redundancy whenever possible. Is the point not made when you say 12 am. Do you really need to say, 12 am in the morning? The same goes for 12 noon, can’t you just say noon? Reduce your clauses to phrases from phrases to words. Eliminate your excess baggage.

Putting your writing on a fat-free diet will help the reader digest your tale much easier than feeding them a prose style that makes no bit of sense at all (oh dear, I’m in trouble.) If you’ve established yourself and people understand your wordiness than go for it. If you are just starting out or have been writing for years and getting nowhere with submissions, try losing some extra words. See if the work looks better and SOUNDS better.

Did I already tell you the importance of reading your work out loud right? YES! Make sure you read out loud your wordy version and the tightened version.

Do me a favor and cut that 2500 word story down to 2000 then cut more and more and submit your work as a flash fiction. See if submitting it as a flash piece gets it accepted quicker than the longer piece of work.

Go on… I dare you.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Theme ~~ what is it and why do writer’s need the haunting lure of it to reign in the reader?

It is good practice to carry a theme throughout your story. The theme of your story is usually implied through other elements, such as point of view, setting, imagery and the tone set throughout your piece of work. The theme becomes illuminated through these elements of style.

The theme is the underlying consciousness of your work. It is a central idea running like a stream throughout your work making it come together like cogs on a machine. Your theme will be the bonding of you and the reader, where he/she has a lightbulb moment, grasping what you have conveyed.

Sometimes the theme is not planned and often it changes in mid-writing. You had planned on your theme to be about the acceptance of death on humanity, but something happened along the typing path that had you (unconsciously) shifting to the beauty of mortality.

An idea is of the broader spectrum of the rainbow, where as the theme becomes subjective without limitations to you or your reader; over the rainbow so-to-speak. It is like feeding to your reader what he was thinking to be a lighthearted comedy, instead he received a thought-provoking piece of art that touched him profoundly.

If you’ve written 2500 words and haven’t a clue as to what your theme is, maybe go back and re-read, seeing if you missed something. It is possible that even you, the writer, missed the boat.

The theme is the underlying canvas to which you place the paint. You pick up a paintbrush (that looks an awful lot like a pen) and in a whimsical spin you begin creating art with words. As you feel the artistic flow being created subconsciously you will be spilling part of your sight and wisdom onto the canvas creating …a theme.

Don’t force a theme ~ It can’t be done and will come off as preachy.

Write what you know ~ Writing what you have experienced in life and the hardships is perfect for the theme setting to begin.

Use a psychological approach ~ Think depth when you write. Is there a deeper meaning than what you had anticipated?

Try subtlety ~ Being subtle makes the reader do the thinking.

Do NOT struggle ~ struggling to find a theme or to make your theme work will also assist you in losing the personality of your characters. Writing should come naturally, the theme will surface without your realization.

Write On!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Writing Style

Developing your own writing style...
It is up to us to develop our own writing style. Your own flair with the pen is as singular as a thumbprint. There is no other one like it around.

Writing style is the idea that you bring across to your reader. When a reader can grasp what you are saying, even if it is the rare style of J.D. Salinger in Catcher in the Rye, it is a style all his own. Duplicating his style is just that, a duplication. But notice his style, study his style and develop your own idea as to what you want to convey to the trusty reader. Sometimes imitating a certain style, will make you miss the most important part of writing and that is communicating to the reader and being understood in one sitting.

A reader knows what he/she is looking for in a novel and if after the first chapter they put it down saying, "That made no sense at all." It is at that time you have lost your reader because they could not pick up on your style and climb into your mind as a writer or narrator.

Style isn’t about being wordy or artsy. Using big words doesn’t let your reader into your view of the character. Academic style is for academia not the novel reader. Are you going to be a criminal of writing by breaking all the laws that you’re taught? Are you going to set out to write those long run-on sentences that no one understands but you?

Developing your own style does not mean break all the laws of writing to make your words sound prettier. I often write in a prose style, totally unintentional, it is just I am a poet at heart and when writing, poetic flair burst forth in my work. It is my style.

If you choose choppy, that is your style. Short and to the point? That is your style. What I’m trying to say is that getting your point across to the reader is more important than making an impression on the college professors (unless your writing an essay in college.) Your style for a term paper will vary from your novel writing style.

If your going to try a dialect for your character, make sure you know how it works in a novel before attempting using an Alabama drawl. It can read quite clumsily if it isn’t done right. Done wrong and only YOU are the one getting the point you were trying to make.

But dialect done right can be well read as in To Kill a Mockingbird. That dialect was conveyed to the reader and I’m sure we all sat in awe as we read little Scout struggling with those big words. The message was made clear and the story went down in history.

We need our own style to stand out among others. We need to make our own writing as special and poignant as the next writer does. There are millions of us (writer’s) out in the world trying to make a difference with our own style, but only one will make it to the proportions of Shirley Jackson, Harper Lee, or J.R.R. Tolkien. Find the beauty within you to mold and shape your story, nourish the bud with tender loving care. Prune it and fertilize your work and most of all give it many days in the sunshine, only then will you find that you’ve bloomed into your own style.

"A writer's style is as magical as the bud, hybrids are born every second in the reality of the cosmos." ~joni

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Setting Goals

Setting Goals, the most important thing a writer can do (besides writing of course.)

If you’re like me, you sometimes place goals as second or third on your list. I can’t help it, I have a son to tend to first and foremost and making him set goals is as important as me setting goals.

Okay maybe I need to be more clear here. Setting WRITING goals is front and center in a Writer’s life. You need to be clear as to where you are going and what you want to accomplish.

If writing a story is your goal, then set out to make it the best story possible. Day one, you will free write. Allow the keyboard to take on a ghostlike feature and just type away until your fingers hurt. Remember turn the internal editor off first, then type.

Day two of your writing goal will be to peek in on what you wrote. (This is where we usually begin talking to the screen and saying, "EGADS, did I make THAT many mistakes?") You may go over your work and fix all the red squiggly lines. Try not to edit too much at this point.

Day three, peek in again at what you wrote. (This is where you might say, "Sheesh did I write that?") If that’s the case let it settle a little longer. But while it is settling, think of markets that you’d like to send it to. Get a clear vision of what you wrote in your mind and think markets!

Have you gotten a market in mind? Well now you need to revise the piece! Revise it three to five times, hopefully with a workshop (like the great ones in WVU) or a yahoo group, of course. And make the piece shine. If it is 1,000 words or less this will be easier. If it is a short story, then you’ll obviously need more time. If it is a novel, it is still a good idea to have a clear marketable place in mind.

Goals are important in life. It is like a highway that is placed in our journey. We ride with the flow of traffic but if we didn’t have an occasional red light or off-ramp, we would keep driving aimlessly into the blazing sun. The road will then take on the mirage of melting wax, and you may get lost along the way, swimming in a pool of the unknown.

In writing we need to know where we are headed. Setting goals is the perfect way to absorb the clear idea you have in mind. "Where do I want to go with my writing?" After you know where it is that you want to go, make plans to get there. Whenever you are headed out on a long journey, what is it you do first? PLAN the trip first, setting a direct goal and the finishing outcome in mind, then you leave, hopefully not forgetting anything or you’ll have to start all over again on the journey.

Is your goal to become published? Do what is necessary to get you from point A to point B. Point C is reaping the rewards of all your hard work. It’s the relaxing part where you sit back in the luxury of a deserted island drinking Mai Tai’s and basking in all the glory.

Okay, that’s a fantasy for Mr. King. For us realistic souls, we go back to the writing board and begin the journey all over again!

Happy Writing! ~ joni

Monday, July 07, 2008


Organization takes skill and time.
Put all your eggs in one basket or better yet place all your books in a row.

There is going to come a time in your writing career when you’ve written so much that you just don’t know what to do with it all. This is when you should begin organizing (or should have already done so) and putting your work in a place for easy access. (I know, there are some who are just organizational masters and have everything in the most perfect order, but that is not me.)

Now after a while, I began seeing a pattern of chaos, but then I knew that somewhere in the midst of chaos lies peace. Peace came in the form of Microsoft Excel. It is a perfect place to make lists of your work, submissions, dates (written, submitted, accepted, or not heard from) and lets not forget the published pieces. The ‘published pieces’ gets a little box of its very own. Hopefully, everything you have listed above this special box will find its way melting down into this box. (Or maybe place this one on top for further encouragement.)

As for the writing itself, I normally organize it into folders. One folder might say SHORT STORIES, the next folder might say NOVELS, the next will say articles, there’s one for POETRY, etc. etc. You get the picture? Sure you do.

Would you believe I have one folder listed as Joni’s Junk? Well yes siree, I have in it all of my unfinished stories. Things I started and just never got around to revising or finishing. They will soon be in the active folders of Novels, Short Stories, Poetry. (Because I’m in an organizing mood.)

It seems I took a break from writing consistently every day, and focused on knowledge and learning. Somewhere along the line I was sidetracked into thinking that I could get away with not writing and just learning when in fact it was writing that had been tugging at me the whole time.

I roam the halls of the online Writer’s Village University, hop from site to site, aiding and abetting, but recently my writing had come to a standstill. I thought to myself, "Maybe I’m not supposed to be a writer afterall." You know the negative thoughts that seep into a writer’s mind, don’t you? Yes you do, we all have had these moments (even briefly, but we’ve had them.)

Since I’m not one that melts into a negative pool of wax, I turned myself around and began writing every daggone day! Even if it is nothing of importance, I write. I decided to ORGANIZE my writing time and instead of focusing on every one else, I decided to focus on Number one for a change. (That is the hardest thing to do! Have a selfish moment.)

Organization doesn’t need to be selfishly motivated. It is a place where everything comes together like the meshing of cogs, where chaos no longer has a home. I can still find time to roam the halls, feed my hunger for knowledge, drink from the fountain of the pen, march to the tapping of the keys, and soar with even the best of any airborne species.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Writer's Block

The wall that we hit as writer's is called Writer’s Block ~Repeat after me...I will not write, I will not write. Your mantra for when you suffer from WB.

We’ve talked about inspiration, motivation and all of the good stuff that makes your writing flow, but we haven’t touched the brick wall that writer’s hit in their writing routine.
Writer’s block isn’t just merely a hindrance in your writing it is a sudden blankness that covers you like a wet blanket adhering to your skin. You try to shake it off but it clings not wanting to give you any mobility

The old Block comes when you least expect it. You’ll be on a roll writing your heart out and one day you sit down and the vacant page stands up shouting out to you like a humongous abysmal billboard. It screams for something to be on it, yet you drive by glancing at it with your head out the window like a lost puppy with his ears flapping in the wind.

You begin daydreaming of what you should be doing (and that’s writing) but nothing comes, so you sit and stare hoping for some inspiration. Writer’s block can last a day, a week or sometimes a month! (YIKES) As you can see I’ve had it once or twice myself. I’ve never had it as bad as Mr. Henry Roth, author of Call it Sleep, whose block lasted for sixty years!

The day begins in anxiety and ends in frustration. I have a little trick I’ve tried and told a friend about who tried it and it worked for BOTH of us in overcoming the block!

First I relaxed my mind, I started the day by cleaning the house and not thinking of writing at all. I told myself the little mantra, "I will not write, I will not write." As I was cleaning, I had to dust the desk and keyboard. I gazed at it like a one-eyed cyclops, "Nope, I’m not writing!"
I continued trudging along with my day like not writing was nothing new, ignoring all the pings and pangs of anxiety, I just released all the tension through scrubbing and vacuuming. Boy did my place shine that day!

The next day I had nothing to clean, so I sat at my keyboard and blank screen. Did I write? You betcha! I couldn’t STOP writing! I went on and on about how my house cleaning went. Then I wrote about my elderly neighbor who was walking her dog again, and I wondered what her lonely life must be like being a widow, living alone in a big old house, how she must feel facing everyday without Henry, her husband.

Before I knew it I had a short story of almost 3,000 words or more!

Mind over matter can be a strange thing. You can trick your mind into believing something so absurd as, "I will not write." And before you know it, your talent licks you in the face, yup like a puppy again, and you’ve freed yourself from the imprisonment of The Block, Writer’s Block, (not the cell block.)