Thursday, February 26, 2009

Put some punch in your Punctuation

Would you believe that writer’s, although they can write, are lousy at punctuation? I mean no harm here but they seem to try too hard by placing commas in places where periods go, or semi-colons where commas should go and all it would take is a little extra effort on their part to do some homework. (yes, this late in life, and *I’m* not exempt))

The wrong punctuation can throw an entire piece of writing off balance. Let’s take a look.

I need your love to be everything for me will, you be my knight, in shining armor today would be a good day for you to show your face.

I need your love to be everything for me. Will you be my knight in shining armor? Today would be a good day for you to show your face.

Some writers miss the mark all the way around. I don’t know if they think that it reads better, punctuation isn’t necessary, or that someone else will fix it for them. Well let me tell you folks, punctuation IS necessary if you ever plan on becoming a published author. Sure there are times that typo’s happen, hey, it happens. But when you are deliberately too lazy to look at your work, spelling and punctuation, then maybe you need to think yourself a hobbyist writer and not one serious about a craft.

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 or want from went. 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 punctuation errors either. YOU need to do the work to make it comprehensible and legible to the reader.

Why is it that you want to become a writer? Because you have a quaint story to tell? In my opinion, who doesn’t have a story to tell? Everyone basically, but can they find the time to learn the skills that it will take to get their story from a mere thought to the glowing blank paper/screen?

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.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Poetry Sunday~The Multitudes Shall Eat~

Matthew 21:9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

Matt.14: 14-21

“The Multitudes Shall Eat”

Wayward legs they followed Him,
into the desert they strode.
Not for care of food to eat;
the pace was surely slowed.

Compassion for the multitude
He raised a hand to speak.
“Feed the hungry as they come
for all the ones that seek.”

Five loaves of bread to feed the many,
two fish to fill the crowd.
Gathered were the faithful,
now sitting all heads bowed.

“Bless this bread, I give to thee,”
He broke the loaves in two.
Dispersed to his disciples,
with divinity it grew.

“Fill not only with food you eat,
but also with my Word.
Remember My Father blesses thee,
with all that you have heard.”

Friday, February 20, 2009

Are You Motivated?

Don't wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.
~ Mark Victor Hansen

The word motivate means: To provide with an incentive; move to action; impel.

We all need to be motivated by something. A cause, a dream an ambition. Whatever the case may be we are driven to propel ourselves further no matter what life tosses our way.

Writer’s need to be motivated to write. As they sit at the empty screen they feel perplexed for what to write. Should I finish my novel? Should I write a poem? Maybe I’ll try a short story. All this comes clamoring for attention in our brains and we wind up sitting at the screen doing nothing but looking at what everyone else has written.

I do believe that there needs to be a hunger welling deep inside for you to be motivated to write. If you don’t hunger and crave it, you’ll sit glumly and wonder what you’re even doing behind the screen. I think it is at this point you begin to surf the internet to kill time, you’ve lost your motivation to write so you browse.

This lack of hunger is not a good habit to get into. There needs to be a point of focus before you can feel motivated. By taking a look at the short story you wrote, maybe work on the revision. Maybe try and aim for a better story.

Trying to compare yourself with others will surely DEMOTIVATE you along your path. It’s like having a weed in the garden. The weed will suck all the nutrients that a flower needs to grow. Sure the weed is a pretty yellow dandelion but it is taking away the purpose of a beautiful lawn.

Do we want weeds in our writing? Are we going to allow weeds to come in and suck all of our attention away from what we really want to do, and that is to write! Are we going to allow something else to come along and distract us from our purpose in writing our very best? Why do we as humans need the approval of others so that we can feel good about ourselves? That’s just it, we don’t.

If we allow others opinions to distract us from our purpose then we are not fully focused on what we were dreaming. We dream of being a writer. We focus on writing. We write whatever comes to mind just to say we’re writing. A weed springs up in the way of brutal criticism of our work. Do we STOP writing? No, we pluck the weed out, (that’s a use or lose in the critique world.)

In other words we’re going to take a critique as a blessing. It is a vitamin to our garden. It is feeding us nutrients so that we may be a beautiful bouquet of flowers blooming in the garden.

Motivation~ The act or process of motivating. The state of being motivated.

What are you going to do to get motivated? WRITE! That’s what. And keep doing it because you love it and because writing nourishes your soul!

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars! ~Brian Littrell

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones...

I’m always telling my writing students that if they can’t handle harsh feedback then they are in the wrong business.

As new writer’s you need to develop a thick skin towards criticism so that you can learn and grow. When someone says, “Oh this is perfect.” They are lying. You read it right, they are lying. No one is perfect and only when we realize we’re not perfect will we learn that we always have room for more growth and understanding.

Newer students to the writing world are the hardest people to critique. You need to put on kid gloves and pamper them so they don’t break and run for the hills crying, “I’ll never write again!” Why? Because you were told that you need work?

The new writer knows that he needs work that is why he is taking so many writing courses, buying every writing book on the market, and plowing away at writing, because he knows he needs writing techniques that he hasn’t acquired yet.

I like to think myself an old shoe at writing but I am always looking for a new technique. I’m always digging for a new way to tell a story, a refined way in displaying my work. BUT if someone says, this didn’t work for me, well BRAVO! You caught something in my writing that I didn’t see and I thank them kindly for heading me in the right direction.

I try to be tough in my feedback of new writer’s. Why? Because they need to be guided in the right direction and if I don’t tell them, someone else will and they will become the better writer because of the critique.

When I say ‘tough’ I don’t mean that I am verbally mean to them. I point out what didn’t work for me, I tell them what I saw wrong and head them into the right direction by pointing out what would work better.

I notice more in new writers that they like to ‘tell’ a story. Every sentence tells a story. And you may ask, “Isn’t that what writer’s do? Tell a story?” No, we don’t. We never merely tell a story, we show sentence by sentence the accumulation of words that convey a story. Through descriptive words, we are going to show you a story.

A librarian reading a book might be telling you a story but the author that wrote the book is SHOWING you a story. Believe me, the author behind every story has taken harsh and brutal criticism about his work before it ever made it to print.

Allow me to say this too, editor’s are not going to be sweet and cajoling in their response to your work. They are going to take a knife and slice into your work like a side of beef. It is best for the both of you, author/editor that you form a bond, so that both are willing to compromise.

You may post your work to a hundred critique sites and each and every one will say something different. Not always what you like to hear, but with each critique it will be revised and perfected and ready for the editor. Then his/her knife will come down.

It’s the writer’s life and one that I love!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009



What motivates your character? Are you a writer who has all of your characters figured out by now? I didn’t think so. We all want the character to be complex, filled with enough backstory to create depth, and most of all have a character that the readers love.

Ask yourself what motivated your character to do that. Did she pull a gun on someone? Why? Is her childhood so painful that she is retaliating against everyone and anyone? Did your character get up in the middle of a fancy dinner held by a well respected person?Why would he or she do that? What motivated her/him to do something out of, so-to-speak character?

Sure your character has bits of flightiness or uncertainties but it is the motivation behind their actions that is going to propel the reader to keep reading. The reader has loved this character for a few chapter’s now and making her/him do something out of the ordinary better have some weight behind it or you’re going to lose your reader.

I think a consistent build up will have the reader knowing your character better than you. If you cause him or her to do something that isn’t within their personality, your reader will pick this up immediately and drop the book in the trash because you did something that they did not agree with to their beloved character.

Sure the character is going to change throughout the story, but give them a motivation to do it, a cause. The internal conflict is going to drive the story along and everything that you as the author does to build this character up will be rewarded in the end. I’m not saying take a door mouse of a girl and turn her into the new age Super Hero. Maybe her internal conflicts are more subtle between the rights and wrongs of life.

I recommend that you don’t take a spineless waif, and turn them into a strong-willed persona in the matter of a few paragraphs. You need to have justification and motivation behind everything that is driving your character to become strong-willed. The right words are going to form your character and if you don’t carve them carefully before you display it to an editor, then those words will be like the Thanksgiving Day feast of last year, long gone.

Think before you form. It is your character and you will want to mold him, shape him and develop him so that your reader can see where the babe was born and how he grew into everything you dreamed for him.

Isn’t writing great? You have complete control over the destiny of a character. You are your character’s GOD. Now be as creative as He was and create perfection.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Backstory II

Backstory:The Past and Present

The definition of backstory is this: The experiences of a character or the circumstances of an event that occur before the action or narrative of a literary, cinematic, or dramatic work: At rehearsal, the actors developed backstories for their characters.

I’d like to touch more on backstory if I may.

I told you the when and where to use it but I don’t think I said HOW to implement it into the story.

Okay, so your story is moving along and you want to give a morsel of the past to the reader. What you’ll want to do is segue gently into a memory.

As I sit on the front porch, I’m reminded of Martha jumping rope right out front when she was a kid. I can almost hear the scraping of the rope on the ground as the wind blows gently through the trees, shuffling the leaves. Martha and I were best friends but this one time, we didn’t speak to each other for days.

Today Martha is jumping over a puddle to avoid splashing in it and falling on her butt. I giggle because it reminds me of when we were kids. She isn’t speaking to me again.

Did you see how I led you down memory lane, tied it into the here and now? I tried to do it gently so that you get the clear picture of Martha as her best friend and as all friendships go, they have ups and downs. Like jumping rope, or jumping over a puddle. It is something that friendships endure and getting over a hurdle is one benefit to a lasting friendship. Laughing about it later will also be put in the story.

Sometimes a little memory comes to your character by way of looking at a car that reminds him of something, or a smell that holds rich memories to his/her past. These are small bites of the meal that will give your reader a lead into what they can expect.

They will be expecting baskstory. This is why you need to know the many intricate layers that make up your character beforehand. You can’t write blindly without knowing your character at all. Maybe try an outline of your character’s traits, (I talked about this in my CHARACTER post) past, and secrets.

If you know these things intimately, then your reader will be able to grasp them easier when they stumble upon them. The reader will be relishing these tasty morsels of this dynamic character that you’ve created and the reader will be wanting more and more, which will propel your story even further.

By laying these footprints along the path, you are leading your reader down a pleasurable journey. One that they will come back to again and again, and also a journey that they’ll tell their friends about.

Please do your homework. Don’t give a cardboard cutout of a character, give them depth and personality, with a haunting past that will have your reader wanting to become an archaeologist and start digging up the bones of the story! Give the reader what THEY want!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Shroud of Love

The Shroud of Love

The vacant mist expressed
the empty me that was the woman
you came and rescued from the fog.
Into the swarming uncertainty
we rode through
the heavy shrouded portals of the land.
Not knowing each other but through words
on a dirty screen that didn’t mean anything more
than a connection through the spirit.

It was our souls that collided,
confided our intimacy
in each other as we became one
in the veils of mist
that surrounded us on many levels.
I was a barren tomb that you entered
to resurrect
the woman you knew I could be.
Never failing in hope we rode
through the
murkiness to arrive at a place of fulfillment
that we
consider to be an effluent life;
a wellspring of growth and love.

We proceeded to ride
the emergence of life within us,
to grow as a bouquet, our life as one.
Unhindered by the barriers
that stood erect before us
we strove to conquer the will of our souls
Longing to be with each other
to complete the
very essence that was missing all along.

On this day as in every day
I know that my love,
is naught but a compliment to your love for me.

We have seen what true love is
and we grasp the
reality of what it takes to make it whole.
As we nurture the future of our souls
we realize
we are one, no longer hidden entities
riding in an obscure blur.
We are riding into the sunset of our lives
beholding the very rainbow of life
that we seek.
Every year the pigment may change
but it lightens
our way instead of darkening it.
We have found
within each other…
a blossoming rainbow of beauty.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Backstory or memory lane?

You are going to come across this somewhere along the line in writing your short story, novel, or your memoirs. Backstory is the past of the character that you’ll want your reader to know about.

You don’t start a book in backstory. This will have your reader scratching his/her head and wondering, “Where did THAT come from?” You want to gently guide them down memory lane and give them little bits and pieces of your characters past.

Don’t try and give the reader a platter full of memories. When we go out to a fine restaurant are we served the main course right away? No, we’re given an appetizer to wet our whistles, so we look forward to the more delectable meal to come.

This is what we’ll use backstory for. The character has a past and the reader, after you have them hooked on the character, will want to know what secrets lie in their past that makes them who they are. The reader is craving more and you will give them an appetizer of your characters past.

You will lead the reader down the winding path through the backstory until the reader has an “AHA” moment. They will tie all the pieces together through the little bites that you’ve given them and not only will they want more, they'll go back for seconds!

The dessert of the story is the conclusion that after the reader has had his meal, he now looks forward to the finale. With all the backstory given in gentle bites, your reader will savor the dessert even more.

Don’t try and force the backstory on your reader. Let it come naturally in places where not only your character needs it but the other characters in the story feed off of it. Maybe they were present in some of these memories. Maybe this bit of backstory is due to something that they did to the main character, once again, tightening the bond of author and reader.

You’re not writing a mystery but through the backstory a mystery is unfolding. You need to make the backstory relevant to the story as a whole. If it has no use in the context of the story then don’t use it. During revision it might even be cut all together because you see it doesn’t fit in that certain place. But keep it just in case that it fits somewhere else.

Memories can be a blessing or a curse. When I was a kid I remember being four, when I was an adult, I remembered being a teen. Now that I’m wiser than I was in my twenties I remember being four, ten, 16, 20, etc etc. But in my memoirs I am only putting relevant memories that are MINE.

Do this with your character, only use their memories and make them relevant to the story so that it moves the story forward. Just because it’s called ‘backstory’ doesn’t mean you’re taking your story backwards, it means you will be propelling your reader further into the depths of the character.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Character Building

Character defined is: 1. the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing. 2. one such feature or trait; characteristic. Or 3.moral or ethical quality: a man of fine, honorable character.

For writing, a character is the one that is going to be the protagonist, your hero or heroine or your antagonist the one against your hero/ine. With these characters, you will build a world around them and hopefully your plot will be rich enough in detail to keep the reader reading.

You don’t want a character that is like every other character that you read about, you’re going to want a distinct character that your reader will relate to in some way. Maybe the hero is a high-school football player; or a cheerleader. A wannabe model or pro wrestler.

Dig through numerous books on your shelf and find the ones that you like most. What drew you to the character? Why did you like that character so much? It was more than likely because you related to the character or that she/he was someone you had only fantasized about being or someone that was closely related to the very person that you are.

Now that you have your character in mind, you’re going to build a life around her/him. You will give them hair color. Distinct features that make him stand out. You will give him a life, a past, a future. You, in essence, will give birth to a living breathing entity and you will make the reader be the father/mother in this case.

The reader will want to hold him, love him, coo over him (or brag to others) and most of all they’ll want to share this new discovery. Your character has come alive to them through all your rich imagery.

Giving the reader a man who is in construction isn’t as exciting as a “handsome man with a five O’clock shadow, chiseled cheekbones with a dimple, as tall as a giraffe with muscles the size of Atlas. His eyes are dark like pools rippling on a desert highway. His hair is onyx and as silky as a wet sheet. His smile can lighten the darkest of nights.”

You have an image of a hunk, don’t you? A hunk you want to read more about? I won’t go into the details of a woman, I can get pretty graphic. That is not what I’m aiming for here. I’m aiming for you to get a better idea of where you want to take your reader.

Once you’ve given them a taste of your character they will want to read what he is going to get himself into. That is where the antagonist is going to walk in, ugly as all get out, and screw things up for the lovers in the scene. He will be a standout character messing up the what could be complete and happy lives of your protagonists.

My point is; build an excellent character, one that everyone adores, and you will have endless possibilities with the story that will unfold.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Ring!

The Ring

The ring wraps around the warmth of my finger.
Endless devotion of my love will linger.
Commitment of truth; in faith I am bound.
Nothing obscured; my finger lay crowned.
Deeply enmeshed it's more than a ring.
A sign of his love which makes my heart sing.
Love that surpasses everything immortal.
Entrenched is he in the depths of my portal.
Laying claim to my body, my soul, and my heart,
The ring is a symbol my love won't depart.
A reminder of trust that I'll never stray.
Promises made when he placed it that day.
The ring it marks all we hold true.
Encircles the choice of starting anew.
It's through the ring that I am reminded,
The light of his love shall never be blinded.
Copyright ©Joni Zipp

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Breaking Rules

I think it is cute when I see a toddler who waddles over to the cupboard door and tries to open it knowing he isn’t supposed to. That is what toddlers do. Most moms are one-up on them though and have placed safety locks on all the doors. This is when the tantrum begins because the toddler kid can’t get his way.

Writers are not toddlers by any means, but they do need someone to tell them, “Hey that’s not the right way to do that.” or maybe in a gentler fashion, “Maybe you could try it this way, may I suggest…?” The writer doesn’t lose his/her temper they just drink in the gained knowledge and move on to better writing. Lesson learned.

That is what you’re supposed to do at least. Learn from what someone tells you or recommends to you. They are the reader and the ones who will be buying your work in print so if they see something slightly off the mark, point it out, then you need to take into consideration that maybe they’re right.

Newcomers to the field of writing think it is cute to break the rules, just like toddlers on their first playpen breakout. They prance around with the, “I can do what I want” attitude. Then as soon as someone corrects them, they run for the hills to bury their head deep in the soil. This isn’t making you out to be a good writer, it’s making you look like an amateur in a field where there is too many big league players ready to take you down, or at least beat you to the submission line.

If you’re going to be a writer, a professional writer, you need to be tough. A thick-skinned writer is like a desert lizard, they can take the heat and they bathe in it too! Just remember that you are not a toddler and that you will continually need to learn and take big sips of the cup of knowledge. Place your hand out into the open air, letting someone grab hold of it as if to guide you. You’ll be thankful that you did and all the more wiser.

Never fear criticism, never fear writing, always embrace the tree of life. It might have splinters but you’ve learned a great deal and will carry the experience with you a lifetime.

Here is some words to chew on:

dalliance (dah-lee-uh ns)
to dawdle
amorous toying: flirtation

halcyon (hal-see-uhn)
1. calm; peaceful; tranquil:
2. rich; wealthy; prosperous:
3. happy; joyful; carefree

miscreant (mis-cree-uh nt)
1. a disbeliever; heretic
2. villain

prevaricate (pri-var-i-cayt)
1. to speak falsely or misleadingly; deliberately misstate or create an incorrect impression; lie.

rectitude (rek-ti-tood)
1. rightness of principle or conduct; moral virtue: the rectitude of her motives.
2. righteous

Monday, February 02, 2009

Imagery in Writing

Someone asked me what Imagery was in writing. I’m thinking to myself, have you ever read a book without imagery? Imagine a Tolkien novel without imagery. You’d have hobbits crossing Middle Earth in a terrain that looks like everything else in the world. How would you know of the volcano and forest, trees and beauty?

With the use of imagery we were able to be there, right along with the hobbits. We had a chance to see all of Middle earth, the many orcs, the wizard and his fireworks display and oh so much more; brought alive by the visual imagery of writing. From Tolkien’s mind to paper, to us, the reader.

Why were we so enraptured? Because Tolkien creatively used imagery. He took the images in his mind and placed them before us the reader. He filled the imaginary world with color, placed tastes on our lips, filled our ears with noises of impending doom, and we could even touch the bark on Treebeard!

Imagery is bringing sights, sounds, objects, tastes,time and wonder-filled images into your readers world as if they were seeing, touching, tasting everything that you’re describing to them.

If you’re sitting at your desk right now, (I know you are because you’re reading this.) Look at an object on the desk. Do you have pens? Paper? Try and describe those objects. I don’t want to read, a long object filled with ink. Close your eyes and touch the object, sense the object and bring the image of that object alive for me.

“As I sit here, the long cylindrical object that houses a fluid will one day grace the sno-white linen and bring my words alive. It will glide effortlessly,with the assistance of my wrinkled fingers, staining the snow with its welled up color. Before me is the written word from pen to paper.”

Not my best, but you get the idea that I am writing with a pen on paper right? I am going to bring my words alive with that pen and stain the paper with the ink that is within. See? You just need to see the whole picture if your reader is going to see it too. They don’t want green grass; they want moist wet dewy grass. They don’t want a cloudy sky; they want a raging blackness that envelops the sky,devours the blue in a gulp.

Give them the images and your reader will love you for it, and you’ll even feel like a powerful writer if you can pull it off correctly.

Take advantage of the six senses in your writing. Make your writing jump out and speak to me. Use imagery to fill the pages with words. Use the words to make comprehensive sentences. Now make the sentences form paragraphs that are gripping to the reader making him/her want to keep on reading page after page. Go ahead, I know you can do it.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Poetry Sunday~ Rainbow's Song

A Rainbow's Song

You descended upon me
as a fine billowy white cloud.
Wrapped your essence around me
absorbed all of my gray,
to rain your love on me.
You carried me blissfully away
into the warmth of the sunshine
to create a beautiful rainbow's song.
You enveloped me with the
flaming passionate reds.
Gave me the blue hues
of an infinite sky.
Showered me with the yellows
of purity
Blossomed around me
the fragrance of aromatic oranges.
Planted me safely
in a field of wondrous green.
Your love has been a song to my soul…
an everlasting rainbow's song…
To infinity…and beyond.