29 October 2014

Finding Your Writing Niche

I don't know why I did it, but today I purchased William Zinsser's On Writing Well from a gift shop bookstore. It was a little pricey, but the impulse, arising from boredom, put me in a curious mood. The front cover of this book clearly warns it is a "Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction."

Did you see that? The color of the operative word is red.

I've been trying to produce a fictional novel for the past several years. I've written fourteen chapters in my third attempt. Why would I gravitate toward such an extreme as nonfiction? I had to ask myself this because my appetite for fiction seems to have taken a dive. I leave my manuscript at various stages and in multiple locations: Dropbox folder, flash drive, external hard drive, etc. Sometimes I wonder when I'll actually hunker down and go looking for the most current version. Sad?!

So now I ask myself. What "nonfiction" subject would appeal to me? I've pampered my blog for 5 years now and I've never once treated it like I do my manuscripts. I haven't ignored it for months at a time. I check the health of my blog with Google Analytics to ensure she's getting the proper attention. I post articles with keywords resulting in promised and predictable results. So why don't I allot the same attention to my manuscript?

After I read the first 3 chapters of Zinsser's book, a revelation struck me. I'm not a storyteller. I don't have a story I can jot down in a set number of words to make a novel. I'm a writer who wants to tell you about what I know and believe. That's why I return here so much. I'm not wired to tell stories. I'm wired to give an opinion about things I care about, namely writing and the crap that happens to me.

This is sort of about writing, but it's more about crap that happens to me. It's about the purchase of a writing book which may have changed my writer path. Whether that's for the better or not, we shall see.

Maybe I should look into memoir writing...

Topics available:

1. The Magic Closet - the story of my son who has A.D.D. and the number of times I found naked girls in his bedroom closet.

2. Hi, I Don't Belong Here - my week long stay in the hospital because I lost it, really lost it.

3. I'm Glad I Wasn't Aborted, Too - a candid discussion with my mother who revealed the fact she couldn't afford to abort me and the relief she felt afterward.

Trust me, all three are nonfiction titles! Please vote and let me know which story I should tell. I appreciate your input. You all have been with me through the years. You SHOULD be the ones I listen to when making these major decisions with my writing journey. I trust you. Write your votes in the comments below.

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20 October 2014

Top Ten Replaceable Words

An article jumped out at me while at work today. A link to it in our weekly newsletter lured me away, the title being "18 Common Words You Should Replace in Your Writing." So what do you think I did while reading this article? I mulled over each word and instinctively produced some fresh ideas of my own, not just replacement words. I'll summarize 10 of the suggestions given, then provide my own thoughts.

1. Good - superb, outstanding, or exceptional.

I agree with this one. If you want to say something was good or someone did well, try a little creative back story.

I hadn't had a meal like that since grandma made her chicken and dumplings and won first place at the Greenwich Country Cook Off.

2. New - latest or recent

If you're talking about a recent batch of donuts, wouldn't they be warm and sticky? Choose words which describe the properties of being new or recent. Maybe the smell of alcohol-based duplicating liquid would indicate the recent production of examination papers a teacher passes along in class.

Jackie lifted the paper and sniffed at the drying fumes on the exam sheet Miss Robinson placed on her desk.

Okay, so if you were born circa 1980, you won't get this. Just carry on.

3. Long - extended, lingering, or endless

If you tell me that it's been a long time since you last saw me, isn't that subjective? Maybe I didn't want to see you again, in which case it hadn't been long enough. Instead, be specific.

"Oh my goodness! It's been 10 years since I last saw you."  
"That many years, huh? Seems like yesterday to me."

4. Old - ancient, fossilized, decaying, or decrepit

The frayed laces and the unglued, rubber-tipped soles of his tennis shoes are a better way to describe something in a specific manner. Again, old is subjective here. To someone who grew up poor, that's just the half way point.

5. Right - exact, precise, or correct

It is the right thing to do! Oh yeah? Whose moral code are you following anyway?

She is right. Really? You mean what she said is based on fact? She spoke the truth, or otherwise didn't tell a lie.

I enjoy my coffee with 2 teaspoons of sugar in an 8 oz serving. Just right, for me.

6. Different - odd, uncommon, exotic, or striking

Instead of using the word different, I like to read descriptions which show contrast.

He flung the fair-skinned maiden onto the center stage in a room filled with Arabic bidders eager to make the purchase for her endowments. They yammered in quick, high pitched syllables, and the whites of their eyes bulged wildly from their sockets.

We can assume the lady is different in many ways, including race, community status, emotional state. So, when describing differences, think about why something or someone is different or odd. Let the reader enjoy the difference.

7. Small - microscopic, miniature, or tiny

Another subjective adjective. Babies are small, but baby rabbits are smaller. Here is another opportunity to show with contrast. What if you read about a tall man who had stubby, two-inch fingers and one-inch thumbs. Weird, huh?

8. Large - substantial, immense, enormous, or massive

I agree, large is boring. Huge is better! I like the word ginormous, shared by a fellow geek at an IBM conference once.

If you tell me a man palmed a regulation sized basketball, I will assume he has large hands. When describing mountains, it is not necessary to refer to them as massive. For real, is there a mountain out there which isn't massive?

The reception bill for my daughter's wedding would be considered large or substantial, but mentioning that it totalled $21,000.00 puts it in perspective a bit, doesn't it? Details are more substantive than mere adjectives.

9. Young - naive, youthful, or budding

Please be reminded that old people can be naive too. As a matter of fact, schemers tend to target elderly folk who are more naive in the ways of social engineering through technology and digital media.

10. Almost - nearly, practically, or verging on

Why even use these at all? I think this robs us of the fun in having things actually happen. So what if someone nearly fell off a chair? Wouldn't it be funnier if they fell off the chair?

Do you have any replaceable words to add to the list? 

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14 October 2014

Making Progress is a Humbling Experience

I was so proud of my male ferret, Shogun, when he learned this new skill. Casting rollover is a difficult lesson to learn and it took two weeks of click training, but he finally got it down to perfection. I love this kiddo!

Wait a minute, this journey isn't over yet! Soon after he mastered this new skill, Shogun became confused and did not respond appropriately to new stimuli with which he came into contact. He tried to make sense of his newly acquired skill, but nothing happened when he cast the spell again and again. Even the introduction of a plastic cup duped him...three times!

Then it hit me. Shogun takes after my sister, the new magi. Listen closely, wait for it.

For all my tech friends out there, just because you learn a new skill does not mean you necessarily understand how to use it. You must research and practice. :)

Have you learned something new and techie?  Would you like more understanding about your newly acquired skills? Ask away in the comments below and we shall be certain to enlighten.

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05 October 2014

When There's a Lack of Progress

I've been thinking a lot about my career lately and what seems to be the progress I have NOT made. It appears whenever opportunity knocks and I decide to answer, the door gets swiftly shut in my face. But you know what? Life isn't over by a long shot. You can do things to make a more positive experience for yourself. One of those things is to list out the obstacles which keep you down. Share them with friends and family. Get some input and have a few laughs. Try not to let things get you down. Your day is coming!

Here is my list of 5 things that go wrong in the work place and how you can combat them to make your life bearable again.

Lack of Motivation

Don't give up! Find new things to occupy your mind while others around you are attempting to drown out your enthusiasm. Why? Because when you find new things that spark your interest, you're likely to find others who will follow. There IS a difference between controlling the status quo and paving a path to a brighter future. Be that change you want to see. Don't just let things happen to you.

Lack of Experience

Are you watching the same mistakes being made from afar? You know what's wrong, but you don't have the authority to step in and give a helping hand, right? Do it anyway. Point out the obvious. You are more likely to get a thank you than an angry outburst for your meddling behavior.

Lack of Supervision

You've seen it, too? Those irresponsible twits who get away with everything they're doing wrong, never to be held accountable for their actions. Yeah, annoying as hell. If something is getting ready to land on your ass, you need to say something. If you don't say anything, you're just as guilty when something goes wrong.

Lack of Proper Coaching

When relying on teamwork, it's very painful when you make the right move and the other player is not focused on the task at hand. Makes for a big disappointment, one which overshadows your wonderful skills and desire to perform well. Be patient. If you have a coach, remember, they don't like to lose either. Some adjustments might need to be tweaked. Give it some time. The team will come together if the right coach is in place.

Lack of Professionalism

No need to explain this one. We all know too well those at work who seem to throw things in your face whenever the opportunity presents itself. They love to remind you how great they are and how not so great you are. Sure, they don't know how transparent they are, they just think they're too cool to deal with you on a professional level.

I think for now, I'm done. Let this be a lesson to you all. Play nice, and remember…always know, life is too short to let these things bother you.

I'm good, you're good, and life's good. Peace out!

Do you find these things in your life or at work? If you have a situation to add, please do so in the comments!

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