Write Now Prompt for September 19, 2017

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

He never actually believed the things he said about alien life on earth until the day the government men came to  talk to him.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

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Don’t Quote Me on That

If you decide to quote me after all, for crying out loud, use quotation marks. One of my biggest pet peeves, as in stuff that really peeves me off, is writers who write dialogue but refuse to bind the words with quotation marks. It’s like marking your property with disappearing ink and then expecting the folks next door not to build a pool in your yard.

I know unbound dialogue is a popular trope for some writers. Cormac McCarthy writes lengthy pages of dialogue without benefit of quotation marks, as in his book, All the Pretty Horses. Which, by the way, I loved. So does Michael Ondaatje in another of my most favorite books, The English Patient. Neither of the boys in this club like tags either.

So here I am trooping along in a Mc or Ond story, and I encounter pages and pages of dialogue between Shem and Flopsie without benefit of quotation marks at the beginning and ending of dialogue, and with almost no tags at all. After a while, I’ve lost the character stream and am thinking, “Wait, who’s talking now? I can’t remember.” So back I plod through pages of the story and over the mountains and through the fields, trying to find a place where a person’s name comes up. Then I have to tramp through the lines of dialogue. Let’s see, this one is attributable to Shem, so the next one must be Flopsie, and now we’re back to Shem. Oops. This is not a line of dialogue but internal reminiscence, and the next one is actually narration. What is it with this cute Irish boychik and this nice Canuck boyo that they can’t spend a few pennies on quotation marks so this old Yankee dame can read their books more easily?

It would also help if both authors tagged once in a while. I don’t mean every line of speech, and certainly not with fluff like, “Shem said impatiently”, or “Flopsie answered angrily.” But enough name tags that I can identify who’s talking now and who’s talking next without having to keep a score sheet next to me. If either of these writers drops me a line, I’ll send them hand-penned tag sheets, no extra charge for the serifs.

Obviously I’m not going to make any headway with convincing respected, adored, brilliant, and published writers. They won’t even bother to laugh because they’ve never heard of me and never will. They’ll continue to write dialogue unbound by quotation marks because it’s their shtick, and their readers recognize their work by their quirky traits. Same with the character tags they can’t be bothered to attach. They must find me an inattentive ditz not to be able to figure out when Shem or Flopsie are speaking.

All this does not, however, give you or me permission to veer off the beaten track and venture into the country of Imakemyowngrammarrules. Writing is a hard enough track to plow. Leaving divots for readers to fall into is dangerous, especially for writers of my ilk: not yet published. Here’s the rule for us: reader falls into a grammar divot, reader crawls out of the book.

I heed the rules of writing because I want my readers (My readers? Funny old broad – I don’t have any readers yet, but I’m planning ahead.) not to be distracted by figuring out the parts that are dialogue or who is talking, but to focus on the story. Which I hope one day to publish.

If you’re Ondaatje or McCarthy, you can write your own rule books – hell, you’ve already done so. You, No Name Schlub, (like me) should stick to what works for precisely that reason – it’s what works. You will build readers who make comments on Good Reads, such as, “The book was a pleasure to read.” That’s worthy of a few quotation marks and character tags, and I’m certain you don’t want to peeve anyone off.

 

 

Image courtesy: Clip Art

 

 

Write Now Prompt for September 15, 2017

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

He had never felt so alone in his life as he felt that morning.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Write Now Prompt for September 12, 2017

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

He wished he could go back in time to fix the things he had handled so poorly.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

The Writers Circle: Changing Grammar Rules

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

A question by a writer friend:

My editor keeps changing my “he said” or “she went” phrases to “they said” and “they went”. He also keeps changing sentences and making them end in a preposition:  “The person with whom I spoke” becomes “The person I spoke with.”  Is this a universal change in the writing rules we are seeing? 

My friend wanted to hear what other writers were experiencing in this regard, so I’m posing it here.  What changes in long-held grammar rules have you noticed? Are your editors pushing you toward using the singular “they” instead of gender-specific pronouns? Where do you choose to hold onto the rules we learned in school and where to let go of them?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

Write Now Prompt for September 8, 2017

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

When he woke up he felt refreshed and relaxed, until he realized he hadn’t set his alarm and was now going to be late for the most important interview of his life.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Publishing Paths

Recently I attended the Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conference.  It was a learning experience and inspiring three days.  I had my doubts that this was something I’d benefit from, but in the end it proved to be worth the effort for this introvert.

This conference had master classes, seminars, workshops, evening readings, speakers and was focused on the art and craft of writing.  There were also activities for those interested in the publishing end of writing.  Each day had a pitch panel so writers could pitch their works to agents, a query letter writing workshop, and if you wanted you could get a one-on-one conference with a conference staff member to discuss your project.

Since I was there mostly to improve my poetry skills, I focused my attention on the poetry workshop I was in.  Still I managed to attend a couple of publishing sessions.  The one I like the best was, “Paths to Publishing.” 

In this panel discussion, four writers talked about how their books were published and the challenges they faced.  First there was a little discussion of self-publishing or how to promote through social media.  There were a few reasons for this – often came down to an admission that they weren’t really good at promoting themselves.

This isn’t to say it can’t be done, but understand who your are and what skills you have in that area before trying to be a self-publisher.  If you just want to publish for family and friends, the process is easy and you can get a few hundred copies out without too much trouble.  If your goal is to publish thousands of copies and make a profit, consider your business knowledge and marketing skills first.

If you’re not self-publishing, you need to attract the attention of a publisher and convince one to take on your book.  The big statistic that caught my attention was that there are nearly a million books published each year in this country with only a third of those being published by traditional publishers and that number is falling. The rest of the books are a combination of small press publishers and self-publishing. 

Getting published by a traditional press is a bit like winning the lottery.  You’ll need an agent to sell your work to the big publishers and getting an agent is no easy task.  One writer reported contacting 60 agents and not getting any to represent her book.  This was a typical report I heard.  The big publishers are in it to make a profit and they look at your book with the question of, “Will this sell enough to be profitable?”  Sadly, most first time writers don’t write books that will hit the best seller list.

The most common path to a published book was through the small press.  Often run by universities, non-profit groups, or dedicated individuals, these publishers are willing to take risks on books that the big publishers won’t.  Their reasons are many,  including – providing an outlet for literary writers, advancing a cause, or because they just believe that certain kinds of books and writing should be made available.  One example I know of is the Torrey House Press.  This publisher recently converted from a for-profit to a non-profit business model.  Their mission is to promote stories and books about the American West and the conservation movement.  They publish works on natural history, environment, or natural landscape themes.  If you’re writing a story about the American West, well, here is a possible market for you.

Oh, and you don’t need an agent to submit to them.

Most of the published writers I spoke with had their books published through small presses like this, or ones associated with education institutions or foundations.  Several had submitted works to various contests which included publication as one of the prizes.  It should be noted that many contests ask for a submission fee to cover costs.  Some are free, and some ask that you subscribe to their publication to be able to submit.

There are many good things to say about the small press and if you’ve got a book, story, or poem you want to get out there, here are a few positives:

There are thousands of small presses.

  • You don’t need an agent to submit (even for novels).
  • They believe in your work.
  • Most will get your book on Amazon.
  • They cover the costs of publication (be wary of those who ask you for money).
  • They generally don’t buy as many rights to your work – often only asking for first publishing rights or have a clause where rights revert to you after a specified period of time.  With the big publishing houses you often lose rights to your book.

But there are a few negatives:

  • They don’t pay much, if at all – sometimes contest winners get a small cash prize.
  • Most are run on shoe string budgets.
  • They don’t have promotion budgets, so don’t pack for the publicity tour.
  • They are often staffed by volunteers so don’t expect rapid replies.
  • Likely you’ll end up promoting the book yourself.

Some of the panelists did report that their press did arrange for some book store signings, or other book readings, but for the most part their promotion is adding the book to their catalog, putting out a press release, maybe an invitation to an awards dinner, and a few free copies.

So why go through the work?

Well a number of reasons:

  • It builds your writing resume (gets the line on an agent query letter, “I am the winner of …”)
  • It builds your contact list in the publishing world – networking is good.
  • Validation – many writers feel the need to be published because having a story published validates the writer’s work as being worthy.  Many of us writers suffer from low self-esteem and often question if we’re good enough.  Publication is a stamp of approval.
  • We feel the story is important and needs to be in the world.
  • Publishers can be a great source of editing input and can help hone your writing.

It’s really up to you and what you want to accomplish.  All of my current writing goes into my blog and I’ve sent very little of it out.  Part of me has always wanted to have a book published.  If I am brutally honest, mostly because I want that stamp that says, “You’re a published writer.”

And my ego would like a bigger audience.

If you have work that you’d like to get into the hands of a small press here are three resources where you can find these publishers:

Poets & Writers magazine: (http://pw.org)
Great magazine and website for poets and writers.

The Review Review: http://www.thereviewreview.net/
A website that reviews literary magazines and has a database of them.  Great place to find a magazine that speaks to you and your writing style.  Mainly for poetry, essays and short stories although some publish a book once in a while.

Winning Writers: https://winningwriters.com
Website that has a list of writing contests and lists free contests plus has a list of contests and services to avoid (be careful, lots of scammers out there). 

A couple of months ago I decided to cut back on the amount of writing I do for my blog so I can build up a better body of work that can be submitted.  It’s a major change in my writing discipline and I am still feeling my way through the change in writing rhythm.  I am hopeful that the changes I am making will lead to an improvement in my writing.

I certainly found attending the conference to be a wise choice and it’s helping me to push to that next goal.

Keep writing!

What is Google Keep and Why Use it in Your Writing?

My daughter just bought her first house (though it went on hold several times as the Navy threatened/offered to move her). We wanted a simple way to share a ToDo list that would be available on phones, iPads, and computers, and would auto-update with our ideas. I looked at a variety of options but found something wrong with each of them.

Until I found Google Keep. It is marketed as a note-taking app — which it is — but trades sophisticated note-taking tools (like formatting) for simplicity. It is similar to iPhone Notes, but is more visual, syncs across all devices, and allows collaboration. You can add thoughts by typing or speaking (mobile devices only), as a narrative note or a bullet list, and include images from your collection, your camera roll, or by taking one with the native camera (mobile devices only). The title is auto-formatted to stand out from the rest of the note. You can organize notes by category or color, search for a particular note, pin the most important to the top, and re-arrange the collection by dragging-dropping. As in Google Reminders, you can set a location-based reminder to pull up your grocery list when you get to the store or a time-based reminder to make sure you never miss a parent conference.

It requires a Google account and — as with other Google Apps — the amount of space you get for saved notes depends upon your Google Drive size. It works on iOS, the web, Chrome (with an add-on), and Android.

google keep

Pros

Because Keep doesn’t include a lot of (rarely-used) tools, it is intuitive to learn, simple to use, and really quick to start up. Just tap the icon to open the program, tap to start a new note. That’s it. This is ideal when you want to quickly jot down a phone number or email address, or take a photo. You don’t need to fumble through an armload of start-up functions while whatever you wanted to note down disappears or is lost in your short-term memory. If you’re driving or both hands are busy, simply tap the microphone and talk. Keep records your audio and adds a text version of the message.

One of the most amazing features of Google Keep is that it will pull text from images (such as pictures of pages from a book) into typed text.

For Android users: You can add a drawing to your note and/or draw on an image that you took or is shared with you.

Cons

There are few formatting tools available (all you can do is color the note and add checkboxes) and no audio recording ability in the Web app. While Android users can annotate images, no versions at present allow for PDF annotation.

Writing applications

Many of my colleagues consider Google Keep an easy-to-use, easy-to-deploy note-taking option for students. Here are nine suggestions for using it in the classroom:

  1. Bookmark interesting links. While researching a topic for your next novel, copy-paste the links to a Keep note for reference. Most links show a preview in a list below the link collection so it’s easy to see what’s covered on that site.
  2.  Write notes to yourself. Because it’s easy to take and categorize notes, this is an ideal way to jot down quick notes and reminders like an appointment or phone number.
  3. Share information with others. Because notes are easily shared, this is great for group projects. Data that can be shared include links, images, screenshots, videos, camera shots (mobile only), and more
  4. Color-code a note for “WIP” and pin it to the top of the Keep canvas. This makes it quick to add ideas that come to mind anytime and then make sure you blend them into your WIP.
  5. Set time-based reminder alarms for notes and bookmarks. This alerts you to meetings, group projects, or anything that is based on a due date. It might even be to remind you to take a break from your writing and pet the dog!
  6. Set a location-based reminder. This reminder goes off based on the GPS location of the user (and their phone) in relation to whatever event you programmed the alert for. For example, you may set a reminder to bring a flier to your book club meeting that is tripped when you leave your home.

***

Overall, Alan Henry over at Lifehacker said it best:

Comparing Google Keep to Evernote is a bit like comparing a screwdriver to your favorite cordless drill. One is a generic, basic tool that can be used in multiple ways, but has its limits. The latter is a tool that can be used in place of the former, has a broader set of use cases, and is admittedly more powerful.

In short: Google Keep is an uncomplicated note-taking tool that allows users to take notes quickly, intuitively, and share them with others without the sometimes confusing mix of optional tools available in Keep’s more robust cousins

More on digital notetaking:

How to go Paperless in Your Classroom

5 Programs That Make Digital Notetaking Easy


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and  Twenty-four DaysShe is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Write Now Prompt for September 5, 2017

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

When the bus rumbled by it shook the house, knocking an dusty, old box off the top of the shelf in the corner.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Labor Day 2017

We’re taking today off to enjoy the unofficial last day of summer.

Labor Day is meant to celebrate the contributions we all make to our country. Here at Today’s Author, we want to celebrate the contributions we all make with our creative efforts.  What better day to spend a few minutes, choose a prompt or two (or more) from our archive of Write Now prompts and enjoy the labors of all the talented authors in the Today’s Author community!

LaborDay