Grammar-ease: When to Capitalize a Season

I know many writers think the publisher’s editors will correct all the bad grammar in our writing; but the truth is, they really don’t have time for it. They are busy trying to make you book read and flow well so that it will sell.  They  shouldn’t be bombarded with poor grammar.  Having just been to a writer’s conference with agents, editors and authors, one thing is clear: editing your own work before you get to the agent is crucial.

Then there’s the question of self-publishing. If you don’t have a good grasp of grammar, you are doomed.  Taking personal responsibility for your writing includes at least attempting to spell-check and grammar-check your work!  So, sit back and take a moment to read this wonderful post from Lisa J. Jackson (Live to Write – Write to Live). It will do you a world of good!

Live to Write - Write to Live

So, here in New Hampshire, we had one of the coldest winters (or is it Winters) on record, weeks of single-digit and below zero temps.

Then we had April, definitely labeled spring (or is it Spring) on the calendar. It was filled with temps averaging in the 40s.

daffodils_april_10_03_editedNow it’s May 4th and temps are in the 80s.

To say we had a short spring (or is it Spring) is crazy, but, honestly, 80 degrees after weeks in the 40s? I’d say summer (or is it Summer) is here! It’s definitely shorts and t-shirt weather!

To the topic of this post — it’s a common question: Do you capitalize the seasons when writing about spring, summer, winter, or fall?

The short and simple answer is: no.

You only capitalize the season of spring, summer, winter, or fall when it’s part of a title…

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Changing My Blog’s Platform

Over the past year or so, I began using my blog as a sounding board, but it seems to me that I am just exploring my feelings and I can do that in my personal diary.  So I am changing my blog’s platform to discuss things I am learning about writing a novel.  Much of this will be personal learning, but I think a readership of other artistic people may find their own challenges addressed.

It is already the end of April and I am still stalled, but I have resolved to use this as a learning experience and devote most of my free time to writing.  After some major reality checking about why it is taking me such a dreadfully long time to write this novel, I have learned a few things.  First, I need to learn to say, “I’m working, please do not disturb me.”  Or simply, “No.”  I am semi-retired, after all, and I intended to finish my book last year.  Second, I need to learn to push through those disturbances and go back to my writing.  Third, I have not been thinking of my writing as a job.

My challenge is all the little unnecessary disturbances begin to feel like sabotage.  If I don’t stick to my guns and insist on the time to write, the situation will never change.  It’s the equivalent of doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results.  There’s a reason for that statement.  It’s absolutely true!  So, while the interruptions are a challenge, I know my story, I know what’s supposed to happen, so I should not let the interruptions get to me.  When left to my own time, I will write.

As to the last revelation, Thinking of my writing as a job is crucial to my success.  If I don’t feel like this is a real job, then it becomes a little hobby I can put away in the closet while I focus on more important things.  Not anymore!  I write.  I am a writer.  This is my profession, my job.  All too often we look at an activity as being a job only when we get paid.  Well, if I don’t write, I don’t get paid.  Simple.

These are my lessons for this week.  I’m sure I will discover more as I move through the process to the finish line.  Then it will be time to start on the next one. Next week, I attend a writer’s conference.  I’m sure I’ll have more pearls of wisdom and revelations after that.  I am looking forward to it.

Happy writing!

A.H.

Practice Writing

Sometimes I feel like I’m going to be writing this novel forever.  I am at a standstill, again.  I really need to figure out how to get my action going.  So, rather than sit in front of the blank outline this morning I decided to write a blog post.  Just to see if I can get those creative juices flowing again.

I saw a title of a book on a webpage.  The title was “The Practice of Writing” (by David Lodge).  While I have not read the book, its title got me thinking.  Like anything else we do well, we do so from practice.  Then again, there is the noun form of practice, such as meditation or yoga or spiritual practice.  In either case, practice is what you do to hone your skill and your connection to the activity.

When I get up in the early hours before dawn, my intention is to work on my novel.  I never really looked at is as a “practice” before.  When I saw the book title, it suddenly dawned on me that maybe deep inside, I’m not taking this as seriously as I take, say, my morning meditation practice.  While I really don’t think of writing as a hobby — after all I’ve done is professionally for more than 20 years — I never thought of my fiction writing as a practice or even a job, for that matter.  You know, it’s just something I love to do — no matter how frustrating it can be.

So, if I change my thinking and consider writing as a practice rather than just something I do because I love it, maybe I’ll break through that little barrier that keep me from taking my novel to the next level.

Happy Writing in 2015!

-AH

New Year, Refocus

I read a lot of posts about the new year upon us and new resolutions.  For me, 2015 brings a time of reflection and refocus.  I mean, so often we make the same resolutions every year, only to see them dashed by the first week of January.

This year, I am reflecting on the goals I had for last year and refocusing to improve results.  All the wishes in the world won’t make your goals come true.  So I am in for some hard work.

Truth be told, the hard work is the easy part.  After all, I LOVE to write.  It’s what I do.  It’s the time I get to spend on writing that is so difficult to come by.

Last year, I resolved to get up very early (before dawn) and write.  This worked out well for a long period of time and I got a lot of writing done.  I was starting to get up on my own, without the benefit of an alarm clock.  It seemed the characters wanted to tell me their parts of the story!  Unfortunately, after several weeks, this time no was not always my own and the wonderful man to who  am married and share my life with sometimes forgets that interrupting my train of thought when I am writing is a big NO-NO!!!  So, I became less productive.  Then I caught a cold and stopped getting up early.

I have come to the conclusion that I need to be more fierce in my demand for writing time.  Like right now, I am cooking breakfast while writing this post. Yes, I will still get up before dawn to write and, yes, I will still be interrupted on occasion; but maybe, just maybe, the fierceness will overcome the interruptions and I’ll get this darned book finished!

Happy New Year ad happy writing, everyone!!

Character Building

I have been working on this novel for years now and, every time I hit boulder in the road, I realize I have missed something.  Likely the reason for hitting the boulder.  This most recent boulder revealed that my MC has not been defined well enough to cause her to be passionate about this quest of hers.  I ask myself why she would be so willing, eager, to go along with the journey she must follow and I have discovered that there is no answer — in the book, that is.

So, now I have to figure out where to put this information and how to write it into the story.  Do I do a flashback or give her a present-day situation that expresses her interest and belief in the plot line?  After all, this is not exactly a normal plot line.  She is experiencing some situations that are somewhat paranormal.  Why would she believe in the paranormal?  Maybe I need to make a world where the paranormal is part of the normal?  Or maybe her world includes the paranormal?

While I grapple with yet another snag, I feel some excitement to the process.  After all, I am learning what will be needed on my next project.   And, for me, these questions indicate that I am on the right track.  I think that if I weren’t coming across these little discrepancies, the story would have no continuity.  As strange as that sounds on the surface, when looked at in depth, I am writing a plot line that fits my characters.  Thus it lets me know when those characters haven’t been as well-defined as they should be.

As a writer, we know our characters inside and out, backwards and forwards.  If we are smart, we have written their biographies.  And I did that for all the major characters.  The issue comes when we realize they are in the throes of the plot and we have forgotten to tell the audience how and why they are handling the given situation in a particular way.  For example, I know my MC is a determined and focused.  She is not easily deterred.  She also has “the sight” as her guide calls it. This means she understands and sees the world in a different way than most people.  But how does my audience know that?  So, I am thinking of adding in a dream sequence or a flashback to exhibit her unique perspective.  This should help the reader understand her later reactions to the plot turns.

Back to work…

-AH

Fear Factor

I read a lot of tweets and posts about the fears we writers have — blank pages, writer’s block, inner critics (aka monsters), lack of ideas, rejection, etc.  I think about these things and I think I fall more into the fear of finishing group.  I fear finishing my novel because I not only have the usual fears noted above, but I’m really not sure what to do after I finish it.  Editing and all being obvious, what do I do afterwards? Do I get an agent? Do I submit to publishers?  Do I self-publish (and that option opens up a whole new set of questions)?  What do I do?

Then there’s that question that looms in my mind…what if I am such a bad writer that I will never publish and the book will be a total embarrassment?  You know, like those poor young people on American Idol who can’t carry a tune, but get up there and mortify themselves because their family has always told them they sounded terrific.   Oh heavens, yet another fear to handle.

Fear is a great paralyzer, the root of much procrastination, especially as a writer.  It’s a wonder any one gets the words on a page, much less published.  The big FEAR is always standing in our way.  We all have general fears in life, it’s human nature.  But as writers, there are so many fears directly related to our craft that breaking free of them can be an insurmountable task.

How do we trudge on?  For me, it takes a lot of pushing, a lot of will power.  I push myself to get up early, to open the computer, to actually write.  I will myself to forget all the “what ifs” for the time I’m on the computer writing.  I will myself to just write and not think about the monster in my head screaming at me that I am not good enough.

In the end, I hope to be published and, more importantly, read by many.  I don’t need a bestseller, but it would be nice. Then there’s the other “what if” that I fear. What if I can’t get published and/or no one reads my book, will I continue to write? I suppose I’ll find out soon enough; but the longer it takes to finish, the longer I can live in my dream world of being published someday.  And there’s the catch.

Happy writing!!

-AH