Tag Archives: writing

Nano, Full Moons, & the World Series

A week of warnings of full moons in line with Halloween, which I love but my focus has been on the World Series as my KC Royals compete. In the wake of Nano, I’m trying to divide my focus between baseball and my Nano prep. I’m not particularly successful at either. LOL Here’s my Nano work.

Project Title:

Genre: Paranormal Fantasy (I think)

Word Count: This a Nano novel and it sat at 53,000 words and then I began revisions so it sits at 66,000 now.

Story: A boy, a car, an old man, and a dog. Nothing will ever be the same for any of them.

Join me in Nanoland.

DawnAllenSig

 

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Ten Lessons Learned from My Year as OWFI President

The last two years I served on the Executive Board for the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc., first as conference chair in 2014 and then as president in 2015. I love the people and the organization. However, leading a non-profit is harder than anything I’ve ever had to do. I had no idea how hard until I did it. It’s impossible not to learn from an experience like mine. Here are ten lessons I learned.

1.) Volunteers for non-profits work harder than anyone else. They work for passion, not for money. You can ask for 100% and they’ll voluntarily give you  150%.

2.) Five percent of the people will scream loud and long about everything you and the other leaders are doing wrong. It’s easy to doubt your actions even though the good of the organization was behind every decision. The best way to test resolve when people complain is to suggest they volunteer so their ideas can be put into motion. In my experience, none wanted to volunteer.

3.) Ninety-five percent will remain quiet or send the occasional note of support. You have to know that the screaming minority have agendas that have little to do with the organization. This makes it easier to put the negativity behind you.

4.) Ten percent of your members will do all the work. They will also belong to the 95% who are quietly supportive.

5.) Never respond to a complainer in a way that is rude or disrespectful, even if they are being that to you. The attack may feel personal, but it rarely is.

6.) The buck stops with you. If something goes wrong, it doesn’t matter if you had nothing to do with it, you accept the blame. Pointing the finger only makes it harder to find solutions.

7.) With that thought in mind, always seek opinions regarding every decision. From your board, from your membership, from people who have done what you’re trying to do. Then, make the decision. Be definitive.

8.) When conflict arises (and it will, regularly), get all the information; and if you find fault, be firm but kind. It is rarely the intention of the member to make things difficult. In most cases, our passions are what leads to disagreements. However, right or wrong, the parties need to apologize for their part. After all, it takes at least two to agree and two to disagree.

9.) NEVER forget that your decisions impact others and that the result is not always positive. When you have to make a decision that someone isn’t going to like, be prepared to listen. Give them an audience. However, if you made the decision for the good of the organization, that’s all you can do. Most of the time, all the person wants is to know someone listened and considered what they had to say.

10.) There’s no such thing as too much communication. Keep communication open with the board, the other officers, the volunteers, and the members. Anything that might be misunderstood, get out in front of it as soon as you can. If you drop a ball(nearly guaranteed), accept the responsibility, fix the problem, and make sure everyone knows it.

Working with so many awesome people and amazing talents was a joy. I believe my time with OWFI has made me a better writer and my year as president has made me a better human being.

Have you had a similar experience where leadership taught you valuable lessons? I’d love to hear what you learned.

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Collected Works: Goals, Loki, and Chocolate.

LokiOkay, so it has nothing to do with goal setting…but he’s ALWAYS inspirational. LOL

The idea of Collected Works is to share our goals, encourage each other in those goals, and inspire each other when those goals go sideways. I’ve always been a believer in setting goals so this is a way to make me hold myself accountable for what I expect of myself. And I consider it a win. If I don’t meet my goals, chocolate soothes the disappointment. If I meet them, I celebrate with chocolate. Win-win. 🙂

If you’re interested in sharing in this, check our Collected Works.

August Goals

1. FINISH OWFI (Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc.) Presenters communication – it doesn’t sound like writing because it’s not manuscripts but as President of OWFI, I’m responsible for setting up the conference in May. This is a priority for all of us who attend. (and you should, too!)

2. Send in full request to agent.

3. Finish rewrites of Sam Dakota. This is high priority for me as school starts up again soon and cuts my writing time in half.

Do you set goals? Join us!

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Emphatic Fragments

medium_Sentence_Fragments Fragments are a delight to use when they serve a purpose. Last week I discussed the use of fragments in dialogue to lend realism to the speech patterns of characters. This week we’ll explore  its use to provide emphasis or impact. A writer acts much like a magician with a bit of sleight of hand. In this case, a fragment can be used to draw the reader’s attention to an important story element or object without being obvious. These fragments can come in dialogue, narration, or internal thought.

In The Innocent, Coben’s character, in a more playful exchange with his wife, repeats only part of her comment to place emphasis where he wants it.

“The video only lasts fifteen seconds.”

“Fifteen seconds.” He considered that, shrugged, and said, “So we’ll extend foreplay” (Coben 19).

Fragments are frequently used to play up the intensity of a situation. In “Bullet in the Brain,” Tobias Wolff writes of a man’s dying moments and the intensity of his thoughts, his memories. These fragments emphasize the beauty of one moment in time in the man’s life.

“This is what he remembered. Heat. A baseball field. Yellow grass, the whirr of insects…” (Wolff 161).

In the intensity of death, the character sees pictures in his mind that represent fragments of memory. The reader feels the intensity of the shorter phrases surrounded by the more detailed description of the overall story.

Prose can speak or it can sing. The writer’s use of fragments can determine how well the story sings.

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Fragmented

medium_Sentence_FragmentsRemember your English classes? How many people suffered the rule of a Grammar Nazi? There are so many rules that my teachers had us commit to memory. When I began writing professionally, I discovered I’d been lied to. It was nearly as bad as learning Santa Claus didn’t exist. How could all those teachers have it wrong? Of course, they didn’t. As a writer improves, he is able to break the rules that the student must adhere to. One of my favorite rules to break is the fragment.

The fragment can break the rhythm of a long passage to startle or awaken the reader. It speeds the text to indicate moods of agitation or fear. It can break a mood or change it. Use of the fragment is a thin line to walk. Overuse takes away from its impact.

In fiction the most obvious use of fragments is in dialogue. People simply don’t talk in complete sentences. If you want your characters’ dialogue believable, the fragment is effective for adding to the nuances of true conversation. In The Innocent, Harlan Coben adds speed and tension to an exchange between two characters by offering fragmented bits of conversation.

“I insisted on seeing my daughter. So he set up a meet. That’s when I’m supposed to bring the rest of the money.”

“When?”

“Tomorrow at midnight.”

“Where?”
“In Reno.”

“Nevada?”

“Yes.”

“Again Nevada.”  (Coben 249)

Coben provides important information regarding a plot point while adding tension and speed to the prose. We are always eager to ‘show’ our characters through body language but sometimes it’s best to simply allow for rapid fire dialogue. The reader will follow and feel the rising tension without realizing you’ve done it solely through fragmented dialogue.

This is one great use of the fragment. We’ll look at another next week.

Do you use the fragment in dialogue?

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Censorship and the PC Movement. Writers, Put Up Your Shields!

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 2.53.58 AMOne of my professors in grad school preached a lot about the danger writers might fall prey to the political correctness bug. While there is nothing wrong with being kinder and gentler as a society in our discourse with each other, being PC has not really had that effect. In fact, it appears to have had the opposite. People get into bitter discussions and vitriol flows freely in comment threads and on social media sites. If it sends the average Joe down that path, what is it doing to writers?

Brock Pope informs student writers this is a daily battle. We have to guard against it every time we sit down at the keyboard. The PC mentality is so engrained in our society that all rational thought leaves the building. Everything has become an attempt to ‘marginalize’ people. Recently, I had a scene with my detective, a Native Samoan. My critique partners both suggested it be cut as it was stereotyping. I trust my girls, and I always take their suggestions seriously. However, as writers we have to know when to fall back on our own counsel and what we know and have learned.

When I was going over the piece later, I kept hearing Pope ranting in my head against writers who cave to the pressure “not to offend” or to maintain a “PC” approach. Ultimately, I cut the bulk of the paragraph in question, not because it was stereotyping but because it was info dumping. I researched Native Samoans thoroughly and what I said was not stereotype but fact. There is a difference. When we make every male black character a basketball player, it’s stereotyping. They are not all brilliant basketball players, and they don’t even all like the sport. However, if I write an Italian character who talks with his/her hands, I am not stereotyping. Talking with our hands is a genetic factor in who we are. Attend my family reunions, you can pull major muscle groups dodging the arms.

What bothers me most about this PC culture is we’re slowly wiping out and demeaning our own histories. By demanding others not acknowledge who we are, we are also denying it. I grew up on Italian jokes, loved them, still do. Do we probably look silly talking with our hands? No doubt. But it’s part of who we are, and I wouldn’t change it anymore than I would my name. There are hazards to writing characters that have diversity. We’re encouraged to do it, yet told not to write characters outside our own culture. These things are in opposition. Trust writers to write. Allow them to create characters from any number of cultures, full of a richness that is part their culture and part their own unique personalities.

Writers today can spend too much time worrying about offending people and not enough time writing real characters. As writers, we must ignore the culture wars when we sit down to write. Otherwise, we are censoring our writing more than we’re editing.

How do you silence the inner editor who seeks to censor you?

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Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG)

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! (Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG)

Alex J. Cavanaugh’s awesome co-hosts for the March 5 post are Tina Downey, Elsie, Elizabeth Seckman,and Julie Flanders! Please visit and thank them for helping today.

The meat market. Wal-Mart. Campus. On social media. Everywhere I turn lately there is evidence this winter has been too damn long. Patience has run out and tempers are getting short. People want to see the sun. In fact, they’re starving for it. This despair bordering on depression reminds me a lot of waves writers experience. They hit us when we expect them to (after a disheartening rejection) and when we don’t (3/4 of the way through our latest WIP and suddenly, none of it works – plot, characters, dialogue, etc.). The wave crashes over us knocking us to our knees. The worst part though is that about the time we stumble to our feet again, the wave barrels through for a second shot.

The meat market, Wal-Mart, campus, social media. The good news, it’s March. The sun’s making a comeback. For writers, however, the rejections will still come and some books will still fail. The good news for us, if we admit it, is acceptances will come in, too and books will succeed and stories and poems will sell. Those waves may knock us down, but others will lift us up.

Embrace the waves, ride them.

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