Round 1

The True Meaning of Words by Gloria Weber

As writers we all know the power of words.  However, some words get certain connotations and we make presumptions.  For example, odorous.  I hear that and I hold my breath, because I assume that the odorous house smells nasty.  However, the actual definition of the word is “having or giving off a smell.”  So roses or freshly baked cookies are odorous.

When I started writing, I had certain preconceived notions about some words.  For example, routine meant the same as rut.  Rut means “a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.” Ruts aren’t very good for writing.  However, routine means “a sequence of actions regularly followed.”  There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?

I unintentionally started developing writing routines even when I tried shunning them.  I’d always come to the computer with a beverage.  I’d play music or make sure everything was quiet (depended on my mood).  I opened my writing program.  These were (in fact, they still are) the signals that let my writer brain know, “It’s time to shine!”

But this is not a rut!  Things change. It isn’t always the same drink (time of year and what’s in the house colors my choice).  My music (or even “silence”) preference depends on the task and my attention span for the day.  Sometimes I will the writing program and then go get my drink.  And some days none of that happens at all.

Routine isn’t rigid like rut.  Unlike rut, routine is good for my writing.  Heck, routine, I’ve come to find, is quite comforting.

Routine wasn’t the only word I got wrong.  I used to be a pantser because “plotting made everything boring.”  Plotting means “devise the sequence of events in (a play, novel, movie, or similar work).”  It doesn’t mean know every word and minute detail involved.

It’s like knowing you’ll drive down the highway, but there are no promises.  There could be an accident that slows you down.  Maybe you get hungry and stop to buy some nachos.  Just because you know the path it doesn’t mean you know the entire journey.

So, I invite you to look at some words you’ve shunned or feared. Do they mean what you thought they meant?  Could you look at them another way?  Could they help you?

~*~

Gloria Weber

Be Who You Are By Elizabeth Mitchell

Last Round, I had a comment exchange with Gloria Weber, who is also a sponsor this Round, about letting our possibly geeky interests be part of our blogs, without worrying what others thought about them.  The exchange has resonated with me since that time. Although I am not generally ashamed of my more pedantic interests, I have downplayed them in my blogs, saving them for the academic writing I do for my day job.  However, they are an intrinsic part of me, my voice, and my brand.  In fact, my trying to write what I think others want to read has more often led to my not writing anything. I have also been convinced that no one else is interested in the topics I enjoy writing about, but that conviction is belied by the continued amount of interest in the nerdy posts I have allowed myself since I began blogging nearly five years ago.  Therefore, I promised myself that this Round, I will be more genuine, nerdy side and all.  I spent years studying language and literature, so why not show my interests in my blogs?  It is my voice; whether I try to hide it or not, it will come out.  I plan to stop fighting it, to stop worrying about what people will think.  Those who don’t enjoy it, won’t read it.  No harm done.

 

These ruminations have some practical application to Row80, too. So many times I have heard participants say that they cannot think of what to write for their check-in, or that they cannot possibly write two check-ins a week, because an accountability listing is not very interesting.  I have two suggestions, based on my new decision to let my nerd out of the back room, and on several RoWers who do a good job blending a check-in with their regular blogging.

 

Include some analysis of why you succeeded, or why you failed to meet a goal.  While it is true that sometimes it is as mundane as “I was too busy,” or “I made myself sit in the chair and write 5 out of 7 days,” there are many times when this analysis unearths a habit to cultivate or choke, or a set of circumstances to institute or avoid. I found out I can write in the middle of chaos, with football games blaring from the next room, but that I cannot write on break at work, for example.

 

Fold your check-in into a regular post.  You can delineate the check-in with typography from the rest of the post so that a reader can read just the check-in or the whole post. I find that even when I only read the check-in on a first pass, I often go back to read the rest of the post, and enjoy the glimpse into the diverse interests of the group.

Therefore, I encourage you to write about what interests you, and to let your voice ring true through all your writing, both on the blog during Row80 check-ins and in your longer creative writing efforts. A passion for a subject lights up the core of the writing done about it, and is mesmerizingly attractive.

~*~

Elizabeth Mitchell

Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

Two weeks into this Round!

Have you gotten off to a flying start?

Or has your beginning looked more like this?

starting-gate-fail-o

However you’ve started, get in and STAY in the game!  Let us know how you’re doing in your check in post.

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Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

We’re headed toward the midpoint of the month.  Everybody’s back into whatever their usual non-holiday groove is.  How does that work with your writing?  Let us know in your check in!

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12 Ways to Make the Write Resolution

The New Year is rapidly approaching and many of us will soon be setting our goals (aka resolutions) for 2016. Where is writing on your list? If you are reading this post, it’s likely close to the top.

Here are a dozen writing and writing-related goals you may want to include and tips on how to do so:

  1. Be on the lookout for inspiration.

Some people record ideas, snippets of conversation, random words and phrases, etc. in a notebook or on their electronic device. Make it a habit to do so. Don’t simply trust your memory; it’s amazing how quickly “that perfect idea” can vanish.

  1. Set up your writer’s nook.

What do you need around you when you write? Pictures of your family? A shelf of skills development books? A cozy corner with a comfortable chair, your journal, and a stash of gel pens? A clutter-free desk with only your laptop and a cup of your favorite beverage? The busyness of a crowded coffee shop? Create your perfect space and if at all possible, don’t do anything besides writing and writing-related tasks there.

  1. Enlist your support system.

If others take your writing seriously, you are more likely to as well. Explain to your family that you are going to set aside time every day (at least Monday through Friday) to write. Ask them to give you your space, only interrupting if it’s something that legitimately can’t wait. And from your end of things, don’t answer emails, the telephone, or the door during your writing time.

  1. Write every day.

Set aside a specific time every day to write and record the time in your planner and / or set an alarm on your cell phone to remind you—at least until it’s a habit.

  1. Set a specific writing goal.

Do you want to write a new blog post each week? A short ebook or novella for publication online every two to six months? A full-length novel or nonfiction book for print within the year? Break each task into bite-sized pieces and set deadlines for each piece.

  1. Read skills development books.

Read up-to-date books on general writing topics and on specifics that are of interest to you. You may want to read a new book every month or two. For most of us, that would be an achievable goal. Don’t forget to incorporate the skills you are reading about into your work.

  1. Read other books as well.

It’s amazing what you can learn about good writing just by reading a variety of books in a variety of genres. Read with a notebook on hand so you can record words / phrases / sentences that appeal to you. Jot down thoughts about what makes the writing amazing—or terrible. Learning opportunities are all around us.

  1. Enter writing contests regularly.

Entering contests is a great skills development exercise—even if you never win. You learn about writing with specific guidelines in mind. You learn about submitting on a deadline. There are countless contests you can research online. Just a word of caution . . . be sure that the contest sponsor is reputable.

  1. Join an online writing challenge.

I participate in OctPoWriMo (October Poetry Writing Month) and PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) each year. In October I write 31 poems and in November I come up with 30 ideas for picture books. I often attend Camp NaNoWriMo once or twice a year but have never participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), though I would like to do so one of these years. You can learn about these and other challenges online. Just type “writing challenge” into your search engine and see what catches your attention.

  1. Attend a writers’ conference or one-day workshop.

From skills development to networking . . . from inspiration to feeling understood . . . there’s nothing quite like hanging out with other writers and industry pros. Don’t feel intimidated. No matter how far along the path, every writer has more to learn. And every writer was a newbie at some point.

  1. Join or start a writers’ group.

I had the privilege of being one of the original four members of Women Writing for Christ. Over a decade later, we still meet monthly (except in the winter) and share the adventure of writing. We each write in different genres and for different audiences, but it is a wonderful opportunity to encourage one another. It’s a highlight of my month.

  1. Be patient with yourself.

Remember it takes time to develop new habits. Add one or two new goals each month. It’s much easier than trying to incorporate everything all at once.

Have a New Year overflowing with rich and abundant blessings!

~*~

Steph Beth Nickel