Author Archives: CLW

Concrete Writing

by Lisa Sledge

The WIFYR assistants met last weekend to plan the 2015 conference. Can I just say how excited I am to go back to a conference that has done so much to save my writing and build my confidence? I wish it was June already.

Cheri Pray Earl gave a great presentation on how to improve our writing. I took pages of notes. One thing she mentioned that really stuck with me is the importance of concrete rather than abstract writing.

It brought me back to my college days, studying poetry. William Carlos Williams (1883 – 1963) had a bit of an obsession with concreteness. And I love him for it. Here is my favorite of his poems:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Beautiful, isn’t it? For me it conjures up all sorts of feelings, emotions, and even memories. A note on the kitchen table. Plums, icebox, cold, sweet, and that little bit of guilt that makes pleasure run deeper.

There is a chance, I realized last Saturday, that not everyone knows or understands what “concrete writing” means. Maybe you’ve heard the term before, but you can’t quite define it and you’re not sure you’d be able to recognize it in something you read.

I’m an English teacher. This is what I love. Indulge me for a moment.

Concrete writing relies on nouns, verbs, and vivid adjectives. It is a way of helping the reader look at ordinary things in a new light, makes the mundane stand out, and breathes life into what is easy to overlook.

Abstract writing is the cheap and lazy way to try and conjure up emotions in our readers. And guess what? It often doesn’t work. For example, I might write, “I ate the last plum and it tasted so good.” The phrase “so good” is empty. What does it represent? What emotions or feelings does it create? Nothing. And the “last plum”? Who cares if it was the last one. It doesn’t mean anything to me.

Inject power into your writing. Avoid abstract words such as “amazing”, “awesome”, “terrible”, “bad” or other vague constructions. Look through the world of your novel and highlight small objects and details in a way that will carry specific meaning and emotions to your readers.

Be concrete.

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Three Things Thursday

by Cheryl

Ah, November. That magical time of year when writers pull together, ignore all responsibilities, and wear our pjs all day long. I’m not participating this year, but in a show of solidarity I pledge to do these things every day this month.
Right now is the easy part. It’s the time when you have the most energy and excitement about your project. Try to use it to your advantage. Get ahead if you can. You’ll be glad you did come Thanksgiving weekend!
by Brenda

What are YOU reading for NaNo this month ? ? ?

WHAT ! ? !  I’m supposed to write 50,000 words AND READ ? ? ?’

I’ve heard people say at WIFYR – and many other writers’ workshops as well – that if you don’t have time to read you don’t have time to write.  I’ve learned to accept that edict, so last year, in December, I took it upon myself to sign up with a group (some of you are no doubt members) that challenged us to read 100 books in a year.

When I was a kid, my favorite thing on Christmas Day, after all the initial excitement of finding what Santa brought me, was to snuggle down with a column of crackers and my new Christmas book and READ.  So, kid-like, I decided to start on Dec. 25.  I still have 25 books to go, but I’ll should be finished with 2 more of them today and tomorrow.

What I’ve decided about NaNo, and I’ve probably mentioned here already, is to write for one hour (I can usually get about 1,000 words in that length of time), then read for one hour – but ONLY genre-related books to what I’m writing – then write for a final hour.  Between 8 and 11 am I COULD be done with all that, and still have some time for, you know, family, housekeeping, etc., etc., etc..

So, what am I reading for NaNo?  I’m writing a fantasy, so I’m reading fantasies.  Part of my year’s plan was to re-read a few books, so NaNo has been a continuation of that: I re-read one of my “all time” favorites: The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale.  Such poetry, inundation of SOUND, magic in the very air surrounding me as I read!  Of COURSE, I followed that up with Hale’s Enna Burning – which was also a re-read and moved on to the next two of the series, which were new to me: River Secrets and Forest Born,  And I’ve started her Book of a Thousand Days. Back at the end of September I’d read the first 2 volumes of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel: The Alchemyst and The Magician by Michael Scott. So within the next few days I’ll start the 3rd book of that series: The Sorceress.  Getting through the last of those volumes should take me well into December. But to get 23 more books done by Dec. 25?  I may have to read a few SHORT ones, once NaNo is over.

Back to my question: what are YOU reading for NaNo ? ? ? I’d like to know!

by Me
We’re gonna do A Writer’s Baby Shower!
Details to come.
My NaNo goals this month:
Rewrite three novels

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Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee

It’s Wednesday again.

The mid-week blues are coming. I can feel it.

But that’s okay because I’ve gotten a bit of writing done.

I’m feeling more hopeful than I did last week.

I’m sleeping at my home alone, and it freaks me out. I feel like I’m five.

I hope I can sleep because I have more work tomorrow, then more writing.

blah blah blah.

Read a book.

ALSO! NANO! Please post updates!. I would love to get inspired by some of you!

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is here.

Are you writing?

Thinking about it?

Wondering about it?

Not me.

Not yet.

But soon.


After I am done moving.

Pleeeze let this end.




I have odd NaNo goals. But I’m excited about them.

Dinner at the beginning of next month in celebration?


How about if we have a baby shower for Ann Dee who is having a little Baby Carol!


That’s it. Will let you know when and where soon.



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Pushing Ahead

by Lisa Sledge

NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. I don’t think I’ll be joining the chaos this year—too much of that in my life already! Instead I’m focusing on finishing the rewrite of my WIP and making sure it’s submission ready. I’ve never queried a novel before.

And that’s scary enough.

Speaking of scary, there’s been a lot of discussion here about our writerly fears. I think deep down we’re all a bunch of chicken-livered scaredy-pants. But we’re also freaking awesome because we put our writing out there for the world to see anyway. Doing something in spite of how bad it scares you is the definition of bravery.

What do you do when you’re afraid? When you feel tempted to listen to the nagging voice in the back of your mind telling you your writing stinks worse than the leftovers molding in your refrigerator?

Here’s a brief list of ideas on how to distract yourself from your fears:

Call a writing friend and go out for ice cream.
Watch a really bad movie and laugh at it. Ever seen the movie Troll 2? It’s one of the greatest low budget scary movies of all time. Watch it with friends and lots of chocolate. Your sides will hurt from laughing.
Reread all the best parts of your favorite book.
Get dressed up to write. Do your hair, your make-up, and put on your best outfit. Then get to work. Writing in pjs is great, but sometimes it feels good to mix things up.
Go on a walk or a jog before writing. Visit the gym. Do something to get your blood pumping.
Turn up the volume to your favorite song and sing along.
Take a deep breath, sit your butt down, and get the job done. Remind yourself that you’ll have all the time you need to go back and fix it up later.

What are your favorite tricks for pushing ahead?

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Three Things Thursday!

And we have a guest!

My friend Scott Rhoades, recently took a month-long sabbatical and wrote the whole time. I asked him to tell you about his experience because he put out a whopping number of words. Here it is:


I recently had four weeks of paid time off from work, and I spent it writing. 30 days of living the writing life. It was wonderful.
I spent the first week on a project I had been querying. In the recent PitchWars, a Middle Grade manuscript I considered finished got an excellent response. However, feedback was unanimous that my book was too short. So I fixed that. I spent a week revising my work in progress to get it ready to start querying. In the last two weeks, I started a new project. Overall, I wrote just under 50,000 words while also spending many hours editing.
In the process, I learned some things that might help those of you who are doing Nano this year.
Follow a Routine
I’m most productive between about 10 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.  So, I was in my office (my Schreibwinkel) by about 9:30 every day. I started as early as 7:30 and as late as 10:00, but on all but a few days, I was in my chair before 10:30 and didn’t stop until around 2:00 or 2:30. I worked through my most productive time and stopped when I felt the mojo waning.
Because I wrote at the beginning of my day, every day, I woke up ready to go. Sometimes, my morning dreams were even related to the work I needed to do that day.
Minimize Distractions
My family is used to leaving me alone in my Schreibwinkel. I frequently work from home, so they’ve been trained for years to let me. They know  if they leave me alone for a few hours, I’m theirs when I’m done. Most things they need from me can wait.
I like to listen to music when I write, to drown out or disguise background noises like talking, which interferes with my thoughts. Over the years, I’ve learned that putting my music on shuffle instead of listening to favorites works for me because I don’t pay as much attention to the songs.
Take Breaks
Because my writing period is fairly long, I took breaks. Some were informally scheduled. For example, there were several days when I wrote from 9 until about 10, then stopped for breakfast.
There were also scheduled breaks. There were days when my writing group scheduled writing sprints where we worked for a specified period, then checked in with each other on Facebook.
Each writer has unique break needs. Some of us can only write for so many minutes without a pause. Some of us need to look away from the screen now and then during an intense scene so we can keep enough distance to write well. And some cannot stop without breaking the spell.
I know when I need a break. My only real rule was that I didn’t allow myself to become distracted by another task. My breaks were no longer than necessary, and my family understood that I might have shown my face, but my time was not theirs yet.
This is what worked for me. My family situation allows me to work this way. I’m not the only caregiver in the house during the day, like a lot of moms (especially) are. And I already have work routines when I’m home.
The result of putting structure around my writing time was that I remained productive, and that I enjoyed my writing time because other stresses are reduced as much as possible during those hours.
From Brenda
NaNo starts this week!  And one of the best encouragements they’ve ever sent out was from a woman several years ago who was serving overseas in the army.  She’d done NaNo for several years, and she didn’t want to “lose” that particular year.  She was out in a desert, with no electricity, no computer, etc.  Yet every night she would write out her words by hand.  When her commanding officer asked her what the “bleep” she was doing every night, she explained the Novel Writing month to him.  She indicated that being SO far away from home, like everyone else, this was one thing she was trying to hang onto.  I’m supposing it made her feel as if she were still HER SELF.  Probably the only thing that did.  When he saw her dedication, and how much it cost her in sleep (and probably anxiety of a different sort), he watched her write away night after night.  In the last few days, he asked how it was coming, and whether she thought she could make her 50K.  As the deadline drew closer, he came to her one night and presented her with a typed version of everything she’s written so far.  Her orders, the next day, were to KEEP WRITING and finish that thing.  Others were transcribing her notes for her. Later he was able to announce that, by army vehicle, bus, train, plane and submarine, her words were being carried to the U.S. and all were hoping beyond hope they would arrive and be sent to NaNo headquarters in time.  Just before midnight, he got word and announced to all and sundry that her manuscript had been delivered, minutes before the deadline, and she had been declared a NaNo “WINNER,” to which all her buddies gave a resounding “OOO-RAH!” and, for a moment, felt a little bit of “home” again.
So what makes me think I haven’t got time to write EVERY DAY in November ! ! !
I’m going for it !
From Cheryl
Lately, there seems to be a push to replace helpless princesses for butt-kicking heroines in movies and books.
My question is, is this really any better?
It’s true, less than 1% of the population will ever have Cinderella’s body, and far fewer than that will marry a legally recognized prince. But how many will be able to have the body of Scarlett Johansson and the ability to fight off dozens of highly trained, armed men without messing up their hair?
Really, aren’t we just replacing one impossible standard for another?
What happened to the Jane Eyres? The women whose virtues were their greatest strength, rather than anything physical? The “superpowers” of these heroines were integrity, compassion, and hope. These are women that every girl can aspire to be, and that every girl can achieve.
And quite honestly, I think the world could use a few more Jane Eyres rather than vigilante superheroes.



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Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee

NOTE: The girls and I have been moving and are still moving. I didn’t have internet access last week but WILL begin posting again!

From Kyra

I don’t think Mom got the chance to post my blog last week. Maybe she did.

Either way, I’m sure it was horribly written.

Only a couple more days left in this month.
I have to say that I’m pretty disappointed in myself. I was hoping to have an entire draft of this new novel written, and I just haven’t gotten to that point.
I’ve let a lot of things distract me.

Such as:

Boys. Guys that don’t like me, even if I don’t like them then decide to like them then they decide not to like me. Whatever. I hate dating and I’ve realized I’ll be forever alone. Sometimes I don’t give two shits about that fact, other days, like today, I kind of do. Aloney McGony.

Jobs/Lack of money/Being screwed over. I finally started a new job. Hopefully I can handle the stress of it. But anything is better than being as poor as I have been. Thank God for Mom’s food storage. Also my old landlord has been trying to cheat me and my sister out of a small amount of money. I’ve come to realize he must do this with all his tenants. May end up being a small claim’s court issue.

Moving. Myself and moving Mom. It’s taken a big part of my energy. But I’m so happy to see Mom in a house of her own, that it’s totally worth it.

My biggest issue has been insecurities.
I don’t remember when I lost my self confidence, if it happened overnight, or if it was just something that has slowly happened over the years. Either way, it’s really killed my writing. I can’t seem to get out of it.

But I will say this:

I get lovely notes from my lovely agent every few days, and it helps. Even just a little. Sometimes being happy, and writing, and all that other jazz, is just focusing on the good in life. Even if it seems like there isn’t a lot.

I’m just a giant baby bird right now. And soon I think I’ll get out of this slump and go back to being happy and confident and blah blah blah.

Either way, I just have to keep writing. KEEEP GOOOOING!


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