Reading out loud for a final edit

The kids are all back at school, Marc is out of town, and I have reserved this week to do a final edit of my manuscript.

“But how do you do that?” my son asked me last night at dinner.

Behold the new "Red Pen"

Behold the new “Red Pen”

“Well,” I told him, “I start on page one and I begin to read the entire thing out loud.”

And then, I explained, I look for areas where there are continuity breaks. For example when I was working on a chapter yesterday I noticed that I had written about “taking Motrin *again*” and yet I hadn’t mentioned any previous times that we had taken it. Oops – I went back and added that first instance.

Gone are the days of using a red pen, now I read out loud from the screen to find words that have been dropped and spellings that made it through spell check but were the wrong word. (Form instead of from.) All edits are done using my computer.

If I come across a passage that is particularly clunky and I can’t think of how to fix it, I highlight it to remind me to come back to it and I move on.

Quotation marks that weren’t added because they are a pain in the neck when you are brain dumping your story need to be added to dialogue.

When you read out loud, you “hear” the areas where your voice might have changed. Where you (I) might have added a snarky bit that doesn’t add anything to the story – out it comes.

When I read out loud, I also hear where I might have gone a little too light on descriptions. I stop to recall what it was I saw and felt and I add in those details.

I also hear some of the repetition that I didn’t seem to catch when I wrote the piece. When spoken, those words jump out front and center.

Reading out loud isn’t for everyone, it’s a slow process and I have to have absolute silence which is why this week is so good to do it – Please don’t interrupt me when I’m deep in my story.

But for me, it’s the best method for a review.

How about you? How do you do a final edit?

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Fake News is the STD of Free Press

A few weeks back I put up a post about fake news. It included a list of “news” sites that typically dealt in conspiracy and fake news.

Last night Buzzfeed (an entertainment, but fairly respectable organization) published a 35 page U.S. Intelligence report that outlined several areas in which Trump has direct conflicts with Russia. The article indicated that some of the instances in the report could not be verified.

Again, this report originated from our United States Intelligence, it has two U.S. Senators (McCain and Graham) names attached to it.

It’s that little caveat “unverified” that kept responsible journalists from reporting on this *even* though many of them had held copies of the report in their hands for weeks. Verification is the standard of all trustworthy reporting.

The Intelligence report is bad. It lists many instances of collaboration between Trump and Russia. In its more salacious section it also details an account where Trump paid for prostitutes to urinate on a Moscow hotel bed where the Obamas had once slept.

Do I believe the report? There are some sections that detail very specific encounters and situations that are difficult to ignore. I also, unlike Trump, trust our Intelligence agencies. Do I think that Trump paid for prostitutes to pee on a bed in front of him?

Probably not. But here’s the thing, if it turned out to be true, based on previous reports and actions, I wouldn’t be that surprised.

Once Buzzfeed hit the Send button respected news agencies like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post started reporting on the fact that Buzzfeed released the report. Although these agencies use “alleged” in their articles, the fact that they reported on it gave the subject some of that very important verification.

What was Trump’s reaction? A very mature and dignified tweet:

FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!

Someone, somewhere is lying big time and at this point, things are so muddied that we don’t know who is doing all the lying.

It leaves us in a very precarious state. Do we go ahead and trust our free press which has been a cornerstone of our democratic freedom or do we instead trust a man/team who has no problems with lying outright again and again.

Because of the constant lies and the cyber bullying (as an aside Melania’s “platform” when she becomes First Lady is going to be cyberbullying – good luck with that) we no longer know what is the truth and what is fabrication. Even when the big news agencies report.

Fake news is the STD of free press. Once there, it’s very difficult, if not impossible to get rid of.

If you want to hobble a nation, hobble the credibility of its free press and its freedom of speech.

The #GoldenShowerGate story is not just a story about FAKE NEWS. It’s a warning of clear and present danger to our press and how we will be getting and perceiving news in the future.

 

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Breaking Writing Dreams Down

 

When my husband and I first moved into our house we had so many dreams. First we were going to change this, add that and then we were going to find out about creating something else. At the time we had a 15 month old and I was pregnant with what would be the second of our six children. Our dream list got longer and longer and we soon realized that it was truly out of hand. We had big dreams but we didn’t have any plans on how to reach those dreams.

20170103_125922“Yeah, we’ll have to do all of this after we find the cure for cancer,” we finally said to each other.

It seemed at the time that finding that elusive cure would have been far easier than tackling all that was on our list. To this day, if one of us is attempting something too big without a plan, we’ll mention that we should probably try to cure that cancer before we start the project.

It’s January, we all have brand spanking new writing dreams for the upcoming year.

You’ve carefully written them down. You may have even posted them on your bulletin board to ensure you see them every day.

Now – why is it that even with all this new resolve, (which was the same resolve you had last year in fact) you haven’t made much progress?

Perhaps it’s because you’re trying to cure cancer.

A dream without steps is just that – a dream. Dreams are big. So big that they are difficult to contain. They contain happiness, sunshine, rainbows, and our future.

Dreams are pretty incredible. Finding the cure for cancer is a dream (for now anyway.)

But here’s the thing, you can’t measure a dream. What you can measure however are goals.

And you achieve goals by identifying steps or mini -goals.

So here’s an example.

Dream – I want to be a published author this year.

Okay, that’s a big dream, if you just left it like that then is it any wonder, you may still not be published?

But let’s take that dream and set some goals:

Goal – I will get an article published in a magazine by April.

That there is a measurable goal. You either do or do not achieve it.

But even that goal is a bit large, so now you break it down in to steps (mini-goals)

  • I will come up with 10 good topics for magazine articles by the end of each week.
  • I will flesh out an outline for each of those topics.
  • I will gather information and create an article pitch.
  • I will submit two magazine pitches a week until April
  • And I will volunteer to write a newsletter article, blog post, etc each week that I can use as a credential in my pitches.

Maybe your goal is larger – You want to write a book.

Same thing goes. You have to break it down.

  • Perhaps your mini-goal is to write 1500 words a day.
  • Maybe it’s to not get up from your desk until you’ve finished a chapter.
  • Or maybe it’s to go to the airport to get some character ideas.

The possibilities are endless because this is your goal and your dream. It’s up to you to figure out how to get there.

So take a good look at what you hope will happen in the New Year and begin to work backward. Keep asking this statement -“to get to this step, what do I first need to do?…” and keep answering until you find yourself sitting in your seat in front of your computer or notebook.

And then go ahead and get to work on your cure.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

The beauty that is Jack Reacher

 

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books are gems. If you haven’t picked one up (his latest is Night School) then do yourself a favor – get a copy and sit down to read it, but make sure you have a spoon handy so you can enjoy every last bit.

night-schoolI’ve been asked to review Night School for a publication and for that review I’ll be talking about characterization and plot (both excellent) but for this review I want to talk about Child’s writing style.

In a nutshell Child follows the philosophy of – “less is more.”

Child uses short sentences. All the time. Instead of explaining how a situation is affecting Reacher, he’ll use techniques like repetition to “show” us, what Reacher is thinking about. Like this passage which is repeated several times as a way to describe how he views a woman he is working with:

Taller than average, but no wider.

The black dress, the pearls, the nylons, the shoes.

The face, and hair, combed with her fingers.

Looking good.

Reacher is literally fixated on this woman.

In just a few words we know so much about the character Reacher. He’s smart, he’s analytical, he pays attention to detail. He notices things. Think how less effective it would have been if we had been given a full and detailed description of the woman – we would have seen her from the author’s point of view and not the character’s. In stating only the important details, Child lets our minds fill in the blanks.

Here’s another passage where repetition (attention to detail) is effectively used:

“Then he dug in his pocket and gave the guy five American dollars, and asked, “Do you have a phone?”

The guy pointed at the wall. An old Ma Bell pay phone. All metal. For outside a gas station rather than inside a barbershop, but points for effort.

Reacher said, “Does it work?”

“Of course it works,” the guy said. “This is Germany. It was rewired as a normal telephone.”

Reacher dialed the number on Griezmans’ business card. From the envelope with the fingerprint. He got ring tone. The phone worked. Germany. Rewired. “

By using such clipped sentences and observations, Child leads us through the story in real life as the main character experiences it. It’s really an extraordinary writing style which not only gives us a front seat to Reacher, but which also helps the book’s pace race along.

As writers you should be constantly reading and analyzing other works. It’s part of the job. Writing in short sentences and clips may not be the best style for you, but knowing what it can do and how powerful it can be means that if you understand the technique, you can keep it in your tool box to pull out when needed.

Give yourself a treat and go read Night School but along with that spoon, bring a highlighter so that you can take notes on some of the best writing around. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Forgiveness and intention for writers

 

It’s the end of another year and it’s time to think about what your goals will be for the next year.

Like so many of the writers here at this blog, I don’t make resolutions. They are just too difficult to keep and when you inevitably break them, you feel like a failure. No thanks.

Instead I reflect on what I did in the last year, how I can do better, and what it is I hope to accomplish in the coming New Year.

Which brings me to a little New Year’s Day ceremony I used to do with my kids -I don’t do it anymore but maybe I should dig it out and dust it off.

On New Year’s Day, after our annual family breakfast of pancakes, bacon and sliced fruit, I would hand out 6 green leafs cut from construction paper to each member of the family.

On 3 of the leafs we were to write things that we didn’t like about the last year. Things that embarrassed us or that made us feel bad or worthless. Failures, lies, poor performances.  We didn’t have to show anyone what we wrote; we just had to be true to ourselves.

The younger kids would always need help with this, because let’s face it, there is little self-doubt or embarrassment in the very young child, it’s only when we get older that we start to attach morality and shame to our failings.

On the other 3 leafs we wrote goals that we wanted to accomplish for the coming year. A project we wanted to complete, an aspect of ourselves that we wanted to improve upon, something that we wanted to contribute to others.

I’d gather the leafs with the things we didn’t want to remember and we’d gather outside while I burned them in a special cast iron kettle that was only used for this purpose. We’d all watch as tiny wisps of paper ash rose into the sky forever absolving  us of our shame, our guilt, our doubts.

And then we’d take the goal leafs and travel to the bank of a local river where we’d throw the bits of paper into the rushing water, thereby releasing our intentions to the world.

It’s a powerful thing when you allow yourself forgiveness for your mistakes. And it’s just as powerful to put your intentions into words and then send those words outward – a prayer of hope.

You don’t need paper leafs in order to do this ceremony, but it certainly doesn’t hurt – leaf buds signal growth, fallen leafs signal change. If you choose to do this, though, your “bad things of the last year” list needs to be destroyed – fire is a wonderful cleanser. You can’t, for example, write them down in a notebook. A list of bad things reviewed is a list of bad things that are never forgotten or forgiven.

It *is*, however, important to keep your list of intentions for the New Year up front and center. Place it loud and bold on a wall in your office, by your bedside table so be seen at end of and beginning of day, or even attached to your bathroom mirror. A list of goals daily seen is a list that is daily re-enforced.

Whatever you choose to do, make it count.

Consider spending some time this New Year’s Day to reflect on how you can release old doubts and how you can accomplish unique contributions to help make the world a better place.

And then get to it.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Writing when it’s hectic

 

 

I mentioned in my response to the Friday question that writing has helped me to keep my balance in 2016. It has helped me to handle the rocky ride that this year has been.

And of course, now we are entering the holiday season. It’s the time of year when kids come home from college, party invitations arrive, and there’s always shopping or baking to get done.

But if you are a writer who gets her stress out by writing then it’s imperative that you continue writing during this hectic season.

Ways that I make myself write:

  • I create a to-do list every morning. Along with holiday tasks I have writing tasks. I recently sent out a pitch to a magazine that was accepted and now I’m working on the article. If “send a pitch” hadn’t been on my to-do list, I would have waited until after the commotion was over in January and who knows where the idea may have flown off to?
  • Brute force. When I can, I take myself to the library the next town over and set up shop in the quiet room. I try to stay for until I’m finished with a piece or until 3 hours is up, depends on which comes first.
  • Sometimes I set mini-goals. Maybe I can’t write a full article today, but I can certainly write a blog post, or add to an outline, or take notes for a book review.
  • When I’m stressed or insanely busy, I’ll pull out a fun project -that great idea for a story that I long ago shelved.
  • I ask my family to respect my writing. Mom’s busy right now, go ask Dad.
  • I don’t see my writing as something selfish (and therefore last on the list) I see it as an important way to contribute.
  • I keep a notebook with me at all times. Sometime when I read a book, see a movie, or even when I’m driving, an idea gets triggered. If I don’t write it down as soon as I can it gets lost.
  • I realize that sometimes the desire not to write is the desire not to write.

And in the end, if I can’t get any writing in today, I tell myself it’s okay, there’s always tomorrow.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

For one day

 

You may have noticed that I was a little, um passionate last week. Still am. And plan on continuing to be.

I still think that we writers have a lot of work to do. That call-to-action is for all writers, because even if you write fiction, freedom of speech – which translates to all printed material – may be challenged like never before in the next four years. I believe that we’re going to have to go into this uncharted territory with eyes wide open.

But today, I’ve got all of my kids home from college. In just a bit, I’ll start cooking sides and desserts in preparation for our family Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.

I’ll dig out the fancy dishes and polish the table.

For one day. I’ll do my damndest to stay off of social media. I plan to give my mind and my blood pressure a much needed rest.

And then trust me on this; I’ll be back with my words to continue doing what I can.

Because I have to – this one is too important to sit out.

But for one day, for one day, I will try and dull the remembrance. I’ll join others in America and be grateful for the blessings I have. I will rejoice in my family and friends.

They are what keep me strong.

My sincerest wishes for a calming and joyous holiday to all of our readers and their families. May you eat to your heart’s content. May you relax with those you love. And may you be at peace.

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Site Admin Note: Over the next few days, we’ll be moving nhwn.wordpress.com to nhwriters.org. If you have trouble reaching us, we hope you’ll be patient as the new domain name resolves. Thanks so much from the NHWN Team.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.