How to Write Short Stories

51tt3quw5zlHow to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career (Kindle Edition) by James Scott Bell. Published by Compendium Press in 2016.

In high school and college I enjoyed reading short stories immensely. I still do. I like taking on projects that I can complete in a short time, and then move on to the next. Maybe that’s why I enjoy short stories and shorter books like YAs and MGs. I’ve always had difficulty getting through great literary works of 500, 600, 800 pages.

So, as a writer I’ve wanted to try writing short stories. One BIG problem, though. I’ve been unable to get a handle on what exactly IS a short story? What is its structure? Other than its length, why is it a short story?

So, I couldn’t resist buying and plunging into James Scott Bell’s short book How to Write Short Stories… Again, I read most of it—the first seven chapters—in one sitting. The last five chapters are famous and successful short stories. I enjoyed reading them. But they also helped cement for me Bell’s definition and explanation in the first seven chapters.

The goal of this book is to “give you a key that will make it easier for you” to successfully write short stories. Bell emphasizes that this will can accomplish two things: 1. Stretch your writing muscles and build endurance (like wind sprints) to improve everything you write. 2. Provide quick sources of small income and get you needed exposure for your longer works.

Bell reviews the history of the short story and discusses some of America’s most famous story-tellers in this genre. He also devotes two chapters to publishing for Kindle readers and maximizing your marketing efforts with short stories.

Bell succinctly gives the distinctives of successful short stories—what separates them from other literature. He discusses length and structure, and that little something that makes short stories pack a wallop. BINGO! That is what I wanted to know.

I highly recommend How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career. I bought my Kindle copy at Amazon. It’s available at other online book providers, too.

Rhyming Picture Books The Write Way

51wewkwlxglRhyming Picture Books The Write Way by Laura Purdie Salas and Lisa Bullard is the second book in the Children’s Writer Insider Guides that I have read. It follows the same short and sweet format as Picture Books The Write Way. I like that. The ten short chapters are all focused on ten common problems writers have when writing rhyming picture books.

An Introduction, then ten chisled chapters helped me examine specifics about the rhyming picture book manuscripts that I am working on (either creating or selling.)

Also, every chapter is loaded with links to helpful websites and to author pages for the picture book examples Salas and Bullard use. I’m taking my Kindle with me to the local children’s library so I can read as many of these examples as I can find.

Aside: I have another list gleaned from Tara Lazar’s website Writing for Kids (While Raising Them). A list of NEW picture books. In Rhyming Picture Books The Write Way Salas and Bullard continually remind the reader (AKA ME) to read current picture books if I want to write in a way that appeals to current readers.

Okay, I’ll stop rambling now. Here is the long-awaited list of chapters in Rhyming Picture Books The Write Way:

  • Are You Targeting the Right Audience?
  • Is Your Manuscript Too Wordy?
  • Is Your Meter Imperfect?
  • Can You Do Even More With Meter?
  • Do You Use Rich Poetic Elements?
  • Have You Thought About a Refrain?
  • Is There More There Than Just Rhyme?
  • Is Your Message Heavy Handed?
  • Does Your Verse Sound Natural?
  • Have You Considered Nonfiction?

lisa-lauraSalas and Bullard give clear and specific ways to challenge my manuscript and correct whatever problems I find. For example, the chapter on Poetic Elements clearly explains rhyme, fresh rhyme, near rhyme, sensible rhyme, internal rhyme. Then provide examples of picture books (with links) that do the job well.

Thanks for reading here at On My (Kindle) Shelf. I hope some of the writing books that are helping me will also help you. Are they?

Hmmmm…

That question begs an answer from YOU, dear reader/writer. So, can you leave a comment here telling me if any of my summaries have helped, and which ones?

Or send me a msg on FB please at Jean Matthew Hall Author. And follow me there, please?

I’m trying to do this marketing/PR/networking/social media thing the best way possible. However, I think I’m still on the first page of that chapter of my life.

Blessings!

Jean

 

Picture Books the Write Way

41mlw2twmol-_sx331_bo1204203200_ A Children’s Writer Insider Guide from Mentors For Rent – Lisa Bullard and Laura Purdie Salas.

Picture Books the Write Way by Lisa Bullard and Laura Purdie Salas is one of my newest books On My Kindle Shelf. It contains about 40 pages that answer 10 questions that will strengthen my (or your) picture book manuscript.

40 pages is just the right size for me to read, chew on, and apply to a manuscript in an evening.

I’ve been writing picture book manuscripts for several years and seeing steady improvement in my skills. This little volume (Picture Books the Write Way) helped me to shore up some areas where my current manuscript was weak. One of the 10 chapters gave me a key to fixing a major problem with the same manuscript.

Picture Books the Write Way enabled me to focus on some basic areas where I was getting a little sloppy. It helped me to remember the things I’ve been learning about writing picture books.

The 10 questions answered succinctly are:

  • “Is It a Short Story Insead?”
  • “Does It Lack a Fresh Take?”
  • “Is It Too Long?”
  • “Is It Unfocused?”
  • “Will Young Kids Fail to Relate?”
  • “Is It Too Nostalgic?”
  • “Is It Too Quiet?”
  • “Are There Illustration Issues?”
  • “Is Your Meter Imperfect?”

Picture Books the Write Way also contains a useful Revision Checklist.

I highly recommend this little volume and the Mentors For Rent website. It’s more than worth the really small price tag. Mentors For Rent have several little volumes available on Kindle.

I’m getting ready to read Rhyming Picture Books the Write Way. I’ll let you know what I think.

Thanks, Lisa and Laura!mfrheader_3tm

Called To Write-Part 2

Called To Write: Biblical Truths For Bloggers and Authors

By Rev. C.M. Logan and K.M. Logan

Has it been a while since you signed a writing contract?called-to-write-logan

You know, for that incredible novel on your hard drive? Or for your adorable picture book? Maybe a magazine article? Devotional?

Me, too.

It’s not difficult to become discouraged and feel you are just wasting your time. Or maybe thinking that you must have misunderstood God’s call to write. I mean, being called to write DOES mean being published, doesn’t it?

Ready to quit?

Then you need this little FREE Kindle book.  Called To Write: Biblical Truths For Bloggers and Authors is a concentrated dose of the reality of God’s call to write and the purpose for which He calls us. A quick read that was a welcomed reminder of what-in-the-world-am-I-doing thinking I can write! And did I tell you that it is FREE?

Don’t give up. Rush over to Amazon and get the Kindle book Called To Write: Biblical Truths For Bloggers and Authors. It will remind you, inspire you and get you out of the mulligrubs, and back into rhythm with God’s call for you as a writer.

 

Ten things to do by Linda Ashman

la-cropped-as500kb-300x294Many thanks to author Linda Ashman for permission to “borrow” this page from her website.  Linda is the author of more than thirty-five delightful picture books and the creator of The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. Her books have been included on the “best of the year” lists of The New York Times, Parenting and Child magazines, the New York Public Library, Bank Street College of Education, and the International Reading Association. She leads writing workshops and gives presentations about writing and children’s books at conferences and schools.

Thanks for the great advice, Linda!

Ten things to do if you want to write picture books:

  1. Join SCBWI. And find out what’s happening with your local chapter.
  2. Read craft books. You might start with (ahem) The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books and Ann Paul’s Writing Picture Books.
  3. Read picture books—lots of them. You’ll find recommendations at our group blog, PictureBookBuilders, and many more in The Nuts and Bolts Guide.
  4. Read children’s poetry. Notice the sound, the rhythm, and the way a story can be told or a world created with very few well-chosen words.
  5. Write. Obvious, I know, but somehow it’s easy to let other things take precedence.
  6. Revise, revise, revise. Think you’re done? Revise some more.
  7. Make a dummy or storyboard. Nothing better demonstrates the unique structure of a picture book or shows more clearly if your text is working in this format.
  8. Think visually. Imagine your story as a movie, and leave out anything that doesn’t move the action forward.
  9. Cultivate patience—with your writing (don’t rush!) and with the publishing industry (nothing happens quickly).
  10. Hang in there. Rejection is part of the business. It’s good to have a supportive critique group and/or at least one sympathetic friend.

http://lindaashman.com/how-to-write-picture-books/more-resources/

Called to Write-Part 1

called-to-writeCalled to Write: 7 Principles to Become a Writer on Mission

By Edna Ellison and Linda Gilden, published in 2014

Called to Write: 7 Principles to Become a Writer on Mission identifies seven key competencies required to become a writer on mission for God. Each competency is explained in its own informational chapter. Then readers are challenged in a “how to implement” section for each skill.

I found this volume to be a quick read, but I’ve been practicing writing for publication for almost thirteen years now.

 

(My goodness! Has it been THAT long?)

I think Called to Write is a great book for Christians who are fairly new to writing for publication.  Both Linda and Edna are experienced authors and writing coaches. Their advice is solid.

On My Kindle Shelf

I have more than one book shelf, you know. One is tangible—I love its ready accessibility and it’s physical beauty.

But the other—my Kindle Shelf—is so mobile and convenient that I love it, too.

Several of the books on my Kindle are for writers. I’ll chat about three of them which are by the same Christian author, Ed Cyzewski.

All three are quick reads that lead to some serious thinking.

faith-bloggerChronologically the first book is Become a Better Faith Blogger. The title pretty much sums up the purpose of this little book. Cyzewski share ten tips about becoming a better blogger while living out your faith. He offers inspiration, practical ideas and advice borrowing from ten notable people of faith who have successful blogs.

The biggest drawback of this little book is that it was copyrighted in 2012, and blogging has come a changed enormously since 2012.

 

 

The second volume is Pray, Write, Grow published in 2015. This book “offers life-giving practices that will help you grow in both prayer and writing and shows you how the two can work together…” Cyzewski’s premise is:

“If you want to improve your prayer life, try writing.pray-write-grow

If you want to improve your writing life, try praying.

The two require many of the same practices, disciplines, and virtues.”

That sounds simple. But Cyzewski’s words were provocative to me. I highlighted numerous passages that spoke to me regarding both my prayer practices (especially the practice of being silent before the LORD) and my writing practices.

 

 

contemplativeIn The Contemplative Writer Cyzewski weaves the practices of prayer, meditation and writing together. He emphasizes the calling of writing and the persistent, regular practice of writing as communication with one’s self and with God. He offers a “life preserver of sorts to writers of faith who perhaps feel like they are drowning. He defines contemplative prayer as resting in God and offers suggestions for making that happen.

This perspective was thought provoking for me. It made me mindful of using writing as a way to focus on my spiritual condition, improve my spiritual relationship to God, and use my writing as a gift of gratitude back to God.

Each book is a quick read—60 to 90 minutes—but offer plenty of things to think about for a long time.

On My Shelf Again

img_20170205_114710445_hdrThe books that belong On My Shelf have been packed in boxes and out of sight and reach for more than a month. And my “shelf” didn’t even exist. For this writer that’s kind of like trying to type or word process my words with both hands tied behind my back.

True, I can find almost any tidbit of information I want on the Internet. But, I miss my books!

I miss touching them, flipping through the pages, “accidentally” finding nuggets of gold as I scan the pages. I miss scanning their titles as they stand at attention (or, sometimes, at ease or even sound asleep!) On My Shelf. 

However, I am making progress.

Two weeks ago my NEW shelves arrived! I admired their brown cardboard containers as they acclimated to the environment of my office.

img_20170211_141226159_hdrA few days ago my son and grandson came to set those shelves free. Halelujah! Of course, the job was not without complications. What should have taken an hour to accomplish ate up three, almost four hours of their time.

But now My Shelf stands dutifully waiting to be filled.

Over the past few evenings I’ve been ripping into boxes and liberating my books. Just a few more boxes to go.

I’m an organizer. It’s in my DNA. It was joyous and satisfying last night to not only unpack my books, but to put them in the best possible order On My Shelf.

  • My Bibles (more than a few)
  • My Bible reference books and study guides
  • My books for personal and spiritual growth
  • My books about writing
  • A very short stack of anthologies that contain stories I have written (Yay!)
  • Picture books
  • Other children’s books and YAs (I love to encourage other writers by purchasing their books.)
  • A menagerie of reference books ( I know—use the Internet.)
  • Books on leadership
  • Classic fiction books and poetry
  • Notebooks from writer’s conferences and workshops I’ve attended
  • Books and notebooks for courses I have taught at church

See what I mean? I’m enamored with pages dotted with ink.

img_20170214_210822468As I read the titles it was so much like seeing old friends that I haven’t talked to in a while. Reading each title brought back some of the great things I’ve learned from those books. I remembered how those authors inspired, and continue to inspire, me. Some of these books dramatically changed my life.

Those thoughts led me to thank God for those people I’ve never met face-to-face. But I’ve met them on the pages of their books. I’ve seen inside their souls and minds. I’ve felt our kinship, or, our incompatibility sometimes.

Someday I pray that someone will step back from his or her Shelf and see my name on a few book spines. Someday I pray that someone will have similar thoughts of me and the impact my words have had on their lives.

Impact.

Encouragement.

Influence.

In a positive and godly direction.

The Way Back Part 2

I have to get my creative thinking back on track.

Since December 30, I’ve been focused almost entirely on getting settled into our condo. Buying things, hanging things, returning things, unpacking things, donating unneeded things and cleaning things became all important to me. I hate the stress I feel when I’m surrounded by disorder, chaos. So I was compelled to get everything in its proper place. I’m almost there.

I’ve ordered book cases so I can free my beloved books from their cages and give each one a permanent home, then I can organize my writing space. I can hardly wait.

Meanwhile, I’m working to get my mind and emotions off the new condo and back onto writing and all that goes with it.30308067981_3ef33779f8_o.jpg

I have to do it step-by-step. I think most people do.

 

Step 1-READ SOMETHING RELATED TO WRITING EVERY DAY:

Last September I purchased a great book at the SCBWI-Carolinas 2016 Conference. A Writer’s Guide to Persistence: How to Create a Lasting and Productive Writing Practice by Jordan Rosenfeld. I finished the first third of the book when my life went into hyper-drive. I dug this book out of its box and started reviewing the chapters I had completed. Highlighter in hand I dove in. Within a few days I was reading new material.

I felt a wee bit like a communicator again.

Three days ago I started actually reading all of the blog posts coming into my email inbox.

Two days ago I cleaned out my bulging inbox. PTL! It was good to permanently delete more than 500 emails! Kind of like cleaning out a long-neglected closet. I LOVE that feeling!

 

31678674716_62a70bd1bf_o.jpg

Step 2-WRITE SOMETHING EVERY DAY:

 

 

Okay, the first day I only wrote a few comments on blogs and Facebook. But it was a start, right? Oh, and does my to-do list count as writing?

The next day I started typing out my prayers. I’ve done this for years. It’s effective for me on several levels. But, along with everything else, I had neglected this practice for a couple of months.

This past weekend I wrote Part 1 of this blog post. Baby-steps, I know.

Here I am tonight working on Part 2. I think my fuel pump is kicking in.

 

Step 3-GET INVOLVED AGAIN WITH A CRITIQUE GROUP (OR TWO)27228570313_dbe5bc9126_o.jpg

Relocating has temporarily isolated me. I know only a handful of people here, none of whom are writers. I’ve searched for contacts, but I’ve found

NO SCBWI chapter in Kentucky

NO Word Weavers chapter near Louisville

I found an ACW group in this area. I emailed them tonight.

Anyone in the Louisville, Kentucky, area who knows of a critique group please let me know!

I also reconnected with the online critique group to which I belong. I need to get their feedback on my stories. I need the accountability of preparing something to submit. I also need the practice of critiquing their work. It puts my head into the right mode to work on my own stories.

 

Step 4-I’ll pick up here on Friday.

 

How do you get your creative engine running when you’ve been away from writing for a while? Do you use a similar process? Or do you have another method?

Please share in the comments below. I could use your help! I’ll bet other readers of this blog could too. Thanks.

PHOTO CREDITS:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/16391511@N00/31678674716

http://www.flickr.com/photos/68134711@N00/30308067981

 

 

The Way Back – Part 1

I’ve been absent from blogging, writing and social media for four months, but it seems like years. I desperately need to get back into the rhythm of praying, reading and writing daily. I decided that awakening this blog is the best place to start.

In September my husband, Jerry, died. That left me not only feeling lost and out of sync, but it also created reams of paperwork, forms, telephone calls, websites and interviews to transition into widowhood. So, my writing slid a bit toward the back burner for a while.

The next couple of months brought extra personal responsibilities for me. I also made the decision to sell our home and relocate to be near our son and his family. The sorting, cleaning and packing started.

file000822928993.jpgThey exploded, however, when our daughter asked if she could buy our home. Of course I said yes. She and the grandkids love that house and the memories that linger there. However, her time-table was much shorter than mine, so that thrust sorting, cleaning and packing everything we owned to hyper-speed.

All this during Thanksgiving and Christmas season. So, I decided that my writing efforts would have to stay on hold until the new year begins.

I relocated on December 30, 2016. During December I sold our home, bought a condo, moved to Kentucky and started unpacking and settling in.

Starting anew is exciting. It’s exhausting, AND it’s exhilarating. I began to feel this craziness was a fun new “normal” for me.

But the past few days I’ve realized this is not my normal. For me “normal” means that I must, absolutely must, get back into a routine. I must return to dedicated time for prayer, reading and writing every day. I must get my mind and heart back into that passionate place I had six months ago for time alone in silence before God, and for writing.

And I must do it now.

As Jordan Rosenfeld says in her amazing book A Writer’s Guide to Persistence: How to Create a Lasting and Productive Writing Practice, “Do it persistence-2now. Before your story is over.” (p. 68)

That tidbit at the very bottom of page 68 was a slap in the face for me. Cold water in my sleepy eyes. An icy floor beneath toes snatched from my warm bed. It made me realize that I must do it now –

 

or forever regret it.

In the next few posts I want to share my journey back with you. I pray it will inspire you to continue on in your writing, or to start all over again if you find your writing self in a warm, cozy little spot drifting into creative slumber like I have.

It’s time for me to awake.

Will you join me?