Thursday, March 29, 2012

Funny Feline Friday

Here it is, almost Friday again!  What good news!  Weekends mean editing for me, so I'm excited to see how many pages I can get through before Monday.  Even better, I don't work next week, either.  More time for editing!

Humor is a great way to relieve stress, and inspire creativity.  For some reason, cat photos are particularly funny to me.  I think they must have more expression muscles than dogs. I'm not able to give credit to whoever assembled the photos below, but I have to assume that, since I received them in an e-mail, they are public domain.  I hope you enjoy them, because I picked out the ones that cracked me up the most.

Before I get to the cat pictures, though, I have to share one that reminds me of my children.

And now, the main event!

What are you up to this weekend?

Monday, March 26, 2012

What's Perseverance Without Acceptance?

This blog post has been thumping around my head, wanting to get out, for about three weeks.  It was about three weeks ago that I realized I wasn't going to be able to pitch Finding Meara at the conference.  I'd edited twenty-five pages in about a month, and discouragement camped in the dark recesses of my mind, waiting for any opportunity to point out that I hadn't achieved my goal.

Photo by dan
One day, when I was complaining (again) about how I'd screwed up my timeline by messing around at various points in the last year and a half, my Very Wise Husband (no, he's not paying me to call him that) said "How about if it gets done when it gets done?"

I didn't quite catch on immediately, but the seeds for this post were laid in that moment.

Growing up, my mother always said that if she had to fight too hard for something, it probably wasn't the right time for whatever it was she wanted.  She always told me to relax in those moments, and everything would work out for the best.

I have to say that her advice has been sound.  I've felt I've had good luck with my life (or lots of blessings, or good Karma, whatever you want to call it.)  For some reason I don't do so good at the letting go when it comes to writing.

Perhaps it's because I've read all kinds of success stories that have colored my view of how this writing journey is supposed to go.  Letting go of my perceptions of what I have to do in order to become a successful writer, blogger, and platform builder, is darn scary!  I fear that if I relax my writing timeline, I will surely be a writing failure.

I don't know about you, but I can't worry constantly.  I try very hard to do so, but eventually I worry myself out, and I have to take a break.  The best thing about my worry breaks is that I am forced to let go, and see my worry from a different, more distant perspective.  

During my last worry break, what my husband said to me finally sunk in.  I figured out (mostly) what this quote says perfectly:

"Acceptance of one's life has nothing to do with resignation; it does not mean running away from the struggle.  On the contrary it means accepting it as it comes. . . .  To accept is to say yes to life in its entirety."  Paul Tournier

If I accept that I am where I am in my writing (dare I say it?) career, and that is just how it is, I'm not giving up on anything.  I will still write and achieve goals I set.  All I'm doing is changing my perspective, and my attitude.  

George Orwell said "Happiness can exist only in acceptance."  When I'm worrying over every little decision I made, that put me where I am today, I am not happy.  I'm cranky...and frustrated...and probably not very fun to be around.

Plus, I start contemplating if all the stress and hard work is worth it, what's the cost/benefit analysis.  I start wondering if I should just quit.  Writing isn't creative and uplifting.  It becomes a source of fear and worry.

Photo by prozac1
That's not who I want to be, and that's not what I want writing to be in my life.

So, I made a choice.  

I decided to accept where I am, and what I have done so far.  

I decided to accept that I'll not pitch Finding Meara at the conference, but it was okay.  I'll be able to really get the manuscript ready to go out for querying.  And maybe the timing will be right, because I'm not forcing my will upon the cosmos (or God, or the powers that be, whatever you want to call it.)

One tidbit of advice to writing success I've read all over, from multiple sources, states that we must persevere.  Perseverance without acceptance can be pretty short.  In order to have longevity in anything, we have to have a certain amount of patience.  Acceptance leads to patience, which then allows us to persevere.  And then we can be happy... or at least peaceful.

How do you handle when you get frustrated with yourself?  Do you have any tips you'd like to share?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Milestone Party Giveaway Winner!

And the winner of the Great Milestone Party Giveaway is....

Emily R. King!!!

Yay, Emily!  I'll be contacting you about how you want that Gift Card given to you and from where!

I also want to say "Thank You" to my friend Mike Schulenberg for kindly bestowing on me the Liebster Award!

Mike is new to blogging, but not to writing.  I met him through the MyWANA hashtag, and he is a seriously cool, genuinely nice guy.  His blog is beautiful, with a lovely header picture of the mountains of Norway, which he took when he visited there last year.  He explained the Liebster Award in a very creative way, and I love reading his posts.  He's one of those creatives that make me feel dull and not shiny!!

According to Mike, the Liebster award is "meant for blogs that motivate, inspire, and have 200 followers or less."    I don't say this nearly as neat as he does.  I really think you should go check out his post on the Liebster award...

I then get to pass the award on to five other bloggers who I feel have motivating and inspiring blogs, and have under 200 followers.  The last step is to let the five know that I passed the award to them.  So, without further ado:

Wait.  What exactly is ado and where does the word come from?  I'm going to have to check out the Dictionary after I post this.  Anyway...

All of these blogs are motivate or inspire me, and I am sure they will you, as well!  I hope you will pay them a visit!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Life List Club Friday - Milestone Party

Photo by m_bartosch at FreeDigitalPhotos
It has been three months since I first joined the Life List Club, and now I (and should you wish, all of you!) get to participate in my first Milestone Party.  If you are wondering what the Life List Club is, click on the tab above, and you will get a full description of the club, and how to join, if you are interested.  Also on the page is my personal life list, which is my goals for the year.

Below is a list of the prizes we are giving away to celebrate our successes, with links to the respective member's blog.  Please hop around, because there are some fabulous prizes.  

I am working my own giveaway as I did for my 100 follower celebration. If you leave a comment, you will receive one entry into a random drawing for a $25.00 gift card (of your choice).  If you are not already a follower, and decide to join up, that will get you another entry into the drawing.  I'll post the winner of the drawing on Saturday, March 24th.  The other LLC members giveaways are:

Photo courtesy Simon Howden at FreeDigital
Marcia Richards Guest post swap and Amazon gift card

Jess Witkins Guest post swap and an iTunes gift card

Sonia Medeiros A guest post from Sonia or the winner's work featured on Sonia's blog

Jenny Hansen A Margie Lawson lecture packet and a $10 Starbuck's gift card

David Walker A free download of his "Web Wisdom: Inspiration from the Inbox"

Gary Gauthier A choice of 3 eBooks 

The Life List Club has some exciting news, too!  Thanks to Marcia Richards' hard work, we now have our very own blog site!  While I am sad that I won't have the opportunity to welcome so many great guest posters over here, the Life List Club blog is beautiful, and will allow us to offer inspirational and motivational posts twice a week (Wednesdays and Fridays) instead of blog hopping every two weeks.  

Our kick-off post is by our newest member, Sherry Isaac, on April 4th.  Sherry believes in romance, identity and the depth of the human soul and, personally, I can't wait to read her first post!  Please visit the Life List Club blog, take a look around and learn more about all the authors on our author pages.

I think all that's left to do is review my life list, and fess up to how things are going.  

My Life List Review

Photo courtesy of Wookiepedia
"No.  Try not. Do or do not... There is no try." Yoda


Play with my boys every day for half-an-hour:  Check!  There are times where it might be a shorter amount of time, but the important thing to me is that I have carved out time to spend with my children, focusing only on them, every day.

Write for 15 minutes every day:  Check! - as long as we count blogging and editing as writing.  The thing I wanted out of this goal was to devote time every day to the writing process, and I feel I have done that.

Blog twice a week (Mondays and Fridays):  Check!

Grow Twitter followers to over 500 and blog followers to over 100 followers: Check! (thank you all so much)

Participate in six bog hops (including the A-Z Challenge):  This one takes a little explanation, but Check!  I have participated in six blog hops (Nightgale Blog Challenge, I'll Tumble 4-Ya blog hop, It's Getting Hot In Here, Fourth Campaigner Challenge, Got Green Blog Hop, and the Great Star Wars Blogathon)  I decided that there was no way to participate in the A-Z Challenge this year, and so registered for the Fourth Campaigner Challenge, instead.  So, although I had to make a substitution, I still feel like I met this goal.  I anticipate participating in more blog hops and challenges as the year goes on, but right now I need to return my focus back to getting a novel completed, so I'm not a writer wanna-be.

Guest post on three other blogs:  Check!  Thanks to the Life List Club, I have guest posted on five other blogs.  I know some of the prizes above are to guest post on LLC member's blogs, and I recommend making the jump over to the related blogs to register for the opportunity.  All members of the Life List Club have been extremely professional and their followers have been so kind and welcoming.  Every guest post was a thoroughly enjoyable experience!

Do Not's

Exercise 20 minutes five days of the week: I have been exercising, and usually multiple times a week, but dang!  Life kept getting in the way.  So, mid-February I changed the focus to 100 minutes a week, and I seemed to be able to meet that goal a little better.  Still, I have taken two of the last four weeks off, so I definitely need to work a little harder on this one!

The next three do not's are:

  • Complete revisions of Finding Meara by the end of March
  • Create pitch, query letter, synopsis, etc... for Finding Meara by end of April
  • Write first draft of second novel by end of December 

When I wrote these goals, I had no idea how long it might take to do revisions, and so I set a date based on the fact I'm attending the Pikes Peak Writer's Conference in April, and hoped to be able to sign up for a pitch session.  Not Happening!  So, I am going to rewrite this goal so that I'm shooting for revisions and editing to be completed by May 31st.  That might even be overly optimistic, but I would really like to start querying Finding Meara and writing the next novel over the summer.  I currently am on page 64 of about 250 pages.

There it is, my goal review!  I'm wondering, how did your last three months go?  Do you have more Do's than Do Not's?  Are you needing some support, or some tough love?

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Great Star Wars Blogathon

The Grumpy Bulldog showed up here about a week ago, and invited me to participate in the The Great Star Wars 100 day Blogathon.  Since I love all things Star Wars - and blog fests - this seemed like a fun thing to participate in.

Each day, there is a trivia question posted, and a variety of ways to earn points, that culminate in a winner at the end of the Blogathon. I currently don't have any points, but that will be rectified after the end of this post!

Since I don't expect to be the winner of the Blogathon, I'm looking at the trivia section of the blogathon as a fun way to learn about Star Wars trivia.  I enjoy the witty repartee that goes on in the comment section, as well.

Three of the ways I can get points is by entering the Bi-Weekly Star Wars Writing Challenges (you get 100 points for those!), referring people to the blogathon by mentioning it on my blog (check!), and to have someone I referred comment on Briane Pagel's blog, mentioning my name as the referral source (we both get 50 points for that!)  So, if you're interested in joining, head over to Briane's blog and say I sent you!

Sourced from The Best of Everything, who got it from I don't know where!

The current Writing Challenge is: between now and Sunday, March 25 (you can still sign up - and mention my name!), post a 250-words-or-less Fan Fiction Fan Fiction, in which one of your characters from a story you wrote tries to write a piece of Star Wars Fan Fiction.

Disclaimer:  I am not sure what fan fiction looks like, or sounds like, so I did my best. Please be kind. :)

Twelve year-old Quinn, who is Meara's brother, is making an appearance from Finding Meara.  He isn't technically writing fan fiction, but he is creating fan fiction verbally, so I hope it meets the criteria of the blogathon.


Quinn pulled the box of Lego Star Wars pieces out from under his bed.  Sifting through the various sized and colored bricks, he picked out Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.  After a little more searching, he located the light sabers and found Princess Leia. 

With practiced movements, he created a box, and put Leia inside.  He set Darth Vader in front of the box, and said, “All right, let the battle begin.”

Luke sidled up to Vader, light saber in hand.  “Let Leia go.”

“Never,” Darth Vader said.

 “You won’t win.  Evil always loses.”

“You can’t kill me.  I’m your father.”

Quinn scowled, and thought about his own father.  Darth Vader would be a better Dad.  He sacrificed himself to save Luke from the Emperor.  Lucian would never do that for him.

He fingered the Vader figure, and wondered if Luke could have killed Darth Vader, if he knew there was no good left in him.

He pushed Luke toward Vader. “I will kill you, sperm-donor.”  Luke slashed at Vader, who ignited his light saber, and easily parried the blow.

“You are no match for me,” Vader laughed.

“Oh yeah!”  Luke advanced on Darth Vader, light saber whirling.  Vader fell beneath the ferocious blows.

Quinn popped Vader’s head off, a satisfied grin on his face.


On Friday, I have my first Life List Club Milestone Party.  There will be prizes involved, so please don't let my blogathon entry scare you away, and come back on Friday!

Friday, March 16, 2012

I'm an Irish Wanna-Be

It's true.

I'm pretty sure my jealousy of those who are Irish began in the third grade.

That year, Tisha McCarthy (the red-haired, only-child who got to have a tent set up in her basement) smugly proclaimed that she didn't have to wear green on St. Patrick's Day, because she was Irish.  Italian is my dominant heritage, and it wasn't nearly cool enough.

Italian's don't have a party that lasts an entire day.  We do have the mob, but it's not quite the same.

Later on in life, I read a fictional book about St. Patrick, the Tuatha de Danann, and a prominent rainbow (I think it was the rainbow that connected the faerie world and the real world, but it's been about twenty-five years since I read the book, so I can't say for sure.)

St. Patrick (although in the book he was known as only Patrick) got involved with the Queen of the Tuatha de Danann, and it was quite romantic to my early teenage heart.  The descriptions were vivid and beautiful, and so I became even more enamored with Ireland.

A quick note about the landscape of Ireland.  You have to understand that where I grew up (and currently live), it is brown for nine months of the year.  We have three months of green, and then everything dies off because of lack of water.  The plains are beautiful in their own way, but the pictures of Ireland are breathtaking, full of moisture and life, and as different to my reality as any fantasy world out there.

In the early nineties, the movies the Commitments and The Full Monty came out.  My sister loved The Commitments, and The Full Monty is still one of my favorite movies.  I think we related to the quirky humor in the movies, and the fight of the underdog to change their place in life.  Once again, there were cool accents, bold characters, great music, and fun stories - all set in Ireland.

Last year, a dream finally came true.  Growing up, my Grandmother (the Italian one) told me that I had Irish in my Grandfather's lineage.  I thought  she was wrong, and that it was Scottish, because the lineage is connected to Scotland.  Last year, at the Scottish-Irish Highlands Festival, I finally got it all figured out.  I was informed that my paternal last name comes from the Ayr region of Scotland, was part of the Kennedy Clan, and that the Kennedy Clan moved back and forth across the straight into Ireland.

I very well could be Irish!

Well, just a little bit, but still!

Do I still have to wear green on St. Patrick's Day?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Memes and More

It's my turn!  Thank you Cindy Reynders at Saucy Lucy Wisdom and Nicole Pyles from The World of my Imagination for giving the chance to participate in this fun meme. (I feel weird using the word meme, just for the record.)

The rules, as I'm sure most of you know, are:
1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they're written.
4. Tag 7 authors, and let them know.

From Finding Meara, here are my lines (Hazel is speaking, talking to her half-brother, Quinn):

“What are they?”  I scanned the trees, looking for any sign of the magician who had been hurt helping me.  

I didn’t see him, and I didn’t see Garron, either.  Since getting Meara back, Lucian had lightened up on finding me.  Maybe he figured we would come to him ourselves.  I was a little worried, since that was exactly what we were doing.

“Earthforce magic uses the elements to effect change in the world, kind of like Wicca, only stronger.  Lifeforce magic uses the energy found in living things to work change.”

“How come you can use both?”

That's them! I'm pretty sure that they will change once I get that far in revisions (maybe this week - I hope), but for now, there they are.

The "more" part of this post is that I was also tagged by Cindy Reynders.  There were some interesting questions, so I picked out the ones I hadn't answered yet and will answer below.

If you could do anything tomorrow, what would you do? Edit, revise, all day long.

Describe your happy place.  Being out with my family.  I miss them terribly when I'm gone.

What was your first happy memory?  Getting a stuffed Eeyore toy when I was two and a half.

What was the scariest thing you've ever done? I can't think of anything.  I am anxious by nature, so lots of things seem scary, that aren't really.

What is the funniest thing you did today? I'll go with ruining the group dynamic at the table I sat at during the workshop I attended about relational aggression.  As part of an activity, we had to tell the other table members if we would trust them or not.  All of them were strangers to me, so I told them I didn't trust any of them (with that disclaimer of course - they were strangers).  I guess I offended them.  Nobody talked to me the rest of the day.  I actually thought it was pretty funny.

What is the strangest place you've ever got a story? I used to pull cards (one verb card, one character card, and one setting card) to come up with story ideas.  I ended up with a person with mental illness, a bank and sex.  It became Phantom Deposit, the story that was published in Steamy Screams, and the only story I've been paid for.

Where do you write? Usually on the couch with my netbook.

If you just won a ticket to anywhere in the world, and you had to take me, where would you take me and why? Tough to say.  I want to go to the British Isles some day.  I also would like to see Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico; Assisi, Italy; and go back to Machu Picchu or the Redwood Forest, so I don't know where we'd end up.

Now, I get to tag seven people for the Lucky 7 meme and they can answer the tag questions, too, if they want.  The lucky seven are:

Tony Slater at Adventure Without End
Emilia at My Imaginary Beings
LG Smith at Bards and Prophets
Mike Schulenberg
Gary Gauthier at Literary Snippets
Sonia G. Medeiros
Susan Fields

Don't forget the Blog O'Hop this weekend - go sign up if you haven't yet!  I've also been invited to the Great Star Wars Blogathon, so if you see a couple of Star Wars related stories, don't be surprised!  If you want to know more, go here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What Influences You?

This afternoon, I wrote about half of a post while waiting to pick up my eldest and my nephew from school.  However, after we returned home, and I put in the movie Labyrinth, I decided to hold onto that post until next week.  Not ten minutes into the film, I was having that same magical feeling I did when I saw live Storm Troopers at the Denver Zoo (read that post here).

My children loved it, too.  We watched the entire movie before dinner, the "making of" section during dinner, and restarted it following dinner.  It's playing as I type.

You know how old movies often look dated and worn?  Labyrinth doesn't.  Granted, all the actors are much younger looking, but as I haven't seen David Bowie in a really long time, in my head he still looks like Jareth, anyway.  In a total squirrel moment - I love David Bowie as Jareth.  He has just the right mixture of reluctant evil with a heart.  Gets me every time.

Back to my point.  After several minutes of watching, I realized something.

Labyrinth influenced Finding Meara, my current work-in-progress, and not just a little bit.  There are several parts from the movie that I find submerged in Finding Meara.  For example, I have a masquerade ball in Finding Meara.  I totally didn't realize until watching the movie that the influence for that scene is directly linked to the Labyrinth ball scene.

Sadly, I tried to share the ball scene I found on YouTube, but it was blocked.  Instead of trying to find a video link that wasn't blocked, I decided to not participate in copyright infringement and gave up.  If you want to watch it, you can go here.

It isn't just a particular scene or character, though, that I recognized.  For me, at least, there is a general feel of Labyrinth to the fantasy sections of Finding Meara.  I just didn't realize it until watching the movie now.

So, I'm wondering... Have you ever had an a-ha moment over the inspiration for your work?

Really quickly, I wanted to let you all know that I'm going to post on Saturday, instead of Friday, in order to coordinate my posts with Mark Koopmans' Blog O'Hop on the 17th - St. Patrick's Day!  There is still plenty of time to sign up, so click on the flag over in the side bar, and I'll see you there.

Friday, March 09, 2012

How to Structure the Plot of a Novel by Gary Gauthier

Today, for Life List Club Friday, I welcome fellow Life Lister, Gary Gauthier, for the second guest post of the week!  Gary has a great blog called Literary Snippets, where he posts snippets (get it?) of classics, as well as pictures that relate to the snippet.  I love it because it's like an art and literature lesson in one! 

If you miss me (I hope!), after you finish reading Gary's awesome post, please stop over at Jess Witkins' Happiness Project, where I am sharing some thoughts on Positivity. 

Without any further ado, heeeere's Gary!

How to Structure the Plot of A Novel by Gary Gauthier

A New Look at the Narrative Arc

If you are serious about writing fiction, your stories can’t ramble. They need structure.  I am going to suggest to you a simple system that can be used to create a memorable work of fiction. It has the added benefit that it can help you easily sketch an entire plot with a visual representation.

Nature, in her infinite wisdom and grace, gave us the arc.

What Is the Narrative Arc?

The narrative arc is a metaphor used to describe a story’s trajectory. A plot begins with rising action that sets up a challenge; the challenge creates tension that reaches a climax; finally, the tension is released and the trajectory heads downward to a point of rest.

A smooth trajectory like the arc of a rainbow does less than full justice to the rising and falling action in the plot of a novel. Our system goes one step further and uses the arc to show rising and falling action as the plot progresses.

Narrative Structure: A Simple System That Works

1. Reduce your plot to two central events.
2. Place the first central event about 25% into the story.
3. Place the second central event, the climax, approximately 25% from the end of the story.
4. Unify the plot with an overarching theme.

The Foundation of Your Plot is the two central events you selected. The first is called a catalyst (or inciting event) and the second is the climax. The two events are related and involve the protagonist or the hero.

Here are three examples of plot foundations. 
I: Boy likes girl. The girl, overcome by a display of chivalry and bravery, falls in love.
II: Victim suffers great harm.  She exacts revenge.
III: Protagonist enters an arranged (or bad) marriage. She is transformed and leaves. 

Use an overarching theme to unify the entire plot. For the examples above, the themes can be: love conquers all, an eye for an eye, and the ugly duckling is transformed into a beautiful swan.

A Visual Representation of Our System

The two red pillars represent the catalyst and the climax. They also help to define the narrative arc.

From Point A to Point B - Your job as a novelist is to create a meaningful and memorable ride for the reader from point A to point B. Your subject matter and the genre determine whether the ride is heartwarming, inspirational, stormy, disturbing, thrilling or horrific. The big caveat is, if your story is not interesting, the reader can put the book down at any time and never finish.

A Play in Three Acts - The two red pillars in the figure divide the plot into three sections. Most plays and movies use this system. Most best-selling novels and literary classics follow this format. You can label the blue vertical supports and use each to represent a chapter or a scene. As an example, you can use the following convention: a, b, c; 1a, 1b, 1c; 2a, 2b, 2c.

Pace the Dramatic Tension. It’s not an accident that the narrative arc peaks at the inciting point and at the climax. It’s an intentional, creative act by the writer.

Tell the Story Deliberately. Start the story with action and circumstances that lead the reader to the catalyst. The reader should be vested in the story (sold) by the time he arrives at the catalyst. Begin the centerpiece of the plot (approximately one-half the narrative) after the inciting event (think: “after commercial break”) and end it with the climax. Close the story by driving the point home (reinforcing the theme) and resolving the aftermath of the climax.  

The Unifying Theme Plays a Crucial Role. The structure of your story holds the action together in a self-sustaining and interconnected plot that moves in one direction. A winding excursion leading nowhere is a waste of writing talent. If you follow the template laid out above, the characters will be woven into the theme in support of the plot. If all the action and the characters do not come together as a unified whole, your readers will be disappointed and will feel like their trust was misplaced.  

Purpose and Structure are Distinct Animals. The purpose of a bridge is to provide for safe travel from one point to the other. A traveler doesn’t care (and is only vaguely aware) that the bridge’s structure is a system of support designed to bear weight across a span. So it goes for the reader and your plot.

Stay True to Your Purpose. Let’s face it—most readers of fiction are looking for entertainment, an escape. They don’t care how you structure your story, but without a sturdy plot supported by a strong foundation, you reduce the chances of achieving your purpose.

If you end up writing a best-seller, what most readers will notice is that you wrote a great story.

Did you recently read a novel whose plot fits into the structure described? What’s your personal experience with the narrative arc?

 (Images are sourced by courtesy from Wikimedia.)

Gary Gauthier is working on his first novel, a crime thriller set in New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina's landfall. His blog, Literary Snippets, gives him an opportunity to express and share his appreciation for art and literature. He occasionally posts articles as well. Some of his favorite writers are Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe. But this changes from time to time. Stay tuned! Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Microsoft Word’s Writing Environment by Eric Braswell

I am happy to welcome Eric Braswell to Motivation for Creation!  I met Eric at the first blog hop I ever participated in, and am so happy I did.  He is a techie-type who introduced me into the techie world of writing.  Today he explains how to easily use Microsoft Word to our best writer's advantage.  For all us non-techie types, don't be afraid of this post!  Soldier on and you'll be glad you did!

Microsoft Word’s Writing Environment by Eric Braswell

Unless pen and paper are preferred, writers spend most of their writing time on a computer. Every popular operating system ships with a basic word processor. Additionally, there are dozens of free or inexpensive alternatives available online.

But writers want extras like spell checking, formatting, word/phrase search, and a way to track revisions and make comments. Many people settle on Microsoft Word. It has its annoyances, but I’ve made peace with most of them.

Word has the ability to save variables such as font size/face and line spacing with your file. I take advantage of this feature by creating a customized template for writing.

My template sets the default paragraph font to 12 pt. Courier New; creates a header with entries for the working title, my name, the current draft number, and last updated time; and prints page number in the footer. But all of these properties can be changed to meet the editor’s, proofreader’s, or publisher’s needs. 

Below, I’ll detail how I create my template. I use Word 2003, but the information should generally apply to later or earlier versions.

To create a template, begin with a new, empty document

Choose the font face and point size you’d like to be default. Next, set up your header and/or footer. They are a great way to view information about your work in progress from any page of the manuscript. Also, whenever you update either, the change will occur on every page. 

In Word 2003, create a header/footer by selecting View—>Header and Footer in the menu. You can manually enter information in your header, but I prefer to use Word’s field function to grab the information from the document’s property sheet. 

Here’s how.

Once you’ve created the header, choose Insert—>Field from the menu. A property window with lots of entries opens. Limit them by choosing the “Document Information” category. 

Under “Field Names”, choose DocProperty. The middle column of the Field window lists available properties. They correspond to those listed when you view File—>Properties from the menu. As an example, click on “Author” and hit OK. If you set a user name when you installed Word (Tools—>Options—>User Information), that name will appear in the header.

With the header still open, hit enter to begin a new line and insert your next field of information. Are you obsessed with word count? Insert the “Words” property here.

I should mention that fields populated this way don’t automatically update when you save. To see the most current information, double-click to highlight the field in question (for a header, place your cursor in one field and then press Control + A to select every field in the header), right-click and select update field. 

If you’ve set your Print preferences to update fields before printing, you can also switch your view to File—>Print Preview and then press Escape to update fields. Below is a screen grab of my template’s header.

Notice the Draft 1? That’s a custom property I added. 

If you want to track drafts or revisions this way, open File—>Properties—> and click on the Custom” tab. Using the “Type” pulldown, choose the type of information you want to record (text, date, number, etc.). 

For this example choose “text”.  In the “Name” field, give your custom property a name. You’ll look for this name in the “Field” window of DocProperty, where you chose what information to include in your header. 

Once you’ve named your custom property, click in the value field and add a value (1 for 1st draft, 2 for 2nd, etc.). When you type a value, the “Add” button highlights. Click it to add your custom property to the document’s properties. 

Follow the previously outlined procedure to include the new property in your header (or footer). Just remember to change this property value and resave your manuscript with a new name that reflects the draft number when you begin subsequent revisions or drafts.

Once you’re satisfied with your header information and any custom properties you’ve added, save the empty document as a Document Template (*.dot) file. Word should save the template in your personal preference folder by default. This location will vary depending on the type and version of your operating system. 

If you’re comfortable navigating the folder structure of your computer, you should definitely backup your personalized templates to another folder or drive. 

To use the template, create a new document from it. This time, when you save your new document, save it as a Word Document (*.doc or *.docx), not a template file. Don’t forget to open File—>Properties and enter information like title, draft, etc.

Congratulations if you made it this far! It may seem like a lot of work, but once you’ve created a template it’s easy to use and re-purpose. 

I hope this post helps you use MS Word to reveal information and better organize your writing.

A special thanks to Lara for allowing me to litter her blog with Cheetos crumbs. Now, go write!

Eric Braswell is a videographer and video editor by day, and an aspiring writer after hours. He is currently completing a collection of short stories, and a Young Adult novel about a senior required to vote and write a report about it to graduate. He blogs at and tweets @Eric_Blues.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Winners and Awards

I didn't plan on posting this weekend, but I got some more blog-love and thought I'd spread it around!  Also, I'm thinking I'm not going to be posting on my own blog this week, since I possibly (not yet sure for Tuesday's post) have two guest posters lined up.  More about that later...

First, I'd like to announce the 100 Followers Party winners.  I used a random number generator on the Psychic Science website to pick two of the twenty-six commenters.

The lucky bloggers are...

Nicole Pyles and Hope Roberson!

If you both would e-mail what kind of gift card you would like, and how you want me to get it to you, at, I would really appreciate it!  Congratulations!

Now for the awards part!  Earlier this week Randy Lindsay from the Campaign tagged me, and then today, Hope Roberson bestowed on me two beautiful new awards.


I just love these awards!  They are so cool.

There are some questions involved with both the tagging and the awards, so I'll get right to it.  For the tagging, I took out some of the questions I've already answered, either here in earlier blog-games, or over at Leigh's.  

Tag, I'm it!

First story you remember writing:  My sister and I wrote an eighty-ish page story that centered around our Duran Duran obsession when I was in high school.  We also wrote a screenplay for an episode of the X-Files.  I wonder where those are?

First Car:  1981 Dodge Colt (in 1990.  It was free because my Dad repaired it back to life for me.  I have the best parents.)  The first car I bought was a 1994 Ford Aspire.

Guilty-Pleasure: I don't have much self-discipline, so every day I give in on something, usually food related.

Do you use foreshadowing to strengthen your plot-line:  Like with everything else writerly, I do try.  I find that I'll do things intuitively and hope they work, rather than have a lot of thought about it.  Since I'm into the editing stages now, that may change.  When I did the first read through, things like opportunities to foreshadow or deepen characterization were obvious, but while writing the first draft I didn't even think about it.

How often do you check stats:  I'm too embarrassed to tell the truth.

What influences what you write:  Injustices I see at work, or in the world.  I'm a big good versus evil kind of person.  I want the good guy to win, and for evil to get it's comeuppance.

Most important thing that happened to me this year:  I attended the Writing the Rockies Conference at Western University this summer.  I signed up for a critique of my first twenty pages, and was assigned Russell Davis to critique it. As a past president of the SFWA, I was really nervous to hear what he said, expecting him to tear it apart. He told me four things that have influenced my self-esteem as a writer, which is why it's the most important writerly thing to happen to me this year.  1) He said if you don't feel confident, act like you do, because you need a certain amount of arrogance to survive in this field 2) He told me I could write 3) He told me my story "kind of intrigued him" 4) He told me that he would have quit reading at any time if the story didn't intrigue him, and he read the whole thing.  It made me feel like I might have a chance. 

Author you most resemble in writing style: I can honestly say I don't know.  Anyone have any suggestions?

And for the awards:

Favorite color: Varies, but right now I'm partial to purple.
Favorite animal: My Viszla, Raymi
Favorite number:  I have never had a favorite number!
Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Diet soda or any kind. I need to quit.
Facebook or Twitter:  Twitter.  I do have a Facebook account, though.
My Passion:  Writing?  That's about all I have time for.  Otherwise, science and magical "stuff"
Getting or giving presents:  Since I'm older now, I'm more about giving, especially with my little boys.  I don't spoil them, but I do like making them happy. :)
Favorite pattern:  A-B-A-B-A-B?
Favorite day of the week:  Friday.  We kind of have a little celebration each night with pizza, pop, and video games.
Favorite flower:  Lately, Sunflowers and Zinnias.  They grow beautifully even in our semi-arid conditions.

Okay! I'm not going to tag anyone else, because I did that before and couldn't find hardly anyone, but thanks so much to Randy for letting me play again!  For passing on the awards, I am going to choose people who haven't gotten an award from me before. (I am having anxiety now because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings!)  

And the awards go to:

So, I'm stopping there!  Thank you again to Randy and Hope!  This week I may have Eric from Eric Blues over for a techie-geeky guest post, since he is the techie-geeky-go-to-guy for me.  This Friday is a Life List Club Friday and I have the great pleasure of having Gary Gauthier from Literary Snippets come and visit. I will be over at Jess Witkins' Happiness Project, talking about something happy.  I haven't planned that far in advance yet!  Have a great week!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

I (Finally!) Get to Celebrate!

Photo Courtesy tungphoto
It's finally happened!  Thanks to all you lovely people out there that decided to hang around for a while, I have reached the big 100 Followers Milestone.


When I started blogging, and my first followers came on board (my friends and family - Stacy, Carolyn, Lola and the first non-related follower known only as wolfe.mailbin) I was overjoyed.  I wasn't just shouting out to empty cyberspace anymore.  There were people out there that might actually want to read what I posted.

The feeling has not changed.  I am still so surprised and super-happy when I get new followers.  I know how many blogs are out there.  The fact that something about my blog made you all want to click into membership thrills my heart.

I have been so in awe of all you bloggers out there who have been blogging for, let's say... two months, and have a zillion followers!  I haven't been jealous, but just amazed.  I've wondered how the heck you did it!

It has taken me a year and a half to get to this blogging milestone.  I began thinking about how to celebrate the occasion since I reached about 80 followers. (I'm an optimist, remember?)

However, I am going to let you all onto a little secret.  I have terrible luck with throwing parties.

No one comes.


The last party I threw (Mary Kay), of the people I invited, guess who came.  My mom and my sister.  And they lived in the same house as me.  That's how bad it is.  You can't see it, but I'm hanging my head in shame. I was so surprised when people actually showed up to my wedding.  And no, I'm not joking.

But this is a big writerly moment for me!  I want to celebrate, so I'm going to throw us a party and you are all invited!

No party (or household) is complete without some kind of sweet-something...  Don't those look yummy?!


We have to have some sort of beverage...

And for those of you who don't drink alcohol...


And the big surprise...


Because who wouldn't love to have an elephant at their party!

Last but not least, I have two party favors.  I am not able to offer helpful services to anyone (like critiques) because I am so busy right now.  I have had a person's manuscript since January (hi! You know who you are - and I'm still sorry this is taking me so long.  I love what I've read so far!) and so I don't want to set anyone up for frustration.  But, what I can offer is a random drawing for anyone who comments on this post for two $15.00 Gift Cards to the place of your choice.  That way, if you live in another country, you can still play.  I'm going to open the drawing up to those of you who commented on the last post, as well, for being a Freak and proud with me!

Before I forget, I was tagged again, but I can't find the comment that tagged me, so I can't answer the questions.  I do appreciate being tagged!  It's so fun.  If I do locate the comment, I'll get over to your blog (whoever you are - you nice, friendly person) and get the questions.

I need to especially thank all the blog-fest hosts out there, and Leigh Covington for interviewing me.  Finally, thank you to each and every one of you of the 100 for coming over here and talking with me, and supporting me.  You are all great blogger-buddies!


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