Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Accountability: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

 For most of this year, my posts have been encouraging you to seek the support you need as a writer. I’ve talked about mentors, critiques, and this is my second post on accountability. Specifically, learning to be a successful author is going to cost you in money and time.

Take courses online. From a college. From successful authors. Courses can be inexpensive, or for a more sacrificial price, you can join a group for lifetime membership and have a ton of wisdom at your disposal. The internet is full of possibilities where you can learn more about the craft for a price. In my case, I see so many possibilities, that my head spins, which only ends up with my wheels spinning and getting me nowhere.

Writers Conferences: The most powerful accountability tool

I’m a big fan of in-person conferences. Maybe because the first one I ever attended changed my perspective on everything writerly!

I started big, risking a small fortune. ACFW’s national conference with over seven hundred in attendance petrified me! But my critique buddies buoyed me up when I wanted to sink to my knees in abject fear. By the third day, I was bouncing around like an overeager golden Labrador puppy. 

I met editors and agents. And they were real people just like me! I listened to authors and publishers who taught me more than my brain could contain in one weekend. My critique group solidified into a giant, group friendship. Nine years later, they’re still the first people I seek out for advice.

While discussing that first conference investment, my gallant husband thought I was crazy, but he agreed to strain the budget. Since that time, he’s seen me publish short stories, win some contests, and gain an agent. He’s now as hopeful as I am that my books will be published.

We are currently in the throes of the Conference Season.

At least, that’s what I call it. While a writer can find a conference during any month of the year, it seems our options expand from May through October. Even more so since the pandemic. Because conferences were forced to organize as a series of Zoom meetings, the possibilities of attending from home are endless—and less costly.

But I need people in the room. I need to speak with someone face to face, not face to screen. Especially when it’s a large group. How do you look anyone in the eye through a camera lens?

In fact, as I write this, I’m about to embark on a road trip to my next conference adventure. I’m so excited! My first chance in two years to mingle with people who understand writerspeak!

You may question the value of a major monetary commitment. “They’re so expensive,” you say. “Registration, meals, travel, lodging. Not to mention my ability to break the bank once I’m in the conference book store!”

Well, there’s that. 

Let’s add it up.

Registration fees: Anywhere from $100 to $1000.

Travel: A roundtrip flight can range from $300 to $600 stateside. Gasoline—figure the total miles,  know how many miles you get to a tank of gas and what that cost is for you. Decide how many fill-ups you’ll need and multiply accordingly. (1000 miles round trip. My little car gets 400 miles to the tank. Each stop to fill up costs me about $30.00. So I will need three tanks of gas with plenty left over. Which means my gasoline cost is $90.)

Meals on the way to conference and back home. Depends on the distance and what you’re willing to pay. Anywhere from ten bucks to two hundred. Most conferences include your meals.

Lodging. Again, you have options. Can you share your room with another participant and split the cost? Are you adventuresome enough to have four to a room? Do you prefer to find a cheaper hotel nearby? Assume the cost is $100 per night, and this is a three-day, two night conference. So $200.

Add it up.

Registration:                $100-1000

Travel:                         $  90-600

Meals:                          $  10-200

Lodging:                     $200-1000

 

Total:                           $400-3800 (+ books!)

 

The opportunity to practice writerspeak with other authors: PRICELESS.

 

Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.

Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft.

A wife, mother of three, and grandmother to eight, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!

Where Linda can be found on the web:

www.lindasammaritan.com

www.facebook.com/lindasammaritan

www.twitter.com/LindaSammaritan

 

 

 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Proofreading by Ear: Do You Hear What I Hear??

By Darren Kehrer

Have you ever written something and then gone back to read it only to catch missing words, words you misspelled (the misspelled word was still correctly spelled but not flagged for meaning,) or even words you omitted all together?

In all of these situations, it's amazing when you go back and re-read how your eyes automatically fill in the gaps or fix mistakes without notifying your brain of the actual goof. Well, I've found a nice little trick in MS Word that also works in Outlook as well: Read Aloud

In Microsoft Office Word or Outlook, there is an option to "Read Aloud" the words on the screen. This works on both Mac or PC versions.

  • Microsoft Word/Outlook
    • Review
    • Read Aloud
    • Control Bar
      • There are options to change both reading speed and voices.

This feature is absolutely amazing in highlighting potential errors as the software reads what you wrote back to you.  Yes, it's not perfect. But when you hear "chose" instead of "choose" or "you" instead of "your" the value of this feature really starts to pay off. The Mac version seems to have a few more default options, but I believe you can download more "voices" from Microsoft as well.

 

Pro TIP: When the voice is "reading" to you, make sure you stop it before making changes. Otherwise, it starts changing from that point. I've noticed un-wanted changes in the wrong places if you do not do that first.







Tuesday, August 17, 2021

ACCOUNTABILITY: YOU ARE A WRITER!

 

Those of you in ACFW Indiana who are published can already say with confidence, “I am a writer.” But what about members of the group with no book to show to the public?

Maybe you write a blog. Maybe you’ve published a story in an anthology or a magazine. That makes you a writer!

What if you haven’t even gotten that far? Writing is a dream, and you would love to get started, but you’re terrified. “What if I can’t do it?” Or you’re going around in circles. “Life is so busy. I can’t carve out any hours in my week for writing.”

No more excuses! You joined ACFW to gain ability. Now commit. Declare it to the world. “I AM a writer.” That statement alone will kick your brain into writing gear. So let’s tend to those fears and distractions.

 

What if you don’t have time?

 

You budget hours for each day in the same way you budget your finances. Instead of breaking it down into mortgage payments, groceries and utilities, assign hours to sleep, prayer, chores, day job, and family.

What’s left? What can be cut by half an hour? Analyze your TV time. Unless it counts as snuggle time with kids or spouse, cut it out. I realized I was watching evening shows for three hours every night. I kept my favorites and now aim for one hour a night. That means I can write for two hours!

If you examine your time budget, and not one minute can be spared, maybe you temporarily set aside the writing dream until you reach a season when life will be less hectic.

 

What if you can’t write?

 

God wouldn’t have put the desire in your heart if you couldn’t do it. Granted, as you begin, you may be climbing a steep learning curve, but there’s a story in your soul. Tell the world about it on your social media. Tell them the core message.

And start your story. With a prayer and a pen and paper. Or with flying fingers tapping on your keyboard.

Once you’ve publicly committed, use the same social media to announce writing milestones and daily progress.

 

If you want to ramp up your commitment further, start a newsletter.

 

Simple way to start: allow yourself a window of time, say four newsletters in two months. Ask friends and family to sign up. They’re not committed forever and neither are you. It can be your experiment as you play the role of WRITER.

For several months I’ve posted right here on support groups--different kinds of mentors, critique groups, and readers. Your public is also a support group. When they “follow” you, “like” you, or “retweet” you, when they sign up for your newsletter, they have taken on the role of  supporters. They look forward to learning more about you, the WRITER, because in their minds, you ARE a writer!

 

Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.

Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft.

A wife, mother of three, and grandmother to eight, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!

Where Linda can be found on the web:

www.lindasammaritan.com

www.facebook.com/lindasammaritan

www.twitter.com/LindaSammaritan

 

 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Care and Tending of a Writing Life

 Last week while we vacationed in the mountains of North Carolina, my flowers back home thrived thanks to the efforts of our grandson, assisted by his parents, who faithfully tended to their care and watering. While we relaxed and took in the sights with hubby’s brother’s family, our kin back in Indiana took our place toting buckets of water to twenty flower-bearing potted containers of varying shapes and sizes.

Days later when we arrived home less than an hour before midnight, I made a beeline for the front door. I switched on the light over the front steps, unlocked the door, and stepped outside. A glance to the left and then to the right brought a relieved smile to my face as I was greeted by the sight of deep-toned purple and pink blossoms spilling over the edges of pots large and small.

Despite leaving detailed instructions and offering our grandson a hands-on demonstration, I worried that the plants wouldn’t fair so well in our absence. I should have known my concern was unwarranted. My grandson had assured me they would not let my flowers die. 

All this thought and energy directed towards my flowers set my mind to wondering about the care and nurturing of my writing life. While some scribes found the past year-and-a-half to be a productive time for putting words to paper, that wasn’t the case for me. I soon realized that the very things that fed and nurtured my writing life took a major hit thanks to the pandemic. And it would seem a slower-paced life doesn’t work as well for me as does a busier schedule. Who knew?

What about you?  How do you care for your writing life? Maybe the first question should be do you tend your writing life? Feed it, water it, nourish, and care for it? 

What works for you? What doesn't? What have you newly-discovered and/or resurrected from the past?

Please share your best bets in the comments below. I’m all ears!

Beth’s combined experiences teaching the high school Sunday School class, substitute teaching in the public school, and connecting with the teenage staff at the fast-food joint where she claimed a “back booth office” helped inspire her young adult “Choices Matter” fiction series. She's a "cheerleader" for saving sex for marriage and for "renewed waiting" because it's never too late to make wiser choices. Her “Waiting Matters … Because YOU Matter” blog helps people of all ages navigate the choppy waters of saving sex for marriage while her “Slices of Real Life” posts find GOD in the day-to-day moments of real life.

 As a genetic genealogy enthusiast, she writes and speaks about her experiences as a "foundling" who located her birth parents. Her journey to find and connect with her biological family is chronicled in the blog series “A Doorstep Baby’s Search for Answers.” All of her writing endeavors can be found on her website, https://bethsteury.com.          




Tuesday, July 20, 2021

WHO LOVES TO READ? Seeking Your Beta Readers

For most of 2021, I've written a series on different types of writing support. I've shared about mentors, critique formats, and now for the fun part. Or the most excruciating.

Beta Readers

Just like with critiques, a beta reader can't be your best friend or a family member. Sure, let those people read your book, but don't call them beta readers. No, you're looking for people who love to read.

Beta readers have a discriminating eye. they'll see gaps in story, typos, and awkward sentence structures that were missed in all the critiques. They will tell you what you still need to do to garner an enthusiastic audience.

How do you find your beta readers?

Think about your wide circle of acquaintances. Who do you respect? Who likes to read? Who has a grasp of written language? Who won't worry about hurting your feelings? These are the people who will be honest about what works well in your story. And what doesn't.

Or you can pay a professional service. Fiverr.com comes to mind. They have beta reading services ranging from $300 to $8oo for a starting price. If you're an indie writer, I believe they're worth it. I am blessed that my agent does a developmental edit on my books. Not all of them do.

If you ask an acquaintance to be a beta reader, Jessica Conoley recommends that you offer the first ten pages to start. Let the person try it out. If their reaction is neutral to negative, it's your call if you want to ask them to continue. Be prepared for them to say no. Reading a whole book as a kindness to you is a sacrificial use of their time. But if they love those first ten pages, you can feel comfortable asking them to read the rest of the book.

I've sweetened the pot with my readers by letting them know they will be included in acknowledgments when my book is published. Amazing how everyone loves to see their name in lights! Or in this case, in print.

How can you guide your beta readers?

The best advice I received when handing my manuscript to a beta reader was to send along a questionnaire asking specific questions about the book. Keep in mind that the questions I asked were to middle grade students.Yours could be a little more refined.

  •     Did the story hold your attention? Why or why not?
  •     Which parts were most interesting? Which were not?
  •     Could you understand why the characters did the things they did ?
  •     Could you picture the setting in each scene?
  •     Were there moments when you didn't understand what was going on?
  •      Did you feel like anything was left out of the story? A question you had that never got answered?

Beta reading is a macro critique, so understand that some of your reader comments are personal opinions and may have nothing to do with the quality of your writing. Feel free to toss those kinds of comments out the window.

Most beta readers are eager to encourage you and will offer constructive comments. Delight in those individuals willing to read your whole book and offer an honest opinion.

 

Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.

Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft.

A wife, mother of three, and grandmother to eight, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!

Where Linda can be found on the web:

 

www.lindasammaritan.com

www.facebook.com/lindasammaritan

www.twitter.com/LindaSammaritan