Tuesday, May 16, 2023

I Might Be Able To Use That Someday

Ever since I started writing fiction, my days consist of one fun-loving circus after the other. Like a tightrope walker, I step forward with with weight on my author platform. Next step, leaning into the crafting of words. A delicate balance.

I juggle several plates of research, first drafts, edits, social media posts, blogs, and public relations opportunities.

Story ideas swing back and forth in my mind until I finally let go of the trapeze to grasp the approaching bar of my computer. I type madly on the upswing which lands me safely on the next platform, complete with a page--or a hundred pages--of a story.

It's impossible to plan far ahead, for wonder of wonders, I’m a pantser! After a teaching career of detailed lesson plans, the idea of outlining every aspect of my novel spurred rebellion in my soul.

However, discovering my spontaneous personality has become a delightful adventure.

I know my characters and follow their lead. Oh, they let me lead them sometimes, but if I get off track, they shove me back in line. I will stay bogged down in some swamp of narrative until I backtrack to the path they intended for me.

Along the way, either forward or backward, random thoughts race through my brain. If I'm purposeful in gathering those thoughts, I enjoy the distinct pleasure of panning for gold. All kinds of nuggets appear as I sift through them.

“I might be able to use that someday,” I think. And I stuff them in this:

My composition book

Random thoughts don’t appear only as I write or journal. When I travel, I watch for road signs and billboard ads. The names of shops and towns are fascinating. I whip out my notebook and jot it all down, noting where I saw them. My favorite: Winter Wheat Antiques in central Illinois. 

When I'm in restaurants and airports, I people-watch and write down their behaviors, their eccentricities. I even make up stories about them on the spot.

I write down dreams, blog ideas, beautiful phrases I think up, metaphors, sensory details of a given moment. I might be able to use them someday.

I copy quotations and credit the original author for I might be able to use them someday.

A couple weeks ago, I attended a banquet honoring athletes from my husband’s high school. Twelve recipients, each with a presenter. Both speakers were to limit their remarks to five minutes each. That equals two hours for awards plus all the introductions by the master of ceremonies beforehand. It was going to be a long night, so I started writing my impressions of their comments on the back of the program.

My husband leaned over. “Are you taking notes?

“My hands need something to do while I listen,” I replied. “Besides, I might be able to use this someday.”

So, I’m a paper and pencil person for writing down the minutia of life to use someday and loving it. What about you? Do you depend on memory? Use your smart phone? Never record details? What kinds of things do you find you observe the most?

Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She has published a  middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister. Book One, Reaching Into Silence, was an ACFW Genesis Contest semi-finalist and a First Impressions Finalist.

Linda had always figured she’d teach teens and tweens until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair and rolled her out the door. 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 becoming an author.

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:










Tuesday, May 2, 2023

On the Clock

 Here’s a bit of trivia that could change your writing habits:

Mechanical clocks were invented to call the faithful to prayer.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, several European cathedrals installed clock towers powered by falling water or metallic springs to mark the canonical hours (i.e., times designated for prayer). These clocks seldom had faces or hands, simply a bell to chime the times to rise from bed and pray. They had to be adjusted throughout the year, since canonical hours were measured from sunrise or sunset, which changed with the seasons.

Muslim mathematicians devised clocks of their own for the same purpose. Faithful Muslims pray five times each day, two of which are sunset and evening. So what are the exact times of those darkening hours?  A clock establishes them. When a Muslim clock indicates the time for prayer, a muezzin cries out from a tower to call worshipers to their duty.

What does this have to do with our writing habits? Simply this: 

Each of us eventually learns that we are most productive if we begin our writing at the same time every day.

If you’ve ever worked in a factory, you know what it means to be “on the clock.” When you begin your work day, you punch a time card in a device that records your time in, and when you stop work for lunch or the end of the day, you punch the card again to record your time out. The span between is your time “on the clock”—time you are focused on your work, time for which you will be paid.

As a writer, what’s your daily time “on the clock”? This is when you go to the niche you devote to writing, you turn off your phone ringer, and pay no attention to incoming emails. This is the place and time you dedicate to writing, nothing else.

If you’re falling short of your writing goals, ask yourself when you’re on the clock. If you haven't identified such a time, try designating one. Set alarms for the start and end of your daily writing time, and follow that schedule without fail. It’ll improve your productivity.

Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth.