Monday, April 1, 2024

2024 - April - Part 3 of Wise Words: Join a Writing Group

 Wise Words, Part 3 - JOIN A WRITING GROUP

This three-part series began with a look at those the three elements consistently appearing on those seven to twenty-five "easy steps" lists to becoming a writer: Write, Read, and Join a Writing Group. Now we tackle that third element.

Don't cringe. Joining a writer's group can be daunting or distressful or a godsend. The outcome depends on what you seek in your writing and in your becoming the writer you want to be.

Why would joining a group be daunting? It's about the search to find a group. No two groups are alike. Some groups are strictly for critiquing. Others are for learning and practicing the craft. Some groups are social-oriented. Some are a combination. 

Joining a group can also be distressful. Sharing one's work often feels worse than public speaking. 

When getting or giving feedback, it's important to keep logic and objectivity center stage, not emotions and subjectivity. Sure, writers want praise, but if that's the only goal, then the writer isn't likely to grow as a writer, are they? 

As I've said many times over the years, all a reader has to go by are the actual words on the page and the dictionary meaning of those words and how they are strung together coherently. It's a movie that must form in the reader's mind as they read.

Finding the right group of writers is a trial and error process until you find "the one." To locate a group near you, check your local library or book store. You can go online and look, too. I would recommend checking out the one I belong to—Pennwriters,, or search for a genre-specific writing group like mystery, romance, fantasy/Sci-fi, horror writers, and so on.

In a nutshell, joining a compatible-for-you writer's group can be a godsend that provides hope, encouragement, enlightenment, help, education, and honesty about the words written on a page. 

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Saturday, March 2, 2024

2024 - March - Wise Words, Part 2 - READ

  This is the second of a three-part series.

Last month's topic was WRITE. This month the topic is READ. So—

Can reading help you write better, create better stories, create believable story people? Yes, it can.

The subconscious works most effectively when provided with abundant and varying input. It is vital that the subconscious collects such information because storytelling is about the juxtaposition of ideas, knowledge, facts, and fiction. 

So, fill your subconscious file cabinets with information that's available from books. Not only the facts but also fantasies and genre classics. Delve into the experiences of others with biographies. Look into histories and documentaries. Read outside your genre or interest comfort zones.

Newspapers, magazines, and other news outlets provide condensed articles and essays on dangers and horrors of crimes and wars, as well as the extremes of passion and folly. Such things make a writer more empathetic, aware, and, yes, they even offer enlightenment.

When it come to creating believable characters, reading allows for observation and insight into the human condition and how people act and react in given situations. So base story characters in "a truth" and their stories will have verisimilitude.

Do read works by good writers who are well-known. This aids in subconsciously absorbing the power of prose—i.e. grammar, punctuation, paragraphing, syntax, vocabulary, and style. Such things are not to be duplicated but must contribute to a writer's own unique "voice."

Reading good stories, whether long or short, helps a writer subconsciously absorb what story is, its structure, the flow of plot and theme, and so much more.

So does reading have any downside? Of course. Often reading great works is intimidating. It is futile for a novice writer to compare themselves to the greats. Yet keep in mind that those greats succeeded through perseverance and learning the craft and art of storytelling.

Imitation of what's being read is also a danger. Imitating may be a form of flattery, but it's also detrimental to the development of one's own writing style. 

Another downside is that reading might lead to procrastination. For instance, it may be more fun to read others' works then polishing one's own writing.

To become a writer, reading is fundamental. Read 100 books in the genre you intend to write in. Among those 100 books will be the ones you cannot forget as well as the ones you had to force yourself to read. In the doing, you'll find similarities and differences. You'll also discern what made the one book a keeper and the other a book worth putting in the trash bin.

So—feed your subconscious. Read, read, read.

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Thursday, February 1, 2024

2014 - February - Wise Words, Part 1 — WRITE

Part 1 - WRITE 

On becoming a writer there are numerous sites and blogs on the Internet touting anywhere from seven to twenty-five "easy steps" to becoming a writer. In looking over such sites, three items consistently appeared on the lists: Write, Read, and Join a Writing Group.

Rather than tackle all three in one blog post, I'm doing one aspect a month. This month being— Write.

What writer hasn't been told to write every day? After all it is said that writing is like a muscle, if you don't use it you lose it. But— 

Look at the reality of writing every day. That logically means writing 365 days a year. No weekends off. No sick days. No life emergencies. No holidays or special events to celebrate or take time off for. No kids, pets, spouses, relatives, or friends to deal with. Of course eating, sleeping, visits to the bathroom, and other necessities are permitted for health reasons.

Today's writing methods include AI, dictating stories verbally, and cell phone thumbing. I'm not addressing those methods but starting with writing in a journal or diary every day. Be it written with a pen, a pencil, or with a keyboard, it's daily writing.

Unfortunately, writing fiction or nonfiction as well as writing literary or genre works changes the writing pace. Even the speedy social media blogger is affected by how many worthwhile words that can be generated at a keyboard in an hour or a day.

Notice I said worthwhile words.

The first attempt by writers is the first draft. That initial writing effort is to get the ideas down. But at what speed?

If the speed is by hand, with pen or pencil, the average handwritten speed for an adult is eight words a minute. However, the speed range is actually sited as being between five and twenty words a minute. If you learn or know Greg Shorthand (or some other speed writing method), 60-80 words a minute is average with the Greg record being 350 words a minute.

As to the typewriter? Well, its day has come and, unfortunately, gone, but we still have the keyboard. The average typing speed is considered 40 words per minute. If you want a secretarial job, the minimum is still 60 words a minute. An advanced typist needs 80 words a minute.

In the age of computers and their keyboards, the base line is still 40-60 words a minute but more desirable is 60-90 words a minute. If someone has an average of 120 words a minute, they are in the top 1% of typists in the world. And then there is the typing speed record of 300 words per minute.

But set those statistics aside. Look at the practical writing speeds and the possible word count for an hour:

Average handwritten speed: 8 words per minute = 480 words an hour

Average typing speed: 40 words per minute = 2400 words an hour

Average typing speed: 60 wpm = 3600 words per hour

Average typing speed: 80 wpm = 4,800 words an hour

Here's the thing, the experts say the average to strive for is 100 words an hour.

Now, the reality check: who can sustain such average speeds consistently, let alone for a solid hour? I sure can't and I've been typing since I was sixteen years old (and worked for decades as a secretary).

Take a deep breath. Don't think you have to write every single day at high speeds. If writing is important to you —  and as Sol Stein says if you are a writer who cannot not write —  then cultivate a habit of writing that suits you. Achieve that by experimenting with different methods of producing work until you find one that generates completed works in a timely fashion. 

Once you find your groove, write and keep writing your way.

Next Month  Part 2, READ

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Monday, January 1, 2024

01 - January 2024 - Happy New Year ?


Oh, No, Not Another New Year's Resolution!

Do you despair at making New Year's Resolutions?

Considering the failure rate statistic is that 90% of those who make resolutions never achieve them. But, kudos to those that do.

Another research statistic says 23% of people quit their resolution by the end of the first week, and 43% quit by the end of January.

Resolutions are usually about bad habits we want to undo or end. It takes desire and willpower to overcome such ingrained patterns of behavior or desires.

It's also a fact that the joy of a New Year, those bright and shining days ahead, lead us into a state of euphoria that cannot be maintained 365 days of a year. 

Then there is the human nature factor— Reality will always trump the illusion. And yet, setting resolutions is also a long-standing tradition. Can't win, right?

Experts on human behavior like to substitute goals for resolutions. Setting goals is far better if one understands the goal must be specific and realistic, meaning the goal is concrete, something tangible. For instance, I want to achieve publication by a quality New York publisher. That's doable if I write a popular genre-themed novel that's a page-turner no one can put down until The End. 

Goals should be broken down into smaller goals. That helps insure reaching the primary goal, say to write a novel. To novice writers, I tell them to start small. Go from the developed short story to a novella to a novelette to a novel. That's because it's far easier to learn craft in a short form than draft a novel that has so many flaws it's better to leave it in one's Achieved Story File on one's computer. 

But do save the idea and characters. They can be recycled when one learns what story is and the ins and outs of the technical aspects of plot, characterization, theme, dialogue mechanics, cause-and-effect sequences, etc.

So, did you make resolutions last year on January 1st?

        Did you keep them? And— are you setting resolutions or goals for 2024?

I wish you all the best in learning and growing as a writer in this new year of 2024.

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Friday, December 1, 2023

2023 - December - Christmas Greeting Cards


As a writer, have you ever thought about the greeting card market? Here are a few statistics that I found interesting:

Revenue forecast for all greeting cards in 2023 is estimated at over 20 billion dollars. 

The traditional card segment accounted for 75.76% in 2022

The e-Card greeting cards segment is expected to grow at 4.2% during the forecast period from 2023-2030

According to the facts from the Greeting Card Association, Americans purchase an estimated 6.5 billion greeting cards each year

The average spending on greeting cards in the US is $29 per year.

                                           Source: Greeting Cards Market Size, Share & Trends Report 2023, Grand View Research

Another statistic is that the average greeting card writer in the US earns $22.53 per hour. 

Then there are the independent crafters who make and sell their own greeting cards. Although I don't sell my greeting cards, I use my computer to generate the cards I make cards for my friends' and relatives' birthdays and the major holidays. I use my own photographs of flowers and scenery on the cover of the cards. I customize the words inside for the recipient. Although most of the time, I make up the inside greeting, sometimes I use quotes from famous people.

For you, my blog followers and readers, I send good wishes for your holiday season and — 

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