Welcome!

Welcome to "Showers of Blessings" which is a blog for writers and their readers! It is my prayer you will find many blessings in these humble words as you open your heart to hear about my best friend, Jesus Christ. He has called me to write for Him and though I remain stunned by this, wondering how He could use someone like me in this competitive industry, I know He has equipped me to do the job or He would never have opened all the doors He has to a career in writing. He gets all the glory for such an awesome plan, believe me!

Below each post there is an indication of the number of comments for that post. If you click on that it will bring up the comments for you to read and allow you to leave a comment for me if you would like to do so. I look forward to hearing what you have to say and thank you for taking the time to step with me into the showers of blessings He shares with all of us through His Word!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tools of The Trade

This is the third in a three-part series of posts concerning The Writers Toolbox and how she can most effectively use these tools to improve her writing. Hope they jump-start your imagination so you can add to these tools with those you have found to be most helpful!

Carpenter’s Pencil

Use this tool to write on the manuscript itself any notes which seem important to a passage as you reread it time and again. It can be in the form of a red pen or pencil or even colored markers, indicating various questions or problems. Perhaps a green one for poor description, or yellow for consideration to be cut, or orange for rewording? Or perhaps all kinds of symbols—such as stars for weak description, triangles for dialogue which needs attention, or squares for material which needs to be cut or reworded. Then when you glance at the pages later, you can easily spot those areas which need revision. I’ve done this with Word Find, to highlight the words which I use too often so I can eliminate them. Don’t be afraid to mark up the pages in early drafts; your mind can’t possibly hold it all and the use of a pencil will alert you to potential problems which need consideration later!

Plane

Use it to smooth out the rough edges of your manuscript. The more obvious needs are to check spelling and grammar usage but less obvious ones might be clich├ęs and metaphors which contradict mood or content and therefore appear to be silly and distracting. Yes, spell check is a marvelous tool but remember to always, always, always follow up with your own keen eye to misspellings. There is a reason for those little squiggly lines under some of your words; find out what they mean and figure out how to eliminate them, don’t simply ignore them. Otherwise, your book will have those rough edges which editors are not crazy about!

Level

Use it to balance everything out once the work is almost complete. Step back and take a hard look at the piece/book to see if it needs an extra chapter or cutting one or more existing ones. Also look carefully at the length of your words and sentences and vary these according to the action. Shorter sentences build tension, for instance, but varying the length will also hold the reader’s interest. Another area to look at is the structure of the sentences; that is, are they all subject/verb/object ones? Try inserting questions here and there as well to keep things intriguing for the reader. Balance is especially critical for a non-fiction book where the length of chapters needs to be somewhat even. Examine the Table of Contents to discover this at a glance and see if your eye catches a glaring hole or excessive material which should be cut. Then check out each chapter as well with the same focus in mind and make sure that bubble stays in the middle!

There are probably many more tools which could be added to this toolbox, for it will be most effective if it is personalized just for your type and style of writing. Use your common sense when putting together the items you need for a specific project and you will find creating your masterpiece will be easier than you ever believed it could be. Having the right tools and the knowledge of how they work will bring your dream of being published closer to reality!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tools of the Trade

This is the second in a three-part series designed to help equip writers with the tools they need to complete the job of writing God has called them to do. Please see last week’s post for the first part; the last installment will appear next weekend. Let me know what you think!

Nails/Screws/Bolts/Nuts/Washers
Use these to finish off your manuscript in fine form as you fit the precise word exactly where it is needed to hold the entire project together. They may be little and seem worthless at first glance, but without them your book will be wobbly and insecure. Words are what we writers are all about, after all. Leave out the adjectives and adverbs and use powerful and specific verbs and nouns instead. Be sure you have used the correct one of these various tools for a particular spot which needs tightening and also ensure you haven’t repeated words within a sentence or paragraph, preferably even within a document. Learn what each is for and how to use them properly, then apply where required!

Screwdriver

Use it to put the screws (see above) into place and tighten them securely. A thesaurus and a dictionary are vital to your writing, whether in book form or on the computer from a software program of your own choosing. If a word doesn’t seem to be fitting properly, check to ensure that you have used the correct screwdriver for the job; a slot-head won’t work on a Phillips-head screw, obviously, and vice versa. Many synonyms exist for words in English but if one can’t be found, then consider rewording to perhaps use an antonym instead. And be careful not to over tighten—that is, to use words simply because you know they exist and like the sound of them. No one enjoys reading “superfluous verbiage” when simple words will do. And in the same manner, don’t try to use a screwdriver when a hammer is needed!

Hammer

Use it to pound in the nails (see above) as needed. When revising your manuscript, tap lightly at first until you are certain you have the wording you want. Then hammer away on those words until they fit tightly into the meaning of the passage. And don’t forget the nail remover part of a hammer. If you discover the nail is wrong for the hole or has been stripped of its purpose by overuse, pull it out and start over finding the correct nail for that spot!

Wrench

Use it to tighten the nuts and bolts of your manuscript. Ensure you have the correct size and type of words you need, then tighten as much as possible to give the project a finished feel readers will appreciate (including publishers!). Every step in tightening your writing is a good one and well worth the effort. This tool may seem bulky at first but there is no other one which can be used for this purpose, so don’t overlook it in the revision process!

Chisel

Use with the hammer to chip away at your manuscript wherever you find repetitive words and phrases. Word find is a marvelous tool for this and will help you discover which ones you use the most. A writer friend of mine has called these “Writer’s Warts” and she is so right. They can mar a page quicker than spilled ink, because ink is easy to spot whereas these are more insidious since they are hidden to our eyes as a rule. Another reader can also help with finding them but it still is your job to use the chisel effectively whenever required!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

With this post I’m starting a three-part series called The Writer’s Toolbox, designed to give authors some practical advice for their writing. While best taken as a whole, I believe these ideas will still serve the purpose divided up, so each section will be of reasonable length for a Blog. I hope you enjoy them!

The Writer’s Toolbox

For a writer to be successful at her profession, she must employ a number of tools. It is not wise to be scatter-brained about this, for order and organization are the keys to using those tools effectively. That is, once she has educated herself on how to use each one and understands its purpose thoroughly, her writing will clearly show the benefit.
My husband is a homebuilder and while he generally employs those with the proper tools to do a specific contracting job on his houses, from time to time he takes hammer in hand and corrects or completes a task himself. Several years ago I bought him a small soft-sided toolbox to carry in his car so he could have those tools he uses the most often handy and ready when they are needed. I truly didn’t think he would use it much and if his first reaction was any indication of his own attitude about the gift, he didn’t either! However, to the surprise of both of us, it has become one of his most essential items for work.
As mentioned earlier, organization and order are key to using tools effectively. Therefore, gather the items below and keep them handy whenever you begin to write. Learning about these tools and how to use them, as well as practicing with them often, will increase your confidence and ability in writing and speaking circumstances alike and take you one step closer to your hope of being published someday.

Measuring Tape

Use it to figure out the parameters of your writing project. Study each publisher’s guidelines, learn the requirements for your genre, and read constantly to see them in action within the pages of a book which has already been published. Don’t worry excessively about meeting another author’s standards, however; they won’t be precisely the same for your project. Learn the rules so when you break them, you will fully understand that you are doing so and exactly why. And don’t forget to review your WIP (work in progress) from time to time during the writing/revision process to ensure it is fitting well within those original parameters—still measuring up!

Electric Drill

Use it on your computer with the cut and paste feature, to move sentences, paragraphs, even entire sections at a time without having to retype. Those of us who grew up before computers find ourselves wishing we’d had the ability to do this while typing endless papers in high school and college on regular typewriters. It is amazing how many writers don’t understand how to use cut and paste even though they do all their composing on a computer. If you don’t know how to effectively use this tool, learn today. It can save you endless hours of needless frustration. You can drill the marked passage into any portion of your manuscript, consider its new placement, and then cut it out again if need be. A drill works both forward and in reverse, remember!

Pliers

Use this tool to jerk out extraneous words and phrases as needed. Write freely on your first draft but then get down to business after that, using these abundantly. I often will pull out sentences and save them to a new document until I’m confident they are not needed elsewhere, then simply delete the new document without keeping it once I’m satisfied with the original passage. This tool is one of the most needed by all writers so don’t feel discouraged if you find yourself using it constantly as that is what it is there for!

Saw

Use this tool along with the ones above to cut out material which is not needed and which drags your manuscript down. Wordiness is the kiss of death for a writer, yet we all tend to indulge in it from time to time. Best advice for this? Less is always better. Seek out the scenes which do not move the plot forward, which have no real relevance to the action (no matter how beautiful the prose!), and use this tool on them. If a word, a gesture, a paragraph, a scene, a chapter, even a plot twist do not serve the primary plot they need to be eliminated. And this tool is just the one to do the job!

Next week we will look at several more tools you might never have considered necessary for writing!







Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sometimes life deals us a hand which we never saw coming and leaves us reeling. Other times events unfold in slow motion and seem to take forever to develop, yet we know where they are leading and desperately wish we could bypass the conclusion. Either way, if we are not solidly grounded in our faith, we can be blown away by the ferocity or perhaps feel as though we are on a speeding train about to veer off a 40-foot trestle into the chasm below.

Christ has promised never to leave us and He always keeps His word. I have found this to be absolutely true in countless instances throughout my 61 years, and there is no reason to believe He will suddenly change the way He operates now! Even if I cannot see my way clear to the next step, I can know Who holds that step and Who holds me. And the resulting peace truly does pass all human understanding, all common sense, all intelligent logic. Just as He promised. And now my husband Gary and I have begun to move down a difficult path which will require every ounce of faith we can muster to move forward with confidence and courage, born of our deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Gary has been diagnosed with cryptogenic cirrhosis of the liver which basically means they haven’t a clue what caused it, since he doesn’t fit any of the usual risk factors for the disease. There is nothing which can be done to cure the cirrhosis itself but they can treat the numerous symptoms as they arise and hope to stay one step ahead of the more deadly aspects of it as long as possible. His primary problem at this point is extreme and unpredictable fatigue which often makes completing the simplest of tasks impossible and at best makes them take longer than normal. He is on a large number of medications to take care of the various symptoms which have arisen so far but since he is not a viable candidate at this point for a liver transplant, according to the doctors there is little long-term hope. He has about a 5-10 year life expectancy right now as long as he is stable, but we are actively praying for a miraculous healing which will defy the doctors’ reasoning! However, whatever God has planned for him ultimately we know will bring the Lord much honor even through our suffering.

This situation has rearranged many of our family’s priorities and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Therefore, posting on a regular basis for my Blog has become an impossible commitment regardless of how important it is. The Blog will be done on a weekly basis if I am able and if not, whenever I am. Please know I will make every effort to adhere to my self-imposed deadline on this but cannot predict what my life will hold from one day to the next. And truthfully, who can??

Over these last few weeks my writing has continued as much as I have been able to squeeze it in here and there between doctor appointments, as well as spending time with my husband whenever I can. I want my readers to understand the complications in my lifestyle right now but make no apologies for my limitations, either. This Blog is not for the purposes of revealing details of my personal life nearly as much as it is designed to showcase my writing ability and inform my Followers of news about my writing career as it develops, within the scope of how God is leading me through it. Therefore, this will be my last reference to my husband’s illness except as necessary; I mention it this time only to give my readers a solid reason for my recent extended absence in posting. If you would lift Gary up in prayer as the Holy Spirit brings him to mind, I would greatly appreciate it. His spirits are good because his eternal future is secure in His Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. And together Gary and I give God the complete glory and submit to His divine sovereignty over our lives. May He receive any honor due for walking with us through this dark valley!

Please see the next post for exciting news about my writing!