I Can’t Work With Clean

By Gail Johnson

Are you a planner or a free-spirit? Organized or messy? Plotter or pantser?

Now, you may be wondering what my questions have to do with organizing your writing. Well, for starters, one man’s idea of organization is another man’s idea of a mess. And the more you know about yourself, the more productive your life will be.

For example, in the movie, Yours, Mine & Ours, Rene Russo plays Helen North, a free-spirited artist. Dennis Quaid plays Naval officer, Frank Beardsley, who runs a tight ship. When they decide to marry, worlds collide as Quaid tries to change his wife’s messy ways.

I can't work with clean. I have a deadline

I’m a mixture of both characters. When it comes to my house and yard, I’m a militaristic planner with a to-do list longer than my arm. I get a tick when something is out of place. And when I’m unable to clean or rake… Mama ain’t happy!

On the other hand, when it comes to writing, I’m one of the worst organizers around. I’ve written on restaurant napkins, oil filter box tops—it was all hubby had in the truck, at the time—and the bottom of my shoe. Yep, with my favorite pen.

A Pilot G-2 05 gel pen and a composition book are my choice instruments for the first chapters. Using longhand puts the writing side of me in control. While at the computer, the mouthy critic and finicky editor take over.

Also, writing longhand allows me to write all over the house and the yard.  Personally, when my body is in motion, my brain is in motion. Writing is easy. My characters talk a mile a minute and their words fill the empty pages.

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Eventually, I have a good idea where the story is going. Then and only then, do I sit down at a computer. And even then, I don’t hide my notes in documents. Yes, I know about Evernote, Onenote, Who note and all those other notes. But if “I” put my notes in a document, I tend to forget about them. I “need” to see them, at all times. And that makes for a messy desk!

The same goes for my office. I have papers scattered from one end of the room to the other. I have a write-on board for lyrics and a plotting board for scenes. At first glance, one would think it is a mess, but I tell you there is a method to my madness.

Steve MartinThe point I’m trying to make is this: we will drive ourselves nuts trying to be something we’re not. Furthermore, we will waste more time trying to conform to an idea rather than spending time writing. We need to understand what works best for us, and then do it.

Show up. Set longer times to write, shorter times for social media. Set a word count. Spend quiet time listening to characters. But most of all, write!

When we create a personalized plan, our stories will come together. And before long, we’ll be looking at a completed manuscript.

Click to tweet: I can’t work with clean. I have a deadline.

Writing Prompt

Now, for all you mystery lovers. This one’s for you. See if you can finish the writing prompt with three words. Can’t wait to read your comments!

Bakery closed today.

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Pastry, Royalty, and Mystery

I don’t know about your TBR list, but mine is growing weekly. As I meet and hear about new authors, I’m curious to read their books. That’s a lot of writers and even more books. To narrow that list down to a favorite would be almost impossible. Ack!

So…

I’ve decided to tell you about one author I know a little better than the rest because I’ve known her for a longer period of time. This year marks eight years. I’m honored to call her mentor, friend, and one of my favorite authors.

headshot21I met Sandra when I enrolled in a two-year Apprentice Course with the Christian Writers Guild. Through bi-weekly emails, I became acquainted with her philosophies.

One of the first pieces of advice she gave to me was about vulnerability. It is a bit of guidance I carry with me daily.

Your vulnerability is what buys you the right to teach your reader, remember! – Sandra Byrd

Curling up with one of Sandra’s books is like sitting down with an old friend. I reach for my much-loved blanket, my favorite hot beverage, and climb in my comfy chair for an extended visit. It’s easy to lose myself in whatever period she writes. The sights, sounds, and smells, of her imaginary worlds, bring life to the characters in her story.

For example in the modern French Twist series, you can almost taste the delectable pastries in the Bijoux. The Ladies in Waiting series takes the reader to the uncertain times of Henry VIII’s court and ends with the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The Daughters of Hampshire is set in the adored Victorian Era.

17197682_10210762378807328_1032950164_n Sandra Byrd

The last book in the DH set, A Lady in Disguise, is coming out this month, so I need to arrange my TBR list.

For anyone who loves to read, I highly recommend Sandra Byrd as an author whose books will be a delight to explore.

You can connect with Sandra on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or her Blog.

Click to tweet: Your vulnerability is what buys you the right to teach your reader, remember!

Writing Prompt: You are seated at the ACFW Conference when your favorite author joins you for a chat.

 

 

 

Fiction and Fur Babies

By Gail Johnson

And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the ground after its kind: and God saw that it was good Genesis 1:25 ASV.

How’s your WIP coming along? Making progress? Or stuck on how to make it better?

How about adding a fur baby?

I know dogs and cats are not unusual or exotic like a monkey or a boa constrictor. Eww! But when you take the perfect breed and add a quirky personality you can create a unique story. Especially if you allow the reader to hear the pet’s thoughts!

Some of the most memorable movies starred a cat or a dog. Remember these?

Cat Movies
The Aristocats
Garfield
Oliver and Company
Homeward Bound I and II

Dog Movies
Lady and the Tramp
101 Dalmatians
Turner and Hooch
Marley and Me

The most recent one made is A Dog’s Purpose starring Dennis Quaid.

As you can see it would be just an ordinary movie without the dog. The dog is the reason you want to watch the film!

Do Your Homework
If this pooch and kitty idea sounds like something you’re interested in, the first thing to figure out is what kind of dog or cat your main character would have. Then ask yourself the following questions:

dog-450543_1280What type of a person is my main character? Athletic or sedentary? City boy or country girl? Park runner or trail hiker? Apartment or house dweller? Truck or car? Once you’ve answered all your questions, then the next thing you’ll want to do is find the breed that will best fit the lifestyle of your main character.

This step also begins with questions. Does the animal help with work, either on the job or on the farm? Heelers are ideal for sheep and cattle. German Shepherds are used in military and police work. Labrador Retrievers are workers and companions, whereas a Shih Tzu is just for companionship. They make perfect fur babies. I should know. I own one.

You may want to go deeper and ask about the sensitivity of your character’s nose. Individual dogs smell worse than others. My sniffer is extremely sensitive. Is your character a clean freak or a slob? Clean freak, here. Some cats and dogs shed worse than others. A Shih Tzu doesn’t shed like an average dog but rather like a human. Their hair must be cut.

cat-1551783_1280For cats, you ask the same questions. Work or play? Some American Shorthair cats make great mousers on the farm whereas the Persian Cat, like the Shih Tzu, make great fur babies. Some cats are elegant while others are fat and lazy. Think Garfield.

As you can see, whether you mean to imply it or not, the animals tell a lot about their owners. And it’s a great way to add another layer to your story.

Researching the Breed
According to reference.com, there are 340 recognized dog breeds of which only 167 are acknowledged in the United States. Additionally, there are 55 cat breeds allowed in competition, with the officially accepted number varying between associations. That’s a lot of cats and dogs! So where do we begin?

dog-220393_1280Why not start with cattime.com/cat-breeds and dogtime.com/dog-breeds/profiles? Both sites share pictures and information about each animal. Another idea would be to visit the local kennel or ask a veterinarian.

God created an array of animals to add an interesting layer to our world. Adding an animal to your WIP can and will add layers to your story and to your character. So which one do you have in mind? Cat or Dog?

Writing Prompt:

She had only been gone for twenty minutes. How on earth could one Labrador puppy do so much damage? Nancy checked her watch. Thirty minutes before her guest would arrive. Where could she get a new…

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Endless Possibilities for 2017

by Gail Johnson

Have you made plans for 2017?

I admit it took me a while to understand this thing called New Year’s Resolution. In the past, my resolutions were nothing more than a wish made and broken in the same month. Unfortunately, without a fairy godmother to wave her magic wand, I was doomed to fail every year. But not this year!

This year I didn’t stop with a resolution. I took it a step further and made a plan. That’s right, this pantser made a plan. And that process began with questions. Lots of questions.

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Why make a resolution in the first place?

One synonym for resolution is the word purpose. Purpose, for me, brings stability to my life.

 

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How will I reach my goal?

How encompasses the what, when, where, and who. Knowing the how keeps me from wandering aimlessly throughout the year.

 

 

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What do I want to do this year?

That is the question we must ask ourselves. The answer, for me, was obvious. I want to publish my book.

 

 

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When do I have time to work on my goal?

I failed in the past because I forgot to make room for life. Life happens. If I can’t write for one hour a day, I write for thirty minutes. If not thirty minutes, then fifteen minutes. This plan also works well in pages.

Did you know if you wrote one page a day you would have 365 pages at the end of the year? Even if you pencil in two months for holidays and vacation, you can still write over 300 pages in a year! That is a book, my friend! So, don’t set yourself up to fail. Live your life and set aside a portion of your time to write.

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Who can help me?

You will find many writers who will happily share their knowledge with you. When you find these generous people, cherish their friendship. Do what you can to help them by promoting their books by word-of-mouth or by a review on social media. Both if possible. You won’t regret it.

However, not everyone will bother to answer your questions. Don’t take it personally. Discouragement is the enemy of productivity. Move on. Find someone else to ask and keep asking until you find someone willing to share the answers.

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Where do I go to get helpful information?

This may take a little longer. In fact, it may take a lot longer. In the past eight years, I’ve waded through the overwhelming number of writing websites only to glean just a few keepers. Some sites I bookmarked and still visit often, and others I discarded. It wasn’t the person or the information–just the same info in a different package. Choosing the perfect ones for me was a combination of things. Along with writing advice, I looked for interaction and teaching technique. In the end, I found my fit. Find your fit and stick with them. They will teach and encourage you along the journey. And while you are looking for that perfect site, don’t forget Writing Prompts. We would love to have you visit every week!

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So, if you haven’t  made your New Year’s resolution, why not take the time to do it now?

The possibilities are endless!

 

Writing Prompt: Mary read the letter once more before laying it aside. Rejected. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe God had other plans for her. Staring at the blinking cursor, her hand hovered over the delete button…