The Grace of Affirmation

I am reposting this essay with permission from Linda Lowe Apple 
We all need encouragement and it doesn’t take much to affirm others. thank you, Linda!
“Correction does much, but encouragement does more.~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I remember hearing about a behavioral study by a class on their professor without his knowledge. They decided that when he walked toward the right side of the room they would pay attention. But as he walked to the left side they would not look at him, doodle, slouch in their chairs and look out the window.

It didn’t take long before the professor taught solely from the right side of the room that day and he didn’t realize it.  Why did he do this? Because the student’s attention affirmed that his teaching was interesting and needed, and that only happened on the right side of the room.

All of us need encouragement.

You know, most of us hear all the wrong things we do. Sometimes these wrong doings are assumptions on expectations of others; sometimes they are correct and helpful criticisms. But even correct and helpful criticisms need to be liberally sprinkled with encouragement. We all need to hear what we do right, otherwise, we feel like gum under the shoes of the world. Some think that negative encouragement motivates. For most it doesn’t. It depresses. And those whom it does motivate, it does so in a way as to promote an antagonistic spirit.

Children need correction, but they also need affirmation. Not necessarily over-the-top empty praise, but they need to hear what they have done right.

Adults need encouragement as well. I can’t tell you how much the affirmations from the members of this group have meant to me. Family members, co-workers, friends, those in community service need to hear about the things they have done right.

This week, affirm others.

 

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Published in: on May 28, 2011 at 10:06 am  Comments (3)  
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Words for Writers, From A to (almost) Z

Here is a list of some important and interesting words for writers to think about, know and use. Have fun!

ACTION:  Action and plot grow out of compelling, interesting characters.  Suspense, action, and conflict are what keep the reader interested.  Action is presenting the real life evidence through characters, by showing, not telling the story.

BEATS: Beats can be the little bits of action interspersed through a scene, especially in dialogue. For example:

“I don’t even want to go there,” I said.

He laid a hand on my arm. “You want me to drive?”

CONSONANCE:  Is the close repetition of the same consonants of stressed syllables, especially at the end of words, with differing vowel sounds.  Example: Boat and Night.

DISSONANCE: Is a mingling or union of harsh, inharmonious sounds that are grating to the ear.  Often used to create a disturbing or tumultuous atmosphere or confusion or bewilderment in poetry.

EUPHONY:  Is the harmony or beauty of a sound that provides a pleasing effect to the ear.  It is achieved not only by the selection of individual word sounds, but also by their relationship in the repetition, proximity, and flow of sound patterns.

FLASHBACK: A window to your character’s past.  A flashback gives you a way to “show” your character’s past through a scene without “telling” the story through narration.  Be very careful in using these so it doesn’t “bump” the reader out of the action & story flow while you are explaining what happened sometime in the past. It can be passive. Keep it very brief and try to use a sense to trigger the memory, e.g. a smell or a sound, etc.

HOMOPHONE:  Is a word that has the same in sound as another word, but different spelling and meaning.  (For example: Pair as in set of two, and pear as in edible fruit.)

METAPHOR:  An analogy between two objects or ideas when you say one item IS another. For example: “Then it was there alongside, the locomotive a sudden tornado, black, huge, screaming…”  A SIMILE is saying something is LIKE another: “The bird’s wings were blue as the sky.”

ONOMATOPOEIA:  Words that imitate sounds, or any word whose sound is suggestive of its meaning.  Using words like a musical instrument to create a specific sound. For example: the words “Splash” or “Plop.”

PARADOX:  Is a statement that contains seemingly contradictory elements or appears contradictory to common sense, yet can be true when viewed from another angle. A good character trait to experiment with.

STORY LINE:  The plot of a book, film, or dramatic work.

THEME:  An idea, point of view, or perception expressed as a phrase, proposition, or question.  The root or core of what is expressed.

VISION:  A mental image produced by imagination. How someone sees or conceives of something.  Discernment or perception; intelligent foresight. The mystical experience of seeing as if with the eyes of characters within your writing.

Do you have any favorites I haven’t mentioned here?

Published in: on May 24, 2011 at 8:49 pm  Comments (3)  
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Are You a Mother Hen?

My guest blogger today is Virginia Grenier, author of Babysitting Sugarpaw and blogger at Families Matter.

by Virginia Grenier

Today I went for a mile walk around my neighborhood with my son and dog, Taz. We were doing well until Taz decided he could not walk anymore and started chewing at his leash. At first I did what any dog owner would do . . . I chocked up the leash and started encouraging Taz to keep walking. At about the half way point, Taz sat down and refused to take another step. Now, I could have done what most don trainers tell you to do . . . pull the dog along and make him walk. But I didn’t. I went right into mother hen mood. I picked up my dog and began to carry him the remaining half mile to our house.

After I got home, I sat down at my computer and posted about our walk on Facebook. Then I turned to my WIPs. The ones I have been working on for a little over a year now. Then it hit me. I am treating my WIPs like my dog!

Okay, so you are wondering how in the world are my WIPs like my dog. Well, they both give me comfort, but that’s not what I’m talking about. No, what I am talking about is how once my WIPs get too tired, unsure of themselves, or lose their way, I pick them up and carry them around in my mind. I make up excuses as to why they are not ready to be sent out. Just like the excuse, I gave on Facebook about my dog needing to lay off the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

What I realized today is I am afraid to let my WIPs go. I am afraid their not ready for an editor, publisher, or agent’s eyes to look them over. Does it mean my WIPs are not ready to be sent out? Maybe, but most likely not. In truth, many writers do this. They work on a manuscript trying to perfect it. Trying to make it the best manuscript ever written, but the fact is . . . you will never see that day! Why?

Because all manuscripts will be a WIP until they are published. This means they will go through many more revisions, edits, and rewrites before a publisher will put them on the printing press. It means once you’ve had your manuscript critiqued, proofread, revised, critiqued again, revised some more . . . you need to find the right time to send it out into the world. To let your baby fly with its own wings. You may get some rejections and some may even be helpful to help you prefect your WIP a bit more. But if you do not set your manuscript down and let it walk on its own feet, it will never be strong enough to walk the whole mile to publication.

So stop being a mother hen. Let your manuscripts leave your arms and take flight! Or in the case of my dog, Taz . . . walk.Virginia blogs at Families Matter and her book is available from Amazon

Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 6:13 pm  Comments (7)  
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The First Line Hook

I love to pick up a book and read the first line. Sometimes they really are a “hook,” set to reel me into the story. Writing gurus tell us we need to do that, especially when submitting to agents and publishers, because if they’re not compelled to read beyond the first line, your manuscript will find its way into the rejection file rather quickly.

Sometimes they stay with me…for weeks, months, even years. My all-time favorite is “The last camel collapsed at noon” from Ken Follett’s Key to Rebecca. Our writing group once did an exercise using that sentence as their opening line. The results were fascinating. Every story was different.

Another one I especially like is “The man with ten minutes to live was laughing.” (Frederick Forsyth) That’s a line that makes you wonder, why is he laughing when he’s about to die? I want to know!

And then there is “I stopped shooting people two weeks after I won the Pulitzer Prize” from Dead Sleep, by Greg Iles. Again, makes you think.

The writing gurus also tell us we need to introduce our character, set up our story problem, give the reader an idea where the story is taking place and include conflict. (So, how many words are we allowed in one sentence?)

We get the impression that the bigger hook, the more extreme, the better. But if you have a dynamite first line and the rest of the page doesn’t live up to it, you’ve defeated your purpose. It could be misleading. I loved the opening line I came up with for my first novel: “Nettie Brady should’ve been born a boy.” But I received several critiques wondering if my character had gender-identity issues. I knew Nettie was a girl who loved riding her horse more than anything in the world, but that first sentence didn’t get the idea across as well as I’d hoped. So I scrapped it.

The February 2011 issue of Writers Digest Magazine has an excellent article by Jacob M. Appelt, “Better Starts for Better Stories.” Appelt outlines several ways to begin, including start late (don’t set up the scene, begin with the action), use minimal dialogue, try several different options, and revisit the beginning when you reach the end. Sometimes the story has changed so much that you’ll want an entirely different opening line.

Appelt lists his favorite opening as “My mother had me sort the eyes” from Elizabeth Graver’s short story “The Body Shop.” Now that’s a grabber!

What is your favorite first line “hook?”

Published in: on May 5, 2011 at 9:17 pm  Comments (6)  
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Auction to Benefit Diabetes Research

Since 2005, New York Times bestselling author, Brenda Novak, has been hosting an on-line auction to benefit diabetes research, last year raising $303,000. The auction will run May 1 – May 31st, but not all items will be open all month, so look for the ending times!

Each year, she offers a fabulous prize package to the person who places the most bids over all (even if that person doesn’t end up paying for a single item.) This year that package will include:

  • A brand new laptop computer (a MacBook or comparable PC).

  • An autographed copy of INSIDE (which won’t be available to the general public until July 28th).

  • FREE admission to FAN 2012, the reader appreciation party/weekend getaway I do in conjunction with NYTimes Bestselling Author Christine Feehan, which will be March 2 – 4 in 2012 (learn more at www.fanconvention.net).

  • A surprise goody box of other fabulous items.

You can bid here on my books, Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream, and other women’s stories.

You can search here to see what other fabulous items there are to bid on.

Published in: on May 1, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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