Practice, Practice, Practice…Deliberately

This post first appeared on the Writers on the Move site Oct. 27,2015.

by Kathleen Moulton

If you want to be the very best writer you can be, if you want to master your writing craft,  it is going to take practice and you will have to do it deliberately.pencil, notebook,folder

If you have not heard of deliberate practice, it’s a thing!

John Hayes, a cognitive psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, spent many years researching talented individuals like Mozart and Picasso to understand how they became masters of their craft. He discovered a common thread – it took them 10 years! Further research found this was true of other notable people, as well.

Time was not the only key, but “deliberate practice” – a theory identified through the research of Swedish psychologist, Dr. K. Anders Ericsson – involving consistent and deliberate work to improve performance.  This concept believes innate talent isn’t the indicator of success, but practicing methods for improved performance.piano player baby

Some do not agree with this theory in its entirety, believing that talent does play a part, but I think we can glean some solid information.

Deliberate practice may be common with musicians, athletes, and painters. But how can it apply to writing?  Writer/Editor Chris Jones says this:

The concept of deliberate practice demands that you acquire new writing skills or strengthen weaker ones while building on the existing foundation you’ve already established.

It is making time to consistently and deliberately practice, resulting in improvement and mastery.  Jones suggests identifying your top 2 or 3 areas of weakness  and setting aside 30 minutes a day on focusing to make those areas stronger.

Author and writing teacher Barbara Braig suggests writing down the skills you are good at. Next, list the areas which you know need improvement. If you need to write more complex sentences, learn about sentence structure and practice writing sentences with more than one clause. If your characters are not believable, read excerpts from your favorite author. List those things the author does to make the story good. Ask yourself how many of those things you can do and how many you need to learn.

My first published article had to be written in Chicago style. Do you know the difference between Chicago and AP? I didn’t. If I’m going to continue to write articles, I need to practice writing in both of those styles until it becomes second nature.

The key is to schedule time regularly for practice. It will be work. You will be stretched. You might even get bored. Yet, the results are in and it is enough to motivate and inspire – whether you are just starting out or you are a seasoned writer.

***

After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. She enjoys writing magazine articles and more recently had her story, “One of a Kind”, published in The Kids’ Ark. You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts 

Published in: on November 5, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

January Round Robin on Reading and Writing

Our topic from Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/
this month is: What is your favorite time and place to read? How about writing time? Do you have to make time? Do you have a ritual or is your plan helter-skelter? I had a quilting teacher who followed the swiss cheese method to completing tasks: Make a hole here, and sometime later a hole there; keep repeating this until the whole thing is complete. What’s your method?

 ***

IBook pile_reading have to admit I’ve been reluctant to return to a schedule, following the holidays. It is always difficult to carve out time to write or to discipline myself to put my own writing first, ahead of my blogging obligations and editing projects. But after being on “vacation” I don’t want to return to “Reality.”

Reading: I’ve been a voracious reader since I was a kid. I’ve never been able to get enough of books and always have a stack or a list of TBR (To Be Read) books. I read while I eat, during commercials when I watch TV, when I’m in a doctor’s waiting room, and before I go to bed.

Writing: I belong to a great critique group, so that makes me accountable. I know I have to bring at least five pages to the Writing_in_Journalmeeting every week, so even if I wait until the last minute, I’m at least writing. I find I need a deadline to work—probably a learned response from my time as a newspaper reporter. I found I could write under pressure and now I seem to need it.

How about you, fellow readers and writers—what is your preference?

 ***

Check out the rest of our round robin group and see what their responses are:

A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Geeta Kakade http://geetakakade.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Skye Taylor  http://www.skye-writer.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rita Karnopp  http://www.mizging@blogspot.com
Rachael Kosnski http://the-doodling-booktease.tumblr.com/
Helena Fairfax  http://helenafairfax.com/
Heidi M. Thomas https://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Ginger Simpson http://www.cowboykisses.blogspot.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/

Published in: on January 24, 2015 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,

32 Great Reasons to Read Good Book

by John Kremer

Here are 32 great reasons to read more books. Please share.Book pile_reading

To escape your normal life.

To travel to real destinations.

To explore new worlds.

To imagine more than you could on your own.

To understand something new.

To understand something old.

To connect with the author.

To connect with other readers.

Book and contentsTo dream a new life.

To compare dreams, realities, and in-between.

To laugh and enjoy.

To deepen your understanding and insight.

To know more than you could learn on your own.

To learn what you don’t know.

To learn what you do know.

To discover something extraordinary.

To meet incredible characters.

To build a larger vocabulary.

To cry after a great read.

To be entertained by a great story.

To relax with a great storyteller.

To stimulate thought.

To grow your spirit.

To find motivation to do more.

To go on a great adventure.

To learn how others live or have lived.

To expand your horizons.Giant notebook_pencil

To explore inner dimensions.

To educate yourself.

To inspire your own writing.

To learn how to change the world.

To discuss in a reading group.

To share a good book with your friends.

Published in: on May 3, 2013 at 6:03 am  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Writing ‘Raising Wrecker’, a Labor of Love

Summer Wood is my guest this week. Summer is the author of Raising Wrecker, a contemporary novel that won a WILLA Literary Award this year, and writes about how this book came about.

by Summer Wood

summerAs a reader and a writer, I love stories that challenge my ordinary perception. As a mother, on the other hand, I find I’m perfectly okay with the status quo.  I don’t need surprise or revelation in that job description. I like it when things go smoothly.  I don’t like to have my feathers ruffled.

Except, of course (Mothers? Can you confirm this for me?) – they never do go completely smoothly, do they?

Raising Wrecker came about because of an unexpected bump in my personal motherhood curve.  And even though my writing rarely follows the contours of my life, the experience of being a foster parent was so emotionally acute that I turned to fiction to see my way through to a clearer understanding.

We entered the experience innocently enough. We had trained to become emergency foster care parents, thinking that if a local kid needed someplace to stay briefly while the family was in trouble, we could harbor him or her for a weekend or so.  With our three sons and their friends, our place was overrun with kids, anyway.  The screen door kept slamming as one neighbor child or another came or went.  What was one more for a couple of days?

One, maybe; but the first call we got was for four small brothers who needed a family to stay with.  Their parents were both battling drug problems, in trouble with the law, and the authorities had removed the kids upon confirmation of neglect.  Sally, the social worker, said that if we couldn’t take these boys – aged 4, 3, 2, and not-quite-1 – they’d be split up and sent to different homes.

You want us to take them for the weekend?

Indefinitely, she said, and coughed politely into her hand.

We thought hard. We consulted our sons. And then we said yes, and for nearly two winter months, these small boys – who came to us with pneumonia, an amazing roster of aberrant behaviors, a black trash bag of shorts, t-shirts, and ill-fitting sneakers, and the most cherubic little faces – lived in our home and rapidly took up residence in our hearts.

It’s a long story, the saga of their journey back and forth, into and out of their parents’ custody. We became friends of the family, kind of informal kin to the boys. We were on hand to help when a fifth child was born with medical complications. We rooted for the parents, celebrated with them, wept with them, and when, at last, the whole house of cards came tumbling down, we felt our hearts break for them as their parental rights were terminated and the boys were adopted out to separate families.

wrecker1I didn’t write this novel in conscious response to having fostered those children.  As any novel will, it grew out of a rank stew of personal experience, literary experiment, political inquiry, and meandering imagination – with a good dose of love, whimsy, fear, humor, and warped psychological obsession thrown in.  This imaginary child, Wrecker, arrived in a public

playground one June afternoon in 1965, and I wanted to know what would happen to him.  I wanted to know his mother, and how she lost him, and who would come to love and raise him, and what kind of man he would turn out to be.

Writing his mothers into being – both the one who gave him his start, and the one into whose arms he fell – meant coming to terms with the power of parents. It meant coming up hard against the truth that no parent, not one of us, is perfect. It meant facing head-on the fact that the mistakes we make can have grave consequences. It meant learning forgiveness as a kind of survival strategy.

I’ve come to believe that it is a radical expression of love to parent any child.  And that there’s no right way to do it.  It can only be done by trial and error, and error, and error, and trying again. And, yes; there will be unexpected bumps. There will be ruffled feathers.

And writing Wrecker himself? Writing Wrecker into being was a way for me to believe again in the possibilities open to children. I needed to reconnect with the hope that led us to step forward and say:  yes.  With whatever we can offer, for as long as we can, we’ll welcome these children into our lives.

It was an honor to have the chance to know those boys and their parents.  And the best way I knew to pay back that honor was to bring this other boy, Wrecker, into the world, and let him muscle his way, with grace and love and a good share of noise, into his future.

www.summerwoodwrites.com

Published in: on January 4, 2013 at 6:01 am  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Meet the Author: C.K. Crigger

My guest this week is C.K. Crigger, author of Three Seconds to Thunder,  the third book in her western mystery series featuring 1890s sleuth, China Bohannon. C.K. writes of free-spirited people who break from their standard roles. All of her books, whether westerns, mysteries, or fantasy, are set the Inland Northwest, with a historical background.

Synopsis:China Bohannon is a modern 1890’s career woman, but the Doyle & Howe Detective Agency hasn’t turned her loose on a case of her own just yet. When a call for help comes in, a trip into the mountains above the St. Joe country sounds just the thing to prove her worth and assist a friend at the same time. Porter Anderson’s uncle has disappeared and a Johnny-come-lately timber baron has claimed the family homestead. Porter doesn’t believe his uncle sold out and left the country without telling anybody. He’s afraid old Lionel Hooker might be dead—murdered.

Declaring the case unsuitable for a lady like China, Monk Howe takes it on, but now no one has heard from him in days. China sets out to discover his whereabouts as the dry lightning of summer sets the woods ablaze.

What she finds is a trail of lies, theft, and murder. Then, just when the problem appears solved, trouble breaks out again. This time, Gratton Doyle is the one in danger and China who must bail him out.

When did you first consider yourself a writer and what inspired you to write your first book? 

I think I considered myself a writer—not an author—when I had a couple complete short stories under my belt, written to conform to publisher guidelines. I actually did it. But I’m basically a novelist. Strangely enough, my first published novel began life as a short story. In the first Gunsmith book, In the Service of the Queen, my character’s first time-travel adventure was the short story and it kept expanding. Somehow, the character grew from there into the heroine of five books.

Who/what motivates you to write?

This is easy. An inner compulsion gets after me every single day and says, “Write!” So I do.

What do you find particularly challenging about writing?

Putting the right words down on paper, and avoiding mid-book sag.

What books or authors have most influenced your life most?

I don’t know that there is any particular book or author. Certain stories nag at me in different ways. Some because I know I can do it better, and that inspire me and make me wish I’d written whatever it is. Either way, they get me revved up.

How many books have you written?

So far, I’ve completed sixteen novels, twelve are published, three are looking for homes right now, and one I’ve given up on.

You’ve written in several genres. Which do you like the best?

I like whatever I’m working on at the moment. By the time I get done with a western, I’m ready for a fantasy or a mystery, and so on. Certainly keeps my mind busy and I think it helps prevent becoming stale.

Is there a message in your novels you want readers to grasp?

I have no particular message, unless it would be a sense of responsibility. I’d say I write purely to entertain.

Who is your favorite character, and why?

Hmm. I guess it’s a toss-up between Boothenay Irons and China Bohannon. There are similarities between them, separated by a hundred years span of the expansion of women’s rights. Both are strong women, adventurers, and mavericks.

What are you working on next?

I haven’t made up my mind for the next book. It may depend on what transpires with a couple books doing the rounds now, but it may be another China Bohannon, something about bootlegging days, or I have an Iraq vet who has captured my imagination. I’m never at a loss for subject material!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write, write, and rewrite—and follow your dream.

Thanks, Heidi,for hosting me today on your blog.

C.K. Crigger lives with her husband and three feisty dogs in Spokane Valley, WA, where she crafts stories set in the Inland Northwest. She is a 2008 Eppie Award winner for Black Crossing, a western, and a two-time Spur Award finalist in short story and audio. She reviews books and writes occasional articles for Roundup Magazine. Recently, she’s begun reviewing for CnC Bookstore in the mystery and science fiction categories.

C.K.’s books are available on Amazon, at Oak Tree Books, Amber Quill Press, and Treble Heart Books

Check out her website and her blogs: www.chinabohannon.blogspot.com and http://ckcrigger.blogspot.com/

Published in: on July 23, 2012 at 1:50 am  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , , ,

Why Write Westerns?

I didn’t set out to write westerns. I just wanted to tell my grandmother’s story,. Since she was a bonafide rodeo cowgirl, my books are classified as “western,” although not in the traditional 1800s “old west” sense. I like to say they are “stories of the west,” stories of the heart, of courage and strength.

I love this reason quoted by John Locke in an interview with Jean Henry Meade on her blog, Writers of the West:

“Why westerns? Let me tell you something. Westerns are magic. When you read a western, you’re viewing the world in microcosm, because there’s a fixed time and setting, generally, with endless possibilities. The whole dynamic of a man and woman optimistically venturing into an untamed land with little more than a horse, gun, wagon, meager supplies…and a whole lot of courage—is the very definition of heroism. Courage is at the core of every western. And every good western offers adventure, heart, and a classic confrontation between good and evil.”

I agree wholeheartedly. Courage is the definition of “Cowgirl Up!” something my ancestors and my characters do.

Published in: on July 11, 2011 at 9:06 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , ,

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)  
Tags: , ,

Authors Make Things Happen

This is from THE PARA PUBLISHING BLOG
Get the latest tips and advice on book writing, publishing, and promoting from Dan Poynter.

There are lead­ers and there are followers.

There are con­trib­u­tors and there are takers.

Some bring oxy­gen and oth­ers expel CO2.

Some pour con­crete and oth­ers inscribe their ini­tials in it.

Progress is made when the ener­getic meet the enablers.

Advo­cates make things hap­pen while hoop-holders sti­fle progress.

When there are too many sen­tinels, sen­tries and guards in posi­tion of author­ity, there is lit­tle progress. Gate­keep­ers sti­fle growth.

It has been said that the world can be divided into three types of people. Those peo­ple who make things happen. Those peo­ple who watch things happen. And the largest group of all, those peo­ple who won­der what happened.

Authors make things happen.

Start writ­ing that book today!

Published in: on April 7, 2010 at 8:58 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,

Writers on the Move

ballonsDuring November, VBT – Writers on the Move is having its ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY! For those who don’t know what VBT is, it’s the Virtual Blog Tour gang and do they EVER have a fantastic party lined up.

To celebrate this accomplishment, we are having a STUPENDOUS Blogaversary Tour! I am featured first at Dianne Sagan’s blog.

Daily postings and daily prizes! But, that’s not all, we’re still having our Mystery Site Giveaway: the Anniversary PRIZE is a $25 (US) GIFT CARD.

Visit the VBT – Writers on the Move blogsite for all the details.
http://vbt-writersonthemove.blogspot.com

AND THAT’S NOT ALL:

Don’t forget to check back right here on Wednesday, Nov. 4 for Craig Lancaster’s guest post on “Writing the West Into a Story.”

Refilling Your Well

SunsetWhat do you do when you feel like you are “at the end of your rope,” with no more to give? Writer and artist Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way that each of us has a well or a reservoir of energy and creativity that we are continually drawing from in dealing with the stresses and the demands of our lives.

But if we are always taking something out, we will eventually run dry. That’s where I was about a week ago. After nine months of intense marketing my book (and learning about marketing as I went), revising mywell sequel to submit to the publisher,  traveling, taking care of my home, hubby, and two cats, as well as my various writing groups, and completing several editing jobs, I suddenly found my well dry. Even though the sun was shining (and that usually gives me lots of energy), I had no energy, no ambition, no creativity and no desire to do anything or go anywhere.

So I took an afternoon off, drove to my favorite beach park on Puget Sound and just sat by the water. I watched the seagulls swooping and fighting over tidbits, listened to the gentle lapping of the water, gazed at the white-blue cloudless sky and the glittering sea. I read a little, walked some, jotted down a few words in a notebook. I thought a little, but mostly I just “was.”

The next day, I awoke with amazement–I had more energy, I could think again, and I was eager to do things again.

I’ve done this before, and I seem to forget to “stop and smell the roses” when I’m in my busy, frenetic rut. Nature refills my well and helps my creativity.

What do you do to refill your well?

Published in: on October 1, 2009 at 8:16 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , ,
%d bloggers like this: