Golden Notebooks

It’s been a while since my last Blog, so please forgive me – some keyboard troubles; a grandson’s wedding and some summer inertia, but I seem to have recovered now!

When I was a child, and just dicovering the beauty of words, I kept something I called “My Beauty Book”.  I would go to Melbourne’s Public Library at weekends, and go to the Poetry section and copy out all kinds of poems, some in translation, that spoke to me. And every time at school I came across a quotation I loved, it would be copied into this exercise book, plus my first few attempts at writing verse.

 

Diaries, journals, notebooks – they are gold! When someone asked Virginia Woolf what sort of diary she would like, she said: Something loose-knit but not slovenly; so elastic that it will embrace anything solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind….”

Every writer should keep some kind of a journal or diary.  I don’t know what happened to my childhood entries, but when I was 19, I lived a few years in London – a great city for a potential author.I searched for creative lives and found them in diaries of Franz Kafka and Virgina Woolf, who discussed the writing process in their internal conversations.

 

No matter how incomplete, journals are the missing link in creative life. They help beginners trigger new work and sustain inspiration. Virginia Woolf invented herself as a writer in her journal, from aged 17 to her death at 60, she moved from family sketches to memoir to novels.Joan Didion always used details from her notebooks in her wonderful writings.  Putting your memories into words   can break the dry spell in your writing life.

 

We only store in our memory images of value.  When you write about your life, you live it twice, and the second time is both spiritual and historical, was an observation made by journal-keeper Patricia Hampl.  Writing down random events and thoughts is advice I have always given to my students.  You might not know what you are going to do with them at the time, but re-reading them later can be the spark that ignites many, many ideas to use in your stories that will be all the more realistic because you once thought them worthy of jotting down.

 

If you would like any of my 13 books , contact me at the addresses above in “About Me” .  I welcome your comments, and you can ask me about any writing problems you may be having.

Until next time ….

 

 

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The Irresistable Book Proposal

The main thing to keep in mind is to make publishers an offer that they can’t refuse.  The book proposal is a selling tool.   It should use as few words as possible to generate as much enthusiasm as possible.  Think of it as a map.  A solid outline will enable you to see where you are going.

 

Books are sold in one of two ways. A complete manuscript is usually required for novels, especially first ones.  But if you prove that you can research, organise and write non-fiction , you can sell a book with a proposal consisting of an introduction, chapter-by-chapter outline and two sample chapters.

 

For non-fiction or how-to books, the introduction has 3 parts … Overview, Resources needed to Complete the book, and About the Author.  The first page should have only 2 paragraphs. Start half-way down the page and HOOK the editor with the single, most exciting, compelling thing you can say about the subject.  The 2nd paragraph includes the title – which must sell – and sub-title if you need one. Also your contact details.   If it is non-fiction,your first sentence should be:  The “title of book”  will be the very first book to ….

 

I have sold my 13 books to date  (novels, poetry, memoir) by sending  an irresistable first sentence, an exciting “About the Author” page – and remember, this is no place to be modest about your achievements – and at least 2 sample chapters.  Don’t overwhelm the Acquiring Editor with too much. If they like what you have sent them, they will ask for more.  Tell them if you have a complete manuscript or, if not, how long it will take you to complete it.  Don’t start by asking for an advance to do the work – that will be discussed much, much later into the process.

 

Revise your proposal until you are convinced that it is as well- conceived  and crafted as you can make it. Do your market research to ensure that it fits into the category that interests that particular publisher.  An agent is of course helpful , although in my own case – except for one book –  I have approached the publisher direct and built up a relationship in that way.  Simultaneus submissions are permitted as long as you are honest and admit that your proosal has gone out to other sources as well.

 

Good luck and good writing!

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GET STARTED ON YOUR NOVEL

No more prevaricating.  You’ve had the idea for a long time, so let’s get dow to work.

 

Before you start, make a realistic timetable.  Then stick to it.  Most pages are 250 words and aim to write 5 pages a day.  A book is around 500 pages, so in theory it should take 100 days.  But to be realistic, you know that you are not going to write every day – if you can manage 20 pages a week, you are doing well.  Add to that another 10 weeks of planning.  If you are conscientious, you can do it in 49 weeks.

Once  you start writig, don’t pause for punctuation or too much analysis – this will be your first draft and you can fine-tune it later, after the real work is over.  To get the dialogue right, listen to everyone – I eavesdrop shamelessly on buses and trains,  I once overheard a lad aged about 17 tell  his mother “Well, if I can’t get married, I’m going to buy a motorbike.”  Sadly they alighted before I heard her reply.

 

When the people in your book speak , try to hear their voices in your head.  Pretend you are listening at the door, and somehow it comes easier.  I usually make my characters  people I would like to meet, but there has to be a sprinkling of rotten apples as well.  There should also be strong, brave people who make the right decisions and don’t abandon friends or loves or duty.

 

If you pretend they are real people, they will become so.  Give your characters lots of clothes , records, pets and hobbies – even though you don;t mention them all in your book, somehow the characters will be more believable. Don’t let the heroes and heroines be sickeningly good; nor the villains completely evil.  Write what you know about, ad you will be on safe ground.  Write in your own voice – that way, you won’t be pretentious.

 

And finally, keep to your timetable. Start editing and polishing your first draft.  If you don’t have a publisher or agent, the horrible business of rejection will probably start.  But stick with it  – those who quit are leaving  the coast open for those of us who stick with it.  When you do get a pubisher, they will probably suggest changes to the title or ask you to change certain scenes – listen to them … theyare in the business and know what they are talking about.

Finally, when you write about  ordinary people – remember, nobody is really ordinary if you know where to look.  We are all heroes of our own life story.  Watch strangers’ faces – everyone has some kind of a dream, a hope, a plan.  No one is uninteresting.  Believe that, and you will never be without a plot, a character, or indeed an interesting life.

 

I am always happy to hear from you.  Be in touch if you have difficulty finding any of my 13 books.  My novel “Autumn Blessing” is available asan e-book, published by Prism Pu8bishers in USA . Happy writing!

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I’M A BLOG-SPOTTER TODAY

Although I am very limited in my computer abilities, co-authors with my e-book publisher, Prism Books, seem to have faith that I can do this (they have more confidence in me than I do.)  I am supposed to answer 4 questions, and then recommend 3 more authors. I’m willing to give it a try.

  1. What are you working on”  I am working on my 14th novel, called “Searching for Sarah.” Although it’s completely fiction, it is based on something that happened to me about 20 years ago, when I rented an artist’s studio for a short time on a rooftop in Jerusalem.  I found a painting, unsigned, that had been left behind of a young woman, very sad, looking through a window.  I became obsessed with her  story; and in my novel my heroine sets out to find her because she feels an inexplicable affinity to her.
  2. How does your work differ from others in its genre?  I don’t think it fits into any particular genre – it is very spiritual, has some romance, but is hard to categorize.
  3. Why do you write what you do?  In 1974 I was in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, where 15 people died and 35 lost limbs.  I felt I had been spared for a reason – and God had a job for me. Since then, most of my writing has had a spiritual element; a lot of it has been set in Jerusalem and I try to use my talent for good.
  4. How does your writing process work?  I have been writing since I was first published as a child aged 7.  I’m now 83, and not a day goes by that I don’t write something.  I have never had writer’s block – all the words are there waiting. I am sure I won’t live long enough to write all the things I want to.  I feel very blessed  that I actually get paid for doing what I most love in life.

I have picked the next 3 authors to answer the same questions.

MISTY RUSSON is a writer of romance and romantic suspense , whose characters face extreme circumstances with faith and good humor.  She also loves photographing nature – especially the sky.  She truly appreciates God’s magnificent handiwork . Read her post next week at : http:/mistymusings4u.blogspot.com/2014/05/dont-forget-to-check-out-diamond-mine.html

AMBER SCHAMEL writes wonderfully vivid historical fiction , bringing to life characters from Biblical and other times. Her words are a treat to read.  Read her answers next week at: http/amberschamel.blogspot.com

LINDA WOLF is a wordsmith of many talents.She is a writer, proof-reader, editor and teacher. Enjoy her blogposts on her writing process as well as other insightful thoughtson her life and faith at: http./belonging2all.wordpress.com

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Seven Tips to Unlock Your Creativity

Every writer’s aim is to write a good article or book that people want to read.  Virginia Woolf in her famous book “A Room of One’s Own” wrote:  “So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”

1. Many of my Creative Writing students used to tell me their problem was tme.  You can find time, even if you have to make a few sacrifices – giving up a favorite TV show; missing out on a coffee date …. even if you can only manage a page a day, in a year you’ve written a novel.  Find the time of day and the location that is comfortable and inspiring for you. There’s a saying: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  The second-best time is now” – so don’t prevaricate.  You don’t need any fancy equipment- it didn’t exist when some of the greatest literature was written.  A pen and paper will do the job.

 

2.  It’s tempting to wait for the Muse to strike, but it’s up to you to make ideas happen – they won’t fall from the sky. You can be a people-watcher; or you can daydream,  Evey family has a story to tell; newspapers and magazines are full of potential stories – hone in on current affairs, celebrities, in fact any aspect of our culture.  Many newspaper stories can capture your imagination – just say “what if…”

 

3.  The number of genres , all the different styles and forms, prose, poetry and drama; different age groups, genders, backgrounds – at times it can overwhelm you.  The best place to start is simply write what you like to read.

 

4.  They say beginnings are easy and endings are hard- in my 13 books, I’ve found this to be true. You can start a novel, but keeping going and completing it takes discipline and dedication.  You have the option of a closed ending where all the loose ends are tied up, or an open ending where possibilities for the characters stretch out into an unwritten future – your characters will guide you what to choose.  When they have solved their major problems and moved on, ready to start a new phase in life, that’s when you should stop too.

 

5.  Characters are the most important part of your book, and plot is only what the characters will do in a given situation.  Fiction means making things up, including your characters. When it comes to the hero or heroine, it is essential to feel affection for them, even though they should have some fault and weaknesses.  I’ve heard that all stories are written twice – once by the author and once by the reader.  The reader’s reaction to a character might differ from yours, but that is fine. It means that your characters are believable.   Create situations for your characters that will increase their conflicts.  Give them secrets. Give them a quest to find something, and adventures along the way

6. Make your readers care,   This is where you can indulge your own emotions.  We all need love in our livs so our characters can find it, lose it and have many complications.  Hate and jeaousy can also be emotions that drive a plot.  Many plots hang on a moral dilemma  – so let your imagination have full range and let your readers ride along on your characters’ emotional journeys.

 

7.  There are 3 different levels of conflict for your story:  Inner conflict is the first, where the character wants two conflicting things in life.  The second is conflict with other people. Your character can have a problem that other people rarely agree with him.  The third type is where the character is in conflict with society,  Your story must have shape – a beginning, a middle and an ending.  Keep the plot plausible, but never predictable.  Try to build tension and make the reader anxious to know what will happen next.  Many writers, myself included, do not enjoy cuttng, reshaping and reworking, but it may very well be the most creative stage of the whole writing process. The reward is sometimes you’ll rewrite a sentence and be amazed that it actually came from you.  Find fresh, imaginative alternatives to any cliches that may have crept in.

Tell yourself every day “I am a writer” and savour the thrill, the sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction that is a kind of therapy, for your creativity can make the world a better place.

The world needs dreamers – be one of them!

If you need help with your writing, contact me – and if you want to read some of my books, be in touch with me.  Contact details are above , both in Books and About Me.  I enjoy hearing your comments.

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Setting Enhances Your Story

Every time you begin a story, you open a doorway into a new world.  If you want readers to step in with you, then you must make that world believable.  I am lucky – and privileged – to live in Jerusalem and I have used that setting many times in my fiction, articles and poetry.   You don’t always need a full description – sometimes a well-known landmark that is easily recognizable, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, will take the reader where you want them to go, immediately.

Using the senses is another way to get readers quickly to the place you want them to envisage. The smell of burning rubber at the scene of an accident; or the pungent odor of disinfectant will take their imagination straight to a hospital.  The noise of a crowd cheering sets the scene at a sporting event; or the irritating drip of a leaky faucet conjures up a cold water flat. You can introduce the acrid taste of smoke in a burning building;  salt water spray on the lips lets them know they are near the ocean.

When you invite guests into your home, you try to create a dominant impression of the way you live.  Proper use of setting can do the same for you as a writer.  The proper use of atmosphere suggests to readers how they should react to fiction.  Effective writers use it to play on readers’ emotions.  When you enter a home, you form an impression of its occupant. Setting suggests a great deal about characters’ personalities.  It is particularly important to characterization if you are writing in the first person.  The things you choose to have your narrator notice in the setting often lets your reader know a lot more about the character than he knows about himself.  In some fiction, the desert often has a life of its own.  So can a swamp, or a rain forest.

Setting can serve you well as a tool in fiction writing.  When you read over a scene and feel something is missing, don’t overlook this important element.

I am always happy to hear your comments, or to be of help if you are having writing problems.

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Food Writing for Profit

I think of it as “getting my just desserts”, for writing about food can be very profitable. All women’s  magazines as well as the week-end pages of most newspapers have regular columns that feature recipes that celebrate the different seasons of the year; as well as all kinds of religious and national holidays.  With Summer approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, the accent is on foods for hot days.  Here’s an article I wrote last year that was published in USA.

So look out your own favorite recipes that might feature in some magazine this Summer:

 

GETTING YOUR JUST DESSERTS

THE SWEETS OF SUMMER

Think lazy summer days.  Think warm evenings under a star-strewn sky.  Think entertaining friends.  Think luscious fruits,  the chill of ice-cream on your tongue,  party desserts to temptyour palate.  It’s time to be adventurous and try some wonderful summer puddings and desserts,

When the mercury soars, making a fancy dessert can seem like a tall order.  The solution is to do most of the work in the cool of the morning or the night before.  Finish the preparation at the last minute and present it with a flourish.

There are a few tips you should keep in mind before you try out the recipes.  Egg whites for souffles and meringues should always be beaten at room temperature, the eggs removed from the refrigerator 2 hours before beating.  They should be fresh, and when you separate the whites, make sure not a speck of yolk gets in.  One fool-proof method is to break the egg into a saucer, covering the yolk with half an eggshell.  Tilt the saucer, pouring off the whites into a clean, dry bowl and use dry beaters.  Add a pinch of salt to the whites before beating.

The success of making good cold and frozen puddings often depends on using gelatine (all supermarkets sell a kosher version). Stir it into COLD liquid and only afterwards add to hot mixture.  When turning out a frozen pudding, wring out a towel in hot water and hold it over the mould for a few seconds … it will then slide out easily.  Egg custards should never be allowed to boil. Cook on very low heat or in a double boiler, stirring all the time.

So let’s get started!

 

AMBROSIA (Party Fruit Salad)

6 oranges; 2 red apples; 1 small tin pineapple rings; 3 bananas; a few cherries; 1/2 cup sugar; 1/2 cup liqueur or sweet sherry; 1 cup chilled, whipped cream, plus other fruits in season such as peaches, plums, mangoes.

Peel and remove skin from oranges. Slice  unpeeled apples into thin rings.  Peel and slice bananas. Cover apples and bananas with lemon juice to avoid discoloration. Drain pineapples, remove stones from cherries and halve.  In a pretty glass dish, layer the fruit, sprinkling each layer with a teaspoon of sugar. Reserve cherries for the top. To the pineapple syrup, add liqueur or sherry and pour over the fruit.  Cover tightly and chill overnight. Serve with cream which is passed around separately in a bowl.  Ambrosia was the name for the nectar of the gods … when you’ve tasted this, you’ll understand why.

 

MIXED BERRY COBBLERS

6 cups mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries fresh or frozen); 1 tsp. grated lemon  zest; 1 tabs. lemon juice;  2/3 cup sugar; 1/4 cup instant tapioca.

BISCUIT TOPPING:  1 cup flour; 2 tabs. wheat germ; 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder; pinch salt; 1/4 cup chilled unsalted butter cut into small pieces; 1/2 cup milk; I egg white lightly beaten; 1 tabs. sugar.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

BERRY FILLING: Mix berries, lemon zest and juice; sugar and tapioca in large bowl until well combined. Let stand 15 mins.  Spoon a scant 1 cup of mixture into each of 6 one-cup ramekins.  Place on baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes or  until bubbly.

BISCUIT TOPPING:  Stir together flour, wheat germ, baking powder and salt in medium-size bowl.  Cut in butter with 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk.

(The dough will be sticky).

Remove baking sheet with ramekins from the oven. Gently stir the filling in each ramekin. Drop a scant 1/4 cup of dough over each ramekin, brushing the dough with egg white. Sprinkle with sugar.  Return to the oven, and bake a further  20 minutes until topping is golden.  Serve the ramekins warm, topped with whipped cream or icecream.

 

APPLE SPONGE PUDDING

4 large cooking apples; 2 sticks cinnamon; 4 tabs. sugar; 300 gm. stale cake;  1/2 cup thick, whipped cream.

Cut up the peeled apples and cook with the cinnamon and a little water until soft.  Grate the cake or crumble to crumbs. In a glass dish, put a thin layer of mashed apple, sprinkle with sugar and cover with a layer of cake crumbs.  Continue until all the cake and apples are used up. Spread cream smoothly on top and chill. Serve very cold.

 

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE (Uncooked)

250 gm. plain chocolate; 4 eggs; 4 tablespoons sherry or sweet red wine.

Cup chocolate into small pieces and melt over hot water.  Separate whites and yolks from eggs.  Beat yolks thickly and stir into chocolate until blended.  Add a pinch of salt to the whites and beat till very stiff. Fold into chocolate mixture with sherry . Spoon into glass dishes and chill. This is a rich, delicious pudding that needs no cooking.

 

PINEAPPLE SUPREME

1 large pineapple; 1 cup brown sugar; 2 tablespoons rum; 2 tabs. butter; 1 cup whipped, sweetened cream.

Slice off pineapple top to make a “lid”. Trim base so that the pineapple stands upright. Scoop out flesh and cut into pieces, removing core.  Sweeten with sugar and rum, then put mixture back into shell. Dot top with pieces of butter and wrap pineapple in foil.  Wrap “lid” separately in foil.  Stand upright on baking sheet and bake in hot oven for 1 hour.  Remove foil and cover with “lid”.  Place pineapple on serving dish and serve cream or icecream separately.

 

GRAPE-PINEAPPLE ICE-CREAM  (Parve)

1 cup grape juice; 1/2 cup drained, crushed pineapple; 1/4 cup lemon juice; 1/2 cup sugar; 1/2 cup pineapple syrup; 1/2 cup water.

Heat water and sugar until sugar dissolves completely. In  large bowl combine all ingredients and stir well.  Pour into ice-trays and freeze hard.  Remove to chilled bowl and beat 1 minute until fluffy and light. Return to trays and freeze 3 hours. Serve in chilled glasses topped with fresh mint leaves.  A cooling, refreshing dessert ideal for those who suffer from  lactose intolerance, or to serve after meat.


 

You will find food writing am excellent way to build up a portfolio of your work and to make your freelancing profitable when you are running out of ideas for new articles.

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