So You Want to Write a Book – 3

As you write, you will need others to help you along the way. One of the most effective things you can do is to find a critique group. Not just any critique group, but a group that is serious about helping you to improve your writing.

Now there are critique groups and critique groups. I began with an informal group that met once a month. There were from six to twelve in attendance. We read our work and others opined on it or asked questions if something was unclear. We had fiction writers, poets, non-fiction writers – you name it. It was a good introduction for putting your work out there.

However, it wasn’t much help to me as a writer. I now belong to a critique group that follows (loosely) the Word Weavers pattern.  This is a more purposeful meeting in which the total emphasis is on improving our writing.

Critiques generally take a more pointed form with regard to mechanics and purpose. And they deliver specific suggestions for improvement. The Word Weavers structure pattern is very helpful in keeping us on track with our stated purpose.

Please follow the two links in this text and read those blog posts. They will help you get a feel for how a critique group should function and how to critique the work of others. You might also want to add those blog links to the list of blogs you follow.

More next week. Stay tuned. And let me know in the comments below how you fared.


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Thankful Thursday Three

Goal: 2018 things for which to be thankful in 2018Thankful Thursday 02

2018 divided by 52 equals 38.8.

Each Thankful Thursday post should contain a list of 39 gratitudes, an average of five or six every day.

This Thursday, I’m departing from the numbered list. I have just spent two hours watching an old movie on TCM, That Midnight Kiss, with José Iturbi. It brought back a million memories for which I am grateful.

The year after this movie was made, my mother, her mother, and I traveled by train to Los Angeles. My mother’s younger brother, his wife, and young daughter lived there.

While we were there, we attended a concert at the Hollywood Bowl and heard José Iturbi and the orchestra. At one point in the concert, he was playing a Debussy that every serious piano student learns. But he was not happy with the beginning, so he stopped. Then he turned to the audience, shrugged, and announced “We will begin again.” He wiped his hands on his handkerchief, turned to the keyboard, and played flawlessly through the piece.

After the concert, my mother asked an usher if we could go backstage and meet the artist. The usher explained that José did not see people after the concert. Said she wanted it for me (I was eleven at the time). The usher smiled and said he’d see what he could do. He left and came back very shortly to take us backstage. He said José was always available to young people.

When he emerged from his dressing room, my mother introduced herself and the rest of our party (my grandmother and uncle). He greeted us all graciously. But he came over to me to visit. He asked if I played. I shook my head, no. But my mother outed me by saying that I did.

I stammered that in comparison, I did not play. He took my hand in both of his and said “The only difference between your hand and mine is practice, practice, practice.” It was three in the morning when we left, but I was walking on air.

IturbiFour years later, he and his sister, Amparo, were on tour and played at Salina, Kansas. Several of the musicians in our high school band and our director attended. In this much smaller venue, we were allowed to go back stage. Our music director introduced the group, but José remembered me from the Hollywood Bowl four years earlier. He took me by the hand and led me into his sister’s dressing room to introduce me to Amparo as well.

My mother was amazed that he remembered us from the Los Angeles concert. We rationalized that it must have been the fact the he didn’t usually receive people there.

Flash forward another four years to my first year in college. My piece for the student recital is a Beethoven. I play the first sixteen bars and my memory hits a brick wall. Remembering José’s poise, I pick up my handkerchief, wipe my hands, turn to the audience and shrug. Then I start again… And hit the same brick wall! Deep breath, nod to the audience and say “we will begin again.” Then I push my way past that bar seventeen wall and get to bar twenty-four where I’m home free.

My mother, sitting beside the nun who was my piano instructor, said “Well, there goes a failing grade.” To which sister replied, “No, it’s a B. Had she walked off the stage, it would have been a failure.”

Whenever one of José’s movies is playing on TCM, I try to watch. The spirit in his music speaks to my heart. The memory of the person blesses me every time.

In this story there are a multitude of gratitudes.

  1.  Music
  2. Musicians
  3. Trains
  4. My mother’s job with the railroad
  5. People who appreciate music
  6. The ability to hear the difference between music and just sound
  7. Hands that move across a keyboard on command
  8. Written score
  9. The habit of practice
  10. Mae Cuddy, my first piano teacher
  11. Harry Huber, my second piano teacher
  12. Marymount College
  13. The example of recovering from a gaffe
  14. The gift of memory
  15. The love of music
  16. God’s provision for even the smallest problems
  17. Watching the movie without interruption (a rare occurrence)
  18. José Iturbi
  19. Mario Lanza
  20. Kathryn Grayson
  21. Ethel Barrymore
  22. Jules Munshin
  23. The ability to laugh
  24. All these gratitudes from just one memory.

And I have a lifetime of these good memories. Thank You, Lord.


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So You Want to Write a Book – 2

Now that you have a vision for your book, you can begin to work on some other aspects of being a writer.

One of the first things you will need is structure – both for yourself and your book.

Writing works best if you have a special place set aside and a specific time blocked off for it. However, many of us live in a world where neither is guaranteed. You will have to structure your life with both time and space for this project. But working that in is up to you. No one else can tell you how to do it.

Structure for your story is a different matter. You need some way to set up your story (and keep track of the details of your story) that will help you write a better story.

I recommend that you take a look at Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. Borrowing from his article: “But before you start writing, you need to get organized.” So jump over there and take a good look. Bookmark the page.

The Snowflake Method, while designed for writing fiction, is equally useful as a structure tool for non-fiction as well. Virtually everything I write begins with a single sentence which is then explained, elucidated and expanded to the proper length.

Spend some time with Randy’s method. And let me know if it works for you.



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Thankful Thursday Two

Goal: 2018 things for which to be thankful in 2018Thankful Thursday 02

2018 divided by 52 equals 38.8.

Each Thankful Thursday post should contain a list of 39 gratitudes, an average of five or six every day.

1. My job
2. Twila
3. Treva
4. Judy
5. Jayne
6. Martyn
7. Jackie
8. Solitude
9.  Jack P
10. Julie R
11. Anne
12. Clementines
13. Bananas
14. Pistachios
15. Salted Peanuts
16. Raw Peanuts
17. Peanut Butter
18. Orange Marmalade
19. Rye Bread
20. Potato Bread
21. Sparkling Water
22. Ice
23. Lingonberries
24. Ost Kaka
25. Potatiskorv
26. Swedish Heritage
27. Lindsborg, Kansas
28. Gypsum, Kansas
29. Salina, Kansas
30. Old Friendships
31. New Friendships
32. Electricity
33. Clear Skies
34. Scotch Tape
35. Mailing Labels
36. Envelopes
37. Greeting Cards
38. Wet Ones Singles
39. Nick Harrison


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So You Want to Write A Book

If you are writing a blog, chances are you have friends and family who will encourage you to write a book. That is both flattering and tempting. But your friends and family who are not writers have no idea how much work writing a book is nor how to go about it.

So let’s take stock.

Say you have a blog that you’ve been writing weekly for a couple of years and you have a hundred and some entries. Is that enough material for a book? Well that depends on the kind of book you want to write.

My first publication was a devotional gift book. It could have come from a blog. (It didn’t, but it could have.) There were forty or so pages, each with a devotion running to about 200 or 250 words. Let’s see, 40 x 250 = 10,000 words.

It was a small book, about seven by seven inches and less than half an inch thick. Harvest House, my publisher, found an artist who illustrated it beautifully. Her name is Audrey Jeanne Roberts. Her art work is the main draw of the book.

Proverbs 29:18 – Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

My original vision for the book was to have a small devotional book that one could pick up and read a page in about two minutes of a morning and have a scripture and thought to carry a busy woman through her day.

Having a vision of a finished product and its purpose was critical to getting published. It was also critical in keeping me on task as I wrote it.

If you want to write a book, step one is to develop a vision for what it will be when finished and what it will do for the reader. That vision will keep you focused as you work on the manuscript.

Part of that vision is to decide what genre your book will fall into. Will your book be similar in type to something else you have read? Are you writing a DIY how-to make specialty soaps; or a complicated, character driven novel about multiple generations in a single family; or a cozy mystery; or a breezy romance; or a sci-fi thriller; or… ?

Each genre has a standard word count – and they are all different. For a comprehensive list of word counts, the Writers Digest blog has a definitive post here.

Let me insert right here the recommendation that you find and follow some of the more helpful blogs available online. Writers Digest is just one of them. There are teachers’ blogs, agents’ blogs, and social blogs which can be helpful. At the end of this series of blog posts, I will post a list of those that I follow.

Now that you have a vision of your finished product, you can take stock of your blog. Some of your blog entries will be useful. (If you are like me, some of them will need to be saved for a different vision.)

Is your blog content enough for the book, or is it just a springboard for more writing? Either way, you have a head start on your book.

Remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And you are on your way.

More to come next Monday.


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Thankful Thursday Number One

Goal: 2018 things for which to be thankful in 2018

2018 divided by 52 equals 38.8.

Each Thankful Thursday post should contain a list of 39 gratitudes, an average of seven or eight every day.

  1. Arietta (Cathy’s new dog)
  2. Joe (friend-husband’s cattle dog)
  3. Clean water in the faucet
  4. Fingernails (growing stronger)
  5. A new book from a friend
  6. Oranges
  7. Myrtle (my new roomba)
  8. Finding the Thank You notes
  9. Brisk, cold air
  10. Gloves
  11. Infinity scarves
  12. Light bulbs
  13. Flecainide acetate (anti-arrhythmic)
  14. Friend-husband’s smile
  15. The laughter of a friend
  16. A call from daughter Number One
  17. Ami
  18. Mona
  19. Luke
  20. Isaiah
  21. Elijah
  22. Eric
  23. Memories of Dr. H. W. Graves
  24. The joy of watching clouds when I was a child
  25. My mother
  26. My grandmother
  27. My grandfather
  28. The library in Gypsum
  29. My friend Sally
  30. My friend Shirley
  31. My friend Marion
  32. My friend Shadia
  33. My friend Sandra
  34. My friend-husband
  35. BitOHoney
  36. Chocolate
  37. Dr. Bothwell
  38. The art of acupuncture

This list is by no means comprehensive. Just some of the things I thought about this week. Leave a comment with one thing you are thankful for today.

See you next Thankful Thursday.


Aarrgghh!!  My apologies. I thought I had scheduled this to post yesterday. I goofed.


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Happy new year to all my friends and family. This post is the beginning of a new resolution for me. I have neglected this blog for far too long.

During 2018, my goal is to post twice a week, Monday and Thursday. Thursday’s blog will simply be a list of things for which I am grateful. This is part of my participation in Shirley Corder’s challenge for Thankful Thursdays.

The idea is to find 2018 things for which to be grateful in 2018. That figures out to about 39 items per week or 7 or 8 items per day. The most challenging part is to make sure there are no duplicates.

That’s right – NO duplicates. These need to be narrow and specific, not broad and general. Good health is not a particularly good choice. That my tinnitus is not so loud today is a better one. Narrower and more specific.

The other portion of my resolution is to be more disciplined in my writing. I have several large writing goals on my desk. Without constant attention, they will never be completed.

I’m asking that you help me become accountable for this blog. If you are following it and don’t see a post when there should be one, please nudge me – on Facebook, in an email, or just holler.

So what is your current goal for the new year?  Perhaps we can help keep each other accountable and on track. Leave a comment, please.



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