Finishing

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Do you have a few unfinished projects lying around? I don’t mean an unfinished sweater you started knitting years ago or clothes to wash. I mean writing projects. For a writer, life is complex. Traveling and going off on a hike with friends are important. Experience is the basis of good writing, but writers must take the time to write. Prioritizing is part of getting things done.

Last year, I set a goal to finish four novels I had written over the past two decades. While writing the novels, I felt compelled to complete three nonfiction books first and published them on Amazon. I edited the novels numerous times and received helpful edits from my critique partners. Then, hired a professional editor. Once she returned them, it meant more editing. So, for the past year I focused on finalizing the novels.

Writing The End of a first draft was a great achievement but then the real work began. If you consider a novel in the 80,000-word range, writing 350 words a day for 228 days would bring you to The End of the first draft. If you are aiming for 100,000 for your genre, you’d finish in a year. That is less than one page of single-spaced manuscript per day.

Some days are more productive than others. I am often up before dawn writing because mornings are my most productive time of day. Find your best time. Most writers can’t write every day, but on days they don’t put words on paper, the stories evolve and solidify in their thoughts.

Rewriting and editing are tedious but must be done to perfection before you query an agent or indie-publish on Amazon or one of many other platforms. After all your personal focus and hours, you may be blinded to serious problems in the storyline or unclear word choices. It is still essential to enlist beta-readers who are voracious readers in the genre and not family members. The hope is to identify problem areas you have not recognized before you proceed to publication.

Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, your job is to never bore the reader. Information in a nonfiction work or the story in your novel must be engaging and keep the reader reading. Attending writer conferences, taking classes and participating in online writing skills webinars can be valuable. Many are free, but usually, in the end, will try to sell you something.

Each year, November is National Novel Writing Month; NaNoWriMo for short. If you need a push to finish a project or start a new one, this may be for you. Locally, at Flathead Valley Community College, Kathy Dunnehoff is presenting Novel Challenge. Beginning October 30 for five sessions. She will discuss the craft of writing and how to keep words flowing for the month of November. With concentrated effort you can finish a first draft during the class.

Dennis Foley is teaching Writing the First Novel during fall semester. Check out the online brochure at FVCC, Creative Writing. Authors

The annual Flathead River Writers Conference is September 22 and 23 at FVCC where you can learn from both Kathy and Dennis along with other publishing industry professionals. The brochure and online registration are available: https://www.authorsoftheflathead.org.

Happy writing and reading. Hope to see you at the conference.

Betty Kuffel

September Book News

 

 

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Join Author Susan Purvis Tuesday October 2nd

for her official book launch of Go Find.

It’s going to be a festive affair with book signing, music, snacks.

 Reading and Discussion.

A free drink to book purchasers.

Where: Casey’s Whitefish 101 Central Ave. Whitefish, Montana

Time:  6 pm doors open-Book signing, music. 

 7:15 pm Discussion with Susan and Whitefish Review editor Brain Schott and Keith Liggett about her memoir, the writing process and life and love. Q &A for audience.

8:30 pm Book signing and music.

 

NEWS! ANNOUNCING: Go Find will be released early for Flathead River Writers Conference Sept 22nd.  Ten days before general public. On sale at the conference.

Betty Kuffel, Author

Betty’s Book News for September5-6-2018-deadly-pyre-new-front-cover.jpg

Deadly Pyre is book one of the Kelly McKay  medical thriller series. It will be available as a free Kindle on Amazon September 28, 29 and 30th. Please take advantage of the free book and share the information with your friends.

Amazon link

In this book, Dr. Kelly McKay struggles to complete her ER residency at Seattle’s Harbor Medical Center. Ferocious competition, burnout and an unpredictable lover complicate her life. Besides unexplained deaths of patients under her care jeopardizing her career, a sudden increase in stabbing victims points to a serial killer stalking women near the hospital. Will Kelly be next?

 

 

Book News August 2018

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I have a challenge for the writers in the group.

Recently, I was asked by Flathead Living to submit an excerpt from my book, Go Find which will be released October 2, 2018 by Blackstone Publishing.

Flathead Living didn’t want a synopsis but 200-words or less excerpt that captures the flavor, my voice, my writing style, and essences of my memoir.

This is a great challenge to all of us as writers. What or where is that paragraph in your writing project that sums up what you are trying to communicate? If you had to send the NYT’s 100 words that reveals your writing chops and story line, what would you say? Is it in your current document? I challenge all of you to look for it and write it down and send it to me. I’d love to read it.

For me, my a-ha moment happened when I was three years into writing my memoir. I hadn’t quite linked up the big story line and still felt a little lost in the process. I was on the phone with Poodle Lady, my mentor, BFF, and character in my book. She was training a white standard Poodle in Aspen, Colorado when I met her.  I blurted out to her, “How come it’s easier for me to jump out of the side of a helicopter to look for a dead guy with my avalanche dog than it is to talk to my husband about our relationship?”

Boom! I finally said those words I hadn’t been able to get out for years. Shame, guilt, and relief flooded through me in that moment.

Finding courage to express my feelings on the page was and still is a process. It took ten years to sort out what I was trying to convey to my readers and to myself. I am blessed to have a supportive writing community in the Flathead Valley. I hope you enjoy this 248-word excerpt.

In the next newsletter, I will tell you what my literary agent Bob thought my memoir was about after he read it twice.

Go Find: My Journey to Find the Lost—And Myself by Susan Purvis

Excerpt from Chapter 1—Last Ditch Effort

13, 000’ Whitehouse Mountain

Ouray, Colorado. 2005

Yanking off my helmet with one hand, I pin Tasha, my black Lab into my lap with the other. The deafening roar of the engine makes giving verbal commands to Tasha impossible. I rely on our years of communicating through eye contact and hand signals to show her when to exit.

“You’re going to have to jump!” the pilot shouts at me.

“Jump?” I worry about Tasha’s distended abdomen. She could rupture her gut if she lands on her belly. Then I remember the raspy plea of Ed Jones, the uncle of the missing man. “I’m not leaving Colorado until all my family members are accounted for. I’ve been scouring these mountains for over thirty days.” Ed’s desperation had convinced me I had to come. We’re his last hope. Ten years ago, when I blindly launched into this volunteer search-dog career, I promised I would never leave anyone behind. I’ve kept my word … so far.

The helicopter shudders. I clutch the handle and, for an instant, I question what I am doing here. My husband’s pissed. He told me not to come, tried to order me not to get on the chopper. Yet here I am, in the path of an avalanche, risking Tasha’s life and my own. Somehow, I find it easier to jump out of a helicopter than to talk to my husband about our relationship. Is my ego driving this? My promise to the family? Or is it that I have something to prove?

Namaste,

Susan Purvis, Author, Educator, Explorer

susan@susanpurvis.com

www.susanpurvis.com to read more about Go Find. Over 30 book reviews are posted including New York Times bestselling author, Sebastian Junger.

Go Find will be released October 2, 2018

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Join authors Angie Abdou, Sue Purvis, Jan Redford, Kate Harris, and Bernadette McDonald as they discuss challenges when writing about their personal experiences with wild places and how women’s narrative can connect people to the landscape. This session will be moderated by Marni Jackson, faculty for the Banff Mountain and Wilderness Writing program.

Date:           Saturday, November 03, 2018
Time:          4:00 PM
Location:   Kinnear Centre 2nd Floor #203, Banff, Alberta, Canada
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Rewriting at Sunrise

The End

Completing the first draft of a novel and writing The End is really the beginning. Most writers feel relief when they write those final words. It’s a joyous time, so open that bottle of champagne. Savor the moment but compare the achievement to graduating from high school on your way to a doctorate.

Fiction and nonfiction both require the framework of storytelling, a beginning, middle and end. You might conceptualize an ending before you ever formulate a story line to reach that unique end. Once you sprout an idea, the next step is to decide the premise for the book.  What is the big picture? Why are you telling this story?

The plot is a construct of details and creation of characters to effectively tell your story. They will take the reader through twists and turns in a cohesive framework to reach the ending you’ve designed. Whether it be a short story, novel, memoir or a technical manual, your goal is to grab the reader and compel them to read on.

Along the way, your process includes reassessment of the plot and subplots to tell the story without extraneous words. Avoid excessive descriptors and adverbs. Make every word count; concise, clear, and compelling.

Best-selling authors use four plotting steps:

  • Identify the protagonist. Who will tell your story?
  • Show the incident that drives the protagonist to act.
  • Reveal the overarching story goal and universal stakes that appeal to reader emotions. What are the rewards for the protagonist’s success and the cost of failure?
  • Build a complex antagonist who isn’t all bad, whose motivation to oppose the protagonist’s efforts is clear and believable. What is the antagonist’s reward for success and the cost of failure?

I attended a recent online thriller workshop that included a lecture by Gary Provost, a master storyteller.  The above four points are compressed by Gary into two sentences: Once upon a time, something happened to someone and he decided he would pursue a goal. So he devised a plan of action and even though there were forces trying to stop him, he moved forward because there was a lot at stake. It sounds funny but includes the basics.

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks provides the architecture of beats, plot points and pivot points that drive a story forward. His award-winning blog www.storyfix.com contains many writing tips. He also deconstructs best sellers and movies by analyzing their story lines to identify how they all follow the plot format.

As writers, our focus is putting words on a page. We all have quirks, different processes and variable efficiency depending on the time of day. I have friends who write best in the bustling atmosphere of a coffee shop. Others write late at night. When the day is done for most people, they are wide awake and creative. For me, early morning is perfect, before sunrise when the world is quiet but for chirping birds. By noon, I’ve put in a full day’s work. But that doesn’t mean I stop writing. When life doesn’t get in the way, writers write.

When I began writing a medical thriller about two decades ago, I had a good ending and began writing without a developed story line. I just wrote. After completing that book and many rewrites, I went on to different projects, all of them using an outline. In 2013, I finally published a book, the true crime, Eyes of a Pedophile, followed by two more nonfiction books. Then, I returned to the early novel. It was awful.

I divided the original manuscript into two books and then wrote a romance. This year, I set out to finish all three. After excruciating months of editing, I accomplished my goal and published them on Amazon. I have two more in the final editing stages, so I’m ahead of schedule.

Learning new skills sped up my progress. We live in a world of technological advances that make writing easier and more efficient. Scrivener is a software writing and organizational product writers around the world are using. This powerful tool has a free trial available for both Mac and Windows from www.literatureandlatte.com. Tools in the program include a research library, name generator, easy portability of product out of the program along with formatting processes for fiction, nonfiction and script writing. There is a high learning curve, but those who have learned the process use it for all their writing. Classes are available at Flathead Valley Community College.

Many writing classes are available at the community college and online. If you are stumbling toward completion because you lack computer skills, consider checking out local classes, and those from www.Lynda.com where you will find tutorials and training. The first month on Lynda is free.

YouTube can be helpful for trouble-shooting computer issues. I love YouTube for home repairs, too. Skilled repair and construction guys helped me repair my dishwasher and tile my laundry room last year. But, beware of watching TED talk writer presentations, it will sidetrack you from writing for hours.

Dennis Foley, local writing guru and former television series writer, provides creative writing lectures the first Thursday of each month for Authors of the Flathead at FVCC. Check out www.authorsoftheflathead.org for times and room locations. Consider attending their annual Flathead River Writers Conference September 22 and 23. You can register and pay online at the link.

If you are a serious writer, Dennis tells us, read a lot, write a lot, and hang out with writers. I add, take classes and join a critique group.

Here is a very helpful editing blog posted on TKZ by local writer Deb Burke. https://killzoneblog.com/2015/10/whats-your-self-editing-score.html

Thanks for stopping by

Montana Sunrise Books

Author Betty Kuffel

 

 

de·scrip·tion dəˈskripSH(ə)n; noun 1. a spoken or written representation or account of a person, object, or event.

By Janice McCaffrey

My critique buddies tell me I need more detail in my descriptions.

Oh, my heck!

The word description gives me sweaty palms and heart palpitations just like the phrase dangling participles.

Whenever I hear any grammatical term I’m transported back to Mrs. Foster’s eighth-grade English class. She’s handing back our descriptive paragraph assignment. I’m sitting at my desk waiting, feeling confident in my efforts. After all one day I’ll be a famous author.

Standing next to me, Mrs. Foster clears her throat and places a piece of loose leaf paper on my desktop. Face down. Beside the next desk she repeats her ritual. The room reeks with the smell of nervous teenagers. Kids clear their throats, cough, and squirm in their seats.

I take a deep breath and gather my courage. I worked hard on this assignment. I’m proud of the result. How bad could it be? I watch as my shaking fingers squeeze the paper so tight I leave a deep wrinkle. I wonder, is my heart still beating? Clinching my jaw I turn the paper over.

“WHAT?”

Stunned, I don’t move. I stare at too many red check marks to count. And right at the top of the page is a big, fat D–.

I hold my breath and bite my lip to stop the tears from streaming down my red face. I swallow hard to get the acidy taste off my tongue.

The bell rings and I watch my classmates sprint to the classroom door. I don’t know if my knees will hold me up. But I do know if I don’t move, I’ll be late to my next class. I stand and walk trance-like into the crowded hall.

That’s it, I think. I’ll never be an author.           

I hate composition and especially grammar.

Afterwords:

I never learned how to repair my errors. That assignment didn’t teach me how to write descriptive paragraphs, it just screamed, “You’re Dumb!”

Today I ask myself, can my inner-teenager overcome her self-doubts and embrace grammatical terms? Will I ever forget those few minutes of shame so many years ago?

Well, the good news is: I’m workin’ on it.

How? How else? Google, of course.

I love Google!

Don’t ask why, but I began my Google exploration of descriptions with noses. I found Zwivel.com Sniffing Out Nose Shapes which lists the twelve most common nose types: fleshy, turned-up, Roman, bumpy, snub, hawk or aquiline, Greek, nubian, East Asian, Nixon, bulbous and combo.

I examined a multitude of images (photos of people and famous statues) testing my power of observation by identifying which nose would be categorized under which type.

Another search led me to word lists for writers on KathySteinemann.com Resources for Writers & Poets, 300+ ways to describe noses. She also has word lists to describe necks, ears, smiles, eyes, etc. etc.. At Wattpad.com there’s Vocabulary – Word Lists for Writers by The Otakunerd and at tumblr.com Reference for Writers.

At WritingWorld.com I found a blog called The Art of Description: Eight Tips to Help You Bring Your Settings to Life by Anne Marble. Her topics in this discussion are: Avoid Huge Lumps of Description; Make Description an Active Part of the Story; Describe What Your Characters Would Notice; Words, Words, Words; Use All the Senses; Fit the Description to the Type of Story; Avoid Excessive Name-dropping; and Don’t Let Description Hang You Up during a First Draft.

And last, but not least, at Wiki How.com how to do anything . . . I found How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph:

 Descriptive paragraphs include details that appeal to the five senses: sight, taste, touch, smell, and hearing. In a descriptive paragraph, the writer must convey information that appeals to all the senses in order to give the best possible description to the reader. Descriptive paragraphs are commonly used in fiction and non-fiction writing to help immerse readers into the world of the author.

I’m impressed with the amount of free information online to help writers. Not only words, but how to: outline, plot a story arc, bring characters to life, edit, rewrite, and find editors or publishers. This is a great time to be a wanna-be-author.

As I pursue my quest, I repeat to myself, I think I can, I think I can.

And every so often I declare,

“I can . . . I will . . . and . . . I did!”