Moving from Ordinary Writing, to Extraordinary Writing

pexels-photo-921716.jpegEveryone always says, “Write what you know.” Unfortunately, that always left me thinking that perhaps I wasn’t cut out for writing. Because the only thing I’m an expert at is writing. It’s what I’ve done all my life (when I’m not reading). I’ve written how-to manuals, white papers, poems, test scripts, short stories, reports, analytical summaries, and, yes, books.

Then, the other day, I attended a presentation on creative writing and the presenter said, “Write what you’re passionate about. You can always learn what you don’t know.”

That statement not only made more sense to me, it freed me.

So, I made a list of the things I’m passionate about. I then made another list of the topics I’d love to learn more about. Mixing those two lists helps me build my stories. For instance, I’m passionate about alternate healing methods (I don’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve been dabbling all my life, so I do have extensive knowledge regarding herbs, crystals, and techniques like Reiki). If I combine that with my desire to learn more about sailing ships of the 1700’s and 1800’s, I can build a story around a healer at sea. It could be a fantasy, a romance with historical flashbacks, or an historical romance. No matter what genre I select, using this method would allow me to easily combine my passion and my desire to learn more, while creating something interesting and compelling for my readers.

According to the presenter, that’s exactly what happens when you write about your passions. That excitement and enthusiasm that you have for your story comes through in your writing. It ignites something in your readers helping them relate to and feel the emotion you embedded in the tale. And capturing the readers and drawing them into the story world is really what we all want as authors.

Now, this way of writing isn’t for everyone—it’s especially not for those who are more keen on producing quantity rather than quality. That’s because the learning part can sometimes take months. It all depends on just how much knowledge you need to make your story convincing. If the character’s shipboard travel only spans one or two chapters, then you don’t need much knowledge. If, however, it spans the entire book, then the more knowledge you obtain, the easier it is to sprinkle in those tiny details that make your story world believable.

And that’s why most writing teachers or mentors will say, “Write what you know.” Because it’s the little details that can make or break the story world for your readers. If, for instance, you know nothing of sailing ships, it will often come through in the details (or lack thereof). For instance, if you state that your character came on deck to help with the lines or sheets, and then you have him or her fussing with the sails, immediately shows your lack of knowledge. (The terms ‘lines’ and ‘sheets’ refer to the ropes used on a ship.)

Usually, what you’re passionate about is also something you know a lot about. If you’re passionate about horse racing, you usually know a lot about race courses, race horses, and the betting process. This allows you to include the necessary (and correct) terms and details throughout your story. It also lets you infuse your story with all the enthusiasm you have for the sport. This in turn ignites a passion in your reader for your characters and story.

Therefore, if you’re willing to take some extra time when writing your novel, combining your passion with what you want to learn about can help you create an extraordinary book for your readers.

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Ascending Spiral Book Review

AsccendingspiralimageAscending Spiral by Bob Rich

Summary: Dr. Pip Lipkin has lived for 12,000 years, incarnated many times as man, woman, and even as species beyond our world and senses. But he’s here for a reason: to pay restitution for an ancient crime by working to save humanity from certain destruction. “Ascending Spiral” is a book that will take the reader to many different places and times, showing, ultimately, that our differences and divisions, even at their most devastating, are less important than our similarities.

Recommendation: Yes

Review: “Ascending Spiral” by Bob Rich is the book “Cloud Atlas” aspired to be but, unfortunately, never was.

“Ascending Spiral” takes you on a journey through the past and present of Dr. Pip Lipkin, a psychologist and counselor. In so doing, it gives you a view of the experiences and ways in which each of us develop and grow through our different lifetimes on Earth.

In each life we interact with many of the same souls repeatedly as we learn what the expression “an eye for an eye” really means. Throughout the book, Pip experiences love, hate, war, depression, incarceration, and slavery, all while searching for that one moment when enlightenment sparks an awareness in his soul. Each moment of awareness brings his soul more light and a greater ability in making love-filled choices instead of fear-based ones.

Once I stepped beyond the prologue and into the actual story, I was hooked. The characters were vibrant and as alive as you and me. With every choice made, and every battle fought, I was on the edge of my seat wanting to know what would happen next.

Even if you don’t believe in reincarnation or past lives, you can enjoy this book by simply looking at it as an historical adventure novel. I found that the historical accuracy combined with the great pacing made for an entertaining read. The only time the pacing bogged down (for me) was toward the end when the story popped back into (almost) current time. What I mean by that is, we joined with Pip as young adult in university. However, soon after we jumped back to Pip as a child. I became a little confused with the story here, because of the age hopping, but once we got back to Pip as a young man, the story smoothed out again.

Overall, this is an excellent adventure for those who just want a good story; an extremely thought-provoking book for those contemplating the bigger question of “why are we here;” or a wonderful book for those wishing to explore the idea of past lives and reincarnation.

Mastering Meditation–Now in Paperback

I’m proud to announce that my Mastering Meditation book is now available in paperback. Because the images included in the book are (to me, anyway) important, the book will be printed in color. While this does push the price a bit higher, I believe it is worth it.

Take a look, just go to Amazon.com for your copy.

 

Our Crazy Language

letters-flying-into-dictionary-pagesDid you ever wonder about the derivations of some of our words and why they’re spelled the way they are? This article explains the reasoning behind the spelling of some of our words, such as light, bright, and neighbor.

What’s with the ‘gh’ ?

Marketing With Book Trailers

Past Rekindled Book Trailer
Sample of book trailer slide

Book trailers are a wonderful way to help you market yourself and your books. They are great for those who do speaking tours, as you can run them before and after the speech, which helps to get the audience into the spirit of your topic. And when it comes to book fairs or conventions, they are especially useful. Running one or more book trailers at your booth or table, attracts people’s attention and makes them come over to see what’s happening.

[To read more…]

Up Standing

108825CMX01.inddJust a note to praise the tiny word that is used so much and in so many ways. It’s a simple word, yet it has more meanings and uses than any other word in the American language. So, here’s to the word: Up. It’s a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and preposition.

This simple, two-character word props up many a sentence and can be seen and heard in nearly every conversation.

While we can all easily understand using the word Up as a direction (such as when pointing toward the sky), it becomes a little more confusing when it’s used to describe awakening in the morning (waking up) or to describe our confusion (mixed up).

So, here are some of the ways in which the word Up has enriched our lives and our language:

  • He brought that topic up at the meeting.Up
  • She stepped up.
  • She has to write up a report.
  • I’m fed up.
  • He’s really fired up about this.
  • He needs to grow up.
  • Would you please speak up?
  • I need to call up my doctor after I look up the number.
  • Opening up the windows helped brighten up the room.
  • Warm up the leftovers before you eat them; then clean up the kitchen.
  • Be sure to lock up the house.
  • Let’s open up the house.
  • Can you fix up the car?
  • Never give up.
  • He’s always stirring up
  • They lined up for tickets.
  • They really worked up an appetite.
  • She’s always thinking up
  • To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed up is special.
  • A drain must be opened up because it is stopped up.
  • If you are up to it, go ahead.
  • Sounds great, if you’re up for it.
  • It’s going to take up a lot of time.
  • Don’t give up.
  • It clouded up; but, then it cleared up.
  • She cracked up.
  • Heads up.
  • Let’s gear up.
  • You need to look it up.
  • I’ll wrap this up.

Now, I will admit that in several of the examples I’ve included, the word Up is extraneous and unnecessary. And were I writing the sentences, I would not include the word Up. For instance:

  • She has to write up a report. (The word up is totally unnecessary; yet, many people do use it in similar sentences.)
  • Can you fix up the car? (Again, it’s just as clear to say: Can you fix the car?)
  • I need to call up my doctor after… (the first instance of up is unnecessary).
  • A drain must be opened up…(again, the first instance of up isn’t needed).
  • It’s going to take up a lot of time. (Up is rather redundant and not needed.)

I think now you can see why I think we need to applaud that tiny, two-letter word, UP. It’s a hard-working, seldom-praised useful little word that shows up more often than you would think. And it’s always propping up sentences, even when it doesn’t need to.

So, two thumbs up to…

up2

I can resist, I can…Oooh, Candy Crush

reader

Have you ever started reading on a tablet or other hand-held device, but soon lost focus or interest? Not because the article or book was unappealing or uninteresting, but because you couldn’t resist that siren call of Candy Crush or Diamond Mine.

Or have you ever started reading something, again on your hand-held device, but when you finished you couldn’t really give more than a high-level summary of what the article or book chapter was about? All the details simply skittered away?

Well, according to an article I read, this is becoming more common place than we realized. Evidently our brains have become so accustomed to being interrupted by moving video ads, twitching game icons, and streaming text headlines that we are unable to focus for more than a few precious moments on static text. And, unfortunately, even when we do get our brains to focus, we are losing the ability to comprehend the full flavor of the concepts and meanings behind the words that we read.

Now, I know I haven’t yet lost my ability to comprehend the nuances of a good story or a well-written article (no matter how long). However, I have encountered the alluring call of those gaming apps when I try to read a book or magazine on a hand-held device. And, I will admit that sometimes I have even given in to those beckonings. Not because the book is boring or the article not interesting, but simply because the games are too accessible when I’m using a hand-held device. When I read the same articles or books in physical form rather than digital, I’m rarely tempted to trade them for one of the hand-held devices, so I can play a rousing game of Angry Birds.

However, according to the article, our brains have become used to one- to five-minute snippets of input. Therefore, when some book or article extends beyond that, we tend to either discard or ignore the remaining information. So, what does that say for the future of books, book readers, and authors?smartphone-technology-sugar-white.jpg

One thing that book readers can try is to implement tools such as Spritz, Spreeder, or Readsy. These tools not only move the text across the screen, but they are supposed to help readers read faster while retaining or improving their comprehension rates. They sort of create a game out of reading by giving readers the feel and motion of interaction that normal, static books don’t; yet, they also help readers retain their focus on a book long enough to complete it.

As authors, I believe the best we can do is to find ways to reconnect people with the joy of reading. Maybe we need to change the way in which we write. Perhaps, we need to put aside our traditional writing styles of long, convoluted paragraphs piled one upon another until we have ten pages that we call a chapter. Instead, maybe we need to write short paragraphs (one- to two-sentences long) and very short chapters (one- to two-pages long). In fact, we may need to resort to writing novellas (150 to 200 pages long) instead of 300-page novels. (Perhaps, breaking our books into two or three novellas that a reader can easily complete in short ten- or fifteen-minute increments of attention is key to gaining more readers.)

Of course, if we really want to connect with the readers of today, we might just skip the book part completely, and simply create movies or YouTube videos of our stories. However, I’m not that desperate for readers (yet). I still love the written word; so, I will continue to use them to express my thoughts and ideas with the hope and belief that there are still enough people out there who share my joy in reading (even if the words don’t sing and dance across their screens).