On Writing: Putting it on Paper; What Rate To Charge

Recently, the Federation of B.C. Writers asked members to respond to the following two questions.

A. Do you write on a computer? Typewriter? Using pen and paper? Why do you prefer the mode of writing you use? What are the problems you experience when you try to write any other way?

AND

B. There’s a lot of confusing information out there and aside from the going per word rate for local publications it’s hard to know how to charge for things like white papers, newsletters and annual reports etc. Does the fed offer any resources that help freelancers get an idea of price recommendations for various services?

painting cover for Kittens and Stars, sm

For illustrations, I prefer watercolour, or watercolour and ink. Watercolour gives me the range of colours and edges I want, and sometimes happy surprises when I use wet in wet. Ink gives me precise drawings when those are called for, such as in this simple drawing of a blue heron.

Heron

Sometimes I write text by hand. Things such as poetry, a short descriptive piece, blocking out elements such as character traits or possible story lines. I also tend to write by hand when I’m doing research, because it seems to help me retain the material better. However, when I start to write a story or a novel, I park myself at the computer. The ease of typing, correcting typos, and editing blocks of text allows my thoughts to flow and lets me get much more done than when I write by hand, not to mention it saves me from hand cramps. A welcome side effect of using the computer is that I don’t smudge the work the way I do in handwriting. I’m left-handed, and in North America we write from left to right. Words get smudged and smeared as my hand and arm move across the paper. No matter the angle I might turn the page at, the copy is never clean.

To set rates for contracted work, one really needs a handle on:

Click for preview

• exactly what work is required

•how long the task will take

•what expenses will be incurred to complete it

•what do your competitors charge for the same work

•what is your time worth to you

•what is it worth to the client

•how experienced are you at doing this particular job

For instance: a prospective client approaches you to do a brochure for their business. This will entail graphics, text, set-up/design, printing, folding and delivering the finished brochures. Rates will differ if you are required to supply the graphics, design and text, or just some of these elements. They’ll differ again depending on whether you’re also contracting to print, fold, cut and deliver the finished product, and whether you choose and supply the paper for said printing, or the client does.

If you’ve years of experience under your belt, chances are you will be much faster at it, and there likely won’t be the ‘practice’ failures that sometimes accompany the learning curve that occurs when one is doing a job for the first time. Experience should equal a much faster turn-over time with a quality result. ‘Should’ but it isn’t always the case (something prospective clients might want to keep in mind). Checking the rates and results (quality of product, satisfaction of customers) of those who offer the same services is beneficial for both a potential service provider, and potential customers.

 

 

On Writing: Wedded Bliss, or, Happily Ever After

On Writing: Wedded Bliss, or, Happily Ever After

I recently read a post by a writer friend of mine, who is into romance. “Happily ever after is still the dream,” she wrote, as part of an explanation of why so many readers gobble up romance novels. I’m all for romance, and the feelings of newness, anticipation, and pure joy romance can bring. But happily ever after has never been part of my world. Seems to me it’s a delusion, passed on to countless children in Walt Disney-ish retelling of stories like Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty, and mass-market ‘Romance’ novels. Original fairy-tales (The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, even Mother Goose) made no such promises. In my view, the ‘happily ever after’ theme sets children (and adults) up for huge disappointment, if not worse.  Continue reading

Living With Alzheimer’s: Assessing Patients’ Pain

The following is a restructuring of information that may help caregivers living with loved ones with Alzheimer’s recognize the symptoms of pain in an Alzheimer’s patient who is suffering from pain but can no longer describe it, and help them. A link to the online site the information is taken from is provided at the end of this post.

ASSESSING PAIN IN PATIENTS WITH ADVANCED DEMENTIA

Pain in older adults is very often undertreated, and it may be especially so in older adults with severe dementia.

While Alzheimer’s disease itself does not cause pain, patients may suffer pain from other sources. These sources may include improperly fitting clothes, stomach cramps, constipation, undiscovered sprains or broken bones, arthritis, pressure sores and bruises. Poor hygiene may also lead to pain; for example, sore gums may result from improper oral (teeth/mouth) care.

Changes in a patient’s ability to communicate verbally present special challenges in treating pain, and unrelieved pain can have serious consequences, including declines in physical function and diminished appetite. The Pain Assessment in Advanced Dementia (PAINAD) scale has been designed to assess pain in this population by looking at five specific indicators: breathing, vocalization, facial expression, body language, and consolability. A trained nurse or other health care worker can use the scale in less than five minutes of observation. For an online video showing nurses using the PAINAD scale and other pain-assessment tools, go to http://links.lww.com/A251.

The PAINAD scale is a behavior-observation tool developed for use in patients whose dementia is so advanced that they can’t verbally communicate the fact that they’re in pain. Designed for easy use, it requires a brief training-and-observation period.

* breathing: labored breathing or hyperventilating

* vocalization: moaning or crying

* facial expression: frowning or grimacing

* body language: clenching fists or pushing away caregivers

* consolability: an inability to be comforted

Each item is scored on a scale of 0 to 2. When scores from the five indicators are totaled, the patient’s score can range from 0 (no pain) to 10 (severe pain). The intention was to create a 0-to-10 pain-rating scale for people with advanced dementia that relies on observation and is similar to the commonly used 0-to-10 pain-rating scale that relies on the patient’s own report of pain.

ALLEVIATING PAIN

If pain is present: caregivers are advised to evaluate and modify their approach to care. All caregivers are asked to consider the following questions.

* Is the patient handled gently?

* Is s/he given warnings before s/he’s touched or moved?

* Is s/he kept covered and warm while care is given?

* Are you attending to behavioral cues and not rushing through activities?

* Do you stop care activities when s/he resists them?

The creators of the PAINAD scale have given no specific guidance on the treatment of pain according to each score. The soundness of using a 0-to-10 behavioral scale to rate the severity of pain has not been established.5 At the most general level, a score of 1 would indicate mild pain and a score of 10 would indicate severe pain. Mild pain (a total score of 1 or 2) warrants comfort measures (such nonpharmacologic approaches as repositioning or distraction, or a mild analgesic such as acetaminophen); moderate-to-severe pain (a total score of 5 to 10) warrants stronger analgesia, such as an opioid, as well as comfort measures.

CHALLENGES that may arise

It may be difficult to determine whether a particular behavior is related to pain or to something else, such as anxiety or being too cold. Some behaviors may be inconsistent or very subtle; detecting subtle changes may require observing the patient at different times over the course of several days. Often, more pain-related behaviors are seen during movements involved in bathing, getting out of bed, or dressing.

When working with people with advanced dementia, caregivers should remember that it’s impossible to determine whether a person is in pain through behavior alone.9 Thus, the pain indicators in the PAINAD scale (or any other behavioral pain measure) should not be considered definitive. Rather, such a scale should be used within a broader, more comprehensive pain-assessment protocol. This would include trying to obtain the patient’s report of pain, investigating possible causes of pain (such as injury or illness), and possibly starting an analgesic trial.4 It’s also important to talk with family members to ascertain behaviors, or changes in behaviors, that indicated pain when the patient was younger or more cognitively intact.

ONLINE RESOURCES: For more information on the Pain Assessment in Advanced Dementia scale and other geriatric assessment tools and best practices, go to http://www.ConsultGeriRN.org-the clinical Web site of the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, New York University College of Nursing, and the Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE) program. The site presents authoritative clinical products, resources, and continuing education opportunities that support individual nurses and practice settings.

Go to http://www.nursingcenter.com/AJNolderadults and click on the How to Try This link to access all articles and videos in this series.

Living With Alzheimer’s: The Question of Appropriate Therapies

Professionals agree there is currently no treatment that will cure Alzheimer’s because its cause is not known. During the course of our journey, doctors have given us the option of prescription drugs to “possibly help” treat the disease. Many others have suggested remedies, and various testimonials and ads promoting alternative treatments have popped up. It can be overwhelming, and we’ve spent our fair share of time doing what I call, chasing rainbows. Coconut oil, vitamins, and other such things did nothing for Bill.

When he was diagnosed, our question to doctors was: are there any drugs that can slow it down? There are some that, “Might, or might not, have any effect,” the gerontologist said. We chose to try them.

“Aricept,” I was told, “won’t slow it down, but it will let him use everything that he has left.” It did seem to help Bill focus on tasks better than he had been able to after the disease hit. However, it also caused him to have nightmares, terrible muscle cramps, a continually runny nose, and other side effects. When we reported these, his prescription was changed to Ebixa (Memantine).

As his condition continued its downhill course, I couldn’t know whether the drug was really doing anything to help, but he continued to take it because we wouldn’t be able to tell if it was helping unless he stopped taking it. After almost 8 years, I decided to stop it (without his knowledge so the results would be in the realm of ‘placebo’ trials), to try and determine what, if any, effect it was having. Within a few weeks, I noticed Bill was more confused when he woke up. He needed directions to the ensuite bathroom, more help with dressing. Other things he had done himself, or with minimal supervision, now required more involvement from me. He also followed me around the house more closely, as if he was afraid I would disappear if he didn’t keep me in sight. His search for words to describe his needs, or an event, also became more pronounced. So, after three months off it, I put Ebixa back on his daily menu. And after a week or so noticed his descriptive powers improve, his thoughts become clearer than they were, and he could do more things independently again. That said, I don’t know whether it’s the drug that made the difference.

Alzheimer’s is an up and down, winding path, not a straight line, and at various stages in the disease patients do have periods of more confusion, followed by or interspersed with periods of greater cohesion. No one knows why. Added to that are expectations. It’s possible my interactions with him changed in ways I didn’t realize during his time off the drug, and that could have affected him in ways I don’t understand. Or it could have affected my perceptions of what was actually going on. When it comes to ‘scientific testing’, tests like the one I conducted are highly flawed, and I don’t recommend it.

What is known is that everyone’s experience with taking prescription drugs to help cope with the disease is different, and what does seem to work for everyone when it comes to maintaining, or increasing, health are the things we’ve all heard about most of our lives—good food, regular exercise, and social involvement. Laughter also helps. In other words, the same things every human requires to establish and maintain a full and healthy life will also help Alzheimer’s patients (and caregivers).

Fortunately, Bill always was, and still is, a social guy who enjoys a range of activities. And when he loses the ability to do something he likes to do, we work together to find another activity he can do. It does get harder as the disease progresses, but he’s always game to try, and often things work out better than I expect they will. Such as, deciding to take advantage of the Adult Daycare Program, which he now attends one day a week.

I was nervous about signing him up for this, believing that he still had significantly more function than many who attend the program, and that he would not enjoy the activities there. My concerns were immediately dispelled. He fully appreciates the warm and friendly staff, finds people there he can talk to, and though every activity isn’t his cup of tea, he enjoys many others. He often comes home with a tale about something or other they’ve done that he got a special kick out of.

In addition, I am mindful every human needs to feel they are making a valuable contribution to life in order to feel they are living a full life. So, I keep giving Bill tasks to do, even if I have to later finish or redo them. (More often, I find it more beneficial for both of us to just accept the job he does, whatever the level of competence he does it with). As well, I try to recognize changes that are occurring, and create new, helpful strategies for dealing with them.

On Writing: The Hero’s Journey

Guest Post

The Hero’s Journey by Bruce Hale

The oldest story ever told forms the basis for so many of our modern tales. No, I’m not talking about the “check is in the mail” story. I’m talking about the Hero’s Journey.

This mythic structure has been used so often, it’s almost part of our DNA. You’ll find it in the simplest picture book and in the splashiest Hollywood blockbuster. In WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE and in LORD OF THE RINGS.

And since the Hero’s Journey forms the basis for so many stories, doesn’t it make sense to learn it and add it to your writing toolkit?

Here are the story’s basic elements:

The Call: Going about his humdrum life, our potential hero receives a call to adventure. This could be anything from Obi-Wan Kenobi inviting Luke Skywalker to join him on a journey, to Harry Potter receiving an invitation to attend Hogwarts. The hero refuses at first, and then reluctantly accepts.

Crossing the Threshold: The hero enters a strange world where her normal reality is turned upside-down. She meets allies and antagonists, and here she is tested. A mentor appears (like Glinda the Good Witch) to advise her and prepare her for what’s to come.

Dark Night of the Soul: After a series of increasingly harder tests, the hero must face his antagonist alone. He reaches a point when all seems lost, when he has to make the most difficult choice possible. (Think Frodo at Mount Doom, or Dorothy in the Wicked Witch’s castle.)

Triumph and Return: The hero makes that difficult choice and triumphs over darkness – which could be her own weaknesses as well as the dark antagonist.

She wins a boon (deeper understanding, magical gift, etc.) and brings it back to her normal world to benefit her community.

Dorothy Gale brings back the knowledge that “there’s no place like home.” Luke Skywalker defeats Darth Vader and brings peace to the galaxy. Harry Potter… well, if you haven’t read the last book yet, I won’t spoil it for you.

In the end, the Hero’s Journey is a form, not a formula.

It’s a tale we humans have been telling each other since we lived in caves. And when you use it consciously, you can help elevate your own story into the realm of the mythic.

Bruce’s many enlightening tips and other info can be found on his website: www.brucehalewritingtips.com. He has written and illustrated 30 books for kids, and is a widely experienced writing workshop leader and teacher.

 

On Writing: Writing Without an Outline

Writing Without An Outline

Deciding what works for you

Often, the first rule writers are told is: Make an outline. Outlines usually involve chapter headings, and plot points, properly listed under the appropriate chapter heading. Many successful writers wouldn’t dream of beginning to write their books without making an outline first.

Personally, when it comes to making an outline before I start writing an actual book, I like what Jack Hodgins, multiple- award-winning author and master teacher, says. He believes outlines tend to deter a writer from wandering down trails that might:

•lead to a discovery that completely alters the story’s direction

•uncover an unexpected twist

•bring a dim character to life

•or reveal a breathtaking transformation the writer didn’t know existed until s/he stumbled on it.

Steven James—author of two dozen non-fiction books and nine novels—doesn’t like outlines at all. In an article titled Go Organic (March/April 2013 issue, Writer’s Digest), he says he likes Stephen King’s analogy that storytellers are like diggers uncovering fossils. James carries the analogy further with: To plot out a story is to decide beforehand what kind of dinosaur it is. …Here’s the problem with writing an outline: you’ll be tempted to use it. You’ll get to a certain place and stop digging, even though there might be a lot more of that dinosaur left to uncover.

But staring at a blank page and beginning a book without an outline to follow can be daunting. How then to start?

Getting Started

In my previous blog: What Every Good Story Needs, I included the rules that combine to make good writing.

 With the rules in mind, ask yourself:

•What is truly at the heart of your story.

– focus all of your attention at the heart…and you’ll begin to intuitively understand what needs to  happen to drive the story forward.

•Keep track of unanswered questions and unresolved problems. (Steven James, Go Organic, Writer’s Digest, March/April 2013)

Stuck?

For me, it helps to remember that the actual events in my novels are drivers that help move the story forward, but they aren’t the story.

•How the characters experience those events—the choices they make and the tools they use to deal with the things that happen

•Why they do what they do

•And what they discover as they do it—that is the story.

 Tricks to get going again

•Re-read the previous two chapters out loud, and see where the characters might want to go next -Let the characters respond naturally to what’s happening.

•Flip to a blank page, write any scene that jumps into your head

-If nothing is altered, you do not have a scene.

•Use setbacks

-If your characters solve something without a setback, you do not have a story.

•Answer an unanswered question, or resolve an unresolved problem

•Ask: What are readers wondering about, hoping for and expecting at this moment in the story, then give it to them.

Writing without an outline might lead you places where you spend some time before you decide you need to leave. Sometimes you come away with something special gleaned for the piece you’re working on now. Sometimes not. But if what you learned doesn’t work for this piece, maybe it will for the next.

 

On Writing – The Dreaded Synopsis

Tell most aspiring novelists they must synopsize their masterpiece, and they run screaming into the hills.    Dee-Ann Latona LeBlanc, Writing a Synopsis from the Ground Up

The synopsis is your sales pitch—worth the time it takes to construct and polish until it’s right. Think of it as a jacket blurb. Many jacket blurbs are actually written from a synopsis.

What is a synopsis? Essentially, a synopsis tells a reader the central story of the book, and introduces the central character(s).

How long should a synopsis be? • one sentence • one paragraph • one page (250 words) • expanded version

As a general rule, publishers who request a synopsis with submissions prefer shorter versions, unless they specifically ask for longer versions.

So, how does a writer determine what to tell a reader about their book in a single sentence, or paragraph, or page?

1. Start by re-reading your novel, pen in hand

•write a paragraph for each chapter -what happened here, and to whom?

-Notice: the running theme, symbolism you didn’t know you’d woven into the story

The result is a fairly dry outline of the novel. Now, it’s time to distill and up the interest quotient.

II. Ask: •who is the central character

•if there are more than one, what qualities describe them as a group—are they all doomed, are they all searching for something, is there something all must overcome

•what is the main driving force (goal) for your main character(s)

•what are the costs of obtaining the goal—consider internal costs to the main character(s), and external costs to the community, world, etc.

•what is the overall theme

While some believe there are only six or seven plots and everything is a variation on those, others think there are many more.

7 basic plots as remembered from second grade by IPL volunteer librarian Jessamyn West:

  1. [wo]man vs. nature
  2. [wo]man vs. [wo]man
  3. [wo]man vs. the environment
  4. [wo]man vs. machines/technology
  5. [wo]man vs. the supernatural
  6. [wo]man vs. self
  7. [wo]man vs. god/religion

 20 Plots: Tobias, Ronald B. 20 Master Plots. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 1993.

1. Quest 2. Adventure 3. Pursuit 4. Rescue 5. Escape 6. Revenge 7. The Riddle 8. Rivalry  9. Underdog 10. Temptation  11. Metamorphosis                12. Transformation  13. Maturation  14. Love  15. Forbidden Love 16. Sacrifice  17. Discovery 18. Wretched Excess 19. Ascension  20. Descension [not a word].

In the list of 20 plots, there are variations on the same theme (quest/adventure; transformation/maturation) and some are simply opposites (ascension/descension). So it might be helpful to think of a reduced number when you’re trying to discover your central theme. Is yours a story of redemption, love (loss of love), coming of age (maturation), revenge, or escape?

III. Write several single sentences that capture the essence of the answers you’ve given above.

IV. Expand the sentence you like best to a paragraph.

Add:

•telling details of the main character — the boy/girl is a homeless waif

•why does the main character need to proceed — if s/he can back out, there will not be enough tension to sustain the novel. If there’s more than one issue, concentrate on the main issue.

•if there is more than one main character, what fate ultimately binds them together

•what is the climax (turning point) of the piece

•what transformation takes place (lesson learned, etc.) This might be identical to the theme, or it might differ in a subtle way.

V. Expand to a page.

Add:

•what does each central character want?

– feeds back into theme, but if there are multiple characters each might be addressing a different facet. Take care to weave these together.

•what are the drivers for each character?

•what personal issues hold each character back?

•what is the central character’s defining moment—the moment they must face down what’s holding them back and press forward against all odds. What realization must they have, or decision must they make?

*Don’t involve subplots.

*Don’t leave out the ending.

*Use the same way to refer to characters throughout: if you introduce a character as Dr. Evans, don’t use ‘Jerry’ next time and ‘the doctor’ the next.

*It’s also advisable to identify which character(s) is the point of view character by typing (POV) beside their name the first time you introduce them.          Marg Gilks, How to Write a Synopsis

**Note: Synopses are always written in the present tense.

 

Living With Alzheimer’s — Like Living With a Child?

“It’s like living with a child.” It’s a common perception when discussion centers around living with someone with Alzheimer’s, and a statement I’ve heard often.

Not really.

Children challenge parents to find ways to communicate with them that will encourage them to develop life skills, to advise them against things that will harm them, and to explore. We try to teach them to be aware of their surroundings, to honor the sensibilities of others, to follow the order of law that governs our society and to question those things that do not fit with a just society. In other words, we try to raise self-confident, skilled, empathic, honorable, engaged citizens. It’s a tall order and it takes every skill parents possess, plus the skills of the dozens of other ‘teachers’ children will be influenced by during their growing up years.

The key here is that, unless they are developmentally challenged, children develop on a continuum. They start out requiring total care and supervision. But as they grow, they learn. They get better at things, they become more independent. They learn to think for themselves. And the circle of those who influence their growth and learning widens as they grow.

Some might think Alzheimer’s works in reverse. That as the patient’s brain slowly dies (Alzheimer’s is Brain Failure) they revert back to a child-like state of requiring supervision, and then a baby-like state of requiring total care and supervision. But Alzheimer’s patients are neither small children, or babies. They are adults, who have lived fully developed lives. They have opinions, and their own ways of doing things. They cannot be solaced by being picked up and carried, or made laugh by blowing a raspberry on their bellies.

If one instructs a child on how to do something, eventually they will be able to perform that task without help. They may even get better at doing a task than the adult who is teaching them is. They store knowledge and can retrieve it when they need it. They learn how to figure things out, how to plan, how to imagine possibilities and work toward a result by taking those possibilities into account.

Eventually, Alzheimer’s patients lose all of that. Eventually, they will not be able to retrieve the vast knowledge they’ve stored because, like a fire that wipes out a lifetime’s belongings, the storage rooms are destroyed. Worse than losing the stored knowledge is that, unlike lost belongings, it cannot be replaced, because the Alzheimer’s patient won’t be able to figure things out, plan or imagine possibilities. So no matter how carefully one tries to explain a task to them, or how many times the instructions are repeated, they will not be able to ‘relearn’ how to perform that task. And that’s the main way an adult Alzheimer’s patient is different from a child.

The deterioration of a patient’s abilities is often very hard for a caregiver to understand, and to accept.

I sometimes find myself repeating instructions to Bill over and over with increasing volume. It might be instructions regarding a task he was able to do just last month, or even two days ago. Meantime, my frustration (and his) has risen, and along with the frustration the harmful ‘juices’ that fuel things like acid indigestion and stress. So I need to keep reminding myself, it’s not his fault. He has no control over what’s happening to him. And to accept that things have changed again. But I also need to take care of myself.

Caregivers need to understand frustration is part of the package, and there will be times we lose patience with the whole thing. We need to allow ourselves to vent and to cry. But we need to find ways to do this that don’t hurt the person we’re caring for, or us. In the midst of a developing stressful situation, taking deep breaths when the volume is rising, stepping away to collect my thoughts, are things that help me.

Later, it’s important that if I find myself feeling resentful, overly frustrated, or depressed, I take time to assess how things have changed, and how I can deal with the changes. Maybe I need to hire someone to do something I can’t, or don’t want to, do myself. Maybe I need to find new ways for Bill and I to have a good time and relieve some of the boredom or sense of restriction that can easily set in. Maybe I need to find a way to have more time for myself. And when I run out of ideas, maybe I need to talk to someone else, who might have a fresh perspective on how I can make things work.

On Writing-What Every Good Story Needs

I belong to a writers’ group where the pros and cons of beginning one’s book by creating an outline has been discussed a lot. Recently, I was asked to write a guest blog on writing without using an outline for The Scribes: Comprehensive Writing Services for Non-Fiction. That turned into two blogs. The first, What Every Good Story Needs, is the first of a series on writing I’ll post here.

What Every Good Story Needs

How Stories Announce Themselves

…For most writers, whatever the exercise that precedes the story, there comes the moment when the initiating impulse—whether it be character, or events, or ideas—has triggered a fluttering throb of excitement…that will not subside—increases rather—until the story has been lived through, written through, dreamed through to its end. At least some of that excitement comes from the urgent desire to see what manner of creature this thing will insist on becoming. (Jack Hodgins, A Passion for Narrative)

If you are reading this, I’ll assume you have a story that is pressing you to write it. You likely have folders of relevant research, ideas for the story, and character sketches for each main character. All of these can be added to as the writing takes shape and the story develops.

Multiple-award-winning author, Jack Hodgins, says: there is no beginning, end, or proper sequence for the act of writing fiction. If you are writing a non-fiction narrative (memoir, biography, autobiography), this is also true.

That said, to bring a story fully to life, there are rules a writer needs to follow. Whether one writes fiction or non-fiction narratives, the rules are essentially the same, and if the aim is to create a work that engages readers from beginning to end, a writer needs to know them.

Every good story includes the following key elements:

•Setting—Setting offers colour; atmosphere; can contribute to action, affecting character; can become a major character itself; can be a metaphor; time—the passage of time

Stare at your setting until you discover what it has to offer you. (Hodgins, A Passion For Narrative)

•Believable Characters—Characters are those primary substances to which everything else is attached. (William Gass, Fiction and the Figures of Life)

To be believable, characters must act in contextually believable ways. All the time.

•Conflict •Tension—conflict brings tension. Stories build through escalating tension. …Tension comes from unmet desire. (James, Go Organic, Writers’ Digest, March/April 2013)

What do your characters want, what stands in their way, what are they doing to get it?

Escalating tensions equals rising stakes. Keeping the stakes rising is what keeps the reader involved.

When the conflict ceases, the story ends.

•Causality—everything that happens must be caused by the thing that precedes it.

•Downturn—a moment when everything seems lost.

•Climax—an encounter that turns things around.

•Transformation—either of a character or a situation, or both. It’s irreversible. There is no going back.

•Conclusion—must be a direct result of all that has gone before, and in retrospect could not be other than it is.

The next blog will be the one I started out to write: Writing Without an Outline. It’s a subject that’s often debated by writers of all stripes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alzheimer’s and Social Networking

“I’d like to go golfing,” Bill said. The sun was shining, the grass is green and all kinds of flowers are in full bloom, including our spectacular, blood-red, Camelia Roses. Who wouldn’t want to be outside doing something you enjoyed while you soak all that up?  Trouble was, his Alzheimer’s has progressed to where he cannot find his way around the course without a buddy to guide him. He has a buddy who golfs with him, but he lives in New Jersey from September to May. And I can’t golf. So, Bill had to be content with just going outside and weeding flower beds.

When we were young parents and involved in working, raising kids and taking care of our myriad critters, we didn’t think about networking. Our work lives and home lives were quite separate. Outside work-related social events, we didn’t socialize with our work mates. We kept in touch with high school and university friends via letters (the old-fashioned, hand-written kind), cards, and the occasional phone call. If we happened to travel back to our old stomping grounds, we visited with those who were still there, but that was rare. Even rarer, some decided to travel our way during their vacations, and stopped with us for a day or two. New friends tended to be people whose kids were involved in the same activities ours were and, as we moved to new jobs in new locations, we eventually lost touch with them. We still keep in touch with school-days friends, but none of them has ever lived where we lived. Continue reading