Thursday Dog Inspiration and Cooking With An Author

Every time you have a choice, choose love.
Every time you have a choice, choose the outside.
Every time you have a choice, choose treats.
Every time you have a choice, ditch the leash.
xo

Gabby the Dog

Here’s this week’s Cooking With an Author recipe. The man in the house is still not a vegetarian. All appears lost. 🙂 Every time he has a choice, he chooses meat.

Print Recipe
Potato Cheddar Soup of Bad Dialogue
Cooking With a Writer - Cheddar Potato Soup of Bad Dialogue #writing #cooking
Course soup
Cuisine american
Servings
Ingredients
Course soup
Cuisine american
Servings
Ingredients
Cooking With a Writer - Cheddar Potato Soup of Bad Dialogue #writing #cooking
Instructions
  1. Boil the water.
  2. Ignore the agent's beta reader who said your dialogue was forced. HAS SHE EVER LEFT HER HOUSE? It's Covid-19 time. Everybody's dialogue is forced.
  3. Make sure you're boiling the water in the soup pot.
  4. Once the water is boiling (like your temper. Bad dialogue? Seriously), add potatoes, onions, salt and celery.
  5. Put a cover on that soup pot. Put it on medium heat because if things boil over it gets messy. (This includes your temper.)
  6. Leave it for 15 minutes.
  7. Write some dialogue. "I hate you with the passion of a thousand kitty mugs, Dirk." "And I love you, Karen, with the love of a thousand social media posts never gone viral."
  8. Find another pot, maybe a saucepan, the kind that holds two quarts.
  9. In that pot melt the butter. Make that a low heat. Butter burns just like criticism over dialogue.
  10. Add in a really slow way the cheese. Add flour next.
  11. Now slowly add the milk, spices, herbs and use a whisk.
  12. Practice dialogue on the whisk.
  13. "I love you with the love of a million political pundits," you tell the whisk.
  14. "And I you," says the whisk. "Which means I love you not at all."
  15. There! That was good, right?
  16. When it is all blended, add the cheese to the potatoes and onions in the big pot.
  17. Add tomatoes.
  18. Stir it all up.
  19. Put it on super low heat for fifteen minutes. This time do not have the cover on.
  20. Stir a lot because cheese, butter, and flour like to burn.
  21. Done!
  22. Go buy a book on writing effective dialogue and eat your pain away.
Recipe Notes

This is taken from my favorite vegetarian cookbook of my youth, Horn of the Moon Cookbook by Ginny Callan and it got me through many sad times. It's super comforting. 

Anxiety Is Us: How Can Writers Deal, Part Three

It’s the last of the anxiety posts and … um… I might be feeling anxious about that.

Last Monday, I posted part one of this two-part (now three-part) post which is all because one of my writing students asked: 

“Seems like a lot of us writers struggle with anxiety and low self-esteem. All I can do, apparently, is grind out a page here and there during my more lucid moments. I don’t suppose you’ve got the magic key to overcoming emotional struggles so that the writing gets done?”

Writer who I’m not going to out here because that would be horrible

I have my own way of dealing with this, but my way? It’s not everyone’s way and it’s not that writer’s way so I looked to my Facebook friends for help. 

A lot of people were super kind and gave recommendations. I’m going to share some of more of them.


Start With A Word

What I do is I take a single word, whether it’s an emotion, a description, or anything else, just the first word that comes to mind. Then I build on it. I describe the word. Find synonyms, antonyms, I write what I think that word looks like as an image. Sometimes, I might even attempt to draw it (but I don’t draw well so I usually just laugh at myself for that one). Then I’ll write associations to that word. What does it remind me of? Who does it make me think of? When did I experience it last? 

Then, if I’m still feeling blocked or stuck after this, I’ll do it with another word. And another word. There have been days where I literally only write about words like this.

Allyna Rae Storms

Make It Work for you

I put my anxiety into my work. Writing or creating (painting or making jewelry) I use my extra emotions in my work. I write my fears into my characters, or I let it out into my art work. Some of my best pieces have been created when I have been frustrated, angry, or upset. Music also helps some times. 

Jenn Duffield

Look Beyond

It’s not about you, the writer. Look beyond yourself and just tell the story.

John Scherber

The Five Minute Rule

 I give my students and myself smaller assignments. Write for Five minutes. Revise one page. Then we celebrate these small accomplishments.

Ann Angel

Don’t Let Your Head Kick Your Ass

 I got this way a few times when I wrote the first draft of a short novel not too long ago. When the head kicked my ass a bit too much and my focus went to zero, that’s when I did an outline and wrote up a big picture idea of what would be happening next in my story. Then when I felt more focused, I was able to see the trees in the forest and was able to go back and flesh out my outline. This took all the pressure off me of having to think of the details and just have fun with the overall story ideas. I’m pretty certain that without this approach, that novel would never have gotten finished and I’d still be staring at blank pages.

Rick Hipson

Acceptance

I think acceptance helps a lot with all of this. “I’m feeling anxious today. I’m going to try to write for half an hour anyway.” “I think everything I write is crap. It probably is, but I’m going to keep working on this chapter anyway.” Half an hour here, half an hour there, they add up. I use my timer a lot. “I just have to do this for half an hour and then I can be done.” Whether it’s paying bills, sweeping floors, sorting through old clothes–that method helps me get stuff done. It’s a simple method but it does the trick.

Cathy Carr

Medical Cannabis

Medical cannabis is the answer for me. Helps with the anxiety and to fall asleep at night.

Stacey O’Neale
Continue reading “Anxiety Is Us: How Can Writers Deal, Part Three”

Writers and Dealing With Anxiety Part Two

On Monday, I posted part one of this two-part post which is all because one of my writing students asked:

“Seems like a lot of us writers struggle with anxiety and low self-esteem. All I can do, apparently, is grind out a page here and there during my more lucid moments. I don’t suppose you’ve got the magic key to overcoming emotional struggles so that the writing gets done?”

Writer who I’m not going to out here because that would be horrible

I have my own way of dealing with this, but my way? It’s not everyone’s way and it’s not that writer’s way so I looked to my Facebook friends for help.

A lot of people were super kind and gave recommendations. I’m going to share some of more of them


FIND A DOG AND A TREE

Every morning, my dog Gus and I go under the tree in the front yard for about an hour. I bring a radio and a towel for Gus and a chair for me. He crunches on dog biscuits and I work on something–maybe a short story, maybe transcribing / formatting work that’s reverted to me, maybe do some edits, maybe play with some outlining or idea generation. There’s something about it–being there with him, not checking Twitter, not doing emails, in the peace of the morning that’s really helped me lately.

Holly Schindler

Go All Nike

Just sit down and begin. Sone days it works, other days, well…

Liz Jones

Switching It Up

Writing by hand in a notebook feels less “official” to me and helps me move past some of the doubt and anxiety.

Sarah Yasutake

Brain Dump with a Side of Wonderbook

I sometimes start a new document and brain dump. If it has to do with a piece I’m working on, cool, If not that’s okay!! I have the writing book Wonderbook and it some amazing images, tips, essays from writers on their speciality and genre. It really helped me with my anxiety when I was in workshop classes at UMaine because I was so vulnerable for the first time with my writing with other writers, let them know it’s okay to be anxious and scared. That’s honestly where my best stuff comes from. I just dive in what I’m feeling and go with it and see where it takes me! But HIGHLY recommend Wonderbook, I rented it for a class but ended up buying it because I use it almost every time I write!

Callaghan Carter

The Quiet Place

Just finding a quiet space without interruption is what I find I need these days. A glass of wine or a cup of herbal tea while writing helps me as well. But like you said, just sitting down and doing it is the first step. That’s the hardest part for me.

Brittani Gallegos

There! I hope these helped a bit. I have more, too, so let me know if you’d like me to post them and make a part three. But try to remember that you don’t have to be perfect and that you have as much a right to write your story, your book, your blog, as everyone else out there does.

You’ve got this.

Continue reading “Writers and Dealing With Anxiety Part Two”

Sometimes You Should Not Click On The Link

So because I am ridiculously nostalgic person and I like to remember when I was pre-published, I have a tendency to go back and look at old blog posts.

This is mostly to remind myself that:

  1. I have always been a wee bit anxious and goal driven.
  2. That I existed before 2020.

I just found one from August in another decade and it had a link that said, WHY AN MFA?

For those of you who aren’t musicians, writers, and artists and filmmakers, an MFA is a master’s in fine arts degree. My daughter, Em, is not getting an MFA. She’s getting an MBA and that means she has to do math. MFA is a better choice.

That was totally off topic because the point here is that when I thought, Hmm… Why MFA? and clicked the link it went to porn! Yes. Porn!

Now, because I am:

  1. Super anxious now that it’s 2020
  2. A wee bit paranoid now that it’s 2020

I screamed.

I screamed so loudly that the kitten vaulted out of the window and the other kitten ran in to see if there was a bug to attack and I stood up and jumped away from my computer proving once again that I would be the worst criminal in existence. Seriously. If you ever try to see me lie about a birthday present or tell someone that they look fan-freaking-tastic in that cowboy-hobo-outfit from Thredup that’s two sizes too small so they look like they are wearing Howdy Doody puppet clothes? Well, you would know.

After I finished screaming, I clicked out and slammed my laptop shut and sprayed it with Lysol (a sacrifice during Covid-19 times) and then gasped again while the kittens snubbed me for making them think there was a real threat like a squirrel, spider, dust-ball of dog hair, or dangling thread off a piece of clothing.

I had a couple questions once I calmed down:

  1. Why did a WHY MFA link going to a porn site now?
  2. Was this a message from the universe?
  3. Was the universe telling me that the alternative to an MFA was porn?

Yes. Actually. I think it was. And we should all be thankful I got that MFA.

Continue reading “Sometimes You Should Not Click On The Link”

So, Your Prose Is A Little Purple?

Every once in awhile a reviewer, a reader, an agent, a random great aunt will tell you that your beautiful and amazing story is purple prose.

Most of the time they are wrong.

A lot of the time, your prose is just lyrical and some people don’t know what to do with that.

What Even Is Purple Prose?

First off, lyrical prose is NOT the same as purple prose, which is defined by Wikipedia (I know! I know! Not a good source) as “text that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself.

The key there is ‘excessive.’

And excessive? That’s a subjective word. But a good way to think about it is that lyrical writing is done with a light hand, not a heavy one. It mixes regular sentences and dialogue with moments that sing off the page. 

Not every line should be a metaphor. Not every line should be a description. 

How Do You Deal When It’s TOO Lyrical?

A good way to deal with that is to have that lyrical moment and then follow it up with two moments that are not so lyrical. 

In Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi she does this well. 

“His eyes reminded her of old apothecary bottles, deep brown, when the sunlight hit them and turned them almost amber. Dimple loved vintage things. She followed a bunch of vintage photography accounts on Instagram, and old apothecary bottles were a favorite subject.”

Sandhya Menon

So she has the balance between lyrical moments of transcendent words and time with the more concise, forward-moving sentence. 

You want your descriptions that are lyrical to keep us in the story and to also transcend the story. You want them to be vivid but also somewhat concise. To avoid overuse you want to make sure that the description is accomplishing something such as giving us insight in our character or making the atmosphere/tone seem amazing. 

The problem is that sometimes elevated craft brings out naysayers, especially anti-intellectual naysayers and they call it purple prose. 

LET’S LOOK AT REAL PURPLE PROSE

A Reedsy blog has an example of purple prose as this: 

The mahogany-haired adolescent girl glanced fleetingly at her rugged paramour, a crystalline sparkle in her eyes as she gazed happily upon his countenance. It was filled with an expression as enigmatic as shadows in the night. She pondered thoughtfully whether it would behoove her to request that she continue to follow him on his noble mission…

Reedsy example of purple-ness

According to Reedsy (and a million other places), you want to stay away from purple prose because: 

  • 1. The writing draws attention to itself and away from the narrative or thesis.
  • 2. It’s too convoluted to read smoothly and can disrupt the pacing of your story.

The Reedsy blog goes on to say: 

“So why, despite its many drawbacks, do some writers continue to use such unnecessarily ornate language? The answer, ironically, is simple: to try and appear more “literary.”

“Think of purple prose as a cardboard cutout of a celebrity. From a distance it looks convincing, even impressive — but as you draw closer, you realize there’s nothing behind it. Purple prose is like that: beautiful from afar, with very little substance to it.”

Reedsy again.

And more importantly, that same damn Reedsy blog says this about what purple prose isn’t: 

“To clarify, the term “purple prose” doesn’t just automatically apply to any kind of dense or elaborate language. This is a common misconception, perpetuated by diehard fans of minimalism and Ernest Hemingway. Purple prose specifically refers to overblown description that fails to add to the text, or may even detract from it.”

“Purple prose” is often used as an insult for highly lyrical or complex language that some readers dislike. But don’t be fooled — actual purple prose lacks the elegance and cohesion of these examples, and distracts from the text rather than enhancing it.”

Still Reedsy

Sean Penn’s novel is a good example of purple prose. No offense to him: 

“There is pride to be had where the prejudicial is practiced with precision in the trenchant triage of tactile terminations. This came to him via the crucible-forged fact that all humans are themselves animal, and that rifle-ready human hunters of alternately-species prey should best beware the raging ricochet that soon will come their way.”

Sean Penn

So, how do you avoid PURPLE PROSE?

Write in your own voice if you’re worried about it. 

Also? If you’re worried about it, focus a bit more on your plot. 

Do This: 

Imagine you’re the reader. Would you get what’s going on right there in those words (the potentially purple words) if you were just reading this? Are those words the easiest path to understanding and to be submersed in the story? After they’ve read it are they going to put it down and say, “Why did the author spend forty-five pages talking about her underwear? Does it have anything to do with anything?” 

COME WRITE WITH ME! 

I coach, have a class, and edit things. Find out more here. 


NEW BOOK OF AWESOME- THE PLACES WE HIDE

I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

And if you click through to this link, you can read the first chapter! 

And click here to learn about the book’s inspiration and what I learned about myself when I was writing it.


NEW SESSION OF WRITE! SUBMIT! SUPPORT! 

Write. Submit. Support. for Novelists with Carrie Jones ONLINE

These six-month courses offer structure and support not only to our writing lives but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions. We offer support whether you’re submitting to agents or, if agented, you’re weathering submissions to editors. We discuss passes that come in, submissions requests, the feedback we aren’t sure about, where we are feeling directed to go in our writing lives, and more.

Find out if WSS is right for you at this FREE WEBINAR on Thursday July 23rd, from 7-8:30pm CDT.Founder Bethany Hegedus will share an inspiring talk on the literary life and will be joined by WSS instructors/TA’s, plus past and present WSS writers who will answer all your burning questions!

This is a great opportunity to meet this session’s faculty, talk with previous students about their growth throughout the program and participate in some inspirational activities led by Bethany Hegedus. *If you cannot attend live, no need to worry! All registrants will receive a video playback of the event!
Register Now for the Free Info Session!

WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 249,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.


Last week’s episode link! It’s about dirty feet and archetypes. Sexy! 

Last week’s bonus podcast with writer Holly Schindler!

This week’s link to our podcast sages, archetypes and Bud Lite

How to Write A Good First Page

Let’s just face it. First pages in our culture are a bit terrifying because we have to entice the reader (or the agent or potential editor) to read beyond the first page and not delete the file, send a rejection letter, or refuse to buy a book.

That’s a lot of pressure for something that’s so subjective.

The first page sets the tone, right?

Here is an example of my same WIP with two completely different first pages and tones.

That up there was the first one.

Here’s the next one.

The two are ridiculously different, right? Same story. Same characters. Totally different approach.

QUICK Tips About First Pages

  1. People will tell you never to have a prologue. You can choose not to listen to them. But when you submit your book when querying an agent (if trying traditional publishing), you might want to think it over.
  2. Show the reader where your characters are. It doesn’t need to be a lot of grounding and setting, but just don’t have them floating around in the ether.
  3. Show the reader who your character is. This is your speed-dating moment. Make the impression you want to make so you can get the reader to turn the page and go on the second date.
  4. Make it tense. Even though it doesn’t see super tense in either of these excerpts, one is about the conflict about spitting into a vial. The other is about a fear of the ocean and being fatherless and the difference between the narrator and her best friend. Not James Patterson stakes, but still stakes.
  5. Make it clear. Unless you’re James Joyce, don’t mire your reader in a world or world building or ultra complex sentences structures with hidden subject-verb combinations right off the bat. You don’t want to be clunky.

Random Exercise:

Go find a book you love and a book you started but didn’t quite read past a few pages. Shh… Don’t pretend. We all have books we don’t finish. It’s okay! It just means that book isn’t for you or maybe it means that the first pages weren’t sparkling.

Now check for those five things. Is it clear and tense? Is there a prologue? Did you read the prologue? Do you know about the main character’s personality and do you know where they/she/he are?

Now look at your own story’s first page. How’s it looking? If you weren’t the writer, would you know what’s going on? Would you be compelled to read more?


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 232,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.

This week’s episode.

Last week’s bonus episode with Anne Marie Pace, author of Vampirina Ballerina.

COME WRITE WITH ME! 

I coach, have a class, and edit things.