Writing Much, Despite Reading Struggles

Fragonard painting of woman reading

(painted by Jean-Honoré Fragonard)

Over the past couple of years, I’ve read many fellow authors’ declarations of being avid readers when they were children. That they would sneak a book under their covers and get in another few precious moments of reading exciting books before their parents would remind them to go to sleep.

Others would talk about remembering reading at a very early age and loving it throughout their childhood into their adult years. This dedication and love of reading books led them to write books themselves. And this seems to make a whole lot of sense. You read a lot, you get ideas, and you naturally write with these inspirational stories having primed the creative pump in your imaginative brain.

But this wasn’t my experience.

At times I feel both sad and amazed that my writing journey is not the usual, logical path of my fellow writers. I’m an anomaly of sorts. I truly believe it.

I grew up hating to read. As early as I can remember, I had little interest in books, other than to look at the colorful pictures and at times, listen to my dad or a teacher read a story to me and my fellow students.

young girl reading book

Reading had been a struggle for me, a lot of hard work. By mid grade school age, it was discovered I had reading comprehension problems. When my dad wasn’t away on a case (he was a lawyer and a judge in the Air Force), he’d spend an hour or so a night sitting with me on the couch, listening to me read aloud one of the classics in large, vivid books with plenty of pictures, but with age-appropriate, tough words.

I remember agonizing through reading each sentence. It was so laborious–a tremendous mental work akin to the hard, physical work of pushing a heavy rock up a steep hill. But Dad kept encouraging me, guiding me along, patiently working with me for about three years (around fourth to sixth grade).

I went into junior high school still struggling to a certain extent, with little interest in reading, let alone learning. This was my academic path throughout high school, as well.

But something had changed. I did read a few assigned books in my English literature class in eleventh grade, and when I a sophomore, I fell in love with the North & South TV mini-series and ended up reading the first two books in the series. Also, when I was eighteen and nineteen, I read the whole eight-volume series of the Kent Family Chronicles (both series written by John Jakes).

I think, perhaps, watching TV and movies helped me create my stories in lieu of reading. I’ve always been a visual learner.

As for gaining an interest in learning, it wasn’t until I went to business college a couple of years after graduating high school, that I was ready to learn and wanted to learn.

But here’s the unbelievable part of my journey.

Throughout all of my struggles with reading, I wrote all the time with little effort, from second grade all the way through my teens and early twenties before putting it aside when I married and had children.

As you know, if you read any of my older blog posts, I returned to writing in 2014, and it felt so good to be back where I believe I belonged.

How could a child, a young girl, a woman, write stories with plots, decent sentence structures, spelling, some stories over a hundred pages in length, but rarely ever pick up a book until her late teens, early twenties?

It’s a tiny miracle to me.

shining bright light of miracles

This tiny miracle tells me this is my talent, God’s gift to me.

I finally realized this only about two years ago. It hit me like a refreshing, cool breeze on a warm spring day. And I’m so glad it did. Since my early twenties, I’ve been reading and continue to read many, many books.

 

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It Is Finished

cap and diploma

Yesterday, I turned in my last assignment in my last course in my last week at Southern New Hampshire University. Technically, my college courses are all done.

Needless to say, I was walking on clouds yesterday after submitting my last assignment. It felt so good!

Now I join the millions of other undergraduate student before me in receiving my diploma in the coming weeks. Hurray!

I should receive my last grade (which is looking like an A) some time this week, and it will be recorded and calculated in my final GPA by the end of next week.

In talking to my academic advisor a few minutes ago, my GPA is high enough for certain honors, including magna cum laude. How exciting! I can’t wait to see that printed on my diploma!

In a few weeks, I’ll receive my diploma for a B.A. in Creative Writing. Yea!

I’m very grateful for my time at SNHU. I’ve not only learned so much, but have grown a lot in these four years.

I enjoyed all my classes, even the two to three harder classes in which I struggled. I made it through, and I’m thrilled over those accomplishments.

champagne glasses 2

I loved learning about the humanities, anthropology, Shakespeare, psychology, European and American history, and all the writing workshops that helped hone my writing skills.

I learned how to write essays and articulate thoughtful articles, and write short stories in a time-sensitive setting. I learned how to write plays too.

In these last four years, I started a blog, had a short story published, and had one of my short plays acted out on a local theater’s small stage.

In March 2018, I submitted my novel to a publisher whose editor said it had promise and to work at bit on the developmental editing and to resubmit it in the future.

Personally, I am so thankful and breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn’t accepted because there was so much more revising that needed to be done! We newer writers learn this hopefully in the earlier stages of our writing endeavors that a lot of time is needed in producing a publishable novel.

I was able to submit my query letter and synopsis to the above-mentioned publisher thanks to my Context of Writing class at SNHU that I’d taken in early 2018.

My university studies helped me reach these milestones in my life.

In attending SNHU, I have grown as a person in my analyzing and questioning works of fiction and nonfiction.

snhu artistic pic

In other words, it taught me critical thinking, which I’d not possessed before starting at SNHU, and it’s been a valuable asset in both my personal and professional relationships, in how I present sensitive material on religion, politics, and literary subject matter.

I’m thankful to Southern New Hampshire University and will cherish my experiences there for the rest of my life.

 

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Attending a Writers Conference

workshop pic

On Saturday, May 19, I attended a writers conference in my town.  I am a member of a writers’ organization called Pennwriters because it is an organization for writers in the state of Pennsylvania.  This was my first ever time attending a writers conference, and it was well worth the money and time!  The program was a three-day event, but I only attended Saturday’s sessions from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., which included a delicious breakfast buffet and just as delicious lunch.  There were many workshops to go to and choose from.  In the time period I was there, I went to four of them:

  1. Story Shrink: Writing the Synopsis
  2. First Pages
  3. Agent/Editor Panel
  4. You, Too, Can Write Killer Plots

I’m going to share with you a few of the tips I got from the speakers, agents, and editors that I think will be helpful to my fellow writers.

Writing the Synopsis:

  • Write in present tense.
  • The main character(s) should be introduced in the synopsis in all caps.
  • Embed transformation into the synopsis.
  • Use emotion words.
  • Center synopsis around the main character, not on supporting characters.

First Pages — A few Do & Don’ts in the first page of your novel:

Do:

  • Have a strong, consistent voice.
  • Be true to your story.
  • Start in the middle of a scene.
  • Build your world by showing what life is like from the point of view of your main character.
  • Hit the emotion right away.
  • Know your reader/audience/editor/publisher wants to be entertained.
  • Trust yourself and your voice.
  • Use teasers and hints of what’s to come in your story.

Don’t:

  • Mislead your reader on what your story is going to be about through the pieces you reveal in that first page.
  • Be provocative just to be provocative.
  • Forget the context of your story.
  • Overwhelm your reader.  Don’t give away the whole plot and story, just leave bread crumbs of the things to come.
  • Tell, but Show.

Agent/Editor Panel

Five reasons you need an agent:

  1. Contacts.
  2. Contracts.
  3. Money–directed on how to get money from editor.
  4. Guidance.
  5. Subrights.

A few warnings:

  • Don’t write about fads or trends.  By the time your book is published, it will likely be out of fashion/passé.

Tired, overused themes and character traits:

  • Middle school petty relationships between girls. Let’s have some real, strong bonds between middle school girls.
  • Women characters who are prostitutes or very close to that.
  • Dystopian themes.

Writing Killer Plots:

  • Superb plots reveal characters and who they are to the readers.
  • When plot and character are interwoven, this is the best type of story/book.
  • Plot is cause and effect.
  • A series of choices make up the plots.
  • The antagonist actually is the one that drives the plot.

So, in plotting your story, you’ve got to have a story and the right characters for the story in mind.  The plots are the incidents and twists that happen to the protagonist throughout the story.  The plots have to fit the characters you’ve created for the story.

All of the workshops were helpful to me, especially the first, second, and fourth ones.  I needed help on writing an synopsis, how to spice up and get my reader’s attention on the first page, and even the first few sentences on that first page.  I also needed help in plotting.  This one always seems to be a struggle for me.

I look forward to attending more writers conferences in the subsequent years.  If there are ones around you, I’d highly recommend you go. 🙂

I hope these little tips aid you in your writing journey as I know they will for me.

 

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