Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed . ~ 2 Timothy 2:15

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why you DON'T want notoriety

I often hear the word notoriety used in place of the word fame. The two are not synonymous. One has a positive connotation, the other a negative one.

I once heard a Southern Gospel singer use notoriety as he spoke of his growing fame. No, Mr. Singer, you do NOT want notoriety. Why? Because although notoriety indicates fame, it is fame for a bad reason. Notoriety has a negative connotation.

Notoriety, according to my trusty Webster's, means a being notorious (don't you hate it when a they define a word by using the word being defined?) and notorious means well known or commonly known, especially for a bad reason; widely but unfavorably known or talked about. 

So unless you aspire to be well known for the wrong reasons, don't say you desire notoriety.

Coming next month in Grammar Goofs: My issues with a common Christmas phrase.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A kick in the pants

For the second time in my writing career, I’ve taken on the NaNoWriMo challenge. Every November, fiction writers across the land hole up for the purpose of cranking out a 50,000-word novel. It took me a year to write each of my two completed novels. Well, two. One year to stop being scared of the project and another year to actually write it. NaNoWriMo is the kick in the pants I need to get past the fear and into the writing.

To produce 50K words in one month, we all but shut ourselves off from the rest of the world. A hunter getting ready for deer season is nothing compared to a fiction writer getting ready for NaNoWriMo. Some writers turn off their phones, disconnect their Internet, and cancel their cable or satellite service. Me, I’m not that extreme. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t get my NCIS fix.
Quality doesn’t matter. Quantity does. It’s all about numbers. So they say. Me? I can’t restrain the editor/English teacher in me long enough to write the 1,667 words per day I need to get 50K done by Dec. 1. I can’t resist going back and tweaking the last page I wrote, or revisiting a previously written chapter to work in a scene to set up something that will happen later. But I’ve learned that keeping a separate document for “things to research” helps me to keep pushing forward.
Fifty thousand words scares me, but not 1,667. As I write this, at 4:49 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, I’m at 12,086 words. That counts chapter titles and notations in the text about what I need to add, change, verify or research. But I have to be careful because we writers are notorious procrastinators, and are afflicted with ADD. Anything—and I mean anything—can get us derailed.
I could have gotten derailed from the get-go. My husband came home from a two-week hunting trip to Colorado on Nov. 2, with 290 pictures and 290 stories—and a pile of laundry as big as a Rocky Mountain. My youngest son, whom we see very little even though he lives in Johnstown, came home for a day. Nov. 1 marked the end of the first nine weeks at school, meaning grades were due. Yada, yada, yada. But I didn’t give up. I simply refigured how many words I needed to write a day to reach 50K by Dec. 1. I can do this.
And so it is with anything in life. Sometimes the mountains we face are daunting, the problems overwhelming, the journey too long. We get derailed or need to tend to things with a higher priority. But we don’t give up. We fix our eyes on the goal, readjust, realign, reconsider—knowing that one step forward is one step closer.

Let us throw off everything that hinders . . . and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)     

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Finding your niche

In the movie, Marley and Me, John Grogan languishes at the obit desk of a big city newspaper, watching his buddy get the opportunities to write the kind of stuff he wants to write. When his editor needs someone to write a column, Grogan reluctantly agrees to fill in temporarily. His “temporary” column is a big hit. But it took a stint as a bigger-city reporter for him to realize his niche was really column writing.
What is your niche? How do you find it?
Webster’s online dictionary defines niche as “a place, employment, status, or activity for which a person is best fitted.”
How can you determine the best fit for your writing?
Simple: examine your passion, your talent, and your experience.
First, what are you passionate about? What message do you want to get out through your writing? Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, or both, the driving force of your piece is the message. But remember to show, don’t tell—and don’t preach! Remember how Jesus used parables. Go thou and do likewise.
Second, where do your talents lie? Identify what kind of writing you do best—and for what audience. I have a friend who writes excellent medical articles for a veterans’ newsletter. She has the ability to discern what’s important, trim the excess, and write difficult-to-understand material in a way anyone can understand. Another writes historical fiction, taking dry historical facts and giving them life and breath. Still another writes delightful children’s stories.
Finally, what are your experiences? What do you know and understand well? What do you love to do? Interview people? Research? Teach? Make people laugh? If you enjoy people, then you’ll find interviewing individuals and writing their stories a natural fit. If you love the hunt and dig for more information, then writing informational pieces would serve well. And don’t rule out fiction.
Some writers instinctively know what their niche is. Others, like Grogan, stumble upon it and grow into it. Identifying your passion, your talent, and your experience will help you find your niche.
NOTE: I scored a double ace this month: This article appeared in the November issues of Christian Communicator and Wordsmith, the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild newsletter.