Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

My Book News & Advocate for the Writing Community ©

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – What Makes a Good Book?

January 11, 2022
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As a reader, I look for a story that grips me from the beginning. It maybe the opening line, a well defined character, or an inciting scene. To become quickly immersed into a narrative, means the author has done a good job. We also tend to have certain authors we read as we know their skill in storytelling and the genre they write.

Choosing a book to read is a personal preference and a gift card is a good way to delight the reader in your family. Unless of course you know them very well and their reading likes and dislikes.

There are many ways a book can be defined as a good book.

  1. A strong opening. A sentence or paragraph that compels you to continue reading.
  2. Well defined and relatable characters.
  3. A well written constructed plot.
  4. Believable dialogue.
  5. The writer’s style absorbs you into the story.
  6. Good use of description to let you ‘see’ the location/characters.
  7. Great tension in the story line.
  8. An original tale.
  9. A sense of expectation of what happens next.
  10. A satisfactory conclusion.

How do you determine your choice of a book?

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Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Random Words as Inspiration for a Short Story

January 6, 2022
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As writers, we find inspiration all around us, and incorporate sights, sounds, conversations, observations and more into our narratives. As many of you know, I enjoy using word and picture prompts to spark ideas. Some become a quick paragraph, others a short story and some a full blown novel. As host of my local writing group’s monthly meeting, I encourage the participants to engage their creative juices during the meeting in a ten minute prompt/writing exercise.

This was the case on Tuesday. The words were: puddle, tree, letter, steps, trail, ache. I am sharing my response here, but thought it interesting that the word puddle was the stimulus for me. A word association – puddle, rain, April showers. Hence this story.

April stamped her boot covered feet in the puddle. Murky brown water splashed in every direction bouncing off the stony trail and bordering grass. Little did her mother know when she named April that the name would be accepted by her adoptive parents.

The sealed letter with her birth mother’s arrived that morning, making April’s chest ache with longing and apprehension. As she stepped further into the park, she spied her tree. A special place, she would hide, when she felt uncomfortable or needed space from her step-siblings. Climbing to the thick horizontal branch, she made herself comfortable and took a deep breath.

Now was the moment, she would know her mother – well her birth mother anyway. She had so many questions. The envelope tore open and she pulled out several sheets of lined paper. The writing was cursive , but not difficult to read. This was the connection she had asked for – revealing words, memories and requests for forgiveness filled the lines. Tears ran down April’s cheeks. This letter changed her life.

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For example, a series of random picture prompts were the catalyst for my novella, The Rython Kingdom. Utilizing this method can refresh our Muse, or spark new ideas.

Do you use specific methods to inspire your writing? Care to share?

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – A New Year’s Reading Challenge

January 4, 2022
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I use the Goodreads annual reading challenge to track the books I read and review each year. Sometimes I hit the target, other times I exceed it. This year I began with a novella, To Rome, With Love by D.P. Rosano, which was a Christmas gift. I am now onto my next read The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker.

I have set my challenge for 20 books this year.

Do you set a target for your books?

What are you currently reading?

What was your favorite book of 2021?

I enjoyed If It Bleeds and Billy Summers both by Stephen King – as you all know I love his story telling expertise. These books were very different in genre, but both equally compelling. The other book that rates on my long list is The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick. It was a delightful tale of self discovery and mystery.

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Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Holiday Time Writing Tips

December 16, 2021
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We all know that the holiday’s tend to reek havoc on our writing schedule, but there are ways of grabbing writing time. There are always lulls in activities, whether it’s traveling time, the lethargic atmosphere after a meal, or solitary early mornings. You can find somewhere to ‘hide’ away, even if its only for half an hour or so. Here are a few tips to try.

Relax your normal rigorous writing timetable – take time to chill and observe.

Keep track of the number of words you write instead of how long you wrote.

Make the most of “un-scheduled” time – waiting for a flight or sitting in a vehicle en route to a function, at children’s rehearsals, a break for coffee during shopping.

Wake up earlier (or stay up later) than usual to ensure that you spend some time writing.

Decide on a specific amount of time to write and block that time.

Use the time to track your progress on a current project.

Feel comfortable to reflect on your writing plans or current project.

Experiment with prompts, a new genre or a short story.

You’re going to be around a lot of people so pay attention to the interactions and conversations use it as research.

A new location can inspire an new idea or inclusion in a current work.

Always carry a notebook and pen.

Refuse to feel guilty when you remove yourself to write.

Remember it is okay to rest and enjoy the celebrations.

How do you find time to writing during the holidays?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Surviving and Thriving in NaNoWriMo

November 25, 2021
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As we enter the last week of NaNoWriMo, I thought I would share my experience of the challenge and share some tips.

National Novel Writing month is a crazy experience, whether it is your first attempt or one of many. We all tend to become rather manic as we write to our daily goal of 1667 words (or more if possible). I remember my first NaNoWriMo was back in 2009. At the time my writing experience was minimal, and my longest piece of writing was maybe three paragraphs long, substantially less than fifty thousand words.

The panic I felt at the mind-blowing word count and the deadline date made me completely obsessed. I would race home from work to write, threw the easiest meals together for my family and ignored household chores, for the most part. This was my focus. Now, after twelve years of the challenge, I have become more relaxed knowing I am capable of writing at least 1667 words in an evening. My average daily word count fluctuates between 1700 and 1900 words this year. That is not to say I do not experience some anxiety; I just know how to handle the challenge better now. As with everything – practice makes perfect, or in this case ‘bum in seat’ makes an achievable word count.

Here are a few tips I found worked for me:

  1. Cultivate your story idea before NaNo starts. It may be a character, a location or even a whole scene that propels you into the story.
  2. Jot down notes for plot, character names & personalities, anything that you see being included in your narrative.
  3. Find a time and a quiet place to write that works for you and your family. Designate a time, if that helps.
  4. Don’t make excuses – write first then watch TV or scroll social media.
  5. Use unexpected spare/free time to write, even if it’s only a paragraph. Every word counts.
  6. Try writing bursts – time yourself to write a certain number of words in an allocated amount of time.
  7. Aim to write over the daily word count of 1667 this helps you stay ahead. So, any unforeseen circumstances are not so drastic to your end goal.
  8. Let the words flow – leave editing and revision for later.
  9. Use the word count tracker on the website, it helps you stay on goal.
  10. Mark or highlight a sentence if fact checking is required. This stops you going down internet rabbit holes.
  11. Believe in yourself, your story and your success.
  12. Celebrate the smaller victories – hitting a sprint goal, writing a smashing paragraph, learning a new word.
  13. Make sure you rest, exercise and eat.
  14. Enjoy the process of immersing yourself into creating a world of your imagination.
  15. Even if you don’t achieve 50,000 words you have managed to write a fair amount – that is success. Remember this challenge is only the beginning of your narrative’s journey. The editing and revisions come later.
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