Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: Writing is easy—or not!

Writing is easy—or not!

“Every writer who’s finished
has taken the axe into the woods
and carved out their path
where there seemed to be none before.
They broke through their blocked way
swinging word after word after word.”

So persevereword after word after word!

Remember: One story can change a life. Who needs to read yours?

There you have it, your Tuesday Tidbit.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Two MUSTs for you: ProWritingAid and Office 365’s Read Aloud

I’m in the final stages of proofreading my memoir—a chore that’s super-demanding. It’s the final step before hitting the “send” button.

You’re not ready for proofreading until critique partners and beta readers have given you feedback and you’ve made revisions. 

You’re not ready for proofreading until you’ve read your manuscript at least a hundred times and made oodles of changes and corrections.

Also, consider hiring a professional editor. Always remember: Your goal is a memoir of professional quality.

Take a look at the free version of ProWritingAid (click on that link).

Then click on the orange tab, “Start Web Editor.”

Copy and paste up to 500 words of your text in the box (following the easy instructions you’ll see).

Notice that in the blue-green ribbon at the top, you can choose “Writing Style” and “Language.”

Then notice the ribbon below that. Experiment. Get acquainted with your other choices such as style, grammar, clichés, etc. Don’t miss the diction and repeats tab!

You’ll see an analysis pop up on the left side of your screen. Click on down-arrows for specifics. You can then edit your manuscript as you see fit.

Use the free version of ProWritingAid—it’s a treasure!

When you think your manuscript is absolutely perfect, it’s time to proofread.

Here’s my recommendation:

Look into Microsoft 365’s Read Aloud.

Why? Because brains and eyes hinder us when it comes to proofreading.
Our brains know what’s supposed to be there—what we meant to write—and our eyes, influenced by our brains, get lazy and overlook typos or missing words, especially small words like “the” and “an.”

For proofreading, our ears are better friends. Ears pick up irregularities such as missing words or extra words.

That’s why I encourage you to use Read Aloud. Here’s how:

Open the chapter you want to proofread.

In the blue ribbon at the top of your computer screen, click on View.

Next, in the ribbon below the blue, click on Learning Tools. If the letters in your document appear to be spaced apart, click on Text Spacing to normalize the formatting.

Place your cursor at the beginning of your text.

Click on Read Aloud. In a few seconds, you should hear a man reading your text! How cool is that?! All you have to do is read along with him to spot missing words, duplicate words, or other boo-boos.

Your ears will also alert you to words that are clunky or have multiple syllables when you could use a word that’s more compact. You don’t want to interrupt your readers with words that distract them.

Your ears will also help you notice wordiness and sentences that are long, complicated, or arranged in the wrong order. You don’t want to interrupt your readers with sentences that distract them.

To pause and resume reading, use the little tab at the top right of your document. That’s where you can also change the reading speed and choose from other voices.

You want your finished memoir to be as professional as possible.

ProWritingAid and Read Aloud can help you perfect your work.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: Think of your words filling the pages

Have you worked on your memoir in the past few days?

Following up on our last post, Is this the year you’ll finish your memoir?, let me ask again: 

Is this the year you’ll finalize your manuscript?

Is this the year you’ll pin down your memoir’s title?

Is this the year your book will get its cover design?

Is this the year you’ll publish your memoir?

Is this the year people—even strangers—will buy and read your memoir?

Is this the year your story will change lives?

Here’s a quote to spur you on:

There you have it, your Tuesday Tidbit.

Now, get off the internet and go write!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Is this the year you’ll publish your memoir?

Whew! Are you like me? When Labor Day is behind us and the kids start school, I catch my breath and mentally turn and step into a different chunk of the year.

Summer has lots of distractions—fun distractions, usually—but when we flip the calendar page to September, thoughts shift to upcoming frost, shorter days, and indoor activities.

And that brings me to this indoor activity: How are you doing on your memoir?

Is this the year you’ll finalize your manuscript?

Is this the year you’ll pin down your memoir’s title?

Is this the year your book will get its cover design?

Is this the year you’ll publish your memoir?

Is this the year people—even strangers—will buy and read your memoir?

Is this the year your story will change lives?

If you’re like many of us, over the summer you took a break from writing to spend time with family and friends, and now you need motivation to continue authoring your story.

Are you struggling to find that motivation—that incentive, that enthusiasm? If so, you’re not alone.

Mick Silva at Higher Purpose Writers posted on Facebook a couple of years ago:  “ . . . Everyone says [persistence] is the most important part of writing. I’ve said it to all my clients: Most people don’t finish. Even if they finish a draft, they don’t follow through with the rewriting, or the rereading and editing. They just stop. . . .”

Refuse to let that happen to you!

Mick also offers this encouragement: “Consistent baby steps are important for when passion wanes.”

So you need to persist and recognize that baby steps result in progress.

And here’s a Nora Roberts quote to inspire you to keep working:

“. . . You have to be driven. You have to have the three D’s: drive, discipline, and desireIf you’re missing any one of those three, you can have all the talent in the world, but it’s going to be really hard to get anything done.”

Here’s my advice: Pat yourself on the back for how far you’ve already come.

Since the clock is ticking, be intentional: Keep penning your first draft. Don’t judge your writing at this point. Sure, you’ll have to fix it, but you’ll tackle that later. For now, just write!

Focus. Resolve to complete your book.



Writing and publishing your memoir is not a hobbyit’s a ministry.

You can do this! You can!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: Your hardships and heartaches

You’ve had your share of adversities. Maybe it seems you’ve had more than your share.

C. S. Lewis observed that “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny. . . .” What did your hardships prepare you for? (And don’t for a moment think that you and your life are not extraordinary!)

Stand back and contemplate—ponder, wonder about, mull over, reflect, analyze—the hardships you’ve experienced. Is it possible they served a good purpose?

In the midst of our sufferings, we rarely find any good. But later—ah, later—maybe we can discover blessings within those heartaches, those things we thought, at the time, might kill us, or at least leave us permanently scarred.

You’ll find added inspiration from Frederick Buechner in his Wishful Thinking:

“The grace of God means something like:
‘Here is your life.
You might never have been, but you are,
because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.

Here is the world.
Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
Don’t be afraid.
I am with you.’”

In your memoir, tell readers how God brought beauty from ashes, joy from mourning, and praise in place of despair (see Isaiah 61:3).

Write those stories as an act of worship.

God will use your experiences, your words,
and your message to bring hope to others.
Believe it!

There you have it—your Tuesday Tidbit.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: Don’t miss the significance of everyday people and events

In writing your memoir, make time to relive your experiences. Be deliberate.

Explore and examine the ways God was at work in your everyday activities and the people who surrounded you.

What was He doing?
What was He working out?

How did those events and people transform your life’s direction?

How did they change the end of your story?

Often we memoirists think we should focus on the big incident, the momentous scene, the shocking episode—and they are important—but look for the treasures, perhaps hidden right now—within the everyday events and individuals in your past. They could hold more importance than you realize.

And there you have it, your Tuesday Tidbit.

Happy writing!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Does your memoir downplay conflict and tension?

Life includes conflict and tension. Good stories, then, should include conflict and tension.

But I have read a couple of memoirs that downplayed the conflict and tension—toned it down, diminished it. Skimmed over it. What a mistake!

When writers become vulnerable and tell us those important details of their story, when they tell us how they handled those times and events, we readers grow and benefit. That’s how a memoirist becomes a mentor. That’s how God uses stories to offer others help and hope.

If you want to get your most important messages across, if you want readers to benefit from your story, include the conflict and tension you experienced. And how you dealt with it, how you came through on the other side, what you learned.

Becca Puglisi at Writers Helping Writers discovered there’s a difference between conflict and tension.

Here’s how she learned that lesson:

A critiquer returned one of Becca’s manuscripts and had noted, several times, the need for tension. (Becca’s manuscript was fiction but remember: Many fiction techniques are important nonfiction techniques, too.)

Becca asked herself, “No tension? What’s she talking about? The main character was just abandoned by her father. Her best friend was attacked by racist pigs. The family farm is about to go under. . . . There is conflict ALL OVER the place, so how can she say there’s no tension??”

Becca was puzzled but eventually recognized that conflict and tension are not necessarily the same thing. She adds, “Although the terms are often used interchangeably (and they CAN be synonymous), they aren’t necessarily the same.”

Conflict is when a character has a goal but an obstacle prevents him from reaching it.

Tension, on the other hand, stirs up the reader’s emotion, grabs hold of him, and makes him care about how the story will end—and it keeps him reading. Tension, Becca says, is “that tight, stretched feeling in your belly that makes you all jittery. That’s what you want your reader to feel. . . .”

Click on this link to read more of Becca’s Conflict vs. Tension.

So, how do you stir up your readers’ emotion?

Your own emotion—excitement, fear, joy, doubt, wonderment, or awe—will impact your reader’s emotions.

“Emotion is an involuntary action:
The best stories in the world
always have an emotional appeal.
They inspire the audience
to act, to think,
to laugh, to cry or to get angry. . . .
If an audience is moved to feel something,
they become more emotionally invested in a story
based on that connection.”

How much tension/emotion should a writer include?

Every scene should have some tension, FaithWriter’s Lillian Duncan says, sometimes big, sometimes little. “It may be internal or external. It may be real or imagined, but there should be a sense of unpredictability in every scene. . . .”

Lillian offers this word of caution: Melodrama is not a mark of good writing. “Keep your ‘flowery’ writing to a minimum.”

  • Word choices
  • Exclamation points
  • Too many adverbs and adjectives
  • Emotional reaction that’s equal to the event
  • Cutting every unnecessary word

Read more at Lillian’s Writing Suspense. Many if not all of her fiction techniques also apply to nonfiction.

Find the conflict, tension, and emotion
or lack of them
in your manuscript.

Make changes as needed.

If you’ll do so, your readers will gain important insights,
 and, believe it or not,
you, too, will benefit,
 probably in enormous ways,
ways you can’t quite imagine yet!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: How can I best help you write your memoir?

Several times lately I’ve nearly cried when I think of the enormous help I’ve received from so many people in writing and publishing my memoir. Maybe you are one of them. If so, thank you, thank you, thank you!

And then I think of you. How are you doing in writing your memoir?

Every memoirist needs help from others
in writing and publishing a finished book.

I hope I’m one of those helpers.

And that brings me to today’s question:

How can I best help you write your memoir?

What do you need most from Spiritual Memoirs 101?

I welcome your comments below
Feel free to also send a private message on the Facebook Page.

In the same way that others have helped me with all of the above, 
and more,
I want to help you write your memoir.
Let me know how I can best do so.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A smorgasbord for you: Suspense

Do you enjoy smorgasbords? I grew up around Scandinavians so I know smorgasbords, but maybe you don’t.

A smorgasbord is a delightful spread of food—lots of food—an array of hors-d’oeuvres (hot and cold), salads, meats (hot and cold), fish (smoked and pickled), cheese, and relishes.

You get to sample them all!

Today’s post is a smorgasbord of writing tips for you!—tips, quotes, and links about including suspense in your memoir.

Your memoir needs suspense. It hooks your reader and makes him keen to know the outcomebut makes him wait for it.

Suspense implies an uncomfortable waiting mixed with impatience, with an eagerness for a good solution.  

Suspense arouses curiosity and keeps readers turning pages.

So let’s look at this important ingredient for your memoir: Suspense. Conflict. Tension. Friction. Anxiety.

Tension is “an essential element of any narrative worth telling. A plot without tension is a flat line, a life with no rises, no dips, no anima. Life, by definition, involves tension. . . . Tension is the medium in which we breathe every day.” Dan Allender

“Conflict is good: Stories boil down to conflict. We crave that tension and a barrier between the hero and what he/she is seeking. That’s what separates a good story from just an anecdote that may be told at the water cooler.” Slash Coleman

“Conflict has to occur not just on the larger scale . . . but also on the smaller theater of the character’s inner life. . . . Include the outer battle (the physical reaction to the conflict) and the inner battle (the psychological and emotional reaction to events).” K.M. Weiland

“The cliffhanger is a striking event that happens at the end of an episode, chapter, scene, or season of a story. It leaves doubt in the reader’s mind—usually regarding the fate of the protagonist—and all but forces them to come back to see what comes next. . . . You want each ‘scene’ to lead your readers deeper and deeper.” Robert Bruce

At FaithWriters blog, Lillian Duncan offers ways to work tension into your stories. Here are a few to enhance a memoir:

  • introducing unpredictability
  • ending chapters with a cliffhanger
  • racing a time limit
  • foreshadowing (hints at what is coming, or might come, in the future)
  • throwing out a red herring (diversion)
  • keeping stakes high

Read more at Lillian’s “Writing Suspense.” Many if not all of her fiction techniques also apply to memoir.

Find the drama in your story and highlight it—but keep a proper balance. Like Chip MacGregor says, “Unlike a novelist, you can’t dwell on conflict. . . . I’m looking for a book that will offer me a solution.”

K.M. Weiland says it this way. “Stories are about balance. A tale in which there is no conflict is going to be just about as boring as watching condensation dissipate. But a tale that never pauses to let its characters (or its readers) catch their breath is boring in its own way. We have to find ways to adjust the level of the conflict. We have to give our characters a chance to slow down and get their thoughts gathered. . . .”

So there you have it: A smorgasbord of writing tips!
Find nourishment, enjoyment, and inspiration in sampling them.

I’ve critiqued many rough drafts and can report that
a lack of suspense—
a downplaying of tension—
is often a problem.

Look over your rough draft.
How can you heighten suspense?

Remember: Your story is important.
It can bless individuals, families,
communities, towns, nations, even the world.
Your story can change lives for eternity.

Write your story!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: Read this only if you’re serious about writing and publishing your memoir

If you’re serious about writing and publishing your memoir, make a commitment to learning the art and craft of each skill necessary.

Consider yourself a student. Devote at least a couple of years to learning how to write, and then how to publish.

Join a writing group. Network.

Read the best books.

Attend writing conferences.

Develop a system for collecting information you know you’ll need in the future.

For example, I have dozens of folders saved on my computer for skills such as writing good dialog. I have ten pages of links and notes on dialog alone!

I have at least that many pages devoted to dozens hundreds of other topics including:

  • audience
  • author bio (how to write one)
  • beta readers
  • book descriptions
  • chapter titles
  • Chicago Manual of Style
  • clarity
  • copyright info
  • covers for books
  • critique
  • details describing people
  • editing topics and resources
  • formatting
  • grammar

. . . and dozens of other topics.

And here’s another bit of advice: Follow the best blogs.

Recently Anne R. Allen shared a great resource listing the top 100 writing blogs. I have learned from many of them and recommend you look into them, too—they’ll help you grow as a writer. And Anne R. Allen consistently offers rich resources, too. Follow her on Facebook.

And pray! Commit yourself and your writing to God. Ask for His help in practical, specific ways. And watch what He does.

God has often surprised me in answer to such prayers. For example, this morning He brought me a huge help to solve an overwhelming problem with formatting my manuscript for publication. WoooHooo!

If you’re serious about writing and publishing your memoir,
learn the art and craft of each skill necessary.

You can do it!

You must do it!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Are you wounded? There’s hope for you.

“Nobody escapes being wounded.
We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally,
mentally, or spiritually.
The main question is not ‘How can we hide our wounds?’
so we don’t have to be embarrassed
but ‘How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?’
When our wounds cease to be a source of shame
and become a source of healing,
we have become wounded healers.”
(Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, July 8 selection)

Some people write memoirs about good, happy experiences.

We can read memoirs about adventure, about raising kids, traveling, falling in love, teaching, and about succeeding in any number of ways. And they are all so good, so powerful, so inspirational.

But some people write memoirs about their wounds and brokenness—results of their own foolishness or someone else’s evil inflicted upon them.

Wounded people’s memoirs can be good, too, and powerful, and inspirational.

How can that be?

Because of what we learn from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. It’s so important! Make time to take it all in!

Let God use your wounds and your words
to comfort others with the comfort He has given you.

In that way, you can be what Henri Nouwen called
a “wounded healer.

I believe that in the process of sharing your story,
God will continue to heal your wounds!

Hurting people out there need to know your story,
need to know how you survived,
need to know how God has sustained you
and gave you reasons to live and thrive.

Your story is important!

Write your story!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: Don’t miss William Zinsser’s advice for polishing your memoir

Polish your memoir until it sparkles. Fine-tune your manuscript until it sings.


You can find a hundred thousand tips out there, but here’s just one for today’s Tuesday Tidbit from dear William Zinsser:

He’s talking about what we call “Write Tight.” (Click on that for more outstanding help.)

Following just this one bit of professional advice could keep you occupied for a solid week, full timeor maybe moreafter you’ve revised your manuscript several times. Commit to doing just that before you publish your memoir.

There you have it, your Tuesday Tidbit.
Happy writing!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Strive to do your best: Don’t settle for anything less than a top-notch memoir

If you missed Tuesday's post, click on I’m almost ready to publish my memoir! 

That’s right! I’m soooo close to publishing my memoir! I’ve worked for years to get to this point.

If you’ve never published a book before, you can’t imagine how time-consuming it is, how demanding it is, especially toward the end when the author needs to take care of dozens of tiny but all-important details.

I’ve seen many authors get this close and, frankly, grow so weary of reading their words for the 87th time (no kidding) that they lose patience—they just want to get it over! So they skimp on their commitment to excellence. They give up on the most tedious and yet most important final details.

Don’t let that happen to you!

My challenge to you is this: Strive to write and publish a memoir that’s the very best it can be. Educate yourself on all aspects of writing and publishing. Look over years of blog posts here at SM 101. Hire editors and proofreaders and cover designers if you need to.

Don’t settle for anything less than a top-notch memoir.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: I’m almost ready to publish my memoir!

Look at this! After formatting all 42 chapters (or is it 43?) of my new memoir, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go!, I just formatted the epilogue. Woot! Woot!

Now I need to format endnotes, glossary, author bio, acknowledgments—those things that go at the end of the book.

—And tweak the stuff at the beginning of the book, like Table of Contents.

—And resize photos to be sure they’ll work for the book and the ebook. That could take me a while.

—And do final copyediting.

—And buy ISBN numbers.

And then my cover designer can get to work. He says it might take up to three weeks.

So now you know what I’m up to these days. It’s a super busy time, but I’ve been having so much fun.

It won’t be long before I can hold a real book in my hands—and you can, too!

Check out my Facebook Page for Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go! and my author page on Facebook, Linda K. Thomas, Author.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

In light of current tragedies, how can your memoir inspire hope?

In light of current tragedies and heartaches—wildfires, drought, floods, ongoing mass shootings, a dysfunctional government, farmers reeling over low prices and loss of sales because of tariffs, children separated from their parents—how can your memoir offer hope to people who so desperately need it?

At times like this, the following well-known tale takes on new relevance:

A shipwreck survivor, alone on a desert island, prayed for God to rescue him.

He built a hut and waited for God to answer.

Day after day, he prayed. But one day his hut burned to the ground.

Devastated, confused, he cried out, “Why didn’t God rescue me? Why did He let my hut burn down? Why? Why?”

The next day a ship arrived and rescued the man.

“How did you know I was here?" he asked the captain.

“We saw your smoke signal,” he answered.

Several years ago, Cavin Harper told that story on his blog at Christian Grandparenting Network. His perspective was spot-on for memoirists, whether writing for children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or a broader audience.

Cavin wrote:

“Our grandchildren need to know
that no matter what may come,
God knows how to make smoke signals
and rescue us in our troubles.
How do you communicate words of hope
to your grandchildren in the face of tragedy
and senseless violence?”

As much as we long to live happily ever after, bad stuff happens to good people. Like Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.”

You’ve experienced your own shipwrecks and burned huts, haven’t you? Tragedies and sorrows, maybe even violence, crime, abuse. I’ve experienced my own heartaches, too, and somehow you and I survived.

Your readers long to triumph over their own shipwrecks and burned huts. What stories can you write to help them? What, specifically, was that “somehow” that led you to the other side of your tragedy?

One of my favorite Bible passages is Psalm 77 in which Asaph spoke of crying out to God. “When I cried out in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out my untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted.” You’ve been there, right?

Poor Asaph said he was too troubled even to speak. I’ve been there, too.

Maybe you recall weeks or months or years when you, like Asaph, wondered, “Will the Lord . . . never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful?”

You remember that desperation, don’t you?

Next comes the part I like best. Asaph says, “This is my anguish; But I will remember . . .” (v. 10, NKJV). “I will remember the works of the Lord.” He determined to remember.

The NIV Study Bible footnote points out that this was Asaph’s “Faith’s decision to look beyond the present troubles—and God’s bewildering inactivity—to draw help anew from God’s saving acts of old.”

That’s it! We hold on for dear life by remembering what God did in the past.

And, like Asaph, we make a deliberate decision to trust God’s faithfulness based on His previous faithfulness to us. We make a deliberate decision to believe that even if God seems mysteriously absent, He is working on our behalf.

Think back to a trying situation. Perhaps God seemed absent, but later you discovered He’d been busy arranging a way for you to survive. And you went on with your life, and it was good.

Asaph, in the next chapter of Psalms, writes:

“We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done . . . which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they, in turn, would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God. . .” (Psalm 78:4-7).

Isn’t that what our memoirs are all about?

Remember Cavin’s words:

“Our grandchildren need to know
that no matter what may come,
God knows how to make smoke signals
and rescue us in our troubles.
How do you communicate words of hope
to your grandchildren in the face of tragedy
and senseless violence?

Write your stories!