My mom, mother-in-law, grandmothers, and C.L. have been getting onto me for a couple years now for spreading myself too thin, and I've been fighting them on it the whole way. But they haven't been wrong.
When something didn't work out or wasn't working as well as I'd hoped, my first instinct has always been to do more. No matter how stressed out it made me or how little time I had to put into something, just pile more onto the to do list. I ought to be able to do it all and then some, or I'm a failure all around.
While trying my hand at teaching high school back in the fall, I spent so long away from my current rough draft, I forgot half of what I'd written. So I've been going back to read through it. In doing so, several issues with the rough have been jumping out at me, but they all stem from one factor common in rough drafts, lacking conflict.
Readers have their favorites, and they don't enjoy seeing them put through the wringer, but at the same time, what are the chances they would be so fond of those characters if they never struggled? No matter if your story is plot driven or character driven, without conflict, there is no story.
Have you heard all the hoopla surrounding Star Wars being bought out by Disney and all the new movies? Some are all for it, but others, including Mark Hamill have some... issues... with the new storylines. Why though?
Well, to get at the answer, you have to understand a few things about the Star Wars fandom and the franchise itself over the past thirty years or so.
I think we've all seen or heard the "tortured" artist trope at one time or another. It's no secret a high percentage of notable artists, be they writers, poets, musicians, painters, sculptors, or any other kind of artist, have or do suffer from a range of mental health problems. Because of this correlation between mental health problems and creative success, popular notions of creativity have come to romanticize them as part and parcel to creative genius.
I hate this notion so much! Even if there's some truth to it, it's a dangerous and irresponsible idea in so many ways.
Originally published February 20, 2015 at Diary of a Work-at-Home-Mom.
Learning to read backwards and upside down is how I learned to reorient letters. I seriously thought everyone could do it until I asked a coworker about something on a sign posted outside our window, and they responded by questioning how I could read the sign. It was only five years ago, when C. L. was taking the Ortton-Gillingham training that I learned it was one of the earliest methods of helping children with dyslexia learn how to reorient letters. Unfortunately, it's also a method that's effective for just 5% of those dealing with dyslexia, and while I might be part of that percentage, the girls aren't.
The only thing I can compare letter reorienting to is looking at a 3D model that's been spun around. It looks different from the back or upside down, but it's still recognizable if you can shift your perspective mentally.
I'm relatively lucky in that from my perspective, the letters usually appear in the right order or with only a couple of letters swapped around, but I often see letters flipped on either the X or Y axis. (Numbers are a different matter entirely.) Spelling/sound inversions only happen, for me, between the brain and either hands or mouth. In essence, I'll think the word or sentence correctly, but it will come out in a jumble. This is why I depend on muscle memory to spell for the most part since there's less reliance on the sequencing center of the brain.
Reading upside down takes a few more seconds to get going in because you aren't just reading left to right but from the bottom up. And reading something written normally is more difficult than reading anything in all caps since more letters look similar to one another. For instance B, D, P, and Q look very different when capitalized, but depending on the type face, b, d, p, and q can look virtually identical in the lower case if you have issues with orientation.
For those who have problems solely with orienting letters, the rest of the letters and text can be used to help shift the problem letters back around. Context clues also play a large part, particularly with words like bare and dare were both versions are words, but only one would make sense in context.
From what I can tell after reading with Nichole over the last few years, she experiences the written word differently. There are days she does just fine, but on others, a page of text looks like one gigantic word scramble puzzle. Whereas I see letters in the correct order but flipped and on occasion with the spaces between them in the wrong place, her mind can't seem to decide where each letter is on the page. Let's take the highlighted text here as an example. When she's trying to read the word "order," she might see the "l" from the word "place" from below it or "like" from above it in place of the "r." Therefore, she'd read the word as older instead of order.
Using cards to cover all but the line of text she's reading at the time has helped a good deal. However, context clues and an extensive vocabulary are going to be crucial to her gaining full reading fluency as she progresses to more complicated material. That's one area where she has trouble now because of her age. She's forever coming across new words in her lessons, so she isn't yet confident in discerning between seeing a word wrong and coming across a new term.
I've been hearing from parents who suspect their child may have dyslexia or who have received a new diagnosis. It's not something that's talked about much, even in this day and age. And all the different variants thereof still aren't that well understood by many. If any of you reading this have any questions, please feel free to comment or message me. I'm far from an expert, but I'll try my best to help.
If you're in the thick of it now with your child, please remember that they're trying and keep an eye out for patterns in their "mistakes." While the various "disorders" beginning with the dys prefix are caused by the same difference in "wiring," they are experienced differently from one person to another. It might take months to figure out how they are seeing the text and the patterns behind it, but once you do, figuring out ways to work with their mind versus fighting it can open the door for massive improvements.
A lot has changed for Nichole since I originally wrote this. She's reading on grade level with a lot less trouble than she had even a year ago. Spelling, particularly with English's reluctance to follow its own rules, is still a challenge, but we've found a method that works for her a few months ago. So she's making great strides there now as well.
* Originally published on March 8, 2010 via Diary of a Work-at-Home-Mom.
Sunday evening was singing night for our congregation, being the first Sunday of the month, and one of the songs sung was "How Great Thou Art." The song has never failed to drag "Oh What a Grace" from the recesses of my memory. Not that I compare the songs but because I had a tune similar to its melody running through my head when I penned the first draft.
It's hard to believe that was nearly a decade ago now. I don't remember exactly which Sunday it was, but I seem to remember it being sometime in late spring or early summer of 2000. I was listening to our preacher speak on a particular Psalm one Sunday morning when the words started nagging me. By the time we were heading home, I was desperate for a piece of paper and a pen. The lines came tumbling out, and a half hour later, I had the first draft.
I spent a few weeks trying to put music to it to no avail. I asked a friend for help, but nothing seemed to work. So I asked the congregation's preacher if he knew of anyone who could put music to lyrics, thinking he might be more familiar with local talent considering the years he'd helped organize The Musical Explosion. He gave me Mr. Stevens' name and number, and the rest is history.
Looking back on it, it feels like ancient history. I was barely out of high school, only in my second semester of college. I was still smarting over having to swap a chemistry major for English because I was having these uncontrollable shaking spells that nearly resulted in a big accident in the labs. I had yet to meet C. L. and was just starting to seriously consider writing as a career.
Even then there was a surreal feeling about this piece. It came quickly and with an ease I rarely associate with any bit of writing, let alone anything outside of fictional prose. I'm not a poet. "Little Eyes" and "A Day in the Mind of a Child" are flukes. I found it difficult to believe I'd written this one then, and I find it next to impossible to believe now. I barely remember it, and what memories I have are more impressions of where I was, the need to get my hands on paper now, and the scratch of graphite across the page. I don't remember the writing of it at all other than the occasional feeling a word was off and counting the measure.
Maybe that's why I was so embarrassed when song leaders would make sure to point me out when they'd lead it. What did it matter I happened to be there? What did it matter who wrote the words or the music? The song was meant for the praise of God.
There are three things these three works have in common. First is their form. These are the only poetic pieces I have ever done and not immediately destroyed. Second, they come from a different place. I don't know how to describe it, but I was in a different head space when I wrote these poems/lyrics than I'm typically in when I write my stories. Instead of brainstorming, painstakingly building them up a concept or a word at a time, I saw or heard something and they seemed to spring fully formed onto the page. And finally, they have a different purpose. While I did feel the need to share them through publication, I haven't seen them as work to be sold. The poems were published in nonprofit college journals, and the song was spread from hand to hand. As far as I know, it's never been put into a songbook, but it's not like I'd ask for payment if it was. That's not why I asked for Mr. Steven's help finishing it. I just want it to be sung somewhere by someone, by congregations or just someone going about their daily work, I'm happy either way.
I've heard it's still sung at some congregations around the Tennessee Valley. Personally I haven't heard it in years, and I doubt I will. Mom told me years ago song leaders find it intimidating to lead a song when someone that wrote the words or composed the music is sitting on a pew. I suppose she might be right, though I find it disheartening to think they'd believe I'd be insulted or something if they didn't get it note perfect.
Though remembering how much of a nitpicking Grammar Nazi I used to be, at least when it came to pet peeves like double negatives and subject/verb agreement, before I grew up and learned to control those knee jerk reactions, I can see where they might think I'd be a little snippy. But really, as long as it can be followed, it's good.
We’re finally to the last back to basics post on verbs, the irregular verbs. These are the rule breakers that refuse to follow the same rules as the rest for the different tenses. They can seem intimidating at first, but don’t worry. Although they don’t follow the same rules as most, they do follow their own set.
Let’s start off with the state of being verbs.
Be, am, is, was, and were are all different forms of the same verb, be. Is, am, and was are singular. Are and were are plural. Be itself can work either way, depending on the tense. Are and is are in the present tense. Was and were are past tense verbs.
Today's book market is a reader's dream. The rise of independent publishing has opened the field to millions of niche stories and ones that don't follow trend at all, stories that wouldn't have seen the light of day twenty years ago. Today's readers have a golden opportunity to find stories you'll love no matter your taste, but all of this variety has a downside.
Finding said stories takes a bit of digging. After hours of searching, you may find a story with elements you love only to find a manuscript rife with errors or that the author's voice drives you bonkers. On the other side of things, it can be tough for authors, both seasoned and new, to make their books stand out in the crowd or to make any sort of traction, especially with pirating sites being more common and brazen than ever.
So, what's a reader to do?
We’ve talked about what verbs are as well as subject verb agreement, but there is so much more to them. In English, verbs not only say what is being done or how something is, but when the action is happening. To do this, verbs use tenses, which is a type of inflection used to convey additional information within a language.
Simple changes in how a verb is written indicate whether the action is happening now, happened in the past, or will happen in the future.
As I announced last Friday, the flash fiction series is on hiatus for the next three months to make more room in the schedule for getting back to Icarus and writing fiction in general. However, I do want to keep the Tuesday and Friday posting schedule. I just need something non-fiction I can write up in an hour or two.
Since I'm not writing this blog for myself but for you lovely readers, I want to know what you'd like to see here on Fridays through the beginning of April.
Would you like journal like entries? What about some more genre and trope based articles? Maybe you'd prefer some tales from the convention circuit or slice-of-life story time posts. Should I go in a completely different direction and start posting recipes or DIY tutorials like I do over on Contented Comfort's blog, or should I try to rustle up some guest bloggers to post?
Let me know if the comments below.
A. B. England is a small business owner, home-schooling mom, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves fantasy, mythology, and all flavors of science fiction.
Yekara Series Book 2
The Icarus Project
Rough Draft Progress
69061 / 75000
Myth & Science Collection
Icarus Trilogy Book 2
Yekara Series Book 3
Myth & Science Collection 2
Intent Only at this Time
Icarus Trilogy Book 3
Supers Collection 2
Intent Only at this Time
Yekara Series Book 4