Tag Archives: writing techniques

Books That Inform; Books That Transform

Did you ever have a book come into your life that transformed you?  Bible

Let me qualify at the outset that the Bible has far and away been the most transforming book in my life.  So, with that out of the way, let me clarify my point here.

Robert Benson’s Admonition

Years ago at one of the PIW (Professionalism in Writing) conferences (of which I was the coordinator), a fellow author on staff named Robert Benson gave a presentation regarding what we read and how we read.

“Some books we read informationally,” he told us. “We read the material to gain needed information.  Other books, we read formationally. These particular works,” Robert explained, “form us and transform us.”

As coordinator I was privileged to have a full set of tapes of every session of each cassette tapeconference.  (Yes, girls and boys – tapes – as in cassette tapes. Back in the old days.)  I was fascinated with this concept and played and replayed that tape of Robert’s message till I nearly wore out the tape.

Teachers Who Read Aloud

So at my having set that scene, you may already be far ahead of me thinking of the books that have formed you and even transformed you.  I could cite a number of them myself, but let me share one that came into my life when I was only in the sixth grade. (And yes I really can remember that far back – just in case you’re wondering.)

I grew up in a home sans books.  Can you believe that?  A budding writer in a house with no books.  Ghastly!  Fortunately, from my first grade year through my sixth grade year, all of my teachers used the first half hour of the day as the time to read aloud to us. (After pledge to the American flag and prayers.  I told you it was in the old days!)

Miss White’s Selection

My teacher in sixth grade was a spinster (better word than old maid, right?) lady named Pearl White.  I am not kidding.  That really was her name.  She was also my piano teacher, but that’s another story altogether.

Miss White in her selection of books to read aloud that year was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  It’s difficult to explain what happened as that story was read aloud to me, but as I look back today, I know it was an epiphany.

As Miss White read that book, I could smell the rich soil in the secret garden of Misselthwaite Manor. I inhaled the fragrance of the blossoms. I watched as Mary and Dickon worked to clear the garden, to nurture each tender plant and vine, and how they brought the neglected garden back to life.

Every detail of the book sprang into vivid images. Deep within me I suddenly realized the power of words on paper.  Of course I could never have expressed my feelings at the time, but it was an unforgettable experience.

Reunited with My Old Friend

Years later browsing in a public library with my two then-in-grade-school children, I came upon a copy of The Secret Garden.  My overwhelming excitement was no doubt embarrassing to the two of them.  We checked it out and I read The Secret Garden aloud to them as Miss White had done for me all those years before.

One of those read-aloud evenings – after the two had gone to bed — I sat up and finished the book on my own.  (I just couldn’t put it down.)  As I finished the book, I sat there all alone in the quiet of my living room and wept and wept.  And wept.

Why?  I don’t know.  Not really.  (Believe me, I’m not a person who cries easily.)  All I can say is that my “friend” that had transformed me as a small child was back in my life and the emotion of that moment of being reunited was overwhelming.  And reliving the experience of the book was overwhelming as well.

Savor the Experience; Let it Transform

Some of you reading this will closely relate.  It’s not because one book is so much better than another. (It’s obvious some are.)  It’s because it so deeply and personally resonates within YOU!  It is YOUR experience.  And no one can take that away from you.  But you can savor it.  And you can allow it to work to transform you into a more sensitive and perceptive and skilled craftsman in your art of writing.

Thank you Robert Benson for helping me to articulate this powerful experience!

I would love to hear what book(s) have affected you in your reading experience.  Leave a comment and let me know.

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Tired of the struggle writing your book? Need a helping hand? Norma Jean’s Coaching Services may be the answer you’re looking for. Fill out the questionnaire on the page and let’s see if we’re a right fit. A FREE consultation gets the ball rolling. (Or the pen writing!) Click HERE!

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Successful Authors Treat Ideas Like Gold

Capture the Idea

Many years ago, a well-known published author said to me, “I had rather write a note on the cuff of my blouse than to lose a good idea.”

Wow!  That’s profound. That comment stuck with me.

Capture the idea at the moment it comes!  I guess that’s why I have so many file cabinets in my home.  I can hardly bear to throw away all those scraps of ideas!  And while that’s a good place to store old manuscripts (and new ones), and ideas, and plain old stuff, you can’t very well carry a file cabinet around with you.  So what to do?

Notebooks!  Use notebooks!  Or your computer; or your iPad; or your iPhone.  Use notebooks like an artist uses a sketchbook.

If your strategy is to store your thoughts and ideas in the computer, make doubly sure you have a special file for them.  Treat them with utmost respect.

While I definitely started out with what I termed my idea notebooks, these days I use both physical notebooks and my computer.

Be A Novelist

Use notebooks to capture ideas

A Writer’s Laboratory

I still have on my bookshelf two small loose-leaf notebooks that I filled when I first began to write seriously.  One is yellow, the other is blue.  Yes, there they are in all their glory.  In them, I wrote snippets of overheard conversations; names I felt were different or interesting; town names that caught my fancy, descriptions of sounds, sights, smells, and then there were the cute and funny things my kids did and said.  They created for me a writer’s laboratory as I recorded their actions and conversations.

Entry Sample

One entry from a winter day goes like this:

Clouds of fog were surprised to find themselves held captive in the night by the icy hands of the frigid air.  Countless millions of droplets, soft and fat with moisture, were squeezed in the icy grip, then transformed into exquisite crystallized formations and designs.  Each was individually fastened with miracle adhesive powers to every tree branch, every blade of dead brown grass, every strand of fence wire,  in a sort of dress-up, flocking occasion.  The first glow of dawn revealed that nothing had escaped the sparkle-tinsel effect.  It later turned to fiery sparkles in the bold winter sunshine. 

Stop – Write It Down

Insights and perceptions will flit through your mind like a quick firefly, lighting for a brief moment then gone forever into the darkness.  Oh, you think you’ll remember that little idea.  Or that reaction.  Or that snippet you heard.  Guess what?  You’re kidding yourself.  You will not.  Stop whatever you are doing at that moment and write it down

Keep small notebooks in your purse or pocket, by the bed, in the car and in the john.  Will you be laughed at?  You can pretty well count on it.  But when the novel comes out, when the work is published, and it contains the content that you hurriedly wrote write down (sometimes almost impolitely) you will be forgiven.

Be A Novelist

Ideas are like gold!

And even if you aren’t, you shouldn’t really care.  Because you are only doing the work that is required of a serious novelist.

Ideas are gold.  Ideas are the raw material with which a novelist works every minute of every day.  Treat them with utmost respect and they will serve you well.

Don’t rely on the cuff of your blouse (or shirt as the case may be)!  Buy notebooks and fill them!  Or keep your iPad close at hand and fill it. Whatever works best for you – just do it!

In the days to come, you’ll be so thankful you did.

Clean Teen Reads

I’ve launched a YouTube video series that I call (for obvious reasons!) The Writing Life These episodes reveal the ins and outs, and the ups and downs of a published author.

Be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss a single episode.

Clean Teen ReadsBe A Novelist

Tired of the struggle writing your book? Need a helping hand? Norma Jean’s Coaching Services may be the answer you’re looking for. Fill out the questionnaire on the page and let’s see if we’re a right fit. A FREE consultation gets the ball rolling. (Or the pen writing!) Click HERE!

Clean Teen Reads

Be A Novelist

Clean Teen Reads