March Discoveries

Pick a page, any page.
Sometimes I can’t get myself to read a book from cover to cover, but I know the book has tons of useful information, and I want to get whatever I can from it. What to do? In those instances, I find that opening to a page and reading a random sentence/section is the way to go. (Note: This approach is not recommended if you’re trying to get into med school—I speak from experience).

I know some people who pick a passage from the Bible, Complete Works of Shakespeare, or other collection of literary works printed on tissue paper, to guide them for the day. Or, if you’re not in the mood to whip out the tarot cards but are curious to learn what the Fates might have in store for you, just open to a random page or few from a tarot book while meditating on your question. I like to do this every now and then with Nancy Garen’s Tarot Made Easy. It’s cheaper than calling the psychic hotline and just as amusing.

A Must-Have for the Foodie
I found this great book in the library called The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Thick as a Harry Potter book and full of great cooking advice, preparation methods, and terms and definitions—it’s enough to make a foodie swoon. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to melt cheese properly, how to cut onions without crying, how to avoid common pitfalls in baking cookies, bread, and cakes, how to roast meats, and more—this is the book for you.

The pick-a-page method works well here, too. For instance, I had no idea that fries also refers to “Mountain oysters, Rocky Mountain oysters, and prairie oysters” aka “testicles of an animal such as a calf, sheep, or boar.” I now know that I need to be careful when ordering fries in the Rocky Mountain and prairie states.

Great Writing Advice
For those of you who are interested in fiction writing, I highly recommend Jessica Page Morrell’s Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Being Rejected. Although I haven’t gotten to the point of submitting any of my stories, I want to make sure that whatever I do send out is the best I can come up with. I want my prospective editor or agent to say, “Yes! This is what I’ve been looking for.” Morrell uncovers some common “deal breakers,” as well as list some great examples and exercises to improve one’s writing.

Here’s an example of some good writing advice I found by the pick-a-page method:

“…toss out your multisyllabic words and obscure references because you need to construct clean sentences powered by vivid verbs. Your modifiers need to sparkle and perform a job that nouns can’t manage, and metaphors and images need to trill as memorably as a chorus of bagpipes at a funeral. It’s especially important that each sentence hits just the right notes.”

Her book as helped me get back to work on a project that I’d been stuck on for a while. Three pieces of advice that have helped me: 1) importance of having a blueprint (structure for the story); 2) making the character suffer (suffering/conflict = character growth = great story); 3) the art of the striptease—pacing the reveals to keep the reader interested.

Even if you’re not interested in writing fiction, her sound advice can be applied to other areas of writing as well, such as getting rid of unnecessary adverbs/speech ticks and using the right word instead.

April’s Blog-a-Day Month
My dear friend and writer’s conscience, April, asked me if I’d be interested in doing ScriptFrenzy. Coming up with 100 pages of script seemed a bit daunting (especially since I’d never written a script before), so I proposed that we try doing a blog post each day instead. What have I gotten myself into?

Anyway, so for those folks who just can’t get enough, be prepared to get a daily dose of Mama Sophia in April. Who knows? Maybe I can make writing a daily post into a habit.


One thought on “March Discoveries

  1. This pick-a-random-entry idea is a great one for the types of things I read. For one thing, I always am reading about five things at once; and another thing: I usually am reading non-fiction or reference material that can make sense (and be a little more easily swallowed) in tidbits.

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