Making the Goals

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During my high school years, I ran cross-country. It took me several weeks of hard work before I could run several miles without stopping. I’d arise before sunup with my teammates, and each day I’d set a personal goal. First, I ran to a certain telephone pole, stop for a breather, then resume my run toward the next goal. For a couple or three days, I did this, then I’d set a more challenging goal, pushing myself hard till I reached it. Of course, I’d stop for breathers. Before long, I reached the point where I could run several miles at a stretch.

To be a successful (and productive) writer, we need goals, too.

First, a writer needs short-range goals. Such goals should be reasonable and achievable. If the goals are too high, and we don’t achieve them, it makes room for discouragement to settle in. These short-term goals should be daily goals. For example: “I’ll write three pages a day,” “I’ll write five hundred words a day,” or something similar.

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Mid-range goals are weekly and monthly goals. Short-term goals should target mid-range goals. If we’re working on a 2,000 word short story, for instance, make an achievable goal of writing five hundred words a day and by week’s end, the story will be written. In the case of my novel writing, I tend to write in scenes. I have a goal of writing at least one scene a week. I write my first draft in a manner most writers don’t—I revise while I write. However, writing books and writing teachers generally discourage this. Since this method works for me, though…hey, I do it!

Which brings me to long-range goals. These are goals writers hope to achieve within a few months or a year. They set short-term and mid-range goals toward achieving their ultimate objective. Want to write a book? Take small steps toward that goal. Determine to write at least one page every day, and by the end of the year a book will be written.

What happens if short-term and mid-rage goals aren’t met? Professional writers understand that things happen. On days when they don’t reach their goals, they plow ahead the next day. They refuse to let discouragement get the better of them.

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Finally, writers use a daily planner and write down their writing goals for each week, or if not this, they use other scheduling methods such as bulletin boards, white boards, or planners on their computers. This helps them track their goal-making progress.

So set some writing goals today, and move forward with your craft!

Metaphors, Part 2, Types of Metaphors

A freshly phrased metaphor used in the correct spot in our narrative can not only touch our readers’ emotions and add depth to our story, it can also paint a more vivid description. In this post, I’ll touch on three types of metaphors, though many more types are out there in the literary world.

The Absolute Metaphor.

Definition: The tenor (subject of the metaphor) has no connection  with the subject’s vehicle (image used in the metaphor).

Example: John is a ticking time bomb.

There is no connection between John and a time bomb. He won’t literally explode. John’s metaphorical explosion, however, might be building to a fit of rage. So there is the connection–an explosion of rage and a bomb’s explosion.

The Mixed Metaphor

Avoid using this one.

Definition: A mixed metaphor combines two or more metaphors that have no logical connection to each other.

Example: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch and swim away.

Chickens hatch, but they don’t swim. Thus, I mixed two images, chickens and fish. We see no logical connection between them.

Robert Frost, circa 1910

The Extended Metaphor

Definition: These metaphors extend for longer periods in a sentence, paragraph, or page by using two or more parallels between two unlike things. They’re often found in poetry.

Example: Robert Frost’s poem, “The Runaway.”

Frost uses a horse experiencing his first snow and the fear that he experiences to  represent a fearful child who has run away from home with no one to  comfort him.

To read this poem and hear it read, visit this link: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-runaway-11/

I hope this little series on metaphors has been helpful. Thanks for visiting!

Metaphors, Part One, Anatomy of a Metaphor

Figures of speech add spice to our writing. And they’re fun to write. What is a figure of speech? It’s wording something in such a way that it shouldn’t be taken literally. For example:

John is a ticking time bomb.

John isn’t literally a ticking time bomb, but metaphorically he is if he’s about to “explode with rage.”  

Metaphors are the strongest of all figures of speech, and they come in many types. If they’re written well, they’ll draw us deeper into our story because they’ll touch our emotions.



What is a metaphor? A metaphor compares two different things, saying one thing (or person or place) is something else.

Using our above example, let’s analyze a metaphor. It consists of two parts, the tenor and the vehicle. These terms were coined by famous English poet and rhetorician, I.A. Richards (1893-1979), in his work The Philosophy of Rhetoric.

John is a ticking time bomb.

Here, John is the tenor: the subject of the metaphor. And he’s compared to the vehicle, time bomb: the metaphor’s image.

We’ll delve deeper into metaphors next week.

On Writing: Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway Writing For Whom the Bell Tolls

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.” Taken from “Old Newsman Writes,” Esquire, December 1934.

Little Foxes

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines [have] tender grapes—Song of Solomon 2:15, KJV

Do we have “little foxes” that spoil an otherwise well-written piece of prose? Let me rephrase. Do we have too many “little foxes”? All of us writers have them. They often pop out on our pages while we’re writing. Oftentimes, we’re unaware of their presence.

Little wordy foxes are words we tend to overuse, words such as so and that. Every author has his/her own foxes, and we must be careful not to overdo ours. Many times, we don’t need them.

Let’s look at the word that.

            1.         John thought that Billy played golf yesterday.

            2.         John thought Billy played golf yesterday.

In the second example, I deleted that because the sentence is clear without it. A good way to identify when this word is unnecessary is when it follows a verb. In such cases, the word usually isn’t needed. Read your that sentences without using it. Is your writing still clear? If it is, delete that.

Let’s look at the word so.

            1.         So, John sees you can cook.

            2.         John sees Mary can cook.

            3.         He lifted the bucket so he could dump out its contents.

The first example is acceptable in dialogue, but if we use lots of sentences starting with so in our narrative, write it like the second example. Example three is fine as well because it’s used as a conjunction.

Do use these little verbal foxes, but use them correctly. Also, take care not to overdo them because if too many sneak in, they’ll spoil our writing.

Till next week, friends!

Here, Squire! Come On, Boy!

Squire, Tales of a Mascot, will soon be released. Set during the longest genuine siege of America’s Civil War, the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana, the mixed-breed dog Squire accompanies his master to war as his Alabama regiment’s mascot. When his master gets posted at Port Hudson, fun-loving Squire soon finds his life in serious jeopardy from man and beast.

Part of this book is written from Squire’s point of view, so it was great fun trying to “think like a dog.” I based Squire on my own late companion, Jebba, seen in these photos.

Port Hudson was a small village on a bend in the Mississippi River, as seen in this map. It was the last Confederate garrison on that river to surrender to Union forces, just a few days after Vicksburg fell. The garrison was totally surrounded. A Union fleet under the command of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut cut off the Rebels’ escape via river, and the Union army under the command of General Nathaniel Banks surrounded it by land. The garrison held out for 48 days.

A Literary Shock

The other day, I did something I’ve never done before. I took a book back to a bookstore for a refund. Usually, when I buy a book and end up not liking it, I toss it in the trash. But this book was an expensive hardback. Knowing how much money I’d wasted, I couldn’t relax till I got it back.

This book’s poor formatting and editing shocked me, but what shocked me even more was its high Amazon ranking and its claim to have won an award. It held loads of five-star reviews. In fact, most of its numerous reviews were five-stars. One three-star review stood out, though,  because I agreed with the reviewer. The book needed some serious editing.

What was wrong with the formatting? The pages looked like someone just printed them off their computer’s printer—no justified right margins, no professional-looking fonts.

What was wrong with the writing? Here are a few issues I found:

  1. Some sentences ended with double punctuation marks, such as “?!”
  2. Other sentences were cut off, leaving only a phrase or a  clause
  3. Characters “smirked” way too often.
  4. Some sections of dialogue were too long, and much of it was poorly  written.
  5. Too many adjectives were strung together to modify one noun.
  6. The characters were flat.

There may even be more things wrong, but I couldn’t get past the second chapter. Some reviewers said the second half of the book got better, so perhaps I’m not being fair. I just know that when I saw all these basic editing oversights and the poor formatting, my interest quickly waned.

Two positives about the book:

  1. The prelude was excellent, which is why the chapters  which followed were such a disappointment.
  2. The taglines were well-done. The author often used the  simple words “said” and “asked.”

Will we ever write a perfect book, free of all grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes? No. We’re human, after all. I know I have a few mistakes in some of my published work. However, if mistakes riddle our pages they becomes a serious issue.

However, my experience should teach all of us indie authors to work hard to make our work as professional as possible lest someone like me asks for a refund on our book.