Weaving A Story

Gathering all your threads of written pieces into one place gives you a collection of possibilities. In that pile of writings, a story lies dormant, in bits and pieces collected from the books, photos, clippings, journal entries and letters saved along the way.

Through continual interrogation of these sources, a story begins to unfold. Overwhelmed by too many possibilities going in too many directions, you may convince yourself that the task is impossible. It’s not. You simply need to have a vision, an intention, and an understanding of what kind of product you intend to create.

What you don’t want to do, at first, is to proclaim the kind of form your work will take. In school we were assigned an essay or term paper or short story to write. We were following our instructor’s intention, which was to teach us craft about something. The best essay you wrote on Hamlet will not result in the best written work about your mother’s apple pie.

The form you choose will determine how effectively your work impacts your audience. In writing form is referred to as genre. Instances of genre are essay, fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, drama (stage), film, copy writing, advertising, and many more.

Today, every genre of writing relies on a foundation of good storytelling as a key foundation, from insurance ads on misguided moose to scientific articles on deadly mosquito viruses. And storytelling is not limited to any one genre. There are many elements that build skills for good writing. However, the success of your work may lie in your ability to construct the story.

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Getting Things Done…

When you first approach the task of writing down your mother’s recipe for apple pie, you write down the ingredients. Easy enough. But the ingredients don’t really tell the story of how her acclaimed dessert rose above its humble beginnings of flour, butter, and apple.

Each ingredient reminds you of something: the wrong kind of flour you brought home from the store; the time your sister used margarine in the dough instead of butter; or the apples that were suitable only for applesauce. Whether innovation or tragedy ensued, other events and stories unwind.

And in each episode, a character trait is revealed and often some small detail that gives you further understanding of your mother. Of your family. Of your own life back then.

Your life expands. Your writing expands. Your world expands past the past.

Each detail is a thread of memory of your mother and your relationship.

Threads of memory are captured one by one. That’s YOU getting things down. Then the threads are woven together to make that story of your mother’s celebrated apple pie.


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Madrona Writers Workshop 2017

Title: Madrona Writers Workshop 2017

Venue: Baby Island Saratoga Club

Date: Saturday, November 11th

8:30-9:00 Introduction – both presenters and attendees
9:00-10:15 Jo Meador – Writing for Story
10:30-11:45 Jo Meador – Editing and Polishing Your Drafts
11:45-12:30 Lunch break
12:30-1:45 Tom Trimbath – Writing for the Internet
2:00-3:15 Tom Trimbath – Modern Self-Publishing
3:30-4:30 General Q&A

Price: $80 for the entire day or $25 per session

Jo Meador
phone 360-331-7302
email jo@jomeador.com

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We are Back – With a Difference

We are holding another Madrona workshop. The difference? There are a few.

The goal is the same, to make writing easier and more productive, both for people who love to write, and also for people who find they have to write.

Some of the differences:

  • Jo Meador (Writer, Teacher, Musician, …) is the main organizer, which leads us to…,
  • the Baby Island Saratoga Club, a locale worthy of its own series of stories,
  • and the sessions, but those are being worked out.

We plan to cover writing, editing, publishing, and dealing with the beauty and the beast that is the Internet.

Sign up for the entire day, or just for the sessions you are interested in.

A Writers Workshop on Whidbey
From imagination to publication
(writing/editing/social media/publishing)
November 11, Baby Island Saratoga Club
price: $80 for the day or $25 per session
contact: Jo Meador (jo@jomeador.com)

Details to follow. Stay tuned.

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If you haven’t noticed, Madrona Workshop Troupe is on hiatus.

Sorry for not posting a sign earlier. Each of us is busy with other projects and coordinating our schedules became too entertaining. We’re all still available as consultants and as instructors. You are welcome to contact us. You are encouraged to contact us. We want you to contact us. It is just that we’ve been busy enough that we haven’t contacted you.

Send a note if you want our help. Good luck with your projects!

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Modern Self-Publishing, a CreateSpace example

It’s easy! Anyone can do it! That’s when I usually fire up my skepticism. Self-publishing is easy, or at least Modern Self-Publishing far easier than traditional self-publishing. It is all relative. Here’s my most recent real world example.
Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland
At the end of February I self-published Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland as a paperback via CreateSpace. It is the same book that I self-published as an ebook on kindle at the end of November. Sales and entreaties encouraged me to take this next step. It’s simple, right? Here are the steps within that step.

By the way, there were plenty of steps before this. Step one: write the book. Like I said, there are steps within steps; and some steps are very large. I describe many of those other steps in Madrona’s workshops. (Besides, show up for Deborah‘s advice on writing and editing, and Wynn‘s advice on marketing. There’s a lot to learn; but hey, anyone can do it!

Pardon the departure from literary narrative, but hopefully a straightforward chronology will help others as they step up and empower themselves.

Find the word and image files that defined the text, the cover, the graphics, and the marketing text. I already did that for the kindle edition back in November, so I just made copies.

Fix the Table of Contents (TOC) by adding Epilogue. Oops. No book is perfect, and I missed one chapter title in the kindle version. That small embarrassment (that no one noticed) was why I started here. I could’ve started in any of many different places.
Improve the graphics. The kindle version acted as a prototype. Even after ten self-published books, I continue to learn.
Open all photos to reformat as 300 dpi.
Choose 3 inch max for my 5 x 8 book.
resize vertical files
resize horizontal files
check correct files
create b&w versions in case the possibility of color printing falls through for some reason
notice which photos lose quality, none lose too much

Lunch, gotta have it.

Resize internal maps of my route.
Insert new graphics into Word

Break = a necessary step

Format covers, front and back; and wonder about CreateSpace’s cover format requirements that I can’t find.

Be real. It’s Friday night. Set it all aside and celebrate. If all went well, this would complete the book because I’ve worked the text, the images, and the cover. But it would be too easy to spend an evening if something went amiss.
Reality: I had other work to do instead and ended up working that evening, anyway. So it goes.

Build a one-piece cover. I had a front and a back, but I suspected CreateSpace would want one image that included a back on the left, a spine, and a front on the right, surrounded by a “bleed” border (in case the print shifts a bit).
Guess at a spine width based on another of my books of a similar word count (Dream. Invest. Live.)
Created something that looks like the cover (with a guess at a 0.6 inch spine)
Scotland 2010 - two page cover

Double check format in MS Word for 5 x 8. (Note: I wrote the book in TextEdit and only went to MS Word when I was required to for formatting.)
Simplistic version complete
Sign on to CreateSpace for details because I lost track of the formatting guidelines. Time to quit estimating.
Ah ha! Begin officially building the cover with detailed instructions.
color interior 0.002347 x 302 pages = 0.70879 inch spine (their formula for my choice of paper)
total cover width including bleed = 0.125 + 5 + 0.709 + 5 + 0.125 = 10.25 + 0.709 = 10.959
Saved! Step away from the computer and celebrate that step.
Oops. Get back to work because I remembered that I have to leave room on the back cover for the ISBN and UPC.
3:00 (That felt like it took longer than that.)


Begin working the inside by downloading CreateSpace’s MS Word template.
Play with header and footer and page numbers
Remember chapter headings must be “Style” Header 1, which is a pain because I only use Styles once a year or so because I have to for Table of Contents.
The book in the new template has shrunk from 302 pages. Now it’s only 263 pages! I may have to redo the cover.
TOC OK, if I accept a section flaw.

Enough for now.

Recalculate the cover dimensions, rounding up because I will add some blank pages front and back.
color interior 0.002347 x 270 pages = 0.63369 inch spine
New cover = 0.125 + 5 + 0.709 + 5 + 0.125 = 10.25 + 0.634 = 10.884
therefore leave as is because 10.959 > 10.884 & the difference is less than 0.10 inches
Added two blank pages to the front and two blank pages to the back
Log onto CreateSpace for cover and interior reviewer software.
Can’t find them now, enter title et al in the long page of options that define the book for CreateSpace’s database.
ISBN for free! Excellent! I didn’t expect that.
Oops. The 5 x 8 format is not available for interior color. I either have to reformat the entire book and the cover, or go with the black & white photos inside. Real life deadlines that have nothing to do with writing, publishing, or marketing take precedence. (I wanted to get a copy to my dad before a self-imposed deadline.)
I was sure CreateSpace said they’d take .doc when I was researching them (one of those long steps that preceded this process), but I can only find a .pdf option now that it’s time to to upload.
{Sarcasm On} Cute. {Sarcasm off} One of the dialog boxes where I must make choices is taller than the screen, which wouldn’t be a problem, but it doesn’t respond to navigation options and there are no scroll bars. Exit and start over and hope I didn’t lose my work.
Whew. It worked the second time.
Upload color interior and see what happens. If the proof looks bad, pick another format from the more restrictive list for color, and reformat cover.
Okay folks, I’ve entered a lot of information. Why hasn’t the upload begun?
Ah, I have to choose (Sales?) Channels.
Uploading begins
Add $25 for Ingram and Baker & Taylor Yes. I want that worldwide distribution.
Choose maximum distribution
Choose $16.95 because it is more than the $10.15 cost and looks right beside my other paperbacks.
Submit for preview
Couldn’t find the interior and cover reviewers after I signed in. Would that have made the process easier? I’m not convinced.

From 10am through the rest of the day, check the status every hour to see if the proof is ready. I picked the pdf proof instead of the print proof to speed the process.
Go to bed wondering if I missed a step.

Download pdf proof!
Looks the way expected, mostly. No color on the inside. One or two imperfections that could either take 5 minutes or 5 weeks to correct.
Double check by checking the online digital proof, partly because it seems to be the only way to check the cover.
B&W interior OK
Approve the proof!
Rummage around for the CreateSpace page so I can spread the word as quickly as possible. Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland (Amazon’s page takes a few extra days.)

Notice, I took a few days to publish. I made sure I took breaks. I also am familiar with my personal standards, criteria, and requirements. I don’t seek perfection, but I do expect an industry-standard product. And I make sure the process fits within my life. Sometimes it is more important to get a book into someone’s hands than to worry over 0.06 inches of cover design.

If you think the marketing begins at this point, you’ve missed a step. All along, even before the kindle version was available, I was getting the word out via social media, a blog, and giving talks.
If you think the writing and editing are done, you’ve missed my next step. Each book teaches me how to improve my writing. Maybe there will be other versions. There are always more books to write.

And look what showed up this afternoon while I typed. Delivery
Okay, I get one. Brian wants one. Who else was asking for signed copies?

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Writing creative first drafts — shutting down your inner critic

Deborahs Portrait

Where do you get your writing joy? Are you a first draft lover or are you a fan of revising?

For many writers the drafting of a new piece of work is where the fun is. When they sit down to revise the fun evaporates and the tough work begins.

There are other writers (and I confess to being a member of this group) who struggle to carve out an ugly rough draft and, once that initial phase is done , we become giddy with anticipation. It’s time to start revising and that’s where the fun is.

Of course both phases of creating a piece of good writing are essential. For both you need access to the best of your imagination. During the initial creative process you need to be able to let it all hang out, to follow your muse and get the words down; this is not the time to be thinking critically. In fact, the writers who most enjoy this first draft phase are the ones who are most effective at silencing that niggling inner voice we all have—the one that gives us damning messages about our lack of originality and our ridiculously poor writing skills. Learning to shut that voice down is one of the primary skills you need to hone if you want your writing to shine with originality and reflect the best of your creative impulses.

Because this is a battle that I wage with some frequency when I sit down to write something new, I have worked out a few tricks that may be helpful to you.

1) Listen closely to what your inner critic is telling you. Listen, but don’t absorb. Take dictation. Write the negative statements down. Make a list of all the things you say to yourself about writing that are discouraging and unsupportive.

2) Read this list over and take a red pen (the critic’s implement of choice) and cross out each statement. Go through the whole list. Don’t let any negative statement stand, even the ones you believe most strongly—especially not the ones you believe most strongly.

3) Now destroy your list. Do this in some dramatic way; burn it, shred it, bury it. Get rid of it for good.

4) Now, write yourself a permission slip. A free pass. A green light that says go for it, nothing is off limits, restrictions do not apply. Phrase this anyway you’d like – be creative! The point is to give yourself the complete freedom you need to tap into that well of creativity where the best stuff is hiding.

Give these tips a try and see how much more you enjoy writing that first draft. Have fun with it.

In my next post I’ll share some tricks for making revision more creative and more fun too.

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