Life in the Slow Lane

Contemplating life, faith, words, and memories

Repeat Performance: What to Do When the Book You’re Writing Throws You a Curve Ball — February 18, 2016

Repeat Performance: What to Do When the Book You’re Writing Throws You a Curve Ball

As I was working out a topic for this week’s post, I came across this one from May 6, 2014. Reading it, I am reminded that once more my memoir has thrown me a curve ball. I need to sort out what to do with this draft still waiting in the corner.

The two curve balls came from different directions and for different reasons. If you want to know more about the second curve ball, you can read a personal note to my followers and friends who subscribe to my newsletter.

Upon reflection, I believe my May 6, 2014 post may stand me in good stead when the time is right to begin inching my hands toward the binder holding my manuscript. I don’t think I’ll be rewriting so much as restructuring and moving things in my draft around to make my memoir more readable. The wheels are turning and never forgetting this draft, but the pull to go back and revisit this post left me with a need to share it with you once again.

Here’s the original post from May 6, 2014:


The drafting of my memoir began in earnest sometime the late spring of 2012. I had jotted down notes and memories plus digging through boxes of my mother’s personal papers for years. Folders filled with potential material for a book cover a work table.

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

Now, here we are approaching late spring of 2014, two years later. A few weeks ago as I was considering my progress and listening to my husband’s take on what I had written for one particular chapter, I felt like I had been hit by a tidal wave of emotion.

It was as if a tsunami had taken over the life of my memoir, and what came next threw me for a curve.

An epiphany in the form of a major change in direction left me wonder struck. Not so much because it was such a stunning transformation, but because it had stared me in the eye since the year 2000, when the seed germinated into thoughts of a memoir after moving my mother to Oregon from Tennessee.

Now, what am I going to do was the next thought passing not so silently through my mind. It was simple: Regroup, rethink, rewrite–the writer’s three R’s.


When I began writing my story of life with Mama, I sat down and started pounding out words on the computer screen without any thought for an outline or a plan. I knew the story I was writing and thought I needed no organizational scheme to get it done. So far, I believe I have a pretty good draft on that first turn. But this curve ball I’ve been thrown made me stop and take stock of the time I would have saved if I had gotten my writing act together first.

  • The first thing I decided I needed to do was spell out what I wanted to tell my readers and why. And I did.
  • I then moved on to think about outlining or story boarding. I vaguely remembered a post of Kathy Pooler’s on Memoir Writer’s Journey where Kathy talked about story boarding. Unable to find it, I emailed Kathy and she sent me the link, which is here.


Kathy Pooler’s Storyboard
Kathy Pooler’s Storyboard
  • As I sat and studied Kathy’s storyboard, it occurred to me that my favorite writing software, Scrivener, uses a bulletin board with index cards to act as an option to an outline. I rarely use it, but checked it out and below is an image of my current storyboard or imaged outline in Scrivener:
Scrivener corkboard
Scrivener corkboard


  • I think it’s going to work perfectly, and I’ve set about rewriting my first draft.


A good deal of rethinking went into picking up the draft and rewriting it. Was this worth making the book into a better story to share with readers? Would the rewrite get my point across any better? After all, I’d spent a goodly number of hours not only in writing but researching, retrieving and reading.

  • I decided the answer was a yes. I want to publish not just a good book, but a book people will refer to as a “really good book,” perhaps a “must read,” maybe even a “bestseller.” No matter the nomenclature used to describe it, I want it to be my best work product. So, yes, the extra time is worth the effort.
  • As I rethought the outline I’d come up with it, I could actually see the story unfolding in a much more cohesive fashion and with greater ease.
  • Rethinking taught me a great lesson: Rushing in headlong isn’t always the best route to take.


I am actually enjoying this “R” of the three “R’s” because I am sensing a better writing style, a tighter style. I feel the story coming together with less negativity about my mother, seasoned with a dash of her goodness here and there, because there was goodness in her. And at the end of her story and mine, I learn there was good reason for her parenting skills, or lack thereof. I think in the rewrite this will be more easily finessed.

Like schoolchildren sent off to learn their three “R’s”–reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, we writers can also learn from a different set of three “R’s”–regroup, rethink and rewrite.

We’re never too young or too far along in our writing to learn a little something or make a change in the direction we’re headed.

Happy writing!

Check Out New Year’s Deals for Writers and Bloggers — January 6, 2016

Check Out New Year’s Deals for Writers and Bloggers

Who doesn’t love a deal, especially a New Year’s deal? Everybody loves deals. Just offer something at a good price and see how fast people come calling.

This week I’ve heard about some great deals for writers and bloggers. In honor of the support and encouragement my followers have given me in 2015, I’m sharing these New Year’s deals with you.


I’ve been working with BlueHost going on almost four years. They host this site plus two small business sites my husband and I run. When it comes to support, they are fantastic! When it comes to a great deal for new customers better than fantastic.

Right now BlueHost is offering a great monthly rate. And the reason I know about this discount is because I’m celebrating my first anniversary as a BlueHost affiliate. Yes, that means I get a little something for every new customer I send to BlueHost. If you’re interested in BlueHost as your site host, click on the image below and check things out: 


Writer’s Digest has some books offered at discount prices. Here is what I found in the store today:

2016 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition by Robert Lee Brewer is a list of literary agents and publishers curated by Writer’s Digest and now they are offering it for 40% off the regular price, or $29.99, a savings of $20. In addition to the listings, the book includes many tips on the business of writing and a free webinar is offered (a $79 value) on building your audience, marketing, and publishing. It doesn’t sound like you could go wrong.

Under “Bundles and Kits,” a collection under the title Turn Your Blog Into a Successful BookThis bundle includes four books and three webinars on topics like How to Blog a Bookby Nina Amir, Blogging for Writers by Robin Houghton, and one of the webinars is on starting your platform. Regularly the price for this bundle (and you have to see it to believe it!) is $293.95 and you can buy it for only $49.99.

You will find other great offerings at the Writers Digest Shop, so spend some time and see what you can find to help your writing take off in 2016.

Note: I am NOT an affiliate of Writer’s Digest.


Elegant Themes is currently offering a 10% discount off themes and plugins for a limited time only when you sign up for their newsletter. Elegant Themes does a stellar job designing themes and creates some of the most effective plugins for WordPress I have used. Don’t miss this opportunity!

I am in no way affiliated with Elegant Themes.


I have used Scrivener since I began writing my memoir back in 2009. It has gone through many changes to make it a user-friendly writing tool. I especially appreciate the way I can organize my project within the software as if I were using an old-fashioned filing cabinet, file folders, and lots of paper. I just took a look at the site and was surprised to see you can still buy the software for Windows 10 for $40 and for Mac OSX Version for $45. Literature & Latte also offers a free trial. Check it out, and feel free to ask me questions. (Note: I am not an affiliate of Literature & Latte.)

There are many items helpful and useful for writers and bloggers. Sometimes you have to dig for them, and other times they come to you out of the blue. Keep your eyes and ears open and read up on the craft to see what’s happening with technology and books written to help us along the writing journey.

What writing tools and books have you seen deals on lately? Anything you can pass along to the rest of us today?

How to Use Mind Mapping in Writing Memoir — September 19, 2013

How to Use Mind Mapping in Writing Memoir

Source: Greg Williams via Flickr
Source: Greg Williams via Flickr

I’ll be honest. Until I started writing and reading extensively about writing, I had never heard of mind mapping.

Outlining, yes. Mind mapping, no.

Early on in my drafting, I felt the need for a bit more organization. I tried outlining. It had never been a great gift of mine. Indexing on cards didn’t work well for me either.

And then I came across an article on mind mapping. The information shared struck a chord, and I began investigating some of the online mind mapping tools, while questioning whether it would work with writing memoir.

My next search for information landed on a blog where a writer shared his experience using a mind map to write memoir. Voilá! I had my answer, or answers, I should say. More or less, Paul Donovan Campos‘ post outlines for you the method I have developed following his suggestions.

I love visual experiences and since I’m not an artist, mind mapping using an online mapping program was what I found to be most helpful. A visual experience, for me, interacts associatively with the creative part of the brain and drives me to consider detail, dialogue, character development.

Enter Mind42. Granted mind mapping is similar to outlining. However, for me it is the linear nature of outlining I find so troubling. Mind mapping gave me a diagram, a flow chart, or for some it’s the equivalent of a wall of Post-It notes.

Before I knew it I had a map to follow to write my memoir. It wasn’t thorough, nor was it everything it is today. Here’s my first map and when I need a bit of clarity I refer back to it, simply because it is so clear and clean:

Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge

This map has evolved over the last three years for a variety of reasons. As I looked at this clear diagram of my story, I realized I wanted to take another path. I also discovered other sources of mind mapping sites and softwares. With each one, I found greater capabilities and ease of use.

Currently I’m using Mind Maple, a free downloadable software. Also available via Google Chrome is a free extension for Mind Meister, which I haven’t used much. And recently, the developers of Scrivener introduced Scapple, now available as a free trial beta version on a Mac OS.

Honestly, it’s not about what you use to mind map.

It’s all about using what you’re comfortable with. Perhaps you are a gifted sketcher; then sketch your mind map. Or maybe you like the Post-It note mapping; that works too. Or try one of the online resources or a free download or trial.

Most importantly, understand that mind mapping is not a foreign language, and it isn’t incapable of working with memoir writing or any form of writing for that matter.

No longer should the phrase “mind mapping” be shrouded in mystery and perplexity.

My Love Affair with Writing Tools — November 9, 2012

My Love Affair with Writing Tools

The following post appears concurrently on Philadelphia Writing Examiner.  I want to thank Cheryl Butler Stahl, author of Slices of Life: Memoir Writing, freelance writer and founder of Your Best Writing Group, for inviting me to contribute to her column.  Connect with Cheryl on Facebook and Twitter.

* * *

Writers love their tools — pens, paper, pencils, journals, notepads.  So it must follow that with advances in technology there are electronic tools and toys beneficial to writers.

Here I confess — I’m easy prey for innovative software, especially when it comes to writing.  Recently, I’ve acquired some items I want to share with you.  You may have heard about them elsewhere, but here’s my take on them.

It isn’t that I don’t love a moleskin journal, or a tiny leather-covered note pad in my purse along with a favorite pen for jotting quick notes.  What I have discovered is that there are many wonderful, time-saving items out there, and it’s tempting to try them out.

My problem is:  I try them out, I love them, and then I want to tell someone else just how great they are!  So, here goes . . .

My first find and the one I’ve been using the longest, Scrivener.  Scrivener is similar to a word processing program, and it took a long time and lots of consideration to convince me it could be better than Microsoft Word, which I’ve used for decades now.  Not too long ago, my friend and fellow writer and blogger, Joe Bunting at The Write Practice dot com, shared his thoughts on Scrivener.  Joe’s overview convinced me to give Scrivener a try.

Three things that stand out for my purposes in Scrivener are:  (1) ability to pull together ideas in one place; (2) organizing the manuscript; and (3) Scrivener motivates.  Let’s take a look at each of these in brief:

  • Gathering your ideas in one place is a time saver.  Previously, I would find snippets of information for a project and place them in a folder.  Next, I’d come across photos I might want to reference later and into another folder they would go.  And what about my research?  Yes, another folder.  Before long, I’d have so many folders storing project materials that it would take some time to locate something on occasion.  With Scrivener, this problem is solved.Scrivener allows you to store all these bits and pieces in one document – the configuration of the material doesn’t matter.  It can be a photo, text, links to research, whatever you need to be able to find quickly.
  • Do you end up with a Word document for each chapter?  With Scrivener, you no longer have to worry about separate documents.  Scrivener allows the writer to keep those chapters and subchapters separate but easily accessible.  If your book project is large, this is a time saver.
  • Lastly, do you struggle with staying motivatedBelieve it or not, Scrivener has helped me with that battle.  Scrivener has a tool that lets you set a word count goal for each section so that you have an ongoing tally of just how much you’ve accomplished.

A quick look at what Scrivener looks like on screen:

Scrivener is available as a download for PCs and MACs at Literature & Latte dot com.  Currently, Scrivener is relatively inexpensive ($45 for Mac, $40 for Windows).  And it comes with a great manual and tutorial.

Second in my lineup of new tools, EvernoteEvernote replaces all the documents where I save quotations, the folder in my email for blog items I want to read later or reference again, a stack of paper copies printed for reading later.  The beauty of this software is that it captures all those things for me in one place, and it does it all for FREE via my browser!  I refer to it as my online filing cabinet. A search feature is included and the use of tags makes it easy to categorize things for searching.  Folders (or notebooks) can be set up to further categorize  your materials.  I’ve not yet been disappointed with Evernote, the tutorials or finding help.  And I love the elephant!

Here are a couple of images showing how Evernote appears on your screen, depending on your operating system and personal setup:

Windows version
Windows version
Mac version
Mac version

And for those of you interested, Evernote has a phone app as well.  At Evernote dot com you will find all the other tools available for organizing your writing life.

Third and last, and my newest find, Mind42, a web-based mind mapping tool that I’m in love with.  Not artistically inclined, the thought of drawing a mind map has left me feeling awkward and somewhat faulty in my efforts.  Mind24 has taken all that away.  And it’s free!

For me, the clarity of the design of the mappingin Mind42 was what won me over as I compared a variety of offerings:

Additionally, Mind42 is user friendly and an intuitive program to use.  So far, it hasn’t disappointed me.

I checked out several other free mind mapping software, including:

  • FreeMind (I didn’t find this user friendly and not well supported);
  • (navigation seemed awkward); and
  • Mindomo (here again the process seemed awkward); and
  • Cayra (as nodes are added, images move around on the screen).

Don’t hesitate to check out several as one that doesn’t work for one individual may work expertly for another.

I realize there is lots of information packed into this article.  My hope is, if you’re interested in writing, that you’ll find something helpful highlighted here that enhances your writing life.

Happy writing!

Disclosure:  I am not an affiliate of any of the companies mentioned herein, nor was I asked by any of them to give a review of their product.  This is purely based on my own experiences and the desire to share them with you.  However, the FTC (yes, part of our government told me I must) requires me to let you know that I’m in no way being paid for anything written here nor do I receive anything if you buy any of the products above.  So long!

Images were taken from the web sites referenced for each piece of software discussed.

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