Writing

When you’ve lived with yourself for five decades, there are certain things you come to accept:

1) I don’t like cooked vegetables—I don’t have sensitive taste buds and eating is a texture thing for me … cooked veggies are really mushy.

2) I’m a terrible driver—I wouldn’t admit this in front of my kids and especially not to Mr. Nina, but it’s a fact and I’m learning to live with it (and avoid really busy roads).

3) Spontaneity went the way of my bikini. I plan or don’t bother.

4) I’m a risk taker—Though years ago this meant sky diving, snorkeling with barracudas and shooting rapids in an inner tube. But the most risky thing I do these days is not take my calcium and vitamin D and drive my electric wheelchair in high gear after two glasses of wine. Regardless, risk taking is still a part of who I am.

5) I’m a scientist—in every cell of my being, down to the last nucleus, there is a geeky scientist intent on doing research and learning everything she can about the world around her.

And it’s the last part that’s carrying me through this crazy world of writing novels. You see, when I was in high school and college, I was the kid everyone hated. When a research paper was assigned, I jumped in with both feet, happily spending hours at the library with periodicals and encyclopedias. (Remember those days?) I had my little index cards all color coded with quotes and factoids. I wrote until my hand was numb and usually turned that 5 page term paper assignment into a dozen pages of amazing prose.

Yeeeeeah, I screwed up the bell curve, but I couldn’t have been happier.

I know some of you are wondering what this has to do with novels and the answer is EVERYTHING. There isn’t a book I’ve written that didn’t require some kind of research on my part. Once it was to discover the chemical process of cat leukemia, which I based a deathly poison on. Then there was the time I went to the fire station to talk with the fire chief about all their equipment so I could write a vampire-firefighter. I’ve researched werewolf legends and faeries, even delved into the world of BDSM for a couple of my books. (And that’s when research can be a dirty word 😉 ) I love learning new things. Though I will confess sometimes research for one or two lines in a book can take me hooours.

I’ve never been able to type “research X here” and move on with a scene without running over to the internet and actually doing the research. I just can’t keep going forward until I know exactly how that little fact niggling in my brain is going to affect the story. Fortunately, over the years I’ve learned where to find a lot of the stupid things I want to know, so my research is definitely more efficient.

I love this writing gig. It’s like still being in school and learning something new every day. ‘Cuz if you know anything about it me, I’m really geeky that way. What about you? Have you done any really interesting research?

I’d like to welcome guest author blogger Rayne Hall. Take it away Rayne …

Readers don’t like wusses.

Heroes – male or female – may be frightened, but they may not be wusses. Often, the difference lies not in the hero’s actions, but in the words you’ve used.

You may have created a spunky, heroic, brave heroine, but the reader still perceives her as a wimpy wuss, because you’ve unwittingly used certain phrases which signal “wimp” to the reader’s subconscious. I call this the Wimp Effect.

It’s best to avoid those words, or at least, to use them sparingly.

THE WIMP TEST:
See how your hero performs in your WIP. Every time your protagonist does one of the following things, she or he gets one Wimp Point.

* Sighing, exhaling, breath taking. Each time the protagonist heaves a sigh, sighs deeply, takes a deep breath, inhales, exhales slowly etc, that’s one Wimp Point.

* Shrugging. Shrugs may be intended to convey arrogance or indifference, but they also signal weakness. One Wimp Point for each shrug.

* Hesitation. Each time the protagonist hesitates, however good the reason, that’s a Wimp Point.

* Visceral responses to minor triggers. Visceral responses to real danger are great! But if the protagonist shudders, trembles, jerks and gasps at something harmless like the sound of a banging door, this gets a Wimp Point.

* Indulging in negative-passive emotions. It’s ok to feel sadness, grief, loss, worry, anxiety, helplessness. However, these should be dealt with quickly. The protagonist should experience them, but not dwell on them. Each time such an emotion is described for more than one sentence, it gets a Wimp Point.

* Tears. Each time the protagonist weeps, spills tears, wipes a tear from his eyes, gets moist eyes, or has a tear sliding down her cheek, earns one Wimp Point.

* Thinking. Thoughts should be very short or implied in the action. Whenever the protagonist thinks for more than one sentence, that’s a Wimp Point. If he thinks aloud, or holds conversations with himself, the Wimp Points double.

* Nervous habits. Each time the protagonist bites or chews lips, cheeks or nails, clenches fists or teeth, freezes, gulps, swallows, clears a throat, drops a jaw or stares in disbelief, that’s one Wimp Point.

* Tries and attempts. Each time your protagonist tries/attempts/endeavours something, that’s one Wimp Point. When he tries something in connection with an emotional response (“He tried not to shudder”, “She tried to suppress a groan” “He couldn’t stop himself trembling”), the points double.

* Feeling. Every time the word “feel” is used (“He felt xxx”, “Feeling yyy, she did zzz”) earns one Wimp Point.

* Finding themselves. Every time the protagonist finds himself in a place or situation (“He found himself in a dark alleyway”), or finds himself doing something instead of doing it (“He found himself shaking all over”, “She found herself staring at a house”), this earns one Wimp Point.

* Involuntary actions. Each time she does something involuntarily/unconsciously/instinctively/ without meaning to/against her will, gets one Wimp Point.

* Each time the protagonist’s body parts (instead of the protagonist) do something “His legs stepped forward.” “His hands took the weapon.” “Her eyes watched the rat.”… gets one Wimp Point.

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
How many Wimp Points has the protagonist earned? Aim for no more than three in the scariest scene, and no more than ten or fifteen in the whole book, although it depends on the genre. Romance can be allowed a little more; thrillers fewer. Females are allowed a few more points than males, but not many more.

Some writers accumulate a dozen Wimp Points in a single paragraph, and are surprised when readers think their heroine is a wuss.

Here’s an example of how a paragraph with many Wimp Points might read:

Henry Hero stared in disbelief at the dark river, and couldn’t help himself swallowing. He found himself shaking involuntarily. Part of him whispered, “No man has ever crossed this water alive. Go home while you can.” Another part of him yelled, “Just do it. Be the First.” He chewed his lower lip, hesitating. A cloud crossed the sky, making him shudder. Then he took a deep breath to steady himself, and exhaled with a sigh. “I have to do it,” he told himself. “The Delectable Damsel needs me.” His feet stepped towards the shore.

SOME WIMP POINTS ARE OK

Each of the “Wimp Effects” is ok on its own, if it happens just once. A single sigh, a single swallow, a one-off burst into tears are fine.

It’s when the Wimp Points accumulate that they become problematic, and they accumulate quickly. Novice writers often have twenty or more Wimp Points in the first chapter, because their characters shrug and sigh constantly. This establishes their protagonists as wusses before the scary action begins.

The hero Odysseus weeps several times in Homer’s famous ancient epic The Odyssey. Does this make him a wimp? Definitely not. The weeping shows him as a sensitive human, and it works because he doesn’t do anything else to earn Wimp Points. He doesn’t sigh, shrug, inhale, exhale, bite his lips and clear his throat. If he did all those things on top of the weeping, he would come across as a wuss, no matter how many cyclops and monsters he defeated.

It also depends on the character. A timid character is allowed the occasional Wimp Point, but not many.

Examples:
Spunky person: “She halted.” (0 Wimp Points)
Timid person: “She hesitated.” (1 Wimp Point)
Wimpy wuss: “She hesitated, chewing her lips, and heaved a deep sigh.” (3 Wimp Points)

Spunky person: “She braced herself.” (0 Wimp Points)
Timid person: “She swallowed and braced herself.” (1 Wimp Point)
Wimpy wuss: “She swallowed. Then she took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, and braced herself.” (4 Wimp Points)

HOW TO AVOID THE WIMP EFFECT

Wherever possible, cut down on Wimp Points.

* Delete sighs, shrugs, inhales, exhales, lip biting, cheek chewing, swallowing etc.

* Don’t let your protagonists do a lot of thinking, and never let two parts of their psyche engage in a conversation.

* If the plot demands that the protagonist hesitates, express it with different words (He halted , He paused, He waited)

* If the protagonist tries to do something, express it without the words try/attempt/endeavour. Instead of “He tried to pull it out” write “He pulled at it with all his strength”.

* Describe negative-passive emotions intensely but briefly.

De-wimpifying your WiP can be fun. Enjoy the process.

Which wimpy habits have invaded your writing? Tell us about them. If you have questions, please ask.

I’ll be around for a week and will reply.

Rayne Hall is the author of thirty books in different genres (mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction) and under different pen names, published by twelve publishers in six countries, translated into several languages. Her short stories have been published in many magazines, e-zines and anthologies. Currently, she tries to regain the rights to her out-of-print books so she can republish them as e-books. She is the editor of the Ten Tales series of short story anthologies. Find all her books on Amazon

After living in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, she has settled in a small Victorian seaside town in southern England. Rayne holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Over three decades, she has worked in the publishing industry as a trainee, investigative journalist, feature writer, magazine editor, production editor, page designer, concept editor for non-fiction book series, anthology editor, editorial consultant and more. Outside publishing, she has worked as a museum guide, apple picker, tarot reader, adult education teacher, trade fair hostess, translator and belly dancer.

She teaches online classes for writers including: Writing Scary Scenes, Writing about Magic, Writing Fight Scenes, The Word-Loss Diet, Edit your Writing (and more).

So, I was talking to a wonderful author who read BLIND HER WITH BLISS. She thought it was fast-paced and a great read. But … and this is very interesting…she needed some time to digest information. Time to understand the actions of the heroine after she’s made a decision to go in another direction. Huh, that totally makes sense.

I’ve had a bunch of readers tell me that a couple of my books end too quickly. That there needed to be a little more information after the climax and resolution. It brought me back to a wonderful workshop I heard suspense/thriller author Lisa Gardner give at a conference I attended. You need to give your reader a breather. Whether it’s a dynamic action scene or an intense sexual encounter, you need to slow down and let your reader digest new information, cogitate on the actions of your characters and get ready for the next scene that will carry them deeper into the conflict.

This is summarized by Dwight Swain as SCENE and SEQUEL. Yes, they’re both scenes within your chapters, but they have different jobs.

SCENE has three parts:
1. Goal – What your POV character desires most at the beginning of the scene. A character going after something they desperately need makes them interesting and makes them proactive in their own story. Readers will care about characters who are working hard toward their goals.
2. Conflict – The series of obstacles your POV character faces in reaching their goal. Your reader wants to see your characters struggle. It makes for a great and fast-paced read.
3. Disaster – Failure for your POV character to reach their goal. Hang your character off a cliff at the end of a scene and you guarantee your reader will be turning the page!

Since your scene ended with a disaster, your character needs to have time to recover. They’re not just going to run out and jump into another conflict. Give them and your readers a chance to settle down and get ready for the next big problem. This “in between” scene is called a sequel.

SEQUEL also has three parts:
1. Reaction – Show your POV character having a visceral reaction to the disaster. Give your reader time to empathize with your character. Hurt with them. Cry with them …care about them.
2. Dilemma – What choices does the POV character face in light of the disaster?
3. Decision – Your POV character makes a choice and decides to act on it. Your characters must be proactive in their own story or you will lose your readers.

This brings you back around to another goal scene. By letting your stories unfold this way, not only are you writing a story your readers can’t stop reading, you’ll be allowing them time to breathe and come down from intense emotions before once again throwing them off a cliff. And don’t ask me how long each of these need to be because the only answer I can offer is … as long as they need to be to do their *job*

What about you? Have you read a book that never gave you space or time to think? As a writer have you heard of this method of writing your scenes? Is it something you consciously do … or does it just come naturally as your story unfolds? Tell me. I’m always curious about this stuff.

Today I’m hanging at Savvy Authors talking about Pantsing through manuscripts vs Plotting stories. Every writer has their method of getting from “Once upon a time…” to “…lived happily ever after”.

I hope you’ll come on over grab a margarita and join in the discussion. I’m always interested in finding out how other people get through their stories. See you there!

I’m in the process of rewriting a book I’ve always loved, but it really just isn’t ready for public consumption. It’s hard. I LOVE this story, but finding the gold in the pile of crud is really a daunting task. Mostly because I love writing narrative. Long, flowing descriptions of people and places. Paragraphs of personal introspection. But guess what? Readers don’t want to wade through all of that, regardless of imagery. They want action. Things to happen. This means stories need to clip along. No meandering chapters. Every word carefully chosen. Nothing wasted.

So how do you find those words and phrases that can be cut without changing your story?

* Search your manuscripts for words ending in “ly”.

It’s unnecessary to say:
– She whispered quietly.
– He banged the table loudly.

“Whisper” is inherently quiet. A “bang” is loud. Those adverbs don’t help you draw the picture for you readers. You’ve already done that.

* Remove unnecessary descriptive words.
– The baby kitten purred.
– The giant tank rolled through the streets.

Kittens are babies and have you ever seen a small tank? There is no reason to include these words. The nouns themselves already give the description.

* Trust that your description explains without stating it again.

Stomping around the room, she couldn’t meet his gaze. “Because I don’t want to!” she yelled. Damn she was angry.

The last sentence isn’t needed. By using strong verbs like “stomp” and “yelled” you’ve already painted the picture of her anger. You don’t need to restate it.

Luke studied her face. Her unfocused eyes were heavy lidded, the long lashes brushing her flushed cheeks. Little puffs of breath feathered through her full lips. Sarah was so turned on.

Again, the reader knows she’s turned on. The author has done a wonderful job painting that picture. Don’t waste words stating the obvious.

* Make your verbs work for you. This also goes to writing action vs. passive.

Incorrect: The ball was bouncing across the driveway.
Correct: The ball bounced across the driveway.

It’s amazing the number of words you can cut from your manuscript by searching for “was”, “were”, and “been” and choosing a stronger verb to get your point across.

These are just a few of the easy steps to streamline your manuscript. Don’t let the word count limitations limit your story.

I really don’t know what’s wrong with me. But I’ve got nothing for you today. I actually wrote a whole long post about a series I finished recently. But it was really negative and in talking about the books it wasn’t going to teach anything or create a discussion worth having, so I stuck it in the archives until I can figure out what to do with it.

But it did get me thinking about reading and why people read. And what types of books they choose when they’re looking to satisfy whatever need reading brings to them. For me, reading is entertainment. I don’t like reading self-help books. I rarely read non-fiction unless I’m trying to do research and even then … not so much. I usually just skim pertinent information. I want a story to transport me to another place and time where I can forget about the bills that need to be paid or the laundry that needs to be folded.

My family actually started chatting about books at the holiday dinner table last weekend. One family member mentioned they only like to read books that leave them thinking, have some kind of moral message or some lesson to teach. When a couple of us mentioned a book we’d read and enjoyed, neither one of us could come up with a moral lesson. But then, I can’t say that’s why I read. For me it’s just getting lost in the fantasy of the story. But it was really interesting talking about how and why each of us reads.

On the writing front I’m working really hard to stay focused on a rewrite of a story I wrote yeeeeears ago, but was never published. The problem is I have several projects that have been waiting in the wings and I’m finding it hard not to be a little ADHD and work on them all at the same time. With my life in the chaos it’s currently in, I know opening more than one manuscript in a day would mean I’d never get anything done. Hopefully this story will be out to an editor by the beginning of June.

I’m also doing some beta-reading for a friend. I’m so excited for him as he’s been away from his writing for a long time and he’s such a talented writer. I can’t wait for this book to get out into the world.

And last but certainly not least … I spent last weekend with my grandson. He’s growing so fast! I hate having him so far away, but I’m pleased I got some time to spend with him. I hope you’re having a wonderful week.

I know everyone reading this blog isn’t a writer. But every once in awhile I like to throw in some advice to new or aspiring authors.

Publishing is a hard business and sometimes it’s nice to know others have gone this road before you and survived! And today I’d like to talk about the $@#!& cursed awful rotten inevitable rejection letter.

You’ve done it. Finished your first (second or third) novel and sent it off to the editor or agent of your dreams. And now you wait. Since this one will be such a best seller you don’t want to waste precious time and you get started on your next novel. The words are just flying onto the page when the letter or email arrives. “Sorry, but this isn’t for us …”

A rejection.

It hurts. It feels like someone told you your baby was ugly. Well, what do they know? So you package it up again and send it out. Good for you! But then the next round of rejections comes back and now you’ve slowed down in the progress of your next book. Why bother? The whole world is publishing except you. But dang, everyone who read your manuscript thought it was wonderful. Maybe they only liked it because they love you, except old Mrs. Harrington, your mother’s hairdresser, but she didn’t like the last Nora Roberts block buster either … so she doesn’t count.

So now what?

Whatever you do next … don’t give up.

First, step back and make sure you did indeed send your manuscript to the right people. Does that agent represent mystery writers? Does that publisher sell paranormals? Did your word count fit their criteria? There are many reasons manuscripts are rejected. If you didn’t receive a form letter, did the agent/editor make any helpful recommendations? If they did, look at them closely and make note of them. Unless several people say the same thing, you may not want to completely rewrite the ending (or beginning or murder scene), but just keep their suggestions in mind. When several agent/editor type people point out the same mistakes, it’s time to seriously consider making the change to your manuscript.

Sometimes you receive a rejection with suggestions for rewrites and an invitation to resubmit. If this publisher/agent looks promising get down to work and take their suggestion and rewrite. This doesn’t always guarantee an acceptance letter, but it does get you one step closer.

People will tell you that letters with your name and the title of your book and perhaps some words of encouragement are “good” rejections … and they are … don’t get me wrong. It means the agent/editor found your writing compelling enough to read past the first page or two. But trust me, they sting just as badly as a form letter. Sometimes more because you know you were so darn close. It’s okay to kick gravel and shed a few tears. Because let’s face it, it’s still not a sale.

I allow myself to have a small pity-party. Sometimes for the rest of the day. Let the disappointment sink in and celebrate the positive feedback received.

But then that’s it.

The next day get back to writing. Revise, rewrite, or find a new story to work on. Whatever you do — write. Because in this business of publishing, it’s all about the PLOT … perseverance, luck, obstinance and talent. And no one got anywhere by quitting after a rejection.

This is a crazy month for me. Lots of traveling to visit family which is wonderful, but it also is cutting into my writing time. This is only a problem because I’ve really got to pull my act together and start working. I have plenty of projects, but I can’t seem to settle on one and get it finished. But I’ve decided that since my life is still kind of crazy at the moment that writing something totally new is a bit overwhelming. So I’ve decided to pull out a never-published book and do a complete rewrite. I’ve always loved the story, but it’s never caught the eye of a publisher. Which is fine. I’m sending it out in the world on my own. It’s a romantic suspense novel, which I understand isn’t selling through NY. Got to love this whole self-publishing avenue available to me now.

Anyway, since my other self-published books are beginning to sell I’d like to keep it going by releasing a new book. That means the pressure is now on to produce. Again, it’s my own personal goals that create the pressure, but still.

Every writer (whether they work full time at their craft or squeeze it in around another job) tries to find the balance between creating new stories and editing upcoming releases, promoting their books — and real life. Sometimes it’s a precarious balance.

I’ve found myself over the last few months ago frittering away my days. Bad. Very Bad. I spent my days typing at the computer, but somehow emails, Facebook, Twitter and visiting blogs were more important than putting words together to form chapters. 😀 hee hee. That’s me.

When I was in high school about every three months I’d fall apart, tears streaming down my cheeks claiming I couldn’t possibly live up to everyone’s expectations. My mother would calmly suggest I drop out of this or turn over the responsibility of something to someone else. I’d claim I couldn’t do it. Then I’d mop up my tears and rise to the challenge and of course I’d push through and meet all the deadlines and fulfill my responsibilities. It’s what I do.

After all these years, I’ve come to realize it’s how I’m hard wired. I can’t change it. Nothing but deadlines … a goal to finish by a certain date … works for me. It even happened when I was teaching. Even though I knew I wanted to create a new program I never buckled down and actually did it until I had the first group scheduled to come for the program. Then it was no holds barred until the research was done and the lesson plan complete. The deadline has to be real.

I’ve tried to participate in writing challenges, but there were no repercussions. No one except me knew if I didn’t finish. 1k 1 hour … just can’t seem to do it. I need to know something tangible is at the end. So, after being a published author for nearly four years, I’m finally figuring out what makes me tick.

So authors, how do you work best? Do you find deadlines (either actual or self imposed) motivational or do you like the freedom to create at your own pace? And if you have any secrets about keeping your productivity up, please share!

Curious authors want to know.

With Amazon, B&N and other venues making it so easy to publish a book, there’s lots of talk in the publishing world about editing.

When I first started writing I believed I’d send my manuscript in and some editor-type person would have a look at it, tell me they liked it, but …

And I thought that “but” would be how to improve, make it stronger and yes, could they please send me an advance check and they’d be happy to work with me to get my manuscript ship shape and on the local bookstore, Target and Wal-mart book shelves.

Ha! Make that a hearty, roll on the floor, bust a gut, hahahahahahahahaha!

What I’ve learned in the years since I submitted my first manuscript is that publishing companies don’t have the resources to take a newbie writer and help them polish. Agents don’t want to represent someone who is still learning the craft. I’m not criticizing … I’m just stating fact.

I do think there was a time when publishing houses molded and refined a manuscript. But that was loooong before the first “Once Upon a Time” ever got typed on my computer. I used to quake in my shoes when I read the words “polish to one inch of your manuscript’s life” on the submission guidelines for an agent or a publishing house. I don’t anymore, because I get it.

After I write my manuscript, I have a couple friends read it. Does it flow? Is it free of typos? Did I answer all the questions for the suspense plot? Did I do a reasonable job of making you care about the hero and heroine? I’ve got some awesome friends who are amazing when it comes to that stuff and I wouldn’t have the confidence to continue to submit my work if it weren’t for the efforts they put in for me.

Then, and only then, after I’ve gone through it line by line and they’ve gone through it line by line do I submit. That’s what the publisher/agent wants to see. They aren’t interested in seeing the first draft of my work. Heck, half the time, I’m not interested in the first draft of my work. 😀

But once the manuscript is accepted … that’s only the beginning. One of my novellas … which will remain nameless 😉 had to have a couple scenes rewritten before it even went into editing. No problem. I happily made the changes because the suggestions were awesome observations by the acquisitions editor.

Not all publishers edit the same and you should be aware of this before going through the process. There are some who simply do line edits … look for typos, misplaced or missing commas or the wrong “there”, “they’re” or “their” word. That kind of stuff. The editing department isn’t looking for plots that don’t come together or storylines that aren’t complete. They assume the author has done that already. Just be aware your potential publisher may fall into this category and make sure your novel(la) has been read by more than one person and all the ends are tied up (or not if it’s a series) satisfactorily.

Fortunately for me, the publishers I’ve worked with have full service editing department. That means the editors I’ve worked with (and I’ve had some amazing editors in my writing journey), point out poor wording choices or plot inconsistencies. (They’ve all given up trying to teach me about comma placement … I’m a hopeless cause when it comes to that. As a couple of them have said, I sprinkle commas like a pepper shaker.) Fortunately I’ve only had one who’s actually tried to change wording which actually changed my voice, but understood when I stuck to my guns. You have to remember, an editor’s job is to push me to write the best story I can.

Now that I’m looking to self-publish my first original book, I need to find a freelance editor. I won’t have a trusted person at a publisher looking through my book. I’m gonna tell you, it’s just a little intimidating, but I feel more comfortable knowing I’ve been through this process and I know what I’m looking for in an editor. It certainly will make it easier searching for someone who fits with my style.

Editing doesn’t hurt … it’s an awesome learning process for me. And I’m grateful to the publishers I’ve worked with who are so thorough with their editing. So don’t be intimidated when a publisher/agent asks you to edit your manuscript before you submit. They aren’t looking for you to be a NYT best seller right of the starting block … they just want to know that you care enough to send them your very best work.

Today my man is going for a job interview. We pawed through his closet putting together the whole shirt/tie/suit jacket/pant ensemble. Did it match? Did it make a statement and if so, was it the right one? He’s a big guy and some clothes pinch around the collar or snug too tight around the arms. I thought if he was going to sit in a 2-3 hour interview he should be comfortable.

But he was much more concerned about the impression his clothes would make than his own comfort.

I know that’s how it’s supposed to be, but I just can’t wrap my head around that. The fact is, he could do the job just as well in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt as he can in a suit jacket and tie.

At home, I sit most of the day at my computer typing away, dressed in nothing more than my pj’s. The cats don’t care as long as I get up once in awhile to play with them and fill their food and water bowls. My editor and publisher don’t care what I wear as long as my writing is solid and tells a good story. And I suspect my readers don’t pick up my books wondering what I have on that day.

Of course I wouldn’t go out in public that way … I’m not that inappropriate. (Though I used to slip on boots and a winter jacket and cap over my pj’s and bed-messed hair to drive my kids to school, but that’s another story.) But I bump around in jeans and a sweater most days.

When I go to conferences I always end up buying new clothes. I want to look “professional”. I don’t do the suits and dresses like so many attendees, but I do wear colored jeans and dress shirts.

I know — always dress for success.

But aren’t I the same person in jeans as I am in slacks? Can’t I still write the same words and weave the same story despite my outer appearance?

Why exactly do the clothes make the person?

When you go to a book signing to meet your favorite author does it matter to you what he/she is wearing? Do you prefer to see a professional woman in a skirt rather than slacks? (As my father-in-law always insisted I wear a dress to an interview.)

As a teacher at an outreach Center I wore jeans every day. My dad came to visit and was appalled that one of the teachers came to the Center dressed in jeans. (Schools often relax the dress code for their teachers on field trips, so this wasn’t surprising to me.) When I questioned why he found it offensive he said the children won’t respect them and be polite. I had no issues with classroom managment and the kids didn’t know me from the tooth fairy … okay, maybe the tooth fairy … but you get my drift. The clothes didn’t make me a good or bad teacher.

Do the clothes, if they’re clean and neat, really make a difference to you? Because you know me, I’m curious about stuff like that.

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