Jann Ryan grew up with the smell of orange blossoms in Orange County in sunny Southern California, where she has lived her entire life and dreamed up stories since she was a young girl. Never an avid reader, she was in her thirties when she picked up her first romance quite by accident. She fell in love with happily ever after and has been reading romances ever since.
Wanting to put pen to paper, Jann joined Romance Writers of America. Currently, she is working on a romantic suspense series set in Stellar Bay, a fictitious town along the California central coast to fulfill her publishing dream.
The other day I was going through an old childhood trunk I call my Trunk oâ€™ Memories when I came across some of my trip diaries from the â€˜60â€™s. My husband and I sat down, read through them and had a great laugh. Back in the day, my frugal mom would put $25 in an envelope for each day of travel, all road trips, of course. That $25 covered all expenses for me and my mom and dad, including gas and the motel. I duly recorded said expenses in the diary and some days we even had a buck or so left over to add to the next dayâ€™s envelope. The diaries brought back so many memories of the places we visited (mostly the northeastern U.S. â€“ we were from Toronto, Canada), the â€˜60â€™s era, my thoughts at the time, and the weather. Yes, I also recorded the daily temperature and precipitation.
I had forgotten about those diaries this summer when we embarked on an epic family road trip where I once again kept a daily diary. This time I tapped away on my iPad in my Pages app. I call it epic. Think eight people in a GMC Yukon SUV, three of them six years old and under, on a road trip up the California coast to Portland, Oregon, and back. We stopped along the way (many times), had some fun and some not-so-fun adventures, went through a lot of diapers, laughed and cried (sometimes it was me), and I duly recorded it all. Yes, including the weather.
What Iâ€™d done back in the day and now, was journaling. As I wrote in my journal before bed last night, I realized that I have always journaled. But why? Why did I feel the need to record the daily routines, the life-altering events, my thoughts and feelings, the weather? Iâ€™m sure it was not just to place these things in the historic record, to be read twenty or thirty years from now.
Remember that secret diary with the tiny key you kept as a teen, the one your bratty little brother read excerpts from to all his friends? You snatched it from his grubby hands and wrote that night,
Iâ€™m going to strangle my brother and stuff his body into his stinky gym bag!
That was journaling. Admit it. You felt a darn sight better after venting. And so, thatâ€™s why I journal. I feel better afterward. I throw down on the page my innermost thoughts, my deepest feelings, loves and hates, hopes and dreams. For my eyes only.
I think everyone knows this about journaling. But when I was researching the subject, I came across a website that listed no fewer than 100 benefits! Check it out at www.appleseeds.org/100_journaling.htm.
When I was ten I entered Torontoâ€™s â€œI love my daddy because . . .â€ Contest. The catch? Write it in twenty-five words or less. Actually, only twenty by the time you count that opening phrase of the contestâ€™s title. When the call came that Iâ€™d won, youâ€™d have thought it was the Pulitzer. The prize I did win was a shiny new two-wheeler.
Iâ€™ve been trying to write twenty-five meaningful words ever since. Iâ€™ve had some success, some – practice (I wonâ€™t call it failure). When I decided to write my first novel in ninth grade, a historical western romance, I felt free, unrestrained by the petty word count dictated by high school English teachers. Whee!! The words flowed, and flowed . . . And flowed. I had great fun.
Much later, I joined RWA and the Orange County Chapter. My, uh, practice continued and I thought I learned everything there was to know about writing through the chapterâ€™s fabulous meetings, workshops, on-line classes, contests and networking. And hey, I was still having fun, even though I had to tame that unrestrained flow of words. It was not until the chapter announced its first anthology of short stories Romancing the Pages that I gave serious thought to not only counting each word, but making each word count. My story, â€œThe Guy with the Dragon Tattoo,â€ started out at 2,500 words. After many edits, it came in around 2,000. Gone are most of the dialogue tags, unnecessary description and background information, and a whole lot of narrative. I had a blast writing it, too.
The experience of writing and editing that short story got me thinking about my novel-length WIP. Iâ€™m still on my first draft, but you can bet as I edit Iâ€™ll be analyzing each scene, paragraph, sentence and word to make them count. Thatâ€™s what powerful writing is all about. Yes, you can write sparingly and still convey powerful emotion. Hemingway can attest to that in his book consisting of only these six words: â€œFor sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.â€ My eyes tear, my heart breaks every time I read them.
I challenge Hemingway! I will now sum up the most important thing you need to know about writing in one word: WRITE!!
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