Learning is Forever

Writing is putting letters into words, extending the words into sentences, and ending it all in a series of paragraphs. Hopefully, so it all makes sense. Like I try to do with this blog each week. Writing is certainly not an easy thing to do.

A lot of things are not easy for me to do, but with writing I take the time to learn how to do it better. The more I learn, the easier it seems to get (or it appears to me that way). I think it is the same with any skill.

To learn how to write better, a person needs to make the decision they want to write better. This goes back to a previous blog post about motivation. A person, on their own, should want their writing to be understood by as many readers as possible.

This means a writer should continually learn the craft of writing. Just like construction workers adapting to new regulations and tools, a writer must keep up with the latest trends and technology. This is what makes writers successful. This is what stops writers from being understood.

As an example, some still put two spaces after a period, do not accept the Oxford comma, and use gender speech incorrectly. They do not accept that long paragraphs are out, white space on a page is in, and everything must be mobile ready. While they may have learned writing rules using a computer, that may have been twenty years ago.

Keeping up with the latest writing trends and technology makes writing even harder. Yet, like any craft, if a person has motivated themselves to be better, it would be easy to keep up.

Writing Grants is Writing

I blog about creative writing and grant writing because I do both and I see a lot of similarities.

In creative writing, a writer needs to know how to write. This may seem obvious, yet many people take on grant writing without believing there are writing rules to follow.

Before drafting a grant request, the writer needs to achieve a level of understanding about writing. Such as how to use active voice, minimize the number of adverbs, and how to compile sentence structure.

Once there, a grant writer can improve their writing by re-reading what they wrote and being critical of their words. After this, the grant writer should get others to read what was written. A grant writer needs to accept critique and be open to criticism from themselves and others.

Of course, understanding writing and how to critique applies to all types of writing. This is important for a grant request because it involves funding for a nonprofit. A writer can use an intended way that is clear and simple or put something on paper just to get it submitted in time.

Ignoring the rules about writing leads to a grant request that might not make sense and a waste of time for everyone. If a writer puts in the effort and work to write a grant request, they should want to make sure other people can understand what was written.

A New Year

Since this is the last post for 2018, I have resolutions for 2019. This is a surprise to me since I don’t make resolutions. If I start or stop something, I do it when I’m ready and not wait for a specific date. If I did wait, I’d probably forget what I was planning to start or stop.

One resolution is to continue blogging. This is my 48th blog post and I know this because I number each file. Otherwise, I’d have to do a lot of counting. I plan to continue this blog, alternating between grant writing and creative writing, as I do now since it shows I’m consistent at something.

The other resolution is to get at least one book self-published. I would prefer getting an agent, yet I do not have enough Facebook likes or Twitter followers and I don’t do Instagram or other social media sites. Per a popular literary agent, social media connections are more important than what is written. Mainly, I’ll self publish because I’ve already querying many agents without success.

To start the self-publishing path, I’m setting up a limited liability company in a few weeks. I’ve read and listened to a lot of people about self-publishing and this is the path I’ve chosen. It also includes getting an editor and someone to help with this website since I keep forgetting what I taught myself.

Self-publishing is time consuming, so I freed up time by resigning from some of my volunteering duties. I was getting way too involved in way too many things, anyway. I learned that having enough time to do things leads to a better chance of success.

In 2019, I’ll focus on the volunteering that I feel good about and helps more people. With the extra time I have, I’ll send myself off into the self-publishing world.

Write Grants Only

I’ve written about this before, but it needs emphasizing and further explanation.

Grant writers should stay away from being board members or in charge of anything except writing grants. If a grant writer wants to be on the board, they should not write grants.

It is an issue of priority and authority. The grant writer must focus on a nonprofit’s most critical needs. As a board member, authority gets in the way of the priority and unfortunately changes the needs.

There are politics on any board, and members can change the priorities to benefit some strange purpose. Being on the board, a grant writer is too close to these authorities. Away from the board, the grant writer has more leverage to prevent strange decision making.

Most importantly, a grant writer needs to be objective (neutral, unbiased) and being on the board can affect this position. As an example, on the board, a grant writer is a voting member, which can alter priorities.

I write this because I made a mistake of writing grants and later agreeing to be on the nonprofit’s board. I have since resigned from the board (for several reasons) and will go back to what I originally wanted to do, which was writing grants. Being on the board and writing grants is not an experience I will repeat.

For the grant writer, what is the goal? If it is to get money for the nonprofit, stay there.

I have a few words to avoid

Every writer, I think, has the habit of using two or three words way too many times. For me, it is “but,” “really,” and “just.” I have been fortunate to realize this and either avoid them or take them out when I don’t avoid them. But, they really are just unnecessary.

Just like starting a sentence using “and” or “then” either separately or together. It is rare these words are ever needed like this. If a writer thinks they are needed to introduce the sentence, they should rewrite the sentence.

I could explain this more, but I try to avoid the word “because,” because things should be explained without saying, “Here’s the explanation.”

I try to not start too many sentences with “The.” Many sentences do not need to be addressed that formally. The introduction of people, events, or other incidents should already be there waiting to take action.

Finally, each paragraph should not begin with the same word. At least, not more than twice in a row. Paragraphs should be unlike their past and future selves.

This is all about different word choices. Use a diverse culture of words to be inconsistent. That is the story of creative writing. Writers write a story with a plot in mind and it is the use of word variety that makes it readable.

P.S. I ended my book without the performance. I wrote the chapter and it looked like it was screaming to get it out of there. It fit in perfectly as the introduction into the second book that I was trying to avoid writing.

Some Grant Writing Tips (Here’s the rest of it, Part II of 2)

Another Opportunity
If a foundation states they do not accept unsolicited grant requests, do not send them a grant request. Do not call. Instead, send them information about your nonprofit. This should be no more than a page and a half with attachments.

Include a few glossy brochures with pictures that explain the mission and purpose of the nonprofit. The best thing to send is testimonies and pictures of the people who the nonprofit helped. I then wait for the foundation to contact the nonprofit, if they do. If not, I do not bother the foundation again.

I have had success using this method. Over half the time, the foundation sends a grant request.

Don’t Waste Time
Some nonprofits focus their effort on applying for grants they have little chance of getting. The top U.S. foundations (with the most money) accept less than five percent of the grant requests they receive. Many of them look for wide impact on a national level. A lot of them fund projects in third world nations.

A grant writer should look for foundations associated with a business in the local area. If a nonprofit is in a rural area, find family foundations. People are more likely to give in an area they know well.

The biggest problem is applying to foundations that fund projects not in the nonprofit’s mission. If the foundation states they will not fund it, they will not fund it.

Organization
Keep every detail about every grant request sent out. Use a spreadsheet and avoid complicated software programs. Note deadlines, acceptance dates, and when to expect a check. If rejected, call the foundation and ask why. Record this, too. This database can be important for future grant requests.

No Response from Editors and Agents

I submit short stories to magazine editors with the vague hope they’ll accept my work. I have hope until my story is rejected (hope turns to shock/surprise when accepted). I have the same hope when I query an agent for my young adult novel (there’s no acceptance, yet).

The worse part of submitting a story or a query is the “no response” position editors and agents take. Some agents will at least say that, if I did not hear from them, they were not interested. I still wait and, after a hundred days, decide they will not respond like they said they wouldn’t.

A few magazine editors say the same (don’t wait for a response), although I do. Some editors say to query them if there is no response. I used to do that and I always received a nasty email to stop bothering them. They put in more effort to respond to me like that than it would have taken to send a form rejection.

I realize people can be overwhelmed with submissions, yet it does not take much to send, at least, a standard form rejection. Most editors and agents have assistants or interns reading the submissions, anyway.

I think, to not respond at all, shows a lack of respect for writers as if they are not worth a reply. When I record on my spreadsheet “no response” from an editor or agent, I tell myself to take them off future submission lists.

Of course, the editor or agent could have lost my story or query. And, I am not immune from making mistakes in my submissions. This is why I will probably send another submission contradicting any advice I might have just gave myself.

Some Grant Writing Tips (Part I (II in 2 weeks)

Who is the Foundation?
Before writing a grant request, the writer should study the foundation to get a good understanding of their culture, mission, and goals. It is not enough to read a summary of what grant requests they accept. Research the bios, look at media sources for additional information, and read everything they have on their website. Yes, this can take several hours or more. At the end and if they allow it, call the foundation administrators with no more than one or two questions.

Motivation
A grant writer has to build excitement in their grant requests. Show the devotion everyone in the nonprofit has for the mission and goals. Write out any key words sprinkled in the foundation guidelines that stand out and want to be included in the request. Include these words in the grant request. Make sure the nonprofit’s grant request matches what is important to the foundation. No match, don’t apply. (Later, see waste of time.)

Social Media
When writing a grant request, the information and data in the request should not deviate from what is published online in a nonprofit’s website, Facebook, or other social media. If a nonprofit is fortunate to advance toward the final round of selection, a foundation will likely research a nonprofit’s online presence. There should be no deviation because, what is the truth?

An Opportunity
If a foundation offers a webinar, always sign up. This is where they offer tips and hints on writing a grant that is usually not found anywhere else. A webinar means, “Hey, we’re trying to help you.”

Performing an Ending

John T. Frederick wrote, in his 1924 book A Handbook of Short Story Writing, that “for the most intimate and final revelation of a character to be realized, it is best to put the character in action rather than conversation or introspection.”

I’m glad I found this passage since I am struggling to conclude what I finished writing. This is my dilemma with concluding my book. There is only dialogue. I need a performance.

Yes, performance and action do not necessarily mean the same in a lot of ways. I’m looking for something between action and dialogue and performance seemed to fit for me. Although, I don’t know what I mean by it.

The standard theory has one character changing from beginning to end. I made that happen. Now, how do I make him happy about it and ride into the sunset without looking back for a sequel?

I read a lot of different genres and some authors are good beginners, some good at the middle, and some end the novel well. The key is to be good for two out of three. It can be a struggle to accomplish this. Also, which is lower in priority? Beginning, middle, or end? I’m trying for at least one out of three.

So, I’ll put in a performance. I’ve decided this will be action and dialogue together that includes a second character. Like a dance. Maybe a tango.

P.S. Yes, I’ve used the same image before. I like it.

Big Egos in a Nonprofit

Some people have too big of an ego to be involved in managing the operations of a nonprofit. Egos are fine for businesses, agencies, and other organizations that are made up of paid staff. In a nonprofit, most of the people are volunteers and teamwork is essential to keeping people from running away.

I see the most harm done when egos exist on the board or in the nonprofit’s management. Board of Directors are responsible for identifying the mission, providing oversight, and raising funds. The Executive Director and other managers are responsible for fundraising, managing the paid staff, and day-to-day operations.

While the lines between the two are clear, they become blurred when big egos dominate. Board members become micromanagers on the staff or the executive director and staff work as if the board does not exist. Both ways damage the nonprofit’s ability to be successful.

Harm to the nonprofit appears in high turnover rates, loss of donor funding, and errors in meeting the mission goals. Even worse is when the egos reside on the board and management at the same time.

Unfortunately, there are no clear, easy solutions. There are mediators for nonprofits, yet someone has to initiate their involvement and pay them. Most nonprofits suffer through the turmoil. Board members serve two year terms and the executive director and staff with big egos usually burn themselves out and leave.

A grant writer should be prepared for this situation and stay away from it. I realize this is a poor solution, yet an honest one. The only people who can change the situation are other board members or staff who need to step in and confront the egos. However, it is sometimes easier to just leave.