Author Archive: Stanley

Writing Scenes in a Novel

Most novels are written scene by scene.

I define a scene as a period of dialogue, a movement of characters from one place or time to another, or the start and end of some action. A scene is anything that enters through a door, experiences what is beyond the door, and exits through the same door or another door.

A scene can last a few paragraphs or several pages. I think scenes work best when they are kept to around two thousand words. They can include dialogue and action with movement from place or time, yet only one of these items should be the focus over a few pages.

As an example, this blog is a scene focused on the topic of writing scenes. There’s one character (me), the blog is 300 words, and the dialogue is with the reader concerning this one topic.

While writing this blog post, I became distracted onto other topics that I moved to another blog post for another time. This is what a writer needs to do when writing a scene. Keep focused on a single topic and discard everything else. It could be used for the next scene.

Scenes need to be linked together. The links are breaks for the reader to rest from the scene’s intense moments. They are non-scenes and can include reflections from the characters or a description of the environment or both. They act like bridges so the reader can take a breath before continuing to the next scene. They are critical and carry, like a bridge, the reader to the next scene.

Our society of readers takes things in short bursts of information. There was a time when scenes were fewer and longer. Nowadays, scenes work better for the reader when they are short and to the point.

Cash Flow

Too many nonprofits use a software program to watch their money come in and go out. They do not watch the ups and downs in their bank account. Their yearly budget may say everything will be okay in the end, yet this does not consider the cash flow (income and expense) changes occurring each day.

Real cash, or what is in the bank, matters more than what any budget or software program states. A nonprofit should look at their cash flow as often as possible. This helps determine when expenses exceed income and vice versa throughout the year. This trend is important for grant writers to help determine when they need to submit a grant.

If a foundation approves the grant request, when the payout occurs is important.

After the deadline, most foundations decide on a grant request after three to five months, depending on the time of year. June to August and December take the longest. After approval, a foundation can take two to three months to write the check.

Money is usually invested somewhere and needs to be cashed out. Also, the funding needs to be processed and accounted for among foundation members and stakeholders. Some foundations also want a ceremony to present the check. A grant writer and nonprofit should plan to receive money five to eight months after the grant deadline.

While a yearly budget is good for long term planning, nonprofits should also have a monthly track of their cash flow. Grant writers can then develop a grant schedule around the cash flow.

I create a grant schedule every January with the nonprofits I help. Along with other criteria, I try to plan for the payout when cash is low for the nonprofit.

From Fear to Publication

This blog entry is not a motivational speech. It is a layer of my opinions and wanderings of random thoughts about one aspect of publishing a book — the ego and the fear.

I believe there are many well written books that could be classics and loved by many. However, the writer’s only copy is sitting on some electronic device or printed and gathering dust somewhere. It is almost like the best writers do not want to be published. It is almost like the best writers are the ones who fear publication the most.

Of course, there are many books that should remain unpublished. I wrote two of them. There are also a lot of books that should not have been published. I have read some of them. In the end, I think the difference between publishing and not seems to be the ego.

Those with the biggest ego appear to find it easy to publish. I don’t mean “ego” in the negative sense. These authors want the world to know they wrote something and have no fear of the public reading what they wrote. Is there a link between ego and fear?

Over the years, I have met some very good writers who never published. They saw publishing as a barrier they could not overcome. Also, almost none of them had strong egos. Some even told me they feared where the publication route would take them.

I have no answer for how people without strong egos can overcome their fear and get published. (Except overcome their fear and publish, but that’s a motivational speech.) I have three books sitting alone on my computer and printed out that are ready to be self-published. They’ve been sitting there for too long.

Defining Success

If a nonprofit achieves success, foundations and donors are more likely to continue investing and the mission can continue. But, what is success?

Among the many definitions of success is the accomplishment of set goals. The key to meeting established goals are the measurement of specific objectives aligned with the goals. An example of a goal is to feed the hungry. Objectives would include receiving pounds of food so people will have something to eat.

Yet, most of the time there is limited or partial success. As an example, during the week there will be days when everyone is fed, some days when most of the people are fed, and days when some or none of the people are fed. Also, the variety of food on any day may not be enough. Was the week a success?

There is no absolute success in anything. Instead, there are different levels of success. While the goal could be to feed all the people all the time, there is still success if most of the people are fed some of the time.

Just setting goals and tracking objectives is rarely enough to determine success. It is the people working the mission who know if success has been achieved. Yes, there may not be enough food on some days and the variety may be lacking. However, the people in need could have other resources to get food. It could be that just helping them some of the time was enough to not go hungry.

The point of this blog is for nonprofits to put value in what is accomplished and relay this back to foundations and donors so they will understand. Numbers tell only part of the story. The people involved tell the other part.