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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Live the Life of a Writer


Writing is a tough vocation. It’s lonely, people tend to question if it’s a “real job” and the hang time on results often stinks. If you are looking for instant validation for your work…you’d better get a different job.

Half the battle in making sure that you don’t lose the faith is living like a writer. It’s funny because people who have other jobs don’t have to think that way. A construction worker is a construction worker. He has his tools, his friends understand that he is the guy to call when a nail needs hammering, he’s the construction guy. The grill cook or chef is the guy whose house everyone shows up to on Friday nights because that’s where the good food is.  No one questions if he can cook…they just grab a fork. And the guys who work as executives at big companies ALWAYS look the part and no one says to them, “so hey, when are you going to get a real job”. The writer on the other hand is the guy or girl who gets to hear things like, ‘so what do you do in your spare time’, and they get that “look” whenever they answer the question what do you do for a living. You know the look, it says, oh…so you are in between jobs….

Let’s face it; no matter what we do as writers, unless we are on the best seller list, folks are going to continue to treat us like we don’t really work. I worked as a newspaper reporter for over 28 years and I had family members who still asked me when I was going back to college to get a degree for a career. Now days, with several published novels and a successful freelance business, all they see is that I am at home all day and I still never went back to college. (I have a degree in journalism by the way) So what can you do to combat this? Truth is you can’t change other people so you have to take care of the way you see yourself.

I personally live as the writer I am. I make no excuses for what I do. I talk and spend time with other writers both on the internet and in real life. (No, the internet is NOT real life so back away from the mouse from time to time) I shop for writer’s things and I budget for things like the Writer’s Market and software that helps me with my craft. I guard my writing time and I give folks who question what I do an ear full when they are asking stupid questions like, “do you make any money writing”. Don’t let people make you feel like you are not a writer. Make them respect who you are and what you do. And when someone says, out loud at the dinner table, “I could have written a book”, look them straight in the eye and say, prove it, and then take great pleasure in the look of panic that spreads across their faces. Live like a writer…you are one…make everyone respect that.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2012 in Inspiration, Writing

 

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What Do All Writers Have In Comma….ummm….Common when it Comes to Commas


Today’s post is a very personal one for me. I have to confess…”My name is Jai, and I am comma dysfunctional”. That’s right, I’m admitting it; I have a comma problem.

To be honest I am not alone. The use of commas is a pet peeve for some and the monster under the bed for others. It’s tough sometimes, to know when to use them, and if we are honest, the rules are constantly changing. There is nothing more frustrating for me than to write a piece of work that my editor then goes over planting little red commas all over the place. Admittedly I do have a problem but sometimes, I really do mean to leave them out too.

I have a writer friend who writes very conversationally. Her books are first person almost diary type works so her comma usage doesn’t fit the norm. She too has an editor that doesn’t “get it” when it comes to how she is meaning to write. The reason we-who-use-commas-in-odd-ways are so misunderstood is because those who edit are usually die-hard fans of “the rules” and frankly, the rules are sometimes made to be broken. (Can you hear that, somewhere, far off in the distance, an editor is screaming at this blog…it’s kind of funny…)

So what do you do if, (a) you know you have a regular comma issue and (b) you write in such a way that your comma usage is constantly called into questions? Well, for those of us who massacre comma usage on a regular basis, buy a book or take a class but pound it into your head until you get it. Commas are important and no matter how long you avoid it, eventually you have to get better at using them. Case in point:

Let’s eat, Grandpa.

Or

Let’s eat Grandpa.

In one of the above sentences Grandpa isn’t going to be very happy, so let me say it again, commas are important. If your comma usage is a matter of the way you write, explain it to those who are editing your work and come to some happy compromise on when to place commas. Commas really are important and you need to understand how to use them, but don’t feel bad…you aren’t alone if you have a comma dysfunction. Now go buy a book so you don’t end up eating grandpa.

 

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Revision, Structure, Writing

 

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Monday Morning Promises – This Week I’ll Do Better I Promise


This is a promise I make to myself every single Monday. I start my week off with a mantra of sorts…

  • I’ll write more
  • I’ll eat better
  • I’ll edit that chapter
  • I’ll drink more water
  • I’ll finish that book
  • I’ll get more exercise

Having to do this makes me feel the guilt of a Catholic who missed mass to watch Scooby Do but it has become a part of my clearing-the-way-for-writing process. As bad as it can feel, those Monday morning promises are actually really important for all writers and here’s why. We are creatures of habit. We have to be in order to have the discipline to sit our behinds in the chair and write at all. We have to be our own little angel on the shoulder and keep ourselves in check. If that means making those Monday morning promises…well…do it.

As you can see I have a few personal challenges mixed in with the writing ones. That’s because, as a writer, I also tend to sit down to work and not move for 8 hours and that’s not healthy. Writers are also notorious for not getting enough exercise. (Guilty as charged Judge Weight Watcher) Drinking more water, eating better and exercising more are also very important parts of being a writer. Can’t write if you are recovering from a heart attack…I know, I tried.

If you need to get up on Monday mornings and make a few promises to yourself, renew them as I have to do, it’s okay. Call it reassessing your priorities each week. And don’t feel bad about it; almost all writers go through the exact same thing. It is simply a part of the process.

A friend of mine gave me some advice once that has fared very well for me. She suggested that I look at those promises made each week to myself as affirmations. See it as affirming what you will accomplish and your unconscious mind will make it happen. She was right and making them affirmations made me feel like less of a failure from the week before. So make those Monday morning promises, its ok, in fact, it’s enacting the power of intention which is really quite trendy right now. Hey, whatever works to make us write more…..

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Inspiration, Writing, Writing Tools

 

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Reset Sunday – Software for Tablets


Since its Reset Sunday our topic today is one of fun less than work. I recently got involved in the tablet world as another tool for my writing. I bought an iPad, then gave it to my son and bought a Galaxy Tab 7+ now, I’m thinking about going back to the iPad or a Galaxy Tab 10 or 8.9.

While I hate the idea of being tethered to iTunes, I have to admit that, as a writer, the iPad had more to offer. It has submission tracking software (iTrack) that worked really well. I enjoyed the Ghostwriter program which allows you to actually set up notebooks for different projects. I also liked some of the time tracking software. My Galaxy is a 7 so it is much smaller than the iPad and that proved to be a problem once I had it. I’m getting a bit older and so my eyes don’t appreciate the smaller screen like I thought they would. Plus, the Android market is moving slowly in terms of software so I can’t do as much as I could on the iPad.

So here are some things I learned to consider when it comes to getting involved in tablets.

-Make sure you’ll use it. The average price is about $650-850 so this purchase requires some commitment. As a writer I think it is an invaluable tool allowing me to write in the car or anywhere else I want to go and NOT lug my laptop.

-Do some research on the size that will be best for you. If your eyes can take it, go smaller but I wouldn’t go smaller than 8.9. Screen property is important when you are a writer.

-Do some research on the different tabs. Like I said I had an iPad, went with the Galaxy and am now thinking that it was a mistake…a $1300 mistake. At this point adding a new tab, either of which will cost me another $750-850, is making that mistake grow. Do you get the picture? If you don’t want to be in the doghouse with your spouse, which I am to some degree, make your decision carefully. Go try them out before buying.

-Keep in mind that technology moves fast. Get your tab and dedicate yourself to not trying to keep up with the upgrades. By the time I had gotten comfortable with my iPad, the iPad 2 came out and all I could think was that I should have waited. Here’s the rub though, if you wait you may also never get one because they are always changing.

As you can see getting a tab, and getting the right tab, is no small decision. My son loves his and uses it for music. I use my Galaxy 7 but when I get my next tab, my spouse, who is a nurse, will be able to use it so no money wasted. (At least that’s what I keep telling myself) So do the research and tread carefully…if you make the right decision, you won’t regret it but if you make the wrong decision…well let’s just say that you will never hear the end of it.

 

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Writing, Writing Tools

 

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Revision – A Little Like Take Pruning Shears to You Kid


Ok, let’s talk revision. This is the hardest part of the process of writing for most of us. Personally it really is a little like pruning my kid; it’s horrifying, especially when it’s one of your favorite kids. (Not that I have a favorite…ahem…)

Revision has to take place. When we write a first draft it is all about getting the story on the page, internal editor be darned.  We open the vein and pour everything we have out without thinking about the final project. What happens if you finish your first draft and you are absolutely positive it is the Great American novel? Do you then go back through it and hack it to pieces? Yep…there’s no way around it.

If you are like me, when my first draft is on the page there is no regard for the little things like spelling, commas or even structure to some degree. It comes out of my head in the same way I hear it and, trust me; no one wants to hear what actually comes straight out of my head at times. The revision process allows the writer to correct the basics, redirect the story in weak places and ensure that they are not running off somewhere they never intended the story to go. It is a chance to take out all those extra words too. Come on, you all know what I’m talking about…writers are the teenagers of the literary world but instead of using words  such as “like”, “you know” and “for sure” we just tend to throw ALL the words onto the page. When you write a first draft of 100,000 words you can bet that during the revision process you will discover that you don’t actually need about 20,000 of them.

I subscribe to the idea that you need at least three revisions. Revision 1 is to read through and take out all those extra words. Revision 2 takes place so that you can rework the weak parts of your story after having just tightened it. Revision 3 is where you have put the draft in a drawer for a couple of weeks and then come back and re-read it. Sure there will be times when even after three revisions a publisher will come back with their unyielding red sword and cut even further. It’s all a part of the process and if you want to be a writer who sales books…deal with it. Let’s face it, most of us will never hear the words, “No Mr. King, its perfect…no need for editing here….”

The bottom line is that revision is a necessary part of the process. Think of it as cutting the old growth so that your flowers can actually bloom better…..or…think of it as cutting the mean family members out of your will so that your money goes for the greater good…whatever makes it easier.  Revision is the second most important thing you can do as a writer. So get that first draft onto the page and then get out those pruning shears….it’s really for your story’s own good.

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2012 in Inspiration, Revision, Structure, Writing

 

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The Right Time to Write


Now here is a subject that gets so much word play. It is almost the most over used writing advice issue ever written about. And yes, we are going to do it one more time; however my advice is….don’t take everyone’s advice on this subject if they are claiming to know the answer to this age old question.

The right time to write is personal. Every writer can tell you when their “right” time is but that is their time, not necessarily yours. Writing is a work of inspiration. Often times a writer has to wait until they feel it. If you are a writer, than you understand exactly what “it” is. For me, my writing time varies. I have some work that I have to schedule, like articles for the magazines I write for, but even that writing has to work into my writing time. I am a morning writer by nature. It is easier for me to get up fresh in the morning and hit the keys. I have tried to vary that time over the years. I always wanted to be one of those writers who slave through the night time hours but…alas…I just couldn’t do it. I’d fall asleep at my desk.

Although many writers claim to know the key to determining the proper “writing time”, the truth is that the only key is your finding what you are comfortable with. It’s your time. You have to feel inspired to write or you will accomplish nothing but a very uncomfortable, forced piece of writing.

So when you see those advice columns that are telling you when the best time to write is, chalk it up to hogwash and go about the business of determining when the best time is for you. Explore, try out all the hours of the day and if your time is between 2:30 and 4:15 a.m. so be it; me, I’ll be a little jealous of you and, sadly, asleep.

 

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Inspiration, Writing

 

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Not Being a Twit on Twitter or Any Other Social Media


A word this morning on social media…it can be a novel killer. Now I know that a lot of you will be screaming at your computer screen as you read this blog saying, “WAIT!!! But it’s a great way to self-promote” …well…yes and no.

Yes it is a great idea to create a Twitter account or a Facebook page to promote your latest novel; however, you have to be careful. In an ocean of social media a writer can get bogged down by the responsibility of it all. At one point I had a Twitter account, a Facebook page for my writing (fan page), a personal Facebook page, a Google + account, a website, a blog and was considering some other new-fangled thing that starts with a “P”.  (Its actual name escapes me right now.) Because it was so hard to keep up with all the accounts I sat down one day and put the updating of each account in my day planner. I allotted about 20 minutes for each and when I was done I realized something horrific…I was using up the better part of each morning updating instead of writing.

While I enjoy the thought of being “connected” I also was wasting huge blocks of time. Getting on to update an account was never just that…each foray into the internet meant reading the news headlines, checking e-mail, catching up on what everyone else was posting on the various accounts and being generally…well….social. I had to back away one day and just say no to all of the social outlets stealing my time. I actually had to wean myself off it all too. It was all so very sad.

Limiting your time in the social media networks is not saying that you don’t care that Sarah’s blow dryer quit this morning in the middle of getting ready for work or that Doug has finally reached his weight goal of 215 lbs. by swearing off mangos or even that Britney’s kid has finally stopped breast feeding, even though he’s 5…. It just means that you are taking the control back. You need that time to write. Here are some social media suggestions that may help you tame the beast that is updating:

-Twitter – While Twitter is fun, its usefulness is limited to 109 words. Rather than create an account for you personally, think of doing one for your latest book instead. You can gather the support you need by updating your progress and other Twitterites can be encouraging. Stay away from the personal account.

-Facebook – The fan pages actually work and I would recommend that every writer have one. Your personal Facebook may actually be the only way you ever talk to family or know what is going on but limit the number of times you check it. Plan a time to be on Facebook and then push away from the page when need be.

-Google + – Let’s be honest you don’t need both Facebook and Google +, choose one and then steer clear of the other.

-E-mail – Make e-mail a part of your business process. Check it at the beginning and the end of the day. If anyone really needs you that bad, they can call.

-Websites and Blogs – These are the main things that I use today but this week I will actually combine the two. I will save myself 20 minutes by just melding the blog and the website. Think about it…with the way blogs are created, do you really need both?

I do understand that as writers we get very small amounts of human contact but let’s be clear…all of these social networks are NOT human contact. So whittle down your social interaction on the internet and see how much time you can save. Trust me, your Aunt Clara really doesn’t have that kind of time either but because you responded, she has to respond, then you have to answer, then she has to comment…see where this is going?

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Inspiration, Writing

 

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