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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Why is the Word Abbreviation So Long?


Let’s take a moment to talk about my pet peeve #7230…the over use of acronyms and abbreviations. Seriously…is there anyone else out there who gets tired of writers who take shortcuts by using these?

“Bert discovered he was OCD at the USC after joining the USAF in CA when his mom died of PTSD.” –stupid writer….

It’s annoying, it doesn’t help the reader “get” the story and it’s lazy.

Acronyms and abbreviations are for letter addressing and useless titles given to people who think they are more important than they are. They are not for story writing. It makes sense to use them when writing news stories and magazine articles, but even then, they should be used sparingly. Over use means that a reader who has a short attention span has to keep flipping back in order to keep track of which letters mean what. Even worse, writers who aren’t paying attention can screw them up by getting dyslexic in the middle of their story….now your reader is REALLY confused….does Bert have PTSD or PSTD or DTSP? (or SIYKMS….stop it your killing me syndrome)

No matter how good a writer you are, the over use of these is a bad, bad thing. As a writer who reads…it annoys the crap out of me…enough to make me put a book down and not pick it back up. We don’t speak like that so why would we write that way?

So if you find yourself reading back over your work and it has more random letters throughout than structured words…change it. Isn’t it bad enough that texting has us LMAO, ROFLMAO and ROFLMAOADMS? (rolling on the floor laughing my ass off after dropping my sombrero) Stop it already!

 

© 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 April 30, 2012 in Healthy Writers, Structure, Writing

 

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Reset Sunday – Definition of “family” – People Who Know You Are Crazy But Keep You Anyways


It’s Sunday once again and we, as writers, are taking a break. This morning a word about family, and what that means to us as artists and creative people. We have a house full. Eight people under one roof and two of them are under the age of 2…it’s been an interesting week. Our son and his family are staying for a bit, our grandkids are 8 months and 2 years old. Needless to say, I forgot what it was like to have little people around. It’s both fun and terrifying all at the same time.

As a writer, I have to carve out my writing time as it is, with little people under foot, it becomes even more of a challenge, but one that I am totally okay with. (I am really enjoying this whole grandparent thing) But here is the thing…I also have to carve out time to spend with my family too and Reset Sundays are the perfect time for that.

Writers live lives surrounded by other people of their own making. It is easy to get so involved with those folks that you forget about the ones who allow you to live with them. I know that, as a writer, I’m not easy to live with. I get up at all hours to write. I demand quiet when I am intensely working. I often spend 8 hours of more mired to my desk. I get paid intermittently. And I have a pension for talking to myself even in the middle of a conversation with other people if I happen upon a story idea or the answer to a plot problem. It goes something like this:

Me: So what did they say?

Spouse: They said that he did a handstand in the middle of the parking lot, naked.

Me: Naked? Really?

Spouse: Yes and then he ran up to Dr. Smith and asked for a ham sandwich.

Me: (Faraway look on my face…) Ham sandwich…ham sandwich…that’s it! (Runs to desk and starts pecking away at the keyboard. Victim killed with poisoned ham sandwich…problem solved)

Seriously, this happens all the time. Yet my spouse continues to allow me to live here and doesn’t have me committed to the closest mental health facility. (Although I’ve been threatened with it a few times) My family loves me, or at least keeps me around for comic relief…but the point is; they keep me around. So today, on Reset Sunday, spend some time with your family. They give you the support you need to do what you love…writing.

 

© 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 April 29, 2012 in Reset Sundays

 

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And You Couldn’t Have Started There.


I love a good story whether it is written or orally told. Fill my time full of an intriguing tale filled with drama and good story flow and you have a willing audience…until you kill me with the details. If you have to go through Boston to tell me about something that happened in Florida….I’m gettin off the train somewhere in-between.

Let me illustrate…I have an 18 year old son. His name is Jordan and he loves to tell a good story. His life is filled with high school drama and end of the school career excitement. He will graduated this June so he has a lot to say when he gets home from school. We try to be good parents and listen to every word he says, however, with Jordan, that can be somewhat painful. The reason why is because Jordan has to tell you every last detail of an event before he actually gets to the point.

Some of you may have had these conversations with other people….you know…your eyes glaze over after 20 minutes and you worry about remembering what their point was by the time they get to the end. “So this guy told me about this guitar solo that he saw at a rock concert in Smalltown the other day. He said that the guy was wearing these cool pants and a rock t-shirt and he was wearing makeup and had those shoes I wanted…he said the guy had these cool guitar stings and a mole under his left eye. He was playing this solo and really rocking out and there was these guys in the front row who were like, yeah…and he pointed at them and made this sound. Well, I’d like to have shoe strings like his.” —Jordan. Seriously….this is a conversation often times with my youngest son. Needless to say, the word “huh” is a huge part of my relationship with him.

Writers! Are you listening? Don’t do this. When you write your story, make sure that you aren’t taking the long way around to get to the actual story. You will bore your readers and make them wonder what you story was about in the first place and that will not sell books. That will chase away readers. Detail…good, overwhelming, oh-my-God-how-did you-get-there detail…bad. Once you have written your first draft, when you are doing you first edit run-through, remember to make sure that you haven’t taken a detour within your story….if you do….some of your readers will simply exit stage left and never pick up your book again and that would suck.

© 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 April 28, 2012 in Writing

 

The Habitual Writer


Habits…I’ve got more than a few of them, some good, some bad. One really good habit I have is writing and although there are times when my spouse wishes there was a 12 step program for it…I’m just happy to be doing it at all.

I know too many writers who struggle on a daily basis with writing. They want to. Some of them need to. But in the end, life can get in the way and destroy any hope you have of spending that special time at your keyboard. (and not the prev-y kind of time either) There really is only one sure way to make sure that you get that time…you have to make it a habit.

I have the habit of leaving my shoes in the middle of the floor – bad. I have the habit of neglecting the laundry until my son comes to me and says, smell this – bad. I have a soda habit that I have kicked 127 times since January –bad. Yes, I admit it…I have some bad habits BUT, don’t despair, I also have some good habits and almost all of them have to do with my writing.

I have made it a habit to get up every day and schedule my time. I lay out time for “stuff around the house”, the kids and my writing. I schedule my writing first, and then everything else fits in after that. I also have the habit of sitting down and spending at least three hours straight on my writing. These are good habits. How do I know they have become habits? Because if I don’t do them, my entire day is a mess; I get grouchy, I eat too much junk food and by the time the family gets home I look like a homeless guy because I have even lost the desire to shower. I didn’t write…what’s the point of showering? I love my writing time, and it loves me.

Make your writing a habit. According to the “experts” if you do something for a consecutive 7 days, it becomes a habit…I’m gonna guess that whoever that guy was he didn’t have kids BUT, it is true that the more you do something the quicker it becomes a habit. So whether it takes 7 days, 7 weeks or 7 years…make your writing a habit. It is one way to ensure that you are doing it every day because; if it’s a habit…you simply can’t help 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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Awkward Moment – Sorry I Just killed you in my Book


I write mystery thrillers. I write them because it is fun and therapeutic all at the same time. Cut me off on the highway, I’ll find a character in my book to represent you and I’ll run you down with a car. Pick on my kid at school and I will find a character to represent you in my book and pull your fingernails out with tweezers. (can’t mess with my kids) The bottom line…piss me off…and you’ll die….in a book.

Basing your characters in a novel off people you actually know is not only fun…it’s kind of necessary. Your fodder for characters is the contact you have with people you know, those you come into personal contact with and those you have had the opportunity to watch. (and not just in the stalky way) I people watch where ever I go because I need to learn those things that make people who they are.  It is the only way to round out the characters you create.

There are some things that, as a writer, you have to be careful of. When you are basing your characters after someone you know, you have to cloak that in just enough differences that the person can’t come back to you years later and say, hey that’s me….where are my royalties. Case in point, the author of The Help; she is knee deep in a lawsuit right now because there is a woman who is claiming that the main character in the book was based on her.

Now get ready…I am hefting myself up on my soapbox…I think that lawsuits like this are crap. You didn’t write the book and you should be proud of the fact that I included you at all. To think that you have some right to my money because I based a character after you is plain stupid. The only way you are getting money from me for a book that I wrote is if you somehow wrote it yourself and I took credit. Lawsuit…dismissed!

Because people have gotten stupider (my grandson’s word but it fits) about lawsuits these days, we writers are left standing in the middle of the road with oncoming traffic heading straight for us whenever we create a character. To be honest, you can take just about any book and find someone who reminds you of the characters in it. The reason why is because there really is “nothing new under the sun”, characters are based on people and people follow basic rules for personalities. Put simply, it’s not really our fault if the guy we just killed off reminds you of your dad….

So when you are creating characters, protect yourself by not being too specific to someone’s personality. I know, I know…it’s stupid but people are as they are and unless you want your sudden fame marred by some yahoo with their hand in your wallet…change enough detail that you can simply look at them and say, “what you talking about…I based him on a guy in India?”

 

© 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 April 26, 2012 in Character Studies, Writing

 

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Too Many Distractions Makes for a Frustrated Writer


The phone rings, the email notification goes crazy, the dog is barking at the cat, the next door neighbor is replacing his roof and the workers are trying to outdo each other with their hammers, the 11 year old needs help with her homework and there’s a guy at the front door who thinks I need a new vacuum cleaner….holy crap!

That was my Thursday of last week. I was smack dab in the middle of finishing a ghost writing project and working on magazine articles yet, it seemed like the entire world didn’t care….they had needs too. It is very easy to get distracted as a writer. Life gets in the way all the time. What’s worse, if you work at home…everyone else thinks that you have all the time in the world to do their stuff. I have to yell “uncle” a lot.

So how do you fight the everyday distractions without, (a) neglecting someone or something important, or (b) pissing off your family because you need to concentrate on your own work, or (c) losing your mind completely? It’s not easy. I do have a few things that I have learned over the years that kind of work…sometimes…every now and again…ok…hardly ever, but I keep trying.

Freedom Software – This is a software program that literally kicks you off the internet. This is great if you can be disciplined enough to used it properly. I profiled it here https://thewritersadvice.com/2012/03/16/software-the-freedom-not-to-be-on-the-internet/.

Schedules – I find that having a schedule is so important that I set it up every Sunday. A schedule says, “hey, I’m busy here, here and here…so don’t even bother asking. I also post it on the fridge in case there is any question. A schedule says, I’m serious…don’t bug me.

Family Pow Wows – I had to sit down with my family and explain how important it was to leave me be so I could get my work done. My 11 year old didn’t really listen, but the others did. They are now my first line of defense when other people step in the way. (I do have to note here that the kids are my first line of defense however, that does not keep them from interrupting me just after they have told someone else that I can’t be interrupted…go figure)

These are just a few of the things I have tried; some days they work, some days they don’t. You have to sort of feel your way around. The thing is, realize that getting distracted can defeat your work and you don’t want that to happen. Set the ground rules and then pray that everyone takes mercy on you and follows them.

 

© 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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I Don’t Procrastinate and I’ll Tell You Why…Later….


Procrastination. You know, I’ve been actually putting a column about this off and I have no idea why. It’s an important topic. It’s something that writers everywhere deal with, yet, just the sound of the word makes you want to do it tomorrow. I guess it’s time to talk about it.

There are many opinions out there as to why folks procrastinate. It isn’t just writers who bask in the light of I’ll-do-it-tomorrow-land, everyone does it. There is just something about “having” to do something that triggers that little guy who sits on your shoulder saying, aw come on…do it later. I am an expert at procrastination. I blame it partly on living the life of a news reporter in both print and radio for so long. When you live your life by deadline…you tend to have trouble completing a task unless there is a sense of urgency. I often wait until the last minute on just about every project. I think it is habit at this point…who knows. Family and friends know that I will get things done…but they also know it may not be until right before they needed it completed. Personally, I think it adds a certain excitement to life. (In Trailer guy’s voice – WILL SHE GET IT IN BEFORE DEADLINE?)

So how do you combat procrastination? Here are a few things that I have discovered that may help you too:

Make a List – I am the king of list making. I could teach a Master Class on it. A list is like a contract with yourself. Make a list and your ego knows that you are watching. (But not in a stalker way)

Keep a Calendar – My calendar is a constant reminder for me that I have crap to do. I keep one on my iPad because there is an alarm that reminds me, hey stupid, you have crap to do. Calendars can be a good thing as long as you stay away from the delete button.

Focus – Procrastination is a creature from the realm of “time on my hands”. In this land, people sit around playing Facebook games and surfing the internet for obsolete subjects like how to make an airplane using paperclips and how to build a rocket using household appliances. Focus on the work at hand and procrastination has nothing to feed off of.

These are just a couple of ideas; I’m sure other writers have some too. (Please, feel free to share them with the rest of the class.) If you are dealing with procrastination…don’t fret too much, you are not alone. There are times when procrastination is a good thing, like when considering pushing the doomsday button or stepping into oncoming traffic. But, as writers, we have to control it as best we can or no one will ever read our work. It would be funny, but awful, if your tombstone read, “Here Lies the Writer, He Never Quite Got Around to Finis…….” (Tragically funny)

 

© 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 April 24, 2012 in Writing

 

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